My testimony is less about seeing the beauty of the cross, and more about seeing the perfection of God’s law. God tells his people that the laws he gives us will draw the admiration of the nations. He instructs us in Deuteronomy 4:6-8:
Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” ...What other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
This is the forgotten apologetic—the wisdom of God’s law. How’d we forget an apologetic argument the Bible itself gives us? Maybe it’s because we live in a lawless culture intoxicated by personal rights, or maybe it’s because most churches (following human culture) no longer call Christians to live by God’s laws. God’s laws will never be popular with people who hate God, but among seekers, the perfection of God’s standards is a powerful argument for the truthfulness of God and his Word.
Two areas in particular are under fire by the unbelieving right now: God’s command to love the unborn, and God’s call to sexual purity, especially as it pertains to homosexual sex acts. In this lesson, we look at the wisdom of God’s love for the unborn. This is particularly near to my heart. God made me a pro-life activist before he made me a Christian.
I remember watching CNN in 1988, while a junior in high school. I saw coverage of Operation Rescue, a group of “born again” Christians who were sitting in front of the doors of abortion clinics praying—keeping people from obtaining abortions—until they were dragged off to prison by police. I was not a Christian, but I remember being deeply struck by the selflessness of these Christians. These were normal people—businessmen, executives, homemakers, and students. And they were giving up their freedom because they love unborn babies. I couldn’t understand what could make them love something like a fetus so much. This was the beginning of my quest for God. I began looking into God’s law in the Bible. I knew nothing of God’s grace yet—that wouldn’t come for two years. But I knew from the perfection of God’s law—a law that stood in such stark contrast to American culture—that the Bible was indeed the Word of God.
Some preachers are embarrassed by God’s law. They fear that if they preach the whole counsel of God, they might “drive people off.” They are foolish and must repent. God’s laws are a light that draws seekers to God—true seekers, that is—not the phony ones who never really want to attain the truth. God’s law reveals to us God’s perfection. It shows us our own personal sin. It tells us we have acted against a holy and righteous God who will not forgive, but at best will punish a substitute—Christ Jesus—in our place. “O Lord,” cries David, “How I love your law."
I’ve spent lots of time around Christians, and discussed abortion with them a great deal. But I have never once heard a believer say, “You know, we need to stop abortion so we can put women in their place.” When Christians oppose abortion, it’s not because they oppose women. Indeed, Christians have always opposed abortion, and their rationale has been a love for the child, not some alleged hated of women or sexual repression. God loves all people, because God loves his image, no matter how broken that image may be. To want to protect one person from another (in this case a child from a parent) is not to hate the person doing the evil. Christians want to love all life—but this does not mean we turn our back on the defenseless out of ‘love’ for those seeking to kill!
When we speak of abortion, of course, we’re speaking of direct induced abortion: “The termination of a pregnancy by human intervention resulting in the death of the fetus, where the purpose is other than to save the life of the mother”* We aren’t speaking of miscarriages, the tragic loss of an unborn baby through means beyond the parent’s power. Often pro-choice activists will try to confuse people by multiplying medical jargon.
While abortion was not an issue in biblical times, and thus receives no direct mention, Scripture does concur with modern fetal research in affirming that the unborn child is from conception a human life (see Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 22:10; Isaiah 7:14). There is Divine care for the fetus, and there is personal continuity between life inside and life outside of the womb (both are “me”— see Psalm 139:13-16). Further, Jesus began His human life when He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).
As a human life, the unborn child is an image-bearer of God, and is therefore inherently worthy of protection (Genesis 9:6—killing an image-bearer is itself worthy of being killed). The sixth commandment (“Do not murder”) calls us to value human life in the womb just as much it does human life in the front pew of a church. God loves all life and calls us to join in that love.
From their earliest days, the Christian churches have always sought to protect the lives of the helpless and unwanted. The same love that compelled Christians to risk their lives and their comfort taking in abandoned children is the same love that drove them to seek protection for the unborn. Among them:
There are two ways: the way of life and the way of death, and the difference between these two ways is great. Therefore, do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.
The Epistle of Barnabas, written sometime between A.D. 70 and 130, likewise included strong warnings about abortion, again approaching the topic out of love for the unborn. Recalling Jesus’ instruction that every human life is your neighbor, the Epistle continues, “You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not slay a child by abortion. You shall not slay that which has already been generated.”
We say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God. The fetus in the womb is a living being and therefore the object of God’s care.
And this Christian love was extended to women as well as to children. Rather than judging pregnant women for sexual immorality, Christians in Corinth took temple prostitutes into their homes when they became pregnant. Christians in Poitiers established clinics and hostels to care for the needy. Christians opened the world’s first hospitals, orphanages, almshouses, soup kitchens, and other charities. The opposition to abortion we see in these believers was not flowing from a moralistic judgmentalism, but from a sincere desire to be for life.
Other ancient Christian voices are not difficult to find. Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and others all spoke out strongly in defense of the unborn. A thousand years later, Reformers like Luther and Calvin continued the Christian struggle to love the unborn, speaking and writing against abortion, and seeking to provide alternatives to women in need. In the modern era, it was Mother Theresa who said, upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize, “I believe the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion.” And it was Billy Graham who added a warning. America has killed 40 million unborn babies by abortion since 1973—over one fourth of the total children conceived, leading Graham to add, “If God doesn’t judge America, he’s going to have to apologize to Nazi Germany.”
Pro-choice arguments usually try to steer away from discussion about the intrinsic value of life. Instead, they try to demonstrate that the aborted fetus’ life would have been a life of poor quality. The child would have grown up in poverty. The child would have suffered from Downs Syndrome. The child would not have been equipped to contribute to society. But since when do we protect people only if they’re rich, healthy and able to contribute? A quality of life ethic is truly wicked, cheapening people into what they have to offer.
The value of a human life is not based on the quality of life. Human value is an objective reality. Every living human being has an inalienable right to life, a right that is objective, self-evident, inalienable, and fundamental. The right to live is the first right in the American Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men art created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these is life...” People are not valuable because they make money, have high intelligence, are independent, or contribute anything to society. People are valuable because they are people.
Critics of the Christian’s pro-life stand often suggest that Christians oppose abortion because of some “religious” idea about life beginning at conception. But the beginnings of life are not open to debate—no serious researcher, pro-life or pro-choice—denies that abortion is taking human lives. In the 1980s, the United States Congress called 22 researchers to testify as to when human life began. To help avoid a biased sample, eleven of these researchers supported legal protection for the unborn, while eleven opposed such protections. When asked when each human life began, 21 of the 22 researchers answered, “Life begins at conception.” Only one of 22 gave a different response—implantation, only a week after conception. The unborn child is:
What more must be in place for a being to be deserving of our love? The significance of the biological data is to establish the burden of proof. As far as we are able to observe, human life is a single continuum from conception to natural death. There is at no point other than conception a substantive change in the human being—there is only the development of an already existing, living human being into a more developed, existing, living, human being. If human life is held at some point to be inherently worthy of legal protection (inviolate), then abortion must be treated exactly like any other killing of humans, unless it can be proven that at some point after conception a non-human being becomes a human being. This cannot be done scientifically.
Abortion is fundamentally different from contraception—the prevention of new life. Abortion is the taking of existing life, what we would call murder in any other circumstance. And—with the exception of the “morning after” pill, an abortifacient that destroys the developing embryo in the first few days of life—every abortion stops a beating heart.
Development of the Human Embryo:
Trunk, arms, legs
All organs functioning
The average abortion in the United States is performed at 8 weeks gestation, when the fetus even looks like a newborn, only smaller. But even the new RU-486, the infamous abortion pill, stops a beating heart. Before the mother is likely to even realize she is pregnant, the unborn child's heart is beating. And within 56 days after conception, all of the child's organs are functioning.
Many pro-choice activists admit that abortion is killing human beings. But through a complex argument, they seek to defend it nonetheless. The argument goes like this: Imagine a famous violinist has a rare condition that will cause him to die if he is not immediately hooked up to someone else’s kidney. So he rushes up to you, and plugs himself into you. Do you then have a right to unhook this violinist? Yes, even though doing so will kill him. You never gave this violinist a right to derive his life from you—he is a parasite. The choice whether or not to unhook the violinist is yours.
How does the Christian respond? The pro-choice argument here is tricky, filled with legal presuppositions that the Christian can never accept. To begin with, we could note that the violinist situation is never-ending, while pregnancy is not—thus the analogy breaks down. It also breaks down in that the violinist has a criminal intent in plugging himself into you (stealing?) that the fetus does not have. One could also argue that (except in the case of rape) people do choose to bring another life into the world—when they have sexual intercourse with each other. But this argument still doesn’t cover rape—and we don’t want to punish the children for the sins of their fathers. A life is a life, and shedding innocent blood is wrong.
The key false supposition, as I see it, in the analogy of the famous violinist is this: that we are only obligated to love those we have chosen to love. This is the fatal flaw that invalidates the entire argument.
The lives of other people are not of value because we, as a society, have deemed them of value. Rather, we deem them of value because they objectively are of value. It was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who stated, “One man’s right to swing his arm ends where another man’s face begins.” The right to life is a natural law universal to all people, whether they acknowledge it or not—a fundamental, inalienable, and self-evident right. The fact that the person is God’s image—not our contractual agreeing to consider him such—makes the person of highest value.
Someone will object, “But you can’t legislate morality.” This is a naive statement. Every law on the books is legislating someone’s morality. Why is rape illegal in the United States? Because it’s wrong. The moral standard is that rape is evil. The law thus legislates that morality by restricting the right of men to choose to rape. Libel is illegal. Why? Because it’s wrong to libel people, and so we have laws is to force people not to libel one another. When I drive, I wear my seatbelt. Why? Because some lawmaker decided that, since it’s even wrong to kill yourself, I should have to wear my seatbelt. And my car has an airbag. Why? Because it’s morally right to preserve life, so the law requires Honda to put in airbags. Every law on the books legislates morality. The question is this: Whose morality? I’d rather trust my fate to an impartial God who is perfectly good than to the shifting sands of lawmakers enslaved to political action committees and opinion polls. No government rules by the power of suggestion. Laws legislate morals.
Scripture teaches that the government is “God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4, cf. 1 Peter 2:14). God is the giver of life, and He alone specifies the conditions under which human life may be taken* (Deuteronomy 32:39). Scripture is filled with condemnation toward those who make unjust laws that deprive the helpless of their rights (see Isaiah 10:1-2).
Abortion is not a victimless crime. Indeed, the early
feminists spoke out against abortion—not in favor of it—because they
understood that the same ethic of violence that treated women poorly was the
same violent ethic that sought to kill a child to solve a problem. The language
of choice does not work where victims are involved. How’s this sound? I
think men should have the right to choose to beat their wives—it’s a family
decision, not a government one. Who decides whether we expose infants—you,
with the counsel of your friends, family, and clergy, or the federal
bureaucracy? I’m personally opposed to date rape, but you can’t legislate
morality. It’s every teenage boy’s personal decision to rape his date or not
to. It’s just not a government decision. Sound barbaric? It is. The
language of choice is a slick Madison Avenue marketing ploy for baby killing.
And the same Jesus who loves the little children calls us to love them too.
Christians are right in demanding restored legal protection for the unborn, and
one day people will realize this.
* Induced abortion is distinguished from spontaneous abortion, or miscarriage. Direct abortion is distinguished from indirect abortion, abortion where the goal is to save the mother's life (the death of the fetus being necessary lest both die). Indirect abortion is rare. When the term ‘abortion’ is used in public debate, direct, induced abortion is usually in view. Indirect abortion, though tragic, is biblically permissible, as one human being has a moral right to defend him- or her-self from another threatening human person, even to the point of death. This is tragic because the unborn child is not trying to harm anyone. An analogy may be made to a man on a rooftop randomly shooting citizens. The fact that a large tumor growing on his brain is causing him to kill people makes it a tragic case, but the fact that he is a threat nevertheless legitimates violence for the sake of self-defense. The fact, not the intent, of a threat makes the self-defense argument valid—but only if death is likely to result from inaction.
* Specifically, self-defense, the death penalty (Genesis 9:6—a covenant made with all of humanity and still in force, & Romans 13:4, “sword” being the death penalty) and just war (self-defense on a national scale, read the Old Testament). Personal retribution is not permitted by God—we may not shoot abortion doctors, even if the government fails in its responsibility to punish them.