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
RecommendedAmerica's Founding May Not Have Been Christian, but It Sure Wasn't Anti-Christian
America's Founding May Not Have Been Christian, but It Sure Wasn't Anti-Christian
An atheist philosopher ignores religion’s place in Revolutionary America.
TrendingNew Executive Orders on LGBT Discrimination Don't Exempt Religious Orgs
New Executive Orders on LGBT Discrimination Don't Exempt Religious Orgs
(UPDATED) But Obama won't withdraw memo on religious discrimination.
Editor's PickSorry 666: Churches Fear 990 More
Sorry 666: Churches Fear 990 More
How more ministries going digital could unwittingly aid atheists targeting church tax breaks.
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.