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.
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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The History of Abortion in Relation to Christianity

Whether it be a part of health care legislation, law (Roe vs. Wade in America) or a conversation about an “unwanted” pregnancy, it is especially important that Christians are aware of our tradition, and what the Bible teaches about abortion. Abortion has been practiced throughout the world from ancient times, but the fear of death and lack of access to physicians who performed “safe” abortions placed natural limitations on the practice. In classical paganism, abortion and euthanasia was common and widely approved. The performing of abortions and doing harm was specifically prohibited for physicians who had taken the Hippocratic Oath (4th Century BC and thereafter). This oath to the gods was a step towards saving human life and not performing abortions, but those who lived by this law were the exception. One of the great triumphs of the growth of Christianity in the western world was to greatly diminish the practice of abortion and infanticide in those parts of the world. Christianity gave the pro-life movement another dimension as the church of Jesus Christ swept through the Roman world, setting standards in medicine, culture, and public policy. Christianity had this effect because what the Bible teaches about human life. 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 the recognition that human life is sacred, the scriptures guide our actions. 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 logical position one can take from the scriptures: those who are human are made in the divine image and should not be murdered. The main argument against this truth comes in the debate of when a human life begins. That is where the doctrine of the incarnation comes in. When we celebrate 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 (particularly Psalm 139) take on powerful significance. For this reason, cultures that have remained Christian have a reverence for God, and laws by church and state that prevent the large scale practice of abortion. Many of these laws prohibiting abortion have since been abolished, even in Christian nations. The influence of the church held fast in the western world until naturalist philosophy, and Darwinian evolution theory displaced the predominant Christian view of man. The devaluing of human life with naturalism and atheism has set the stage for the practice of abortion to re-emerge on a grand scale. In the last 40 years the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary, Romania, Italy, and Australia have legalized abortion. Add this to the nations where it is already legal like Russia and China, the world’s abortion leaders, and you have a worldwide abortion rate that is greater than any point in history. The combination of: modern medicine’s advanced abortion procedures; the decline of Christian influence; the legalization and accessibility of abortion in more countries, is yielding an estimated 42 million aborted babies per year worldwide. Nations who maintain a predominantly Christian influence are the world leaders in low abortion statistics and they all have laws against it. Like the physicians who originally took the Hippocratic Oath, Christians find themselves going against the cultural current of the world. If we are to change this grievous trend in our own country and the world it will be through the spread of Christianity and the reestablishment of the biblical teaching of the sanctity of human life. When nations recognize the authority of our creator and God’s word, rather than men’s, the culture and public policy will change. Wayne DeVrou

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