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Modern Holocaust: The Gospel and Abortion

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Shamefully silent and appallingly passive.

These are the words that come to mind when I consider my approach to the issue of abortion for the majority of my life as a Christian and my ministry in the church. Until a few years ago, I barely talked about it. I viewed abortion as a political issue about which I had no need to be personally concerned. I failed to realize that abortion is a biblical issue about which I had great need to be deeply concerned.

Across the world, more than 42 million abortions occur every year. [1] That’s 115,000 abortions every single day. I find it hard to fathom that number when I look at the faces of my four children each night as I put them to bed. I find it hard to imagine 115,000 other children who that day were introduced to the world with a tool or pill aimed at taking their lives. And I find it hardest to comprehend how I, for so long, could show no concern for this gruesome global reality.

The worldwide practice of abortion is why I do not believe it is anywhere close to an overstatement to call abortion a modern holocaust. My intention in saying this is in no way to downplay the horror of the Holocaust in the mass murder of 6 million Jewish men, women, and children over a few short years. But we’re talking here about the massacre of 42 million unborn children every single year. And just as German Christians should not have ignored the reality of what was happening in concentration camps across their country, I should not have ignored—and American Christians must not ignore—the reality of what is happening in abortion clinics across our country and around the world. As multitudes of babies are dismembered and destroyed daily, this is clearly an issue where the gospel requires us to counter culture.

For All of Us
Conservative estimates reveal that approximately one-third of American women have had (or will have) an abortion at some point in their lives. Abortion has been called a silent killer—not only of babies but of moms who possess deep wounds and dark scars from past history.

So I want to be sensitive to women who have had abortions. I do not presume to know all that may go through your mind and your heart as you read what I’m writing. I want to be clear about how a holy God views abortion, but I want to be equally clear about how a loving God views you in the gospel.

My hope is that every follower of Christ might see how the gospel informs our thinking on abortion, and that in so doing, we might be compelled not by way of party politics but by way of gospel passion to speak clearly and stand boldly against abortion in the church, in our country, and around the world.

God and the Unborn
As you read through the Bible, you won’t find the word abortion anywhere. But that doesn’t mean Scripture is silent about it, for the core truths in the gospel concerning who God is, who we are, and what Christ has done speak directly to the issue of abortion. Consider the way the Bible describes the relationship between God and an unborn baby.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:13–16)

As we read these words, we’re reminded of the core gospel truth that God is the Creator. He alone has the power and authority to give life.

Abortion, like murder or suicide, asserts human beings as the ones who control life and death. But God the Creator alone has the right to determine when someone lives and dies, and abortion flies directly in the face of his authority.

Abortion is not only an affront to God’s authority as Creator; it is also an assault on his work in creation. We see in Psalm 139 that the way God creates people compels praise.

The psalmist didn’t necessarily know how God takes an egg and a sperm and brings them together. How a few weeks later, often before a woman even realizes she is pregnant, a human heart is beating and circulating its own blood. Within a few more weeks, fingers are forming on hands and brain waves are detectable. Before long, these “inward parts” are moving. Kidneys are forming and functioning, followed by a gall bladder, and then by the twelfth week, all the organs of a baby boy or girl are functional, and he or she can cry. All of this occurs within three short months—only the first trimester! A heart, a brain, organs, sexuality, movement, reaction—and the Creator of the universe is orchestrating all of it! This work of creation evokes awe and amazement.

So then, imagine in this moment of creation inserting a tool, taking a pill, or undergoing an operation that takes the very life God is developing and destroys it. Most abortions occur between ten and fourteen weeks of gestation—what is described as the “optimal time” for dismemberment and removal. Abortion is without question an assault on God’s grand creation of a human life. There is no way around it.

The Key Question
The key question that we all must answer—and the question that determines how we view abortion—is this: What is contained in the womb? Is it a person? Or is it merely an embryo, a fetus? Virtually every other question and every single argument in the abortion controversy comes back to this question. What, or who, is in the womb? And once this question is answered, everything else comes into perspective. [2]

Think about it. As Gregory Koukl points out, “If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary.” [3] And some people contend this. They will say that the unborn is not a person or that the unborn is merely a person who has the potential to become human (whatever that means). Again, if this is true, the argument is over; no justification for abortion is necessary.

However, as Koukl writes, “If the unborn is a human person, then no justification for abortion is adequate.” [4] Many people say, “Abortion is such a complex issue, and there just aren’t any easy answers.” But if what is in the womb is a person, then even if someone is pro-abortion or pro-choice for any number of reasons, all of their reasoning falls apart.

Everything—everything!—revolves around what is happening in a mother’s womb, and Scripture is clear: that womb contains a person being formed in the image of God. Any distinction between the unborn and a person (or a human and a person, for that matter) is both artificial and unbiblical. God recognizes the unborn as a person and designs the unborn for life from the moment of conception. While our culture is continually pushing against this idea, it is not possible to believe the Bible and deny that the unborn are persons. And once followers of Christ accept this, we can no longer sit idly by while people are mercilessly murdered in their mothers’ wombs.

Wonderful Works
Abortion not only assaults God’s work in creation, it also attacks God’s relationship with the unborn. One of the wonderful things about Psalm 139 is the glimpse we get into how God relates to a child in the womb. He is intimately involved in the life of that baby from the moment of conception—and even before that! God tells Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you” (Jeremiah 1:5, NKJV). (See also Psalm 22:9–10, NKJV; Galatians 1:15; Isaiah 49:1; Luke 1:15; Luke 1:39–44.) God reminds us in his Word that though an unborn baby is visibly hidden from us, he or she is not hidden from him. God sees children in wombs all across the world right now, and he is personally forming, fashioning, knitting, creating, nurturing, shaping, and crafting them in wonderful ways (see Job 31:15; 10:8–12).

Unfortunately, this biblical view of God’s relationship with the unborn is more and more at odds with what our culture believes to be true. Much of the contemporary defense for abortion denies that these works of God in the womb are all that wonderful. Abortions in America often occur because children are seen as inconvenient. Childbearing and child rearing are too costly. It’s too much for women in certain situations to handle. It’s inadvisable for women in other situations to undertake.

The gospel proves that we can trust God. All of his works, even those we least understand, are wonderful, and he has the power, love, goodness, and grace to give you and me all that we need to persevere through difficulty. And in the end, he promises to turn all of our mourning into dancing and all of our suffering into joy.

God the Judge
Abortion is an affront to God’s authority as Creator, an assault on God’s work in creation, and an attack on God’s relationship with the unborn. Once we realize the severity of abortion before God, the implications of the gospel for abortion become clear.

Remember God’s character. He is the holy and righteous Judge of all, and he hates injustice. He detests the taking of innocent life, and he is the Judge of all who participate in it. God is the Judge of mothers who have aborted babies, fathers who have encouraged abortion, grandparents who have supported abortion, and friends who have advised abortion. God is the Judge of doctors who have performed abortions, leaders who have permitted abortions, pastors who have counseled people to have abortions, and legislators who have worked to make abortion possible.

I venture cautiously into the political arena with no desire to support a party line. Rather, I want to speak biblical truth, for Scripture is not silent on abortion, and it is not silent on government’s role in it (see Romans 13:1–4). The Bible teaches that God has given us government for our good. Government exists under God’s authority. According to God’s design, government is to reflect the morality of God, who cares for the weak, the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable who are least able to protect themselves. The fundamental purpose of government under God is to promote the good of all its people.

If you are a Christian, I plead for you to step out of a muddled middle road that says, “I may not choose abortion, but I don’t think we should take away others’ right to choose it,” and to realize how inconceivable it is for us to stay silent while millions of children—individuals made in the image of God—are dismembered and destroyed around us in the world. Such thinking is not enlightened tolerance; it is sinful indifference. Moral and political neutrality here is not an option for us. Randy Alcorn put it best when he said, “To endorse or even to be neutral about killing innocent children created in God’s image is unthinkable in the Scriptures, was unthinkable to Christians in church history, and should be unthinkable to Christians today.” [5]

We cannot pick and choose which issues we will address and which we will be silent on. If we believe the gospel, then we must speak out against the injustice of abortion. For God is not only the Judge of parents who have abortions, doctors who perform abortions, and politicians who permit abortions, but he is also the Judge of church members and leaders who do nothing about abortion. And as I mentioned, I am the chief of sinners on this issue. For far too long, I have been guilty of selective injustice when it comes to abortion, and I desperately need God’s grace.

Redeemed and Restored
Thankfully, God has given such grace—to me, to you, to all of us—in the gospel.

Remember: God is not only the Judge of sin, but he is also the Savior of sinners. God is the Judge who loathes abortion and the King who loves even those who participate in it, so hear this good news. To anyone and everyone who has ever aborted a child, supported abortion, encouraged abortion, performed abortion, permitted abortion, or done nothing about abortion, may the following realities lodge deep within your soul.

God forgives entirely (see Psalm 103:11–12, NKJV; Isaiah 43:25; 1 John 1:9). The good news of the gospel is that when we turn from our sin and trust in Christ, we find that he has paid the price for any part we have ever played in abortion, and because of his cross, we are entirely forgiven.

God not only forgives entirely, but he also heals deeply. God does not desire for you or anyone else to live with the pain of regret. It is altogether right to hate sin in your history. The pain of past sin is often a powerful deterrent to future sin, but don’t let it rob you of the peace God has designed for you in the present. Remember what Jesus said to a woman who had lived an immoral lifestyle: “Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48–50). God desires that peace to be yours today.

He forgives entirely, he heals deeply, and he restores completely. To all who trust in Christ, remember this: in Christ you are not guilty, and there is no condemnation for you. This is true whether you have had one abortion or five. This is true whether you have medically performed thousand of abortions or legally permitted millions. You do not walk around with a scarlet A on your chest, for God does not look at you and see the guilt of abortion. Instead, he looks at you and sees the righteousness of Christ. God restores, and he redeems. Even as we saw earlier, God has a track record of working all things, including evil things, ultimately for good.

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[1] “Worldwide Abortion Statistics,” Abort73.com, last modified May 26, 2011, www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/worldwide_abortion_statistics/.
[2] I am indebted in this section to a booklet written by Gregory Koukl called Precious Unborn Human Persons (Signal Hill, CA: Stand to Reason Press, 1999), especially chapter 1, which provides that basis for much of my thinking here.
[3] Koukl, Precious Unborn Human Persons, 7.
[4] Ibid. The obvious and only exception to this is when a mother’s life is in imminent danger, in which case one of two human lives will be lost and a determination may be made to save the mother’s physical life. The arguments in this section follow Koukl’s Precious Unborn Human Persons, 8–12.
[5] Randy Alcorn, Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2000), 293.

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This post was adapted from the book Counter Culture. (Chapter 3: “Modern Holocaust: The Gospel and Abortion.”)

David Platt serves as pastor at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and chairman of Radical. He is the author of several books, including Radical, Radical Together, Follow Me, Counter Culture, and Something Needs to Change.
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