Abortion in the Bible?: Debate w Zealous Agnostic

Abortion in the Bible?: Debate w Zealous Agnostic April 19, 2018

[Agnostic Ed Babinski’s words will be in blue]


In an earlier paper I made note of my post and portion of a book of mine (about 100 passages): “The Bible’s Teaching on Abortion.”

[ME, in the last dialogue] Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

[What was conceived was David (“me”). As soon as he began to exist, he had iniquity (original sin)]

The “I” and “me” of a blastula that is capable of splitting into twins or reabsorbed back into a remaining twin, is not the “I” and “me” of the adult that comes much later. 

The zygote, blastula, etc., knows nothing. Do you remember “yourself” before you were even conceived? Do you have memories of being a zygote, then a blastula? Neither did the ancient Hebrews know anything of that sort of thing. 

Neither were they interested in when brain activity began or when such activity became organized in various stages. But we know more about such matters today, and debate the abortion question. 

That is all perfectly, utterly irrelevant. The question is identity and essential nature and non-arbitrary starting-points of what develops into you and I, not personal consciousness. I was challenged to show where the Bible teaches human life or personhood beginning at conception and I did so, with that passage and these others:

Jeremiah 1:5 (RSV) Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

[What was “formed” was indeed Jeremiah. That takes it right back to the very beginning. The Jews may not have known their biology, but God knew about it. But the Jews could say, “God formed me” without knowing all the details. Now, if God knew Jeremiah even before he was conceived, he could hardly have not been Jeremiah when he was conceived, as if he existed more so before he was conceived than after. Therefore, he was a person from the instant of his conception]

Numbers 5:28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

Isaiah 49:5 And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, . . .

Luke 1:36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.

Neither do we impute “sin” to every human starting at conception. Nor do we impute that some “fall” in the past has something to do with pain and death to all animals. 

Yeah, atheists and agnostics don’t, but so what? They don’t determine Christian theology. They usually don’t even understand it in the first place. Babinski is certainly no exception to that rule.

Second, the Psalmist is abasing himself by claiming he was a sinner starting as early as conception [NIV trans] “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

Self abasement is something you did before approaching a king back then, you even used hyperbole as to how bad or wrong you were, and how right the king was, to further contrast whatever action it is that you are seeking forgiveness for, so that the king sees you’re repentant and grants you your wish. The more abasement the better. 

The psalmist seeks mercy/forgiveness for things done in THIS life, but casts his sins back in time hyperbolically, thus lowering himself even further before asking for mercy, by declaring his “sinfulness” even while in the womb, NIV: 

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Nice theory, but Scripture has to be interpreted in its overall context and theological background. The fall goes back to Genesis, of course. It was well known to David. It is explained in more detail in the New Testament (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; cf. Gen 3:15; Jn 12:31; 14:30; 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 2:14; 2 Pet 2:19).

The concept of the fall of man or original sin was a part of historic Judaism as well as Christianity (see, Jewish Encyclopedia, “Sin”; section: “Original Sin”). The universality of sinfulness, hinting at original sin and profound fallenness, was present early on in the biblical literature and the Jewish mind. For example:

Genesis 6:5  The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21 . . . the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth . . .

1 Kings 8:46 . . . there is no man who does not sin . . .

Psalm 14:1-3 [another of David’s own psalms] The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none that does good.
[2] The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
to see if there are any that act wisely,
that seek after God.
[3] They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt;
there is none that does good,
no, not one.

Ecclesiastes 9:3 . . . the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live . . .

Isaiah 64:6 We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?

Nice try, then, but no cigar. It’s simply more agnostic / atheist atrocious eisegesis of Scripture.

Dave, Other scriptures that you cite show only that they believed in God’s foreknowledge of specific prophets He was sending. That’s what they believed.

God said to Jeremiah: “I formed you in the womb” (Jer 1:5). That is part of creation, not merely abstract foreknowledge. To miss the import of that is to look all around the sky at high noon on a sunny day and miss the sun.

They also believed that God could send lightning bolts, his voice was thunder, he moved clouds, sent famines, plagues, armies, and that if a nation did not worship Him properly — by not setting up temples, sacrificing animals, etc., that led to bad things happening, which is exactly what the nations around Israel also believed concerning their own gods, and the necessity of temples and sacrifices.

That’s neither here nor there. Whether you believe their doctrines or not, the fact remains that the Bible presents preborn children as human beings; persons, and says that God formed them from the beginning of their existence. You may disbelieve any number of things that the Bible teaches, but to deny that the ancient Jews and the Bible believed and taught this is at best a head-in-the-sand moment; at worst deliberate denial of what is plain as day. Thus we see a passage like:

Isaiah 44:2, 24 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you from the womb . . . Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb . . .

Whenever God kills masses of people by directing famines, diseases, floods, hail, earthquakes, invading armies, whatever, some of those He is directing his wrath at are pregnant women. Of course that’s mass murder, not “abortion” we’re talking about. But there is no concern shown for adults OR fetuses in such cases, no exceptions. God is an equal opportunity slaughterer and shows no “favor to the unborn.” 

Now we’re back to the “wicked God” routine. This is garden-variety stuff that neglects to see that God as Creator has a prerogative over the life and death of His creatures, and also the prerogative to judge corrupt cultures. Man is not God. We don’t have that right, but God does. See these excellent articles by Protestant apologist Glenn Miller:

“Shouldn’t the butchering of the Amalekite children be considered war crimes?”

“Why couldn’t Israel take in the Amalekites like they did foreign survivors in Deut 20?”

“God is Wrathful, Vengeful, Jealous, and Angry every day–and you want me to have a relationship with Him?!”

“How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites?”

“What about God’s cruelty against the Midianites?”

“Was God being evil when He killed all the firstborn in Egypt?”

Same with other laws in the OT regarding sexual activities of women that might very well have involved her conceiving a child. The child’s life is never of any concern, the women are executed without waiting to see if they had been carrying a child or not. 

It’s of more concern to execute adult women in such cases than show concern for the unborn. 

Since they didn’t have the technology to keep premature children alive, nothing could be done about that. If there was execution of a pregnant woman under Mosaic Law the child was a victim of judgment in the way that there are always innocent victims in judgment (in some sense of the word, or relatively so). This doesn’t overcome the fact that the preborn child was considered a human being. It also doesn’t condemn such a child to hell. If there is an afterlife, the perspective on everything changes.

This is why an atheist condoning abortion is a particularly heinous, wicked thing, because the atheist believes that this life is all there is, and yet he or she is still willing to deprive the smallest and most defenseless among us of the only life he or she would ever have. The solace of the Christian is that man can only destroy a body but not an eternal soul.

Babinski then continues on with his hard cases. But questioning hard cases does not resolve the fundamental question: whether the thing itself (abortion) is right or wrong. Whenever there is any moral absolute whatever, there will always be hard cases that can brought up. But it is a dodge of the basic question:

1) Does the Bible teach that the preborn are human and persons? (yes).

2) Does the Bible teach that murder of persons is evil and impermissible? (yes).

[ergo, abortion is forbidden in the Bible]

That was the original discussion, and nothing Babinski has brought up overcomes these facts in the slightest degree.

We ought to return to my first post, the discussion of “abasement hyperbole” in Psalm 51. 

That Psalm only mentions that the psalmist himself was a sinner in the womb, not that everyone is. 

In fact other places in the Bible it speaks only about SOME but not all people being born wicked. I guess such statements were made before the Christian doctrine of “original sin” declared that everyone is “wicked” from the womb: 

The New Testament does make this more clear, as it does many doctrines, but there were many indications in the Old Testament that came very close to doing so. We wouldn’t expect the full development of the doctrine the further back we go.

Speaking a third time about “abasement hyperbole in Ps. 51,” there are also reverse hyperbolic statements found in the Bible, not about “sinning in the womb,” but about how it’s “better never to have been born at all, or have been miscarried.” Even the book of Jeremiah employs such hyperbole. There are verses you’re not likely to ever see quoted on signs as a pro-life rally: 

Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. And let that man be as the cities which the LORD overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame? – Jeremiah 20:14-18 

[This is the only Biblical passage that directly and indisputably mentions a practice that we would today think of as “abortion,” but notice, Jeremiah is cursing a man for NOT aborting the fetal Jeremiah.] 

This is typically Jewish wailing in the midst of great suffering (compare Job). This proves nothing with regard to abortion. To the contrary, there are at least passages that directly refer to the murder of a child in the womb:

2 Kings 8:12 And Haz’ael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel; you will set on fire their fortresses, and you will slay their young men with the sword, and dash in pieces their little ones, and rip up their women with child.”

2 Kings 15:16 At that time Men’ahem sacked Tappuah and all who were in it and its territory from Tirzah on; because they did not open it to him, therefore he sacked it, and he ripped up all the women in it who were with child.

Amos 1:13 Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of the Ammonites, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have ripped up women with child in Gilead, that they might enlarge their border.

Abortion as such is not discussed in the Bible, so any explanation of why it is not legislated or commented on is speculative. 

Nuclear war and any murder by gunfire or by gas in a Nazi concentration camp are not discussed, either, so let’s also go commit those acts wantonly and without ethical justification and call it a “choice” and carp on about how the Bible is supposedly silent about it.

There is no biblical proof-text against abortion.

It’s simple deduction: Person (small, preborn one) + forbidden murder = forbidden abortion, which is murder.

Psalm 139:13-18 is less relevant to the issue than most people think; a careful reading of that psalm reveals that the “mother” in whose “womb” the psalmist was known by God is Mother Earth (notice the parallelism between “my mother’s womb” and “the depths of the earth” in the inclusio of vv. 13-15). 

This was answered already in a combox comment.

(And as for praying in public outside abortion clinics, I don’t suppose Jesus would have been into that much either, based on his statement that it was better to pray inside one’s closet.) 

This is very dubious exegesis. Here is the relevant passage:

Matthew 6:1-6 “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. [2] “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [3] But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, [4] so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. [5] “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. [6] But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

This is not an absolute prohibition of public prayer, but a typically Jewish hyperbolic condemnation (with strong contrast to make the point) of prideful prayer for thew purpose of drawing attention to oneself. All Jews prayed publicly in synagogues and (at that time) at the temple.

Jesus Himself prayed in public when He was baptized:

Luke 3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,

Anna the prophetess was commended because she “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Lk 2:37). Peter and John went to the public time of prayer in the temple (Acts 3:1). Paul prayed in the temple (Acts 22:17). Jesus illustrated his principle again with a parable: this time involving two men who were both praying in public, but who had greatly contrasting interior dispositions:

Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others: [10] “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ [13] But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Again, it isn’t public prayer, but arrogant, prideful, selfish prayer that is condemned. How much profound ignorance can be bound up in one foolish atheist / agnostic statement! It takes time and work to do it but the rewards are immediate, and the lie is exposed as the colossal whopper that it is so often revealed to be.

At any rate “abortion” is never as high a priority as the issue of salvation and right doctrine. The same goes for the O.T. which features commands like, “He who does not obey the priest shall die [be put to death],”

Now, of course, secular society is very advanced and enlightened. Now we murder the preborn child up to nine months for any reason whatever. No one can even question. The child can be the “wrong” sex, have some birth defect that renders him or her unworthy to be born, might be unfortunate enough to be conceived by a woman too young and not ready to have a child, or to a poor person or to someone who wants a career instead, or to a woman as a result of an immoral sexual liaison that she wants to conceal by means of murder. How far we have come from those primitive Christian tribes and from that pagan Greek moral simpleton Hippocrates, who forbade doctors participating in abortions!


(originally 12-15-10)

Photo credit: Image posted on 8-5-13 [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]


Browse Our Archives