Blatant falsehoods. Verifiable inaccuracies marketed as scientific facts. A book set apart by its dearth of truth. This is where we left off in my previous blog post about the truth—or, rather, the lack thereof—that was found in Dr. Parker’s so called “moral argument for choice”. In this blog post, I want to explore a different subject: faith.
Now, normally, I would avoid discussing personal attributes and characteristics of an individual that I am critiquing, simply because I never want to make the mistake of launching an ad hominem attack. Ad hominem attacks are a form of logical fallacy where someone attempts to critique an individual’s position by discrediting the individual, rather than responding to the individual’s argument. Ad hominem attacks are convenient ways to avoid having to contend with the core content of an individual’s claim, meaning that, if you are attempting to launch an intellectually honest critique—as I am seeking to do here—they should be avoided at all costs.
In this situation, however, Dr. Parker has used his individual identity—namely, his self-identification as a Christian—to bolster his argument. In fact, it is on precisely and exclusively this claim to faith that Dr. Parker premises his entire “moral argument for choice”. Consider part of the summary of his book:
In Life’s Work, an abortion provider and Christian reproductive justice advocate draws from his personal journey and professional scientific training as a doctor to reveal how he came to believe, unequivocally, that helping women in need, without judgment, is precisely the Christian thing to do.
Many physicians can launch a defense of abortion, and many reproductive justice advocates can spout rhetoric about bodily autonomy and choice. But Dr. Parker is not attempting to reproduce the standard pro-abortion rhetoric. Rather, he is trying to make a “moral argument for choice” that leads to the conclusion that being an abortionist “is precisely the Christian thing to do.” In order to do this, Dr. Parker must establish that he is, in fact, a Christian. Perhaps un-intuitively, it is therefore his theoretical Christian faith, rather than his professional scientific training, that functions as the foundation for his entire argument. And so, to respond in kind, it is Dr. Parker’s theoretical Christian faith that I will examine and critique. Because the simple truth of the matter is that, believe what he may, the obscure set of beliefs that Dr. Parker holds lead nowhere close to anything remotely akin to orthodox Christian beliefs.
Right off the bat, Dr. Parker demonstrates a stark sense of Biblical illiteracy for someone who relies so heavily on his faith in making his argument. Before we even reach Chapter 1, Dr. Parker makes the following unbiblical statement in the Prologue to his book:
The Jesus I love has a nonconformist understanding of his faith. He realizes that the petty rules and laws laid down by the fathers and authorities are meaningless, and that to believe in a loving God is to refuse to stand in judgment of any fellow mortal.
Now, I can’t say that I know much about this Jesus that Dr. Parker loves, because the Jesus of the Bible believes nothing of the sort. First of all, in Matthew 5:17, Jesus says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” So Dr. Parker flagrantly contradicts the Biblical text by suggesting that this same Jesus “realizes that the petty rules and laws laid down by the fathers and authorities are meaningless […].”
Secondly, Dr. Parker’s later claim about refusing to stand in judgment of a fellow mortal seems, at first glance, to reflect what Jesus says when he exhorts us to not judge others. However, Dr. Parker’s belief is not simply that humans should not judge humans. As his book continues, it becomes increasingly apparent that Dr. Parker’s belief is that “God is love, and God does not judge.” So again, Dr. Parker is not advocating for a Christian worldview that takes the ability to judge out of human hands and places it firmly in the hands of the Eternal, Righteous Judge. Rather, he is advocating for a theology that says God’s loving nature results in God refusing to judge, meaning that we as Christians should similarly refuse to judge those around us. Case in point, Dr. Parker’s so-called “Christian” justification for his decision to perform abortions:
Once I understood that the faithful approach to a woman in need is to help her and not to judge her or to impose upon her any restriction, penalty, or shame, I had to change my life.
That, dear reader, is not a biblically sound position. And I can prove that using one of the clearest examples of compassion and grace in the Bible: Jesus’ response to the woman caught in adultery.
Picture this: the leaders and teachers of the law drag an adulterous woman before Jesus, pointing out that the Mosaic Law required such women to be stoned to death. They challenge Jesus, asking him what they should do. After casually writing on the ground with his finger for a while, Jesus says: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Feeling convicted and smarting from Jesus’ words, the crowd of religious leaders and bystanders disperses, leaving only Jesus and the adulterous woman remaining. Jesus, noticing that the crowds have left, asks the woman: “Has no one condemned you?” She responds: “No one, sir.” And then Jesus says: “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
In this passage of scripture, Jesus explicitly states that he does not condemn the woman who is caught in adultery, and he certainly proves that any condemnation from the religious leaders and community members is not justified. However, Jesus also tells the woman to go and leave her “life of sin”, meaning that he judges the woman’s actions as sinful, as wrong, as needing to be avoided. Not only does Jesus evaluate—or, put another way, judge—the morality of the woman’s actions, but he also issues a sentence, a course of action: sin no more.
Jesus’ approach here is a brilliant one, because he illustrates that it is possible to evaluate the rightness or wrongness of someone’s actions without condemning someone’s identity. It is possible to look at someone’s behaviour, identify it as sinful (i.e, as “missing the mark”), and still compassionately and lovingly call them to change, to live by a higher standard.
Contrary to Dr. Parker’s worldview, therefore, love is not incommensurate with judgment. God’s loving nature does not vitiate God’s ability to judge someone’s character or behaviour. And similarly, our call as Christians to love our neighbour as ourselves does not require us to suspend all judgment, turn a blind eye to the presence of immoral activities, and remain silent in the face of injustice for fear of accidentally imposing a restriction or penalty. The loving response to a woman in a crisis pregnancy does not require Christians “not to judge her or to impose upon her any restriction”, to borrow Dr. Parker’s words. Rather, the loving response to a woman in a crisis pregnancy can be the response that Jesus provides the woman caught in adultery: judging the behaviour and encouraging a better course of action, all without condemnation. This is what allows one to judge the act of abortion as immoral and encourage women in crisis pregnancies not to have abortions, all without condemning the women themselves or condemning those women who have already had abortions.
Of course, this is not to say that we as Christians must always feel the need to continuously remind people of the moral quality of their actions. There are certainly times when that course of action will do more harm than good. My point, however, is simply that love and judgment are not incompatible.
Now, you might have noticed Dr. Parker’s not-so-subtle jab at “the fathers and authorities” who have “laid down” the “petty rules and laws”. Unfortunately, Dr. Parker’s distinctly feminist worldview features in his interpretation of the Bible, causing him to write the following:
And though through Mike Moore […] I became enraptured with the idea of God’s radical, egalitarian love, I was not yet in possession of the intellectual tools to unpack or query the fundamental sexism embedded in the ancient Scripture, or to discover for myself a more nuanced, or feminist, vision of justice. Now I see the Bible as it was written: the inspired word of God, but also a historical document preserving the ancient hegemony of men; starting with Eve, women are always thrown under the bus when it suits the men in power to do so.
Dr. Parker goes on to extend his feminist critique to the church, writing that “[t]he churches [he] was raised in were patriarchal” because “[t]he father was the head of the family, just as Jesus was the head of the church.” While Dr. Parker’s comments are fair insofar as it is absolutely possible for sinful humans—whether Christian or otherwise—to be sexist and patriarchal at times, Dr. Parker seems to make the mistake of conflating the presence of problematic practices in the church and in the Bible as the endorsement of those behaviours as morally upright Christian living. To remedy this perceived wrong, it seems that Dr. Parker has decided to cherry-pick which Christian principles he likes and which he does not.
The end result, therefore, is that Dr. Parker has abandoned true Christianity by dismissing a litany of key Christian beliefs that are absolutely crucial to a genuine Christian worldview. On page 195 of his book, Dr. Parker casually comments: “I don’t believe in moral absolutes”—a statement that has no synthesis with the Bible. A few pages later, he similarly states: “I don’t think of the world in terms of good and evil”—again, a rejection of the fundamental Biblical narrative. In the span of a mere seven pages, Dr. Parker dismisses two key precepts of an authentic Christian worldview. I would argue that these two statements are so incompatible with true Christianity that, on the basis of these two statements alone, one can reasonably conclude that Dr. Parker is not walking in step with any Biblically defensible understanding of Christianity at all.
And then we reach the final chapter in Dr. Parker’s book, and what a chapter it is. While by this point in the book it was clear to me that Dr. Parker certainly does not adhere to a true Christian worldview, it became immediately apparent to me that Dr. Parker was strategic. For it is not until the last chapter of his book that Dr. Parker comes clean about just how far he has departed from a truly Biblical worldview, and I am quite confident that, had he been honest and upfront about the truth of his spiritual beliefs, his entire Christian “moral argument for choice” would have been undermined. How shrewd, therefore, that the most damning evidence against Dr. Parker’s self-proclaimed Christian faith is found only at the end of his book, long after he would have in theory persuaded some readers to accept his flawed interpretation of the Bible and his overly simplistic theology about judging others as justification for his problematic and supposedly “Christian” justification of abortion.
In the final chapter of his book, Dr. Parker writes about various spiritual experiences he has had, which have led him to develop the following problematic—and profoundly unbiblical—beliefs:
If God is human and humans are of God, then God has to love everything about us, and we have to love all that belongs to God.
…the more I read, the more I understood that I needed a God of transcendence and justice more than I needed one that enshrined and preserved the Bible’s antique, patriarchal worldview.
More: my God is a radical God who requires us to love one another because of our sinfulness and to be generous with one another even when our impulses want to lead us back to the safety of those childish, narrow beliefs that make us afraid to act.
… as circumstance forced me out of my complacency, professionally, so did it force me to articulate a new understanding of God, which would prompt, embrace, and support my professional choice. This understanding I came to on my own, with my books, and my tapes, and the voices of my loving mentors and personal saints in my head. And I reassert it here, in the hope that other Christians, and other people of faith, might find in my evolution some comfort—and perhaps some inspiration to see abortion as part God.
If God is wholly Other, then the miracle of life is not some ordinary meeting of sperm and ovum—a morally neutral, purely biological event—but the agency and the responsibility that come with being able to participate with God in a creative process. God is not human. God is not on the planet. God does not have babies, or make babies. People do. […] God has no hands but your hands. God has no ability but your ability. That is what the Bible means when it says that you are God’s child.
The God part is in your agency. The trust—the divine trust—is that you have an opportunity to participate in the population of the planet. And you have an opportunity not to participate. […] The part of you that’s like God is the part that makes a choice. That says, I choose to. Or, I choose not to. That’s what’s sacred. That’s the part of you that’s like God to me.
The procedure room in an abortion clinic is as sacred as any other space to me, because that’s where I am privileged to honor your choice. In this moment, where you need something that I am trained to give you, God is meeting both of us where we are.
At that, dear reader, is the truth of what Dr. Parker believes. It may be interesting. It may be novel. It may be edgy and it may be intriguing and it may resonate with you. But whatever value there is to be derived from Dr. Parker’s positions, it cannot be asserted as representative of Biblical Christianity. And so, while Dr. Parker can perhaps speak on behalf of abortion providers and offer insight into how abortionists approach the abortion debate, he cannot claim to be a “Christian reproductive justice advocate” and he cannot claim that his work “is precisely the Christian thing to do.” I do not doubt that Dr. Parker is a man of deep faith. But I would argue that, according to any reasonable definition and understanding of the Christian worldview, Dr. Parker does not offer a defensible Biblical or Christian “moral argument for choice.”
And with that, I draw my second blog post to a close. Having dealt with the issues of truth and faith in Dr. Parker’s book, I will move on to the last part of my tripartite critique: an analysis of the substantive arguments and reasoning that makes up Dr. Parker’s “moral argument for choice”.
 Parker, W. J. (2017). Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice. New York: 37 Ink/Atria [Life’s Work].
 Life’s Work at pg. 16.
 Matthew 5:17, NIV [emphasis added].
 Life’s Work at pg. 55.
 Life’s Work at pg. 37.
 John 8:11, NIV.
 Life’s Work at pg. 23 [emphasis added].
 Life’s Work at pg. 23.
 Life’s Work at pg. 195.
 Life’s Work at pg. 202.
 Life’s Work at pg. 204.
 Life’s Work at pg. 207.
 Life’s Work at pg. 207.
 Life’s Work at pg. 210.
 Life’s Work at pg. 212.
 Life’s Work at pg. 212.