This is not any kind of official document, but rather an informal reply to a request from some for an explainer of the “tenets of the smashmouth incremental” approach to ending abortion. While the request was for “tenets,” consider this more of a list of biblical principles defending the approach, but it’s a “thinking out loud” list, certainly not meant to be complete, exhaustive, or necessarily representative of anyone other than me. Pastor Douglas Wilson coined the phrase to describe our approach to ending abortion here in Moscow at Christ Church and our related ministries, although it certainly is not a requirement for fellowship or membership. So here goes…
1. We call for the immediate end of all murder by abortion from conception on and biblical justice for the unborn, and we support all efforts to establish this moral, judicial duty in the world. We condemn all efforts to stymy, stonewall, ignore, or bury such legislative measures or judicial decisions, especially by organizations that call themselves “prolife” and lack the courage or principles to take decisive steps to end abortion.
2. We believe that all who hate wisdom love death, and the natural man is enslaved to bloodshed and violence as his idolatrous sacrament and he will refuse to repent until God destroys him, either through physical death and Hell or through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that it is the mission of the Church to proclaim the gospel to every creature in every nation calling them to complete repentance and submission to Christ and obedience to His laws in Scripture. No legislation or judicial ruling will end abortion, but Christ will end abortion through the gospel and it will be reflected in the laws of the land over time.
3. We believe that the gospel works through the world like leaven in a loaf, like a mustard seed slowly growing. Likewise, while every regenerate person is fully justified at conversion, sanctification is the process by which Christ conforms people to His glorious image, an incremental process only completed at the resurrection in glorification. While all known sin must be put to death as quickly as possible, God does not convict everyone of every sin equally or immediately. This is especially true of widespread cultural sins (for example, polygamy, divorce, and slavery). While God hates the shedding of innocent blood, especially of children, and His prophets certainly condemned it, the center of their message was a gospel message of repentance that would have resulted in gradual reformation in the land.
4. While God’s justice is unchanging, the implementation of His justice will always be imperfect in this world, and our goal must be gradual conformity to God’s eternal standards. We find examples of this gradual conformity in the fact that God did not immediately put Cain to death after he murdered his brother, He did not immediately prohibit blood-avengers for manslaughter, He did not immediately prohibit polygamy, He did not immediately or fully prohibit slavery, nor did He completely prohibit sinful divorce, and Scripture praises kings who used methods of suppression for sodomy (e.g. exile) instead of the death penalty prescribed in the law.
5. While obedience to God is immediate, complete, and joyful, Jesus teaches that the son who said “no” but then later obeyed his father is better than the son who said “yes” and then never actually obeyed. In other words, Jesus taught that obedience is sometimes slow, incomplete, and halting, but partial obedience is to be preferred to accomplishing nothing at all. The same is true of the necessity of ending abortion.
6. We reject the notion that any incremental bill that stops short of complete abolition means that its supporters are permitting any abortion before and within the limited parameters (e.g. “and then you can kill the baby”), any more than God’s law limiting polygamy was God granting permission to a man to take a second wife (Ex. 21:10).
7. Since we cannot snap our fingers and end all abortion in every land immediately, all efforts to end abortion must be incremental in time and space. If you are waiting until the next legislative session to bring a bill of complete abolition, how is that not incremental? Are you saying that it’s OK to kill babies until then? Of course not. If you are only bringing a bill in Oklahoma, and not the whole world, are you saying that it is OK to kill babies in Massachusetts or India? Of course not. In the same way, small steps toward ending abortion like heartbeat bills and ultrasound bills or parental permissions need not be seen in any way as either permitting or regulating murder, but rather as limiting and suppressing murder, while discipling the nations. The corruption of some prolife groups who champion these sorts of bills as “major victories” need not curb our enthusiasm for running the next play.
8. The Body of Christ is diverse and not every good work is the duty of every member of the Body. While we affirm that the murder of the unborn is a heinous sin and crime that some Christians must give themselves to ending, the preaching of the gospel in local churches, missions and evangelism and mercy ministries, as well as the building of cultures of life through families, schools, and businesses are also essential parts of calling the world to repentance and obedience to Christ. Christians who give themselves to building faithful Christian communities where children are welcomed and cared for are as much part of ending abortion as those brothers preaching outside of abortion mills and those calling legislators to end abortion, and therefore, we must not despise one another for building and fighting on a different part of the wall of the Kingdom, for being different parts of the Body of Christ.