Outside the Heavenly City

I know nothing about Dr. Steven W. Waterhouse, except that he’s written Outside the Heavenly City: Abortion in Rome and the Early Church’s Response.  But I’d really like to meet him.

It’s a fascinating little booklet.

In certain quarters of the church today, abortion has actually become controversial.  Far more often than not, this is simply because the church’s guttering lamp has been overwhelmed by the surrounding culture’s s love of autonomy and irresponsibility, and its consequent hatred for children.  Creeping liberalism and syncretism, in other words; the salt losing its savor and the lamp hiding out under a basket with all the cool kids.  Of course, this is not always the case: there are rock-ribbed conservatives who believe that abortion is permissible, and their reasoning tends to be more conscientous and less…heedless…than the liberal variety.  I acknowledge the distinction, although I’m not all that impressed with the difference between them.  Call me crazy, but my sympathies are with the kid, who winds up just as dead no matter how solid mommy’s conservative credentials might be.

But I’m addressing the liberals today.  One of the common excuses bandied about by the liberal variety of waffler is “Hey, these are difficult, complicated choices, and although I may be personally opposed to abortion, who am I to say that it’s not the right choice for someone else in their unique circumstances?”  In other words, these matters are hopelessly muddy, and it’s not possible to take a clear stance on the issue.

The early church, as Waterhouse demonstrates, didn’t agree.  Of course this doesn’t mean they were right — “The early church believed it” isn’t some sort of magic solvent that dissolves every objection — but it is a point of interest in the continuing discussion.  At the very least, the early church’s clear pro-child, anti-infanticide stance demonstrates that murk and confusion is not inevitable.  These days, that’s important in itself.

Westcliff Press , which publishes the book, looks to be a small operation (can handle credit cards, cannot do so online), so ordering will have to be done the old-fashioned way — by phone or mail.  However, at $2 each ($1 if you buy 3 or more), it’s not as though cost is a hardship.  Buy one for yourself and a few to pass around.  You won’t regret it.


6 Responses to Outside the Heavenly City

  1. Sanc says:

    Hi Tim,

    After posting on the topic of abortion I popped over here and discovered you also have. I appreciate hearing of this book – are you saying that the early church encountered abortion, and they also declared it as wrong? Can you share a bit of what is in it?

    You may be interested to listen to the singular testimony of an abortion survivor. God has perfectly suited her story as a foothold, to share her trust in Jesus Christ all over the world.

    Thanks, Michele

  2. Tim Nichols says:


    So sorry not to have gotten back to you sooner on this. I actually wrote the review a couple months ago, and have mislaid my copy of the booklet in the intervening time. Sorry I can’t be more help.

    His forever,
    Tim Nichols

  3. Neil says:

    Regarding those who would say, “who am I to say that it’s not the right choice for someone else in their unique circumstances?,” I respond by pointing out that while abortion is a psychologically complex situation it is not a morally complex one.

    I teach pro-life reasoning training for volunteers at a CareNet Pregnancy Center where I’m a board member (and anywhere else anyone will listen, such as my blog). We see all sorts of very complicated situations at CareNet – old ladies, poor people, girls whose parents threaten to kick them out or worse, boyfriends who say they’ll leave if the girl doesn’t have an abortion (even though they leave anyway 90% of the time), etc. All very complex – psychologically.

    But none of those reasons are adequate justification for crushing and dismembering an innocent human being.

    Re. the early church: I had fun with an extreme liberal theologian once. He was pro-legalized abortion but anti-capital punishment. He quote-mined some church fathers to support his anti-capital punishment views. When I read the quotes in context I pointed out that they didn’t really prove the blogger’s point. What was most interesting, though, was the unequivocal condemnation of abortion by the church fathers in question. Not surprisingly, the blogger didn’t view the pro-life stance as authoritative at all.

  4. Neil says:

    P.S. Love your blog title and writing!

  5. Neil says:

    P.S.S. “old ladies” should have read “older ladies, pregnancy-wise,” i.e., those in their late 30’s / early 40’s.

    Maybe I should proof read before I submit the comment!

  6. Tim Nichols says:


    Thank you for your kind words. I love the distinction between psychologically complex and morally complex. Very good tool, that.

    His forever,

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