There is a very curious view that abortion is supposedly justifiable and perhaps even prescribed by the Bible. Oddly enough, some people claim that the Bible condones and allows for the ending of life in the womb. Is abortion biblical? As will be clear in this piece, not only is this a failure to read the Bible properly, but a robust case can be made against abortion without even using the Bible.
Whether the person making such claims is a Christian or a skeptic trying to empower the view that abortion is not wrong by using the perceived authority of the Bible to the masses, there is no viable case that can be made to support abortion biblically.
I can see why those who don’t hold the Bible as an authority would be pro-choice and think that abortion is not a big deal. As I mentioned, I’ve written previously about why abortion is wrong and should be condemned without using the Bible – a purely extra-biblical case. But is abortion biblical? I personally never imagined anyone claiming that the Bible condones abortion. It seems absurd on the surface. The catalyst for my interest in writing about it was a blog reader who recently sent in a question about abortion and the Bible. I decided to write this article instead of answering the issue privately. The reader cited a response from either a skeptic or a Christian (I couldn’t make out the views of the person) that went like this:
“God slaughtered millions of pregnant and their unborn fetuses during Noah’s flood, the conquest of Canaan, Sodom and Gomorrah and 20 major slaughters.”
This was followed by a list of Bible verses to try to argue that the Bible condoned and prescribed abortion. Let’s first dive into the mistakes in critical thinking.
Is Abortion Biblical? Are All of God’s Actions Prescriptive for Humanity?
The first big mistake here is equating God’s actions with human actions. First, God is the moral measuring stick. God’s well within his prerogative to judge. After dealing with the utter evil and wretchedness of humanity and giving multiple chances for people to repent of their evil ways, there comes a point when God must judge humanity. This is what we see when God judged humanity before the flood, the conquest of Canaan, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The big difference here is that we’re not God. And the context of abortion has nothing whatever to do with judgment.
Second, God is the giver of life and as the giver of life, God is fully justified at taking life away at the time of his choosing. When humans object to this, they have absolutely no grounding for their objection. As such, an emotional upheaval of supposed injustices of God of utterly pointless and without merit.
Is Physical Death the End of Life?
The next big mistake takes place when there is an implicit presumption of physicalism when speaking of death. Remember, if God exists, death is merely the cessation of physical life and the time for the soul of each individual to face judgment for his/her actions.
If there is no God, then physical life is all that there is, and when life ends, there is a cessation of being. But this objection assumes the Bible to be authoritative; hence its authority to supposedly support abortion, as is claimed. If God exists and life does not cease when the physical body dies, the life (the soul) that persists after the grave is empowered by God. So God can redeem physically dead people, even those he’s judged. However, the evils perpetrated by humans, such as abortion, will be judged. God can judge us. We can’t judge God. And we’re not God. God can take lives. But he’s not given us permission to do so.
In Abortion is Murder the Same as Killing?
The next big mistake is equating killing with murder – they are not the same. God can take a life and this is killing, not murder. God taking a life is not murder. Since God can redeem a life even after he takes it, the killing should not even be considered a minor moral difficulty.
Do Emotionally Charged Rhetorical Devices Help the Case for Abortion from the Bible?
One thing that is intriguing is the specific words that are used by pro-choice advocates as is the case with the person who brought up this objection. Notice the subtle semantic wordplay – using the word, “slaughter” to create an emotional reaction. Factually speaking, God ending a life is “killing” and there’s no reason to use emotionally charged words, like “slaughter” unless one is more interested in making an emotionally rich rhetorical appeal with no regard to a rational basis for arguments. I won’t belabor this any further; it’s just an interesting aside.
Silence on Abortion Means Biblical Permission?
Let’s consider the notion that since abortion is not explicitly condemned in the Bible that, therefore, it is supposedly allowed. On the surface, this sounds a bit odd. When we dig just a bit, we see that it is actually quite fallacious. Think about it. If silence is our standard for whether something is permitted or not, all we need to justify any unique set of actions is a missing reference to that explicitly banned action. Consider civil law. How reasonable would it be for someone who committed the most uniquely heinous crime to point out that those specific set of actions he took is not covered by the law since they are not specifically called out by federal, state or local laws? Absolutely silly! General principles are usually enough to give us reason to think that the specific set of actions that fall within them would all be banned.
The Bible may not explicitly condemn abortion. But it does not explicitly condemn a whole variety of evils either. We cannot use the silence of a restriction on a specific topic to argue that it is allowed. And we cannot reasonably claim that something is permitted simply because it is not explicitly condemned.
Is Abortion Really Not Condemned in the Bible?
There is no verse in the Bible that specifically states that it’s wrong to kill babies in the womb. However, since general principles are more than enough to condemn acts that are not explicitly unmentioned as wrong, we don’t really need anything that specific.
Using this principle that is commonly used in every area of life, we can easily see that abortion is condemned by the Bible. Abortion is the unjustified killing of an innocent life, which is murder. And murder is condemned directly by God in commandment #6 – “Thou shalt not murder!”
Let’s summarize – abortion is murder. Murder is prohibited by the Bible. Therefore, the logically inescapable result is that abortion is prohibited by the Bible.
What About the Biblical Passages that Appear to Support Its Defense of Abortion
Is there really a case that can be made from the Bible that abortion is not wrong and is permissible? Let’s consider some of the biblical passages that are offered for justification of abortion.
Abortion in Exodus 1:22?
“Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.””Exodus 1:22
This passage is irrelevant for the view that abortion is allowed by the Bible because this is killing performed by Pharaoh, which is murder.
Abortion in Hosea 13:16?
“The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword;Hosea 13:16
their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.”
This passage is irrelevant for the view that abortion is allowed by the Bible since we cannot equate human moral responsibility by God’s full right to take the physical lives he’s given. Also, this passage is descriptive of what happened in that specific situation to the people of Samaria after they rebelled against God. It does depict hyperbole as a figure of speech. The sins of the Samarian’s will have certain repercussions. Most importantly, remember that the end of physical life does not mean the end of life entirely.
Abortion in Deuteronomy 28:18-24?
“The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.Deuteronomy 28:18-24
You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.[a] The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.”
This passage is taken out of context a bit. To fully understand it, one has to broaden the scope of the passage to the entire chapter. What’s happening here is that God is describing that there are blessings for obedience (see the first part of chapter 18) and also curses to ensue for disobedience. As the moral authority on objective moral standards, God is the only perfectly just being who can exact judgment for wickedness. However, again, this is not prescriptive of how humans should act. This passage cannot in any way be taken to mean that abortion is to somehow be allowed by human beings. When people use this and similar passages to justify abortion, they are pouring their own presumptions, biases, and leanings into the text. There is no adequately justifiable way to pretend like this passage is prescribing abortion.
Abortion in 2 Kings 8:12?
“”Why is my lord weeping?” asked Hazael.2 Kings 8:12
“Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,” he answered. “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.””
This is yet another passage taken out of context and confused. In this passage, Elisha (the man of God who weeps and answers), is weeping because he foresees the wickedness that Hazael is going to do – ‘dash the little children to the ground.’ This is not God’s judgment but man’s wickedness of murdering children. The way to properly understand this passage, which is not that difficult, is to start at the beginning of the chapter. As with most biblical passages, reading too narrowly and missing the proper context, gets you into much horrible thinking.
The claim that abortion is permitted in verses like 2 Kings 15:16, Isaiah 13:18, Hosea 9:10-16, and Hosea 13:16 are equally impotent at trying to argue that the Bible supposedly prescribes abortion or somehow makes it permissible. To claim so does nothing but demonstrate how to do horrible exegesis and a failure to read literature properly. So is abortion biblical? No, abortion is not permitted by the Bible. After doing some digging and critical thinking we can see that it’s actually the opposite – abortion is actually condemned by the Bible.