This sanctity of life video employs a powerful message delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his stand against the Vietnam war. Dr. King was adamantly against abortion and denounced it as a form of genocide on numerous occasions.
“Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 4, 1967
Given at Riverside Church, New York City, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s address as delivered to the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The short excerpt used in this video:
“I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization which has brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: ‘A time comes when silence is betrayal.’ That time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.
“The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on.
“Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.”
Rev. Martin Luther King, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/45a/058.html, retrieved November 10, 2011.
In the beginning, it appears everyone was on the same page. Below is a Planned Parenthood pamphlet on family planning, as printed in 1952. Quote:
Is it an abortion?
Definitely not. An abortion requires an operation. It kills the life of a baby after it has begun. It is dangerous to your life and health. It may make you sterile so that when you want a child you cannot have it. Birth control merely postpones the beginning of life.
(Originally posted at prosanctityoflife.com on November 11, 2011.)
The exclusive claim of salvation by Jesus Christ is oftentimes one of the most offensive claims by Christianity. The world just doesn’t want to be held accountable to this one. First seen on Facebook, this thread was a good example of folks holding a respectful debate in the public square. Thank you to all those who contributed. Matthew
[Matthew] Either Jesus was crazy, lying or telling the truth. The exclusive claim by Christianity is one of the hot-buttons for non-believers who want to believe there are many paths to God. Christians are called to love others in all they do, including when sharing truth. Be salt, but do it in love.
[Joe] What if Jesus wasn’t being literal? What if Jesus was the personification of love, and love is the only way to the Father?
[Lauren] Our small group just discussed what salt is and what it means. We’re doing an Andy Stanley study called “What Is Christian?” He made the point that salt was a preservative at that time and was used to keep meat from rotting. So followers of Jesus are to be preserving those around us by surrounding them with love and meeting their needs. Because we love beyond what anyone else would think reasonable, we show people who God is.
[Molly] That way is the Way of LOVE. Jesus opened the gate for us to return to God, it is up to us to seek that path for ourselves.
[Matthew] Well, if Jesus wasn’t being literal and was simply saying He was synonymous with love, someone should have told His apostles, Peter and John:
Acts 4 (NKJV)
4 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.'[a] 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
[Kelly] John 4.8 NiV Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
[Kelly] Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love
[Kelly] Romans 13:10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
[Kelly] John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him
[Matthew] Sooo… you’re saying Peter and John were wrong?
[Kelly] You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion. Meister Eckhart
[Molly] Jesus reconciled the old law and created the Law of Love. That is the one to follow.
[Matthew] I don’t dispute for a second that Jesus taught love. The opening sentiment on this thread (which is backed up by the apostles) doesn’t lessen a message of love. That there is a shared moral ethic among many world religions is not in question. What is being asserted by these verses is a claim of exclusivity and the hope of eternal salvation offered under a single name. Though many world religions offer a shared message of love, they vary widely in their portrayal of life purpose, the afterlife, and a need for salvation. It is the claim to exclusivity that is the point of common contention. It does seem to be what Jesus taught.
[Joe] So you give equal weight to the Apostles as you do the word of Jesus Himself?
[Matthew] So, you’re saying the apostles were wrong. After three years of living with Him, witnessing His resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit, they were still confused about His precepts? I guess I’m more willing to believe you and I are confused before I’m willing to believe they were confused. Joe, do you believe in the deity of Christ? If so, what was God’s first commandment to the Israelites?
[Joe] Excellent argument. God’s First Commandment is “I am the Lord Your God. Thou shall not put other gods before me.” Therefore you must NOT weigh the opinions of the apostles the same as you would God or Jesus, lest you put the opinions of men before God’s.
[Kelly] Apostles are men, whom receive their own interpretation which is always subject to flaw and self explanatory experience that in itself can be misinterpreted.
[Matthew] I’m not saying the apostles’ words ring louder than Jesus’ teaching. God forbid! But to dismiss their teaching as errant is to say Jesus failed in His mission to establish the early church through the apostles. If the apostles were guilty of spreading false doctrine and that false doctrine is now Scripture, God is either inept or wicked. Inept, in that He was quickly undermined by human error after Jesus’ departure and could not protect His Word. Wicked, if He chose not to protect it and has allowed His truth to be contorted. So I think we probably need to understand that Jesus chose these men; not the other way around.
[Jeannie] So you don’t believe in free will? That God can either be all good OR all powerful. Not both?
[Kelly] Isn’t his truth contorted already with other versions of Christianity
[Matthew] Kelly, what people do with truth once they have it does not reduce the truth itself. People will reject and bend truth as their fallen natures call, or they will adopt a humble heart, die to self-will and bend themselves to align with the truth.
[Matthew] Joe, of course I believe in free will, but the prayer is “Thy will be done,” not “my will be done.” Subjecting your free will to His is still exercising free will. I’m not saying the Christian claim to exclusivity is a comfortable one. I do assert as we step under His lordship, we must cast aside all other notions that there are many paths to God. That’s not what God taught the Israelites. That’s not what Jesus taught the apostles. That’s not the Gospel taught by the apostles to the early church.
[Matthew] As for God being all good and all powerful, those things are true.
[Joe] Matt, if you read the bible carefully you will see vast majority of Jesus’ teachings were in parables. Yet, his apostles took his words literally. I believe the literal interpretation, while well-intentioned, was and is a mistake.
[Matthew] I guess I’m assuming His apostles knew Him better than we do?
[Matthew] I just want to say how much I appreciate being able to have a calm, engaging debate about this topic. Thank you, all.
[Joe] Forest for the trees?
[Joe] Also, you are assuming the bible has never changed from its original Aramaic, was never manipulated to justify control (why are there two versions of the New Testament?), or eliminated voices of any female followers like Mary Magdaline too.
[Michele] This string is fascinating, and like Matt I am impressed to have witnessed a civil dialogue about religion. I find it a bit ironic that you’re using the argument that the word of the apostles shouldn’t have the same weight as the ones of Jesus himself when in fact the entire Bible is the writings of others. You either think it can be relied on to explain the words of the lord or you don’t. I too believe some versions/translations aren’t as accurate as others – but that could just as easily support Matt’s point.
[Kelly] I find truth in many places but I don’t limit my search for it either.
[Joe] Michele, why not? If you’re going to use the book as the basis of the argument (which in itself is debatable to its lack of completeness and accuracy as I’ve already pointed out) then the argument over who said what and what’s more important is a valid argument to have.
[Matthew] Joe, actually, the argument for both translation and transmission errors has long been laid to rest. Of all the books of antiquity on the planet, the 66 books that make up the Bible prove to have the greatest historical evidence of authenticity. We have over 5700 copies, shreds and pieces of the Greek New Testament documents alone. The next best documented book? Homer’s Iliad at around 2300 copies. Funny, no one ever refutes that we have the Iliad. I think that’s probably because there’s not much accountability called out in the Iliad. Most errors found in the copies we have are simple spelling errors.
[Joe] Matthew, then why are there two versions of the New Testament? King James and Catholic.
[Michele] You can’t on one hand say the apostles writings can’t be relied on because they mischaracterized Jesus’ intentions and on the other point to other writings and say – this part is really what he meant. You are essentially picking and choosing to fit what you’d like to be the case or what you think it should be. You’re by no means unique in that – people across the globe manipulate religious teachings to suit their own needs. At the end of the day it comes down to faith – even if there wasn’t reams of archeological evidence to support biblical writings – I’d still believe it was true.
[Joe] Michele, I think you’re misunderstanding my comments. Yes, I do question the absolute validity of the bible. I believe it most likely has been manipulated, and at the very least exclusionary based on the heavily patriarchal mindset of the time it was written. However, for the sake of this argument, I am allowing the assumption that it is at least reasonably accurate. Therefore, my argument of weighing the words of Jesus heavier than the words of the Apostles holds according to either version of the new testament. I have a spiritual concern with the thought of God not allowing those who care for others, but are not Christian, being excluded from Heaven, but a serial murderer who accepts Christ on death row doesn’t. I have a moral concern with those who take Matt’s argument much, much farther and kill others based on the belief only Christians get into Heaven. In respect to the latter, there is no fundamental difference between this form of Christianity and terrorism (radical Islam or others.)
[Matthew] Joe, I hear your heart-cry, man. I am also in the process of wading through the doctrine of hell to get a better understanding for the heart of our Father. I would clarify one thing though: true Christian fundamentalism looks like Jesus, the same way true Islamic fundamentalism looks like Mohammad, the same way true Buddhism looks like Buddha. You know the tree by the fruit it bears. If “Christian” behavior or teaching doesn’t reflect Jesus, it’s just wearing a Christian label. Further, if you can’t see it in the life of Jesus, it doesn’t reflect the Father. Jesus is our intercessor. As the “Last Adam,” He models to us what a perfect human life was intended to look like. Through Him too, we also know the will of the Father. Jesus modeled crazy, supernatural love. He also taught there is a judgment and a need for repentance and a saviour. I guess I want to confirm the confusion you feel around the doctrine of hell and salvation; I’m right there with you, brother. I’ve recently stumbled across some teaching that is helping me make sense of it, but I’m still working through that process. That material explores where the notion of eternal conscious torment for sins came from and how the Bible may not actually teach that at all (though the context we understand seems to point to it.)
[Joe] Matthew, I can appreciate that and also appreciate this conversation. I can tell you I am at peace in my relationship with God and His order. I do believe in Jesus and His purpose in showing us love as the way. In my spiritual journey, I’ve gone from obedient Catholic alter boy to a person who no longer actively subscribes to organized religion, or as I affectionately refer to them as “God’s dealerships.” I no longer feel the need to attend a dealership for my soul’s maintenance. I do not fault those who do believe in organized religion, though those who take it to extremes do bother me. For a great many people they serve as a regular reminder to be good and kind to one another. I find no fault in that. I’ve learned to seek His wisdom through love and understanding, and pray for His peace when I cannot understand why things the way they are. None of us will know for sure who is right (if there’s a right at all) until we can ask Him for ourselves. Until then, the more I can model and encourage others to show love and acceptance. And hope He has a sense of humor.
[Jeannie] Of course He does! You’ve seen a giraffe haven’t you!
Starting in Genesis 13 and finally concluding in Genesis 21 with the birth of Isaac, we see an account of Abram and Sarai’s struggle of faith. Abram’s covenant with God in Genesis 13 and 15 leaves Abram and Sarai with God’s promise of descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky (15:5) and a claim to the lands of nearby nations (15:18). Abram was already in his mid-80’s at this time and Sarai was considered barren and beyond child-bearing years. As they wrestle with God’s seemingly improbable promise, Abram and Sarai eventually decide to take matters into their own hands. Sarai convinces Abram to go in unto her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, in order to help the prophesy along. Hagar does indeed conceive a son, Ishmael, however this was not in accordance with God’s promise. The whole account is one that teaches us the importance of waiting upon the promises of the Lord. For good measure, God waits over 15 years more before fulfilling His promise, making the supernatural blessing of Isaac undeniable.
In his November 2016 video, “Is HELL REAL or an Invention of the Church?” former Christian pastor and missionary, Joshua Tongol, sounds off on his problems with the doctrine of hell and eternal damnation. He opens with the example of a loved one who doesn’t believe Christianity but still has a loving heart. They die suddenly. “Where are they now?” he asks. Fundamentalists would say, “Hell. Forever. Eternal conscious torment.”
Of course, most Christians trying to be soft in their response would say, “Well, that’s for God to judge.” Theologically speaking, however, most Christian fundamentalists still silently feel—without the salvation prayer (an invention within the past 100 years)—the unregenerate “unsaved” will be going to hell. Even if one says the prayer, without true repentance and a heart-felt desire to pursue Christ, can’t they still be counted as “still-born”?
Tongol poses some tough questions. I was completely unequipped to answer the same questions in my late teens when a Jehovah’s Witness friend fired them at me. My inability to answer these questions in the face of my staunch Catholic upbringing marks my own launch into personal apostasy. That fall would last over two decades before I returned to the faith. The questions:
What kind of loving parent would send their children to eternal damnation? For not believing? For having little context for believing?
How to reconcile God’s unconditional love and everlasting mercy with eternal damnation? Preachers push this concept often when they posit “God loves you so much, but if you don’t love Him back, you’re going to burn.”
If God is omnipresent, how can the common explanation that hell is “existence without God’s presence” hold any water?
My Children Are Destroyed By Lack of Knowledge
When you can’t reckon the gap with logic, folks rebut with, “What does the Bible say?” Well, which Bible? Certain bibles don’t mention the word “hell” at all. Furthermore, the images of hell don’t seem to coincide. Are we talking about the verses that support an eternal hell, the verses that support the destruction of sinners, or the verses that support a temporary hell? So, which is it?
If God is all-knowing, as the Bible affirms, why create people who are simply destined for eternal hell? As a parent, say you’re able to clearly see the future for your children. You see that your next child will have less than 100 years to live on the planet, and then will burn in eternal conscious torment afterwards. Would you still bring them into existence? Our lowly, natural minds would say certainly not. If we can agree that God is way more just, way more loving and way more merciful than we are, it’s safe to assume we don’t have the whole picture.
Does it seem fair to be eternally punished for believing the wrong thing about God? Maybe you’re born in the wrong place, at the wrong time or into the wrong religion. A common response to the remote aborigine who never hears the Gospel is, “Well, God will take that into account then.” Essentially, they’ll be graded on a curve because of their ignorance. So then are missionaries doing a disservice to proclaim the Gospel to indigenous people, placing them in the path of eternal damnation by risking their rejection of Jesus? Why make them responsible and put them at risk? Wouldn’t ignorance over a span of less than 100 years and a higher likelihood of union with the Father be better than risking them making a bad decision and landing in eternal torment? This same argument has been applied to abortion providers, as if abortion simply jettisons the unborn into the lap of God.
Will we really be infinitely punished for finite sin and understanding? This possibility is hard for our fallen minds to swallow. Yet, if we believe the Bible, we can expect God is fair. Not only is He friend and father, but also judge.
And so, the questions continue to brew.
What’s the Big Idea?
Tongol asks, “Does God’s loving pursuit of humanity end at death?” If love is patient, does one’s physical death mark the end of that patience? What of the many who live short lives?
The common retort is, “God gave us all free will. God doesn’t send His people there; we send ourselves.” And if that is true, and it was our free will that landed us in hell, can we not use our free will to get back out of hell? Does our free will stop at physical death? Isn’t the concept of hell dangerously abstract to those with no experience of it?
If the residents of hell (angelic and human) have–through their own free will–resisted the love of God, can God’s love be resisted forever? Wouldn’t even a loving earthly parent try to snatch their child out of eternal torment? If God is love (as Christians claim) why would God do anything less for His children?
The scenario can be irreverently described like this:
Humanity starts with two people who trip over themselves in the garden of Eden and commit all subsequent generations (billions and billions of people) to sin-driven lives, losing most of the Father’s creation to hell. God, being smart and loving, has a plan. He sends His Son to die on the cross to take our sin from us and model the Way, the Truth and the Life, BUT still only a few people will find salvation. “Narrow is the path, but wide is the road to destruction.” (Matthew 7:13)
So, what would be the point to losing most of your creation to the devil; to free will; to sin?
If eternal hell does exist, shouldn’t Christians be more passionate about witnessing to the world? How can we even sleep with millions of people dying everyday with little or no knowledge of the Gospel? Do we not care? Do we not believe in hell? Are we just lazy?
In the Nazi holocaust of World War II, millions of people were tortured and killed. Fair to say most of those were not evangelical Christians. The unsavory question: Should we believe that most of those people are in hell along with their persecutors because they didn’t believe and convert during their time on earth?
Many fundamentalist Protestants may even say Mother Theresa herself has been swept into to hell. As a Catholic, the Protestants may argue she would have been works-based and not operating under grace. But if we believe our eternal salvation hinges upon accepting Christ or saying a salvation prayer before our physical death, isn’t that works? Both contingencies are actually marketed by churches as steps we have to take in order to become “saved.” Does your chance to accept Christ as Lord and Savior end upon physical death?
Retribution, Restoration or Both?
Tongol goes on to ask, “Is true justice retributive or restorative? Is it all about getting what you deserve or is it about restoring a person?” If unending punishment is the solution, then evil is not overcome by love, not overcome by good. In fact, it would appear evil would have won. An eternal hell keeps the cycle of evil and penance going forever. It keeps the cycle of evil demons doing evil things to evil people going forever. If that is the case, there is nothing redemptive in that. Was Jesus’ example to us an example of retributive or restorative love? (Hint: John 3:17 NKJV, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”)
When our Lord stood down the crowd wanting to stone the woman for fornication, most of us agree He disqualified them from casting the first stone. Maybe fewer of us notice that—in doing so—He qualified Himself at the same time. He did not cast stones but simply told her to go and sin no more. (John 8:11)
Do we not know the will of the Father through the life of the Son?
Here is where the opposing comments arise:
“It doesn’t matter how you feel on this topic.”
“It doesn’t have to make sense.”
“While you may not be willing to send people to hell forever, you’re not God.”
“So even people you love may be burning in hell forever,” Tongol says.
Love heals. Love restores. We know the will of the Father through the restorative life of the Son. Did Jesus not teach we are to forgive our neighbor not seven times but seventy-times-seven? Will not a loving, infinite God do even more for us?
Is It Wrong to Even Ask the Question?
Rejecting the notion he is a Christian Universalist (who says everyone is going to heaven,) Tongol makes the point: Once he lands in the afterlife, he “would rather be guilty of overestimating the love of the Universe rather than underestimating it.”
The “Universe”? An apparent nod to pantheism and the notion that the Creator and the creation are all one. While Tongol’s questions are well-constructed, he—like the rest of us—has room to grow in the understanding of God’s character. The potter is not the clay.
I believe there was way more accomplished through Christ’s atonement than we can intellectually grasp. I believe Jesus taught on hell and that it certainly exists, but my jury is still out on how many will be lost to the grave and how many will be lost to eternal conscious torment or everlasting destruction.
Of course, maybe that’s the problem with the whole question. I’m placing questions about salvation into my own court instead of keeping them in God’s. We’re counseled by God’s response to Job and by verses like:
Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:21 NKJV,)
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! (Jeremiah 18:4-6) and
Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? (Isaiah 29:16.)
Is it darkened and audacious to even ask questions then? Yes, we are to seek His face and grow in our understanding of His character, but far be it from us to push an “ought” or “should” onto the Father. It is surely a darkened mind that seeks to pass judgment over the methods and intentions of our infinite Father.
Questions Bought by Eternal Conscious Torment
To summarize some of the questions provoked by the doctrine of eternal conscious torment:
Are your deceased loved ones exposed to eternal conscious torment for not saying a salvation prayer?
What kind of loving parent would send their children to eternal damnation? For not believing? For having little context for believing (e.g. born at the wrong time, in the wrong place or into the wrong religion?)
Will we really be infinitely punished for finite sin and understanding?
How can we reconcile God’s unconditional love and everlasting mercy with eternal conscious torment?
If God is omnipresent, how can the common explanation that hell is “existence without God’s presence” hold any water?
Will our loving God sustain spiritual torture for all eternity? The Bible says all are sustained through God. We cannot exist apart from him.
Are the punished granted eternal life as well as the redeemed? According to the doctrine of conscious eternal punishment, they are.
If God is all-knowing, why create people who are destined for eternal hell?
Does God stop pursuing us upon physical death? Does your chance to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior end upon physical death?
Does judgment and subsequent delivery to heaven or hell occur immediately upon physical death? If so, how do we rectify the resurrection and judgment during the Second Coming? (Matthew 25:31-46)
If eternal hell does exist, shouldn’t Christians be way more committed to saving the lost than they are?
The doctrine of eternal conscious torment—a stumbling block that brings emotional distance and confusion to believers and unbelievers alike—seems to be far out of character with the Father of unconditional love and unending mercy. Jesus even went to his death without chastising his accusers. “You will be with Me in Paradise,” He told the believing thief.
In our confusion over this issue, are we as wrongly accusing God as the Jews did Jesus?
If I’ve established anything on the doctrine of hell, it is to continue to seek understanding and intimacy, but to do so with a heart hungry for communion—not with a heart rife with intellectual judgment or emotional confusion surrounding my prospects for the afterlife.
It may certainly appear the book of Job is written to be a parable, play, fable or legend where we see all the behind-the-scenes discussions along with the playing out of corresponding events. However, the book of Job is an actual account of a man named Job who was tested by God, and—as a result of his trial—comes to a clearer understanding of his Creator.
Even if the account of Job was written as a fable, we know the Word of God is God-breathed, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16), so we know it’s importance would not be diminished. Regardless, we know Job was a real person. Ezekiel 14, verses 14 and 20 refer to Noah, Daniel and Job. We know Daniel was a historical person and a contemporary of Ezekiel’s, therefore we can safely recognize Noah and Job were actual people and therefore their accounts not just stories.
Answers2Prayer. Retrieved from http://www.answers2prayer.org/bible_questions/Answers/bible/book_of_job.htm