Ensor, John. Innocent Blood: Challenging the Powers of Death with the Gospel of Life. Cruciform Press, 2011. (Note that the book is on clearance at wtsbooks.com).
Brief Overview of the Book (Theme, Perspective, Approach):
John Ensor gives away the thesis and arguments of the book in the introduction and summary entitled, "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed" (taking his cue from Deut 19:7-10). And yet it will reward the reader greatly to continue deeper through the chapters entitled "Blood-Precious: Christ Died for the Innocent," "Blood-Guilt: God's Response to the Shedding of Innocent Blood," "Blood-Atonement: Christ's Provision for the Shedding of Innocent Blood," "Blood-Earnest: Christ's Courage to Stop the Shedding of Innocent Blood," and "Blood-War: Satan's Plan to Delay the Final Triumph of the Gospel." The book endeavors to show that defending the innocents slaughtered through abortion is a matter of the highest gospel priorities in modern America. It is written to Christians to encourage us to have the courage and resolve to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. The book is incredibly appropriate to read today on Good Friday because of the connection that Ensor shows between the death of Jesus Christ and pro-life work. Ensor definitively shows that being personally pro-life is simply not sufficient.
If the shedding of innocent blood is not truly of central concern to us, then neither can the cross of Christ be our supreme concern. After all, what is it that elevates the cross to supreme importance? The shedding of innocent blood (p.13).Critique (strengths and weaknesses):
It is worth noting that Ensor's definition of innocent blood is not the same as sinless before God. Instead he defines it, using Scripture like Exodus 23:6-7, as being "harmless, pure, or free from guilt before our fellow man or the laws of man" (p.20). He notes that young children and the preborn are foremost among those that we think of as innocent in this sense. He heavily relies on the word of God to make the case that life is precious and that we must do everything we can to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. Looking at Deuteronomy 21, Ensor shows that when a victim died outside of a town then the town nearest to the body would accept responsibility for it and went through a ritual to "feel something of the loss God feels" (p.51) where they had to testify that they did not actively take the life, they did not passively watch it happen, and yet "they were still stained with bloodguilt" (p.52) and ask God to atone for them with sacrificed blood. The Scriptural case is convincingly made that we have blood-guilt on us because of the abortions happening in our midst that needs the atonement of the blood of Jesus. The book is short (116 pgs plus endnotes) but it is incredibly well-argued and persuasive.
Application (specific, shows just how valuable & relevant the book is):
I already serve on the Board of Directors for Presbyterians Pro-Life, but reading this book has persuaded me that I need to direct even more of my energies to the pro-life effort. The parallels that Ensor makes with historical situations such as lynchings and what happened in Le Chambon, France are especially valuable. Courage is required of our faith in Jesus even when what is necessary is unpopular. Concerning the example of lynching, "What if, on the following Sunday, your pastor says to you after church, 'This lynching business is a political issue and I am about preaching the gospel'--do you have the moral clarity and courage to do what is right in the sight of the Lord? Do you have the courage to say, respectfully but firmly, 'No, pastor, I'm sorry, but this is far more than a political issue. You are not preaching the gospel when you assent to evil. In fact, now you are using God to disobey God?'" And Ensor says, "Or maybe your pastor says, "I know there are people in this church who feel guilty about their involvement in the lynching. I do not want to make them feel worse.' Do you have the courage to say, 'I am afraid, pastor, that perhaps it is you who does not want to feel worse. Leaving people in guilt is not your calling. Even an unbeliever can do that'" (p.56-57). Ensor is persuasive, I will speak out even more about life! He even has an appendix at the end of the book with six things that you can do right now to help save the innocent.
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).There is so much more excellent material in this book than I can share in a review...read it!
(This review was also published at http://revmarple.com.)