Pastor Marc Likins
In my experience, Christians are often flabbergasted as to how their views on abortion are not universally shared by the world around them. Much of this astonishment is due to a failure to recognize that there is a theological foundation for the abortion conversation that much of the increasingly secular society does not share. Abortion is doctrine E, but before you get to doctrine E, you need to handle doctrines A-D. So let us start at the beginning.
DOCTRINE A: CREATIONISM
There is a creator God.
Part of the disconnect on the abortion conversation is that we have lost the reality of a creator God. A big, powerful, majestic, glorious, holy, immense God. The One who is infinitely more wise and powerful than we would ever hope to be. The One who doesn’t owe us, but owns us. The sovereign One. Of course, the Bible starts this way: "In the beginning God created..." (Genesis 1:1a).
If there is no God that made us, then what are we? Just bags of chemicals. Primordial ooze that has evolved a little further. Products of chaos and chance. And if that is true, there is absolutely no reason why we should be expected to live any differently than the rest of the animal kingdom. We don’t get mad at the rabbit for eating her baby. We aren’t enraged at the lightning bug for flashing a false signal to a potential mate and then eating him. It’s a dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest world.
Throw away the idea of a creator God, and you throw away the leverage for a moral society. Who says I can’t kill my young if they are an inconvenience? On what basis are you telling me I can’t commit genocide if I think we would be better without them? Who is to say there is any such thing as right and wrong? You need a higher moral standard than yourself to be able to declare that someone should or should not do anything.
DOCTRINE B: IMAGO DEI
Humans are created in the image of God.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
It’s not just that God created, but He also made mankind in His image. The idea of image is that there is something about mankind that allows us to uniquely reflect God. All of creation reflects God to some degree, just as a polished rock reflects your image to a degree (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1). However, humans reflect God in a substantially better way. We uniquely reflect God in our rationality; we hunger to know. We uniquely reflect God in our personality; we hunger for love. We uniquely reflect God in our eternality; we hunger to last. And even in our creativity, we hunger to make. We have been given by God a moral, intellectual, and spiritual compass that the rest of creation does not possess.
And this is the foundation for doctrine C.
DOCTRINE C: SANCTITY OF LIFE
Human life is especially sacred.
And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
In Genesis 9, God tells Noah he has dominion over all of creation, and it is permissible to hunt animals for food. Then He goes on to draw a line of demarcation between the animal kingdom and man. He tells Noah that mankind cannot be killed and institutes capital punishment as a punishment for murder, and God roots this instruction in the idea that man is made in the image of God.
While some have argued this passage is inhumane due to capital punishment, the opposite is true. God is clearly saying that human life is sacred. Sacred in a different way than everything else. Human life is so special that there is no exchange for it. You can’t exchange a life for any amount of money or even an animal’s life. The only exchange for a human life is another human life, because humans are that special. And not just some humans. Not just the rich or strong or wise. All human life is sacred because all humans are made in God’s image.
DOCTRINE D: CAREFULNESS
Avoid at all costs anything that might harm or weaken human life.
Watch where Jesus takes the idea of the sanctity of life.
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
That’s one of the strongest statements that Jesus ever made in His ethical teaching. He is saying, don’t think you have obeyed the law of God if you have restrained yourself from committing murder in the first degree. You aren’t even allowed to be angry against them unjustly. You aren’t allowed to hurt their quality of life. You aren’t allowed to slander them and say “Raca” or “thou fool.” Human life is so special and valuable that you stay clear of anything that may harm life. They are God’s image – God’s picture. And you do everything possible to avoid tearing God’s picture.
This has a massive impact on the abortion conversation. Much of the abortion debate for years now has been centered around the question, “Is that fetus a living, human person?” My lung is alive and human, but there is no personhood there. Is there personhood in that fetus?
There are only three options: 1) The fetus has no personhood. 2) The fetus has personhood. 3) I don’t know. If you are convinced of personhood or don’t know, abortion should be out of the question. The doctrine of carefulness demands this. If you are 100% sure that the fetus is no different than a tadpole or your liver, then it is logical to abort. But if you have any doubts, it makes no sense.
Life is too sacred to decide it with a question mark or a roll of the dice. We need better grounds for even potentially eliminating life than my preference, my convenience, or my economic condition. Why? Because life is sacred, and we avoid at all costs anything that might harm or weaken human life.
This is also why we are thankful for and promote laws that protect life. It’s fitting that we view suicide as wrong. If I take your life or my life, either way I am tearing up God’s picture. It’s good that we view euthanasia as wrong, and doctors vow to do no harm. Because life is sacred, and we avoid anything that might harm or weaken human life.
This is why we should treat everyone as inherently valuable and special. Even if we disagree with them or view them as our enemy. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, who comes into your world must feel honored and valued. Don’t treat people with indifference, flippancy, and coldness. They should feel value, warmth, and dignity. When people interact with you, they should feel like a million bucks.
Don’t be a relational buzzsaw. Don’t size them up quickly. Don’t be catty. They are made in the image of God, and you are tearing God’s picture when you do that.
Honestly, the church needs this message just as much as secular society. The church is notorious for standing strong on ethical issues and engaging in culture wars while being downright nasty to people while they do. The irony of Christians standing on one side of the street with pro-life signs while yelling at the other side of the street, “You are a piece of trash. I hope you burn” is unbelievable and flies in the face of the sanctity of life. That “piece of trash” is made in God’s image too and deserves dignity while you take a stand for life.
So, what are we to do as Christians, especially as it relates to the abortion conversation? Take a stand and stand passionately. But stand intelligently and compassionately as well.