Various Responses to Joe Carter’s TGC article on Abortion – Updated

Joe Carter wrote an article today for TGC responding to Donald Trump’s recent statements on how there should be consequences for a woman who has an abortion, if the practice were to be outlawed.  The responses from Justin Taylor, Russell Moore, and Denny Burk, and others have been disappointing. I haven’t seen any reasoned arguments from them appealing to scripture to support their positions.  Instead, each of these men appeal to legal history.  Ironically, Russell Moore’s post has a picture at the top of a person holding a “Justice for All” but then he shows in his article he has little sense of justice.   

I’ve decided to show and/or link to a few well thought out responses to these Joe Caetee.  The first is from Jeff Durbin, pastor of Apologia Church and host of Apologia Radio and Apologia TV.  This is from his Facebook page:

While the The Gospel Coalition’s article abandons any meaningful commitment to the Biblical Worldview (and the Gospel) in its recent article about abortion, here is what a beloved sister at Apologia Church had to say about it:

“Let me put some light on the subject…it isn’t pretty light…but it is light. Abortion is murder. It baffles me how murder committed by other means always has some sort of punishment that is usually embraced by the majority of society. Commit a crime…do the time. As a woman, who has this atrocious crime in her past, and is still here walking the earth by the grace of God and the redemption at the cross…I can without a doubt say I committed a crime, and I deserve any punishment that would come my way. See, the fact is most women and men do NOT want to admit that abortion should be punishable because most men/women do NOT want to be held accountable for this sin…and the lifestyle that comes with it. AND, most men and women do NOT want to admit that God is the sole Creator of life…because that gives HIM the glory and the ultimate say in this conversation. And, I bet, many of these people have this crime in their background. Time for talking tough…we are talking about babies being slaughtered on demand.”

Next, here is RC Sproul Jr.’s response–also found on Jeff Durbin’s Facebook page:

Joe, I’m afraid that what you have given us is more a legal history lesson than it is a reasoned moral argument. If I might summarize- a. they didn’t used to prosecute women. b. if women are charged they would be less likely to testify against the abortionist. c. Punishing women is vengeful. None of those arguments deal with the real question of whether women who hire someone to murder their unborn child should be charged with a crime. a. History is not our guide, the Bible is. In addition, it is highly likely that the principle reason why women were not charged was due to a flawed view of moral agency for women. b. criminals are often given lesser sentences for testifying against their co-conspirators. That doesn’t mean they are not guilty of a crime the state should prosecute. c. It is the God ordained function of the state to punish evildoers. Women who hire people to murder their unborn children are evildoers who should come under the purview of God’s ministers of justice. Please, rethink this piece.

Third, here is an article from the blog “The Reformed Collective” entitled TGC and the Failed Pro-Life Movement.  I’ll just quote a short selection of it.  Joe Carter asks first if women were treated as criminals before Roe v. Wade:

No, sir, you have already started on ground made of sinking sand. Does Joe Carter, a writer for the Gospel Coalition, actually believe that’s the first question we should ask here? An appeal to recent history? This has got to be an April fools, right? It is vividly obvious that Joe Carter has neglected Scripture as his authority, and has sought authority from the American judicial system and the history thereof, instead. This is truly a tragedy.

Carter, in his article appeals again to recent history but not scripture.  Josh Sommer correctly states:

Again, he returns to a secularized foundation in order to substantiate his argument, that women should virtually hold no responsibility in the crime of abortion. Joe, I have a question for you, is this how you preach the Gospel? Do you not believe in the authority of Scripture? If you wouldn’t preach the Gospel this way, why would you consider justice, which is God’s, in such a way? In other words, how do you justify divorcing a very moral question from the Gospel itself?

How do you tear it away from the ultimate standard of God’s Law? At best, you have presented a popular, historical opinion here, but you have not appealed to any objective or absolute standard of morality in order to prove your point, nor can you do so until you interact with God’s Word.

A second look at Joe Carter’s article shows a reference to a National Review author, a reference to another TGC blogger, plenty of references to recent legal history, but no references to scripture.  Carter gives no biblical standard for any of his arguments.

Finally, this isn’t a response to Joe Carter but it is fitting for the moment.  The article is from Chronicles Magazine and  is title of the article is No Piety, No JusticeIt is written by Jerry Salyer.  Please take time to read the whole article as it exposes why the pro-life movement has failed as a whole.  I will quote one part of the article:

Am I alone in finding it painful to see pro-family theorists shackle themselves to a dry, traditionless idiom incapable of expressing that very aspect of abortion which is most deplorable? Going by typical right-to-life rhetoric Roe v. Wade is just about one set of abstract rights-bearing people receiving a license to kill another set of abstract rights-bearing people. In reality, Roe v. Wade is about mothers murdering their own children—that is to say, it is about murder at its foulest, strangest, and most unnatural.

Pastor Matt Trewhella over at has also written an article on the topic that is worth reading. He brings up a good point about simply labeling the woman a victim:

By refusing to criminalize the actions of the woman and instead labeling her a victim – we undermine both the humanity of the preborn child and the rightly stated argument that abortion is murder.


“What is ‘Theonomy?'” by  Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Somehow I managed to get through seminary without ever hearing the term “theonomy.”  I don’t think I ever sat through a serious lecture or discussion on biblical law and how it applies to civil authorities, the church, the family, and the individual.  Since seminary I’ve been introduced to theonomy and one of its proponents, Greg Bahnsen.  I came across this article today by Bahnsen which is a good introduction to theonomy and why it is helpful for thinking through how the Law applies to us today.  

So what do we do with biblical law?  Are all laws still applicable?  Are any still applicable?  I’ve been taught the only parts of the law still applicable are those repeated in the New Testament, which is the opposite of how we should think.  Greg Bahnsen explains:

Theonomy thus teaches that we should presume that Old Testament laws continue to be morally binding in the New Testament unless they are rescinded or modified by further revelation. Theonomy’s methodology stands squarely against that of dispensational theology which maintains that all of the Old Testament commandments should be deemed — in advance of exegesis — to be abrogated, unless they are repeated in the New Testament.

One of the strengths of theonomy, in my opinion, is that it recognizes the wisdom found in the Law, especially for civil government.  Bahnsen writes, “So theonomy teaches that civil rulers are morally obligated to enforce those laws of Christ, found throughout the Scriptures, which are addressed to magistrates (as well as to refrain from coercion in areas where God has not prescribed their intervention).”  Bahnsen provides, in this short article, plenty of support for his viewpoint from the New Testament. Bahnsen writes, “The Apostle Paul affirmed that one of the uses of the Old Testament law which we know to be good is the restraint of criminal behavior (1 Tim. 1:8-10). Jesus endorsed the penal sanctions of the Old Testament law, condemning those who would make them void by their own human traditions (Matt. 15:3-4).”

Finally, I’ll close with this prophetic quote for those opposed to theonomy:

Those who do not favor taking God’s law as the ultimate standard for civil morality and public justice will be forced to substitute some other criterion. The civil magistrate cannot function without some standard of good and evil. If that standard is not the revealed law of God, then in some form or expression it will have to be a law of men — the standard of self-law or autonomy. Men must choose in their civil affairs to be governed by God’s law (theonomy), to be ruled by tyrants, or acquiesce to increasing social degeneracy.

Here’s the link to the full article: