I hate writing articles like this one. It’s painful. Abortion is such a sensitive topic for everyone and people, Christians included, flip out before they think. It is among the top 3 topics I can think of that completely inflame a large percentage of the Christian church (homosexuality and creationism being the other two hot topics). This is somewhat understandable since ideas about life and death cut to the heart of our theology.
When life begins is a subject that lines the foundations of our ever so sensitive belief system. Those sensitivities include me and I hate hurting other peoples feelings as much as I hate having my own feelings hurt.
I’ll try my best to tread gently (yet deeply) on the topic of Christians and abortion.
The matter is hard to avoid, if not impossible. It’s constantly on the news. Even worse, the subject is continually poured out across pulpits by pastors preaching politics. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard ‘Christian profanity’ peppered with phrases like “democrat this…” or “libertarian that…” I guess being bombarded with such a sensitive subject makes you think about it more (even if many don’t consider it sans emotion). I’ve tried to do that and I feel like I’ve found a more firm ground (one sure to upset both extremes).
As I say this, hold off throwing stones at me – but I don’t believe the act of abortion is murder. I believe firmly, as in solid concrete, that abortion is a sin. I’m just not convinced that abortion is the sin of murder. Now that I’ve upset the pro-choice crowd by calling abortion a sin and equally inflamed the pro-life movement by saying abortion is not murder, I can only hope that a few will take the time to read further [heated emotions aside]. I’ll do my best to explain my position on the matter.
Since this website is dedicated to Christian Theory, I’m going to address the “abortion is not the sin of murder” side of things. Let’s look at a common passage in Psalms that is often used in touting the sanctity of life:
For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. (Psa 139:13-16)
This is a beautiful passage. It highlights our very formation in the womb and, rightly so, it gives God the glory for the intricate details that make us up. What happens in a womans body during conception is amazing and the Psalmist acknowledges it! Let’s look at another verse from Job:
Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:15)
So, since Scripture acknowledges that greatness, abortion must equal murder. Not so fast. We shouldn’t jump quickly to that interpretation. While I find that abortion is a heinous undertaking, I find no support for the argument that these passages deal with such a concept. The psalmist (King David), acknowledges our amazing physical makeup and gives God the glory for it. This passage is not about who we are or when our spiritual life begins, it’s about who God is and how great he is.
The crux of all pro-life arguments rest on the theory that life begins at conception. Does life begin from the moments of conception? Is a single sperm & a single egg all that is needed to make ‘life’? Biologically speaking we know this is true. But, biologically speaking, life is present in cells before conception. What’s more, biological life can not be the basis of what we judge ‘the act of murder’ to be because even animals (dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc.) have biological life. Is killing an animal murder? No, it is not (PETA can have a field day with that statement). What we must define is the point at which spiritual life begins.
Does spiritual life begin at conception? This is the question we must answer. The book of Job seems to answer towards the negative on that point.
Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? (Job 3:11)
Notice the phrase “from the womb”. It is used throughout the bible. Why didn’t Job desire to “give up the ghost” in the belly as opposed to out of it? I suspect because there is no ghost in the belly. To borrow a phrasing from a popular animation series, there is no “ghost in the shell”. I tend to believe that the physical body in the womb, is just an empty shell that does not become spiritual life until it takes that first independent breath. Don’t misconstrue what I am saying, I believe life is sacred and we should value it in the womb and out of it, I’m just not convinced that abortion is a violation of the sixth commandment in the sense that many construe it to be. The womb is simply a place of preparation (c.f., Job 15:35).
Note: I am not addressing things like ‘a fetus having feelings’ or ‘fetal responses to stimuli’, etc. Those are emotional arguments that, while contributing to the loatheful act of abortion, in no way support the definition of life. Even animals have emotional responses and respond to stimuli in utero.
Predestination is a concept throughout the bible that can not be ignored. God has predestined us (Eph 1:5 )That doctrine alone deserves a thesis. But, in the context of abortion and human life, let’s look at a verse that touches on it:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jer 1:5)
Jeremiah was sanctified before he came out of his mothers stomach! This would seem to contradict my previous points. Yet, Jeremiah seems to be the exception here as also does Christ. Exceptions to the rule always indicate that there is a rule. All other verses in the bible emphasize (and rather explicitly) from the womb and not in the womb. Were such sanctification the norm, it would no have been so emphasized in Jeremiah.
Again, let me emphasize something very clearly: I am in no way trying to downplay the sanctity of human life. Children are a gift from God. To downplay that on any level is a slap at God (and it’s not wise to slap at God). I want to illustrate that the spiritual human life does not, as indicated by Scripture, begin at conception.
The fruit of the womb is no different. When a baby takes that first breath apart from the mother, it is magical. More to my illustration, it is ripe. It is ripe to be consumed by the Spirit of God or the spirit of this world.
…. crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. (Rev 14:15)
We know doctrinally that we are all born into sin. The prerequisite to this, of course, is birth. That means we make the transition from fetus to infant. We are not conceived in holiness and then birthed into sin. That is another factor that illustrates why the virgin birth of Christ is so sacred. Christ was not conceived by man but by the Holy Ghost. The pro-life teaching that unborn children are “innocent” violates some of the most basic principles that make the virgin birth a necessity.
The existence of abortion is a tragic stain upon our existence. No moral dilemma faced by any woman will ever justify it in my mind – it is one of the very reasons we pray lead me not into temptation.
However, I think the question of legality, for the Christian church, is irrelevant. We live under and by the grace of God, not by the laws of men. While we live in the world, I’m not convinced (on any level) that forcing men or women at gunpoint to avoid sin, is righteous on our part. Our limits in dealing with unrepentant sinners is to cast them out of the church. The world can [and will] deal with things their own way.
Additionally, I believe it is a grave deception that the church of God has allowed themselves to be swept up into the hysteria that accompanies the pro-life movement.
I didn’t take the time to write this because I wanted to demean human life. I don’t want to empower the guilty nor do I wish to weaken the resolve of the pure. I wrote it because I believe the birthing point of our spiritual existence has a deep theological importance. It impacts the doctrines of the virgin birth, sanctification and countless others. I’ll touch on those doctrines in other articles.
I hope I’ve left you with some points to consider on what is undoubtedly a very serious matter. Abortion is unnatural. It always will be. It will always be heinous. However, it doesn’t have to be ‘murder’ to be evil and calling it as such creates a complicated injustice to the integrity of Scripture. Additionally, it creates further distractions from being a candle light to those dealing with unintended or complicated pregnancies.
I reserve the right to be wrong. I’m fallible so I keep myself open for discussion as all Christians should be. Please keep the comments section for comments though – lengthier discussions should be resigned to email.