Skip to comments.Leaving Tiller to God
Posted on 02/05/2010 1:47:12 PM PST by presidio9
This past Friday, Scott Roeder was sentenced to life in prison for last Mays shooting death of George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country who performed partial-birth abortions. Tiller was a doctor only in the legal sense of the word. He was not a healer, but a killera callous monster who could hold a baby in his hands as the child emerged from the mother, puncture its skull, and suck its brains out. Tiller was a mass murderer, though the unjust laws that govern that practice in America sanctioned his butchery.
It does not follow, however, that Roeder was justified in what he did, as almost every Christian opponent of abortion would agree. Nonetheless, is there any opponent of abortion who has not asked himself, If I truly believe this is murder and that these abortionists are mass murderers, why do I not put actions to words and physically stop them, even kill them, sacrificing myself for these helpless innocents? But having explored that train of thought, we have all (but for a tiny handful) pulled back from it. Why? Is it just cowardice and hypocrisy? Or do we sense intuitively the ungodliness of that course?
I find that evangelicals, like most Americans, are divided within themselves on this question. Our political heritage is one of rebellion and self-assertion, and yet also one of law governance. At its heart, this is a question of authority, submission, and trusting God.
The reason for rejecting the final premise in the argument for assassinating abortionists is a theological one that is clearly stated in Scripture. It is found in Romans 13:1-5:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is Gods servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out Gods wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid Gods wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
In short, it is not the place of private individuals to execute justice. God has established governments, and He has entrusted that responsibility to them and to them only. You are no more justified in killing abortionists who practice their hideous trade under the cover of law than you are to gun down your daughters killer after a corrupt or incompetent legal system failed to convict him.
Each semester, I confront my students with this teaching, and invariably they bristle. Should a people not rebel against an unjust government, or even a murderous one? What about genocide? What about Hitler? I tell them that they are expressing utilitarian ethical views, not Christian ones. Never mind what God says. Thats so unclear, especially when were confronted with strong moral passions. Isnt it clear enough that if there is evil happening, and the appropriate government is not stopping it (if there is an overseeing government), then anyone who is willing and able to step forward and get the job done should do so? As Scott Roeder said, If someone did not stop [Tiller], these babies were going to continue to die. Or I suggest that they are simply distrusting of God. What ought to be done is obvious. Kill Hitler or the abortionist before either of them kills again. If God will not act, I must push Him from his throne and do it myself.
If a private individual is justified in assassinating Hitler because Hitler is obviously evil and undeserving of the civil magistracy, then would that moral liberty have extended also to someone who was equally convinced that George W. Bush was a usurper of power and a war criminal? I suspect that those who would believe it their moral obligation to fire off a round at Hitler from a crowd, given the opportunity, would have recoiled at the notion of encouraging their angry left-wing neighbors to follow through on their moral convictions and attempt to fell President Bush by whatever violent means seemed most likely to succeed.
After Roeder was convicted, the Los Angeles Times reported, Advocates for abortion rights praised the verdict. Christians can and should (and many do) also praise the verdict as Gods just judgment faithfully pronounced. With uncompromising hatred for the evil of abortion, we can say boldly that God did not entrust the power of the sword into the hands of every individual for use when we are really, really sure and deeply appalled, but solely into the hands of the civil magistrate.
Tiller is in hell.
And I’d rather go before St. Pete with his killers resume than Tillers.
The writer hasn't offered any means to draw the distinction by which Hitler might be stopped. When the law can not resolve a conflict, when the law is itself the problem, you are in a state of war by definition.
About the fate of Tiller the Killer, I feel nothing...nothing.
The Romans 13 reference is a strong Scriptural basis for what we as Evangelical Christians understand.
It is wrong to break the laws of the land and commit murder even if we feel the murder to be somehow justified.
The ends do NOT justify the means. Utilitarian ethics do NOT apply when it comes to the laws of God.
That may satisfy emotional impulses, but it defies the laws of God which are higher than our own feelings.
Murder is a sin.
No. I didn't compare killing Tiller to the killing of Hitler, the writer did, and then said it was off limits.
I'm saying he either needs to draw the distinction he failed to draw, to show how it is possible to make war on Hitler given the argument he is making. I have not defended the killing of Tiller, I'm pressing to see if this writer actually believes you can't morally make war on Hitler.
I'm trying to see if he has inadvertently taken his argument too far, or if he meant to say that you can't morally make war on Hitler.
The differnce between killing Hitler and killing Tiller is that hopefully you are killing Hitler to cut of the head and stop break insanity. Tiller may have been one of the few doctors who performed partial birth abortions, but even Scott Roeder new that killing him wouldn't change things much. Scott Roeder's real motive was to punish Tiller for his past crimes. Only God is allowed to play that position.
Thoughtful analysis. Well put.
I appreciate his attempt to steer pro-lifers away from violence, but given that he’s based his argument on Romans 13, I wonder how the author would defend the American Revolution. Maybe he wouldn’t, I suppose.
Having done a good deal of work on John Milton and the Puritan Revolution of 1640, I am familiar with that Pauline doctrine about obeying the Powers that Be, because they are of God.
Both Catholics and Protestants have generally agreed to this principle and based their laws on it.
But both Catholics and Protestants have argued that there are times when an exception can be made. Not if a ruler is somewhat bad. Not if you personally are being treated unjustly. But disobedience and revolt are permitted when a certain line is crossed, when a magistrate cease to be a ruler and becomes an unjust tyrant.
A familiar biblical instance, often cited in history, is King Saul’s replacement by King David. If God gives His support to a magistrate (the usual historical term for kings and other rulers in this context), then God can also withdraw His support. The question is, how do you know that?
It seems to me contradictory for Protestants to argue that this rule can have no exceptions, because how then can they justify Martin Luther’s revolt against the Powers that Were in his time?
Deciding whether matters have gone so far that revolt is justified is, of course, a very difficult and uncomfortable decision. As it happens, the matter has arisen recently in the case of Obama. Would revolt against his tyrannical proclivities be justified? Probably not, unless things go further than they have gone so far, or unless the violence begins from his side.
St. Thomas Aquinas argues, along with many others, that an unjust law need not be obeyed. That doesn’t usually arise in the case of abortion, since the law does not require anyone to have an abortion but rather permits it; but it could arise if, for instance, Obama required Catholic hospitals or doctors to perform abortions against their consciences. That would not require anyone should violate his conscience and kill babies just because Obama, Pelosi, and Reid demanded it. The law would be unjust.
Killing an abortionist is another matter. But I don’t really think that Paul’s doctrine applies in this case. Rather, what applies is the injunction against murder, balanced against the desire to defend innocent babies from future killings by a determined abortionist. America’s laws against murder are, generally, just, and should be obeyed. But Roe v. Wade was a violation of our basic constitutional protection of the right to life, as well as a violation of the Constitutional requirement that the federal government cannot vacate state laws on a whim.
So, what I would say is that the matter is much more complicated than this article suggests. It certainly is not desirable to go around shooting people without legal excuse. But nor is it desirable to stand there smiling and applauding while someone like Tiller does his murderous work.
Here’s the dillema and why I think the author can be wrong.
Abortion is murder of a human life.
Certain abortions are legal.
When the law legalizes immorality, what do you follow as a follower of Christ and a citizen of Heaven, at the same time being a citizen of a nation? Do you stop the murderer? How do you stop the murderer from government-sanctioned murder?
If you let them go on is the blood not on your hands as well?
Take the idea a different way: a man is about to kill a newborn baby, taken from its mom. If you could stop him but have to kill him to do so, would you? Now back to the scenario - you have a man about to kill a baby before its born, and the mom wants the man to kill the baby, and the government says it’s okay - so because of those two new factors it stops you from stopping the guy from killing the baby?
Scott Roeder specifically said that he killed Tiller in order to prevent him from killing more babies in the future, not to avenge babies he killed in the past. And there was certainly a reasonable probability that Tiller would, indeed, have continued to kill more babies. This is not to say that the shooting was justified, but that the motive was to prevent future abortions, not past ones.
Except for the typo maybe.
I'm not sure that in an article such as this, the author needs to draw any such distinction because the difference in the two situations is perhaps what he considered to be self-explanatory.
Somehow, the abortion industry managed to replace the irreplacable Dr. Tiller, but that wasn't really my point. Obviously, you kill Hitler because you're hoping to end the war/holocaust. If you know that Himmler will fill Hitler's shoes comfortably, there isn't much point in killing Hitler, other than to punish him. Same thing goes if there are other doctors willing to perform abortions. Admittedly Tiller was the worst of the worst, but others remained. How many lives did he really save? And the thing is, Roeder seems intelligent enough to realize this. No matter what he says, I still think he did it in part because he appointed himself executioner.
Assume for a moment that there's a great uprising and people's militias have taken over almost everything and are duking it out among each other for supremacy.
The USSC is overthrown and the old laws have yet to be recognized by competent authority.
The question is would it be morally required to dispose of the Tillers among us as they are encountered?
So...under this concept, because hiding Jews was illegal in Nazi Germany, then the Christian thing to do would be to turn in Anne Frank and other Jews who are being hidden?
I don’t buy it.
Also, in colonial America we were violating King George’s law by rebelling against him, so you’re saying that, too, was un-Christian?
That fellow Carhart was going to take over Tiller’s clinic and continue his work. But then he looked at the numbers, or his bank balance, or something, and he decided not to.
So Tiller’s clinic has been shut down, one of the few places where people could get that kind of late-term or partial-birth abortion done.
Which is not to say that this was the right thing to do. But he did say that his motive was to stop future abortions. And it does seem likely that there will actually be fewer of that kind of abortions done in the future.