The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture

  • Scott Klusendorf
  • May 7, 2010
  • Series: Volume 13 - 2010

Scott Klusendorf. The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009. 254 pages. $15.99. ISBN: 978-1-433-50320-7.

Author of The Case for Life, Scott Klusendorf made his mark in the pro-life community through his roles as the Director of Education for the Center for Bioethical Reform (1991–1997), the Director of Bioethics for Stand to Reason (1997–2004), and most recently, as the founder and president of the Life Training Institute. Klusendorf regularly lectures and debates at numerous colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada and he has taught bio-ethics at the university level. With such notable mentors as Gregg Cunningham (Center for Bioethical Reform), Gregory Koukl (Stand to Reason), and Francis Beckwith (Professor of Law at Baylor University), I can’t imagine an individual more qualified to write a book on pro-life apologetics. But, did we really need another book on this topic? Klusendorf answers this question himself.

I do not pretend to have written an exhaustive defense of the pro-life view. That’s been done already by selected authors I cite throughout the text. My purpose is different. This book will take those sophisticated pro-life defenses and put them in a form that hopefully equips and inspires lay Christians (with or without academic sophistication) to engage the debate with friends, coworkers, and fellow-believers (p. 15).

There are two things that make this work unique. First, it is written with both the layperson and the academic in mind. Whether you are new to this subject matter or you have been involved in this debate for quite some time, there is an abundance of material here upon which to sharpen your sword. Second, this book functions something like a pro-life and Christian apologetic manual. Not only does the author demonstrate how to construct a polemic against the pro-choice position, he also uses this defense as a foundation for building a logical case for the truth of Christianity.

My own thesis is that a biblically informed pro-life view explains human equality, human rights, and moral obligations better than its secular rivals and that rank-and-file pro-life Christians can make an immediate impact provided they’re equipped to engage the culture with a robust but graciously communicated case for life (p. 14).

By studying this point-by-point argument, readers should gain all the knowledge necessary to confidently and logically defend a Case for Life. For the remainder of this review I will highlight some of the book’s lessons and tactics.

Clarify the Debate: The first point Klusendorf demonstrates is how to clarify the debate. With all the common justifications for abortion — e.g., privacy, autonomy, reproductive freedom, socio-economic conditions, etc. — the issue can seem very daunting. However, the author points out, nearly every popular justification is irrelevant and serves only to distract us from the one foundational question regarding the debate over abortion: What is the unborn?

If the unborn is a human being, then she cannot be killed without proper justification. If, however, she is not a human being then, in reality, no justification is needed for elective abortion whatsoever. Ethically speaking, abortion wouldn’t be a moral issue. To demonstrate how we can clarify this in discussion, Klusendorf suggests using a tactic he calls “trotting out the toddler.” Here is it how it might look:

Emily: Pam, you say that privacy is the issue. Pretend that I have a two-year-old in front of me…May I kill him as long as I do it in the privacy of the bedroom?

Pam: That’s silly—of course not!

Emily: Why not?

Pam: Because he’s a human being.

Emily: Ah. If the unborn are human, like the toddler, we shouldn’t kill the unborn in the name of privacy any more than we’d kill a toddler for that reason….

Pam: But many poor women cannot afford to raise another child.

Emily: When human beings get expensive, may we kill them? Getting back to my toddler example, suppose a large family collectively decides to quietly dispose of it three youngest children to help ease the family budget. Would this be okay?

Pam: Well, no, but aborting a fetus is not the same as killing children.

Emily: So once again the issue is, what is the unborn? Is the fetus the same as a human being? We can’t escape that question, can we? (pp. 25–26)

Make Your Case: Next, the author demonstrates how to scientifically and philosophically argue that the unborn is a human being.

Scientifically, the “Law of Bio Genesis” states that species only reproduce after their own kind. As such, frogs beget frogs, dogs beget dogs, and humans only beget humans. A frog may have been a tadpole and an oak tree might have once been an acorn but tadpoles are frogs and acorns are oaks. Every human being was once a zygote, a fetus, and a baby. If the unborn isn’t a human being, then what is it?

Philosophically, there are only four differences between the embryo you once were and the individual you are today — size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependence (remember the acronym SLED) — but, none of these differences bears any weight on the status of the unborn. To demonstrate this fact, Klusendorf extends these assumptions to their logical conclusion.

Size: Yes, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more human than smaller ones?...

Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than you and I. But again, why is this relevant? Four-year-old girls are less developed than fourteen-year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings?...

Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human?...

Degree of dependency: If viability makes us valuable human beings, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable, and we may kill them. (p. 28)

Summation: For the remainder of this work, Klusendorf addresses the topic of human rights and naturalism’s failure to account for such rights. He then proceeds to make a case for theism built upon the existence of natural rights before expanding his apologetic to arguing for the truth of Christianity (via versions of the design argument, the mind argument, the moral argument, the historical argument, and the reliability of Scripture). In this work Klusendorf also deals with some of the more complex pro-choice objections, such as the issue of rape, Judith Thompson’s famous violinist analogy, and whether or not the Bible is truly silent on the issue of abortion. The author also deals with some of the issues related to the “pastoral side” of abortion, such as post-abortive counseling and methods for training others in the art of pro-life apologetics. (I’ve probably only highlighted half of the material covered by this impressively thorough book!)

Evaluation: For the majority of his life, distinguished pro-life speaker and debater Scott Klusendorf has fully dedicated himself to this one key moral issue. He has passionately studied and examined every argument and counter argument related to the abortion debate with the goal of hopefully one day seeing this abhorrent practice completely eradicated. This work is his extraordinary attempt to share what he has learned and equip other Christians to join in his worthy plight. If every Christian read this book and put its lessons into practice, I believe such a goal could be accomplished in our lifetime.

Jason Graham
Denver Seminary

May 2010