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What is the Biblical stand on abortion?

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What is the Biblical stand on abortion?
Posted on January 21, 2020  - By Dr. Barry K. Creamer

What is the Biblical stand on abortion? Does it vary from case to case?

Like so many other questions, answering this one first requires learning how to ask it. Scripture is not an encyclopedia, with an index for addressing each topic of interest to us. If it were, we would look up the article on abortion, suicide, transportation, or architecture and be done with it. When approaching Scripture carefully, it is important to let Scripture ask the question and answer it. When we ask the question outside the context of any passage, and then go to a passage with the question already in mind, we end up twisting the passage to suit our purpose, rather than conforming everything about our thinking to suit the passage. Any respect for Scripture requires we do the latter.

What does the Bible say directly about abortion? Nothing. But that fact does not at all mean the Bible’s lessons don’t lead to a clear conclusion about it. What we must do is let Scripture define and address the topic, and then apply that information to abortion. Suicide is exactly the same. It is obviously wrong, especially from a Biblical perspective. Yet there is no single commandment against it directly. Instead, we take the kind of approach illustrated below. (By the way, there is a reason such behaviours are not singled out for a commandment. We shouldn’t need to be told not to poke our own eyes out. In a biblical worldview, destroying offspring is as obviously outside the norm as suicide. If it happens, something far worse than breaking a rule has already taken over.)

We shouldn’t need to be told not to poke our own eyes out. In a biblical worldview, destroying offspring is as obviously outside the norm as suicide

So what is the lesson in Scripture to apply toward abortion? One truth in Scripture with unmistakable links to the issue of abortion is the sanctity of human life. According to the Bible, the value of human life is unique. After the flood, God makes clear to Noah that every human being bears the image of God, and is therefore so valuable that nothing could be considered a fair exchange for its loss but another human life (Genesis 9:6). The natural consequence (although some consider it paradoxical) is that Scripture forbids murder for the same reason it prescribes capital punishment. It is so wrong to murder a human being that the only punishment able to match the crime is execution. (I am not advocating for contemporary capital punishment here; only making the case for how highly the Bible regards human life.)

Life is life

The question remaining is whether there is something in Scripture to attach the value of human life more directly to abortion. There is, and it shows up in at least two ways. Scripture ascribes the same value to children in the womb as to others. One way we see that equivalence is in how children in the womb are identified and described. Just a couple of examples will have to suffice here. In the New Testament, Luke 1 and 2, the word used for John in Elizabeth’s womb is the same word used for Jesus in the manger. Each is a baby, whether in the womb or not. In the Old Testament, Judges 13, the angel forbids Samson’s mother from having wine while she is pregnant with him because he will be a Nazarite, and is to avoid wine throughout his life — including in the womb. Other common references are to God’s plan for Jeremiah in the first chapter of that prophet’s book, or David’s assurance in Psalm 139 that God’s plan for a life is already complete in the womb.

The other way we see the equivalence of life in the womb with other human life is in the protection afforded it in Exodus 21. The passage addresses what is to be done if someone causes a woman to deliver a child prematurely. There are two options. In one case, the child is unharmed despite the prematurity, so the offender is punished merely with a fine. But in the other case, the child is harmed as a result of the premature delivery, and the offender must pay exactly as he would for an offence against any other person; literally “life for life”. Life in the womb is afforded exactly the same protection as every other human life. (Attempts to explain the passage only as a protection for the pregnant woman fall short, ignoring the context of these laws in general.)

That principle is what I wish every person — certainly every believer — would embrace when it comes to the question of abortion. From a Biblical perspective, the issue is not defining every possible medical outcome and resolving every dilemma, but laying the foundation upon which each public policy and private decision ought to be made: the sanctity of every human life, including in the womb. That is: human life in the womb should be afforded the same respect and protection as every other human life.

Human life in the womb should be afforded the same respect and protection as every other human life

Does it vary from situation to situation? No. The value of the life or lives involved does not vary. Every time a decision is made regarding an adult’s life, the value of that life should never be in question. There are times we cannot save an adult’s life. But the value of the adult has not changed, and the loss of that life is tragic — not just a choice. In the same way, there will be times we cannot save a baby’s life. But the value of that baby’s life is no less than of every mother, father, sister, and brother we know. And the loss of any baby, in the womb or not, is tragic — not just a choice.

Because we believe Scripture, Christians ought to lead the way to a world which understands the value of every human life, including in the womb.

Dr. Barry K. Creamer

About Dr. Barry K. Creamer

Barry Creamer serves as president of Criswell College in Dallas, Texas. A trained philosopher and historian, he holds an M.Div. from Criswell College, and a Ph.D. in Humanities from the University of Texas at Arlington. His writing has been featured on numerous print and electronic platforms.



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