The Case For Life (Book Review)

For a long time I had desired to get involved in the pro-life cause, but I just didn’t know how to do it in a way that suited my abilities and personality.  The church I attended in high school had a way in—but standing outside the local abortion clinic with a sign didn’t interest me.  And in those days there were well-known speakers that would tour around the country, gathering a crowd to make the case for life.  But when the party left town it seemed to be that business-as-usual returned.  Of course that was not the case—that was just my perception.  These were the days before the internet so it was not easy to find onramps to activism and other ways of helping save lives, love the vulnerable and at-risk, and change minds.  My difficulty in finding my way into the pro-life movement led to my desire to help taking a back-seat to other priorities.  And that’s the way it was for a while.

And then I found a local ministry called Care Net.  The church that eventually would call me to serve as a pastor had a simply onramp.  By partnering with a local chapter of Care Net, which I discovered supports one of the largest networks of crisis pregnancy centers in America.  One year our congregational Care Net coordinator invited my wife and me to attend the annual fundraising banquet.  Sensing this was my way in, we went.  The program and presentation that night moved my heart to sign up as a monthly donor and partner.  All of a sudden, it became clear to me that my long-time interest in and exposure to pro-life ministry had prepared me making a difference.  A series of memories flashed before me.  Hearing a pro-life talk during a high school youth group meeting.  Browsing a display table at a campus student organization fair in college.  Listening to the radio program Stand to Reason with their occasional guest speaker: pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf.  Suddenly it occurred to me.  Don’t I have one of his books on my computer?  Yes I did.  The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture [hereafter CFL], a resource in the format I hate to read (ebook) sat tucked away on my hard drive, forgotten shortly after I’d downloaded it years prior.  So I determined to read it soon, putting it near the top of my reading to-do list.  I’m glad I did.

If you’ve never heard the author Scott Klusendorf speak, he is an engaging, winsome, master communicator because he comes off as a regular guy who happens to know a lot about his passion: pro-life apologetics.  The one thing I remember about his many radio interviews was his simple SLED acrostic.  It’s a memory aid to make the basic case why abortion of human babies in the womb should not be done.  SLED essentially makes the point that the unborn do not differ from us in the four meaningful ways that would justify killing them in the womb.  Simply, the unborn are different from us in Size, Level of Development, Environment, and Degree of dependency.  Such a four-point argument is very easy to remember and very effective at honing the abortion issue down to the main question: what is the unborn?

CFL certainly contains this now-famous apologetic material that could fit on an index card, but thankfully it is much more.  Organized into four parts, the book lays out a game plan for pro-life Christians to make a positive, measurable different:

  1. How to clarify the debate
  2. How to establish a foundation for the debate
  3. How to answer objections persuasively
  4. How to teach and equip

The abortion issue is, more often than not, portrayed as one of the most morally complex questions of our time.  But as the author shows, the complexities cloud people’s reasoning because abortion is such a highly-charged emotional issue.  And understandably so!  Rare is the one who has not been personally wounded by reality of abortion.  If a mother has not endured the trials of a crisis pregnancy herself, even one that she chose to end by taking the life of her unborn child, that mother has almost certainly walked that path alongside another who did.  If a father has not participated in the decision to terminate his unborn son or daughter, either through coercion, manipulation, support, or passive acquiescence, then that same father knows and loves someone who has.  Young women and men know the pain of a world where abortion strains relationships among family, friends, coworkers, and fellow students.  In a society where abortion is legal, no one escapes unscathed.

However, Klusendorf seeks to clarify the moral question of abortion by asking a single question: What is the unborn?  Because if we answer this one question with reason, scientific evidence, philosophy and natural law in mind—without even bringing religion and spirituality into the equation—then all the surrounding complexities are subordinated to their proper place.  As the author repeats several times, if the unborn are not human then no justification for abortion is required, but if the unborn are human, then no justification for abortion is adequate.

Even though this is a brilliant simplification that clarify the issue for pro-life Christians and the hypothetical dispassionate observer, objections are still expected.  Part Three of CFL leads the reader by the hand through the most common ones.  The author’s method is to take questions meant as defeater objections, reframe them through the lens of the “What is the unborn” clarifying question, then ask the objector’s reframed question again to keep the dialogue going by passing the burden of proof on the objector.  In chapters 10-15 the following objections are addressed:

  • The Coat Hanger Objection: “Women Will Die from Illegal Abortions”
  • The Tolerance Objection: “You Shouldn’t Force Your Views on Others”
  • The Single Issue Objection: “Pro-Lifers Should Broaden Their Focus”
  • The Hard Cases Objection: “Rape Justifies Abortion”
  • The “I Don’t Like You” Objection: “Men Can’t Get Pregnant” and Other Personal Attacks
  • The Bodily Autonomy Objection: “It’s My Body, I’ll Decide”

Each of these chapters provide good answers and model gracious conversations pro-life Christians can have with abortion defenders to increase the level of understanding on both sides.  Understanding is key, because the vast majority of people who are pro-abortion consider themselves pro-choice.  When pressed to express their position, they often will say, “I am personally opposed to abortion, but I support a woman’s right to choose.”  If this is an honest description of their personal opposition for abortion but support for the legality of it, then this type of pro-choice person should be open to dialogue whether their personal opposition is grounded in objective morality instead of subjective preference.  It is only the pro-abortion folks who consider abortion an universal good—sort of a woman’s partaking of the sacrament of personal autonomy—who are much more difficult to persuade otherwise.  Thankfully they women and men hold an extreme minority position in our culture.  Unfortunately some of these folks possess a disproportionate amount of power and influence in our culture to keep abortion legal, available, and accessible.

One of the features of CFL that I appreciate is its soup-to-nuts comprehensive approach.  Klusendorf is not merely concerned with persuasion and changing minds on the conversation level with people we meet in everyday spheres of life.  The last section of the book is strategically oriented.  Chapter 16 offers practical suggestions how pastors can further the pro-life cause in their churches.  Chapter 17 compassionately points toward healing post-abortion men and women.  Chapter 18 argues pro-life Christians should ally themselves with other pro-life minded individuals and organizations, and can do so without compromising core theological convictions upon which we may disagree.  This is what is commonly known as co-belligerence.  In martial terminology, the principle states with respect to the pro-life issue, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  The last, chapter 19, says the pro-life side can win this cultural debate and offers a few real-life examples of Christians making an extraordinary impact.

If you are looking for a scholarly resource that deals with the philosophical intricacies of the pro-life position, CFL is not that book (although Klusendorf utilizes and applies the best of the scholarly literature).  But if it’s something like a pro-life handbook that serves as an onramp for Christians aspiring to get in the game, CFL is an excellent place to start.

Resources

How to Make the Case for Life in a Post-Christian Culture:

Interview with the author:

The book’s website

Read the book’s introduction and chapter 1

Life Training Institute: Persuasively Communicating the Pro-Life Message

Key quotes from The Case for Life

10 Things You Should Know about Abortion, by Scott Klusendorf

3 Things the Pro-Life Movement Needs to Do to Stop Abortion, by Scott Klusendorf

A simple case for the pro-life position, by Scott Klusendorf

Pro-life speaker gives non-religious argument against abortion at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Pro-Life Articles

Reviews

Amazon

Apologetic Junkie

Apologetics 315

Challies.com

Denver Seminary

First Things

Goodreads

Gospel Coalition

Jon Delange

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