I received a copy of John Ensor's new book, Innocent Blood, a couple months back. At the time, I was finishing my own book on the subject of abortion and so I left John's book on my shelf until this week. It's a bit disconcerting to be that far into the writing process only to realize that someone older and wiser has a brand new book out on the same topic. Whether my own book ever sees the light of day remains to be seen, but it is finished and as it turns out, it shares remarkably little in common with Innocent Blood.
Innocent Blood is very much a "big picture" book. John goes to great lengths to place abortion in a broader historical and theological context. In fact, abortion doesn't even enter the discussion until the book's halfway point. Along the way, he points out that child-killing has always been at the forefront of Satan's efforts to thwart the gospel – beginning with the mass-infanticide that surrounded the birth of Moses and repeated following the birth of Christ. Abortion is just the latest and most widespread manifestation of his age-old agenda. On page 19, Ensor asserts that what was accomplished on the cross is "far more extensive than we often imagine. Christ did not only die for the guilty," Ensor states, "He died for the innocent." How so?
By innocent, I don't mean sinless before God. All of us are guilty before a holy God. I mean harmless, pure, or free from guilt before our fellow man or the laws of man… So, when I say Christ died for the innocent, I mean his death secured gifts of temporal deliverance (that is, in this life) for the weak and the innocent as well as eternal deliverance from our sin before God. (20, 21)
When I first read that last sentence, I put a question mark in the margin because I wasn't sure where he was going. How does the death of Christ secure temporal deliverance for the innocent? John explains himself on the next page. Not only does the death of Jesus atone for the sins of those who believe, it also brings regeneration. Lives lived in the flesh become lives lived in the Spirit. Consuming love for self is replaced with love for Christ and neighbor. And one fruit of that transformation is the temporal rescue of the innocent by those who have been eternally redeemed through the cross. More times than not, the prayers of the oppressed are answered through the intervention of cross-bought believers – and John provides numerous, historical examples to back such a premise.
As someone who has been vocationally devoted to combatting abortion for more than a decade now, much of the book's reasoning is familiar territory for me, but John makes one (huge) assertion that I had never before considered. He writes:
Abortion is the defining experience of this generation.
He prefaces this remark by relating an experience he had sharing the gospel with a man who had killed his wife. This man knew he was guilty, REALLY guilty, and his own moral compass wouldn't accept forgiveness since the evil he had done demanded justice. He saw himself as too wicked to simply be let off the hook. Here enters the doctrine of bloodguilt. The gospel doesn't say to the guilt-plagued soul, "Don't be so down on yourself, you're not such a bad person." The gospel says, "You're right to be down on yourself, but the just wrath that your actions deserve has been paid, blood for blood on the cross." There is nothing cheap about God's grace.
How does this relate to abortion? To answer that, consider a hypothetical scenario raised in the book. "Imagine preaching the gospel in the town of Dachau in the 1940s and intentionally avoiding, rather than addressing, how the death of Christ on the cross can atone (cover over and wash away) the murder of innocents." Ensor believes this is the same situation we are in today because, "no other generation is more stained with bloodguilt than the current generation." It's estimated that one-third of American women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and for each one, there's a father (plus family and friends who are also affected). For many of them, abortion is the defining event in their lives. A gospel that has nothing to say to them about the bloodguilt of abortion may be no gospel at all. Ensor explains:
When you talk to someone today about the gospel, male or female, you are almost certainly talking to someone who has experienced abortion… How is it possible to bring a liberating gospel to a generation that is so deeply and specifically marked by the bloodguilt of abortion and say nothing about it?… The times and the context determine what must be emphasized in the gospel. Our times are marked by the bloodguilt of abortion… To think of abortion as a secondary issue – or worse, a merely political issue – is to fundamentally misunderstand the defining experience of our times. (64, 65, 68)
If this is true, how is it that so many Christians who seek to faithfully engage in culturally-relevant, missional outreach continue to ignore such a prevalent cultural marker? Ensor answers this question on page 66:
The difficulty we are up against – the thing that renders so many of us passive and all but useless in this area – is that sexual sins and abortion do not play nice on this postmodern playground. To introduce them into the conversation as they really are at any meaningful level is simply too painful for us. So we often choose to offend God rather than man.
As a high school and college student, I didn't want to get "sidetracked" by the abortion issue because I thought it would hamper my efforts to evangelize. What a silly notion that ended up being. And though I've long been aware of the fact that my evangelistic opportunities have been far more frequent and fruitful since becoming a public opponent of abortion, this is the best explanation I've heard for why that is. Towards the end of the book, Ensor suggests that abortion "may well be Satan's chief weapon against world-evangelization today" – both for the future evangelists it destroys in the womb and the paralyzing guilt it lays on generations of men and women. In other words, if you want to bring the gospel to bear on the lives of the people all around you, you better give some thought to how the bloodguilt of abortion fits into the picture. And John's book will certainly help you do that.
Michael Spielman is the founder and director of Abort73.com. His book, Love the Least (A Lot), is available as a free download. You can also find him on Facebook and Google+. Abort73 is part of Loxafamosity Ministries, a 501c3, Christian education corporation. If you have been helped by the information available at Abort73.com, please consider making a donation.