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Letter on Abortion

Dear pastor, may the Lord bless you!

I was very glad that you talked about abortion last Wednesday.  I have spent a lot of time thinking and praying about this issue. I know what I'm "supposed to" believe as a good, Bible-believing Christian -- but when I look into the Bible myself,  I see something very different.

I want to comment on the points you made last Wednesday,  and I'd really like to hear your responses to my comments.  I pray the Lord will guide us into all truth by His Holy Spirit, and am confident that He will, because He has  promised to do so.

Personally, I haven't really been touched by abortion.    I have never been an actively involved party, and as far as I know, none of my close family members have had an abortion.  I'm writing this because I agree with you that it's important for Christians to take a definite, strong stand with integrity and honesty.  We shouldn't  bend to cultural pressure--but on the other hand, we shouldn't just go along with the  "party line" we hear in church.

Here are my comments:
(1) Your first point was "The first question in the abortion debate is not:  Are you pro-choice or pro-life.  The first question is:  When does life begin?"  I contend that this is not the question, either.   Even the most ardent pro-abortionists admit that the fetus is biologically  alive. Biologically the sperm and egg are alive, even before fertilization --so is all birth control sin??  Animals are alive--so should we be vegetarians?  The individual cells in our bodies are alive -- so should we hold a funeral when we scrape ourselves and lose some skin?
By 'alive' I suppose you mean life in a "spiritual" sense.  The same question might be phrased, "At what point does a fertilized human egg become a person?"  Unfortunately I think that questions like this are bound to lead to theological never-never land -- because the Bible never uses the word "person". The Bible does talk about the "soul" ('nephesh' in Hebrew)  -- but  animals apparently have "nephesh" too (it's often translated as "creature" in Genesis 1:20-25)
It seems to me that for the Christian there are two essential questions, namely 'Does God  HATE abortion?' and 'Does God PROHIBIT abortion?'  Virtually all Christians  would agree that God hates abortion -- but a significant number  do not believe that God absolutely prohibits it.  This would put abortion in the same category as divorce--something that Christians are not to engage in, but also not to  compel unbelievers by law to live up to the same standard.

(2) On the basis of  Psalm 139:13-16, you conclude that God created me, saw me, and planned my days before I was born.  This is undeniable.  HOWEVER, God has known me and planned my days EVEN BEFORE I WAS CONCEIVED. There is  plenty of  Scriptural evidence for this.  God knew all about  Samson BEFORE he was conceived (Judges   13:5). The same goes for John the Baptist (Luke 1:13-17).  Jeremiah 1:5 says, "BEFORE I formed you in the womb, I set you apart, and called you "  Ephesians 1:4 says that He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world.  Revelation  3:8 says that our names were written in the Lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world.
Hence if you use Psalm 139:13-16 to conclude that abortion is murder, inexorable logic also dictates  that birth control is also murder.  So where is the Christian hue and outcry against birth control??!!
There is the story of Onan in  Genesis 38.  Should we conclude on this basis that birth control is murder?  I think you'll agree with me that the proper conclusion is not, "Birth control is sin", but rather, "Stubborn and selfish resistance to God is sin."
In summary,  I don't see how you can use Psalm 139 to conclude anything about the nature of life in the womb.  God has always been my Creator, He has always known me, He has always had a plan for me:  His knowledge didn't just begin after I was conceived.

(3) You quoted  Exodus 21:22-23 as establishing God's protection of the life of the unborn.  You claimed that  the passage refers to premature birth, and not to miscarriage.  I checked  NIV, NRSV, and NASB:  both NRSV and NASB translate as "miscarriage", while NIV gives "miscarriage" as an alternate reading. On this basis, I conclude that the meaning is not at all clear (there is a lively debate on this subject on the Internet).  If God truly wanted to establish the "right to life" of the unborn, He certainly would have said more about it, rather than making it rest on a single verse with problematic translation.  There is a solid Scriptural principle:  Out of the mouths of two or three witnesses shall all matters be established.  The moral or social  laws which God  establishes all have multiple Scripture references.  Where are the multiple references to the unborn's right to life?
When you come right down to it, the Old Testament says precious little about the rights of children born or unborn.  There are no laws against a parent abusing his/her own child, for instance.  On the contrary, the Old Testament gives the cumulative impression that the child was considered to be the parents' property.  Abraham's offering of Isaac is not treated as attempted murder; neither is Jephthah's offering  his own daughter to the Lord in Judges 11.   2 Kings 6:26ff. tells of a mother who openly confessed to eating her own baby, and apparently was not afraid of being prosecuted for murder.  This certainly does not mean  that this was the right thing to do, or that God was pleased with that state of affairs.  However, it does imply that   Old Testament law does not give a strong foundation for a stance against abortion.

(4) Your fourth point was that "Unborn children possess distinctive human traits",  and refer to Elizabeth's statement that the unborn John the Baptist "leaped  for joy" in her womb.  To conclude on the basis of this verse that the unborn can feel joy is dubious at best.  Compare 1 Chr. 16:31ff, "Let the heavens be glad, let the earth rejoice let the fields rejoice "; Psalm 68:12-13 says, " the hills are clothed with gladness, the meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing."  We cannot on the basis of these verses conclude that hills, fields, etc. have human feelings of joy--neither can we conclude from Luke 1:41 that the unborn feel joy.  In fact, Ecclesiastes 6:3-5 seems to indicate that the unborn have no knowledge or feelings:  "A stillborn child comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, it never saw the sun or knew any thing."
You also cited Psalm 51:3, "In sin my mother conceived me". I take this verse to mean that  our fleshly nature is intrinsically defective and prone to sin.  It may not be clear what the verse does mean:  however, it CANNOT mean that  an unborn child may sin in the womb, for that would be inconsistent with Romans 9:11, which speaks of Jacob and Esau:  "before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad "  Again, the verse is not at all describing the condition of  life in the womb.

(5) If abortion is truly equivalent to murder, then  we must not hold a double standard.  If we celebrate as heroes the Underground guerilla fighters in World War II who resisted the Nazi's attempts to exterminate the Jews, then why not celebrate the abortion-clinic bombers and abortionist-shooters as heroes and executors of God's justice?  If the former are heroes, then why not the latter?

My own conclusion is that abortion, like slavery or divorce, is a  societal evil which God hates but does not explicitly prohibit.  I believe the most constructive way of dealing with abortion is not to focus on the act itself, but rather on the heart that leads to the action.  Why is the woman having an abortion?  Is she trying to escape the consequences of sin?  The Bible says, "Be sure your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:23).  On the other hand, is she married, and simply feels overwhelmed with the prospect of coping with another child?  Then where is the Church, which God has appointed to be champion of the poor and overburdened?  Such an abortion is a judgement  on the Church not living up to its responsibility,   Or does the woman abort from convenience, because a child would interfere with her career or  self-centered life-style?  Then the abortion is merely a symptom of   distorted values, and focusing attention and energy on abortion entirely fails to deal with the fundamental spiritual issue.

e-mail: thornroot@juno.com
Copyright © 1998 CrossPollen
Last Revised: March 20, 1999

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