Abortion: The Ancient/Modern issue

BJS photoAssociate Editor’s Note:  With this post, Pastor Adam Lehman joins us at BJS as a writer. Pastor Lehman was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 2000-2004. He is a graduate from Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, and was ordained on July 2, 2011. He is currently serving as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Mobile, AL. Pastor Lehman has been blessed with a loving wife, Christine, and four wonderful children: Hannah, Noah, Abigail, and Jonah. He will be with the theme of “Steadfast Patristics.”



MurderI have heard it argued that Holy Scripture never directly declares abortion to be murder. Folks who argue this way may say something along these lines: “God’s Word only hints at, and implies that abortion is sinful.” And this claim is intended to suggest that the raging abortion debate of today is of modern origins. Yet a closer look at the writings of the early church not only reveals that the subject of abortion is not a new topic, but it also reveals that the church throughout her entire history has been both clear and consistent in her stance.

Here is what the Church Fathers have to say regarding abortion:

The Didache (ca. AD 100)

“You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not corrupt children; you shall not be sexually immoral; you shall not steal; you shall not practice magic; you shall not engage in sorcery, you shall not abort a child or commit infanticide…” (2:2)

The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. AD 120)

“…You shall not abort a child nor, again, commit infanticide…” (19:5)

Athenagoras (ca. AD 177)

“…we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it.” (A Plea for the Christians, Chapter 35)

Basil the Great (ca. AD 374)

“The woman who purposely destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder…” (To Amphilochius, concerning the Canons, sec.2)

And Basil goes on to write:

“…Women also who administer drugs to cause abortion, as well as those who take poisons to destroy unborn children, are murderesses. So much on this subject.” (To Amphilochius, concerning the Canons, sec. 8)

There are certainly more examples of the church’s consistent teaching of the sinfulness of abortion. These are simply given in order that it would be clear that the church has never wavered on this teaching. These are given in order that we might be unwavering in our defense of the lives of unborn children.

And so, to those who have been fighting the good fight. To those who have been courageous in the defense of the unborn. Straighten your spines! Know that you are standing in a very long line of brothers and sisters in Christ who have fought the same fight! Continue to be the voice for those who have none of their own. You are doing the right thing. You are being faithful to Christ in your endeavor. You are loving your unborn neighbor as Christ has first loved you.


Abortion: The Ancient/Modern issue — 13 Comments

  1. Coincidentally, according to a February 18, 2013, Texas Center for Defense of Life news release, “Judge Grants Injunction in Houston Coerced Abortion Case,” Judge James Lombardino, 308th Family District Court of Harris County, Texas, issued a court injunction against both parents of a pregnant 16-year-old girl, preventing them from trying to force her to have an abortion.

    A CNN article about the case noted that the girl and her 16-year-old boyfriend plan to get married. The legal age to marry in Texas is 16 with parental consent. The girl’s parents are divorced; the girl lives with her mother. According to the lawsuit, the mother claimed she herself has had numerous abortions, and the girl’s father had threatened to cancel her health insurance if she didn’t have an abortion.

  2. @Pastor Gaven Mize #2

    No, I thought that it is on topic with the issue of fighting the fight against abortion. 40 days for Life is a anti-abortion organization that holds a prayer vigil 24hrs a day for 40 days outside the abortion clinics. According to them they have been successful in preventing women from entering the clinic and abortion workers to quit. Would this be something that LCMS congregations would want to participate in?

  3. It seems that Lutheran’s for Life is a regular advertiser/supporter/participant in the 40 days for Life campaign.


    I’m not trying to be divisive or make this thread become such….just asking an honest question about this group and participating in their campaign. Would this be unionism? Why or Why not? Does the term “vigil” rule it out? Is this a good way that LCMS can join in to fight the fight against abortion?

  4. @Jean #8

    Jean, the way our group participates is that we pick a day and we tell our members to sign up to pray on those days. Most people are praying silently. Sometimes a group will pray together quietly. Usually there are additional people who come to pray on our assigned day because they couldn’t come on another day. Usually they are RC. There are also people who pass out information to women entering the clinic. The information includes the names and locations of Pregnancy help centers where women can get material assistance, counseling, referrals etc. It is mostly lay people praying silently, but sometimes clergy are there. You don’t have to go to the rally that kicks it off. I don’t go. It is too far away. You can just go on a different day and pray silently by yourself or with a friend.

  5. I came to this post because I got a Google Alert for the name “Adam Lehman” (which is my name as well).

    I ALSO grew up near Fort Wayne, Indiana.

    I also work in ministry currently.

    Small world. Good stuff in this article from Pastor Adam Lehman!

    Adam Lehman

  6. Quote from the past:

    The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has taken official positions that “since abortion takes a human life, abortion is not a moral option, except as a tragically unavoidable byproduct of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of another human being, viz., the mother”; that “any technique or method of human cloning that results in the destruction of human embryos or the creation of human embryos for the purpose of fetal tissue research …” is contrary to God’s Word; and affirming “on the basis of Scripture, marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.”

    Lufauxrans will disagree, but Lutherans should agree with such statements about abortion, human embryo research, and marriage.

    However, whether such statements should be printed and distributed in an official Missouri Synod publication is another matter. And, in fact, on the basis of advice from the law office of Leonard Pranschke, the Synod’s legal counsel at the time, the Missouri Synod censored the statement from an article in its October 2004 issue of The Lutheran Witness.

    The censorship was later disclosed in the December 2004 issue of The Lutheran Witness (p.3).

  7. A March 6th Associated [de]Press[ed] news article, “Arkansas Adopts US’s Most Restrictive Abortion Law” reports:

    “Arkansas lawmakers overrode a veto Wednesday and gave the state the most restrictive abortion law in the country – a near-ban on the procedure from the 12th week of pregnancy onward that is certain to end up in court.

    “A day after the Republican-led state Senate voted to override Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe’s veto, the GOP-controlled House voted 56-33 to do the same. Only a simple majority was needed in each chamber.

    “The vote comes less than a week after the Legislature overrode a veto of a separate bill banning most abortions starting in the 20th week of pregnancy. That bill took effect immediately after the final override vote, whereas the 12-week ban wouldn’t take effect until this summer.”

    For a law that keeps unborn children alive rather than letting abortionists crush their skulls and rip their body parts out of the womb, it is not surprising that the fifth-column leftist AP headlines describe the law as “most restrictive.” Sadly the law allows the murder of innocent children conceived from rape and incest or with fetal disorders:

    “The 12-week ban would prohibit abortions from the point when a fetus’ heartbeat can typically be detected using an abdominal ultrasound. It includes exemptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and highly lethal fetal disorders. The 20-week prohibition, which is based on the disputed claim that a fetus can feel pain by the 20th week and therefore deserves protection from abortion, includes all of the same exemptions except for fetal disorders.”

    Of course Demonicrats would agree to ban abortions for fetal disorders in an instant if geneticists were to identify some defective human gene causing a person to succumb to leftist political beliefs.

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