Spiritual Perspectives


WHAT CONSTITUTES MURDER?

Gary W. Summers

           “I expect a great reward in heaven.”  No, this optimistic statement was not made by the apostle Paul but rather by Paul Hill, who killed “an abortion doctor and clinic escort” in Pensacola nine years ago, according to Wednesday’s Orlando Sentinel (A1).  He further stated that he had no remorse in doing what he did and that “he hopes his execution today will inspire similar attacks.”  He actually views his death as the state of Florida “making a martyr” of him (A1).

 

     Although these statements clearly reek with egotism, nevertheless Hill, a former Presbyterian minister, should not be dismissed with a wave of the hand.  In order to examine the subject properly, we ought to begin with a definition of murder.  Only one source can provide an accurate understanding of this complex subject—the Word of God.

 

     From the pages of the Bible we glean the following information: murder is the taking of innocent (or even guilty) human life without God’s authorization for doing so.  Let us consider the different elements of this definition.  First, the life under discussion must be human.  It is not murder to pick fruit and eat it, nor is it wrong to kill animals for food; they are not made in the image of God.

 

     In Genesis 1:29 God authorized consumption of portions of the plant kingdom: “See, I have given you, every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.”  In Genesis 9:3 man’s dietary choices expanded: “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.”

 

The one stipulation was: “But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gen. 9:4).  Under the Law of Moses, certain animals were considered unclean, but in the Christian system, all are once again fair game (sorry about the pun).  In demonstrating to the apostle Peter that the Gospel is for Gentiles as well as Jews, God used animals as an illustration that all things are clean (Acts 10:10-28).  All animals are clean for eating; all men are clean to receive the Gospel.

 

     Although some animal rights advocates view the killing of animals as murder, such cannot be the case.  Certain actions toward animals may be cru-el, thoughtless, senseless, and irresponsible, but animals are not human beings.

 

     Babies, however, are.  The physical evidence is overwhelming; one must be irrational to deny personhood to that which is in the womb.  By the time a woman knows for certain that she is pregnant, the child has most of its systems in place and probably also has a heartbeat.  How incongruous for doctors to expend great efforts to save premature infants of five or six months, while at nearby abortion clinics “health professionals” are terminating the lives of human beings that same age and stage of development.  Does one need a degree in medicine to sort this dilemma out?  Even a Supreme Court Justice ought to be able to comprehend it.

 

     Neither does a person need to be a theologian to understand that the Bible refers to the babe in the womb by the same term as one already born (see Luke 1:41, 44 and 2:12, 16).  We are not just dealing with a slogan: Abortion is murder!

 

The fact that a baby is a human life is only one factor, however.  The other consideration (God’s authorization) must also be applied.  But first we ask, “Is the child in the womb innocent?”  A Calvinist would have to answer, “No, he is already tainted with ‘original sin.’”  In that case, why would a Presbyterian, such as Paul Hill, become so incensed over abortion? 

 

     In his book, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, Michael Horton writes the following:

 

When we are born, then, we are born at odds with a God for whose pleasure we were created. There are no “innocent little babies,” and the Bible knows no age of accountability (60).

 

     What awful theology!  No wonder they fail to preach this doctrine publicly and that frequently members of Calvinistic denominations do not even know they hold to such a doctrine.

 

     Babies are pure and innocent; they enter the world free of sin—they are not worthy of death either before or after birth.  Furthermore, God does not authorize their termination.  In the ungodly Pharaoh’s Egypt, the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah were commanded to kill every son that was born to an Israelite couple.  Instead they saved them alive, and therefore “God dealt well” with them (Ex. 1:15-20).

 

     On occasion, God has authorized putting to death innocent children—because He knew what they would do if they lived.  Samuel commanded King Saul: “Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them.  But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey” (1 Sam. 15:3).  While this commandment is severe, we must keep in mind some important considerations.

 

     First, God knows the possibilities of the future.  David, for instance, inquired of God about the men of Keilah.  Would they defend him or give him up to Saul if he remained in their city?  God told him they would deliver him up; so he departed (1 Sam. 23: 11-13).  Likewise, God knew the future actions of the Amalekite children, if they were not destroyed.

 

     Second, being killed in a state of innocence was actually to their advantage, as tragic as it seems.  A son of Jeroboam was spared by death from a life of probable corruption and sin: “…he is the only one of Jeroboam who shall come to the grave, be-cause in him there is found something good toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam” (1 Kings 14:13).  We must realize, however, that God does not authorize the killing of the unborn today.    

 

Did Hill Kill or Murder?

 

     In order to determine if Paul Hill was guilty of murder, we must apply the definition presented earlier.  Was the abortion doctor (his victim) an innocent human being?  He was human but not innocent.  It would be hard to imagine anyone more worthy of death than a man who uses his medical abilities on behalf of the destruction of unborn children.  He, more than most people, knows precisely what he is aborting.  While pro-abortion advocates may continue to chant worn-out, illogical slogans about the “right” of a woman “to control her own body,” a doctor knows he is removing a human being from the mother’s womb.

 

     But does the New Testament authorize individuals to personally execute evildoers?  No.  That task is left to the civil government (Rom. 13:1-7).  God could command the Israelites to kill in certain situations because they were a theocratic nation (ruled by God).  Today each individual is ruled by God; punishment for crimes is granted to the state.  Mr. Hill did not have the authority to kill anyone.

 

     Why did he do it?  Catherine Fairbanks, the stepdaughter of the slain physician, concluded: “With no remorse, he must have a personality disorder indicative of a sociopath” (A5).  Although Hill was grievously wrong in what he did, this assessment seems inaccurate.  His fault lies in his conviction being so deep that it drove out every other consideration (such as his lack of authority from God to kill).  The apostle Paul had no remorse when he persecuted Christians.  He believed he was taking God’s part.  He cast his vote against our brethren so that they might be put to death; by his own admission he was “exceedingly enraged against them” (Acts 26:10-11).  Yet he did so with a clear conscience (Acts 23:1). 

 

     Hill believed that killing abortion doctors is “justifiable homicide” (A5).  It is not difficult to reach that conclusion.  Innocent lives are being lost daily!  And those entrusted with coming to their defense are the very ones who have made them vulnerable.  Laws are supposed to protect the innocent from the greedy, the callous, the opportunist, the destructive.  In this case society has failed.  Our legal sys-tem approves of murdering the helpless and makes laws against rescuers!  The Supreme Court twisted the Constitution to eradicate laws against abortion in 46 states.  Their guilt will be made manifest to all on the Day of Judgment when One Who is truly just shall judge them.  Regardless of the frustration Hill felt, however, God did not authorize him to kill any-one.  He will receive no reward for murdering, let alone a great one.  It is unfortunate that in nine years he could not bring himself to repent.

 

Hill’s Death

 

     Was it right for the state of Florida to put Paul Hill to death?  Since he was guilty of murder, it was appropriate for the government to enforce the death penalty (Rom. 13:4).  Furthermore, the former Presbyterian minister is no martyr.  He received a fair trial, and his sentence was just.  No individual has the right to take upon himself the burden of executing justice.

 

     Suppose that a person knew of a certainty that someone was guilty of murder, but that fortunate individual was tried and found not guilty.  How horrible would such a situation be—particularly for the husband, wife, son, daughter, or parent of the victim.  To make matters worse, a strong likelihood existed that the one who had escaped conviction would murder again—perhaps another family member.  How frustrating would it be to live with a just-ice system that failed and the assurance that the crime would be repeated!  This is somewhat com-parable to what it is like to hold the pro-life position.  Justice has deserted us, and the killing continues.

 

     But our laws do not grant us the right to murder murderers.  And we certainly pray that Hill will not inspire others to follow in his footsteps; we do not need imitators—for a number of reasons.

 

     First, for every abortion provider that is removed from the land of the living, we lose ground.  The media delights in portraying pro-lifers as a bunch of nuts who are out of touch with the times.  They love to portray us as fanatics.  We should not give them any cause for doing so.  We are unlikely to obtain any positive news coverage; so if homicides are associated with our position, we repel people.  In fact, some who occupied the middle ground between the two positions may feel compelled to take the pro-abortion position.

 

     Vigilante justice also precludes the victim from repenting.  If all of these doctors had been killed from the beginning of Roe v. Wade, none would have been around to have a change of heart.  Bernard Nathanson, for example, who performed hundreds of abortions and helped found NARAL, has been a marvelous opponent of what he once upheld.  He wrote the book, Aborting America, and told the story as an insider.  He went on to narrate The Silent Scream, a riveting appeal to “stop the killing.”  Carol Everett once operated abortion clinics in the Dallas area.  She gave up a six-figure income a few years ago and wrote the book, Blood Money, which exposes the real interest there is in keeping abortion legal.  These two would have been no help had they been shot dead.

 

And what of Roe herself?  Probably many who profess Christ felt hostility toward this woman who helped make abortion legal.  Norma McCorvey, however, a few years ago, renounced her part in that 1973 decision.  Recently, she filed a motion to vacate that ruling.  According to Kathleen Parker’s article, which appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on August 31st, her “case, which included some 5,400 pages of evidence, was thrown out by the district court within 48 hours…”; Parker comments that the “judge must have been a fast reader” (G3). 

 

     Sandra Cano (aka Mary Doe, from Doe v. Bolton) has filed a similar suit.  Both women regret their role in helping legalize abortion. 

 

The gist of Cano’s current motion is that, 30 years ago, the Supreme Court didn’t consider the physical and emotional effects of abortion on women, primarily because there was no information available at the time. Now, plaintiffs contend, we have 30 years of evidence that abortion harms women. (http:// www.operationoutcry.org) (G3).

 

     Both Cano and McCorvey, “neither of whom ever had an abortion, claim they were used by lawyers on fraudulent grounds” (G3).  It is no less than incredible that two of the women who were instrumental in helping abortion to become legal have completely reversed themselves.  It would be even more amazing if the news media gave these facts more than a passing glance.  Imagine what coverage would have been given to Paul Hill if he had renounced his pro-life position and written a volume upholding abortion and condemning protestors.  Likely, NOW would have sought a presidential pardon for him, and it would have made the covers of Time and Newsweek.

 

     According to Thursday’s Orlando Sentinel (Sept. 4th), however, Hill’s last words were: “If you believe abortion is a lethal force, you should oppose the force and do what you have to do to stop it. May God help you to protect the unborn as you would want to be protected” (A1).  If the words, within the law, were added, we would agree wholeheartedly.

 

     We ought to pray that more abortion providers would find their consciences and leave of their own accord.  Doctors who come to a clinic one day a week to do abortions should be identified and shunned as takers of life.  Christians who have been apathetic should speak up.  After all, if this nation falls because it has allowed unwarranted bloodshed (Pr. 14:34), we will suffer with it.  We should do everything legally possible to end this shameful, heathen practice and restore respect for human life.

 

 

 


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