Last week John Aloisi posted an informative entry on “Abortion and the Early Church.” With this post, and another to follow, I would like to focus on the Bible’s view of abortion. The thesis of this post and the next is that an induced abortion violates the sixth commandment of the Decalogue: “You shall not murder” (Exod 20:13).
Between 2009-2011 the Alan Guttmacher Institute estimates that there were 1,212,400 abortions in each of these years. While this enormous number of abortions is alarming, it is even more alarming that some Bible-believing Christians are surprisingly uninformed, in some cases apathetic, about the Bible’s teaching on this subject. In covering this subject, I will examine three issues: the reason why the Bible never explicitly discusses abortion, the Bible’s teaching concerning the value of human life, and its teaching about the inception of human life. Before we look at these issues, we will initially define abortion and some of the matters associated with it.
An abortion may be defined as the expulsion of an embryo or fetus from the womb of its mother before it is capable of independently sustaining life. An abortion which happens naturally is called a spontaneous or involuntary abortion. So, for example, a miscarriage is a spontaneous abortion. An induced or voluntary abortion is performed for therapeutic or nontherapeutic reasons. This type of abortion results in the termination of a pregnancy by killing the embryo or fetus. The induced abortion is the focal point of the modern abortion debate.
Bible-believing Christians should naturally hold that an induced abortion is a moral atrocity. However, if this is truly such an atrocity, then why does the Bible never explicitly address the issue? The answer is found in the Israelite view of children. God was responsible for opening the womb (Gen 30:22 ; 1 Sam 1:19–20 ), and, consequently, children were viewed as a gift from God (Gen 33:5; Ps 127:3). An Israelite expected proliferation in childbearing as a sign of the prosperity that God promised in the Mosaic Covenant (Deut 7:13; 28:4). The abundance of children was a blessing, but the lack of children was often considered a curse. Therefore, a voluntary abortion was unthinkable for an Israelite and, therefore, was not an issue for them. To understand the moral ramifications of this, we must approach the issue of medically induced abortions in light of other biblical material.
What does the Bible teach about the value of human life? To determine this, we must briefly examine the Bible’s teaching about man. Moses wrote in Genesis 1:26–28 that man was created in the image and likeness of God. The divine image refers to those personal, rational, moral, and spiritual qualities of man that make him like God. Though it was marred at the Fall, the divine image in man was not lost (Jas 3:9). This is cogently demonstrated in Genesis 9:5–6 with God’s institution of capital punishment for murder. The motivation for this command is God’s creation of man in his image (v. 6). Whatever else Genesis 9:5–6 may affirm, it clearly emphasizes the sanctity of human life. This is reinforced by the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, “You shall not murder” (Exod 20:13 ; Deut 5:17), and is reaffirmed by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:21–22). Though this data clearly asserts the sanctity of human life, it does not deal with question of when genuine human life begins. This will be addressed in my next post.