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.

 

  • Rnjhuff

    As a reasonably happy fundamentalist, I must still largely concur with your sentiments here.  Our emphasis on innerancy etc. has caused us to use the Bible in ways not always intended, a statement which you might call vastly under-.  I wish we had not relied so heavily on texts to oppose abortion.  I do not think it is required.  We no doubt disagree here, but my angle
    is to say a couple of things: 1.  We know life is there — we can even
    call it potential life if we like, but it is life and science simply
    knows it has a different DNA, for example, from the mother.  and 2.  If
    we are not sure of the metaphysical status of the fetus it seems a scary
    thing in purely human ethical terms, to destroy it, or even leave it to
    the mother’s will.  Do you know the status of the fetus with regard to life?  if not, perhaps destroying it should be avoided until we are sure.  No?  3.  There are many laws which assign manslaughter
    or similar felony to one who causes a woman to lose a fetus.  I have a
    friend who was arraigned on that very charge after his vehicle hit a
    pregnant pedestrian who subsequently lost the baby. 

  • Lori

     
      I always considered the “he” who spoke in that verse to be John’s father Zechariah.  

     

    This is correct.  Zechariah was struck mute before Elizabeth became pregnant because he didn’t believe the angel Gabriel’s message that they would have a child (they were old and Zechariah figured that ship had sailed). He regained the ability to speak at the baby’s bris, held on the 8th day after the birth, when he insisted that the boy be named John (as per Gabriel’s instructions). Basically he got his voice back because he did what he was told. 

  • Anonymous

    If we are not sure of the metaphysical status of the fetus it seems a
    scary thing in purely human ethical terms, to destroy it, or even leave
    it to the mother’s will.

    But we are sure of the metaphysical status of the mother: that is, much more important than the fetus unless the mother says otherwise.

    There are many laws which assign manslaughter or similar felony to one who causes a woman to lose a fetus.

    And if I were carrying a wanted pregnancy, and some jackass knocked me over with his car and I lost the baby, and there were no fetal homicide laws, I’d be pissed. Because I would want that baby. This has no bearing on abortion law, because if a woman wants an abortion, either something’s gone wrong with the pregnancy or she doesn’t want that baby.

  • Lori

     
    Pssh, that may make more sense, but it infringes on my super-baby theory!  

      

    You’re still on solid ground with the womb-leaping. Per the story, John was not ordinary. It doesn’t make sense to make assumptions about other pregnancies based on a miraculous pregnancy that resulted in a fetus that was “filled with the Holy Spirit” before birth. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    I’ve always thought twinning and chimerae are the strongest arguments against the idea that we are ensouled at conception.

    I’ve always thought they were pretty good arguments against the existence of souls at all.

    Of course, the best argument against the existence of souls is simply, “Where’s the evidence that they exist?”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Here are three verses I would use to argue that the fetus has life/soul at conception.

    No one’s arguing the zygote doesn’t have life immediately after conception. (There is not ‘fetus’ at conception. ‘Fetus’ is a term for the offspring later in pregnancy when it’s much more formed.) However having life and having a soul is obviously not synonymous, since for one thing we can observe whether a thing is alive or not, but there’s no test in the world that can tell us if something has a soul.

    It should be noted, however, that the sperm and egg before conception are just as much alive as the zygote. Life doesn’t begin at conception. It began 4.5 billion years ago and has continued in an unbroken chain ever since.

  • http://twitter.com/ahm Avery

    This article, and many of the commentators, are confusing the word Protestant for “Christian”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_abortion_in_the_United_States#Nineteenth_century 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Also, New Testament, Luke 1:41, when Elizabeth’s unborn baby leaps in his mother’s womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting.  The leaping (unborn) baby would become John the Baptist who continued to announce the arrival of the Christ until his own death.

    No one is arguing that the fetus is an insensible lump of flesh until birth and then it suddenly becomes a living person. This verse simply reflects the knowledge, obvious to anyone who has experienced a complete pregnancy, that the unborn baby can hear and react to sound.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    If we are not sure of the metaphysical status of the fetus it seems a scary thing in purely human ethical terms, to destroy it, or even leave it to

    the mother’s will.  Do you know the status of the fetus with regard to life?  if not, perhaps destroying it should be avoided until we are sure.

    What about the mother? We know she’s a living person, shouldn’t we err on the side of allowing her self-determination and control over her own body?

  • Lori

     
    And if I were carrying a wanted pregnancy, and some jackass knocked me over with his car and I lost the baby, and there were no fetal homicide laws, I’d be pissed. Because I would want that baby. This has no bearing on abortion law, because if a woman wants an abortion, either something’s gone wrong with the pregnancy or she doesn’t want that baby.  

    I think we have to be very careful about defining personhood and worth based on whether or not one is wanted by one’s mother. 

    Unless you’re talking about a pregnancy that has receive viability I think the issue of pregnancy loss due to the actions of someone other than the mother would probably be better handled as an assault against the mother resulting in grave bodily harm instead of fetal homicide. 

  • Julian Elson

    A lot of right-wingers love 1984. They often regard Orwell as some kind of great right-wing oracle. (If they’ve ever read Homage to Catalonia or The Road to Wigan Pier, I imagine they must exclusively fixate on the parts where Orwell is critical of communists and socialists, missing the other 90% of it.) I don’t know about a church sign, but I could easily imagine plenty of fundamentalist pastors saying “We have always been at war with Eastasia” ominously, in reaction to some policy change they don’t like or something.

  • Anonymous

    This article, and many of the commentators, are confusing the word Protestant for “Christian”.

    If you’d bother to actually RTFA before accusing its author of ignorance you would have noticed that the word “Christian” is *only* used in the titles of publications. Fred makes no claim in this article about the totality of Christian thought, it clearly and explicitly describes a change in the attitudes of *American Evangelicals*.

  • Anonymous

    I really think that this “at conception” is a red herring and that the author and most commenters I have read here put too much significance into formulation. In general, the real issue is, when is an abortion the taking of a human life? Which is, you know, forbidden in the Bible except as a punishment for certain crimes. So whether conception is understood to be at the moment of implantation or when an oocyte is penetrated by a sperm, or some other measure, being that precise is usually of little practical use in the discussion of abortion, unless an abortifacent type of contraceptive is contemplated. In all other cases, the abortion will take place relatively long enough after the event that the distinction does not matter. What does matter, and it doesn sincerely matter to evangelicals, is whether an innocent human life is being terminated unjustly. To many of us, it seems reasonable to err on the side of caution when contemplating such an act.

  • Lori

     
     To many of us, it seems reasonable to err on the side of caution when contemplating such an act.  

     

    The rest of your post isn’t really accurate, but even if it was my response would be the same—don’t have an abortion. No one is trying to make you or anyone else have an abortion that you do not want and feel is wrong. 

  • Lyra

     Define “a human life.” Because clearly the killing of human CELLS cannot
    be forbidden by the the Bible. For example, my ovocytes are not “a
    human life.” Neither are my hair follicle cells. All are living human
    cells, and all are “innocent” (*sigh*). However, every person on this
    forum would agree that having human genomic DNA does not elevate each of
    my cells to the status of “person.” However, some would assert that a
    single celled zygote, or multi-celled embryo, does count as a “person.”
    Why? What is the difference? Clearly it cannot be “unique DNA,” as was
    brought up previously with identical twins, conjoined twins, and chimeras (I also count
    fetus in fetu in this category, although I would be deeply interested in
    whether or not “at conceptioners” view a fetus in fetu as a separate
    person).

    Some will make the argument from potential, but to be clear, I think
    that argument is stupid. I think this not only because of things like
    identical twins, conjoined twins, chimeras, and fetus in fetu, but also because I think, “it
    has the potential to be X, therefore it is X,” is profoundly lacking in
    any logical backing.

    For me, the answer is simple: it’s all about the brain. Chimera? One person. Identical twins? Two people. Conjoined twins? Two people (assuming there are two brains). Fetus in fetu? One person (assuming there is one functional brain, and to my knowledge, that is inherent in the definition). Zygote? Non-person (no brain).

    I will, however, note that I find it disturbing to say that forcing women to give birth against their will might be counted as erring on the side of caution. Violating an unquestionably fully human being in the interest of a questionable one seems very incautious to me. To me, erring on the side of caution would be NOT forcing a woman to use her body, her blood, her organs, her nutrients, to support something that we’re waffling about the status of.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, we are not talking about forced abortions in our society, at least not as yet. But look at it this way: _if_ abortion is (at least in some cases) murder, then a laissez-faire approach is no more right for abortion than it is for murder; we do not say “well if you think murder is wrong, then don’t do it”; we seek to prevent murder, and to punish those who commit it. It is disappointing to see this real concern for human life characterized as somehow mean-spirited or insane. I would not say the same thing about you, even though you did not mention what you found inaccurate about my comment.

  • Lunch Meat

    I agree that murder is a bad thing and a hands-off approach to murder is inappropriate. But we can’t characterize abortion as murder without being able to define, unequivocally, the embryo/fetus as a person. You see that there are problems with attributing personhood at contraception or implementation, so what is our cutoff time going to be? I’ve heard people suggest that “when the heartbeat is detectable” is a good determination, but that’s problematic for a few reasons–first of all, different instruments are going to detect it at different times, and second, once a fetus is dead there’s no way to detect whether or not its heart was beating, therefore, no way to punish or prosecute for murder. Personally, what makes sense to me is that a baby is a person when it takes its first breath. Birth causes the most changes in development and environment, so it makes sense to me that we can describe the baby as a person with rights and agency and so forth.

    Now, I’m willing to concede that the fetus might be a person before birth, later in the pregnancy (say, after it’s viable). But I don’t see how it could be a person by any definition in the first trimester–which is when 90% of abortions are performed. Very few pregnancies are aborted during the last trimester unless there’s a serious problem with the health of the mother or fetus–and I cannot reconcile a pro-life position with one that is okay with the mother (definitely a person) dying so the doctor doesn’t have to kill the fetus (maybe a person) who will die anyway without the mother’s nurturing!

  • Anonymous

    On the first point: the regular text is the literal word-for-word translation, while what I quoted is an idiomatic translation; the latter is given as a footnote in most dead-tree Bibles, so they are unlikely to show up in an electronic version unless such footnotes are linked to.

    On the second point: After consulting both the English version and the original Hebrew, I am fairly sure Gill is talking out of his ass.

  • Lori

     
    But look at it this way: _if_ abortion is (at least in some cases) murder, then a laissez-faire approach is no more right for abortion than it is for murder; we do not say “well if you think murder is wrong, then don’t do it”; we seek to prevent murder, and to punish those who commit it. It is disappointing to see this real concern for human life characterized as somehow mean-spirited or insane. I would not say the same thing about you, even though you did not mention what you found inaccurate about my comment.  

    But look at it this way: if abortion is not murder in any case in which it is currently legal then it is no more right for you to attempt to use the power of the state to force a woman to continue a pregnancy that it would be for you to force her to forgo any other medical procedure that would benefit her. 

    It is disappointing to see real concern for the lives and bodily integrity of women, IOW their full humanity, characterized as murderous or at the very least less important than the theoretical, and totally unprovable, personhood of a clump of cells or a fetus. 

    IMO, what you’re saying about me as a woman is far, far worse than anything I have or would say about you.

  • Chad Myers

    Protestants are, not surprisingly, all over the map on divorce, contraception, abortion, etc.  Until 1930 A.D., all Christians were uniformly against contraception and abortion. Until ~1530, all Christians were uniformly against divorce, also.  Interestingly enough, in both cases (~1530 A.D.) it was Anglicans who loosed the floodgates. Henry VIII broke the English Church away from Rome and founded the Anglican Church and allowed Divorce and remarriage.  In 1930 A.D., the Anglicans held the Lambeth Conference and allow contraception in certain limited circumstances. The proverbial camel’s nose was in the tent and soon wide-spread use of contraception was fact leading to the groundbreaking 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut USSC decision which discovered a new “right to privacy” in the Constitution thus making contraception legal.  This was soon followed by Roe v. Wade in 1973 which made abortion legal.  Soon no-fault divorce was legal in many states and the final nail was pegged into the coffin of marriage.

    Throughout all this, in 1530, 1930, 1965, and 1973, the Catholic Church has remained completely consistent in its teaching on divorce and remarriage, abortion, and contraception (all forms).  

    More details if you care: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/birth-control

  • Lunch Meat

    Here’s another thing: killing a person isn’t always murder. There’s also a little thing called self-defense, which is what we call it when Person A kills Person B because Person B was assaulting or attempting to assault Person A. An assault is “an intentional act by one person that creates an apprehension in another of an imminent harmful or offensive contact” and it includes “a threat of bodily harm coupled with an apparent, present ability to cause the harm.” A person living in my body, using my nutrients without my consent can easily be characterized as assaulting me, therefore I have the right to defend myself.

  • Lunch Meat


    Soon no-fault divorce was legal in many states and the final nail was pegged into the coffin of marriage.

    …And since then, no one has ever gotten married and everyone who was married before is now divorced.

  • friendly reader

    Ah yes, the slippery slope argument… allow abortion and other forms of killing become okay.

    I’d simply offer up Japan as evidence that it’s usually the other way around. Infanticide was pretty common until they expanded abortion rights to include economic necessity. Prior to this is was pretty common, and mothers would even pay for midwives to do it. There was a notorious case of a midwife who apparently decided to start determining for herself whether mothers could take care of their babies, which is why she was caught. As birth control has become more available in Japan (contraception is not covered by the national health care system), abortion rates have started to decrease.

    Anyway, WOW, what a difference a translation makes!
    http://bible.cc/exodus/21-22.htm
    The translations that are intentional geared towards a more Evangelical audience (like the NIV, the NLT, etc.) all say “give birth prematurely” versus others that say “miscarry.” I guess this choice in translation allows them to infer that the “no injury follows” refers to the infant/fetus/embryo*, not the mother, thereby making this have some relevance to abortion; she “gives birth” and the infant/fetus/embryo doesn’t survive, from which you can get “life for life.” With the others, the injury is to the mother.

    I’d always wondered where the justification for this passage having anything to do with abortion comes from. I now know it’s a specific choice in the translation to make it about abortion. The more you know…

  • Lunch Meat

    I do have to correct myself–in the definition of “assault” above I didn’t see the word “intentional.” So a pregnancy could not legally be considered assault, because the fetus cannot “intend” anything, but I do think that abortion can be characterized as self-defense to perceived or possible harm. (IANAL.)

  • FangsFirst

    unless an abortifacent type of contraceptive is contemplated

    Just to be absolutely clear, as this was not previously clear to me:
    Abortifacients are not contraceptives. Contraceptives are not abortifacients.
    You cannot have “an abortifacent type of contraceptive.” It doesn’t exist. It’s a (nonexistent) paradox. An abortifacient deals with post-conception materials, a contraceptive prevents them from existing. This does not, of course, address the overall idea, but it’s important, when “contraceptives” are the thing most realistically being debated at this moment, to recognize that abortion has nothing to do with it. At all.

  • friendlyreader

    Forgot my footnote:
    *It’s utterly unclear at what stage the woman’s pregnancy is at here. For ancients to even know she was pregnant (versus missing a period for health reasons), it would have to be relatively late along.

  • Parasum

    “And St. Anselm (of the ontological argument for
    the existence of God) wrote in the middle ages that “no human intellect
    accepts the view that an infant has a rational soul from the moment of
    conception.””

    ## That would not mean the conceptus had *no* soul at conception – it would have, not a *rational* soul, but a *vegetative* soul; then it would have an *animal* soul; and finally, a *rational* soul.

    Dante explains all of this in the Purgatorio, 200 years after St. Anselm.

  • Lyra

    The Catholic Church has been consistent about abortion? Bwahahaah. Er, um, I mean, “No.”

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist.htm

    Of note:

    St. Augustine (354-430 CE) reversed centuries of Christian teaching in
    Western Europe, by returning to
    the Aristotelian Pagan concept of “delayed ensoulment.” He wrote 7
    that a human soul cannot live in an unformed body. Thus, early in pregnancy, an abortion
    is not murder because no soul is destroyed (or, more accurately, only a vegetable or
    animal soul is terminated).

    Pope Innocent III (circa 1161-1216):
    *He wrote a letter which ruled on a case of a Carthusian monk
    who had arranged for his female lover to obtain an abortion. The Pope decided that the
    monk was not guilty of homicide if the fetus was not “animated.”

    *Early in the 13th century he stated that the soul enters the body of
    the fetus at the time of “quickening” – when the woman first feels movement of
    the fetus. After ensoulment, abortion was equated with murder; before that time, it was a
    less serious sin, because it terminated only potential human life, not human life.

    St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also considered only the abortion of an
    “animated” fetus as murder.

    Pope Gregory XIV (1535-1591) revoked the Papal bull shortly
    after taking office in 1591. He reinstated the “quickening” test, which he
    determined
    happened 116 days into pregnancy (16½ weeks).

  • http://justdfacsmaam.wordpress.com/ MarkNS

    Very illuminating. I wasn’t aware this change had occurred. I thought the crazies had just gotten louder.

  • Lori

     
    Dante explains all of this in the Purgatorio, 200 years after St. Anselm.  

    Then that’s Dante, not St Anselm and it’s not an explanation. 

  • Parasum

    Because some people have a notion of the Bible which treats it as a slab of direct Divine discourse unaffected by history, or by processes of historical development. So what Jermiah said about Babylon, can be applied by the Christian reader today to very different circumstances, just as though Jeremiah had intended to talk about the modern circumstances. As the saying goes, “What the Bible says, God says”. So what John on Patmos says in Revelation says about the city of Rome as he knew of it, is applied by many to the Papal Rome of centuries later. For them, the author of Revelation is not really John at all, but God – Who unlike John does know about the Papacy, & (the argument goes) is condemning it by anticipation. Some such approach is perhaps behind the use of the OT for making decisions about very recent problems arising from obs & gyny & embryology.

    The Bible becomes so important as direct address to the reader in the here and now, that its origins as a series of disparate Ancient Near Eastern writings arising from particular circumstances is apt to overlooked. So people take an oracle of salvation  which appears to be about an eighth-century Jewish prince, and treat it as timeless Divine address referring only to the birth of Jesus. The OT is read as though the OT characters are basically Christians; from their own POV, they were not; from a Christian POV, they were.

    And a book read like that, is ideally suited to have today’s big issues read into it – instead of the text’s being read for what it says and means, and then applied (assuming it is applicable to them) to modern issues X & Y & Z.

    That way of reading the Bible is found as early as the NT – it survives because many Christians read the Bible only in the light of the Bible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    Throughout all this, in 1530, 1930, 1965, and 1973, the Catholic Church has remained completely consistent in its teaching on divorce and remarriage, abortion, and contraception (all forms).  

    So being consistently batshit is good because at least you’re consistent?

  • Lori

    I think the issue is “the fantasy of Catholic consistency is good because I like it”. 

  • Anonymous

     It’s the motto Ron Paul goes by.

  • Richardsmarie21

    This is based on several people from back then, not the general public. I read several articles on aol about how open marriages are the way to go.. And that’s not the general public but they were written. And an under developed person… Is a human…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=752002772 Andrew Glasgow

    This is based on several people from back then, not the general public. I read several articles on aol about how open marriages are the way to go.. And that’s not the general public but they were written. And an under developed person… Is a human…

    “It’s like he’s trying to speak to me, I know it!”
    What are you trying to say and how is it connected to the rest of the conversation? No one is talking about open marriage, nor is anyone denying the humanity of human embryos. The debate is whether they are people, not whether they are human.

  • Anonymous

    Oh ye of little faith…

  • Parasum

    1. How is it not an explanation ?

    2. Does. St. Anselm have to be the source of an explanation for the explanation given to be valid ?

  • Parasum

    If (& when) the conceptus is human – how can it avoid being a person ?

  • Lyra

    I want you to imagine for a moment that someone damaged my brain, killing all of it but the brain stem. As such, my brain was able to keep basic body functions (like heart beat, breathing, etc) going, but there would never be any consciousness or thinking.
    I would say that the body that was left behind would be a human, but not a person. Whoever killed my brain would have killed me as a person, but not the body as a human.
    I would say that it’s the same way with zygotes/embryos/etc.

  • ER

    Knitting, is a term that is very new, for a textile art. We’re looking at, what, 10th, 12th century CE for knitting? Who is doing the translating here? What is their outlook, what is their intention in this translation? Sorry, the christian bible is a very, very fluid document, that has been rewritten, and is still being rewritten today, by very many ‘authorities’, usually to accommodate a secular political agenda. 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I think that the question of defining human life is a red herring, because it’s *really* not about that. The question “Should abortion be legal in no, some, or all circumstances” is not a question about when human life begins. It is a question about who has the authority to specify how a woman treats her own body. Whether or not a fetus is alive, the anti-abortion position holds that at some times, the state has a sufficiently compelling interest that it may take temporary ownership of a woman’s body — that it can say “You may not attend to your health needs as you see fit. You must donate your body to be used as a life support device for a period of time, and you must endure any permanent and irreparable damage to your body that results.”

    Even if one was to fully concede fetal personhood — even if one were to concede the personhood of blastocysts (and I do not) — you can not ban abortion without making the claim that the state should be allowed to declare eminent domain on a woman’s body.

    Can you think of a single parallel of this? In what circumstances can you violate another human being’s bodily integrity to save another person? I suppose that you might be able to make an argument in the event that the person involved were convicted of some serious crime — you might be able to justify confiscting their bodily integrity from them to make restitution. I would be inclined to consider any such sort of penalty to be “cruel and unusual”, but it might be a debatable topic.

    But “being pregnant” isn’t a crime, and banning abortion isn’t about sentencing criminals to a nine-month sentence as a human incubator — it’s about confiscating from an *innocent woman * her self-determination and bodily integrity. 

    Do you really wish to argue that the state has a compelling interest to do that? If the state has the right to take away a person’s self-determination and bodily integrity in defense of a blastocyst, then surely SURELY it has the right to conficate one of your kidneys to save an alrady-born person from renal failure, right? For that matter, if the state can say “Saving lives is so important that some people can be legally compelled to give up ownership of THEIR OWN BODIES”, surely it is a SMALL thing to say that everyone can be deprived of their *money* in arbitrarily large amounts to pay for medical care,  ALso, to pay the fair market rate for rental of their uteruses to the pregnant women who’ve been claimed under eminent domain, as the law rather clearly requires.

    If fetuses are people, then abortion is a *tragedy*, but if *women* are people, it is *necessary*  one. Whether or not fetuses are people, you can not force a person into slavery to save the life of another.

  • friendly reader

     I’d link you an article on Anacephaly, but the photographs are utter nightmare fuel. Suffice it to say, some conceptus (sic?) never develop brains.

  • Lyra

    I’m familiar with this argument, and a part of me likes, it, but I’m pretty darned comfortable saying, “You are 8 months pregnant, you need a really good reason to have an abortion.” This whole, “You may not violate a woman’s body integrity by forcing her to be a human incubator to another person,” doesn’t have a cutoff date. It doesn’t say, “You may have an elective abortion in the first trimester, but not in the third.” And I want to be able to say that.

    Also, I am all in favor of universal healthcare. Woot woot.

    But I especially liked the “innocent woman” part. It sits well with me given the pro-lifers tossing around “innocent life” when it comes to the fetus.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It doesn’t say, “You may have an elective abortion in the first
    trimester, but not in the third.” And I want to be able to say that.

    I do. Having a baby should be a wonderful thing. If it’s not, that is an abomination and ending the pregnancy could only be a blessing.

    But more importantly, “Elective abortion in month 8″ is whatI call a “unicorn problem”.  Because some people really dig unicorns. And there’s no constitutional basis for banning them. But that horn on the front of a unicorn is sharp, and if someone was out walking their unicorn and the unicorn got spooked, someone could get gored. It could be a child. And that would be terrible.

    So we could come up with careful regulations and licesning laws. Require unicorn owners to take unicorn safety classes. Order unicorns to have their horns capped when outside of closed unicorn tracks. We could come up with all sorts of clever laws to respect the freedoms of unicorn enthusiasts while protecting the public ssafety from unicorn gorings. And some people would never be satisfied because there would still be a risk of a goring, and some people woud never be satisfied because they love unicorns and can’t abide having to listen to the nannystate tell them how and when to enjoy that love.

    But most people would point out that this whole thing is pointless, because unicorns do not exist.

    The woman who waits until month 8 of a pregnancy, has a healthy, viable fetus inside her, and says “Man, having a kid is Just Not For Me. I think i’ll go have an expensive and unpleasant procedure with a long recovery time that only a few specialists in the country perform, in places where I take the risk of being killed by a militant pro-lifer’s bomb. Because that is WAY easier than having used a condom. Or having an abortion back in the first trimester,” that woman? She doesn’t exist.

    A woman who has a third trimester abortion *has a good reason for it*. 100% of the time. You know how I know that? Because there is exactly one person in the world who gets to decide how good a reason a woman has for having an abortion: the woman having the abortion. A woman having a late-term abortion is doing it because her physical health is in jeopardy, or because her mental health is in jeopardy, or because the baby she very much wanted has a disorder that is incompatible with life. Or for some other reason, but I’m an existentialist. The fact that she’s having the abortion tells me that whatever her reason is — even if some people would consider it “frivilous” — that reason is definitionally a good enough reason to have it.

    (Not long ago, someone tried to “gotcha” me by sayng “But what if she’s in labor and the baby is crowning, how about then? Could she still ahve an abortion then, order the doctor to suck the baby’s brain out.”  I fell for it, but later realized: I don’t think that the right extends to deciding the specific medical procedure that the doctor has to perform — that *is* something that the doctor and patient have to reach consensus on. It’s a trap to make the (medically incorrect) assessment that abortion is the act of terminating a fetus — you abort a *pregnancy*. There might be conditions under which a woman asks that her pregnancy be aborted, and the medical best practice is to, eg, induce live birth.)

  • Anonymous

     I was just about to point this out.  One of the things that really bothers me about the pro-life movement is that its members have constructed a fantasy world where women wait eight months into a pregnancy and then say to themselves, “Well, bother this nonsense.”

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    A woman of my mother’s generation, with little if any control over her own fertility, might just as easily regard a miscarriage as a blessing rather than a tragedy.

    When I hear about a miscarriage, the emotions that go through me are similar what one would expect to feel when one hears the news that “the cancer has gone into remission.”

  • Abraham

    The author does make some good points about how society’s opinions and people’s beliefs change. But the article begins with “Sometime after that [1979], it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception”. It might not have been his intention to include history of more than a couple of years in that statement, but as a blanket statement it just isn’t true, as the following quotes show. I add these to the conversation merely to make everyone aware, if they weren’t already, that this has been a contentious issue for millennia, it’s not a modern development.

    Some pre-1979 quotes :

    Mishnah
    – first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions ~ 220 –
    “We infer the death penalty for killing an embryo from the text, He who
    sheds the blood of a man within a man, his blood shall be shed; what is
    ‘a man within a man’? An embryo.” Josephus ~ 37 – 100 : “The
    Law orders all the offspring to be brought up, and forbids women either
    to cause abortion or to make away with the foetus; a woman convicted of
    this is regarded as an infanticide, because she destroys a soul and
    diminishes the race.” The Didache ~ 50 – 120 : “thou shalt not murder a child by abortion nor kill them when born” Epsitle of Barnabas ~ 70 – 131 : “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion” Athenagoras ~ 133 – 190 : “we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder”
    Apocalypse of Peter ~ 135 : “I saw another gorge in which the discharge
    and excrement of the tortured ran down .. And there sat women.. And
    these were those .. who procured abortions.” Marcus Minucius
    Felix ~ 150 – 270 : “There are some women who, by drinking medical
    preparations, extinguish the source of the future man in their very
    bowels, and thus commit a parricide before they bring forth.. To us it
    is not lawful either to see or to hear of homicide” Tertullian ~
    160 – 240 : “But Christians now are so far from homicide, that with
    them it is utterly unlawful to make away a child in the womb, when
    nature is in deliberation about the man; for to kill a child before it
    is born is to commit murder by way of advance; and there is no
    difference whether you destroy a child in its formation, or after it is
    formed and delivered.” St. Hippolytus ~ 170 – 235 : “that they
    might have whomsoever they would choose as a bedfellow.. women, reputed
    believers, began to resort to drugs for producing sterility, and to gird
    themselves round, so to expel what was being conceived on account of
    their not wishing to have a child .. inculcating adultery and murder at
    the same time!” Cyprian ~ 200 – 258 : “The womb of his wife was
    smitten by a blow of his heel; and in the miscarriage that soon
    followed, the offspring was brought forth, the fruit of a father’s
    murder. And now he dares to condemn the hands of those who sacrifice,
    when he himself is more guilty in his feet, by which the son, who was
    about to be born, was slain?” St. Basil the Great ~ 330 – 379 :
    “The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of
    murder.. Women also who administer drugs to cause abortion, as well as
    those who take poisons to destroy unborn children, are murderesses.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Diane-Sciacca/1665202225 Diane Sciacca

    Genesis itself states that life doesn’t begin until there is breath. God knelt down in the dirt, made a couple mannequins in male and female versions, and that’s all Adam and Lilith were until God blew life into them.
    This is also the magick behind the story of the Golem: the creator of the Golem decided whether it was alive or not, by writing “chaim” into its forehead, or erasing one letter and thus snuffing out its life. The Jews — at least ones that studied the Qabala — felt no qualms about following in God’s example. In Xtian evangelical eyes, the creator of a Golem is committing heresy.
    Divinity works through people. Personally, I believe Divinity works through everything in Creation, but we can agree that at the very least, Divinity moves and works in the works of humanity. When a woman says to her pregnancy, “No —  not yet,” who are you to say that’s not Divinity making a tweak to its ongoing act of Creation?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Man, you’ve been told before that heaps of people find your attitude to pregnancy to be deeply disturbing. Why bring this up again? What the hell?


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