The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal

In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal.

Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.

Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says. (Many don’t actually believe this, but they know it is the only answer that won’t get them in trouble.) They’ll be a little fuzzy on where, exactly, the Bible says this, but they’ll insist that it does.

That’s new. If you had asked American evangelicals that same question the year I was born you would not have gotten the same answer.

That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 with Christianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

At some point between 1968 and 2012, the Bible began to say something different. That’s interesting.

Even more interesting is how thoroughly the record has been rewritten. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Click over to Dr. Norman L. Geisler’s website and you’ll find all the hallmarks of a respected figure in the evangelical establishment. You’ll see that Geisler has taught at Trinity Evangelical Seminary, Dallas Seminary and Southern Evangelical Seminary. You’ll see a promotion for his newest book, Defending Inerrancy, with recommendations from such evangelical stalwarts as Al Mohler and J.I. Packer, as well as a link to an online store offering some of the other dozens of books written by Geisler. And you’ll see a big promo for the anti-abortion movie October Baby, because Geisler is, of course, anti-abortion, just like Mohler and Packer and every other respected figure in the evangelical establishment is and, of course, must be.

But back in the day, Dudley notes, Geisler “argued for the permissibility of abortion in a 1971 book, stating ‘The embryo is not fully human — it is an undeveloped person.'” That was in Ethics: Alternatives and Issues, published by Zondervan. It’s still in print, kind of, as Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues and Options. And now it says something different. Now it’s unambiguously anti-abortion.

I don’t mean to pick on Geisler. He’s no different from Packer or Graham or any other leading evangelical figure who’s been around as long as those guys have. They all now believe that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. They believe this absolutely, unambiguously, firmly, resolutely and loudly. That’s what they believed 10 years ago, and that’s what they believed 20 years ago.

But it wasn’t what they believed 30 years ago. Thirty years ago they all believed quite the opposite.

Again, that’s interesting.

I heartily recommend Dudley’s book for his discussion of this switch and the main figures who brought it about — Francis Schaeffer, Jerry Falwell, Richard Viguerie, etc. But here I just want to quote one section about the strangeness of this 180-degree turn, and how it caught many evangelicals off-guard:

By the mid-1980s, the evangelical right was so successful with this strategy that the popular evangelical community would no longer tolerate any alternative position. Hence, the outrage over a book titled Brave New People published by InterVarsity Press in 1984. In addition to discussing a number of new biotechnologies, including genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization, the author, an evangelical professor living in New Zealand, also devoted a chapter to abortion. His position was similar to that of most evangelicals 15 years prior. Although he did not believe the fetus was a full-fledged person from conception, he did believe that because it was a potential person, it should be treated with respect. Abortion was only permissible to protect the health and well-being of the mother, to preclude a severely deformed child, and in a few other hard cases, such as rape and incest.

Although this would have been an unremarkable book in 1970, the popular evangelical community was outraged. Evangelical magazines and popular leaders across the country decried the book and its author, and evangelicals picketed outside the publisher’s office and urged booksellers to boycott the publisher. One writer called it a “monstrous book.” … The popular response to the book — despite its endorsements from Carl F.H. Henry, the first editor of Christianity Today, and Lew Smedes, an evangelical professor of ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary — was so overwhelmingly hostile that the book became the first ever withdrawn by InterVarsity Press over the course of nearly half a century in business.

The book was republished a year later by Eerdmans Press. In a preface, the author noted, “The heresy of which I appear to be guilty is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation. This, it seems, is being made a basic affirmation of evangelicalism, from which there can be no deviation. … No longer is it sufficient to hold classic evangelical affirmations on the nature of biblical revelation, the person and work of Christ, or justification by faith alone. In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”

The poor folks at InterVarsity Press, Carl Henry, Lewis Smedes and everyone else who was surprised by the totality of this reversal, by its suddenness and the vehemence with which it came to be an “essential” and “basic affirmation of evangelicalism” quickly got on board with the new rules.

By the time of the 1988 elections, no one any longer spoke sarcastically of “the heresy” of failing to “state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation.” By that time, it was simply viewed as an actual heresy. By the time of the 1988 elections, no one was aghast that a strict anti-abortion position was viewed as of equal — or greater — importance than one’s views of biblical revelation or the work of Christ. That was just a given.

By the time of the 1988 elections, everyone in American evangelicalism was wholly opposed to legal abortion and everyone in American evangelicalism was pretending that this had always been the case.

We have always been at war with Eastasia. Everyone knows that.

 

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  • rangerkat

    Desperate women in every culture throughout all of human history have ended pregnancies by whatever means they have available. Long intellectual discussions and books of theology will never change that. All pregnancies should be planned and all people should have that option. Right now we are losing those possibilities in the push back from those who are terrified of women having control over their bodies and their lives. Some of them are women who know they can only be okay with their men if they take those stands. The black market of the future may be the morning after pill. Vast parts of the nation only have access to health care controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. They will buy their way to saving us one way or another. That’s what I believe.

  • Danny

    Could it be that they changed their mind?  Not only is Biblical teaching constantly being reevaluated to see what we misunderstand, medicine and biology is constantly being updated.  In regards to the state of the unborn, we know volumes more about babies prenatal than we did in 1979.  This too has led many to change their beliefs.

  • Bmrsnr99

    It seems somewhat sick to use a verse in which a woman gets hit and miscarries to support any legal position other than it’s not ok to hit women and cause miscarriages.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/OHRORFA3SAT4Y23A7QBJCLA7PE Iolanthe

    THANK YOU!   I am old enough to remember back before Evangelicals insisted that life began at conception.

    They just *didn’t*!    This came with the Far Right’s deliberate takeover of Evangelical Christianity in the late 70s and early 80s.   I was there.   I remember it well.   I’ve been telling the story for about 30 years, and people generally disbelieved me.

    Thanks for the Sanity Check.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1528940071 Fiona Mackenzie

    For an explanation of how the Catholic church, never previously opposed to abortion or contraception, trapped itself in an inescapable net of new orthodoxy it cannot escape, read:  
    http://www.population-security.org/STLouis99.html

    WHY THE POPE CAN’T CHANGE THE CHURCH’S POSITION ON BIRTH CONTROL: IMPLICATIONS FOR AMERICANS 

  • Tim Harman

    “This Assembly regards the destruction by parents of their own offspring, before birth, with abhorrence, as a crime against God and against nature: and as the frequency of such murders can no longer be concealed, we hereby warn those that are guilty of this crime that, except they repent, they cannot inherit eternal life.  We also exhort those who have been called to preach the gospel, and all who love purity and the truth, and who would avert the just judgments of Almighty God from the nation, that they be no longer silent, or tolerant of these things, but that they endeavor by all proper means to stay the floods of impurity and cruelty.”  
    United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A General Assembly, Minutes 1869, p 937

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1128864138 Jesse Caron

      ‎”וְכִי-יִנָּצוּ
    אֲנָשִׁים, וְנָגְפוּ אִשָּׁה הָרָה וְיָצְאוּ יְלָדֶיהָ, וְלֹא יִהְיֶה,
    אָסוֹן–עָנוֹשׁ יֵעָנֵשׁ, כַּאֲשֶׁר יָשִׁית עָלָיו בַּעַל הָאִשָּׁה,
    וְנָתַן, בִּפְלִלִים. ” Shemot (Exodus) 21:22 There is
    absolutely nothing about the idea of life’s beginnings, whether at
    conception, or at birth, or any other moment. It says that if two men
    are fighting and a fetus dies as an accidental consequence
    (w’nag’phu…w’yatz’u), then there will be a restitution, because it
    wasn’t an intentionally murderous act   Wa’yikra (Leviticus) 24:17    “וְאִישׁ, כִּי יַכֶּה כָּל-נֶפֶשׁ אָדָם–מוֹת, יוּמָת.”
    Here, it is contrastingly understood as direct, and deliberate
    (yakeh). It doesn’t set a precedent of valuation of adult life over
    fetal. Life WAS always viewed as beginning at conception, and
    abortion WAS murder. Complete and utter prohibition of abortion still
    isn’t reasonable, since they didn’t have the ability to anticipate
    survival odds and such. People in serious and life threatening
    situations have the right to choose, but it’s too often a matter of
    convenience

  • Dan Audy

    Guys, this post is over 6 months old and the discussion well worn.  If you had read through the comment section you would have noticed that your arguments have already been presented and responded to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jen-Crowder-Noricks/1114472150 Jen Crowder Noricks

    Mr. Clark,
    I take exception to your statement “Ask any American evangelical, today, what the Bible says about abortion and they will insist that this is what it says.”  I am an American evangelical and I know that the Bible does not specifically address abortion.  I also know that *some* evangelicals have interpreted particular Scriptures to mean a certain thing.  This is not true for all of us.  Please do not make general statements about evangelicals, and I will refrain from making general statements about journalists.  Thank you.

  • AnonymousSam

    The very next sentence seems to suggest this was already taken into consideration.

  • h4x354x0r

    Warning: Long Post, May include math. 

    First, medical research indicates that nearly half of all conceptions – fertilized human eggs – never even implant. So much for the “every conception is sacred” ideology. 

    Second, of those that do implant, miscarriages – spontaneous abortions – outnumber human-induced abortions by up to 50%. 

    Fact is, biological reproduction is a very messy, imprecise, low-yield process. The natural, “God given” failure rate for conceptions approaches 70%. It accounts for the demise of well over 7 million unborn every year in the US alone. It’s a 6:1 unborn kill ratio vs. humans. 

    Face it, nobody’s “God” cares about the unborn. If we want to be concerned with the welfare of an embryo, we need to come up with our own reasons.

    Third, there is known, proven technology that has been shown to reduce abortion rates by roughly 70%. It’s called, “Contraception.” 

    http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/24334.aspx

    Wait, what? 70% reduction?!? Yes, it’s true. And this is the question I pose to anti-abortion rights peeps: What would you be willing to give, to achieve a 70% reduction in abortions? 

    Their answer is… ironically, hypocritically, and duplicitously… explicitly *NOT* birth control. Anything, BUT birth control! Harassment, intimidation, even murder is fair game for these folks to achieve their goals, just… don’t talk about contraception. 

    The pound of cure is a real and tangible liability if the ounce of prevention isn’t given, no matter how righteous you feel about it. That’s exactly where the entire anti-abortion movement is right now: refusing to give the ounce of prevention, and complaining bitterly that they are stuck with the pound of cure. 

    The only rational conclusion that can be drawn from these facts and information is that what truly concerns the abortion foes is simply people having sex. Not life itself, not mother’s health and welfare, not actually reducing abortions, just… an obsession with sex. That’s it: Nosy, sex-obsessed busybodies, using a broken “cart before the horse” strategy to control other people’s sex activities. 

    The basis of the ideology (purity and sanctity of conceptions and unborn) is utterly false. The refusal to embrace the one real tangible solution is willful. The entire anti-abortion mantra is nothing, absolutely NOTHING, but selfish-righteous control-freakism. 

    They need to go crawl back under the rocks they came from.

  • naugiedoggie

    Dang it.  I’m already reading Diane Bass’s Christianity for the Rest of Us and Derek Flood’s Healing the Gospel, and here comes another book to add to my must-read list.  I can’t keep up!  Thank you very little! ;-)

  • Truthspew

    I remember seeing the rise of this type of thinking. Having studied the text of the Bible I realized that there really is nothing in there per se that explicitly forbids abortion or even sets the date at which a blastocyst becomes a person. 

  • Alison Swihart

    Obviously one of the reasons the position has changed is because science has advanced to the point that it can fairly accurately state when life begins, when the baby feels pain, etc.  We know more now about when life begins than we did 40 years ago.  I remember Geisler’s position.  It was more of a position of hierarchy – the life of the mother supercedes the life of the unborn child.  

  • kathy bryan

    Here’s the thing, God is the creator.  He alone gets to choose when a person is created and when that person dies.  It matters not whether a certain amount of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so long as they were not intended by choice.
    Exodus 21:22 was used as a reference from the book, ” Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics” to support the author’s premise that “God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed.”  
    However, if you read the scripture and it says no such thing.  Here it is:  “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth
    prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished
    accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as
    the judges [determine].” 
    The words “no harm” in the original language mean to receive harm, mischief from which anyone suffers.  A miscarriage of a child is most definitely harm. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    Has it occurred to you that there might be some people (if fetuses are people, which I am not conceding) for whom God’s intended end is that the person pregnant with them have an abortion?

  • kathy bryan

     No, it hadn’t.  But thinking on it now, I would have to say that while God may know a person will choose abortion, I don’t believe He would intend for them to have one because He creates life and has said murder is sinful.  And yes, I realize the entire crux of the argument is when does life begin. 
    Adam was the first creation, and his life came from the ‘breath of life’ being breathed into him (Gen 2:7).  However, after that we can see that the blood is where life is held.  Embryos, and fetuses have life from in their blood.  Blood develops initially within the core of “blood islands” in the mesoderm.  
    The mesoderm is one of the three prmiary germ cell layers in the very early embryo.   As early as week 4-5, rudimentary blood is present and moving through the embryo.  (ref http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/002398.htm)
    When Cain killed Adam his blood was spilled on the ground.  (Gen 4:10  And He said, “What have you done?  The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.”)  Leviticus chapter 17 references several times that the life is in the blood. 
    Just more thoughts……….

  • EllieMurasaki

    Life is in the blood? That’s a new one.

    So if abortion is murder, what penalty should apply to the woman who either commits the murder or pays to have it done? What investigation should be done of the woman who has a miscarriage–what should it take to prove that it truly was a miscarriage, not an abortion? If a baby is born with fetal alcohol syndrome, thus proving that the person who gave birth was negligent enough to consume alcohol while pregnant, with what should she be charged?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    It matters not whether a certain amount of pregnancies end in miscarriage, so long as they were not intended by choice.

    (nods) Exactly. It’s not a matter of wanting to preserve life; it’s a matter of wanting to restrict choice.

    It’s just rare to hear people admit that.

  • Lori

     

    The words “no harm” in the original language mean to receive harm,
    mischief from which anyone suffers.  A miscarriage of a child is most
    definitely harm.  

    Considering that the “no harm” part clearly refers to a child who is born alive, albeit prematurely, it has nothing to do with miscarriage. So, what in the world is your point?

  • kathy bryan

    Another random thought…..assuming one is a Christian and believe Christ left God and came to earth to be born, this argument is saying that He didn’t arrive on earth until the moment of His birth.  Those months before Mary was just carrying around a shell awaiting a soul?  If that were the case, why then when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, greeted Elizabeth, pregnant with John, did John leap in her womb for joy and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit?  (ref Luke 1:39-47)  

  • EllieMurasaki

    Fascinating theological question. Take it up with whoever wrote Genesis to emphasize that Adam was so much mud until his first breath.

  • http://fromgeelong.com/ Cameron Price

    This memory hole is historical revisionism that would make the Ministry of Truth proud.

  • Religious freedom?

    I agree with h4x354x0r; what the abortion debate really comes down to is policymakers and religious leaders trying to control women’s sexuality.  One would think that if  pro-lifers were really so concerned with preventing murder and preserving the sanctity of life, their cause would be equally as concerned with making capital punishment illegal. Obviously there are far fewer people who are sentenced to death (and have the sentence carried out) than aborted fetuses, but the bible is much more explicit about straight forward murder than abortion.  Surely these pro-life advocates should also be working to protect the lives of convicts who only god has the right to judge and condemn? Why are they so much less vocal about the (government sanctioned) murders of fully developed humans than the murder of unborn fetuses?

    The only explanation I can arrive at is that their true concern is the policing of women’s bodies and sexual freedom. They refuse to accept contraception as a means of preventing abortion, even though it has been shown time and again that contraception, not making abortion illegal, is the only way to reduce abortions. Instead of fighting to create a world with fewer abortions, they are fighting for a world where women are not allowed to have sex before marriage. And clearly they are only concerned with controlling and punishing women, because men suffer no legal prejudice concerning their sexual behaviors. 

    Ultimately the religeous arguments about when life begins are moot, becuase the definition of life should not be coming from religeon, as we do not (supposedly) live in a theocratic  country. Why have religeous leaders been given so much authority to determine something that is not a religeous issue? Contraception and abortion are legal issues, and therefore should be free from the religious tyranny being imposed by pro-life groups. If they want to subjugate, undermine, and control the agency of their women, that’s fine, but my freedoms should not be infringed upon based on religious beliefs that I do not subscribe to.

  • Lori

    The opposition to abortion, at least among Catholics, is based on the natural principle that homicide is wrong.  

    Unless the death occurs through malpractice, in which case Catholics will argue the only those born alive are persons in order to avoid paying out on a malpractice suit when the neglect of one of their doctors causes the death of viable fetuses.

    http://coloradoindependent.com/126808/in-malpractice-case-catholic-hospital-argues-fetuses-arent-people

    So let’s review. The notion that life begins at conception is a deeply held moral principle that should be enshrined in law when it means controlling women’s bodies and sexuality, but when it comes to the Church’s pocketbook a fetus is just so much worthless tissue until it’s born alive.

    You’ve got to love that “consistent ethic of life”.

  • KG

     What’s your point? That a Catholic hospital in Colorado isn’t committed to the truth? It’s a scandal indeed. But sometimes Catholics sin. Sometimes Catholics even have abortions, or perform them. This doesn’t change the truth of the matter. But I’m not sure what your point is, beyond that Catholics can sin like everyone else.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yes, which is why it’s such a problem when people who proclaim themselves the arbiters of all that is good and just and right and moral are loudly not living up to their own moral code.

  • KG

     Fair enough, but are you saying that this has any bearing on knowing what the true “moral code” is? Or even that hypocrisy has any bearing on who the Catholic Church says she is? Obviously neither of these follow, though it is a scandal and shame.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I’m not sure there is such a thing as ‘true moral code’. But then I’m a utilitarian.

    I’m also not big on doing as somebody says, not as they do. Especially when the somebody has hurt me. Other things I am: bisexual, genderqueer, ex-Catholic. As far as the Church is concerned, the last two are things it is not possible to be and my thinking I’m either makes me a very confused person, and the first is a thing that God made me in order that I might–well, the ‘celibate for his glory’ thing makes less sense for a bisexual person than a gay or lesbian person, as unlike a gay or lesbian person I’m capable of having Church-approved sex with someone I’m sexually attracted to (I just have to make sure the person in question has a penis and marries me before the sex occurs), so I suppose he just wanted me to be extra tempted. Also extra shat on by life.

  • Lori

    But I’m not sure what your point is, beyond that Catholics can sin like everyone else.   

    My point was that the Catholic Church is massively hypocritical. It pushes the idea of personhood from the moment of conception when doing so allows them to control women and then denies pre-birth personhood when it would cost them money. Women being forced to carry their rapist’s offspring or being forced to continue pregnancies that will kill them just can’t be helped because life begins at conception and think of the babies. Too bad, so sad. However, when fetal personhood is going to cost the Church money, of which it has plenty, (although not nearly as much at it would have if it hadn’t had to pay so many victims of Church-enabled child rape), it’s a whole different story and suddenly a fetus isn’t a person until after live birth.

    I could not possibly care less about Catholics committing sin. I mean that literally. I do not care at all about sin, so there is no room for me to care less than I currently do. What I do care about is the way the Church continues to push to have the law enforce its beliefs on people who do not share them. The massive hypocrisy on display in the Colorado case just makes it that much more galling. The Church had a clear opportunity to practice what it not only preaches, but tries to force on people, including non-Catholics. Instead it chose to defend its bottom line. The Church is welcome to shut up on this issue. There is not one reason in the world that I or anyone else should have to listen to moralizing about abortion based on the Church’s supposed “consistent ethic of life”.

  • KG

     Hypocrisy, sure. Yesterday the bishops of Colorado announced an investigation into the matter. I know nothing about the particular hospital, but would not be shocked if the decision to make this argument was made by someone who does not believe in the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death.

    Your two ascribed motives to the Catholic Church are pretty twisted, and would have found a happy audience in the ole Christianity Today of the bygone days when evangelicals supported the so-called right to an abortion. It wants to control women’s bodies, but only if it doesn’t conflict with its higher goal of making money. And the sex abuse scandal is always an interesting point to make in a discussion about serious issues with Catholics. I do think the Catholic Church should be held to a much higher standard than the rest of society, but I know very well that progressive Protestant communities have not been immune to the same problems (though they do tend to be immune from big lawsuits since they’re not usually organized by diocese and are much smaller), since I was raised as a liberal mainline Protestant and knew of several ministers and several victims who perpetrated or were victimized by these sorts of crimes. And in terms of money, what do you suppose the Church does with her money? Clergy get paid a pittance compared to their Protestant counterparts. Parishes have relatively small staffs. The bills have to get paid. But on top of that, the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization on the planet. Many of its religious communities have taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Some of her clergy, religious communities, and laypeople live and care for the poorest of the poor and the sick all around the world. There have always been sinners and saints, but it’s a strange point to make in a conversation about a serious issue that the Catholic Church can’t be trusted because she’s a money grubbing controller of women when you’re merely having an online discussion with someone who is a Catholic but not making uniquely Catholic moral claims. I’m not suggesting that everyone has to abstain from meat on Fridays during lent, go to mass on Sundays, fast on Ash Wednesday/Good Friday. I am only suggesting that human beings have an intrinsic dignity that must be respected from conception to natural death, and that all human beings are equal in this dignity and in their natural rights.

    You don’t have to listen to the Church moralize about anything. Don’t go to mass if you don’t want to hear it. Turn off the TV if you see the pope or a bishop. Turn off the radio if a Catholic ad comes on. But in a nation with freedom of speech, you may have to still encounter individual Catholics in the public square (unless a good way can be come up with to shut them up and prevent them from being active in public life).

    My basic point with all of this is that evangelical Protestants in the early 80s/late 70s merely returned to their abortion position of two generations before. My thesis is that the evangelical history in between can best be explained by a mixture of the culture’s overpopulation hysteria in the 1960s and a healthy dose of anti-Catholic bigotry.

  • Lori

     

    I know nothing about the particular
    hospital, but would not be shocked if the decision to make this argument
    was made by someone who does not believe in the dignity of the human
    person from conception to natural death.  

    Ah yes. No True Catholic would do such a thing. That’s always a convincing argument.

     

    I know very well that progressive Protestant communities have not been
    immune to the same problems (though they do tend to be immune from big
    lawsuits since they’re not usually organized by diocese and are much
    smaller), since I was raised as a liberal mainline Protestant and knew
    of several ministers and several victims who perpetrated or were
    victimized by these sorts of crimes. 

    I don’t know if you’re doing it willfully or not, but you are profoundly missing the point of people’s outrage over the pedophile priest scandal. The issue that sets the Catholic Church apart in this regard is not that some priests sexually abused people over whom they had authority. Sadly, that happens in virtually all organizations.

    What sets the Church apart is the fact that the hierarchy not only did not stop sexual predators within the ranks of the priesthood, it facilitated ongoing abuse in order to protect its own reputation, not to mention it’s bank accounts. You can deny it all you want, but the Church is a big money enterprise that has shown itself repeatedly and in various ways to be very, very focused on keeping that wealth.

    And in terms of money, what do you suppose the Church does with her money?  

    Among other things, it makes more money.

    For example, it has parlayed the blood money it took from Mussolini into a nice little real estate empire. A fact which it has taken great pains to try to hide.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/21/vatican-secret-property-empire-mussolini

     

    You don’t have to listen to the Church moralize about anything. 

    I don’t have to, but I’d be pretty stupid to ignore them when they’re trying to make their moralizing the law that controls my body.

  • KG

     Yes, sorry, should have mentioned that at least two of these progressive protestant communities that I mentioned was involved in a coverup. Just do a google search on Episcopalian bishops and sex abuse coverups. But you and I agree that all these things are evil. I just dispute that the Catholic Church is uniquely evil in this regard. In my view that’s not saying much, since, as I indicated, the standard should indeed be higher.

    Blood money? Seriously? Do a search through the NY Times archives from the 1920s and 30s of “Mussolini” and “Catholic.” You will be surprised. There are a thousand more black myths where these come from, usually from the fevered swamps of Anglo-American culture that has fostered and perpetuated anti-Catholic bigotry from Henry VIII’s break with the pope until the present day.

    Since you’re probably going to live in communities that include Catholics, you might find it more fruitful to engage the actual arguments of Catholics rather than simply throw back ad hominem attacks on their Church.

  • Lori

    Blood money? Seriously? 

    The Catholic church took money from Mussolini in exchange for giving official papal recognition to his regime.

    Why was Mussolini willing to pay for that recognition? Because it helped cement his power.

    What did he do with that power? He killed people.

    Did the Church has ample reason to know that Mussolini would was dangerous when it made the money for recognition deal? Yes, it did. Setting everything else aside (and therefore hopefully heading off some weak sauce “hindsight is 20/20, but how could they have know at the time?” defense you might offer), the fact that he was willing to pay for recognition was proof enough that he shouldn’t have it.

    Blood. Money.

    When the war was over and it was more than clear that the Church had taken money from a horrible person and in the process aided a terrible regime, what did the Church do with the money? Did it use it on charitable works designed to aid Mussolini’s victims? No. It hid the money in a network of shell corporations and used it to buy expensive real estate.

    Blood money used to make more money.

    Since you’re probably going to live in communities that include
    Catholics, you might find it more fruitful to engage the actual
    arguments of Catholics rather than simply throw back ad hominem attacks
    on their Church.  

    Ad hominem: a general category of fallacies in which a claim or
    argument is rejected on the basis of some irrelevant fact about the
    author of or the person presenting the claim or argument.

    I have no problem living in communities that include Catholics. I have nothing but problems living in a community that makes Catholic doctrine into law and in so doing forces me to comply with it. The day that the Catholic Church stops trying to control my body will in all likelihood be the last day that I ever talk about the modern Catholic church at all.

  • KG

    No one is trying to make Catholic doctrine into law. This was the argument of Christianity Today against JFK in 1960. It wasn’t true then, and especially now, after Dignitatis Humanae at the second Vatican Council, it is even more clearly false.

    The important context for the recognition of Mussolini is important because it was not, in fact, the recognition of Mussolini’s particular regime that was important, but the Vatican’s recognition of the Italian state (and Mussolini/Italy’s recognition of the independent Vatican City state for the first time since the unification of Italy). Before that time (for about half a century) the popes had been prisoners of the Vatican. No one living in the 1920s would have been confused about Mussolini’s stance toward the Catholic Church (hostile), nor the Church’s stance toward Mussolini (search the NYT archives for the evidence).

    The sum of money given by the Italian government was compensation for the Italian government’s confiscation of papal territory in 1870, not as a kind of reward for giving legitimacy to Mussolini. It was less than the Italian government offered in 1871, because the earlier offer would not recognize the independence of the Vatican City State. In exchange for political independence, the Vatican agreed to accept less money in exchange for its confiscated territory.

  • Lori

    No one is trying to make Catholic doctrine into law. This was the
    argument of Christianity Today against JFK in 1960. It wasn’t true then,
    and especially now, after Dignitatis Humanae at the second Vatican
    Council, it is even more clearly false.   

    The Catholic church is pushing for abortion to be made illegal again in the US and to keep same sex couples from being able to marry legally. They aren’t the only ones, but they’re a huge part of it. (That’s especially true of the fight over marriage equality. NOM is basically a front group for the Catholic Church.) Their efforts are based on their claims of deeply held moral positions on respect for life and human sexuality.

    In what sense is that not trying to make Catholic doctrine into law? Are you trying to say that it only counts as trying to make Catholic doctrine into law if it’s an exclusively Catholic position? If so, I flatly reject your terms.

     

    The sum of money given by the Italian government was compensation for
    the Italian government’s confiscation of papal territory in 1870, not as
    a kind of reward for giving legitimacy to Mussolini. It was less than
    the Italian government offered in 1871, because the earlier offer would
    not recognize the independence of the Vatican City State. In exchange
    for political independence, the Vatican agreed to accept less money in
    exchange for its confiscated territory.  

    So they waited 50 years to make this deal, and then somehow just happened to make it with Mussolini. And the deal was totally innocent, which is why they set up shell corporations to hide the money and why they still won’t openly acknowledge being the ultimate owner of said corporations or the original source of the money. Because people always go to such great lengths to hide that which has a perfectly innocent explanation.

    I am not of the Dan Brown school of Catholic conspiracies. I have no particular animus toward the Catholic Church, but neither do I believe that the Church has any credibility or standing to offer moral pronouncements to non-Catholics. If people chose to follow them, fine. The Church needs to leave the rest of us alone.

    I repeat, the day that they stop trying to make their religious beliefs the law of the land will almost certainly be the last time I have anything whatsoever to say about the Catholic Church, because in general I’m just not that interested.

  • EllieMurasaki

    No one is trying to make Catholic doctrine into law.

    Which clearly explains the many send-money letters my mother gets from institutions with Catholic or Catholic-sounding names that have complaints on the envelope about the increasing availability of legal sodomy and baby murder.

    (I exaggerate, but not by much.)

  • Kiba

    Here’s a wonder case of hypocrisy for you. 

     On New Year’s Day 2006, Stodghill, aged 31, was seven-months pregnant with twins, when she started to feel ill. She went to the emergency room at St. Thomas More hospital in Canon City, Colorado, and suffered a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who was on call for emergencies that night at the hospital, never answered a page, and an hour after arriving, Stodghill died and the twins did not survive.

    Jeremy Stodghill, Lori’s husband, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, arguing that the doctor should have answered the page, should have instructed hospital staff to perform an emergency C-section, and could have tried to save the twins. And asAmanda Marcotte noted, that’s where the story takes a politically charged turn.
    The hospital’s defense, so far successful, is to claim that because the twins were fetuses and not people, this can’t legally be viewed as a wrongful-death situation.

    From Maddow Blog:
    http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/01/26/16712604-this-week-in-god?lite

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Probably the best thing to do about KG is to pledge a set amount of money to Planned Parenthood for every post he or she makes.  I figured I’d suggest it now, before KG’s posts go past 20.

  • http://twitter.com/SharonLockwood8 Trust me. I’m old.

    I remember Roe v. Wade. The main opponent was the Catholic Church. Every anti-abortion demo I saw in that time was organized by the local archdiocese and involved nuns and school children.  In the last 20 years I’ve wondered at the sudden appearance of evangelicals in large numbers in the anti-abortion ranks. I never made the connection. Thanks.  

  • preach__it

    Has the author ever actually READ Exodus 21:22-24? If he had he would have realized WHY anyone who published such twisted apologetics would have been made a laughing spectacle. Unfortunately there were Christians back then that didn’t do their homework like we do today. Now we have digital Greek and Hebrew Lexicons and Christian Colleges that teach true exegesis. A child out of our 6th grade Sunday School room could have spotted the HORRIFIC prooftexting in that first quote.

    So let me ask this another way. If in the time of Christ, Doctors understood bleeding was a bad thing, then in the Medieval times they thought it was a good thing and now it’s back to bad, then was it ever good to begin with? If in EXODUS they knew that killing a fetus was bad, then in the 70’s they thought it was ok, then in the 80’s it was back to being bad then is it really a new idea to say it’s bad?!?

  • David Starner

    The Slactivist has another blog post showing how they’ve retranslated Exodus 21:22-24 to make it read how they wanted it to read. Your time periods are not parallel; when a subject like theology that moves so glacially change so completely in a decade? Even sciences have trouble moving that fast, except when radically new evidence is coming in, not just reinterpretation of old texts.

  • Madhabmatics

    has anyone ever noticed that the truly awful trolls only post in like, month old threads

    what is the deal with that

  • P J Evans

     They seem to think they’re getting in the last word.
    This one isn’t very good at it.

  • AnonymousSam

    I think the golden rule the Bible advocates is more likely to be applicable than admonitions questionably supported by scripture as to when the soul enters the body — a concept utterly irrelevant to anyone with a different belief regarding souls, much less an atheist.

    But let’s say Christian scripture (as opposed to Buddhist scripture, or Shinto scripture, or West African Vodun oral traditions) is correct. What do we do with that knowledge? What is the alternative to accepting what we have now as the lesser of evils while we work toward building a future where abortion isn’t necessary?

  • Luvsmog

    As a “reformed” fund-a-mental-ist….i can believe the demands to adhere to a status quo like set of beliefs. Sin is abortion, sex b4 marriage etc. But it’s ok to go to Iraq and kill for oil….to drive and destroy god’s planet….to ignore jesus’ command to sell all etc….
    But how do you discuss w/ ppl who won”t listen??? see my fb: 123poopitout for hope :)

  • naugiedoggie

    I’ve read Dudley’s book. I also recommend it.

  • Josh

    People can change. 10 years ago I was a proud Republican and conservative Christian. Today I’m more Agnostic and a Libertarian. People change.

  • AnonymousSam

    Change isn’t the problem. Change combined with historical revisionism is a problem.

  • 8177

    “God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”

    Maybe Christianity Today wouldn’t publish that article because that’s not at all what Exodus 21:22-24 says…  In that passage, even what we would call accidental destruction of the fetus (manslaughter?) is a capital offense.  It gets worse:  In Mosaic law, you could present sacrifices to the priest to make propitiation for sins you committed _unintentionally_.  There was no sacrifice available for intentional sin – only an expectation of judgement and punishment.  Ex 21:22-24 seems to put the UN-intentional harming of a fetus (not even necessarily killing it) in the category of intentional sin…

  • David Starner

    What does Exodus 21:22 say? In the 1899 Douray-Rheims edition, it says “If men quarrel, and one
    strike a woman with child, and she miscarry indeed, but live herself: he
    shall be answerable for so much damage as the woman’s husband shall
    require, and as arbiters shall award.” The Wycliffe Bible says “If men chide, and a man smiteth a woman with child, and soothly he maketh the child dead-born, but the woman liveth over that smiting,
    he shall be subject to the harm (he shall be subject to a fine), as
    much as the woman’s husband asketh (for), and as the judges deem
    (appropriate).” The Revised Standard Version says ““When men strive
    together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage,
    and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.” The Slactivist has another post where he shows that translations that clearly make the child’s death punishable by death are all post-1970. Funny that.

  • mcwilson40

    I find it interesting that for so many who claim an atheist position, there is such concern over the Biblical view of abortion. Perhaps I can shine some clarity on the issue: 

    The Old Testament is a collection of scrolls and writings that deal primarily with one group of people and their god. The laws that this god gave to his people occurred long after many other civilizations about the entire globe. (The Hammurabic law predates the Ten Commandments by approximately 115 years, for example.) It is also instructive to keep in mind that Genesis is not a scientific treatise on the formation of the universe; it was an oral recollection told to Moses by his father in-law, Jethro. (Exodus 2:16)

    Now when one looks upon the New Covenant established by Christ, one has a decision to make: It is either a NEW Covenant or an addendum to the old. If one takes the latter view, stop reading now; you will not understand what I am saying.   If One subscribes to the former view, then one must come to the understanding that Christ did away with the Law. (Hebrews 7:11,  Hebrews 7:18-19, and Hebrews 8:13 just for a start – there are others.)

    In the Gospel of Luke, we see two instances of conception taking place. Were these babies without a “soul” or “Spirit”, what would have been the point? Why would John the Baptist lave leapt within his mother’s womb merely be being in proximity to the “soulless” unborn Christ?

    You folks are free to believe whatever it is that you wish, but please do not denigrate the Creator of the Universe with your abject ignorance. Paul talks about the duality of the human construct quite expansively in Romans Chapter 7; he illustrates the pull of the flesh as opposed to the pull of the spirit. Implicit in that illustration is that fact that humans are NOT the sum total of their fleshly selves. If you believe that, I do not know why you believe you are a Christian. Rather the body is but a mere conveyance for us to  use while we exist in this temporal realm.

    The greater question that all should be asking is why is it so vitally important to be able to kill an innocent? Why do we attempt to justify such deaths when they are primarily for convenience? Why do we not expend the same amount of effort to ensure that such needless pregnancies and deaths do not occur to begin with, but rather find excuses and  avenues of blame? 

    In the end, Christ looks upon the hearts and intents of the individual. Regardless what rationalizations you put forth, your true intents are known to Him. Again, if you do not believe to begin with, none of this will make sense and I am merely another kook. But if any are earnestly seeking answers, stop rationalizing this senseless killing and do something positive for a change.

    Christ calls us eternal beings. The definition of eternal is something without beginning or end, thus as spirit, we are ever existent outside of linear time. In so saying, Christ has established that we are a living soul upon conception. 

  • P J Evans

    Your concern for the poor miscarried embryos is noted.

  • EllieMurasaki

    In the Gospel of Luke, we see two instances of conception taking place. Were these babies without a “soul” or “Spirit”, what would have been the point? Why would John the Baptist lave leapt within his mother’s womb merely be being in proximity to the “soulless” unborn Christ?

    So all fetuses are special in exactly the way two very special fetuses were? Why don’t we have Christs springing up every day?

  • Lunch Meat

     

    In the Gospel of Luke, we see two instances of conception taking place. Were these babies without a “soul” or “Spirit”, what would have been the point? Why would John the Baptist lave leapt within his mother’s womb merely be being in proximity to the “soulless” unborn Christ?

    Um. Luke never says that Mary is pregnant when she goes to see Elizabeth. Mary has just found out that she will be pregnant. Look:

    “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

    At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

    No mention of “Fetus Jesus”. Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb because of the presence of Mary.

    And yeah, John, a prophet, is a special case. Unless you can cite scientific studies showing that six-month fetuses are routinely able to differentiate the voices of those around them.

  • AnonymousSam

    Out of curiosity, how would you address the Sotah, established in Numbers 5:11-31? Although translations vary to degrees of euphemism, it is generally agreed that destroying the womb of a pregnant woman bodes ill for the fetus and several translations flat out say it will “cause a miscarriage.”

  • http://twitter.com/mzmadmike Michael Z Williamson

    I suppose if there were actual scientific evidence for these convenient claims of feti recognizing each other in the womb, this would be the proof…or at least the proof for two mystically created superbeings. I’m told Superman was special, too. The rest of us, not so much.

    Seeing as there are a goodly number of million pregnant women on Earth, why don’t we find a few volunteers and see if we can duplicate this alleged event?

    If not, then I fail to see how it’s any more credible than Osiris, Isis and Horus, Zeus, Hera and Apollo, or Odin, Thor and Freya.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Look, folks, if you can’t bring yourselves to stop responding to an article from over a year ago, could you at least jump forward a month and read the follow-up?

  • Just sayin’

    No, sorry, Bible-thumpers, “life” does not begin at conception.

    Life actually begins prior to that.

    “Life” begins with a LIVE sperm cell and a LIVE ovum.

    So is killing live sperm cells and ovum also “murder”…?

    You guys are full of it.

    If “life” means so much to you, how come you have so little to say about capital punishment, Third World malnutrition disease and hunger?

    How come you have so little to say about controlling America’s plague of dangerous weapons that cause so many innocent people to be shot— mostly in their own homes by their own family members.

    How come when I was out protesting the idiotic Iraq invasion in the spring of 2003, I never saw any of you Bible thumpers out there parading your so-called concern about protecting human life?

    The reason is not too hart to see.

    The reason is that you Bible thumpers have a sick attitude towards women and sex…

    You are too full of guilt to enjoy sex honestly for its own sake. You think somehow your God gives you the right to boss women around.

    So it’s little wonder that the whole civilized world is laughing at you guys behind your backs…

  • hecramsey2

    How about “Life Begins At Erection?”

  • P J Evans

    don’t feed the #$%^&* troll.

  • William Springer

    Is that issue available anywhere online?

  • Francis1979

    For those of us from the Catholic Tradition, the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides us with the following:

    Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.

    My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.

    Jer 1:5; cf. Job10:8-12; PsÁ/I> 22:10-11.

    References from the Didache (Early church document written circa
    AD 60 – 1,919 years before 1979):

    You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.

    God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life,
    and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be
    protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and
    infanticide are abominable crimes.

    For Catholics, we have both sacred scripture and sacred tradition to rely upon and these references prove the Church (remember the evangelicalism the author refers to didn’t exist before ~1730) has always been consistent on the doctrine of
    life. I believe this has also been the case for most of my protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, notwithstanding the examples stated in the article which the author uses to then jump to the extraordinary conclusion that “thirty years ago they all believed quite the opposite.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    The word here translated ’embryo’. What did it mean in AD 60? Because it sure as hell didn’t mean what we mean by ’embryo’ today.

    Also, the Catholic Church having such a stellar track record on women’s rights…

  • Quilly Mammoth

    Really? Christians just recently started believing this? Let’s ask an expert. Google “Every sperm is sacred.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUspLVStPbk

  • David S.

    That’s the Catholic viewpoint; the above is about the Evangelical Protestant viewpoint.

  • Bronxboy47

    How can you pretend to understand the bible, when you’re obviously incapable of comprehending the focus of this article?

  • Tom Ross

    Wow, very interesting article, according to the NASB Version and several other I checked….

    Exd 21:21″If, however, he [fn]survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his [fn]property.

    Exd 21:22″If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that [fn]she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband [fn]may demand of him, and he shall pay [fn]as the judges decide.

    Exd 21:23″But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life,

    Exd 21:24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,

    I couldn’t find anything about a child… “Dying” in this text. so it didn’t seem like the text was applicable to the subject of abortion… just premature birth… Could someone extrapolate on the subject.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    The answer to that one can be found here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/03/22/mischief-follows-in-partisan-bible-translations/

    Short version: The translations of that section have been inclined to specific wording in recent decades to reflect contemporary religious politics, ever since our millennia-long war with Oceania began.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Cline/1643884702 John Cline

    Since the day I was born in 1955 and from the day I was a child I was taught by my church to believe that life started from point of conception . Reason why I come with the question : “Who are the we? that you are talking about in this article ?? and why do you refer to the Old testament on a question conforming to Christianity,??? There is very little credence you give yourself by comparing your life to a Happy Meal , and in my book both are unhealthy aspects for you . It’s not up to a woman to play God it is up to a human being to practice responsibility for their actions and to accept the full consequences thereof , including the act of submitting to reasons for systematic murder which is something you prescribe to . On your day of reckoning your enlightenment will be fulfilled before God and that will be your day of woe …and to me you’re nothing more than burnt toast …

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Triumphalism is such an ugly attitude for a Christian. As Fred writes in this article, the treatment of the death of a fetus as being equivalent to the death of an equal human being is as recent as 1977. Prior to that, the death was regarded as akin to a property crime. There may be some churches which taught otherwise, but it wasn’t until that point that it started to become widespread.

    Question for you: why is it the woman’s duty to take responsibility for her actions if she was raped, molested by her father, coerced into unprotected sex, or if her financial or health circumstances change? Moreover, who are you to compel her to place her health, living and future at risk?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Also, do you have any particular explanation for Numbers 5:11-31 (the ritual of Sotah), which will purposefully cause a miscarriage? It would seem to me that if abortion can be used as a punishment, then the Biblical precedent exists for it to be used in other, more conscientious manners.

  • http://twitter.com/BFAS_Barb Barb Williamson

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

  • EllieMurasaki

    Which explains why that particular addressee is special. Why should the line be applied to anyone but that particular addressee?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    If God knows people before they’re even conceived, what does this mean of the 50% of fertilized eggs which either fail to implant or are miscarried and never gestate? For that matter, how do we even know abortion interrupts something that was intended to continue? Heck, once you’ve opened up the can of worms that is “you exist before your parents even have sex,” then not having sex becomes an act of murder.

    But if you’re going to quote the Bible, then I have a couple of questions for you.

    Exodus 21:22-25 describes the penalty for a man accidentally striking a pregnant woman and the consequences. In translations prior to 1977 (where the translation was changed in many versions, as demonstrated here), these verses describe the fetus as being stillborn, or simply dying. The penalty for this is said to be a monetary fine, despite the same chapter laboriously explaining that the killer of any person (aside from a slave) is to be put to death.

    If a fetus is equated with a person, how can this be? (Additionally, if the church has always taught that a fetus is equivalent to an adult, why were the translations changed so recently?)

    Numbers 5:11-31 describes a ritual of testing and punishment for adulterous wives. The punishment for guilt is said to be a miscarriage. If abortion is murder, why would God mandate a punishment which deliberately kills a fetus?

  • Bronxboy47

    So God knew some of the fetuses he was supervising would be born with both male and female sex organs, or two heads, or physically attached to a brother or sister, or minus a brain in the skull or eyes in the head? Or did he turn the “forming” of those fetuses over to a near-sighted subordinate?

  • http://www.facebook.com/DavidNHarley David Harley

    “Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.”

    Catholics had been saying this for quite a while, although it did not become official doctrine until the 19th century. The issue is ensoulment.

    Aristotle had stated that ensoulment occurred at quickening, a position followed by succeeding generations of Jewish, Arab, and Christian philosophers. Feeling the movement (18-20 weeks for a primagravida, earlier for a multipara) was the crucial legal boundary for a criminal act, whether voluntary or inflicted. Blackstone, still cited in US courts, was clear on this point.

    The legal position shifted at the beginning of the 19th century, but the problem of quickening had been so contentious among Catholic theologians and philosophers that the debate had had to be forbidden.

    It was the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a doctrine adopted by the friars in the Middle Ages, that caused the problem. The idea that she was without the stain of sin was not controversial, but only that her conception could have been. If she had been conceived without sin, she must have had a soul from the moment of conception. This was a nonsense to Aristotelian academics. Not until 1854 did the Catholic Church resolve this, and the dogma is the earlier of only two examples of an ex cathedra declaration by a Pope, deemed infallible.

    The above is a gross simplification of a long and complex debate, but the matter of ensoulment at conception is not a novel notion. However, it is not a doctrine embraced by Protestants or the Orthodox. In the 19th century, some Protestants had been highly concerned about abortion, Comstock being an example. However, it was the politics of extreme conservative Protestants such as Falwell that led to the adoption of abortion as a rallying point, after the loss of the desegregation battle and the emergence of second-wave feminism.

  • Thommy Berlin

    The older I get, the more I am convinced that the Romans had it right in the first place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=541410026 Christopher Harris

    Why did this happen? It’s really easy to get the masses riled up about THE BABIES. Checks will be written. Marches will be attended. Letters and e-mails will be written. ALL ABOUT THE BABIES.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    At the time, it was still kind of a thing. Nowadays, we know it as the Moral Majority and the way conservative religion was tied to the Republican party.

  • Tim Wright

    Biological fact, all life begins at conception. Everyone here on this site started life at conception, whether we want that life to continue to live is answered by another question, what aspect of my god created essence becomes malformed if I choose to end the life of a child in a womb?

  • EllieMurasaki

    We were all conceived billions of years ago? Huh.

    Since you don’t, I suspect, have a uterus, it’s an academic question to you and therefore none of your business, especially since there are actual people with actual uteruses who, for whatever none-of-your-business reasons, do not want those uteruses occupied by people who don’t pay rent.

  • Tim Wright

    Hi Elie, no I don’t have a uterus. Following your logic, since I don’t have a uterus my thoughts are null, are like someone saying that since I don’t have slaves, my opinion in that matter is also voided. You are created in the image of God, but our opinions don’t trump eternal reality, that children are precious, like you and our Father desires to know us. I pray you come to know His peace. Bless you.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    How about I mention the part where there is this thing called “miscarriage” through which of no fault on anyone’s part a baby that would be born is not born and is in fact dead when it leaves the uterus.

    Now who is at fault here?

  • Tim Wright

    Hi Elie, no I don’t have a uterus. Following your logic, since I don’t have a uterus my thoughts are null, are like someone saying that since I don’t have slaves, my opinion in that matter is also voided. You are created in the image of God, but our opinions don’t trump eternal reality, that children are precious, like you and our Father desires to know us. I pray you come to know His peace. Bless you.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You can take your blessings and shove them up your ass, unless you have some magical way of ensuring that pregnancy stops terrifying the ever-loving fuck out of me for reasons, in order of least to most important (because lucky me, I’m middle-class), including financial, emotional, physical, and mental. Body horror is NOT FUN and I am NOT DOING IT so if I ever get pregnant and you want to save that fetus you need to find a way to make sure the pregnancy doesn’t induce body horror, you hear me?

    Have fun with that.

  • BenW3

    This is all very interesting about the foibles of Evangelicals and their flip-flopping, but in some ways it is irrelevant since the NT and especially the ethic of Jesus is rather clear on the sacredness of human life and the obligation to avoid killing of any kind. If Jesus can say that a person who causes a little one to stumble would be better off if they had never been born, you can just imagine what he would say about those who sanction, even thinking it’s ethical, abortion. Abortion is simply yet another example of how cheap life still is in America. Ben Witherington

  • EllieMurasaki

    Yeah, Governor Perry’s a real stellar example of pro-life values, he’s executed how many alleged criminals? At least two hundred last I heard.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Over two hundred and fifty, or 52% of all the executions since 1982 when the death penalty was reinstated.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    It’s hard to say. Jesus wasn’t big on divorce and assured paternity is still emphasized in the New Testament, which is what led us to have the killing of non-virgins and fetuses in the Old Testament. Jesus never addressed either, but Paul referred to marrying before having sex (with the ideal state of being as “never have sex if you can help it”) to prevent immorality, so it’s questionable whether all of the old laws were being dismissed as readily. It wasn’t until late in the first century, well after Jesus had died, that the practice of killing fetuses in the womb with poison was formally abandoned.

  • BenW3

    Sam I’m afraid you’ve misread both the OT and NT. There is nothing in the OT sanctioning killing of fetuses. There is legislation about compensation for miscarriage, but nothing about sanctioning abortions. Furthermore, there is no evidence at all of early Jews or early Christians doing away with fetuses by using ‘pharmakeia’. BW3

  • EllieMurasaki

    It’s in Numbers. I forget exactly where, but the gist of the passage is that a woman accused of being pregnant through adultery got hauled to the Temple and made to drink this nasty concoction. If she was innocent, per the passage, nothing would happen, but if she was guilty, bye-bye fetus.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Numbers 5:11-31.

    If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse.

  • BenW3

    Not a reference to the use of drugs.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You’re right, it’s not, it’s a reference to the use of forced abortion as punishment.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I think you’re purposefully evading the point.

  • BenW3

    Nope, we are talking about punishment for sin. Ancient Hebrews knew nothing about abortifacient drugs. The bitter waters, best reading of the Hebrew, has to do with brackish or salt water. In any case, the passage is about punishing an adult for sin not about the legitimacy of abortion and is certainly not a comment about whether fetuses are persons or not.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So your argument is that a passage discussing forcing an abortion (whether it would have worked is irrelevant to whether they thought it would have worked) has nothing whatsoever to do with abortion?

  • BenW3

    It’s not a passage about forcing an abortion. You’ve simply misread it.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    How can we possibly be misreading it when it says, right up front, that the punishment causes a miscarriage? What’s another word for a purposefully caused miscarriage?

  • BenW3

    Sam do you read Biblical Hebrew? Have you checked, say 5-6 good more word for word translations? If not, then you are assuming something you shouldn’t assume—- namely that you understand clearly the meaning of this text on the basis of some specific English translation.

  • BenW3

    Here for example is a translation of a crucial part of this passage. What is notable is that no negative effect will happen to a woman who drinks this, but has not sinned against her husband. In short, it’s not about the bitter waters or something swallowed that inherently produces abortion. The same beverage either has no effect or some effect depending on the sin and the curse involved, not the quality of the water. Read again the following…

    “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. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then
    she shall be immune and be able to conceive children.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    You’re not seriously relying on the KJV for a more accurate translation.
    The KJV is marvelously poetic but not very accurate.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    If memory serves, the KJV actually says “her thigh fall away.” It’s based on the Hebrew euphemism “יָרֵךְ” (hip/thigh), rather than the more accurate “יַרְכָה” (loins).

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    You’re focusing entirely much on the substance consumed and not at all on the fact that it is abortion used as a punishment, which defies the belief that abortion is Biblically unlawful.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    I take it, then, you’re fluent in ancient Hebrew:

    Numbers 5:27

    וְהִשְׁקָ֣הּ אֶת־הַמַּ֗יִם וְהָיְתָ֣ה אִֽם־נִטְמְאָה֮ וַתִּמְעֹ֣ל מַ֣עַל בְּאִישָׁהּ֒ וּבָ֨אוּ בָ֜הּ הַמַּ֤יִם הַמְאָֽרֲרִים֙ לְמָרִ֔ים וְצָבְתָ֣ה בִטְנָ֔הּ וְנָפְלָ֖ה יְרֵכָ֑הּ וְהָיְתָ֧ה הָאִשָּׁ֛ה לְאָלָ֖ה בְּקֶ֥רֶב עַמָּֽהּ׃

    Where do you see כְנֵ֣פֶל (nephel – miscarriage) mentioned anywhere?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It is about a chemical and magical means of inducing miscarriage — that is, performing an abortion you have misread it.

  • BenW3

    Actually it’s not. It’s about a curse, which has nothing to do with chemicals or magic for that matter, and more fundamentally it has to do with God’s judgment on sin. I will say one more time— the subject of this passage is not abortion, it is God’s judgment on sin. Now you can disbelieve there is a God and you can disbelieve there is such a thing as a curse on sin, but you are not entitled to misrepresent what this text is actually about. It is not germane to the discussion of abortion, and is especially irrelevant to the discussion of women’s rights to choose an abortion. In the Numbers passage, the woman in question doesn’t really have a choice about whether she will participate in the ritual.

  • EllieMurasaki

    It is […] irrelevant to the discussion of women’s rights to choose an abortion. In the Numbers passage, the woman in question doesn’t really have a choice about whether she will participate in the ritual.

    Agreed. That doesn’t make it irrelevant to the question of abortion, because as you keep pretending away, the punishment for the woman’s sin is that if she’s pregnant, she stops being pregnant.

  • BenW3

    This discussion has been about human beings and their right, or lack thereof, to choose abortions. The Numbers passage is not about a human choice by anyone to have an abortion. It is about: 1) only God being fit to judge a person’s sin; and 2) a divine curse which only affects the sinful negatively. So once more with feeling, unless you are prepared to have a discussion about God being an abortion producer, it is irrelevant to the discussion in this post.

  • EllieMurasaki

    God causes abortions.

    Why should we be prevented from having abortions we want?

  • Joseph O Polanco

    The passage in the original Hebrews says no such thing.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Judging by your previous comments on this thread, it does, you’re just unwilling to accept that the lack of mention of a particular single word doesn’t invalidate the passage meaning a thing that could be described by that word. It’s as if somebody were describing a thing as eggshell- or mayonnaise-colored and you were insisting the thing cannot be white.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    Alright then. Show me in the Hebrew where the passage describes anything resembling a miscarriage.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I don’t know the Hebrew, but if any of the translations are accurate, the parts of the woman’s body that are rotting correspond really nicely to her uterus and crotch. You know, the parts that, if something goes wrong with them while she’s pregnant, something’s gonna go wrong with the pregnancy.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Oh, so it’s not about whether the fetus is a person or alive or whateve,r it’s abour wether or not the woman has any choice in the matter.

    So it’s not about personhood for you, it’s about female agency.

    Got it.

    (Also, your hermenutic is wrong. Mine is right. You don’t read the bible correctly, I do. I don’t have to prove this, because you haven’t bothered to prove your interpretation.)

  • Joseph O Polanco

    I assume you’re fluent in Hebrew then:

    Numbers 5:27

    וְהִשְׁקָ֣הּ אֶת־הַמַּ֗יִם וְהָיְתָ֣ה אִֽם־נִטְמְאָה֮ וַתִּמְעֹ֣ל מַ֣עַל בְּאִישָׁהּ֒ וּבָ֨אוּ בָ֜הּ הַמַּ֤יִם הַמְאָֽרֲרִים֙ לְמָרִ֔ים וְצָבְתָ֣ה בִטְנָ֔הּ וְנָפְלָ֖ה יְרֵכָ֑הּ וְהָיְתָ֧ה הָאִשָּׁ֛ה לְאָלָ֖ה בְּקֶ֥רֶב עַמָּֽהּ׃

    Where do you see כְנֵ֣פֶל (nephel – miscarriage) mentioned anywhere?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Well duh. It’s not about “killing teh babiez”, not really. It’s about them uppity bitches women thinking they’ve got a right to control their own bodies.

    (ETA: Original word choice was a bit too caustic, even sarcastically)

  • jejune

    Oh, the ancients knew about abortifacient drugs all right.

    And the rotten grain on the temple floor was just such a drug.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    Numbers 5:27

    וְהִשְׁקָ֣הּ אֶת־הַמַּ֗יִם וְהָיְתָ֣ה אִֽם־נִטְמְאָה֮ וַתִּמְעֹ֣ל מַ֣עַל בְּאִישָׁהּ֒ וּבָ֨אוּ בָ֜הּ הַמַּ֤יִם הַמְאָֽרֲרִים֙ לְמָרִ֔ים וְצָבְתָ֣ה בִטְנָ֔הּ וְנָפְלָ֖ה יְרֵכָ֑הּ וְהָיְתָ֧ה הָאִשָּׁ֛ה לְאָלָ֖ה בְּקֶ֥רֶב עַמָּֽהּ׃

    New American Standard Bible
    When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people.

    New World Translation
    When he has made her drink the water, it must also occur that if she has defiled herself in that she committed an act of unfaithfulness toward her husband, the water that brings a curse must then enter into her as something bitter, and her belly must swell, and her thigh must fall away, and the woman must become a cursing in among her people.

    King James Bible
    And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

    Holman Christian Standard Bible
    When he makes her drink the water, if she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings a curse will enter her and cause bitter suffering; her belly will swell, and her thigh will shrivel. She will become a curse among her people.

    International Standard Version
    When he has had her drink the water, if she was defiled and had acted unfaithfully toward her husband, then the contaminated water that brings a curse will enter her and infect her, causing her abdomen to swell and her thigh to waste away. Then she is to be a cursed woman among her people.

    NET Bible
    When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and behaved unfaithfully toward her husband, the water that brings a curse will enter her to produce bitterness–her abdomen will swell, her thigh will fall away, and the woman will become a curse among her people.

    GOD’S WORD® Translation
    If she has become unclean by being unfaithful to her husband, the water that can bring the curse will go into her and become bitter. Her stomach will swell, her uterus will drop, and she will become cursed among her people.

    Jubilee Bible 2000
    He shall give her, therefore, the water to drink, and it shall come to pass, that if she is defiled and has betrayed her husband, that the water that works the curse shall enter into her in bitterness, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall fail; and that woman shall be a curse among her people.

    King James 2000 Bible
    And when he has made her drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she was defiled, and has done a trespass against her husband, that the water that causes the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

    American King James Version
    And when he has made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causes the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

    American Standard Version
    And when he hath made her drink the water, then it shall come to pass, if she be defiled, and have committed a trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter, and her body shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

    Douay-Rheims Bible
    And when she hath drunk them, if she be defiled, and having despised her husband be guilty of adultery, the malediction shall go through her, and her belly swelling, her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse, and an example to all the people.

    Darby Bible Translation
    And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, if she have been defiled, and have committed unfaithfulness against her husband, that the water that bringeth the curse shall enter into her, for bitterness, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall shrink; and the woman shall become a curse among her people.

    English Revised Version
    And when he hath made her drink the water, then it shall come to pass, if she be defiled, and have committed a trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

    Webster’s Bible Translation
    And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she is defiled, and hath done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall perish: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

    World English Bible
    When he has made her drink the water, then it shall happen, if she is defiled, and has committed a trespass against her husband, that the water that causes the curse will enter into her and become bitter, and her body will swell, and her thigh will fall away: and the woman will be a curse among her people.

    Young’s Literal Translation
    yea, he hath caused her to drink the water, and it hath come to pass, if she hath been defiled, and doth commit a trespass against her husband, that the waters which cause the curse have gone into her for bitter things, and her belly hath swelled, and her thigh hath fallen, and the woman hath become an execration in the midst of her people.

    Where do you see כְנֵ֣פֶל (nephel – miscarriage) mentioned anywhere?

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I don’t see miscarriage mentioned there. I see an obvious euphemism referring to the sexual organs of the woman and it seems unlikely that a shriveling womb is going to have a positive effect on a fetus. Unless you mean to suggest that the woman literally contains fruit which is then lost, as Exodus 21 states. Then we would be arguing that the Bible never uses euphemisms, which would make me giggle like a naughty schoolgirl.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Then you dispute Numbers 5:12-28, which give instructions on how to chemically induce miscarriage, and order that it be done in the case of adultery?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    But what would he say about people who try to reduce a human being to a womb-on-legs, and take away their control over their own lives, bodies, and destiny?

  • Joseph O Polanco

    Small problem. If what you claim is, in fact, an accurate reflection of reality, why is it ok to deprive a woman of her bodily autonomy just before she is ready to give birth?http://bit.ly/1aY7qfA http://bit.ly/16tqef5

    It would seem that if this is in fact some inviolable right, then she wouldn’t be stripped of it under any circumstance, but there you have it!

  • Sally Strange

    Uh… your argument here seems that if rights can be violated, they’re not rights.

    The logical conclusion, since I can’t think of any right that hasn’t been violated somewhere, somehow, at some point, is that there are no rights.

    Also, I don’t think you understand what bodily autonomy means.

  • Joseph O Polanco

    You make a very good point. After all, what are rights if they’re so easily contravened.

  • Sally Strange

    After all, what are rights if they’re so easily contravened.

    Rights.

  • b-girl

    I love the “1984” reference.

  • Tony

    Of course evangelicals flip-flop! This is the fruit of that whole private-interpretation, “your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine” hermeneutic toward the Bible. They’re true heirs of the 16th-century Reforbellion against the authority of the Church Christ personally founded.

  • neroden

    FWIW, the Catholic view also changed, although it changed somewhat earlier — in the late 19th century, I believe. Before that, the Catholic view was the same as the traditional evangelical view which you described — abortion was permitted before the end of the second trimester.

  • Guest

    Here’s the passage in question. Tell me, where do you see כְנֵ֣פֶל (nephel – miscarriage) mentioned anywhere?

    וְכִֽי־ יִנָּצ֣וּ אֲנָשִׁ֗ים וְנָ֨גְפ֜וּ אִשָּׁ֤ה הָרָה֙ וְיָצְא֣וּ יְלָדֶ֔יהָ וְלֹ֥א יִהְיֶ֖ה אָסֹ֑ון עָנֹ֣ושׁ יֵעָנֵ֗שׁ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֨ר יָשִׁ֤ית עָלָיו֙ בַּ֣עַל הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה וְנָתַ֖ן בִּפְלִלִֽים׃ – Exodus 21:22


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