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The Searing of the Conscience

What is being called destigmatizing is in reality the intentional effort to sear men’s consciences by the continual repetition and eventual believing in lies. It’s a choice. It’s health care. It’s a woman’s right. It’s nobody’s business. It’s not a baby. We must understand that the arena in which we fight is not primarily political—nor is it over societal construction—but over conscience.


The Christian life is one of warfare. There is opposition at every turn, as enemies new and old continue to challenge and attack the very foundations of the gospel entrusted to us. This opposition takes a variety of forms and among the most prominent attacks is seen in the deliberate and professed effort of the secular powers to, as they say, “remove the stigma” of abortion. That is to say, they aim to eradicate any moral intuition whatsoever with regard to abortion. The goal is for it to be a simple matter of fact, completely normalized and integrated into everyday life to the point that it’s not given a second thought, that it does not elicit any sort of response, as if it were simply any medical procedure. Their goal is to morally neutralize abortion.

These efforts have taken various forms: Planned Parenthood has a comprehensive guide dictating the language used when discussing abortion, such as focusing solely on the mother with no talk of the baby, and refraining from any warning of negative consequences faced by mothers who abort. Not long ago, the viral sensation “shout your abortion” spread across social media, in which women proudly told of their abortion “experiences.” From national policy to proposed school curriculum, the efforts to destigmatize abortion are both pervasive and persistent.

Stigma is a mark of disgrace. It describes a more or less commonly held negative attitude towards something . . . a condemnation. The underlying assumption of the efforts to destigmatize abortion is that there is no objective moral reason behind the historic attitude towards it, but rather this stigma is something unjustified, oppressive, and hateful (especially towards women). The narrative is that disapproval of abortion is the socially conditioned product of a misogynistic society, with no grounding in objective reality or fact. This perspective leads to the belief that abortion stigma can effectively be “unconditioned”; that it can be removed by changing the language describing it and the perceptions associated with it.

Like so much of the secular worldview, this attitude is rooted in the presupposition that there is no true, universal, objective moral standard. It assumes moral relativism—no absolutes, no real truth. We as Christians must take note, however, that the secularists’ own behavior betrays their profession. The religious zeal with which they attempt to destigmatize abortion reveals a deeply held conviction that their’s is the right position, and that all those who oppose it must “convert” or be silenced.

As Christians operating from a biblical worldview, we are able to make sense of these inconsistencies. What is called stigma may more accurately be referred to as the appropriate response to abortion by the God-given conscience and we must realize that, far from being some arbitrary social construct, this exists for a very significant reason. We also must understand the destructive reality of what this alleged destigmatizing consists.

God’s word is clear from the beginning that man, being made in His own image, is a morally responsible creature who is endowed, both by virtue of the divine image and by special revelation from God, with an understanding of right and wrong. Because of this, we are accountable to God—He has given every one of us a conscience and because of that, we ought to know better. Even after our fall into sin, Scripture teaches that our consciences function well enough to hold us accountable to God’s law (Rom. 2:16); we do know better, yet we act in willful rebellion, suppressing the truth and so confirming our guilt (Rom. 1:18). However, we can only suppress so much.

God’s revelation still affects us and it turns up in our natural responses to activities such as murder, rape, torture, robbery, injustice, and (until recently) sodomy and abortion. In spite of our fallenness, we cannot escape the fact that we are created in God’s image, and His common grace still impacts the responses of our conscience to moral atrocities. This is the reason abortion is stained by stigma in the first place. Indignation, grief, and shame are proper responses to the murder of babies, and the previous generations which held these attitudes confirm the law of God written on man’s heart and testified to by conscience. The biblical worldview commands this perspective, and we must steadfastly oppose any ideology that would seek to destroy these scripturally bound convictions.

Operating from this biblical worldview, we are able to understand the disturbing spiritual dimension of these efforts to destigmatize abortion. It is certainly true that man, even in his fallen state, is blessed with a conscience that testifies to the truth of God’s law; however, this conscience is susceptible to influence. It may be strengthened by biblical influences, godly fear, and most significantly the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in God’s elect. But sadly and quite evidently, it may also be severely weakened through persistent rebellion, lawless society, and the influence of Satan himself. “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).

Clearly, we are in danger of falling under ungodly influence, and so we must ensure that our positions are grounded in the sure word of God, and not in the whims of our culture. Paul additionally warns in 1 Timothy 4:2 of false teachers who will intentionally seek to lead Christians astray, and he describes them as having “seared consciences.” The conscience of man is fragile; it is something that can become so corrupt that it is effectively destroyed, and for those who are no longer restrained by the conscience, the aim is to inflict the same damage upon others.

Isaiah famously declares “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Is. 5:20). The reversal of good and evil is a sure sign of a seared conscience, which is actually the result of divine judgment. Romans 1 describes rebels becoming darkened in the hearts and being given over by God to their sin. However, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 is perhaps the strongest and most frightening description of this judgment against sin: “…they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” For those who persist in rebellion, their consciences will be seared to the point that they love and believe a lie.

Abhorring abortion is a proper, biblical response to a wicked sin, and the talk of destigmatizing abortion—of seeking to sever the conscience regarding the murder of babies—should be of great concern to us. What is at stake is not merely a social construction, but the very consciences of our neighbors, as well as the continued kindling of God’s judgment as we see more and more people being given over to total rebellion against their Maker.

What is being called destigmatizing is in reality the intentional effort to sear men’s consciences by the continual repetition and eventual believing in lies. It’s a choice. It’s health care. It’s a woman’s right. It’s nobody’s business. It’s not a baby. We must understand that the arena in which we fight is not primarily political—nor is it over societal construction—but over conscience. The war has been waged from the beginning between the truth and the lie; Satan’s contradiction of God’s word in the Garden in declaring to Adam and Eve “you shall not die” was accepted by our first parents, and so began a battle between these competing worldviews that has raged through human history.

Our great weapons are not rhetoric or cultural influence, but the true and unchanging word of God, whose claims must be pressed upon the consciences of His image bearers, and whose warnings of just judgments must be boldly issued. The gospel is sufficient to free people from their sinful delusions. Jesus Himself tells us that the truth sets us free, that He is the truth, and that His people are sanctified in the truth (Jn. 8:32, 14:4, 17:17). So we cannot become discouraged.

We hold fast to the truth in opposition to the lie, we call it what it is, and we do not compromise what God has revealed in His word. Abortion is indeed the sin of murder, no amount of destigmatizing will change that fact; our responsibility is to relentlessly preach the freedom of the gospel, and to oppose every effort of the enemy to sear what God has given us.
Luke Griffo is a member of leadership at Redeemer Church of South Hills in West Mifflin, PA. Click here for more RCSH Blog posts.
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