Allow me to begin by saying that this is not a post about politics, although, it certainly does have major implications for political platforms. We have public figures at all levels of our government claiming to be both Christian and pro-choice. I came across an article this past week in which someone claimed that their Christian faith is what led them to become an abortion provider. Chances are, you have people in your own circles of family and friends who profess Christianity but rally behind the pro-choice cause.
I’ve occasionally heard the claim from some professing Christians that the Bible is silent on the specific issue of abortion, and therefore we cannot be dogmatic about the moral permissibility of terminating a pregnancy. The problem with this argument is, even if it is granted that no Scripture directly mentions the practice of abortion, the essential Christian doctrine of man is what must be dealt with. This doctrine is the true obstacle to reconciling the pro-choice position with Christianity.
When considering the question of whether or not abortion is permissible within a true, orthodox Christian worldview, the central question that must be asked is: What is the entity within the womb of a pregnant woman? Only if we know for absolute certain what it is can we answer the question of whether or not we are morally permitted to destroy that entity.
On a scientific level, we know that:
- At conception (fertilization of the egg, making it a zygote), there is a new being with a 100% unique genetic code and the inherent biological potential to mature to a point of independence from the womb. As Drs. Moore and Persaud explain in their embryology textbook, Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology: “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization…This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”
- This entity is not part of the pregnant woman’s body, it is within, and being sustained by, her body.
- The entity in the womb is the same thing from day one of conception until the last day of the pregnancy. Its identity remains the same over the entire 40 weeks. There is no point at which it changes, ontologically, from one kind of thing to another kind of thing. It simply realizes a certain amount of its developmental potential over those 40 weeks. Just as you are the same entity you were at age 2 (just more developed), and will still be the same entity 10 years from now.
According to the Christian doctrine of man, which is essential to the entire system of Christian belief, we know that:
- A human being is more than a material body. It is a duality of body and immaterial soul mysteriously intermingled.
- At least some of the attributes of the immaterial soul of a human being constitute the Image of God in which mankind was created (Genesis 1:27). This image is what makes us wholly distinct from all other creatures.
- Genesis 9:6 says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made humankind in His own image.” I quote this verse not as a statement on the just penalty for murder, but to show why God condemns the murder of a human being: because they bear His image.
Therefore, if someone wants to harmonize their Christianity with the pro-choice position, here’s what they absolutely must have:
A well-grounded argument that produces 100% certainty that the entity within a pregnant woman’s womb does not have a human soul and thus does not bear the Image of God.
Newsflash: There is no such argument.
If there is any possibility that the entity in the womb has an image-bearing soul, there is no conceivable justification for intentionally destroying that entity. There are, of course, extraordinarily rare situations in which the pregnant woman’s life is mortally endangered by her pregnancy at a time when her unborn baby is not yet mature enough to live outside her womb. But in such cases, the intent behind terminating the pregnancy is not to kill the unborn child, it is to save the mother’s life. In such circumstances, the death of one human being is the unfortunate yet unavoidable outcome of saving one instead of losing both mother and child–which would be doubly tragic.
I would even argue that Scripture strongly suggests that the unborn child is more than a biological machine. The Gospel of Luke tells us that John the Baptist leaped within Elizabeth’s womb, seemingly in response to the Holy Spirit filling Elizabeth, when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, called out in greeting. (Luke 1:41).
The bottom line is, it is impossible for orthodox Christianity to include the pro-choice view. You may hold one or the other, but you cannot rationally hold both. Scripture is specific and clear on what mankind is: a creature with a physical body and an immortal, immaterial soul that bears the very image of our Creator God. We have no theologically and ethically viable choice but to assume that the image-bearing human soul is present in the unborn from the moment of conception.