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

The ‘biblical view’ that’s younger than the Happy Meal February 18, 2012

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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  • KG

     I use “abort” as a euphemism for kill or destroy. I’m sorry that my use of the word is incorrect. Since your children are less people two days ago than they are today, and will be more people tomorrow than they are today, and assuming that you would think killing them today would be wrong, at what point in the process of their development would you consider it wrong to kill them?

    I don’t understand the OB argument. The dating of pregnancies is a just a simple convention since most women have a better idea of the start of their last period than the date of conception. No one thinks there is a baby before fertilization, not even your OB.

  • KG

     Does that mean you think it’s wrong to kill a baby before the cord is cut but after he/she leaves the birth canal?

  • 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.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Mother Teresa is not a moral exemplar. She’s just been painted to look like one.

    Most of the rest of your comment sounds like bullshit, frankly. I’m sure you mean it sincerely, and if utilitarian ethics sound as nonsensical to you as what you describe sounds to me, then no wonder we’re having difficulty communicating.

    As for stealing one’s brother’s kidney…yes, utilitarian ethics forbid that, which is why I’m against forcing someone who is pregnant and doesn’t want to be pregnant to stay pregnant. The fetus is stealing her uterus. If she wants to be pregnant, it’s either a loan or a gift (‘loan’ implies expected repayment, ‘gift’ permanence, neither of which is accurate, but you get the idea), just as it is when one’s brother donates his kidney to–I’m not clear if your example transplant has one be the kidney recipient oneself or sell the kidney for cash (dumb ways to die! ), but it doesn’t much matter as long as the brother is freely giving the kidney to the individual in need.

  • EllieMurasaki

    You’re not scoring any points with semantic nitpicking.

  • KG

     Just to clarify, I’m not suggesting that you nor anyone else thinks it’s OK to murder someone in order to steal his kidney and take his money (I realize that everyone is against this), but I don’t think that utilitarian ethics can properly deal with it apart from bootstrapping a kind of altruism to the theory which can’t be completely justified by the theory so long as pleasure is equated to the good, since the very subjectivity of it must lead to a kind of egoism.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Utilitarian ethics considers harm a thing to avoid. Not a thing to avoid in all situations–if someone’s threatening to kill you or someone else, killing him is a reasonable response; not ideal, not necessarily possible given the situation, but reasonable–but a thing to try to avoid in all situations.

    Stealing his kidney harms him.

  • 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.


    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.

  • Lori


    The real problem is not the lack of desire to be a mother, but the lack
    of desire to protect human life from conception to natural death.   

    No. The real problem, or at least a major aspect of the real problem*, is that the supposed desire to protect human life from conception to natural death has one huge exception—a woman during pregnancy. This supposedly consistent ethic of life treats the life of a pregnant woman as always less important than (a very convenient definition of) the life of the fetus. Even if the fetus has no chance of being born alive, maintaining the illusion for a few more hours or days is more important than saving the actual life of the woman carrying the fetus. People who want to make abortion unavailable are not “choosing life”. They’re simply consistently choosing the fetus over the woman. “Choose fetus” just isn’t a very catchy slogan. 

    *The real problem is not treating women as full human beings. Valuing a fetus more than a woman is simply one symptom of this. 

  •  There is no point at which I consider it okay to kill a child. Or, for that matter, a fetus.

    But yes, there are cases where I am okay with the fact that the natural death of a child is a consequence of an action performed on an entirely separate person

    And guess what, so do you. G’head. Tell me I’m wrong.

    Abortion isn’t killing a fetus. Abortion is terminating a pregnancy. A consequence of terminating the pregnancy is that the fetus fails to survive to term.  It isn’t okay to kill a fetus. But if the death of a fetus results from terminating a pregnancy, that’s different.

  •  Abortion isn’t killing a baby you jackass.  EVER. Not even when the fetus is still in the uterus. If you could pop open a uterus, remove an intact fetus, and stick it in a donor uterus, it would still be an abortion.  It’s NOT ABOUT KILLING BABIES.

  • KG

    While not doubting that you in particular hold fast to a principle that harm is something to be avoided, how does utilitarian ethics (with pleasure as the highest good) account for such a principle? What is it grounded upon?

  • 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.

  • 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:

  • 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


    Sorting out what that means in particular situations gets sticky and contentious, but minimizing harm is one of the two basic principles of utilitarianism, and contrary to your parenthetical, it’s the more important of the two. I think you’re thinking of some other philosophy; perhaps ‘hedonism’?

  • 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.)

  • Carstonio

     Others here have pointed out the fallacy of assuming personhood (which is the real issue) from the moment of conception. Our host Fred has made the point many times that pro-lifers don’t even make that assumption.

    If you truly believe that full human personhood begins at the moment
    of conception, then you must also believe that miscarriage is the No. 1
    health crisis in the United States. You should, at a minimum, be calling
    for private or public funding for research into this pandemic

    Yet no one is doing that. At all. This massive crisis
    is a necessary and inescapable conclusion from the premise that full
    human personhood begins at the moment of conception, yet those who claim
    to believe that premise have not bothered to reach this conclusion.

    Why not?

    The proposed exceptions for rape and incest are more evidence that these folks don’t believe in personhood from conception. Criminalization of all abortion treats the lack of desire for motherhood as a crime. Those exceptions treat the woman’s crime as a desire for sex without motherhood, which is a purer version of slut-shaming. 

    think it’s clear that the point of the ultrasounds is that people are
    less likely to abort a baby if they realize it’s more than a clump of
    cells. The “emotion” that is plays upon is not motherhood, but the fact
    that most human beings would be unwilling to kill another human being.

    That still assumes willful ignorance about pregnancy, at least on the part of women seeking abortions, and there’s no basis for making that assumption.

    My argument is not about the rightness or wrongness of abortion. What I oppose is attempt to criminalize abortion. Coercion of any sort where a woman’s womb is concerned deprives her of her personhood. That coercion could just as easily be used the other way, to force her to have an abortion if she doesn’t want to have one.

    Criminalization of abortion wrongly assumes that the only motive for not wanting to be a mother is selfishness. Such laws prevent almost no abortions, and they inflict cruelties on women that are simply unnecessary. They discourage women from seeking OB/GYN care for fear that they’ll be criminal suspects, and discourage doctors from practicing in that field for the same reason. Most likely HIPAA would have to be suspended for that particular medical field so that the act wouldn’t protect lawbreakers. Criminalization doesn’t work if one’s goal is preventing abortions. But it works great if one’s goal is shaming women.

    Others here have asked, if abortion were criminalized, what sentence should be handed down for a woman who has one. Here’s my corollary – if a boyfriend or magistrate forces a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, and she dies during the delivery from unforeseen complications, what should be the sentence for the  boyfriend or magistrate?

  • 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.  

  • I grew up Southern Baptist, and the verse I heard quoted as supporting this view most often was Psalm 139:13, “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (NIV)  Of course this is rather vague and somewhat contradicted by the different penalties given in the Old Testament for killing of a born human versus causing a woman to miscarry:

  • yours129

    Psalm 139, I believe, would be the usual justification for such a belief.

    13For you created my inmost being;
        you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
        your works are wonderful,
        I know that full well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you
        when I was made in the secret place,
        when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
    16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
        all the days ordained for me were written in your book
        before one of them came to be.

  • EllieMurasaki

    But looking at that psalm with the view that life begins at conception draws one to the conclusion that God knew one before one’s parents sexed, which isn’t exactly a point with which one can support an abortion ban.

  •  Of course, Psalm 139 says nothing about life beginning at conception. If anything, it asserts the same thing I’ve said a half-dozen times: Life began a very long time ago “in the depths of the earth”, and has been a continual process under God’s awareness ever since, and it’s nonsense to talk about there being one specific moment where any individual human’s life begins. (Well, maybe *one* specific human)

  • preach__it

     “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.”

    There’s a reason that no one publishes this trash anymore. Anyone who has actually READ/studied Exodus 21:22-24 knows that it says if the fetus falls and survives unharmed then there is punishment in the form of a fine set by the husband. If it dies, or has any mal-effects then verse 24 takes effect which includes the latter part of 23 LIFE FOR A LIFE! Thus the whole argument is prooftexting at it’s worst.

  • preach__it

     I’ve always preferred the argument that John the Baptist recognized Jesus while they were both in the womb. John was 6 months into Gestation Jesus was aproximately 1-2 days. Luke 1.

  • preach__it

     Then how do you explain Luke 1 where John the Baptist begins prophesying while still in the womb?

  • preach__it

     And this is supposed to make us squirm… how?!? Last I checked, olive bitters and ink water does not cause abortions or barrenness. God on the other hand has been known to pass such judgements.

  •  Aw that’s cute. You come to a thread a year late and don’t bother reading the fact that That is not what it says.  It says if the fetus is miscarried.  It’s only revisionist translations produced AFTER the shift* which claims that the fetus survives unharmed. 

    * Okay, not every single one of them.  Among bibles claiming “the fetus is born prematurely but lives”, the median date of first publication is some time in the 1970s. Among those which say “the woman miscarries”, the median publication date is in the 1600s.

    The original hebrew, for what it’s worth, is 100% unambiguous.

  • preach__it

     You guys really need to go back and read Exodus concentrating on the words myschief and depart. If it falls and dies at ANY point then the writers considered it a capital offense.

  • Oh, that’s very funny of you, considering the English translation to be ~authoritative~.

  • preach__it

     “by this line of reasoning, it is actually immoral to prevent an abortion”
    And God would have known that one too… You’re playing chess with a person who sees every outcome as if it’s already happened. He reads time like a book.

  • preach__it

     Don’t forget Luke 1.

  • preach__it

     <—-Evangelical. I can only go by the interpretations of the Bible as far as what I should believe. Not what people twist them to believe. If used out of context, scripture can say whatever you want them to say. Whether you believe in contraception or whether people back in 1970 had the right idea is a moot point to me. The fact of the matter is that a text that we base our religion on defines the fetus as a life to be protected from conception. Exodus 21: 22-24 oddly enough "People's Exhibit A above". The problem with the quote above is that the author never studied the passage before trying to force his concept onto the passage. Even the so called expert editor made a rash decision. Does it mean that at one time Christians thought abortion was acceptable? Yes, but they were dead wrong. The fact that they used a prooftext to justify their own ambitions is evident. It wasn't that we started thinking that the Bible was against Abortion, it's that we stopped believing the twist in scripture that an apologetic tried to force saying it was ok. Using prooftexts you can argue that pigs fly and come up with 10 supporting scriptures all taken out of context. The truth is in exegesis, not in prooftexting.

    As for whether Evangelical Theologians ever make mistakes? They obviously do especially when they go TO the Bible instead of FROM the Bible.  The wonderful thing is that the Bible doesn't change. We can always go back to the original.

  • 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?!?

  • SisterCoyote

     1) You do realize you’re responding to a very, very old thread? Quite a lot of the people you’re trying to talk to will probably never see this.

    2) Like I said, I consider it to be a gray area. I don’t think that John the Baptist – or anyone – automatically has a functioning mind after the sperm meets the egg.

    3) I assume you mean Luke 1:39-45? Wherein, six months after John the Baptist is conceived, he kicks/leaps for joy when Mary comes to visit his mother? I’m not sure you understand what I’m saying – I do not believe life begins at birth or conception, but somewhere in between, and it’s probably different for everyone, since there’s no way to tell at what point the nervous system develops.

  • 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.

  •  I can’t believe i’m doing this AGAIN.

    Exodus 21:22:

    “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

    So, no, unambiguous. It means the fetus dies.

    Oh, what? You didn’t mean the oldest known english translation? Well, let’s try Douay-Rhiems…

    “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.”

    So. Miscarry. Not “born prematurely but survives”.

    Oh, that one won’t do either?

    Well, here’s the bible I used in college…

    When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a
    miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall
    be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges

    You don’t like that one either? Let’s try a Jewish bible…

    If people are fighting
    with each other and happen to hurt a pregnant woman so badly that her
    unborn child dies, then, even if no other harm follows, he must be
    fined. He must pay the amount set by the woman’s husband and confirmed
    by judges. 

    I know, I know, what would the Jews know about the Penteteuch, right?

  • The_L1985

     In my experience, Luke 1 isn’t used to prove anything about fetuses in general.  It’s more saying that John the Baptist recognized Jesus before either of them was born–which is more of a “these are awesome kids with awesome prophet-powers” sort of thing.

  • The_L1985

    Exodus 21:22:  “If men fight and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her [i.e., she has a miscarriage], and yet no mischief follow [i.e., the woman herself suffers no permanent harm]: he shall surely be punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.

    This is not an ambiguous verse; it is similar to earlier laws in the Code of Hammurabi and the laws of the Hittites, both of which clearly state that the man has caused a miscarriage.  In any case, the penalty for causing a miscarriage in Leviticus is dramatically different than that for someone who kills an already-born person, even by accident.

    Surgical abortion didn’t even exist in biblical times, so how could the people who wrote down the Bible have any knowledge of it?  Chemical abortions by ingesting certain plants were common during ancient times, as was exposure of unwanted infants, but the Bible is totally silent on both subjects.  If abortion is such a great evil, surely the Bible would have something to say about women who deliberately induced a miscarriage in themselves?

    Furthermore, the Jewish people (you know, the ones who wrote the Old Testament in the first place?) did not consider people to be ensouled until they had drawn breath.  The Hebrew words for “spirit” and “breath” are the same.  Jews today still do not consider a fetus to be ensouled–and frankly, I think the best people to interpret the Hebrew Scriptures are the people with the unbroken tradition of learning to read them in their original language as part of their coming-of-age ceremony.

    “The wonderful thing is that the Bible doesn’t change.”

    Oh really?  Then why is it that some English translations of David and Jonathan bidding each other farewell have them kiss, but others have them shake hands?  Why are census numbers different from one Old Testament book to the next, when they are talking about the same time period?

    Not only does the Bible change as it is re-translated over and over, but the surrounding culture in which it is read changes as well. We did not even know what conception was until about 100 years ago.

  • preach__it

    For your information I took it back to the Hebrew.

    Depart = yatsa’ Strongs number 03318  to come forth, to bring, to go out, to come out, exit, or go forth. (not die) It’s the ENGLISH depart that makes this look like the fetus dies… It’s the ENGLISH that has the double meaning… It’s the ENGLISH that causes the prooftext. NOT the Hebrew and incidentally NOT the Latin either.

    Mischief = ‘acown Strongs number 0611 evil, mischief, harm, or hurt

    So even if the baby dies from injuries while still in the womb but comes out the sentence according to verse 23 is Life for Life to the culprit.

    As I said… READ/STUDY young padawan.

  • preach__it

    First 7hanks for replying. Acutally I was referring to that but in a way most people don’t recognize. John recognized the anointing abiding in Mary while Jesus was only a 2 day old gestation. At that point the Bible already calls Mary the Mother of the savior (not future tense). The big question is does there need to be a nervous system for “it” to be considered alive?

    As for point 1, the majority may never see this but their emails are still linked to their comments AND I had someone bring up this post when they found it on Google. They were confused and asked me to give my opinion. What I found was so flawed that I had to try something. I’m a Missionary and Theologian. It comes with the job.

  • preach__it

    And yet it amazes me that only in the English versions (including the Jewish bible) yatsa translated DEPART does the concept of death enter into the scripture. yatsa has nothing to do with death. Look it up. Strongs number 03318

  • SisterCoyote

     Well, obviously I disagree with you rather immensely, and I think you’re selling the post short if you think Fred – or, for that matter, the community here – don’t know what they’re talking about. So I would say that even if people aren’t so much paying attention to the thread or post anymore, it’s always somewhat stinging to find an e-mail in the inbox that more or less alleges you, or someone you agree with or respect, is just slinging words around without reasoning or backup. So – of course you are going to get responses.

    As to your point about John’s reaction… you’re right, I had never thought about it that way before. But I don’t think you can really compare God incarnate to man? If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, the anointed Messiah, and was created on Earth – incarnate – in that form, then I would call him the exception.

    But I’d also say that in that case, there was no conception. Jesus Christ was God made flesh, not half-God, half-Mary. I do not think you can really compare the life/soul/nervous system of God to that of mortal man.

  • preach__it

     You must agree though that someone who claims that an idea is younger than the happy meal and yet the Sadducees and Pharisees had long discussions and debates about the condition of the soul, whether it existed, when it came to be, whether it was transmitted from the male or resided in the female… to think that one of them didn’t bring up the concept “the idea” that it was given at conception is a bit naive is it not?!?

    As to disagreeing with me, I myself am not 100% positive that Jesus’ birth wasn’t a fluke, but I know John responded. Every time this subject comes up I’m reminded that it’s now legal to abort John. Whether or not a fetus has a soul, let’s ask God when we get there. If there’s life though, then there shouldn’t be death.

  • SisterCoyote

    I rather doubt that Fred was saying no one had ever discussed the concept of life beginning at conception. But just because people were talking about it in Biblical and pre-Biblical times does not make it Biblical canon – and claiming that it is indeed a view clearly espoused by the Bible, embraced by true believers, etc, is sorta massively dishonest. I mean, if we’re going to take both sides of every debate, mentioned and unmentioned, that took place in Jesus’ day, we have a lot more to worry about.

    In regards to debates back then, we know a lot more now about reproduction these days, which I think enables a more nuanced discussion.

    I’m not sure I know how to respond to what you’re saying, here. I almost want to just point out that where there’s life, there is, inevitably, death – death here is a part of life, etc. But that doesn’t fully cover it, especially as we don’t yet agree that there is A Life. Technically, yes, there is life, but for a significant portion of that life, said life is indistinguishable, except by technology (which would also kill it, if used), from bacteria, and then other small organisms. As far as I can see, the fully developed, thinking, feeling, reasoning body of the woman carrying that bundle of cells is more important.

    (There’s also the fact that this whole “Biblical inerrant positions we’ve held forever since 1980ish” thing also includes contraceptives, birth control, and so on – things that I’m pretty sure (though I s’pose I could be wrong) are not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, and things that, in some cases, are absolutely necessary to the health of a woman, regardless of whether or not she’s having sex. Honestly, the whole position is suspect to me.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    The wonderful thing is that the Bible doesn’t change. We can always go back to the original.

    Oh, you’ve found copies of all the books in the Bible in manuscripts old enough and intact enough to assure us that we have the complete text with minimal copyist errors and minimal copyist emendations? Do share.

  •  Do you understand that when Exodus was written there was no such thing as “born prematurely but is otherwise unharmed”?  You were born prematurely, you  died.