THE REJECTED STONE
We live in an age where abortion is not only tolerated but normalised and even celebrated as a high form of female rights. It may be surprising for many to learn that the early feminists were in fact against abortion. But this is beside the point, for abortion is not a women's rights issue, but a human's rights issue. To terminate a life is not a choice people should have regardless of gender. Though there is a whole host of difficulties and unique situations that may bring people to view a pregnancy as unwanted, the killing of a child should never be the answer.
Many in our day will object to abortion as synonymous to the killing of a child. They will draw a line between a fetus and a person. This distinction is philosophical and not scientific. It is a question of what constitutes a person. I would argue that a person, that is, a human being, is easily definable and not subject to size, development, intelligence or awareness. If we observe an unborn child, it is sufficient to ask two questions: (1) Are there signs of life or not? And (2) What species is the being? If the answers are (1) Yes, (2) human, we very clearly have a living human being — a person. To claim otherwise would be to suggest that the being is either inanimate or a different species, which is incorrect. To say that the child is merely a part of the mother's body is also inadequate as there most certainly are two beings connected to one another, only one sustaining the other. The lack of independence does not mean a lack of a human nature.
There is confusion as to what the Bible says about abortion. To be clear, it is neither silent on the matter, nor does it advocate abortion, as some critics have suggested. The Bible is unquestionably against abortion — abortion is a sin.
Let's back up and look at a few Bible verses that may be construed as God having a low view on life, as some claim.
Hosea 9:14: "Give them, O Lord— what will you give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts."
Psalms 137:9: "Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!"
1 Samuel 15:3: "Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey."
Numbers 5:21: "(Let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) ‘the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh fall away and your body swell."
The above verses and the like are shocking, and rightly so. However, they are sometimes used by critics to claim that God is immoral and that He does not value life. Furthermore, they may say that since God causes miscarriage (Numbers 5:11-31), we should be free to perform abortion. However, these views betray poor exegesis. Context is everything. We cannot go by these verses in isolation — they need to be read and understood in light of all of Scripture; first its immediate context, then its broader context.
It's important to recognise:
1. God is supremely good. He does not create, bestow or impute moral evil upon man. He does not tempt man to do evil. Evil is not a part or accident of God's creation, but rather the absence of God; evil is anything opposed to God, His nature, design and will.
2. God is supremely righteous. He hates evil and punishes sinners. God's punishing of evil is in and of itself a good thing and perfectly in line with His good and righteous character. If God did not punish evil, He would not be a good and righteous God.
3. Mankind is made in the image of God, and any killing, termination or harm of human life in any way is evil because it is an attack on God's own image and His creation. No one cares more about the value and sanctity of human life than God, for Scriptures describe mankind as the crown of God's creation.
4. Mankind, after the fall, is naturally evil; children of wrath and spiritually dead. We rejected God as our Lord and continue to rebel against Him. Consequently, we are only worthy of condemnation. That is, because we rebel against God, who is good and the source of all that is good, we then, rebel against that which is truly good, and we are therefore evil.
5. God is supremely good and merciful, not sparing His only Son, Jesus Christ, that we may live through Him. Through the person and works of Christ, God's grace is fully revealed.
No one cares more about life than God. If we take away from reading the above verses that God is somehow hostile to human life we are sorely mistaken. God is not harsh or extreme in His judgments. But if we have little or no appreciation for what sin is — the depth and severity of it — we will also have little regard for God's punishment of sin, and consequently a poor foundation for understanding God's great love and compassion.
God judges all things according to His goodness, holiness and righteousness. The above verses have to do with the punishment of sin, not about abortion as a human choice, and neither about infants being of lesser value. Only when we understand the terrible depths of sin can we rightly understand the above verses.
Most verses such as the above are part of a long historical narrative that has to do with God's plan for Israel (which found its ultimate culmination in Jesus Christ). They show us how (1) God punished the nations who rejected Him and who treated His people with contempt. Because of their evil deeds, God gave their land over to the Israelites. (2) God also punished members of His own people who did evil, rebelling against Him. Under the Old Testament Law (God's commands for Israel), it sometimes commissioned to Israel to execute punishments of sins. This was one way in which Israel was set apart from other nations, and recognised as a unique and holy nation of God. That is why they had laws such as the exclusion of members, stoning, and the "bitter water" as a test for unfaithfulness etc. These were God-commanded punishments of sin, carried out by the Israelites as agents or instruments of God.
Looking at Numbers 5:11-31, with the "bitter water", for example. This is not to be interpreted as some strange ritual or magic, nor as an abortion right. This has to do with punishment for unbelief, distrust, selfishness and unfaithfulness to God's Word and His promise. Basically, if a woman was guilty of unfaithfulness, the punishment would be two-fold: (1) She would lose the right to children, which in the ancient world is not to be understood as a kind of human right, but a terrible shame and a great loss (even socially and economically). (2) More significantly, she would be cut off from partaking in the promise of the Messiah, Christ, as the Israelites were to bring forward the person of Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world.
With the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ, the Old Testament laws and prophecies found their fulfilment. For this reason, Christians are not to uphold the ceremonial and judicial laws of the nation of Israel, but the moral law still stands. What this means, in short, is that the Christian is not to exercise God's punishment on people for their sins, but instead proclaim God's Law and Gospel, so that people may understand their sinfulness and their need for a saviour, and learn of God's grace, that He gave us a saviour, His Son, Jesus, who suffered and died for our sins; that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
Abortion falls under the moral law, which the Christian is to uphold. Abortion is morally evil because:
1. It is an attack on God's image and creation.
2. It is a rejection of God's institution of family.
3. It is the taking of a human life, which is murder.
4. Through selfishness, it is sacrificing the life of a child, with the vain intention and erroneous hope that it may benefit the life of the parent(s)
5. It is hatred for our fellow human being in judging that the child is unworthy of life.
6. By example, it teaches others the false idea that the individual has the right to judge in matters of life and death.
The Church has always taught that abortion is sin, and to claim otherwise is not only a disregard for God's Word, but also history. In one of the earliest Christian catechisms found, the Didache, we find it explicitly written: "Thou shalt do no murder; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not commit sodomy; thou shalt not commit fornication; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not use magic; thou shalt not use philtres; thou shalt not procure abortion, nor commit infanticide; thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's goods;"
Abortion is sin on many levels, but at its heart, it is hatred for mankind and rebellion towards God. It comes out of fear and selfishness, and a failure to grasp that children are not a curse or inconvenience, but always a blessing. Even through tragic circumstances, God may bless us with a gift of life, which is rightly meant for our comfort, not for our shame or grief. If circumstances prevent someone to raise a child, let the child be adopted, as God adopts us sinners.
For those who are considering abortion, or who have gone through with it, even though it is a sin, we can take great comfort in knowing that Christ died for all our sins — even abortion, which is murder. Christ took our punishment upon Himself and paid our debt in full, because God cares about all life of all ages. When we through faith in Christ confess our sins to God, He is merciful to forgive us.
As a final thought, carefully consider this, that children are a truly unique and wonderful gift of God, made both in His image and ours. A child is the only gift God gives us that we may bring with us into heaven.