The Abortion Debate

by David Lanphear
Biblical Insights, July 2007

Public debate about abortion has raged for decades. When Roe v. Wade altered the legal landscape for the unborn in 1973, the issue moved to the forefront of political discussion and activism and has not yielded its position. Abortion is a hot button topic for Presidential candidates and a so-called litmus test for judicial appointees. The debate has pervaded our public discussion for so long it seems we are wearing out-and down. Slowly, but surely, it seems that the long effort to erode our objection as a society is taking hold across the country. Christians, however, cannot relent. We are in a war for the sanctity of life as God created it, and indifference is as wrong as agreement.

The Environment We Are In

To be sure, we are constantly bombarded with slick messages intended to desensitize us to "inevitable" change about abortion. It is effective. One current Presidential candidate smoothly urges acceptance. His website oozes: " ... this is a deeply personal moral dilemma, and people of good conscience can disagree respectfully. Ultimately [ the candidate] believes that it is a decision between a woman, her doctor, her family, and her God" (www. For years, prevail ing modern "wisdom" has reasoned that a woman's body belongs to her, so she-not someone else-has the exclusive right to choose whether to terminate her pregnancy. God's word rejects such selfishness.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (I Corinthians 6:19-20).

Advances in scientific technology and research make recent arguments sound more sophisticated, technical, and confusing. A photo or video clip of a wheelchair-bound celebrity or a well-known actor pleads for us to elect politicians who support "humane" government policies to encourage and fund "promising" embryonic stem cell research which may "potentially" eliminate debilitating diseases and conditions that plague us. How, they argue, can we morally justify allowing such health conditions to continue when we seem so close to ending them? Sound seductive?

"Abortion" is such an ugly word. Proponents use harmless words, like "choice," and call an unborn baby an "embryo"(the unborn from conception to the end of the 8th week) or "fetus" (the unborn from the end of the 8th week until birth). Their arguments and reasoning deceptively erase the unborn-the other human-from the equation. The baby is impersonalized and dehumanized, called by an unfamiliar, nonhuman-sounding name. Consequently, we ordinarily see and hear only one person affected by a decision to abort-an adult-and ignore (out of sight, out of mind) the other human -- a baby -- who dies by the conscious decision of the mother. "Embryo" and "fetus" merely describe a stage of life (just as "teen" or "senior"), but doesn't change the fact that it is life! "Embryonic stem cell" sounds clinical and scientific, but the words mask the ugly fact that each time stem cells are "harvested" from an embryo; a baby is killed.

When Does Life Begin?

The Greek word brephos, translated as "baby" in the New Testament, identifies the unborn John the baptizer (Luke 1:41,44), the newborn Jesus (Luke 2:12,16), and infants generally (Luke 18:15; Acts 7:19). Compare Gen. 25:22, which describes the unborn Jacob and Esau in Rebekah's womb ("the children struggled together within her") with Gen. 3:16, in which God says to Eve, "In pain you shall bring forth children." The Hebrew word ben, translated as "children,' is used in both instances. In each scriptural reference above, the Holy Spirit made no distinction between the born and unborn. If the Lord made no distinction between them, how can we?

Warnings Against Infanticide and Complacency

Unfortunately, baby killing is not new to the history of the world, and God is not silent about his displeasure. In Old Testament times, idols of Molech, the god of the Ammonites (Leviticus 18:21; I Kings 11:5; Jer. 32:35; 49:1, 3), had the body of a human and the head of a bull. Priests built a fire in the pit of the hollow image until it was red hot, and incredibly, parents placed their infant children in the outstretched arms of the idol. Babies rolled into the pit as human sacrifice and "passed through the fire, as it were, as a rite of purification (ISBE). Palestinian excavations have uncovered evidence of infant skeletons in burial places around heathen shrines (Lunger's Bible Dictionary). It is hard to imagine a more abhorrent, unthinkable form of idol worship.

How did God regard it? Note the stern warning He gave to the Israelites about sacrifices to Molech in Leviticus 20:1-3:

"The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: 'Any Israelite or any alien living in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech must be put to death. The people of the community are to stone him. I will set my face against that man and I will cut him off from his people; for by giving his children to Molech, he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name." "

And, lest we accept the post-modern mantra to "live and let live, consider how God regarded those who tolerated the sacrifice of babies to Molech worship. The Lord also told Moses in the same passage:

"If the people of the community close their eyes when that man gives one of his children to Molech and they fail to put him to death, I will set my face against that man and his family and will cut off from their people both him and all who follow him in prostituting themselves to Molech" (Leviticus 20:4-5).

God not only condemned those who killed their babies in idol worship, but He also condemned those who were indifferent! How can we ignore such a warning from the past? (Romans 15:4).

What Do We Do?

As the sin of abortion steamrolls its way into greater and greater acceptance in our corner of the world, the threat of danger is clear and present.

  • Do not yield quietly. We can no more close our eyes to abortion than the Israelites of old could to human sacrifice. Our conviction should affect the way we live and the policy-makers we choose. One voice can make a difference. Ask Paul, the Roman citizen.
  • Teach our children. Post-modern influence likely has more impact today on children than it does on adults. As parents, we must clearly articulate to our children the sanctity of life and why we must respect it. Take affirmative steps to insulate them from the philosophical onslaught they will face. Chances are they will encounter struggles in the trenches with their friends and acquaintances simply by virtue of their age. Equip them ahead of time.
  • Be active in the kingdom. A world with no respect for God will have no respect for life. To change the tide, we must actively teach and convert others so new lights may "shine like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:15). Souls are at stake. Light changes darkness.

The evil of abortion is not a small matter. It is dangerous to dismiss the issue, whether we are directly involved or not. We are still accountable. At the judgment, the blood of millions of innocents will cry out for justice (Genesis 4:10; 9:5). May God find us on the side of righteousness.


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