In 1973, a terribly ignorant and straying Supreme Court effectively painted a "bull's eye" on the head of every unborn child, from conception to birth. You may not be aware of this sad reality. I am sure that many are not. You may think that federal law restricts abortion to the first three months, or to certain specific cases. It does not. Any woman may have any child aborted for any reason, from conception to delivery. Many women have done just that. The current debate on the barbarous practice euphemistically called "partial birth abortion" should have demonstrated this sad reality to all.
Before the Gulf War, we were warned by the likes of newsman Sam "Body Bags" Donaldson that we would see many, many dead Americans as a result. Some said that more would die than perished in Vietnam. The thought was frightening — but, wait a minute. How many Americans actually died in Vietnam? Fifty-six thousand, five hundred and fifty-five (56,555). To be sure, that is an awful lot of young men and women.
But since 1973, an undeclared war has claimed over four hundred and forty-five times as many casualties. Well over twenty-five MILLION, two hundred thousand (25,200,000) lives have been lost in this battle. In fact, it is estimated that by the year 2000 AD the number of those butchered will likely reach forty-six million, eight hundred thousand (46,800,000) — which is fully thirty times the numbers of Americans dead in all American wars combined!1 Every one of these will have died brutally violent deaths.
Those are our abortion statistics. Hardly a cause for boasting.
But "so what"? Isn’t abortion simply another surgical procedure? Isn't that just like counting so many tonsillectomies, or appendectomies? It is not as if a fetus is a person, right? Isn't a fetus just a parasite, while the mother acts as the host organism? Is it not as even Joseph Fletcher, father of situation ethics, once wrote —
If, however, the fetus is human, then each abortion represents the deliberate and violent taking of human life.
We could approach this question from a number of angles. I intend to give a brief, exclusively Biblical presentation on the subject.
I shall lay out quite simply three Biblical propositions. They are:
Consider Genesis 1:26-28 —
Now, note Genesis 2:7 — "Then Yahweh God formed the man, dust from the ground; then He blew in his nostrils the spirit of life; and the man became a living soul!" This provides a close-up of the creation of Adam, in which we can see how unique and direct God's creative act was. In what follows, we learn that Adam is wholly unlike the animals, and no real companion can be found among their number. Hence, God must miraculously create Eve to be Adam's soul-mate, his helper of corresponding value.
The Bible reinforces this uniqueness in many ways. On the one hand, men may freely kill and eat animals (Genesis 9:3; Acts 10:9-16), or make other use of them (Exodus 25:4, 5; Mark 1:6; Acts 9:43; James 3:7), all with God's blessing. However, let either a man — or even morally-ignorant beasts — wrongly take human life, and their own lives are instantly forfeit (Genesis 9:5, 6; Exodus 21:28, 29). The privilege of free use does not extend both ways across the species border. This consideration starkly reveals a sharp and unbridgeable gap between men and beasts. Man bears God's image. For that reason God values human life in a way in which animal life is not. Homicide accordingly is an assault on God, and is strictly and categorically forbidden (Genesis 9:5, 6).
Human life, in the Bible, is unique. We shall see that the unborn qualify as human life.
Closely consider Genesis 9:6 — "The one shedding the blood of man, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God did He make man."
We notice here that the fall of our race into sin did not erase the image of God, as some have incorrectly imagined. Human life was still by definition protected by God. It was protected from wrongful death by man or beast alike. Individual people were not authorized to kill each other at will. The only divinely-authorize taking of life was as a penalty for murder.
Note also the justly-famous command which is foundational to civilized law: Exodus 20:13 — "You shall not murder." This prohibition is designedly absolute: without God's express allowance, no man may take another's life.
Does God make any allowance at all for the taking of human life? He did, in Israel's theocracy, allow for divinely-authorized war, and for capital punishment. He continues to allow, and in fact to require, that governments take the lives of murderers. Indeed, the Bible does not countenance our legal system's endlessly expanding list of pretexts for murder. If one deliberately takes another human life wrongly, he must die. If a murderer is not thus justly punished, the country which tolerated his crime bears the guilt of innocent blood before God (cf. Numbers 35:30-34).
"Quality of Life." In considering abortion, it is vital to realize that this protection was extended by God to those whose "quality of life" we might think of as substandard. Injured, crippled, and mentally-deficient people were not to be murdered, nor mistreated in any way, because of their handicaps. Rather, they were to be protected!
We must pause to consider this more deeply. In our corrupt and unreflecting society, we reason thus: the less functional a person is, the less he is worth. The less utilitarian value he has to us, the less value he has, period. Therefore , he is all the more expendable, and eradicable. If he serves no useful purpose, he should be thrown away like spoiled food.
God’s viewpoint, however, could not be more different. The Bible says that the less functional a person is, the more we should protect him! Study the following passages, from the New American Standard Bible (NASB):
Deuteronomy 27:18 "‘Cursed is he who misleads a blind person on the road.' And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" [All of Israel as a society was compelled to embrace the protection of a less-functional person from mistreatment.-
2 Samuel 9:3 And the king said, "Is there not yet anyone of the house of Saul to whom I may show the kindness of God?" And Ziba said to the king, "There is still a son of Jonathan who is crippled in both feet." ...6And Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and prostrated himself. And David said, "Mephibosbeth." And he said, "Here is your servant!" 7And David said to him, "Do not fear, for I will surely show kindness to you for the sake of your father Jonathan, and will restore to you all the land of your grandfather Saul; and you shall eat at my table regularly." [David cares for this disabled man, rather than euthanizing him.]
Job 29:15 "1 was eyes to the blind, And feet to the lame." [Job’s godly character showed in his care for those less functional than he.]
Proverbs 31:8 Open your mouth for the dumb, For the rights of all the unfortunate. 9Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. [There is a moral imperative to protect the weak.]
God says, "If he's imperfect, protect him!"
The crowning irony was in the fact that the car was driven by an obstetrician.
The Bible cancels out our notion that humanity is defined by function, by ability, by performance. The Bible clearly shows that human life, per se, is valuable in the eyes of God!
This, of course, is the precise opposite of the pro-abortion rationale. To support abortion on demand, one must define humanity from the vantage point of what we (the definers) are, and what we can do. If another cannot do what we can do, then we in our arrogance see him as less valuable, and possibly less human. Doctor William Liley, research professor in perinatal physiology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, was exactly right:
Let us start with a seldom-noticed verse: Genesis 4:1 — "And Adam was intimate with Eve, his wife; and she conceived and gave birth to Cain; and she said, ‘I have acquired a man with the help of11 Yahweh!" This verse, and not Genesis 2:7, is the first record of a normal human conception and birth.
Note carefully the wording: as a result of sexual relations, Eve conceived-and-gave-birth-to — to what? To two different things? That is precisely the pro-abortion rationale: what a woman conceives is not a person, until it is born. She conceives a thing, and maybe (if she so chooses) later gives birth to a human. How did the thing become a person? Evidently, some imagine a magical in utero transformation which is utterly unknown either to science or the Bible.
By contrast, the Bible identifies what Eve conceives with what she delivers. They are the same. She conceives and gives birth to the same person. Both are, simply put, Cain, her son. Eve conceives a human person, and she gives birth to a human person, the same human person: Cain. He did not become Cain (i.e. a person) sometime after conception, during gestation or birth. He was a person the moment he was conceived. All that happened to him after conception was the process of growth, which included his birth and naming.
Similarly, let us read Genesis 21:2, 3 — "Then Sarah conceived and gave birth to a son for Abraham...and Abraham called the name of his son...Isaac." It is a son named Isaac who is conceived, given birth to, and named. Sarah does not conceive a "parasite" (as some pro-aborts actually call the unborn child), and then some time later bear a human being. In fact, the phrase "conceived and bore" is found 11 times in Genesis alone, demonstrating the same phenomenon and further underlining the same truth
Then note Genesis 5:3 — "Then Adam lived 130 years, and he fathered a son in his likeness, according to his image; and he called his name Seth." This, too, records the normal process of procreation in human history. God directly created Adam and then Eve in His image, and what He creates is instantly alive. Adam and Eve were the last humans directly created by God. They then conceived children in the normal fashion.
Adam fathers a child who, by virtue of being Adam's son, inherits the image of God, and thus humanity, from his father. Adam's child is, by definition, fully human. Now, when does Seth become Adam's child? At conception! In fact, Seth has no existence as such apart from Adam fathering him in Eve. Adam does not father a thing which later becomes his son. No, he fathers his son, who later is called Seth. So, if we are looking for a more normal paradigm of birth, and for an explicit statement of unique value and personhood, we should not argue from Adam or Eve, but from Seth, who from the moment of conception was a human being bearing the image of God.
The Bible records no magic event that transforms a non-human fetus into a human baby. As one doctor has said, there is no Bar Mitzvah in the womb. The event that creates a person is the event of conception. Everything else that happens — birth, life, death, resurrection — happens to that same human being who was originally conceived.
Let us now study a crucial passage: Exodus 21:22-25. This is a case where correct translation is crucial. Although I normally recommend the New American Standard Bible, I must say that its rendering of this passage is shockingly, indefensibly inaccurate. Here it is:
First, even if that interpretation is true, what connection would this passage possibly have with abortion? This passage, on that interpretation, deals with accidental death or injury. Abortion is not accidental! Abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child.
However, the point is moot, because the NASB simply grossly mistranslates the text. What Moses treats here is not the case of a miscarriage, but of a premature live birth. Consider my more literal translation of part of the Hebrew text:
God imposes the death penalty for accidentally causing a miscarriage! That being the case, what must His assessment be of the deliberate practice of pre-natal child-killing (abortion)?
Terminology. Noting other Biblical texts, we see that the same terminology is used of children both in and out of the womb. That is, the Bible describes humans with the same words, whether pre-birth or post-birth. The Hebrew word geber is used of an adult man in Exodus 10:11 (and often), and is also used of an embryo in Job 3:3. The Hebrew word yeled is used of a young child in Genesis 21:8, and of an unborn child in Genesis 25:22 and Exodus 21:22. The OT applies human terms, terms denoting personhood, to unborn children.
The Greek New Testament is no less clear. The Greek word brephos is used of a baby by Dr. Luke in Luke 18:15, and it describes unborn John the Baptist in Elizabeth's womb in 1:41 and 44. The Greek word huios is used of the full-grown John the Baptist by Dr. Luke in Luke 23:2, and of the newly-conceived John the Baptist in Luke 1:36! The NT then, like the OT, applies human terms, terms denoting personhood, equally to born and to unborn children.
Many "Christian" Positions? I imagine that some uninformed readers will have the vague impression that Christians differ on the question of abortion. Of course, this fact in itself is meaningless, unless the reader imagines that, every time people disagree, truth is unknowable. The sad fact is that individual Christians have differed on almost everything, sometimes for good reason, sometimes for no good reason whatever. Professing Christians over the centuries have differed on every doctrine that the reader thinks is certain: the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the inspiration of Scripture, the terms of salvation, the meaning of the atonement, the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection. The mere fact of disagreement is itself meaningless.
The more pressing question is: "What does Scripture teach?" A secondary question is: "Do those who hold differing positions have good reasons for doing so?" I believe that we have seen that Scripture affirms the humanity of the unborn. Further, in this matter, it is my conviction that no Christian has a good reason for differing on the matter of abortion. Scripture is clear on the subject.
That does not mean that some have not claimed that Scripture leaves the abortion issue open, or tried to make a case for abortion from Scripture. For instance, some Christians have made a terrible jumble of Genesis 2:7 — "Then Yahweh God formed the man, dust from the ground; then He blew in his nostrils the spirit of life; and the man became a living soul!" Among fundamentalists, this is probably the most frequently-misused text putting the beginning of human life at the point of birth rather than at conception.
Those who misuse Genesis 2:7 argue that, because Adam became a living soul when he took his first breath, it follows that a fetus is not really a person until it is born, and actually breathes. Breath defines humanity, to them.
However, this notion does great violence to the Scriptures, as well as to the facts. Adam was unlike a fetus in many regards. Consider these for starters:
In understanding this passage, we should not think of Adam as fully formed, and then laying around for days or weeks like a dead man, a non-person, until God eventually happens by and starts Adam breathing. A better reading of the text would see these as virtually simultaneous acts: God forms-Adam-and-breathes-in-the-breath-of-life. An observer might not have noticed any time lapse whatsoever between the two actions. Were the event captured on video tape, one might have required a slow-motion viewing even to discern a moment without a breath.
We must take our clues from the evidence of the text of Scripture. Does Scripture indicate a spread of time between creation and life? Not at all. If there is an appreciable period, it is neither mentioned nor developed in the text. Accordingly, it would be a grave mistake to develop a theory built on such sepulchral silence, particularly when innocent and helpless human lives are at stake.
Here is what the text indicates: as soon as there was any Adam at all, there was a living Adam, a fully human person.
Finally, this misinterpretation makes much of Adam breathing. It was by his initial act of breathing that Adam became a living person, we are told. This is made the hub of the argument against the personhood of the unborn: they have not taken this first breath, and therefore are not living persons.
If this is the crux of personhood, we should expect to find that fact reflected in the text of Scripture. But we must note very carefully: the text says NOTHING explicitly about Adam breathing! The text only says that God breathed, thus imparting life! God blew the spirit or breath of life into Adam's nostrils and, being a fully formed man lying out in the open air, Adam (we are left to assume) then began to breathe. The point emphasized is not Adam breathing, but God imparting life.
Now add this consideration: unborn babies "breathe" too! Unborn babies take in oxygen through the umbilical cord — which Adam did not have! Would that not equally qualify as the "breath of life"? Although filled with fluid, even the lungs of the unborn begin working before birth.
Even more fundamentally, if we simply asked the question as to when the process of human life begins, the scientific answer would be unambiguous and indisputable. Human life begins at conception. It begins when the DNA code is locked in and the microscopic person begins the astonishing continuum of development which continues apace throughout gestation, birth, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, and which is ended only by death. With this scientific stance, the Biblical revelation accords perfectly, adding the moral imperative that this life is unique and protected. God imparts the spirit of life at the point of conception.
The Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.
The Christian Minimum. The very least that we must say is that it is extremely likely that the Bible treats the unborn as fully human from the moment of conception. That in itself should move every Christian to oppose abortion on demand. After all, if there is any chance that these are human beings, must we not err on the side of that possibility?
Perhaps you have gone hunting in the past. Suppose that you lose sight of your hunting partner for a time. Then, suddenly, you see something moving in the bushes. It might be a deer or rabbit — or it might be Bud! What do you do? Open fire first, and look for a driver’s license later?
If you have any sense and training at all, you do not blast away gaily at anything and everything that moves in the bushes, simply because it might not be your partner! If it might be your partner, however remotely, you don't shoot it! (If that is not your policy, you should have the courtesy to inform any prospective partners well in advance!)
The case should be no different in our view of abortion. If there is any reasonable chance that these are human beings who are being killed, we must oppose the process on principle. Certainly Christians are morally obligated go at least this far.
But the Christian can and should go much further, and he should only participate in churches which go further. In fact, I challenge you to ask your pastor this week where he stands on this issue. If your pastor is at all wishy-washy or fuzzy, or claims not to have "studied" the issue sufficiently, consider this: abortion has been available on demand for nearly twenty-five years. Where has this man been? Has he been in a moral, social coma? If your pastor is not well on his way to having a Biblical position on the issue, then clearly he has been hiding his head in the sand about the extermination of thousands of little defenseless human beings, at the rate of over four thousand a day!
Abortion is one of the public moral issues of our day. America is hosting a slaughter on a scale that makes the hideous crimes of Nazi Germany shrink by comparison. No longer have we any moral qualification for judging Hitler, Amin, or Hussein. These men combined could not touch the mass of human lives which modern America slaughters to the gods of immoral sex and convenience.
Does it seem extreme to compare abortion to the Holocaust? Perhaps it is extreme. After all, abortion is much worse. Some of those poor Jewish folks were able to hide or escape. Where can an unborn child go for safety? By rights, he should be safe in his mother’s womb. After all, he was invited. Yet the womb has become the most dangerous place in America.
This fact alone condemns us as a culture. It is not "rocket science" to be able to realize that killing babies for convenience is immoral. Yet our political and legal "lights" have not found their way to affording any legal protection for any child when he is at his most helpless and dependent. We have become a society of people who "call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; [and] Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20).
The fact of our continued existence, in the face of this great evil alone — and it is not our only heinous crime against God — is cause for astonishment.
What Can We Do? American Christians are, by and large, not well-schooled in rational thought. Thus, unfortunately we must confess that some professing Christians will be content to say, "All right, you've convinced me. I will never have an abortion. But I am not going to tell others that they cannot have abortions. It is too personal of a decision!"
One can only marvel at the moral numbness and intellectual shallowness of such a position. This is "reasoning" identical to a citizen in Nazi Germany saying, "Well, I would never personally take the life of a Jew; but I am not going to stop the government from making that choice"? Again, it is precisely like saying, "I would never molest children sexually, nor murder them; nor would I commit rape, theft, nor murder; but if others wish to make that choice, who am I to object?"
Indeed, on consideration, is the case with abortion not far worse? Jews could have tried to hide, escape, or fight back (tragically fruitless though those efforts often were). Abused children could scream, run, kick, or try to find help. Targets of rape and murder might fight back, or flee. But what can the unborn child do? He has been, in virtually every case, freely invited into his mother's womb. He has been given life in an act engaged in by the deliberate choice of his mother and father. Now one or both of them want to kill him. What is that child to do? Where is he to go? Heart-rending ultrasound pictures show unborn children trying to escape the abortionists instruments of death, but the little victim has nowhere to go. Who will speak up for him?
If we who bear the name of Christ will not stand up loud and clear in the defense of these innocent unborn, then who will? And what will we protest, if not such wholesale slaughter? And what has happened to our saltiness (Matthew 5:13)?
Whether they know it or not, our fellow-citizens depend on us to apply God's values to society, to be a sort of conscience for the nation. If we will not do so, if we will not reprove the works of darkness because of what we see in God's light (Ephesians 5:11-17), what excuse will we possibly offer when we are finally judged by Him before whom all pathetic excuses vanish like the chimeras they are?
We are morally obliged undertake some specific action in defense of the unborn. What forms should that action take?
Specific Actions. First, as I have already hinted, Christians should shun churches or church bodies which have not taken firm stands in opposition to abortion. The media love to cite "mainline denominations" who favor abortion. By our absence, let us see to it that "Ichabod" is written largely and boldly over all such morally depraved and spiritually blind associations who dare to shame the name of Christ in this way.
Have no doubt: the only language understood by movers and shakers in such churches is the language of your feet! If anyone thinks that he can "get there" by complaining, praying, and handwringing, he is kidding himself. Decision-makers who are not persuadable by Scripture look for two things: are you there, and are you still contributing? (This is leaving aside a more fundamental question, to wit: what are you doing in a church led by people who are so hardened to Scripture?)
And when you leave such a church, be sure to make it clear to the entire leadership why you are leaving. "The music's fine, the architecture's great, love the pews -- but I simply cannot support leadership which is unable or unwilling to figure out that butchering babies is wrong, and that Christians should oppose such monstrosity every way they can!"
Next: the American Christian is part of a representative democracy. He must be involved in the political process. He should be careful, in my opinion, to support and elect politicians who at least will protect the rights of the unborn. Any man or woman who cannot figure out that government has a role in the protection of the helpless is not fit for office.
The American Christian should find some way to keep track of what is developing in the political and legal scene. He can often do this most effectively by means of pro-life and Christian publications and newsletters (ask your pastor). The "mainstream media" also provides information, but usually from a heavily pro-abortion slant. Pro-life organizations will generally send newsletter to those who given them donations. "Focus on the Family's" publication Citizen also covers these and related issues excellently, as does the superb Christian magazine World. Citizen particularly excels in providing practical courses of action.
Further, the American believer should regularly contact his elected officials, to let them know of his convictions regarding the unborn, and of specific legislation as it comes up. Write the President as follows:
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
Very respectfully yours,
You also have two Senators, a congressional Representative, and an assortment of state officials who affect life issues such as funding and legislation.
There is a remarkably easy way to find out the identity and telephone number of all of these officials, which will not take more than ten minutes total. Look in the Government section of your telephone book's white pages, under your County, and find the heading "Voter's Registration." Call that number, and ask for a run-down of all of your elected officials. By your address, they can instantly give you a complete run-down, with names and telephone numbers. Make telephone calls, and write letters that are brief and to-the-point. The pro-abortion lobby is well-funded and very vocal. Aggressive; grass-roots involvement can counter them.
Turn up at pro-life rallies, and then get on the media to make sure that it reports the event fairly.
Financially support pro-life organizations, and pro-life crisis pregnancy organizations, or persuade your church to do so, if you (and it) are able.
Another crucial need is simply the one-on-one work of persuasion. The media has created this myth that most people understand and support "abortion rights." I believe that those who support abortion are either deliberately evil, or terribly ignorant. The deliberately evil can only be helped by conversion to Christ. The terribly ignorant can be helped by our one-on-one persuasion. We must learn the facts of abortion, and must look for opportunities to communicate those facts to others.
Particularly, we must communicate them to those who do not already agree with us. It is no doubt pleasant to have discussions with those who already agree with us, but that is just "preaching to the choir." We must persuade the unpersuaded, and that will take hundreds of thousands communicating with hundreds of thousands.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, don't let the pro-life position lose by default. Learn the facts and the logic, and keep it before the unconvinced. The work can be discouraging, and the obtuseness of some pro-aborts is literally horrifying and mind-numbing, but keep up the good work of trying to save lives!
If not you, then who?
Wherefore, my beloved brothers, become settled, immovable, abounding in the work of the Lord always, because you know that your labor is not empty in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
But as for you, brothers, do not lose heart in doing good. (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;.... (Hebrews 12:1-4, NASB)
1Cf. John Ankerberg & John Weldon, When Does Life Begin? (Wolgemuth & Hyatt: 1989), p. xix.
2Quoted in Paul B. Fowler, Abortion: Toward an Evangelical Consensus (Multnomah: 1987). p. 58.
3There are a number of excellent books which go into medical matters as well, such as When Does Life Begin?, by John Ankerberg and John Weldon (Wolgemuth & Hyatt: 1989).
4Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own from the original Hebrew or Greek texts of the Bible.
6Cf. Romans 13:4, where "the sword" stands for the government’s God-given power and responsibility of capital punishment.
7Contrast the Biblical attitude with that of Peter Singer: "Mental defectives do not have a right to life, and therefore might he killed for food — if we should develop a taste for human flesh—or for the purpose of scientific experimentation" (quoted in Ankerberg and Weldon, p. xvii).
8Scripture quotation. taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
9Quoted in Fowler, p. 57 (from 197Z).
11Or possibly "even."
12Fowler. pp. 138. 154.
13The Hebrew term has the common meaning beget, or to father, procreate.