Tuesday, January 22, 2013

‘The Lord Is with You’ A Word of Counsel to the Church - The Sanctity of Nascent Life

The Joint Commission on Theology and Doctrine
North American Lutheran Church
Lutheran CORE
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of
the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The beginning of human existence, i.e., nascent
life, carries in it the fullness of the genetic code, the
complete chromosomal material of an individual.
The strengths and characteristics given to us by
God have not yet blossomed for all the world to
see, yet they are fully present in the beauty of His
love. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you; I
appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah
1:5) Luther’s Small Catechism proclaims, “I believe
that God has created me and all that exists,” so in
faith we continue to proclaim that our life, and every
life, comes from God and belongs to God. In our
earthly dependency upon the womb of our mothers
for protection, nourishment, and love from the first
moments of our lives, we see in the creation of
each life the shape of faith. We will always be fully
dependent upon God for life, for shelter, and for
mercy — the God who uses men and women to
bring forth every generation of His creation.
How we in the North American Lutheran Church
and Lutheran CORE speak about the dignity of
nascent life is indicative of so much more. As the
fullness of God’s mercy calls us into newness in
each day, we come to know that no day in our lives
is beyond His care. God himself has given us a
pattern by which we know His love: the conception,
gestation, and birth of our Lord Jesus. As we reflect
upon when life begins and what life means, we look
to what God has done in sending His Son to live
among us from conception, to death, to resurrected

In the Annunciation of the Good News given to
Mary, the Mother of our Lord, we come to know the
gift of every life in a new way, and we come to know
the holiness of her womb as a sanctuary of mercy
for all humankind. She who is our Mother in the
faith shelters the One who is the Savior of the world
with her very body, a model of love beyond all fear,
of obedience beyond all personal security, of faith
in the One who is yet unseen.

In the self-emptying (kenotic) movement of God in
the incarnation, He was never more vulnerable,
more helpless than when He was in utero,
swaddled in amniotic fluid. He was also never more
intimately protected, swaddled in the myriad layers
of a mother’s love. It is the vision of this love that is
ever so needed in this day — a death defying love,
an eternal love, a fierce love, a sacrificing love. It is
this vision that we are called to bear for the sake of
generations to come. For in the disordered loving of
a fallen world that removes sexual intercourse from
the fidelity, trust, and delight of the marriage bed,
there will continue to be the littlest among us, made
in the image and likeness of God, who without a
holy love, will be unprotected from the lies that say
they are neither human nor of any value. In a time
in human history when the laws of many nations
sanction the destruction of new lives simply
because they are an inconvenience, the North
American Lutheran Church and Lutheran CORE,
and all who belong to the Body of Christ, are called
to teach and preach the message that the Lord who
created the heavens and the earth, the Lord, who in
the power of the Holy Spirit grew in His mother’s
womb, the Lord, who in obedience gave His life for
all, The Lord is with you.

“The Lord is with you.” This is what we are called to
speak to every woman with a child in her womb.
The Lord is with you, regardless of the
circumstances of your pregnancy. We urge the
NALC to commit itself as a church, as the Body of
our Lord on earth, along with those joined with it in
mission in Lutheran CORE, to be with you as well.
We seek to attend to your needs, to help you, to
guard you, and to guide you that you may bear your
child in a community of love. Whether a husband
and wife, or a mother alone raises that child or puts
that child into the arms of another family, we will
provide spiritual counsel so that parents and child
will have the abundant life that Christ Jesus has
promised them. We do not want a woman who is
overwhelmed by the news of an unintended
pregnancy to abort an innocent child, a child whose
cries for life cannot yet be heard, a child who is of
great value to God, regardless of the circumstances
of the child’s birth. Whatever the circumstances of
the pregnancy, the termination of the life of their
child will not make a mother’s or father’s life better.

Apart from victims of sexual violence, the NALC
and Lutheran CORE should call to repentance all
men and women who have engaged in sexual
behaviors outside of marriage. Men and women
who are not married to each another and who have
used their procreative abilities irresponsibly and
then have chosen to abort a child, as well as
husbands and wives who have aborted children
whom they do not want, are called to confession,
contrition, and amendment of life. God wants us to
know His joy, and until we acknowledge our sin and
throw ourselves upon His mercy, we can never live
rightly. The wanton destruction of a human life for
matters of one’s own convenience is sin. The
casual use of abortion as a final solution for a
conception born of recreational sex is sin. The
intimidation and emotional blackmail to undergo an
abortion that women have received from the men
who have impregnated them is sin.

The church also has great concern for those among
us, who under the advice, counsel, or persuasion of
family and/or medical personnel, have aborted a life
in utero as a result of rape, incest, severe
abnormalities of fetus, or endangerment to the life
of the mother. In these cases, we as a church seek
to be a vessel of compassion and consolation.

Even in the most difficult situation, the termination
of the pregnancy will not necessarily bring an end to
the intensity of the current pain. The end of any of
new life, even when it comes to be the only
apparent solution that one believes can be
endured, will still carry layers of sorrow. Again, we
urge the NALC to commit itself as a church body,
along with its partners in Lutheran CORE, to
provide pastoral care to all parties who are
involved, for there are no decisions in such times
that will be without familial grief. We seek not to
condemn but to console. As anger, abandonment,
regret, and the depths of despair each come in their
turn, so the mercy of our ever-present God will
need to be spoken. The Lord is with you. The Lord
is still with you.

The rationales, however, for legalizing abortions in
North America are far from these limited cases of
“therapeutic” abortion. The arguments have
changed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries
from easing the burdens of the poor on the society,
to the right of a woman to have autonomy over her
own body (Roe v. Wade; Morgentaler v. Her
Majesty the Queen, Supreme Court of Canada,
1976), to sex-selection of children from cultures that
value male progeny over female, to simply one of
economic gain, (i.e., not wanting to support another
child). In too many cases, legalized abortion has
simply become a form of retroactive birth control.

Abortion dehumanizes and diminishes all who are
involved. It affects the father, who has lost what it
means to be a guardian to his family and who has
lost the learning that comes from a relationship in
which spirituality and sexuality are not divorced. It
affects the mother, whose denial may break down if
she later conceives and bears a child, or is later
unable to conceive a child, or whose guilt may
spiral into the bondage of shame as she seeks to
keep her abortion a secret. At last, it affects the
child, the blessed child, a living human presence
who is denied the fullness of body that was
intended for him in this life and in the age to come.

Legalization of abortion puts the state at odds with
the historic witness of the church, and so we are
called to listen again to the Word of God as
proclaimed in the Holy Scriptures, the wisdom of
the Church Fathers, and the insight of the
Reformers as we seek to follow Christ faithfully in
our day. The Didache clearly speaks the law as
stated in the fifth commandment to the issues of
abortion and infanticide in the ancient world, “Thou
shalt not murder a child by abortion, nor again shall
thou kill it when it is born.”1 The Epistle of Barnabas
speaks of those who seek to end the life of one in
utero as “killers of the child, who abort the mold of
God.”2 The Nicene Creed professes that Jesus is
fully human and fully divine from the moment of His
conception and in doing so declares that human life
begins at conception.3 Again and again the Psalter
sings that fearfully and wonderfully made, we are
the work of God's hands (Ps 139:14). John Calvin,
in concert with the early Fathers, regards an unborn
child as “already a human being.”4 Martin Luther
regards procreation as “the work of God” and
speaks of those who kill the growing fetus as an
example of the wickedness of human nature.5 The
witness of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic
church is clear: There is no life that is beyond God’s
care, beginning at the moment of conception. The
child in utero is not simply the possession of the
father or the mother, for each nascent life is the
handiwork of God. “For it was you who formed my
inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s
womb.” (Psalm 139:15).

The North American Lutheran Church and Lutheran
CORE strive to witness to the all-encompassing
love of God in early 21st century North America,
when nearly 50 million abortions have been legally
performed since 1973 in the United States and
1988 in Canada. We urge the NALC and Lutheran
CORE to commit not only to protecting the next
generation of children during those first exquisite
nine months of life, but to helping those for whom
abortion mars their procreative histories. As parents
come to healing through the counsel and ministries
of the church, their witness will be invaluable. In the
renewal of their faith, the lies that were told against
the littlest among us will come to an end. As their
voices then sound within the assembly of all who
believe that He who is the Savior of the world is
fully human and fully divine from the moment of His
conception, so we come yet again to understand
the giftedness of the creation of our own bodies.
May each of us seek to live out the dignity with
which we were created, so that our lives as the
enfleshment of God’s love will bear witness to His
love for all the world.

December 14, 2012
Joint Commission on Theology and Doctrine
Robert D. Benne
Kenneth H. Sauer
Carl E. Braaten
Amy C. Schifrin
John F. Bradosky
Henry Schulte Jr.
David E. Hahm
Paull E. Spring
Benjamin A. Johnson
Sue A. Tolton
James A. Nestingen
Paul T. Ulring
Eric M. Riesen
J. Larry Yoder

1Didache 2:2.
2The Epistle of Barnabas 19:5.
3The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) is explicit, “We
confess the Holy Virgin to be the Mother of God
because God the Word was made flesh, and became
man from the moment of conception.” See also the
Formula of Concord, Epitome, Article VII.10, “Therefore
we believe teach, and confess that the Son of man
according to his human nature is really (that is, in deed
and in truth) exalted to the right hand of the omnipotent
majesty and power of God, because he was assumed
into God when he was conceived by the Holy Spirit in his
mother's womb and his human nature was personally
united with the Son of the Most high.” Book of Concord:
The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church,
trans. and ed. by Theodore Tappert (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1959), 488.
4John Calvin, Commentaries on the Last Four Books of
Moses, trans. Charles Bingham (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans, 1950), 3:41,42.
5Martin Luther, Luther’s Works vol. 4. ed. by Jaroslav
Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia
Publishing, 1964), 304.