Our Incoherent World

John Murray, the Scottish theologian who taught at Westminster Theological Seminary in the USA, once lamented that modern education possessed no integrating factor; there seemed nothing to pull it all together and give it coherence.

This is illustrated in virtually every area of modern Western society. The media are adept at creating a crisis, winding it up, taking different sides at various points, and then appearing as the sages who alone understood all along what was happening. The world, of course, gets its coherence from God; it obtains its present incoherence from sin.

Ageism is an offence now, but voluntary assisted dying is a right, even an obligation in some places. Medical technology can do wonders to save premature babies, but only if they are wanted. Those with disabilities are favoured in many places, but not in the womb where it is open season. I have just received a note concerning Elder Abuse Awareness Day which preaches: ‘Every life deserves care and is worth protecting.’ Euthanasia is surely the greatest example of elder abuse, as abortion is of child abuse. Inconsistencies abound because there is no clear basis by which they can be evaluated.

In seeking to write on the issue of abortion, I was confronted by a number of issues and articles to draw on. While I will confess to having a tendency to be chronically indecisive, I was struck by what a hodgepodge it all was. I was being swayed one way, then another – but it all seemed rather arbitrary.

The USA is busy restoring funding to Planned Parenthood at the moment to continue its compassionate work to the poor by killing their babies. Yet Ohio has just passed a budget giving $5 million to pregnancy centres to save babies from abortion. The governor had earlier agreed to a ban on abortions after a heartbeat was detected in the unborn child.

On 5 June 2021 young Richard Scott William Hutchinson celebrated his first birthday. Nothing remarkable in itself, but Richard was born in Minnesota at just 21 weeks gestation. That is 131 days before his due date. He weighed less than 12 ounces, and his parents could fit him into the palm of their hands. The doctors had, not surprisingly, given him a zero chance of survival. Yet who could not celebrate at this news?

Yet in Peterborough, Ontario a pro-life billboard which read, ‘Pregnant? Need Help? You are not alone’ was deemed so offensive that it was removed. ‘Pro-choice’ is, after all, just a slogan, not a genuine philosophy of life.

Meanwhile in Germany the legislature banned the killing of six-day old chicken embryos on the grounds that they are sensitive to pain. In addition, the killing of male chicks was forbidden. The Agriculture Minister was exuberant: ‘We are pioneers worldwide.’ I suppose they are. Herod the Great, who did his level best to kill the Christ child, did in fact execute three of his own sons, prompting the emperor, Augustus, as a Gentile to comment: ‘I would rather be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son’. The equivalent today might be: ‘Better to be a German chicken than an unborn child.’

In England, Richard Dawkins tweeted that it was ‘immoral’ to bring a Down Syndrome child into the world, then had to qualify this to say it would be ‘wise and sensible’ not to allow such a child to come to birth. It is difficult for an atheistic utilitarian to speak in moral terms, although none of us can avoid doing so. Killing wisely and sensibly is apparently the way to go.

Finally, the New York Times found space for Garry Wills, the author of Why I am a Catholic, to explain why the Catholic bishops are wrong about President Biden and abortion too. Biden is a professing Catholic who has done little else except to promote abortion, and there are some bishops who think he should be denied communion. ‘Defending the vulnerable’ can become a rubbery policy for the progressives.

When the Messiah came into this world, Matthew drew on the prophecy of Isaiah that ‘the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light’ (Matt.4:16). Today the Western world is in great need of that same light.

Peter Barnes