This post is the third part in a series. The topic is what the Bible says about abortion. Here are links to the previous posts.
This post discusses the “moderate” position.
The Case For Ambiguity On Abortion
Although there are many articles that discuss what the Bible says about abortion, few take an ambiguous position. Tom Head‘s article, What does the Bible say about abortion? (considered in The Case For Abortion), might be described as making the case for ambiguity, but the overreaching and misleading nonsense it contains unambiguously suggests the author’s personal bias. That suggested we might have difficulty finding examples for a couple of other cases, but there is no shortage of “moderates.”
At Christian Bible Reference Site, What does the Bible say about
abortion? explains the “moderate” position. What makes this article somewhat unique is that the authors actually do make some effort to explain both the pro-life and the pro-abortion arguments. Then they proceed to call both positions extreme. Eventually, the authors get to their point with this argument and bible passage.
The strong emotions surrounding the abortion issue may lead those on both sides of the issue into the sin of self-righteousness. Jesus was greatly offended by self-righteous religious people who thought they were better than those they considered “sinners.”
The Pharisees were a Jewish sect noted for their strict observance of the laws of God. Tax collectors were among the most despised people in Israel. As agents of the occupying Roman forces they often extorted excess taxes and were considered traitors to their people. That is why Jesus used a Pharisee and a tax collector to illustrate the sin of self-righteousness:
Then [Jesus] told this story to some who boasted of their virtue and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a proud, self-righteous Pharisee, and the other a cheating tax collector. The proud Pharisee ‘prayed’ this prayer: ‘Thank God, I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don’t commit adultery, I go without food twice a week, and I give to God a tenth of everything I earn.’ “But the corrupt tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed, but beat upon his chest in sorrow, exclaiming, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home forgiven! For the proud shall be humbled, but the humble shall be honored.” (TLB, Luke 18:9-14)
This section on Avoiding Self-righteousness contains a self-contradiction. To “prove” their charge of self-righteousness, the authors cite passages from the Bible. If that’s okay, to prove abortion is evil, why can’t pro-life advocates cite passages from the Bible? After all, what is self-righteousness? Here is the best definition I could find.
confident of one’s own righteousness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behavior of others.
In the passage from Luke 18:9-14, the prideful Pharisee errors because he believes himself the source of his righteousness. Whereas, he should, like the tax collector, seek the righteousness of God.
Because God inspired it, Christians study the Bible and seek to live by its wisdom. Further, we pray that God will help us to understand His Word. Thus, Christians seek the righteousness of God through the Bible. That includes considering what the Bible says on the subject of abortion.
In their section on Church Doctrine, the authors note that Christian churches take varying positions.
Many churches, including United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Presbyterian (USA), and United Methodist, do not approve of abortion as a means of birth control. However, they support the right of a woman to obtain an abortion, if she deems that is the best choice in her circumstances, and they favor keeping abortion legal. Other churches, including Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist, oppose all abortions and favor making abortion illegal. (continued here)
What exactly are the positions of the United Church of Christ, Episcopal, Presbyterian (USA), and United Methodist Church? That will be the subjects of Cases 2-4.
The United Church of Christ is one of the founding faith groups of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, formed in 1973 as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights. Over the years, RCRC has continued to bring a strong voice of faith on the moral and religious issues that swirl around public debate over abortion, contraception and pregnancy prevention. Because there are many religious and theological perspectives on when life and personhood begin, the UCC joins others in advocating that public policy must honor this rich religious diversity. Our position is not a pro-abortion position but a pro-faith, pro-family and pro-woman position. (from here)
Effectively, what the UCC wants us to believe is that they are pro-choice, not pro-abortion, but that raises a question. Is that a distinction with a difference?
The Episcopal Church is also a member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) (confirmed here). The document that provides that church’s position on abortion is Reaffirm General Convention Statement on Childbirth and Abortion. Here is what they resolved.
Resolved, That this 71st General Convention of the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislative, executive or judicial action on the part of local, state or national governments that abridges the right of a woman to reach an informed decision about the termination of pregnancy or that would limit the access of a woman to safe means of acting on her decision. (from here)
This paragraph explains Presbyterian (USA)‘s attitude towards Biblical authority on the subject of abortion.
There is [both] agreement and disagreement on the basic issue of abortion. The committee [on problem pregnancies and abortion] agreed that there are no biblical texts that speak expressly to the topic of abortion, but that taken in their totality the Holy Scriptures are filled with messages that advocate respect for the woman and child before and after birth. Therefore the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) encourages an atmosphere of open debate and mutual respect for a variety of opinions concerning the issues related to problem pregnancies and abortion.
So what does Presbyterian (USA) conclude?
The strong Christian presumption is that since all life is precious to God, we are to preserve and protect it. Abortion ought to be an option of last resort …
The Christian community must be concerned about and address the circumstances that bring a woman to consider abortion as the best available option. Poverty, unjust societal realities, sexism, racism, and inadequate supportive relationships may render a woman virtually powerless to choose freely. (from here)
The United Methodist Church (UMC) is also a member of the RCRC (confirmed here). The UMC addresses the topic of abortion in a book it calls Social Principles of the United Methodist Church. Abortion is extracted from that document. Here is UMC’s bottom-line.
Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, family, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel. (from here)
What is almost comical about this statement is that the abortion industry is largely unregulated.
Each of the churches listed above provide position statements that either ignore scripture or suggest the Bible does not provide clear guidance. Each is also a member of RCRC, and the RCRC does cite scripture on its website. Therefore, next week we will take a little detour and examine what the RCRC says about the ethics of abortion.
Note that the RCRC provides a list of its member churches at this webpage, We Affirm. Is your church a member? If you do not agree with policies of the RCRC, you may wish to consider moving your membership to another Christian church. Frankly, that is my motivation for studying the RCRC’s website.