“Now what would you say of a hunter who shot at a sudden movement in a bush, not knowing whether it was a deer or a fellow hunter? Would you call him wise or foolish?”
– Peter Kreeft, in The Unaborted Socrates
In his book The Unaborted Socrates, Dr. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, argues for the sanctity of human life using several compelling points. Among those arguments is the one quoted above, which points out that men must always err on the side of protecting life if there is any doubt at all.
Kreeft’s book applies the argument specifically to the abortion debate, emphasizing that, if we do not know when life begins, the only wise course of action is not to allow abortion. To allow for an abortion, while maintaining ignorance as to the beginning of human life, is like encouraging a hunter to shoot at every rustling in the bushes. After all, it might be a deer; it might not be human. Such rationale is foolish, at best.
Christians would greatly benefit from reading Kreeft’s entire work on the subject, as his arguments (given through an imaginary reincarnate Socrates) are powerful and thought-provoking. What stands out to me in the whole subject of Christians and abortion is how inconsistently we apply the truths we know. And, while I hope to develop these thoughts in many different and deeper ways in the days to come, I want to begin with some general observations.
To begin with, the Christian pro-life community has accurately argued for some time that life begins at conception and this is the biblical position. Psalm 139:13-16, for example, says:
“For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes was my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
God’s knowledge of man, down to pre-formed “substance” is known by God, and this knowledge is more than mere awareness of existence. God “knows” every man with intimate, loving knowledge, knitting every person together and writing his days, even before they occur. The sanctity of human life at conception, then, might only be disregarded if one first disregards Scripture and, while that option might be chosen by those outside the Christian world, it cannot be done by believers.
Christians cannot even argue for “early” abortions, as it is plain that, in the mind of God, human life being planned and written even before the person’s “substance” is “formed.” To allow for “early” abortions with the argument that the fetus is not a person is simply to tell the hunter to load up and “fire at will” at the rustling of those bushes – it might just be a deer, after all. Additionally, Scripture speaks of God planning the futures of individuals from the womb – Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5) and John the Baptist (Luke 1:5-17, 39-45) are two obvious examples.
Even beyond the biblical statements, the conviction that life begins at conception still holds. No philosophically feasible argument exists that would allow for abortion when there is doubt as to the beginning of human life. Those who claim that a “fetus” (word carefully chosen) does not become a life until it is viable outside the womb have only made a case for infanticide (the killing of a child), euthanasia (the killing of the elderly), and “mercy killings” (the killing of the terminally ill). Yet, this proves too much. Those who want to simply prove the “pro-choice” position in America generally do not want infanticide, euthanasia, and mercy killings to be legal, just abortion. But, arguing that a fetus is not a life because it is not viable is only to argue for the killing of all who are unable to survive without the assistance of others. Again, would this not logically allow for the murder of grammar school children, toddlers, infants, the seriously ill, the elderly, and even anyone on life-preserving medications?
Those who would claim that abortion falls under the realm of “personal choice” make a similar philosophical and moral error. To argue that something is a matter of choice is to argue that it is not a moral matter. For example, choosing which restaurant to dine in is a matter of choice; choosing whether or not to rob a convenience store is not. Delving into the realms of human existence and death could not be further from matters of mere “choice.”
Finally, there is the insistence from some that the “fetus” is a part of the mother’s body and, therefore, is not subject to the same moral considerations that a “real” person would be given. This, again, makes assertions that simply cannot be proven. While it is true that semen alone, and an unfertilized egg alone, has separate genetic codes, a fertilized egg or zygote (the earliest stages of an embryo) has all of the genetic coding of a separate individual. In other words, from the moment of conception or the fertilization of the egg, a separate individual is formed with completely unique genetic coding.
All of this is simply to say that the philosophical and biblical case (as shown in extremely short fashion here) for the pro-life viewpoint is strong. There are pages and pages that have been well-written to demonstrate the strength of the pro-life position. And, while more such books would be helpful, I do not think the greatest problem in the Christian pro-life camp stems from poor argumentation. No – it is far more practical and, to be precise, is quite political in nature.
The modern pro-life movement has a firm foundation on which to stand. With the rich biblical and philosophical foundation briefly sketched above, one would think that the movement to rid the nation of abortion would thunder on faithfully and powerfully. Convinced that abortion is the taking of a human life by, what’s worse, the child’s own mother, surely the Christian community would have no rest until no more children are brutally sacrificed on the altar of convenience, right? Not exactly. Rather, the Christian pro-life movement has become woefully mired in three deeply counter-productive problems.
To be continued in part 2…