Abortion: Assault Against God
by Cathy Ramey
Any discussion on the subject of abortion involves a number of preconceived ideas. For some the discussion might begin with the memory of a difficult pregnancy; the suggestion by a physician to "terminate" the process. For another the imagery might include photos of dead unborn infants, "fetuses," and for another it may simply mean conjuring up a verse or two from Psalm 139, Scripture's most poetic description of God's creative work.
Our preconceptions often define the limits to which we are able to understand any meaningful debate, whether over abortion or any other social dilemma. To that end, the first thing that needs to be stated about abortion is that the act of taking the life of a growing human being, while dreadfully wrong, is not the ultimate issue.
That might surprise you, but nonetheless it is true. Instead, the ultimate issue at stake in the abortion debate centers on God's holiness and His right to establish a standard of conduct by which men must live. Under that standard, there are instances in which, regrettably, life may be taken. A "just" war, defending one's life against an unjust aggressor, and capital punishment, are three examples. Human life is not always inviolable. In fact, Scripture seems to support the idea that God has a clear preference to maintain innocent life over the life of one who is guilty, so much so that it is those who have become innocent through the atonement work of Jesus Christ who will inherit eternal life.
The most egregious evil of abortion is that it is an attack upon God. Such an assault upon His righteous measure of justice makes abortion an issue which ought to concern every Christian, whether they live near an abortion facility, have ever known someone who has had an abortion, or comprehend the developmental circumstances of the pre-natal child.
We'll look at this again, but first we need to establish a foundation for saying that God's standard is under assault when abortion is allowed to take place. There are two areas of Scriptural adumbration we will look at: 1.) God's revelation concerning personhood, and 2.) the adoption of one standard of social justice over another.
To carry on any meaningful discussion concerning abortion, it is necessary to biblically define who/what is a person, and how it is that God would have us attempt to treat those defined as having personhood.
"Person" refers to that creature which falls within the category of "mankind" spoken of in Genesis 1:26-27; a human being, divinely designated by God to be capable of engaging in a meaningful relationship with Him.
Psalm 139 is a good place to start our efforts to define personhood from both a physical and relational perspective because, by saying of God, "You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb," the psalmist makes an inspired claim identifying that the relationship which man is capable of experiencing begins with the personal, direct involvement of the Creator as He fashions the human creature. He is "woven together" by God, with "all the days ordained" having been recorded, or irresistibly established, "before one of them came to be" (Ps. 139:13-16).
God is marvelously engaged in the creation of every person. Though the world would reduce each man's existence on earth to nothing more than the random and routine joining of sperm and egg, Scripture tells us that God is intimately involved in the fact that you and I exist. We are not "a mistake" or the fruit of parental "planning." We and every other person on earth exist because God invested Himself in our singular creation.
Jeremiah the prophet spoke of God drawing him into ministry. The book he is said to have authored records that the Lord came to him saying, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (Jer. 1:5). Jeremiah was certainly not a "mass of slowly differentiating tissue" into which God elected to infuse a soul. He was a servant-prophet in God's reality even before the explosion of his conception; before the knitting of membrane, muscle fiber, and bone would begin to give him the shape of a human child.
And returning again to the book of Psalms, David pleads for God's mercy after his sin with Bathsheba has been exposed. In the course of his prayer he reminds God that his state of sinfulness is not something with which God is unfamiliar. Instead, he asserts "I was sinful at birth," and more than that, "sinful from the time my mother conceived me" (Ps. 51:5). Since, apart from those who inhabit the spiritual realm, Scripture assigns the tendency to sin only to a human host, for David to have been sinful from the time of his conception allows again that his unformed state was peculiarly human from God's holy perspective.
Not only does Scripture speak of the unborn child in poetic and prophetic terms, it also addresses the child in legal and sociological terms.
For instance, if our preconceptions lead us to an assume that our lives are merely the product of a programmed process (reproduction), set in motion by a god who then leaves the results to the nature of what he has created, Paul the apostle would demand that we change our view. Instead, as he told the Athenians, it is God who "gives all men life and breathe and everything else." It is only "in Him [that] we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:25,27). In Him.
In fact, though one might argue that Paul's claims are merely corporate, that God does not concern Himself with the individual but gave life and breathe in a general sense, God's concern for, and involvement in the lives of each of those He has created is dramatized in verse 26 in that, for all mankind, Paul tells us "He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live."
But does this concern for time and habitation also apply to persons in the class which we call "the unborn"?
The answer is "Yes!" After all, God Himself constructed the woman's body to be the very first habitation for each human being; an incredibly efficient and secure home. It is not mere existence that concerns God, but also the state of each individual's existence, born or unborn.
Now turn to Exodus 21, verses 22 through 25 and analyze the text. The hypothetical case law presented centers around two men who are having an argument. The Scripture holds that if in the course of a fight one of them hits a pregnant woman "and she gives birth prematurely" (NIV) (more precisely the Hebrew states "brings forth her child"), the child's health is to be considered. Injury to the child is to be recompensed on a just basis, "life for life . . . wound for wound." In other words, the gestational age of the child and his residency in utero are not to be an excuse for robbing the child of justice.
That principle of justice is critical when we come to any discussion on abortion. Perhaps anticipating the day when societies would attempt to rob the smallest and weakest members of the human race of any justice, this Scripture in Exodus spells out very clearly that the unborn person must not be deprived; he must not be treated to a lesser standard of care and protection under the law. He is fully entitled, according to God's standard, to whatever morally justifiable rights and protections exist to sustain the life of a born person. He is entitled to have any injury to him taken seriously.
This is an important principle! It is the principle of justice which God later applies to any person who is maliciously injured by another, recorded in Leviticus 24:19-20. Born or unborn, the injured party is to find justice among God's people. Clearly, God does not prefer the life of the born over the unborn. He has a consistent standard of justice.
As you can see, any discussion of the unborn as a person must, of course, address issues of equity. One subject (personhood) is not divorced from the other (God's justice). Instead, one flows naturally into the other. So, understanding God's equal and active affection for all whom He has created, whether in the womb or out, it behooves us to examine our society's embrace of abortion from the perspective of justice.
Our nation's founders, from those who produced the Mayflower Compact, to those who wrote up our Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution, made an intentional effort to model American law, though rough, after patterns and principles of justice derived from Scripture. This is important, so imagine if you will that there is a simple summary engraved on one of two stone tablets. As you read down the tablet on the left you see that under our rough model of biblical justice:
Innocent human lives are to be protected.
One guilty of producing a threat to an innocent person is to be restrained and retribution is required.
Of course I am over-simplifying in order to make a point. I want you to see that on January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court utterly rejected our two-hundred-year-old rough model of godly justice. And what they put in its place is the absolute opposite of God's standard of justice. What an affront to God!
To see what I mean, imagine now that you are looking at the stone tablet on the right. Under the standard of justice put forth under the Roe v Wade Supreme Court ruling the following is true:
The most innocent people may be killed without thought to their rights.
Those who kill the most morally innocent people may go about freely.
In fact, post Roe v Wade, taking the lives of people who have committed no judicial wrong other than that God conceived them to be in an age when being "unwanted" is a crime is hailed as an act of nobility. Abortion practitioners are seen as valiant crusaders to be honored and protected by society, over and above their innocent victims. In fact, while victimhood is all but denied the child whose body has been macerated, victim-status is readily applied to men and women who commit abortion.
Such an upside-down standard of justice, completely in opposition to the pattern laid out in Scripture, serves as an utter rejection of what God determines to be morally good. It is a terrible insult to Him.
More egregious, His own people have failed to understand the insult! Instead we have allowed ourselves to become bogged down in side-issues and absurdities; 24 hour waiting periods, parental consent laws, an abhorrence for one kind of abortion technique (such as the "partial-birth" method) over others, while avoiding the assault which is upon the person of God.
Such an avoidance, allowing ourselves to become entangled in ancillary issues, is neither incidental nor accidental when we examine the full scope of abortion practice in America. Abortion includes any directed action taken to prevent the live birth of a baby who has been conceived. As such, this includes not only those surgical procedures performed against the unborn in abortion clinics and doctor's offices. It also includes conduct which, though its hoped for purpose may be to prevent conception, also carries the risk of killing a conceived child early in the pregnancy.
In fact, it is primarily within this last category that abortion occurs in the Church. We readily think of the newly marketed abortion pill RU-486, but in fact, RU-486 is only one of dozens of chemical abortion-producing drugs on the market today. Called "chemical abortifacients," products which cause abortion a statistically consistent number of times (before the woman even knows that she is pregnant) include devices like the intrauterine device (IUD), implants such as Norplant, injectibles such as Depo-Provera, the "Pill" and the "mini-Pill," as well as the new HCG-vaccine.
"Abortion" may not be the primary intent of the IUD or birth-control pill user, but it is a factual outcome which is so consistent that it is estimated that over 12 million abortions occur annually as a result of contraceptive [sic] use. It is something like playing Russian Roulette; hoping that true contraception will occur, but never knowing when a process called "breakthrough ovulation" and fertilization might occur, calling into service the abortion component.
While it seems good to be outraged at the killing of unborn persons who are gestationally older, it is the group of newly conceived persons killed through chemical abortifacients which constitute the greatest number of abortions in the United States, and the greatest number of abortions among Christians, easily on par with non-Christians.
Given that fact, we are confronted with both "good news" and "bad news." Basic Christian theology imparts to us the concept that while God holds unbelievers accountable, it is in the Church where, when God's standards are violated, judgment begins (1 Pet. 4:17). His justice will demand an accounting for our attitudes and actions which support such a disregard for His concern over those He has created. That's the "bad news."
But the "good news" is that, if we are willing to address our own rejection of God's view (of justice, children, abortion - no matter how young the child is, etc.), and we elect to repent, to change our minds and our behaviors that support such an upside-down world-view, then we can hope for God's gracious mercy.
Such a call to metanoia (changing direction; repentance) is guaranteed to cost us. It will certainly require that we exercise a greater faith in God's ability to provide for us and the children we bear. It will require that we change our thinking and our priorities. But it also extends to us great possibilities: that we will gain a greater heart-felt reverence for God and His commands, that we will understand issues of justice in such a way that our understanding will have a positive impact upon our society, and that we will offer a view of God and His Kingdom to the world in such a way that the lost will be compelled to Him. After all, God's standards really do make sense.
God spoke to Moses over 3500 years ago about a choice, to elect between life and death; living in relationship with Him (which includes embracing His standards), or foolishly opting for something else (Deut. 30:19). We have that same choice to make, a choice which involves taking a heart-felt look at the One most egregiously offended by our attitudes and actions, understanding that even if change comes with what we perceive to be a high cost, that cost will be minimal when compared with what we gain.
The Church, by reclaiming a true reverence for God's standard may yet regain the moral authority to address the world on sin, whether of abortion, homosexuality, or any other socially embraced evil.
Cathy Ramey is a graduate student in Exegetical Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and is Associate Editor of Life Advocate magazine.