17 January 2011

Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (book review)

I was given the opportunity by Ligonier Ministries to post a review of their recent book Abortion:  A rational look at an emotional issue, by R. C. Sproul.  I first heard about the book when Ligonier decided to send a copy to every member of Congress at the convening of the next congress this January.  (Ligonier gave the opportunity for their followers to purchase a copy for a congressman, which I did...hopefully he or she will read it.  I love the idea that the copy I paid for might end up on Nancy Pelosi's desk!)

Here's the link to the book on Ligonier's website-


I'll do this review in three parts, as it is a bit long for normal blog reading.  Each part of the review will correspond to the same part of the book, since the book is divided into three parts.

First, the list of names in the endorsements section is a roll call of superstars of evangelicalism:  Jim Daly (Focus on the Family), Marvin Olasky (World Magazine), Randy Alcorn (author), Russell D. Moore (pastor and seminary dean), John MacArthur (pastor and author), Chuck Swindoll (pastor and author), Peter Jones (apologist and author), and others.

The book is not long; about 150 pages plus appendices, notes, bibliography, and an index.  The book was first published in 1990.  This is the 20th anniversary edition. 

Part One is titled, Abortion:  The ethical dilemma of our time.

Ch 1- 'A Nation Divided'-  Sproul deals with the following issues in the first chapter-

Abortion is a divisive issue intertwined in our culture; core question is, "Is abortion a form of murder?"; what is a fetus...when does life begin?; philosophical basis for making decisions about right and wrong.  This chapter is a good introduction to some of the problems in thinking about the issue of abortion.

Ch 2- 'The Sanctity of Life'-  The second chapter moves to some philosophical foundations for why both believers and unbelievers can understand the value of human life.  These issues are highlighted in this chapter-

The nature of man; biblical roots of the concept of sanctity of life; the relation (morally) of the death penalty to abortion; the potential desctruction of actual life versus the actual destruction of potential life.  This chapter moves the reader into deeper thinking about the issues involved in abortion, as well as general issues related to life and death.

Ch 3- 'The Sanctity of Life and Natural Law'- Sproul continues to develop the themes from chapter 2 in this chapter.  Here, he deals with these issues-

Abortion as an act against nature; our culture's intense concern for living individuals but not for the unborn; the early church's opposition to abortion; the connection between abortion and infanticide in early cultures.

Ch 4- 'When Does Life Begin'- Sproul deals with some of the key issues in the legal realm as well as the philosophical realm in this chapter-

Scriptural support for the idea of the fetus as human life; scriptural distinction of the unborn baby from the mother; the power of prejudice in decision making and the forming of opinions; 'What should we do if we remain unsure of the answer?'  Dr. Sproul will more fully develop this last idea in the next chapter.

Ch 5- 'What if You Are Not Sure about Abortion?'- In a continuation from the last chapter, Sproul deals with these issues-

The argumentum ad populum; the logic of dealing with the rightness/wrongness of abortion; the conscience and abortion (Luther- 'To act against conscience is neither right nor safe').  Dr. Sproul makes a cogent logical argument for the moral duty of anyone who may have doubts, one way or the other, about any moral dilemma.  This is a valuable chapter for what is probably the majority of non-believers on the topic of abortion...not sure about what is right or wrong.

Ch 6- 'The Role of Government in Abortion'- Sproul moves to the political side of the issues in this chapter-

'Is abortion a private ethical issue or does it fall within the scope of government regulation and control?' (p. 75); the role of government in restraining evil in society; separation of church and state; the moral implications of law (and how this does not entangle church and state); how Roe v. Wade was the state's greatest failure at being the state.  This chapter breaks down some of the mythology that has developed around the 'wall of separation' issues between the church and the state, and shows why the state's dealing with moral issues falls fully within the appropriate sphere of activity for a state.

To be continued...

FCC disclaimer:  Ligonier provided me with a PDF copy of the book for review purposes.  Anyone who writes a review is eligible to receive a paper copy of the book.

Here is the copyright information for the book.  Portions used in this review were used by permission, per email on December 6, 2010, from D. Finnamore.

This book's copyright information: © 2010 by R.C. Sproul, Published by Reformation Trust Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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