IV. Answering the Theological Case for Abortion
II. The Pro-life Position of the Church Through History
[The following material is presented here, with
permission, from the Center for Bioethical Reform. Priests for Life is grateful
to the authors, Gregg Cunningham and Scott Klusendorf.]
A. The assertion that prohibitions against abortion are relatively recent is
1. Early opposition from the Church Fathers
Athenagoras (A.D. 177--while defending Christians against murder charges):
"What reason would we have to commit murder when we say that women who induce
abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God? For the
same person would not regard the fetus in the womb as a living thing and
therefore an object of God's care [and then kill it]." (A Plea for the
Tertullian (A.D. 197--while defending Christianity against charges of child
sacrifice): "In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not
destroy even the foetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood
from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder birth is merely a
speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is
born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth. That is a man which is going
to be one; you have the fruit already in the seed." (Apology, 9.6)
Clement of Alexandria (A.D. 150-215). "But women who resort to some sort
of deadly abortion kill not only the embryos but, along with it, all human
kindness." (Paedagogus, 2.10. 96.1.)
Basil the Great (374 A.D.). "Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing
abortion are [deliberate murderers] themselves, as well as those receiving the
poison which kills the fetus." (Letter, 188.2)
2. The witness of the Protestant reformers:
John Calvin (1509-64). "The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its
mother, is already a human being and it is a most monstrous crime to rob it of
the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems more horrible to kill
a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of
most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a
fetus in the womb before it has come to light" (Commentarius in Exodum,
Martin Luther (1483-1546). "Even if all the world were to combine forces,
they could not bring about the conception of a single child in any woman's womb
nor cause it to be born; that is wholly the work of God." (Luther's Works,
John Donne (English poet and preacher). "The sin of Er, and Onan, in married
men; the sin of procured abortions, in married women, does in many cases equal,
in some exceed, the sin of adultery." (Sermon preached Easter, 1625)
3. Modern opposition:
*Dietrich Bonhoeffer (German pastor and theologian hung by the Nazis in
1945): "Destruction of the embryo in the mother's womb is a violation of the
right to life which God has bestowed on this nascent life ... And that is
nothing but murder. (Ethics, pp.175-176.)
*Pope John Paul II: "No word has the power to change the reality of
things: procured abortion is the deliberate and direct killing, by whatever
means it is carried out, of a human being in the initial phase of his or her
existence." (Evangelium Vitae, Section 58)
B. Forcing the Issue:
1. Don't let abortion advocates get off with a bogus theological defense of
child killing. Make them show you where Scripture supports their position of
abortion-on-demand, for convenience purposes, throughout all nine months of
2. Then make them show you where the Church Fathers and reformers support their
position. Make them produce documentation.
III Clerical Resistance to the Pro-life
A. Origins of pastoral resistance:
1. The mistaken belief that abortion is a political rather than a
spiritual issue. Anyone who doubts that abortion involves pure spiritual
warfare needs to read the cover story in the October 1993 issue of New Age
Journal ("Sister Against Sister," p.66)--the flagship publication of the
occult. Listen to author Brenda Peterson:
"In her book Pagan Meditations, Ginette Paris describes abortion as an
essentially religious act, a sacred sacrifice to Artemis. 'One aborts an
impossible love,' she writes, 'not a hatred.' In her new book, The Sacrament
of Abortion, Paris explains further that if we saw abortion as a sacred
ritual, it would restore to the act a sense of the sanctity of life."
The goddess Artemis is, as we know, the pagan idol whose worshippers nearly
killed Paul and two other disciples for persuading the people of Ephesus to
embrace Christ (Acts 19:23- 41). "Most of all," Peterson goes on to say,
"We'll initiate our daughters into the women's mysteries, such as charting our
reproductive rhythms, remembering the midwives' potions; and perhaps with
dignity we'll ritualize the RU 486 pill with prayers to Artemis or the Divine
Mother, She who gives and takes life."
Newsweek magazine reports (October 17,1994) that many abortionists "have
a missionary sense about their work." Dr. Curtis Boyd, a Texas abortionist, told
the magazine, "I perform abortions because of my religion." Dr. Boyd is
often asked by Native American women to bless the aborted fetus, and by Catholic
women to baptize it. He proposes schools of theology develop special ceremonies
and prayers to mark the loss of a fetus.
It's ironic that pagans understand better than most Christians that abortion is
a spiritual issue. Nonetheless, many pastors continue to downplay abortion as a
political matter unrelated to the mission of the church. In reality, abortion is
a sin. It is an act of violence which kills a baby and victimizes desperate
women. [See p. 148]
(For an excellent study linking current pro-abortion thinking directly to the
occult philosophies of 19th century spiritism, see Marvin Olasky's book,
Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, published by
Crossway Books, 1992, pp.61- 82)
2. Crisis of faith. This derives from the clergy's inability to believe
that God can be trusted to protect their ministries whenever they preach
inconvenient truth. As with some politicians, there are preachers who are more
interested in keeping their jobs than doing their jobs. Many pastor
congregations that are heavily in debt because of a church building fund. These
leaders will not risk losing members.
Ironically, a pastoral decision to confront abortion provokes the greatest anger
in the congregations with the greatest need to hear the truth. Clergy fear this
anger. They know intuitively that they are going to be punished by certain
members of their congregations if they address this issue. Like Saul in I Samuel
15, these leaders ignore God's call to provide leadership because they fear
their own people more than they fear God.
3. Many church leaders have actually counseled parishioners to kill their
babies or have given ambiguous counsel. Press them and they will nervously
rationalize their complicity in the deaths of these children. They feel
personally threatened by any urging that the church remain true to its calling
and stand against this evil.
4. A sudden break in a pastor's silence on the issue raises the question of
where he has been for the last several years. It is an awkward question; the
clergy dread dealing with it. Pastors who finally see the light often pursue a
"go slow" strategy to make the shift seem less abrupt. This approach might save
face, but it also kills more babies. Pride must give way to humility before
confession and repentance can yield the forgiveness required to liberate and
empower your pastor. As is true of all of us, pastors do not suffer humiliation
5. The Great Commission 'cop out.' Some pastors see their mission
primarily in terms of the Great Commission which they mistakenly interpret to
mean only evangelism. They often suggest that abortion is not a spiritual
concern, but rather a social or political one. In reality, abortion is a sin. It
violates the Ten Commandments. It is an act of violence which kills an innocent
baby and savages desperate women.
A closer reading of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) shows that Christ gave
His church two specific mandates: 1) preach salvation and 2) disciple believers.
Christ defined this discipleship responsibility as teaching believers to obey
His commandments. One of those commandments to which the Lord was referring is
the prohibition against shedding innocent blood (Ex.23:7, Prov. 6:16- 17,etc.)
Abortion is the shedding of innocent blood. It is an act of violence which kills
a baby. Hence, abortion is a discipleship issue not unrelated to the Great
Commission responsibilities of the church.
6. Faint hearted pastors who worship "peace" instead of the "Prince of
Peace." "It's a sin for contemporary pastors to become so "seeker
sensitive" that they become "believer worthless." Serving God means confronting
evil. Confronting evil provokes controversy. Paul enraged opponents with a
message so confrontational that they conspired to kill him in Damascus, forced
him to flee Jerusalem, ran him out of Antioch, threatened his life in Iconia,
stoned him and left him for dead in Lystra, attacked and beat him in Macedonia,
stormed his residence in Thessolonica, drove him from Beroea, abused him in
Corinth, assaulted and arrested him in Crispus, silenced him with mob violence
in Ephesus, and incited two riots in which he was almost killed in Jerusalem,
the city in which the book of Acts ends, with a plot to assassinate him.
What kind of "peace" is that? Obviously not the kind that is devoid of
conflict; not the naive utopian "peace" craved by spiritual draft dodgers who
twist the meaning of Scriptures like Romans 12:18 to unilaterally disarm the
Body of Christ. Paul did not say "at all costs, live at peace with everyone."
Instead, he said we are to live in peace, "as far as it depends on us."
We should also remember that Christ preached a message so divisive that even his
closest followers abandoned him. In Luke 12: 49-53 and Matthew 10: 34-36 He is
recorded as admonishing His disciples to "not suppose that I came to give peace
on earth. I tell you, not at all. But rather division." In Matthew chapters 5
and 6 we hear Him preaching against adultery, lust, fornication, anger, hatred
and hypocrisy. Luke 7:23 records Him saying, "Blessed is he who is not offended
because of me." John 8:59 describes a crowd to which he was preaching that
became so offended they took up stones to kill Him. There is, in fact, not one
recorded example of Christ or the apostles modeling evangelism by ignoring sin.
7. They are more concerned with saving "souls" than saving babies. These
pastors sometimes argue that "heavy handed" tactics drive women away who need to
hear the gospel. They essentially assert that risking a baby's life is morally
acceptable if necessary to save his mother's soul. This is a false dilemma which
reflects the flawed logic of the adversary, masquerading as an angel of light.
Saving a woman's soul may be the more important thing to focus on over the long
haul, but saving her baby's life is the more urgent thing to do at the
moment. We have years to minister to mothers but only moments to save their
babies. God does not call us to accept child-sacrifice as an instrument of
evangelism, especially when an abortion imperils a woman's soul by making it
more difficult to bring her to salvation.
8. They don't want to upset women who have had previous abortions. Those
who have been wounded by abortion desperately need to be brought out of denial
and into confession so they can repent. The fact that repentance is painful does
not relieve us of our responsibility to teach it ("Godly sorrow" leads to
healing--2 Cor. 7: 10). When our pastors teach repentance which doesn't require
heartbreak, they are operating in the flesh rather than the Spirit -- an error
which savages women and kills babies. (See also Prov. 28:13; 1 John 1:9-10,
9. The pastor claims there is no consensus on abortion in his church, hence
he refuses to preach against it. Whose job is it to forge a Biblical
consensus on moral issues? Is that not what pastors are supposed to do? If the
issue were slavery, what would we think of a pastor who said, "There is no
consensus on that issue in my church, therefore I better not address it?"
Chances are, most of us would consider this an outrage.
B. Consequences of the Clergy Ignoring Abortion
1. Babies die in the church. The Chicago Tribune reports on a
Guttmacher study indicating that one out of every five women who aborts
identifies herself as an "born again Christian." That's a quarter of a million
babies a year dying in evangelical churches. That same study went on to note
that Catholic women are as likely as other women to have abortions.
Time magazine (12/5/94) describes the first woman to kill her baby in the
Midwest states using RU 486 as having been raised in a Christian, pro-life home.
Her mother was quite happy to assist by driving her to the clinic and coaching
her through the painful expulsion of the fetus.
2. Women are victimized. There are now 25 peer reviewed studies in the
medical literature suggesting a link between abortion and breast cancer. The
latest published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (11/94)
found that girls under the age of 18 who abort their pregnancies at eight weeks
gestation or beyond are 150% more likely to contract breast cancer by age 45.
(Only 13% of all breast cancers manifest by that age.) Those women who escape
breast cancer still face untold risks from internal bleeding, uterine
perforations, etc. If pastors don't take the lead as truth tellers on these
issues, who will?
3. Sin is institutionalized into law. Weak pastors produce weak
congregations who turn around and elect weak political leaders. When there is a
failure of spiritual leadership that leaves parishioners confused about sin,
those parishioners make poor decisions at the ballot box, which results in
failed political leadership. 45% of evangelicals voted for pro-abortion
Presidential candidates in the 1992 elections. 45-50% of Catholics did also.
CBR Speaking Resources for Clergy and Lay Leaders
Cassette Tapes ($5 each):
"Is the Bible Silent On Abortion?" (Proves why the Bible is pro-life)
"How Pastors Can Be Leaders On Abortion" (Clergy luncheon tape)
"Tempting God" (A warning for Christians who presume on God's grace)
"How Christian Teens Can Help Stop the Killing" & "How to Give a 20 Minute
"The Pro-life Movement Speaks to the Church" (Moving from attitudinal opposition
to abortion to behavioral opposition to abortion).
Public Speaking on Abortion