Abortion and the Bible

It is common for people to think that the Bible contains clear teaching about abortion.

This state of affairs goes back at least as far as Flavius Josephus in the first century. He wrote in Contra Apion II, 202: “The law, moreover, enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing human kind…” (See also Antiquities IV).

Yet the irony is that there is no unambiguous mention of abortion at all, even though it is clear from ancient laws of neighboring societies that the attempt to provoke a miscarriage – whether by ingesting something or by other means – was not unknown. (For the one possible reference to abortion in the Bible, which is not a criticism of it, see Numbers 5:16-28.)

There are all sorts of cases which can be made regarding abortion. But one that ought not to be made, and ought to be treated with scorn if it is, is any that claims “the Bible says” that “abortion is murder” or makes other such false claims. The Bible says no such thing.

That doesn’t mean that abortion therefore ought to be accepted – that is a different question. But what it does mean is that some people in our time prefer to lie about the Bible, rather than engage in the hard work of trying to make a reasonable case for their viewpoint.

 

  • contantlysearching

    thank you. my thoughts exactly. abortion is not a black and white issue. who gets to decide when personhood starts?

    • Tess

      The pregnant person.

      • dan marsh

        Wow. I was unaware that becoming pregnant made someone infallible.

        • LHB

          Wow. I was unaware that not being (or unable to become pregnant) made someone infallible.

          • stuart32

            I hope you will excuse a bit of pedantic humour here. When words are bracketed in a sentence the rest of the sentence should make sense with the bracketed words removed. So in this case we have: I was unaware that not being made someone infallible. Not existing probably is an obstacle to being infallible :-)

    • Anonymous

      Human consciousness is one distinguishing factor. The rejoinder is that a person who has fallen unconscious is still a person. But that person at one time was conscious and may or may not again be conscious. Also, people can still experience forms of consciousness while “unconscious” that a fetus is incapable of doing before developing the enabling brain functionality. I’d think for the religious, as well, that consciousness would be the “true light, which enlightens everyone.”

      The “thalamo-cortical complex” that generates consciousness begins to develop at around 24-28 weeks, that is, 6-7 months (coinciding with Roe‘s “viability” marker); fetuses might feel pain, at the earliest, at 24 weeks. The majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester, during the first 9 weeks.

      For most of history it was commonplace for women to die in childbirth. For most of history women have been considered lesser humans than men, and in many parts of the world, of course, they are still treated (or mistreated) as inferior humans. Pregnancy can pose serious health risks that, thanks to medical science, have been reduced in developed countries. Still, a pregnancy can kill a woman. It’s clear that many anti-abortion zealots value a pre-conscious fetus over an adult woman. (Including women like anti-abortion activist Lila Rose, who had the gall to suggest that giving birth to a rapist’s baby is a “redemptive part of this suffering.”) I know with whom my sympathies lie.

      • arcseconds

        How much consciousness does an fetus have? How does it compare to animals?

        • Anonymous

          Good question! I don’t know.

          • arcseconds

            I think it’s difficult to argue that a human newborn has more consciousness than an adult chicken. A newborn can hardly coördinate its limbs, and as far as I know, has very little awareness (doesn’t see the world consisting of objects, etc.), whereas a chicken can percieve and navigate its surroundings, solve problems, in some sense remember things, etc.

            So if one is basing moral concern solely on current capability for consciousness, then the consistent positions are:

            - vegetarianism (rather strict form of vegetarianism, as any deliberate animal death counts the same as murdering a baby), and infanticide is not OK

            - killing animals is fine, but so is infanticide.

            The obvious way out of this, given that even vegetarians usually don’t think killing an unwanted rat (say) is the same as killing an unwanted baby, is to say it’s not the current capacity that matters, but the fact that a newborn has a potential that a (non-human) animal does not.

            But, then, so does a fetus…

            • Anonymous

              Yes. That’s why I was careful to write, in regard to “personhood,” that human consciousness is one distinguishing factor.

              There’s no way around the fact that a fetus is a potential human. But when does it become a “person.” Technically a baby isn’t a “fetus” until the 11th week, in the second trimester; this is also around the time that genitalia begins to develop. (Anti-abortion propagandists call even a blastocyst a “fetus.”) The brain is present at around 9 weeks but barely operational, and consciousness, as I mentioned before, is much further down the line. Is a pre-conscious potential human with a barely functional rudimentary brain a person?

              I consider myself incompetent to make that determination, and in the abstract (and viscerally) I oppose abortion. But on the ground I’m fervently pro-choice. There are too many factors that militate against criminalizing abortion, and in the first trimester, or when a fetus is fatally mal-developed or doomed to a short, painful life of suffering, or when the mother’s health is at risk, or any number of particular circumstances, the moral objections aren’t formidable.

    • Jim Blair

      If you don’t know, then you shouldn’t just go ahead and kill the unborn.

      You may be complicit in murder.

      • contantlysearching

        I see your point. But my point is that I personally don’t know. It’s a decision to be made by the mother because no one can really KNOW. I personally would not get an abortion (at least I feel this way at this time), but I feel the issue is too gray to make it illegal.

    • dan marsh

      The better question is who gets to decide when a baby isn’t yet a person, so may be brutally ripped apart, chunk by chunk?

  • Jay

    The Bible doesn’t condemn slavery or gender inequality either, actually the opposite, but it doesn’t seem that difficult for one to see how unnatural and evil they are.

    • Terri

      The Bible *does* condemn gender inequality, quite openly. We just have thousands of years of traditional church mis-reading and misinterpretation of the Bible to get around first.

      I can’t speak to the slavery item because I haven’t studied it; but having studied the Bible in general I don’t think anyone could come to the conclusion that God who made each person unique and loves each one individually would be all good with owning a brother or sister in Christ.

      • beau_quilter

        The Bible, taken as a whole, is in conflict with itself, on this and many other matters.

        Where the Bible stands on gender equality depends upon whether you are reading Galations 3:23:

        “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

        Or 1 Timothy 2:12:

        ” I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[a] she must be quiet.”

      • Pixie5

        Under Mosiac Law, slavery was permitted. And it wasn’t Moses who said it, according to the Bible. It was God who said it to Moses.

        “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who
        live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners,
        including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your
        property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may
        treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must
        never be treated this way”. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

        There was a completely different rule for Hebrew slaves as it was indentured servitude and they were freed after 7 years. The bible basically says that some people are better than others.

        We also have this disturbing verse on how to treat your slaves:

        When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the
        slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave
        survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own
        property. (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)
        The bible is a book of contradictions which is why it is obvious that it cannot be infallible in its teachings.

        • Jim Blair

          Probably allowed out of the Hardness of Humankinds hearts, like divorce was allowed.

          People are shits.

    • David_Evans

      “Unnatural” is a problematic word. Gender inequality is common in the animal kingdom. Abortion is not (it’s hard to see how it could be), but infanticide is quite frequent. I think we can all agree that abortion, especially early abortion, is preferable to infanticide.

      • jay

        I’m not sure there is much moral difference between abortion and infanticide. To me it is just a perception like killing with a drone vs a knife. Who really knows when it is a “human”. I guess the Bible forbids the shedding of blood (murder). When does the heart begin to beat? Luke records the story of John the Baptist “leaping in the womb”. I suppose it would have been considered a bad thing to have aborted a jumping fetus like John. Mary could have avoided some shame with a secret abortion, but that would have been problematic towards the development of the New Testament.

        • David_Evans

          My own feeling is that a fetus is not a person until it has a brain (said to be about 12 weeks after conception) and maybe later. But these are difficult questions.

          There are Bible verses (Numbers 5:12-5:28) recommending what seems to be an abortion if a wife is pregnant as a result of adultery.

        • Andrew Dowling

          “I’m not sure there is much moral difference between abortion and infanticide.”

          So there is no moral distinction between a mother detecting extreme fetal deformities on an ultrasound (which would result in a shortened life if born) and deciding for an abortion and smothering an otherwise healthy baby already out of the womb?

          • jay

            No, I don’t think there is a distinction,for example, to abort a 6 month old fetus or a 6 month old baby if the reason for such an extinction is the same. An abortion perhaps is more convenient as it is not nessary to carry the child to full term and to go through the pains of delivery. But Andrew, you have proposed two different situations, the abortion of a healthy fetus vs the smothering of a terribly deformed child. Or did I misunderstand?

      • Jim Blair

        Nope. Atheist professor Philosophy and Ethics as Princeton, Peter Singer, makes all kinds of excuses for infanticide.

        A real sick puppy he is, too.

        • David_Evans

          I can’t comment on Singer since I haven’t read his views on infanticide. But I can imagine a context. Some babies are born damaged, with the prospect of a very short life in constant pain. I believe it was common for midwives to smother or otherwise kill such babies, even back in the day when almost everyone was a Christian. I also think that it would have been better for such a baby if it had been aborted early.

    • Jim Blair

      Actually, Jesus condemned them both. If you enslave someone or discriminate you are hardly “loving them as yourself”, now are you?

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this. I suspect very few people are un-ambivalent about abortion. It’s a troubling issue for any thoughtful person. Yet despite misgivings a majority in the US supports legalized abortion. Perhaps it’s because people instinctively realize that on a case-by-case basis the moral calculus of any given woman’s decision (and her partner’s) to abort is often difficult to gauge and to generalize. Or maybe it’s because it’s obvious that if abortion was criminalized that better-off women could still manage to contract the medical services they need while others would be driven underground. And that would be a scandal.

  • Sean Garrigan

    Perhaps as science progresses they will eventually be able to do DNA tests that will enable them to determine which unborn children would grow up to support legalized abortion, and which would grow up to believe that the unborn should be given the opportunity to continue to live and reach their full potential. Then they could pass laws stating that only the mothers whose unborn children would support their decision to abort them be permitted to do so.

    And we know, of course, that if someone who supports legalized abortion were to find himself swept up in a time irregularity which placed him face to face with his own mother, pregnant with him, in the doctor’s office, contemplating an abortion and on the verge of changing her mind, he’d reassure her that she has the opportunity to change history, and that if she should decide to change in so that he’s never born, he’ll fully support her decision, because he’s “pro-choice”.

    • arcseconds

      Perhaps we can extend this to all of the potential children that don’t get born due to people using contraception, or choosing not to have sex.

      Imagine yourself, going back to the moment when you were conceived, and find your dad contemplating watching television instead!

      Or, imagine yourself, contemplating having sex, and a time traveler turns up and says “you must have sex now! Otherwise I won’t be born!”

      • Sean Garrigan

        I think there’s a qualitative difference between choosing to end a life that has begun and choosing not to procreate.

        • Kubricks_Rube

          Not in your time travel hypothetical. Or have you never seen Back to the Future? ;-)

        • Sean Garrigan

          And, in anticipation of your next comment, the very fact that some question whether life begins at conception exemplifies one of those qualitative differences, i.e.you don’t see people questioning whether life begins before prior to copulation.

        • arcseconds

          So, let me get this straight. If you encountered an endearing adolescent boy (who may or may not look like Michael J. Fox (thanks, Kubricks_Rube)) that told you “you’ve got to have sex with this woman! Otherwise I will disappear from the timeline altogether! it’s like death, except worse”

          you’d look them direct in the eye, and say “but there’s a qualitative difference between refusing sex and interfereing with a process, and so I don’t care about you in the slightest.” and be unmoved by their tears as they slowly fade out of existence.

          but still want to say that a woman doing the same thing with a very similar adolescent boy a block away is a callous monster?

          That’s a lot to hang on a ‘qualtitative difference’.

          • Sean Garrigan

            You’ve offered a rather shameful trivialization of a horrifyingly serious issue couched in a flawed analogy which completely misses the point.

            • Ian

              How funny it is a flawed analogy, now it doesn’t support your view. Back when you introduced it, it was clearly quite reasonable.

              • Sean Garrigan

                All I can say is God help this godless society if people actually believe that a woman’s decision to abort her child has no more significance than another woman’s’ decision to abstain from intercourse. That’s where “arcseconds” stupid analogy leads.

                At least the author of this blog considers abortion “tragic”, which it certainly is.

                • Kubricks_Rube

                  The argument is not that “a woman’s decision to abort her child has no more significance than another woman’s’ decision to abstain from intercourse.” Rather, the argument is that to a hypothetical time-traveler, one past moment at which their future existence is threatened is as important as any other past moment at which their future existence is threatened. The point being: the emotional appeal of shifting POV to the grown-up fetus is not as effective as you might have thought.

                  • Sean Garrigan

                    And this shows that both of you missed the point, which wasn’t about turning points experienced by time-travelers. That part was merely an ironic supplement to the point, ironic in that pretty much everyone would be pro-life rather than pro-choice if it was the continuance of their own life that was in question.

                    The point was to remind those who support legalized abortion that your very ability to condone the killing of the unborn is something you are here to express because your own mothers gave birth to you and allowed you to reach your potential. That’s not something that you need to argue about; it’s something you need to reflect upon.

                    • http://aftertheecstasythelaundry.wordpress.com/ Cynthia Schrage

                      I think Job might argue with you here. I know I certainly have had times where I’ve lamented my own existence. I’m sure others could do the same, or we would have no suicide.

                • arcseconds

                  Well, actually, ‘just as much’ significance (‘no more’ significance implying ‘of little significance’). If we have to give the imagined pleadings of counter-factual children moral weight, then any possible action that could have led to a child has to be taken very seriously, because any such action not undertaken will generate a counter-factual child who, counter-factually, presumably would want to live as much as any other child.

                  So, by that logic, we really ought to be doing our damnedest to have as many children as possible (Perhaps the Quiverfull folks are on to something!).

                  Now, that really is an absurd conclusion. And of course no-one ought to take this conclusion seriously.

                  But it’s generated from the same scenario that you use to guilt-trip pro-choice people.

                  As it’s an argument that generates absurd conclusions, it’s a flawed argument, and no-one should take that argument seriously, either.

                  Exposing a flawed argument is taking the discussion seriously, but I’m wondering whether you are interested in having a serious discussion about this issue, because so far all I’ve seen is emotive and flawed arguments, outrage, sanctimony, and hand-wringing.

            • arcseconds

              I’m glad that you think that emotionally manipulative science-fiction arguments to absurd conclusions are shameful trivializations.

              Hopefully you will now see that emotionally manipulative science-fiction arguments that follow exactly the same form to a conclusion you happen to agree with are also shameful trivializations. And henceforth cease tabling them.

              In fact, they are worse, because the argument is just as bad, but people actually seem to think they’re a reason to accept the conclusion.

              I mean, really, forcing people to carry unwanted embryos to term is pretty serious, and trying to convince people that this is a fine thing to do by invoking such a silly argument is kind of horrifying.

              As a side issue, asking us to care about counter-factual children denied existence one way, but thinking that you have no need to care about counter-factual children denied existence another way on the basis of a technicality is, in its own way, somewhat horrific.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “you’d look them direct in the eye, and say “but there’s a qualitative
            difference between refusing sex and interfereing with a process, and so I
            don’t care about you in the slightest.” and be unmoved by their tears
            as they slowly fade out of existence.”

            Haha, thanks for that, I laughed out loud..

      • Sean Garrigan

        And, in anticipation of your next comment, the very fact that some
        question whether life begins at conception exemplifies one of those
        qualitative differences, i.e.you don’t see people questioning whether
        life begins prior to copulation.

  • LetItBe

    How about letting people make their own decision whether they want to have an abortion or not, based on their own beliefs and circumstances?

  • Drew Hymer

    In Luke 1, Mary is pregnant with Jesus for only a few days when she meets with Elizabeth who is pregnant with John for six months. John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb because of the presence of Jesus. This story clearly shows that Jesus, though only days old, was already Jesus and that John, at six months, was able to sense Jesus’ presence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I beg to disagree. At most what it shows is that the author of Luke believed that. But in fact, the still unborn John is depicted as reacting to the pregnant Mary, and so there is nothing in this text that could be used to justify the claim that a person is that person within days of their conception.

      • Drew Hymer

        That is a possible interpretation but it ignores what Elizabeth says to Mary in verse 43:

        And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

        Mary was only pregnant a few days and Elizabeth recognized Mary as the “mother of my Lord”. Not the future mother but the current mother.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You seem to be treating language as though it is more precise than it is. You also seem to be assuming that this is a factual account of events, and not at best a text written from a perspective of hindsight. Few think that, when it refers to the Son of Man having already gone up into heaven in John 3, it is referring to Jesus having made multiple ascents – although that is of course a possibility. But those manuscripts which add “who is in heaven” clearly did not umderstand it that way.

          • personhoodusa

            I’m not assuming anything. The question presented was “what does the Bible teach?” not “is the Bible true?”

            Elizabeth refers to Mary as a mother when Mary is only a few days pregnant. What does that teach?

            Elizabeth refers to Jesus who is only a few days old as her Lord. What does that teach?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              It doesn’t necessarily “teach” anything other than that Luke, looking back, thought of Mary as the mother of his Lord and placed that expression on the lips of one of the characters in his Gospel. Since ancient people in this time and place thought the baby existed in the father and was simply planted in the mother, the issues people today wrestle with were simply not on the author’s radar. And so, since we do not accept ancient mediterranean notions of conception, why would we expect an ancient mediterranean author provide the sorts of answers you are looking for?

              • Drew Hymer

                Your response is irrelevant on both points.

                1) Even if I agree that Luke may have been wrong about what was said, we’re not talking about what *should* be in the Bible, but what *is* in the Bible.

                2) Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that the baby existed in father. But even if this was believed, this doesn’t change the fact that the Bible (through Elizabeth’s words) refers to Mary as a mother only days after conception. The manner of conception doesn’t change the obvious teaching that a new human being was inside Mary at that point and that her maternal obligation had begun.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  In the Bible, we have this view expressed in Hebrews, where Levi is thought to have already existed in Abraham’s “loins.” It calls Abraham his “father” at that point. It doesn’t seem as though these ancient authors used this terminology with the kind of precision that you claim.

                  • Sean Garrigan

                    Can you provide some authoritative studies that confirm this wide-spread belief that men ejaculated the baby into the mother? Is this a consensus view or merely one of a number of possibilities?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I don’t have any good books to recommend on this topic off the top of my head. The idea that the father provides a seed and the mother the fertile ground in which it is planted is reflected in the terminology uses. But by Roman times, the idea that women might contribute “sperm” which mixed with that of the father had been proposed. I am not sure whether the Roman idea was widely embraced by Jews.

                  • Drew Hymer

                    Abraham wasn’t Levi’s father, so i don’t think your example works. I may have my facts wrong — it’s been a long time since i read the Bible — but Abraham had Isaac and Isaac had Jacob who changed his name to Israel and Israel had 12 sons, one of which was Levi. Abraham was Levi’s great-grandfather. So, it appears that Hebrews is not making the claim that Levi was inside Abraham.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      That’s only because you accept the modern scientific understanding of sperm production. One pre-modern view envisaged each male sperm having a fully-formed tiny person in it, which would grow into a baby when planted properly in a female womb. On that view, all descendants were within an individual like a bunch of nested Russian dolls. I’m not sure whether we can demonstrate that the author of Hebrews held that particular ancient view, unless this verse is itself evidence. But it was certainly a possibility.

                    • Drew Hymer

                      i find that view rather shocking. It would mean all of humanity was inside Adam. Thanks.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Ancient views often shock those unfamiliar with them. And yet the notion of all humanity being “in Adam” ought not to be unfamiliar to readers of Paul’s letters.

                    • Drew Hymer

                      You still haven’t responded to my points. Even if the Biblical folks believed that males contained every descendent within them, this belief wasn’t true of females. So, calling Mary “mother of my Lord” is Elizabeth’s recognition that a new human being was inside Mary, that that human being had an identity (Elizabeth’s Lord) and Mary had maternal responsibility.

                      McGrath: “It doesn’t seem as though these ancient authors used this terminology with the kind of precision that you claim.”

                      Perhaps, but this response seems really weak. First, If you don’t like what a verse says, you just claim that the author wasn’t being very precise. You’d really have to provide better evidence to show imprecision. Can you show that Luke was imprecise in other ways?

                      You seem to claim that the author of Hebrews was being imprecise but you contradict that claim by stating that he may really have believed in Russian nested dolls thing. This suggests he wasn’t being imprecise at all. Regardless, if Hebrews is imprecise, that tells us nothing about Luke’s writings.

                      Second, even if Luke was imprecise, the words themselves as they stand in the Bible convey meaning. The question was “what does the Bible teach”. Supposed sloppy writing still conveys meaning whether or not that meaning is true.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I think that you have misunderstood my point. Some ancient Jews actually believed that persons were persons even before they were planted in their mother’s womb. They did not, however, treat a miscarriage – at least, and early one – in the same way that they treated the deaths of those who had been born. My point is that, where we do see evidence of precision, it suggests that these ancient authors thought about these subjects in ancient ways.

                    • Drew Hymer

                      “Jews actually believed that persons were persons even before they were planted in their mother’s womb.”

                      Even if true, this doesn’t get around Elizabeth’s use of the word “mother”. If persons were persons before conception (the Mormons believe something similar about being an immortal spirit), Mary couldn’t be a mother until she had a maternal relationship with that human being.

                      I think you need to elaborate on your statement regarding miscarriages. Miscarriages are not intentional or negligent homicides, so they should be treated different than such homicides.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      When someone killed another human being, they were either executed, or had to flee to a city of refuge to avoid such retribution, depending on whether it was premeditated or not. When men fighting cause a miscarriage by hitting a pregnant woman, it is not treated as though it was accidental homicide in Biblical law.

                      But as I keep emphasizing, that is neither here nor there. They did not know what we know about human development in the womb. Ancient texts and ancient laws should not be used to answer these questions for us today, except on the level of principles that can be applied either the same way or differently, as appropriate, in light of our current knowledge.

                    • Drew Hymer

                      >>Ancient texts and ancient laws should not be used to answer these questions for us today

                      Sure, that sounds reasonable. But that wasn’t the topic of the conversation. It was “what does the Bible teach?”

                      >>When men fighting cause a miscarriage by hitting a pregnant woman

                      It appears that you’re referring to Ex 21:22. You seem to be basing your view on an invalid translation of the verse. The problem is with the part that’s sometimes translated as “miscarriage”. Both “comes out” or “premature birth” would be better translations because the Hebrew terms used do not denote the death of the child. See http://www.str.org/articles/what-exodus-21-22-says-about-abortion#.UvZiNoXp-Io

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Well, in my experience a lot of people who want to have the latter conversation do so precisely because they think it answers the former set of questions.

                      The possibility that it is referring to a premature birth that survives is a real one, although we are so used to living in a world in which technology has allowed prematurely-born children to survive quite often, that we may still misunderstand. A birth at the appropriate time was still facing a severe unlikelihood of surviving in the ancient world; a premature birth in antiquity had significantly less chance of survival.

  • Jakeithus

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this question that last couple of days, and you’re quite correct that Bible is fairly silent on the issue specifically. It certainly makes for an interesting parallel when put up beside the idea that the Bible is also silent on the issue of homosexuality (as we understand it today), so that rather than rely on specific instructions from the text itself, one has to look at where the text is pointing, so to speak. It’s especially interesting to consider that using that process or determining where the text is pointing, those people within the religion who are more likely to be pro-homosexuality are more likely to be ok with abortion, while the opposite is also true. Fun times in the world of progressive/conservative hermeneutics.

    • Andrew Dowling

      “those people within the religion who are more likely to be pro-homosexuality are more likely to be ok with abortion”

      I think fair distinctions should be made regarding thinking all abortion is “OK” and thinking making all abortion illegal is poor public policy for a morally complex issue..

      • Jakeithus

        That is true, my statement is lacking in nuance and makes rather large generalizations.

        My own feeling about “the Left” being pro-abortion certainly doesn’t apply to all or even the majority of individuals that make up the group. Just like my own pro-life stance doesn’t mean I support an immediate and blanket ban on the procedure, which puts me at odds with “the Right”.

  • Frank

    One thing is clear no one has the right to take a human life that God created.

    • Tom Polk

      Then I assume you oppose the death penalty and most wars?

      • Frank

        Yes I do. However I think that there is a case to made made for self-defense.

        The distinction with an unborn child is that they are completely innocent and have made no choices in life.

        • Daniel Webb

          On what biblical basis do you assert that an unborn child is completely innocent?

          • Frank

            On what basis do you don’t?

            • Daniel Webb

              Romans 3:23 states “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”

              Romans 5 also reinforces the concept of original sin in verse 12 “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

              and then Romans 6:23 tells us that ” For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

              and the only way to receive salvation is shown in Acts 16:30-31 “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

              So, since you have stated above that an unborn child is a human life–we can safely assume they fall under the “All have sinned” category as a result of their original sin nature. This means they’re not innocent. They are born in sin (Psalm 51:5).

              I ask again–on what biblical basis do you assert that an unborn child is completely innocent and does not have a sin nature?

              • Frank

                And what is sin but a choice against God. What choice did an unborn child make?

                • Daniel Webb

                  Well, you just redefined sin so I’m going to decline your definition since it doesn’t fit what the bible actually says.

                  The unborn child has the original sin nature that has existed in every human being since the Adam and Eve.

                  • Frank

                    Its you who have made up your own definitions to justify the choice to kill. Sad. You will have to answer for that one day.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Still waiting for your biblical justification bud. I asked for it several comments ago and you haven’t provided it.

                    • Frank

                      Biblical justification for what? What sin is?

                      You have a lot to learn my friend.

                      Meanwhile you continue to try and find some way to justify the killing of an innocent life. So sad to see.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Don’t play dumb.

                      I asked you “On what biblical basis do you assert that an unborn child is completely innocent?”

                      You still haven’t supplied the biblical basis for this comment: “One thing is clear no one has the right to take a human life that God created…The distinction with an unborn child is that they are completely innocent and have made no choices in life.”
                      Whenever you’re ready…

                    • Frank

                      And I asked you what sin is? There is your answer if you could escape out of your bias long enough to see the truth.

                      Meanwhile you continue to try and find some way to justify the killing of an innocent life.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Right. So you answered my question…with a question…twice.

                      You know you’re avoiding the question because there isn’t a good biblical basis for declaring an unborn child innocent.

                    • Frank

                      I know you think you have it figured out but you dont. You are not as smart as you think you are.

                      Meanwhile you continue to try and find some way to justify the killing of an innocent life.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      This could be so easy–all you’d have to do is state the biblical basis for your assertion that an unborn child is innocent in the eyes of god. Why are you so reluctant to provide that?

                    • Frank

                      Its sad I even have to explain this.

                      Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18)

                      A unborn child has neither transgressed the law because they have made no choices in life nor have they rebelled against God…yet.

                    • Frank

                      And I will say that if you don’t believe an unborn child is innocent because all humanity is sinful than you affirm that the unborn child is a human life and killing it is murder.

                      Either way there is no justification for the support of the killing of unborn children other than selfishness or convenience. And in the case of the mothers life or the babies life I trust the grace of God to come into play in that terrible choice.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Actually, you’re missing something key. You view an unborn child as being both a human being and innocent (there’s not biblical support for either, but you’re free to hold those views.)

                      I personally don’t believe that an unviable unborn fetus is a human being. I don’t have any conflict because I couldn’t care less what the bible says or doesn’t say. As a believer, you do though.

                    • Frank

                      At least you are finally honest and admit your foolishness and understand when you are proven wrong. A good first step for you. Let see if you are capable of maturing.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Haha, what? There wasn’t anything “wrong” in what I said.

                      You asserted that an unborn child was innocent and were unable to provide any biblical proof for your claim. You were wrong–not me, bud. I’m merely using the bible to show where your assertion was horribly wrong.

                      Don’t try to project your delusions onto me.

                    • Frank

                      Well at least you have exposed your own ignorance and immaturity for all to see. Good job! Better than I could have done.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Ok Frank, whatever you need to tell yourself to sleep at night.

                    • Frank

                      Your ignorance doesn’t affect my sleeping patterns at all.

                    • Thag Jones

                      How do you know it is “unviable”? You could say that since we are all going to die, we are all “unviable” and thus not human, or, at the very least, that someone with a terminal illness is “unviable” and thus not human. Same goes for the “clump of cells” argument – that is, we are all clumps of cells if you want to take a reductionist stance, and sometimes mighty inconvenient and annoying ones at that.

                      You are grasping at straws in your arguments here regarding the innocence of the unborn. I can’t speak for Frank, but I doubt he meant “without the stain of original sin” but rather that the unborn human being is not culpable since he hasn’t had the opportunity to sin (i.e. turn away from God).

                      Why are you so desperate to justify killing the unborn?

                      “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Unviable in this context means incapable of life. A fetus could be unviable because it doesn’t have a functioning higher brain. This is generally the case until, at the earliest, 21-22 weeks. The human brain is where consciousness actually exists. That’s why not having a functioning brain means you’re legally dead.

                      A fetus could be unviable for other reasons–like complications during the pregnancy that would leave it with such severe birth defects that it could never be born alive.

                      I’m not “desperate” to justify killing the unborn–so I’d appreciate if you would refrain from saying that. In my discussion with Frank, I merely stated that he has no biblical basis for saying that the unborn are innocent in the eyes of god. They may be innocent in your eyes or in Frank’s, but the bible is very clear about the fact that they are sinners as part of the human race in which “all has sinned and come short of the glory of god.”

                      I’m not grasping at straws. Those are the bible’s words. If you believe that there is a biblical basis for asserting the innocence of unborn children–then provide it. It’s Frank’s argument–and he clearly failed to provide a basis for it. Now that you’ve taken up the argument, you are welcome to try as well.

                    • Thag Jones

                      If an unborn human being is indeed “unviable” (whatever it is you mean by that – see below), then that will take care of itself without the need to hasten death. Your own arguments refute themselves.

                      It is a curious choice of word, when you think about it.

                      adjective: unviable

                      1. not capable of working successfully; not feasible.
                      “the commission found the plan to be financially unviable”

                      Think how this could be applied, with such fuzzy language. You won’t even have to use your imagination, since it has been and is being applied in many ways that not so long ago would have been unthinkable. But one only has to change the terms in order to dehumanise a certain sector of humanity
                      (including ‘enemies’) in order for the unthinkable to become not only thinkable, but doable. (Also see: the current bid to legalise the killing of sick children in Belgium). Every genocide that ever happened was made possible by dehumanising those being killed.

                      The logical conclusion to the line of thinking that killing the unborn is acceptable is that killing dependant and ill children is also acceptable, to say nothing of unproductive old people and hey, why not all the “useless eaters” too while we’re at it and anyone we don’t like. This is not hyperbole but a certain line of reasoning taken to its logical end. What you “personally believe” is not what Christ teaches.

                      Tolerance leads to acceptance, which leads to celebration, which leads to subversion.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      No, the logical conclusion is not eugenics and the artificial selection that you would like to buttonhole me into. You’re trying to use a slippery slope argument that has very little factual basis behind it.

                      Frequently, an unviable unborn child will not just “take care of itself without the need to hasten death.” In many cases, its unviability also affects the mother.

                      I urge you to take a step back and refocus your argument. It’s currently nonsense. Show just one example of how the diminishing number of abortions in this country since Roe v Wade has been contributing to the numbers of sick children and old people that are supposedly being “offed” because of your abortion slippery slope theory. When you can do that, I’ll reply to you.

                    • Thag Jones

                      It might be a slippery slope argument if it weren’t already happening in countries that are generally considered to be highly civilised (like the Netherlands). Your declaring it “nonsense” doesn’t make it so. I’m not saying that “you personally” support those things, but that it is simply the logical end to the line of thinking that you appear to espouse.

                      You may not be desperate to justify this, but you do seem keen.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      No, and you’re giving a very inaccurate recounting of what the netherlands is actually doing. They are allowing children over the age of 12 with extremely severe disabilities to choose if they want to continue living. They aren’t just killing children because they want to get rid of the sickies.

                      I’m “keen” on dispelling ignorance.

                    • Thag Jones

                      You said in your previous comment:
                      Show just one example of how the diminishing number of abortions in this country since Roe v Wade has been contributing to the numbers of sick children and old people that are supposedly being “offed” because of abortion.

                      This wasn’t something I asserted. You are essentially demanding proof of something that’s impossible to prove and that I didn’t assert in the first place as a condition for your responding. That seems a passive-aggressive way of refusing to engage because you know you don’t really have a leg to stand on and that your arguments amount to an attempt to reframe and then to demand “proof” while making hollow declarations. Yet you’ve responded anyway.

                      As to my “very inaccurate recounting of what the Netherlands is actually doing”, I was speaking of the “Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act” from 2002, not only the Belgium issue. Nevertheless, since you talk about “allowing children over the age of 12 with extremely severe disabilities to choose if they want to continue living”, what kind of burden is that to put on a child? Is that child “unviable”? Is he worth less in God’s eyes?

                      He that hath ears to hear, let him hear…. And the prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive. For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      You stated that: “The logical conclusion to the line of thinking that killing the unborn is acceptable is that killing dependant and ill children is also acceptable, to say nothing of unproductive old people and hey, why not all the “useless eaters” too while we’re at it and anyone we don’t like. This is not hyperbole but a certain line of reasoning taken to its logical end.”

                      My request of you was to show me how the logical conclusion (of aborting unviable children) has led to the acceptance of killing old people and sickly children. We can look at what has happened since Roe v Wade was upheld. The “line of thinking” that you believe brings the public down a slippery slope has not happened–and will likely not happen. That’s why I asked you that question.

                    • Thag Jones

                      You only need to open your eyes and look around you for the evidence. Proof is another matter.

                      The simplest of evidence is right here on this thread. The post is about abortion and the Bible, arguing that the Bible is silent on the matter. Your argument is for what someone deems “unviable” life, which leads to the murky waters of determining who is and who isn’t “human” by arbitrary criteria and interpretations of such (e.g. who is and who isn’t “viable” and by whose definition), which has already led to legalised abortion, which then leads to the discussion of killing children and placing the burden of life and death on a child.

                      Sanitised terminology like “abortion” and “euthanasia” only serves to dehumanise the people involved, many of whom do not decide for themselves because they cannot. This is not just an idea under discussion, but human lives and sovereign people with all the rights God imbues them with. A child under 12 is not equipped to make decisions like this, especially under duress (and illness in this case is duress, as is the idea being brought up in the first place that perhaps his life isn’t worth living). The unborn are not even given a choice and most of those killed were not deemed by anyone to be “unviable”.

                      Regarding these so-called unviable children, is it really necessary to kill them? It is pretty straight-forward if you remember Christ’s words: “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.”

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Hardly.

                      There’s a good argument you should freshen up on that’ll help you understand what is actually being talked about here. I think it’ll help you grasp why it’s nonsensical to equate an unviable fetus with a child.

                      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2013/01/a-defense-of-abortion-rights-the-spectrum-argument-2/

                      http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2014/01/spectrum-argument-for-abortion-revisited/

                    • Thag Jones

                      It seems that you argue for the culpability of an unviable child who may not be a person because he is not yet self-aware, but is not innocent because we are all sinners. How can an unviable non-person have sin?

                      Note that I am not claiming that the unborn child is without the stain of original sin and only pose this train of logic to demonstrate the silly argument put forward by an over-educated dunderhead, who now resorts to links from the atheist portal to show us his point of view after demanding scriptural “proof” from others, evidence and examples of which have been provided all over this thread.

                      Thanks for the links; it is quite clear that you are a recreant.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Clearly, you didn’t read the conversation with Frank.

                      I was asking him to provide a biblical basis for his belief. We were never discussing my personal beliefs–I was asking him to defend his. I don’t believe personally that a unborn fetus is guilty of original sin because:
                      1) I don’t believe an unborn fetus has consciousness–what truly differentiates a human being from just organic matter.
                      2) I don’t believe in original sin

                      Frank was asserting that unborn children are innocent in god’s eyes–a view I asked him to back up from the source of his beliefs–the bible. He failed to do that. The reason why I asked was not to contend with his claim that a unborn child was “innocent” but to contend with his claim that there is actually biblical evidence to support the claim. There isn’t. Unless you’re ready to provide some since you agree with him?

                      There’s no need to present my own personal argument if an opponent’s argument can just be dismantled easily–it’s an automatic win with minimal effort.

                      Do you understand it now? I tried to dumb it down for you. Hope it helped

                      I’m not a coward–I just try to live my life by a simple adage as much as possible “Never argue with an idiot, he will drag you down to his level and beat you with his experience.” –Greg King. Unfortunately I’ve gone against this a few more times than I’d like to in this thread.

                    • Thag Jones

                      U mad bro? Well, it is understandable given that I demonstrated that your position is illogical.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      No…not mad…

                      The only thing you’ve demonstrated is poor reading comprehension.

                    • Thag Jones

                      As you said to Frank, whatever you have to tell yourself to sleep at night.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Great reading comprehension and creative too! You’re gonna be a star Thag

                    • Thag Jones

                      That’s the wisest statement you’ve made all day!

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Oh, I see. You just have to forget that the bible says “All have sinned and come short of the glory of god” (Romans 3:23). Or maybe you just redefine “all”…or maybe you know of a secret version that says “all, except unborn children, have sinned…”

                      Which one is it? You’re just ignoring original sin. No big deal

                    • Frank

                      See below. Either way there is no justification for abortion.

                      Meanwhile you continue to try and find some way to justify the killing of an “innocent” life. Shameful!

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Nice dodge.

                      You can feel something is wrong with killing an unborn child, but biblically you can’t say that they are innocent.

  • Vincent Torley

    Luke 1:15 says that John the Baptizer “will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” Moreover, Scripture uses the same word (brephos) for Elizabeth’s unborn child (John the Baptizer) in Luke 1:41, 44 as is used for the unborn baby Jesus in Mary’s womb (Luke 2:12) and also for the children brought to Jesus (Luke 18:15). End of story.

    • Vincent Torley

      A possible Biblical condemnation of abortion can be found in Galatians 5:19-20, where St. Paul condemns the use of pharmakeia, or pharmaceutical potions – whether for magic spells or (as scholars such as John Noonan have suggested) in order to procure an abortion. The passage cited in the post, from Numbers 5, refers to the famous “bitter water test,” which was meant to ascertain whether a woman accused of adultery was in fact guilty. It says nothing about abortion. In any case, Scripture is clear that the unborn child is a human being.

      • Daniel Webb

        If an unborn child is a human being, why are they specifically excluded from the census that god orders Moses to perform in Numbers 3:15? And why does Jewish law and tradition state that one is not considered a person until it has breathed outside the womb?

        • Vincent Torley

          Numbers 3:15 says: “Number the sons of Levi by their fathers’ households, by their families; every male from a month old and upward you shall number.” Are you seriously suggesting that newborn babies are not human beings?

          • Daniel Webb

            No, I’m not talking about my personal views on the matter. I’m wondering where you got the idea from the bible that an unborn child is a human being. It’s certainly not something reflected in the bible. Leviticus 27:2-9 even discusses the different monetary values for human beings in every age bracket, but doesn’t include unborn infants or infants less than a month old.

            From the Jewish Journal: “The Torah itself, indeed the entire Tanakh (Hebrew Bible), is silent on the topic of abortion. A passage in the Torah, however, does reflect a biblical view of a fetus. The passage concerns an injury to a pregnant woman which causes a miscarriage of her fetus. The Torah states that such conduct warrants financial compensation but nothing greater, specifically not the same penalty that would be imposed for murder. (See Ex. 21:22-23.) In other words, this passage considers the fetus as not fully a nefesh, a person, and more akin to personal property.” http://www.jewishjournal.com/judaismandscience/item/the_curious_consensus_of_jews_on_abortion

            You may have the belief now that personhood begins at conception (though you’d have to wrap your head around the fact that even after conception the fertilized egg will only result in a pregnancy after it implants on the wall of the female’s womb), but that would also mean that almost 75% of “persons” die before even being born–with roughly 22-30% of those occuring right after conception due to a failure to implant on the uterine wall. http://miscarriage.about.com/od/riskfactors/a/miscarriage-statistics.htm

            • Vincent Torley

              Hi Daniel,

              The fact that a large number of embryos miscarry is neither here nor there. 200 years ago, Count Buffon wrote that half the human race is dead by the age of eight. Does that mean babies aren’t really people? Of course not.

              I suggest you read “The Misuse of Exodus 21:22-25 by Pro-Choice Advocates” by John Piper at http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-misuse-of-exodus-2122-25-by-pro-choice-advocates . Piper writes: “There is no miscarriage in this text. The child is born pre-maturely and is protected with the same sanctions as the mother. If the child is injured there is to be recompense as with the injury of the mother. Therefore this text cannot be used by the pro-choice advocates to show that the Bible regards the unborn as less human or less worthy of protection than those who are born.”

              Your invocation of Leviticus 27 would prove too much, as it only mentions children more than a month old. But boys were circumcised on the eighth day, which means they were already subject to the Mosaic law. Also, Judaism condemns infanticide at any age (see Leviticus 20:4).

              The monetary values in Leviticus 27 don’t reflect the values of human beings – otherwise the saying “A life for a life” would make no sense. Rather, it reflects the financial inconvenience to the individual dedicating that person to the Lord. If the value of a life could be measured in monetary terms then comepnsation for murder would be enough. But the Old Testament commands that murderers be executed, irrespective of the age of their victims.

              As a Jewish proverb puts it: “He who saves a life, it is as if he had saved the entire world.”

              • Daniel Webb

                I can see you take the David Barton approach to history–which is to say that you just revise it and hope nobody notices.

                “The famous medieval biblical commentator Solomon ben Isaac, known as Rashi, interprets “no other misfortune” to mean no fatal injury to the woman following her miscarriage. In that case, the attacker pays only financial compensation for having unintentionally caused the miscarriage, no differently than if he had accidentally injured the woman elsewhere on her body. Most other Jewish Bible commentators, including Moses Nachmanides (Ramban), Abraham Ibn Ezra, Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michael (Malbim), Baruch Malawi Epstein (Torah Temimah), Samson Raphael Hirsch, Joseph Hertz, and others, agree with Rashi’s interpretation. We can thus conclude that when the mother is otherwise unharmed following trauma to her abdomen during which the fetus is lost, the only rabbinic concern is to have the one responsible pay damages to the woman and her husband for the loss of the fetus. None of the rabbis raise the possibility of involuntary manslaughter being involved because the unborn fetus is not legally a person and, therefore, there is no question of murder involved when a fetus is aborted.” http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Issues/Bioethics/Abortion/Fetus_in_Jewish_Law.shtml

                The first two verses of Leviticus 27 literally say “Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD, according to your valuation,’”. After saying this, they go immediately into the monetary valuation of each type of person by age bracket and sex. Unborn children and newborns are not included.

                Sorry, but you’re wrong. Quoting a megachurch apologist doesn’t change that–his revisionist history is just as intellectually stunted as yours.

                • Vincent Torley

                  Daniel,

                  The Jewish authorities whom you cite are all medieval or later. I can cite Christian theologians from the first century onwards who denounced abortion as murder. See here for instance: http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/earlychurchfathers/fatherscover.html

                  And then there’s the first century Jewish historian Josephus, who condemns abortion as murder in the passage cited in Professor McGrath’s post.

                  • Daniel Webb

                    I think you’re missing the point. Christian theologians have traditionally held a viewpoint of abortion being murder, but their viewpoint is based on one that the unborn fetus is a person. The vast majority of Jews did not (and most do not now) hold that view traditionally–Josephus notwithstanding.

              • Guest

                Oh and the number of miscarried zygotes, embryos, and fetuses is both here and there–for you. Your view requires you to believe that almost 75% of fertilized eggs that never complete the birth cycle are actually human beings with souls. So…your god is killing 75% of “people” before they’re ever even born. Really strips the loving and merciful argument away before it even has a chance. Think of all those souls in hell because of original sin and nothing else. Cheers.

                • Vincent Torley

                  This is bizarre. I happen to believe that unbaptized children go to Heaven. The view defended by Catholic theologians until recently was that they go to Limbo, not Hell, where they are happy forever, but do not see God “face-to-face” as souls in Heaven do. No-one holds that unbaptized children go to Hell.

                  • Daniel Webb

                    You may certainly believe that—but you don’t have any biblical basis for it. On the other hand, there is definitive biblical basis to counter your claim. Consider John 3:5-6 “Jesus answered: Amen, amen, I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”

                    Oh, and yes–plenty of people have held that unbaptized children go to hell. Plenty of theologians have expressed that idea as well–and have since just a couple hundred years after Jesus’ death. Ever heard of Augustine?

                    “Be assured, and doubt not, that not only men who have attained the use of their reason, but also little children who have begun to live in their mothers’ womb and have there died, or who, having been just born, have passed away from the world without the sacrament of holy baptism, administered in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, must be punished by the eternal torture of undying fire; for although they have committed no sin by their own will, they have nevertheless drawn with them the condemnation of original sin, by their carnal conception and nativity.”–Bishop St. Fulgentius (4th Century)

                    “it is most just, exceeding just, that God should take the soul of a new-born infant and cast it into eternal torments, or else that those infants that are saved are not saved by the death of Christ. For none are saved by the death of Christ from damnation that have not deserved damnation.” Jonathan Edwards (18th Century)
                    John Calvin also taught that non-elect infants go to hell when they die–by default since they weren’t predestined for heaven like good calvinists.
                    What is the biblical justification for believing unbaptized children go to heaven? Perhaps you know a verse that says something along the lines of “Ignore what I said in John 3:5-6, infants go to heaven too.”
                    I’m all ears.

                    • Vincent Torley

                      Daniel,

                      In answer to your question about John 3:5, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes, “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” So He can save unbaptized infants if He wants to. Also 1 Timothy 2:4 tells us that God wants all men to be saved.

                      You mentioned St. Augustine, but as the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, his teaching that unbaptized infants go to Hell was a theological innovation, and in his younger years as a Christian, he held to something like the limbo theory. See here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09256a.htm

                      Regarding the possibility of Heaven for unbaptized infants, this link explores the Biblical issues thoroughly:
                      http://catholicdefense.blogspot.jp/2012/06/where-do-unbaptized-babies-go-when-they.html

                      Here’s the latest Vatican statement:
                      http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-04-20-popelimbo_N.htm

                      You also mentioned St. Fulgentius, referring to him as a 4th century saint. Not so; he was born in 468 and died in 533, and his thinking was heavily influenced by St. Augustine (354-430).

                      As for Jonathan Edwards and John Calvin, they cut no ice with me. In any case, you’re wrong about Calvin. Unlike Augustine, he thought God could predestine whomever He wanted to Heaven, baptism or no baptism. See here:

                      http://books.google.co.jp/books?id=bih0PBiIQGMC&pg=PA293&lpg=PA293&dq=Calvin+unbaptized+babies&source=bl&ots=KhLrQ9QBit&sig=egfsEBM0Ziuc-C6jvdq53coDFTE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=wl3tUuP1G8nOkgWxjYGoDw&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Calvin%20unbaptized%20babies&f=false

                      I hope that answers your questions.

                    • Daniel Webb

                      Of course god could change his mind and save everybody–but why would the church say it necessary for anyone to be baptized or saved at all if we just concluded that I Timothy 2:4 says we’re all good to go?
                      I stand corrected on St. Fugentius being from the 4th century.
                      Calvin knew that god could predestine whomever he wanted to go to heaven, regardless of baptism, but he made it very clear that all infants did not go to heaven. He was famous for saying that “there are babies a span long in hell.”

                      Regardless of all that. I ask again–what is the biblical basis by which all babies go to heaven? The evidence you’ve presented is only the catholic church’s commentary on it–but the bible itself doesn’t contain anything that supercedes the fact that all children are sinners and the penalty of sin is death and damnation to hell, unless saved by the holy ghost and baptism.

            • Daniel Webb

              Oh and the number of miscarried zygotes, embryos, and fetuses is both here and there–for you. Your view requires you to believe that almost 75% of fertilized eggs that never complete the birth cycle are actually human beings with souls. So…your god is killing 75% of “people” before they’re ever even born.

              • Vincent Torley

                Hi Daniel,

                What’s the difference between that and God killing (or letting die) 50% of children (who surely have souls) before the age of eight, until the late eighteenth century, when the infant mortality rate finally began to fall? I’m afraid I don’t see what you’re trying to prove.

                • Daniel Webb

                  I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m merely highlighting that, according to your worldview, almost 75% of “people” were never actually born.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        The phrase that is used in that passage is an idiom for miscarriage. So the curse is said to bring about a miscarriage. Saying that “it says nothing about abortion” is either deliberate dishonesty on your part, or shows that you are being emphatic about a matter that you have not looked into sufficiently.

      • Helen Light

        Actually this is incorrect. Numbers 5 says nothing about surgical abortion, but if the wife is guilty of adultery her womb will empty – this is an abortion, even though induced by herbs etc.

        • Vincent Torley

          Numbers 5 says nothing about the accused woman being pregnant in the first place – which is why I’m skeptical of the view that the bitter herbs are meant to be abortifacients.

          • Pixie5

            Pregnancy is implied if the woman had been unfaithful. The ordeal was meant to determine whether she had been unfaithful and an aborted fetus would count as proof. The KJV is rather unclear in its language and says that the woman’s “thigh” would rot. “Thigh” was usually used as an ephemism for male genetilia but could also be used for a woman’s reproductive organs. Thus a belly swelling and a “thigh” rotting are pretty clear indications that this was meant to cause a disturbance affecting the reproductive organs. Then it says that if the woman was “clean” (meaning no pregnancy) that she was not guilty of adultery.

            At the very least it is clear that this potion (poison) was meant to make her very sick so it is logical to assume that this would likely have an affect on an unborn child and cause a miscarriage.

            Here is a newer translation of these verses

            “27 When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and HER WOMB SHALL DISCHARGE, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be immune and be able to conceive children.”:

            Numbers 5: 27-28 New Revised Standard Version

            Some people have pointed out that the passage doesn’t actually mention using poison as the Priest mixes dirt from the floor into the water. However it would make sense that they would not want to give away the exact recipe. It mentions the priest writing curses and disolving the ink into the water. It is possible the ink was in fact the carrier of the poison.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      That is not the end of the story. The fact that one can use the same term does not automatically mean that the term is being used with the precise same connotations.

      But again, even if it did, all it would show is that this ancient author thought this. There would still be more work to be done to draw the conclusion that we should share the view of an ancient, pre-scientific author.

      • Vincent Torley

        So the notion that an embryo or fetus is a human being is “the view of an ancient, pre-scientific author,” you say?

        Dr. Hymie Gordon, professor of medical genetics and Mayo Clinic physician stated:

        “I think we can now also say that the question of the beginning of life – when life begins – is no longer a question for theological or
        philosophical dispute. It is an established scientific fact. Theologians and philosophers may go on to debate the meaning of life or purpose of life, but it is an established fact that all life, including human life, begins at the moment of conception.” [The Human Life Bill - S. 158, Report 9, see Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), p. 42.

        Dr. Micheline Matthew-Roth, a principal research associate at Harvard Medical School's Department of Medicine stated:

        "It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human
        life begins at conception, when egg and sperm join to form the zygote, and this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of life." [The Human Life Bill - S. 158, Report together with Additional and Minority Views to the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, made by its Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, 97th Congress, 1st Session (1981) see
        Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1993), p. 43]

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          One can discuss information that is now available to us through modern scientific means. Those ought to be the basis for deciding this matter – not texts written before such information was available.

        • Andrew Dowling

          I don’t think many will argue a zygote lacks “life” . . .an amoeba has “life.” The question is when does the zygote/embryo equate to an individual human being with inherent rights, and that’s a question that can’t really be answered by science; it rests in the purview of ethics and theology.

      • Sean Garrigan

        Progressive Christian = One who uses the Bible as a tool to argue against conservatives. When it suits you, you’ll quote a verse and let it stand as it is if you think it puts a fundie in his place. When it doesn’t suit you, you reject it and say that just because this particular writer had this view doesn’t mean that we should have this view.

        That’s one of the reasons why progressive Christians are better referred to as Zeitgeistian Deists.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Liberals do the latter for consistency when articulating our views, and the former because it may help conservatives to see that they are being no less selective in the way they appeal to Scripture. I may be a zeitgeistian panentheist, perhaps, but conservative Christians are zeitgeistian theists, while pretending they are something else.

          • Sean Garrigan

            The problem with your zeitgestian approach is what naturally follows:

            You create Christianity in your own image.

            It isn’t just a matter of reshaping biblical teaching in light of our time, but you’ve gone so far as to argue that behavior the Bible non-metaphorically rejects can be embraced today in light of the zeitgeist. It therefore seems that the object of the “progressive Christian’s” worship is the Zeitgeist, for it is held up as the last word for what should be embraced as true, and least for our time.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              I always find such conservative accusations ironic, when to an outsider of conservative Christianity it is blatantly obvious that there are conservative evangelists promoting their faith using the methods of used car salesmen making a hard cell, conservative pastors running their megachurches like CEOs of corporations (and bullying people into obedience in ways that are obviously more like the world than Jesus), and think that being a Christian means voting for the party that supports the interests of the wealthy. It is always easier to see where others resemble the world than to see one’s own group with comparable clarity.

              If we look at the Bible, we do not see those ancient Israelites and Christians disputing the knowledge of the natural world that others had. They are challenging their idolatry and their treatment of people. It is not as self-evident as you seem to imagine that it is conservatives who more closely follow that model.

              • Sean Garrigan

                I note that you don’t deny creating Christianity in your own image, you merely shift the focus to what you perceive to be an irony. That’s pretty much your modus operandi. When someone points out a difficulty with your Zeitgeistianity, you seem to imagine that noting perceived shortcomings of those you oppose to be a satisfactory answer. It’s not.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  It is, I think, an important first step in replying to someone who claimed that those they disagree with do something while they themselves do not. Once it has been established that everyone is involved in “creating Christianity” afresh in their time, taking from the past and interacting with the present, then perhaps we can have a basis for discussing how best to do so. But obviously as long as you maintain the fiction that you are simply defending the truth once for all delivered while liberals are simply concocting their own novelties, it won’t be possible to have any kind of serious discussion.

              • Unah

                YAY!! I swear I have days when I seriously question why I consider myself a Christian. Then I find someone who sees the crazy going on too, and it gives me hope. :)

            • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

              You create Christianity in your own image, using various subterfuges, most often a twisted ideas of “context,” to massage the Bible into your preconceived notions.

              Unless you’ve already really obeyed it all literal-like and sold all you have and given it to the poor. Non, Monsieur?

  • Unah

    I have always felt like the personhood question distracts us from the real issues surrounding abortion. It doesn’t matter when life begins. The number of abortions can be drastically reduced through sex education and access to birth control. If we would focus more on why women have abortions and less on when life begins then we might have a chance of actually solving this problem.

    • Helen Light

      “Focus on why women have abortions” – yes, but also on sex education for men, because TWO people are involved in creating a baby. Focussing only on women will never get results.

      • Unah

        Yes, of course. All people deserve to have accurate information about their bodies so they can make informed decisions.

    • myintx

      We already have sex ed and access to birth control. The group that has over 1/2 of the abortions in the US is the 20-29 year olds – they know better. Birth control is available at just about every drug store in this country, not to mention places like Planned Parenthood and some state programs that hand out free contraceptives. What is lacking in this country is the basic teaching of responsibility and good morals by parents, teachers and society in general (not just in a 1-2 hour sex ed class once a year). We need to teach that, yes, you have the freedom to have sex (with a consensual partner that you should be committed to), but you need to consider the potential consequences of your actions first. Contraceptive fails. It helps, but it can fail. Two or three forms is better than none or one, but it still can fail and a woman can still get pregnant – do you really want to take that chance if you are not able to take the responsibility of taking care of a new human life? And, yes, part of that teaching should be that it’s irresponsible to take the easy way out of taking care of a life that you created.

      • Unah

        You have your head in the sand about this issue. The Netherlands has the lowest abortion rate in the world, and almost no restrictions on abortions. They are obviously doing something right regarding this issue, and it isn’t abstinence. I’m not knocking abstinence or responsibility, but middle class girls have a greater chance of avoiding pregnancy than girls from impoverished communities who are less likely to have anyone who gives a crap about them. No, we do not have comprehensive sex ed in schools or anywhere else. If we did we would have fewer young people who thought the ‘pull out method’ was actual birth control, or any other crazy myth I hear people talk about. Sure, birth control fails, but not nearly as often as not using it at all. Birth control like the implants are idiot proof, and rarely fail, but they cost a lot. If a fertilized egg is a person, wouldn’t it make since to protect them by making sure high risk women, who are less likely to have parents, teachers, or a society who teaches good morals, at least have access to the best birth control to prevent the ‘murder’ of the unborn?

        • myintx

          “There is no simple formula for the Dutch success in the prevention of unplanned pregnancy. A strong cultural emphasis on individual responsibility, open parental discussion, sexuality education in schools and respect for unborn life all contribute, with the result that contraception is preferred to abortion. Abortion is a last resort.” -Committee from N.Z. studying The Netherlands abortion rate. It sure does look like their society frowns upon abortion.
          I was taught that if you really want something, you can SAVE YOUR MONEY and buy it. That did include contraception. Its part of being a responsible person. The government seems to disagree and it’s my understanding that places like Planned Unparenthood gets lots of money from the government to provide contraceptives to people. I’ve never heard of them running out, so they probably have plenty. They’re not supposed to be playing a shell game with the money and providing free abortions instead.
          FYI: The pull out method is listed as a birth control method on the CDC web-site. More effective than NFP. Those 2 forms are free… condoms are very cheap. Use all 3 together and a couple reduces the risk of pregnancy to about 1% per woman per year. That is more responsible than using no birth control – over 40% of women who have abortions admit to not having used even one form of birth control the month they became pregnant – even with condoms being cheap!
          Pro-aborts are part of society.. they should be teaching good morals. Instead they teach that killing an unborn child is acceptable. And, that’s wrong.

          • Unah

            What!?! The pull out method is not effective birth control, and neither is NFP, for that matter. You also seemed to have left out that the Dutch has government subsidized birth control. We seem to understand the benefits of things like government subsidized vaccines and fluoride, but for some reason not birth control. We would rather spend billions in tax dollars subsidizing labor, delivery, and child rearing, only to have another generation grow up and continue the cycle. I’m not talking about condoms. I’m talking about highly effective long term birth control implants. Texas has already tried letting people find their own birth control, when they cut 73 million for family planning services. It cost the state 200 million dollars in unplanned pregnancies in just one year. And those were the pregnancies that did not end in abortion. It is cheaper and a much better way to protect unborn life to reconsider our stand on government subsidized birth control. BTW there is no such thing as a pro-abort.

            • myintx

              We already give Planned Parenthood lots of money.. They already provide free birth control. In NY you can call freakin’ 311 to get free condoms! When well over 40% of abortions occur on women who don’t even use one form you know that there is something else wrong – i.e. no sense of responsibility among some people… it’s all about ‘me, me, me, me, OH and me!’. – that’s the cycle that needs to be broken. I was taught that if I wanted something, that I needed to save up my money for it (even if that meant (gasp!) waiting!).
              And, yes, there are many pro-aborts. Just mention the word “adoption” and pro-aborts slam it as an option. That means they are pro-abortion.

              • Unah

                Oh, that’s the problem. You are in New York where there are many planned parenthood clinics. I’m in the south where they are trying to close them down. And we can’t expect everyone to have parents who teach and help their kids to wait. That is wishful thinking, it will never happen, and there is too much at risk to sit around expecting it magically fix itself. We have to accept the world the way that it is, not demand it conform to the way we think it should be. The only hope we have is to do everything we can to help young women prevent unwanted pregnancies with highly effective birth control because the typical effectiveness for condoms is not good enough when you are talking about unborn life. We need to give these women a chance to grow into educated adults who will be more responsible than their parents were. If they get pregnant too young it only continues the cycle.

                • myintx

                  Actually, I’m not in New York… And, in the south, they are only trying to close down the KILLING part of the clinic. It’s not the states fault if the whole clinic wants to close. If they stop the killing, the rest of the clinic can stay open. Put PP cares more about making a statement than helping women I guess.
                  Society in general has discouraged smoking and the number of people that start smoking has gone down.
                  You don’t see a lot of killing of newborns cause people like Gosnell get thrown in jail if they kill newborns. I’d be willing to bet that if it were legal and encouraged (like pro-aborts encourage killing), there would be more newborns being killed.

                  • Unah

                    There is no such thing as a pro-abort. That is propaganda used by anti-choice people who don’t care about the issues, but only care about punishing people who don’t have the same level of privilege. PP is standing up for women by protecting them from horrific illegal abortionists like Gosnell. Yep, he was an illegal abortionist who preyed on impoverished women. We don’t need laws against abortion. Laws against abortion create Gosnell clinics. They don’t stop abortion. We need to address the reasons women have abortions. That is what a pro-life person does. They stop abortions for real. They don’t serve poor women up to butchers.

                    • myintx

                      Like I said, just bring up the word “adoption”, and the pro-aborts come out of the woodwork to slam adoption as an option. You’re only pro-choice if you promote every option equally – killing, adoption or keeping the child. Don’t see that many people do that.

                      Occasionally, women kill their born children. They go to jail and the woman’s poor life is RUINED.. well, boo freakin hoo. She shouldn’t kill her born child. She shouldn’t kill her unborn child either.

                      There are many options for pregnant women. They can ask for help or get help – from their partner, from their family, from the partner’s family, from an adoption agency, from their church, from a pregnancy center, from a food pantry, from Planned Parenthood (I hope), etc. They can look and see what benefits are available to them. Plenty of ‘choices’. Killing shouldn’t be one of them.

                      Gosnell was allowed to operate because “officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions.” If abortion is banned, the first wind the government gets of someone like Gosnell, they’ll shut him down. And, just because someone may do something that is wrong doesn’t mean it should stay legal… should killing a newborn be legal because some still occasionally do it? NOPE.

      • Andrew Dowling

        Ah yes, the abstinence programs supported by the Bush Administration were a smashing success . . . .

        • myintx

          Sex ed has been in schools for a long time… Planned Parenthood gets lots of money from the govt to hand out free contraceptives.. Yet about 1 million unborn children in this country are killed every year. Responsibility is the key.

          • Andrew Dowling

            And abortion rates are at their lowest in 40 years, thanks to rising female education levels and contraceptive availability (no such progress was made in communities who focused on abstinence-only ed).

            • myintx

              Laws help too :)

              From the CDC – Multiple factors are known to influence the incidence of abortion, including the availability of abortion providers (12,73-75); state regulations, such as mandatory waiting periods (76), parental involvement laws (77), and legal restrictions on abortion providers (78); increasing acceptance of nonmarital childbearing (79,80); shifts in the
              racial/ethnic composition of the U.S. population (81,82); and changes in the economy and the resulting impact on fertility preferences and access to health-care services, including contraception (83,84).

  • newenglandsun

    James,
    Josephus asserts “The law”. This is a key clue that he IS NOT talking about the Bible. Being able to learn from an ACTUAL Jew about his religion, I was able to find that there are TWO Torahs in Jewish tradition – an ORAL Torah, and a WRITTEN Torah.

    Do some actual research before posting idiotic lies like these.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Just because you dislike someone’s view does not justify being insulting. Do you have any example of Jewish authors using “the Law” without qualification as a way of denoting the oral Torah as opposed to written? Do you have reason to think that Josephus subscribed to the rabbinic view of oral Torah? You seem content merely to assert that Josephus was not referring to the Bible, without providing any evidence to support that claim. Your comment does not show any evidence of research, and yet you have the audacity to accuse someone else of posting “idiotic lies”! That seems quite remarkable to me, and quite uncalled for.

      Perhaps you have been having a bad day. Perhaps you actually suffer from some sort of mental illness that impairs your judgment. I am willing to make allowances. But I am also concerned to have a consistent policy for the kind and level of interaction on the blog, even for long-time commenters. And so would you kindly explain why you consider your comment appropriate behavior?

      • newenglandsun

        YOUR DISPUTING WITH A PROFESSOR OF JEWISH PHILOSOPHY?!? A JEW HIMSELF?!?
        That is my primary source of information. My professor.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          The fact that someone is an expert in modern Judaism does not make them an infallible interpreter of Josephus any more than someone who is an expert in modern Christianity must be an infallible interpreter of Clement of Alexandria. And if the commenter appealing to their authority begins writing in all capital letters, it makes the commenter having a firm grasp of the relevant evidence seem that much more unlikely.

          Rather than resort to insult and shouting, why not simply ask your professor for evidence that Josephus or other authors of his time were in the habit of saying “the Law” when they meant the oral tradition rather than the written Torah?

          • newenglandsun

            He did not state that. When he explained it to us, he explained quite thoroughly, that there was a written Torah and an oral Torah. That would mean a writer could easily have been referring to the oral Torah. I don’t see why they would mean “only the Torah” considering they had both the Talmud and the Midrash which interpreted the Bible for them.

            My former professor (had him last semester) is more of an expert on the Midrash and the development of Jewish tradition. I’ve only been able to read one of his books.

            http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Faith-Modern-Science-Philosophy/dp/0742558924/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1391400809&sr=8-1&keywords=death+and+rebirth+jewish

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              So you were making major blunders and trying to blame them on your professor. Classy.

              Are you proposing a radical redating of the Mishnah and Talmud or are you just not aware of the date of those literary works in relation to the date of Josephus?

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                Nope, this is not how we behave on this blog. Kindly take your profanity and childish insults elsewhere.

  • Steve31

    Do not murder.
    look it up, it’s one of the 10 commandments…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I’m familiar with it. Is your point that, since Jewish law didn’t punish causing a miscarriage with the same penalty as murder, therefore this commandment doesn’t apply to these situations?

      • Steve31

        Maybe they didn’t know it was really murder back then. Now, we have the technology (sonogram, etc) to clearly see the baby. and know the baby heart beats at only six weeks gestation. No real Christian can possibly support this heinous, barbaric act.

        The catholic church is right once again.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          There are plenty of people who would agree when it comes to a baby with a brain, nervous system and heartbeat, but would not treat a fertilized ovum or clump of cells early in development in the same way.

          • myintx

            The only reason some people couldn’t treat an unborn child without a brain, nervous system and heartbeat the same way would be to dehumanize it in order to justify selfishly killing it. A unborn child is a human being one day after it has a brain, one day before it has a brain, one day before that, one day before that all the day back to when it was created – at fertilization.
            Zygote, embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, child, teenager, adult, elderly – all part of the lifecycle of a human being. Someone killing an unborn child is killing a human being. It’s wrong to kill a born child. It’s wrong to kill an unborn child too.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Why stop arbitrarily at fertilization. If no one interferes, the sperm and egg will unite to create a baby. Your stopping point seems completely arbitrary.

              • myintx

                Fertilization is when a new human being is created. Sperm and egg are not human beings. It’s a much more logical point than the unborn child having a functioning brain or at birth.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  You are begging the question. Why is that when “a new human being is created”? Is a human being a single-celled organism? Can there be a human being with no brain, no nervous system, no other organs, no evidence of sentience or consciousness? What definition of “human being” are you using for this purpose? Your stance may seem “logical” to you but it is not at all self evident.

                  • myintx

                    Yes, there can be a human being without a brain, because in the early stages of a human being’s life, it is developing – if not miscarried or killed it will develop a brain, heart, etc. At fertilization, a unique organism is created – one with human DNA that will grow and develop through all the stages of life. It doesn’t start out as a ‘clump of cells’ that could turn into a frog or a dog or a human being – it IS a human being.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      The DNA comes from the parents, as I expect you are aware. It is there in their cells even before sexual intercourse occurs.

                      No one was suggesting that it could become a frog or dog. But would aborting a recently-fertilized dog ovum be the same, in your thinking, as taking a puppy, putting it in a bag, and throwing it in a river?

                    • myintx

                      They both take a life, so they are both horrible. Some people might think the killing of a newborn is more horrific than the natural death of a 70 year old. Either way, a human being died – just as a human being dies if it’s aborted at 30 weeks or at 3 weeks.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      But what makes a fertilized ovum a human being? There is no brain, no other organs, just human DNA with the potential to develop those things. In order to call a single cell a human being, you must have a very odd definition of human being. Can you please share what it is?

                    • myintx

                      One of your skin cells just has human DNA. An unborn child is a living ORGANISM that has human DNA. A self-directing organism, that if not killed or miscarried will develop organs and a brain.
                      A newborn isn’t fully developed – it’s brain isn’t fully developed and it’s skull isn’t closed. We know that unless it dies or something else goes tragically wrong that a newborns brain will continue to develop and its skull will close. Doesn’t mean a newborn isn’t any less of a human being because it’s brain isn’t fully formed. “newborn” is just one stage of the lifecycle of a human being. The lifecycle that begins when a human egg is fertilized by human sperm and a unique human being is created.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Sperm is an organism which, if it given the opportunity to fertilize an egg, will produce a human being. I understand that you want to avoid the seeming arbitrariness of any other dividing line. But all dividing lines, including “life begins at conception,” are arbitrary. Life is there before conception. And life is there when a person becomes brain dead even though their autonomous functions are still working. We have to make difficult decisions, and so, while I could appreciate your stance if it were one of choosing to err on the side of caution, I do not appreciate your attempt to treat the matter as though it were facile rather than complex and difficult.

                    • Andrew Dowling
                    • myintx

                      Sperm on it’s own in a woman’s womb will never grow organs, a brain, etc, cause a woman to go into labor and come out as a newborn baby. A fertilized egg will.
                      A new human being’s life begins at fertilization. That’s when it should be protected. If you want to protect sperm and egg before then, you can advocate for that, but certainly after fertilization when a new human being is undergoing the continuous process of growth and development, it shouldn’t be killed for senseless and selfish reasons.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      OK, but what about for unselfish reasons? You seem even in the wording of your comment to allow for something that you would not in the case of a child that has been born. And that seems appropriate.

                    • myintx

                      The only case I think abortion should be allowed is if the woman’s life is truly endangered from the pregnancy and there is no way to attempt delivery (even an early delivery).

                    • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

                      I’ve read this entire long interchange. James’ logic and chain of thinking is very tight. Myintx, I appreciate that you are a committed defender of who you see as a powerless “person” or “human being”. But I don’t think you ever gave that clear definition of “human being” James asked for, in terms of when a embryo or fetus becomes a person…. And modern society is not the first to wrestle honestly with it. The definition is not easy to establish in a way that gains wide agreement. Which I think is a main part of James’ (and others’) point. It’s fine for you to believe in your opinion on it… but NOT appropriate to insist that it is objectively right… and everyone must agree.

                      And, even on the assumption that God imparts a soul/spirit at some point before or right at birth, how can we say when or under what conditions God does that? Couldn’t it vary, depending on certain factors, as suggested by some in the miscarriage discussion? The point: we just can’t KNOW.

                    • myintx

                      Of course you think his position is tight – you are for the senseless killing of unborn children… If you were pro-life and said his thinking changed your mind that would be one thing, but I would bet you were firm in your opinion that killing unborn children is A-OK before you read this chain.
                      It doesn’t take God to know that killing an unborn child is wrong – just take a look at 4D ultrasound images of unborn children at 18 or 20 weeks. They have arms and legs and fingers and toes and everything else that makes them human beings. No doubt about it. If you are against the senseless killing of unborn children at 18 or 20 weeks then we both are fundamentally against the mistake known as Roe V Wade. Overturn that decision and let states make laws that their people want that protect unborn children from being senselessly killed.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Are you playing a prank on us here? A moment ago you were insisting that a human being has the same status even at conception. Now you are pointing to the fact that at around 5 months has fingers and toes. It is as though you are unaware that most people who disagree with your sweeping assertions do not approve of any and all abortions at any stage of development, unless the mother’s life is in jeopardy, but rather make a distinction between a baby with brain and fingers and toes and a single fertilized ovum or small number of barely differentiated cells.

                    • myintx

                      So, what do you want to see? Would you be opposed to overturning RvW so states can make laws their people want regarding protecting unborn children? Or do you want RvW to stand so that women can kill their unborn children for any reason they want to until viability?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I want to see an end to false antitheses.

                    • myintx

                      These are valid questions…

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Not when posed in a way that commits the fallacy of the excluded middle.

                    • myintx

                      We currently have post viability abortion restrictions in most states. They have exceptions for if the life of the woman is truly endangered. Are those laws committing the ‘fallacy of the excluded middle’? Most people just want laws like post viability abortion laws to apply much earlier in the pregnancy. For many, it’s 12 weeks. for some 5. For me, fertilization.

                    • Andrew Dowling

                      You clearly are not interested in any rational discussion on this, so I’m not sure why you’re even bothering unless it’s just an endorphin rush from your righteous indignation.

                    • myintx

                      Just trying to convince others that killing unborn children is wrong.

                    • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

                      So if a fertilized egg is fully a human being (and not simply had the potential to be full human life as Judaism teaches) I really, sincerely want to know the answer to the miscarriage question: if God is creating life at fertilization, why is he murdering tens of millions of these babies every year via miscarriage? Most of which occur in the very early staged of development. You can’t just say “that’s nature” because it still leaves the question as to why an all loving, all knowing, all powerful God would create such a system.

                      And as an Eastern Orthodox Christian I don’t accept the western con pet of original sin, so “the fall” is not an answer, but only a way of ignoring the question. I’ve never had anyone answer this question. I’ve only seen apologists try and get God off the hook.

                      Also, it’s my understanding that saints like Thomas aquinas believer life didn’t. Begin for 40 days after conception. That’s when ensoul ent happened.

                    • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

                      Forgive the typos, I’m on an ipad and something went wonky and I no longer could edit.

                      Anyway, I think the miscarriage issue is the great theological flaw in the life begins at conception, if by life a person means the zygote actually has a soul.

                      Of course, since it is my belief that a person IS a soul, and the body and the soul grow concurrently and are inseperable, I find it less problematic. No one wants to have an abortion, but I’m not so sure it’s as black and white as you’ve made it out to be. Just my thoughts.

                    • Andrew Dowling

                      That’s the big point . . it’s not black and white. While I personally believe someone having an abortion for purely selfish motives is an immoral act. there are SO many complex variables that make this a decision best for the mother to decide, including her health, fetal health (big one), ability to support the child, both mentally and financially (those who say they should just put the child up for adoption clearly have never worked in the utter hell that is our foster care system) etc. It’s a very frustrating convo to have in the public sphere because the “baby killing” rhetoric of the pro-life movement simply wants to ignore the fact that this topic does carry a lot of complexity and nuance.

                    • myintx

                      If God is creating life, why is he letting people die horrible deaths from cancer? And, if people are dying unnatural early deaths from cancer does that mean we can kill adults or born children for any reason we want because they MIGHT not make it until they die a natural death?

                      It doesn’t take God to know that shooting an innocent human being is wrong. It doesn’t take God to know that killing a newborn is wrong. It doesn’t take God to know that killing an unborn child at 30 weeks is wrong. With technology today it shouldn’t take God to know that killing an unborn child at 18 or 20 weeks is wrong – just take a look at an ultrasound of an unborn child at that timeframe. And, with common sense it shouldn’t take God to know that killing that same human being before 18 or 20 weeks is wrong too.

                    • http://www.chuckshingledecker.com/ Chuck Shingledecker

                      But with a miscarriage God is the one doing the killing. Not cancer. All of those souls who never even had a chance to be born. I know, you’re saying that’s just part of living in a fallen world. In other words, it’s nature. Which is precisely the answer I said I didn’t want, because it doesn’t answer the heart of the theological question: if the life of two cells is so precious, and it really is a full fledged ensouled human being, where do those souls go? And if a woman has an abortion to save her own life, why is that immoral, but it’s not immoral for God to not protect those two cells?

                      As far as your other “arguments” about cancer etc, you’re succumbing to the bifurcation fallacy. I don’t think you intend to have an actual discussion but only want to beat a dead horse.

                      Here’s an interesting thought experiment: if you could travel back and time and abort Hitler when he was a two called organism, would you do it?

                    • myintx

                      IF god is doing the killing in a miscarriage, he is also causing the cancer then if he’s all powerful…
                      I’m guessing you think that shooting someone for fun is immoral right? Is someone shooting someone in self defense immoral too? Killing for convenience is immoral.
                      I don’t think Hitler was born evil… If I could travel back in time, I’d find out what triggered the path of evilness and steer him in a better direction. Thought experiment for you: many pro-choicers claim it’s the woman’s body and she can do with ‘her body’ whatever she wants to. Well, suppose she wants a limbless baby. Can she take thalidomide or some other drug that is known to cause severe birth defects? If it’s ‘her body’ as many claim then she could right?

                    • Andrew Dowling

                      “Killing for convenience is immoral.”

                      This is the problem . . how do you know how many abortions are out of pure “convenience?” When did you get the ability to crawl into people’s heads? I’m guessing you are not a woman, as you are using caricatures instead of acknowledge the multitude of complexities that could result in a woman choosing to have an abortion. Your vision of young sex-crazed women screwing every weekend and then visiting the clinic to rid themselves of their “inconvenience” is completely ignoring the multitude of other factors/reasons that would be incorporated into what is often a very difficult and heartbreaking decision. But such a caricature enables you to more easily broad-stroke those women as selfish and evil . . it’s lazy judgmentalism.

                    • myintx

                      There have been surveys done on why women have abortions. “Not the right time for a child” and “cannot afford a child” are two of the more common excuses women give for killing their unborn child. Those are great reasons to have been responsible and either abstaining if not in a committed relationship or using multiple forms of protection to reduce the odds of getting pregnant to less than one percent per woman per year (at least 40% of women who kill their unborn child admit to not using contraception at all the month they became pregnant! most others used only one form). Those reasons given are great reasons to either give the child up for adoption or get help from friends, family, a church, government benefits, etc. Those reasons are horrible reasons to kill.

  • dan marsh

    What is the point of this article? Why create a rhetorical straw man and then acknowledge that there are better arguments? We must be convinced if any argument is convincing; to weaken our resolve because any one argument is less than convincing is foolish and invites evil. (See contantlysearching’s post below for an example of someone falling for such evil.)

    If the author were headlining these thoughts as a warning that literalists must promote proper exegesis, I could understand its existence, but how would the audience of such a message find it here, under such a title and introduction?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      The point is that, if an argument is seriously flawed, and there may be better ones, then people ought to stop using the flawed one and look for the others, if there be such.

    • contantlysearching

      “falling for such evil”??? really???

      • dan marsh

        Yes, really. There is nothing more profoundly evil on Earth than rationalizing the killing of an innocent baby.

  • xbj

    The Bible clearly teaches that man becomes human at first breath, when God breathes a soul and humanity into man as he did the lump of clay that would become Adam. It mattered not when that lump of clay looked human; had a beating heart, or even could feel. And amazingly enough, Judaic Law agrees. Abortion is not now, nor has it ever been, nor will it ever be, murder of anything or anyone human. God only knows us before we were born IF WE ARE TO BE BORN at the FREE WILL he gives WOMAN. The god of “Life begins at conception” is a hateful, sadistic wasteful monster, giving souls and humanity to unborn he full well knows will never come to term. God is no such thing.

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