The Consequences of Ideas in New York
By now, most Christians in America have seen the images: thunderous applause at the New York State Assembly and a festively decorated World Trade Center spire. And what is the great deliverance celebrated by this applause? The legal freedom to terminate babies until the moment they are born. One wonders how such a large segment of society - in New York and across America - could embrace such a diabolical legislation, against all scientific proof of sustainable human life within the womb?
One essential answer is that attitudes and behaviors are formed from ideas. And behind the gleeful celebration of the slaughter of pre-born babies is the idea that there is no God. The chief doctrine of secular humanism - embedded in the very expression - is that life does not originate as the creation of a personal and moral deity. The consequence of this denial of God is not only the rebellious egocentricity by which men and women would terminate their own children for the sake of convenience but also the loss of the very idea of humanity. Francis Schaeffer pointed out the consequences of atheistic naturalism forty-five years ago: "if we begin with an impersonal universe, there is no explanation of personality." His point was that our conception of human experience is tied to our conception of God: "when men try to explain man on the basis of an original impersonal, man soon disappears."1 Thus a society founded on the "no God" idea cannot fail to descend into a culture of death, so that life becomes a pawn in calculations of utility and contests of power.
Proof of Schaeffer's prediction is seen all around us. Not only do our fellow citizens rejoice in the slaughter of infants, but the language of violence and murder increasingly fills our political debate. In service of this dehumanizing of society we find not only the ultimate idea in the denial of God, but supporting ideas that buttress an ungodly worldview. Political violence is supported by identity politics and the ideas of cultural Marxism. The standard argument for abortion is the claim that women must have the right over their own body - a claim rendered illogical by the reality that a baby inside her is the body of another person. So it is that not only ultimate ideas but also supporting doctrines have deadly consequences. Out of ideas flow results, and by the pen the savage scalpel is unleashed.
Yet another way ideas have consequences is that there is, in truth, a God. Moreover, this God inflicts righteous judgment on those who deny him. This consequence of ideas - the wrath of God on idolatrous rebellion - also is necessary to account for the spectacle of a great city and state rejoicing for the right to slay innocents. Romans 1:21 says that "although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Here is an explanation for the irrationality inherent to the pro-abortion position. More than the mere moral consequence of unbelief, Scripture shows that in judgment "God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false" (2 Thess. 2:11). Is this not a likely explanation for the moral insanity of the New York pro-abortion law and its adoring applause? After all, here are secularists who claim science for their beliefs, while the overwhelming consensus of science declares the full humanity of preborn infants. Thus, as Christians watch bewildered, we should realize that the consequences of ideas involve a spiritual dimension of cursing and bondage. The apostle John reminds that there is more than one spirit in the world, so that to turn from God in faith is to secure a dark enslavement to the personal spirit of evil that is at work in this world (1 John 4:1-3).
Because ideas have consequences, it is as important as ever that Christians learn how to discern truth from error and that we become again a people of truth from God's Word. But discernment is not enough - there must be courage as well. Now is not the time for cultural accommodation and dreading fears that our tone might be thought unkind. As we witness the brutalization of our culture and tearfully wonder how our fellow citizens can celebrate such slaughter, the Christian response must include a commitment to speak truth fearlessly from God's Word. We are staring the consequences of ideas in the face. And while a spirit of evil is at work through the ideas of death and darkness, the Bible reminds us of the great power at work through the ideas of biblical truth: "he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).1. Francis A. Schaeffer, Collected Works (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1982), 2:11.