I know this has not been a pleasant series of blogs. But our children with disabilities are being slaughtered in frightening numbers through abortion and it must be addressed. Women and men who otherwise would never consider abortion as an option in their pregnancies suddenly are unsure when disability has entered the question.
None of us who have children with disabilities will ever say it is easy – in fact, the burdens sometimes seem to multiply over time. But our God, who is sovereign over all his creation in every moment of every day has promised, through the obedience, the death, and the resurrection of his own son Jesus Christ, to provide for all our needs. All of them. For his glory and for our good.
So theologians and pastors who preach a contrary message, who encourage the devastating sin of abortion in our land, must be called out. What you are reading is largely a conversation I am having with myself, so that I can be prepared to address horrible arguments in support of abortion. We have wolves among us.
I have quoted Dr. Paul Simmons before but will specifically address one of his biblical arguments today from his article Personhood, the Bible, and the Abortion Debate that was published March 2005 by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Antiabortion evangelicals are fond of citing over 100 biblical passages they regard as teaching that the fetus is a person. An examination of some of the more frequently cited passages reveals the problems involved in such applications.
Psalm 139:13-15 is an often-quoted text that bears examination: “For thou didst form my inward parts [kidneys], thou didst knit [weave] me together in my mother’s womb…My frame [bones] was not hidden from thee when I was being made in secret intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.” Antiabortion evangelicals take this passage as teaching that the fetus is a person. They further argue that the psalmist is saying that God caused the pregnancy and knew the psalmist during gestation.
Dr. Simmons is correct - I do take that passage as teaching those things. But he is just laying the groundwork for his real argument. Dr. Simmons first points out that this has nothing to do with abortion, and then says it cannot be literally true because, of course, babies are gestated in a womb and not the earth. So, even though Dr. Simmons grants that this is poetic language, his best argument is that it can’t be literally true so therefore it says nothing about the fetus being a person.
Then Dr. Simmons GRANTS that God is doing something spectacular here. I do not believe he is trying to be silly, but the two things together are absurd. How can he say that this passage says nothing about the personhood of the fetus AND that God is actively creating something at the same time? If God isn’t creating a person, what is he creating?
This is a long piece to read from his article, but it provides important insights into his way of thinking:
Those who treat this passage as a definitive, scientific teaching confuse poetry with prose and a mood of celebration with the need for explanation. The purpose of the passage is to capture the celebratory mood of joy and wonder in being for those who can reflect on their origins and contemplate what it means to be before God. It is not the intention or purpose of the text to deal with the question of elective abortion or the question of whether the fetus is a person. The speaker reflects the awareness that we all begin before birth and that the entire creative process is a source of mystery and awe. All people have their origins in the creative and mysterious ways of God who brings them into being. It is another declaration of the truth that “it is God who has made us and not we ourselves” (Ps. 100:3).
The passage thus reflects the foundational awareness for the Judeo-Christian doctrine of God as Creator. God is the source of all that is. God is the power that has transformed organic life from simplicity to complexity through a process of patient sovereignty. The most complex expression of life is found in personal existence—in the self-awareness and reflective self-transcendence of human beings. To know anything, however, is to know that life is not selfgenerating. Only God can bring something into being out of nothing. The distinctive question for religion is not how God has accomplished that miracle—that question belongs to the domain of scientific investigation. Biblical faith affirms that it is God who has made us.
There are a number of true statements in the above. Yes, God made us! Yes, God is the source of all that is! But Dr. Simmons refuses to take that to a logical end about the personhood of a fetus. He hangs his entire argument against this passage speaking on the humanity of pre-born children solely on whether it could be literally true or not. Clearly, the writer of Psalm 139 is asserting something about God rather than the process itself, using language to help us understand something about God’s sovereignty in making babies.
There are also two dangerous statements buried in the above paragraphs: 1) “for those who can reflect on their origins and contemplate what it means to be before God” and 2) “The most complex expression of life is found in personal existence—in the self-awareness and reflective self-transcendence of human beings.” These are dangerous because each bases personhood on self-awareness or the ability to reflect. No unborn baby is going to be able to rise to that standard, and some children will be born with disabling conditions that prevent their ever having self-awareness – both sets of people are left completely helpless and vulnerable to destruction under his criteria. And it also denies that God can create whoever he pleases while granting the dignity of personhood on all people he creates.
Dr. Simmons is even more horribly wrong in asserting the opportunity for self-transcendence amongst those who can reflect. Paul was quite clear about even our desire to ‘transcend’ our sin, let alone our ability to do so:
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:7-8
Yet, for those who do not read the Bible for themselves or who do not pursue the depths of its extraordinary revelation of the nature and character of our sovereign God and glorious Christ, they can be persuaded that what Dr. Simmons has proposed is right. They deserve to know the truth.
We are not done with Dr. Simmons just yet. He also attacks Exodus 4:11, Jeremiah 1:5 and even the sovereignty of God. I’ll explore another careless use of scripture by Dr. Simmons tomorrow.