Christian Beliefs And Abortion Term Paper

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Christian Beliefs and Abortion Abortion is a highly controversial issue with the pro-life and pro-choice supporters professing diametrically opposite view-points on the ethical, legal and medical aspects of the issue. The Christian beliefs regarding abortion have generally been against abortion, although in the middle period (5th to 17th century AD), the Christian church had softened its stance on abortion. Presently, most Christian organizations and churches are against abortion but the intensity of opposition varies among different Christian religious groups. In this paper I shall outline the Christian beliefs on abortion from the biblical times to the present, focusing on the anti-abortion arguments.

The Basis of the Christian Belief about Abortion: Biblical Foundation

Christians believe that life starts from the moment of conception, i.e., as soon as the sperm cell fertilizes an egg; the bible prescribes in the Fifth Commandment "thou shalt not kill"; abortion constitutes taking of an innocent life; therefore abortion is murder.

The Old Testament prescribes in Psalm 139, Verse 13: "thou hast covered me in my mother's womb" This has been interpreted by most Christian theologians as meaning that God alone is Lord of the womb and the womb is an inviolable place. Although abortion was practiced by several neighbors of the Israelites in the biblical times, the Hebrews themselves strictly forbade it and considered it a violation of a sacred place -- the womb. Several Jewish writers equated the practice of abortion with fratricide and considered it outright murder, as it made the womb a place of death instead of life.

When Mary chose to give birth to Christ in the face of adversity, giving of life became a sacred duty and a chance provided to mankind for attaining salvation. This further cemented the religious beliefs against abortion and the Christian writers picked up the tradition of anti-abortion writings from the Jewish writers and the earliest Christian documents condemning abortion are mere revisions...

...

("Presbyterians and Abortion.")
The Early Church

The Christian Church was unanimous in condemning abortion from the beginning. In early 2nd century, Didache and Epistle of Barnabas categorically declare in their guides to Christian life and worship: "Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion." (Ibid.)

Early Christian writings condemn not only the women who abort their own fetus ("We say that women who induce abortions are murders, and will have to give account of it to God." -- Athenagoras, late 2nd century), but also those who aid in its practice. ("Those . . . who give drugs causing abortion are [deliberate murderers] themselves ... " -- Basil, 4th century) In other words, Christianity has a long tradition of considering both the woman who chooses to abort her baby and the doctor who performs the abortion, as sinners.

Another factor that deepened Christianity's opposition to abortion was Jesus' teachings regarding mercy, justice, abhorrence of bloodshed and compassion for the defenseless. Since the unborn baby was considered as the most defenseless form of life and abortion as violent murder, it was only natural that early Christian church would oppose abortion.

5th to 17th century AD

In the middle period (5th to 17th century AD), Christian teaching reversed its hard line stance on abortion. St. Augustine (354-430 CE) was largely responsible for this change as he professed the Aristotelian concept of "delayed ensoulment" by contending that a human soul cannot live in an unformed body. St. Augustine was, therefore, of the opinion that abortion in early pregnancy was not murder because no human soul was destroyed. Until the 17th century AD, the Church and several Popes issued a number of edicts ruling only the abortion of an 'animated'

fetus as murder. St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) also adhered to this view point and considered only the abortion of an 'animated' fetus as murder. (Robinson, para on "Various Beliefs ... ")

Current Christian Belief on Abortion

The Christian view on abortion began to change again in the 17th century, when the concept of 'simultaneous animation' -- the belief that an embryo acquires a soul at conception, instead of 40 or 80 days into gestation -- began to gain acceptance.…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Jelen, Ted G. "The Clergy and Abortion." Review of Religious Research. 34.2 (1992): 132-151

"Presbyterians and Abortion: Historical Christian Perspectives." Presbyterians Pro-Life. N.d. January 4, 2005. http://www.ppl.org/hist_xn.html

Robinson, B.A. "Abortion: Ancient Christian Beliefs." Religious Tolerence.org. March 07, 2004. January 4, 2005. http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_hist.htm

Terwilliger, M. "Sex, Abortion, Birth Control, and Christianity." June 12, 2003. January 4, 2005. http://www.epigee.org/guide/foreword.html


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