Scott Klusendorf Interview Transcript

The following transcript is from an Apologetics 315 interview with Scott Klusendorf. Original audio here. Transcript index here. If you enjoy transcripts, please consider supporting, which makes this possible.

BA: Hello this is Brian Auten with Apologetics 315. Today’s interview is with Scott Klusendorf. Scott is President of the Life Training Institute found on line at Scott travels throughout the United States and Canada training pro-life advocates to persuasively defend their views in the public square. He’s participated in numerous debates given countless lectures, and is also author of The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture. The goal of this interview today is to look at some of the essential elements of the Pro-life position, answer some of the common arguments from the pro-choice position, and look at how Christians can be better equipped to make a strong positive case for life.

BA: Thanks for joining me today Scott.
SK: Brian great to be with you on apologetics 315.
BA: Now as I mentioned in the intro, you’re president of the Life Training Institute, and which helps educate people about the pro-life message. Now can you tell me just a bit about yourself and the vision that you have behind the life training Institute?
SK: Well in a sentence, Life Training Institute exist to equip pro-lifers to make a case for life in the public square to do that graciously and yet persuasively. My own journey began in 1990 when I was functioning as an associate pastor at a Church in Southern California, and I went to a pro-life gathering that was supposed to have at it up to 100 pastors. And regrettably there were only four other clergy in the audience that day. But thankfully the speaker was so persuasive, and so good at what he did that I was compelled to get involved in this work. And six months after hearing that presentation, I resigned my position with the blessing of the church to work full time equipping pro-lifers.

BA: Wow that’s good. Now in today’s interview I have a whole number of questions I would like to ask you, but before we start delving into this subject of abortion and the pro-life position, I just want us to define our terms before we get into it. What do we mean when we say abortion?

SK: We mean the ending of a pregnancy either through a direct clinical means. Meaning where we end the life of the developing human being through a surgical procedure, or through an accidental means such as miscarriage. But typically what we are speaking of is the direct and deliberate ending of an unborn human’s life through a surgical procedure or through a chemical procedure such as RU486.
BA: Many people have probably heard short term and late term abortion. What are those terms and what makes them different?
SK: Well legally abortion is allowed in the United States and in Canada up until the moment of birth even during the birth process if we want to get right down to it, technically speaking. Late term abortion refers to those procedures that are done in the third trimester, meaning months seven, eight, and nine. Midterm abortion refers to those that are done months four, five, and six and earlier abortion the first three months. So that’s what we mean when we make those distinctions between late and early term abortions.
BA: Now I have heard a lot of pro-lifers use terminology like “abortion is murder.” You might even seen that on a bumper sticker or through some email or something. Is it right? Is it the same as murder? Is this using detrimental terminology to the over all position, and how do you see the wise approach to using terns like that?
SK: I see the use of the term murder as counter productive as long as abortion remains legal as an elective procedure. It is typically a legal term so I prefer to use the phrase unjust taking of human life or unjust killing.
BA: Do you think as well that it’s emotionally charged and it complicates the issue? Do you think it’s just as unwise as well?
SK: It might be in some context. My bigger issue is just trying to try to be as precise as we can with the language, and since murder typically relates to a legal context, I would prefer to use the unjust taking of human life. Though some would call it murder. I don’t think it is intellectually dishonest to call it that by any means, but a more precise way of speaking. And I think it’s important for us as pro-life advocates to be as precise as possible, would be to call it the unjust taking of human life
BA: A little bit later I will be asking you more about the tone, and the angle that we who hold the pro-life position should take—just as being Christ like and being wise as well. But first, I want to ask you some of the core elements of the pro-life position, and then I will be throwing some pro-choice arguments at that position. And see how your position responds to that, and then like I said, later we’ll talk about how Christians can be better equipped to answering some of these emotional and extremely relevant issues. So what do you see as the issue that’s being defended on the pro-life position over against the pro-choice position? 
SK: Pro-lifers argue, Brian, that elective abortions—meaning those abortions that are not done for medical necessity—elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a developing human being. What’s killed is not something different from a human being. What’s killed is a distinct living and whole member of the human species. Sure that being has yet to grow and mature but the kind of thing it is, is not in dispute. The science of embryology establishes it that from the very beginning each one of us was a distinct living whole member of the human family. We just were different from more mature members of the species in terms of our size, our development, and our location.
BA: Are there particulars, historically, that Christians or pro-lifers should be aware of? I know that we just came up on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. But tell us any particular historical elements that should be noted, and where you see the over all debate right now in America at least.

SK: The two big things to be aware of are Supreme Court decisions that happened in the United States and in Canada. That framed the debate in North America. In the United States the Supreme Court case of Roe vs. Wade and the Supreme Court case of Doe V. Bolton, which were both handed down simultaneously, defined both the legality of abortion, and what the states can do to restrict it. In Roe vs. Wade the court said that the State may restrict abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy, if and only if those restrictions do not interfere with a woman’s so called “health,” and I put health in quote marks. In Doe vs. Bolton the court went on to define health so broadly you could drive a Mac truck though it.

And so what we end up with is that for all practical purposes, abortion remains legal through all nine months of pregnancy even in the third trimester because of that health exception. In Canada the date to keep in mind is 1988 where the Supreme Court of Canada in the infamous Morgentaler decision declared essentially that abortion must remain legal up until the moment of birth however if parliament chose to legislate on the matter it could. Now there is the differences between the Canadian and American court cases. In the American court case the courts co-opted the issue from the legislative and executive branches. In Canada the courts stepped into a vacuum where there was no legislative agenda and dictated its own policy and up to this point Parliament has refused to do any thing different from than what the courts have done.

In the United Kingdom the important date to remember is 1967 and the abortion act of 1967 was passed at that time. At the time, it was one of the most liberal laws regarding abortion in all of Europe. Northern Ireland, though, is somewhat different in that though that law technically should apply, of course you’ve had a greater resistance in Ireland overall due to the heavy Catholic influence.

BA: Okay, I think that is helpful. Now, thinking about this issue, how should we as Christians think about it? Is this a medical issue? Is this a social issue? Is this a political issue? Is this a religious issue; I mean, a moral issue? Is this a woman’s issue? I can imagine all of these categories where people are going to try and place the abortion issue. What is the right category or categories that we should be thinking about it?

SK: It is a moral issue, with a political application, with a theological foundation, and a behavior requirement. The moral issue is simply this, “it’s wrong to take innocent human life without justification; elective abortion is the taking of human life without justification. Therefore elective abortion is a moral wrong.” That’s the simple moral argument. So it definitely has a moral dimension.

It also has a political one—if elective abortion is the unjust killing of human beings, then we should pass laws to protect the unborn just the way we did when we passed laws to protect slaves from being unjustly killed and harmed. Just like we did when we said men could not beat their wives and so forth and so on. If the unborn are human, it makes perfect sense passing laws protecting them, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise of anyone that would think that way.
Theologically I differ with some pro-lifers in how I defend the pro-life view. Typically what happens is pro-lifers run to Psalms 139 and say see God made us in our mothers wombs, we’re fearfully and wonderfully made therefore abortion’s wrong. I think you can go that way, but it’s not going to persuade a critic who’s going to look at the passage in Psalms and say, “wait a minute that’s poetic language. That’s a poetic passage; how can you build a doctrine on that?” So I will go ahead and grant for the sake of argument that scripture is silent about the humanity of the unborn. And scripture is silent about abortion in general, and I can still argue that the scriptures are pro-life; and here is your theological dimension that I mentioned a little while ago. And the way I’m going to get that, Brian, is to simply argue that the bible is clear that all human beings have value because they bear the image of their Maker. And because they bear the image of their Maker, the shedding of innocent blood is strictly forbidden. Those two points are brought out in Genesis chapter one, exodus chapter 23, Mathew 5:21, a James chapter 3 just to name a few. If then the unborn are human and the facts of science make clear that they are, then the same passages of scripture that say its wrong to shed innocent blood in other contexts would apply to the unborn as well. So there is the theological dimension.
BA: Great stuff. Now I want you to go into these pillars if you will of defending the pro-life position with science and philosophy, and in your web site one of the things that you provide is sort of a four point acronym, some would say sled S-L-E-D. Can you lay out what those main pillars are and their relevance to the issue?
SK: Well as I mentioned a moment ago, pro-life advocates argue that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a developing human being, and we defend that claim using science and philosophy. We use science to determine what kind of thing the unborn is, and we use philosophy to show that there’s no relevant deference between the embryos we once were and the adults we are today that would justify killing us at that earlier stage of development. Scientifically, as I mentioned just moments ago embryology text books worldwide indicate that from the very beginning you and I were distinct living whole human beings. You can’t see that I’m doing this right now, Brian, but at the moment I’m picking cells off the back of my hand. These cells, which we call somatic cells, contain my entire DNA and coding. But you don’t thing I just committed mass murder by sending a couple hundred of those puppies hurling to their deaths on the floor in front of me. And the reason is, you know that these cells though they contain my DNA and coding are merely part of a larger human being, me. They are not distinct whole living organisms the way that you were when you were an embryo. The way I was when I was an embryo. In other words, there is a difference in kind between each of our bodily cells and the embryonic human beings we once were. That’s what science teaches us; that’s what the science of embryology lays down for us.

Philosophically, we argue using that SLED acronym that you mentioned a moment ago that there’s no difference between that embryo we once were and the adult we are today. The adults we are today that justify killing us at that earlier stage of development and as Steven Schwarz points out, the differences between that embryo and the adult that you are today are one of size, level of development, environment and degree of dependency. Think of the acronym SLED and you will remember those four differences. Size, yeah you were smaller as an embryo, but since when does body size determine the rights that you have. Shaquille O’Neal, the seven foot two basketball star with the Boston Celtics, is a foot taller than I am, but he doesn’t have a greater right to life simply because he’s bigger.

Level development? Sure, we were less developed as embryos but since when is a matter of principal does that mean we can kill you? Two-year-old girls are less developed than twenty-year-old young women. We don’t think though the two year old girl has less to a right to life simply because she can’t function at the level that the twenty year old can. Level of size, I should say level of development. What about environment; where you are located there is the letter “E” in that SLED acronym. You were once in the womb now you’re out but sense when does were you are determine what you are? When you walk from your living room into the studio to do this interview. You changed location but you didn’t stop being you. When I jump on an airplane and fly from Atlanta to London’s Heathrow airport. I get off the plane I’m in a new location, but I’m the same being as I was when I left Atlanta. If that’s true how does a journey of eight inches down the birth canal suddenly change me from non-human, non-valuable thing that we can kill? To a valuable human being that we can’t kill. And the answer is, if I wasn’t already human and valuable I’m not going to get there by changing my address. And then finally, degree of dependency—yes we depended on our mother for survival but sense when does dependency on another human being mean we can kill you? Conjoined twins depend on each other for survival and unless one of the twins is killing its partner we don’t go ahead and slit the throat of both twins simply because they can’t live independent of each other. Size, level of development, environment, degree of dependency, think “SLED” those are the only four differences between that embryo you once were and the adult you are today. And the pro-lifer would argue that not one of those four differences justifies killing you at that earlier stage. 
BA: Now the real world application. I’m going to throw a few contrary or questioning views on the subject—you know how this plays out. Nowadays, a couple meet, they hook up, have a relationship which probably will include sexual interaction, it causes a pregnancy and for any number of reasons they don’t want the child. They’re not in a position financially, the mother is really young, etc. They see it as normal nowadays, or completely acceptable as an option for them, to terminate that pregnancy. I could go on and list of course a lot of other reasons; maybe a married couple finds out their child is deformed or somehow going to have some sort of complication and not be what would be considered normal and healthy.
So they would opt for an abortion—in fact, this is something that doctors are going to possibly advise them to do. Now I list those things to make the point that this is obviously a strongly held view in secular culture and there are any number of reasons people could give for having an abortion. Some are more socially acceptable than others, but the first question addressing that sort of mindset in a culture is: are there situations when abortions are okay?
SK: Well as a pro-life advocate I can think of a case where ending the pregnancy is not only permissible; I see it as the right thing to do. If you have a case of ectopic pregnancy, where the embryo implants on the inner wall of fallopian tube instead of the uterine wall where it belongs. If you don’t terminate that pregnancy, which will end the life of the developing embryo, you will have a situation where the mother will hemorrhage to death because as that tube grows or as the embryo grows in that narrow tube. The mother will experience a bursting of that tube and that will result in hemorrhaging that will end her life. The Center For Disease Control are very clear that this is an extremely grave situation for any pregnant women. In that case here is the question, “What is the greatest moral good we can achieve?” Do nothing and let two humans die. Or act in such a way that we save one life even though the unintended and unavoidable result is the death of the embryo who by the way can’t survive anyway in that tube or should the mother die at that point. So what is the greatest good we can do? And my answer is: you act to save the mother’s life even though there is an unintended and unavoidable result that you wish you could avoid but can’t. The right thing to do is save the mother in that case.
BA: Okay, so looking for the greatest moral good. What about situations such as rape? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this as the first salvo from the pro-choice side.
SK: Right!
BA: What if your daughter was raped would you want her to bring the rapist’s child into the world at seventeen years old? Now that’s a real world situation that, I mean it’s dreadful and most people who would say “I’m against abortion,” if you presented them that option they would say—yeah, go for the abortion. That’s terrible and that would justify it for them. What do you say to that?
SK: Well when the pro-abortionist activist throw the rape charge at the pro-lifer; he’s not being honest. Because what the abortion advocate is really wanting to defend or really believes I should say is that women have a fundamental right to an abortion for any reason. Not just rape, for any reason and sometimes tactfully the best thing to do is to blow the smoke screen into the open. So I will very graciously say to the person, “Okay, I’ll grant for the sake of discussion that we allow abortion in cases of rape. That’s not my position but for the sake of this discussion I’ll grant that. Will you join me then in opposing all other abortions that are done for elective reasons?” What do you think the answer is? Oh, no women have a fundamental right to an abortion. Ah, well if that’s your position, defend that rather than hiding behind the rape case.

But for the person who is more honest in bringing the question up, and there are people who are more or less pro-life but they are just stumbling over this particular question. I take a different tact. What I do with that person is I ask this question: “Tell me, how should a civil society treat innocent human beings that reminds us of a painful event? Is it OK to kill them so we can feel better?” Now right away that’s going to bring the discussion back to the question, “What is the unborn?” Because if the unborn is human why should they be killed because they remind us of something painful any more than we would kill a two year old because he reminds us of something painful? I mean imagine if I did have a two-year-old here with me. His father was a rapist. If the mother said every time I look at this kid I’m reminded what happened to me. Can I kill him so I don’t have to have those memories? We would all be appalled. Well the only reason people say “abortion’s okay, because the child might remind the mother of the crime,” is if we begin with the assumption the unborn aren’t human. But that is begging the question, Brian, because the concept that the unborn are not human must be argued for, not merely assumed. So by asking the question “how should a civil society treat innocent human beings that remind us of a painful event we get back to the question that really matters here. “What is the unborn?”

BA: Well just a moment ago when you were explaining how it would be the right thing to do to terminate the pregnancy if there was danger to the mother. What if we know that the baby is going to die only a few months after the birth because it has, say, severe birth defects. Many would say “surely it’s right and its appropriate to abort in that situation; you’re ending that suffering. You are not going through all of this ordeal. This child is going to die any way. Why bring them into this world and into this mess?”
SK: Well my first thought would be, “Why do those of us who are going to live longer given the right to kill those who are going to live shorter?” Imagine that I had a two-year-old in front of me and he has a terminal illness. He’s not going to live more than a couple of months. Would it be OK to slit his throat because he’s not going to live as long as the rest of us? I think any person with a functioning conscience would say, no you can’t do that. Well, why not? Because he’s a human being, AHH! Then if the unborn are human like that disabled two-year-old I just mentioned, the unborn shouldn’t be killed because they have a disabilities. Even fatal disabilities, any more than we’d kill a two year old who had a debilitating illness that would result in death. The question comes back to “What is the unborn?” It always does.
BA: I’m glad you say that because I was just going say: clarify what are the under lying principals that guide us in judging whether or not there are valid reasons and so you brought us back to “what is the unborn.” Do you see that as being the principal that’s to be applied, no matter what the situation then?
SK: It is the question that trumps all others. Now granted there are a small number of academics who will bite the bullet and say, “I’ll bite the bullet and grant your premise that the unborn is human and kill him any way.” And we can talk briefly about that if you’d like. But that is not ninety-nine percent of the public. Most people simply assume the unborn aren’t human. And that’s why they bring up things like economic hardships. A right to choose, privacy, trusting women to make their own decisions. These are reasons they would never give for killing a toddler, but they do give them for killing the unborn because they assume without argument that the unborn are not human. Therefore the first job of the pro-life advocate, the pro-life apologist, is to clarify the question, “what is the unborn?” That question has to be answer in front of all others.
BA: I’ll ask you another question, a real common one. And so for the sake of pro-life training, don’t just give us the answer that you’d give, but walk our listeners through how you would reason about it in your mind, and then how you would respond. So the common objection might be, “hey you’re taking away the choice of the mother. This is my body you can’t tell me what to do with it. I have rights here.”
SK: Right, well the first thing you want to do when someone says “I have a right to choose.” Make them define what choice they have in mind. It sounds very nice and sanitary to say pro-choice I have a right to choose. Really, well choose what? Do I have a right to cut a toddler up for fun? Most people would say—no. You can’t do that. Well why not? Because he’s a human being, Ah! Then if the unborn is human like that toddler, should we have a choice to kill them simply because they’re in the way of something we want? You see, again, we are back to that question: “what is the unborn?” That’s the one that has to be answered.
Look I’m vigorously pro-choice on women choosing their own husband, women choosing their own careers, choosing the clothes they wish to purchase, the cars they wish to drive, the men they wish to marry, the pets they wish to own, the countries they want to live in. I’m pro-choice on all those kinds of questions. But Brian, some choices are wrong like killing defenseless human beings. Simply because they’re in the way of something we want. So we first clarify “what choice do you have in mind?” Then we expose the fact, that the person making the claim is assuming the unborn aren’t human. They haven’t argued for it, they’re just assuming for it, and then only after that do we go on and make the case that the unborn are distinct living and whole human beings like you and me.
BA: Some people I can imagine would acknowledge, “yes this is a human, but this is not the same kind of human that we’re thinking about when you think about you and me. We have developed brains. We can feel pain. We know when things are happening to us, but this is just a blob of cells. Call it a human if you want. Call it having DNA if you want. But that blob of cells is just growing inside my body. It’s not going to feel anything if we take it, and abort that fetus when it’s just microscopic. There’s not going to be any pain, there’s not going to be any harm.” That, to me, seems like what you’re going to hear from a lot of people. What do you say to this sort of shifting of what the unborn is?
SK: Well as Greg Koukl points out sometimes the best thing to do is to ask a good question and that alone can defuse the situation.
When someone says to me the embryo is just a blob of tissue, I’ll say what do you mean by that? Ah, chances are they have no idea what they’re talking about that. Here’s the difference scientifically and obviously the person who claims the unborn are just blobs of tissues doesn’t know what they are talking about scientifically. The embryo, unlike just a clump of cells, functions in a coordinated manner. Ah, in other words, every one of the cells in the embryo functions in a way that is designed to promote the over all health and growth of the whole. Random groups of cells on their own are not whole living organisms. That’s the difference between the embryo which is a living distinct organized being and a cell that is not but when the person says to me well you know the embryo can’t feel pain it’s not self-aware. Instead of that arguing unborn babies can feel pain and are self-aware. The better approach is to say to the person “tell me why self-awareness or feeling pain is what gives us value in the first place.” In other words, you need to defend your claim that those things are value-giving.

And too often, Brian, as Christians we assume a burden of proof when we shouldn’t. When someone says to me that embryos aren’t self-aware therefore we can kill them. The first words out of my mouth are, “you tell me why self-awareness is decisive and not having, say, a belly button that points out rather than in.” They’re just making a raw arbitration assertion with nothing offered in defense of it. By the way, if self-awareness is what gives us value, we have a real problem; newborns are not self-aware. Does that mean we can kill them? Abraham Lincoln very aptly pointed out when he would defend the rights of slaves. That any argument used to justify dehumanizing a slave worked equally well to dehumanize many whites for example to paraphrase Lincoln, if you say that it is skin color that gives us value, meaning the lighter skin, man has a right to enslave the darker skin man. Take care, Lincoln said, because by that rule you are enslaved by the first person you meet with skin fairer than your own. If we claim it is intellect that gives the white man the right to enslave the dark man, take care again because by that rule you’re enslaved again with an intellect superior to your own. By the same token, if self-awareness is what gives us value, those of us who have more of it are more human and have a greater right to life than those who have less. You can’t just limit it to beings before they are born.

SK: Alright, let’s grant that from the pro-choice position. They would want to take that line from their stand against pro-life arguments. They say, if you think those few little cells, are a person, then they might bring up a moral dilemma. I think of one that came up called the Trolley Experiment. Where you have to decide who gets hit by the trolley. There’s one man on one side of the tracks and you have a choice whether the train is going to hit them, or on the other side of the track you can make the train go down there and hit the one thousand frozen embryos. Now is this a confusion of the issue, with false underlining assumptions, or is there merit in this objection? Or is the issue a bit more nuanced.
SK: Well actually that example is rarely, rarely used and if you don’t mind let me give you the one you’re more likely to hear on the street. It’s similar but different. Here’s what is. It’s known as the burning research lab example. In this case you’re asked to decide who are you going to save? And this dilemma is used to justify killing embryos for embryonic stem cell research and here’s how it is set up. You are in a burning research lab; you got to get out immediately. In one corner is a newborn baby. In the other corner is a vial full of frozen embryos. You only have time to save one the embryos or the baby. Which are you going to chose? And because everyone is going to say, “well I’m going to chose the newborn” the critic of the pro-life view comes back and says “well there you go, see even you don’t believe these embryos are full human. Because look who you choose to save. All right, there’s the dilemma that is put to the pro-lifer. A couple of things about that: first of all, suppose a building is on fire and I have to chose between saving you and twenty of your best friends or my own daughter who is on the other side of the room. Guess who’s going to be toast Brian?
BA: I am.
SK: Yes that’s correct, you are. Now does it follow that because I choose to save my own daughter first or only that those I left behind are not human? Clearly it does not. If I save my own daughter first and leave everyone else behind, that says nothing about the humanity of those I leave behind. Moreover, the debate over embryo research is not about whom we are going to save first but whom we are going to deliberately kill to benefit us. Therefore the burning research lab example really doesn’t fit. It’s a mis-applied analogy because embryonic stem cell research is about who we deliberately kill, not who we choose to save. Another thing to keep in mind here: why is it that this is a dilemma in the first place? The only reason it is a dilemma at all is because both the embryo and the newborn have value. If one of them didn’t there’d be no dilemma here. So even in bringing up this illustration, the critic of the pro-life view is making the assumption that both have value.
BA: Great. Now I want to shift gears just slightly now. So we talked about the legality of abortion. So how should we go about arguing that abortion should be made illegal?
SK: When it comes to the question of legality, pro-lifers are almost uniformly in agreement that the law should state that unborn humans should not be unjustly killed. No one is arguing that you can never take human life. Only a strict pacifist would argue that way. What pro-lifers argue is, the law should prevent the unjust taking of human life. But pro-life lawmakers have traditionally viewed women who have abortions as a second victim. Now I’m not sure we should do that; because I think that diminishes the moral decision making of the women, and it treats her as this victim who was incapable of thinking clearly. Look, I think we need to hold people responsible for the decisions they make, and assume that they’re not innocent by standers who act out of complete ignorance.
Now of course there will be those who will come along and say, so what do you want to do? Do you just want to prosecute women and throw them in the gas chambers for committing murder? Well that’s an attempt to poison the well. Here’s the question I always asks when people say “So do you want to prosecute women who have abortions if abortion is made illegal?” And my response is simply this, Brian: What’s wrong with the law that says you shouldn’t kill innocent human beings and if you do, there will be consequences? The truth is, as long as the consequences fit the crime I don’t see what the problem is. Of course there should be consequences, for taking the life of a defensive human being. But as to what those consequences will be that depends on a number of factors: motive, intent, external circumstances. The same factors we bring to any homicide case. We don’t automatically throw people in the gas chamber because they take the life of a human being. We weigh all of those factors and we would do the same thing here if abortion was made illegal. So yes, pro-lifers do want to see abortion made illegal—at least elective abortion. But no, we are not arguing that any woman who has an abortion is automatically with no other consideration thrown into the gas chamber. That’s ridiculous.
BA: Now we’ll talk about the need to have the right tone and manner when we are arguing for the pro-life position, because inherently it’s an emotional issue. But my question here, Scott, is what role is there for emotional appeals in the pro-life argument? Sometimes people would say, “hey you’re making a lot of emotional appeals” or maybe you’d show visuals of an abortion. And they would say “Hey that’s not fair!” What are your thoughts on how we should argue, the tone we should have, and any sorts of emotional appeals, and how they should be properly be used?
SK: Well there is nothing wrong with emotional appeals provided they’re not dishonest and provide they are not the only line of evidence that we use. Take for example abortion pictures. I use them in my presentations. Now I don’t use the pictures in place of good arguments. I use the pictures as valuable adjuncts to good arguments and by the way there is a sound academic tradition for doing just that.
I challenge anyone to go to a lecture at a graduate level institution on the Vietnam war and not see the professor present images of children running naked from a village that’s just been accidentally napalmed. I challenge anyone to go to a lecture on the Second World War and not see pictures of bodies stacked like cordwood in death camps of Europe. Why do academics use these images? Well not to manipulate people emotionally, but because the pictures convey truth in a way that words can’t. So there’s nothing wrong with the pro-lifer using images to convey his point of view. But I think tactfully, you want to go beyond just the images and make your scientific and philosophical case as well.
BA: We mentioned all the different difficult situation people are in when they are faced with a choice for having an abortion. A lot of times it’s just extremely crazy situations financially, relationally, a lot of factors are going to make life difficult, if they bring that child into the world. And so those things are a large factor in making them want to have the abortion. And so when we are arguing for the pro-life position, what are the alternative that should be presented? Are all these alternatives—say, adoption—are these really viable for the mother, and what sort of resources should be made available?
SK: Well there is nothing wrong with pro-lifers offering to help women who face crisis pregnancies and indeed they do. The number of pro-life pregnancy centers in North America are out numbering abortion clinics well over two to one and these centers don’t get federal funding. They have to operate on private donations, so pro-lifers are doing a lot to help women. But there is a little bit of a danger to point here that we need to be careful of. Critics of the pro-life view, just like critics of budget cuts of in Congress—”OK, so what’s your solution to this problem what are you going to do about it?” And they don’t want to acknowledge the core issue. They try to shift the focus from the moral issue to the behavior of the pro-lifer. So I’ll give you an example: you’re hear people say—”well you’re against abortion, alright fine, are you willing to adopt all of the children you don’t want aborted?” Well suppose that I weren’t willing, how does my alleged unwillingness to adopt a child justify an abortionist killing one? Image if I said to you: “unless you agree to adopt my four kids my noon tomorrow I’m going to execute them”? Would I be justified executing them if you turn down my ultimatum? Obviously not, so again how the behavior of the pro-lifer comes into play does not dictate the morality of abortion one way or the another? What you’ve got to look at is the primary question “what is the unborn?” And I think too we have to watch out for pro-lifers unfairly being attacked for not assuming responsibilities for all of societies ills just because they oppose the deliberate slaughter of innocent human being.
BA: Alright, now Scott as we are reaching the end of our interview, would you go ahead and encourage people on their tone and their manner in dealing with others who are going to be sensitive to these issues as their arguing for their position?
SK: I think we need to do two things. Number one—we need to be gracious ambassadors. We need to make our case charitably, we need to do it with a smile on our face, and we need to do it in a nonbelligerent way. But at the same time we need to be rock solid persuasive and we need to present arguments that cannot be dismissed as mere opinions and we need to be willing to stand up and make those arguments. That’s why on our web-site, in my book The Case for Life, I try to present those arguments in ways lay people can use. And it can make a difference; you know we are very tempted to think that well how is what I’m going to say going to make a difference? I got news for you; it makes a huge difference. I spoke to eighteen hundred college students at a conference on Sunday in Washington D.C. and in an hour-long presentation to those students I gave them the scientific and philosophical defense of the pro-life view. They ate it up and I’m already getting emails from students we’re using this and it’s making a difference. So don’t think, that you can’t make a difference simply because you don’t have time to layout a momentous case. Just using the science and that SLED acronym that I gave you will make a huge difference.
BA: Well Scott, I want to point everybody over to your web site, but can you just let them know what sort of resources are there for them to get equipped and maybe how you can bring more training their way?
SK: Well I would go to our web site again, and the first thing that I would do is click on the resources tab on the top of the web page. And select the article how to defend your pro-life view in five minutes or less, and it will cover the scientific evidence I gave as well as the sled acronym for everyone. Just that article would be a great starting point and then at the same time you will notice under the resources tab that we have a number of articles there under the five-minute pro-lifer. These are articles that can be read and understood in five minutes or less. And some of my more full treatment subjects are presented below that. So I would go right to click on the resources tab and chose the articles option and you will get those resources I just mentioned.
BA: Well Scott, I really appreciate your ministry. I know it’s impacting lives more than we know so thankyou so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
SK: Brian you are welcome, it was a joy and let’s do it again.
Written by

Brian Auten is the founder emeritus of Apologetics315. He is also director of Reasonable Faith Belfast. Brian holds a Masters degree in Christian Apologetics and has interviewed over 150 Christian apologists. His background is in missions, media direction, graphic design, and administration. Brian started Apologetics315 in 2007 to be an apologetics hub to equip Christians to defend the faith.

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