AHA Takes Me On

Just a quick note. I don’t plan to respond to every crackpot missive the proponents of Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) may pass along to me. I have other topics of interest I wish to explore on my blog, as well as a life to maintain. So apart from a Facebook note I wrote answering some questions, this will be a final response to the group for a while. I can tell here at the outset this post may be a bit lengthy, and rather ponderous, so do not feel the need to slog your way through it all. I figured a lot of folks won’t have the interest in the subject except for those who may encounter AHA on an occasional basis. 

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I want to offer some comments on this post written by an AHA member, Alex Johnson,

An Abolitionist Responds to Grace to You’s Fred Butler 

A couple of thoughts just on the title,

First off, just for clarification sake, though I work for Grace to You, I am not speaking on their behalf. Now, I would imagine everyone I work with at the ministry will agree with the sentiments I expressed in my review of an AHA pamphlet that their members were passing out at our church. However, I was never tasked to speak on GTY’s behalf regarding the group, nor would management necessarily ask me. I just want to make sure no one is confused by the title of the article.

Secondly, the title itself is dishonest. I personally would be for the abolition of abortion. Most Christians would agree abortion is a wickedness our society needs to abolish. Why the title is dishonest is that Johnson is deceptively equating the ideology of abolishing abortion with the group, AHA. They are not one and the same. A person can adhere to abolitionism regarding abortion and have nothing to do with AHA and their church repent project.

Moving along to the introduction.

A fellow named John Reasoner provides a few opening remarks to the post. Let me zero in on the second paragraph,

This radical Dispensational denial of the applicability of over half of God’s Word is quickly becoming the only Theological refuge of the stubborn anti-abolitionist. Furthermore, Fred hides behind all of the typical pietistic arguments of the Evangellyfish American Church culture. When we ask “Do We Love Theology More Than God and Our Neighbor?”, the pietist will answer along with Fred Butler with an emphatic “YES”.

If one were to read my original review, I pointed out that AHA has the bad habit of misappropriating OT prophetic passages that clearly were only applicable to theocratic Israel and claiming they apply to NT churches. The two passages I highlight in my review were Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s pronouncements against Israel immediately before and during the Babylonian exile. Pointing out AHA’s misuse of those passages justifying their habit of standing outside churches to call them to “repentance” is hardly the denial of half of God’s Word. Nor does it have anything at all to do with Dispensationalism or pessimistic eschatology. That’s just reading the Bible correctly.  

It is important to keep in mind that a number of AHA promoters are postmillennial and theonomic in their views of eschatology and church government. Hence the smear about me being Dispensational. For instance, the blog where this response article is posted links as favorite websites, American Vision, Apologia Radio, and Axe to Root, all of which are maintained by postmillennial theonomists. I take it that Johnson falls into that category, like Reasoner.  

On to the main article.

I’ll pull out a few comments and respond,

Already a false accusation. They were out at the local abortion mills and on street corners the rest of the time during that conference. They even met Ray Comfort out there while both groups were preaching. Don’t assume that because they come to visit you that they’ve stopped visiting others.

The false accusation is the fact that a number of AHA members were hassling ShepCon attendees by stopping them as they walked from the parking lots onto the campus. It doesn’t matter if other AHA members were at abortion mills in LA at the same time. There were at least a dozen or more of them, including AHA leader, Toby Harmon, outside of Grace Church confronting attendees about their non-existent apathy toward abortion. That means there could have been at least a dozen other abortion mills covered. Yet the opportunity was missed as AHA members dawdled outside Grace passing out literature that was unnecessary, ignored, or discarded later.

Also a false accusation. Don’t assume church has to be held at a specific hour.

Johnson was upset that I chided AHA for skipping out on worship, and claims churches don’t need a set time of worship. Sure, I guess. Unless you are one of those seeker-sensitive churches that has a Saturday afternoon worship service so as to free up folks to sleep in on Sunday. The reality is that the bulk of solid, Bible-believing congregations in the world, meet early the first day of the week. AHA knows this, thus the reason they were at Grace the Sunday following ShepCon.

We don’t see ourselves as faithful. We too need to do more to stop this slaughter. We see ourselves as guilty as well. Hence, our slogan, Repent With Us. Sanctification is a continual process.

I’ve noticed the recent trend with AHA proponents has moved away from calling churches to repent to calling churches to “repent with us.” We are told that they too need to repent. Some how, that is supposed to make their message confronting our so-called apathy toward abortion more receptive. Problem is: I don’t need to repent of anything. I don’t consider myself apathetic, nor is abortion activism a Gospel issue. It is nowhere commanded in Scripture to pursue.

I understand that when dealing with non-Christians, but you’re dealing with brothers in Christ through Faith alone who are trying to make a case.

Another tactic they employ is to complain that any harsh critics, like myself, who liken them to cultists, are slandering faithful brothers in the Lord. Yet, because the bulk of AHA members do not attend or participate in a visible, local church, and their behavior is, shall I say, cultic, I am under no obligation to believe any of them are “brothers” in the Lord regardless of the so-called orthodoxy of their words.

None of us believe you have to affiliate with “AHA” in order to be “doing it right.” Jesus didn’t wear the AHA symbol. But do get in the fight and do not use compromising tactics

His comment is dishonest. Yes, they do insist Christians must be abolitionists in order to be “doing it right” and they further believe AHA is the gold standard of abolitionism. Ask any AHA member what he thinks of the term “pro-life” or “incrementalism.” In fact, Johnson goes on in this article to disparage the very term. Moreover, Scripture never tells us to “get in the fight” especially social activism. The only warfare that is spoken of in the NT is spiritual warfare, which is a warfare against false worldviews with the the use of God’s weapons of biblical truth.

The point is to show how broken-hearted God is over the oppression happening. Regardless of covenantal views.

There is lots and lots of oppression happening right at this moment all over the world. Wickedness that would stagger the mind. Nowhere in Scripture is the church called out to specifically confront that wickedness in the form of any social activism. Like I stated in my initial review, I believe a result of the Gospel will be a changed culture as men and women in those individual cultures are converted and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Then he cites a quote from Johnny Hauser who was commenting at some forum on my correction of AHA’s misuse of 1 John 3:18,

The remainder of his argument [that’d be me, Fred] is founded on the assertion that because the context specifies material and financial needs, no other needs fall within the requirements of love. Therefore, your sister being raped or your brother being massacred essentially require no response from of you as a Christian. That is, the lesser needs like money are specified so you must concern yourself with them, but no other needs, not even the far greater, critical, life-or-death needs, must be a concern for Christian brothers and sisters.

The apostle John is addressing the marks of genuine love which in the context of his epistle is the way Christians treat fellow Christians. It is a misappropriation to extend that passage to encompass social activism including against abortion as “loving your neighbor.”

However, Hauser goes on with the typical argument from AHA members. I’ve encountered it numerous times before on social media, particularly in meme form. That being, if I saw my sister being raped or a brother being murdered, I would most certainly intervene, so why don’t I do it with the slaughter of the unborn? Well, because the slaughter of the unborn, while a wicked sin, is not the same as having the ability to stop a sister from being raped or a brother from being murdered. I would most certainly stop the rapist or murderer from performing their actions even with the means of lethal force if necessary. Would AHA do the same against an abortion doctor? Against the feminist mother treating her child as if it is a colon polyp needing to be removed?

If acting in love is the same as stopping abortion as it is with stopping rapists and murderers, why isn’t AHA doing the necessary duty to stop those abortionists? They would physically stop a rape or a murder from happening if they could, even to the point of lethal force, yet they seem to think holding up graphic signs, passing out literature, and preaching outside abortion clinics is the same thing. It is not.

But loving your neighbor is not applicable only to the Old Testament. Just because the prophets lived under the Old Covenant doesn’t mean we have no reason whatsoever to imitate any of their bold actions.

Their bold actions never engaged in social activism. However, I know AHA apologists will insist the prophets were social activists for rebuking Israel for ignoring widows and orphans and perverting justice. But that was within the borders of a theocratic nation of Israel. They were not rebuked for their apathy against the Babylonians or the Assyrians enslaving other nation states.

After I dealt with AHA’s abuse of Scripture, I moved to addressing the logical fallacies of the pamphlet. My first example was the inaccurate comparison between the message of repentance Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees and Luther the Catholic Church, with the abolitionists during the early 1800s calling churches to repent of slavery. I pointed out that the first two examples of Jesus and Luther dealt specifically with repentance of a false Gospel message, where as the call to repent of slavery was not a Gospel message issue.

In response, Johnson writes this convoluted comment,

Likewise, so are the souls at the abortion mills, performing the abortions, getting the abortions, supporting the abortions, escorting the women to get abortions, the Roman Catholics who believe works are required to obtain forgiveness, etc.

He seems to miss my entire point. He doesn’t even address the disjointedness between the first two illustration and the third. Oh well.

Okay, you’re an Incrementalist. Thank you for telling us. I was too, for years before I became an Abolitionist. Realize, though, that Wilberforce recanted his incrementalist beliefs that he had held to for years. The Abolitionists of slavery spoke out against incrementalist ideas.

Here we see AHA’s vitriol toward incrementalism begin to surface. Three things, however. First, being familiar with Wilburforces life, he was an abolitionist from the get go. I’d like for Johnson to document when he had an awakening from incrementalism to abolitionism. He always wanted slavery to be abolished. Secondly, how he sought to have slavery abolished was incrementally, toiling to pass laws that eventually ended the slave trade and slavery across the British empire and eventually the United States. Incrementalism, as a legal strategy, is not sinful or even in need of recanting. It is gaining political victory little by little in order to reach the end goal, the abolishing of abortion in society. Third, once again, holding to abolitionist ideas is not akin to being AHA.

Then responding to my rebuttal of the two ridiculous illustrations mentioned in the pamphlet he writes,

Which is worse, people being legally raped or people being legally murdered? Both scenarios are horrible, but the latter is your reality.

Which is more ludicrous, children legally being kidnapped or children legally being murdered? Both scenarios are horrible, but the latter is your reality.

The latter is certainly our reality, but the means that I, or any other non-AHA anti-abortionist, have chosen to deal with that reality, AHA disparages. For instance, raising money for a crisis pregnancy center is an entirely helpful way to combat abortion, but AHA thinks it is apathetic. Voting for pro-life political candidates and pro-life legislation is a legitimate means to combating abortion, but AHA tells me its not enough. Churches and Christians that do confront women at abortion mills, who plead with girls seeking to abort their babies, are still in need of repenting according to AHA propagandists. Why?

The world is the church’s report card. And it looks terrible. The culture itself may look bad, but the culture is made up of millions of souls, most of whom have not heard the Biblical Gospel of repentance and faith alone in Jesus Christ. That also doesn’t look good on our report card. Which is why we call the church to action.

The church has only one mandate from the Lord: to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Engaging in social activism is not on that agenda, and Christians shouldn’t be shamed into thinking they are apathetic because they do not pursue one group’s passion for a particular social issue. Social activism may spring out of a culture where the Gospel takes root and God begins changing lives.

Regrettably, you have missed the vital point we have been trying to make. We’re not claiming to be better than you. For all the criticisms you see Abolitionists make against incrementalism, Romanism, etc., we have a ton more criticisms of each other that you don’t see. We constantly encourage one another to get more active. To reform our doctrine. To make sure not to align with damnable heresy.

His final comment utterly lacks any self-awareness, a recurring characteristic of AHA apologists and propagandists. They most certainly have claimed to be better than everyone else, or their members wouldn’t be standing around outside churches telling the Christians they need to repent for not caring enough like AHA. It is a subtle form of works righteousness, “we care more about abortion than you.”

What AHA has done is to become the self-appointed gatekeepers defining pure and clean abortion activism. Any Christian who does not manifest the same level of passion, zeal, urgency, and mental consumption to combat abortion like AHA, is an apathetic and uncaring person who needs to repent. If my support of crisis pregnancy centers and pro-life causes are apathetic according to AHA, I choose to remain apathetic.

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Reviewing an AHA Tract

So Abolish Human Abortion took precious time away from pleading with the women at abortion mills to favor the Ninevite hirelings attending the 2017 Shepherd’s Conference with a pamphleteering campaign.

In addition to the Thursday and Friday of the conference, they also skipped Sunday morning worship at their churches to run the members of Grace through their sidewalk gauntlet.

I was able to secure one of the pamphlets they were passing out and thought I would offer up a review.

To begin, I have to say that I am mightily impressed with the physical pamphlet. If I had to guess, I would say it is 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 booklet. It is printed on sturdy paper stock with a nice, glossy sheen, so we’re not dealing with flimsy, Chick tracts paper quality that is typical of sidewalk activist types. Some good money has been put into the production.

Additionally, the pictures have an artsy look with lots of swirly designs set off with bold colors. Similar to the kind of artwork you find in those popular adult coloring books. And each picture captures a talking point of AHA. Take for example the cover posted above. Here we see a ship being tossed about in a red sea. I’m taking it that the sea represents abortion blood, and the wayward ship is the guilty Christians who love theology more than God and neighbor and do not participate in non-stop abortion activism. A whale’s tail is seen crashing through the waves of gore, which is the faithful abolitionists standing outside the local church handing out pamphlets.

However, in spite of the colorful graphics and professionally done booklet, that probably cost a lot of money to print, when we open it up and review the actual content of what the pamphlet writer is conveying, Scriptural misappropriations and logical fallacies explode off the page. Just a surface level scrutiny reveals how embarrassingly bad the argument for AHA tactics truly is.

Let me begin with the Scriptural misappropriation; what we can call, “taking verses out of context.”

Look again at the cover picture. In the lower left and right hand corners are two OT passages. One is from Ezekiel 6:1-6 and the other from Jeremiah 7:2-7. Obviously, AHA is attempting to build a biblical case for their methods of abortion activism and the need for Churches to repent for their apathy and blood guilt. Alas, neither passage addresses such issues.

I’ll cite the passages in full.

First Ezekiel 6:1-6 states,

 1 And the word of the LORD came to me saying,
 2 “Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them
 3 and say, ‘Mountains of Israel, listen to the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the ravines and the valleys: “Behold, I Myself am going to bring a sword on you, and I will destroy your high places.
 4 “So your altars will become desolate and your incense altars will be smashed; and I will make your slain fall in front of your idols.
 5 “I will also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I will scatter your bones around your altars.
 6 “In all your dwellings, cities will become waste and the high places will be desolate, that your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out.

Now lets turn to Jeremiah 7:2-7

2 “Stand in the gate of the LORD’S house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the LORD!'”
3 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place.
4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’
5 “For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor,
6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin,
7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

Both passages speak of the promised threat of God’s judgment. But is God promising judgment against the modern church that AHA believes is apathetic with regards to abortion and the Christians who do not engage the culture with the tactics of AHA’s abortion activism? Nope.

Ezekiel and Jeremiah describe God’s judgment against the covenant unfaithfulness of Israel. Both prophets are exilic prophets, meaning their message was heard immediately before and during the Babylonian exile. Their words have meaning exclusively to national Israel during that time, and unless you adhere to CT or NCT views of the church now being the “New Testament Israel,” they are no more relevant to Christians in today’s world as Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise to a college guy that he will marry the pretty girl from his math class that he has a crush on.

One more example. Consider 1 John 3:18, Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. John’s words are quoted as if loving in deed and truth is equivalent to AHA abortion activism. Any Christian who isn’t as urgent with abortion activism as AHA is not loving and are “Christians” in word and tongue only.

The problem, however, is that John clearly explains in the preceding verses what it means to love in deed and truth: it is meeting the tangible needs of fellow Christians when you have the ability to meet those needs. If you see your fellow Christians in need, defined as material and financial according to John, and you ignore those needs when you have the ability to meet them, you are NOT loving your brothers faithfully. Again, this passage has absolutely no application to a cultural engagement with abortion activism in the manner that AHA insists Churches must do.

Those are just three examples. Every verse cited and utilized in the pamphlet to make a biblical case for Christians to repent of their so-called apathy regarding abortion and embrace the AHA model of abortion activism, has been ripped out of context. None of them have anything whatsoever to with Christians repenting, or being guilty of not loving their pre-born neighbors, attacking child sacrifice, or any of the other Orwellian AHA newspeak terms they employ against abortion in the modern United States.

What about logical fallacies? I’ll focus on two illustrations.

First, read this page from the pamphlet:

Three examples are provided of when the religious (you know, Christians who have loved theology over God and neighbor like the Ninevite hirelings attending the Shepherd’s Conference) were called to repent. First is when Jesus rebuked the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy regarding God’s law that exploited the Jews and enriched themselves. Next, when the Reformers called out the Rome Catholic Church and it’s unbiblical use of indulgences to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. And then, when Abolitionists, servants of Jesus, called churches in the pre-Civil War south to repentance for slavery. The first two examples are related, the third is a non sequitur.

The first two examples pertain directly to biblical theology and truth that distorts the means of salvation. In other words, what the scribes, Pharisees, and Rome Catholics did prevented men from experiencing salvation. Men’s eternal souls were at stake.

While slavery is a terrible sin against humanity, it is not distorting the message of salvation. In fact, a number of slave owners educated their slaves as to the true Gospel and they were subsequently saved as a result. Certainly that doesn’t justify slavery; but to equate those three particular examples as being one and the same regarding the need to call men to repent is illogical.

Ironically, the slave illustration unintentionally contradicts AHA’s big talking regarding immediatism and incrementalism. AHA advocates for immediatism, or the immediate abolishment of human abortion. The idea of incrementalism, or the gradual chipping away at abortion in our culture, is odious to them and represents gross compromise against God.

However, historically, human slavery was stopped by Christians incrementally passing laws to stop the slave trade and eventually slavery throughout the Western world including the United States. William Wilberforce’s efforts in Britain is a prime example of the effectiveness of incremental laws changing a society and the entire world.

One more example of illogical argumentation. Read this section from the pamphlet,

The section presents a couple of absurd illustrations AHA believes demonstrates the need for Christians to engage in AHA abortion activism. The first ridiculous illustration presents a scenario where there is a society that allows, by law, people to rape wives and children. Sort of a twisted version of the fake prima nocta rituals that never really existed.

The second illustration is even more ludicrous, a park where any predator can kidnap any child at will. Even more, they are allowed not only by law to do the kidnapping, but they are also protected by law enforcement from anyone who would attempt to prevent the kidnapping.

What is truly facepalming about those two farcical situations is that AHA genuinely believes they are powerfully establishing their argument for churches to repent and be as stirred up for abortion activism as they are. Of course, the one thing they are missing with both those illustrations is the fact that women willing go to abortion clinics to murder their children. They are not innocently sitting at a park when a total stranger runs up and rips their baby from their tummy. If the illustrations were to be true to life, it would be a society where women willing allow themselves to be raped and parents intentionally take their children to that park for predators to kidnap them.

On the back of the pamphlet is a picture of a fish, representing the fish that swallowed Jonah and took him back to Nineveh. See the picture below,

Etched on to the fish are various excuses people supposedly give as to why they don’t want to engage in abortion activism like AHA. On the right fluke of the fish’s tail are the words, “The church’s mission is to make disciples, not change the culture.” That is allegedly a terrible excuse, because the church is to change culture, not just make disciples.

But where exactly in the NT is the church told it is to change the culture? Where exactly did Christ convey such a command? While it is true Christians change cultures and societies (think the Western world), the cultural change is a result of making disciples, not just changing the culture.

Regrettably, AHA seems to miss that vital point. Instead, they have made an idol out of their brand of abortion activism. Any Christian who isn’t engaged frequently, or at all, in abortion activism like AHA is condemned as apathetic and needing to repent. Any church that merely gives financially to a crisis pregnancy center or chooses a legislative strategy of incrementalism are labelled compromisers.

The danger for AHA is the more they use such rhetoric against faithful Christians who don’t do activism like them, the more they marginalize themselves as kooks, along with diminishing the important work of ending abortion in our nation.