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– Well, we’ll just go ahead and get started. Welcome everybody, thank you so much. We’ll have some attendees kind of rolling in here in a minute. You are here today to watch a video kind of a discussion that I’m having with my, one of my very good friends, who is a part of a really important ministry. And when it came to be my time here at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, again, my name is Dr. Matthew Burford. I work in the Office of Evangelism at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions and we’re part of a whole month strategy in our building of doing educational videos. We’ve been doing it ever since, probably ever since March. Well, we have a dedicated time in this month to do specific kind of training all across our office and it became, or all across the building. And then it came to be my time and I got to thinking about it. And I said, you know what? I would really like to promote a friend of mine who has a very important ministry in Atlanta. His name is Jay Watts. He passionately represents the unborn. ‘Cause he believes deep down inside in the inherent value of all human life. He was actually a pro choice atheist at one time and then he found his pro-life passion through his journey when he became a Christian. Since then, I’ve known Jay for many years and since then I’ve followed his ministry. That’s all actually, it’s kind of global. He’s gone all across the world and all across the country talking and articulating the message of the importance of life all over the country. He used to be a part of the Lives Training Institute. Now he is the head and founder of Merely Human Ministries, which is devoted to going out and facilitating and promoting, getting the church to think about these things, getting the world, the country, to think about these issues because they’re mightily important. He’s talked to, he’s been to places like Harvard, UNC Chapel Hill, NC State, University of Illinois. I mean, he’s been all over the place and God has used him in a mighty way. He lives in Marietta, Georgia. He has a wife and three wonderful children. Jay, thank you so much for coming today.
– Hey, thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.
– Yeah, we’re excited to have you here as well. For those who are coming on, we have a Q and A function. There’s a chat function in Zoom that you can use. There’s also a Q and A function. That’s a little bit easier for me to follow. So we’re gonna have a little time here at the end for us to do a Q and A. Please ask any questions that you have. Not statements, but questions that you might have as me and Jay talk about these issues. Please use the Q and A function, and then I will try to get to those here at the end and we’ll ask those questions. And thank you so much for coming on, especially at one o’clock it’s one o’clock my time central. Thank you so much. And this will be posted later on the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. We’ll have this posted. We have at the evangelism office, evangelizealabama.org, where this will also be posted as well. But thank you again, Jay, we’re gonna hop right into it. The issue of course of pro-life and abortion is an issue that, I’m 43 years old. This is an issue that I know that’s been around all my life, but lately maybe this is not a question that a lot of people have been asking ’cause of all other stuff that’s been going on in our world, but is this a necessary conversation to consistently and constantly have in our church?
– Yeah, we have to find a way to talk about it because we don’t have any option. Not talking about it is not an option. And what I mean by that is what I like to tell people is the moral cost for being wrong on the issue of abortion, no matter which direction you go is too high to not engage this conversation. If the pro life side is correct, if the unborn are human from the moment they come into existence, if we have intrinsic value, if we have certain basic duty and obligations and responsibilities to every human life that we encounter in this world, not the least of which is just to refrain from killing each other, then the intentional destruction of human life through the act of abortion is happening on an unimaginable scale. I mean, the numbers are impossible for us to actually comprehend. It’s funny to me. I was reflecting before we started today on how excited we get, when the numbers go under a million per year in the United States alone, right? When we get to a place where there are fewer than a million abortions per year in the United States, it’s like a cause to celebrate. When just the idea that we’ve been over a million a year, every year, since for now decades. In 1973, when Roe v Wade was first protected under law in the United States, the next year, the numbers escalate, you have like 700, three quarters of a million pretty fast. You top out somewhere about 1.7, 1.8 million. It held from like 1.3 million a year in the United States for about a decade and it’s just now the numbers are dipping. It’s hard to understand what we’re seeing in that depth, but when they did down like 850, 900,000 a year, that’s like a cause to celebrate. That’s how high the numbers have been historically. But when you think about what we just said, if we’re talking about intrinsically valuable human beings that have been intentionally destroyed through the process of abortion, 850,000 human lives destroyed is no reason to be happy. It’s a horrifying injustice. And so if we’re right on that issue, then this is almost an immeasurable loss of human life throughout, you’re talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 million since 1973 in the United States alone. Somewhere in the neighborhood of about 50 million worldwide every year, it is impossible to comprehend. But even if we’re wrong, even if the other side is correct, it’s still morally important enough that we must engage the issue because then people like me, however well, intentioned I am we’re intentionally interjecting ourselves into the lives of women and the medical decisions that they would make about their life for a procedure that is Greg Koukl at Stand To Reason says has no greater moral component to it, than the tooth extraction. It’s nothing, it’s meaningless tissue being removed from a woman. And yet it’s impacting presidential elections, it’s impacting international elections just a last couple of years. We saw the fight in Ireland. We’ve seen it in Argentina, some South American countries. We’ve seen it globally, as people are arguing about it. Think about the fights over Supreme Court nominations and how divisive the issue is and if the unborn are not human, and if they don’t have the same value that you and I have, then all of this division and all of this anger and all this politics and everything that we see is over nothing. And that’s the first component to saying that we have to talk about it because the moral cause for being wrong on either side is so high that to not talk about it is to fail to meet the standards that we as citizens ought to aspire to as far as engaging with tough things. And another reason that we have to talk about it, and I mean, this now as Christians in the church is because I’m uncomfortable, we’ll revisit what I’m about to say a couple of times I think during this conversation. I’m uncomfortable with how comfortable we have become oftentimes at punting hard questions and believing that there are things we shouldn’t talk about in polite company, and particularly in the polite company of the church. And I’m just not as someone who did not grow up a Christian who came into the church later in my early to mid 20s when I started to become passionate about Christ and then later became passionate about the pro-life issue. I’m just not of the opinion that the church’s job is to be polite or to maintain peace within conversations. We have a responsibility and duty to have answers to the toughest questions that the culture faces. And this is just one of the toughest questions we’ve ever faced as a nation and as a culture. And so we have a responsibility to have answers when people come to us and at least be the kind of people they feel like they can come to.
– Then what do we do? If we’re looking afraid as a church, if we’re looking weak and afraid when it comes to tough questions, and this is a very tough question for many to think through. If number one was that, number two is what? How do we prepare ourself as a church to tackle this problem.
– This problematic issue.
– The number one thing as we look at was that we have to talk about it. It’s necessary to engage this issue. We are, as responsible members and citizens both of the United States and more importantly, as Christians who owe a devotion to God, we have a responsibility to champion the idea of the image bearers of God, that we’re valuable by virtue of being creations of his. But we have to prepare ourselves now, as you said, the next step after recognizing that we have to talk about this is to recognize that preparation is necessary. You just can’t go in because it’s such an emotional issue. You know why it’s hard to talk about? Because so many people are involved in it. So many people that we know have had abortions. People that I love, people that are closest to me in this world have had abortions. People that I love and that are very close and I value their friendship, champion abortion rights in this culture. And men have forced women to get abortions or have pressured women to get abortions. Fathers, people that I know, there was a person one time that a friend of mine at church came to me and said I need you to talk to a friend of mine. He, the father is putting tremendous pressure on the daughter to get an abortion that she doesn’t want. But that he has visions for her and her future. And so we have to be prepared to engage this issue but we can’t go into it without having made ourselves knowledgeable on what it is that we have to talk about, right? Because there’s so much emotion. When you go into these conversations there’s so much emotion in it. It is so passionately felt by people. And so I talk about, and what I learned from Greg Koukl and Scott Klusendorf at Life Training Institute, and all the organizations that put resources out there, including my own, Merely Human Ministries and trying to equip people to talk about this. Is that we have to have a strategy for discussing it. We accept that we need strategy for all sorts of mission work, right? When we go to another country, we try to learn as much as we can about the people that we’re going to see, about how we can best spread the gospel or the ideas and the principles of Christianity into that culture. Well, here we have to do the same thing as we think about how to talk to our own culture. And for me, that strategy is built on something that when I think about it I think who was I when was on the other side of this as both an atheist and passionately pro choice? Outspokenly and, and dismissively pro-choice. How would I want people to talk to me? And here’s where we equip ourselves to be reasonable. In a nutshell, what we want to do is we want to argue using science and philosophy. And I say that as a passionate Christian, I don’t go into, you mentioned Harvard earlier. When I had the opportunity to address Harvard Hall and the room was packed, when I was in the room, I didn’t start out talking about my faith. I talked about the science of embryology, but from the moment of conception, from the moment of fertilization, the unborn are whole and distinct human beings, whole distinct human life from the moment they come into existence. And the science on this at this point is pretty definitive. There’s an interview on my website with a man by the name of Steve Jacobs. And Steve did his PhD research at the University of Chicago a couple of years ago on answering the question when does science say that life begins? And at the end of the day, 96% of academic biologists, these are biologists from all over the world, the most prestigious universities around the world, 96% of them affirm that life begins at fertilization. That’s when a human life begins. So the science tells us that life begins at fertilization for the very moment that it starts. It’s a human life going through human development. Whole distinct and living, not a part of anything else. A whole human life different from any life that’s existed prior to it and human from the moment it come into existence all the way through his development arc. And then finally, we will look to the philosophy. I have a human life. That’s half the argument I’ve identified that there’s a human life there. Now I appealed to philosophy. I asked the question, what makes it wrong to kill another human being? When I’m talking to people on college campuses, I’ll ask them the question. Would it be objective wrong for you and I to kill each other? And as they say, yes, that would be objectively wrong. And then I said, okay, well, what’s the difference, right? What changed between the embryo or fetus that you and I once were to the more mature people that are standing in front of us now that by your arguments it would be okay to have killed us then, that would be a constitutionally protected, right? When we were fetuses or embryos, there was nothing wrong that could be done to us. We’re the kind of being that was capable of being wrong. Until now, you and I are standing in front of each other and that to do that to each other, it would be the worst thing that we could ever do to another human being. That that would be the worst possible thing that we can do to one of our fellow human beings. What changed because that’s the philosophical argument they have to make. That’s the change of state that they have to account for. How did I go from being a thing that has no value to a thing that has ultimate or supreme value? How do they go from being the kind of thing that you could kill or destroy at will to being the kind of thing that we both agree is the worst thing that I can do to another human being objectively, not subjectively, but objectively to take their life without extreme justification? And a philosopher by the name Stephen Schwartz gave us an acronym called the SLED acronym. When they offer us our arguments that are S, size, L level of development, E environment, where you are, or D degree of dependence. Size, how big you are, level of development, what you’re capable of doing, environment, where you are, or D degree of dependence. He says that as important as those things are, none of those rise to the level of importance to justify the taking of another human life. We don’t ascribe value to others based on how big they are, how developed they are, where they are geographically, or how much they need help from us. And we can go through each and every one of those and demonstrate that point. So we say size, level of development, environment, degree of dependency. They don’t do the philosophical work necessary to justify being allowed to kill you then, but not now. Ultimately what makes us valuable is what we are that we understand that there’s something wrong with hurting, you and and I have talked about this before. One of the things that drew me away from atheism towards Christianity was the inescapable conclusion the intuition that I had, this simple idea, that there are things that we can do to other human beings that are objectively wrong, their behaviors towards others that are wrong. And that seemed inescapable to me. And to the question is what falls into the category of wrong things that we can do to other human beings. And when we look at this, why is it wrong to treat other human beings differently? Well we reject all of these other ideas, and we embrace the idea that what makes you valuable, what best explains this idea, this intuition of universal human rights of human dignity, that all people around the world ought to be treated the same way then there’s things that we could do to someone, no matter what culture they live in, no matter what religion they grew up under, what politics they live under, no matter what their belief system is, things that we could do to them, that would be wrong to all people at all times everywhere, objectively wrong. What best explains that intuition is it that what makes us valuable is the only thing that we all share and that’s our shared humanity. So we have to equip ourselves to have that conversation, to defuse the emotion, to engage their intellect, and to help them to see the life of the unborn is something that had moral duty and responsibility to.
– So we have a necessary conversation. And number two is prepare yourself to talk about it. Number three, we have to teach rather than argue. You gave me that point yesterday. Tell me a little bit about what does that mean. We have to teach rather than argue.
– And what I mean by argue is the pejorative sense of that. You know, the bad sense of argument. What you see a lot online, what you see a lot on talk news what you see in this culture excels at, which is sort of a zero sum game. What’s good for me is bad for you. And so what I found over the years was that I have to stop thinking of myself as a champion for a view, which I think is ultimately a difficult mantle to carry correctly into a discussion. And then to think of myself as a teacher of a view, I represent both Christianity and the idea that all human beings have value by virtue of what they are, and that all human beings ought to be treated with dignity and respect. And so when I go into it as a teacher, what I find myself doing is looking for the ways that people are making mistakes and trying to help them correct those mistakes. Because my ultimate goal is for them to see the truth more clearly, to remove the obstacles that are there. Now, this is important because in the culture that we live in, there are mistakes that people make prior to argument that will affect the way that they argue about things. For example, you and I were talking both yesterday and today about the idea that people will assume the unborn are the kind of thing they’re allowed to kill without argument. And then from that, they will make statements that they can’t support. If the first step in that was supporting the statement, that there’s something different about the unborn than the rest of us, for example. And this is where Scott Klusendorf, Greg Koukl have given us a great tool called trot out the toddler. And what they say is when someone makes this mistake, say, somebody says to me, Mr. Watts, abortion must remain legal because we have to protect the privacy rights of women. This is actually what Roe v Wade says, it’s a matter of privacy. And so I don’t have to dismiss the importance of privacy. What we have to do is point out to them that if they identified the unborn as being like you and I, privacy wouldn’t be that important to them, not that important to them. And what I say for them is, look, I agree. I’m a private guy, I believe, but I put my hand on my hip and I say, imagine I have a two year old child standing next to me. Imagine this two year old child is my neighbor and every night in the privacy of her own home, her father viciously abuses her. Her life has one horrifying abuse and upset after another. Would you be okay with us empowering Child Protective Services as a community, to violate the privacy of that family, go into that home and take that child out of that abusive situation? And universally, everyone says the same thing. Of course, and so I ask the next question, why? Why is that okay? And so what do you mean why? Why is that all right? It’s a violation of their privacy. Well, that’s different. So how is that different? Well that’s wrong. Well how is that one wrong? Why is one wrong and not the other. In one case you said privacy is a justification for protecting the right to destroy their child before they’re born. In this other one you say privacy is not a justification for protecting their right to abuse their child. So what’s the difference here. And we keep going back and forth until finally with several people I’ve pointed out. I said, I need an answer as to why it’s okay to violate a privacy of this family. It’s happening in the privacy of their own home. It’s none of your business. And they finally say to me, privacy is not a justification for the abuse of other human beings. I agree with you. So if the unborn are human in the same way that that little girl is, my neighbor, then as important as we both recognize that privacy is, privacy does not rise to the level of the justification to protect their abuse. Those are your words, not mine. So we both recognize that privacy is important. We both also recognize that privacy has reasonable limits. Our disagreement isn’t about privacy, nor is it about poverty, nor is it about women being allowed to plan their futures, nor is it about economic equality. It’s not about any of those things. Our disagreement is what is the unborn. And you’re not answering that question. You’re assuming that the kind of thing that you’re allowed to kill, you got to prove it. Oh, they’re teaching them that they’re making a mistake, moves the conversation forward. Another mistake that they make, as I’ve mentioned earlier, objective and making mistakes and understanding the difference between objective values and relativistic values. The idea of subjective beliefs. And when I say that it’s wrong, I’m arguing that it’s objectively wrong. It falls into the category of things that you should never do to another human being. But they say things like, if you don’t like abortion, then don’t have one. I never said I didn’t like it. Like is a preference term, right? I like Coke better than Pepsi. I like granny Smith apples better than red apples. But that’s not the kind of conversation. I never said I don’t like abortion and you do so we’ll have a different orientation towards it. What I’m arguing is it’s objectively wrong like other things that we’d uncontroversially accepted as objectively wrong like rape. And so I teach them you’re in the wrong. You’re making a category mistake and category mistakes are very common. We can’t talk about this as likes or preferences. We have to talk about it in the realm of objective, moral values, objective rights, and wrongs. If abortion is wrong, it’s objectively wrong. If it’s not objectively wrong, it’s not wrong at all. And so we have to address it on those terms, do you or I, or anybody else have the right to take the life of another human being at the earliest stage of development? And is that the decision of that will be based on what the unborn is, not how I feel about them. My emotional orientation to them is irrelevant. Whether or not I love or hate abortion is irrelevant. What are they? Because that will determine what I’m allowed to do to them, not how I feel about them. So we teach.
– But it always comes down to that, that question, right? I always hear you in your lectures and when me and you talk, it’s not that you’re making it simple, but you’re just bringing it back to the point that it’s always about what to do with the unborn. What are they?
– Yeah, the moral force of it all will come entirely on how we answer that question.
– There’s really only two ways you can go with that question too, right?
– Yeah, they either are human and do the same basic duty and obligations that we have to all other human beings, or they are not human in the same way that you and I are. And not the subject of conversations like rights and obligations and duties, rather the kind of thing that we can do, whatever we want to them, which is the way they’re treated under the law right now, or they’re the kind of thing that what’s happening to them is a grave injustice. But now there are some more sophisticated arguments and we won’t go into right now where you get into, that are very popular right now where you’re getting things like bodily autonomy arguments, where the argument will go, that they’ll say, oh, well, they are human, but we’re still allowed to kill them because they describe pregnancy as something like an attack on the woman’s body, a violation of her sovereignty taking away her right to do it. As if the child comes into existence as an aggressor in some form, she has the right to deny it, the right to continue to use her organs. That’s now, you know, one of the greatest pro-choice philosophers out there right now, a woman by the name of Kate Greasley at Oxford University, says that she thinks this argument fails because as a legal scholar, she says that even if you accept the idea that you’re trying to argue for justifiable homicide, which is basically what their arguing, justifiable homicide through the act of abortion, she says you have neither the proportionality, meaning that the cost of the unborn is much higher than it is to the woman. So you have, you don’t have proportionality and you don’t have necessity, meaning that there is an avenue out of this that doesn’t require the death of one of the parties. And so she says on those grounds alone, it’s incredibly hard to make a case through that kind of arguing. So ultimately you’re gonna come down to, do you think they’re human or are they something else? And if you believe they’re something else you have to argue that, you don’t get to just assume it or claim it.
– So what if I met somebody who doesn’t believe that they are human, the way that we would define them as a Christian? If we’re asked to win over and be winsome and actually not win the argument when the person took good arguments? Then what does victory look like for us as Christians? What is our end goal? What is your end goal? What would you like to see happen? I mean, are we looking at zero abortions? I mean what’s our victory?
– Let’s separate, there’s a lot going on there. And the way that that question was formed, because there’s a different victory in a conversation than there is for the moral nature of a society, right? I mean if we were talking about something again, less controversial, let’s just talk about murder. Well, I mean, wouldn’t we all desire a world with a zero murder rate where no one was ever unjustly killed. Let’s talk about rape. Shouldn’t it be the desire of every moral person that there be zero rape in the world? I mean, that’s obviously the idea. So if abortion is the unjust taking of an innocent human life, well, obviously I would like a world where that sort of moral disorder didn’t exist. Where we lived and as God intended us to live and where pregnancy was seen as a blessing and not as a curse, where the idea of having the next generation join us would be something that we would be excited about. Not the least of which is Christians to pass on to them the love of God that God put into us to allow them to grow in a godly home, to be the next generation of those who would carry the gospel, the hands and feet of the word of God for the next generation. So that when we come to an end and they begin, and the process continues through, all throughout the Bible, we see pregnancy as a blessing. Children as a blessing. And so obviously I would love to live in a world where we understood procreation in that manner. So when people will say, what do you think you’re ever going to get to zero? No, but I don’t think we’re ever gonna get to zero murders or zero rapes either. But when you ask me, do I desire those things? Of course I do. Because the desire that is for us to be living right with God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. But when we talk about what does victory look like in a private conversation? That’s different, right. Now, obviously if you’re talking about a sidewalk counselor, someone who has a woman on the verge of getting an abortion of accessing abortion through a practitioner. Out there, as they’re walking in, there’s a different pressure or stress on that conversation. There’s just a cost, a life, literally hanging in the balance at that moment that will either live or die based on the decisions of that mother. But conversationally, most people I’m talking to are not on of that on the way to perform or get an abortion. Most people we’re talking about. So we can dial back the need. When we teach, when we talked about teaching rather than arguing, and you brought up one of my favorite phrases, when I tell people that the idea should be to win people with good argument. I don’t want to win arguments. I don’t want to beat people down with my logic. I want to win people to my side with good arguments. So the person I’m talking to hasn’t become an object of my strategy, right? They don’t exist as is somebody for whom I can practice all of my tactics on. It’s important to me that they be properly oriented to the truth. And understanding when I was not a Christian, the person that was most responsible for me, the single individual that argued the best with me and gave me the arguments that ultimately eroded at my lack of faith and gave me the opportunity to consider Christianity. There was a year period from the last time that person talked to me until the time that I became a Christian and that they evaluated how that conversation had gone, they would have believed themselves to have massively failed because they didn’t win anything obvious that day. I didn’t concede anything. So when I say we have to change what victory looks like to us, to me, victory doesn’t look like somebody turning around and saying, I believe everything that you said I’ve changed my mind. That actually freaks me out when that happens, because I understand how personally held, to drop my beliefs about myself, about God, and even after I became a Christian about abortion, as I slowly moved towards a pro-life position being pro choice, that was hard because I had to wrestle with the person that I am. And I held my views very personally, all of them, right? If you’ve ever been in the middle of seeing people just devolve into the worst, most hateful arguments over the movie, The Last Jedi, you know, that we have trivial views very strongly, right? Somebody says, I don’t like that movie, that band that you like, oftentimes your response is let’s go, let’s fight it out right here, because I’m so angry that you would say that. And that’s trivial stuff. Imagine how deeply we hold something important like this. And so as I’m working my way through that, if I have somebody in front of me and I’m trying to build that, break down these barriers between them and me and trying to help them to see, I always judge one step over is my goal. If I have somebody that’s rabidly pro-choice, I want, by the end of the conversation for them, just to accept that my position is reasonably held. Even if they disagree with it, then it’s reasonably held. If I have somebody that’s tenuously pro choice, I’d like to move them to somewhere that’s more neutral. If I have someone who’s neutral, I’d like to gravitate them towards a more pro-life position. If I have someone that’s pro-life, I want to encourage them to engage on a further, on a higher level. And so victory becomes when that person looks at me and says, I never thought about it that way. That to me is total victory. When I have someone in front of me and we have had a discussion and they don’t leave angry, they don’t leave upset. They just look at me and say, I have never thought about it that way. I have things I need to think about. That is victory in this kind of a conversation, because you’ve done what Greg Koukl calls I think that is so perfectly put, you’ve put a stone in their shoe. You’ve made them uncomfortable in the view that they held, and if it’s anything like me, I walked on that stone and I walked on it and I walked on it and finally I had to get it out of my shoe and I saw it and it just grew and grew until over a year. It just transformed the kind of person that I was. But it started when somebody was able to give me just enough rationality and grace in the argument. Not allowing our disagreement here to become a barrier between the both as human beings, but grace and the argument. Grace, as they gave it to me and what happened was when they were done, I thought about it and said, I’ve never heard anything like that from people professing to be a Christian. Right, I respected that person, even when I didn’t fully respect that view, I respected that person enough to take them seriously and then to start to take their view seriously. And it just erodes. So change what victory looks like. It can’t be some total like scorched earth, victory. We don’t need them to say you’re right about everything and I’m wrong. And to drop to their knees and apologize for ever disagreeing with us. What we need for them to say is to listen respectfully, as we listened to them respectfully and at the end of the conversation, what I’m looking for is the, I never thought about it like that. I need to go away and think about this some more.
– It sounds like to me, this would lead to a fifth point, if I’m right, which is if you’re presenting it in a winsome manner as a Christian, that at some point in time, maybe some of these discussions, and this is the area that I get into. ‘Cause this is the area that I’m in, in the office of evangelism is speaking in such a way where it is a lead in to the gospel.
– Oh absolutely.
– Would that be a fair assessment for maybe a fifth point?
– Yes, absolutely. I have had criticism from some people who say, and many of us in the pro life, especially the apologetics area have had criticism where they say to us, I just want to preach the gospel. It’s this great, but they can’t hear it yet. And what happens, for example, I was at University of North Carolina. We mentioned that Chapel Hill, right? And I had done this presentation and then they put me out in front of the student body for four hours. I was just engaging conversations. One young man was particularly hostile, really mad at me. He came at me harder than anybody else. I did this for four hours. And in that four hours, he was still waiting there. And I said, hey, you know, what’s up man? And he said, can I ask you a question. Go ahead, he said, why are you a Christian? And so I turned around to my host, who had brought me to the campus. And I said, you brought me here to talk about the pro life issues so I’m gonna ask your permission because this isn’t why you brought me here. Can I talk to him right now about this? And they said, absolutely, go ahead. So I turned back around and I said, can I ask you a question before I answer yours? I promise you, I’m gonna answer it. But I’m asking permission to just get some clarification from you first. And he said, absolutely. And I said, okay, why do you care? And his response was because I’ve never had a conversation with a Christian like this. They said, well the other Christians that come there’s a lot of judgment. There’s a lot of anger. Sometimes there’s a evasion or equivocation said but you just stood in front of all these people who were yelling, including me, yelling at you and you were so kind and so gracious, and all of your answers were reasonable. They were all things that I could track with and respect and understand. He said, I just don’t understand why you believe what you believe. And so my response to him was, first of all, that the most obvious answer is I’m a Christian because I believe it’s the truth of the universe. Now let’s explain. Now, let me explain what I mean by that. You want to know what question I get asked by a lot of high schoolers around the country. When we open up the floor to Q and A, almost as often as every other hard question I get about abortion, I get that question. How did you become a Christian? Why are you a Christian? And I remember at NC state, when I got done speaking, I had an early flight out the next morning that we closed the building down. I was standing out in front and talking, there was like four atheists and they just wanted to talk to me all night. And they were asking me questions, nothing about the presentation that I had given. They wanted to know why I believed in God. And they were, they were curious as to why the Christian message was the one that I gravitated to. Why, because they thought I could speak intelligently to one area of their life that they cared about and that opened up the avenue that I may be right about other things and said they were interested, or one of them even saying, this is one of the most fun conversations I’ve ever had and the ability to talk to them about something that’s important to them, without it being an alienating thing, without it being something that became something that was rooted or grounded in anger. Where we were able to respectfully work our way, but never backing down for one minute of what I objectively, morally, think about the issue of abortion. It just opened up the opportunity and why wouldn’t it? What are we asking? What does it mean to be human? How should we treat one another? What does it mean to say that we have value? Where does this value come from? Where does this intuition that we all have to be treated the same come from? These are questions that absolutely lead to ultimate questions about God, about the gospel, about the Christ. About the cross of Christ. A friend of mine, Tina Whittington at Students Life America says that the pro-life argument in most cases is a gateway drug to the gospel. Once people start wrestling with these questions of ultimate value and what it means to treat each other and what moral values mean, it just draws them to a moral value giver. It draws them to a nature of humanity. The image bearers of God starts to make more sense to them, all of these things, yeah. I mean, and one other thing you and I have talked about before, and I say this as somebody who’s been on both sides of this issue, why I want to teach people why I want to handle this respectfully, why I want everybody to recognize that they have a moral duty and responsibility to engage this issue, why I want the church to jump into this and to become equipped to talk about this, because I firmly believe that the closer we get to the truth, the closer we get to God. If he is the truth of the universe then any aspect of that where we can correct the error in the way people are thinking, is getting them closer and closer to the God of the universe, to the person of Jesus Christ and the cross and ultimately the redemption. Would I be happy if people just stop killing the unborn? Of course I would. That would be an improvement, but I also want to see people get hope that I have salvation that I have, and that I enjoy a relationship with Christ that I have and that I enjoy. And I know how I got here. And I know the path that I took and I know that it came from having people willing to stand in front of me and what I’ve always called weather the storm of my personality. Have reasonable answers, and prepare an opportunity to talk to me that just brought my guard down. And so it wasn’t just that they believed in Christianity. It was that they seemed like reasonable people. One person, she seemed like a reasonable person. She seemed like somebody that I liked and you know what I liked her faith. Even as an atheist, she was the first Christian I ever met who I liked her faith. I didn’t want to steal it from her. I didn’t want to break it or ruin it or corrupt it or destroy it. I liked the life that she led and the way that she understood God. Even when I rejected it as nonsense, which I did for a long time, I still respected her and liked what I saw in her as a human being. All of that, I just feel like I just know from my experience, all of these relational aspects, all this argument, all of this speaking to ultimate questions, ultimate truth, drawing people away from error, closer to the truth. It just drives them to the gospel.
– It seems to me that your message has always been from the womb to the tomb, that we’re made something special. That humanity is special. So not only are you preaching and teaching and ministering about, you know, those that are in the womb, but life is valuable. And the church should be thinking about life and human life as something that is so valuable, it needs to be thought about it needs to be reflected on, it needs to be talked about, and it needs to be fought for.
– Yes, there is never been a time in human history, and I mean this, there’s never been a time in human history where deep reflection on what it means to be human was more important, not just because we’re capable of destroying life before it’s born in a way that we never were. I mean, not, not until the late 19th century, earliest 20th century. And then when you get to the advent of antibiotics, it takes off. We’re able to destroy life inside the womb in a way that we never were prior to that. Abortion just didn’t exist the way that it does now. Now you have people like to say, it’s always been there, but in the way that it’s always been there, that’s a longer discussion, but nothing like what we do now and what we’re capable of doing now. But it’s not just that, right. I mean, we endured the early eugenics, the eugenics movement, the early 20th century. And now that’s coming back life with embryo screening, the ability to look at embryos and decide whether or not they have particular traits that we like, or particular traits that we don’t. And the ones that will not one day grow into the kind of human beings that we want them to be. We can destroy before they’re even allowed to be implanted in their mother. We talked about the idea of euthanasia, mercy killing, where we’re obligations and duties to people through that, as physician assisted suicide. What happens to a culture when we address the idea that killing becomes a form of treatment, right? That we’re allowed to destroy life as a form of treating life for the maladies that it holds. I gave a talk earlier this week, earlier this year with Summit Ministries about trans humanism and about the active, attempts of people within our world to transform human beings into something else, something better in their mind. And that that post humanist goals are met through trans humanist means. And those means to make human beings better or to change them to something else are rooted in the idea that what we are isn’t good enough and that’s just scratching the surface. So yeah, we have to have conversations every day, deep reflection every day, as a church, as Christians, as leaders in the community, what does it mean to be a human being?
– Yeah, we want to have this conversation in church. We want to have it with community of believers. And so we’ll stop at that in a moment and we’ll get to Q and A, but before I’m going to remind people that here at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, we take this seriously. In the Office of Evangelism, we are now devoted to the area of Christian apologetics. And it’s been asked upon me and the guys in our office to bring in people like Jay, to constantly get the church to think about these things. So before we move on, though, let me plug your, your ministry a bit. Tell me a little bit about Merely Human Ministries. Tell me a little bit about where they can get your information.
– MerelyHumanMinistries.org is our website. You can follow us on Facebook and you can follow us on Instagram, where we’ll post links to things that we’re doing there. We took a little hiatus during the summer as schools went away and as the world was struggling and wrestling with things, we would only post very important things. But now that school’s getting back up, you’re gonna start getting back to where we produce videos, podcasts. If you go to our website, we have an array of short podcasts, longer podcasts. We have videos, interviews I’ve done. I mentioned Steve Jacobs on different subject matters with a friend of mine, Megan Almond, from Life Training Institute where we talk about beauty and human value. There there’s all of these resources, all of the podcasts that I’ve done for Christian Research Journal and the Christian Research Institute, all of the articles that I’ve written, you can access there as well. So that is a great resource that we’re trying to build. And it’s only a year old, right? We’re only a year into it. So our goal is to make available to people, the resources that they need to be able to take this issue on, to feel equipped to talk to people about it. And coming from Life Training Institute, there’s a lot of what we do that I’ll obviously with Scott Klusendorf, my mentor and Greg Koukl as the source. Also a lot of the things that I talk. There will be only so much that I deviate from them in certain aspects, but what Merely Human Ministry tries to be as well, is to we really really want to meet people where they are in the pew, and to translate what’s going on in the world around them so that as they have questions, they feel comfortable coming to us and submitting them to us and saying, what do I think about this? We’ll watch what’s going on in the world. News releases, things that are going and try to give you a way to process it or think about it so that you can understand why it matters to you, how you can answer certain charges or certain objections and how you can engage this issue. As we talked about how we have to, right? Who else shouldn’t be the voice for the idea that human beings ought to be treated with dignity, except for the church, except for the followers of Christ. We have that sewn into our being by God and so we should be a voice out there that aggressively defends this. And in an attractive way, in a God like way, for me in a way that honors Christ, in a way that recognizes that the people I’m arguing with are also the image bearers of God and I owed them the same respect that I’m asking them to give the unborn, but in a way that will not countenance silence, right? I can’t be silent about the things that matter most because I have so little time, God has given me this little window to make some sense of the world that, which he put me into. And so when I get there, when I finally get done and I face him one day, whenever that day is, I want to have some good answer for how I spent my time and what I did with the days that he’s given me. And if he looks at me and he says, Jay, what did you do? And my response is I tried my best to tell the world to love their neighbor as themselves, God, I tried to find as many different ways as I could say that, to try to get that through, especially, particularly in the way that we were not loving our neighbor in the culture where I was living. That was the meaning and purpose of my life. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. And if I erred if were two zealous or passionate and that one, I apologize for that.
– Well, partnerships are important and the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions we do what we do because of the cooperative program, because of the gifts from the Alabama Baptist Churches, we’re able to partner with people like Jay and something about Jay is he’s a longstanding member of Johnson’s Ferry Baptist Church. I’ve been able to worship alongside of him there. I’m proud to do so. ‘Cause he’s not just, he’s not just a smart guy, he’s a very religiously devoted guy, but it just reminds me of how important our partnerships are for us. And today it’s actually provided, or at least my job and the resources that we’re able to give at our office is because of gifts, like those that are out there watching now, or those that we’ll be watching later. We actually have one or two questions and then we’ll end it at that. We got an email question, but from somebody, I hope it’s Edward, I hope I’m saying your name, right. But you emailed me and you’re actually watching right now. You actually made a statement where you said, according to the Bible specifically, Psalms 139, all abortion is not in the will of God, except when the life of the mother, the baby’s in danger. I think what the question I would like to ask from that statement is, is what about the Bible? As Christians what place does the Bible have in arguing the pro life position?
– Well, as Christian, I mean, for me, obviously the Bible informs every aspect of how I live my life, right? And so, so we just, as Christians, what is the Bible do for me personally? But, but here’s the place where we get to where you have to be careful, not careful, right? I’m unapologetically and passionately Christian. I’ve never hidden that for a moment and every audience I’ve ever talked to walk away knowing that about me as much as they know anything else. But when I had the opportunity to talk to people, I don’t start in the Bible. Why, because I’m trying to find a way to minimize the charge of subjectivism or that it’s particular to me and it’s of no interest to them whatsoever. I do this because I try to think in the way that the person that I used to be, the man that I was, how would he have received particular arguments? And Christians did come up and talk to me. And I just was not even the slightest bit interested. Jacques Barzun and is book Dawn to Decadence talks about how there was a time when the Bible was corrective in our culture and what he meant by that was he would say, okay, you would see somebody doing something wrong and you could take the Bible to them and you could say, look, the Bible says you should not do that, right. And it says right there very clearly. And that person would say, oh, son of a gun it does. So I’ll change the way I’m doing my, thank you for correcting me. Thank you for showing me where the Bible corrected me or I’d forgotten about that passage or I was so angry I’d missed it or just let it go. And there would be some repentance, some recognition that the Bible was a corrective source and they would move on with their life. That’s not, Jacques Barzun when he wrote the Dawn of Decadence was a while ago. And he said, that’s just not the world that we live in anymore. You go to them and say, well, the Bible says that you should not do that. The response is not going to be, oh well thank you for pointing the Bible out to me. I’m gonna not do that, I got you. And so what we have to do is we have to just like, as missionaries going into foreign lands, we learned to speak the language that they speak. We have to recognize the language, the culture in which we live right now in the United States, it’s a secular language. And so to start to make inroads with them is to start in a place where we can find some common ground. If I can get them to acknowledge, and by the way, Steve Jacobs, who I’ve mentioned a couple of times, in his research, most of the justification for abortion falls in the minds of the people that he asked in his survey, and these were thousands and thousands of people he surveyed, in their minds that justification for abortion was grounded in the idea that the unborn are not human, meaning that if they could have it reliably answered for them at when human life begins, then they would be open to switching their position on abortion. And so his research demonstrated the 96% of biologists say it begins at fertilization. These are not Christian biologists. They’re overwhelmingly secular. As a matter of fact, they were there. The majority of them, the overwhelming majority have identified themselves as pro choice when asked, but they could not deny the fact of biology that life begins at fertilization. So when you meet them on those grounds, this is when human life begins and 96% of academic biologists affirm that. So if you want to deny that you’re in a very small category of people, and then you want to talk about science deniers. You’re a here, you’re on the science denier thing. And what gives us value? Is it wrong for you and I to kill each other? Almost every person I’ve ever asked that, no matter what their beliefs, almost every person, two people have said, no, almost every other person said, yes, it’s objectively wrong for us to kill each other. Now why? Why would it be wrong for us to kill each other? And in these conversations I had with people that run the gamut of religious belief, nonreligious belief, hostility towards religious belief. But because I was talking to them in their language the same way I would try when I went to Indonesia, one time on a mission trip, we tried our hardest to be culturally sensitive to what was going on with the Indonesians and how they would process some of the things that we were saying to them in the places where we were doing outreach, I have to do the same thing here. I have to recognize that Jacques Barzun said, the Bible is not corrective in our culture. So what is the language of our culture? So let’s start by speaking a language where we can find some common ground and then hopefully as we’ve talked about earlier, that’s going to open up opportunities for them to ask ultimate questions that will ultimately lead them to the cross.
– That’s fantastic, and actually that answered one of the other questions. So we’re gonna leave it at that. Is there anything else that you would like to say or is there anything you think that we’ve left out. From what I have here we have five points. It’s a necessary conversation. These are all pro-life issues. It’s necessary to have the conversation. We have to be ultimately prepared, ourselves, our church, our church community, to talk about it. So in other words, you had to do our homework. We have to become aware of resources. We have to, number three, we have to teach rather than argue. We have to think in terms of winning people and not arguments, but we win people with good arguments. I think that’s the way you said it. And I think that’s the perfect way to say it. We have to retrain ourselves what victory looks like. I think that’s something that I think we should take away. And also number five is we don’t miss the gospel. I love what you said about the closer you get to truth the closer you’re gonna get to God. That’s kind of a phrase that has been ultimately a mandate for my life. And I know it’s been a mandate and an importance for you. Thank you so much for coming on, Jay. Thank you so much for your heart and your ministry. Thank you for Tracy. I know your wife, Tracy is just a crucial part of your ministry too. So we thank you for her, your lovely children. And thank you, Alabama Baptist State Board of Mission churches for your gifts to the cooperative program that allow these things to happen. Pinnaclealabama.org, that is actually the website that you can go to where this video will be posted. Check out that site. There’s more teaching opportunities that are gonna be available over the next couple of weeks. That will be fun and pertinent to probably your church and where you’re at, in need in terms of educational resources. Please ask that you go. Again, thank you so much for coming, Jay. Thank y’all so much for coming on that are online and we will see you soon.