A minister, about to write an article criticizing a fellow minister for his lack of orthodoxy, wrote to John Newton of his intention. Newton replied in a letter that has now become famous, called Letter 19 - on controversy. The letter is one Calvinist writing to another Calvinist. In light of this, John Newton may sound a bit opinionated but He was sincere and wise man.

The former slave trader turned pastor and author of the hymn Amazing Grace, gives us insight into a problem we still deal with today. Newton explains that self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works. He describes how men of his day, on both sides of a debate, can find their identity in such doctrines and feed on those doctrines to their moral detriment. Newton believed doctrine was important, yet without humility operative in our life we can grow sick. Humility keeping our spiritual immune system strong. Without it we quickly succumb to the intellectual and moral sickness of self-righteousness [with accompanying Covid like symptoms]. Consider for yourself his advice:

“There is a principle of self, which disposes us to despise those who differ from us; and we are often under its influence, when we think we are only shewing a becoming zeal in the cause of God.  I readily believe that the leading points of Arminianism spring from, and are nourished by, the pride of the human heart; but I should be glad if the reverse was always true; and that to embrace what are called the Calvinistic doctrines was an infallible token of a humble mind.

I think I have known some Arminians—that is, persons who, for want of clearer light, have been afraid of receiving the doctrines of free grace—who yet have given evidence that their hearts were in a degree humbled before the Lord. And I am afraid there are Calvinists, who, while they account it a proof of their humility that they are willing in words to debase the creature, and to give all the glory of salvation to the Lord, yet know not what manner of spirit they are of. Whatever it be that makes us trust in ourselves that we are comparatively wise or good, so as to treat those with contempt who do not subscribe to our doctrines, or follow our party, is a proof and fruit of a self-righteous spirit.

Self-righteousness can feed upon doctrines, as well as upon works; and a man may have the heart of a Pharisee, while his head is stored with orthodox notions of the unworthiness of the creature and the riches of free grace. Yea, I would add, the best of men are not wholly free from this leaven; and therefore are too apt to be pleased with such representations as hold up our adversaries to ridicule, and by consequence flatter our own superior judgments. Controversies, for the most part, are so managed as to indulge rather than to repress this wrong disposition; and therefore, generally speaking, they are productive of little good. They provoke those whom they should convince, and puff up those whom they should edify. I hope your performance will savor of a spirit of true humility, and be a means of promoting it in others.”

–John Newton, “Letter XIX: On Controversy,” The Works of John Newton, Volume 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2015), 1: 272-273.

I am sure there are more, yet here are the principles I gleaned:

    1. Consistent tendency towards comparison promotes self-righteousness in the heart. 
    2. A quickness to express contempt is the evidence of a self-righteous heart.
    3. Controversies can indulge a desire to despise those who differ from us. We should be on guard, especially online where controversy is common, and contempt get likes.



1. “Some well-organized business enterprise?”

“We tend to think of Christ building his invisible church, and our building the visible church. We tend to think in this kind of dichotomy. So our building of the visible church becomes much like any natural business function, using natural means and natural motives. How many times do we find that in doing the business of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a rapid opening of prayer, a rapid closing prayer after half the people have left, but in between there is no difference between doing the Lord’s business and the business of some well-organized business enterprise? Instead of that, we should always look to Him, and always wait and pray for His leading, moment by moment. This is a different world.”

–Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1971/2001), p. 152.

2. “The simple tragic fact”

“The church’s or Christian group’s methods are as important as its message. It is to deal consciously with the reality of the supernatural. Anything that exhibits unfaith is a mistake, or may even be a corporate sin. The liberal theologians get rid of the supernatural in their teaching, but the unfaith of the evangelical can in practice get rid of the supernatural.
May I put it like this? If I woke up tomorrow morning and found that all that the Bible teaches concerning prayer and the Holy Spirit were removed (not as a liberal would remove it, by misinterpretation, but really removed) what difference would it make in practice from the way we are functioning today? The simple tragic fact is that in much of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ – the evangelical Church – there would be no difference whatsoever.
We function as though the supernatural were not there. If the Church does not show forth the supernatural in our generation, what will? The Lord’s work done in the Lord’s way does not relate only to its message, it relates also to the method. There must be something the world cannot explain away by the world’s methods, or by applied psychology.”

–Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1971/2001), pp. 150-51.

3. “The central problem of our age”

“Christians must humble themselves to know the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. To the extent that we do not humble ourselves, there will be no power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is the Lord’s work in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the power of the flesh.

The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.

The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”

–Francis Schaeffer, No Little People(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1974/2003), 66.

4. “The church is something beautiful”

“One cannot explain the explosive power of the early church apart from the fact that they practiced two things simultaneously: the orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community in the midst of the visible church, a community which the world could see.
By the grace of God, therefore, the church must be known simultaneously for its purity of doctrine and the reality of its community. Our churches have so often been only preaching points with very little emphasis on community. But the exhibition of the love of God in practice is beautiful and must be there.

We have, then, two sets of parallel couplets: (1) the principle of the purity of the visible church, and yet the practice of observable love among all true Christians; and (2) the practice of orthodoxy of doctrine and observable orthodoxy of community in the visible church. The heart of these sets of principles is to show forth the love of God and the holiness of God simultaneously. If we show either of these without the other, we exhibit not the character, but a caricature of God for the world to see. If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise. But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty. And it is important to show forth beauty before a lost world and a lost generation. All too often people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are called upon to show a watching world and to our own young people that the church is something beautiful.

Several years ago I wrestled with the question of what was wrong with much of the church that stood for purity. I came to the conclusion that in the flesh we can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but that in the flesh we cannot stress both simultaneously. In order to exhibit both simultaneously, we must look moment by moment to the work of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit. Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our moment-by-moment lives as we begin to exhibit simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.”

–Francis Schaeffer, “The Church Before the Watching World” in The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume Four, A Christian View of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1982), 152.

5. “What Christians are to wear”

“First, Christians are called upon to love all men as neighbors, loving them as ourselves. Second, we are to love all true Christian brothers in a way that the world may observe.
This means showing love to our brothers in the midst of our differences– great or small– loving our brothers when it costs us something, loving them even under times of tremendous emotional tension, loving them in a way the world can see.
In short, we are to practice and exhibit the holiness of God and the love of God, for without this we grieve the Holy Spirit.

Love -and the unity it attests to– is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.” (John 13:34-35; 17:21)

–Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume Four, A Christian View of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1982), 204.



I recently over-heard a coffee house patron clam that ancient people could not practice ‘abortion’ like we do today. Ancient people did not even understand the female biology. Likely this ignorance was a case of chronological snobbery. The speaker assumed people in and around Jesus day had just learned about fire how could they even know about things like biology, let alone, how to kill a baby in the womb.

If that’s you, buckle up this will be eye opening. The practice of abortion was known in the first century. Many of the cultures around them performed abortions or gave abortifacient drugs with breathtaking frequency. (1) Abortions were performed by binding a woman around the abdomen until the baby was expelled; using a copper needle or spike; or by the use of a circular blade. Writing the middle of the Second century Tertullian describes this method and tools used in vivid detailed.

Accordingly, among surgeons' tools there is a certain instrument, which is formed with a nicely-adjusted flexible frame for opening the uterus first of all, and keeping it open; it is further furnished with an annular blade, by means of which the limbs within the womb are dissected with anxious but unfaltering care; its last appendage being a blunted or covered hook, wherewith the entire fetus is extracted by a violent delivery. There is also (another instrument in the shape of) a copper needle or spike, by which the actual death is managed in this furtive robbery of life: they give it.. the name of ἐμβρυοσφάκτης, the slayer of the infant..(2)

Clearly Late term abortion were practiced. We also have evidence that chemical abortions were possible using pessaries—oral drugs or poisons—that would cause miscarriages. Eubius, a first-century B.C. poet, even put abortion formulas to verse so they could be more easily remembered. Infanticide also practiced, exposure being the most common method. All these methods were commonly practiced in the first century.

What would lead them to allow such a practice.
The Greek culture was the first in the Ancient Near East to permit, and in some cases require, abortion. In The Republic, for example, Plato (427-347 B.C.) opines that in his idealized polis (greek for city-state), women over 40 years old would be required to have an abortion.

A woman, I said, at twenty years of age may begin to bear children to the State, and continue to bear them until forty . . . And we grant all this, accompanying the permission with strict orders to prevent any [subsequent] embryo which may come into being from seeing the light; and if any force a way to the birth, the parents must understand that the offspring of such an union cannot be maintained, and arrange accordingly.(3)

Similarly, Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) thought the state should not bear the burden of disabled or too many children. He said,

Let there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared; but on the ground of the number of children, if the regular customs hinder any of those born being exposed, there must be a limit fixed to the procreation of offspring, and if any people have a child as a result of intercourse in contravention of these regulations, abortion must be practiced on it before it has developed sensation and life; for the line between lawful and unlawful abortion will be marked by the fact of having sensation and being alive (Politics 7.14.10).(4)

While Plato and Aristotle have many good ideas, it is clear their ethic of human life was deficient. In each of these cases the same perspective is at work. Rather than considering the moral value of the unborn as the deciding factor, the philosophers considered the well-being of the polis to be paramount. This view amounts to a form of political utilitarianism that sees each person’s value only in terms of the good of the state. (An egregious assumption that persists to this very day in the halls of academia as well as among the political philosophies of many cosmopolitan elite.)

The grim conclusions of these philosophers demonstrate the perils of thinking ethically apart from Scripture. Scripture revealing God as the first principle, the point from which all moral and ethical reflection must begin. God not humanity is the standard of all morality, Apart from this theocentric perspective a person’s ethical reflection can rise no higher than the political good. Yet the good of the state does not provide a vantage point from which to make a judgment about something so lofty as human life.

The Christian tradition, however, viewed the sacredness of every individual human life in theocentric, not political, terms. Since all individuals, including unborn children, were made in the image of the living God, their lives would be respected and were worth preserving. The moral status of a human being was not grounded in what persons could do for the state, but in how persons were related to the God who made them, a relation rooted in being made in God’s image.

While today the argument may not center around the political or social good, but the personal good. Talk of personal right have given way to an idolatry of the Self. We are a culture of entitled children crying “I deserve this” - “I have the right to do this” -even if ‘this’ is the killing of the unborn. The moral status of the unborn is not grounded in whether or not the unborn is a blessing or burden to the parent, but again, grounded in the intrinsic worth of the unborn as an image bearer of God.

In today’s culture, although the center has shifted to individual right, the same moral logic applies. Only a theocentric vision of life leads to an ethic that respects life, everything else (utilitarian, or progressive), inevitably produces a culture of death.




  1. The following is gleaned from the important work by Michael J. Gorman, Abortion & the Early Church: Christian, Jewish, and Pagan Attitudes in the Greco-Roman World (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1982).
  2. Tertullian De Anima(On the Soul) 25.5 - 6
  3. Quoted in Michael J. Gorman, Abortion & the Early Church: Christian, p.21
  4. Ibid., 22


Christians in the coming years will be asked questions like, why is the New Testament is silent about abortion? if abortion is so important, Why did Jesus not speak about the subject? If Paul loved the unborn - Why is there no clear prohibition in Paul’s writings? Many biblically literate in the pro-choice camp will point to the biblical text and ask, ‘where is the “thou shalt not abort.”?’ In reality, all these questions are a form of moral posturing, a way to show up those stupid Christians. It is a way to insinuate Christian’s don’t know what’s in the bible. Most do not expect an answer nor care to hear one. Yet in case someone wants an answer below is an simple answer to the question, “Why Is the New Testament Silent about Abortion?”

In his essay, “Why Is the New Testament Silent about Abortion?”(1) New Testament professor Michael Gorman helpfully points out that the fact that the New Testament is silent about an issue is not evidence that early Christians did not have a settled position on the matter. In fact, quite the opposite.

That the New Testament never directly addresses abortion (or exposure or infanticide) does not mean that the first-century churches were ignorant of this practice or that they believed it to be a matter of “individual conscience.” On the contrary, the silence simply tells us that abortion was not an issue in need of resolution. The silence indicates that there was little or no deviation from Judaism.(2)

In addition to what the Old Testament says about the sanctity of human life and about abortion itself, Second temple literature (considered extra-canonical Jewish literature) is clear on the topic. The Jewish wisdom literature, Sentences of Pseudo-Phocylides (c. 50 B.C.-50 A.D.), directs that “a woman should not destroy the unborn in her belly, nor after its birth throw it before the dogs and vultures as a prey.”(3) Included among the “wicked” in the apocalyptic Sibylline Oracles were women who “produce abortions and unlawfully cast their offspring away” and sorcerers who dispense abortion-causing drugs.(4) Similarly, the apocryphal book 1 Enoch (first or second-century B.C.) declares that an evil angel taught humans how to “smash the embryo in the womb.” (5) Finally, the Jewish historian, Josephus, maintained that “The Law orders all offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either to cause abortion or to make away with the fetus.” Observes Gorman, “No contradictory early Jewish texts . . . have been discovered, thus suggesting that a Jewish anti-abortion consensus did exist in the first century.”(6)

Similarly, the non-canonical literature of the early Church reveals an consensus of ethical opinion. The teaching of the early church in the Didache (50-120 A.D.), for instance, was uncompromising: “Love your neighbor as yourself . . . You shall not murder a child by abortion nor shall you kill a newborn.” (7) The Epistle of Barnabas (80-120 A.D.) commands the Christian: “You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not murder a child by abortion nor shall you kill a newborn.” (8)

Granted, these books were not received into the New Testament canon. But they do reveal accurately the mind-set and attitudes of the early Christian community. In fact, the historian Eusebius notes that these books were “publicly read by many in most churches.”(9) Simply put they were not part of the authoritative canon but were on the shelf at the church’s book store.

Furthermore, as seen in the early church’s teachings from Didache and Barnabas, the prohibitions against abortion are rooted in the doctrine of neighbor love. Such a connection indicates that early Christians viewed the unborn as members of the community worthy of love and protection. So, in a real sense, the New Testament’s silence on abortion shouts like a megaphone. From the birth of the Church and throughout her first several centuries, no serious Christian found abortion to be an acceptable practice.




1. Michael J. Gorman, “Why Is the New Testament Silent about Abortion?” Christianity Today, January 11, 1993, 27-29.
2. Ibid. 28
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. ibid.
7. Ibid. 29
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.



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