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Christianity was born into a world filled with violence, where life was cheap and children were disposable at the whim of the parents. Both abortion and infanticide were rampant in the world, including the supposedly “civilized” Greek and Roman world. Christians were resented for upsetting the cultural order and for valuing women and children as well as men.
Christian culture was based on biblical teaching, not only from the gospels and the epistles of Paul, but their source material from the law of God. Kingdom culture presented a divergent view from the rest of the world, as we read in Deuteronomy 30:15, 16,
15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity, 16 in that I command you to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.
To this day, our cultural choice is to follow the path of life and prosperity or to continue down the world’s highway of death and adversity. Verse 19 says further, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live.”
If we love God, we will choose life and will follow His laws which promote life. If not, we will choose the laws of men, which inevitably lead toward death.
Does the Law Bring Death?
Those who despise the law of God often tell us that the law brings death, so we ought to avoid any attempt to keep it. This misunderstanding only leads to death. Paul says in Romans 7:9-13,
9 And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death to me; 11 for sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. 12 So then the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. 13 Therefore, did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.
Paul was not telling anyone to avoid the law of God. Yes, it is the law which sentences us to death for sin, but the problem is sin—not the law. Sin is the violation of the law (1 John 3:4). The solution is not to repeal the law. The solution is for the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts until we are fully conformed to the high standard of righteousness that is set forth in the law.
The law is holy and just because it is a reflection of God’s own nature. God’s nature is not the cause of our sentence of death, at least not directly. Death came when Adam violated the nature of God (through sin). The solution is not to sin that grace may abound (Romans 6:1), but to return to the original created order which was in harmony with God’s nature (law).
The law was legislated in order to define sin and to set the standard by which we measure sin and righteousness. It is true that this became a problem to mortal men, because God’s standard was higher than any mortal could attain. But the problem is only seen when man attempts to attain God’s righteousness through his own will—that is, through the Old Covenant. Such a goal will surely fail and end in death.
The New Covenant is God’s vow to change our nature so that we become His people and He becomes our God (Deuteronomy 29:12, 13). When His work is finished in us, we will all be conformed to His image and do all things that are written in the law.
The point is that Paul tells us plainly in Romans 7:12 that the law is good and that one ought not to blame the law for man’s own inability to keep it. Verse 13 says, “Therefore, did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be!” The law sentenced sinners to death, but it is sin—not the law itself—that is the cause of death.
The Culture of Death
The world’s faulty view of righteousness is based on the idea that men have the right to determine their own laws as they see fit, not recognizing that their soulish minds are flawed by sin and its effects. Hence, they naturally disagree or disapprove of God’s law, thinking in their pride that they can establish better forms of government to regulate human behavior.
But men’s laws, though often good, are inevitably laced with spiritual cyanide. This is seen most clearly in the fact that vastly different cultures promote death, rather than life. Not only have men glorified war as a means of attaining greatness, but they have also seen nothing wrong with abortion and infanticide.
“Infanticide,” said the highly regarded historian W. E. H. Lecky, “was one of the deepest stains of the ancient civilizations.” (How Christianity Changed the World, Alvin Schmidt, p. 51)
In the Ancient Twelve Tables of Roman Law, which established the foundations of Roman culture, we read, “deformed infants shall be killed.” The great Roman statesman, Seneca, also stated, “We drown children who at birth are weakly and abnormal.” Infanticide was even part of the story of Rome’s founders, Romulus and Remus, who, as exposti (unwanted infants), had been cast into the Tiber River in the eighth century B.C. They were said to have survived and were raised by wolves.
Infant girls were the most vulnerable. In the second century, only one percent of non-Christian Greek families raised at least two daughters. Only a few of the unwanted girls were actually deformed, yet most were killed simply because they were girls.
In Sparta when a child was born, it was taken before the elders of the tribe, and they decided whether the child would be kept or abandoned. (Schmidt, p. 52)
This is identical to that which is now being proposed by Virginia’s governor Northam.
Northam’s radio remarks, however, clearly defended a physician's decision to give palliative care — rather than life-saving care — to an infant born alive. After birth, he said, "the infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians & mother."
President Obama famously stated that America is no longer a Christian nation. The culture of death that is now rearing its ugly head (primarily within the Democratic Party, at least for the present time) proves him to be correct, although the culture war is still ongoing. I do not know how far we must fall before things turn around, but I am fully persuaded that we are near the bottom. I believe that there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will ultimately turn our hearts and cause us to again choose life.
The Christian Alternative
Into this Greco-Roman culture of death Jesus was born. When He said in Matthew 19:14, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” Jesus’ words ran counter to the “civilized” culture of the non-biblical world. One of the earliest Christian teachings outside of the New Testament was the Didache, which is usually dated from 65-110 A.D. It said, “Thou shalt not commit infanticide.”
Many of the church fathers spoke against both abortion and infanticide, and in fact this was one of the reasons that Christianity flourished. Not only did Christians keep their babies but they also adopted many throw-away children who had been left to die by the side of the road or in the city dumps. The majority of these were girls, of course, and the result was that the majority of the early Christians were women—by some accounts, sixty percent.
The Romans sneered at this “religion of women,” but their underlying motive was that they resented Christians implying that child abandonment was a form of murder. They came to hate the Christian standard of morality that was fast forming a counterculture.
Human nature being the same today, we again see non-Christians resenting Christians who claim that abortion is murder rather than a human right. This resentment will only increase as the world’s insane culture of death is extended to include infanticide.
Once again, we have come to the crossroad of culture. Historically, abortion and infanticide are the norms of world culture. Christianity changed that culture wherever it flourished. But Christian culture has lost much of its influence in the Babylonian captivity of the past century. Men chose death over life, for that is what lies at the heart of mortal men and women.
But we have the promise of God that He is in control of world empires, that He raised them up to bring judgment upon the corrupt and lawless Church. That judgment is now ending, and so it is clear that things are about to change. In preparation for that change, God is exposing the world’s death-culture for all to see, so that we will awaken from our sleep.
So look up. Your redemption draweth nigh.