In my new book, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, one of the major points is that the Church has learned to read the Bible by discernment instead of treating everything as law. I got a letter recently about abortion, and I’d like to sketch — inadequately — the basics of how discernment works when it comes to the abortion issue. [Today I post the letter. I’ll post my answer tomorrow. Originally, I had it up at the end of this post but I thought better of that and will post it tomorrow.]
How do you approach the abortion issue? What is the “evidence” you use to make your decision? What does the Bible say that leads you to your decision? (See this article for a recent strong critique of Obama because of his views and voting record on abortion issues.)
Okay, here it is: I’m passionately committed to having all my theology
and practice be based on Scripture, interpreted as the original authors
would have intended it to be. To the best of my ability to determine
that, of course. So having assessed some of my other evangelical idols
in light of what the whole of Scripture actually says, I thought as a
thinking pro-life Christian I should do the same with abortion.
I believe the pro-life side has framed the debate properly. This is
first and foremost about when the fetus becomes a “person” (a more
accurate description than saying “when life begins”). We can argue it
legally or scientifically, but I needed to start with Scripture. I was
always taught the first step in exegesis is gathering the evidence. So
to build a theology of the beginning of human life, I needed to gather
all the passages that apply to that issue, properly interpreted in
context. I haven’t gotten far into it, but here’s sort of a summary of
my cursory research so far:
The Bible is ambiguous.
There it is. I said it. To clarify, the Bible says life:
– begins before birth (Ps. 51:5; Ps. 139:13; Luke 1:41)
– is found in the blood (Lev. 17:11,14; Deut. 12:23; Ezek. 3:18)–can
there be life where there is no blood? At what point can we say the
fetus has its own blood distinct from the mother’s?
– begins/ends with the breath (Gen. 1:30; 2:7; 6:17; 7:15,22); 7 times
in Scripture “breathed his/her last” means “he died”; of course in
Hebrew & Greek the same word is used for breath & spirit–can there be
life without breath?
– In the Law, a person is not “counted” until one month old! (Lev. 27:6;
7x in Num. 3; Num. 18:16; 26:62)