Yesterday's article in CNN's belief blog, "My Take: When Evangelicals Were Pro-Choice," is the most recent attempt to relativize evangelical convictions about abortion. Author Jonathan Dudley argues that, "The reality is that what conservative Christians now say is the Bible's clear teaching on the matter was not a widespread interpretation until the late 20th century."
Dudley made the same point in his 2011 book Broken Words: Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. In the CNN piece, he notes a 1968 Christianity Today issue focused on contraception and abortion. In that issue, Bruce Waltke, at Dallas Theological Seminary at the time, Dudley says Waltke argued that "the fetus is not reckoned as a soul." Dudley also notes that the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in 1971 affirming that abortion should be legal, to protect the life of the mother and her emotional life as well.
He's certainly right about the Southern Baptist Convention at the time. But he's mischaracterized Bruce Waltke's views. Waltke was writing about Old Testament views on contraception. The Old Testament does, in fact, seem to make a distinction between the life of a child and the life of a fetus (it never extracts a "fetus for a fetus" principle, for example). But as Waltke notes, the Old Testament nonetheless "protects the fetus," And "while the Old Testament does not equate the fetus with a living person, it places great value upon it." He also concludes regarding contraception (quoting another CT author) that "The burden of proof rests, then, on the couple who wish to restrict the size of their family."
In the article following ...