Posted by Christopher Johnson | Monday, December 3rd, 2012 | Uncategorized | 51 Comments
Alison Taylor, the new Anglican Bishop of Queensland and the first [CORRECTION: Second] female Anglican bishop in Australia, riffs on abortion:
The Bible speaks of a world which God has created and which he loves beyond measure, in which all life is to be embraced as a gift from Him. However, it is a world which is fallen, and which longs for the full redemption in Jesus Christ which is to come. Sin and suffering abound in a human condition of great complexity, and at times immensely difficult decisions need to be made.
Like whether or not Allie actually meant what she just said.
What the Bible does not teach, and which has never been a part of Christian doctrine – contrary to the assertion in this month’s TMA letter – is that ‘all human life has absolute moral value’. The latter view is unbiblical because it would be untenable for Christians in situations where complex moral choices must be made, in diverse circumstances ranging from military defence and self-defence to the sometimes conflicting rights of mother and unborn child.
Let’s see. National defense. Protecting yourself from someone who wants to physically harm you. Fileting the kid because you don’t want to have to take a pay cut right now. Morally, they’re all pretty much the same. And on the ludicrously small chance that you missed Allie’s lame “theology,” she repeats it here.
Nowhere in the Bible is a foetus accorded the full moral status of a human person. On the contrary, in the sole biblical text on induced abortion, Exodus 21.22-23, an abortion caused by injury to a pregnant woman is regarded seriously but considerably less than murder. Other than what might be inferred from this text, the Bible is silent on the issue of the moral status to be accorded to foetal death, as it is on the question of when an embryo might be said to have a soul that survives death. These two issues, which preoccupy the abortion debate today, could probably not even have been conceptualised by writers living in the Biblical era.
I think it was Andy Warhol who once said, “In the future, everybody will be an Anglican bishop for fifteen minutes.” It’s not like you have to know any actual Christian theology or anything, like Catholics, Orthodox and serious Protestants do, or be versed in some kind of Christian tradition.
Just memorize a few handy cliches that are useful for just about any occasion and you’re in like Bishop Flynn. Allie uses two here. The Scripture writers, who were mere men who had absolutely no assistance whatsoever in writing down the Word of the Living God but it wouldn’t have mattered if they had since they were all blithering idiots who couldn’t find their heads with both hands.
Then there’s the ever-popular “The Bible never said anything about _________” argument, probably the most useful Anglican dodge of all. If, of course, you overlook the uncomfortable fact that the Bible also doesn’t teach that racism, sexism, “homophobia” and voting against Barack Obama are sins. But did Allie happen to mention what absolute morons the Scripture writers were?
The Bible was written millennia before an adequate understanding of human reproduction was possible, let alone the possibilities of IVF, embryonic stem cell research or prenatal foetal tests, and the difficult moral dilemmas involved in each of them. In summary, an absolutist antiabortion stance simply cannot lay claim to Biblical warrant.
So what say Allie bottom-lines it for you? It’s a human being when and if I want it to be and NOT BEFORE, bitches.
What is more in accord with the Bible is that God values all human life but that full human personhood takes time to be created. A foetus is part of the totality of all that is created by God, but it develops as a person only in stages. Decisions with regard to the morality of a specific abortion should to be made accordingly. Baron Habgood of Caverton, the retired Archbishop of York and Primate of England, a prolific writer on public and ethical issues, was instrumental in articulating for a new era this ‘gradualist’ position on abortion.
He wrote in his highly influential book, Being a Person, 1998, p. 250- 251, that ‘the idea of a complete spiritual entity being created by God for each individual in a moment in time makes no more sense than the idea of a sudden transition from pre-humans to humans in the emergence of the human race. Things happen gradually, and time is a dimension of our very being… the lack of personal attributes does not imply that such an embryo is of no significance. It is significant to its parents and to God, but not so significant that its potential to become a person should override all other considerations’.
That’s odd. For some reason, the German phrase Lebensunwertes Leben popped into my head just now. Thanks to Tim Fountain.