Monday, April 15, 2013

Abortion in Christian and World History

Abortion and Infanticide have been opposed as murder by Christianity throughout church history (and often also outside of Christianity). Some early Christians, influenced by Aristotle (Colossians 2:8), wrongly advocated "delayed ensoulment", while still opposing abortion. We could not be saved if Jesus' full humanity did not begin at conception (Hebrews 2:17, c.f. Genesis 2:7).

As Machen said, “To
 that doctrine it is essential that the Son of God should live a complete human life upon this earth. But the human life would not be complete unless it began in the mother's womb. At no later time, therefore, should the incarnation be put, but at that moment when the babe was conceived. There, then, should be found the stupendous event when the eternal Son of God assumed our nature, so that from then on He was both God and man.”

Below is a non-exhaustive selection of quotes condemning abortion and infanticide from a variety on sources up to the end of the seventh century:

"I will give no deadly medicine to any one if asked, nor suggest any such counsel; and in like manner I will not give to a woman a pessary to produce abortion." - Hippocrates, 5th Century BC.

“a woman should not destroy the unborn in her belly, nor after its birth throw it before the dogs and vultures as a prey.” - Pseudo-Phocylides, 50 BC - 50AD.

"you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is born" - Didache, 1st Century. 

"The law, moreover enjoins us to bring up all our offspring, and forbids women to cause abortion of what is begotten, or to destroy it afterward; and if any woman appears to have so done, she will be a murderer of her child, by destroying a living creature, and diminishing humankind." - Flavius Josephus, 97.

"Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion, nor again shalt thou kill it when it is born" - Barnabas, 2nd Century.

"We say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God." -Athenagoras, 2nd Century

"women who, if order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the child completely dead, abort at the same time their own human feelings." - Clement of Alexandria, 150-215.

"Murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the foetus in the womb. ... Now we allow that life begins with conception because we contend that the soul also begins from conception; life taking its commencement at the same moment and place that the soul does" - Tertullian, 160-240.

"women who commit fornication, and destroy that which they have conceived, or who are employed in making drugs for abortion, a former decree excluded them until the hour of death." - Council of Ancyra, 314.

"She who has deliberately destroyed a fetus has to pay the penalty of murder. ... Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion are deliberate murderers themselves, as well as those receiving the poison which kills the fetus." - Basil, 329-379.

"The poor get rid of their small children by exposure and denying them when they are discovered. But the rich also, so that their wealth will not be more divided, deny their children in the womb and with all the force of parricide, they kill the beings of their wombs in the same fruitful womb." - Ambrose, 340-397.

"You may see many women widows before wedded, who try to conceal their miserable fall by a lying garb. ... Some, when they find themselves with child through their sin, use drugs to procure abortion, and when (as often happens) they die with their offspring, they enter the lower world laden with the guilt not only of adultery against Christ but also of suicide and child murder." - Jerome, 347-420.

"Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? Where there are many efforts at abortion? Where there is murder before the birth? For even the harlot thou dost not let continue a mere harlot, but makest her a murderer also." - John Chrysostom, 347-407.

"It is never licit to give something that will cause an abortion" - Theodorus Priscianus, 4th Century.

"No woman should take drugs for purposes of abortion, nor should she kill her children that have been conceived or are already born." - Caesarius, 470-543.

"Those who give drugs for procuring abortion, and those who receive poisons to kill the foetus, are subjected to the penalty of murder." - Penthekte Synod, 692.

Of course, this staunch Christian opposition to abortion and infanticide continued. To give one example:

"The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother, is already a human being (homo), and it is almost a monstrous crime to rob it of life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. If it seems 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." - John Calvin

I will conclude this post with a quote from the Presbyterian theologian, Meredith G. Kline:

"As we observed at the outset, induced abortion was so abhorrent to the Israelite mind that it was not necessary to have a specific prohibition dealing with it in the Mosaic law. The Middle Assyrian laws attest to an abhorrence that was felt for this crime even in the midst of the heathendom around Israel, lacking though it did the illumination of special revelation. For in those laws a woman guilty of abortion was condemned to be impaled on stakes. Even if she managed to lose her own life in producing the abortion, she was still to be impaled and hung up in shame as an expression of the community's repudiation of such an abomination. It is hard to imagine a more damning commentary on what is taking place in enlightened America today than that provided by this legal witness out of the conscience of benighted ancient paganism!"

Societal morality is worse than ancient paganism on the issues of abortion and infanticide. A damning assessment indeed.

Let us pray, that the culture of death's slaughter of children might cease, that human lives will be saved, that abortion might be criminalized around the world, and that those guilty of abortion or infanticide would be punished. Let us all pray for the salvation of those human beings who are in the firing line to be murdered by abortion or infanticide, and also for the salvation of those who have performed or had an abortion. And let us thank God that He is just, and for the life of every child that has not been murdered. 

(C), Jonathan Williams, created January 2013, last updated April 2013.

Christians: focus your attention!

Earlier this week, I had an interesting conversation, diagnosing and discussing pressing areas of belief or practise, where Christians need to focus attention unto the future, for the sake of the church. That conversation is what spurred this quick post. In no particular order, five of my top "look here's"  would be:

1. The need for a biblical understanding of saving faith, that sees trust in Christ as the crowing element of saving faith. This is crucial for everything from safeguarding against every works gospel imagined to having assurance of salvation. Those who believe put no confidence in what they have done, but trust in Jesus Christ (who lived, died, was buried, has risen and will return) alone to save them a sinner, resting solely upon  (clinging to) Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and to be counted right before God. We who trust in Christ, that is collective, are a saved people through Jesus Christ.

2. The need to stand up for the historicity of the Old Testament - creation, a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Garden of Eden, a literal Flood, a literal Exodus, etc. It is beyond me how anyone could read the New Testament alone and doubt any of these things are taught in the Bible. Suppression of the Scriptures to accommodate the world shows disdain for Christ's Lordship. Those who under the guise of being "thoughtful Christians" treat God's word no better than a medieval writing, turning the Bible into a theory to be critiqued, are demonstrably dangerous to other Christians and Christianity as a whole. I have never met anyone who has denied a literal Adam and Eve, while showing a love for God's word.

3. A proper view of the severity of sin the holiness of God, and to be more thankful. Justice = Christ did not become man and die on the cross at all - rather you are in hell right now under the wrath of an eternal and holy God who must punish sinners. Who God is and who we are before God is the antidote to the "this isn't fair", "how could God", "where is God" crowd. Be thankful He sends not only rain, but He even sent His Son! We ought promote a greater thankfulness to God for what we do have (and we have a lot to be thankful for), especially undeserved fellowship together as God's people in Jesus Christ, awaiting His return - our best life is not yet.

4. Acknowledgement that Christians are different. The greatest form of antinomianism I see today is the culture that promotes salvation in sin, rather than salvation from sin. Usually be making grave sins or lifestyles matters of Christian Liberty. Those who believe have turned from sin, to submit to the risen Christ as Lord. We are not saved as people who dwell in sin and are mastered by sin - we are new creations in Christ, who purpose to follow Him in duty and gratitude, serving Him awaiting His return - together, as a redeemed people.

5. The urgent need for proper education and accountability. Francis Schaeffer said, "Tell me what the world is saying today, and I'll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years." Theistic evolution? Separation of God and state? Homosexuality is natural? Gender identity? What is next? Welcome to the next generation of Christians, tossed around by atheistic education, where an increasing majority believe or tolerate all four. One century ago, would you believe me if I told you that theistic evolution would be the majority view in many once conservative denominations? We are seeing the same trend on those other issues. Christian children need to be trained to see Christianity as a worldview that actually interprets and assesses the world, they do not need to be trained to see Christianity as irrelevant to or being 'fixed' by the real world.

And "pastors" - please start taking the teaching qualifications in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 seriously. If you cannot teach the first five words of the Bible to your congregation, or teach them that God really did create a literal Adam and Eve as husband and wife, you are not "able to teach".