Balancing Murder: A Response to Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden

The defining feature of evangelicalism is disregard for the institutional church.

I was disappointed to see this proven again by “Pro-Life Evangelicals for Biden”, particularly with the signatories Richard Mouw and Samuel Logan. This group argues in three paragraphs that Joe Biden’s policies reflect a more biblical, pro-life ethic than Donald Trump’s, abortion notwithstanding and evidence not provided. Citing the parachurch organization, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Pro-Lifers for Biden state, “‘Faithful evangelical civic engagement and witness must champion a biblically balanced agenda.’ Therefore we oppose ‘one issue’ political thinking because it lacks biblical balance.” What are the additional pro-life issues that policies on abortion need to be balanced against? Poverty, healthcare, climate change, racism, and, yes, that pressing issue, smoking.

My concern is not with the political question of the importance of these issues, but the way in which the church has been sidelined by this group in favor of an equalizing idea of “balance.”

Richard Mouw’s Christian Reformed Church rejects abortion as murder, and “calls believers to speak out against the atrocity of abortion, to promote action and legislation that reflect the teaching of Scripture regarding the sanctity of human life.” Samuel Logan’s Orthodox Presbyterian Church holds that abortion is murder and that the church ought to petition the government to redress this evil. Mouw and Logan are both members of the World Reformed Fellowship (as am I), along with the Presbyterian Church in America and my own Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Both of these Reformed churches also condemn abortion as murder, and urge the government to adopt legislation that ends the practice. The EPC also has a brief position paper that outlines what it means to be pro-life, and well, mandating insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions does not make the cut. Notably, none of these four Reformed churches have positions on healthcare policy, the best minimum wage practices, legislative solutions to climate change, or tobacco use.

Reformed churches historically have been reticent to weigh in on civil matters unless the issue is extraordinary, such as the legally endorsed murder of children (e.g. Westminster Confession of Faith 31.4). The reason for this is obvious: Does raising the minimum wage reduce poverty? Does it effect rising prices? Does it reduce employer’s abilities to hire workers? Does it impede a general growth of the economy that would otherwise create higher wages and better paying jobs? The answers to these questions depend on a host of social and economic factors far beyond the purview of  the nebulous concept of “biblical balance.” Contrast this with abortion: Does abortion kill a child? Yes, every time, without hesitation or equivocation.

The idea of “biblical balance” is also foreign to the ethics of Reformed churches. For instance, Westminster Larger Catechism 150-151 teaches that some sins are more heinous than others. And to put it simply: Murdering a child in the womb is far worse than maintaining a free market health system (which may actually be good!) or disagreeing about whether rejoining the Paris Climate Accords is the best path to fighting climate change (perhaps so, perhaps not). Abortion is always the sinful and egregious murder of a defenseless child; there is nothing to balance between that and what the best carbon-cap should be. It ought to embarrass these evangelicals that Roman Catholics Ramesh Ponurru and Robert George expressed a Reformed ethic on abortion and voting better than they.

Why does a group of evangelicals have to cite their institutional affiliation (or grandparents) for legitimacy rather than their churches? Because their churches disagree with them on what a biblically-balanced, pro-life agenda means. Now, I’m going to go outside and do two things: Not kill a child in the womb, and enjoy some nice pipe tobacco. Hopefully these pro-lifers will be able to discern the difference in moral weight between the two.