Editor's Note: Jonathan Dudley is the author of "Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics."
By Jonathan Dudley, Special to CNN
Over the course of the 2012 election season, evangelical politicians have put their community’s hard-line opposition to abortion on dramatic display.
Missouri Rep. Todd Akin claimed “legitimate rape” doesn’t result in pregnancy. Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock insisted that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
While these statements have understandably provoked outrage, they’ve also reinforced a false assumption, shared by liberals and conservatives alike: that uncompromising opposition to abortion is a timeless feature of evangelical Christianity.
The reality is that what conservative Christians now say is the Bible’s clear teaching on the matter was not a widespread interpretation until the late 20th century.
Opinion: Let's get real about abortions
In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth:
“God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: 'If a man kills any human life he will be put to death' (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”
The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, “The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.” And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.
Opinion: Why the abortion issue won’t go away
These stalwart evangelical institutions and leaders would be heretics by today’s standards. Yet their positions were mainstream at the time, widely believed by born-again Christians to flow from the unambiguous teaching of Scripture.
Televangelist Jerry Falwell spearheaded the reversal of opinion on abortion in the late 1970s, leading his Moral Majority activist group into close political alliance with Catholic organizations against the sexual revolution.
In contrast to evangelicals, Catholics had mobilized against abortion immediately after Roe v. Wade. Drawing on mid-19th century Church doctrines, organizations like the National Right to Life Committee insisted a right to life exists from the moment of conception.
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As evangelical leaders formed common cause with Catholics on topics like feminism and homosexuality, they began re-interpreting the Bible as teaching the Roman Catholic position on abortion.
Falwell’s first major treatment of the issue, in a 1980 book chapter called, significantly, “The Right to Life,” declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.”
With the megawatt power of his TV presence and mailing list, Falwell and his allies disseminated these interpretations to evangelicals across America.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
By 1984, it became clear these efforts had worked. That year, InterVarsity Press published the book Brave New People, which re-stated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.
An avalanche of protests met the publication, forcing InterVarsity Press to withdraw a book for the first time in its history.
“The heresy of which I appear to be guilty,” the author lamented, “is that I cannot state categorically that human/personal life commences at day one of gestation.... In order to be labeled an evangelical, it is now essential to hold a particular view of the status of the embryo and fetus.”
What the author quickly realized was that the “biblical view on abortion” had dramatically shifted over the course of a mere 15 years, from clearly stating life begins at birth to just as clearly teaching it begins at conception.
During the 2008 presidential election, Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren demonstrated the depth of this shift when he proclaimed: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.”
It is hard to underestimate the political significance of this reversal. It has required the GOP presidential nominee to switch his views from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. It has led conservative Christians to vote for politicians like Akin and Mourdock for an entire generation.
And on November 6, it will lead millions of evangelicals to support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama out of the conviction that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion.
But before casting their ballots, such evangelicals would benefit from pausing to look back at their own history. In doing so, they might consider the possibility that they aren’t submitting to the dictates of a timeless biblical truth, but instead, to the goals of a well-organized political initiative only a little more than 30 years old.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Dudley.
You rely on a verse from exodus but fail to quote the verse. And when I looked it up it appears to say the exact opposite of what you claimed! Did you think we could not check it?
"You rely on a verse from exodus " You rely on poor reading comprehension skills. What he says is:
"In the leading article, professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth: “God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: 'If a man kills any human life he will be put to death' (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.”
Notice the author makes no assumtions for the meaning of the cited Exodus scripture. Way to make yourself look as stupid as you probably are.
Who will pay to raise the child? All of the antiabortion people are also antiwelfare. Wouldn't it be a sin to not help raise these children, too?
Here are the actual facts:
1.The earth is approximately 4.5 BILLION YEARS OLD. Radiometric dating proves this.
2."god" and "jesus" are no more relevant than the Greek or Roman Gods and are just as real/true.
3.The whole parting of the red sea, noahs ark, adam/eve, rising from the dead, walking on water, just like "miracles", are all myths. Just an FYI.
4.There is absolutely no legitimate, academically accepted peer reviewed proof that "jesus" ever existed. None whatsoever.
5.Evolution is a scientific fact. Get over it. Our ancestors are over 6 Million years old.
6.How can anyone "hate" a myth? It's like me proclaiming I hate "Batman". Batman is just as real as "jesus".
8.The bible was written by men to control/manipulate and profit from man. It's that simple.
9.Roe vs. Wade is the law of land.
I don't care what myths or fables you believe in provided you keep them to yourself and don't inflict them on others. Keep them out of public schools, science/math, public policy, foreign policy, law and jurisprudence. If you want to raise your children to flip burgers, dig ditches and believe in myths, bully for you. We don't care as long as you don't inflict them on others.
here here!!! good form!
While I respect your beliefs, they are beliefs as much as mine are, not necessarily facts – especially the relevance of my God. And just to be clear, I am not debating science here. Evolution is a fact. Again, the relevance of Zeus over Jesus is a matter of opinion.
Margaux, these are FACTS, not beliefs. Run along now, adults are talking.
well, excuse me I didn't realize you were the maturity police. No need to be defensive and condescending to make your point. I agree with most of what you said, just not how sure you are that everything you said was totally factual. Feel free to degrade me again though.
Just to be clear, I am not in agreement with your level of certainty over the factual nature of all of your points. Not that you care, but if someone reads this who hasn't deemed me mentally unfit then I would like them to understand my point.
margaux... just curious – which of those bullet items do you feel were not factual?
If Christians care so much about life, why do they eargerly support the trashing of our planet? Why not support health care for the less fortunate? How more pro life do you get? If you want to force a woman to have a body, using the power of the government to intrude in such a personal decision, then where is the limit? And where are these conservatives when millions of children are born into poverty and need food stamps, other assistance? You can't blame the children for their parents' issues. PRO-LIFE would mean something if it didn't STOP AT BIRTH.
Scientifically, we know that life begins before the birth of a child. Otherwise, it would not be necessary for abortionists to kill the baby and chop it up before the remains are suctioned out of the mother's womb. For Christians, and really for all of us, the most important question is, "What does God think about it?" In the book of Jeremiah He said, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you."
God NEVER mentioned abortion.
Wouldn't be a sin then to not help the woman raise this child by providing child care and food?
"BEFORE I formed you in the womb, I knew you."
From where I'm sitting, that sounds more like reincarnation to me.
I don't know where "life" begins; nobody can really make that claim. But with the risk of it being at birth or contraception, is it worth abortion? It just seems more logical to error on the side of caution.
To me it seems more logical to let each individual make the decision for themselves.
pretty sure christianity has been making that claim for centuries now
My experience is that young girls in the middle of a very emotional time are pushed into abortion because of ideology from the abortion camp. They cannot and are not allowed to make a fair free choice which leads to guilt down the line.
I see the political nonsense from the Obama abortion lobby and the stuff on Planned Parenthood is a lie. I personally go up against the local Planned Parenthood constantly every time they fail to give a young girl all the options available other than abortion. I agree with you let the pregnant mother decide but at least give her the facts and all the options not a political ideology
But there's a risk that you're not letting the baby choose at all. It may just be a nothing-mass-of-cells, but it may have some kind of life/soul/whatever to it. Is it worth killing it off? If the fetus has a "soul," does it not have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as any other person...including the mother?
And for that matter, what really is the difference between a fetus in the womb and a baby exposed to external environment? Neither can fend for themselves; both are completely dependent on others for everything. Despite the fact that one has a brain, its analytical skills are so infant that observations are truly meaningless to it (at least for a certain amount of time). I feel like aborting a baby is jumping to a conclusion not found in evidence. And while the church is doing the same, erroring on the side of caution ensures both the mother and the child retain their right to life...in the event that the baby is free as you or I.
Huebert, I agree with you; let's let the person most connected to abortion decide: the next time a baby in utero agrees to an abortion, I will change my mind and become in favor of it. The only opinoins I have heard from such a person are those who thank their mothers for not having ended the pregnancy which delivered them from the womb into this earth.
@Brian, How many fetus's in Utero have you heard object?
So, are you suggesting it is a waste of time for parents to speak to their children while in the womb? The squirming of the baby in late term abortions is 100% chemical reaction to outside stimuli?
When God says I knew you before you were born what was God speaking about if life begins at age 2 as some now suggest (age of social awareness). Without absolutes of right and wrong each person decides for themselves when life begins or when no longer has the correct amount of quality to continue.
For the umpteen thousandth time, noone here is advocating late term abortions, at that point the fetus is viable (unless the act of giving birth would definitely kill the mother, then I think it is a judgement call to be made by the parents). but when a fetus is 12 weeks old, and doesn't have any auditory sense, yes, it is a waste of time to talk to it.
Your interpretation of Exodus is simply wrong.. Bias much?
Nova, read that more clearly and without passion. It says "if men strive, and hurt a woman..." and then the result is the loss of the baby.
That is very specific. It is saying that in instances where men are fighting, either a man fighting with another man (presumably the husband) or specifically attack the woman, and HURT her, resulting in termination, it is then a crime. HOWEVER, it says nothing about a medical procedure, nor does it determine a time at which the baby is considered a "baby," and further it says nothing at all about personhood.
Moreover, any dispassionate reading will show an honest person that they are considering a rule of property here. The "baby" is never considered a person, but an item of property, the loss of which which the intended owners will be compensated.
Personally, I don't care what "Christianity Today" or any one pastor says about when life begins. The Bible contains numerous references (even other than that of the conception of Jesus) that shows us that GOD has a purpose for each and every child even before that child is born. Not only does each child have a purpose, but GOD himself KNOWS who that child will be when he or she is born. I cannot think of any other religious concept that is more clear if you read the bible. Below are just two of the most clear references. I don't base my beliefs regarding when life begins on what a magazine has to say. As a Christian, I follow Christ, not man or man's teachings.
And the LORD said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. Genesis 25:23-25
God said to Jeremiah – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Nobody really cares what imaginary ignorance you believe in. What makes your "faith" any more true, accurate or relevant than: Judaism, Mithrasian faiths, The Greek or Roman Gods, The Norse Gods, Druidism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, etc? ALL of these "faiths" are much older than "christianity" and most are still being practiced. What makes your version of stupidity better than their brand?
And how do you know "God's" plan isn't for some of those fetuses to be aborted? "God" chooses to allow plenty of pregnancies to naturally abort pre-term, sometimes he's feeling especially vicious and causes a child to be stillborn, and then sometiems he's a dick and has the child die in its crib for no apparent reason. Why wouldn't "God" choose to allow abortion? Or are you saying that people are able to do things against "God's" plan? Not an argument for a very effective "God".
Riiggghhttt.... So, the people shot in the theater iin Aurora were put on earth by God so a maniac could kill them. Really? The two kids in NY city were put on earth so their nanny could kill them. Really? The people drowned in the recent storm were put on earth so storm could kill them. Really?
I heard a lady on the radio yesterday who couldn't understand why they were not well off and had to struggle financially because they prayed about money all the time, even about buying some stupid bookshelves. She thought God must just have some other plan for them.
Get a clue. There is no plan for you! There is no god looking after you. If there is a god, it cares nothing about you and doesn't even know you exist.
All this wondering about gods plan and human choice is just rationalizing the fact that god's "plan" is mysterious. Yes, it is, because it is all in your head.
Religion is for those who are too weak to take life on it's own terms. It is what it is. Nothing more. Get over it. Grow up. Get a clue!
That's why abortion is a non-issue. It does not matter one bit. Humans are a dime a dozen. One more or less will make no difference what-so-ever. Untill you understand that, you will be doomed to be under the thumb of religious nutjobs who want nother more than to control you and take your money (go look at the absolute fortunes spend to build cathedrals if you don't believe what the true goal of the church is!).
Scientifically, we know life begins before the birth of a child. Otherwise, it would not be necessary for the abortionists to kill the baby and chop it up before the remains are suctioned out from the womb of the mother. For Christians, and really all of us, the question is, "What does God think about it?" In the book of Jeremiah He said, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you."
i don't think atheists really care what God thinks about it. nor do polytheistic religions that have no singular authority on morality. so probably not quite "all of us"
According to ACTUAL science a fetus is viable until approximately 24 weeks. Or, didn't you get the memo?
Yes, and because you are so certain of your own righteousness, you feel a need to put the statement in bold type so that we naysayers can be beat over the head with it.
Your self-righteousness is sickening. You believe in clubbing people over the head with your beliefs. Who, besides other sanctimonious individuals like yourself, would be convinced by your pompous tirade? You do more to discredit Christianity than any atheist on this board could ever do.
Anyone who thinks their god gives a toss about human life should begin by explaining the 55 people god allowed hurricane Sally to kill in the past couple of days. He really did seem to care about them, didn't he?
So....God must save EVRYONE or he doesn’t care? Really?
If God is all powerful then saving fifty people would require no more effort than saving one. So yes, either he saves everyone or he is capricious and doesn't care.
If every life and potential life matters, then yes.
There's this principal called "separation of church and state" which basically says that we can use religion to make law. So, abortion is legal. The women who's religious beliefs prohibit abortion don't have to have one. But the rest of the women of different religions get to make their own choice.
Christians are the temple of God and should participate as such. So you can take your specious 'church' argument and put it where the sun don't shine.
The Christians got lazy and let the usurpers working for the Beast take over marriage. Does God do the 'joining' or the Beast?
Evangelicals may have been wishy washing in the 20th Century, but the One, Holy Catholic Church has not waivered in this and is the only pillar and foundation of truth to not give in to modernist interpretation.
The Catholic church can't change. It's like a mule, but probably not quite as intelligent.
I guess that's another way of saying the caltholics are stuck 3000 years in the past, still demanding fealty to a corrupt system of men pretending they have domination over women. Give it up. Catholic women get abortions at a higher rate than the general population and 99% have used birth control. Both of which are "banned" by the catholic men that claim "leadership" of the church. It is so corrupt than very few catholics even pretend to follow the rules anymore. Only a few ultra right wing men still claim they follow those rules, and they probably don't know their wives are on the pill or have had an abortion!!
when God first thinks of You outside of time, You are already a living person, the people on earth eventually know you when you enter time
I'll have what you're smoking...
Jand, What the hell are you talking about? Are you from our world?
Reply to all; God does not exist in time and this is where He first thought of You! and created You! He then eventually formed You! in the womb. : )
OOOPS, meant to say God exists everywhere but He is not ' Limited to Time '
Another example of media sensationalism run amuck. The poorly researched and bias article failed to mention that Waltke retracted the remark and admitted it was not a correct interpretation. I can't find that Christianity today article, but I do have an article that Waltke wrote in 1976 in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. Here's what he said, "on both theological and exegetical grounds. . . the body, the life, and the moral faculty of man originate simultaneously at conception."
Not poorly researched, just poor reading skills on your part. He quotes Waltke in 1968 and then talks about how in the 1970's there was a reversal of opinion after pressure from Falwells "moral majority" group. His point was that you self righteous bafoons change your positions all the time, as you did on slavery, on womens rights, on interracial marriage, on abortion, heII, even Christmas used to be banned by early protestants and puritans. The religious have lost all credibility and no longer serve any purpose other than to be divisive as they try and hold on to some measure of influence in a world where access to truth and education for the masses is pushing them ever farther from their goals of global domination. And good riddence.
I figured the first response to my pointing out the facts would be a verbal attack. The truth doesn't change. Opinions, fads, and human wisdom all change. Waltke admitted it was a mistake, which took a lot of integrity. If this "author" would have done proper research he would have discovered that the Falwell "moral majority" is nothing new. The position of the Bible has never changed even though there have certainly been varying interpretations (correct or not).
You are correct, the bible has never changed it's position on the matter, at least not since it was cobbled together by the council of Nicea. It has been the interpretation of scripture that has been changing position steadily ever since. My point is that none of that matters when it comes to secular law in America, no one is forcing you to get an abortion, so you get to maintain your interpretation of scripture in your own life, heII, you can even decide not to ever have s.e.x if thats what you think the bible wants you to do. But that all ends when you step out of your home and attempt to stop me or anyone else from having s.e.x or using our own reasoning to decide to have an abortion or not. It's my choice, not yours. And by the way, the number of abortions would be cut by 70% only you hyporcritical Christians would take your own advice and decide not to get one. Talk about a group of people in serious denial...
This I know. No one likes the idea of abortion and no one knows when life actually begins. Therefore, because we are all in the dark in this area, the decision to abort lies completely with a woman, her family, and her doctor. Legislators in Washington have no say in this matter at all.
Hooray for a reasonable person!! Why can't more people be like you bethjoyce?
I think that your comment is very reasonable because I thought the same thing, in regards to the fact that we are in the dark. I disagree with your conclusion, however. I believe that since we are in the dark on the issue, it would be better to simply abolish abortion. On another matter, I hate how people continously insist this is a woman's right's issue (I have even talked to numerous women I know, who were completely confused when I said that people made this a woman's rights issue; in fact my mother, who regretted ever having an abortion, did not un derstand that either) because it really isn't. If we use the "it's my body" argument, then we need to also legalize ALL drugs, but nobody ever mentions that when discussing abortion. Just another note I am a non-aligned liberal (in other words a liberal, who does not have an allegiance to the Democratic Party) and am not Christian (I have a rather complex religion and it is not an official religion). Ultimately, it is clear that on the grounds of lack of knowledge, we should just abolish abortion to be safe.
In ALL cases the life and well being of the mother must come before a fetus. It is immoral to think or act otherwise. No fetus on earth has more rights than a true living person. It is immoral to think or act otherwise. Of course, many, many "religious" people are immoral, therefore we have this argument. It is really no argument. People who put the fetus before the mother are immoral so do not need to be listened to. They have a "fetus fetish" and are essentiall insane, so are not to be part of the discussion. The best place for them is an insane asylum.
And you ought to lay off the Scotch for a few days.........'......true living person............' haha No true Scotsman would utter such talk.
People can't be forced to help, feed, donate blood or donate organs, EVEN TO SAVE A HUMAN LIFE. Even when they CAUSED the other person to be in danger of dying. In fact, we can't even harvest organs from a dead body to save another life.
Yet some people want to FORCE women to supply their bodies for functions they don't want. Because apparently a female body deserves less respect and dignity than a corpse.
These people make me sick.
Corpse are people , too. Corps are special sons of the beast.
Professor Waltke read Exodus incorrectly. The portion you highlight reads (KJV): "22 If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth."
Verse 22 says that if people hurt a pregnant woman and her baby departs from her "yet no mischief follow" – which means that the baby did NOT die, then the punishment is what the husband and judge deem appropriate. Verse 23 states that "if any mischief follow", which means the baby dies, then the punishment is life (capital punishment). In other words, the baby that departed the woman in any kind of deliberate, premature way is worth the same as "eye for eye, tooth for tooth", i.e., life for life. The Bible clearly states that a fetus/baby is a life.
You've read it wrong. It says the opposite of that. "Her fruit departs from her" means miscarriage. "If any mischief follow" means the woman is seriously hurt or dies later. So if you beat a pregnant woman up so that she just has a miscarriage, you have to face her husband and whatever fines the judges impose. If she's permanently injured, then you're in serious trouble.
Abortion prevents babies for being born in the first place . Its like tossing a bisquette out before its even done baking in the oven . If welfare recpients die from having thier dependance checks from the Govenrnment taken away , isnt that a kind of social abortion ? Abortion kills potential women , isnt that war on women ? Abortion kills blacks , isnt that racism ?
ah the rambling philosophizing of stupid trailer trash just never gets old....lol!
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.