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The Proper Position for the Church: Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice

The Proper Position for the Church: Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice

A girl holds a sign during an anti-abortion rally at the State Capitol in Austin, Texas, July 8, 2013. The political battle in Texas over proposed restrictions on abortion resumes on Monday with a rally by abortion opponents and a public hearing in the state Senate, where Democrat Wendy Davis staged a filibuster last month to stall the Republican-backed measure. | (Photo: Reuters/Mike Stone)

Editor's Note: The Christian Post is a pro-life publication. We, the editors, believe that life begins at conception and thus pre-born people are deserving of legal protections. We are publishing this op-ed in the interest of extending public debate on this important topic.

The issue of abortion is fraught and divides the church in the most unchristian way. The nature of the debate forces the Christian community to choose sides which engenders suspicion of the genuineness of each other's faith. The church has one foundation and ought not to be divided, especially on the issue of abortion (and some other social issues, which are also a function of choice).

The church cannot be anything but anti when it comes to abortion. That has to be, as it were, its default position if it is to be faithful to the spirit of the scriptures. But note that I say the "spirit" of the scriptures. Because, in spite of what you may hear or read, the scriptures do not address abortion directly. The scriptures address the value or sanctity of life; and as with many of the things we regard as correct to do, it is a guiding principle. Yet, there are times when a life is taken without violation of that principle (Ecclesiastes 3:3).

But to be anti-abortion does not, and should not constrain us to an anti-choice only position. A good Christian can be both ant-abortion and pro-choice at the same time. The problem with the debate is that the two are often conflated and confused. Additionally, the demagoguery of some prevents the intellectual exercise of nuanced thinking and an appreciation of the complexities inherent in the issue of abortion.

So, while the church must remain anti-abortion by default, it is not intellectually or morally tenable to remain anti-choice. The church has to be clear on its position. It makes no sense to say that there should be no abortion in any circumstance whatsoever. That belies a level of ignorance of the complexity of abortion decision making, and an antipathy to the feelings and concerns of those for whom it is performed. The morality of abortion cannot be reduced to simple arguments.

The decision to have or not have an abortion is complex and deeply personal. It exacts significant emotional toll on the individual or individuals who have to make that life or death choice. An outsider, even if that person had gone through a similar process already, cannot fully appreciate what another individual is experiencing in those crucial moments. This is simply because each individual brings their own set of background experiences that may evoke different emotional responses.

What of the psychological state of mind of the woman in the case of incest or rape? Is it prudent to say to an emotionally distraught and devastated victim that it was God's plan; that it is a sin not to carry the pregnancy to the end? People are different psychologically, and the state of mind that informs their decisions on any given issue is not uniform for every circumstance. That is one reason why it is so difficult to find the "right" words to say to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one. That is why it is a delicate balancing act to use words in comforting a friend after the breakup of a relationship, or the loss of a job, or to someone contemplating suicide to do otherwise, etc.

When it comes to abortion itself, there are several reasons that it may be medically necessary. I will not go into those here, but suffice it to say that a medical decision to perform an abortion is also complex and deeply personal. The life of the fetus/child and the mother often hang in the balance. While consent is regularly required from the mother, the nature of the case may be such that either the mother or the fetus/child she is carrying has to die for the other to live. Otherwise both may die.

The clinicians have to make a decision and give their best medical advice in those instances for the best outcome. Often it comes down to aborting the fetus/child. This creates moral and ethical fodder for both sides of the debate. But it is worth noting that the moral dilemma of deciding whether to save the fetus/child over the mother or vice versa, is perhaps the most consequential, heart-wrenching situation to be in. In light of this, the abortion debate seems to be doing more injustice to those who are faced with these decisions, because it is treated as binary moral issue.

I think too many abortions are performed simply because of an unwanted pregnancy, even though the risks were known while engaging in sexual activity, and no preventative measures were responsibly taken. The church, I think, is on solid scriptural and moral grounds to decry these abortions, and should do so with every opportunity. There is a solid argument to be made that these selective abortions are sinful based upon the disregard for the consequences of actions that will lead to the killing of a human being. The argument can also be made that in those cases the resulting life and its potential are being treated as mere casualties of unbridled pleasure. But, even then, the church should be in favor of a woman's right to choose to have an abortion.

No matter the spiritual state of ancient Israel and down through the history of the church, God gives each individual the right to choose.

"Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:14-15, NKJV).

It seems an unnecessary fight to be engaged in by the church because it is really not one of the essentials of the faith. The objection to abortion can be boiled down to the sinful nature of killing an unborn child. But it is in fact a fight against a person's right to choose sin. We may not like the choices some people make, but that does not mean they do not have the right to make them.

The scripture teaches that the soul that sins will die, but does not deny the soul that right to sin. God calls upon us to choose his way over our sinful ways, but he does not prevent us from choosing to sin. What God does, as should the church, is to identify the sin and warn against it.

Now, I suppose, someone will ask about protecting and defending the innocent. That seems to be stretching a biblical principle too far because scripture is not clear that it meant abortion, which is a special circumstance. And especially since the practice had been known during those times, with the use of herbs and roots to induce miscarriage, we would expect more explicit mention and its prohibition. Another person may go off the deep end and ask: "What about a terrorist's right to choose to blow up a building and kill many innocent people?" That is by magnitude of degrees very different from a woman deciding what happens to and in her own body. It is a personal choice for which a personal reckoning with God will come due.

Marvin G. Thompson has, over the past 38 years, served as youth leader, church officer, assistant Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, and presently as a deacon and preacher, serve men's and small group ministry leadership and. Started the Berean Fundamentals blog on Christian Post to challenge Christians to live consistently with the teachings of Scripture.

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