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.

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