Abolitionists trust in the providence of God rather than the pragmatism of man.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. (Psa 20:6-9)
Some of the greatest military assets in the ancient world were chariots and horses. Yet the psalmist views them as irrelevant when the true and the living God is on his side. In the same way, we choose to trust God’s word while making war with the kingdom of darkness, even when such trust appears misplaced to worldly thinkers.
Abolitionists receive a lot of criticism for standing on scripture alone in our approach to national sin. Refusing to compromise in civil legislation, insisting on the gospel as the only cure for sin, and calling the local church to repentance are all often viewed as impractical, rash, or poorly thought out decisions that need to be curbed by the greater wisdom of moderate thinkers, such as those in the pro-life movement.
Sometimes this discussion is framed as a disagreement between the philosophies of deontology and consequentialism. Deontologists believe that morality is determined by duty or laws regardless of outcome, whereas consequentialists believe morality is determined by the results of an action — the ends justify the means. Abolitionists are seen as deontologists, caring only about biblical duty without any concern for how many children are saved, and pro-lifers are viewed as consequentialists, willing to save as many children as they can by any means possible.
This however is not an accurate framing of the issue, because we know that God created the universe (Heb 11:3). God is the person who gives us our duty, and is also the one who truly knows how the world works. So it is ultimately more practical, pragmatic, and wise to obey His word, no matter how impractical it may seem, because one man with God on his side is greater than a thousand men without Him.
One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God who fights for you, just as he promised you. Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. (Jos 23:10-11)
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1Co 1:25-27)
Abolitionists believe that only a wholehearted, unswerving reliance on God is truly practical; therefore we rely on the providence of God rather than the pragmatism of man. As the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison once said,
What then is to be done? Friends of the slave, the question is not whether by our efforts we can abolish slavery, speedily or remotely — for duty is ours, the result is with God — but whether we will go with the multitude to do evil, sell our birthright for a mess of pottage, cease to cry aloud and spare not, and remain in Babylon when the command of God is “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Let us stand in our lot, “and having done all, to stand.” At least, a remnant shall be saved. Living or dying, defeated or victorious, be it ours to exclaim, “No compromise with slavery! Liberty for each, for all, forever! Man above all institutions! The supremacy of God over the whole earth!”