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Letter to Dr. John Mackay
A response to Dr. Mackay's article: Where Do Aborted Babies Go?
by Dusty Peterson
In 2004, Dr. John Mackay of Creation Research published an article strongly implying that most (and potentially ALL) aborted babies go to Hell. Towards the end of 2008, someone sent Dusty Peterson a copy of the article, informing him that the piece had grieved a number of believers. The person asked for Dusty’s thoughts on the document. The following critique was the result. Dusty handed his critique to Dr. Mackay in person on 12th February 2009. Dr. Mackay was on a speaking tour, so he was given more than six weeks to reply to the critique before it was made public. We believe this should have been ample time, especially given the clear text and cogent reasoning in the critique, but no response to it was forthcoming.
Hand delivered on 12th February 2009
Dear Dr. Mackay,
Warm Christian greetings.
I have been blessed to have the opportunity to hear you speak at two venues in the UK before now, and I very much appreciated your excellent talks on both occasions.
I have just read, with immense interest, your article “Where Do Aborted Babies Go?”. Firstly may I say how greatly I respect your courage in facing up to such a controversial and emotionally draining topic. I also applaud you for defending the truth that God never changes. I like much of the layout of the piece too, as well as your readiness to give your readers permission to freely distribute the article for educational purposes.
Unfortunately I have also found what I believe to be significant logical inconsistencies in the piece. I would be extremely grateful if you could possibly take a look at my analysis below – and ideally let me know your thoughts on it. Huge thanks in advance.
(1) Foetuses can sin?
In the early stages of the article, you teach that babies are capable of committing sin even if they haven’t yet been born. You appear to base this idea on: (a) the fact that unborn babies can die; (b) the concept that Esau and Jacob sinned in the womb; (c) the truth that we mortal men are all “conceived in sin”; and (d) the doctrine that “Children can … be chosen in the womb”. Looking at these four justifications in turn:
(a) You rightly note that “the wages of sin is death”, but your article then claims that “Somebody who is without sin cannot die!”. How is it then that the Lord Jesus Christ died? As you say, He was “The sinless Son of God”, so surely He should not have been capable of dying at all, regardless of the fact that He “had to choose to give up His life”? (I believe this problem is easily solved if the type of death being referred to in the statement “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” is spiritual death rather than physical death. This would make more sense, given the reference to “eternal life” in the same verse and the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ certainly physically died (John 19:34). It would also serve to explain why a person whose sins have been blotted out can still suffer physical death, as Stephen did in Acts 7:59-60.)
(b) You write, “Children choose [to sin] in the womb”. You seem to have derived this belief from your argument that unborn twins have been known to “fight and exhibit jealousy”. You support this latter comment by alluding to the gestation of Jacob and Esau. But Holy Scripture nowhere says that either of these unborn twins exhibited jealousy. The Bible only says that they “struggled together within [their mother]”. Is your article claiming that these foetuses mentally understood what they were doing? Since they presumably could not possibly have appreciated that the thing they were struggling with was something they were not supposed to be struggling with, is it not a bit of a stretch to argue, as your article does, that this is “classic” example of sin in the womb? Indeed, is it not possible that the Lord made the two babies struggle together – in order to give Rebekah a picture of the two opposing nations that would result (Genesis 25:23)?
(c) You are absolutely correct to say we are all “conceived in sin”. We all, as newly conceived babies, inherit the fallen, or sin, nature as a result of Adam’s sin. But this is fundamentally different from committing sin ourselves. If you insist that unborn babies – who do not even have breath in their nostrils yet – are capable of sin, I feel obliged to ask another question, viz. for how much of the gestation period is an unborn baby not capable of sin? Surely a fertilized single cell is incapable of sin, so at what stage does a foetus become so? (As a result of new abortifacients, unborn children are regularly being aborted at just one day old. Are you genuinely trying to say, on the basis that we are all “conceived in sin”, that a one-day old bunch of cells can sin?)
(d) You write, “Children can … be chosen in the womb”. You then say, “The Scripture records some of these – as the Lord said ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’ (Romans 9:13 KJV)”. The idea that children can be chosen in the womb is important to your overall case, and you argue that Scripture records “some” instances, so I am a little bit surprised your article only gives one verse in support of the idea. Further, the verse you offer does not say that God’s choice regarding Jacob and Esau was made as a result of their respective behaviour in the womb.
Surely a person is chosen by God before the womb – indeed from the very foundation of the world (Rev. 17:8)? And surely God’s choices regarding Jacob and Esau were made on the basis of God’s foreknowledge of what they would do in their subsequent lives, rather than as a result of what they would merely do in the womb? In fact, can I humbly suggest that the two verses immediately preceding the one you quote paint a rather different picture from that presented by your article? These two verses read: “(…the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth;) It was said unto [their mother], The elder shall serve the younger”.
This last passage leads me neatly on to my main problem with this whole concept that unborn babies can sin. Unexpectedly, it is only in an entirely separate section of your document that you acknowledge the existence of Scripture passages that unambiguously teach that unborn babies “have no knowledge between good and evil” (Deut. 1:39) and cannot do “any … evil” (Romans 9:11). To my mind, these verses mean unborn babies cannot commit sin, yet this is a key plank of your thesis.
Closing Notes on Question 1
For what it’s worth, I completely agree with you that the ‘age of accountability’ is far lower than many Christians suppose. (Hence the occasion when 42 children were torn by bears for mocking Elishah in 2 Kings 2:23-24.) Indeed, I am certain a child as young as four can grasp the bare bones of the Gospel. But I honestly cannot see how a foetus (who, let’s face it, has hardly experienced any of the wonders of God’s Creation that testify of Him and that leave men “without excuse”) can do likewise.
If, despite all of the above, you are adamant that a baby is capable of sinning while still in the womb, does this not imply that God gives such babies the chance of repenting of their sin and accepting the Gospel while still in the womb? This seems to me to be rather more than an unborn foetus would be capable of giving mental assent to when, according to the Bible, they can’t even discern between their right hand and their left (Jonah 4:11).
(By the way, if you do believe an unborn baby can repent and accept the basics of the Gospel in the womb, I do hope you don’t seek to argue that, in the case of aborted babies, their death in the womb is evidence that they refused to repent, else you must presumably also argue that New Testament martyrs went to Hell, since they too suffered untimely deaths at the hands of men)
(2) Foetuses can be trained to justify sin?
You write, “The importance of the E-news article [about a research project proving that unborn babies can recognise their mother’s voice] is that aborted babies have heard much before they are … murdered by the mother whose voice they recognise”. This statement appears to assume that all foetuses can hear from conception (or at least that no baby is ever aborted until after their ability to hear has started), which is self-evidently incorrect. However, this is not the central problem I have with this portion of your article…
You state, “a mother [who is prepared to abort a baby] will not usually expose her baby to words about the Gospel … The words the foetus has been exposed to are murderous and anti-God. The unborn child’s training in justifying sin for convenience has already started…”. But, as far as I can see, this line of argument does not follow from the E-news article to which you refer…
The E-news article shows that a foetus (at term) can recognise its mother’s voice, but the article does not say the foetus can understand what its mother is saying. The research simply tells us that foetuses can discern between voices, not that foetuses can grasp the meaning of what those voices are saying. Yet your paragraph on this appears to assume that unborn babies can do precisely that.
I am very happy to accept that unborn children can be upset if their mother’s voice is full of stress or anger, and conversely comforted if the mother’s voice is soft and rhythmic, but isn’t it overdoing things slightly to assume from the E-news article that foetuses (even those which are at term) can understand actual remarks such that they can be said to have received “training in justifying sin”?
Closing Note on Question 2
Before I move on to the next question, I want to make plain that I share your abhorrence of abortion and I firmly endorse your desire to minimize its occurrence by revealing the Lord’s very strong view on the matter.
(3) God judges unborn children in relation to their parents?
Your document also argues that unborn babies are, to a large extent, judged on the basis of the spiritual state of their parents. However, you seem to make a number of debatable assumptions here…
You start by referring to Noah’s Flood. You claim that the unborn, “were judged as in rebellion against God”. The Bible does say, “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth”, but to claim that this includes unborn babies, who I don’t really think can be said to yet have a “way upon the earth” to corrupt, again requires that foetuses can commit sin, which I hopefully disproved earlier in this critique.
You also appear to assume, both regarding the Flood and God’s judgment at Sodom and Gomorrah, that there were some unborn babies. But the Bible makes no such statement. (Indeed, given Sodom’s evident preference for homosexuality over heterosexuality, it is quite likely that there were no unborn babies at the moment God’s judgment was poured out there!)
More seriously, you seem to presuppose that God’s physical ruin of any unborn children during these two events was also followed by their spiritual ruin. But the Bible again makes no such claim that I know of. The same applies to your mention of the invasion of Canaan. The Bible reference supplied in your article makes no mention that any of the Canaanite women were ‘with child’ at that particular moment, and it supplies no reason to believe that – had there been any such unborn babies – they would have gone to Hell after their physical death.
In contrast, the Bible makes clear that King David’s newly born baby, who died, went to Heaven. You argue that this baby’s salvation was due to his father being a man of God. Elsewhere you argue that the spiritual state of the mother is important to the ultimate spiritual destination of an unborn/newborn baby. This tends to beg the question, where does God send an unborn/newborn baby if one of its parents is a believer but the other one isn’t? (What if, for instance, the father opposes an abortion but the mother decides to go ahead with it secretly?)
It seems to me that there are at least three further problems with your article’s assertion that “God significantly relates the future of little ones to the faith of their parents”…
(a) Going by your article, Jacob and Esau were both viewed by God through the lens of their parents. If this was the case, God should presumably not have held such wildly differing attitudes towards the two brothers prior to their birth, hating one and loving the other, since they had the same parents.
(b) In Appendix A of your article, you again quote Scipture verses that unambiguously refute the point you are making! The three passages in question are: Jeremiah 31:29-30 (“every one shall die for his own iniquity”); Ezekiel 18:1-4 (“the soul that sinneth, it shall die”); and Deuteronomy 24:16 (“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin”).
(c) Does it not take us onto rather unbiblical ground if we start to imagine that people can be saved in any other way than by their own personal relationship with Christ?
Surely the fact is that, in the biblical account of David’s newborn son who died and went to glory, we have an unambiguous statement to the effect that a newborn baby who dies goes to heaven. I think we must take care to interpret ambiguous passages in the light of the unambiguous, but (with the greatest of respect) you seem at times to be doing the opposite in this article.
(4) Satan would otherwise be pro-life?
Your article says, “if the devil loses every aborted baby straight to heaven, then he would be promoting a pro-life position”. I understand your reasons for arguing this, but there seem to be a number of obstacles to the idea…
Firstly, the use of the word “loses” in your sentence strikes me as a little dualistic. Since God is Almighty, Satan always loses, no matter what he does. To suggest that Satan can sometimes “win” against God must mean God is not Almighty or that Satan can outwit God, either of which is a dangerous error.
Secondly, you imply here that abortion affects only the murdered baby. But that is not so. Satan loves abortion because of its much wider destructive effects. An abortion can do enormous damage to the mother’s mental and spiritual condition. An abortion can similarly damage everyone else who knowingly assists in it. It can also have devastating social effects on the people close to the mother, not least due to the serious psychological damage that abortion routinely does to the mother. It can splinter families and hurt whole communities. The legalised abortion we have here in the UK brings a curse on an entire nation. All of these things are what the enemy wants.
Thirdly, your article argues that Satan would be pro-life because “That way he is sure to persuade some of them [i.e. the resulting children] to become unbelievers”, but would this not be a rather shortsighted stance for Satan to take? Even if he were to “persuade” all but one of the resulting children to “become unbelievers”, if the one that gets through the net turned out to be another John Wesley then millions upon millions of souls could be “won” (to follow your own your style of terminology) from his ministry and from the ministries of those he disciples.
(5) So many babies are aborted that they cannot possibly all be part of the “few”?
You rightly say, “God is able to perceive the future decisions of all of us”. However, you then appear to argue that “many aborted babies would end up in hell” on the basis that, had they lived, many of them would have rejected the narrow way that “few … find”. But the whole point is that these babies didn’t live – and God knew that this would be the case – so there were no “future decisions” for Him to judge.
I very much agree with you that, as Scripture puts it, “broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” and that “narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”. Few people find the narrow way, because it requires a tremendous love of the truth in order to do so. But I hopefully established earlier that unborn babies cannot sin. Given this, I would argue that there isn’t a “way” along which to walk if you have no opportunity to ‘walk’ as a result of being killed in the womb. Therefore there is nothing to “find” in the first place. Thus aborted/newborn babies are exempt from being part of the few that have to “find” the way.
(6) All unreached natives go to Hell?
Your article likens the condition of aborted foetuses who, “haven’t had the option of hearing the gospel”, to unreached natives in the jungle who have never met a Christian missionary. You seem to argue that the very fact God has not seen fit to let either group hear the Gospel means both groups must be destined for Hell. But I have some non-trivial problems with this, quite apart from the fact that God saw fit to take David’s son before the babe could understand the Gospel, yet still allowed him into Heaven, which seems to militate fairly strongly against the idea…
You write, of unreached natives in the jungle, “If the natives only lived up to the light they had, you might argue that they would make it to heaven”. I am perplexed by the word “might” here. Do you not agree that we are judged according to the light we have received – and therefore that if anyone did ‘live up to the light they had received’ they would indeed make it to Heaven?
You go on to say that “no living child or adult does!”. It is undeniably true to say that no-one lives up 100% to the light they have received. But it doesn’t follow that no-one ever lives up to it enough to be saved. Even mature Christians don’t always live up 100% to the light they have received, yet God still allows them into Heaven. Is it really the case that no unreached soul has ever ‘lived up to’ the light received to a great enough extent that they were saved?
You wisely quote Romans 1:20 where God says that Creation itself testifies of Him (see also Psa. 19:1). You then go on to observe that this passage in Romans means “all men understand” and that all men who reject the testimony of Creation are therefore, as the Bible states, “without excuse”. But this passage nowhere says that all unreached natives do reject the testimony of Creation.
You then teach, “The reason Jesus said ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), is that without the gospel all mankind is doomed to hell.” But if “all men [already] know, [and] all men [already] understand” enough to be saved as a result of the witness of Creation itself, such that they are “without excuse” even if they never hear a missionary, then Creation must presumably already supply them with enough of the Gospel for them to be saved, else they wouldn’t be “without excuse”. This being so, I can’t immediately see why they must have God send them evangelists in order to be saved.
“Why does God ever raise up evangelists then?”, is the natural response. According to Ecclesiastes, everything we do is “vanity” (i.e. totally meaningless in the sense of being unprofitable to God and His Kingdom). If, as you rightly point out, God never changes, could it be that the “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” principle is true of preaching the Gospel along with everything else we do? Could it be that we believers are each called to our respective ministries, including preaching the Gospel, in order to help us become more Christlike rather than to alter the spiritual destiny of other folks? I have to say I struggle greatly with your apparent view that, at the final judgment, God will have to say to some babies, “Had your mother not aborted you, you would have heard and accepted the Gospel and been saved and would enjoy eternity with Me here in Heaven, but because of HER failure, you are instead going to have to spend eternity in a lake of fire”. To borrow a phrase from your article, this doesn’t sound quite right. Can other mortal men really have a say in an individual’s salvation?
(7) God is not bound by His own Word?
Lastly, you say that the “fate [of the unborn] is in the hands of an Almighty God who can do with His creation as He wills”. But surely God has sovereignly chosen to confine Himself, in His dealings with man, to the principles and promises He has laid out in His infallible Word? As such, He does not allow Himself the latitude you appear to ascribe to Him. God abides by the Word that He Himself gave us. (Otherwise, how we can ever depend on His Word at all, far less trust our lives to it? And how can Peter refer to God’s “exceeding great and precious promises” if they cannot be relied upon?)
I believe God’s Word is utterly dependable. And His Word makes plain that an unborn baby cannot do any evil and therefore has no sins to pay for, thus God surely permits all aborted babies into His arms.
Sincere thanks for your time. (I know you are a busy man.)
I have, in this letter, endeavoured to face up to each of the seven foundations underlying your thesis. However, I am acutely aware that I am fallible and that I could therefore be missing something in all this. I promise I am open to correction and that all advice you can give me on the topics raised above will be very gratefully received.
May God bless you and keep you,
Dusty Peterson, email@example.com
Bayith Ministries, www.bayith.org
P.S. I am told that many people have been distressed by your article. (Clearly, any woman who has had an abortion and who has subsequently given their life to Christ would be profoundly upset if they read it.) On this basis, and since I believe your conclusion to be mistaken, I will feel obliged to make this letter public if I don’t hear back from you within four weeks of handing this to you. (I ask you not to take this situation personally, though. I am simply trying to think of the many brethren who may well be labouring under a misapprehension so unutterably devastating that it is damaging their view of God and therefore their walk with Him.)
 I am referring to the May 26th 2004 version of your article, as currently downloadable from www.maxddl.org/Creation/Where%20Do%20Aborted%20Babies%20Go.rtf
 All emphases in quotes in this letter are my own.
 As a tiny aside, you write “Jesus … made the enlightening statement that no-one … could take His life from Him”, but the passage you cite in defence of this position (John 10:17-18) doesn’t necessarily teach this. It quotes the Lord saying “No man taketh it from Me” rather than “No man can take it from Me”.
 If it is indeed spiritual death that is in view, then this would also help explain why King David’s newborn child died but went to Heaven (see later). To my mind, his death does tend to undermine the suggestion that the ability of unborn or very young babies to die is strong evidence that they are sinners.
 Can you cite a second “example” of sin being committed in the womb? (I personally believe the Bible teaches, in 2 Cor. 13:1 and Matt. 18:16, that important doctrines are established by a minimum of two witnesses.)
 Even if one were to contend that Jacob and Esau did have some understanding of what it was they were interacting with as they struggled together, and that they were indeed fighting each other, why could it not simply have been (innocent!) play-fighting?
 You say, “the unborn … are sinners”, but I am not aware of any Bible verses that unambiguously refer to unborn babies as “sinners”. You also say, “children … are conceived as sinners [and] are doomed to Hell…”. However, the phrase “conceived as sinners” is not the one the Psalmist used and I feel it muddies the water somewhat. Just because unborn babies inherit the sin nature does not mean they are instantly sinners in the sense of committing sin.
 Some people describe unborn children as being “pre-law”, meaning they are not yet answerable to God’s law. That unborn babies and very young children have a special relationship with God until they are old enough to have an understanding of (and therefore be accountable for) their actions is, I believe, indicated by verses like: Matthew 18:10 (“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven”); Matthew 18:5 (“whoso shall receive one such little child in My Name receiveth Me”); and Jonah 4:11.
 I have heard an argument that the phrase “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 refers to devils. If this is correct then the result of their mating with “the daughters of men” would undoubtedly have produced corrupt (soulless?) generations – and this would certainly explain God’s statement that Noah was “perfect in his generations” (Gen. 6:9). On this basis, unborn babies would indeed have been “corrupt”. (Although, if they didn’t have souls, there would be nothing to send to Hell.) But this doesn’t apply to normally-generated children of unbelievers today.
 You may well ask why any babies suffered at all during episodes like the Flood if those babies weren’t themselves in rebellion against God. Surely it was simply an outworking of the principle that some behaviour is so abhorrent to God that He will even bring suffering to “the children unto the third and fourth generation” of those people who commit it (as per Exo. 20:5; Num. 14:18; and Deu. 5:9)?
 Your article posits that babies are “covered by God’s judgement on their parents” and you then appear to claim that the account of David’s newborn baby who died is an “outstanding example” of this. Yet the Bible never makes any comment to the effect that this baby’s spiritual destiny was remotely connected to its father.
 The Bible says that Jacob and Esau “struggled together”. You reword this as “fought”. You therefore assert that Esau and Jacob both “fought” each other in the womb. If that is so, and since you apparently believe fighting in the womb is always a sin, why did one of them get away with it? Why was only Esau rejected?
 Your article says all unborn babies are sinners from conception and are capable of sinning in the womb. Is it not therefore reasonable to infer that, during the many months of a full-term pregnancy, all unborn babies sin at least once in the womb? (How often do you or I go nine months without sinning?) If so, how did David’s baby get saved before he could understand and accept the Gospel and repent of his sin(s)?
 Luke 1:44-45, where John the Baptist leapt in the womb for joy, is another unambiguous case where an unborn baby is shown to be right with God. I know of no Bible passage that unambiguously refers to any unborn baby not being right with God.
 I have a feeling our merciful God would show mercy in the extreme case where a husband reluctantly insisted on an abortion as a result of the midwife (and the rest of the medical staff) being convinced that the mother would lose her life if the pregnancy were allowed to continue, but I promise I would have penned this same critique even if I didn’t think that way.
 From the very foundation of the world, God was already aware of who would be aborted. So His statement that “few” would find the way was presumably made in the light of this foreknowledge.
 The paragraph which follows this particular quote in your article seems to make a number of generalizations. One of these is that “the words the foetus has been exposed to are murderous and anti-God”. The implication of this is not just that unborn babies can understand what they hear in the womb but that no aborted baby ever hears the words of the Gospel before its death. This is patently not the case. (I must admit to being confused to find such a high-calibre scientist as yourself allowing such a loosely-worded paragraph in a published document.)
 In reply, you may choose to cite Romans 10:13-14 (“how shall they hear without a preacher?” etc). I would respond that the context of this chapter is the Hebrew race rather than “natives in the jungle”. I suspect that the Hebrews living around the time of Christ were a special case that needed more light than others and specifically had to be told about their King’s life and death. However, even if I am completely mistaken about all this, and every unreached native does go to Hell after all, it still doesn’t follow that aborted babies must do so. The latter souls are different not just because they cannot understand the Gospel but because they cannot sin in the first place and therefore don’t need to hear it.
 If a soul has committed no unrighteous acts, there are no sins to bear. You may argue that unborn children still need to come to the cross because they remain doomed as a result of Original sin. However, Christ was manifested to “take away our sins” (1 John 3:5). If a baby hasn’t actually sinned then there is nothing to take away. The baby hasn’t transgressed God’s law and hence is safe. (Besides, an unborn baby is hardly well placed to understand the concept of Original sin, let alone know what a person is supposed to do about it.)