Abortion & Historical Theology

The essence of Christianity includes conserving the ‘faith once and for all delivered to the saints’ (Jude 3). True faith affects our way of life. We preserve a way of life defined by God, not defined by man, a life of love. It is for this reason that the true Christian knows and delights in the reality of variety. God has given wisdom to many of his people; no one man, save the God-man, has a monopoly on wisdom.

Because no one person, born by natural means, has all wisdom, we must borrow from and trust the wisdom God has given others in the church, including those who have gone before us. Why should only those who walk around on two feet have the right to share their wisdom?

God gave a surprising degree of discernment to the ancient church fathers on the subject of abortion. Their opposition to the murder of unborn children was a deeply held conviction that was remarkably unanimous.

In the 2nd century, “The Founder of Western Theology”, Tertullian, boldly stated that the unborn fetus is indeed a “human being” and cites the law of the Moses saying that it, “punishes with due penalties the man who shall cause abortion.”[1]

The Christian way of life is a life of humility, submitting to the greater wisdom of the whole covenant community. This includes those whom God has given great wisdom to, in centuries past. Early church fathers in the 3rd and 4th century also held to this wisdom that came before them.

These ancient theologians said that children who are killed by abortion were formed from God and have received a soul from Him. Any child slain “shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed.”[2]

True Wisdom is not something conjured up from man but is given to man from God. As A.A. Hodge has said in his commentary on the Confession of Faith, “The real question is not, as often pretended, between the word of God and the creed of man, but between the tried and proved faith of the collective body of God’s people…”[3]

Like chicks underneath the hen, we are given a protection by the wings of those who have gone before. Throughout history, the Church Fathers have instructed and led the way towards wisdom. They have led us to conclude that abortion is the murder of a human being, who is created by God, and will be judged by God.

Not only is abortion a crime against God, so to speak, it is also a crime against society. As Edmund Burke famously said in Reflections on the French Revolution, society includes a partnership throughout many generations, as it “becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born” (emphasis mine).[4] We fail society when we murder those who would have inherited society.

Citations and Footnotes

1. Tertullian, “A Treatise on the Soul,” in Latin Christianity: Its Founder, Tertullian, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, trans. Peter Holmes, vol. 3, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 217-218.

2. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, eds., “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles,” in Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily, and Liturgies, trans. James Donaldson, vol. 7, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1886), 466.

3. Archibald Alexander Hodge, A Commentary on the Confession of Faith: With Questions for Theological Students and Bible Classes (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sabbath-School Work, 1869), 20.

4. Edmund Burke. Reflections on the French Revolution. Vol. XXIV, Part 3. The Harvard Classics. New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 1909–14; Bartleby.com, 2001. www.bartleby.com/24/3/.

For Further Discussion:

Albert Mohler on “Performing Abortion is “God’s Work?”

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