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Archive for the ‘Bioethics’ Category

Over the weekend there was a “Compassion Forum” held at Messiah College in Grantham, PA.  Both Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were there to address people of faith in Pennsylvania before the upcoming April 22 primary in that state.

The forum covered several topics including abortion.

Clinton was asked whether life begins at conception — which opponents of abortion contend is a reality that makes any termination of a pregnancy the ending of a life.

“I believe the potential for life begins at conception,” Clinton said. “For me, it is also not only about a potential life. It is about the other lives involved. … I have concluded, after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years, … that individuals must be entrusted to make this profound decision, because the alternative would be such an intrusion of government authority that it would be very difficult to sustain in our kind of open society.”

The New York senator added that abortion should remain legal, safe and rare.

The two candidates appeared separately at Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pa., and briefly met as Clinton left the stage and Obama took her place. The moment of pleasantries and handshakes belied days of angry accusations between the two over Obama’s comments about bitter voters in small towns.

Asked whether life begins at conception, Obama said he didn’t know the answer.

“This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? … What I know, as I’ve said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.”

Clinton is a Methodist. Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ.

Source: Fox News

Senator Clinton when come to her position on the issue of when life begins “after great, you know, concern and searching my own mind and heart over many years.”  Senator Obama still hasn’t come to a resolution.

The problem with Senator Clinton position lies in where she is going, as a “person of faith”, for answers to her questions.  You won’t find the answer in your own heart and mind. 

For both of the candidates the Bible is pretty clear regarding our personhood and provides a direct answer as to when life begins.  There shouldn’t be mass confusion over this for people who claim to follow Jesus Christ.  Life begins at conception, and our personhood is a reality before conception when one reads Psalm 139.

Plainly put, a position that holds that life does not begin at conception quite frankly is not scriptural and is an inconsistent view for a follower of Christ.

A question that I would have for Senator Obama, if he is unclear as to when life begins would he have a policy that is so anti-life when it comes to preborn children; even so far as voting against Illinois’ Born Alive Infant Protection Act that would protect children who survived an abortion?  That seems inconsistent with the answer he gives us during this forum.  His votes seem to say his mind is made up regarding this matter.

Another thing that Senator Clinton said that I feel needs to be addressed.

“For me, it is also not only about a potential life. It is about the other lives involved.”

The compassion argument, after all this is the “Compassion Forum”.  Often times those on the left when appealing to Christian voters will point out Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  For instance:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” (Matthew 5:7, ESV).

The noun, mercy, in the Greek is eleos, this word when used in the Bible always deals with what we see of pain, misery, and distress.  The results of sin.  It doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to sin, but does mean extending relief, healing and help to those broken by sin.  Why?  Because we are broken by sin, as the very first beatitude states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall receive the Kingdom of God,” (Matthew 5:4, ESV).  (To hear recent sermons I’ve preached on the Beatitudes you can go here for part one and here for part two).

Jesus showed great mercy and compassion for the woman caught in adultery, but even told her to “sin no more,” (John 8:11).  When looked upon the crowds and had compassion on them because they were “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36).

I guess the question to ask is are we really being compassionate to those who are facing an unexpected pregnancy by allowing abortion?  I don’t think so, mercy doesn’t mean allowance for sin and compassion shouldn’t create victims which abortion does.

If mercy is relieving pain, misery and distress how is it merciful to add to that pain, misery and distress?  Which is exactly what abortion does when you look at the potential complications and risks involved in an abortion, when you look at what it could possibly do to the mother’s chances to become pregnant again after having an abortion, and looking at the mental health of those who have abortions.

No it seems to be that if Senator Clinton is looking at the other lives involved she would advocate: less red tape involving adoption and federal aid to help those wanting to adopt, less money to abortion providers and more to crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes, and abstinence-based sex education to help prevent unexpected pregnancies (which actually works unlike “comprehensive” sex education).

Also Senator Clinton uses the phrase tossed around during her husband’s administration that abortion should be safe, legal and rare.  I think a good case has been made that abortion is not safe for mothers (and definitely not safe for the pre-born children).  It is legal, but the the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion is bad constitutional law and should be overturned.  Regarding rare… 50 million since 1973 would hardly count as being rare.

I guess people of faith in Pennsylvania need to ask themselves if Clinton and Obama’s position on abortion matches up with their values.  I would say not.

(If you want to read more on a Biblical framework for the pro-life position, check out my Against Abortion series of posts.)

Cross-posted at Red Blue Christian and From Their Own Mouths.

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While I will continue this series on beyond this post, this is the final post in developing a theological framework for the pro-life position.  I’ve discussed personhood, God’s ownership of our bodies, God’s prerogative based on His ownership, and that God hates the shedding of innocent blood.

I have one last beam for this framework… in the Bible we can see that God has a special love for children.  It isn’t that He doesn’t love all people, but He does have a heart for the young.

Having a child come to him and his disciples he says:

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven,”  (Matthew 18:10, ESV).

Prior to that he gives a grave warning to not cause a child to stumble.  If one harms a child it is better for that person to have a large millstone tied to their neck and drowned.  Pretty harsh, and pretty serious.

The Greek word for despise in Matthew 18:10 is kataphroneo which also means to contemn, disdain, think little or nothing of.  Which is exactly what one does when they promote abortion and try to reduce pre-born boys and girls to not achieving personhood.

He then says in v. 14 that it “is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish, (ESV).  Since that is so it would absolutely shocking that anyone would want to lead these children astray.  It would be unconscionable that anyone would despise one of these “little ones”.   A quick digression – did you realize that the word fetus is the Latin word for “little ones”?

In the same vein in another episode in the life of Christ where we see His heart for kids.

Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them.  But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God,” (Luke 18:15-16, ESV).

This is important and unusual because at this time children had no social status.  The disciples of a particular rabbi wouldn’t want their rabbi’s time being taken up blessing children.  Here Jesus says that for such belongs the kingdom of God.  Children and others who are seen as nobodies have “status” in Jesus’ eyes.

We are also instructed in Psalms to see children as a blessing.  Often times people see children as an obstacle, roadblock or a burden.  That is the exact opposite of how God sees them.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth, (Psalm 127:3-4, ESV).

Kids are our heritage.  They are our future mothers and fathers, leaders, pastors, lawyers, doctors, teachers, presidents… they are our future.  Children are our legacy.  One can only imagine what dreams and futures have been snuffed out by abortion.

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As I’ve blogged on a Biblical framework for the pro-life position we’ve looked at the biblical position that life begins in the womb, we’ve seen that based on God’s ownership we belong to Him – not others, and that God has exclusive prerogative over human life and death.

As we build on those Biblical truths we now look at a principle that reflects the character of a just God, and He is just.  God hates, absolutely hates,  the shedding of innocent blood.

When the Israelites entered the promised land they were faced with temptation all around them.  God exhorted His chosen to reject the practices of the Canaanites who inhabited the land before them.  The Canaanites were a morally bankrupt people and had a polytheistic society as was normal in many ancient cultures.  One of the gods that they worshiped was Molech (or Moloch), who was considered to be the god of fire.  Followers of this false god would sacrifice their children as they offered worship.  God is very direct about this practice.

You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord, (Leviticus 18:21, ESV).

If the Israelites participated in this barbaric practice that would bring dishonor to the name of God because not only would this practice shed innocent blood, but it was also idolatry.  God is even more direct regarding what should be done with those who sacrifice their children

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying,“Say to the people of Israel, Any one of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones.  I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given one of his children to Molech, to make my sanctuary unclean and to profane my holy name.  And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people, him and all who follow him in whoring after Molech, (Leviticus 20:1-5, ESV)

This one of many instances where we see that the shedding of innocent blood is to be considered a capital offense.  In Deuteronomy 19 we see the establishment of sanctuary cities for those who kill unintentionally in order to prevent the shedding of innocent blood on those who play the role of avenger for the deceased.

God punishes the Kingdom of Judah for their participation in the shedding of innocent blood, (2 Kings 24:2-4).  God also brings his justice to bear on Israel because they did not hate bloodshed, (Ezekiel 35:5-6).  God from the beginning prohibited the killing of the innocent as we saw when God confronts Cain after he killed his brother Abel, (Genesis 4:9-15).

We also can see in scripture that God also watches over those who are helpless.

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight, (Psalm 72:12-14, ESV).

The shedding of innocent blood is listed as one of the things that God hates.

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers, (Proverbs 6:16-19, ESV).

God has an intense aversion to the shedding of innocent blood, among other things.  The shedding of innocent blood, and in particular the slaughter of children were considered to be a vile and shameful act.

Some may argue that these passages deal with those who are already born.  Biblically we have already established personhood of the pre-born.  Which really is the fundamental question in the abortion debate – when does life begin… when does a person become a person?  If we have personhood while in the womb we have inherit worth in God’s eyes… we are innocent in the womb.  No excuse can be made to justify the shedding of innocent pre-born blood.

I’d love to read your comments and discuss this further.  Up next in this series is God’s special love for children.

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I’ve posted on a Biblical basis for personhood of the preborn, and then most recently blogged on God’s ownership of us and His creation.  The next thing to look at as we discuss a biblical/theological framework for the pro-life position is the question – who has the prerogative over human life and death?

“‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand,” (Deuteronomy 32:39, ESV)

The Lord in this verse and the surround passage speaks of Himself as the only true God who controls all of life and history.  In the verse above he says – “See now” – this is a personal assertion and suggests strong feeling on God’s part.  The Hebrew word is this passage means “understand.”  What did God want the Israelites to understand as Moses was reciting the song that the Lord gave to him?  That the Lord is God.  This assertion is made even more emphatic by repetition of the first person pronoun.  “I, even I and the assertion “am he”

The reality of the Lord being God is seen in what He does: He can put to death and He gives life – in that He can rescue and He creates.  He is the one who wounded Israel due to their disobedience and He is the only one who can heal.  No one can rescue Israel’s enemies out of his hand.  He is God.  He is in control.

In relation to abortion – God has exclusive prerogatives over human life and death.  Not the mother (or in some instances, the state, like in China’s case which has practiced forced abortions to enforce their one child policy), but God alone.

Another passage that relates to this one;

The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up, (1 Samuel 2:6, ESV)

Sung by Hannah who was considered barren as she prayed to God the only One who can change her circumstances.  Throughout her entire prayer in 1 Samuel 2 you see that God is control.

“You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13, ESV)

The theological presumption behind this commandment is that all humans have been created in the image of God, (Genesis 1:26-27).  Hebrew possesses seven words for killing, the word used in Exodus 20:13 is rasah and it appears only forty-seven times in the Old Testament.  This is the only word that could signify murder where premeditation and intentionality are present.

Because of this, one can not rightly apply this command to accidental killing, self-defense, capital punishment or just war.  Except when God specifically delegates that right to man (government – see Romans 13) God alone has the right to take a human life.

And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image, (Genesis 9:5-6, ESV)

God demands the accounting, a reckoning for the taking of a life of another.  He also requires it of the pre-born.

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,” (Exodus 21:22-25, ESV)

Who has prerogative over human life and death?  God does both for the born and pre-born.  We put ourselves on shaky ground (to put it mildly) when we try to assert a right (mother’s choice) which belong to only Him.

 

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I am continuing to lay a biblical framework for the pro-life position.  Last time I dealt with personhood and how the Bible clearly demonstrates that personhood does begin inside the womb.  I am, at the moment, just making a theological argument and will look at other aspects of this debate later on.

One argument often made by the pro-choice side – “it’s the mother’s body so it is her choice.”  This presupposes that she has “ownership” of herself and the baby that she is carrying inside the womb.  This argument is often made when the father of the child tries to intervene.  However, is she really the owner?

Genesis 1:27 says that it is God who is involved in the creative process, “so God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

This is dealing with creation in the beginning.  Generally speaking when somebody creates… a piece of art, an invention, or whatever – that implies ownership.  From this passage we can see that God has claim not over just individual persons but humankind overall.

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture, (Psalm 100:3, ESV)

It isn’t just he got the human race started and then left the picture, but he stays involved.  He made us… we are His… we are His people… we are sheep of His pasture.  He has ownership.  Not only that but Ezekiel 18:4 says, “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die,” (ESV).

Both parent, in this case the father and the child, the son, belongs to God.  Parental claims of ownership do not trump God’s.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand, (Isaiah 64:8, ESV).

The only thing that a man and woman can claim is that they provide the sperm and the egg, but who gave them that ability?  God did!  The mother doesn’t craft the baby in the womb… God does.  Not only did God make us while we are in the womb, but He is continually making us.  This is especially true of those who are Christ followers in the process of sanctification (which is an entirely different post topic).

And one last scripture to look at related to this…

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body, (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV).

Our bodies are not our own?  Back to the original pro-choice argument… it is the woman’s choice, it is her body.  Looking at scripture that argument rings hollow.  God is Creator and Owner of all people, they belong to Him, not others.

The next post we’ll look at who has prerogative over life and death according to scripture.

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This deals with the fundamental question… when does life begin?  At what stage do we consider someone a person?  As an embryo?  As a fetus (latin for: “little one”)?  When they are born?  Because if we consider that life begins at conception, that at that point is when we are who we are then all of the other pro-abortion arguments fall away… it is the mother’s body argument, the privacy argument, the rape and incest argument all it.  We wouldn’t kill a child outside of the womb for any of those reasons.  So if life begins at conception those arguments fall short as well.

Greg Koukl in “Fetal Personhood: It’s Simple” states:

The fact is that human beings are persons. They are personal kinds of beings whether they are in an early stage of development or a later stage of development. That’s what a human is and it remains itself from the beginning to end. It’s very simple. It’s not hard. It’s not complex. We’ve known it for ages. This personhood argument is only 10-20 years old, since Roe vs. Wade , Frank Beckwith says. Before then there was never a personhood argument. It was introduced after Roe v. Wade to make the decision to have an abortion a little more palatable. The same thing happened with Dred Scott. He’s not a person, he’s black. He’s not a person, though he’s a human technically; but that’s just a little detail. It’s not significant.

I’d like to give some biblical underpinnings to this argument of when life begins.  For those of you who do not respect the Bible’s authority on this matter I will later on look at what can be learned from medicine and science.

The first verse we can look at is at the very beginning when God created humans.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them, (Genesis 1:27, ESV).

We are created in His image… unlike any of the animals we are spiritual beings with eternal souls.  We were created unique.

In Genesis 25:22 we also see that Esau and Jacob “struggled together” inside of Rebekah’s womb.  Jacob was given prominence over Esau even though he had not yet been born, (Romans 9:11).

In the Old Testament Law we see:

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe,” (Exodus 21:22-25, ESV).

The word for children in this passage is the Hebrew word yelet.  It is used for the unborn in this passage, but it is generally used to indicate young children.  This word can also be used to refer to teens or even young adults however.  There is no separate word used for the unborn.  The unborn were seen as being just like any other children, but younger, (Lawrence O. Richards, Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1985), 156-7).

You see this with the penalty that occurs with the harm of an unborn child.  They do not distinguish between born and unborn.  There is no personhood argument.  If the child is stillborn as a result, under OT law the person responsible committed a capital offense.

Also when Job pleas to God about the circumstances he faced he talks about God’s involvement in his life before he is even born.

Your hands fashioned and made me,
and now you have destroyed me altogether.
Remember that you have made me like clay;
and will you return me to the dust?
Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese?
You clothed me with skin and flesh,
and knit me together with bones and sinews.
You have granted me life and steadfast love,
and your care has preserved my spirit, (Job 10:8-12, ESV).

The thing to note is that the person in the womb wasn’t something that might become Job.  This child was Job, just at an earlier stage of life.

Isaiah 44:2 says that the God who made us who formed us in the womb would help us.  Psalm 51:5 says that we were “brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did (our) mother conceive (us).”  Then in the Psalms we see a cornerstone passage.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them, (Psalm 139:13-16, ESV)

God said to the prophet Jeremiah “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations,” (Jeremiah 1:5, ESV).  So God is involved not only with those who have been born, but also the unborn.

Randy Alcorn demonstrates personhood of the unborn in the Gospels:

In Luke 1:41, 44 there are references to the unborn John the Baptist, who as the end of his second trimester in the womb.  The word translated baby in these verses is theses verses is the Greek word brephos.   It is the same word used for the already born baby Jesus (Luke 2:12, 16) and for the babies brought to Jesus to receive His blessing (Luke 18:15-17).  It is also the same word used in Acts 7:19 for the newborn babies killed by Pharaoh.  To the writers of the New Testament, like the Old, whether born or unborn, a baby is simply a baby.  It appears that the preborn John the Baptist responded to presence of the preborn Jesus is His mother Mary, when Jesus was probably no more than ten days beyond His conception (Luke 1:41).

The angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be “with child and give birth to a son” (Luke 1:31).  In the first century, and in every century, to be pregnant is to be with child, not with that which might become a child.  The Scriptures teach the psychosomatic unity of the whole person, body, soul, and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23).  Wherever there is a genetically distinct living human being, there is a living soul and spirit, (Randy Alcorn, ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments, Portland, OR: Multnomah, 2000, pg. 314-315).

It boils down to whether or not the unborn are persons.  If the unborn can claim personhood there is no reason in the world that can justify their murder.

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Today marks the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal in the United States.  Since 1973 over 50 million children have been aborted.

There is some good news in that abortion rates have lowered to levels not seen since the 1970s.

A new study shows the rate of abortions is the lowest since 1974, the year after the high court’s Jan. 22, 1973, decision striking down state laws that made the procedure illegal.  In addition, the overall number of abortions has plunged 25 percent since 1990, when the number of legal U.S. abortions peaked at 1.6 million, according to a survey released yesterday by abortion-rights researchers, the Guttmacher Institute.

Although the study’s authors do not directly correlate state laws with the drop in rates, advocates on both sides of the abortion debate consider state restrictions one of the underlying reasons for the decline.

I thought that it would be appropriate to launch a series of blog posts called Against Abortion today.  In this series of posts I would like to explore a biblical framework for the pro-life movement as, I believe, there is some confusion among Christians today.  I would also like to look at common pro-choice questions/arguments that are made.  Also I want to explore ways that Christians, in particular, can engage this issue through non-political means.  Since many of us live is states where there is a political deadlock I would also like to suggest ideas for legislation that could, if states haven’t already adopted it, garner bi-partisan support.

I hope that you will contribute to this discussion, I’d love to read your comments.

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