Rebuttal - FINAL COPY
Here is the original article.
A Rebuttal of Paul Carpenter's "Biblical rule on abortion is confusing"
by Timothy Schmoyer
June 22, 2011
Paul Carpenter's editorial attempts to make the case that the Bible is vague on abortion. Yet Mr. Carpenter, while admitting he is no Bible scholar, inaccurately portrays biblical teachings. I am a biblical scholar and would like to bring clarity to what Mr. Carpenter falsely calls “unclear”. As a Christian pastor, I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Carpenter's main point as shown through these statements: "I [decry] efforts to impose religious dogma on others by force" and "no law governing abortion or anything else should ever be enacted just because of a narrow ideological doctrine." While the faithful gladly obey what God teaches them, sincere Christians have always insisted that obedience comes from what God does in one's heart, not by what one man forces on another.
The biblical case is that "personhood" begins at conception. Mr. Carpenter questions this using Genesis 2:7: "God formed man out of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and in this way man became a living being." Certainly the first man, Adam, was not alive until God breathed life into him. Yet, Adam's creation is not the normal way life is brought into the world. The Psalms hold more helpful texts which address when life begins. As David considers God's immense devotion to humankind, he writes in Psalm 139:13-14, "For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Also, while confessing his sin to God, David declares in Psalm 51:5, "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." How can it be that I am both wonderfully made by God AND AT THE SAME TIME sinful since conception? The answer lies in a God of love who wants to free, rescue, restore, and do more with us than we could do alone. Religious people take abortion seriously because we long to see what a God of Redemption could do in that life if only it'd be given a chance to continue living.
Next, Mr. Carpenter addresses Deuteronomy 12:23 which warns against drinking animal blood as pagan worship, since "life is in the blood". Can we say that to kill an unborn human before it has blood is okay since "life is in the blood"? Talking this way makes the whole debate a farce. We shouldn't take a verse about animal blood to answer the question of when human life begins, as Mr. Carpenter wrongly attempts.
Third, Mr. Carpenter references Exodus 21:22-24 where Moses gives case law for personal injury: if two people are fighting and one accidently strikes a bystanding pregnant woman and the pregnancy is lost, there must be restitution. Notice the accidental aspect to the passage. In Old Testament case law, if a man kills another man accidently, he is not to be executed (Numbers 35:13-28). There is a clear distinction Biblically between willful decision and unintentional accidents. Abortion is an intentional decision and not an accidental ending of life; therefore, Mr. Carpenter's use of Exodus 21:22-24 does not add to the abortion debate.
Finally, I would like to respond to Mr. Carpenter’s slapstick treatment of Genesis 38, though the passage has no relation to the issue of abortion. Onan's selfish sin illustrates a lack of care for the helpless. In those days, society provided for widows through their children. If a man died leaving his wife childless, his brother would marry her and give her children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Onan shrugged his responsibility towards his sister-in-law. This passage is one of many in which we see God’s immense concern with the helpless in society (Deuteronomy 10:18, 14:29, 24:17; Luke 18:16; James 1:27, to name a few more).
I encourage readers to view Christianity through a different lens. Christians are not anti-abortion or even pro-life. Christians are pro-Gospel. The Gospel (Good News) started by our leader, Jesus Christ, is a message that is far more holistic and uplifting than one specific issue. Our message is one of gracious love and eager forgiveness, not hateful condemnation. Christians are not interested in changing lawbooks, but hearts. We are not interested in exerting power over those outside faith; we are eager to introduce Divine power to those outside faith. We see God doing that one heart and mind at a time.