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Tim Challies

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God's Losers and Gainers

A couple of years ago Paul (my pastor and co-elder at Grace Fellowship Church) wrote about an article in the Canadian media which stated that “The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada will recommend next month that all expectant mothers undergo screening for fetal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome—not just those over the age of 35, as is the practice.”

Dr. Andre Lalonde, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Ottawa and the executive vice president of the SOGC, said the society decided to issue the recommendation so that a greater number of women would have the option to terminate their pregnancies should fetal abnormalities be detected.

“Yes, it’s going to lead to more termination, but it’s going to be fair to these women who are 24 who say, ‘How come I have to raise an infant with Down’s syndrome, whereas my cousin who was 35 didn’t have to?’” Dr. Lalonde said. “We have to be fair to give women a choice.”

“The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada will recommend that all expectant women younger than 40 be given nuchal translucency screening, followed by genetic counselling and amniocentesis if their risk for Down’s syndrome appears high.” Based on this article, Paul wrote:

I reject this proposal from personal experience. Although we rejected amniocentesis as an option in our son’s pregnancy (for the simple reason it might have killed him), we were given indicators through non-invasive testing that there might be a genetic problem. Readers of my blog will know that my son was born with a genetic defect labelled Williams Syndrome—a full-orbed physical and mental disability.

Is my son an accident? A faltering of the progressive cycle of evolution? A drain on society and its money? A thing not as valuable as a fully-functioning “normal” person?

My son is my flesh and blood and his worth is bound up in the fact he was made in the image and likeness of God, knit together in his mother’s womb and held together by the grace and power of Jesus Christ right now. If he never moved a muscle, never spoke a word, never made my life happier at any point, he would be no less valuable to the One who made Him. And no less valuable to me.

One does not have to be at our church for long, or to be with Paul and his family for long, to see how much joy this  boy brings to his parents, his sisters, and his church family. He is greatly valued and treasured because he is a treasure of great value. But in a sense this is largely irrelevant when it comes to this innate value and worth; the value of life is in the fact that it comes from God and is not affected by our desires, whims or preferences. Paul and his wife had no right to interfere with that life (and, thankfully, had no desire to interfere with it).

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada recommends genetic counseling to those whose tests turn up anomalies or abnormalities. This counseling will, of course, address the issues that will be faced in raising a child with Down’s syndrome or another similar condition. It will raise abortion as the preferred course of action. In an article he published in response to discussion over the first article, Paul described his experience with genetic counseling:

When my wife was pregnant with our son, we were advised to seek “genetic counseling” due to some statistical abnormalities that appeared during routine blood work. We made an appointment at the Credit Valley Hospital and met with a genetic counselor.

We were told that there was a small percentage that our son would be born with Down Syndrome and advised to have an amniocentesis. The counselor spoke in hushed tones with a very serious look on her face then left us to watch a video.

The video showed two boys of equal age playing in a living room. One of the boys was cute and active and bright. The other was drooling on himself, with a disfigured face, frumpy clothes and awkward small motor skills.

The video asked us: Is this what you want?

The question, of course, is irrelevant. We do not get to decide if this is what we want. God gives life and we are to accept it as the treasure it is, whether that life is normal or marked by disability.

It is interesting to me that over time the issue of abortion has evolved from “Is this what you want?” (a matter of personal inconvenience) to “Is this what you want for your family?” (a matter of wider inconvenience) to “How can you do this to us?” (a matter of societal inconvenience). Those who learn that their child may be born with Down’s syndrome or another condition now feel pressure to abort this child for the good of society. They are often told, even if only tacitly, that to bring a disabled child into the world is unfair to everyone in society. It is, after all, my tax dollars that will need to support this child through special education and special vocation, and my children whose tax dollars will pay for his retirement. Paul writes about this pressure, saying “Parents are placed under enormous pressure when they walk in to medical establishments that pop off lots of statistics, show propaganda and use the power of suggestion. In our situation, I can identify all three of those things.”

John 9 tells of Jesus healing a man who had been blind since birth. You know the story. The disciples asked Jesus “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied simply “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Those words, “that the works of God might be displayed in him” take me right back to Paul’s article and to the deeper issue of aborting any children who are deemed abnormal. Not many parents today would wrestle with the issue of who sinned that a child was born blind. Neither would they wrestle with whether this child should even be born. Blindness would be sufficient cause for many parents, and perhaps even most parents, to abort the child and try again, hoping for a better result the next time. And yet this particular blind man was to serve a purpose that had been sovereignly ordained.

F.F. Bruce makes an important point about this story: “This does not mean that God deliberately caused the child to be born blind in order that, after many years, his glory should be displayed in the removal of the blindness; to think so would again be an aspersion on the character of God. It does mean that God overruled the disaster of the child’s blindness so that, when the child grew to manhood, he might, by recovering his sight, see the glory of God in the face of Christ, and others, seeing this work of God, might turn to the true Light of the World.” John MacArthur summarizes “God sovereignly chose to use this man’s affliction for His own glory.”

I love Matthew Henry’s treatment of this passage. He draws out two applications for the fact that this man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him. The first is that “the attributes of God might be made manifest in him.” Among the attributes of God seen in the life of this man are God’s justice in making sinful man liable to such grievous calamities and His ordinary power and goodness in supporting a poor man under such a grievous and tedious affliction. God’s goodness was specially and miraculously manifested in curing him. The second application is “that the counsels of God concerning the Redeemer might be manifested in him. He was born blind that our Lord Jesus might have the honour of curing him, and might therein prove himself sent of God to be the true light to the world. Thus the fall of man was permitted, and the blindness that followed it, that the works of God might be manifest in opening the eyes of the blind. It was now a great while since this man was born blind, and yet it never appeared till now why he was so.” This man had been born blind so that the power of God might be displayed in him.

Henry draws a final application: “the intentions of Providence commonly do not appear till a great while after the event, perhaps many years after. The sentences in the book of providence are sometimes long, and you must read a great way before you can apprehend the sense of them.” Those who abort their children do not read to the end of those long sentences. Rather, thinking selfishly and looking only a few words ahead, they make the terrible decision to end a life, destroying the gift of God. Henry also writes “Those who [do not regard God] in the ordinary course of things are sometimes alarmed by things extraordinary. How contentedly then may a good man be a loser in his comforts, while he is sure that thereby God will be one way or other a gainer in his glory!” (You may, as I did, have to read that last sentence a few times to gain the sense of it.) Those who choose abortion are unwilling to lose their comforts that God may gain His glory. This glory may not be miraculous as it was in the case of the man born blind, but God is glorified in every life that enters this world. Every one of us testifies to the Creator’s wisdom, power, love and goodness. Countless millions have been destroyed and tossed away and we have never been able to rejoice in the gift of life God gave them. We have not been able to marvel in the attributes of God displayed so clearly in their lives.

When we abort those who are infirm, physically or mentally, we destroy boys and girls, men and women, in whom we ought to see the works of God displayed. We miss out on marvelous opportunities to see the works of God displayed in their lives. We miss opportunities to see God’s glory increase, even if this involves a requisite decrease in our comfort. This ought to be a small price to pay.