As a preliminary remark, this article continues my reflection on the complex matter of abortion, and continues to explore this moral minefield with a noble mind and reasonable approach. We have examined some preliminary issues that need to be included in any consideration of the abortion issue, particularly in the Namibian political context. Yet, even now, we need to first look generally at the use of the Bible in ethical decision-making as this impacts considerably on the abortion debate.
The writers of the biblical books seemed to have accepted slavery. Yet, Christian activists were instrumental in purging the world from the scourge of slavery. Furthermore, stoning was an accepted form of capital punishment (John 8). Yet today, even Western countries that practice capital punishment view stoning as barbaric. Polygamy is also a practice that was acceptable in Biblical times, which no Christian would repeat today.
At the same time, there are actions that we deem acceptable that were strictly forbidden in Biblical times. Today, every modern economy is based upon the lending of money, and the reciprocal changing of interest. In Old Testament times, this was termed “usury”, which meant to charge another Jew interest on a loan. It was deemed a sinful act.
This brings us to a third point in ethics, that some definition has changed. For instance, usury meant charging any interest on a loan. Today, we still have “usury laws”, but it means something different: today, usury is the charging of excessive interest, which is prohibited by modern law. But if that were not enough, we also simply ignore some explicit teachings of the bible. For instance, most churches regularly host the weddings of divorced. In Jesus’ view, a divorced woman who marries another man commits adultery. Is it any wonder that modern people feel confused about ethical considerations? Some Christian movements advocate a “return to the biblical laws.” There is no problem with this, so long as those same people are willing to be consistent in their application of the laws. This would seem very hard to do, if not impossible.
First is the unresolved question within Christianity regarding the extent to which our modern-day actions should be governed by Old Testament laws. Some Old Testament directives we simply ignore in contemporary society, like the prohibition on tattoos or eating bacon. So, we seem to be in an enviable situation. Modern lifestyles make many of these biblical laws completely frustrating. And there are hundreds of other Old Testament laws that are extremely problematic.
All of this simply means that “proof -texting” (finding propositional text to support an argument) is wholly inadequate as an ethical methodology (Biblical Exegesis). It also ignores important ethical considerations of issues that are modern.
Does this mean that all biblical precepts are irrelevant? Should we just put the bible in a museum? The short answer is a resounding “NO”. For as people of faith, we believe that God’s Word comes to us through the biblical text. There are numerous biblical texts which can offer us guidance, even though none directly deals with the issues of abortion in a systematic manner.
As people of faith, we believe that the Bible is very relevant to us in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the problem is how to determine which biblical laws are still applicable to us.
The problem is more pronounced in the case of abortion since there is no direct “Yeah” or “Nay” from the biblical record. We have considered that the Bible is directly silent on the issues of termination, and all we can see is that in some circumstances, foetal life and survival was not seen as special nor necessary and often as less valued than a birthed baby. (Ex.21.22, 2 Sam 12:15b-18a, Num.5:11-31)
Finally, for Christian ethics on the issue of abortion, we need to reflect wider than just some text in the Bible.
* Reverend Jan. A. Scholtz is the former chairperson of the ||Kharas Regional and former !Nami#nus Constituency Regional Councillor. He is a holder of a Diploma in Theology, B-Theo (SA), a Diploma in Youth Work and Development from the University of Zambia (UNZA), Diploma in Education III (KOK) and a BA (HED) from UNISA.