Confusing Christianity with a Verdict

Imagine being faced with sure knowledge that the child you carry will be born with a crippling birth defect.  What choice would you make?  Would you carry the child to term or not?

Such was the dilemma faced by a young couple who sought the counseling of Rev. Samuel Wells, dean of the Duke School of Divinity.   His points around this issue were profound.

The couple approached her parents for input.  One parent came down staunchly as “Abortion is Sin.”  The other’s “Pro Choice” orientation clearly meant that to keep the pregnancy was wrong.  Both parents were Christian.  Both saw Christianity as a “Verdict”, a body of knowledge to which one brought a given challenge which then in turn was judged.  The shallowness of this approach to Christianity-as-Verdict is distressing.

The distress, as Wells so ably pointed out, is that the verdict is rendered only as a point-in-time decision.  It says nothing to the couple in terms of the tortuous choices before them or of care for the couple and a new family after the birth.  Many see Christianity this way, as a point-in-time-phenomina vs. the life giving transformative path rendered originally as “The Way.”

New Church theology warns us away from a narrow, verdict centered approach.  As Emanuel Swedenborg noted, we move away from truer forms of deep love when we remove goodwill from the conversation and turn such decisions “into something merely moral.”  (True Christianity, 503)   This echoes Paul’s words in Romans 13, a passage that speaks to the ultimate law under which we are to function.

8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [fn2] 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


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