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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Does the Bible Justify Abortion?

To be clear, abortion is not a religious issue. I have written several posts against abortion using science and philosophy. But you’ll occasionally find someone who uses the Bible to justify abortion. You’ll even encounter Atheists who try to use the Bible to justify abortion if they know a Christian is arguing against it. You just want to stare back and them and ask, “why are you using the Bible to justify abortion?! You don’t believe in the Bible!” Those wacky Atheists.

Of course, the real reason is they know you believe in the Bible, so they will use it against you in a futile attempt to show you that you are going against what the book you consider as authoritative from God teaches. But in true form, most Atheists don’t read the Bible to understand, they read it to criticize. But again, abortion is not a religious issue. You’ll find Christians who support abortion. They’ll support abortion using the same verses and passages that Atheists do, falling into their trap.

Now, it’s true that the Bible doesn’t specifically tell us it’s wrong to abort. But why does that matter? It’s wrong to assume that whatever the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid, it condones. The Bible also doesn’t forbid me from pushing someone into a shark tank or cutting the brakes on their car. The Bible is silent on abortion simply because Jews and Christians were not aborting their children. To the Jews, children were a blessing. If a woman was barren, it was a curse. Jewish women would have never aborted their children. Likewise, Christians were not aborting their children. The concept of a “pro-choice” Christian is a relatively new concept. In fact, Christians would often take Roman infants, who were legally left out on the road to die, rescue them and raise them. Anyone who claims to follow Jesus must love children, as Jesus did.

And yes, Jesus loved children. In Matthew 18:10, we read that Jesus told us not to despise children. In Mark 10, Jesus told his disciples to bring the little ones to him, although the disciples were trying to shoo them away, because “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” In Matthew 18:6, Jesus said that if anyone causes a “little one” who believes in him to stumble, it would be better for that person to cast a millstone around his neck and throw himself into the sea.

God told us not to murder (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17). We are not to kill any human being in cold blood. Since the unborn are human beings, this surely applies to them, too. We can look at science to show that the unborn are human beings, but the Scriptures also consider them full human persons. The Bible uses the term “baby” or “child” to refer to the unborn (e.g. Luke 1:41, 44, and Matthew 1:20). Furthermore, the word used in Hebrew for the unborn child, ben (or banim, plural), is used for children inside and outside the womb (Genesis 25: 21-22, cf. 1 Chronicles 4:1, Isaiah 7:14, et al). Likewise, the Greek word used is brephos, which is used for children inside and outside the womb (Luke 1:41, 44, cf. Luke 2:12, 16, et al). The Bible makes no distinction between children inside and outside the womb.

God also hates the shedding of innocent blood (Deuteronomy 19:10, Proverbs 6:16). It is true that no one is spiritually innocent, as we have all inherited a sin nature by our relation through Adam (Romans 5: 12-21). So the word “innocent,” in this context, refers to someone who has not done a crime to permit such a punishment. The unborn are innocent in that they have not committed any crimes, certainly no crime deserving of being killed for it. To kill a human in cold blood is a heinous crime, one that will certainly not be overlooked if the human killed in cold blood is still in the womb.

Anyone who thinks God would be okay with killing children does not know God at all. God has said that the sacrifice of children was something he never commanded or spoke, and it never even entered his mind (Jeremiah 19:5). Humans are valuable because we are made in God’s image, with an inherent capacity as rational, moral agents. This is not a physical image, as God is spirit (John 4:24). The unborn have this same inherent capacity, so they, too, are made in the image of God. Killing an unborn human is no different from killing a human outside the womb.

The case of rape is especially tragic. No woman should ever have to be subjected to such cruel treatment, but even in this case, abortions are not Biblically justifiable. God has made it clear that no one is to be punished for the crimes of their father (Ezekiel 18: 20). Additionally, we are called to help other people, even at great cost to ourselves. This was the whole point of the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10: 30-37), which pro-choice philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson misrepresents in her Good Samaritan Argument for abortion (which includes her famous violinist through experiment).

Weak Verses Used to Support the Pro-Life Position

Two verses are commonly used to support the pro-life position Biblically. The first is Jeremiah 1:5, in which God informs Jeremiah, “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.” The second is Psalm 139:13, in which David writes: “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” (NASB, some translations read “you knit me together in my mother’s womb").

So why don’t these verses support the pro-life position? Frankly, they are taken out of context. Mormons believe that the soul is pre-existent from the body; orthodox Christians do not. We believe that the soul is created with the body, at fertilization. Jeremiah 1:5 would then indicate that our soul exists before our body, since God says he knew us before we were in the womb. On the contrary, this verse speaks of God’s foreknowledge. God knew that Jeremiah would be conceived and born, and before that even happened God chose him to fulfill his specific purpose.

What about the verse in Psalm? Again, this is poetry. God did not literally take a needle and thread and form us in the mother’s womb, or take wood and weave us into the finished product. It is a poetic description of human development in utero. Also, this doesn’t state that we had value in the womb. We can get that from other passages. Although I do love the imagery expressed here, the act of knitting. When someone sits down to knit, all the parts are there. The knitter just takes the materials and forms them into the finished product. Similarly, we are not constructed in the womb, we develop ourselves from within. All the necessary components are there in the beginning, in our DNA. Through development our genes express themselves and we develop our individual parts.

We can build an airtight pro-life case through the Scriptures, but it’s important that we use the right verses to do so. There are rules to follow for Biblical exegesis (that is, drawing out the message intended in the passages), and one of those rules is you don’t take one verse out of context. The Scriptures were meant to be consumed as a whole, not in bits and pieces.

Common Biblical Arguments For Abortion

There are many arguments I’ve seen people use to support abortion from the Bible. In the interest of space, I’ll tackle a few of the more common ones. In the future, I may address more.

Exodus 21:22-25: “If people are fighting and 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, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”

This passage is often used to show that the unborn are just considered property, and not valuable humans. If he hurts or kills the woman, then he shall endure an equal punishment.

The problem here is a severe misreading of the passage. The verse does not show that the unborn is property. This verse actually does not have miscarriage in mind. It has premature birth in mind. If two men are fighting and hit a pregnant woman, and the child is born prematurely, then two possibilities will occur. Either the child will be born without serious injury or death, then the offender will be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the courts allow. But if the child is born severely injured or dead (or if the woman is severely injured or killed), then the offender is to pay life for life, injury for injury. The woman isn’t just in mind here, the child is, too.

Genesis 2:7: “Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

This verse is used to show that Adam didn’t actually become alive until he started breathing, so the Bible doesn’t consider us alive until after we’re born.

There’s a fundamental flaw in this interpretation. Adam was a very special case. Adam was created from the dust of the Earth. God had to breathe breath into his nostrils because Adam had to breathe to live on the Earth. So what we can take from this is anyone formed from dust will not be alive until God breathes the breath of life into them. Adam was not conceived like other humans. But this argument would also prove too much. This would mean that since Adam was created as an adult (likely in his 30’s or 40’s), then humans don’t actually have a soul until we reach our 30’s or 40’s.

To say nothing of the fact that respiration does take place in the womb, through the umbilical cord. Birth just changes the method, not the fact, of breathing. As Scott Klusendorf mentions in his book The Case for Life, it’s like switching from AC to DC power.

Numbers 5: 11-21: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him, so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure -- or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure -- then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealously, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

“‘“The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband” -- here the priest is to put the woman under this curse -- “may the LORD cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.”’”

The contention here is that since God has apparently ordained abortion for adulterous women, then it is justified for us to do abortions on pregnant women.

First, it doesn’t follow that just because God institutes abortion, we are justified in aborting unborn children. Peter pronounced a curse on Ananias and Sapphira because they lied to the Holy Spirit, and God struck them dead. It doesn’t follow that we are justified in killing someone for lying. God is the giver of life, and only he is uniquely qualified to take it.

Second, an abortion really isn’t in view here. As I stated earlier, children were a blessing to Jewish women. A barren woman was seen as cursed. This curse was not meant to abort a child. Rather, it was meant to show guilt. A woman who had not committed adultery would gladly redeem herself by drinking the water. A woman who had committed adultery would not agree to drinking the water, and therefore guilt could be determined.

There is simply no strong argument that can be given to Biblically support abortion. Children are precious to God, and he would never be okay with taking the lives of innocent children because they’re in the way of something we want.

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