Faithful Christians are necessarily pro-life, by definition. But having an instinctive knowledge that God’s gift of life should be respected is not necessarily the same thing as being equipped to explain from the Bible why this is so, or being able to answer some of the standard objections that may be raised.
1. What is the pro-life position?
This view is that from the moment a human sperm fertilizes a human egg, a unique human being comes into existence. Prior to that moment, we do not have someone who will live forever, and from that moment on, we do. Consequently, love for our neighbor requires that this unique person be treated with dignity, respect, hospitality and kindness, as much as it is possible with us. That is the position.
2. What are the biblical reasons for believing this?
You will not find abortion listed by name as a sin in the Bible, meaning that the word is not used. But a number of things are said in Scripture that mean that abortion must be considered a sin — and a very grievous one. This is why Christians have been pro-life from the very beginning. For example, the early church document The Didache, prohibits the murder of a child, whether born or unborn.
We begin by noting that mankind bears the image of God, and the image of God is passed on from generation to generation.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, ESV)
When the first child was born, Eve speaks of him as exhibiting full continuity with his parents. “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord”” (Gen. 4:1, ESV). Descendants of Adam and Eve also bear the image of God (Gen. 9:6, 1 Cor. 11:7). We have no indication in the text of Scripture anywhere that this image of God ever disappears as we move from one generation to the next. It is not as though we ever have the image of God > inert substance > image of God again.
Here is a description from the psalmist of his formation in the womb.
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your 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, ESV).
There are two things to note here. Who is the craftsman, the artisan? Who is doing what is being done in the womb? He would be an insolent and arrogant man who is willing to interrupt such a marvelous work of God — and all for the sake of personal convenience, and on the basis of a false doctrine of man.
Second, it is very important to note the personal pronouns in use here. You formed my inward parts. Knitted me together. My mother’s womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My unformed substance. Speaking of his time of formation in the womb, the psalmist uses personal pronouns the same way you would when speaking of a human being of any other age.
Another example of great respect for unborn life is found in the case law of Exodus.
““When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” (Ex. 21:22–25, ESV).
The law concerns what to do when two men are fighting and they accidentally cause a pregnant woman to miscarry. When this happens, and there is no harm to the child, then the one who hit the woman will pay a fine. But if the child is damaged, then the penalty that is applied is lex talionis — eye for eye, etc. This is the same penalty that is applied when the victim is an adult (Lev. 24:20). For those who want to argue that this simply refers to the woman being hurt or wounded, this makes no sense — in that case why would it be necessary to mention that she was pregnant at all?
And last, consider the greeting that the New Testament records the first meeting of the John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. They were both of them in the womb at the time. John, who later would say, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” in this first instance acted like he was in the presence of the Lamb of God.
“For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44, ESV).
In short, we have no scriptural basis for treating an unborn child as a lump of tissue, and we have compelling reasons not to do so.
3. What does right reason tell us about abortion?
You cannot “not know” in one limited area of your life what you know in every other area of your life. You would not crush the eggs of a bald eagle and try to defend yourself in court by saying that it wasn’t an eagle, but rather an egg.
This means that the first order of business is to determine what an unborn human being is. When we have done so, many of the other (so-called) complicated questions resolve themselves. We don’t reason from difficult situations (the standard ones being rape and incest) to what we would like the unborn child to more conveniently be.
4. So what about rape and incest?
In the case of rape, we have three people involved. The mother, the rapist, and the child. Two of them are innocent, and one is guilty. What kind of moral sense does it make to execute one of the innocent parties for the crime of the one guilty party? What would you say if someone proposed that we fix the problem by executing the mother? You would say, “Are you crazy? She’s a person . . .” Oh.
With regard to incest, the concern has to do with the increased probability of birth defects. But this operates as a hidden premise, and reveals that many politicians do not know what they are talking about. They would not say that we ought to execute unborn children with birth defects, but they are willing to say that we can perform abortions when the pregnancy is the result of incest. And why? Because there might be birth defects.
The issue is always this — does the unborn child bear the image of God? If so, respect it. If not, then don’t. But do not pretend there is a middle way — for if the unborn child does not bear the image of God, then neither do you. If the unborn child has no rights, then neither do you.
5. You Christian pro-lifers are just trying to impose your morality on the rest of us.
Yes, we are. That is quite right. But even this acknowledge is important to place in context. It is not as though we are doing that while nobody else is. No, all law, by definition, is an imposition of morality. The only question is which morality it is, and who will be the person it is imposed on.
I do want Christian morality to be imposed, against their will, contrary to their consent, on doctors who are willing to perform abortions, and on mothers who are willing to have abortions. I want this stopped by force of law. I want this morality to be imposed.
This makes me a bad person, right? Going around imposing my morality on those who don’t share it. But this is actually inescapable. Everyone does this. It is not whether, but which. Not whether we impose morality, but which morality will be imposed. And this relates to Lenin’s famous two questions — who? whom?
I would rather have a morality prohibiting murder imposed on murderers than to have the morality of murderers imposed on children. Our choice here is whether we impose a godly morality on abortionists or whether they impose an ungodly morality on little boys and girls. There is no human society anywhere where nobody imposes on anybody.
The best thing we can do for little children in this instance is face the facts, and follow the argument.