Bible Think Tank

This site is designed to help you interact with others about God's Word. I further some thoughts we developed during morning and evening gatherings at church. I have my NT translations from the original Greek to English. Also, I have book reviews and other current events.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Rebuttal to "Biblical Rule on Abortion is Confusing"

On the Father's Day edition of the Morning Call, columnist Paul Carpenter wrote an editorial entitled "Biblical Rule on Abortion is Confusing." My fear is not the content of the column, but rather that readers glance over the headlines and see "Bible" and "Confusing", cementing further their rationale for never picking up the Book.

Here is a link to the original article.

Below is my response

A Rebuttal of Paul Carpenter's "Biblical rule on abortion is confusing"
by Timothy Schmoyer
June 22, 2011

I am writing in response to Paul Carpenter's editorial entitled "Biblical rule on abortion is confusing" published in the Morning Call on Sunday, June 19, 2011. Mr. Carpenter attempts to make the case that the Bible is vague on abortion. I would like to share the meaning of the Biblical passages he chose.

Let me first say that I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Carpenter's main point when he writes "I [decry] efforts to impose religious dogma on others by force" and later "no law governing abortion or anything else should ever be enacted just because of a narrow ideological doctrine." As a Christian pastor, I agree 100% with these statements. While those inside the faith gladly obey what God teaches them, sincere Christians have always insisted that obedience comes from what God does in one's heart, and not by what one man forces on another by the sword. This is the fundamental of the American experiment, which is birthed out of Christians pursuing a land of liberty where they could believe, live, and govern as they understood Scripture.

While I concede to the greater argument, Mr. Carpenter spends much time inaccurately portraying the teachings of the Bible. He goes to some lengths to point out what the Bible does and does not say about abortion, while admitting he is no Bible scholar. I, however, am a Biblical scholar and would like to bring accurate interpretation to the attention of the reader.

The Biblical case is that "personhood" begins at conception. Mr. Carpenter questions that assumption using Genesis 2:7 which says "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. Should we say by this text that no one is alive until they breathe on their own? Certainly we can agree that Adam's life is not the normal way life is brought into the world. More helpful texts as to the question of when life begins are Psalm 139 and Psalm 51. As David considers God's immense devotion to humankind, he writes in Psalm 139:13-15, "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." Jews and Christians believe that God formed us and planned our days while each one of us were still in the womb. Later in David's confession of sin before God, he declares in Psalm 51:5 "Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me." This text shows that we are spiritual beings while still in the womb. The seriousness of how we treat the womb is in the fact that each one of us began life in a state of sinfulness and we are in need of forgiveness from the time we are only a sperm and egg in union. How can it be that I am both fearfully and wonderfully made AND AT THE SAME TIME sinful since conception? The answer lies in a God of love who wants to free us, rescue us, restore us, 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.

The second text Mr. Carpenter chooses to point his readers to is Deuteronomy 12:23 which warns against drinking animal blood as pagan worship, since "life is in the blood". Turning to human development in the womb, circulation typical begins by six weeks and the average pregnancy is discovered between 5-7 weeks. Can we say that to kill a unborn human before it has blood is okay since "life is in the blood"? What a farce we make the whole debate by talking this way! When God wants us to know something, He says it plainly. We shouldn't take a verse about animal blood and make any application to when human life begins.

The third text Mr. Carpenter references is Exodus 21:22-24 where Moses is giving 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 Exodus 21:22-24 has nothing to add to the abortion debate.

The final text, from Genesis 38, has no relation to the issue of abortion, however I would like to respond to Mr. Carpenter's slapstick treatment of it. The event of Onan's selfish sin is one that illustrates a lack of care for the helpless. In those ancient days, society provided for widows through their children. If however a man left his wife childless, it was his brother who would marry her and give her children (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Onan shrugged his responsibility towards his sister-in-law. God is immensely concerned with the helpless in society: the widow, the orphan, the alien, the slave (Deuteronomy 10:18, 14:29, 24:17, 27:19). Jesus reached out to the fringes of society: the tax-collectors, prostitutes, drunkards, 'undesirable' races. To the 'annoying' children, He gladly said "do not keep the little children from coming to Me" (Luke 18:16). James writes that "pure and undefiled religion is ... to look after orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27).

In conclusion, I want to encourage readers to view Christianity through a different lens. Christians are not anti-abortion. Christians are not 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 the specific issue of abortion. 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; rather we are eager to introduce divine power into those outside faith. We see God doing that one heart and mind at a time.

Feel free to post any comments you have below.

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