Abortion and the Will of God
I recently posted a simple statement on social media affirming a pro-life position and in favor of striking down the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. The outcome of this landmark case granted women the Constitutional, and thus federal, right to have access to abortion. Following the outcome of Roe v. Wade, abortion was henceforth the law of the land.
While I have posted things my followers haven’t always agreed with before, this time seemed different. The comments section became cluttered with insults about my intelligence, the typical “my body, my right” type of comments, and quite a few profanities thrown my way. I typically enjoy a good dialogue, but felt in this case, the comments were laced with such vitriol, that it was best to just let it be.
Not every issue should be debated in small soundbites and the margins of social media comment sections. Out of respect for the magnitude of this issue, the women who have made the difficult decision to abort their children, and nearly 62 million aborted babies since 1973, I chose to respond on this platform. So, I would like to offer a few thoughts, some from an ethical perspective, as it pertains to abortion.
There are consequences to being on the wrong side of history.
For most of church history, the Church has taken a very clear stand about abortion based on Scriptures such as:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14, ESV)
You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13, ESV)
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27, ESV)
Before engaging any current-day arguments or aspects regarding abortion, it is important to say that for much of the previous 2000 years, the Church has held a unified position on abortion. Abortion was viewed as the destruction of an image-bearer. It wasn’t until recent history (think Roe v. Wade) that Christian thinkers shifted from this long-held perspective. Ethicist and theologian, J. Douma, is helpful in summarizing the larger view of the Church throughout history and this shift:
We could well speak of a clear turning point in history because the Christian church—and, in her footsteps, social legislation—has always condemned abortion. The turning point we are talking about is quite abrupt. Within a space of a few years, Christian ethicists turned from condemning abortion as murder to defending it. In so doing, they left their ecclesiastical heritage and came up with pronouncements resembling what had been argued already in the classical Roman period, namely: “An unborn child cannot legitimately be called a person,” or, “Before a child is born it is part of the mother, that is, part of her intestines.”
It is important to note that the ‘classical Roman period’ to which Douma refers also embraced evil practices such as child abandonment and infanticide. I mention this here only to give us some historical frame of reference and hopefully so that we can learn a sobering lesson. To abandon long-held biblical values causes irreparable damage. When we find ourselves agreeing with the pagans of empires gone by, who held little value for human life, then surely a grave mistake has been made.
From a leadership perspective, it could be stated this way: a passive approach to culture neuters any ability to create and influence culture. Those Christian thinkers who defended abortion didn’t move the culture forward. Rather, they set it back thousands of years. And in so doing, created a moral Mount Everest to climb to undo this wrong that had been done.
Defining the Sanctity of Human Life
The phrase “sanctity of human life” simply means that all life, born or unborn, has inherent and infinite value to God, and is thus sacred. Life is valuable not because it can offer value, but rather because God has deemed it valuable. Focus on the Family’s Sanctity of Human Life Guide offers helpful insight here:
To be created in the likeness of God means that each human bears His image and with it, a value beyond our unique characteristics or individual attributes. Nothing else in God’s created order has the distinction of reflecting His image; it’s a privileged status reserved only for humankind. This is a bit of a mystery as God’s image in us isn’t something tangible we can see, taste or feel; yet it establishes our significance and worth at the highest level. The Bible says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). From the miracle of life in the womb to the body’s ability to regenerate cells and tissue for healing, we see God’s amazing fingerprint at work. Humans are breathtaking creatures embodying a touch of the Creator Himself and reflected in the wonder of human life.
When does life begin?
The short answer is at conception, being the moment that life is conceived.
There is no doubt that the unborn is a human being from conception, the result of the dynamic interaction, and organic merger, of the female ovum (which contains 23 chromosomes) and the male sperm (which contains 23 chromosomes). At conception, a whole human being, with its own genome, comes into existence, needing only food, water, shelter, oxygen, and a congenial environment in which to interact. These are necessary in order to grow and develop itself to maturity in accordance with its own nature.
At the moment life is conceived, a human being exists. Development that depends on the mother’s womb does not detract from the humanness of being human. If depending on another human to sustain life undermines one being an alive person, then it could also be concluded that the elderly who are unable to care for themselves, mentally or physically handicapped people, and the list could go on, are not persons.
Imagine a soldier who suffered debilitating wounds in battle and returned home. Through medical assistance and the continual care of another, he or she is able to live and experience life. We would not say, “That soldier isn’t alive because he or she depends on the help of another to sustain life.” NO! Rather, we would esteem that individual for their bravery and sacrifice. So let it be said that a life that is dependent on another to sustain it is NO LESS alive. So, life begins at the moment or distinct event in which the male sperm fuses with the female egg. And that life is viable even though it is dependent upon the mother’s womb for development.
A Warning Against Hypocrisy
If an issue involves human life, it is of utmost importance to God and should matter deeply to the Christian. Human trafficking, racially motivated violence, euthanasia, the genocide of certain people groups based on religion, race, or tribe, and yes, abortion should all matter. Every moral dilemma dealing with the value of human life, because all life is made in the image of God, should have paramount significance to those who follow Jesus.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian, pastor, church planter, and, among other things, a double agent who was part of a group of people seeking to disrupt the plans of Adolf Hitler and The Third Reich during WWII. He was even involved in trying to assassinate Hitler. At the time of his arrest, he was working on a book on ethics, which he believed would be his greatest contribution to the Church. While he wouldn’t get the chance to finish this work, what he had written was published following his death in a concentration camp. In it, he states:
“Those who wish even to focus on the problem of a Christian ethic are faced with an outrageous demand—from the outset, they must give up, as inappropriate to this topic, the very two questions that led them to deal with the ethical problem: ‘How can I be good?’ and ‘How can I do something good?’ Instead, they must ask the wholly other, completely different question: what is the will of God?”
As Christians, we must first and foremost ask Bonhoeffer’s question regarding abortion: what is the will of God? I believe this question will guide us and guard us against endeavors that are not central to the desired will of God on this issue. We could say these are the will of God:
That Christians be pro-life and not just pro-birth…meaning we are heavily invested in the life of mom and baby. This would and should include the local churches caring deeply about foster care and adoption; counseling, community, and opportunity for the mother; and an unwavering commitment to creating paradigms for ongoing support for both.
That abortion doesn’t get reduced to just a political football…meaning we do not reduce our concern and responsibility to simply a vote. While I believe there is a constitutional argument to be made against abortion, the desired will of God must always take first place in the Christian’s mind. We care about unborn children first and foremost because God values a child in the womb.
That we understand a sanctity of life includes ALL human life…meaning we are sacredly consistent in the application of our belief in the sanctity of life. I believe that a consistent application of this value (think euthanasia, racism, homelessness, human trafficking, etc.) will foster togetherness across different expressions of the Church and strengthen the moral stance against abortion. Christians are more believable and influential when galvanized around issues related to the sanctity of human life… kind of like we have been for much of church history.
In closing, the Church is at its best when honoring what God values. I also believe, or maybe I’m just hoping, that we could see this unique moment in time as an opportunity. An opportunity to once again be united. In an age of individualism, please, for the sake of what God deems holy, let us speak with one voice. And in so doing answer the question: what is the will of God?
 Douma, Jochem. The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, P & R Pub., Phillipsburg, NJ, 1996, p. 217.
 Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, et al. Ethics, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2015, p. 47.