Guest / Limited Access /
Why Don't We Find Bloodshed Repugnant Anymore?
Image: LPettet / istock

Abortion began attracting evangelicals' attention in the late 1970s. That's when neonatal surgeon C. Everett Koop and apologist Francis Schaeffer hit the road with their film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race? Abortion on demand, they argued—part of the larger slippage of society's respect for human dignity—could become a new holocaust.

Then, in 1982, InterVarsity Press published New Testament scholar Michael J. Gorman's Abortion and the Early Church. It clearly showed, based on our earliest noncanonical documents, that Christians, unlike Roman culture, prohibited abortion and infanticide.

This should have delighted Schaeffer. But when he reviewed Gorman's book for CT, he devoted only 9 lines of copy to affirming its message. He devoted 66 lines to complaining about its epilogue, where Gorman connected the early church's opposition to abortion with its general abhorrence of bloodshed, including military participation and capital punishment. By trying to detach abortion from the rest of early Christians' commitment to the sacredness of life, Schaeffer acted more like an ideologue than a scholar.

Recently other authors have studied early Christians' opposition to bloodshed. And it is no longer possible to deny, as Schaeffer did, that a consistent pro-life ethic runs through early Christian writings. Ethicist Ron Sider's The Early Church on Killing provides comprehensive source material, while patristics scholar George Kalantzis' Caesar and the Lamb, though focused on the church's stance on the military, includes evidence that it opposed abortion.

Christians soon compromised their ethic to suit new social realities, however. Some were involved in the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedNew Movies to Highlight Friendship Between Creators of Narnia and Middle Earth
New Movies to Highlight Friendship Between Creators of Narnia and Middle Earth
As Hollywood works its way through dramatizing the fantasy novels, several hope to tell a more historical tale of real-world friendship.
TrendingMeet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
Meet the Failed Pastor Who Ministers to Other Failed Pastors
J. R. Briggs sympathizes with church leaders who don't live up to expectations.
Editor's PickThe Hidden Blessing of Infertility
The Hidden Blessing of Infertility
Our inability to have kids turned into an ability to do so much else.
Comments
Christianity Today
Why Don't We Find Bloodshed Repugnant Anymore?
hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.