05 Apr (#15) WHAT CHRISTIANS BELIEVE ABOUT ABORTION
Once home to the legendary hippie counterculture of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco still wears its progressive reputation proudly. I looked forward to hearing from a focus group of men gathered there to let us know their thoughts on the Christian faith. After introductions, our facilitator sprung her opening question: “What is your first reaction when you hear someone talk about Christianity?” Included in the discussion that followed was the curious assumption by everyone in the focus group that abortion was a morally good thing and not really up for debate. Their conclusion coincided with the national research study in which half of our survey participants (50%) agreed that “the Christian religion and I have different views on social issues like abortion….”
When my wife, Grace, and I first met in high school, I was strongly in favor of abortion. In fact, I was somewhat familiar with the eugenics ideology of Thomas Malthus that was held by Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood. I wrongly believed that less fit people should be sterilized or not permitted to conceive and encouraged, if not required, to abort if impregnated. I argued for this both in high school classes, as the president of our student body, and later in college classroom debates.
Grace and I had an ongoing debate, as she was a Bible-believing pastor’s daughter who was consistently pro-life in her convictions. I won most of the arguments from a rhetorical point of view, but she was right and I was wrong. Today, as we raise our five beautiful babies together, I cannot even fathom what I was thinking. As a new Christian, my mind was completely transformed on this issue in reading the Bible.
Here is a summary of the eight core biblical truths that pertain to the issue of abortion:
- God is the Creator and Author of human life (Gen. 1–2; Deut. 32:39; Ps. 139:13–16).
- God made humanity in His image and likeness, which means that human life is unique and sacred (Gen. 1:27; James 3:9).
- God intends for human beings to fill the earth (Gen. 1:28, 9:1).
- God confirmed that life begins at conception and declares that an unborn baby is a sacred life (Exod. 1:16–17, 21:22–25; Lev. 18:21; Jer. 7:31–32; Ezek. 16:20–21; Mic. 6:7; Matt. 2:16–18; Acts 7:19).
- God knows us from our mother’s womb (Jer. 1:5; Job 10:9–12, 31:15; Ps. 119:73; Eccles. 11:5).
- God declares that when human life is taken without just cause (i.e., capital punishment, just war, self-defense), the sin of murder has been committed (Gen. 9:5; Exod. 20:13).
- God is sovereign over the womb and can ultimately open and close it as He wills (Gen. 20:18, 29:31, 30:22; 1 Sam. 1:5–6; Isa. 66:9; Luke 1:24–25).
- Children are a blessing from God to be provided and cared for by parents as well as extended family and the church, including those who are adopted as Jesus was (Gen. 1:28a; Ps. 127:3–5, 128:3–4; Matt. 18:5–6; Mark 9:36–37, 10:16; 1 Tim. 5:8).
In an article I wrote for Fox News, I said this regarding abortion: “Of all the Ten Commandments, number six is the only one that our nation has codified into law. ‘You shall not murder.’ Since 1973, legal abortions in America have taken the lives of 55 million people…That total of 55 million lives equals 17.5% of the country’s current population, is greater than the population of any state in the Union, and is greater than the population of 219 of the world’s countries including South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Australia, Argentina, and Canada. Fifty-five million is about the same as the population of the 25 smallest states and Washington D.C. combined.”1
I went on to explain a discussion I had with Dr. John Piper about his conversation with an abortion doctor. Piper said, “Before I could get my first of 10 arguments out of my mouth, [the doctor] said, ‘Look, I know I’m killing children.” Piper was astounded and asked the man to explain why he would do such a thing. “To be honest, my wife wants me to because it’s a matter of justice for women [and] the lesser of two evils in her mind.”2
Scientifically and medically, it is beyond debate that human life begins at conception. From the initial joining of sperm and egg, the tiny baby is alive, distinct from its mother, and living and growing as a human.3
While the ability to express humanity and personhood changes throughout the life cycle, human essence and human personhood are innate to the living being. No matter how tiny or weak, humans deserve support and protection because they are God’s image-bearers. Princeton professor and former member of the President’s Council on Bioethics Robert P. George rightly says:
Human embryos are not… some other type of animal organism, like a dog or cat. Neither are they a part of an organism, like a heart, a kidney, or a skin cell. Nor again are they a disorganized aggregate, a mere clump of cells awaiting some magical transformation. Rather, a human embryo is a whole living member of the species Homo sapiens in the earliest stage of his or her natural development. Unless severely damaged, or denied or deprived of a suitable environment, a human being in the embryonic stage will, by directing its own integral organic functioning, develop himself or herself to the next more mature developmental stage, i.e., the fetal stage. The embryonic, fetal, child, and adolescent stages are stages in the development of a determinate and enduring entity—a human being—who comes into existence as a single-celled organism (the zygote) and develops, if all goes well, into adulthood many years later. But does this mean that the human embryo is a human person worthy of full moral respect? Must the early embryo never be used as a mere means for the benefit of others simply because it is a human being? The answer… is “Yes.”4
Furthermore, Christians have always followed the teaching of the Old Testament Jews, that abortion of a preborn child and exposure of a born child are both murderous sins. In the Didache, which was an ancient manual for church instruction, we read, “You shall not commit murder…You shall not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide.”5
Some will argue that there is a difference between a child in a mother’s womb and one outside of it, yet the early church saw both as equal living people and the taking of life in either state as equally murderous. Their convictions were based on Scripture, which uses the same word (brephos) for Elizabeth’s unborn child (John the Baptizer) as that used for the unborn baby Jesus in Mary’s womb and also for the children brought to Jesus (Luke 1:41, 1:44, 2:12, 18:15). Simply, in the divinely inspired pages of Scripture, God reveals to us that a child in the womb and a child singing and dancing around Jesus in worship are equally human beings who bear the image of God, and thankfully Mary did not abort the “tissue” in her womb.
Additionally, the Bible assumes that an unborn baby is a human life and assigns the death penalty for anyone who takes an unborn life because it is murder. Exodus 21:22–25 (ESV) says:
When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out [the Hebrew term is yasa, a live birth—not shakal, the typical term for miscarriage], but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Indeed, not to extend legal protections to preborn children because of age, size, or phase of development is a grievous discrimination and injustice akin to racism, sexism, and ageism. Finally, the Good News of Christianity is that not only did God come to earth as a baby, but He grew up to become a man who died on the cross to forgive any and all sins—including the taking of an unborn life.
Mark Driscoll, “What do 55 million people have in common?” https:// www.foxnews.com/opinion/what-do-55-million-people-have-in-common.
See Douglas Considine, ed., Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia, 5th ed.
(New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1976), 943; Keith L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud,Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects, 6th ed. (Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders, 2001), 2; Bruce M. Carlson, Patten’s Foundations of Embryology, 6th ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996), 3; Jan Langman, Medical Embryology, 3rd ed. (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins, 1975), 3; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 2nd ed. (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), 8, 29.
Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (New York: Doubleday, 2008), 3–4. George is a professor of jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University and a former member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Right-to-life arguments have typically been based explicitly on moral and religious grounds. In Embryo, the authors eschew religious arguments and make a purely scientific and philosophical case that the fetus, from the instant of conception, is a human being, with all the moral and political rights inherent in that status. The authors argue that there is no room for a “moral dualism” that regards being a “person” as merely a stage in a human life span. An embryo does not exist in a “prepersonal” stage that does not merit the inviolable rights otherwise ascribed to persons. Instead, the authors argue, the right not to be intentionally killed is inherent in the fact of being a human being and that status begins at the moment of conception. Moreover, just as none should be excluded from moral and legal protections based on race, sex, religion, or ethnicity, none should be excluded on the basis of age, size, or stage of biological development.