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The Bible is Pro-Life:

A refutation of Joyce's Arthur's Anti-Choicers Don't Have a Biblical Leg to Stand On: The Bible is Pro-Choice


PART 1: Introduction

PART 2: The Personhood of the Fetus

PART 3: Miscarriage and Abortion

PART 4: On the Beginning of Life

PART 5: The Sanctity of Human Life

PART 6: Conclusion

PART 1: Introduction
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        In her article on the subject of the Bible and abortion (“Anti-Choicers Don't Have a Biblical Leg to Stand On: The Bible is Pro-Choice”) poor-choice activist Joyce Arthur contends that the Bible has very little to say about abortion, and that what it does have to say contradicts commonly asserted pro-life ideas. The sub-title would lead one to believe the highly questionable assumption that the paucity of references to abortion in the Bible is by default an endorsement of legal abortion; and that what references that do pertain to the contemporary debate on the matter naturally support her cause.

        When reading the text, one should keep in mind her approach to textual interpretation. As any informed Christian knows, Bible verses can be manipulated to make a case for almost any kind of theological belief. Verses that seem to contradict that argument can be easily reconciled through a number of tactics, in order to maintain one's stance. The assumption that many theological hucksters try to foist on an unsuspecting public is that texts, like the Bible, interpret themselves. No research on anything outside the text is necessary in order to understand it. Although the Bible has many passages that can be plainly understood by any literate individual, if one is to grasp what the Bible says in-depth, it is simply impossible to do without being familiar with history, theology or what other parts of the Bible say. Blind proof-texting is not a sound approach to scriptural interpretation. But this is precisely the approach Ms. Arthur has taken. She isolates from their contexts whatever verses she produces, even to the point of contradicting herself.

        Textual interpretation is also influenced by what a reader brings to read to the text. He has a theological, philosophical and emotional filter through which he processes the text. Different readers have different abilities with regard to logical discernment. Being able to be logically consistent and discern subtleties doesn't guarantee the reader will draw correct interpretation, but it will help stop from making logical fallacies that become the basis for further erroneous claims.

Joyce Arthur, according to her website, is a skeptic. Skeptics do not have a good record of treating Scripture with any kind of integrity, be it theological, philosophical or historical. They're not merely happy to just be non-believers; they make a point of undermining belief in the supernatural. As far as they're concerned, any kind of Scripture is rubbish. Now granted, just because a reader believes a text not divinely inspired doesn't mean that he cannot examine it and perceive an author's meaning, or what the author implied or would have believed. However, seeing that her article was written for The Humanist, a staunchly atheist publication that seeks the elimination of religion, it's difficult to believe that she would give a balanced presentation on the topic. Her statements are also often drenched in sarcasm and ridicule, badly hiding a contempt for Christians. It can only be concluded than that her motive is not to treat the Bible with theological integrity, that is, respecting its function of transmitting Divine Revelation.

        Another reason to be leery of her assertions is that her audience is atheist, and pre-disposed to accept her at her word. Of course, a magazine article is hardly the place to make complex arguments, but she did not even bother to substantiate her claims (which is easy with hypertext) in her revision. It seems that she does not believe she has to try hard to advance her claims, and quite frankly she doesn't. I also suspect that she harbours the prejudice that all traditional Christians are stupid anyway, and our beliefs can be easily dismissed with superficial refutations. Why spend the energy researching and substantiating these claims? She seems to be saying: Christianity is too intellectually shallow to be worth the bother.

        This prejudice and approach leads to a number of flaws in the article. One's judgment could be tempered by the fact that she's essentially preaching to the choir and so she didn't try very hard; but on the other hand, if this article is supposed to be a substantive case for the Bible morally favorable to abortion, it should more than a series of verses that are:

· taken out of context

· isolated from the narrative

· interpreted in a manner that is consonant with her humanist beliefs, but exclude all possibility of a traditional Christian understanding.

Not to mention the fact that sometimes her interpretations even contradict one another.

If she had submitted a similarly-written essay in a freshman college class, she would have flunked. Being able to place ideas in their historical and narrative context and accepting multiple possible interpretations, and anticipating them, is a sign of intellectual maturity that is lacking in this work.

If Scripture is to be understood in a substantive fashion, it cannot be extracted from the various contexts that provide a text with meaning, be it historical, cultural, theological or literary, not only of the authors, but of those who compiled the canon and authorized it, as well as the community that circulated it and interpreted it in the early centuries, i.e. the Church.

Does anyone with a cursory knowledge of history need to deliberate as to whether the Jews in the age of David or Jeremiah would have really been okay with abortion on demand? Remember, this is much ballyhooed patriarchal society par excellence. Would the rabbi of the Second Temple period really have been okay with his wife coming to him one day and saying “hey you know what, this second child is enough, I think I'm going to drink a potion and get rid of it”? Would St. Luke have been cool with a young married woman getting an abortion so that she could pursue other interests? Does anyone really believe that?

The Church, which compiled the canon of the Bible and endlessly pored over its contents, was staunchly against abortion. If anyone is in doubt, check out these quotes from the Church Fathers. Not only was abortion considered immoral; it was considered murder. It was almost unanimous among the fathers that the fetus was personhood, certainly by the later stages of pregnancy, certainly from very early on, as quickening was believed to occur very early on.

The Bible does not make any one statement about abortion or the personhood of the fetus. The narratives of the various books did not set out to make a statement on either of these topics, and in the absence of these statements, one must deduce the Truth about these matters. Without a blunt teaching about them, one can see in them “openings” for a relatively more pro-abortion position. However, the overwhelming tendency of Scripture is to favour the fetus and condemn the taking of a life, and the Early Church Fathers saw it this way. This is perhaps the most devastating argument against the idea that the Bible favours legalized abortion.

Nevertheless the substance of the arguments will be addressed, in order to point out how flat out wrong they are, in order for people to realize that even without Sacred Tradition, her interpretations don't stand up to scrutiny.

This essay is divided into several parts to address each of the themes of the abortion debate:

· The Personhood of the fetus

· Abortion and miscarriage

· Life Begins at Conception

·Human Life is Sacred

In each of these sections, I will refute her arguments and proofs that allegedly show the Bible to be pro-abortion.

PART 2: The Personhood of the Fetus
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To start off her article, Joyce Arthur examines the three most commonly used verses used to substantiate the claim that a fetus is a person. She says “Apparently, [pro-lifers] believe these vague passages say something significant about the status of the fetus, although it's impossible for any reasonable person to discern exactly what” [emphasis mine].

This is what I meant when I wrote that a skeptical interpretation is imposed, and the possibility of a pro-life interpretation is excluded. The historical context of the passage is completely forgotten, and the lines are read as if the authors were entirely neutral on the subject, without any discernable tendency.

The first targeted verse is Psalm 139:13-16.

"For Thou didst form my inward parts; thou didst weave me together in my mother's womb. I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."

For simplicity's sake, let's use a more contemporary translation:

 13 For you created my inmost being;
       you knit me together in my mother's womb.

 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.

 15 My frame was not hidden from you
       when I was made in the secret place.
       When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

 16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
       All the days ordained for me
       were written in your book
       before one of them came to be.

Joyce Arthur says “All this passage states is that God is directly involved in the creation of a fetus and knows its future. “

This interpretation is insensitive to the context of the passage, and Ms. Arthur fails to relate it to the current abortion debate.

Mainstream pro-abortion thought on personhood is that individuality begins at birth. What that would infer is that I, Suzanne, only began my individuality and my personhood at birth. Before birth, Suzanne did not exist. Suzanne was sub-human, a potential being, but not Suzanne herself.

What the psalmist is affirming is that his existence began in the womb. He was not a non-entity in the womb, as many poor-choicers maintain. His post-natal person and his pre-natal being are the same individual, according to the law of identity. Many passages in the psalm are about how God knows him as a person. The pre-born David and the post-born David are the same person.

In our modern-day social context, when the unborn are still called blobs of tissue, body parts and sub-human, this is a significant statement.

Ms. Arthur contends that “just because God is supposedly omniscient doesn't give fetuses any special status—it simply means God already knows whether they will live or die.” This suggests she hasn't read the entire psalm. Yes, the omniscience of God does not give the fetus a special status, but the equation between the pre-born David and the post-born David does suggest they are not two different entities. In fact, the wonder that is expressed at his creation suggest that a fetus is special—certainly not just a parasite.

She also writes:

“It is dishonest to conclude from this verse that a fetus is a human being deserving of more protection than women.”

Aspiring to fetal equality is not tantamount to saying that a fetus deserves “more protection”. Fetuses deserve the same protection as all born human beings: the right not to be killed.

The verse alone, isolated from its every context, doesn't prove anything. But what it does is contribute to the argument that the feuts is a personhood. Knowledgeable Christians do not read a verse in isolation and conclude, without referencing any other verse or information, and then draw up a doctrinal belief. All truths are interrelated. A belief about the fetus cannot stand alone in isolation. It must be related to other established truths.

The second passage she targets is from Jeremiah:

"Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you'..." (Jeremiah 1:4-5)
This is the usual way pro-lifers quote the line, but she continues the verse:

"...'and I appointed you a prophet to the nations.'"
She contends that because the prophet Jeremiah is only one person, and we're not all destined to be prophets, then that does not prove the fetus is a person.

That argument is nothing short of lame.

Who normally are appointed prophets? Animals? No. Plants? No. Who does God appoint as a prophet? A human being. And note the use of the word “appoint”. An appointment is not like “create”. It is the conferral of an office. Animals and plants do not hold offices. People do. The fetus has the requisite humanity to be a prophet, that is, acts as a witness to Divine Revelation. God can consecrate objects, but objects are not appointed. And again, God is making out the pre-born Jeremiah and the post-natal Jeremiah to be identical. In the pro-abortion mentality, the unborn is a nobody and a nothing. To God, Jeremiah was not a nobody.

The third passage she cites deals with the Visitation:

"In those days, Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit." (Luke 1:39-41)
She comments: “This passage simply records a fetus kicking in the womb. We can only wonder in befuddlement why [pro-lifers] think this would help them”

Again, Joyce Arthur has not grasped the full context of the chapter. She has isolated the passage, without understanding all the nuances.

When Zechariah was informed that his wife Elizabeth was going to conceive, the angel said about John the Baptist:

For he shall be great before the Lord and shall drink no wine nor strong drink: and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. (Luke 1:15.)

In other words, the soul of John the Baptist is human, because only human souls receive the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth hid herself five months when she conceived. The implication is that no one knew about her pregnancy. Her cousin Mary, when she receives the announcement about her conception, is also told about Elizabeth's pregnancy. In spite of all the hardship, Mary goes and visits her cousin.

When Mary greets Elizabeth, John the Baptist leaps in the womb, “And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost.” The “and” in that passage is intended to show a cause-effect relationship—the baby leaped (which is not just a simple “kick” as it is maintained”), and then she was filled with the Holy Spirit.

The leaping of the womb is the action that inspires the action of the Holy Spirit within her. And even before Mary has a chance to tell her that she's pregnant, she is already supernaturally informed. “1:43. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

The young embryo in Mary's womb is “my Lord”. He is not “my potential Lord”. God did not unite his nature to anything less than a human soul; it is claimed again and again in the New Testament that became human, not a tissue, or a potential human or a parasite or any of the other denigrating things poor-choicers call unwanted fetuses.

And Elizabeth, being filled with the Holy Spirit, explains how she knew about Mary's pregnancy:

For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. (Luke 1:44).

The unborn child “leaped for joy”. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the unborn John the Baptist was alerted to the presence of God.

All this may seem a bit abstruse to a skeptic, but to any mainstream believer, the conclusion is obvious. Since John the Baptist has the soul capable of receiving the Holy Spirit, the same kind of soul born people have, that makes him an equal.

And because Jesus Christ is acknowledged as Lord in the womb, and his human soul is implicitly acknowledged, that makes the unborn child an equal as well.

Joyce Arthur writes:

“John the Baptist is yet another divine fetal prophet ordained by God. Since very few of us are chosen by God before birth to herald the arrival of the Messiah on earth, we cannot claim that this passage venerates all fetuses.”

Again, this misses the point. The unborn prophet had the same rational soul that born people have, which makes him capable of receiving the Holy Spirit and testifying. If John the Baptist did not have the Holy Spirit, she might have a point. But he does. If one fetus has that soul, then they all do. There's only one kind of human soul, not twenty, and he certainly doesn't have an animal soul or a vegetable soul. Prophethood may be something unique to one individual, but the possession of a soul capable of receiving the Holy Spirit is not something that only John the Baptist could have. Besides, as mentioned above, only humans can be prophets, not non-humans.

In short, the Bible verses deemed “pro-life” demonstrate the following:

· The prenatal and postnatal identity of a human is one and the same;

· The fetus is capable of being a prophet, hence of occupying an office only a human can fulfil;

· The fetus' soul is capable of receiving the Holy Spirit, which only human souls can do.

And Ms. Arthur does nothing to attack these conclusions. Instead, she interprets the verses outside of their narrative contexts.

PART 3: Miscarriage and Abortion
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In the part dealing with miscarriages and abortions in the Bible, Joyce Arthur continues to cite verses out of context. What is worse, she does not recognize some obvious rhetorical devices, nor perceive the function of the text, and again engages in a blind literalism, perhaps with the idea that this is exactly how traditional Christians do it.

She writes:

“Ironically, in spite of God giving divine [sic!] status to the prophet Jeremiah while he was in the womb, Jeremiah emphatically rejects this for himself. Later in his book, he wishes he had been aborted! The following passage is a lamentation by Jeremiah:

“'Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, 'A son is born to you', making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities which the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb for ever great.' (Jeremiah 20:14-17)

“In verse 18, he concludes with the anguished cry:

“'Why did I come forth from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?'”

To the non-believer, distinctions like prophetic and divine are immaterial, even though those words have a technical meaning, especially within a religious paradigm. Jeremiah was not a god—he did not have divine status. Nor does he anywhere reject any status for himself.

The context again, provides ample evidence for the meaning of the passage. Jeremiah has just announced the Lord's plans for Israel's apostasy and worship of the god Baal. Judah was to be invaded by Babylon in a terrible battle, and Jerusalem and the surrounding land would be devastated. His reward for announcing the Lord's word was to be struck by the Temple priest and placed in the stocks. Jeremiah is overwhelmed at the coming doom, and fed up with being humiliated for prophetic witness. And so he wishes he had never been born.

Many an adolescent, in the face of public awkwardness or disaster has said or thought “just shoot me now.” That's hardly an argument for assisted suicide. In the same vein, Jeremiah's emotional effusion in the face of adversity can scarcely be construed as a real desire to have been killed in the womb. But even if he had had such a desire, having lost the will to live, that is still not an endorsement of killing other fetuses.

In the same way, Job's lamentation does not amount to sanctioning abortion:

"Or why was I not as a hidden untimely birth, as infants that never see the light? There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary are at rest. There the prisoners are at ease together; they hear not the voice of the taskmaster. The small and the great are there, and the slave is free from his master." (Job 3:16-19)

He had just lost all his cattle and his numerous children, and Satan inflicted painful and disfiguring sores on his whole body. If we applied Joyce Arthur's logic to the rest of the passage, his lament that he had been breastfed amounts to permission to starve a newborn. It just does not follow.

Again, in another verse, she fails to see the function of the passage:

"If a man begets a hundred children, and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but he does not enjoy life's good things, and also has no burial, I say that an untimely birth is better off than he. For it comes into vanity and goes into darkness, and in darkness its name is covered; moreover it has not seen the sun or known anything; yet it finds rest rather than he." (Ecclesiastes 6:3-5)

The function of the verse is not to discuss the status of the fetus. It is to make a comparison. The author assumes that the miscarried baby is badly off. That is not insignificant in light of the modern abortion debate, because pro-abortionists do not consider the fetus a true person. However, to this author, the fetus is a someone. Secondly, saying someone is better or worse than another doesn't state the true value of the person spoken of. If I say Jane is better off than Jack, does that mean Jane is well off? Not necessarily. It also does not point to the value of the fetus—it simply says that even if he is miscarried, his situation is better than a rich man who can't enjoy his goods.

A third time, she fails to see the function of the text in Psalms 58:3-8

"The wicked go astray from the womb, they err from their birth, speaking lies. They have venom like the venom of a serpent. ... Let them vanish like water that runs away, like grass let them be trodden down and wither. Let them be like the snail which dissolves into slime, like the untimely birth that never sees the sun." (Psalms 58:3-8)

She comments: “Far from bolstering the arguments of [pro-lifers], these verses prove the Bible is pro-choice. The contention that quality of life is a more worthwhile pursuit than simply life for the sake of life is a basic pro-choice stance.”

Of course quality of life is important. But the poor-choice position is that the value of human life, especially unborn human life, is relative. The poor-choice stance is that if the unborn child is predicted to live a life of misery and unhappiness, it's perfectly acceptable to abort him.

Wanting one's enemies to not see the light says nothing about the value of the unborn child, nor anything about the debate whether unborn life has a relative or absolute value. Evil behaviour may begin early in life, but stating that as a fact says nothing about this debate either. If anything, the Bible is clear that in order to execute someone, there should be some kind of due process. There is no right to kill at one's personal whim.

The reason why she does not make this distinction is that she is, once again, reading the verse out of context. This is a Psalm where David wants revenge on his enemies. He is not insinuating anything about the value of human life or of quality of life.

One passage Joyce claims deals with the status of the fetus is Exodus 21:22-25.

"When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."

She claims that because if the woman is not hurt, but the baby is miscarried, that means that the unborn child is not considered an equal.

To anyone knowledgeable in Bible studies, there is a lot wrong with that analysis. First off, causing a miscarriage, whether the mother survives or not, is still considered a sin in this passage. Causing abortions is wrong, whether the Bible calls this murder or something else. That she admits that, but still considers the Bible pro-choice, shows that she has failed to make the connection. Secondly, spiritual status is not reflected in social status in Old Testament times. For instance, if a master struck his slave with a rod, and the slave died a few days after the incident, that master was not to be penalized (Exodus 21:20-21). However, the slave is still made in the image and likeness of God. Thirdly, accidental death never requires the death penalty in the Old Testament. Fourthly, there are other interpretations of the text. One reading is that the death penalty is applied to the perpetrator if harm comes to the unborn child because of the indefinite use of “if no harm follows”. Harm to whom? It could be harm to a fetus. It could be easily construed from the text that if the fetus can be shown to be harmed from the fight, there would be compensation. Joyce Arthur's reading is not self-evident.

The same pattern of reading into a quotation something that is not there continues in the passage she cites from Hosea 9:11-14:

"Ephraim's glory shall fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! Ephraim's sons, as I have seen, are destined for a prey; Ephraim must lead forth his sons to slaughter. Give them, O Lord—what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.”

You can almost hear the smirk as she writes “we see that it is not considered out of line to ask God to burden our enemies with spontaneous, God-given abortions.”

You get the impression when you read this line that she thinks that she has really nailed it, because she sees God being asked to kill fetuses. So, in her skeptic's logic, that means that human beings have the right to perform that very same act. Of course, the Bible never assumes this in the least. As creator of the universe, God is entirely sovereign. If God wants to cause wombs to miscarry, that is entirely within his prerogative.

Man, on the other hand, does not have that right. And she loses sight of this in quoting this passage to support her claim.

She follows the same line of reasoning in arguing that Numbers 5:11-31 divinely mandates abortion through a trial by ordeal, which, if the adulterous woman is guilty, is supposed to end in miscarriage.

“A jealous and suspicious husband should bring his wife to the local priest, who forces the woman to drink a poisonous "water of bitterness" to bring on God's "curse". If she experiences "bitter pain," if her "belly swells" and her "thigh rots," she fails the test and becomes an outcast. Virtually all Biblical scholars agree that this voodoo ritual and its cloaked euphemisms refer to an induced (not to mention unsafe) abortion. The word "thigh" in the Old Testament usually means genitals, but in this case, it refers to the uterus and its contents. One alternate Bible translation reads, "She will have barrenness and a miscarrying womb." (New International Version)”.

Her literal reading of the text is problematic. First, it is not true that the waters are “poisonous”. If they were poisonous, there would no way for an innocent woman to be cleared. Secondly, her contention that “virtually all Biblical scholars say this cloaks an 'induced' abortion” is simply not true (and unsubstantiated!). There are many competing interpretations of the passage, some indicating miscarriage, some not. Thirdly, she is clearly borrowing an argument from a pro-choice liberal Episcopalian interpretation, which she doesn't even repeat correctly.

What she fails to mention in order for her argument to make sense is that in Ancient Israel married women spent much of their time being pregnant. This is one contributing factor that makes this sotah ritual appear to be a divinely mandated abortion in the case of adultery.

However, while it's true that most married Jewish women were pregnant a good part of their lives, the passage does not require the woman to be pregnant in order for the ordeal to be carried out. What happens if a woman is barren? How is a miscarrying womb a punishment for a barren wife?

One interpretation that is current in the Orthodox Jewish community is that if a woman is guilty, the curse will miraculously cause her death.

If the woman were pregnant, her unborn child would die. This is no different than if she were guilty of murder or public adultery and had to be executed.

The death of an unborn child is not intentional. However, in the case of a surgical abortion, the objective is to kill the child. As has been noted, God has the right to mandate that someone dies. But humans cannot arrogate the right to take life based on convenience.

In Joyce's mind, God and man are on the same moral plan. There is no such thing as a moral double standard. God and man are obliged to live by the same moral rules, as if both were subject. God is supreme. He is not obligated to live by any law—he is the law unto himself. The moral law of man not killing man is based on the equality of the relationship—that man is not subject to the whim of another equal. In the skeptic's head, that equality applies to God—even though he is, in Christian thought, infinitely good, infinitely powerful and the being who actually created the universe. The liberal mind cannot admit of that inequality. Nobody can be higher than man, which is why she draws such a theologically ridiculous conclusion.

This is why the section on God's alleged “murder” of babies makes no sense. She assumes for the sake of argument that abortion is murder. If it is murder, God should be the first to respect his own moral law. As God says “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11).

Since feminists sometimes claim they can abort based on the fact that they own their own fetuses, I'm certain they can understand the notion that since God owns the whole world, he has the right to do with it as he sees fit.

She also doesn't understand that whether God takes a life through a command to kill or through natural causes, in his providence, God appoints the time and circumstance of every single individual's death.

Murder occurs when one human being unjustly take the life of another when there is no lethal threat. God established this moral rule so that human beings could live in harmony. He loves every single human being, and he wants no one to arrogate the right to kill those whom he loves, not even the fetuses of non-religious women, whom Joyce Arthur believes the Bible would want to be killed. That is simply a distorted reading of Scriptural belief.

This section on abortion and miscarriage should have been the part where the strongest case for abortion was made. Instead, verses are taken out of context and interpreted without regard to their rhetorical function. The passages on miscarriage and the sotah are interpreted to extrapolate a pro-abortion reading with unsubstantiated assertions and without disproving pro-life interpretations. The treatment of the texts are so shoddy, that she even fails to grasp the rudimentary theological idea of God's Supremacy; that is, that he is subject to no law, whereas man is subject to God, and therefore God has the right to take any life he wants in any manner he pleases-- whether through natural causes, disease or miscarriages-- whereas humans do not. That she fails to understand these very basic concepts shows she is not interested in understanding Scripture, but in reading into Scripture.

PART 4: On the Beginning of Life
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In the third part of her essay, Joyce Arthur attempts to establish as a biblical principle that human life, and therefore personhood, begins with breathing, and by extension, birth. In making her case, she contradicts herself several times.

First she states that the story of the Creation of Adam, as well as the vision of the prophet Ezekiel, show that life is created or restored with breath. She says that the Hebrew word “nephesh” represents both human being and “breathing”. Then she cites Ecclesiastes to state that we don't how life begins. Then she states that since infants younger than a month old are not counted in any kind of offering to God, they are not persons (even though we know they breathe).

What this seems to represent is not a serious attempt to extract what the Bible really says about the beginning of life, but rather, a cynical quest for a series of proof-texts to refute the notion that life begins at conception, whether they are properly and contextually cited, or not.

The first verse she cites is Genesis 2:7—

"...breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being."
She says “the Bible clearly states that life and personhood begins with "breath".” To bolster her claim, she says the Hebrew word for “human being” is nephesh, which is the word for breathing, and that it occurs over 700 times in the Bible as the identifying factor in human life. But she does not in any way substantiate her claim by giving examples.

Normally, breathing is an identifying factor in human life. After all, for most of our lives on earth, if we are born, we will breathe; the loss of the ability to breathe is usually associated with the loss of life.

However, it's clear the even those who do not breathe are persons in the Bible. I have already stated in the section on personhood that the unborn Christ and the unborn John the Baptist were considered persons in the own right, the unborn John the Baptist's soul being filled with the Holy Spirit. The other exception to this is the spirits of those who have died and gone to heaven. The prophets Samuel, Elijah, Moses and Abraham are all represented in the afterlife as persons in their own right, as disembodied spirits without the ability to breathe (1 Sam. 28:15-19; Matt. 17:1-6; Luke 16:22-31) . Jesus Christ himself says: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” in reference to those living in the afterlife. (Matthew 22:32) Personhood in no way depends on breath at all.

It would be erroneous to use the story of the Creation of Adam as a basis for the notion that breathing is the beginning of personhood. While it is true that God breathed in the breath of life, more importantly, he breathed in his soul. Since God was creating an adult, not a fetus, naturally, the beginning of his life would correspond to his first breath. But it does not follow that because Adam's life began with breath, then all lives begin with breath. In fact, the imparting of breath into the soul is metaphorical, as the Creator himself does not breathe in any fashion.

Nor does it follow that because in a vision (Ezekiel 37:5), God resurrects skeletons by causing them to breathe, that that is when life begins. It simply shows that biological life is dependent on oxygen intake, which is self-evident.

After making the claim that the Bible states that life begins with breath, Joyce Arthur contradicts herself by citing Ecclesiastes 11:5—

“As you do not know how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” (Ecclesiastes 11:5)

This verse makes sheer non-sense of the first argument. If personhood begins with breath, but the spirit enters the bones of the child in the womb that means breath is not necessary for a child to be a person. Otherwise the fetus would not have a spirit.

She comments: “In fact, it is the height of arrogance for [pro-lifers] to think they know and understand God's ways and will, especially since the Bible can be, and is, interpreted in many different ways by other believers.”

It's a bit rich for a skeptic to interpret the Bible to say that it's pro-choice, on the assumption that it's God's word, but then say that it's arrogant to portend that one knows God's ways. After all, if God made a revelation, it was so people could understand it. If it's arrogant to pretend that the Bible is only pro-abortion, and that no other interpretation is possible, as she says in many instances, she is committing the very acts of arrogance of which she accuses pro-life Christians.

Another fallacy she commits is confusing the manner of creating life, with the result. Just because we do not know exactly how ensoulment occurs does not mean we cannot ascertain that it does not happen in the womb. The verse clearly says it does.

After contradicting herself this way, she contradicts herself a second time. She implies that because God only counted the firstborn males of one month and upward in a census (Numbers 3:40) that necessarily implies that God does not consider babies below one month old—male or female— to be persons. She says “God assigns no value whatsoever to newborn infants or fetuses”.

Which is it? Does God consider infants to be persons, due to their breath, or not? The answer is irrelevant. Rather than a search for truth, this section is really an attempt to get pro-lifers to admit that they are “openly defying their God”. And so, sophistries, even if they blatantly contradict one another, are sufficient matter to establish that the Bible does not acknowledge the personhood of the fetus.

There can be very good and practical reasons why infants are not counted, and they have nothing to do with God's value of them. One is that in less developed societies, the infant mortality rate is high. Premature birth, infection, disease and a whole host of other factors lead babies to die soon after birth. Note that Joyce Arthur says nothing of the fact that only first-born sons are counted. Does that mean God does not value subsequent sons? Of course not, because that would destroy most of the patriarchy, the corollary boogey-man necessary to every feminist argument.

This section might have had some kind of substantive merit if there had not been any kind of obvious contradiction. Rather than attempting to establish when life begins, the true function of this section was to raise objections, without sufficiently substantiating them, perhaps in the hope that if enough mud is slung at biblical Christianity, some of it will stick. A rather anti-intellectual tactic.

PART 5: The Sanctity of Human Life
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In the last section of her essay, Joyce Arthur attempts to debunk the idea that the Bible upholds the sanctity of human life. She tries to accomplish in a very tortuous manner, using straw men and convoluted logic. The gist of her thesis is that nowhere is it written in Scripture that human life is sacred; but according to her, it is unequivocally stated that only male believers have a special relationship with God, therefore, it is morally allowable to abort female fetuses and the fetuses of unbelievers. One might draw the conclusion from this essay that her implicit point is that since there can be no generalization of the sanctity of human life in the Bible, pro-lifers are in error, therefore there is no universal moral law on the practice, and therefore abortion permissible.

The first point she tries to make in this section, in a rather clumsy manner:

“What about the suggestion that the function of the sacred fetus is to worship God? No doubt [pro-lifers], as Christians, contend that we're all here to worship God, and seen in this light, it would be quite presumptuous for us to deny God any potential worshippers. The obvious corollary to this is that some of these fetuses will not grow up to worship God at all!”

Let us set aside the logically incorrect statement that “the obvious corollary is that some fetuses will not grow up to worship God at all”. That's not a corollary, as it does not follow from her first premise. She goes on to say:

“The implications are horrifying. [Pro-lifers] insist on bringing into this world children, who not only may be unwanted and may suffer because of that, but who also may be destined to spend an eternity burning in hell!”

What Ms. Arthur is trying to imply here is that Christians are responsible for the eternal perdition of adult non-believers because they defend their right to life. Of course, once again in this essay, that completely overlooks the bigger theological picture. This conclusion is drawn without any reference to a wider theological context. Never mind that every adult is responsible for his own behaviour. Never mind that God gives ample opportunity to every adult to acquire salvation. Never mind that the salvation or damnation of others is no basis on how to treat them. Ms. Arthur, being a skeptic, is utterly oblivious to these notions.

She then skips to refuting the idea that the Bible upholds the sanctity of life. Her main argument is one of silence: that nowhere in the Bible is it written that life is sacred.

This is another example of sophistry. In order for her assertion to have a semblance of plausibility, Ms. Arthur separates biological human life from human personhood.

While it may be true that the Bible does not explicitly say “human life is sacred”, it is simply not true that it does not uphold the sanctity of human life. For one thing, the sanctity of the human person himself is upheld. For example, when the Flood subsides, God says to Noah:

“Whoever shed the blood of a human, by a human shall the person's blood be shed; for in his own image, God made humankind.” (Genesis 9:6).

In other words, humankind is sacred because it is made in the image and likeness of God; this is why the shedding of human blood is wrong.

The Noahide Covenant established seven basic laws of mankind, one of which is that humans are not to kill other innocent humans. If life were not valuable to God, then such a law would not exist. And note, this law exists for believers and unbelievers. There is no distinction.

A second example of God valuing people: he sent his son to die for the sins of the world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16). All have sinned, and God's will is to lead all to repentance and finally eternal life. Jesus Christ did not die for the righteous, but for sinners, both Jew and Gentile, great sinners and not-so-great sinners. He came to call the sick, not the well. In his willing to suffer and die, God showed great love for the human person. The whole gist of the New Testament is the concern for the souls and well-being of both those who have faith in God—the Jews-- and those who don't—the Gentiles. The universalism of Christianity was revolutionary for its contemporaries.

This love of God for humankind also resoundingly refutes her next point: that only believers matter. As she puts it:

“What the Bible does say, emphatically, over and over and over again, is that only "believers," that is, the chosen people, the elect, and the righteous, are holy in the sight of God. Everyone else is dirt. The very existence of an unbeliever is an insult to God, and both sinners and unbelievers merit the most painful of punishments, culminating in a one-way ticket to everlasting hell. Literally hundreds of Biblical passages throughout the Old and New Testaments convey the essence of these pronouncements.”

She makes the assertion, but does not substantiate it. If there are so many verses that support her contention, it would have been easy for her to produce at least one or two. But as a matter of fact, her claim is easily refutable.

“The very existence” of an unbeliever is not an insult to God. His rejection of God may be insulting; his sins may be insulting; but not his very existence. The sin is confused with the sinner, so that God cannot be said to love someone who sins against him, which of course is ridiculous. Christ came for sinners. If he didn't love sinners in the first place, even the very hardened sinners, how could he die for them and obtain their repentance?

Jesus spoke of this in one of his parables:

"'Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?'

“Simon replied, 'I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.'

“'You have judged correctly,' Jesus said.” (Luke 7:41-43).

The one who sins more and is forgiven more is the one who is loved more, precisely because his sins were the reason that God the Son was motivated to act from love and die for his redemption.

If God does not love sinners, then he does not love humanity. It is plainly stated in the New Testament all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) What Ms. Arthur is putting forward is a caricature of Scriptural belief in order to bolster her claims. She is not looking to find out what the authors of the Bible actually intended, but only what will serve her sceptical views, which is a completely ahistorical approach.

Her next argument attempts to show that women are not considered “sacred” in the eyes of God, and therefore, can be aborted. In her clumsy way, what she is trying to say is that women are incapable of developing holiness, that is, of harbouring God's grace, therefore, in the Christian perspective, they are not equals, and it would be okay to abort female fetuses.

Her method of presenting this argument is especially convoluted, and one must pay close attention in order to really grasp its essence.

She does not deny that humanity has a special relationship with God (although she will eventually partially negate that, as she eventually says that women do not). That “special relationship” is based on the manner that God created us. She rests her statement on Genesis 1:26-27. She says that
“God suggests (apparently to his fellow gods)”

Note the phrasing of the statement. First she characterizes God's command to create mankind as a suggestion. Then she understands the use of the second person plural as a reference to other gods, utterly oblivious to the usage of the royal “we”. Part of her rhetorical strategy is to ridicule Scripture in order to make her arguments seem sound, but in making such obvious errors, to a knowledgeable Christian audience, the tactic blows up in her face.

She goes on to cite Genesis 1:26-27:

" 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

What is interesting is that this passage says nothing about the manner in which man was created. Of course, the allegorical story of the manner of humankind's creation is reported in Genesis 2, where Adam was made from the dust of the earth, and Eve was made from Adam's rib. But that is not what Ms. Arthur is getting at. What she really means is that it is the result that is the source of the “special relationship”. Again, method and result are confused to her argument's advantage.

She then triumphantly states:

“Apart from the extreme egocentrism of this doctrine, there is at least one glaring problem here which the Bible itself helpfully points out to us. According to the New Testament, only half the human race was created in the image of God—the male half.”

Genesis is clear that he created man in the image and likeness of God and that “male and female he created them”. But in order for her to make her case, she must neglect that inconvenient verse in order to read into other verses that women are not made in the image and likeness of God:

“In I Corinthians 11:7, we are told the following:

“'For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.'
“Several other passages explain how the weakness and shamefulness of woman's nature make her unfit for sacred duties and privileges; how the husband's obligation to his wife is to sanctify her (he is automatically sanctified being a man) and how her only hope of salvation lies in childbearing (1 Corinthians 14:34, Ephesians 5:21-27, 1 Timothy 2:9-15).

“If this is all true (and we have it straight from God's own word), then half the human race isn't sacred at all!”

The assumption in reading this is that because women must do something different from men, they do not possess the same dignity as man. That may be her feminist view, but that is not the Scriptural view, and since this is an essay that seeks what the Bible says, her non-biblical assumptions about the nature of equality are irrelevant.

That woman is the glory of man does not mean she is not made in the likeness of God. When St. Paul says that woman is the glory of man, he is referring to the notion that Eve was made from Adam's rib, and so, since woman was the product of a man's anatomy, and thus is seen to be coming out of a male, and she is a wonderful creation, she is the glory of humankind. But since Adam came directly from God's hands, he is seen as the glory of God. Does the manner of creation mean that one is less than the other? In a skeptic's mind, where order of precedence is perceived to be a kind of de-humanization, that may very well be. But in Christian Scripture, precedence and authority do not give any individual a more exalted nature than another.

She says that “several other passages explain how the weakness and shamefulness of woman's nature make her unfit for sacred duties and privileges”. Yet she fails to produce any of these passages. There is nothing about the “shamefulness” of a woman's nature; and the only passage referring to weakness has to do with with a woman being a physically weaker person. To anyone who has eyes, it is obvious that women, as a whole, are physically weaker than men. That God did not give women authority to preach in the assembly does not mean that he thinks less of her. Again, the assumption is that God gives equal power to all. That idea is clearly unscriptural; equal power for all may be Joyce Arthur's belief, but her beliefs are not the subject at hand.

She says that women will be saved only through childbearing. Nowhere in the Bible does it say it. It says that a woman will be saved through childbearing, by which it is meant that a woman will develop grace through raising her children. Which of course is true. It does not preclude a woman developing holiness through other means. St. Paul says that he prefers his listeners to remain unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8,25,27,34), as married people must contend with worries of this world. The women who remained unmarried and had no children were obviously saved in some other manner.

After making her argument that women are not sacred at all, she concludes that aborting female fetuses is moral. However, that says nothing of male fetuses.

The descent into steep sarcasm makes one wonder whether the exercise is more about ridicule pro-lifers than really trying to put forward a well-established argument. Snarky comments are easier to make than well-researched insights, and manipulating some naive readers on the emotional level may have more swaying power than putting forward well-thought and logically consistent ideas. Seeing as her readers are inclined to believe her, as she's preaching to a sympathetic audience, she obviously did not feel the need to see if her arguments rang true at all to those whose lives are based on the very book she's exploring.

PART 6: Conclusion

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Judging from the method of making arguments and the conclusions drawn, it cannot be said that this essay's objective was to establish that the Bible sanction abortion or refutes the notion of the personhood of the unborn child. The title says it all: “Anti-Choicers Don't Have a Biblical Leg to Stand On”. She's not saying poor-choicers have a leg to stand on, either. Rather, the strategy seems to be to poke holes in pro-life interpretations. The underlying assumption is that if pro-life beliefs can be shown to be lacking in Scriptural basis, that automatically means there are no religious pro-lifers have theological grounds for opposing legalized abortion. Therefore abortion should be considered moral and remain legal. That is the implicit message this essay was trying to push. Of course, in order for this to be the supposedly obvious conclusion, the reader must make numerous leaps of logic. As a Catholic, a doctrine does not have to be grounded in Scripture in order for it to be true. But I suspect that some atheists do not know this.

I can see how this essay could seem persuasive to readers who were not well-grounded in Scripture, and who lack a firm grasp of the rules of logic. Ms. Arthur seems so sure that we dumb pro-lifers have no idea what we're talking about, and the object of our study is stupid and illogical anyway, because God doesn't exist and Scripture is fiction.

To those who know Scripture through and through, as well as the Tradition that goes with it, her essay is a theological disaster, manifesting a thorough ignorance of Christian belief, coloured by atheistic prejudice, and delivered with a heavy dose of sarcasm to bolster her so-called case. Bible verses were read out of context, either the narrative context, the historical context or the theological context. She made numerous contradictions, thereby mining her credibility with regards to whether she was seriously trying to make a case for the Bible being pro-abortion. Rather, it seems she was engaging in the intellectually adolescent exercise of slinging mud at a thesis, in the hopes that the objections would stick, rather than really trying to follow all her assertions to their logical conclusions. Whether her statements contradicted each other or not did not seem to matter to her. The contradictions did not even seem to occur to her, which suggests she wasn't even paying attention to the substance of what she was putting forward. Sometimes a contradiction can be very subtle due to nuances, and one can be understanding of an author who does not see them. But some of the contradictions in this essay were very blatant, such as first asserting that life begins with breath, then citing a bible verse that says that the spirit enters the womb; or saying that the Bible sanctions the abortion of female fetuses, without answering for the morality of aborting male fetuses. She would also exclude the possibility of competing interpretations, without adequately justifying their elimination (or not providing any justification at all!) The reader is expected to take her at her word, which is interesting, given that she's a skeptic, and skeptics are supposedly not inclined to accept statements on authority alone.

This essay was essentially divided into four topics:

·The personhood of the fetus

·Miscarriage and abortion

·The Beginning of human life

·The Sanctity of Human Life

In none of these sections does she succeed in making a case for what Scripture has to say about these subjects. All she does in each section is try to demolish the pro-life position. Never does she try to put forward a Scriptural basis for the woman's life to be supreme over the life of her fetus, or that women need “bodily autonomy” or any other feminist tenet. The best she can do is maintain that the Bible's silence on these matters. But arguments by silence are often very weak.

As a matter of course, if one wishes to know what the tenets of a religion really preach, it's best to consult those who actually practice it. Those who are hostile to a religion are going to interpret doctrines in light of their prejudices, and they are less interested in knowing the truth about the religion than making it look bad.

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