Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Abortion, Morality and the Bible

Biblical Scholars are, essentially, lawyers.

They study scripture, rather than bills of law, but the basic concept is the same. Both lawyers and biblical scholars arrive at predetermined conclusions and then cherry pick scripture or law to support their position.

This leads to stupid situations in which one set of Christians say one thing, while another set say something completely contradictory. Both argue that the Bible supports their position!

Often the only positions all Christians can agree on have no basis in scripture whatsoever. An excellent example of this is abortion.

Abortion is a topic all Christians seem united against, yet their position has very little basis in Biblical scripture whatsoever.

Never Mind What the Bible Says

I can see why the pro-life movement think abortion is wrong - when my wife was pregnant, we went to the doctor and had an ultrasound scan - and there was a baby, with a head, arms, legs and everything! And he moved! And wiggled!

This was at about 12 weeks - and even thought the baby was on the 'inside,' it was still clearly a little person. So as far as I'm concerned, an abortion at that stage would be killing a little baby.

Science and medicine is advancing so fast that the upper limit for abortions is meeting the lower limit for successfully delivering a premature baby. Clearly, it's wrong to abort a healthy fetus if it was developed enough to have survived outside the womb.

As science progresses, so to will the stage at which a premature baby can be born. We might end up 'growing' babies in test tubes from beginning to end, so it's deeply troubling to think that a 12 week old baby might be considered a constitutionally protected American citizen if he's lying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, but would be considered 'fair game' for the abortionist if he was left inside the womb.

What does the Bible say?

"Jewish law is quite clear in its statement that an embryo is not reckoned a viable living thing (in Hebrew, bar kayama) until thirty days after its birth. One is not allowed to observe the Laws of Mourning for an expelled fetus. As a matter of fact, these Laws are not applicable for a child who does not survive until his thirtieth day." Rabbi Balfour Brickner

Abortionist is presumably the second oldest profession, stemming from the need created by the first.

There were abortionists practicing their trade even back in the Biblical days - and the Bible itself has a very pragmatic approach to the subject.

Pro-life Christians generally use one passage, Jeremiah 1:5, to support the position that the Bible says abortion is wrong. In that passage, God tells David:

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

Pro-life Christians argue that this is proof that God considers an embryo, within the womb, to be one of his subjects and a human soul - therefore, aborting would be murder.

However, this argument is flawed for numerous reasons.

Firstly, God tells David he knew him 'before I formed you in the womb.' So that means that David's 'soul' existed BEFORE his egg was even fertilized.

Secondly, God was talking about David specifically - not all unborn children. David had a very important destiny, so God had chosen him and 'knew him' for a reason.

As for the rest of the unborn Biblical children? Well, the old testament is very clear on the subject.

A baby wasn't considered to be 'a person' until a full thirty days after birth.

Numbers 3:15 shows that babies younger than 30 days were not counted in a census (presumably because infant mortality was so high in those days.)

Abortion was openly practised and condoned in the Biblical days, since a fetus was not considered a human being. That belief is consistent throughout the Bible.

For example, a man who murdered a pregnant woman was only held responsible for her death, not the death of her unborn child. In Genesis 38, Judah even orders Tamar to be burned at the stake, despite the fact that she was pregnant with twins.

In Numbers 5, God himself curses unfaithful wives to have abortions - and it's one of his priests who serves the 'bitter waters' that cause a miscarriage.

When the Bible was written, nobody could conceive of test-tube babies or Neonatal Intensive Care. Most pregnancies failed, or children died a few weeks after being born. That's why the Bible didn't consider babies 'people' until they'd been born and lived long enough to have a fair crack at life itself.

The Bible even admits that God first formed Adam from the dust of the ground - and only then did he give him the breath of life, turning man into a living soul.

If you consider that to be an allegorical account of pregnancy, it suggests that the first seven months are devoted to constructing the organs and body and only by the eighth month does the fetus display 'consciousness' and become a person.

There is no ambiguity. The Bible itself does not consider life to begin at the moment of conception. It's only science and rationality that has cultivated that belief.

Right for the Wrong Reasons?

I believe the religious right are wrong on several issues - like opposing equality for gay people. An awful lot of bigoted nonsense is justified by a few misinterpreted passages from the Bible. Abortion, however, is not one of those issues.

I might not entirely agree with the pro-life crowd (I think banning abortion would be a disaster) but I can see their point in fighting abortion - and I share their beliefs enough to know that abortion is not a choice I'd be willing to make.

I just find it uncomfortably ironic that the book many pro-lifers believe in, the old testament, is actually one of the most astoundingly 'pro-choice' documents ever written!

Thank goodness that we live in a secular society! If we lived under Bible law, people wouldn't just be having abortions right up until the moment they give birth - there'd be a loophole allowing them to murder their newborns if they changed their mind about being a parent within the first thirty days!


paisley penguin said...

Thank you for your explaination. This was really well put and thought out.

having my cake said...

Very cogent explanation of the relevant Bible bits.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't quote scripture and I don't for two reasons that I am ashamed of.

When our daughter was 12 she had a problem with lying. I had a manual called, "Instructions for Righteousness," that laid out very specific instructions on how to deal with conflict with your kids. It also had an exhaustive reference where you could look up different issues and it would list scriptures that pertained to that. The idea was to make your kids memorize them. I was frustrated with our daughter and looked in there for some ideas. One of them for lying was to write the scripture references for whichever verses I chose from the list on big wooden beads and string them into a necklace... following the directions I then made her wear the necklace until she memorized all of the verses. If anyone asked her what the scripture references on the beads were she had to tell them that she had to memorize them because she told lies.

I did not feel right about it but at the same time was desperate to get her attention. She did memorize all of the verses... We just wanted her to stop lying. We wanted her to know what it felt like to be labeled a liar. But, too late, I realized that I had used scripture to punish my child. I never used that book again and when we were going through things to give away years later, I destroyed it rather than have it get into someone else's hands.

I came across a video of her wearing it not long ago and I asked her while I was video taping what it was. She was smiling and kind of swaying from side to side and said it was the Liar Necklace. I then asked why she had to wear it and she said, "Because I am a liar." I nearly threw up.

Just so you know, I did tell her that I felt that that was the wrong way to handle it and that I was sorry.

The other reason has to do with a former friend. She is what you would call a Judiazer. That is someone who believes in Jesus but also believes that you must follow the Jewish laws and traditions. We entered into a twisted search for scripture that supported our differing views.

I don't believe the bible was intended to be used that way. When you get down to picking through individual verses you can get lost in it and lose sight of the bigger picture. You have to be careful to not take things out of context. What do the verses say before? What do they say after? What is the point of the entire chapter? Book? Testament?

The Old Testament tells the history and the law. The New Testament fulfills the law. Jesus Christ said on the cross that it was finished. He paid the price. Done.

So back to abortion. Setting aside the bible... Setting aside the fact that I am a Christian who believes life begins at conception... Let's take a look at this from another angle.

Abortion is business. I heard a woman speak who ran an abortion center. They went to the schools to hand out literature so that the girls knew where to go. They even would shuttle girls to and from the school so they could get abortions without their parents knowing. They were often concerned with having enough traffic coming through.

Girls and women are not properly counseled as to the dangers of abortion. It is a surgical procedure with risks. Complications from an abortion can affect future fertility.

The emotional issues associated with abortion are not addressed at all and can be the most damaging. I don't know that anyone can understand that unless they see it for themselves. It isn't talked about openly. It is just too painful. I have yet to see someone stand up and say they've had an abortion and it was a good thing in their life. You see people fighting for the "right" but you don't see them talking about how it made their lives better. Why? Where are the personal testimonials on how it was the best decision for them and how they are glad they did it? That really bothers me... if it's really not that big of a deal.

You have a new little baby and have been experiencing the joy of parenthood... imagine that being clouded by thoughts of another child you chose not to have... wondering what they would have looked like... how old they would be by then. It is something I believe is fairly common seeing as I've heard about those thoughts from several people that didn't feel guilty about having an abortion until they had another child.

There are lifelong consequences to making a choice like that.

Back to the bible for a sec... There's nothing in the bible against smoking marijuana, shooting up heroin, or pornography.

You've brought up some scripture that can be interpretted to mean that abortion is okay since babies under 30 days of age were not counted in the census... and that Adam was not alive until God breathed life into him... Why? Why use scripture to make a point for something you don't even believe in?

PQG said...

In the bible God goes further than just condoning abortion. Sometimes He also demands infanticide. Let's take a look at 1 Samuel 15: 1-3...

1 Then Samuel said to Saul, “I was the one the Lord sent to anoint you as king over his people Israel. Now listen to what the Lord says. 2 Here is what the Lord of hosts says: ‘I carefully observed how the Amalekites opposed Israel along the way when Israel came up from Egypt. 3 So go now and strike down the Amalekites. Destroy everything that they have. Don’t spare them. Put them to death – man, woman, child, infant, ox, sheep, camel, and donkey alike.’”

Obviously, God here doesn't just want babies killed, but an entire race of people. I wonder how many Christians hesitate to read this nice, wholesome, and pro-genocide bible story to their kids at bedtime.

Anonymous said...

your interpretation of the bible is very flawed and you should truly quote your scripture. Here you'll see your interpretations/understandings are false. Swelling of the belly and rotting of the thigh is not a reference to a miscarriage, where did it say the adulteries was pregnant; this is a test for adulterous women. I'd imagine many adulterers were not getting pregnant, duh! So only pregnant ones would have a swelling and issues… plzzzzzz

Further the Israelites considered the unborn to be really and holly. I do agree on your census assumption.

“(Exodus 20:13). Every Israelite knew that the preborn child was indeed a child. Therefore, miscarriage was always viewed as the loss of a child and abortion as the killing of a child.”

Roland Hulme said...

Exodus says no such thing.

Anonymous said...

Exodus 20:13 says, "Thou shall not murder." I suspect that that was an improper use of quote doohickey thingies and following the scripture referrence was that person's view of that scripture.

One of my friends had some funky translation of the bible that was written using today's vernacular. She would bring it to our bible studies and we'd always ask her to read her version and then howl with laughter. Hmmmmm... I just find out if I could dig up a copy somewhere... I don't think it took off. Actually, they may have all been burned by now. Some of the slang was inappropriate for the bible.

Anonymous said...

Need coffee... I just might find if I can dig up a copy. Oy.

small town city girl said...

I find your posting very interesting and will look into what you have quoted.

I really appreciate your willingness to tackle such a controvercial topic.

Thank you.

One Salient Oversight said...

You didn't tackle Psalm 139.

You also didn't tackle brephos, which is used to describe both the unborn child in Elizabeth's womb in Luke 1.41 and the newborn Jesus in Luke 2.16.

One Salient Oversight said...

Oh, and I wrote this a while back.