Tony Dungy’s comment against Raphael Warnock (to ask whether or not he’s a Christian) seems to be the typical Republican Christian response to Democratic Christians who simply disagree politically over whether the government should have a say in a woman’s pregnancy and abortion or not.
Well, Dungy’s comments are worth examining not necessarily because they teach something new for Christians, but because they show us that there are many Republican Christians who simply don’t understand how to engage their Democratic Christian opponents. Just because Christians are Democrats and on the other side of the political aisle doesn’t mean 1) they don’t have a good, logical reason to be and 2) their Christian witness is questionable. I have dealt with the second. Pastor Raphael Warnock, like Tony Dungy, has to be given the benefit of the doubt with regard to his faith. After all, faith in Jesus is the condition for salvation, and according to what is known about Raphael Warnock, the Pastor has confessed and believed in Jesus. The same can’t be said for incumbent President Donald Trump.
Dungy uses god as creator to argue against choice in abortion
Dungy’s comments warrant further examination of his Christian views and attack of Christian Democrats on Twitter. He tells those in discussion with him, “Please read Psalm 139:13-16. Then tell me if you think God puts babies in the womb or man does? If you believe they randomly get there then I have no argument. But if you believe God puts them there, then how does anyone have a right to ‘choose’ which ones survive?”
Now this statement is good for examination. In it, we find that Tony Dungy’s response is somewhat naive. He gives an either-or question and says ultimately that, if God puts babies in the womb, “how does anyone have a right to choose which ones survive?” This is a naive question for one reason if not others.
What is that reason? It neglects human cooperation.
Human cooperation via sexual intercourse: Tony Dungy forgets the role humans play in biological reproduction
Tony Dungy asks his question in what I can assess is an honest, sincere tone. I won’t go out of my way to accuse him of asking the question with malicious intent; and even then, that assumption would still be better than his accusing Pastor Warnock of not being Christian.
But Dungy’s response, though sincere, is naive. The reason? He gives an either-or and forgets the answer isn’t that simple. Sure, Christians can agree that God gives life in the womb. And yet, at the same time, Christians also understand the science behind conception: that is, life in the womb doesn’t occur without sexual intercourse. Remember what Mary says to the angel when she’s told she will bear Jesus?
“Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34, NKJV)
Mary asks a normal question that all women would ask if chosen to bear Jesus. We would all want to know how it would occur if we don’t have sexual intercourse. Her question makes perfect sense, considering that God has crafted biological processes to mandate sexual intercourse to produce children. Now, keep in mind that Mary didn’t live in a world where in-vitro fertilization (or IVF) existed then. Surrogacy didn’t, either, which explains why Mary’s cousin Elizabeth was so elated at the news that she’d bear a child who would be great in God’s eyes, John the Baptist (or Baptizer).
Mary’s question says, “How will I bear this Son, since I’m a virgin?” She said “since I do not know a man,” but it’s understood that the knowing here is a reference to sexual intercourse. So without sexual intercourse, she didn’t know how she’d give birth. Mary’s pregnancy was of God, brought about by the Holy Spirit. Her pregnancy occurred without help from a human man. And she was a virgin; she didn’t engage in sexual intercourse when she was pregnant. Joseph thought she had been sexually active and unfaithful to him, but God revealed the truth to him (Matthew 1:18-21).
Today’s pregnancies aren’t in the same category as Mary’s. Her pregnancy comprises the Immaculate Conception. Children born then and now, outside of what God does in Christ, through the virgin Mary, are created through sexual intercourse. That is, sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.
And it is this human cooperation in sexual intercourse that brings about children. Children are not conceived from kissing or abstinence. God has established the biological, reproductive processes by which a man and a woman conceive children. And yet, without the cooperation of humans, children aren’t born.
So yes, it’s true that God brings about life in the womb. He decides at which time a life comes into the world. However, humans are invited by God Himself to cooperate in that process. Until a man and woman have sex, pregnancy doesn’t happen. So, while God creates, humans procreate — and that procreation power has been given to humanity by God Himself as a good gift. Procreation is another way that we demonstrate our likeness to God and the power to create that He’s given us. It doesn’t make us God, but it does demonstrate what it means when Scripture says that we are created after His likeness (Genesis 1:26).
how does God as Creator and Man as procreator pertain to abortion?
God is the Giver of Life, Dungy says, and that is true. But man can also choose to procreate through sexual intercourse. Just because a man and woman have sex doesn’t mean that a baby will result. Scripture tells us that the Lord is the only One that can open and shut a womb. We see that Elizabeth, though barren, gives birth to John the Baptist when the Lord wills it (Luke 1:5-25, particularly verses 7, 24-25). We also see the Lord shut up the wombs of women when they displeased God (Genesis 20:17-18).
And yet, God will not produce life without sexual intercourse. Now today, there is in-vitro fertilization or IVF that can produce zygotes in a test tube and implant them into a woman, but there is no guarantee that even IVF will cause a child to make it to full term and draw breath in this world. There are IVF procedures that still end up in the loss of a child or a miscarriage of sorts.
God creates, and man procreates. And God mandates the union of egg and sperm to produce a life, even if that life is conceived in a test tube. So though God creates life, He won’t produce human life without humans.
Dungy’s argument is christian; he doesn’t understand the secular argument
It’s a respectable thing for Christians to voice their belief in the public sphere. After all, there is freedom of expression for even Christians.
And yet, Tony Dungy doesn’t understand that his argument is Christian. It is an argument rooted in the idea that there is a God and that the Bible is the Word of God. And I agree with him, as does Pastor Raphael Warnock.
But what Dungy doesn’t realize is that his argument is politically discriminatory for two reasons. First, he believes the Bible is the Word of God. Atheists don’t. In fact, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and those of other faiths would disagree with Dungy. Don’t their beliefs matter, too? In the public space where the government endorses the separation of church and state, every religious and non-religious belief matters. So, even if Warnock endorses Dungy’s view that the Bible is the Word of God and that God is the Giver of Life, Warnock must look out for American voters who aren’t Christian. He must look out for atheists and non-Christian faiths, too.
Atheists and non-Christians are Americans whose non-Christian interests must be respected. Are Christians more important citizens than atheists and non-Christians? Are non-Christians and atheists less important than Christians because they don’t believe in Jesus or that the Bible is the Word of God? Are not all men created equal? Should not all men’s opinions be respected, even if they’re not believed? If all men are worthy of respect, how is an argument that says “God is the Giver of Life” respectful to the atheist who doesn’t believe God exists?
Next, his argument is discriminatory because it pertains to that which we cannot see. When Dungy says that, “if you believe God puts them there,” that is, babies in the womb, he’s arguing a metaphysical argument. A metaphysical argument concerns that which is “beyond” (Greek meta) “the physical” (Greek physis). The metaphysical argument is that which concerns what happens outside nature (physical), the spiritual realm. So, to say that “God is the Giver of Life” is a metaphysical statement because God is not a physical being or object one can see or examine.
When he says that God is the Giver of Life, so how can someone “choose” which ones live or die, he’s saying that his metaphysical belief in God makes the physical, natural procreative argument (that men and women are responsible for the lives they produce through sex) null and void. Though Dungy agrees that men and women are responsible for the lives they bring in the world, he doesn’t think they have power to abort their children. That, to Dungy and Christians, belongs to God.
But who is God for the atheist? The only thing that matters to atheists are scientific laws. Granted, God created those scientific laws and they demonstrate His sovereignty, but belief in God, for the atheist, is akin to believing in unicorns, the tooth fairy, or, as Richard Dawkins likes to say, “the flying spaghetti monster.” The only ones responsible for their deeds on earth are humans. So, in the atheist mindset, if men and women can make babies and bring them into the world, they can deny them life too.
I know it seems unsettling to the Christian to think about the words above, but they are no less true. To be a politician for everyone, Christians have to consider both non-Christian and atheist perspectives.
Tony Dungy has strong Christian convictions, no mistake about it. And he’s a sincere Christian, I believe. I also believe that Pastor Raphael Warnock is a sincere Christian. I believe that the differences between these two men are strictly political: one (Dungy) wants to make his faith a political weapon, the other (Warnock) wants to protect the rights of Christians while also ensuring freedom of speech, religion, and expression for others.
Warnock also wants to allow pregnant mothers to make abortion decisions between themselves and their doctors. This respects atheists, religious non-Christians, and Christians alike. It gives everyone freedom of conscience.
God doesn’t want to see babies aborted. God also doesn’t desire to see babies born, then abandoned as orphans of the state until they’re 18 with no family to raise them, either. Maybe it’s the latter issue (babies as orphans of the state) Dungy should consider when thinking through his Christian defense.