Abortion and the Law of God

This is an excerpt from Chapter Two of the Book “In Your Justice”

There is one persistent theme of the pro-abortion lobby in this country: they insist that pro-life people have no right to impose their morality or moral values on others. Actually, in this one respect they are correct. For I have no right to impose my moral values: neither do you: and, if I may say so, neither do they. Nor, for that matter, do all of us put together have this authority. Why not? The reason is simple and fundamental: we are not God. Man, the creature, has no right to impose moral values: God, the creator, does. Indeed, only the triune God who creates a life has the authority to ordain how that life is to be lived. Whatever authority man has is derivative. In His final commission to the apostles, Jesus Christ. the second person of the divine Trinity declared: “Full authority has been given to me … “ This is a declaration of total sovereignty in all areas of life. He is the ultimate authority and lawgiver: it follows that the function and role of all others in the law realm is essentially “administrative” or “ministerial. ” Moreover, it is utterly naive to imagine that there can be a law, any law, without the imposition of someone’s moral values. For law is, as R. J. Rushdoony has noted, applied morality or procedural thereto. Ifthere is to be any law at all, the imposition of moral values is inescapable. The question, then, is not whether there will be the imposition of moral values, but whose moral values are to be imposed. Viewed in historical perspective, the choice here is between God and man (in some form). Today, the conflict is usually between God and the state acting as a god. This conflict is fundamental. In the most basic law of the Sinai covenant.God commanded that we have no “other gods” besides Him. Regrettably, the history of man upon the earth has been in large part the story of what the Bible deigns to describe as “whoring after other gods” The results have been catastrophic.

It is in this context that I propose to examine the abortion controversy. My premise is that there is an existing moral and legal order ordained by God, and for real guidance we must have recourse to divine revelation. We must attend, to be specific, to what God has explicitly revealed in the Old and New Testaments and to the authoritative teachings of the Church which He founded.

I was surprised to read the following in a book written by a perceptive advocate of the pro-life cause: “The Old Testament has nothing to say on abortion. ” This is misleading, for in a sense the Old Testament has everything to say about abortion. First and foremost, it states as a basic law: “You shall not kill.” 2 By Biblical standards abortion is the unlawful taking of an innocent life. It is murder. The murdering of innocent life. is, under God’s revealed law, an especially grievous offense. For a human person, we are told, is made in the “image” of God. To strike at a person is actually to strike at the Creator as well. In Genesis 9:5-6 God solemnly declared: “I will demand an accounting for human life. If anyone sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has man been made.”

We live in a world largely dominated by man-made or humanistic values, where despite well publicized statements of respect for individual and human rights, human life is often held cheaply. Not so in scripture. To take another’s life is serious. so much so that the murderer forfeits his own life. In the Bible the punishment is proportionate to the crime: the murderer is himself killed.3 Numbers 35:31 provides: “You shall not accept indemnity in place of the life of a murderer who deserves the death penalty: he must be put to death:'”

From a purely human perspective this may seem harsh, even cruel. But we do not see the full reality: our vision and perception are limited. Indeed. very often we seem oblivious even of the victim of the crime. Moreover, we indulge in foolish talk about so-called “victim~Iess” crimes in situations where scripture more realistically sees an Iabundance of public harm and injury. Today there are those who cry “pollution” if they see a cigarette tossed on the street, but who ignore \the blood shed by innocent babies in abortion mills. To know what ipollution or desecration really is we must listen to God’s word. For example. Numbers 35:33: “You shall not desecrate the land where you live. Since bloodshed desecrates the land, the land can have no atonement for the blood shed on it except through the blood of him who shed it:’ Or Psalm 106:38: “And they shed innocent blood. the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan. desecrating the land with bloodshed.”

There cannot be an abortion without the shedding of blood. innocent blood, and. almighty God has revealed to us, there can be no shedding of innocent blood that does not pollute the land and cry to heaven for vengeance.

Law in scripture is not conventional or arbitrary, as so often is the case with our human codes and statutes. God’s law is a statement of I how things really are, and there is no escaping the consequences of I truly unlawful actions. Obedience or disobedience to God’s law is presented in the Bible as a Iife-or-death matter. We read in the Book of Deuteronomy: “Here. then I have today set before you life and prosperity, death and doom. If you obey the commandments of the Lord, your God, which I enjOin on you today, loving him. and walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments. statutes and decrees, you will live and grow numerous. and the Lord, your God, will bless you in the land you are entering to occupy. If. however. you turn away your hearts and will not listen. but are led astray, and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not . have a long life on the land which you are crossing the Jordan to enter I and occupy. I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may Iive … “4

Many will readily agree that to deliberately kill a baby after birth would be to commit murder, but they contend that the case is altogether different prior to birth. But we do not need modern science to tell us that life begins prior to birth. This is also clear from God’s rvealed word. In Psalm 139, David is inspired of God to sing: “0 Lord, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand: you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it. Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain … I>Truly you have formed my inmost being, you knit me in my mother’s womb. I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works 5 I will refer to New Testament texts later. Consider another Old Testament passage, this from the prophet leremiah: “The word of the Lord came to me thus: before I formed you in the womb I know you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”6 In sum, as a distinguished scripture scholar has put it: “There is nothing in Scripture that even remotely suggests that the unborn child is anything less than a human person from the moment of conception. 7

But, it may be asked, isn’t there anything in scripture about the illegality of an abortion as such? There is.

Numerous laws in the Bible are elaborations of the basic commandments. They are, as we might view them from a contemporary legal perspective, statutory applications or “case” laws implementing basic principle. One of these is Exodus 21:23: “When men have a fight and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she suffers a miscarriage, but no further injury, the guilty one shall be fined as much as the woman’s husband demands of him, and he shall pay in the presence of the judges. But if injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

Biblical scholars have, of course, debated as to the precise meaning of this passage, as they have, I suppose, with respect to virtually every passage in the Bible. But they are in agreement at least as regards the following: the injury referred to is that inflicted by accident. and whether death ensues or not. to either mother or child, the action is condemned and a punishment is provided. This is highly significant….

In the world into which Jesus was born, abortion was commonplace, as it is today. So also was infanticide! (Can we be far behind? An ominous sign is the increasing use of amniocentesis to determine the sex of unborn babies and the use of this information in deciding to abort those of an unwanted sex.10 The sin of abortion is not a new one, any more than other sins are confined to a particular era of history or to a select group of people. Consider the Greeks and the Romans. Even the great Aristotle approved of abortion under certain circumstances. So also did he approve of infanticide as well. I quote from his Politics: “As to the exposure and rearing of children. let there be a law that no deformed child shall live … ” Plato, in his utopian writings on the ideal society, evidently favored abortion as a means of population control. 12 So much for the reliability of unaided reason as a sure guide to reality!

A description of child abuse practiced among the Romans would perhaps shock even those living in this jaded age. I quote again from Rushdoony: “In Biblical law. all life is under God and His law. Under Roman law. the parent was the source and lord of life. The father could abort the child, or kill it after birth. The power to abort. and the power to kill, go hand in hand. whether in parental or in state hands. When one is claimed, the other is claimed also. To restore abortion as a legal right is to restore judicial or parental murder.” 13

Professor Charles Rice, in his recent book Beyond Abortion: The Theory and Practice of the Secular State. comments as follows: “The abortion of the future will be by pill. suppository, or some other do-it-yourself method. At that point the killing of a baby will be wholly elective and private. We have, finally, caught up with the pagan Romans who endowed the father, the paterfamilias, with the right to kill his child at his discretion. We give that right to the mother. But it is all the same to the victim. 14

In the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973. Mr. Justice Blackmun. speaking for the court majority. makes this remarkable statement: “Ancient religion did not bar abortion:’ I ; Precisely, providing one limits consideration to ancient pagan religions. It is noteworthy that in a section of the opinion which purports to describe “ancient attitudes” on the abortion question there is not a single reference to either Jewish or Christian sources…

A deadly intellectual virus is at work in much of today’s thinking about the law of God, It is the opposition that is set up between “law” and “love.” Fall-out from this is seen in the opinions of those who disdain law observance and self-righteously proclaim love as a “higher” way. But the apostle John said: “The love of God consists in this: that we keep his commandments.”20 It is through law observance that we love; that is how we do it. Law is not, to be sure. a means of justification for we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and His grace. The law”: or Torah. was “the way” for Old Testament man; in John’s gospel Jesus said He is “the way:’ It is through Him. and only through Him, that man is saved or justified. Peter proclaimed boldly that there is “no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved.”21 But obedience to God’s law is a means of sanctification. a way of holiness. Most certainly the Kingdom of God is not a lawless regime! …

A common form of abortion technique today, used most often in the later stages of pregnancy, is saline abortion. Professor Rice gives this succinct description of the method: “Some of the amniotic fluid in which the child rests is withdrawn and replaced by a toxic saline soluition which poisons the child and severely burns his skin. He usually dies within 90 minutes; within 72 hours the mother goes into labor and delivers a dead child.”24

Is there any doubt that this constitutes the crime of pharmakeia referred to by St. Paul? Moreover, the Hebrew word for “kill” in the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” in Exodus 20:13 is rasah. It means, generally, premeditated murder.25 But it has as well a more specialized meaning; namely, “to dash to pieces: ’26 In light of this, consider a description of the two most common abortion procedures performed during the first trimester of pregnancy, dilation and curettage (D&C) and suction abortion: “In dilation and curettage, the entrance to the womb is dilated and the child is cut to pieces and removed piece by piece. In suction abortion, a tube attached to a highpowered vacuum is inserted into the womb, the child is pulled apart and the parts are sucked into a glass jar:’27 Rasah!

Next, what does history disclose as to the application and implementation of Biblical teaching on abortion? The common pattern is that of intense conflict between worldly powers and authorities on the one side and the teaching authority which Jesus established, the Church, on the other. This was the case at the beginning of the Christian era and it is, of course, the situation today.

As already noted, the Christian religion emerged in a society in which abortion was almost the rule rather than the exception. But the Church reacted with courage and firmness. The first century compilation of doctrine, the Didache (or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles) stated flatly: “You shall not procure an abortion:’ And it is a matter of historical record that this uncompromising stance has been maintained ever since. For whether one reads a statement of an early Church father or of a contemporary Pope, the message is the same; namely, abortion is violative of the law of God. For example, Athenagorous, writing to the Emperor Marcus Aurelius in A.D. 177, said that “all who use abortifacients are homicides and will account to God for their abortions as for the killing of men:’26 Pope John XXIII put it this way in our time: “Human life is sacred; from its very inception the creative action of God is directly operative. By violating his laws, the divine majesty is offended, the individuals themselves and humanity are degraded, and the bonds by which members of society are united are enervated:’29 So also has it been with respect to the councils of the Church. At the Council of Ancyra in 3 14, there was a denunciation of those who “slay what is generated and work to destroy it with abortifacients:’3o More than 1600 years later the same view was reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council: “Life from its conception is to be guarded with the greatest care. Abortion and infanticide are horrible crimes:’31 The present Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, speaking in our nation’s capitol, climaxed a fervent plea for the protection of human life from the moment of conception with these memorable words: “When God gives life, it is forever!”

Historically, Protestant opposition to abortion has been every bit as adamant as Catholic opposition. For example, the most influential Protestant theologian. John Calvin, spoke as follows: “If it seems more disgraceful that a man be killed in his own home than in his field-since for every man his home is his sanctuary-how much more abominable is it to be considered to kill a fetus in the womb who has not yet been brought into the Iight:’32 Indeed. only in comparatively recent times do we hear of professing Christians dissenting from this view.

Incidentally, it would appear that the very first book in Western Europe attacking the legal restrictions on abortion was published in 1795. The author? The notorious Marquis de Sade! “Sadism,” the diseased condition of sexual perversion with cruelty, is named after him. De Sade contended that France was overpopulated and that the “Chinese” practice (as he styled it) of abandoning babies was to be desired.33 De Sade saw no crime in murder. How could he? For to him. each man was a law unto himself, his own god. But as de Sade’s life and philosophy amply demonstrate. this is not a god who creates life, but who destroys it. Divinity is. in effect. manifested by violence inflicted upon others. competing gods. Consider these words of this French aristocrat who qualifies as one of the founding fathers of the modern sexual revolution: “Ah, how many times, by God, have 1 not longed to be able to assail the sun. snatch it out of the universe, make a general darkness, or use that sun to burn the world! Oh. that would be a crime …”34 A Biblical footnote is appropriate: “For whoso findeth me findeth life. and shall obtain favor of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.35

I began by saying that the conflict here is basic. It is. in fact, a conflict between God’s will as normative and man’s will as normative. The issue is: who is to rule? Christ or Caesar? Christ or the Marquis de Sade? Christ or the Supreme Court of the United States?

There can be no neutrality here, nor can there be any compromise. We must choose. and our choice will be consequential-for ourselves and for future generations.

    1 Matt. 28:18
    2 Ex. 20:13: Dt 5:17.
    3 E.q., Ex. 21:23-25; Lvt. 24:17 “.; Dt. 19:21.
    4 Dt. 30:15-19.
    5 PS. 139:1-6, 13-14.
    6 Jer. 1:4-5.
    7 Frame. “Abortion from a Biblical Perspective:’ Thou Shall Not Kill 50-51 (Ganz ed. 1978).
    8 Id. at 56. See also Rushdoony, The Institules of Biblical Law 263-4 (1973).
    9 Rushdoony, supra note 8 at 264.
    l0 See, e.g.. Beck. “Aborting Children of Unwanted Gender:’ Chicago Tribllne, Sept. 10, 1979.
    II Politics. VII. 1335b. 20.
    12 The Republic. 5A61c.
    13 Rushdoony. supra note 8 at 186.
    I4 Rice. Beyond Abortion: The Theory alld Practice of the Secular State 98 (1979).
    15 93 S.Ct. at 715.
    16 Matt.5:17.
    17 Hardon. The Catholic Catechism 325 (1975).
    18 Matt. 5:22.
    19 Matt. 5:28.
    20 1 John 5:3.
    21 Acts 4:12.
    22 Luke 1:26-45.
    23 Noonan. The Morality of Abortion 8-9 (1970)
    24 Rice. Fifty Oues/iolls on Abortion. Q.2 (1979).
    25 Brown. Driver and Briggs. Hebrew and English Lexicon of Ihe Old Testament 935 (1978).
    26 TheIllterllatiollal Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Vol. III. p. 2094 (1939).
    27 Rice. supra note 24.
    28 Hardon. supra note 17 at 341.
    29 Id.
    30 Noonan. supra note 23 at 14.
    31 Id.
    32 Noonan. A Private Clioice 59 (1979).
    33 Noonan. supra note 23 at 37.
    34 Rushdoony. supra note 8 at 332.
    35 Prov. 8:35-36 (KJV).