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What does the Bible say about abortion

Unwanted pregnancy

Postby Mary Kay » Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:32 pm

Is there a part of the Bible that talks about unplanned and unwanted pregnancy? I'm trying to find scripture defending the life of an embryo within the context of an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy. While I'm at it; is there scripture that suggests we should make laws for non believers based on what God would have his people do? I'm really only wanting scripture passages to read that are related. Thanks in advance!
Mary Kay

Re: Unwanted pregnancy

Postby jimwalton » Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:49 pm

I'm just going to give you a pageful of notes. Hopefully there is information here that is helpful to you. If somehow I haven't addressed your question, just let me know and I will focus more carefully.

The Bible is relatively silent on the issue of abortion, which has resulted in well-meaning Christians taking a variety of positions on the matter. You will find Christians who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice.

The first factor is that no one but no one knows when for sure when life begins. There are positions that range from the moment of conception, or when the brain starts functioning, or after the first trimester, or when the fetus is viable (when it is able to live outside the womb), to the moment of birth, or even to several months after the birth. NOBODY knows. Doctors don’t know. Scientists don’t know. Philosophers don’t know. Theologians don’t know.

So the first thing you must know about “when does human life begin” is that any position one takes should be a judgment based on the weight of evidence, and not on any proof or mere emotional preference. There will be arguments pro and con for any position you will take on this issue, so you must think it through and choose the position that makes the most sense.

While there is no passage of Scripture that says "Life begins at conception," though, there are Biblical passages from which are derived the principle that the unborn human is a person possessing a unique life. Scripture also assumes a continuity of life from before the time of birth to after the time of birth. The same language and the same personal pronouns are used indiscriminately for both stages. Further, God's involvement in the life of the person extends back to conception (and even before). It's those teachings that make many Christians feel that abortion is murder, but let's take it further.

In the ancient Near East, abortion was one of several methods of birth control, among castration of the male, self-restraint, contraception, withdrawal, and infanticide. If a woman was pregnant, however, most ancient civilizations, via laws about assault and accidents leading to miscarriage, sought to protect the unborn child. The Old Testament likewise contains no laws about abortion, though it also has protections for the woman and child in pregnancy. To the best of our current knowledge, abortion was not practiced in Canaan, as it apparently was (by potions of various sorts) in Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Egyptians, however, placed a high value on prenatal life, as evidenced by their practice of mummifying miscarried fetuses and stillborn babies, indicating their belief that the fetus would carry on to the next life in the afterworld. In Canaan, however, infanticide was practiced through child sacrifice, which may have been their counterpart to abortion (birth control). This may explain the silence of the prophets and the Law on abortion, and their outrage against child sacrifice. These teachings also contribute to Christians' ideas that abortion is murder.

What is the teaching of the Old Testament?

1. God created humans as a species in his image, and invested them as a species with the breath of life (nephesh). The other vital life forces that makes a person a "living being" is blood (Gn. 9.4-7) and breath (ruach). It is these three forces that biblically makes someone "a living being". Such creation of humans is not just a one-time incident with Adam & Eve, but continues with the species (2 Cor. 4.7; Eph. 2.10; Rom. 9.20-21).

2. Humans bear God's image, marred by sin, from conception on (Ps. 51.5; 58.3).

3. Birth is considered a co-creative process involving man, woman, and God (Gn. 4.1; 16.2; 21.1-2a; 29.31, et al.). Humankind is granted a share in the joyous task of creation.

4. The OT Law sought to protect the life of the mother and of the fetus (Ex. 21.22-25). A high value was placed on both. The fetus is given both "image of God" (Gn. 9.6) and nephesh status (see also Lev. 24.17-18). Furthermore, the fetus was not considered "a potential life or person" because it was still in the womb. From the perspective of Heb. 7.11, "potential life" is in the loins of the father. See also Amos 1.13b. Once an egg was fertilized, it seems to have "image of God" status.

4. The Old Testament elevates human life as a precious gift from God (Ps. 139.13-18).

What is the teaching of the New Testament?

Certainly the Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures of the 1st century were familiar with the practice of abortion, though it never became a practice in Jewish society.

1. There are several passages in the NT that express condemnation of infanticide (Mt. 2.16-18; Acts 7.17-19). That does not imply, however, that they also prohibit abortion.

The NT paints a pictures of the value of babies and children (Mt. 11.25; 19.13-15; 21.16), but these passages speak of already-born babies or children, not fetuses. Luke, however, uses the same Greek word, brephos, of the fetus in the womb (Lk. 1.41, 44) as he does of the newborn child (Lk. 2.12, 16; Acts 7.19; cf. 1 Pet. 2.2).

2. Conception is seen as a blessing (Mt. 1.20; Lk. 1.24-25, 30. 31; Jn. 16.21; 1 Tim. 2.15; 5.14). Pregnancy is viewed in a positive light.

The New Testament elevates human life as a precious gift from God. Acts 17.25b. The OT prohibition of murder is reaffirmed many times (Mt. 5.21-22; 15.19; 19.17-18; Rom. 1.29; Rev. 22.15).

3. Humans are seen as being in the image of God (James 3.9; Rom. 8.29; 2 Cor. 3.18; Eph. 4.24; Col. 3.10; 2 Pet. 1.4; 1 Jn. 3.2).

God took on human flesh, which removes any doubt as to human dignity (Jn. 1.14; Phil. 2.6-7). He was who he was from the moment of conception.

4. The NT teaches personal continuity from womb to grave.

5. Paul makes it clear that a Christian woman (at least) does not own or rule over her own body (1 Cor. 6.15-7.5). The claim that "I can do what I want with my own body" is not a biblical teaching.

Theological Perspectives:

1. Humans are unique creatures in being in the image of God.

2. The woman does not have exclusive rights over the developing human inside of her body. Theologically, that life inside her is a gift and a trust from God. It is inappropriate to set up the issue as a conflict of "rights": the rights of the woman vs. the rights of the unborn child. In Scripture, there is no"“right to life." Life is a gift from God and a sign of grace. No one has a presumptive claim on it. See also 1 Cor. 6.19-20.

3. The destruction of human life in any form is the antithesis of God’s primary purpose in creation. Satan is perceived as the destroyer of life; God is the giver of life.

4. It in inappropriate to create lines by asking "When does human life begin?" or "When does the soul enter a human being?" Neither biology nor theology know the answer, and they never will. These are attempts to justify abortion by defining marginal cases out of the human race; Jesus' persistent teaching was to define the marginal cases with which he came in contact as "in."

5. The Bible speaks strongly against the shedding of innocent blood (Gn. 4.10; Ex. 23.7; Dt. 21.8; Prov. 1.10-11, 15-16; 18-19; 6.16-19; 28.17; Joel 3.19; 2 Ki. 24.3-4).

6. The Bible teaches us to help those who are helpless.

7. There is nothing in Scripture that even remotely suggests that the unborn child is anything less than a human person from the moment of conception.

This is why Christians often regard abortion as murder. Scientifically we know the zygote has his or her own DNA uniqueness, his own blood type, and is a separate being from the mother. The Bible seems to accord the value of human life to even the unborn child.
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Re: Unwanted pregnancy

Postby Mary Kay » Mon Oct 10, 2016 2:13 pm

Thank you for your comment! Do you have any information about the second question I had?
Mary Kay

Re: Unwanted pregnancy

Postby jimwalton » Mon Jun 25, 2018 8:24 pm

"Is there scripture that suggests we should make laws for non-believers based on what God would have his people do?"

Only indirectly. For instance, the teachings of the Old Testament were for God's people, and not specifically for anyone else. Some of the laws of Leviticus explicitly include "and for the foreigner in your midst," but they still were primarily for the Israelites. In the NT, many teachings are for God's people, believers (the Church), and don't specifically apply to non-believers.

On the other hand, we Christians believe that we have a God-given duty to work for peace, justice, and righteousness in the world (things that ARE specifically taught in the Bible (Matt. 5.9; Isa. 1.17; Micah 6.8). On that basis we feel a deep responsibility to create laws that enforce morality, that demand justice, and that lead to fairness, peace, goodness, compassion for the downtrodden, protection from financial and physical abuse, and that punish evil, wrong, and unjust imbalances of power. There are verses that talk about such things, but not specific verses that say "Believers should make laws for unbelievers based on what God's people do." Ultimately, as I presume the discipline of jurisprudence would teach, all laws are essentially focused in the direction of creating a just, moral, safe, and equitable society. Therefore, in general the implicit answer to your question is "of course!" Explicitly, there's no verse I can give you.

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