The Freedom and Pleasure of God: Responding to Olson’s “Against Calvinism” (pg. 114)

I am currently reading Roger Olson’s book Against Calvinism. I would like to respond to a critique he has made of Calvinistic ideology in the book. This is not a critique of the book but of one assertion therein. Here is the quote:

“This is exactly what non-Calvinists worry about with regard to Calvinism: that its deep, inner logic leads inexorably to exalting God’s glory over and even against his love. Apparently, God can (or must) limit His love, but He can’t limit His self glorification,” (Roger Olson, Against Calvinism, Zondervan, pg. 114).

One of Olson’s main concerns seems to be that the God of Calvinism is not recognizably “good, loving, and just,” (Olson, 111). For this article, I will consider specifically Olson’s grappling with God’s “limiting” of certain attributes. For example, in the main quotation above, does God really exalt His glory at the expense of being loving? How can God be pleased to predetermine certain people to hell and still be displeased that they go there? “How is God love if he foreordains many people to hell for eternity when he could save them…? How is it that God wants all people to be saved if he determines some specific individuals to be damned? How is it that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek 18:32) if he foreordains everything, including their reprobation and eternal punishment, for his good pleasure?” (Ibid.).

I want to give ample opportunity for Olson’s work to defend itself. He gives an alternative solution to God “limiting” His love in order to exalt His glory: “I would put it the other way around and say that in light of Christ’s self-emptying (Phil. 2), God can limit his glory (power, majesty, sovereignty) but not His love (because God is love; see 1 John 4!),” (Olson, pg. 114). I would like to restate Olson to make sure we understand the best possible presentation of his argument, but I’m bound by the fallacious reasoning he employs. In the prior statement, we have God’s glory as in the magnifying of His attributes. In this statement, we have God’s glory as in His “power, majesty, sovereignty.” This is an equivocation of the term “glory” and undermines his nod to Philippians 2.

There are two things happening on page 114. First, there is the question of whether or not God can “limit His love but not His self-glorification.” Second, there is the question of whether He can “limit His glory (power, majesty, sovereignty) but not His love.” Questions on matter of principles might be: does God have the ability to limit His attributes? Which is more valuable: God’s love or God’s glory? Is there any attribute of God that He can exalt above or at the expense of another? Can God cease to be all-powerful? Is God’s sovereignty in all things contradictory to His love as revealed in Scripture? What I want to consider in this article is this: does God actually have the ability and/or freedom to exalt His glory above His love?

God’s Glory and Love

God’s glory is the greatest possible end of all things. Is God the supremely beautiful Being?  Yes. Is He the supremely good, just, moral being (He Himself being the standard of goodness, justice, morality)? Yes. Is there anyone or anything else unto which we can rightly attribute a superlative of value and worthiness of praise? No. These things being as they are, God being magnified, publicized and projected is the most fair thing to occur in the universe. We declare with the Psalmist that “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Ps 19:1). With the Seraphim: “The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isa 6:3). Everything above, everything below: all of creation. Everything glorifies God. This, we recognize, is the best possible thing to occur.

When someone is prideful, we seek to humble them by saying, “Hey, the world doesn’t revolve around you, buddy! It’s not all about you.” Well, thing is, the world does revolve around God. It really is all about Him. God’s glory is the greatest possible end of all things – both of all things cumulatively and all things individually. To exalt anything above His glory would be to exalt dust above diamonds.

One reading of Olson’s comments in Against Calvinism on the matter of God’s glory and love (again, because of the equivocation, it is rather difficult to understand exactly where his critique lies – if it is not all possibilities strung into one) could easily pose this question: would it be right for God to exalt His glory above His love? “If exalting anything above God’s glory exalts dust above diamonds, are you saying His love is dust?” No, my friend. That gravely misunderstands the issue and meaning of God glorifying Himself. God’s glory is the going-public of His attributes. It is when He puts Himself on display. How, then, can one question whether He puts His glory or His love first? His love is displayed in His glory. This really makes no sense.

The only way this makes sense is if we are speaking of ends. Which is the greatest end: that God would love others or that God would glorify Himself? This is a reasonable question (reasonable in the sense that it actually makes sense).

Supremely Pleasurable Decisions

First, we must recognize that Scripture does not say God must exhaust every opportunity to be loving. If you say this then you must do the same with his justice – then how is anyone saved by grace? You must do the same with patience – then how does His longsuffering ever run its course and culminate in punishment of sinners in hell? Consider this question, friend: does God have the freedom to delegate which of His attributes is manifested in any particular situation?

By freedom if you mean “right,” then of course. By freedom if you mean that nothing external influences the decision, of course. By freedom if you mean it is undetermined by His own greatest pleasure, of course not. God does not do what He is supremely displeased to do, in any situation. We should not express this by saying that God is limited, because the limit is intrinsic. We express this in the following manner: Positively, in every situation God delegates that attribute which He is most pleased to express therein accomplishing that end which He is most pleased to effect; Negatively, in no situation does God delegate an attribute which He is not supremely pleased to express therein never accomplishing an end which he is not most pleased to effect. Every act of God is the work He is supremely pleased to do, and every event is the accomplishment He is supremely pleased to effect. He is supremely satisfied with all that He does, and nothing He accomplishes supremely dissatisfies Him.

We must now state this in simple language. What does this mean? We must understand that God does not choose to express an attribute in the way one chooses which shirt to wear on a given day. Because then we would have to ask which attribute God utilized to choose that attribute – but then which attribute did God utilize to choose that attribute which He utilized to choose that attribute – etc. The circle would never end. God’s expression of His attributes is not a decision He makes but something He does naturally. It is the automatic, free, instinctive thing for Him to do. By definition it is “undetermined” in our use of the word, because its determinating agent is God Himself.

We see then that God always does what He is most pleased with doing. “Most pleased with doing as in the end of His doing or the doing itself?” Scripture seems to point us to the end for certain. Undeniably, though, since God is sovereign and always accomplishing His purposes, every action is something He is most pleased with doing. And this is another question: “End as in effect or purpose?” Since God always accomplishes what He intends, this distinction is unnecessary for our purpose here. Thirdly, Scripture also points us to every deed, as He is working “all things after the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11) and doing “all that He pleases” (Ps 115:3). Therefore, every event and every end is what God is supremely pleased with accomplishing. Yet we cannot alienate any action of God in history, for all His actions are in a particular context. What He does in Numbers is in the context of Genesis, and Genesis in the context of Revelation. This means that all God does in and upon history has a context and we cannot rightly understand what God is most pleased with by looking at one action in isolation. We must take into account the context, being His other actions as revealed in Scripture.

For example, consider the cross. As an isolated event, outside of any other act of God as context, it is probably best seen as a demonstration of how God hates His Son (it could not be a demonstration of God’s injustice in punishing an innocent person, because as an isolated event, we have no other action or word from God whereby to judge whether or not He is being consistent/unchanging). In context we see that God inexhaustibly loves His Son – of course! But, then, why did He crush Him on Calvary? Evidently, something was more important than preventing the suffering of His Son. Something had a greater value. You might be thinking of Romans 3:25-26 and 5: “The demonstration of His attributes!” Scripture clearly points us to that, no doubt. I absolutely agree. Yet I believe that if one considers the ultimate context of God’s actions, a glorious new picture unfolds. What ultimately was more important than preventing the suffering of His Son?

We must look at the ultimate context: the end of all things (the purpose and result of all things). What end of all things? In eternity future when all of history sums “up in Christ” (Eph 1:10) as Redeemer and Lord, and God’s attributes are most clearly glorified. The ultimate plan God has for the universe is that ultimate end that He is ultimately satisfied in. Therefore, in any situation, God’s pleasure in accomplishing His plan for history over-rides His pleasure in any other possible outcome. God’s displeasure in Christ’s suffering did not over-ride the pleasure He had in glorifying His grace in the redemption of a people. In this way, then, God always does what He is most pleased with: His greatest possible present pleasure in relation to His greatest possible future pleasure. This is how God can be in a real sense both pleased and displeased with the death of His Son and the damnation of the wicked.

Essentially, God always makes the supremely pleasurable decision.

The Freedom and Pleasure of God

So, we return to the original question: does God have the freedom to delegate which attribute is manifested in any particular situation? There is clearly no “delegation” – only a natural and happy acting. In any particular situation, God is wholly uninfluenced and does simply what He wants to do. He is the perfect and only example of a free being. The question, then, is flawed first in its assumption that any attribute can be “delegated” by an accomplishing entity. Second, it is flawed in assuming that in any particular situation only one of God’s attributes are manifested. God is not a series of pillars that, in certain situations, we only see one pillar. God is an elaborate tapestry of threads – a sovereign, terrifying blanket that is laid upon every situation. Some threads are more recognizable and distinct than others. What I mean, friend, is that in every situation God remains Who He is. God does not cease to be loving when He punishes sinners in Hell. God does not cease to be just when He forgives His people of their sins.

We understand also that God has absolute freedom. This is a third critique I have of the original question. I don’t think it is necessarily helpful to consider if God is free in any situation – of course He is. Instead of asking what God is able or allowed to do, we should use the language of what He actually does. For example, instead of asking, “Can God forgive sinners?” It is more correct to ask, “Does God forgive sinners?” With these things in mind, we restate the question: Does God express certain attributes over others in certain situations? The question is not in God “exalting” one attribute over another, as if one was more important, but rather in God’s expression of His nature. And yes – God can express certain avenues of His nature over others at different times.

I suggest that, in light of the things we have seen concerning God’s freedom, power, justice, etc. in this article, it is much more helpful and accurate for us to speak of God in a language of freedom instead of a language of ability. It is undoubtedly true that there is a sense in which God is unable to do certain things. His inability, however, is intrinsic. The inability to do certain things is completely within Himself, meaning that He does not do something because He is displeased that it be done. God does not refrain from walking into a bar and getting drunk, because He literally can’t accomplish the action: He refrains because He is displeased to do such a thing. God is completely free! The freedom of God is His ability to do anything He is pleased to do. He has the absolute power and right to decide upon anything. To say that God is free is principally to say that all of His decisions are supremely pleasurable, that He supremely delights in everything He does, and that such decisions are uninfluenced. This is the marriage of two principles, that God acts according to His greatest delight and that God is immutable/never changing. God’s freedom is His immutable pleasure.

In speaking strictly of the freedom of God, we perhaps need to clarify the facets and make some distinctions. God’s freedom is most fundamentally His unbounded-ness in all things. His intrinsic freedom is the immutability of His pleasures – that fact that nothing influences what He is pleased with. His corporate freedom is the immutability of His ability to accomplish His intrinsic freedom – the fact that nothing influences whether He is able to do what He is pleased with. His ethical freedom is the immutability of His right to accomplish His intrinsic freedom – the fact that nothing influences whether He has a right to do what He is pleased with.

Concluding Remarks

In Against Calvinism, Olson speaks of God’s “inabilities” as genuine inabilities rather than things God merely chooses not to do. In addition, we clearly see that God’s glory is the best possible end of all things. God’s love is not some noble attribute far above the rest. Why, we must wonder, does Olson single-out God’s love as being the characteristic that God must glorify above the rest? Why not His justice? What about His patience? Why is His love the one part of His nature that Olson is so bent of exalting above all others? Why not His holiness, Roger? Aside from this problem, there is the problem of even trying to exalt one of God’s characteristics above another. As discussed some in this article, it is not viable – nor is it orthodox.

God is free. He is unchanging in His delights. To be more specific: God’s freedom is that He is unbound in all things. He is free in rights (all that He does is moral), abilities (He can do anything) and desires (He is uninfluenced in desires). Put the freedom of God together with the sovereignty of God, and you have something similar to Psalm 115:3, “Our God is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases.”

God accomplishes all He is pleased with!


Human End: The Ethical Condemnation of Abortion

Human Entitlement Derived From Human Purpose

The end of human existence that Scripture teaches provides a solid case for human rights. Human rights can be associated with the human end in relation to certain rights that pertain to the accomplishment of the human purpose. This is because the purpose for which God has made humanity is humanity’s supreme obligation. Since all people are supremely obligated to accomplish their fundamental duty, it is morally wrong to prohibit or prevent such accomplishment. Humans are obligated to allow other humans to accomplish their fundamental duty. Thus, we have human rights. Consider the argument:

  • God created humanity for a purpose.
  • The purpose for which God created humanity is humanity’s supreme obligation.
  • It is wrong to prevent someone from accomplishing what they are morally obligated to do.
  • Therefore, all humans are obligated to allow others to fulfill their supreme obligation
  • Therefore, all humans are entitled to a certain existence based on their supreme obligation.

What is the purpose of humanity? If we can determine why we exist then we can know our fundamental duty because what we are created to do is what we should be supremely occupied with accomplishing. Our fundamental duty (i.e. why we exist) is the supreme thing we are obligated to do (i.e. what we should be supremely occupied with accomplishing). I assume the reader agrees that it is wrong to prevent other humans from doing what they are morally obligated to do (for example, it is wrong to prevent a child from picking up his room when his mother tells him to do so). To infringe on the accomplishment of a person’s fundamental duty would be to infringe upon the revealed will of God – He is the one who made man and his duty. Read what Scripture says our ultimate end is: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person,” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Humanity’s purpose is to obey God. This is why we were created and it is our moral obligation to carry out this purpose. Thus, human beings are entitled to do God’s will. All other purposes fall under this one, supreme end.

To do God’s will inevitably means that we must obey Him. There are many commands in the Bible, but Jesus seems to sum them all up in His command to love: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 22:37-40). Therefore, I will include all such commands within this one: to love God (for if you love God you will love your neighbor). We can then say that humans are entitled to love God. Another purpose of God’s will is His glory. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands,” (Psalms 19:1). This verse tells us that the universe naturally proclaims God’s glory. As the heavens are not hindered by a will to do anything contrary to their design, we can reasonably assume that they are carrying out their intended purpose (for the same reason we can assume a watch is carrying out its purpose and not choosing its own course). Thus, it reasonably follows that the universe was created by God for His glory. If this is true, then this means that humans are entitled to glorify God. The Psalmist confirms this when he commands us to “Glorify His holy name,” (105:3).

Supreme, Fundamental And Agent Rights

From these two basic entitlements – the right to love and glorify God – we can deduce certain Agent Rights. I call these “Agent Rights” because they are rights granted on the basis that they are required in order to fulfill our primary obligations of existence. These rights serve as agents by which we love and glorify God. The Supreme Right (to obey God) and the Fundamental Rights (to love and glorify God) are explicitly taught by Scripture. However, many of the Agent Rights are implicitly taught by Scripture, being logically deduced from the Fundamental Rights. Therefore, there is an extra dose of humility that must be taken when discussing Agent Rights. I hope to convey this as I continue.

In order to fulfill our fundamental obligations, it is necessary that we be functional beings. Thus, we can say that humans have a right to live. Basic necessities in regards to life include food, water, and shelter. In order to glorify God, humans must have the right to make Him known. I will refer to this as humanity’s right to worship God, for worship involves the whole manner in which one lives his life. To love God it is necessary to know God. God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, manifested in His Word. God engages us through His Word, how we know what God wants and what He is like. Therefore, we may say that humans have the right to read and learn God’s Word – to engage Scripture. We may also add here, “to obey Scripture.” This is related to loving God because by loving God we will obey Him. Including a right to obedience in relation to His revealed Word will help to more clearly include all specific commands mentioned in Scripture (see footnote 13 for further discussion on this). We may list the human rights thus:


  • Humans have the right to do the will of God.


  • Humans have the right to love God.
  • Humans have the right to glorify God.


  • Humans have the right to live.
  • Humans have the right to sustain themselves with food and water.
  • Humans have the right to in some way possess or access shelter.
  • Humans have the right to worship God.
  • Humans have the right to read, learn, and obey God’s Word.

Differentiating Agent Rights From Permissible Concerns

The list of agent rights above is likely not exhaustive. Instead of trying to determine all of the agent rights, I would like to propose a means by which any possible agent rights can be tested. When something is suggested to be a human right, one may ask, “Is this thing necessary to love and glorify God?” The agent rights are those things which must be possessed in order to accomplish the fundamental rights/obligations (love and glorify God). It is manifestly true, then, that any proposed agent right must be essential to fulfilling our fundamental obligations. If a suggested right is merely compatible but not necessary for the two fundamental rights/obligations to be fulfilled, then the suggested right is not an agent right. It is instead a permissible concern: something that we are not entitled to but nevertheless permitted to affiliate with. Perhaps it would be helpful to consider the following examples from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: rest and leisure, nationality, no discrimination under law, free and public hearing.

Is a human really entitled to rest and leisure? Well, is rest and leisure necessary for loving and glorifying God? This is a good test for knowing if something is mandated by God as a human right. Leisure is a generic term which I take to mean “time to spend on something other than our responsibilities.” This is not necessary for loving or glorifying God. Rest, however, does seem necessary. We have to have a certain amount of rest each day or our bodies will cease to function. We need our bodies to function in order to love and glorify God. I therefore conclude this to be a human right, with the stipulation that it be called “sufficient rest.” Without this qualifying word, rest could become another form of leisure.

Are humans entitled to a nationality? Being part of a nation might seem fundamental to the human identity, but is it necessary to love and glorify God? Not at all. If someone were born on the moon and then lived a nomadic life on earth, it would not then follow that he could not love and glorify God. Therefore, humans are not entitled to a nationality. Possessing a nationality does not hinder one’s ability to love or glorify God, so we may label this a permissible concern.

The right to no discrimination under the law and the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal are both rights dealing with a society’s judicial system. In general, it does appear necessary that justice should be manifested in the way in which a society judges humans. No discrimination under the law fits this bill and reflects God’s own just initiatives. The type of hearing and tribunal also seems congruent with justice. However, we must ask if it is necessary to fulfill our moral obligations: to love and glorify God. If it is not necessary for this end, then it is not necessarily a human right. There have been many instances where people have loved and glorified God amidst corrupt political powers and courts. This proves that having no discrimination under the law and a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal are both not human rights. The best we could say is that they are permissible concerns, because they do not conflict with the Bible. If this paper was concerned with the obligations of government systems and the mandates from which ruling bodies should reign above a society of people, then perhaps these two things could be said to be necessary for such rulers to provide the people. However, in order to be consistent in reason, we must conclude that neither of these are human entitlements.

Commands In Scripture

Another issue concerns Biblical commands. We have an obligation, and therefore right, to fulfill any command that God gives us in Scripture. Rather than list all of these, they are summed-up in the agent right “to read, learn, and obey God’s Word” and the fundamental right to “love God.” However, many apparent commands in Scripture may be difficult to identify. For example, do we have an obligation and right to abide by such commands as Exodus 23:19 (“…You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother”) and Leviticus 5:2 (“if a person touches any unclean thing…then he will be guilty”)? The principle concerning Biblical commands is that every individual is responsible to obey any obligation derived from Scripture through proper exegetical technique. Under the agent right of “obeying God’s Word,” every person therefore has a right to fulfill such obligations.

What is needed, then, is a proper exegetical technique. This paper is not concerned with interpretation practices and I won’t provide instructions therein. Though perhaps it would be helpful to note a few things. First, the context of the reader is always vital to understanding whether or not a proposed command is actually an obligation to the reader. For example, Old Testament believers had an obligation to abstain from eating pork, as was prescribed under the Mosaic Law. In the New Testament (Acts), God revoked that limitation through Peter and the church in Jerusalem. Thus, the time period in which the reader of certain Scriptures lives in is vitally important. King David had an obligation/right to abstain from pork. New Testament believers (which includes Christians today) have no such obligation/right. Abstaining from pork changed from a fulfillment of the agent right to obey God’s Word to simply a permissible concern.

Second, despite the liberal case against dogmatism, we can know with assurance what God’s commands are in Scripture. I refer the reader to my essay on Appropriate Dogmatism – I pray it proves helpful if there is any doubt on the topic. Third, as already mentioned, any command that the Lord has given that we have an obligation to obey is summed up in the agent right “to read, learn, and obey God’s Word” and the fundamental right to “love God.” This is sufficient for the present purpose of this work.

Further Thoughts On Human Rights

The merit of agent rights is found solely in their vital role in allowing humans to fulfill the fundamental rights. In the situation that someone is refused by others of any of these agent rights, they could still love and glorify God. However, being stripped of these rights, it would be impossible to continue to live and fulfill the fundamental rights. Remember, human rights are those things that humans are entitled to in relation to one another. There is a communal quality to human rights that must be understood in order to grasp how they are necessary to fulfilling the fundamental obligations. We are concerned with life in community – our relationship with other people. With this in mind, a few more things can be said of human rights.

I submit that entitlements are things that other people are responsible to allow but not provide for other people. The very nature of a “right” manifests this clarification. Saying that one person is entitled to have another thing is not to say that other people are obligated to provide it for said person. The flip side of the coin is that, under the agent right of obeying Scripture, we are all obligated to love others as ourselves. The love that God manifests every day to all people should lead all people to love all people likewise: with grace, patience, and sacrificial service. Under the agent right of obeying God’s Word, then, we find this principle: I have an obligation to put others above myself when only one of us may enjoy the agent rights.

I propose that the principles deduced thus far in this essay are sufficient to understand the basic tenants of human rights as derived from the human end. The Scriptural case for human rights has clearly been presented and established.

Preliminary Arguments For The Rights Of Unborn People

Does birth transform a creature into another? Or course not. There is no change in the DNA. If unborn infants are not human beings, then what are they? I will assume the reader understands this. Consider these arguments…

  • Unborn infants are humans.
  • Humans have a purpose.
  • Therefore, unborn infants have a purpose.
  • Unborn infants have a purpose.
  • Humans are entitled to fulfill their purpose.
  • Therefore, unborn infants are entitled to fulfill their purpose.
  • Unborn infants are entitled to fulfill their purpose.
  • God’s revealed purpose for existence is to obey Him.
  • Therefore, unborn infants are entitled to obey God.

Obedience to God – this is the supreme right mentioned above.

  • Unborn infants are entitled to obey God.
  • God is obeyed when one loves and glorifies Him.
  • Therefore, unborn infants are entitled to love and glorify God.

Loving and glorifying God – these are the fundamental rights mentioned above.

  • Unborn infants are entitled to love and glorify God.
  • Certain things are necessary for loving and glorifying God.
  • Therefore, unborn infants are entitled to what is necessary to love and glorify God.

Remember, we are talking about the purpose of every human within the revealed will of God. In His divine providence, God will ultimately bring about all He has purposed to occur. Human rights are concerned with what we now see, what we now are commanded, who we now are interacting with, and where we are in the grand scheme of history. This being the case, it does not make sense to say, “My baby can still fulfill its purpose if I kill it – just in heaven, not on earth. He can love and glorify God in heaven.” Undoubtedly, the unborn child can fulfill his purpose in heaven rather than on earth – but that is beside the point. The issue is whether it is moral to murder him.

The Rights Of Unborn People

While I have not deduced in this essay an exhaustive list of agent rights, I have certainly provided a true, incomplete list. This means that, whatever an unborn infant is entitled to, they are certainly entitled to the agent rights established above. To name one: I submit that every unborn person has the right to live. To infringe upon this would be to hinder the unborn’s ability to love and glorify God in this world. This is an appalling crime. There are certain instances when taking a life is moral. Yet these always involve in some way the character of the individual that should die and facts concerning the individual’s interaction with others within the human community. Notice that neither of these things can be considered or even attributed to the unborn infant. When has the infant accumulated a record before any moral system? When has the infant interacted with the community of humanity? He has not yet had the chance.

At the very least, we are all obligated to not refuse an unborn infant its right to live. Remember, entitlements are things that other people are responsible to allow but not provide for other people. Without even discussing the parental obligations of the mother and father, nor the ethical problems every abortionist deals with in choosing to enter into the infant’s shelter, it is clear that the most we could morally do to bring about an abortion would be to stop taking care of the baby within the womb. The woman may cease to watch what she eats, what she lifts, etc. At the absolute most, this is what we are all permitted to do. I don’t have to carry this type of scenario through any further, however, because obviously this is not how abortions are carried out.

Because every unborn infant has a revealed, God-given purpose, he has a right to live and accomplish that purpose. Handicaps do not trump this. Pain does not trump this. The possibility of death does not trump this. The context of the pregnancy does not trump this. The human end provides an ethical principle that destroys the so called “logic” behind abortion. To state it negatively: no one has a right to take away an unborn infant’s opportunity to accomplish the revealed purpose for which God put them on earth.

Human Value: The Intrinsic Condemnation of Abortion

Human Value

The value of human existence that Scripture teaches provides a basic case for the human right to life. Human rights can be associated with the human value in relation to certain rights that pertain to the sustainment of a healthy human condition. This is because the value of a human life is such that it is morally wrong to take it away. Humans are obligated to allow other humans a certain existence based on their innate value. Consider the argument:

  • There is value innate to being human.
  • To destroy a human is to destroy a valuable thing.
  • It is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value.
  • Therefore, it is wrong to destroy human life for any purpose of lesser value than said life.
  • Therefore, all humans have a right to such an existence.

Premise two naturally follows from premise one. The second conclusion follows from the moral obligation of the first. Thus, for the above argument to stand, I must prove to the reader that: 1) there is natural worth in humanity (premise one), 2) it is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value.

Natural Worth in Humanity

Humans are created by God in a wonderful and awe-inspiring manner (Ps. 39:3-15). Humans have a purpose; we are not accidents (Ecc. 2:13-14). A person’s soul is of greater worth than the whole world (Matt. 16:26). Most importantly, humans were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Bearing God’s image does not mean that we are little gods. God is much more dissimilar to us than He is similar, yet there are affinities. We are creative, relational beings who are capable of reason and language. The relationship that humanity can enjoy with God is unique in the cosmos. Angels, trees, stars, dogs – none of these created things can engage with God as we do. God created us with the capacity to know and love Him, then He chose to know and love us. There is value innate to humanity due to the way that our nature, in certain ways, reflects God’s. No other part of God’s creation manifests Himself in this way, and so we are in this sense valuable in our cosmological context. While this is true, it would be false to assume that God’s love or the opportunity for it are entitlements innate to being human.

God does not have a gospel for animals or plants and He did not extend salvation to Lucifer and the fallen angels (2 Pt. 2:4). Human beings are the one group of creatures that are the potential objects of God’s salvific love. “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved,” (Rom. 10:13) – this is a promise specifically for humans. There is not, however, any worth in us that warrants God’s salvation (Tit. 3:5). The fact that all humans are offered salvation does not mean that we are entitled to the opportunity. God has a desire that all people be saved, but this desire does not warrant Him to use His sovereignty to save all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). If there was something innate to humanity that made us entitled to salvation, then it would be morally wrong for God to refrain from saving anyone. God has no such obligation (Rom. 3:9-12). Rather, as the judge of all things, He has a moral obligation to carry-out justice for the unrighteousness of the world. Yet God is not even obligated to make humans the potential objects of His saving love. There is nothing innate to humanity that warrants God to save us or to offer us salvation. In relation to God, we have no entitlements.

What we may say in light of humanity’s value is that we are set-above, in some respects, the rest of creation. Bearing God’s image is unique to us and it links us to the supremely worthy and beautiful God in ways that no other part of creation can lay-claim to. In relation to God, our worth entitles us to nothing. Any worth that God attributes to us in relation to His holy character is worth determined by His unconditional love, not innate to being human. In relation to creation, we seem to have an exalted place of value. We can call this our cosmological worth. We are valuable because through bearing His image we represent God in creation. To attack or defame a human is to implicitly attack or defame God.

Destruction for Less-Valuable Ends

Seeing that there is clearly a degree of worth innate to humanity in relation to the rest of creation, it is self-evident that to destroy a human life is to destroy a valuable thing. What must now be proven is that it is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value. Consider first whether or not it would be wise to destroy your ten dollar bill in order to receive a five dollar bill from your friend. Such an act goes against conventional wisdom, because in-so-doing you gain nothing and lose five dollars (we assume that there is nothing special about the five dollar bill that your friend gave you). This is also poor stewardship, because the ten dollars was destroyed, not simply misplaced or given away. The amount of monetary paper-funds in the U.S. declined by ten dollars. This shows the communal effects of such an action, however small and insignificant they may be. When one object is destroyed to achieve an end of lesser value, a community of people suffers and is affected in one way or another.

It is wrong to kill a litter of puppies simply because it makes you happy to do so. It is wrong to burn a forest down in order to find the quarter that you lost inside. It is wrong to blow-up your friend’s car to satisfy your anger, because he annoyed you today at work. These examples may seem extreme but they illustrate the point well: it is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value.

Therefore, it is wrong to destroy human life for any purpose of lesser value than said life. Humans are entitled to a certain existence therein. To apply this ethical principle when faced with the option of killing a fellow human, we need only ask one question: is my reason for killing this individual more valuable than the individual himself? Does the effect of this killing have greater worth than the human life that I will be destroying? This question has especially serious applications for abortion.

Does killing this baby bring about something that is more valuable than the baby himself? What price, valuation, or appraisal should persuade an individual to take the life of a baby? It cannot be justice, as if the baby’s death brought due process to the rape of a woman, because the baby did not commit the act and has yet to interact with other people in any moral capacity. It cannot be money, as if the baby could not be provided for, because Scripture teaches us that an individual’s worth goes beyond material things and the act of abortion would be the very pinnacle of not taking care of the infant. It cannot be birth-control, as if the baby did not fit into plans or preferences for the parents, because surely inconvenience and fleeting desires do not warrant the death of a child. It cannot be birth-defects, as if the child is expected to have some kind of handicap, because the chances of the child being born handicapped are always less than the chances of him dying from an abortion and no amount of cognitive or motorized defection within the infant makes him less of an image-bearer of the Almighty.

The Right to Live

It seems reasonable to admit human value is such that it is morally wrong to destroy human life without sound evidence that such a death will effect a more valuable end. I conclude, most boldly, that the unborn infants in the United States (and all over the earth) are entitled to life and we are not entitled to take it from them. This entitlement is innate to their existence as human beings. All unborn infants have a right to live and be born. To take away such a right is to not only steal their life in murder and to commit the immorality of infringing upon a human right, but to disrespect and dishonor the image of God manifested in the qualities of their existence. To justify an abortion, one must present undeniable evidence of the worth of a specific effect that is greater than the loss of that baby’s life.

As a concluding thought, I would like to point out that the above argument makes room for abortion in certain cases – namely: an end of greater value than the unborn baby. First, is there any end of greater value than the baby? Second, if such ends exist, what are they?

In answer to the both questions: I can perceive an argument in which the life of the mother is said to have greater value than the life of the baby. The mother has been invested in more than the baby, making her death a greater loss in terms of resources. The mother also would be a greater immediate loss to society, since she has a greater independence than the baby.

Beyond the end, “life of the mother,” I cannot perceive any end which is greater than the life of the baby. Yet even in this argument, I’m not sold on whether abortion would be ethical. The death of a mother would be by the inactivity of the doctors (i.e. they were not the ones killing her) while the death of the baby would be by the activity of the doctors (i.e. they are the ones killing him). The object that causes death in the former case is the baby, who involuntarily does so in a situation that is – mentally and physically – out of his control. The object that causes death in the latter case is the doctor, who voluntarily does so in a situation that is in his control. Therefore, I am not sure it is just even in this case to kill the baby. However, I understand that the argument exists and can be perceived by some to be sufficient.