The Helpful Richard Dawkins
How a tweet about abortion helped us see God's enabling grace for Christian parents.
We can thank Richard Dawkins for pointing out one of the big differences between an atheist and a Christian. And my thanks are sincere. We need more people to be honest about what they believe so we can see and compare beliefs and the reasons behind them. In a recent Twitter controversy, Dawkins responded to another tweeter's question involving the "ethical dilemma" which involves whether or not to abort an unborn baby believed to have Downs Syndrome.
Dawkins said it is immoral not to abort a Downs baby and try again for a disease-free one. In other words, if Dawkins was to father a child he believed to have Downs Syndrome, he would pay to have that baby killed. He would prefer to not allow that baby to be labored or born, not love that baby, not help that baby overcome the disabling challenges to whatever degree possible, not show that baby compassion and comfort. In fact, according to Dawkins' view, allowing this scenario would be immoral.
Now here lies one of the most important differences between Dawkins' highly illustrative display of atheistic instincts and the Christian's worldview. Christian parents, who draw their morality and insight from the revealed Word of God, believe something drastically worse about their children. They believe their children, Downs Syndrome or no, are born into the misery of human sin with a condition that will in the end put their bodies and souls to the worst kind of death if not cured, under the just condemnation of a holy God to whom they are born enemies, enslaved by the tyranny of the devil, and incapable of being cured by any human enterprise, research, treatment, or remedy; children who may even grow up to say such things as "kill that Downs baby."
Whether you embrace the teachings of Scripture that inform a Christian's view of his child or not, the fact is in addition to their being made in the image of God, Christians do believe these tragic facts are true about their offspring - beliefs which paint an infinitely more bleak picture than the diagnosis of Downs Syndrome. But what do rightly-thinking Christians do with these children? They labor for them. The mothers carry and supply nutrients to these "spiritually diseased" children for 9 months. They labor at home, they labor in the car, they labor in the hospital room, they labor under the fluorescent lights and beneath the shadow of a well-paid physician. And then they go home and labor the next day, and the next day, and the next. Not only do they allow that baby to be born, but they (albeit imperfectly) love that baby; they help that baby to grow up and overcome "to whatever degree possible;" they care for and comfort that baby. They give every effort to direct that child toward the change and cure of Christ, who they believe is this only comfort in life and in death. And they resolve to do all this cheerfully, not following a day of diagnosis, but even knowing this spiritual condition to be true even when they conceive, when they talk of children around the kitchen table, and even before the child is a glimmer in his daddy's eyes. They give their lives to this little troubled soul; all because of their belief in and allegiance to the One who gave His life for them.
And again, we can find something good in the appalling words of one man's tweet. Richard Dawkins has displayed in technicolor one of the striking implications of the Christian worldview. Even if you are the staunchest of atheists or Richard Dawkins' number one fan, you can still make sense of what I've written here. Even if you don't believe a shred of Christian truth, I know you can follow this line. If Richard Dawkins believes in a world without God - a material world made merely of atoms and particles, flesh and bones - his word to every Downs baby conceived is "death." Conversely, if a Christian believes in a world created by God - a world in which the misery of sin and tyranny of the devil taunts even the lives of unborn children - to a child born under a curse, at enmity with God, tainted by sin, and incapable of cure through all but Divine intervention; their word to that child is "live." This is a striking difference between the beliefs of atheists and Christians, and what they do with those beliefs.
It may be asked "Don't Christians believe babies who die young, or even before delivery, end up with God in heaven? Then, why not abort these Downs babies and spare them?" Many Christians do believe this, and it speaks even more to the hope and comfort they have, in body and soul and in life and death. Even believing deceased young will be comforted in heaven, Christians know the living Savior is a Comforter in this life as well. Yes, Christians actually hold these beliefs, and they hold them quite firmly. But what is more striking than Christians holding these beliefs, is that in holding them, they do not abort their children. They do the exact opposite.
How is it Christians, believing rightly the hard truths of Scripture concerning their children - who believe their children are far worse off than a Downs baby - how is it Christians are able to choose to give them life and love and compassion and mercy, and sacrifice, all without reciprocation or merit? It is not by will, nor by moral, nor by earthly principle; for we have heard again the will and moral and principle of earth.
How is it Christians choose life over death: Because we have been given something the Dawkinses of the world do not yet have: Good News.
Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death? A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him. - The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1.