This past week many people on both sides of the abortion issue commemorated the 41st anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision (issued 22 Jan 1973). Since that time, more than 56 million unborn children have been legally killed in the United States. While Roe v. Wade was a turning point in our nation’s history with regard to abortion, as I’ve pointed out before, abortion has a rather long history that can be traced back to the Roman Empire and beyond.
I recently came across a statement in John Owen’s works that does not specifically use the word abortion but seems to have direct bearing on the issue. John Owen (1616–83) was a seventeenth-century English theologian who wrote extensively on the doctrine of sin. In his discussion of human depravity, Owen described the sinfulness of an “unnatural” practice which was taking place in his day “in all nations.” He wrote,
Paul tells us of the old Gentiles that they were…“without natural affection.” That which he aims at is that barbarous custom among the Romans, who ofttimes, to spare the trouble in the education of their children, and to be at liberty to satisfy their lusts, destroyed their own children from the womb; so far did the strength of sin prevail to obliterate the law of nature, and to repel the force and power of it.
Examples of this nature are common in all nations; amongst ourselves, of women murdering their own children, through the deceitful reasoning of sin. And herein sin turns the strong current of nature, darkens all the light of God in the soul, controls all natural principles, influenced with the power of the command and will of God. But yet this evil hath, through the efficacy of sin, received a fearful aggravation. Men have not only slain but cruelly sacrificed their children to satisfy their lusts (John Owen, The Works of John Owen, vol. 6, ed. William H. Goold [London: Banner of Truth, 1966], 305-6).
In our own day, we must exercise our civil responsibilities to try to reduce or ideally to end the murder of unborn children. However, we need to recognize that abortion is not primarily a political issue but rather an issue of the heart. Abortion is an expression of human depravity that must be confronted with firm but compassionate witness to biblical truth about the nature of human life and the fact that all humans, no matter how small, have been created in the image of God.
Earlier posts about abortion on this blog can be found here.