Read the rest of the series.
In the first two installments, we discussed some presuppositions that the pro-abortion and pro-life perspectives bring to this issue, and we saw what the activists in our secular culture are saying about abortion. We especially noted their attempts to normalize abortion to their target audience. Now, in this last installment, we consider what the Bible says about unborn children.
The Bible isn’t a medical textbook, and none of these passages are specifically about abortion, but they each speak to the sanctity of unborn children’s lives. As we discuss these passages, consider:
- what status do these unborn children have?
- does God consider them to be persons?
- what does the evidence show us He thinks about unborn children?
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Elizabeth’s unborn child, John the Baptist, leaped for joy. The child is called a “baby,” which is the same phrase the Bible uses for a child after birth. The baby heard Mary’s greeting, and responded to it with joy. This was a willing, volitional activity by the unborn child John, similar to the kicks of an unborn child that all mothers feel.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
David says he was a sinner from the moment his mother conceived him. He sees himself as a distinct human being, with a sinful nature, at the moment of conception. He has no idea of “personhood” beginning after his exit from the womb.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Ps 139:13).
God made David in a spiritual sense (“inward”). He made David in a physical sense (“knitted me together”). And, God saw David as a living, active person within the womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well (Ps 139:14).
David believed he was created by God; his parents were just the intermediaries.
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 (Ps 139:15-16).
David considered himself to have been made in the womb, being “intricately woven” together. God sees David as a human being, as someone for whom He has a plan, even when David was unformed (i.e. an embryo) and in his smallest, most miniscule state of human existence after conception.
Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25:22-23)
The children struggled together within her, and she said, If it is thus, why is this happening to me?’ (Gen 25:22).
Jacob and Esau are called children, or sons, even before they were born. They have status, dignity, personal identity, and worth.
And the Lord said to her,
“Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you shall be divided;
the one shall be stronger than the other,
the older shall serve the younger,” (Gen 25:23).
Even more, in God’s mind and plan they even already have descendants and set futures and destinies!
Law about pre-mature birth and status of child (Ex 21:22-25)
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 (Ex 25:22).
Two men fight and a pregnant woman is hit, presumably in the stomach. If a premature labor results and the children born pre-maturely are fine, the offender receives a monetary fine. The point is that both the woman and her child were endangered, therefore the offender must be punished.
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 (Gen 25:23-25).
But, if the children are born and there is harm to them, the offender pays proportionally; life for life, etc. Unborn children are considered people. God doesn’t consider this manslaughter; there is no “city of refuge” escape hatch in this case. Instead, God considers this an action worthy of death. The babies inside the woman are incapable of defending themselves, so the offender’s actions merit death. This is sort of an aggravated manslaughter, where the degree of negligence outweighs the lack of premeditation.1
If an accidental death of a child is punishable by death, how much more the premeditated, deliberate death of a child through elective abortion?
Life begins at conception (Lk 1:35)
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.”
This describes the moment of Jesus’ conception. No man will be involved. Instead, the Holy Spirit implants Jesus inside Mary’s womb by a miracle. The angel Gabriel sees a basic continuity running from conception to the child, who will be the holy Son of God.
Not long after (“in those days”), Mary moves to visit her cousin Elizabeth (John’s mother), who calls Mary “the mother of my Lord,” (Lk 1:43). Mary is likely (at best) a few weeks pregnant, but is already seen as a mother because she’s bearing a living, breathing child with a status, an identity, an innate personality, a future. Mothers are vessels for human life, even mere weeks after conception.
The Bible shows us God sees children as people at the moment of conception, prior to birth. This means they have status, dignity, value and worth. It means they’re made in the image of God. His law even prescribes capitol punishment for aggravated manslaughter, resulting in death of an unborn child. It means elective abortion is a capital crime, in God’s eyes
Grace that is greater than all our sins!
Remember, people are made in the image of God:
- which means they reflect God’s characteristics and qualities,
- which means human life is special and sacred
- which means you’re made in the image of God,
- which also means you (and everyone else in the world) are under authority, accountable to your Creator for your actions
The Bible defines “personhood” as a status; what you are, not what you do. This is why Christians see unborn children, the elderly, the infirm, the mentally handicapped, and the medically incapacitated as people, with a right to life and a dignity and status worth defending. The Bible shows us that God sees babies as human beings from the moment of conception, with a dignity, value, and predetermined future from conception onwards.
Abortion procedures, which I briefly surveyed, result in the death of unborn children (whom God sees as persons), and that means both patients and physicians bear moral responsibility for that act. But, Jesus can forgive you, He is willing to forgive you, He wants to forgive you, and He’s anxious to forgive you. Jesus does love you, and He can forgive any sin – including and especially that of abortion.
1 “This means that God established for Israel a law code that placed a higher value on protecting the life of a pregnant woman and her unborn child than the life of anyone else in Israelite society. Far from treating the death of an unborn child as less significant than the death of others in society, this law treated the death of an unborn child or its mother as more significant and therefore worthy of more severe punishment. And the law did not make any distinction about the number of months the woman had been pregnant. Presumably it applied from a very early stage in pregnancy, whenever it could be known that the injury inflicted by the men who were fighting caused the death of the unborn child or children,” (Grudem, Christian Ethics, KL 14235 – 14240).
Tyler Robbins is a graduate of Maranatha Baptist Seminary, a DMin student at Central Seminary (Plymouth, MN) and a pastor at Sleater Kinney Road Baptist Church, in Olympia WA. He’s also an Investigations Program Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist and is the author of What’s It Mean to be a Baptist?