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The Charlottesville pastor, abortion, and private judgment

October 12, 2010

A Charlottesville Presbyterian pastor has made the claim that decisions to abort a child can be guided by the Holy Spirit. (Source)

The pastor’s statement was e-mailed in reaction to a local pro-lifer’s narrative on a pro-life mailing list:

On Wed, Sep 22, 2010 at 2:55 PM, Pastor Jxxxxx wrote:

Dear xxxxxx,

Please remove me from your e-mail list. While I truly value support given to those who choose not to have an abortion in the face of a difficult and challenging set of circumstances, I also value very highly the right of an individual to have her/his conscience guided by the Holy Spirit. This leads me as a Presbyterian pastor to support the work of organizations such as Planned Parenthood. In fact, I have served on the board of that organization. This does not mean that I am oblivious to the number of abortions carried out in this country. It does mean that I support the work of organizations that attempt to create and maintain safe facilities that afford women a choice at such times.

Thank you for striking me from the list of recipients of your communications.

Pastor Jxxxxx

While there are many faithful Christians who are appalled (and rightly so) that a pastor could propose such a thing, I would suggest his statement should not strike us as all that unusual. “I also value very highly the right of an individual to have her/his conscience guided by the Holy Spirit” — is that not the very underlying tenet of Protestant theology? The principle of private judgment is what ultimately enabled the original Reformers to justify rejecting the authority of the Catholic Church and her teachings on faith and morals. It is this line of thinking that has contributed to schism upon schism, resulting in over 30,000 Christian denominations that each believe they, above all others, teach the fullness of truth.

Since abortion is not specifically spelled out as forbidden in the Bible, it is not surprising to me that the sola Scriptura Christian who rejects the authority of apostolic tradition could follow their own inclinations and arrive at the conclusion that it is acceptable. It has been done before. Contraceptive use is one major and very recent example, but it is not the first. Even when there are more explicit Scriptural references, the principle of private judgment has enabled the rejection of many ancient, apostolic Christian teachings (ie: baptism remits sin, apostolic succession, the primacy of Peter/the office of pope, the actual presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, etc).

What is the solution to false teachings such as the one displayed by the Charlottesville pastor? We can be sure that the answer is not another schism. The only real, lasting solution is to come back in connection with the Head, which is Christ, through His body, which is the Catholic Church.

Avoid all divisions, as the beginning of evils. See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. — Ignatius of Antioch, personal disciple of the apostle John, bishop, and martyr; written around 105 A.D to the church in Smyrna

  1. Vita Consecrata permalink

    Unfortunately there are people in every religious sect that will go against the teachings of the bible.

    I think it’s a fair to state that most Christians are taught that abortion is murder…and one of the Ten Commandments specifically says thou shall not murder. There are always people though, who have to rebel and disagree. It’s rampant everywhere. There are some well known Catholics who are pro-abort as well…even though the church specifically teaches against it.

    It’s sad…

  2. Christina permalink

    What was original sin? It was man’s decision that God’s words didn’t matter, that he said one thing but meant another. It’s no surprise to see it continuing today (though I cringe to learn that this man is a “pastor”).

  3. Wow that is pretty outrageous! It isn’t surprising though.

    You sound awfully bitter toward us Protestants. I really do not understand why. I know one devout Catholic who has an abortion for the sake of it interfering with her life as a teenager. I am really becoming speechless as I read your blog and diary.

    • I’m not bitter Heather — far from it. 😦 I’m sorry you take that tone from my entry. What I am is sad and deeply troubled over what Protestant theology has done to the Christian faith and Christian Church. I am very passionate for truth and that all would find it. Jesus wants us all to be one visible body united under one faith, not divided in our faith and morals and continuing to divide almost at an exponential rate… It is wrong and it does scandal to the name of Christ. 😦

    • Christina permalink

      Heather, I know dozens of women who identify themselves as Christian, whether they be Catholic, Baptist, or “non denominational.” Whatever faith you believe, abortion is still a sin. As you said yourself in another discussion, sin does not negate the legitimacy of a particular faith. You may know some Catholic who lost her way and had an abortion, but that does not mean that Catholicism (or any sect of Christianity) somehow becomes false.

  4. Christina- Yes, I never said that sin did negate the legitimacy of the Catholic faith or any other. Abortion definitely is sin no matter who does it!

    Erika- There is NO way that we all will agree on everything I don’t believe. It would be beneficial to us as the Church of Christ,oh yes. But then you are a cult and are brainwashed. I don’t believe that is what God intended for his people. I get annoyed within my church when I see something different from someone else,but if we all thought like me,well we may be in trouble. Likewise, with you or anyone else.

    Maybe I am misunderstanding you. Are you saying we all should agree eye to eye?

    • Valerie permalink

      “I know one devout Catholic who has an abortion for the sake of it interfering with her life as a teenager.”
      —–It does sound like you are using her as a representative of all Catholics. It really does. But interfering with life is one of the most selfish and wrong reasons to have an abortion. What I was taught in one of my classes on Catholicism is that there are some sins that are just straight up morally objectively wrong- a sin is a sin is a sin. But then there are degrees of sinfulness depending on why they did it. For example: one girl is raped and feels trapped because her parents will disown her if she has this baby. Then there is another woman who gets an abortion because the timing of the baby interferes with swimsuit season. Both are wrong, but the one reason is way more effed up than the other.

      When that girl had her abortion, she was NOT acting as a Catholic.

      —- Yes, there are teachings and beliefs of the Catholic faith that we are all meant to believe. If we don’t, we are not truly and fully Catholic.

      This was something that I personally had a lot of trouble with, and still do. I thought, “Whaaat? I’m supposed to just change my mind on SO MANY THINGS in order to even BE Catholic?” But one of the reasons that the Catholic Church has stood strong for over 1900 years is because of this. And yes, over a long period of time (not immediately, not by brainwashing) I questioned my faith again and again, discussed it with priests and realized that there is a legitimate reason for all that we believe (grounded in scripture!).

      So on the things that truly matter, we are meant to all see eye to eye, but then the way we act it out, interpret the fine details, and use those beliefs to glorify God is what really sets us apart.

      For example, Christina is super hella passionate about pro-life issues. All of us are pro life, but that is the one that God put on her heart most. She glorifies God by immersing herself in that. Erika is very pro-traditional marriage family stuff. I am very passionate about Catholic social teaching and social justice. Even though it seems like we are confined into a tiny box where we all have to believe the same things, that isn’t true at all. We are all bound to follow the Catholic Church and its teachings, but how we make it our own is the true beauty and diversity of the Catholic Church.

    • Heather I think the misunderstanding is coming in as far as what you think I’m saying about agreeing on everything. 🙂 I don’t think we should all be robots and hold the same thoughts on everything right down to the style of dress we wear and the music we listen to — not at ALL. That is cultish, definitely. When I say that the faith is ONE (as the Bible talks about), I am talking about fundamental doctrines like how one is saved, the role of baptism, whether or not the Lord’s Supper is purely symbolic, what is sin and what is not, etc. 🙂 I would imagine you agree with me on that, wouldn’t you? There can’t be competing doctrines on those matters in Christianity. One church can’t decide that one is saved by saying a little prayer and another church decide one can only be saved by receiving baptism as an adult and speaking in tongues. Someone is going to be right and someone is going to be wrong, and that is going to have eternal consequences for whomever teaches and follows what is wrong.

      I do believe God absolutely intended one truth for His people. I don’t believe Jesus came down to earth from his Heavenly throne and suffered so greatly during his life in order to preach and teach one thing, just for everyone to split up after he died and teach their own thing. Do you? I mean, to me that is a mockery of God. God desires order and thus He desires unity! No that doesn’t mean unity on every single trifling matter, but it does mean unity as far as the Church as a whole teaching ONE thing as far as the doctrines and morals of the faith go. Jesus specifically prayed for this unity and specifically mentions this unity is so that world will know that Jesus was from God:

      Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

      And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. [John 17:20-23]

      What does division and disunity do? Does it compel people, does it draw people, does it tell them that “this must be true”? No. 😦 It causes great confusion and disarray. If you read my most recent entry here about my conversion, you will see that there are about 100 different churches I could attend locally. How is one ever supposed to know which one teaches the truth??? They all claim to have the fullness of truth, but they all teach something different and even contradictory. If I were an unbeliever looking at that, I would be appalled. Ultimately it would tell me that Christianity it is just like any other worldly group and certainly can’t be from God. That is the scandal that division and schism causes. Who is to say how many millions of people will go to Hell because they saw the state of disarray in Christianity due to schisms and the ever-increasing independent sects, and they decided God certainly couldn’t be there? I am willing to bet we would be overwhelmed with shock and horror if we were to know the truth.

      Anyhow, throughout the whole NT we see the Scriptures teaching and pleading and admonishing about unity and the avoidance of anybody who taught anything different than what the apostles and those they appointed (such as Timothy) taught. So I would argue that unity was expected and it was attained in the early Church (due to special grace from God). 🙂 A question you might ask yourself is this: why wouldn’t it be the same today?

  5. Valerie- I was just using that example to show Erika what it looked like she was doing. I have no clue about a lot of what you guys teach,but I am learning and I don’t agree with most of it.

    It sounds like to me then you interpret things how you want? I was just saying that I don’t think after the fall of man that we will see eye to eye. There is no way. I think drinking is not a wise choice,some think it’s fine and do it quiet often. Anyways. I’m done with talking about that. It is obvious I believe one way and others believe another way. If some do not even believe in the sole authority of the Word,what makes me think they will see the light?

    • Valerie permalink

      How does it look like we interpret ways the way we want? Not to be rude, but I cannot see how you could have possibly gotten that from me saying, “Yes, there are teachings and beliefs of the Catholic faith that we are all meant to believe. If we don’t, we are not truly and fully Catholic.”

      And yes, one of those teachings is that the Bible is the infallible word of God. Yes, the Catholic Church follows Sacred Tradition, but Sacred Tradition is grounded in Sacred Scripture. And as Erika said in a Bloop entry, Sacred Scripture is most important.

      My point of giving examples of how we all have our own interests was merely to show you that we aren’t part of a brainwashed cult.

      In order to stop being frustrated, I would suggest having an open mind. If you’re set on the fact that Catholicism is totally wrong, then you’re going to continue to be frustrated. I’m not asking you to convert or to even fully agree. I’m just saying that if you’re processing what you’re learning with an attitude of “this is effed up,” you’re going to continue to think that.

    • “If some do not even believe in the sole authority of the Word,what makes me think they will see the light?”

      Heather, think about it this way. The Bible is arguably the most widely read book in the world, and definitely in the United States. It is distributed to all the far ends of the earth and most American Christians have at least two or three in their home. Millions and millions of Christians claim the sole authority of the Word.

      What is the result? Is it unity? Is it solidarity? Is it common and complete understanding? …Or is it 30,000+ denominations, dividing at almost an exponential rate it seems, and very little agreement among Christians on what the Bible actually says and what Christianity is supposed to look like?


  6. Not in any way trying to be rude,but I’m getting really frustrated.

    • I don’t want you to be frustrated, Heather. 😦 I understand it, I really do. I used to be right there with ya. I’m not asking you to debate anything with me, so don’t feel you have to provide responses. Just think about these things over time and don’t be quick to rule out what God might be trying to show you.

      I love you and I hope I haven’t said anything that has offended you.

  7. Christina permalink

    Heather, what Valerie is saying is that the Catholic Church does NOT leave issues of morality open to interpretation. Logically speaking, can you see why? Look what has happened in Protestant circles. My former church doesn’t even HAVE a position towards abortion, for the sake of remaining politically correct. There are some “Christian” churches that consider it a “hate crime” to teach against homosexuality due to widespread acceptance of gay behavior. Does your church openly teach against abortion? Gay marriage? Premarital sex? If so, you have found a very rare church indeed. Modern (and liberal) interpretation of scripture is wreaking havoc on today’s Christian churches. Can we all agree on that? I used to hate the Catholic Church, but I always did appreciate their firm stance against abortion, euthanasia, etc. Erika and Valerie’s church, the Catholic Church, does not compromise when it comes to moral issues. If you believe that abortion is okay or gay marriage is equal to traditional marriage, you are not a Catholic. It’s not even up for debate – it’s just a fact.

    Heather, you remember an entry I wrote recently on bloop about how frustrating it is to deal with some liberal Christians today. Can you see how a united stance against today’s sinful values would be beneficial? The Catholic Church has that united stance. We all know Catholics who do not practice their faith. I meet them all the time at the pregnancy center. They may be baptized, but their lifestyles do not make them in communion with their church community. Kind of refreshing to be able to make such a distinction, huh? Most churches (like my former church) would just look the other way and pretend like there was no problem, hence the state of the Christian church today.

    You may not agree with Catholicism, you may call it a cult. But for the sake of social good, we can at least admire Catholics for their firm stance for what is right. They are the largest pro-life church in the world. They are one of the only Christian churches which openly push for traditional marriage. I think that’s pretty cool.

  8. I understand what you are saying Erika,that’s why I asked, to be sure I was understanding correctly. Yes, I believe on salvation and other things there is only right answer like you said. I see what you are meaning,thank you for clearing it up. I don’t hate the Catholic Church either,I hate no other denomination either. Do I totally agree with them? No. I don’t believe you have to speak in tongues to enter heaven and I don’t believe you have to be baptized to go to heaven. I agree with what my church teaches,hence why I go there.

    My Pastor preaches against homosexuality and abortion, as both, a sin and an abomination. He preaches on a whole lot more that I guess most churches will not. Dress code,t.v. shows,movies,music,adultery,fornication, idolatry,and so forth.

    I’m not going into reading that I think the Catholic church is wrong automatically. The things I have read so far I do not agree with though. I’m not studying the Catholic church either. I’m studying on Sola Scripture and the Protestant Reformation that happens to have things the Catholic Church teaches,BTW. I don’t have a missing peace within to study out another denomination. Like I said before I do not tag myself Baptist,I go to a Baptist church,I’m a follower of Christ. I hope I don’t come off as rude. It’s hard to really know the tone through the internet with people.

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