Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life
“Innocent Blood is a powerful indictment…there are areas about which Christians can disagree. This is not one of them.”
– Dr. John Frame, Reformed Theo. Sem.
“Stellar! A bridge between the defense of life and gospel proclamation…concisely worded, theologically grounded, philosophically sound. I wholeheartedly recommend it!”
– Scott Klusendorf, Speaker and author
Also endorsed by Trevin Wax, Burk Parsons.
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Description & Excerpts..SHARE..
The shedding of innocent blood,
primarily through abortion,
has now marked an entire generation.
Yet God’s command to defend the innocent is unchanged.
We can obey that call.
The gospel of Christ is the gospel of life, and the Christian’s defining reality. Yet the shedding of innocent blood, primarily through abortion, has now marked an entire generation. Innocent Blood explores a series of questions so as to reveal vital connections between the gospel and the call to defend the unborn. These questions include:
- What does the Bible mean when it says that “life is in the blood”?
- What does the Bible say about blood-guilt? How is it that we are all stained by it and accountable for it even though few of us have taken a human life?
- What remedy does God provide for the guilt of shedding innocent blood?
- What are we to do when confronted with the shedding of innocent blood, and where does our courage to take action come from?
- What is the link between protecting the innocent and proclaiming good news to the guilty?
Not a book on social issues per se, nor a book on missions, Innocent Blood integrates the two and calls us to courageously challenge the powers of death with the gospel of life.
About the Author
John Ensor is author of The Great Work of the Gospel: How We Experience God’s Grace and Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart, both from Crossway. He is a leader in the rapidly expanding pregnancy help movement, and known mostly for his multiple efforts to help Christian communities establish ultrasound-equipped clinics in the neediest neighborhoods of our major cities. He currently serves as the Executive Director of Global Initiatives for Heartbeat International—initiating pregnancy help ministries in Asia and other un-reached areas. He lives in Roswell, Georgia.
An open invitation from John Ensor
Table of Contents, Introduction and Summary
endorsements & reviews..SHARE..
God’s Word tells us to be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope within us, and it also tells us that we should do this with gentleness and respect. This book does just that. With decades of experience and true wisdom, John Ensor beautifully shows us how our glorious God delights in our courageous fight for the innocent, and that he commands us to fight, not with the words and weapons of man but with the living and active Gospel of Jesus Christ as we depend on the Holy Spirit to change hearts, renew minds, and protect the innocent—for the sake of the precious innocent of all ages and for the incomparable glory of God for eternity.
Burk Parsons, associate pastor, Saint Andrew’s; Editor, Tabletalk
Innocent Blood is a powerful indictment of those responsible for the abortion holocaust and those who have not joined in attempts to stop it. The author presents many biblical passages that should constrain our consciences and our actions. There are areas of theology about which sincere Christians can disagree, but this is not one of them. The Scriptures are as clear as they can be that God’s people have the responsibility to stop the shedding of innocent blood.
John Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary
Innocent Blood brings Christians face to face with the horror of abortion and our responsibility to intervene. Better yet, by showing how our activism is to be motivated and fueled by the gospel, Ensor challenges us to devote our lives to magnifying Jesus Christ through seeking justice for the unborn.
Stellar! John Ensor provides a bridge between the defense of innocent human life and the proclamation of the gospel. His concisely worded thesis is theologically grounded, philosophically sound, and gives pastors the tools to engage the culture on the burning moral question of our day. I wholeheartedly recommend this book!
Scott Klusendorf, Speaker and author of The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture (Crossway)
“we cannot help but be stopped in our tracks….perhaps the most personally convicting and challenging book I’ve read this year”
I wasn’t sure I was going to read Innocent Blood by John Ensor. It wasn’t because I had any disagreement with the premise of the book… it was that I didn’t really want to think about it. As I suspect the vast majority of us know, there are few subjects touchier than abortion. No one’s having casual conversations at Starbucks about whether or not it’s morally justifiable or compatible with Christian faith, nor does it make for good dinner conversation.
And I wonder if the reason I didn’t want to even have to think about it was more because I don’t like the idea of being seen as “one of them”—the (well meaning) pro-life folks who often stand outside the local hospital with signs and gruesome pictures. And as much as the idea of doing that makes me uncomfortable, you’ve got to hand it to them for doing something instead of the nothing that I’m often guilty of.
But, as Christians, are we allowed to be silently pro-life? If we’re privately opposed to something but not also publicly, what does it say about us—what does Scripture have to say to us on this matter?
Ensor, citing Deuteronomy 19:7-10, explains that, “God’s people are called to prevent both the death of innocents and the bloodguilt that results” (p. 8). Biblically, he says, we are not permitted to be silent. And the result of his study is a plea that forms the structure of this book:
My plea is that whenever we encounter such a situation we resolve not to accept it, rationalize it, bury it under allegedly higher priorities, or pretend we do not know it is happening. Instead, like those who came before us and who are commended for their faithfulness, may we fight the shedding of innocent blood with all our moral might and practical effort, on the spot and for the long haul. (p. 11)
As Ensor weaves his argument, looking first to the preciousness of life in the sight of God (ch. 1), he drives home a devastating reality: none of us are exempt from this bloodguilt (ch. 2). After some challenging speculation about what we may or may not have done in the case of lynching in the 1930s, he writes:
Abortion, like lynching, is the shedding of innocent blood, is it not? Have you made peace with it? Have you navigated around it? Can you lift up your hands and say, “I did not shed this blood, nor did I see it happening”? … Have you understood with moral clarity the need to rescue the weak and the innocent? Have you asked God for the moral courage to do so? When I asked myself these questions a while back, I came up short. I was Pilate. My silence had left my own congregation with bloodguilt. This is all the more tragic because in the unfolding glory of the redemption, God has gone so much farther than to offer the blood of a heifer. I decided to repent. (pp. 57-58)
As I read these words and gazed upon the picture that was included at the end of the chapter, I couldn’t help but think back to my days in college when I wasn’t pro-choice, but pro-abortion. I was very, very okay with the idea. To me, a pregnancy wasn’t a baby, it was a condition. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I would mock the people who did choose to speak out against abortion as being backwards and ignorant. (God has a wonderful sense of irony, does he not?)
Needless to say, I had blood on my hands in the sight of God. And only blood could atone for my sins.
Fortunately, God provided that atonement in the death of Jesus. In chapter three, Ensor beautifully unpacks not only the necessity of the atonement, but also its promise—its cleansing us from guilt. It’s the only thing powerful enough to cleanse the conscience, restore our relationship with God, and satisfy the cry for justice that innocent blood demands.
Abortion, Ensor explains, is fundamentally a gospel issue.
To think of abortion as a secondary issue—or worse, a merely political issue—is to fundamentally misunderstand the defining experience of our times. It also means we fundamentally fail to see the central truth that the cross alone can cleanse the conscience from the debilitating effects of bloodguilt.
Our capacity to simply ignore the influence of abortion is crippling the effectiveness of the gospel. Abortion’s role in the consciences of hundreds of millions of people in the United States alone is a boil that festers just under the surface of all Christian endeavors, and it needs lancing. It needs to be called out by name, confessed by name, and brought under a gospel that declares that there is no forgiveness for the shedding of innocent blood except by the shedding of innocent blood, that is, by the blood of Christ. (p. 68)
Just let those words sink in. If abortion is a gospel issue, we must repent of our desire to keep silent. We must put away our notions that it’s a mere political topic. While it most certainly has political implications, it’s goes much deeper than politics. It’s a question of worldview.
Ensor’s greatest strength in this book is that he doesn’t shy away from this reality. In fact, he is so prophetically forceful (and I use that term carefully, but deliberately), that we cannot help but be stopped in our tracks. If we are truly followers of Jesus, then we are not permitted to sit on the sidelines of this issue, nor can we with biblical support find defense for any other position than being pro-life.
Those words were difficult to even write as it grates against so much of my upbringing and my past (as mentioned above). In Canada, where I live, we have no set laws on abortion. But the philosophy that undergirds its acceptance is now being applied to infanticide, as in the case of Katrina Efferts, who was recently given a suspended sentence of three years for murdering her newborn, with the judge declaring that this act of infanticide was little different than abortion.
Philosophically, this judge may be able to justify her ruling, but it’s no different than Pilate’s washing of his hands. The blood remains on their hands. And if we remain silent, not simply about abortion, but about the hope the gospel brings to those who have had one or performed one, it will remain on ours as well.
Innocent Blood is perhaps the most personally convicting and challenging book I’ve read this year—so much so that I’m still wrestling with what needs to change, of what I need to repent and how to move forward. You will not enjoy reading this book, but you would do well to do so.
Aaron Armstrong, BloggingTheologically.com
Aaron later rated Innocent Blood his #1 Book for 2011
“love human life like you’ve never imagined”
What are Christians called to do about abortion? Is proclaiming it as murder really helping? Is being silent about it an option?
John Ensor’s book INNOCENT BLOOD dives deep into the issue of abortion, but not in a way that condemns those who’ve been involved in it in the typical Christian judgmental fashion. Though any talk about abortion in relation to God’s thoughts about it is assured to make many people uncomfortable and many people offended. In fact, Ensor implicates all of us in the bloodguilt of abortion. The book looks at the issue from God’s perspective, and explores several key Old Testament texts to reveal God’s heart toward not only the unborn, but all people. Human life is precious to God, therefore human beings have a responsibility to defend human life against anything and anyone that threatens it. Ensor makes the case that if we claim to be pro-life, yet do nothing to help protect the unborn, we may be pro-life in our declaration, but we’re pro-choice in practice. Suddenly the condemnation isn’t just on those who take part in abortion, but on Christ followers as well. Yet the greatest beauty is found in the cross where Jesus took on the bloodguilt of abortion and the killing of the innocent in our world.
I can’t cover all the insights of INNOCENT BLOOD here, but I would recommend all Christ followers to read the book. Ensor’s book is a call to love human life as God loves it, and love requires the defending of human life where possible. He also connects abortion as an attempt for the devil to stop the spread of God’s love to the world. After all, think what the world would have been like if the apostle Paul would have never been born.
I came away from reading INNOCENT BLOOD with a greater appreciation for God’s love of human beings, and it causes me to wrestle with what exactly I’m supposed to do about defending the innocent….
Read INNOCENT BLOOD, and love human life like you’ve never imagined.
“A jolt to the conscience…a much-needed gut check.”
“Abortion is the defining experience of this generation. It is an experience involving the shedding of innocent blood, a sin of bloodguilt, a sin that can only be addressed by a forthright, compassionate, and unapologetic gospel.” In his new book Innocent Blood, John Ensor makes a passionate plea for the church to “prevent the death of innocents and the bloodguilt that results.”
Ensor grounds this plea in Deuteronomy 19:7-10:
Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. And if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers…then you shall add three other cities to these three, lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.
The numbers are staggering:
There are 42 million induced abortions performed worldwide very year.
At the current rate, one-third of all American women has or will have had an abortion by the age of 45.
Women who have an abortion are at an elevated risk of death caused by many things such as suicide and depression.
China alone is responsible for over 400 million deaths by abortion which is 25% more than America.
56% of the world’s female suicides occur in China which is five times the world average.
Ensor’s aim is simple, to present a biblical case for why believers should not partake in the shedding of innocent blood and do what they can to stop it from happening. This is a call to protect the innocent among us.
Who are the innocent among us? They are:
“The harmless, pure, or free from guilt before our fellow man or the laws of man. Babies and little children come to mind first when we speak of the innocent in this sense; they are harmless and without guile. But adults, too, are called innocent when they have done nothing wrong toward their neighbor. To punish them without due process, or on the basis of a false report, or because they are poor and have no proper defenders, or to please the wealthy or powerful, is to harm the innocent.”
Why should we care for the innocent and vulnerable among us?
Christ cared for them and they have value because He made them. Being made in the image of God gives value to every person despite the color of their skin or the stage of their human development. Because the innocent Christ shed His blood to save us we should seek to save the innocent among us. God shows His value for our lives through Christ’s shedding of blood and so we should value the life of others.
Who is guilty of shedding innocent blood?
The answer may shock you. Ensor rightly points out that it is not just those who have a direct hand in the killing of the innocent but those who can do something to prevent it and don’t. This second category joins more of us into it than we may want to think and the weight of our responsibility is heavy. Ensor is clear that God will exact justice and judgment on those who shed innocent blood and it goes for both parties – the active and passive participants.
So what is the hope of the bloodguilty?
The hope of the bloodguilty is nothing other than the shedding of blood in the atonement of Christ. Ironically, it is the shedding of the innocent Christ’s blood that provides the atoning covering for the bloodguilty. Innocence for guilt. Ensor masterfully points out that Satan tried to attack baby Jesus as an infant. Jesus Himself as a baby was the target of innocent killing. Herod tried to take his life as a baby and Pilate succeeded while he was a man. The first attempt on his life would have stopped the gospel from becoming a reality. The second attempt resulted in his death and made the gospel a reality.
Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Life of the Gospel is a jolt to the conscience of anyone who reads it. It is a much needed gut check on how truly pro-life one is. It will challenge your heart and make you ask yourself if you are doing your part to stop the shedding of innocent blood. You will finish the book asking yourself one question – do I have the blood of the innocent on my hands?
Craig Hurst, Theology for the Road
“if you want to bring the gospel to bear on the lives of the people all around you…John’s book will certainly help you do that.”
I received a copy of John Ensor’s new book, Innocent Blood, a couple months back. At the time, I was finishing my own book on the subject of abortion and so I left John’s book on my shelf until this week. It’s a bit disconcerting to be that far into the writing process only to realize that someone older and wiser has a brand new book out on the same topic. Whether my own book ever sees the light of day remains to be seen, but it is finished and as it turns out, it shares remarkably little in common with Innocent Blood.
Innocent Blood is very much a “big picture” book. John goes to great lengths to place abortion in a broader historical and theological context. In fact, abortion doesn’t even enter the discussion until the book’s halfway point. Along the way, he points out that child-killing has always been at the forefront of Satan’s efforts to thwart the gospel – beginning with the mass-infanticide that surrounded the birth of Moses and repeated following the birth of Christ. Abortion is just the latest and most widespread manifestation of his age-old agenda. On page 19, Ensor asserts that what was accomplished on the cross is “far more extensive than we often imagine. Christ did not only die for the guilty,” Ensor states, “He died for the innocent.” How so?
“By innocent, I don’t mean sinless before God. All of us are guilty before a holy God. I mean harmless, pure, or free from guilt before our fellow man or the laws of man… So, when I say Christ died for the innocent, I mean his death secured gifts of temporal deliverance (that is, in this life) for the weak and the innocent as well as eternal deliverance from our sin before God.” (20, 21)
When I first read that last sentence, I put a question mark in the margin because I wasn’t sure where he was going. How does the death of Christ secure temporal deliverance for the innocent? John explains himself on the next page. Not only does the death of Jesus atone for the sins of those who believe, it also brings regeneration. Lives lived in the flesh become lives lived in the Spirit. Consuming love for self is replaced with love for Christ and neighbor. And one fruit of that transformation is the temporal rescue of the innocent by those who have been eternally redeemed through the cross. More times than not, the prayers of the oppressed are answered through the intervention of cross-bought believers – and John provides numerous, historical examples to back such a premise.
As someone who has been vocationally devoted to combatting abortion for more than a decade now, much of the book’s reasoning is familiar territory for me, but John makes one (huge) assertion that I had never before considered. He writes:
“Abortion is the defining experience of this generation.”
He prefaces this remark by relating an experience he had sharing the gospel with a man who had killed his wife. This man knew he was guilty, REALLY guilty, and his own moral compass wouldn’t accept forgiveness since the evil he had done demanded justice. He saw himself as too wicked to simply be let off the hook. Here enters the doctrine of bloodguilt. The gospel doesn’t say to the guilt-plagued soul, “Don’t be so down on yourself, you’re not such a bad person.” The gospel says, “You’re right to be down on yourself, but the just wrath that your actions deserve has been paid, blood for blood on the cross.” There is nothing cheap about God’s grace.
How does this relate to abortion? To answer that, consider a hypothetical scenario raised in the book. “Imagine preaching the gospel in the town of Dachau in the 1940s and intentionally avoiding, rather than addressing, how the death of Christ on the cross can atone (cover over and wash away) the murder of innocents.” Ensor believes this is the same situation we are in today because, “no other generation is more stained with bloodguilt than the current generation.” It’s estimated that one-third of American women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and for each one, there’s a father (plus family and friends who are also affected). For many of them, abortion is the defining event in their lives. A gospel that has nothing to say to them about the bloodguilt of abortion may be no gospel at all. Ensor explains:
“When you talk to someone today about the gospel, male or female, you are almost certainly talking to someone who has experienced abortion… How is it possible to bring a liberating gospel to a generation that is so deeply and specifically marked by the bloodguilt of abortion and say nothing about it?… The times and the context determine what must be emphasized in the gospel. Our times are marked by the bloodguilt of abortion… To think of abortion as a secondary issue – or worse, a merely political issue – is to fundamentally misunderstand the defining experience of our times.” (64, 65, 68)
If this is true, how is it that so many Christians who seek to faithfully engage in culturally-relevant, missional outreach continue to ignore such a prevalent cultural marker? Ensor answers this question on page 66:
“The difficulty we are up against – the thing that renders so many of us passive and all but useless in this area – is that sexual sins and abortion do not play nice on this postmodern playground. To introduce them into the conversation as they really are at any meaningful level is simply too painful for us. So we often choose to offend God rather than man.”
As a high school and college student, I didn’t want to get “sidetracked” by the abortion issue because I thought it would hamper my efforts to evangelize. What a silly notion that ended up being. And though I’ve long been aware of the fact that my evangelistic opportunities have been far more frequent and fruitful since becoming a public opponent of abortion, this is the best explanation I’ve heard for why that is. Towards the end of the book, Ensor suggests that abortion “may well be Satan’s chief weapon against world-evangelization today” – both for the future evangelists it destroys in the womb and the paralyzing guilt it lays on generations of men and women. In other words, if you want to bring the gospel to bear on the lives of the people all around you, you better give some thought to how the bloodguilt of abortion fits into the picture. And John’s book will certainly help you do that.
Mike Spielman, Founder / Director, Abort73.com__
An open invitation from John Ensor