A recent article in the Washington Post should serve as a reminder to not go to the news to understand what Scripture has to say on any matter. Even if they quote or reference those who are ordained or scholars, everything that they say should not be taken as gospel, but should be weighed against what the Word has to say. While there are some hard-to-understand topics of which theologians and church leaders’ voice on them are valuable in finding out what God has to say in His Word, it is important to know if they are authentically presenting God’s truth or using the Word as a tool to push their own preconceived notions of truth. A key barometer in knowing whether they are using the Word to simply present God’s voice or using Scripture as a tool for their own use is if they are proof-texting a verse or passage. Proof-texting is when a person takes an isolated quote to establish an opinion that might not be the author’s original intent. With respect to Scripture, it is when a verse or passage is used (usually ignoring the context) to push an idea.
The article in question is: “Perspective – An ancient mistranslation is now helping to threaten abortion rights.” In the article, Katey Zeh, an ordained Baptist minister, and Danya Ruttenberg, a Jewish rabbi, assert that the mistranslation of Exodus 21:22-23 is why Catholics and Evangelicals “have team(ed) up politically around their shared opposition to abortion.” (Zeh’s position of chief executive officer at the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice seems to speak towards her positional bias regarding abortion.) In the article they present that when the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek with the Septuagint in the 3rd century B.C, the Hebrew word ason (harm, evil, mischief) was mistranslated which changed how this passage was translated. As a result, in their view, the error has been used to push forward an anti-abortion agenda.
Even if they are right on the mistranslation of Exodus 21:22-23, if a person were to ignore that passage when seeking to discover where God’s heart is regarding abortion, there are dozens of other passages that declare that abortion is against the declared will of God. As anything that is against God’s will is evil, abortion is an evil practice. After the article went to print, Franklin Graham, Albert Mohler and Alveda King (Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece), among others, spoke out against it by showing how multiple passages speak against abortion, King cited 23 Bible passages. Psalm 139 and Jeremiah 1:5 both speak about God’s work of creating life begins in the womb. At seven weeks, a fetus has a heartbeat, perhaps even as early as three weeks. While I would say that indications of life start at conception, how can anyone argue that a heartbeat is not an obvious indication of life?
The “how” is not that hard to come by, even if only looking at my own walk. When I am doing something that I feel is outside the will of God, my mind is working at an amazing pace to rationalize sin to where I come to the point where I feel the act is permissible. The Word of God is the only protection from this sort of spiritual blindness. Psalm 119:9 speaks towards this: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” When my flesh is seeking to move me to sin, hiding His word in my heart allows the Spirit to protect me from straying. When I fail, I rest in the fact that my salvation is not based on my ability to be obedient, but on the perfect obedience of Christ.
If I have an opinion that I want to protect, I can also guard it by seeking out spiritual leaders who accommodate my preconceived notions of truth. It is easy to find myself guilty of what Paul is speaking about in 2 Tim. 4:3. When my ears are “itchy”, there is a natural inclination to seek out leaders who will scratch them. Even when they include Scripture to back them up, I tend to not pay much attention to proof-texting when our opinions agree. With abortion, taking a verse or two out of context is the only way to come to a conclusion that abortion is within the will of God.
In closing, I want to shed some grace to those who hold the opinion that abortion is accepted by God. Some of you might hold that opinion based on a political viewpoint, but others because you have had an abortion or know someone that has. Yes, abortion is a sin. No, abortion does not make you unsavable. While Scripture is clear on abortion, it is also clear on God’s grace and mercy. Jesus was perfect, we are not. Regarding this, or any other sin, if you are a Christian, the way back begins with repentance. Repentance is to agree with God regarding sin and turning our backs to it. It’s not easy, especially if you have been vocal in your support of abortion. It requires us to humble ourselves which can be the biggest hurdle that we have to face. But it is worth the effort, an effort that the Spirit is waiting for you to make. And, when you do, may the church echo that of heaven with a resounding: “hallelujah!”