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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Does God oppose all abortions?

As with most other issues, people tend to project their own views regarding abortion onto God. We tend to reach our own conclusions about this topic, and then proceed to justify it by gathering evidence that supports our view. The flip side of this approach is that we all tend to reject and/or ignore any evidence that contradicts our view. Moreover, whatever conclusions we reach about abortion, that must be God's view; because we are on God's side - right?

Some of you will probably think that I am crazy for addressing such an emotionally charged issue, but maybe it's time for all of us to stop and take a look at what we believe about abortion (and why we believe it). I'm not saying that emotion is a bad thing - especially relative to issues involving life and death. However, I am saying that any opinion that is based entirely on emotion is obviously not the product of objective reasoning.

Most of the discussion around abortion begins with an argument about when life begins. If you think that's an easy question to answer, then you have not explored the issue in any depth! Pro-life folks generally say that life begins at conception. Pro-choice folks are more varied in their responses to the question (Some say that life begins with the viability of the fetus, while others insist that life begins at birth).

In this regard, it is interesting to note that many of the folks from both camps have a fundamentally different view of the question of when life begins in almost any other context. For instance, we all regard the span of a person's lifetime as stretching from the date of their birth to the date of their death. Many of us refer to the baby making his/her entrance into (or appearance in) our world on his/her birthday. On the other hand, most of us refer to the embryo and fetus as a baby throughout a woman's pregnancy (e.g. "We can't hardly wait for the baby to get here!" - As if the little tyke was somehow in transit, "I just felt the baby kick"). Hence, in almost any context other than abortion, it appears that most of us are subconsciously of two minds on the subject of when life begins.

For many of us, the baby's first breath is all important. After all, Scripture informs us that God breathed into Adam's "nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7) In fact, this terminology (breath of life) is used three more times in the book of Genesis (6:17, 7:15 and 7:22); and, in all of those instances, it is clearly used to refer to living things). Likewise, in the book of Job, Elihu declared that "The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life." (Job 33:4) Do these verses imply that life begins when we take that first breath?

When considering this topic, we should also pause to reflect on the nature of human pregnancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, " About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. But the actual number is probably much higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't even know she's pregnant." They go on to inform us that "Most miscarriages occur because the fetus isn't developing normally." (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/basics/definition/con-20033827) Hence, we are left to conclude that God has designed a natural mechanism for the termination of some pregnancies where the embryo/fetus/baby has problems. Does that imply that it is ok to terminate some pregnancies?

When does life begin? When does the clock start on us as an individual soul with free will? In attempting to answer these questions from a Biblical perspective, it is interesting to note the words that Mark attributed to Christ at the Passover supper on the eve of his crucifixion. We read: "The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born." (Mark 14:21) Was Christ implying that the birth event is what starts the clock?

What about the penalty that is prescribed by the Mosaic Law for causing a woman to miscarry? We read: "If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her (she has a miscarriage), and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief (harm) follow, then thou shalt give life for life..." (Exodus 21:22-23) If God regarded the child as a living person, wouldn't the Law demand that the offender be stoned to death? Don't these verses imply that it is only when the woman herself dies as a consequence of the miscarriage that the forfeiture of the offending party's life is required? In other words, don't these verses imply that an unborn baby is not placed on the same footing with a living person?

Nevertheless, we do have the instance where God spoke to Jeremiah about "His" plans for the prophet prior to his birth. We read: "Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 'Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jeremiah 1:4-5) Likewise, we are informed that the Lord told Rebekah that there were two nations within her womb when she was pregnant with Esau and Jacob. (Genesis 25:23) Does this imply that God regarded these fetuses as living personages? Or does this simply reflect the fact that God "calleth those things which be not as though they were?" (Romans 4:17)

Are the Catholics right about birth control? Do we have any right to interfere with or prevent the production of children? Is it immoral to bring a child into the world without the proper resources to care for it? Is everyone suited to parenthood? Is it moral to bring a child into the world that you know is going to suffer horrible health problems for the entirety of its life? Is a woman obligated to carry a child that is the consequence of a man forcing himself upon her? Are you responsible for someone who decides entirely on their own initiative to murder another person? Isn't each one of us responsible for his/her own sins? (Ezekiel 18:20) Is each one of us responsible for following the dictates of his/her own understanding of God's will and conscience? Or are we responsible for judging each other's behavior by the dictates of our own understanding and conscience?

It seems to me that these are the kinds of questions that we should be asking ourselves relative to this topic. And when we have our answers, maybe we can begin to imagine what God might think about abortion.

In asking ourselves these questions, is it possible that God's view of this subject is a little more complex than our own?

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