Pro Life, Idolatry, and Phillis Wheatley
October 15, 2020 Speaker: Josh DeGroote
Passage: Genesis 9:6–9:6, Romans 1:21–1:25, Proverbs 6:17–6:17, Exodus 20:13–20:13
Welcome to the living by faith podcast, my name is Josh DeGroote and this is episode number seventeen. Thanks for listening. This is a podcast where I take a look at some news items, theology, and history from the perspective of the Christian’s life of faith in Jesus Christ. Let’s jump in.
Pro life evangelicals voting for Biden? An article was circulating a couple of weeks ago written by a couple of self-professed evangelicals saying that they and others are pro life and voting for Biden. And their argument is that though they disagree with Biden on the abortion issue, they have a more holistic view of what it means to be pro life.
First of all, why is that even a story? The democratic position on abortion. This would not have been a story 50 years ago or even 30 years ago. But of course, the reason this is a story is because the Democratic party has gone from publicly stating they want abortion to safe, legal, and rare to unrestricted access to abortion at any time for any reason or no reason at all.
In the article, the authors cite things like poverty, healthcare, racism, and global warming, etc. are all pro life issues. These are worthy societal and policy discussions, but pro life issues? You can see how the goalposts have been changed. Let’s not talk about abortion anymore, let’s just say that virtually every major policy difference and hot button cultural subject is a pro life issue and see if that sticks.
But let’s just think about each of these for a minute. Poverty is a pro life issue. What are we being told here? More government assistance is needed to be holistically pro life. Tens of trillions of dollars has been spent on the war on poverty since 1964 (when the war was declared by LBJ) and it has created more dependency, a lack of self-sufficiency, and massive destruction of the nuclear family - in the black community disproportionately by the way. Obviously there are examples of individuals who got a hand up and made something of their lives. But by and large, it has created more problems.
Global warming. On this issue, we hear all the time, you have to follow what the scientists are saying. But it begs the question: Which scientists? What about all the scientists who are blackballed because they refute global warming or at least say it isn’t the existential threat that we are being told it is? Furthermore, how on earth would we as a country already up to our eyeballs in debt pay for the trillions of dollars in legislation being proposed by the Democratic party?
Racism. It seems to me that this is an argument aimed at the President that he is a racist and racism the issue of racial tensions would be lessened if Biden was president. Does anyone really believe that? I don’t. The tensions will only be inflamed more.
So is this what it really means to be pro life? To me it seems like this is just an attempt at trying to change the definition of pro life, so that when it is all said and done, we are left with the message that the party that openly advocates for the dismembering of babies in the womb without restriction and paid for by you, the taxpayer, is actually the more pro life party. Wow, that’s ironic.
This comes down to a worldview issue. How we view the world. And as Christians, we need to be assured that God has spoken in the scriptures and he has spoken with clarity. So let’s speak with some clarity. In his law, God says, “You shall not murder”. And one of the major political parties says that the gruesome, dismembering of babies must not be impeded if a woman simply chooses to do so. In fact, it is a fundamental right we are told - this is a positive good. Christians believe that God has spoken and that he says “I hate hands that shed innocent blood.” Christians believe that the life of every human being begins at conception; and that each and every human being is created by God, in the image of God, and therefore has intrinsic dignity and value. And so abortion is not only the killing of a person, it is an assault on the image of God. Which is why the bible says murder is a capital crime:
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)
Christians, we need clarity on what it means to be pro life.
The next section is the catechesis section. For centuries Christians gave themselves to the practice of learning the doctrines of the Christian faith by way of a catechism. Catechesis simply means to teach orally or instruct by word of mouth. This is a practice that is sorely missed in our day and I think we would benefit tremendously by taking it up again, and so I want to do my part to promote the practice of catechesis. Mention “Children’s Mode”.
All that said, I’m making my way through a modern catechism called New City Catechism. It takes the form of 52 questions and answers with scripture - so one for each week. You can buy the book online or you can download the app on your phone for free. So we are on question 17 this week:
Question 17: What is idolatry?
Answer 17: Idolatry is trusting in created things rather than the Creator for our hope and happiness, significance and security.
In the west, when we think of idolatry we picture a native tribe in some jungle in South America or Africa bowing down to a wooden statue and worshiping. Of course, that is idolatry. But idolatry is something that happens in our hearts and works its way out. John Calvin once wrote that man’s heart is a perpetual idol factory. This speaks two profound things. First, that we are created to worship and so we will worship something (or someone). And second, until one is born again he/she will always worship something imagined in the heart and created by man rather than worship the uncreated God.
The essence of idolatry is trusting in, paying homage to, serving created things in order to get our meaning in life and give us security rather than God. God alone is to occupy that space of trust, because he alone can give us the hope, happiness, and security we truly long for and he does in Christ!
Romans 1:21, 25 - For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened… They exchanged the truth about God for a life and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.
One of the great sagas in the bible is the story of Joseph. Joseph as a young boy was sold into slavery by his brothers and spent several years as a slave or in jail in Egypt before he finally was brought to prominence in Pharoah’s government. Joseph eventually saw why God had allowed all that happened to him and even said to his brothers after being reunited to them,
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good… (Genesis 50:20)
I want to tell you the story of Phillis Wheatley an African slave who became a genius poet and Christian in early colonial America. Phillis was kidnapped at the age of 7 from West Africa and brought to America where she was purchased by the Wheatlely family of Boston. Though most slaves were not taught to read or write in English and even discouraged from learning, Phillis was taught the English alphabet by the Wheatley daughter. She was also given religious and theological training. Though their slave, Phillis was loved by the Wheatley family and later
It didn’t take long to discover that Phillis was a genius. After only 1 ½ years, Philiis was fluent in English and was studying Latin, geography, astronomy, literature, and history. By the age of 10, Phillis was reading in Greek and Latin. She wrote poems and amazingly at just the age of 14, had one of her poems published in a newspaper. In fact, Phillis was the first African woman to have something published in America. She was converted to Christ at the age of 16 and was a committed Christian who studied theology, wrote about subjects such as the image of God, the depravity of man, and the redeeming work of Christ. And after negotiating her freedom, Phillis challenged those in favor of slavery and even the pro-slavery inconsistencies of some Christians at the time (George Whitefield).
Finally, Phillis was engaged in mission work, helping to fund missions to Ghana and Sierra Leone. Truly she is a Christian hero. Phillis Wheatley belongs among the Hebrews 11 crowd, those who by faith did such wondrous things for the glory of God. And yet, much of it came about through the horrors of the slave trade.
The institution of slavery was abhorrent. Whether motivated purely by pragmatism or based on overt racism, it was evil and the scripture is clear about it. The buying and selling of human beings is an abomination… However, one thing this story shows us is that GOd is able to draw a straight line with crooked sticks.
In the worst of situations, God is working out his purpose. God intended good through the evil of men and the evil of slavery. First and foremost, Phillis Wheatley became a Christian, blessed others with her writing, and was used to spread the gospel to peoples who needed to hear the good news of Jesus Christ in Africa. Truly, in the case of Phillis Wheatley, what men meant for evil, God meant for good.
Thanks again for listening to the living by faith podcast. If you found it helpful, please subscribe, like, and share. Until next time, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Spirit be with you all.”