Abortion and the Divine Prerogative

24 April 2019

5.8 MINS

In my previous article on abortion, I looked at the issue of human life. We looked at the question “What is it and when does it begin?” In that article, I noted that the view that I share with many people of faith is that human life begins at conception and taking such a life is forbidden by God. Because of this, it is seen to be murder – not even murder of someone guilty of an offence, but taking the life of the innocent. Abortion therefore, cannot be condoned.

This should be a consideration in the mind of the person of faith when it comes to deciding which Party one should support at the upcoming election.

Proponents of abortion, of course, do not accept that life begins at conception. They argue that a termination of a pregnancy is not necessarily murder.

The problem is that when they are invited to nominate exactly when human life actually does begin, those who hold such a view seem unable to provide a satisfactory answer. In reality, it is hard to find any real agreement on the answer to this question.

Probably one of the most asked questions relates to exceptions. If abortion is opposed generally, can there be exceptions to the “rule”?

The oft-cited exceptions include the right of a woman to choose an abortion where the life of the mother is at risk. Other common exceptions are where the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, or where the “quality of life” of the unborn child will be limited (e.g. the child has Down’s Syndrome or major deformity, etc.). I will be examining these specific issues in detail in later articles.

The “absolute rule” that prohibits abortion for the person of faith, has two distinct expressions.

First, the directives against taking human life (murder) that the Bible contains. These directives make it impossible for anyone who believes that life begins at conception, to accept abortion as an option.

Second is the faith conviction that human life is God’s sovereign creation. If this is accepted, then God must have absolute authority over life and death. In other words, God has a Divine Prerogative over life and death, so bringing a human life to end is absolutely within the divine prerogative.

My previous article considered the question of when human life begins. In that article I showed that human life begins at conception, so the prohibition on terminating a human life (murder) would apply to the unborn as much as it does to any other person.

So we come to the issue of the Divine prerogative.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “prerogative” as “a prior or exclusive right or privilege.” This prior or exclusive right or privilege comes down to God’s claim in Isaiah 46:9 that He is the one and only, the absolute true God.

David, the Psalmist, acknowledges that claim as an absolutely reality in Psalm 86:8,10.

In the Biblical account of the life of Job, Job understood that it was God’s prerogative to give human life and property and to take them away. He even made the oft-quoted statement: “The Lord gives and The Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Despite all that Job went through, He acknowledged the Divine Prerogative and “In all this, Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21-22).
If we are to accept the concept that God has an absolute prerogative over life and death, then we can create or acknowledge no exception.

If the Divine Prerogative exists over life and death, then it must be absolute. In other words there must be no other person authorised to determine that a human life should end.

Logically, an “absolute” can have no exceptions – if any exception exists, then it can no longer be defined as an absolute. It is God’s sole prerogative to end a person’s life and decide when and how that life will end.

If abortion is morally unacceptable because it would breach the Divine Prerogative (a statement of an absolute), then there can be no exception. There can be no circumstance where an intentional act of abortion is acceptable. Anyone wanting to create an exception would have to place him/herself above God.

It must be understood, as with passive euthanasia, that there may be rare occasions where a mother carrying a child, requires urgent, significant, life-saving medical intervention. In such cases, as a result of that medical intervention, the child that she is carrying may be lost.

Provided that the intent of the intervention was not to directly abort the child but was to save the mother’s life, then the loss of the child should not be seen as a premeditated intended act. In such cases it would be seen as a spontaneous abortion (medical term for a “miscarriage”) that tragically was the unintended consequence of the life saving medical intervention. In such a circumstance, one could not deem the loss of the unborn child to be a premeditated abortion. Instead, it would be seen as an unintended outcome of a procedure that is attempting to SAVE a life and is thus not a violation of God’s law.

Some see the no abortion “rule” is seen as simply a MORAL absolute rather than a Biblical imperative. If this view is adopted, allowing an exception because of specific situations, would mean that it is no longer an “absolute”. This would require the adoption of a form of situational ethics (morality).

The concept of situational ethics is, in itself, a problem to people of faith. Situational ethics disregards any concept of absolutes and determines the rightness or wrongness of any action by its outcome (the end justifies the means). People of faith regard God as the sole determiner of right and wrong. If this is the case, then they must recognise that there ARE absolutes. Regardless of the circumstances, those absolutes remain in place. That means that it is always those absolutes, not changing circumstances, that create the line between right and wrong.

So how is this addressed by churches in Australia?

For some churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, their statement on abortion is unequivocal. The Roman Catholic Church “opposes all forms of abortion procedures whose direct purpose is to destroy a zygote, blastocyst, embryo or foetus, since it holds that human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception“.

Churches such as the Lutheran Church and Presbyterian Church, take a similar position, stating clearly that abortion is never acceptable. In fact, the Presbyterian Church of Victoria claims that abortion “results in the termination of one quarter of Australian pregnancies” and goes on to describe it as “a great moral evil”.

Some churches, such as the Uniting Church, simply have no official position on the issue.

Some other Australian churches, oppose abortion generally, but condone it in certain circumstances.

The Queensland Baptist Church condones abortion under one circumstance. In their “Statement on abortion to the Queensland Parliament” in 2018 they said that they “…believe that ethically human life begins at conception, and that each human life bears the image of God, so should not be ended through any human intervention.” However their statement then lists an exception to their otherwise “absolute” statement. “We recognise that in rare instances the mother’s life is in such danger that the continuation of a pregnancy would result in the death of both mother and child, and that only in such circumstances is it ethical to terminate the pregnancy.

The Australian Christian Churches (formerly Assemblies of God in Australia) in the “ACC Positional Statement on Abortion”, acknowledge that “Human life is sacred because it is the gift of God and is created in the divine image” and that “human life begins at conception” and that “the conclusion of earthly existence is God’s prerogative.

Their Statement says, “The only clear circumstance in which abortion might be justified from a Biblical perspective is when the life of the mother is at stake” but unfortunately gives no “Biblical perspective”, clear or otherwise to support the statement. Their statement then says, “Concern for the life of the mother might also be extended to considering abortion as a legitimate option in cases of rape or incest.” In their statement, there is no time limit on the “legitimate option” of abortion, thus it can be reasonably concluded that the “ACC Positional Statement on Abortion” is not opposed to late-term abortion in cases of rape or incest.

Obviously, the official view of a denomination doesn’t always reflect the actual view of all of its members, however it is clear that there is somewhat less than agreement across the broad Christian Community on this issue. It is reasonable to assert that the majority of the Christian community, does not support the broad-brush approach of abortion on demand and for any reason.

Christian people across the nation should consider the importance of this issue when deciding the political party for whom they will vote. For me, regardless of my view of the present government’s performance or the Opposition’s promises, in considering which party will get my vote, this issue of abortion would be a deal-breaker regardless of my attraction to a Party’s other policies.

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  1. Lachlan Dunjey 25 April 2019 at 8:03 am - Reply

    Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare
    As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion – the purposeful destruction of the unborn child – is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.
    We uphold that there is a fundamental difference between abortion, and necessary medical treatments that are carried out to save the life of the mother, even if such treatment results in the loss of life of her unborn child.
    We confirm that the prohibition of abortion does not affect, in any way, the availability of optimal care to pregnant women.

  2. […] In my two previous articles on abortion, I considered the issue of human life – what it is and when it begins. I also considered the issue of the Divine Prerogative. […]

  3. […] my four previous articles on abortion, I have looked at several issues relating to human life, the Divine Prerogative, the timing of abortion and the right to […]

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