“Emotional” < “Analytical”

Jennifer Senior writes in a New York Magazine article about how pro-choice our nation isn’t,

The pro-choice movement has always had the harder job. The choice argument is an analytical one, grounded in theories of privacy and the rights of the mother; the pro-life side has the case with instant visceral and emotional appeal: This is life we’re talking about.

Really? The pro-choice argument boils down to “I want what’s best for myself.” Sounds pretty visceral to me. If the pro-choice side has analytical theories supporting it, those are less analyses than they are rationalizations. The value of life inside the womb is something you can’t not know at some level—though it’s a truth you can suppress (Rom. 1:18).

The pro-life side for its part does rest on analytical theories and human rights constructs. The Christian pro-life side is on an infinitely firmer foundation, grounded as it is on the bedrock of God’s image in man (Gen. 9:6).

But something else in Senior’s argument struck me. She assumes that analytical arguments are superior to emotional ones. The Bible says that both reason and emotion are bent by the fall; neither is completely trustworthy. On the flip side, either may at times correct the other (ideally they will work in harmony).

Our nation’s collective gut-feeling, as Senior’s article admits, is that there’s something wrong with elective abortion. Sometimes emotions reveal truths that rationalization has obscured.

For more on the interplay of emotion, intellect, will, and other human faculties, see John Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life, where I’ve found real help here.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.


  1. Todd Jones on December 21, 2009 at 10:58 am

    re: title
    The NYT article on Robert George (http://bit.ly/8OQB5r), the RC brain behind Manhattan, seems to assume the same thing–and to posit that most evangelical and political brains agree. Analysis over emotion is, after all, something of an academic sine qua non. I share your ambivalence, though, on divorcing the two. (I believe this goes for music as well.)

  2. Mark L Ward Jr on December 21, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    There’s a fascinating discussion in the New York Magazine article between a pro-choice counselor and a woman who’s come in for an abortion. The woman tries to claim that it’s her boyfriend who’s making her get an abortion. It’s 99% him, she says. But when the counselor pushes back–“We don’t do abortions for boyfriends”–the woman comes closer to admitting the real reason for her presence in the clinic. She still won’t say it until the counselor (wisely) presses her. She reaches for a tissue and admits, “It’s for the best, and best interest of me, and my life.”

    Emotional, visceral, pro-choice.

    And thanks for the tip, Todd.

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