Monday, June 01, 2009

A biblical defense of the pro-choice position?

Does this mean God is pro-choice?

What it means is that trying to apply the Bible to contemporary issues has to be done very carefully.


Ilíon said...

VR: "What it means is that trying to apply the Bible to contemporary issues has to be done very carefully."

I think the key operative word is something other than "care."

Ilíon said...

For instance, "cherry picking" is always done with "care;" "prooftexting" is always done with "care."

Anonymous said...

decent point being made, but what a horrible argument in that essay.

Jim Jordan said...

"Wrong. In reality there is merely overwhelming evidence that most people don't take time to read their own Bibles."


No, this is a pathetic argument based on a fantasy that fetuses can, at times, NOT be human. Also, the Bible treatment is typical of folks who irrationally cling to the indefensible act of abortion.
1) The Bible doesn't really say anything about fetuses because it doesn't say WHEN the fetuses become human.
[There's no real comeback on the "fetus-maybe-not-human" argument. It's BS. If I said my Boston Terrier was once Albert Einstein for 5 minutes but I had no way to prove it, the only response would be the same as to this argument, "Just say 'No!'"]
2) And I loved this backup tactic. "If that doesn't work, look at all the crappy things the Bible DOES say. Should we believe that nonsense, too?"
[So if we did "read our bibles carefully", we'd see it as ridiculous old rubbish?]
3) Don't forget, "Therefore, abortion is biblical."

Just say No. Wasn't that what Adam and Eve should've done when BS entered the world?

Clayton Littlejohn said...


It's not uncommon to distinguish between X's being human and X's being a human person. (Suppose you think that all human persons have souls but think that ensoulment doesn't take place at conception.) Isn't this the view of Aquinas?

JSA said...

Typical. He steals his exegetical argument directly from Babylonian Talmud Yevamot and doesn't give credit.

The reason he didn't give credit is because he took Talmud out of context to support his point. Talmud actually uses that exact scriptural passage to conclude that: the embryo for 40 days is not a person, and then after 40 days, until the head emerges, is something between a person and non-person.

The Talmudic exegesis does not allow abortion, which explains why the author failed to quote his source.

This is not to say that the Talmudic interpretation is the best one. It just shows that the author is being completely unoriginal and also deceitful.

Nick said...

Abortion is no more murder than the killing of a home-invader by a homeowner is murder. The act in both cases is eminently pro-life.

Ilíon said...

What a God-damned fool.

Ilíon said...

There is no other rational way to respond to such blatant dishonesty but to condemn it.

Ilíon said...

Joshua: "... It just shows that the author is being completely unoriginal and also deceitful."

Deceit is a requirement when one wishes to justify injustice.

Gordon Knight said...

Question for pro-lifers:

is it a presupposition of the pro-life position that
"I was a fertilized egg" is true?

I would it think it would be. But it is far from obvious to me that i was ever a fertilized egg. In fact it seems about as odd as saying that I was once a sperm or egg (who was altered radically in the act of fertilization).

I don't know when I came into existence in this mortal form. I agree its weird to think of birth as somehow magically transforming a fetus to a person. But conception is just as abitrary and a hell of alot weirder.

Natalia said...

Hi, how can I contact you?

I want to start, a list of philosophy BLOGS. A small presentation of the thing, a library or address book. But one question I don't know is, how to contact people through blogs, I'm not familiar with this medium.

If time permits, I want you to make a post here,

It will get stickied and start a list of philosophy blogs. You could write a small intro too, like "Here is a index and library of PHILOSOPHY blogs ...."

Already an index of BBS is here,

Kind regards,

- Niki

Ilíon said...

To make active links of Natalia's URLs, they are:
main link

Victor Reppert said...

What I think Scripture provides some support for the pro-life position, in that it extends personal identity within the womb in a couple of places, Ps. 139 is a typical example. But it does not take personhood all the way back to conception.

Anonymous said...

I think it's easy to forget some pivotal questions" What place does the Biblical poition have in law? What does it matter that we cannot pinpoint the time of right-to-not-be-destoyed when it seems logical to go the route of caution and not risk killing something/someone? Does establishing abortion as immoral constiture real grounds for illegality when immoral things are sometimes allowed by law (or consider: what if government cannot function without allowing some evils?)

Victor Reppert said...

The counter-argument to that, of course, is that while some wrong actions can and must be nevertheless legal, the taking of human life without moral justification, that is, murder, is one thing that can never be kept legal.

Thus we don't have people in the debate saying "Yes, abortion is murder. But I don't think it should be legislated against." People who are pro-choice don't call it murder. (One exception would have been a pro-life anarchist friend of mine).

That seems, at least, counterintuitive on the face of things. But can it be refuted?

Unknown said...

[formerly anonymous in this post, and for a long while on the site (bziajka)]

"The counter-argument to that, of course, is that while some wrong actions can and must be nevertheless legal, the taking of human life without moral justification, that is, murder, is one thing that can never be kept legal."

I agree with that, but I sure hope it'll be possible to ban abortions without dire effects.

Interested said...

Whether or not the bible supports or forbids abortion is moot in my mind. It makes no difference to the woman who finds herself having to make that decision. I don't know anyone who does it lightly. To legislate something so person seems entirely wrong to me.

Interested said...

I meant...something so personal

Victor Reppert said...

Some people do take it lightly. You do hear the phrase "blob of tissue" sometimes. I remember a guy when I was in college who used to like to pick up girls. When I asked him if he was careful to use birth control he said "Usually. But one girl told me not to worry, if she got pregnant she would just get an abortion."

Barbara Ehrenreich wrote “The one regret I have about my own abortions is that they cost money that might otherwise have been spent on something more pleasurable, like taking the kids to movies and theme parks.”

So, it is taken lightly by some, who see the loss of a fetus's life as no moral loss whatsoever. I think this is a minority view amongst pro-choice people.

Shackleman said...

Gordon Knight: "is it a presupposition of the pro-life position that
"I was a fertilized egg" is true?

I would it think it would be. But it is far from obvious to me that i was ever a fertilized egg. "

Since I'm a "pro-lifer" I'll give you my answer, but I doubt all pro-lifers can be lumped together as being in agreement.

I'm a dualist, but not sure of what variety yet. But in essence I think I'm made up of two different "stuffs", one physical and one not. I'm still learning and searching for the precise definitions here that I would sign onto.

That being said, I think your question has two answers.

First, it's undeniable that I, and you, were once physically fertilized eggs. That for most of eternity we did not *physically* exist, and then there was a precise moment in space/time when we did exist. That moment of course being *exactly* when our father's sperm joined to our mother's egg. This cannot logically be refuted, except maybe by idealists (which I sometimes kind of dig and wonder if I'm moving in that direction---Berkley's got me rather intrigued).

Second, I have "something else" of which I'm made, although I have trouble defining it. For ease, let's call it my soul and I'll assume you'll allow me some flexibility as to what that might mean. Now, I'm a Christian, Lutheran specifically, and so I believe souls are given by God. I don't know when that is. But I'm pretty sure that my soul isn't dependent on my having consciousness, lest it be perfectly moral to kill me in my sleep. Nor do I think my having a functioning memory is a dependency for my soul either, lest it be perfectly moral to murder a child of 2 years of age.

Therefore, since I'm undeniably *physically* 100% human from the very moment of conception, and since I have no clue when God imbued my physical person with my spiritual person, I believe we have a moral obligation to refrain from abortion in all circumstances except for those involving self defense. And since the government has a duty to protect the inalienable rights afforded to all persons under its rule, and since zygotes are inarguably 100% physically human, inarguably 100% innocent, and arguably 100% spiritually human, then laws protecting their right to life should apply to them too.

It seems pretty straight forward to me. Oh, and for the record, I'm a proud Democrat. (Blast away, my Christian brethren!!)

Ilíon said...

Interested: "Whether or not the bible supports or forbids abortion is moot in my mind. It makes no difference to the woman who finds herself having to make that decision. I don't know anyone who does it lightly. To legislate something so person[al] seems entirely wrong to me."

Oh, I agree, "Interested" (*)! I agree so much that I've built shrines in my home to Susan Smith and Andrea Yates. And, as soon as I know for sure, I'll build a shrine to Scott Roeder.

(*) What an interesting name, given your obvious non-interest in truth and reason.

Ilíon said...

Shackleman: "... Oh, and for the record, I'm a proud Democrat. (Blast away, my Christian brethren!!)"

Why blast away? You leftist-enablers *owe* the rest of us. When the present Reader-of-the-Free-World's chickens come home to roost, perhaps, for a change of pace, I'll want to live at someone else effort and expense ... and since I know you (so to speak) and since you live so nearby, I've already called dibs on you.

Ilíon said...

Here's something interesting which the Bible says: "The wages of sin is death." And another: "Be sure your sins will find you out."

Now, of course, ultimately there are no degrees to sin: all sin is sin. But, we don't *live* ultimately, we live here-and-now; and for us in the here-and-now there are some deeds which are worse than others: elective abortion being among the very worst.

And, of course, ultimately we each will answer for our own sins and for no one else's: only Christ can take others' sins upon himself. But, we don't *live* ultimately, we live here-and-now; and it is the nature of sin to cause the innocent to suffer its consequences; it is the nature of sin to attempt to deflect the consequences onto the innocent.

*I* am affected by someone else's "personal" decision to murder a child. My family and my nation are affected by the "personal" decisions of millions of others to murder their own children.

A nation which murders its own children is a nation committing suicide; for "the wages of sin is death."

Ilíon said...

Further, Shackleman, since we're both in IT (I'm a computer programmer), it's a natural fit, don't you think, that I live off your effort.

Gordon Knight said...

Thanks for the answer Shackleman.

I actually AM an idealist! But I would think a dualist would also hold that the person is the spirit/mind ( I like how Berkeley prefers to use the word "spirit") my physical body is not me--though of course I have a natural attachment to it:)

Now you say, you could exist without being conscious. But suppose you were never conscious--do you think "you" whatever you refer to when you use the word "I" could still exist?

For any argument that you and I have always existed, go to

But no matter our metaphysical views, there is strong empirical evidence that consciousness of an embodied sort requires a functioning brain. I don't think we should make moral judgements based on controversial metaphysical theses. (after all, If I am right that we are by nature immortal and that there is loving God and that universalism is true--death is really not THAT bad a thing for the person who dies.

I also wonder why so many pro life people (not all) are not sympathetic to non-human animals.
I am not a rabid PETA person or vegetarian, but to give so much moral weight to a 10 week embryo and not give it to a dog or pig (or even ape!!) is just crazy to me.

Shackleman said...


If it were the case that you fell on hard times and needed a hand up, I would gladly give it if I were blessed and fortunate enough to be able to. And I woulnd't even have to "know" you to offer what aid I could.

I labor for God, and to provide for my family, and for my brothers and sisters in Christ (including all those who don't know Him).

But before we derail the topic any further, I'll just leave it at that for now.

Shackleman said...

Gordon Knight,

Thanks back for the reply.

As I stated, I'm a dualist but of what type I've not yet settled (although most days I feel most convinced by the Cartesian versions). If I were a Thomistic dualist then no, I would not consider "me" to be just my mind/spirit. I would consider "me" to be the combined body/soul unit.

It sounds as though *if* you were a dualist (I know, you're not), you'd be of an Emergent type, where your "mind" is dependent on a functioning brain. I agree a functioning "mind" appears to be dependent on a functioning brain, but I don't think the "soul" is equivalent to a "mind".

For me, a "soul" *has* a mind, given a properly functioning brain. But the soul is maybe like the "animating force" or something. I dunno---I'm still young in my understandings and training on these things.

The "thing that is me" doesn't pop out of existence when I'm deep in non-REM sleep, where my "mind" goes away. I really don't know what happens to my soul, but it doesn't' just go in and out of the cosmos either based on certain brain states. And right now, I couldn't argue for that position, but that's my take on it right now. Maybe some day I could develop an argument for it, or point to some other research that would support this claim.

It's this trinity of "stuff"---mind, body, and soul that I think makes up "me".

If I'm onto something there, then killing a child in the womb unjustly destroys one third of this trinity, eliminates the future possibility of one third, and leaves the last third in the hands of God. The key there being "unjustly". And therefore deserves governmental oversight and should be legislated against.

Maybe I can't reason my way out of this, but I certainly think I can win the "gut" argument by just pointing to the fact that there is absolutely *no* discernible difference between a zygote and a baby of say 5 months old, given your position. And yet I would wager that all healthy-minded people would agree that killing a 5 month old baby is the most morally repugnant thing imaginable.

I win.


I'd be curious to know your expanded thoughts on that last point----could you, given your position accurately define a difference between a zygote and a baby of 5 months? Would you personally be willing to dismember and kill a 5 month old? 1 month old? 3 hours before birth old? When would you personally be able to do it? Why then and not later?

Lastly, I *do* have empathy for the animal kingdom. Which is one reason why I pray before I eat. To thank God for providing sustenance to me and my family, and to thank him for the sacrifice of the life of those things which I eat. It might sound a bit Native-American of me, but I feel empathy and feel "icky" without paying respect to the life of the animal I'm consuming.

Gordon Knight said...


Well, on your last question, I support the current law.. which has some restrictions on late term abortion and none on first trimester abortions. As to whether I would perform one.. well it would be a serious counterfactual, but if I were a doctor and a woman or girl came to me early in preganancy and wanted an abortion, I would do it. I would trust her judgement.

Weirdly, I think I am conscious while I sleep (even while not dreaming). but presumably some time I am not. But even in these cases I have the capacity to become conscious. the early fetus does not have this capacity (what it has is the capacity to become a thing that will have the capacity to become conscious.

Of course there is a big difference, on my view between a zygoate and a five month old baby. Five month old's perceive, feel pain, interact with their environment. zygote does not feel, never did. its like a tree--except it has the causal power to become something different.

An awkward consequence for Christians holding the tripartite view of what "i" consist in, is that "I" cannot exist after bodily decomposition. (Unless you go all out with Inwaggen's body snatcher view or something.

Yes I think emergent dualism is quite plausible (if only there were mind independent objects!) Hasker's _The Emergent Self_ is a good example

Shackleman said...

Gordan Knight,

I think you dodged my questions a little, but that's okay. I'm getting your overarching meaning. I remain confused why you wouldn't personally destroy a 5 month old baby (or 1 month old, or 1 minute old)---they're not "conscious" the way you and I are. (I'm thinking back a week or so ago to a post Dr. Reppert made by someone else who made the argument that abortions do no harm since the baby has no self awareness, and that view can be extended beyond into some months after birth as well). Your position seems logically inconsistent as you've expressed it, but I won't beat a dead horse. Besides, as an idealist, what's it matter to you *when* or *how* you kill a baby? The body isn't ultimately real anyway, right? Or do I misunderstand idealism? (That's not a rhetorical question BTW).

One final point---as a Christian, I don't have an issue with my not existing in the way that I do currently after bodily decomposition. Things change. "I" will too when I die. I'll become something else. Maybe my mind and soul rejoin into something else entirely. Maybe I stay in stasis until a bodily resurrection at some point in the future. I'll know when I get there, but *change* in the properties that "make me up" isn't a deal breaker for me and my Christian views. I trust God enough not to have to know the details in order to remain faithful.

You changed from having a "potential" for mind, to actually "having" one, and I presume you think you'll change again when your body dies and your brainwaves cease. Why then don't you sweat that the way you think I should be sweating my Christianity for similar reasons?

Anyway...thanks for the dialogue. If you don't reply back, that's's been rewarding. Take care.

PS: Hasker's book was really great. I loved it and learned a lot.

Anonymous said...

how do you write in itallic?

Ilíon said...

Legodesi:"how do you write in itallic?"

By including the text you wish to italicize between the appropriate codes, which are <i>to begin italicizing, and </i>to end italicizing.

Similarly, with embolding; the code <b>begins embolding, while the code</b>stops embolding.

Gordon Knight said...


I think the deepest issue is the question I started out with--Was I a zygote? a 4 month fetus? a newborn? Some views seem to hold a person does not come into existence until they can stream memories together.

I have a soul-view, so I don't believe that. The soul is the seat of consciousness, and babies (having handled and cared for three) are surely conscious. (well they could be zombies, but so could everyone else, except me)

Interestingly, the best anti-abortion article, Don Marquis "Why Abortion is Immoral" (Read it if you have not, and also Thomson's famous _Defense of Abortion_ , which deals with the issue from another, but extremely important perspective).

Long winded, sorry--but Marquis view only makes sense from an animalistic perspective. What I am is an animal, an organism of a certain sort.

Thanks for the exchange.

Do you have qualms about harvesting organs from patients who are medically brain dead, but still alive?

Ilion posted an interesting case before of someone who was thought medically brain dead but really came back to life. But philosophically we can pretend to know the brain will not ever function again (except to keep the body alive). How is this different from the early fetus?

Shackleman said...


Thanks for the article suggestions. I'll try to find them and give them a read.

As for harvesting organs---I think the case Ilion linked to some time ago is pretty compelling evidence to suggest that we shouldn't be harvesting organs from people until they're dead-dead. Not just brain-dead. Unless expressly consented to previously via a living will.

Living wills resolve most legally, ethically, and morally ambiguous concerns.

steve said...

For the other side of the argument:

Ilíon said...

link 1

link 2

Anonymous said...

Thank you Illion! =)

Ilíon said...

You're welcome, Llegodesi ;-)

Axiom Wheeler said...

hmm. This upcoming comment is random and very dull compared to your intelligent speech, but I'm putting a post in my blog about whether or not pro-life is a punk view (oh and sub-question if Christianity can be defined as punk)