Eight years ago, I read an article in The New York Times titled “The Terms of Our Surrender.”1 Given the changing tides of culture at the time, I thought the headline aptly described how the battle over legalizing gay marriage would end: with Christians having to accept the terms of our surrender over this issue. The Christian sexual ethic had lost preeminence in the culture; a secular one would reign in its place. The tides of secularism were too strong; “nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”2 When Obergefell v. Hodges was decided in 2015, enshrining the right of same-sex couples to marry, I faced the future pessimistically.
I look back on that pessimism now in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, and I am astounded. I never would have expected it just a few years after Obergefell, but Roe v. Wade has been overturned. More than sixty million defenseless human beings have been murdered by the brutal and tragic reign of this one landmark case. Many alive today—those who weren’t aborted—have never known a time when abortion wasn’t federally guaranteed as a right in all fifty states. To be sure, this ruling does not outlaw abortion but hands the question back to the states, where the fight for justice will continue. George Grant has helpfully described how our work isn’t over. Nevertheless, the arc of history does sometimes bend toward justice, toward the preservation of life.
History is impossible to forecast accurately. We can make predictions; we can tabulate probabilities. Yet no one except God knows the future. Witness the very advent of Jesus Christ, which no one—not even the disciples—was able to understand at first. He didn’t come to proclaim Himself king; He came to die. Like the disciples, I’m afraid I’m guilty of accepting a future that God hadn’t ordained. I didn’t think I would see Roe v. Wade overturned in my lifetime, if ever. It’s apparent, however, that God has worked through the grassroots efforts of Christians and non-Christians alike to enact justice in this land. Though things often do get worse, and evils grow, that’s not always the case. Things can change, and they can change for the better. The future is not dark; it’s simply unclear to us prior to our Lord’s second advent. God is directing it toward His ends, and sometimes this world gets closer to heaven rather than farther from it. At the same time, it’s important to remember that this victory is distinctly American, and only a partial one at that. Defenseless people—born and unborn—are still under terrible reigns of terror the world over; for example, abortion will still be legal in many states, sex-traffickers still prey upon the defenseless around the world, the war in Ukraine continues, and oppressive regimes in China, North Korea, and Iran remain as powerful as ever.
Moreover, it’s likely that Christians in many places will continue to say that this culture is “going to hell in a handbasket,” that the church is becoming more and more marginalized, and that significant persecution for Christians is just around the corner (at least in this country). I’m sure some, if not all, of those things are true. It’s certainly true that apart from Christ, every human being is destined for hell. And it’s important to consider the future—what practical steps can be taken to deal with Christianity’s marginalization and to endure persecution. Nevertheless, this day has caused me to wonder and rejoice at this victory for the defenseless unborn in this country. God ordains everything that comes to pass (while being neither the author nor the approver of evil),3 and sometimes what comes to pass is justice. Our work as Christians isn’t to bemoan the future or needlessly dwell on seeming defeat. Our work is to be faithful, and God does marvelous things through small faithfulness. That’s at least one theme of the Bible, and in one sense, it’s the story of Jesus, who for our sakes “became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9). As a result, we Christians really shouldn’t look darkly at the future. Rather, we should look at it with realism—biblical realism—acknowledging that God is always the Lord of history:
Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the LORD, the first,
and with the last; I am he. (Isa. 41:4)
This is the God who purposed to save us in Jesus Christ. There is hope, because God’s Son has told us “in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Let us therefore trust the Lord and seek to be faithful. God works all things according to His mysterious counsel—not for America—but for His own glory. Praise God that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.
- Ross Douthat, “The Terms of Our Surrender,” The New York Times, March 1, 2014, accessed June 24, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/opinion/sunday/the-terms-of-our-surrender.html.
- Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.
- Westminster Confession of Faith 3.1.