Abortion and the Bible

Is Abortion Really Scripturally Wrong?

The statistics are stunning. An estimated 35 million American babies have been killed since abortion was legalized by the Supreme Court on January 22, 1973. Incredibly, the national media have largely ignored this tragedy. Yet the disappearance of a high school teen while on a graduation trip to Aruba dominated national headlines for months! The murder of unsuspecting men and women at Virginia Tech by the hand of a deranged student receives more media attention than the approximately 4400 babies sacrificed to abortion on the same day. During every pause at a stop light three more babies are killed. Think about it! During an hour long worship service, 183 more innocents are slaughtered. Tampering with the egg of an unborn bald eagle is to risk a $5000 fine. Yet, killing an unborn baby is accomplished with government protection and at direct or indirect taxpayer expense. Appalling but true! What have we done?

Whose Problem Is It?

Both were attractive young women; well-mannered, outgoing, self-assured. They had visited our church a few times for morning worship, so I knew them to be full time staff workers assigned to a local high school for a national Christian youth organization. In their words, they had asked to see me to seek “assistance regarding a difficulty” they faced in their work. After exchanging customary pleasantries, they shared their dilemma. A girl with whom they had a ministry recently discovered she was pregnant and had sought their advice as to whether, as a Christian, it was acceptable to have an abortion. They assumed it was a matter of personal preference, but they weren’t sure. “Does the Bible have anything to say about it?” they queried. I squelched a scream, though my gaping mouth surely betrayed me, opened my Bible, and as calmly as I could, reviewed some principles for their consideration.

Sadly, these two Christian workers are not solitary examples of fuzzy thinking among God’s people on this issue. No wonder abortion clinics service multitudes of church members right along side pagan humanists.

The Ultimate Authority

Arguments about abortion are numerous and varied. Economic, social, medical, and ethical factors are bandied about with great verbal aplomb. In a pagan humanistic society, this is, of course, quite necessary. It is even somewhat beneficial. For the Christian, however, the final source of authority is the Bible. This was exquisitely expressed by the Westminsterdivines in London in 1648: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men” ( The Westminister Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Article VI).

The Christian must therefore approach the question of abortion with more than mere well-thought-out logic. Having a clear grasp of the latest scientific data or the most recent medical technology is not enough. Indeed it is, at the end, not even necessary. Solving the moral dilemma by applying widely accepted principles of ethics, though laudable, produces only tentative conclusions as well. For the Christian, the only question that really matters is, “What does God say about the issue?” Hence, the Holy Scriptures must be searched to discover both direct statements as well as implications regarding the beginning, end, and value of human life.

The Beginning of Life

Perhaps the primary issue in the abortion debate for Christians is the question of when personhood begins. At what point does conceived life become a human person? Three answers are normally cited:

1. There is no human life before birth. Hence, the term fetus or tissue is employed to describe life in the womb. If this is true, abortion may be permitted.

2. There is life in the womb but no personhood until birth. The soul/spirit is not imparted until birth. Abortion may be permitted within this view; however, it is disputed because of the potential of the living tissue to become human life.

3. There is complete human life at conception. Hence, the term pre-born baby or person is used to describe life in the womb. Adopting this view means that abortion is no less than infanticide.

This question of the beginning of human life is the subject of ongoing debate in the scientific and medical communities. Even President Ronald Reagan called for more investigation of this question in his book, “Conscience of The Nation.” However, various Scriptures support the notion that each individual becomes a whole person, with material and immaterial elements, at the moment of conception.

The Mosaic code governing the civil and social life of God’s people contains a pivotal passage revealing God’s mind regarding the value of pre-born life.

And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:22-25, NASV)

Some conservative scholars take these verses to mean that the unborn is not considered fully human and, consequently, not as valuable as a person outside the womb. This interpretation suggests that verse 22 describes a miscarriage without harm to the mother and, therefore, only a fine is imposed. Because verse 23 describes the death or injury of the mother, the death penalty may be exacted.

However, a literal translation of v 22-24 may be helpful in seeing the situation more accurately.

When men struggle together and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and her children come out but no harm happens, he shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him...But if harm does ensue, then you shall impose soul for soul... (Graham Scott, “Abortion and the Incarnation” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, fall 1973)

Verse 22 then envisions no harm to mother or the prematurely born child and, therefore, a fine may be levied. On the other hand, verse 23 envisions harm occurring to the mother and/or the prematurely born child and, therefore, capital punishment is appropriate in either case. Jack Cottrell sums up the point that “...the text itself makes no distinction between any harm done to the child and any harm done to the mother. This is simply not the point of contrast in the passage. What is being contrasted is a situation in which harm comes to neither mother nor child, and a situation in which either one or the other is harmed” (Cottrell, “Abortion and the Mosaic Law” in Christianity Today, March 16, 1973). The unborn life is considered just as valuable as life outside the womb. Another scholar concludes his study of this passage by observing, “To be sure, the life-for-life formula is also used in the case of the death of animals (Lev 24:18), so that this formula by itself does not establish that the referent is a human being. But if it is the fetus of a human mother that is identified by the life-for-life formula as a living being, there can be no question that this living being is a living human being” (Meredith Kline, “Lex Talionis and the Human Fetus” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, date uncertain).

The rendering of the NIV may therefore be preferable.

If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life...

Several other passages may be cited which give additional hints about the mystery and value of life in the womb. The Psalmist marvels at life in the womb. He euphemistically alludes to his beginning at conception (“in secret”) and describes his development (“unformed substance”) until the point of his birth.

For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139:13-16, NASV)

John is described by the gospel writer as responding to external stimuli while still in the womb (Luke 1:41-44). Furthermore, even though the words “young child” or “infant” are used elsewhere, Luke employs “babe” to describe Jesus both before and after birth (bre,foj - compare with Luke 2:12,16). It is remarkable that Elizabeth praised Jesus prior to his birth:

Now at this time Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice, and said, "Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! "And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? "For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. (Luke 1:39-44, NASV)

Other passages also imply that there is no personhood difference between pre-birth and post-birth existence:

Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. (Isaiah 49:1, NASV)

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5, NAS)

And Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren; and the LORD answered him and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, "If it is so, why then am I this way?" So she went to inquire of the LORD. (Genesis 25:21-22, NASV)

And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him. (Heb 7:9-10, NASV)

"Why did I not die at birth, Come forth from the womb and expire? (Job 3:11, NASV)

The Bible also teaches that God is finished with his creative work. “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3, NASV). Therefore it is inappropriate to suggest that God creates a spirit and unites it with the body at birth. (This idea is known as “creationism.”) Rather, when Adam and Eve obeyed God’s command to procreate, the product of their union was a whole man, both the material and immaterial parts. (This idea is known as “tradutionism.”)

Though the Bible may not directly state that life begins at conception, it certainly contains ample implications thereto. At the very least, it must be assumed that there is no specific point during pre-natal development before which abortion can be performed with the absolute assurance that human life has not been destroyed.

These biblical teachings have prompted Mark Blocher, Executive Director of Baptists For Life, to draft a model statement for incorporation into a local church’s documents.

“All human life is sacred from fertilization throughout the human life continuum. We believe that human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) and, as such, are to be protected (Genesis 9:6, Psalm 82:3, 4). We believe the weak, vulnerable, infirm, handicapped, pre-born and needy deserve our respect and our care. Therefore, we oppose those practices, policies or procedures which undermine or deny the God-given right to life of every human being. We reject the notion that there are some lives not worthy of living and embrace the belief that we should graciously receive and protect all human life God gives. This means we will give ourselves to providing biblical, caring ministries to women with unwelcome pregnancies, the mentally and physically disabled, the elderly and the terminally ill” (BFL Lifelines, Vol. 8, No. 2).

Piercing Questions

In light of the biblical, scientific, and medical evidence for the existence of human life prior to birth, Mark Crutcher offers sixteen questions designed to get at the heart of the abortion debate (“Abortion Questions They’d Rather Duck” in Citizen, May 20, 1991). Think about the following sampling:

1. Pro-abortionists say that outlawing abortion would restrict a woman’s right to privacy. Is that right absolute? Does somebody’s right to privacy exceed another’s right to live?

2. Pro-abortionists say that the unborn child is part of the mother’s body. If that is so, why does the child possess a completely different genetic code and often a different blood type” How do you explain the fact that it has its own immune system? Why is it male about half the time?

3. We are now seeing the unborn being treated for disease, given blood transfusions and even operated on. When a doctor does one of these procedures, who is the patient?

4. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Two women become pregnant on the same day. Six months later woman A has a premature but healthy baby, and woman B is still pregnant. One week later each decides she doesn’t want her baby. Why should woman B be allowed to kill hers when woman A cannot?

It must be quickly pointed out that these questions are designed to clarify the issues. However, as a rule, the unregenerate mind will not favorably respond, no matter how strong the arguments are or how fanatical the pro-abortion position is exposed to be.

Conclusion

The poignant Diary of an Unborn Child by an unknown author paints both the picture of the actuality of human life in the womb as supported by Biblical data as well as the tragedy of abortion as practiced daily in American society.

Diary of an Unborn Child

October 5 - Today my life began. My parents do not know it yet, I am as small as a seed of an apple, but it is I already. And I am to be a girl. I shall have blond hair and blue eyes. Just about everything is settled though, even the fact that I shall love flowers.

October 19 - Some say that I am not a real person yet, that only my mother exists. But I am a real person, just as a small crumb of bread is yet truly bread. My mother is. And I am.

October 23 - My mouth is just beginning to open now. Just think, in a year or so I shall be laughing and later talking. I know what my first word will be: MAMA.

October 25 - My heart began to beat today all by itself. From now on it shall gently beat for the rest of my life without ever stopping to rest! And after many years it will tire. It will stop, and then I shall die.

November 2 - I am growing a bit every day. My arms and legs are beginning to take shape. But I have to wait a long time yet before those little legs will raise me to my mother’s arms, before these little arms will be able to gather flowers and embrace my father.

November 12 - Tiny fingers are beginning to form on my hands. Funny how small they are! I’ll be able to stroke my mother’s hair with them.

November 20 - It wasn’t until today that the doctor told Mom that I am living here under her heart. Oh, how happy she must be! Are you happy, Mom?

November 25 - My mom and dad are probably thinking about a name for me. But they don’t even know that I am a little girl. I want to be called Kathy. I am getting so big already.

December 10 - My hair is growing. It is smooth and bright and shiny. I wonder what kind of hair my mom has.

December 13 - I am just about able to see. It is dark around me. When Mom brings me into the world, it will be full of sunshine and flowers. But what I want more than anything is to see my mom. How do you look, Mom?

December 24 - I wonder if Mom hears the whispering of my heart? Some children come into the world a little sick. But my heart is strong and healthy. It beats so evenly: tup-tup-tup-tup. You’ll have a healthy little daughter, Mom!

December 28 - Today my mother killed me.

If you are committed to the sanctity of human life, perhaps it would be helpful to honestly consider some pointed questions.

  1. Do you pray for women in crisis pregnancies?
  2. Do you pray for the unborn?
  3. Do you affirm God’s forgiveness for women who have aborted their baby?
  4. Do you publicly and verbally identify with the unborn?
  5. Do you vote for candidates for public office who support the unborn?
  6. Do you offer assistance to those women in crisis pregnancies whom God brings your way?

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2014. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.