While the previous article provided an opportunity to evaluate the main argument O.R. advocates marshal to justify O.R. (as well as its cast of supporting arguments), it did not address many other subsidiary arguments proffered by O.R. apologists. In the interests of thoroughly analyzing the rhetoric of "rescue," this article will evaluate these subsidiary arguments -- be they theological, historical, consequential, or legal -- and show that such arguments fail to pass Biblical muster. As with the previous article, we will ultimately see that, while Scripture lauds the end O.R. pursues, it by no means lauds the illegal and physically coercive means by which O.R. seeks to bring about that end. As such, O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive tactics are not Biblically justified. In the end, then, the rhetoric of "rescue" simply does not accord with the reality of "rescue."
First, note carefully that the temple was Christ's (God's) house (Mk. 11:17). Thus, far from legitimizing trespass (as O.R. advocates proffer), Christ actually expelled trespassers from His house!
Second, as He expelled these trespassers, Christ did not cling to an arbitrary distinction between violence and non-violence, as do members of O.R.According to John 2 (which describes the first temple cleansing incident early in Christ's ministry), Christ formed a whip out of cord, physically drove the moneychangers and their sacrificial animals out of the temple court, poured out their coins, and overturned their tables. Not exactly non-violence! And toward the end of His earthly ministry, Christ again cleansed the temple -- without clinging to an arbitrary distinction between violence and non-violence -- by casting both buyers and sellers out of the temple, overturning tables and chairs (Mk. 11:15), and refusing to permit anyone "to carry goods through the temple" (Mk. 11:16).
Blocking entrances? Isn't this precisely what O.R. does? Again we must resist superficial appeals to supposed proof-texts in support of O.R. Read in context, the temple cleansing accounts teach us that Christ didn't just sit on the sidewalk and sing hymns! He used dramatic force by physically driving the moneychangers out of the temple and physically preventing them from entering the temple. Thus, if the example of Christ proves anything at all, it proves that O.R.'s professed commitment to non-violence is arbitrary.
Third, unlike O.R., Christ did not expel the moneychangers to save physical life. Rather, Christ cleansed the temple to preserve God's honor and to enable God-fearing Gentiles to gain access to the area of the temple in which they could worship God. The trespassing merchandisers set up their booths in the outer court of the temple where God-fearing Gentiles came to pray and seek God (since only Jews could enter the inner court to bring their sacrificial offerings). Because God promised that Gentiles would come to the temple to worship Him (Is. 2:2), God-fearing Gentiles were encouraged to seek God and His salvation in the outer court area of the temple. Thus, when the merchants infested this outer court area, they prevented God-fearing Gentiles from worshipping God. When Christ cleansed the temple, then, He enabled God-fearing Gentiles to gain access to the outer court area so that they could worship God. This is why Christ, as He cleansed the temple, quoted Isaiah 56:7 and rhetorically asked, "Is it not written, `My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?'" (Mk. 11:17, emphasis added).
Fourth, while Scripture indeed commands us to imitate Christ (e.g., I Cor. 11:1, Phil. 2:5, I Jn. 2:6), there are many aspects of Christ's life which are unique and which are not recorded in Scripture as a literal example for His followers to imitate literally such as His incarnation, transfiguration, triumphal entry, substitutionary death, and physical resurrection. The temple cleansings are also unique events which Christ never intended His followers to reduplicate literally. Calvin concurs when he writes:Now there is no doubt of the fact that He is testifying to Himself as King and High Priest, who presides over the temple and worship of God. This must be stressed, in case some other person should ever give himself the same licence. Admittedly the zeal which fired Christ is well suited to all worshipping people, but before anyone rushes into wild action on the pretext of imitation he must see what his calling demands and how far we should go according to the commandment of God....[T]hose who have no public authority must fight with the freedom of their tongues what they cannot correct with force.  Put simply, many events in Christ's life -- including the temple cleansing incidents -- are to be interpreted as typological and not literal examples. Far from teaching us literally to eject false worshippers from our churches or to use physical force -- albeit minimal force -- to conform others in society to a Christian ethic, the temple cleansing accounts teach us to have zeal for the true worship of God.
With the historical and literary context of the temple cleansing accounts clearly in mind, we can see that these accounts give absolutely no credence to O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive tactics. Instead, these accounts teach us that Christ drove trespassers out of His house -- without clinging to an arbitrary distinction between violence and non-violence -- in order to allow God-fearing Gentiles to worship Him, not to provide His disciples with a literal example to follow.
First, when Christ interposed Himself between a just God and unjust sinners, He did not violate any human law. When members of O.R. allegedly interpose themselves between abortionists and babies, by contrast, they violate human law precisely by their chosen method of interposition. Because O.R.'s interposition is illegal whereas Christ's was not, Christ's interposition provides no justification for O.R.'s illegalities.
Second, while Christ interposed Himself "physically," He did not thereby physically coerce others to abide by God's dictates. Thus, when O.R. apologists claim that they interpose themselves physically even as Christ did, they equivocate on the meaning of "physical interposition."
Third, Christ's interposition is distinguishable from that of O.R. in that Christ did not interpose Himself between a holy God and unholy sinners on the mere possibility of saving sinners in general. Rather, Christ died specifically to redeem His people.And He perfectly accomplished that task by dying once for all, the just for the unjust (I Pet. 3:18).
Fourth, the analogy is easily reduced to absurdity. If, as O.R. advocates suggest, O.R. intervenes between an abortionist and a baby as Christ does between God and sinners, the analogy makes (1) the abortionist the functional equivalent of God (oops!), (2) the "rescuer" the functional equivalent of Christ (rather complimentary, eh?), and (3) the baby the functional equivalent of a sinner. Why is this analogy being pushed to its extreme? To force its proponents to justify why they employ it. Presumably, they proffer this analogy to prove that Christians are to follow Christ's example of self-sacrifice.But, when Christ self- sacrificially interposed Himself between God and sinners, He did so at the direct command of God to fulfill the covenant promises of God by saving His people once and for all. He neither violated civil law nor physically coerced others in the process. O.R. advocates claim that Christians should follow Christ's example. Indeed, Christians should follow Christ's example.
First, there is no textual evidence whatsoever that Christ was the one who broke the seal. This advocate simply assumed what he had to prove -- something he did quite often during the debate. Since Scripture itself doesn't say who broke the seal, this argument is nothing more than an unsubstantiated argument from silence.
Second, even assuming Christ Himself broke the seal, it is doubtful whether in so doing, He thereby violated the Roman law in question. If such a law existed, it hardly was intended to apply to the situation where the seal was broken from the inside-out. Thus, even if Christ did break the seal, It is questionable whether he ever violated the intent of the Roman law at all.
Third, even if Christ violated the letter of the Roman law by breaking the seal (or any other human law for that matter -- e.g., Sabbath laws -- as O.R. proponents are fond of asserting), He did so in accord with the Biblical criteria for such disobedience. After all, every Sunday school student knows that Christ did nothing apart from His Father's command (Jn. 5:19-20, 30; 6:38-40; 12:49-50; 14:31; 15:10, etc.). Since God commanded Christ to do everything, which includes commanding Him to rise from the dead and exit the tomb (Jn. 10:17-18), and since Christ rose from the dead physically (thus leaving no other means to exit the tomb), the Roman law forbade Christ to do something God had specifically commanded Him to do, and left Christ with no alternative but to do what He did. Thus, even assuming Christ violated a Roman law by breaking the seal on His tomb, He abided by the Biblical criteria for such disobedience. Put simply, the living Word cannot and does not contradict the written Word!
True there was a general law which forbade trespass. Esther herself summarized this law as follows: "All the king's provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court who is not summoned, he has but one law, that he be put to death...." (Esther 4:11). But if one were to read on, he would note that the general law forbidding trespass was subject to one exception, as the text itself makes clear: the one who was not summoned would be put to death "unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live." In other words, there was general law forbidding trespass which was subject to one exception(which we shall refer to as "the golden scepter exception").
The only remaining question, therefore, is whether Esther fell under the purview of the golden scepter exception when she approached the king. A few verses later, we find that Esther indeed fell under the golden scepter exception: "And it happened that when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter" (Esth. 5:2, 8:4).
Once again O.R. supporters have not done their homework! Far from illegally trespassing contrary to the king's dictate, Esther ultimately was invited by the king to approach his throne. She didn't take the law into her own hands as do members of O.R. And she didn't physically coerce others to conform to a godly ethic. Instead, she diplomatically approached the king and persuaded him to exercise his authority to remedy an unjust situation. And God blessed her. Oh that God would raise up more Christians like Esther!
But Leviticus 20 doesn't stop after it informs us that bloodguiltiness rests on those who murdered and committed idolatry. Were O.R. advocates to read the entire chapter, instead of selectively appealing to supposed proof- texts, they would see that the same bloodguiltiness that rests on murderers and idolaters also rests on those who practice incest, adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality. To be consistent with their rhetoric, therefore, members of O.R. should be willing to stage "rescues" at bedrooms, brothels, bathhouses, and barns! Instead, O.R. advocates selectively appeal to the Biblical concept of bloodguiltiness only when that concept superficially appears to support their cause.
This proffered justification not only misunderstands the Biblical doctrine of bloodguiltiness, it also misunderstands the Biblical doctrine of repentance. Repentance does not necessitate the illegalities and physical coercion O.R. perpetrates. Defined properly, repentance means a change of mind -- to turn from sin and to turn to God. With that definition in mind, O.R. advocates are at a loss to explain why one must violate the law in order to repent either for himself or on behalf of others.Legal protests and demonstrations, sidewalk counseling, intensive lobbying, and crisis pregnancy work -- just to name a few legal means currently available to stem the tide of abortion -- would equally be acts of repentance on the logic of this argument. Hence, this argument doesn't justify O.R.'s blatant illegalities. Neither does it justify the way O.R. physically coerces others in society to turn from sin and to turn to God (i.e., to repent). If repentance, Biblically defined, means to turn from sin and to turn to God -- to change one's mind -- then we must ask O.R. advocates if Scripture ever permits or requires Christians to coerce others physically to change their minds? The answer is all too obvious: the ways of Mohammed are not the ways of Christ!
If the O.R. advocate recoils and claims that he is not speaking about causing others to repent, but rather, is talking about repenting on behalf of others, then he meets with the following obstacles. First, as explained above, he is unable to explain why perpetrating illegality is necessary to repent on behalf of others. Second, while one must bring forth the fruits of repentance (Lk. 3:19), such fruit is the result of true repentance, not the means by which one repents. Third, to assert that O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive tactics are acts of repentance is merely to beg the crucial question at issue. Since when is disobeying Scripture, albeit with pious justifications, an act of repentance?
After all, shouldn't those saving unborn human babies be able to out-dramatize animal rights extremists who bomb research laboratories, liberate animals, and send death threats to scientists. Once again, though, the rhetoric of "rescue" is inconsistent with the reality of "rescue." Indeed O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive methods may be dramatic. The only problem, though, is that the script for this drama is not the Bible!
There are ample grounds to challenge the veracity of the model directly. But even if we assume the veracity of the model for the sake of argument, it utterly fails to justify O.R. In fact, the model itself can be reduced to absurdity in the classical sense, in that it can be used both to condone and condemn O.R. simultaneously! How can this be? Were one to study this model carefully, he would note that North infuses into this model the view that state-permitted evil justifies disobedience to the state. But if we were simply to plug the competing view into the model (i.e., that only state-commanded evil justifies disobedience to the state), then this amazingly flexible model would now condemn O.R.
This reductio ad absurdum proves that the dispute between proponents and opponents of O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive tactics doesn't boil down to the veracity of the covenant model. Nor does the dispute pit those who are true covenantal theologians against those who, in the vituperative words of North, are "pseudo covenantal theologians." Rather, the dispute is between whether state-permitted or state-commanded evil justifies disobedience to the state. In the end, then, the covenant model does little, if anything, to resolve this dispute. It simply gives some O.R. advocates additional jargon ("covenantalese") with which to obfuscate the debate.
On the one hand, we could argue that the abolitionists were Biblically justified in violating the Fugitive Slave Act while members of O.R. are not. To begin with, the Fugitive Slave Act directly commanded those who encountered a fugitive slave to return him to his "owner." Thus, those who violated the Fugitive Slave Act directly disobeyed a law which forbade assisting a slave to freedom. Members of O.R., by contrast, are not commanded by force of law, to abort their children (thus they are not commanded to sin by commission); nor are they forbidden to save life (thus they are not commanded to sin by omission). Moreover, one could argue that those who violated the Fugitive Slave Act had no legal alternatives by which they could assist slaves to safety. As the previous article made clear, members of O.R. have numerous legal means by which they can save the life of the unborn today. Furthermore, unlike members of O.R., when a Christian violated the Fugitive Slave Act by assisting a slave to freedom, he did not physically coerce others in society, contrary to their will, to abide by his ethic.
On the other hand, one could argue that violating the Fugitive Slave Act was not Biblically justified, in which case O.R. advocates cannot justifiably appeal to such violations to justify their own brand of illegality. In particular, it is not entirely clear that the Abolitionists had exhausted their legal alternatives. In order to even make this argument, then, members of O.R. must first assume that, without the illegal acts of the Abolitionists, the American slave trade would have never ended. But is that really the case? Any O.R. apologist familiar with British history will no doubt have heard of William Wilberforce, the dedicated Christian who labored legally, peacefully, and non-coercively for over two decades in Parliament urging the abolition of slavery in the British empire. Through his efforts, slavery was finally abolished in 1839 without a single drop of blood being shed -- which is more than anyone can say about the Abolitionist movement in America. Despite its good intentions, the American Abolitionist movement, in part, precipitated the Civil War wherein almost twice as many Americans died than in the First World War, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War combined. Contrary to skewed historical analogies and emotion-laden appeals to days gone by, American history is not our standard. Scripture is our standard. Wilberforce followed Scripture with glorious results. So should members of O.R.
As concerns the Declaration of Independence, proponents of O.R. need to understand a few historical facts. The Colonies received their charter from the Crown. When the Crown violated the Colonists' rights pursuant to the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Rights (1628) and the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Crown breached its covenant with the Colonists. The Colonists attempted to resolve their differences with the Crown peacefully. In July of 1775, the Colonists submitted the Olive Branch Petition to the Crown wherein they affirmed their loyalty to the Crown and sought to resolve their grievances peacefully. The Crown, unenamored by the Olive Branch Petition, encouraged Parliament to pass the Prohibitory Act in December of 1775, which in effect, declared the Colonies to be enemies of the Crown and removed the Colonies from the protection and authority of the Crown. Though the Declaration of Independence contained conciliatory phraseology, it also detailed exactly how the Crown had breached covenant with the Colonists. Thus, the Declaration of Independence was not an act of illegal defiance, as O.R. advocates purport.
Just as O.R. advocates erroneously appeal to the Declaration of Independence, so they err when they appeal to the War of Independence to justify their disobedience. Even if, after the Prohibitory Act, the Crown could have claimed authority over the Colonists, by the time British troops invaded American soil, the Colonists had already established a lesser magistrate -- a new government. Thus, the Colonists abided by the Biblical doctrine of the lesser magistrate (which basically prohibits citizens from exercising force against a magistrate apart from being led by a lesser magistrate). The Colonists' use of force, therefore, was Biblically justified since such force was (1) exercised in self-defense after British troops invaded the Colonies, and (2) delegated to them by their lesser magistrate.
While members of O.R. seek recourse in patriotic rhetoric by appealing to the Declaration of Independence and the War of Independence, they bespeak a profound ignorance of both American history and Scripture. Simply put, while the Declaration of Independence and ensuing War of Independence were Biblically justified, O.R. is not.
Second, there is absolutely no statistical evidence to prove that some, many, or most of these women thereafter remained true to their espoused testimony (i.e., there is no proof that they did not thereafter abort their children). If that is true, then Terry cannot use the testimony of such women to bolster his claim that O.R. saves many lives.
Third, even granting that several hundred lives have been saved through O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive tactics,there is no proof that these lives were saved due to O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive tactics as opposed to the legal and non-coercive pro-life activities (e.g., sidewalk counseling) which occur concurrently with O.R.'s illegal and coercive tactics. Though O.R. proponents boast that they have such evidence, no such evidence has been forthcoming.Until O.R. advocates can demonstrate that it is specifically the illegal and coercive methods which saved those lives, they have not met the burden of proof that is incumbent upon them.
Fourth, even if the O.R. proponent can prove that several hundred lives have been saved specifically because of O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive methods, the proponent cannot prove that O.R. saves more lives more efficiently that any other legal means currently available to pro-lifers. Crisis pregnancy centers and sidewalk counselors, for example, have saved far more than a few hundred lives in the past three years -- without perpetrating illegality and physical coercion, without galvanizing pro-abortion opposition, and without squandering limited resources (on fines, attorneys' fees, and court costs). If O.R. advocates want to justify their cause consequentially, then they better have the data to back it up. Otherwise, their claims are nothing more than self-flattering puffery.
Fifth, while Christians should do all that is in their power to save life, they must save life in the way that God has commanded them to do so in Scripture. Even O.R. proponents freely admit that the command to save life is not absolute (i.e., Scripture does not condone kidnapping mothers, bombing abortuaries, or killing abortionists). The fundamental question, then, is whether Scripture condones O.R.'s illegal and physically coercive tactics. As articulated above, nowhere does Scripture condone such tactics, since members of O.R. are not commanded to sin and are not without legal means of saving life. Additionally, Scripture does not condone the use of private force or physical coercion to conform society to a Christian ethical standard. The end of saving life simply does not justify any and all means of saving life. Nor does the end of saving life justify the illegality and physical coercion O.R. perpetrates.
First, there is serious reason to doubt the veracity of Terry's data. Although Planned Parenthood itself does not gather the statistical data to which Terry refers, Planned Parenthood relies upon the Allen Guttmacher Institute. Were one to scrutinize information made available by the Allen Guttmacher Institute, the study which most closely resembles that to which Terry refers can be found in an article in the January 1987 issue of Family Planning Perspective. This article surveyed "abortion providers" about "harassment" at "clinics." Yet this article does not contain the information Terry cites. And it is doubtful whether such statistical information exists at all, since the statistic Terry cites would require abortuaries to follow-up on those who do not have their abortions. Yet clinics do not statistically track women who do not ultimately become "patients." Thus, Terry needs to clarify the source of his information as well as the methodology the study employs. Until he does so, there is no reason to trust the veracity of the study cited.
Second, even assuming the study were done, one should note that it most likely predates the onset of O.R. and as such, does not statistically account for O.R. as a variable. Why is this significant? If the study were conducted before O.R., Terry cannot assume that what was the case prior to O.R. is necessarily the case after the appearance of O.R. This is especially true in light of the backlash effect O.R. has had. At most abortuaries where "rescue missions" are staged, women are now often met in the parking lot by militant pro-death advocates (often volunteers) who shield the expectant mother from pro-life sidewalk counselors pleading for the child's life. Thus, the abortionist now begins his "sales job" to reinforce the woman's decision to kill her baby in the parking lot rather than (as was the case before O.R.) waiting until the troubled woman entered his waiting room. Undoubtedly, this situation dramatically reduces the number of women who turn away in the first place.
Furthermore, if the study predates O.R. and does not account for it as a variable, Terry conceptually confuses those who voluntarily turn away after being persuaded to do so (the situation before O.R.) with those who are involuntarily and physically coerced to turn away (the situation with O.R.). If nothing else, common sense dictates that those who voluntarily turn away are less likely to change their minds thereafter (and thus will be more likely not to abort their children), than those who are involuntarily coerced to turn away. Consequently, because of the physical coercion O.R. employs, it is safe to suggest that in the majority of cases, all O.R. does is delay the death of the child.
Third, even granting Terry's assumptions, Terry is simply wrong when he uses the alleged study to claim that one in five children are saved, since the study, if it proves anything at all, at best only proves that of those women who turn away, one in five do not thereafter abort. Put simply, Terry leaps to a conclusion which far outruns the "evidence" he marshals.
Fourth, once again, even if one in five who turn away do not thereafter abort, the ends do not justify the means. God does not call Christians as private citizens to coerce others in society physically to conform to a Christian ethical standard. We must learn to do God's work in God's way.
Make no mistake about it; life is precious. And while a life saved is priceless, still the point remains that Scripture does not endorse any and all means of saving life (e.g., kidnapping, bombing, killing). God does not bless disobedience. Ultimately, then, the lives which have been saved, have been saved not because of O.R.'s illegality and physical coercion, but by the providence and sovereignty of God in spite of such illegality and physical coercion.
While O.R. proponents hypothesize that more lives will be saved both in the short-term and in the long-term by O.R.'s tactics, it is equally possible that the illegality and coercion perpetrated by O.R. will continue to strengthen and mobilize pro-abortionists and lead to even more deaths in the long term. While members of O.R. deplete limited resources flying from state to state, posting bail, paying legal fees, and defending against trespass charges, important political battles are being fought in many states -- battles which vie for the same limited resources and legal talent -- battles which will determine the fate of millions upon millions of unborn children!
While members of O.R. myopically focus on the short term, clever pro-death leaders are now plotting and strategizing how to legalize and market RU-486 (the abortion pill). No wonder the pro-death camp doesn't protest against O.R. more vehemently. They probably see O.R. as a decoy -- drawing limited resources and manpower away from where the true battles are being fought. At the same time, they see O.R. as a valuable bogeyman to stimulate contributions to and increase the membership rolls of pro-death organizations.
O.R.'s rhetoric to the contrary, isn't it possible or even probable that by attempting to rescue a few hundred lives today, O.R. may be sacrificing thousands or even millions of lives tomorrow? Yes, we want to save all of the lives today and tomorrow! But that is not feasible today. So when the dust of O.R. rhetoric settles, the real issue is how we can best use the limited resources God has given us today to save as many lives as possible. O.R.'s wishful thinking doesn't save babies. In fact, it may very well kill them!
Having seen that Terry's argument fails even if we grant him the truth of his conclusion for argument's sake, we can also see that Terry's historical generalization itself is suspect. In other words, it simply is not true that social tension usually brings about such change. To begin with, Terry suppresses (knowingly) or omits (unknowingly) historical evidence to the contrary by failing to consider numerous historical examples of tension-creating movements which failed to bring about political or legal change in America (e.g., the Ku Klux Klan, the American Communist Party, the anti-nuclear/anti-war protests, the Animal Liberation Front -- the list could outrun Terry's by far). Suffice it to say, it simply is not true that social tension usually ushers in political and legal change.
Furthermore, Terry argues by means of false analogies when he contends that O.R. -- like the civil rights movement, etc. -- will create the tension necessary to bring about change. O.R. is easily distinguishable from the movements Terry cites in at least four ways.
First, the movements Terry cites succeeded only when the values of the protestors resonated in the larger society and were brought to bear on those who didn't share those values. Unfortunately, because most of the despots of American public opinion are at war with God, pro-life values do not resonate in American society today.
Second, Terry fallaciously appeals to violent movements (e.g., the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the labor movement) while he elsewhere adamantly maintains that O.R. employs non-violent resistance a la Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. This puts Terry in a conspicuous position: he must either own up to the fact that violence is sometimes necessary to bring about change (in which case he is forced to abdicate his arbitrary commitment to allegedly non-violent action), or he must desist from analogizing to historical examples of violent movements to make out his consequentialist case for O.R. (in which case his argument loses much of its punch).
Third, Terry cites some movements whose members directly disobeyed the laws which were considered to be unjust (e.g., the civil rights movement), while O.R. engages in indirect disobedience (since there is no feasible way to challenge Roe v. Wade directly).
Fourth, Terry analogizes to some movements which rarely, if ever, disobeyed human law at all (e.g., the "feminist" movement). Once again, Terry finds himself in a logical bind: he must either admit that illegality is not always necessary to usher in change (in which case Terry would seriously undermine his case for O.R.'s illegal tactics), or admit that the analogy is false since O.R. perpetrates illegality while the feminist movement did not (in which case Terry is reasoning irrationally).
Second, even if members of O.R. were only sued in tort for civil trespass, this argument does not account for the fact that tort law is created by legislatures and courts, both of which fall directly under the rubric of "civil magistrate" as that term is Biblically defined. Since civil trespass is tort law, since tort law is legislatively and judicially created, and since legislatures and courts are civil magistrates, civil trespass is regulated by the Biblical criteria for disobedience. The Biblical criteria for disobedience, properly understood, apply to all law -- whether it be criminal or civil law, whether it be statutory or case law, whether it be created by the executive, legislative, or judicial branch, and whether it be enforced at the federal, state, or local levels.
Because Sanders builds his argument upon a mistaken factual premise, and because he seriously misunderstands the nature of tort law, this proffered rationale is without merit.
First, even O.R. proponents readily admit that acquittals are rare;most of the time, members of O.R. who go to trial are convicted. Thus, the proponent who argues in this way is attempting to establish a general principle by arguing from exceptional circumstances (thus committing the fallacy of accident). Put simply, the acquittal of a few does not justify the illegalities of all.
Second, even if every O.R. member were acquitted, this argument would still be unsound because it fails to grasp an important Biblical distinction between law and morality. While an activity may not be criminal (in terms of human law), it may still be immoral or sinful (in terms of divine law). This is just another way of saying that not all crimes are sins. Take the very evil of abortion itself as an example. Just because abortion is not criminal (in terms of human law) does not mean that Christians can abort their children and claim that abortion is therefore Biblical! Likewise, the O.R. advocate errs when he suggests that acquittal in terms of human law exonerates O.R. members in terms of divine law.
First, our law does not currently recognize the unborn child as a person for purposes of forbidding abortion. To retort that our law ought to do so is to equivocate between the normative (what ought to be the case pursuant to divine law) and the descriptive (what is currently the case pursuant to human law). This defense, by its very nature, is rooted in the descriptive. Should human law one day recognize the unborn child as a person worthy of protection from abortion (for which many pray and labor), then this defense would be viable. At present, however, it does not serve to legally justify O.R.'s conduct.
Second, if this argument proves anything, it proves that O.R. advocates are inconsistent with their own rhetoric. All pro-lifers readily admit that abortion is just another name for murder. According to the doctrine of defense of others, the doctrine to which the O.R. proponent appeals, one who defends another against a deadly attack is entitled to respond in kind by using deadly force, provided such force is necessary to defend the other. Thus, if this doctrine justifies trespass to prevent murder, then it also -- on the proponent's own logic -- would justify killing an abortionist to prevent murder. This, of course, is not to suggest that members of O.R. would be acquitted at trial if they killed an abortionist and pleaded this defense. It is only to suggest that members of O.R. are inconsistent with their own rhetoric. Since members of O.R. reasonably perceive a deadly threat, and since they believe that the unborn child is human, and since such force is reasonably necessary to save "that" unborn baby about to enter the abortuary, then the very standard to which they appeal to justify trespassing on the abortionist's private property would also -- on their own logic -- justify killing abortionists! The rhetoric of rescue simply does not accord with the reality of rescue. Paraphrasing the words of Terry: if members of O.R. really believe abortion is murder, then why don't they act like it is murder?
First, while history provides many examples of those who chose to violate the law in order to challenge it, we must remember that there may be ways to challenge an unjust law or an inconsistency in the law without violating it. The Christian must always seek to work within the bounds of the law before he seeks to violate the law -- no matter how rich the humanistic/secular tradition to the contrary may be!
Second, the test case rationale is outcome-dependent. If the challenged law is upheld, the one who violated it finds no justification for his actions. If, by contrast, a court were to strike down the challenged law so as to exonerate the particular appellants before it,those members who have already been tried and convicted would not necessarily be exonerated, since the reversal would not necessarily be retroactive. Also, we must remember that even if O.R. members were adjudicated to be innocent of all criminal charges (in terms of human law), they would not necessarily be able to argue that what they did was therefore justified (in terms of divine law). Why? Because not all sins are crimes. Prostitution, for example, may be legal in the state of Nevada, but no Christian true to Scripture would claim that prostitution is therefore Biblical. The fact is that legal justification does not necessarily entail Biblical justification.
Third, this rationale does not justify O.R.'s en masse tactics since a single individual can violate a law and thereby may gain standing to establish a test case.
In essence, this rationale reduces to the view that state- permitted evil justifies disobedience to the state. For a detailed refutation of this view and a presentation of the competing view (i.e. that only state- commanded evil justifies disobedience), see the previous article. At this juncture, we will only note that O.R. proponents who claim that an unjust law is not a law and, at the same time, appeal to the affirmative defenses of private necessity and defense of others embrace logically inconsistent propositions. Affirmative defenses, by definition, presuppose the validity of the underlying legal structure. The defendant who pleads defense of others basically says, "I broke a valid law, but I am justified in so doing and should therefore not be found guilty." The proponent can't have it both ways: to be consistent, he must either cling to his unjust law theory and abdicate his affirmative defense theories (in which case he must surmount the refutation of the unjust law theory articulated in the previous article), or he must abdicate his unjust law theory and cling to the affirmative defense theories (in which case he must surmount the refutations of these affirmative defense theories articulated in section IV.C above).
Interviewer: Did you break a law?Some rather stirring words to be sure. But who uttered them? Not Randall Terry. Not Joseph Foreman. And not any other O.R. advocate. The passionate words above, while echoing the rhetoric of O.R., were uttered by Father Berrigan of the Catonsville Nine who protested the Vietnam War and James Walker, who distributed sterilized needles to drug addicts to prevent the spread of AIDS!
Interviewer: How in the world do you expect a jury to find you innocent?
[Advocate]: Well, we hope to show in this trial that the reason I broke the law was more important than the reason the law was made.
Interviewer: And the reason you broke the law?
[Advocate]: The reason I broke the law was to save lives.
Coincidence? Not really, since no better justification exists for violating the law. But the rhetoric of O.R. is more steeped in Scripture than the rhetoric of Berrigan and Parker, right? After all, Berrigan and Parker were not out to save lives in the way that O.R. is out to save lives, right? And they didn't self-sacrificially intervene to save lives as does O.R., right? And the blood of soldiers and addicts doesn't cry out from the ground like the blood of babies, right? And their disobedience certainly isn't the same type of dramatic witness and doesn't accord with the covenantal model, right? And what they did isn't anything like what Corrie Ten Boom, the Abolitionists, or the American Colonists did, right? And they didn't save as many lives as O.R. and didn't create as much social tension as O.R., right? And they certainly didn't violate the law since they only committed torts, could be acquitted, could appeal to the doctrines of private necessity and defense of others, sought to establish a test case, and simply ignored an unjust law, right?
Perhaps. But then again, perhaps not. Perhaps O.R. protestors, the Vietnam War opponents, and needle distributors really share more in common than anyone realizes. What bands them together is the distance between their rhetoric and reality. Their passionate but misleading rhetoric, in fact, only serves to demonstrate that they have a zeal -- a zeal which is not in accord with knowledge. Indeed, one O.R. advocate put it so well when he said that God "is not pleased by our good intentions, as noble as they may seem; He is pleased by our obedience."Isn't it time members of O.R. really learned to obey God rather than man?
David Hagopian, "Forgive Us Our Trespasses? A Biblical View of Civil Disobedience and Operation Rescue", Antithesis, Vol. I, No. 3, May/June 1990, pp. 9-14, 33-39.
As with the previous article, we shall abbreviate "Operation Rescue" as "O.R." throughout this article.
Paul Lindstrom, "Operation Rescue", (promotional video).
Advocates of O.R. admanantly insis that their tactics are non-violent: see e.g., Joseph Foreman, deate with David Hagopian, "Is Operation Rescue Biblically Justifiable?" (May 13, 1989). I am indebted to Greg Price, an Orthodox Presbyterian Pastor, for bringing many of the refuations of the temple cleansing accounts to my attention.
John Calvin, New Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1972 ), Vol. III, pp. 3, 4.
Foreman, debate with Hagopian; D. James Kennedy, Foreward to R. Terry, Operation Rescue, (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1988), p. 6.
G.I. Williamson, "Unlimited Atonement", in this issue of Antithesis, pp. 38-39.
Foreman, debate with Hagopian.
Foreman, debate with Hagapian.
R. Terry, "A Response", [responding to Bill Gothard's critique of O.R.], (Binghamton, NY: Operation Rescue, n.d.), p. 9: "Actually, Esther is a beautiful example of a rescue mission. She trespassed with a right attitude and with much prayer to save the lives of others. That's exactly what rescuing babies is all about. Thank you, Esther."
Keil and Delitzsch concur with this interpretation. C.F. Keil, and F. Delitzswch, Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., 1989 ), Vol. III, The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther (C.F. Keil), p. 352.
Terry, Operation Rescue, pp. 133.148.
Anonymous (narrator), "Operation Rescue" (promotional video).
Terry, Operation Rescue, p. 144.
O.R. rhetoric is ambiguous as to whether such repentance is of others or on behalf of others. On the other hand, Terry has written, "[w]e are urging people to repent", thus suggesting the former interpretation. Elsewhere, such as in the O.R. promotional video, the repentance spoken of of appears to suggest the latter interpretation. We will evaluate both interpretations.
Peter Leithart, "Operation Rescue Revisited", The Biblical Worldview, November 1988, p. 11. Leithart attributes this arguement to James B. Jordan.
See e.g., Foreman, debate with Hagopian.
This rationale was offered to prevent O.R. from "escalating to extremism and violence" since "[i]f a rescue is a witness to Christ, it becomes absured to argue that it should be violent." Leithart, p. 11. Leithart's conclusion, however, is unfounded since Christ Himself did not cling to O.R.'s arbitrary distinction between violence and non-violence (as demonstrated in section I, A, 1 above).
Gary North, When Justice is Aborted, (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1989); Trespassing for Dear LIfe, (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1989); and "are Operation Rescue's Critics Self- Serving?" Biblical Economics Today, (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics), December - January 1989, Vol. X, No. 1, pp. 1-8.
See, e.g. Terry, Operation Rescue, pp. 106, 110.
Ibid, pp. 102-106; Mark Belz, Suffer the Little Children: Christians, Abortion, and Civil Disobedience, (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), pp. 85-94. 165-169.
O.R. advocates who appeal to abolitionists would do well to read abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison who were not only interested in freeing slaves but were also interested in punishing slave-owners (erroneously arguing that sheding blood was necessary). Of course, abolitionists like John Brown were just more consistent with the rhetoric of the likes of Garrison.
Terry, Operation Rescue, p. 195; "A Response", p. 8.
On this view, the prior breach of the Crown obviated the covenant between the Crown and the colonies. Modern contract law is somewhat analogous in that if party A substantially breaches a contract prior to the alleged breach of party B, the contract is generally voidable at the option of party B.
Cf. the now familiar argument that the so called American Revolution was really a conservative counter-revolution, not a revolution. Thus the War of Independence is utterly distinct from the French Revolution (rightly so calle). See, Peter F. Drucker, The Future of Industrial Man, (NY: John Day, 1942), pp. 219ff.
Anonymous, "Randall Terry: I Couldn't Do Anything Else", Action, October 1988, p. 3, quoting Terry.
As of May, 1989, Foreman claimed that O.R. had 250 "confirmed" saves; Foreman, debate with Hagopian.
Although Foreman said that he could produce such evidence during the debate, he never did so.
Terry, Operation Rescue, p. 27.
Jerry Falwell, "Operation Rescue", (promotional video).
Terry, Operation Rescue, p. 195.
Peter Leithart, "Operation Rescue: Pro and Con", The Biblical Wrldview, September 1988, p. 8.
Belz, Suffer, p. 36: "Of course, when people have done these things [blocked abortion clinic doors, forbade entry, etc.] they have broken laws". Also, on page 111, Belz admits that the "protestors are defying the law; there is no doubt about that."
Franklin Sanders, "Operation Rescue: Eevaluating Mr. Gunn's Ethical Evaluation", Herald of the Covenant, February 15, 1989, Vol. 13, No. 1, p. 1.
Belz, Suffer, p. 80.
On those rate occasions when O.R. members are acquitted, they are not necessarily acquitted of all charges levied against them. Complete acquittal is very rare. Steven Pressman, "Cyrus Zal, Missionary-at- Law". California Lawyer, March 1990, Vol, 10, No. 3, pp. 17-18, 104, 106.
Belz, Suffer, p. 110. See also Pressman, p. 106.
Wayne R. LaFave and Austin W. Scott, Jr., Criminal Law, (St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 2nd edition, 1986), sec. 5.8, p. 463.
Some O.R. proponents claim that such force is unnecessary since O.R. saves lives apart from using such force. For an evaluation of this claim, see section II, A, 1. d. of the previous artilce at pp. 33-34. For an evaluation of the "that" baby arguement, see section II. B of the previous article at pp. 38-39.
Terry, Operation Rescue, p. 22.
Of course, this argument assumes that members of O.R. will gain standing to bring lawsuit on behalf of the unborn, and that they will succeed on appeal. Evan assuming that members of O.R. could gain standing to levy a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the thrust of this rationale would lead the proponent and the court down the infamous slippery slope. If the court were to grant standing and reverse earlier convictions on the rationale that the unborn child is a person for purposes of protection under the law, then the court would also have to accept the conclusion that killing an abortionist would also be justified. Don't expect to find the court at the bottom of this slope. Since O.R. would not likely be able to challenge Roe v. Wade direclty, O.R. appears, at best, to be able to gain standing on an obscure issue of civil rights -- which is a far cry from saving the unborn.
See section, I, pp. 914, 33.
The Berrigan quote was uttered on Octover 12, 1968 and is taken form Carl Cohen Civil Disobediance: Conscience Tactics, & The Law, (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1971). The Parker interview is taken from "John Parker Case: Clean Needles to Prevent AIDS", Nightline, Air date: January 5, 1990, Show 2250.
Terry, Operation Rescue, p. 36.