Tactics and Tools

A Roadmap for Assessing Articles

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Author Alan Shlemon Published on 06/03/2020

Some Christians say their faith supports abortion. That’s what one author recently wrote. Because I’m a Christian and a proponent of the pro-life view, I was curious about her case.

After reading the article, though, I felt confused. I didn’t have a handle on her reasoning. The article felt hollow. Then, it dawned on me. There was nothing there. She didn’t provide a defense for her view. The article felt hollow because it was hollow—devoid of substantive reasoning.

I want to provide you with the steps I took to assess this article so you might have a plan to assess articles you come across, especially ones that challenge your religious convictions.

In the article, “The Argument for Abortion as a Religious Right,” the author claims the right to an abortion is protected by the freedom to exercise religion, and that Christianity “allows—and sometimes even requires—abortion.” Is that true? Or is the author mistaken? These three steps are a roadmap to help you assess an article.

First, slow down. When you first read the article, it can feel overwhelming. The author is a professional. The article is long and has been published, which gives it an aura of credibility. In this example, the author cites Christian, Muslim, and Jewish adherents to make her case. The article seems credible and compelling. You might wonder how you could doubt its conclusion. Maybe they’re right.

When you’re discouraged and the odds don’t seem in your favor, this is precisely the time to slow down. Take a deep breath. Don’t panic. Instead, set apart some time to think carefully about the article. They might be right, but maybe they’re wrong. You won’t find out by making a snap judgment. Instead, plan to walk slowly through the next two steps.

Second, determine the claim. It can be easy to get baffled by fancy writing or distracted by the article’s length. It’s critical to sort through all the clever rhetoric and get to the heart of the matter. What is the author’s claim? What’s the main idea they are trying to convince the reader to believe?

In this article, the author asserts abortion is a religious right. She specifically claims Christianity allows for—even requires—abortion. Bold claim, indeed, but now that we know the author’s claim, we can move on to the final step.

Third, look for evidence. Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Does the author deliver on their claim? Do they provide reasons for their view, or are they merely asserting their opinion? After all, it’s easy to offer an unsubstantiated claim. It’s more difficult, though, to provide evidence for your view. Without reasons, you don’t have to take the article seriously.

What evidence, then, did the author provide that the Christian faith “allows for—even requires—abortion?” None. The author didn’t make a biblical case or provide any moral reasoning. That’s why it felt hollow.

Rather, the author made a misleading move—either intentionally or unintentionally. To persuade the reader, she cited a Christian who holds the view that Christianity supports abortion. Reverend Katey Zeh, an ordained Baptist minister, is quoted in the article as saying, “There’s a lot of folks who are pro-choice or support reproductive dignity and freedom because of their faith and not in spite of it.” That’s not evidence that Christianity supports abortion, but rather it’s evidence there are Christians who support abortion. Those are very different things.

Reverend Zeh admits that even though the Bible “does not mention abortion specifically, popular attitudes towards abortion in Christianity have changed with the ages.” Again, that there might be pro-choice Christians is noteworthy. The real question, though, is why are they pro-choice? What about their religious convictions drives them to support abortion?

Without an answer to that question, the author’s logic is mistaken. The fact that someone is Christian and holds a certain view does not mean that view is consistent with Christianity. If that were true, then someone could claim Christianity is racist by merely citing a Christian who is racist.

It’s also worth noting that Christian teaching vigorously rejects her claim. It’s widely understood that Scripture teaches it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings, and it’s scientifically established that the unborn is a human being. Therefore, Christianity teaches that abortion is wrong. Not only is there no compelling evidence for the author’s claim, there is evidence against it.

After going through these three steps, I was able to see the article didn’t stand up to scrutiny. That’s why I’d encourage you to keep these steps in mind when you come across an article. It will help you to make sense of what you’re reading and possibly see the error in the author’s thinking.