As January is Sanctity of Life month and “abortion rights” are again in the news as part of the health care legislation, it is especially important that Christians are aware of our tradition, and what the Bible teaches. Abortion has been practiced in every culture from ancient times. One of the great achievements of the spread of the gospel in the Greco-Roman world was to greatly diminish the practice of abortion and infanticide. In classical paganism, abortion (like euthanasia) was common and widely approved. The ancient physicians who took the Hippocratic Oath, whose medical vision was powered by saving life and not taking it, were the exception, not the rule. The pro-life movement truly began when the church of Jesus Christ swept through the Roman world, setting standards in medicine, culture, and public policy. That influence held fast in the western world until the naturalist philosophy, and Darwinian evolution theory displaced the predominant Christian view of man. The devaluing of human life set the stage for the practice of abortion to re-emerge.
If you look for abortion in a concordance you won’t find it, as that term was not used by the people of that day, but scripture is not silent on the subject. The biblical foundations for prohibition on induced abortion are found in the doctrines of creation and incarnation. The starting point for a biblical understanding of human nature is the truth that human beings are created in God’s image (imago Dei). It is clear from Genesis 1:26–27 that human beings, are distinguished from all other creatures (kinds), by our bearing the likeness of our Maker. The image applies to Jew and Gentile, religious and irreligious, young and old. The issue here is not complex. If someone is human, that person bears the divine image and his or her life is sacred. It’s genetic. With this single recognition, we find our answer. This foundation underlies the commandment “Do not murder” (Ex 20:13) and provides a straightforward response to abortion, because it applies to all human beings, from the beginning of life to its end. “Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood shall be shed by man, for God made man in His image.”) This teaching is also of central importance in the use of human embryos for research and cloning. There is only one position one can take from the scriptures: those who are human are made in the divine image and should not be murdered.
The second foundation lies in the doctrine of the incarnation. As we have just celebrated Christmas, we remember that the incarnation of the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, took human form and did so from the beginning of human biological existence. He did not just come as a man, the incarnation began with conception. Mary was told by the angel that she would conceive by a miracle, the human life of the Son of God. Shortly afterward she visited Elizabeth, where John the Baptist’s first testimony to his kinsman and Lord is given. As a six month fetus, he leaped in his mother’s womb at the presence of the days-old embryonic Jesus (Lk 1:39–45).
With the theological foundations of imago Dei, and the incarnation, the many references to unborn life in the prophets, Job, and especially Psalms take on powerful significance. As an exercise, read Psalms 139 with these two doctrines in mind.
Like the physicians who originally took the Hippocratic Oath, we Christians find ourselves going against the cultural current. If we are to prevail in this debate, it will be through the spread of the Gospel. When a majority again submits to the authority of God’s word, rather than men’s, the culture and public policy will change.
Wayne's Worldview is a place to share my unique perspective of the world as formed from my interpretation of the scriptures and my experience as a Christian. As a pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about current issues, life dilemmas, personal problems, politics, biblical interpretation...etc.I offer these "How I see it" thoughts in effort to challenge people to think about their worldview, and to stimulate good conversations that will help us become more whole.
Welcome to the conversation.
Welcome to the conversation.