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.

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