Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Is God pro-life?


Not to mention God's ordering the Hebrews to kill everyone in Amalek, including pregnant women. How do Christians who are pro-life respond to this sort of thing? 


Kevin said...

God can both command the killing of children as judgment against a people, and not condone Christians taking it upon themselves to kill the unborn in the name of sexual expediency.

The same God who says offering our bodies in service is a reasonable sacrifice is probably not impressed with "mY bOdY" as an argument. But that's just me.

bmiller said...

I'm wondering. How do Christians that are not pro-life respond to these things?

Alex Dalton said...

Do you really need to ask how Christians can hold both that God can give and take life, including through other agency, but humans are not free to do so outside his commands?

David Duffy said...

How I would respond to someone in person with this objection would be very different than how I would respond to her internet comment.

To someone in person, I would listen to them. I would talk (mostly listening) to them about God, the Christian faith, and how Christians try to understand difficult passages of the Bible. I would also talk about the trials, heartache, sacrifice, and ultimate joy of being a parent. All while knowing I will never change her mind.

To her comment I would write (of course I would never write this to the Ms. Bender, it's a thought experiment about polemics), "Someone so bloodthirsty that they want to cut a living human being, piece by piece, organ by organ, limb by limb, out of the womb of an expectant mother while the child cries out in agony is so wickedly perverse I can not take anything you say serious about your anti-Semitic biblical ignorance. You be not worth the dignity of a response and you be dumb too."

Victor Reppert said...

The pro-life positions is based on three premises 1) It is wrong for humans to kill people unless they a) have committed a heinous wrong or b) pose a severe threat. 2) Humans in the fetal stage are similar in all relevant respects to those already born, so prohibitions against killing those already born should apply to fetuses and 3) Fetuses are innocent--they have done no heinous wrong and pose no severe threat, at least no threat severe enough to justify homicide. Therefore the prohibitions in 1 should apply to fetuses as well as those already born.

The statement I posted implies that the biblical tradition is inconsistent in its support for 1. The cases quoted are not all the same. Some of these cases are where God takes the life, and there someone who believes in God can reasonably think that the same anti-homicide prohibitions need not apply to an omniscient being as they apply to humans. God may know that bringing about someone's death my promote good, but if humans take those decisions into their own hands, the results are bound to be very bad. More interesting are cases where God seems to command humans to violate 1. If I think it would maximize utility to kill someone, I am likely to be mistaken, and so should refrain. God suffers no such limitations.

But two kinds of cases are of interest and are a little tougher to deal with--God's command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (God of course keeps Abraham from actually carrying that out) and cases like the ban on the Amalekites, where implicitly the Hebrews are commanded to kill babes in arms because they are Amalekites. Here God isn't just killing people, he's telling people to do the killing. We today would consider Amalekite babies innocent, but the biblical authors consider them part of the wicked nation of Amalek, guilty of a crime against the Hebrews 240 years prior, and therefore not innocent. I would call that evolution in our concept of why counts as innocent rather than a disagreement about 1.

Christians tend to more toward pro-life than secularists because although secularists and Christians normally agree with 1 (Peter Singer notwithstanding) Christians see a great deal in the biblical witness that identifies the adult person. Psalm 139 is a the classic example--that was ME in my mother's womb, when my members were being knit together. So what differentiates Christians for secularists isn't primarily belief in 1, it's 2, in the above pro-life argument. Some Christians do see a relevant difference between fetuses and infants, and there is not slam-dunk biblical or religious argument (actually the case for 2 is often made on secular premises, as in Noonan), but there is a push within the Christian tradition to accept 2 that is not present for secularists.

David Duffy said...

Victor, your comment is not on the same level as Ms. Bender. The proper response to her is to ignore her.

One Brow said...

I was rather enjoying this site without talking about abortion. I believe I will continue in that regard.

Victor Reppert said...

It used to be that if I talked about New Atheism around here, that issue tended to take over. Now it's abortion.

Kevin said...

Aren't as many of the devoted atheists as there used to be, it seems. Either that or they are busy fighting racism.

Martin said...

Two things strike me about the Christian opposition to abortion.

One, if aliens landed and we asked them to observe Christians and then try to infer what their founder taught, they might infer something like:

* Having lots of guns is good
* Lots and lots of flags and nationalism is good
* Being a jerk troll online is VERY good
* Abortion is by far the WORST sin you could commit; nothing else comes even close

But then you give the aliens the Gospels to read, and they see that the founder's messages were something like:

* Give all your possessions to the poor
* Be unconditionally good to everyone, ESPECIALLY your enemies
* The weakest and most downtrodden will come out ahead

So...where's the disconnect, here? Obviously, some of it is that the Evangelical right is loud but not representative...but still...

Which leads to my second thought, which is that I've read multiple stories about how Paul Wehrich and other evangelicals were looking for a way to motivate the Evangelical base to vote, after the issue of segregation faded (which was a motivating factor before), and he stumbled across abortion. Abortion was mostly just a Catholic thing, and most other Christians didn't really care about it. But he successfully manipulated the masses into thinking this was the worst thing imaginable, and now many of them vote SOLELY on this topic.

Example: https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133/

I think there is a real debate to be had about abortion (one thing I am VERY interested in reading is in Hursthouse on Virtue Theory and Abortion, but...throw it on the list). However, that debate will not happen with any substance in the stupidity that is modern American politics and the modern religious right.

Kevin said...

if aliens landed and we asked them to observe Christians and then try to infer what their founder taught, they might infer something like:

And if their opinion wasn't filtered through a left-wing lens, their inference of conservative evangelicals might be something like:

* Giving total power to a human authority is bad, and an armed populace was intended to be a type of check on that power
* The United States is a great place for religious freedom, and it should be kept that way against efforts to suppress free speech and religious freedom
* Being a jerk troll online is VERY good according to everyone, Christian or not
* Abortion is a heinous act, particularly if done to enable promiscuous behavior

That's if, of course, these aliens were more charitable in describing the beliefs of others than your typical online commenter.

But he successfully manipulated the masses into thinking this was the worst thing imaginable, and now many of them vote SOLELY on this topic.

Another thing I've noted about attitudes toward conservatives and evangelicals is this pervasive notion that the only reason they believe such things is because someone else told them to believe it. Whether it's Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity or Fox News in general, or this Paul Weyrich person, conservatives would simply agree with the lunatic left if only they weren't misled by evil people or organizations.

They never stop to wonder if maybe the same applies to them.

David Duffy said...

I have it on good authority that when aliens land on Earth they will have the technology to scour the internet and find people who wrote about what aliens think and how it matches the pretended objectivity of the writer. Then they will zap them with their supper-zapper so that the writer can't speak for aliens in comment boxes

Don said...

As far as I know, most Christian theologians (Protestant and Catholic, possibly Orthodox, I'm not sure) subscribe to the notion of a "just war" = which is a war in which innocents may be killed in the name of the greater good.

if (this is a hypothetical folks; just for the sake of clarification so I really don't want to argue the possibilities, at least for now) - it was absolutely certain that if an abortion is not performed both mother and child will do, is an abortion that would guarantee the mother would survive, and in good health, ethically allowed?

Don said...

"will die", sorry!