Why a Biblical Worldview is Anti-Abortion
In 2019, The Atlantic featured an article written to convey the spiritual journey of Jes Kast, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ denomination. Her spiritual journey had led her from a pro-life position all the way to the clergy advocacy board of Planned Parenthood (the link to which was no longer active in February 2021). In that role, she actively supported abortion as an action grounded upon theological and moral convictions. Her spiritual journey began, in part, with a series of questions including, “What about bodily autonomy? Isn’t that justice? How would God ever infringe upon that?”
The Christian reading those questions might instantly recognize that they reflect a secular worldview, not a Biblical one. For clarity sake, let us note that a Biblical worldview is one in which individuals view the world through the lens of revealed truth. The Bible affirms God’s sovereign rule over creation, the splendor of His creation, and objective morality that is grounded in His nature. A secular worldview denies that truth is revealed. Truth, according to secularism, is discovered or created. Because there is no Creator Who serves as the grounds for objective morality, there is no such standard. Also, because there is no Creator, there is no objective purpose for life. Your life is ultimately meaningless. Finally, your body was not designed with a purpose and so its design does not convey truth about its purpose, function, or corresponding responsibilities.
When one reads Kast’s words, questions about God’s place in relation to creation come to the forefront: Is God obligated to affirm the decisions His creation makes? Do the moral values and duties in God’s revealed Word infringe on the individual? Are those values and duties therefore immoral? Those are the implications of Kast’s position1. As Christians, it is important that we can identify how such positions run contrary to God’s Word. It is important that we affirm the entire counsel of God’s Word as it shapes our views of moral values and duties.
My fear is that many Christians only know enough about the Bible’s teaching on the topics of abortion, life, and God’s sovereign reign over creation to cite a few verses (i.e., Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5, and Exodus 21:22-25). While those verses, when taught in context, provide wonderful arguments against abortion, our churches are failing our congregations if we aren’t equipping them to wrestle with those texts and to answer objections that will be raised about the full counsel of God’s Word. Christians don’t need to cherry pick verses to make pro-life arguments, nor do we have to become anxious when progressives attempt to make Biblically literate Christians caricatures. We can stand confident upon the Word of God as pro-life Christians. How can we be sure a Biblical worldview is anti-abortion? The following remarks on God’s sovereignty over creation, the intrinsic value of the individual, the ordained institution of government, and basic moral duties provide a concise, but helpful framework from which to condemn abortion3 from a Biblical worldview.
God is sovereign over creation
Genesis 1:1 affirms God’s existence (Isaiah 45:11-17), creativity, and rightful claim to creation (Colossians 1:16). This has several implications for Christians wrestling with this topic. Let us consider two:
We do not have bodily autonomy before God. I know we’ve heard the chants, but it is neither your body nor your (good) choice. It is true that God has created men and women as moral agents, capable of freely choosing good or evil. However, the exercising of one’s free choice is not without consequence. Humans are not a law to themselves. While God does allow people to exercise their free will in rebellion of His moral standard, often without immediate judgement in this life, assumptions about bodily autonomy before God represent a rejection of God’s moral standard. His moral standard is grounded in His Being and is exterior to us. Christians uniquely affirm God’s sovereign position in our lives. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds the believer that his or her body belongs to Christ because He has purchased us with His blood.
God alone has the authority to give and take human life. Contemporary biology has affirmed life beginning at conception. Secularists have often ceased arguing against this reality. Arguments will abound, such as the last article linked, that abortion results in moral good. But this is illusionary. God alone has the right to define moral values and duties. This includes the right to take human life. Abortion destroys a person made in the image of God.
You have intrinsic value
Contemporary discussions about the morality (and legality) of abortion have moved beyond whether the baby in the womb is alive to discussions about whether the baby is a person. Personhood Theory, as defined by Nancy R. Pearcey, detaches the dignity of the life in the womb from the body. This is consistent with a progressive worldview in which the body does not convey purpose or moral duties. These beliefs are inconsistent with a Biblical worldview.
A Biblical worldview affirms the dignity of the body. For example, Christians recognize that at no point in Scripture is a baby in the womb defined as anything less than a person. A notable example of this is the narrative of Luke 1:39-45 in which John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb. A Biblical worldview maintains the dignity of the body even after physical death. Christians long for the day when their physical bodies will be resurrected. By detaching dignity from the body as a defense for taking human life in the womb, those adhering to secular worldviews (even if they’re professing Christians) undermine the existence of the Creator Who has established order and reduce the human body to morally neutral matter that can manipulated for one’s own purposes and pleasure. Advocates of such a view have embraced an incoherent worldview. While attempting to use pro-body language, their worldview undermines all objective dignity and rights the Biblical worldview assigns to those created in God’s image. Nancy R. Pearcey summarized the incoherence of the secular worldview on this point:
If you favor abortion, you are implicitly saying that in the early stages of life, an unborn baby has so little value that it can be killed for any reason- or no reason- without any moral consequence. Whatever your feelings, that is a very low view of life. Then, by sheer logic, you must say that at some later time the baby becomes a person, at which point it acquires such high value that killing it would be a crime.2
The government can, does, and should tell you what you can do with your body
God has ordained the institution of government to glorify Himself and contribute to human thriving. Romans 13 necessarily affirms the state’s right to enact just laws that affirm moral good committed by the individual (intellectually and physically) and to punish individuals who commit those moral trespasses that are harmful to God’s intended order for society. This argument is not framed within the context of a theocracy. Rather, Romans 13 speaks of secular authorities being given specific responsibilities. Violating those responsibilities inevitably brought judgment upon nations. God’s Word repeatedly warns of judgement brought upon nations who did not censor poor behavior or promote justice.
Rarely do individuals make the claim that their bodies are entirely autonomous and exempt from all potential legal repercussions. Rather, individuals contending for abortion often assume their genitalia is exempt from the rule of law… necessarily so. However, this position is not defendable. First, the affirmation that one’s genitalia is unique and exempt from laws that govern the rest of one’s body is peculiar. Second, there are many laws that specifically relate to genitalia. Examples include: the inability to expose one’s genitalia in public, laws that prohibit individuals from knowingly spreading STDs, and laws that bind individuals to responsibilities as the result of one’s use of their sex organs (i.e., child support). Finally, should an individual go to prison… their entire body is locked up. One’s genitalia is not somehow spared incarceration by the state.
Objective Moral Values and Duties
C.S. Lewis, in his classic Mere Christianity argued that all individuals have this curious idea that people ought to behave a certain way. Whether someone identifies as a relativist or sincerely believes that morality is grounded on their discovery or creation of right and wrong, the truth is that people do not and cannot live as though either are true. Conceptions of morality that are grounded within the individual, culturally-conditioned, or subjective in any other way, are untenable. Ask yourself, is racism wrong because people think it is wrong today or is it absolutely wrong for all people at all times? If everyone in society thought that mistreating people of color was acceptable, would it be acceptable? The answers to those questions, I hope, are obvious. Moral values are not grounded within the individual or even the society in which one lives. It is time for Christians to gain clarity and find a voice on this topic.
Christians recognize that moral values are grounded within God’s nature. Those values have been revealed to us and we are able (and expected) to maintain those values, even with the acknowledgement that no human perfectly reflects those values in their daily life4. However, we recognize that those moral values do exist and they are objective. If morality is objective, the moral law must have been created by a Being Who is infinitely good. Because there are objective moral values, there are also objective moral duties. Now what are moral duties? Moral duties are those moral acts for which one is responsible. There are actions we expect others to do, not because we think they are right or because society anticipates such behavior, but because we believe those acts to be the responsibility of all people. Fascinatingly enough, even secularists who deny that objective morality exists are quick to turn around and attack God on the grounds that they believe Him to fall short of their standard of moral duties… as though there was a law to which one is bound (even God)!
Where secularism fails, a Biblical worldview is consistent and livable. We affirm that there are values for which all people at all times are bound and duties that correspond with them. In this discussion, we affirm that all people have the right to life- regardless of sex, color, mental capacity, or stage of development. To deny the sanctify of life based on the stage of development or intellectual capacity leads to horrifying consequences.
In this short article, we have addressed how secularism dehumanizes the person by treating one’s body as morally neutral matter. Blurring the lines through personhood theory gives the secularist the justification necessary to kill an innocent human being. That justification is then forced- their deeply engrained beliefs- upon public policy as though it is a morally neutral worldview. It is not. It is ripe with theological and philosophical assumptions; inconsistent, unlivable ones at that. Further, the secular worldview offers the lowest view of both human rights and moral duties. Consider this: universally, people understand that taking the life of an innocent human being represents evil. However, secularists, when it comes to the topic of abortion, are willing to risk an innocent life on the flimsy philosophical presuppositions upon which their moral duties are grounded. If one honestly does not know the point at which a baby in the womb becomes a person or if one’s personhood is contingent upon the desires and thoughts of another human being, wouldn’t one’s moral duty be to err on the side of defending life? If it truly were a wager with an uncertain outcome, who could choose to roll the dice when infant lives are on the line? The secularist, of whom moral duties are arbitrary. Because there are no objective moral values claimed (although nobody lives consistently as though this were the case) one is justified in taking human life as long as one can find worthy reasons for doing so. The reason can be as subjective as I want to or as seemingly justifiable as at least this child won’t grow up poor5. There is no fear of betraying the Law Giver, undermining a duty one is bound to because of the biological reality of being pregnant, or embracing a worldview that consistently values life. For those adhering to a Biblical worldview, maintaining the dignity of the person created in God’s image at each stage of development renders this wager moot. We need not separate the body from the person, and we need not bend like pretzels justifying the taking of innocent human life. It is immoral. Abortion denies what God has revealed about His nature, about moral duties and values, and about the dignity of the person made in His image.
Jes Kast’s spiritual journey began with a worldview expressed in questions that led to its inevitable application: she became an abortion advocate. A secular worldview, even when stated by professing Christians, inevitably denies God’s sovereign rule over creation and undermines moral values and duties. This is not merely a different take on minor issues; this represents an entirely different faith- one that is incompatible with Biblical Christianity. Kast became an advocate for a wicked practice because her beliefs about God ultimately found expression in her words and actions.
This topic is a somber one for the professing Christian. Is the Bible your final authority for faith and practice? Do you profess to be a Christian while maintaining a secular worldview? Where do you think that will ultimately lead? Pastors, Bible teachers, and parents reading this: you have an obligation to confront falsehood wherever it is found. You have an obligation to instill in those you teach the awareness of the splendor of God’s revealed truth. The lives of the innocent depend on it.
1I am not writing this article to attack Jes Kast (whom I do not know) but rather, to address the worldview she, as an ordained minister has endorsed- and the millions of professing Christians in our country who have embraced similar lenses through which they choose to view the world
2Pearcey, N. (2018). Love Thy Body. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, p. 20.
3Condeming abortion is about speaking to the evil that is represented in the act of killing an unborn person who has been made in the image of God. It is not, however, representative of a perpetual condemnation implied or communicated in any way towards a woman who has made such a decision. If one has turned towards Christ in repentance, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). In Christ there is forgiveness, healing, and even hope. It is necessary to confront sin so that individuals may turn towards Christ for such healing. But, the stain of sin (no matter the sin) is no match for the grace of God that is found at the foot of the cross. Christianity does not teach that anyone is defined by what they have chosen to do in their lives, but by their response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have never responded to Jesus Christ with saving faith, I pray that you find the healing and forgiveness in Him that you need. The world has no such offer of hope, healing, or forgiveness to offer.
4In Christ Jesus we find both the inability of our flesh to submit to God’s law and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to live lives that glorify the Lord. Though no person has a righteousness of their own, in Christ there is forgiveness of sin and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to grow in sanctification. Let no one say that they can satisfy the requirements of the law; rather, let us understand that Christ Jesus has satisfied those requirements for all who are in Christ Jesus. Those who are saved have been raised to walk in newness of life.
5Stated differently: This child is better dead than poor.