The Bible and Abortion: Challenging the Revisionists

I was recently asked what I thought of a piece arguing that life only happens at the first breath, and that abortion is therefore just hunky dory. I had a quick look and replied, “Baloney”. The position presented in that article is not at all new, and has been a long standing way the pro-aborts try to trash the Bible and its clear pro-life teachings.

And simply reading how this guy carries on should warn us he is no more a biblical Christian than is Richard Dawkins. At the end of his piece he tells us that a pro-life position “is completely morally abhorrent”. His ugly bigotry is also made clear when he says that any “fundamentalsts [sic] who talk about how the bible is the foundation for their faith” should be considered a “dangerous moron”.

abortion (1)He goes on to say that the Bible “is not internally consistent, it does not claim to be perfect, and it is mistranslated.” And he is going to lecture us in biblical theology, and tell us what Scripture has to say on this topic? And we are supposed to believe him? Yeah right.

But as I say, he simply rehashes the tired old arguments of others, and shows how out of depth he is with anything biblical, exegetical or theological. His position is this: “the bible very clearly states that life begins at breath, not at conception.” Incredibly, he accuses his opponents of ‘picking a bunch of random verses, throwing them together, and hoping that no one notices that none of them really make sense in their context.’

Yet that is exactly what he does here: he cherry picks a few passages, rips them out of context, and ignores the whole of the biblical storyline. What he does here is simply laughable, as any first year theology student can see. So let me speak briefly to it.

Is the word group around the term ‘breath’ a biblical image and metaphor about life? Sure. But that is not the end of the matter, and the biblical data on when life begins deals with much more than these terms. Indeed, the few passages this guy offers have nothing to do with life in the womb. They all deal with adults.

Genesis 2:7 of course has to do with the unique creation of the first human life. And they are obviously created as adults, not as foetuses in a womb. The same with Psalms 33, Ezekiel 37, and Job 34 – these all refer to adults, and have nothing at all to do with the status of the unborn.

Moreover, every one of these passages have to do with the creative, live-giving breath of God – they have nothing to do with human breath, be it the first human breath at birth, or what have you. So this guy’s entire case is based on the wrong referent to the term breath.

It is basic Bible 101 to understand that it is God who gives life and sustains life, and without him and his life-giving grace, none of us would exist. Nothing earth shattering there, theologically speaking. But this has nothing to do with declaring people only are worthy of life after they have been born and taken their first breath. How absurd.

The simple fact is, all life is a gift of God and is based on his sustaining power. Thus the divine breath of life obviously exists in the preborn child from the moment of conception. And this of course accords fully with our understanding of biology and embryology. But see here for more on the scientific and medical evidence: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/04/09/acorns-aristotle-and-abortion/

The only thing close to the topic at hand that he offers is Numbers 5. This admittedly difficult passage has to do with a woman accused of adultery. He assumes the ordeal described here was supposed to cause an abortion if the woman was found to be pregnant from adultery. But a more widely held understanding of this (v. 21, 22, 27 – see esp., v. 28) is that she would become sterile. As such, this again has nothing to do with abortion per se, and/or the question of when human life begins.

He also goes on to completely mangle what we find in Exodus 21. That passage has also been wrongly used to support abortion, but any careful analysis of it proves the exact opposite. See my detailed study of this text here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/11/11/difficult-bible-passages-exodus-2122-25/

And that is it folks! Yep, a few measly passages which speak about God-given breath in adults, and he thinks he has proven that the Bible is in fact pro-abortion as he is. Wow, such careful scholarship. Such meticulous research. Such detailed exegesis. Such logical insights. Of course the fact that the secular left Daily Kos was happy to run with this fluff piece is also quite telling.

As I said, he simply ignores dozens of passages which clearly spell out the personhood and thus moral worth of the unborn. My forthcoming book will devote plenty of pages to the biblical data. Here only a few brief passages can be mentioned.

We see the humanity and personhood of the unborn quite clearly when we see how Scripture discusses God’s relationship to unborn. A number of texts make it quite clear that God is able to have a relationship with those who are not yet born.

If that is the case, we certainly have something more here than a mere blob of tissue or some impersonal mass of cells. For example, the humanity of the prenatal Job is found in verses such as Job 10:8-12. In Matthew 1:18-20 we read of an angel who tells Mary not to be afraid, because the baby Jesus is conceived by Holy Spirit.

And Psalm 139:13-16 clearly speaks to this relationship between God and those in their mother’s womb. R. C. Sproul says of this passage: “Scripture assumes a continuity of life from before the time of birth to after the time of birth. The same language and the same personal pronouns are used indiscriminately for both stages. Further, God’s involvement in the life of the person extends back to conception (and even before conception).”

We also see how human life precedes the taking of the first breath when we examine the many texts which speak of pre-natal calling and election by God. It is of interest how often we find a person called into the work of God while they are still unborn. This happens on a number of occasions in the Bible, and adds more evidence to the claim that the unborn are in fact more than just clumps of cells. Consider these passages:

Genesis 25:21-26 – Rebekah with Jacob and Esau
Hosea 12:2-3 – Jacob and Esau in their mother’s womb
Romans 9:10-13 – the election of Jacob and Esau before they were born
Judges 13:2-7 – the birth of Samson, “set apart to God from birth” (v. 5)
Judges 16:17 – Samuel set apart for God from birth
Isaiah 49:1 – the Servant of the Lord: “before I was born the Lord called me”
Isaiah 49:5 – the Servant of the Lord: “he who formed me in the womb to be his servant”
Jeremiah 1:5 – Jeremiah: “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”
Matthew 25:24 – those saved from the creation of the world
Luke 1:13-17 – an angel tells of John’s calling, before birth
Galatians 1:15 – Paul is set apart from birth
Ephesians 1:4 – we were called before the foundation of the earth
Revelation 17:8 – the names of those not written in book of life from the creation of the world

From passages like this we see that “Scripture assumes a significant personal continuity between prenatal and postnatal life”, as John Frame remarks. Indeed, the same personal language is used of those both in and out of the womb. Says Frame, “At the very least, this continuity indicates that God is not only forming and caring for the unborn child; He is forming him as a specific individual, to fit him specifically for his postnatal calling.”

Plenty of other such passages can be appealed to here. They make it clear that even before a child is born, they are made in God’s image, they are worthy of life and protection, and they are to be included in the biblical discussion of the sanctity of human life.

www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/19/1285933/-Bible-Life-Begins-at-Breath-Not-Conception

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21 Replies to “The Bible and Abortion: Challenging the Revisionists”

  1. Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
    42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
    43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
    44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

    The babe leaped in my womb for joy, gee that says to me that John was very much alive and aware of his surroundings well before he was born. I don’t see any not alive in that scripture.

  2. As a Christian, this topic has always been hard for me to consider. Specifically, in the extreme, yet relevant case of a woman becoming pregnant as a result of rape.

    It’s one thing to believe that life begins at conception, but can we really use the law to force a woman to give birth to a child in these circumstances. When I think of Jesus, I honestly can’t even him forcing his views on others, he would show compassion for the victim and act no further. Shouldn’t this be how we respond? Can’t you also imagine Jesus would expect this of us?

  3. Thanks Riley. But respectfully and regrettably you are amiss on all counts here. What does rape have to do with anything? Not only is pregnancy due to rape exceedingly rare (an “extreme” as you admit), but how does that excuse the murder of the unborn child? And given we are talking about a miniscule amount of cases here, what does that have to do with the biblical preference for the sanctity of life, or with the role of the law? Hard cases make for bad law, and should never be used to formulate legislation. But I speak to all that in greater detail here, so have a look: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/08/19/abortion-and-hard-cases/

    And why not consider listening to what those who were conceived in rape have to say about this, instead of the rehashing the usual pro-abort red herrings?
    http://www.rebeccakiessling.com/Othersconceivedinrape.html

    And who is forcing anyone to do anything here? How does affirming the biblical truths about the sanctity of human life have anything to do with law, force and coercion? Your non-sequiturs here are not all that helpful I am afraid.

    Also, sorry, but Jesus would never push abortion for any reason. How anyone can distort Jesus and the Bible into such an absurd position is beyond me. Sadly it seems some people calling themselves Christians are far more influenced by the world than the Word of God on this topic, as my above article indicates.

    And finally, how does telling a person that there is biblical hope, even in extreme cases, have anything to do with force? How have I and any prolifer forced anyone in any way in this regard? It grieves me when Christians seem steeped in all the pro-abortion nonsense, yet seem oblivious to the clear teachings of Scripture. We must do much better in biblical and ethical thinking.

  4. My favourite anti- abortion scripture is also Luke 1-41, where John at 6 months in the womb, communicates with Jesus who has just been conceived. If this doesn’t shut the abortionists up– nothing will.

  5. Thanks for a biblical perspective on abortion. So many pro-lifers simply use emotional pictures (eg. a perfectly formed 1st trimester baby) but pro-abortionists also use emotions (it’s better for the fetus to not be there than grow up in poverty and unwanted…). Emotions are not the standard, but God’s Word is!

  6. “I honestly can’t even him forcing his views on others”

    I honestly can’t see the situation where Jesus says: “if it’s what you want, go ahead and murder your child.”

    I can however see the nations bowing to Jesus, willingly or forcibly as necessary. There are a host of scriptures about Jesus forcing his just judgment on the nations, past and future tense, and since his judgments are “his views”, it might be time for Riley to reread scripture.

  7. Conception from rape is not common but whatever the numbers the question is “Why execute the baby for the fathers crime? A biblical case may be made for executing adult rapists and the ugly word so much vomited today am told by a new zealand policeman that years ago a placard was put about the necks of sex offenders with the words “For unlawful carnal knowledge” the offence for which they were hanged abbreviated to the ugly obscenity of today.

  8. Deanna Zekveld 5.1.15 / 4pm

    Thanks for a biblical perspective on abortion. So many pro-lifers simply use emotional pictures (eg. a perfectly formed 1st trimester baby) but pro-abortionists also use emotions (it’s better for the fetus to not be there than grow up in poverty and unwanted…). Emotions are not the standard, but God’s Word is!

    Deanna, surely a first trimester baby is most often perfectly formed, particularly among healthy Western women (the vast majority of those who have abortions). Therefore such an image is the most common and normal.

    I am not sure that there is any need to ascribe motives of “forcing emotional responses with artificial images” onto pro-life arguments. There is a valid emotional aspect to this whole issue.

    The pro-choice/pro-abortionists are trying to deny any emotional attachment to the “clump of cells” and I would have thought that a valid response is the call them out on their false denial.

    Emotions are not the primary argument, true, but we are whole human beings, and need to put emotions in their proper place, rather than make a false dichotomy.

  9. So this person uses these “mis-translated” verses to prove his point? He needs to stop thinking about whether people are human (& can feel pain) before birth and start seriously considering whether they are human (& can feel pain) after death.

  10. I also like Luke 1:41-44 and how it goes with Luke 1:15. John the Baptist leapt with joy at his first encounter with Christ, Who was also unborn at the time. Although people centuries ago did not have all the biological knowledge we have today, they knew there was some kind of life there even before birth as these passages make evident. Also, we can say to pro-aborts who try to use this weird “argument” that life only begins with the first breath of air, that life beginning at conception is a scientific fact. Why would somebody who has trouble grasping the most basic scientific fact on the issue expect their comments to be taken seriously? Typical pro-abort falsehood and irrationality, calling the pro-Life person a “dangerous moron” while acting like one himself by ignoring or misrepresenting the most important facts. Truly these people are the ones who cannot be taken seriously if they do not speak coherently.

  11. Riley, you say “When I think of Jesus, I honestly can’t even him forcing his views on others, he would show compassion for the victim and act no further.” Do you acknowledge that Jesus is our Lord? He commanded us to love God and love our neighbour (his new commandment). He angrily and perhaps violently kicked the traders out of the Temple. He rebuked the apostles, the pharisees and others many times during his life. Further, your view is self-refuting, since abortion forces a particular view onto the unborn child, killing it in the process. Do you think Jesus supports such killing? Do you think Jesus thinks that a child should be killed in response to the crime of its father? Jesus said we should follow the commandments, one of which is thou shalt not kill, which certainly applies to innocent, unborn humann beings, doesn’t it? We should have compassion for rape victims, and we should help them as much as we can; but such help should not include killing their unborn child. When a person is violated or persecuted, we do not usually kill an innocent human to ameliorate the effects of the crime, do we? Jesus would show compassion for both victims, mother and child, following a rape conception.

  12. John Angelico
    I understand what you are saying. Perhaps I tried to make my comment too short and to the point. I think you summed up what what I meant nicely when you wrote “Emotions are not the primary argument” I do agree that emotions do follow when we see an unborn, made in God’s image, murdered.
    That said, however, I do want to stress the fact that if we stop all abortion, but it is not based on Biblical truths, we have made the world a better place to live, but it has no eternal value. On the other hand, if we tell those wanting an abortion that God sets the rules; God has called abortion murder; God will one day judge us; God is also loving and merciful and will forgive those who come in repentance; God will change our hearts so we can live to his glory… Then we’ve saved a baby in this life and a soul from hell.
    Abortion is about an unborn baby.Yes! But it’s even more about God. And therefore I was so happy to read an article about God’s view on abortion.

  13. The inspired Psalmist clearly declared that all human beings ( howsoever conceived) are certainly no “mere blobs of cells”:
    “For thou didst form my inward parts, thou didst knit me together in my mother’s womb…Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139: 13-16 (RSV.)

  14. I’m Christian, but I don’t NEED the bible to tell me that abortion is wrong.

    It’s actually very simple. It’s a “knowing” that any true follower of Christ will have, deep in their soul.

    And any person claiming to be Christian who believes in abortion is a liar…the Truth is not in them. Sorry, but it’s true.

    Thank you, Bill for speaking the truth.

    On a personal note I faced an unplanned pregnancy as an unmarried woman and chose life. I’ll always be glad I did.

  15. Anita Cooper 6.1.15 / 2pm

    I’m Christian, but I don’t NEED the bible to tell me that abortion is wrong.

    It’s actually very simple. It’s a “knowing” that any true follower of Christ will have, deep in their soul.

    Sorry Anita, but this is not correct, and leads to “every man for himself” views of the truth. If the Bible is not our external standard, we will substitute any number of false standards. But Jesus declared that His Words will be our judge.

    The Bible is the sum-total of His Words preserved for us as the permanent rule of faith and life. It does not of course comprise everything He said or did (John tells us that it is a selective collection) but it IS the compendium of what will be used as the measuring rod for all members of the human race when they “meet their Maker”.

  16. Zola Levitt Ministries, “The Seven Feasts of Israel”, ‘Unto us a Child Is Given’
    Just for your information, I use it to defend pro-life positions.

    A Jewish Christian Minister by the Name of Zola Levitt when his wife was going to have a baby, wanted to know if there was a relationship between the development of the Fetus in the Womb and the Seven Feasts of Israel. After spending time with an Ob-Gyn, Zola found that if a woman’s menstrual cycle begins on the First Day of Spring, She will ovulate at Passover, if the egg is fertilized, it will travel down the fallopian tube during the Feast of Unleavened. It will implant at the Feast of First Fruits, Easter. At Pentecost,50 days later, the child will look human. At the Feast of Trumpets its hearing is complete and it can hear its mother. At the Feast of Blood Atonement, the blood and circulatory system is complete. At the Feast of Tabernacles the lungs are complete and the Child can live outside of the mother’s womb. The child will be born during the Feast of Dedication, Hanukkah (and Christmas). The Ob-Gyn was so impressed with the accuracy of the timing she changed her charts to reflect developmental timing of the fetus. God Knows, God Knows. Moses was not any kind of Egyptian Doctor that he would know any of this.

  17. Although I do recognize that there are good reasons to be against abortion, I noticed that was one important thing missing. WHAT ABOUT THE MOTHER! Nothing in the article mentioned the issues facing a woman who is facing the decision of whether or not to have an abortion. I don’t care how good you think your philosophy or theology is, if it hurts people, it isn’t any good. If you truly care about preventing abortions, make sure the needs of the mother are met. More often than not, a woman who has an abortion does it because she feels she has no choice. Make sure she is given moral support, caring, and the ability to support herself and her baby. This will do more to prevent abortions than all the pontificating in the world.

  18. Thanks Sue. But let me call your bluff. I have 261 articles on abortion on this site. Have you bothered to read them all? I thought not. I often speak about the importance of supporting the mother. And how exactly does speaking out on the slaughter of millions of innocent babies mean pontificating?

  19. Dear Sue,
    This year four little girls and one little boy will commence school in Prep,all because we have given the best support to their beautiful mothers who were faced with the sadest and most heart wrenching decision of saying yes or no to abortion. All these mothers are now over the moon! Loving mothers sighing with relief, thankful to those special people who courageously make a stand against the cruel killing of the most innocent little unborn babies!The Helper’s of God precious children are at the rock face each and everyday outside the abortion mills
    The Helpers of God’s precious infants will do anything to save the life of a precious child! Praise God!!

  20. Re the mother – I know of a 22 year old woman who became pregnant to a boyfriend who became abusive to her and assaulted and threatened her repeatedly. She is a uni student, supporting herself on a very low income and therefore the pregnancy was at the ‘worst” time for her on so many levels.

    She chose to have the baby and face up to her responsibility and the baby who is now one is the love of her life and the thing she needed to make her grow up and face reality. She is still studying for her Masters and did so throughout the pregnancy and afterwards and breastfed too. If she can do it, why can’t others?

  21. I find it extremely patronising and offensive when people suggest that abortion is a good choice for rape or incest victims. Have any of you asked a woman in that position what she wants?? If you did, you would realise that most of them do not want to be ‘raped’ again by a suction machine that rips their child from their womb. Please read the book ‘Victims and Victors’ if you are really interested in understanding. Jesus would never see abortion as the sympathetic answer because he knows that we can never cope with being responsible for the death of an innocent person.

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