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A Topical Study Example: A Pro-Life Perspective

A second example of what a Topical Study might yield, this text illustrates the results of an extensive topical study on this difficult subject. Don't be intimidated by the length or the breadth of this study. Few topical studies will be this extensive. Studying just a few passages will yield wonderful results.

Our Hope

The focus of this perspective will be on laws and belief systems. I hope it will not be seen as an attack on anyone, especially those who may disagree. My desire is to be sensitive and caring to those who have had an abortion, or may be faced with a decision regarding one in the future. It would be so helpful if we could all dial down the rhetoric and emotion usually involved when this subject is discussed. Both sides—the pro-life and pro-choice positions—have those who are an embarrassment and represent extreme action that can inflame the debate.

It must be understood, for example, that those who bomb clinics do not represent the mainstream of the pro-life movement. We strongly abhor the yelling, the hate, and the violence. Likewise, I am sure those who are pro-choice would probably be uncomfortable with the extreme of those who see abortion as a casual form of birth control. Therefore, it is my hope that all sides of the issue will listen to each other and not characterize the opposing view by extremist actions.

 

The Central Question

At the crux of our dialogue is a profound question we must all answer:

Is abortion the ending of a life?

Pro-life advocates believe that as prerequisite, we must give our attention to a series of foundational questions.

 

  1. What does the Christian pro-life belief in the sanctity of life imply? It implies that man is uniquely singled out to bear God's image and to be the object of Christ's love—Gen. 9:6. Therefore, we are to value all human life as precious to God and to ourselves.
  2. What is our definition of human life?—Gen. 1:26-28. That which is made according to God's spiritual and moral likeness, not physical, because God is a Spirit. Thus, human life is singled out to bear God's image.
  3. Is an unborn baby a human life?
We will attempt to answer this third question by looking at three perspectives.

 

Pregnancy From the Physical Point of View

We need to remind ourselves how life begins and grows. Let's make it personal. How did each of us begin?

Day one: You began when the sperm cell from your father met and united with the ovum (egg) from your mother. During the act of conception or fertilization, the two cells became a single living cell. You began! You were a unique individual; you never existed before in the history of the world. You are not entirely like either of your parents, nor are you entirely like any of your ancestors.

As the nuclei of the ovum and sperm unite during the first hours of fertilization, they bring together 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 from the father. These chromosome sets carry some 15,000 genes from each parent cell. In these first quiet hours of human conception, the genes, like letters of a divine alphabet, spell out the unique characteristics of the new individual. The color of the eyes, hair and skin, facial features, body type, and certain qualities of personality and intelligence are all determined by this genetic coding. Whether the baby just begun will be a boy or a girl is determined by an X or Y chromosome carried in the father's sperm cell: X=girl, Y=boy.

At this point there is disagreement between the pro-life and pro-choice beliefs. The pro-life belief is that this quiet, yet sacred act of conception has produced not a "potential human being," but rather a human being with vast potential. A new human life has begun and will continue until natural or violent death.

 

Dr. Herbert Ratner states, "It is now unquestionably certain that a human being comes into existence precisely at the moment when the sperm combines with the egg. From everything we know of genetics, it is proven that when the sperm and the nuclei unite, all of the characteristics, such as color of the eyes, hair, skin, etc., that make up a unique personality, are laid down determinately.1

Dr. John Willke agrees. He says: "When the sperm and the ovum complete their joining, i.e., fertilization, conception, there is a single cell. Each of us was once that single cell. Contained within the single cell that we once were, was contained the totality of everything we are, the color of our hair, the size of our shoes, that perhaps when we are 50 we'll get diabetes. All of this was in that single cell. The scientific fact is this, nothing has been added to the single cell, who we once were, except food and oxygen. All we have done since then is grow up. 2

According to Ratner and Willke, each stage of development from fertilization to old age is merely a maturing of what is entirely there at the start. Therefore the tiny unborn baby is not a mass of undifferentiated cells, nor just a part of a woman's body. It is a distinct and separate life altogether. The mother and father have already contributed all that they will contribute to the genetic characteristics of their offspring.

Day 10: The new individual with a remarkable display of hormonal power stops his mother's menstrual period and is in complete charge of the pregnancy from there on in!

Day 18: The tiny little heart is already pumping blood through the tiny little body. It is a type probably differing from the mother.

Six-seven weeks: At this point the eyes, hands, feet, and toes are formed. The first movements of the body, arms, and legs occur. The buds of its little teeth appear, and brain waves can be recorded. If we could tickle the developing nose, he could already turn his head away.

Eight weeks: If we could look inside, we would see that the little one can already grasp an instrument and hang on. He is already swimming freely in the amniotic fluid with a natural swimmer's stroke. The mother has just missed her second menstrual period.

10 weeks: By 10 weeks the tiny little body is as totally formed as yours or mine. The heartbeat can be detected now. The fingerprints and footprints are already engraved on the skin of the little hands and feet. At the 10th week, though in the mother's womb, the baby can suck its thumbs, fingers and toes.

11-12 weeks: This is one-third of the way through the pregnancy. At this age the baby begins to breathe, swallow, digest, urinate, and have tiny liquid bowel movements. The baby also sleeps now and will wake up if there is a loud noise in the room. The baby can hear his mother's voice at this time and will recognize it!

At this age the baby feels pain, can be taught things, and has dream patterns on the brain waves. During this stage vocal cords are also forming and the baby goes through the motions of crying.

16 weeks: Fingernails, eyebrows, and eyelashes appear to enhance the beauty of the tiny being. He also becomes more active as he kicks his feet and curls his toes, or he rests sucking his thumb.

 Five-six months: Passing the midpoint of pregnancy and moving toward the end of the second trimester, the little one has been fully formed for a number of months. Now very coordinated, the baby curls as the mother moves, and stretches when the mother rests. Having increased in size to 12 inches or more and weighing up to 1-1/2 pounds, some infants born prematurely at this stage would survive with adequate care.

We could describe up to the ninth month, but I think it is easy to get the picture.

What does the development of a baby communicate to us? Franky Schaeffer writes: "Now infants with birth weights of about 1-2/3 pounds routinely survive with the best of care, according to Dr. Richard Behrman, chief of neonatology at Children's Hospital in Cleveland." Schaeffer continues: "It is no longer a miracle for an infant of 24 weeks to be saved if born prematurely..."4

How Did it All Begin?

Those holding to a pro-life/anti-abortion position should ask the following question: How did we get to the place where abortion was legalized?

Think about the words of Dr. Bernard N. Nathanson, in an address to the Winnipeg League for Life, April 25, 1981.

The Architects and their Plans: Nathanson says, "We fed the public a line of deceit, dishonesty, a fabrication of statistics and figures. We succeeded (in breaking down the laws limiting abortions) because the time was right and the news media cooperated. We sensationalized the effects of illegal abortions, and fabricated polls which indicated that 85 percent of the public favored unrestricted abortion, when we knew it was only 5 percent. We unashamedly lied, and yet our statements were quoted (by the media) as though they had been written in law"—John Powell.5

Bernard Nathanson is an atheist and founder of the National Association for the Appeal of Abortion Laws. He originally performed abortions, and for a year and a half was director of the largest abortion clinic in the world in New York. He presided over 60,000 abortions before resigning.

If we had so much deception in the beginning, is the whole truth being told today? Let’s look at a few of the pro-choice arguments.

 

Pro-choice Arguments from a Pro-life Point of View

Let’s begin by looking at the most common reasons for 97% of abortions.

 

  1. This first set of reasons for abortion concern the woman’s right of choice and her right of privacy. Often the question is, "Doesn’t a woman have the right to her own body?" Or, "Shouldn’t a woman be allowed to make her own choice?"

    The arguments for choice and privacy vary somewhat. Some who advocate the argument will qualify their stand by saying, "I’m not pro-abortion, I’m pro-choice." What the person is saying is, "I am personally opposed to abortion, but I defend the right of everyone to choose."

    This seems inconsistent to me. Either the act of abortion is the termination of the conceptual product, or it is the ending of human life. I don't believe we can have it both ways.

    The more common argument says "that to outlaw the practice of abortion would force women to become mothers against their will—it should be a private choice between a woman and her doctor." They say, "Reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right... our bodies are not our own as long as the law can dictate that we must bear unwanted children."

    What is the pro-life perspective on those arguments?

    First, it is a fallacy that a woman has a right to do as she pleases with her own body, even in the light of existing laws. For instance, she does not have the right to use illegal drugs; parade nude in a public place; or to spread a communicable disease.

    Second, we must point out that the baby is not her body. The baby can be a different sex, have a different blood type, and has separate brain waves. Technically and scientifically the unborn baby is not her body. This argument overlooks the fact that a baby's body is present, too.

    Third, we must ask, "Is the liberty to terminate human life one of a woman’s cherished humanitarian values and rights"? Dr. Harold Brown, a former chairman of the Christian Action Council, has given a good response to this statement. He says: "No society can grant 'freedom to choose' where fundamental principles of justice are involved—as in murder, robbery, war, rape, and the like. 'Freedom of choice' can never justify freedom to take innocent lives as well."8

    Any civilized society will limit "freedom of choice" when it invades the life of someone else. In South Africa, for example, it was agreed that whites did not have the "freedom to choose" apartheid for their black countrymen. The mask of "freedom of choice" is in reality a way to cover up ending the life of a tiny body in the womb. It is because the victim is hidden in the womb that abortion can "safely and legally" end the life of the unborn. Dr. Bernard Nathanson once speculated: "If the abdominal wall of the pregnant woman was transparent, what kind of abortion laws might we have?" 9

     

    Melody Green reflects: "Our laws are very funny. They allow police to enter the privacy of people’s homes to stop them from battering and abusing their children, and then they use the same force of law to guarantee the ‘privacy and right’ of parents to...[end the life of] their babies before birth... Does this mean that if we know it’s going on, we turn our heads and look the other way, so as not to invade anyone’s right to privacy? 10

    Fourth, the pro-life perspective is that when a woman becomes pregnant, she no longer has the choice to become a mother. She already is a mother. The law cannot "force" motherhood on her; only the biological fact of conception can do that. The real choice is whether or not she as a mother will allow the developing baby to be nurtured in her body.

    A woman has no more right to end the life of the unborn which depends on her mother for sustenance and security, than an airline pilot to murder his passengers in the process of committing suicide with his plane. Jean Garton observes: "The unwanted child is the victim—in a society attempting to solve its social, economic and personal problems by the sacrificial offering of its children..." 11 Kenneth A. Lee has noted: "There is little doubt in anyone’s mind that if the right to privacy had been measured against the right of a person already born, that the right to life would weigh far more heavily on the scales than the right to privacy..." 12

    Of course we should all have the liberty to make our own choices if we are the only ones involved or affected by them, and they are within the boundaries of decency and the law. However, most of our choices are social; that is, they affect others. Abortion obviously affects another. A woman’s right over her body, therefore, is limited.

    For the Christian there is yet another argument against the pro-choice position, for we have another consideration—our bodies are not our own. First Corinthians 6:19-20 makes that very clear—"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20) you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."

    As believers, we gave up our rights when we came to Christ. We are now His temple. We were bought with a price. Therefore our choice comes before conception. If single, our bodies are not meant for sexual immorality, so we "choose" not to be involved in sex until we are married. If married, we have the option to choose suitable birth control. In both cases we choose to honor God with our bodies—not to honor ourselves. As believers, we make our choices in the light of His Lordship and of other people's lives, too. We could never, then, justify securing our rights by ending an unborn baby's life!

    The following are the most difficult arguments to which we must respond, though they represent only a small percentage of the abortions performed in this country.

     

  2. "Pregnancies that result from rape or incest, or where the unborn are diagnosed as defective or deformed, should be aborted." This is an argument weighted with a great deal of emotion, because it brings to the surface the greatest fears people have concerning pregnancy. The misunderstanding propagated by this argument is that nearly all abortions performed in this country are due to the situations listed.

    C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General, disagrees: "When doctors are willing to...[perform abortions on] babies, we must examine what motives are used in justifying their actions. Usually reasons given include preserving the life of the mother, the expectation of a defective child, incest and rape. Even if these were valid reasons, they would account for only 3% of all abortions. A full 97% of abortions occur for matters of convenience and economy." 6 Let's look at the abnormality of the child. The argument is, if there’s an abnormality in the infant and it can be diagnosed before birth, wouldn’t it be better to have an abortion?

    First, once we permit the notion that defects cancel one’s humanity, we risk losing something for all humanity and open the way for arbitrary definitions of "humanity" based upon subjective, shifting ideas of what is "normal" or "acceptable" at any given time—Rites of Life, Shettles and Rorvik, Zondervan, p. 119.

    Second, we need to ask the question, "Do we believe in love?" Love does not discriminate. Is it fair to say, "I will love you only if you are perfect;" or, "we do not tolerate imperfect human beings who might prove burdensome?"

    Christians believe love says, "Baby, we are going to love you. We will make arms for you, or we will be your arms. We will take care of you. You are one of us, a member of our family. We will always love you. Because you are loved by God, we love you too."

    Third, we must all bow before the sovereignty of God and the impact of thousands of years of man making his "choices" apart from the will of God. A passage that gives me understanding about God's part in the process is Exodus 4:11—"The Lord said to him, 'Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or dumb? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?'"

    Like it or not, God makes or allows the imperfect. As stewards of the earth, we have no more right to destroy the imperfect than we do the perfect. God has His own reasons for giving families physically or mentally challenged children. Faith implies we are learning to submit to that with His help and grace.

    Consider this: "Just as a person would not be killed because he or she incurred a physical defect after birth, neither should a baby be killed because of a potential defect before birth."

    Beyond God's responsibility or plan in the matter, mankind must also take some of the responsibility for sickness and deformity because of our abuse of the creation God gave us. Individual children and parents certainly are not the focus here; all of mankind has introduced sin and environmental pollutants. Is it fair to blame God or take a life as the solution to some of our mistakes and sins?

    Fourth, we are all handicapped in some way. Who will decide which handicaps make one less than human? I think all of us would want to be on that committee! Once a society has decided to subjectively determine who should live or die, a lot of people have died. In every case, however, history has shown us that this subjective course of action has later been reversed; e.g., extermination of the Jews.

    Finally, the basis for eliminating those considered handicapped is called a "quality of life argument." It says, in essence, that people are valuable only if they qualify. But does a person’s value have anything to do with what they contribute, or how they look, or their mental and physical capabilities? Christians believe in the sanctity of all human life.

     

  3. Now, how about two of the most difficult circumstances: rape and incest. I know that by speaking and writing about this area I can alienate and anger many, but understand that I don’t speak as a passive observer. I have had to ask and answer what I would recommend if it happened in my family. Let me state as strongly as I can that I absolutely abhor the act of rape and incest. We must, however, separate that abhorrence from our view of the baby in the womb.

    Here's a poignant question: should how a person comes into the world determine if he lives or dies?

    Let's look at the frequency of rape and incest. How often does it happen? Pregnancy from rape and incest is extremely rare, especially if the victim goes immediately to a hospital. We are talking about a very small number of cases. This, of course, does not minimize the horror of the circumstance for the one who becomes pregnant after a rape. An alarming amount of date rape occurs in this country. All Americans should be very concerned about it, and we should do all we can to help stop the violence!

    If pregnancy does occur from rape or incest, however, the woman should ask, "Why should I want to also punish the innocent child?" Destroying the child will not end the trauma, nor punish or deter the rapist. It will not blot out the woman’s memory of the assault or lessen her degradation in any way. With sensitivity I would ask us all to consider these questions:

    • Is not the killing of the innocent unborn also an act of violence?
    • Do two wrongs make a right?
    • Why let the rapist force an injured woman to participate in another act of violence?

    Let us fight the abuse with a loving act and save the baby! Also, I think it is helpful to remember, the baby is part of her, no matter who the father is.

    With no inappropriate questions to satisfy curiosity, the Christian must step into this situation and help support the victim. This is the time to offer extraordinary care—all the support, assistance, counseling, and loving concern we can give. Alternatively to abortion, the baby can be carried to term and fully loved, either in the mother’s or an adoptive home.

    John Powell describes the potential outcome of this course of action: "She [the victim] is helped to new heights of courage and respect for human life. The baby is allowed to live and is, after delivery, offered for adoption." He then quotes a mother who brought a baby to full term and gave it up for adoption.

     

    "Oh, I’m a much better, braver person. As the baby grew inside me, I think I grew up. Even though I still feel some bitterness toward the baby’s father that I must work through, I still delight in the thought that the baby is alive, gurgling and smiling into the faces of his adoptive parents." 7

    What a prospect! Over time, a horrible situation can be countered by the loving act of giving life.

    In cases where a therapeutic abortion is an option, people ask: "Isn't abortion permissible if the mother’s life is endangered?" It is difficult to respond to this question, too, because of the emotion attached to it. It involves not only the unborn life, but also the mother’s. Since the goal of medicine and Christian belief is to do everything possible to save lives, obviously everything possible should be done to preserve the life of both mother and child.

    Contrary to some reports, however, this scenario is extremely rare. Dr. C. Everett Koop, well-known pediatric surgeon and former U.S. Surgeon General reports that in his 40-plus years of medical practice, he has never encountered a case where abortion was necessary to save the mother’s life.

    Dr. Landrum Shettles, who for 27 years was the attending obstetrician/gynecologist at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City writes: "In more than 40 years of obstetrical and gynecological practice, I have seen only a 'handful' of cases where abortion was needed to save a woman’s life"—Landrum Shettles, Rites of Life, Zondervan, l983, p. 118.

    Apparently there are other answers to therapeutic abortion, and those should be pursued to the limit. Then and only then should therapeutic abortion be considered.

    Many other arguments given for abortion need at least a quick look.

     

  4. "Why bring unwanted babies into the world? Abortion will reduce child abuse." The argument, simply stated, is that an unwanted child should not be brought into the world. It becomes a burden to the mother, the child will suffer, and there is a high chance of child abuse in such a circumstance. In essence, the argument is that it is better not to be born than to be unwanted, poor, or handicapped, and is usually bolstered with statistics which are seen as implying that battering is the common fate of the child born in an unwanted pregnancy.

    What is the pro-life response to that statement?

     

    First, it is incorrect to say that once a baby is born it will be unwanted. There is an extreme shortage today of newborn babies for adoption. If a baby is carried to full term, it will never be unwanted. There are thousands of couples who long, night and day, to hold and to love the children mothers are throwing away.

    Second, is it fair to want and not want people at will? The moment we adhere to the notion that unwanted people can be easily eliminated, our society is in trouble—each of us is in jeopardy.

    Third, statistics do not back up the assertion that unwanted babies become abused children. "Studies show that 90 percent of abused children are the result of planned pregnancies." 13 Koop says, "We were told in the days before the Supreme Court decision that abortion on demand would reduce child abuse. Instead, child abuse has climbed 500 percent since 1973..." 14

    Studies have consistently been contrary to the pro-choice arguments. The truth is that once we allow the abuse of babies in the womb, abortion becomes the ultimate form of child abuse. The abuse of older children outside the womb is a natural consequence.

     

    • Dr. Bernard Farber, a sociologist from Arizona State University, sees abortion and child abuse going hand in hand in American Society. 15

       

    • Dr. John Fletcher, of the Genetic Research Group at the Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences says, "To contemplate the death of your baby in the third month of pregnancy changes very seriously the attitude we, as a society, usually have toward our babies." 16

       

    • Dr. Vincent Fontana, a former chairman of the New York City Mayor’s Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect, says in his book—"It is unfair, uninformed, and, I believe, dangerous, to preach the doctrine that abused and neglected children are unwanted children and to imply that unplanned or unwanted children are going to be maltreated. 17

       

    Another pro-choice argument is:
  5. "The way to stabilize the population figures is through easy abortion." The argument maintains that the present 4.5 billion population would reach 6 billion by the year 2000, and that the ideal stabilization figure would perhaps be in the neighborhood of 4 to 5 billion. It claims we cannot cope with all the problems that will develop if we do not stabilize the population. However: a study of the world's total land mass and usable land shows that world population is not the real problem. The world economy, in fact, could handle a much larger population than it currently has. Instead, some of the real culprits are religion, distribution, compassion, and training.

    What are the real facts? There is presently enough tillable land to feed 100 billion. In fact, enough rooms presently exist in New York City to hold every single individual alive. Obviously that is not enough living space, but they all could be placed in the city and everyone would have at least one room to stand in for a short period of time!

    If indeed there is potential for the population to be handled, what is the real need? Certainly there are cities with too large a population, but distribution, not death, is the answer. Many are starving in countries like India, but the problem is religion. India could feed itself if it would kill the cows who wander the countryside eating up the vegetation and grain. It would even have enough food left over to export food to many of the needy third world countries.

    What will it take to bring about the kind of global changes needed? Compassion is needed in countries where there is a surplus. They need to distribute their excess food, and train and educate the less fortunate countries how to feed themselves! The answer is not the death of the unborn.

    Another popular and very emotional argument is:

  6. If we make abortion illegal, women will go back to "back alley and unsafe abortions." The argument is that legal abortions prevent a great deal of harm to women whose lives would be ruined or physically hurt if legal abortion was unavailable.

    What do the statistics say? "An estimate published by the Bureau of Vital Statistics of the U.S. Public Health Service, indicates there were fewer than 200 maternal deaths a year from illegal abortions in the late 1960s." 18 Since abortion was legalized, however, there have been 1.5 million abortions a year, and the number is growing. What an exchange! 200 deaths for one million deaths.

    Again we ask the question, is the killing of a baby the best solution we have to our problems? Many problems mentioned in the abortion debate are adult problems that children are having to pay a price for. There must be a better and more compassionate solution in which we respect the humanity of the mother and the unborn!

    That kind of compassion, however, is not generated by good intentions. The way to find help and understanding for the mother and child is to see life from a Scriptural viewpoint.

     

Pregnancy From A Spiritual Viewpoint

We have discussed pregnancy from the physical point of view, and the pro-choice arguments from the pro-life point of view; but a final view is needed: Pregnancy From A Spiritual Viewpoint. A study of Scripture can be very helpful in understanding the spiritual nature of an unborn baby and showing us that our personal choices and perspective are not enough.

When we look at Scripture on this subject, it seems to assume human life is present in the unborn baby. It is like arguing about the existence of God. We find little Scripture which could be used to answer the philosophical claim that God does not exist, because it is so widely assumed in Scripture that He does.

Psalm 139: One of the most noteworthy passages dealing with pre-born life is this Psalm of David. A slow and thoughtful reading of the first 17 verses can give a very revealing picture of God and who we are.

 

  • 1—"O LORD, you have searched me and you know me." Notice the use of personal pronouns all the way through. The words literally mean, you "ransacked my personality," with the result that you know me intimately.
  • 2—"You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar." This portrays the wonder of the Psalmist at the incredible intimacy of the knowledge of God. David sees that God knows every event of his life.
  • 3—"You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways."
  • 4—"Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD."
  • 5—"You hem me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me."
  • 6—"Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain." God not only knows the outward events of David's life; He also knows his inner aspirations, his dreams, his yearnings. According to v. 4, God knows what David is going to say before he speaks. So God is far more aware of every intimate detail of a man's life than the man himself. This knowledge of God encompasses even his thought life—his intentions, longings, desires.
  • 7—"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"
  • 8—"If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there."
  • 9—"If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,"
  • 10—"even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." There is no conceivable state of being in which a human can exist that God does not know him. The implications of this knowledge are that there is no escape from the presence of God. He knows us. But why does God know David so intimately?

    Notice the "for" at the start of verse 13. This indicates reason for the previous verse.

     

  • 13—"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." God knows us so well because He was present at the beginning of life. In fact, the definition of "knit" means "you did unroll me." The idea here is that in the very beginning, God forms and begins to unroll the baby. David is very impressed with this.
  • 14—"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." As the Psalmist says of himself, we each can say of ourselves too. We are wonderfully made. We have been designed and made by God for His purposes.
  • 15—"My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth"
  • 16—"your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."
  • 17—"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!"

The language here conveys that there is no conceivable state of the human being that does not involve identity with God! Very beautifully David describes how God superintends over human life from the beginning. To say that one does not become a person until birth, is to say that God forms and relates to nonpersons in the womb and that Psalm 139 is inaccurate. Notice there is no change in the personal pronoun. Just as when he is speaking about himself as a grown person in verses 1-12, it is "I" and "me" describing the fetal state.

Therefore, we can conclude that human life was at the very beginning, because the context of the passage is that there was unbroken fellowship and relationship with God. David was indeed a person in the womb. It was his body, his very substance, in his mother's womb. It was the same David who would become king of Israel and author of this psalm.

Another passage which helps to confirm this view is:
Jeremiah 1:4-5—"The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5] 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew [or chose] you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.' This verse verifies God's care by saying that God knows us before we are born and even knows our names and what we will be called to do (see also Gal. 1:15).

God knew Jeremiah before he was born, sanctified him, and ordered him to be a prophet. If the baby had been killed by abortion, it would have been Jeremiah who was killed. His mother may never have known his name, nor that he was to be a mighty prophet of God; but God would have known.

I wonder how many babies who have been aborted might have had within their brains the cure for cancer, or other great secrets which would have made valuable contributions to the human race and Christianity, had they lived. I wonder how many George Washingtons, Abraham Lincolns, D.L. Moodys and Charles Finneys are being lost forever? Can we afford to lose a Lincoln?

An oft-repeated, though apocryphal illustration of this potential is the following story.

 

A professor at UCLA medical school asked his students this question: "Here's a family history. The father has syphilis, the mother has [tuberculosis]. They have already produced four children. The first is blind, the second has died, the third is deaf, the fourth has [tuberculosis], and now the mother is pregnant again. The parents are willing to have an abortion, if you decide they should. What do you think?"

The majority of the students decided on the abortion.

"Congratulations," said the professor, "you have just murdered Beethoven." 19

Another strong confirmation of the human identity of the unborn occurs in
Luke 1:39-44

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40] where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 41] When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42] In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43] But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44] As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45] Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"

When Elizabeth is six months into her pregnancy (v. 36), we see a clear expression of a human emotion within her womb: joy—v. 41. Interestingly, although Mary has just conceived, John (in Elizabeth's womb) still reacts to the person of Jesus in Mary's womb. This incident, therefore, becomes a powerful argument for the humanity of the unborn.n As a result of this encounter, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesies—v. 41b-42. Then she acknowledges Mary is already a mother, not a potential mother—v. 43. Finally, through the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth gives a second verification the baby in her womb leaped for joy—v. 44. Was Elizabeth wrong about her acknowledgment of the two babies? No! Luke, also under the inspiration of the Spirit, clearly thought that John (though still unborn) was responding to God's Spirit.

This recognition of the life of John is also seen in Luke 1:14-17—"He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15] for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth [or from his mother's womb]."

Note the margin reading in your Bible or the phrase in parenthesis at the end of v. 15. It is "from his mother's womb." John the Baptist was being filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. Would the Holy Spirit fill a nonperson? No! Only human beings are filled with the Spirit. That would explain why the presence of Jesus in Mary's womb caused John to leap for joy.

All this we take as evidence that Scripture teaches a human life exists from the very moment of conception. Without any hesitation we could agree that God knew John's name before he was born. He knew John would be a delight to his parents—v. 14. He knew John would be great in the sight of the Lord and would cause many to rejoice, etc.—vv. 14-15. God knew John quite well, and had a distinct purpose for him alone to fulfill. God does not wait until a baby moves or becomes completely ready for life outside his mother before He knows him, loves him, and recognizes him as a human being. If that is the case, why should we wait?

Another passage about the value of the unborn is in God's giving of the Law.
Exodus 21:22-23—"If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. 23] But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life..."

Some have said this passage is too confusing to be helpful to the pro-life position. Why? The New American Standard Version (NASV) translates v. 22 as "miscarriage" and not "give birth prematurely," which is how the New International Version (NIV) reads. Those who agree with the NASV conclude that what is written about here is the death of a fetus by miscarriage, and that the punishment is different from what would be given for a human; only a fine is allowed. They infer that the fetus is not considered a human life since the loss of the fetus by miscarriage is punishable only by a fine. A life for a life would be expected in the death of a human being.

In contrast to that interpretation, the passage in Exodus 21 is translated in a different way in the NIV, which renders an entirely different interpretation of what is involved in this passage. Here the qualification "there is no serious injury..." applies to the premature infant as well as its mother. It also means that the phrase in v. 23 ("But if there is serious injury...") applies to either mother or child.

It is important to note that "verse 22 uses the ordinary word for child. It is never used elsewhere to refer to someone who cannot exist outside the womb. If the writer wanted to talk about an embryo, a fetus, a miscarriage, or a still birth, he had other specific words at his disposal." 20 "Francis Schaeffer checked the exegesis of those verses with five Hebrew scholars and was convinced that God means just that, and in no way does He mean to downgrade the worth of the unborn child"—C. Everett Koop. 21

Exodus 21 is not set in a framework of figurative or poetic language, but is expressed in clear, concrete language.It seems clear according to this portion of Scripture, then, that if a mother is hit, causing her or her unborn baby to have serious injury or death, then the same punishment should be inflicted upon the person hitting the mother and injuring her baby. This shows us that the law considered the premature baby a human person.

In addition, look at a passage in the New Testament.
Ephesians 1:4-5—"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5] he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will..."

Aren't those amazing verses? This passage makes it very clear that we have been known and loved in the mind and heart of God from all, and into all, eternity. It must also be true for those who have already begun their lives in the wombs of their mothers. John Powell writes: "For God, at last an eternal dream has come true...it has become a reality in time." 22

Consider the love of God for the unborn in:
Isaiah 49:15-16—"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16] See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me."

God knows all life, even if the mother or father has no compassion on the unborn, even if they forget the life; God will not. He has carved all life from the foundations of the world on His hands.

Philippians 2:5-8—"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6] Who, being in very nature [or in the form of] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7] but made himself nothing, taking the very nature [Or the form] of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8] And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross."

Jesus made the transition to earth at the point of conception, not birth. It was in the womb that he "...took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men"—Bill Gothard.

Genesis 25:21-23—"Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. 22] The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, 'Why is this happening to me?' So she went to inquire of the LORD. 23] The LORD said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.' 24] When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb."

Notice verse 22 speaks of the babies jostling within her. This was no ordinary movement of pre-born children. It was so unusual, Rebekah had to pray about it. Notice the twins are not only called babies (v. 22), but in verse 24 are called nations—two peoples. Their future is decided before they are born, and their lineage is predetermined before that nation/people is even conceived. These jostling children, the subsequent prayer and answer make it clear these two boys and all children are conceived and born with a plan. God knows us even before we are conceived!

 

A Biblical Foundation

Our greatest concern should be to seek alternatives to abortion. It is one thing to cry out at the abuse of abortion and to give advice to the pregnant woman at a distance. It is another to share the compassion of Christ and show concern not only for the unborn, but for the mother. Churches need to be properly and decisively involved in this problem of unwanted pregnancies with all the dedication they have.

The biblical foundation for our involvement is found in the following verses:

James 1:27—"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." By definition, the orphans of our day are the unborn who are being abandoned and aborted by moms and dads. If we are going to have a pure and faultless religion the Father accepts, we will need to actively care for both ends of the age spectrum.

James 2:14-17—"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15] Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16] If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17] In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

To tell a woman not to have an abortion and then not help her resolve any of the problems that made her consider abortion shows we have no faith and are part of the problem. Psalms 82:3-4 says, "Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4] Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." Who will defend/rescue the weak and needy? These verses give us no option except to be involved.

Prov. 31:8—"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." Who will speak up for the unborn? Innocent victims need us to be their spokesmen.

Prov. 24:11-12—"Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. 12] If you say, 'But we knew nothing about this,' does not he who weighs [1 Sam. 2:3] the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" We are to intervene and offer no excuses, such as: "I didn't know this was happening." Remember, God knows our hearts! Let us admit our fear and insensitivity.

What then should pro-life people do with this biblical mandate?

 

A Practical Pro-life Response

For pro-life people the question is: What can be done to help in a practical way?
  • Pray: We should pray for spiritual awakening; that the truth will be known; against Satan's schemes; for courage to speak up; for compassion for mothers and the unborn; for loving responses toward those who oppose our view.

     

  • Educate: We might learn how to speak with those who advocate pro-choice arguments. Read good books on the subject. Whatever the setting, it is necessary we speak up, but 2 Timothy 2:23 reminds us, "don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24] And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25] Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth..." This makes it clear we are not to be obnoxious and insensitive to people when this subject comes up in conversation. We must be kind and gently instruct. God will do the rest. Many people have a few "pro-choice" statements in their mind, but they have not the slightest idea of what it is all about. Take initiative without being pushy, and educate yourself and others. Be prepared to take the flack graciously!

     

  • Respond medically: Ask your doctor if he performs abortions on demand. If he says yes, you might consider changing doctors. Gently tell him why.

     

  • Counsel pregnant women: We need to speak to them with compassion and not condemnation about choosing life! We ought to encourage adoption rather than abortion on demand. Some of us need to make our homes and ourselves available to help in any way we can. This is a very practical alternative. A church should also be working with those who will aid pregnant women with counseling, and if desired, help them find child placement services.

    Dr. Koop has said, "We need to be willing to lay down our homes, our energy, our money and our love to provide support for frightened, unwed mothers. Perhaps we can heal the girl's disrupted home and help her become reconciled to parents who have rejected her. Perhaps we will open our homes to provide foster care and a sequestered environment while she carries the baby to term. For the unmarried mother who chooses to keep her child, we may help with babysitting while she finishes school or goes back to work. Or we may assist in some way in the adoption proceedings for those who see the advantage of placing the child with a family. Through it all God may use us to introduce the mother to Christ, and through Him to a past free from guilt and a future filled with hope." 23

    We as a church also need to say to the single woman who wonders if she can cope with a pregnancy and child, "We will stand by you." Adoption is not for everyone, so we as a community must be committed to helping single moms make it through the rough times, e.g., babysitting, food, counsel, financial.

     

  • Write the Christian Action Council for their newsletter: 701 West Broad Street, Suite 405, Falls Church, VA 22046. Phone: (703) 237-2100.

    All the above are possible options for us. Please prayerfully consider them.

     

Conclusion

I am particularly struck by the Old Testament story of the plight of Hagar and her son. Genesis 21:14ff tells how Abraham sent them away. Some background information is helpful to understand Abraham's action, but this incident still does not appear to be Abraham's finest hour. Whatever his reason or attitude, it is important to notice God's attention, care, and plan. I see striking parallels between the conditions of Hagar and her son and many women who are deciding what to do with their pregnancies.

 

Genesis 21:14-21a—"Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the desert of Beersheba. 15] When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. 16] Then she went off and sat down nearby, about a bowshot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there nearby, she began to sob. 17] God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18] Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." 19] Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. 20] God was with the boy as he grew up..."

Verse 14 tells of the final send-off into the desert with some food and water that was soon to be used up. It represents to me the number of women in our country who are sent out into a desert of despair. The only option seems to be to move from their child and let him/her die. Notice God heard the cry of Hagar's child. God began to counsel her, give her direction, and show her the potential of her child. Can you imagine how needed, how helpful that was? He also gave Hagar great hope for the future. God was going to make her son into a great nation, the Arabs. We know they did become great, but they also have been opposed to Israel most of their history. Back in verse 20, however, God opened her eyes to a present solution: to the sustenance needed to keep her and her child alive.

We need the same kind of response in many cases. Many mothers feel like the only solution is to turn away from their child and let it be aborted. Society has told them it is acceptable and the only smart option. God, however, hears the noise, the movement of these children. He sees their potential. He is superintending over their growth in the womb. He has a plan for them.

God also needs many places of refreshment; many wells to give an answer to the desert of despair and quandary. It is my prayer that God will help us to be His voice and His well of refreshment. By so doing, we can prevent the death, abuse, mistreatment, and abandonment of many, many children—both born and unborn.

Will you be God's voice and hand?

 

When they tell you that abortion is a matter between a woman and her doctor, they're forgetting someone.

 


This Prolife Perspective is really the end result of a step-by-step subject study on pro-life issues. If you would like to learn how this particular study was initiated, I would encourage you to click here and study How to Do a Subject Study.

 


Footnotes
  1. Dr. Herbert Ratner, quoted in an article by Patricia Young, Christianity Applied, Nov. 1974, p. 27.
  2. Dr. John Willke, as stated on the film, "Assignment Life."
  3. Dr. John Willke, The Handbook on Abortion, Hayes Pub. Co., Cincinnati, Ohio.
  4. Franky Schaeffer, A Time for Anger, Crossway Books, Westchester, Illinois, 1982. p. 177.
  5. John Powell, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, Argus Communications, Allen, TX, 1981, p. 75.
  6. Dr. C. Everett Koop, "Moody Monthly," May 1980, reprint.
  7. John Powell, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, Argus Communications, Allen, Texas, 1981.
  8. Dr. Harold Brown, "Moody Monthly," May 1980, reprint, p. 10.
  9. Bernard Nathanson, Aborting America, Doubleday Pub., p. 211.
  10. Melody Green, The Questions Most People ask about Abortion, 1981, Last Days Ministries, Lindale, Texas.
  11. Jean Garton, Who Broke the Baby? Bethany Fellowship, Minneapolis, MN, 1979, p. 27ff.
  12. Kenneth A. Lee, "Christianity Applied," Nov. 1974, p. 14.
  13. Susan Parrish and Mike Stoddard, "A Question of Murder," "Klipsun", Vol. 12, No. 4, April, l982, pp. 13-14.
  14. C. Everett Koop, "The Evangelist," Special Edition, Vol. 15, No. 11, p. 22.
  15. Dr. Bernard Farber, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, Argus Communications, Allen, Texas, 1981, p. 126.
  16. Dr. John Fletcher, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, Argus Communications, Allen, Texas, 1981, p. 127.
  17. Dr. Vincent Fontana, Somewhere a Child is Crying, Macmillan, p. 239.
  18. John Powell, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, p. 113.
  19. Author Unknown
  20. Charles E. White, "Why I Joined the Fight Against Abortion," "HIS," Feb. 1984, p. 6.
  21. C. Everett Koop, "Moody Monthly," May 1980, reprint, p. 6.
  22. John Powell, Abortion: The Silent Holocaust, p. 154.
  23. Dr. C. Everett Koop in The Abortion Question, David H. Roper, Discovery Pub. Co., Palo Alto, CA, 1983, p. 15.