A Dialogue Between a Prolife Christian Ethicist and a Christian Who is Arguing that Abortion is Not Off Limits for Christians
A Christian's Argument Supporting Abortion (and Cathy Ramey’s rebuttal in italics)
The starting point in the Church's position against abortion is the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."
Ratsach is a particular Hebrew word that has reference to killing the innocent and having a motive that is self-serving and exceeds the authority God—not government or a supreme court—has given the individual. One must then discern what sphere of authority God has given to man; is an action self-serving, etc.
This command is seemingly self evident. It simply means do not deprive another of life. But that in itself is where the waters get murky. To understand this commandment we must accept the basic premise that in order to kill (to take life) one must have life in the first place.
As such it reasonably follows that one cannot kill if no life is present. So where does life begin? Is it in the womb as the church has said, a position which is self serving given the stance taken by the church on this matter?
Life is a scientific question that is not in debate except for self-serving purposes; it involves the ability to grow and individuate. Bacteria that replicates itself is "life," a rock is not life as it cannot grow and individuate of itself. Science has consistently held that life begins with the infusing interaction between a sperm and egg. The egg alone cannot grow and individuate into a person; either can the sperm alone. But together these two germ cells are able to integrate and grow into a person. So as soon as they integrate, life is present. This scientific matter places the issue squarely above what secular or religious cults otherwise choose to define as life.
Muslims believe that a fetus only develops a soul about 3-4 months after conception, and accordingly that abortion is not against the will of God if it is done in this short time frame. It is one of the few areas where Islam is probably superior to Christianity in clearly defining its position.
Ensoulment is a theological mire that provides a mere distraction. It is like asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" It has no answer that can be proven out, so the best response is to examine what Scripture says of that life which is in the womb.
But according to the church life begins when the sperm has fertilized the egg. To my knowledge there is no Scripture which supports this argument.
Psalm 51:5 "In sin, my mother conceived me" suggests that life is present at conception since it requires the existence of a person to sin; Jeremiah 1:5 states that "before I [God] formed you in the womb I knew you..."; and of course Psalm 139:13-16 provides that God is still directly involved in the creation of each person, throughout all stages of pre-natal life. It is within His sphere of authority to create human life, so that the willful destruction of such life is a sin against God.
"As such the answer to when life begins must therefore be ultimately reckoned using a different basis then direct reference to specific scriptures. In this case I propose that we can glean all we need from a brief overview of the principles of grace and sinfulness.
The Scriptures say that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Lets us take that for a moment and distill the basics from this scripture. The very first word here is "All." Presumably "All" means everybody. As such a reasonable paraphrased version of this scripture would be to say that everyone has sinned and fallen short of God's expectations for us.
This seems logical so far. But what do we know about our God? We know that our God is a just God. Psalms 37:28 says "For the LORD loves justice..." Now we need to apply Romans 3:23 in the context of God's justness.
If God is just, He cannot find any sinfulness in an unborn baby. Whilst the baby is born into a sinful world we can safely presume that the baby can only sin once it has emerged from its mothers womb, [again, see David's assertion in Psalm 51:5; he was a sinner from the moment of conception, and therefore just as much in need of a Savior at that point as you or I.] and that whilst in the womb the baby has not sinned. Hence, the unborn baby does not need the saving grace of Jesus Christ until it emerges from the womb.
But the scripture says "All" have sinned. We can therefore infer for ourselves that unborn babies are not part of this "All" because they have not sinned. As such they are not referred to in the sixth commandment because they are not part of the "All" or "Everybody" class of persons that that commandment refers to. The argument that abortion is contrary to the sixth commandment therefore fails on this argument.
Because of what I have already cited, your argument fails on this point.
If anything it is arguable that abortion is actually in the best interest of the unborn because, as they lack sinfulness, their salvation is certain whereas if they are born and reject the saving grace of Christ they could be damned to an eternity of suffering.
So, based upon this sort of thinking, the best thing that any and all loving parents can do is to have their unborn offspring killed; that way they all go to Heaven. Hummm....that suggests that God has an alternative plan for salvation; there is salvation in abortion and salvation in Jesus Christ....I think not. Scripture is clear in stating that salvation is accomplished only in Jesus Christ.
But the sixth commandment argument also fails in another respect.
Genesis 2:7 says "Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being."
Notice here that the body had form, but still there was no life!
Are we therefore to accept that a less developed human body yet to emerge from its mothers womb would have life when a man's body formed by God's own hand had no life until God breathed life into it? This scripture makes it clear that life BEGINS when God breathes it into a person, and the immediate sign to show that this has occurred is that we start to breath for ourselves—which happens moments after you emerge from the womb. Hence it becomes clear that life begins only at that point.
These two arguments clearly show that the practice of abortion does not run contrary to the Word of God, or at the very least does not run contrary to the sixth commandment. As you can see my reasoning appears to be unassailable, but I nevertheless challenge you to put forth a strong counter-argument in support of the church's position.
Take note that even without the breath (hm'v'n>naphach), God refers to the form as man. Then, He gives him the "breath" (hm'v'n> naphach) which is the same type of "breath" (from the same root word) that is destroyed in all men, women, doges, elephants, rats, birds, cattle, swarming critters and beasts of the earth in the flood (Genesis 7:22).
Additionally, the unborn require oxygen every bit as much as a born person; there is a difference in terms of how it is acquired—through the mother's blood—but if deprived of that oxygen there is a perceivable death