I rarely use this weekly column to answer editorials or other columns; I much prefer to be proactive rather than reactive. However, on certain rare occasions, something comes along that warrants being answered since it speaks to large multiple issues all at once. Such is the case with a letter to the Chattanooga Times Free Press last week from a David Bean in Chatsworth, Georgia. His letter argued in favor of abortion and then went so far as to argue that even infanticide is not wrong. But it was his underlying premise that so piqued my interest, namely that unless the Bible specifically mentions a particular word or phrase, it cannot be regarded as wrong.
"What does the Bible say about abortion? Nothing, that's right, nothing. If abortion isn't in the Bible, God never called it murder or sin. The Bible warns against mildewed clothing, Leviticus 13:47-52, but not abortion."
This fallacious argument is one that I like to call "the argument from ultra-specificity." Simply put, it is the argument that there are no guiding principles in Scripture that apply to anything, let alone everything. If a particular word or phrase is not mentioned, we have no right to view it as a sin, even if it is utterly obvious that there is some command that has spoken of it without using the particular modern word in question.
So let me please demonstrate how quickly that view can come back to bite anyone who holds it. Since abortion is a fairly modern word, no, the Bible does not say "abortion is a sin." But do you know what else it does not say? It does not say, "Thou shalt not stab your neighbor in the leg with an ice pick." I rather suspect, though, that Dave would clearly view it as a sin should anyone do so to him! Nor does it say, "Thou shalt not assume thy neighbor's identity and run up a bunch of bills on his credit card" or "Thou shalt not dox thy neighbor" or "Thou shalt not give thy neighbor a wedgie and noogies."
"But wait!" comes the inevitable retort, "I can't think of anything specific about the doxing or wedgies and noogies, but I do know that it says 'thou shalt not steal,' and that covers the identity theft part, and that stuff about loving your neighbor may possibly cover the doxing and wedgies and noogies!"
No, no, no, remember the rules: If an exact word or phrase is not used, something like mildewed clothing, then we cannot regard it as a sin. So, stabbing people in the leg with an ice pick while stealing their identity and doxing them and then giving them a wedgie and noogies for good measure is all on the table, and none dare call it sin.
Showing just how far this faulty line of thinking goes, the writer went on to say, "Abortion, infanticide and child abandonment were all permitted under Roman law at the time of Jesus, but Jesus said nothing about them." Let that sink in: It is not just abortion that we must stop labeling as sin, but also infanticide and child abandonment. Have a 2-month-old that is driving you crazy? No biggie. Jesus never spoke against infanticide, so there is your solution. Or, if infanticide is too far for you, just pull the old wicked stepmother from fairy tales routine and have the kid dumped in the deep forest somewhere to die alone.
If you have a shred of goodness and compassion in your heart, you are rightly recoiling at all of this, and something in you knows that it cannot be right. And it isn't. You see, there are literally an infinite number of varieties to specific sins. If God had included every variety of every sin in the Bible, it would be a billion volumes of a million pages each; the Earth could not contain it. So God was good to put things in the Bible that cover a lot of ground in a very few words, things like "thou shalt not kill." It is a prohibition against taking innocent life. The Bible never mentioned guns or trucks or invading the womb with a suction device, but "thou shalt not kill" nicely covers everything from shootings to driving a truck through a crowd of pedestrians to abortion and infanticide.
The writer goes on to make another rather unique statement, "With abortion, evangelicals have invented their own religion, and through God's wrath are losing membership." I find that interesting on a number of levels, beginning with the fact that the writer has just completely violated his own stated philosophy of Bible interpretation. You see, the Bible does not say, anywhere, that "churches who speak against abortion will draw the wrath of God and lose membership." And yet, the same individual who demands the specific word "abortion" in Scripture to regard abortion as wrong does not hesitate to write his "wrath of God on pro-life churches" philosophy into Scripture. I also find it interesting because my church and many other pro-life churches are growing by leaps and bounds, meaning that if Dave is correct, God either plays favorites or misses some things.
Both scientifically and biblically, there is no question whatsoever that a babe in the womb is indeed a living human being. And to take the life of any innocent human being, be it in the womb unable to take care of itself, or in the workplace fully able to take care of itself, or in a hospital bed from an accident at work and once again unable to take care of itself, is absolutely, unquestionably a sin.
Please do not make me restate any of this because the Bible also does not say that it is a sin to spit in anyone's tea, or tape a "kick me" sign on their back, or play "It's A Small World After All" from a gigantic sound system in someone's front yard in the middle of the night, and as irritating as people can sometimes be, I do not want to be tempted.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at wordofhismouth.com. Email him at [email protected].