Such words are aggressive. They are confrontational. They are offensive to many Christians. After all, do we really need to speak so strongly about “social sins” and “political issues” such as abortion? Doesn’t Sproul realize that such strong language isolates him from mainstream Christianity, as it offends and alienates others from accepting his message? –Yes, I think he does. Just like John the Baptist’s message isolated him from mainstream Israel, evoked the wrath and King Herod, and eventually cost him his head. Yet as the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness, so is Sproul on this issue. And so is my friend, Jon Speed, pastor of Christ is King Baptist Church in Syracuse, New York. Yet their words powerfully resonate with the truth of God. And the church has been largely passive regarding the issue of abortion for far too long.
As Sproul explains, abortion is not just a social injustice or political malady. It is the wicked, monstrous, appalling, horrendous, and gruesome assassination of the defenseless. The multiplication of endless synonymous adjectives to describe it is utterly insufficient to communicate the atrocity of this issue. Abortion is the murder of babies.
Today I watched this documentary. It is stirring. It is grievous. Yet it is enlightening. And I recommend for every Christian to watch it, and wake up!
“We need to stop being middle class, American sissies. And we need to be willing to fight faithfully with the gospel to save souls and unborn babies”, says Sproul. The symbolic significance of the picture of Martin Luther behind Sproul is telling, and complements the aggressive words of the documentary to imply the call for a new reformation in Christianity that stands up to confront and reform the great evils of our day. After all, it was Luther himself who said, “If you preach the gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues which deal specifically with your time, you are not preaching the gospel at all.” The gospel doesn’t merely call for theologizing abstract truths; it calls for the vigorous application of God’s truth to the totality of the issues of life. If we fail to make application in our gospel preaching, we fail to preach the gospel, according to Luther.
This is not to say that preaching against abortion is gospel preaching. It is not. But gospel preaching sets forth the Christ who was crucified and crushed to save us and cleanse us from sin, and abortion is sin. Christ came to redeem abortion practitioners and recipients from their wickedness and transform baby killers into baby lovers. The gospel presents the only real remedy to the malady of the practice of abortion. This is why I rejoice in the release of this new documentary, because Sproul Jr., Tony Miano, and Jon Speed know this, and this conviction burns through their veins with blood-red, red-hot conviction. And I rejoice that Christ is preached while precious babies are saved from the jaws of death.
This call to action is moving. “Go there and preach the gospel! Preach the gospel! Don’t let the Catholics take this thing and run with it. Stand up!” So says Speed in a moving exhortation.
Yet this gospel emphasis in the film also poses what I perceive to be its greatest weakness. While I rejoice that Christ’s name is honored, I regret that it is not as magnified as it could be. The film really doesn’t seem to present a clear explanation of the gospel other than a few passing statements. I would have liked to see more of the gospel set forth with clarity and explained. I would have liked to hear more about how the gospel itself affects the ethical issues of abortion and how it motivates and empowers a correct practice of anti-abortion activism. I would have liked to hear more about how the gospel itself is the central issue at stake, and how moral and ethical activism without the gospel is insufficient. While some of these things were alluded to, and that is to be commended, the documentary ended leaving me desiring more Christ-centered, grace-magnifying, hope-inspiring gospel talk. (On a more positive note, their website does contain a much clearer presentation of the gospel here.)
The morality produced by activism is subordinate to the righteousness produced by the gospel. It is only in the gospel that the righteousness of God is revealed, for only the gospel is the power of God to salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). While morality is good, righteousness before God is better. Such activism can stop baby murderers, but it can't stop human sin. But the gospel stops human sin, and in doing so, stops baby murderers. Therefore, the gospel is the only remedy, not only to the evil of abortion but to every other evil of our day. And the gospel is not subordinate to anti-abortion activism; such activism is subordinate to the gospel.
The Great Commission is supreme, because it is the preaching of the gospel, and to be fair, the activism promoted in the film can be an impactful way of seeking to contribute to the fleshing out of the Great Commission, as long as Christ is preached. Yet we must be careful to maintain things in proper biblical perspective, and to lift up the blood-stained banner of Jesus Christ higher than the trumpet call against baby murderers. I feel like the film could have done a better job explaining this. The thrust of the film seems more geared toward, "You must protest abortion clinics" than "You must preach the gospel and reach the people in the abortion clinics with the saving power of Jesus Christ".
While I say this about the documentary, I know the men featured in the documentary would give their wholehearted "Amen" to my sentiments with regard to gospel supremacy and proclamation. I just wish it was more clear in the film itself.
Also, for the sake of clarification, my remarks here are by no means intended to be a cop-out for cowardliness or passivity regarding the modern day holocaust of abortion. I'm not implying we should be less engaged in anti-abortion activism. In fact, I fully agree that we need to be much more aggressive in our efforts. However, we should be most aggressive in our efforts to preach the gospel, not only in front of abortion mills, but all over the whole wide world.
On another note, it was refreshing to hear the documentary explain that anti-abortion activism is subordinate to the authority of Christ's church. This was a wise move, which distances this movement from other anti-abortion activists whose priorities are out of whack and are infamous in evangelicalism for their rebellion against God-ordained pastoral leadership in the local church.
Nevertheless, in spite of some mild criticism, the potential good that could result from this film far outweighs some of its deficiencies. And the efforts of those involved are to be applauded, congratulated, and supported. May God raise up more voices to boldly speak what few preachers have spoken before! May we see a new generation of John the Baptists raised up in our day, not only to call our Herod's to stop committing adultery, but also to glory in nothing but the cross, and to cry out, "Behold the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of baby-murderers around the world!"
(Edit: This post was expanded after publishing)