My Personal Philosophy Regarding the Abolition of Abortion
I do not believe that any woman volitionally walking into an abortion clinic is a victim. I believe with every step she takes from her car to the abortuary door, and then inside the semi-sanitized death chamber, she is heaping up wrath for herself, for the day of wrath (Romans 2:5), if she dies in her sin, without coming to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I believe every man who entices, encourages, coerces, or threatens a woman into having an abortion is equally culpable for the child’s murder. I believe every man who says, “It’s her choice. There’s nothing I can do,” is no less guilty of the child’s murder. I believe the man who manipulates a woman in any way to murder her child is a coward (Revelation 21:8). I believe the man who does nothing to try stop his mother, sister, wife, daughter, or friend from murdering her child is no less a coward.
I believe every abortionist, as well as every nurse, clinician, counselor, receptionist, security guard, and death-scort working for or in an abortuary is either an active participant or complicit in the murder of every unborn child carried into an abortuary.
I do not shy away from the “gotcha” topic of ectopic pregnancies.
Roughly 1% of conceptions result in ectopic pregnancies. Of these, most self-resolve. The baby dies with no harm to the mother.
But what if the mother’s life is truly in danger, as rare as such a tragic situation might be? The intentional killing of the child is still unnecessary, without sacrificing the mother’s life or health. The baby need not be killed in order to give the mother the very best care and greatest opportunity for a full recovery. According to the Association of Pro-Life Physicians:
We find it extremely unfortunate that many pro-lifers have regarded the health of the mother to be a consideration in whether or not she should have the right to terminate the life of her pre-born baby. Politicians who herald the title “pro-life” on the campaign trail frequently tout this health exception, as well as exceptions for rape and incest, as pragmatic compromises that will not offend political moderates and not alienate the pro-life community. We do not consider this compromise consistent with pro-life Hippocratic principles at all. To intentionally kill or condone the intentional killing of one innocent human being precludes one from being considered “pro-life” at all. A murderer of one person is not any less a murderer if he allows thousands to live, nor if he saves thousands from dying!
When the life of the mother is truly threatened by her pregnancy, if both lives cannot simultaneously be saved, then saving the mother’s life must be the primary aim. If through our careful treatment of the mother’s illness the pre-born patient inadvertently dies or is injured, this is tragic and, if unintentional, is not unethical and is consistent with the pro-life ethic. But the intentional killing of an unborn baby by abortion is never necessary.
I believe most, if not all, abortions are a form of idolatry—the idolatry of self (Philippians 2:3; James 3:16), with the murdered child being offered as sacrifices to the Molech of our age—convenience.
“For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the Lord. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind” (Jeremiah 7:30-31).
I do not believe the United States is “one nation under God.” I believe God’s wrath of abandonment abides upon this nation, in part, for the tens of millions of unborn children murdered at the hands of their parents.
For most of my Christian life, besides the occasional “Walk for Life” or a small, monthly donation to our local Crisis Pregnancy Center, I did what most American Christians do to end abortion. Very little.
That all changed for me about two years ago.
For almost two years, now, I have preached the gospel outside the Family Planning Associates Medical Group (FPAMG) abortuary in Mission Hills, CA. When my schedule permits, I am outside the clinic Tuesday and Saturday mornings proclaiming the gospel and pleading with men and women not to murder their unborn children.
I have participated, if even in small ways, in the production of 180 and Babies Are Murdered Here—two of the very best abortion-related (from the perspectives of life and biblical truth) films about the issue, today. I organized Living Waters’ large-scale university campus distribution of 180. I also presented the film at a couple of churches and at The Master’s College to a small group of students.
I assisted Beaverton Grace Bible Church in establishing their abortuary ministry. I’ve counseled leaders from several churches in the United States and Canada, as well as individual Christians in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Norway regarding abortuary ministry.
I do not support a philosophy of incrementalism for the abolition of abortion—meaning: I do not support candidates or organizations whose hope is to simply stem the tide of abortion, settling for a few less abortions each year. I believe abortion should be abolished, today—right now. I don’t believe in a negotiated truce with those who only want to murder some babies.
The Bible is clear. The Bible says, “Do not murder” (Exodus 20:13). The Bible does not say, “Try not to murder so many.
I denounce all forms of unlawful, physical violence in the fight to end abortion. I do not believe unlawful acts of violence are consistent with the Christian faith and worldview. I determine whether or not I support acts of civil disobedience in the abolition of abortion on a case-by-case basis, believing most situations can be handled without rebelling against governing authorities that are put in place by God (Romans 13:1-7).
I do not believe protest is ever more powerful than gospel preaching. Protesting might modify the believer’s or the unbeliever’s behavior, but only gospel preaching is used by God to change a man’s heart and save a man’s soul (Romans 1:16). Babies can and are certainly saved as a result of protests outside abortuaries. No one can deny that. So, I am not against such protests. But no one goes to heaven because they changed their mind about having or participating in an abortion.
I owe much of what I know about abortuary ministry to faithful men and women who have gone before me and remain on fields saturated with blood each day long after I move on to my next evangelistic endeavor. People like Patte Smith and John Barros are, as far as I’m concerned both mentors and heroes to me. They are humble, uncompromising, selfless servants of Christ. I am honored to call them friends.
While I see Patte Smith and John Barros elder-statesmen (thinking experientially, not chronologically), there are many of my abortion abolitionist contemporaries from whom I also learn much. People like: Pastor John and Kim Speed and the Christ is King Baptist Church team, Patty Nymeyer, Jaylene Romero, Pastor Chuck O’Neal and the Beaverton Grace Bible Church team, Pastor Geoff Kirkland and the Christ Fellowship Bible Church team, and too many other to list, here. I am encouraged on a daily basis by these precious saints as they share what they are learning in the field and what they are seeing the Lord do for His glory outside murder mills around the country.
So, why such a long preamble to this article? Well, I anticipate this article is going to receive a lot of feedback—maybe more negative than positive. Therefore, I thought it prudent to make it as clear as I can that I want abortion to be abolished, today…right now.
AHA’s Unethical Pre-Emptive Strike
Members of the Abolish Human Abortion (AHA) became aware that I was writing this article. Their response on the organization’s public Facebook page speaks volumes about the character of, at the very least, the person who authored the post, if not the organization.
“ATTENTION Everybody! We need your HELP!!!
“There is a jealous slanderer who seeks to spread misinformation about AHA and abolitionists everywhere by claiming that we are spreading some message that is contrary to the gospel or that we are spreading a message instead of the gospel.
“Could you please look over the four pages we’ve included in our recent pamphlet for high schoolers and let us know whether you believe that the Gospel we are handing out to tens of thousands of students (and hundreds of thousands of people if you count the visits to our websites) is contrary to the gospel preached by our Lord and His first disciples?
“[We will share each page of this pamphlet in the comments section of this post. Just click on the pics and scroll through them in order to read them and comment any feedback about our gospel presentation that you think we need to hear.]
“Please be like those noble-minded Bereans (Acts 17:11) and examine the scriptures and test what we say in accordance with them. Please also be wary of false testimony and those who desire to divide brothers against one another.
“We have not been contacted personally by this person, but we do know that there is a plan to stir up division against Christians who call other Christians to love their pre born neighbors in accordance with the biblical commands of our Lord. We are not sure what the motive is exactly but we do now [sic] that it is coming from a man who sees Abolitionists as competitors instead of compatriots.
“Please also pray for this brother and pray for those whom he seeks to harm.
“Abide in Christ,
“PS: Please LIKE and SHARE this message so that we can cut off this attempt at confusion and division before any serious damage is done and pray that this man decides not to embrace his jealousy and follow its course but rather turns from that and joins us in the work of loving our neighbors as ourselves. He may just be deceived himself and not know that he is attacking his brothers and sisters in the faith. We are prepared to forgive him regardless of whether he simply means us ill, or has been led astray by others who do.”
The logical fallacies are numerous and explicit—not the least of which are “poisoning the well” and the erecting and burning down of straw men. Far more disturbing than the author’s employment of logical fallacies is the fact the author blatantly lied in the post. I am not jealous of the Abolish Human Abortion organization or any of its members. I do not see AHA or any of its members or affiliate groups as competition. For what, exactly, would we be competing? The question is not rhetorical. I honestly don’t know the answer. And I have not slandered anyone. They’ve accused me of slander before I have even finished the opening thoughts in this article.
They are calling me to repentance for sins I have not committed. Or maybe they are calling me to repentance for sins they believe I’m going to commit in this article? Either way, at least up to this point, the sin is theirs and not mine. The author of the post, a representative of the AHA organization, conveniently state they are willing to forgive me, as they launch a public, erroneous attack against my character—as they do the very think of which they have accused me.
Why I Am Writing This Article
Today (03-26-14), I was made aware of a video on the Abolish Human Abortion YouTube page. The video is titled: “Open Air Abolitionist Street Preaching.” It is a video of Toby Harmon preaching to a very large crowd of people gathered for a Christian concert.
Toby Harmon describes himself on his Facebook page as the Director of Abolition Outreach, for the Abolish Human Abortion organization, in Norman, OK. He also describes himself as a Street Team Evangelist for the Abolitionist Society of Oklahoma. Additionally, Toby lists himself as a 2012 Biblical Studies graduate of Liberty University (Lynchburg, VA). Based on his Facebook page cover photo, Toby is married. He has a beautiful family, which includes three children. And he’s one of those bearded gospel men! I do not mention Toby’s beard as a pejorative. Not at all! I’m beginning to understand both the theology and philosophy behind this growing trend (I just noticed the pun) among Christian men. In fact, I’m working on my third beard as I write this.
To the best of my knowledge, Toby and I have never met in person. We might have engaged in some brief conversations on Facebook or Twitter, but of even that I am not certain. Suffice to say, I do not know Toby Harmon. I am only aware of him.
The AHA organization has a widening footprint and its influence is growing. There are a number of Abolitionist Societies around the country that owe their inception to the influence, encouragement, and equipping of AHA. The AHA brand has been effectively marketed to get the “abolish human abortion” message in the faces of people far and wide.
In February of this year, AHA launched Project Frontlines. This is a necessary project geared toward reaching the age group in which 25% of abortions take place—high school students. The 20-page booklet associated with Project Frontlines is visually stunning, packed with solid information regarding life in the womb and the scourge that is abortion and, most importantly, contains a solid gospel presentation.
There is no denying that the folks at AHA work tirelessly to bring about their namesake. And aspects of the ministry, such as Project Frontlines, make it clear that gospel proclamation is an important element of AHA’s philosophy of ministry.
AHA is like every other Christian organization. It’s not perfect. While the purpose of this article is not to chronicle all of AHA’s problems, it is important to note that it has been necessary for some to well-document the problems with the organization.
As I watched the short video of Toby Harmon preaching, which was filmed from the vantage point of the preacher, I heard a man who sounded like he believed every word he said. He spoke with passion and earnestness. He raised his voice like a herald, but he did not sound shrill or angry. He commanded the attention of at least some in the crowd, which was evidenced by the applause he received when he finished speaking. And, no, it was not a mocking applause from people thankful he was done.
Yes, there is a “but” coming.
While I commend Toby Harmon’s tone and passion, and while I do not question the motives for why he said what he said to the crowd, I cannot commend the video as a good example of “preaching.”
I’m confident that neither Toby Harmon, nor most (if not all) of the people who lead and/or associate with the abortion abolition movement, would ever suggest that the abortion abolition movement is the gospel. However, the implications of some abolitionist preaching, as exemplified in Toby’s video, is that the lines between abolition and the gospel can easily be blurred to the point that the gospel is overshadowed by abortion abolitionism.
The video begins with a text overlay that says, “An abolitionist street preaches to a crowd…of Christians.”
This is a mistake no open-air preacher should ever make. The open-air preacher should never assume he is preaching to a crowd of Christians. At best, he should survey and assess the people in front of him as a crowd that may include genuine followers of Christ. Granted, there are likely more Christians than atheists at a Christian concert. However, to assume the crowd is Christian, and then not preach the gospel, is to do a grave, albeit unintentional disservice to the unbelievers present.
To stand before a crowd in which there are likely unsaved people, and then preach a “to do” message without the gospel, is to run the very real risk of causing unsaved people to rush toward moralism and not toward repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ. Most unsaved “churched” people are already comfortable in a church-initiated or self-induced works-righteousness system of theology and practice. They sit in their unconverted state and listen to sermons filled with “to do” lists for a better, happier, purposeful, and more prosperous life. They are not called to repent and believe the gospel, but they are told to feed the hungry, house the homeless, support the destitute, and stand outside of abortion clinics to stop the murder of unborn children.
So, they decide to improve their morality on the drive home, after hearing the street preacher. But they never make it home. They die in a car accident or they are hit by a truck crossing the street. They die and stand before Jesus saying, “Lord, Lord! No! I tried to stop sinning! I started holding a sign outside the abortion clinic! Certainly that must count for something!” Or they live another 50 years with their heart growing harder and colder toward the gospel with each passing day—many of those days spent standing outside an abortion clinic fighting for the lives of unborn children.
Since Toby didn’t communicate the gospel to the throng of people waiting to enter the concert hall, what he did can’t righty be called open-air preaching. What he did, albeit well-intentioned I’m sure, was stump for his agenda—the agenda to abolish human abortion.
A Parable Poorly Presented
A mere 85 seconds into his open-air message, Toby tries to explain the parable of the “Good Samaritan” (see Luke 10:25-37). While I am sure Toby had no intention to mislead anyone, mislead the crowd he did. He used the parable to further his cause, while minimizing and almost maligning the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here is what Toby said:
“Jesus told a parable about the good Samaritan. There was a man who was oppressed and beaten. And the lawyer walked up and says—trying to justify himself, he says, ‘But who is my neighbor?’
“Jesus said, ‘Your neighbor is this man.’ And he shows a priest who was on his way to do God’s work. The Levite who was on his way to the temple to do his duties in the temple; to do what God had ordained him to do. They passed by on the other side of the road, and they ignored their neighbor. And Jesus condemned them for that.
“And if they would have stopped and they would have said, ‘Hey, buddy, let me tell you about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus,’ or if they would have thrown him a $20 bill, that wouldn’t have been enough.
“Jesus commends the Samaritan for actually loving this man physically. He takes his time. He takes his energy. He goes out of his way. He leaves his comfort zone. He gets off his animal and puts the wounded man on his animal. And he loves this man, physically. He doesn’t stop and offer a prayer. He doesn’t stop and tell him about the death, burial, and resurrection. He cares for his physical needs.
“So I ask you. Are you going to love your unborn neighbor, who is killed 3,500 times a day? One child every two second is destroyed down the street from your church.
To whom in the religious community does Toby’s message appeal the most? Anyone who prefers a social gospel over the gospel of Jesus Christ: Oprah Winfrey, Rob Bell, Brian Maclaren, Tony Campolo, the pope, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, World Vision, many evangelical mission organizations, Christians committed to “friendship evangelism,” and most of the pro-life movement—people and groups who have denied the gospel or see it as being of secondary importance.
And to whom would this kind of message not appeal? Jesus Christ. And why wouldn’t it appeal to the Lord? Jesus never preached a message that put the felt or actual physical needs of a person over the person’s need for salvation. Yes, Jesus did talk about meeting the physical needs of others, and He most certainly personally addressed the physical needs of many through miraculous healings and the provision of food, but not at the expense or the minimization of the gospel. After all, Jesus came to seek and save the lost.
Jesus would also not approve of Toby’s message because it is an egregious mishandling of His Word.
Had Toby simply used the parable analogously for loving the unborn and stopped there, that would have been fine. Pastor John Piper does so in his encouraging 2006 message, “Love Your Unborn Neighbor.” Had Toby simply used the parable to express that our love for all people, including the unborn, should extend beyond words to deeds that too would have been fine. The brilliant 19th century theologian, J.C. Ryle, said so beautifully in his commentary on this parable.
“Now, if these words mean anything, a Christian ought to be ready to show kindness and brotherly love to everyone that is in need. Our kindness must not merely extend to our families, and friends, and relations. We must love all men, and be kind to all, whenever occasion requires. We must beware of an excessive strictness in scrutinizing the past lives of those who need our aid. Are they in real trouble? Are they in real distress? Do they really need help? Then, according to the teaching of this parable, we ought to be ready to assist them.
“We should regard the whole world as our parish, and the whole race of mankind as our neighbors. We should seek to be the friend of every one who is oppressed, or neglected, or afflicted, or sick, or in prison, or poor, or an orphan, or a heathen, or a slave, or an idiot, or starving, or dying. We should exhibit such world-wide friendship, no doubt, wisely, discreetly, and with good sense, but of such friendship we never need be ashamed. The ungodly may sneer at it as extravagance and fanaticism. But we need not mind that. To be friendly to all men in this way, is to show something of the mind that was in Christ.”
But Toby didn’t stop there. He went beyond the Lord’s intended meaning of the parable to openly proclaim, “The gospel is not enough.”
Let me be clear. I am not accusing Toby Harmon of actually thinking and believing the gospel is not enough. It may be true. It may not be true. Again, I do not know the man. But what Toby said to the large crowd of Christians and unsaved people expressed that sentiment. The parable of the “Good Samaritan” does not pit loving one’s neighbor against the gospel. Yet that’s what Toby did.
“And if they would have stopped and they would have said, ‘Hey, buddy, let me tell you about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus,’ or if they would have thrown him a $20 bill, that wouldn’t have been enough.”
Like the rich, young ruler (Luke 18:18-30), a lawyer approached Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Luke 10:25). Unlike the young ruler, this lawyer asked with the ulterior motive of putting Jesus to the test. The lawyer’s questioning of Jesus was an attempt to justify himself before God and man. He was a lawyer who knew the law. He was a lawyer who believed he was able to keep the law and merit God’s favor.
Jesus, knowing the lawyer’s heart, just as He knows the heart of every man, presents a parable that pitted the self-righteousness of the Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers against their hatred for people they considered half-breed, idolatrous dogs—the Samaritans. Through the parable, Jesus showed the lawyer that his self-righteous efforts to keep the law were worthless and marred by his sinful mercilessness toward those the lawyer deemed less worthy than he (Luke 10:37).
But again, even if Toby had rightly divided the Word of God, had properly interpreted and applied the parable without marginalizing the gospel in the process, without the actual proclamation of the gospel to the lost in the crowd, it would have still been a hollow message calling people to be more moral.
As a side, but I believe very important note: this is why it is so very important that the man who open-air preaches must have the ability to teach. Any man who steps atop a box to preach in the open-air should treat that box like a pulpit. A man cannot preach without teaching. And what Toby taught the crowd, whether or not he intended to do so, was that it is more important to love your neighbor through saving unborn children than it is to proclaim the gospel to the lost.
Toby Harmon moves from teaching moralism, to misinterpreting a parable, to expressing a confused ecclesiology. Toby expresses a misunderstanding of the Church.
In the video, Toby says:
“Church is not going to a Christian concert, or going within the four walls and meeting with other people who agree with you. Church is about loving your neighbor, hitting the streets with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Church is keeping the two greatest commandments.
“The Bible tells us that the only religion God the Father accepts is this, which is pure and undefiled religion, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and keep one’s self unstained from the world. We have not loved our unborn neighbor. I know because I’m the only one that’s standing outside an abortion clinic in Norman, Oklahoma. How come thousands of people are here, but nobody’s there? That is not what Christianity looks like.
“We are calling Christians to wake up from their apathetic stupor. We’re calling them to wake up from their comfort zone, to get off their hands and to leave the pews, and take to the streets with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“There’s nothing wrong with a Christian concert. I love Christian concerts; nothing wrong with that at all. But there is something wrong when you can get thousands to come to that, but you can get nobody to love their unborn neighbor.”
Where in the Word of God is Toby’s assertion that the church is not “going within the four walls and meeting with people who agree with you?” Nowhere.
Granted, while there are church buildings, “the church” is not a building (2 Corinthians 5:1-5). However, the church is a “body.” The church is a living, breathing, structured body. And the church most certainly meets together in agreement, to have all things in common, to sit under the elders’ teaching, to observe the sacraments, to pray, and to fellowship with and serve one another.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
The universal Church, the Body of Christ, is both visible and invisible. Pastor Brian Schwertley, of Covenanted Reformed Presbyterian Church (Iola, WI), has written a very informative article regarding the visible and invisible aspects of the Church. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“Perhaps the most succinct and the best statement of the church as invisible and visible is found in the Westminster Standards. Chapter 25, ‘Of the Church,’ states: ‘The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the Head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation’ (sections 1, 2).
“Reformed theologians emphasize that this distinction does not mean that God has two separate churches. Indeed, they assert that Jehovah has founded one church, that Jesus has only one bride, people, church, or body. Our Lord does not have two churches but only one. The terms ‘invisible’ and ‘visible’ are used to describe two distinct aspects of the one church; or, to put it another way, the church is considered from two different perspectives. It is not that there are two separate air tight categories with one group on heaven and another on earth. On the contrary, there is a great overlap between both categories. All genuine believers are members of the invisible church whether they are living in heaven or on earth, whether they are alive or dead (i.e., have died physically). Not all professing Christians, however, who are members of the visible church, are members of the invisible church. Some people who make a profession of faith and are baptized are hypocrites. Such people do not truly believe in Christ (thus are never truly united to Him by faith) and are not part of the invisible church. This reality will receive further elucidation below.
“The term invisible as defined by the Reformed symbols and theologians does not mean that some Christians are invisible like ghosts floating around in the spirit realm. It refers to the fact that the invisible church cannot be fully discovered, distinguished or discerned by the eyes of men, by empirical means. There are a number of reasons why this statement cannot be denied. (a) No one has the ability to look into the human heart and see if a person is truly united to Christ and regenerated by the Holy Spirit. That reality is the reason that, historically, Presbyterian churches have admitted members upon a credible profession of faith. (b) The inward, effectual calling of the Spirit and the application of redemption to the human soul are all spiritual, unseen events. Further, the Holy Spirit gives genuine saving faith only to the elect. The counterfeit faith of unregenerate professors of religion often is indiscernible to mere mortals. We can only perceive outward signs, statements and actions. No person has the ability to determine or observe the whole body of God’s elect irrespective of time (i.e., throughout human history prior to the last judgment) or place (i.e., there are many real believers in the world of which we are not aware). Williamson writes: ‘It is invisible to us because it has extension in both time and space. It reaches from one end of the earth to the other, and from the beginning to the end of the age. But it is invisible only to us. It is not invisible to God. He who infallibly discerns the hearts of men, knows them that are his. The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal: ‘the Lord knoweth them that are his’ (II Tim. 2:19). Jesus prayed for the invisible church—the elect present and not yet born in John 17. ‘Christ is speaking of a special company which had been given to Him. The reference, then, is to the sovereign election of God, whereby He chose a definite number to be His “peculiar people”—His in a peculiar or special way. These are eternally His: “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4); and by the immutability of His purpose of grace (Rom. 11:29), they are always His.’
“The visible church is designated ‘visible’ because it is discernable by the senses, by empirical means. It consists of everyone who professes the true religion along with their children. Because men do not have the ability to see into the minds of men and read the human heart, anyone who professes Jesus Christ in credible manner (i.e., he has a knowledge of the gospel, he is orthodox in doctrine, he professes faith in Christ and repentance toward God, he is not as far as anyone is aware committing habitual or scandalous sins) is allowed to join the church along with his children. In the visible church there are genuine believers who are truly united to Christ and false professors or hypocrites who only taste of heavenly gifts but do not really partake of the Savior. Their relationship to Him is only outward. ‘On this account the church is compared to a floor, in which there is not only wheat but also chaff (Matt. iii. 12); to a field, where tares as well as good seed are sown (Matt. xiii. 24, 25); to a net, which gathers bad fish together with the good (ver. 47); to a great house, in which are vessels of every kind some to honour and some to dishonor,—2 Tim. ii. 20.’  People who are members of the visible church yet who never truly believe in Christ receive the outward privileges of membership (fellowship, the word, the sacraments and the guidance of church government), but are never regenerated, saved, forgiven, united to Christ and spiritually sanctified. The blood of Jesus never washes away their sins.
“The visible church is set apart from the world by profession as well as its external government, discipline, and ordinances (e.g., the preached word and the sacraments). The members of the visible church have obeyed the outward call of the gospel, professing Christ, submitting to baptism and placing themselves under the preaching and authority of the local church. All such persons who obey the outward call of the gospel place themselves in covenant with God. They have separated themselves from the world and at least outwardly enjoy the privileges of being members of the visible church (e.g., the teaching of the word, godly guidance, the fellowship of the saints, etc.). While in a certain sense those who outwardly profess the truth participate in an external covenant with real responsibilities and privileges, it does not mean and theologically cannot mean that they truly participate in the saving merits of Christ. Such persons (for a time) are in the covenant but are never genuinely of the covenant. They participate in the covenant externally as professors of the true religion, but they never participate in the covenant of grace which flows from the eternal covenant of redemption…
“It needs to be recognized that although God deals with the visible church as one church, as one people of God, the external administration of the church with the preaching of the word, the ordinances and discipline in the present and in the long run (e.g., after the final judgment, in the eternal state) only truly benefit the invisible church or the elect. While outward professors receive temporary benefits resulting from intellectual insights from the word, pressure to conform to God’s law, the outward influence from a society of family-oriented, ethical people, etc., they receive greater damnation on the Day of Judgment for spurning the great light to which they were exposed under continual gospel preaching.”
“Church is about loving your neighbor, hitting the streets with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Church is keeping the two greatest commandments.”
Toby, like so many Christians today, especially those who have taken up a nomadic existence, is confusing what the Church does, with who and what the Church is. The open-air subculture is rife with nomads. Some see their evangelism team as their church. Some see the Internet and the quasi-relationships formed there as their church. Some have so convinced themselves there are no “sound churches” (code for: “I can’t find a church that agrees with me 100%) that they have established unbiblical enclaves in their homes or other buildings, built upon a common cause. The cause might be open-air preaching, or the cause might be abolishing human abortion. In the end, many so-called churches are built upon the unbiblical philosophy of “we (or I) can do it better.”
Church is not about loving your neighbor. Church is not about hitting the streets with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Church is not keeping the two greatest commandments. Loving your neighbor, proclaiming the gospel, and obeying Christ are fruits of salvation. They are not the bricks and mortar of the Church. Jesus Christ is the bricks and mortar! Jesus Christ is the Chief Cornerstone!
Sadly, Toby Harmon and other leaders of AHA are part of such a nomadic enclave, which calls itself Door of Hope Church. The “What to Expect” page on the church’s website will show you, in their own words, their flawed ecclesiology. And it is this flawed ecclesiology that informs Toby’s preaching, as evidenced by what he said about the Church in the video.
The folks at Door of Hope Church will be quick to respond, insisting the church is biblically structured, with accusations of Pharisaism for good measure. They’ve done this before. I simply disagree. And I proffer the church’s “What to Expect” webpage and Toby’s open-air sermon at the Christian concert to support my point of view.
Toby Harmon closes his impassioned open-air plea with these words:
“So, I want you all to think about that. I don’t tell you this out of hatred, but because I love you as my brothers and sisters, and I want you to wake up. I want you to love what Jesus loves. I want you to act as Jesus acted. So, I plead with you to wake up, and to begin loving your unborn neighbor as yourself.”
When Toby finished speaking, several people closest to him in the crowd began to clap and shout words of affirmation.
Why did people applaud?
The first and honest answer to the question is, I don’t know. I don’t know why the person in the dark hoodie clapped. I don’t know why the person in the blue jacket clapped. I don’t know why the young lady with long blonde hair clapped.
They might have clapped for the following reasons:
- Maybe people were happy that Toby had finished so they wouldn’t have to listen to him anymore. To suggest such a thing is not sarcasm on my part. It has been my experience, after preaching the gospel to a static line or group of people that people have clapped because the ordeal for them was finally over.
- Maybe people appreciated Toby’s courage to stand up in front of people and speak.
- Maybe people were involved in the pro-life movement, so they appreciated a brief message on a related topic.
- Maybe people, like so many Christians, have never lifted a finger, a voice, or a signed check to do anything about the slaughter of the unborn. Maybe Toby’s message brought about the desire conviction Toby wanted to see and hear.
- Maybe every person who applauded did so for the right reasons.
- Maybe people heard a message that said the gospel is not enough and Christians must do more.
- Maybe people, in their minds, had their unbiblical belief that they are the gospel affirmed.
- Maybe people were relieved to hear they’re off the hook for doing evangelism.
- Maybe people heard loving your neighbor does not include evangelism and that sharing the gospel without meeting someone’s physical needs is somehow less loving than meeting people’s physical needs.
The people who applauded Toby’s message may have done so for all of the right reasons, or for all of the wrong reasons. Only the people who applauded know for sure, but it is worth considering just the same.
Sadly, Rob Bell, an apostate, could have applauded Toby’s message. Brian Mclaren, an apostate, could have applauded Toby’s message. Tony Campolo, an apostate, could have applauded Toby’s message.
Sadly, every Roman Catholic who has stood outside abortion clinics far longer the Toby and I have, or far longer than AHA and BAMH have, could have applauded Toby’s message. Every Mormon who stands outside an abortion clinic could have applauded Toby’s message.
All of the before-mentioned unsaved individuals and groups could have applauded Toby’s message outside the Christian concert because Jesus Christ was not exalted. The gospel was not preached. Toby offered a Jesus with whom any unsaved person would be comfortable—a social gospel and moral construct that any unsaved, pro-life person could heartily endorse.
Do I think for a moment this was what Toby Harmon intended as he stood up to speak? Absolutely not. But any man who presumes to teach, through the vehicle of open-air preaching must clearly understand the weight, the gravity of what he is about to do. He is about to stand as a representative of Jesus Christ, a herald of Almighty God. He is about to stand and teach people. And he must do so fully aware that a stricter judgment awaits him for every word that comes out of his mouth (James 3:1).
Every man makes mistakes while open-air preaching. In the last nine years, I’ve made too many to enumerate. But the mistakes Toby made in his open-air message go beyond the fallibility of one man being willing to stand up and do something, say something. I believe the mistakes Toby made outside that Christian concert speak to a deeper problem—not only for Toby, but for the entire abortion abolition subculture.
If the well-meaning, Christ-loving, gospel-believing people who comprise the abortion abolition subculture are not careful, if their message continues to evolve into what I heard during Toby’s open-air message, for some abortion abolition will become the gospel. For some, abortion abolition will become the Pharisaical standard by which they judge the authenticity of the faith of other Christians. Tragically, this is nothing new. It’s been happening in biblical evangelism circles for years.
As I’ve already stated with clarity, AHA communicates a biblical gospel to those they believe are lost, through their written materials. However, as evidenced by Toby Harmon’s Christian concert open-air, the entire abortion abolition movement must be very cautious not to allow preaching the cause over shadow preaching Christ.
The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Ending abortion is not. And participating in the abolition of abortion does not have to be a fruit in every Christian’s life. Just as distributing gospel tracts is not a required fruit of salvation. Certainly, if a person is in favor of abortion, or if a person opposes evangelism, then there is no reason to believe they are a Christian. But there are many different ways that Christians can obediently and faithful serve the Lord. After all, the Body of Christ is made up of hands, feet, eyes, and ears, isn’t she? Is there not room in and on a healthy body for abolitionists, evangelists, counselors, intercessors, pastors, elders, deacons, and others? And can each part of the body, in certain ways and at certain times, help other parts of the body to fulfill its function? Of course.
A church built upon a cause, philosophy, movement, or even a specific social demographic is unhealthy.
- A church for homeschoolers is unhealthy.
- A church for cowboys is unhealthy.
- A church for one generation or another is unhealthy.
- A church for first responders is unhealthy.
- A church for military personnel is unhealthy.
- A church for the rich or for the poor is unhealthy.
- A church for open-air preachers is unhealthy.
- A church for abortion abolitionists is unhealthy.
Likewise, a cause or philosophy of ministry, or movement built upon anything but Jesus Christ and the furtherance of His gospel is unhealthy. It is not only unhealthy. It is destined to fail.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
The cause, regardless of what it is, must never come before Christ—not in a church; not in a ministry; not in a movement, not in an open-air message; not in anything.
Regarding Toby Harmon
I’ve written this article with no anger, malice, resentment, or jealously toward Toby Harmon. Again, I have never met him. As I wrote this article, I’ve done so always giving him the benefit of the doubt, in my heart and mind. I do not question his salvation. I do not question his love for the Lord. I do not question his love for the lost. And I do not question the genuineness of his commitment to abolishing abortion. I believe such a commitment is noble, praiseworthy, and biblical and I wish more Christians had it.
I’ve written this article for Toby as much as I’ve written it about his open-air preaching video. My hope is that this article, written by an older brother, will teach and equip him to be a better open-air preacher. My hope and prayer is that he will watch, and watch again, his own video while comparing it to what I’ve written here. I hope he will receive what I’ve written with a humble and teachable spirit. I hope that Toby, everyone associated with the AHA organization, and everyone involved in the fight to abolish abortion will take heed to the sober warning this article contains—a warning to never let a cause, any cause, overshadow the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.
Tony has preached in many churches across the United States and in Canada.He has served as the keynote speaker at several different conferences. Tony is serving the Lord as an itinerant preacher and open-air evangelist.
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