Sunday, November 16, 2008

Being Both Biblical and Egalitarian

I have been haunted by a statement I came across when I was researching my posts on Sarah Palin. More than one blog off-handedly remarked that probably most egalitarians would be voting for Obama. I had to acknowledge that this was quite likely the case. But why? Why should belief in biblical equality entail left-wing political persuasions? Two possible reasons crossed my mind.

First, it may be that biblical equality (BE) is regarded by no small number of adherents as a personal/political/feminist agenda. Thus many BEs identify with the party of the left. After all, is not this the political party advancing equality, justice and civil rights for all? Well, yes, this is how it is perceived; whether this is how it truly functions is another matter. But even if the Democrats were the political party most concerned for equal rights, would this warrant biblical egalitarians aligning with this political agenda?

Consider two points:

1. Biblical equality is not equivalent to the politics of feminism (the incessant rhetoric of patriarichal-complementarians not withstanding). Rather, biblical equality seeks to understand and explicate biblical teaching regarding the mission and meaning of women and men in the family of God. The question specifically at issue is whether or not the believer’s authority in Christ is conditioned by the gender of the believer. Feminism, on the other hand, is fundamentally a political and cultural agenda. The question of a woman’s biblically-based authority in Christ is not a question that concerns culture at large, but is rather a biblical and theological concern. Thus, a biblical egalitarian is not necessarily a feminist, and a feminist is not likely to be a biblical egalitarian.

2. Both the Democratic party and mainstream feminism are wholly and adamantly committed to “abortion rights.” Obama is more committed than any previous president ever was. And he is willing to stop at nothing. It is not enough for him to permit abortion under any circumstance; he is also intent on getting federal funding for abortions. But this commitment is not consistent with a commitment to equal rights for all people. How does this respect the civil rights of the conscientious objectors who must contribute to the abortion cause with their tax dollars? How does it respect the equality of all human beings when the least and the lost of humanity are summarily disposed of? Even a baby who survives her own abortion should have no legal right to live, according to Obama. (But the Dems are the party of equal rights for all persons, remember?) The disconnect between the rhetoric of equal rights and the reality of equal rights is not a problem in an ideology that is more image than substance.

A second possible reason BEs might choose Obama is simply that many BEs—along with Americans in general—may have become accustomed to the incongruity of living in a culture of death, a culture that does not love and regard human beings as creatures who are made in God’s image and thus are worthy of being cared for until the natural end of their earthly life.

So then, given the cultural capitulation to this silent, unseen “solution” to unwanted pregnancy, let us consider afresh: What is abortion? A convenient way to make a pregnant woman un-pregnant? Well, yes. That is what abortion is. But that is not all that abortion is. Abortion is fundamentally the intentional killing of innocent human life. This is what it is, at ground zero. No one can dispute that this is what happens when abortion occurs. An innocent human life is intentionally killed. Consider: (1) There is life. That is, the thing is alive and set on a trajectory toward continued life. And (2), the thing is human. What other species of life would it be? Obviously, it is human life. And obviously, this life is killed intentionally.

Now, it would seem that a believer in Christ who has read the Bible and has at least a rudimentary sense of who God is would readily grasp that God is vehemently and unequivocally opposed to the killing of innocent human life. In Deuteronomy, a book that in many ways lays bare the heart of God for his people, God says (through Moses), “Choose life!” (Deut. 30:15, 19-20). In God’s economy, to choose life is to choose prosperity and blessing. But America has become a culture of death—in a number of ways, but most prominently and evidently in its heedless willingness to dispose of “the least of these” (those whom Jesus especially loved)—so long as nobody sees them.

But note: This practice of killing innocent but unwanted human life does not primarily hurt the unborn infant, who surely goes directly to God (although a late term abortion can cause the infant pain). Primarily, abortion hurts us. All of us. It hurts the mother of the child who was convinced she couldn’t bear to bear the child. It hurts the “doctor” who kills the innocent human being (whatever his/her rationale may be). And, as well, it hurts—yea, is slowly destroying—the entire distracted, disposable, self-absorbed, video-sated American culture. The enormous price we all must pay for permitting the heedless and willful killing of innocent human life dwarfs by comparison what it would cost simply to honor all innocent human life regardless.

Some say it is short-sighted to fixate on a single issue like this. But this is the only ethical/political issue about which we can know God’s moral will. All the other political issues are a matter of strategy: Which is the most effective means of empowering the poor? Providing jobs for people? Protecting the country from nations with hostile intent? Caring for the environment? Providing health care? And so on. While these are all important concerns, the Bible does not lay out how we should accomplish these worthy efforts. Nor are the most effective and ethical strategies readily apparent. Scripture does, however, lay out clearly the fundamental moral principle that innocent human life must be protected; to kill innocent human life is to violate God’s law. Period.

If we want to be truly biblical egalitarians, then we will care about what God cares about, namely, the least of these: his human creations who have been left vulnerable and unprotected in this world. And if we want to be biblical egalitarians (where egalitarian means fair and equal treatment for women and all human beings), we will also care about the consequences and implications of a culture in which the fruit of a woman’s womb is routinely deemed detrimental and disposable. Abortion is, after all, a “women’s issue,” and it ramifies throughout the many ways in which women regard themselves and are regarded by others.

It is interesting to note that, while feminism and biblical equality address distinctly different concerns from distinctly different perspectives, the issue of abortion is one place where the two converge. The subject of abortion encompasses both theology and culture; it bears on what the Bible teaches, and it bears on what feminism teaches. Feminism has always been concerned with abortion: initially opposing it, later extolling it. (One of the best kept secrets of the abortion agenda today is that the original feminism of the 19th century was adamantly opposed to abortion on the grounds that it was abusive to both mother and child. See chapter 24 in Discovering Biblical Equality for an excellent analysis on this.)

To be sure, this is a contentious and sticky wicket, but if we are in the business of being both biblical and egalitarian, we cannot ignore it. It is right in our face, front and center.

Following are excerpts from an open letter by Colorado Springs pastor Dutch Sheets regarding the 2008 election. While he may at times align political causes too closely with the causes of God’s kingdom, he makes many worthwhile points. I have put in boldface those comments that I thought were most compelling.
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November 6, 2008

Was what happened Tuesday God's will? America was offered a very clear choice between moving further toward protecting the unborn or further away; between a Supreme Court that would move toward honoring God, life and morality or away from it. The stakes couldn't have been higher nor the cost greater. As a nation we put on blinders concerning Barak Obama's background, associations, beliefs and practices, and set these causes back years, possibly decades. And in doing so we took another step away from God and another step toward judgment.

Judgment Will Increase

This is not a fire and brimstone warning from an angry, legalistic preacher. In fact, I feel more sadness and grief than anything else. Perhaps I feel what Jesus felt as He wept for Jerusalem while announcing its judgment. I am not hoping for judgment; I am saying it is coming. I don't know where the unbiblical belief comes from that says a nation can live any way it pleases, can reject God and His ways—even mock Him—and not receive His judgments. Nor do I know when the belief came that it is always mean-spirited or judgmental to warn of these things. To the contrary, I believe it is our responsibility. In warning of judgment, I am not suggesting that God is going to intentially and directly hurt people. Much judgment is simply the absence of God's protection and provision, caused by a rejection of His laws and ways. We have been experiencing some forms of judgment in America for years, but God in His incredible patience and mercy has kept us from the level we've deserved. I believe this will change to a degree and judgment will now increase.

I have heard the argument that God cares as much about social justice issues (such as poverty and racism) as He does abortion, making a vote for Obama okay. I certainly believe God puts a very high priority on caring for the poor and I, too, have wanted to see equality demonstrated through a "minority" president. But to equate having a better income or the desire for a first black president, regardless of his positions on abortion and morality, to the issue of killing 50 million babies is not justice—it is a gross distortion of justice and a great deception. I fear that we have been desensitized to this issue of abortion. I believe it kills babies and takes innocent life. Let's not forget this in our noble attempts to be kind and conciliatory.

For African Americans I can easily see how it could bring healing to have a first black president, just as it would be for Native Americans to achieve this or for women if a woman were elected president. Again, I have wanted to see justice in this way. I am only saddened that the price for this healing ended up being Barak Obama, a man that will set the cause of life back so drastically.

What are some of the judgments we may experience on our nation from this election? Look for the following possibilities:
More economic woes
More violence in an already violent nation
Disease and death (Satan, who is responsible for these things, will have greater inroads to our nation.)
Natural disasters (weather—tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, drought, fires, earthquakes, etc.)
Acts of terrorism (they will fear us much less now)
War, perhaps on our own soil
Judgments relating to the Court. The stacking of the Supreme Court against the sanctity of life and God's influence on America will occur, which will in turn cause the shedding of more innocent blood, more rejection of God's laws and the stealing from us of our godly heritage—all of which will perpetuate a cycle of even more judgment.

How Did This Happen?

I've been asked if this could have been averted had there been more prayer. I'm not sure. I believe there was a remnant of Christians fervently praying over these elections—I don’t think there was anything more they could have done. Others, obviously, should have done more. The complacency and lack of discernment concerning our real condition in America—especially by the Church—is both appalling and horrifying. America is in serious trouble and it seems no one wants to say it. Fewer still are willing to do anything to change it.

But still, yet, since God is usually wiling to work through a remnant, I thought we had enough prayer. Obviously, God decided otherwise. There comes a time when He will not forgive or bless the majority based on the prayers or actions of only a few. America rejected God and asked for a king; I believe we now have our Saul (see 1 Samuel 8:5-7), a man who does not have God's heart for America but his own. Like Israel in scripture, our nation believes it can turn from God and still be blessed. In His mercy and justice He will show us otherwise.

Has the fact that my prayers weren't answered shaken my faith? No. I'm a little confused and discouraged. I'm also somewhat angry at the nation in general and much of the Church. Mostly I'm grieving over the nation and what this will cost us. I am not, however, angry with God and do not question His justice. And it is not true that we wasted our time, energy and money in our efforts anymore than it is a waste when we share the gospel with people who don't get saved. We must keep in the forefront of our thinking the fact that ultimately we are doing this for Him and that He will reward us for our faithfulness. And who knows, perhaps He will store up all those prayers for the next battle (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-5).

11 comments:

Don said...

I am a BE and I voted Rep. mainly because of the abortion issue, so I agree with you.

Now that Obama will be prez, I pray the God will change his heart on this issue.

Sarah Geis said...

Wonderful post. Thank you for such a clear and immensely helpful analysis!

Gem said...

The following quotes go right to the heart of the matter:
RMG: Primarily, abortion hurts us. All of us. It hurts the mother of the child who was convinced she couldn’t bear to bear the child. It hurts the “doctor” who kills the innocent human being (whatever his/her rationale may be). And, as well, it hurts—yea, is slowly destroying—the entire distracted, disposable, self-absorbed, video-sated American culture. ...
Abortion is, after all, a “women’s issue,” and it ramifies throughout the many ways in which women regard themselves and are regarded by others...

One of the best kept secrets of the abortion agenda today is that the original feminism of the 19th century was adamantly opposed to abortion on the grounds that it was abusive to both mother and child.ENDQUOTE

The question opening the blog:

RMG: I have been haunted by a statement I came across when I was researching my posts on Sarah Palin. More than one blog off-handedly remarked that probably most egalitarians would be voting for Obama. I had to acknowledge that this was quite likely the case. But why? Why should belief in biblical equality entail left-wing political persuasions? ENDQUOTE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GEM's reflections:
I see in Ephesians 5 that the husband is called to nourish, cherish, and care for his wife as his own body. Why only the husband? Because the wife does exactly that when she carries a child within. A wife does so BY NATURE, while a husband needs to willfully put self on the altar to do so. She nourishes, cherishes, and lays down her life BY DESIGN! This is true of all species, not just humans. Abortion is an example of violating her very DESIGN. Abortion is "AGAINST NATURE":
" For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature." Rom 1:26

Abortion is one way of blotting out one's femininity.
I can't help but wonder if some renditions of "egalitarianism" (feminism) are motivated by underlying self hatred of and desire to blot out their own femininity and be "the same" as males? Abortion is quite compatible with an unrecognized feminine self-hatred. The pervasive blindness- even among those who profess "godliness"- to political policies which so violently violate womanhood to the very core suggests to me wide-scale disrespect and devaluing of femininity. The name "Eve" means "mother of the living". When we disrespect and dishonor Eve/woman's unique GOD given feminine capacity to bear and nourish physical life, we become a culture of death. :(

I have been doing some surfing at the CBE website- "Christians for Biblical Equality". In a search for "traditional marriage" I find that the term is only used as a negative descriptor. One article talks about the husband's resentment of child care responsibility sharing and the wife's resentment of being put in the position of laying down her job for child care. To me, the leap from resenting child care to convenience abortion does not really seem so big. A mother not caring for her baby goes "against nature". A redeemed husband who is truly a Christ follower should willfully choose to lay down life, nourish, cherish, and sacrifice for his wife. Among redeemed fathers we should see a heart inclined toward their children "He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children" (Mal 4:6, Luke 1:17). A Christian household should reflects an UNDOING of the Genesis 3 curses and consequences of sin "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work." (1 John 3:8). The couple should be able to operate in the unity of the spirit and the bond of peace, as ONE flesh exercising dominion per Genesis 1:26-28 (which was never retracted despite the fall of mankind)

No offense to egalitarians intended. I confess that I am in recovery from a version of hard complementarianism in which I was very much trapped in a vile and crippling form of self hatred equal to anything out there among hard core feminist abortion supporters. I agreed with lies that women are not loved by God as much as men, are inferior, more easily deceived, and should keep their mouths shut. But I can't help but wonder if what CBE refers to as "biblical equality" is really more concerned with access of women to wage producing endeavors and pulpits than for genuine biblical equality? As a long term SAHM (stay-at-home-mother), I am not well represented by the offerings there. Does that mean "biblical equality" is not available to me or to any SAHM? No! Perhaps CBE's "equality" is really closer to feminism that to genuine "biblical equality"? I reason that God's version of "biblical equality" would certainly have a "big tent" inclusive of SAHM's. (Lest anyone take offense, my criticism is evenhanded. I do not see CBMW as representing genuine "biblical manhood and womanhood" but a whitewashed version of fallen human behavior: Genesis 3:16 as a "christian prescription" rather than consequences of sin which can be overcome through sanctification.)

cokhavim said...

I will leave my comments in two posts (to be more bite-sized).

About abortion:

From what I understand, the issue in the abortion debate is not about whether or not it's immoral to kill humans for convenience. Secular feminists and biblical egalitarians both affirm that this is utterly immoral. Nor is the issue whether or not women have the right to control their own body. Both seculars and BE's agree that women if they wish should be able to remove tissue from their bodies like hair or even a parasite. Rather the point of contention in this debate is whether or not the fetus is human, and I for one would like to see more careful discussion of this question, rather than the preceding two issues that everybody agrees on (but not necessarily on this blog, as RMG may decide that it is a bit tangential to the subject of this blog).

My pro-abortion friend agrees that if the fetus is human, than abortion would be wrong. However, she argues that the fetus is pre-human, and not human, just as a pre-teen is not a teen. She believes that an early stage fetus is not human while a late stage fetus is. She also admits that she cannot define the point at which a fetus becomes fully human. Pro-lifers define the beginning of humanity to be the point when the mother's and father's DNA combine to form a unique strand of human DNA. Since this point is well-defined, it is convenient to define this as the beginning of a human being. But even though it is convenient, is it appropriate? While it remains one cell, or a few cells, even though it contains unique human DNA, does it really possess the qualities that make us human? Does it even have a soul? It certainly has the potential of possessing those human qualities, but that is not the same as actually possessing them. It seems to me that the definition of humanity inside the womb is fuzzy, and not at all clear-cut as many pro-lifers make it out to be. Having said that, the fuzziness alone is enough for me to want to stay on the "safe side" and not abort, so as to avoid the risk of commiting murder.

What does the bible say about the fetus? There aren't many verses that refer to an unborn child, but those that do, seem to claim that God knows and calls unborn children as individual persons (eg. Jer. 1:5, Ps. 22:9). We even have an instance where a fetus was filled with the Holy Spirit (John the Baptist - Luke 1:15). However, just to throw a wrench into things, consider this passage: Ex. 21:22-25. What do you all make of that? Not only is it sexist (paying the husband alone, and not to both wife and husband), it also seems to consider the fetus as not really a life. In fact, this passage is exactly why religious Jews today permit abortion. It says "life for life" but no life is taken as punishment for the miscarriage, so the fetus is not actually a "life" (the word is "nefesh"). This is only one passage, but it seems to strongly contradict the pro-life stance. I would appreciate comments about this.

cokhavim said...

About the state of America: I write this as a non-American to American Christians: if you look at the other nations around you, you'll realise that you're not doing all that badly. Really, if God were to pick one nation to destroy for its wickedness, I highly doubt it would be America. I've travelled to many countries riddled with corruption that make you look like the holiest of saints. One of my American friends lamented that "only" 30% of Americans were Evangelicals. That's almost 1 in 3! (I checked Wikipedia, and he wasn't far off). If you include all Christians, you make up almost 80% of the nation! I met another American who told me she grew up in a town that was 100% Christian (though maybe "only" 80% were really born again, in her words). Even in the most hippie, weird, new-age town in America (in my opinion), I saw a church building on every corner. Every time I visit your great nation, I suddenly feel "normal" and accepted as a Christian instead of weird and suspicious. You have no idea how blessed you are. Where did Dutch Sheets get the ridiculous idea that you are just a "remnant" in your nation? Where did he get the idea that America has "rejected God"?

But I don't think the Church of America has used its strength in numbers wisely. It has used its clout to push buttons in politics. America is the only industrial nation I'm aware of where the church has that kind of power and many of my secular American friends resent it. But is that the best way to change a nation? Last I checked, the Holy Spirit was more interested in changing hearts and minds than in controlling governments. Perhaps more energy and resources should be directed toward pointing women with unwanted pregnancies to their heavenly Mother instead of trying to ban abortion from all of America. In fact, it is precisely the organised efforts of Christians to impose their beliefs (about many issues, not just abortion) on the nation at the government level that drive people away from Christianity (see this article, section "No Religion" and the references therein). Political activism may have been great for Christianity in the past, but it doesn't seem so great now.

Gem said...

In fact, this passage is exactly why religious Jews today permit abortion.

Hi cokhavim,

Interesting comments :)
Another scripture on being known and formed by God in utero is Psalm 139.

I've heard the argument that a child who has taken a breath has crossed the line into equal value. However, I have held my own miscarried child of 3 months gestation and he was a fully formed priceless human being. I believe I will see my 3 miscarried children some day in heaven.

Wayne Leman said...

Thank you for making it so clear that biblical feminists can be strongly pro-life. We haven't touched this topic yet on the Complegalitarian blog, perhaps because most people there already believe it.

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis said...

Gem:

I appreciated your thoughtful,and thought-provoking, response to the post.

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis said...

Cokhavim:

I think only once have you asked me a question easy to answer. (This, of course, was not it!)

I don’t think this subject is tangential to this blog, since it relates to issues of equality, the biblical worldview, and women’s rights and obligations.

How can anyone argue that the fetus is not human? It is not merely a bothersome tissue in the mother’s body, but a living organism, separate and distinct from the mother’s body. What species of organism could it be other than human? Could it be some variety of insect? Or perhaps a species not yet identified by biological science, a species that, given some time, eventually morphs into another species, namely, humanity? But this, of course, is not in accordance with the nature of living things on this earth. Whatever species a thing is at its microscopic origin it remains throughout its natural life.

Your pro-abortion friend says a late-stage fetus is human, and you say that everyone—even pro abortion feminists—believe it is wrong to kill innocent human life. But this entails that everyone believes late term abortions are “utterly immoral.” Why, then, do abortion advocates fight tooth and nail to keep abortion legal at every stage of pregnancy, even after viability when, instead of being killed, the child could be delivered early and adopted by someone who wants the child? Why, then, did our president-elect vote against sparing the life of a child who survives his own abortion? It appears that not everyone agrees it is utterly immoral to kill innocent human life (assuming these radical abortion advocates possess at least enough honesty to acknowledge that a newly born, or partially born, baby is of the human species).

Your friend’s notion of an early fetus being pre-human and not human, just as a pre-teen is not a teen, is a category error. A pre-teen is a human who is under the age of 13. When the pre-teen becomes a teen, she will be a human who is over the age of 12 and under the age of 20. The number of years that a thing has lived on this earth does not determine the nature of the thing; it determines its age. The growing youngster remains a human being throughout. But at some point the growing fetus, according to your friend, becomes a human. What was it, then, prior to that mythical point? A member of one of the lower species? Or perhaps a species not yet identified by biological science? Or is it partly human and partly something else? Of what, then, does the “something else” consist? Or does the early fetus lack all ontology whatsoever, and then at some point suddenly acquire ontological status? But if that were the case, there would be no possibility of removing the early fetus by abortion, because it simply would not exist!

What are the qualities that make us human? Qualities don’t make us human. We are made human by God. A human is a creature of God made in the image of God. The image of God is not a set of qualities. One does not have to achieve certain abilities or acquire certain qualities in order to attain unto the status of humanity. If that were the case, many people would be moving in and out of human status at different stages of life—certainly at both the beginning of life and the end of life. Nor is having a soul what makes us human. It is not improbable that certain animals have a soul of some sort. Moreover, the idea that a soul comes into a human at some point after conception is an Aristotelian notion. It is not a biblical concept.

Although there are distinctively human capacities not possessed by the lower species, one is not counted “human” by virtue of one’s possession of certain components and capacities. That is a humanistic viewpoint, which sees humans as being located somewhere on a graduated scale of biological complexity. On the humanistic account, one must earn or demonstrate one’s humanity. But that is not the biblical view. No, Scripture identifies humans simply as creatures made in God’s image who, therefore, possess the capacity to know God and thereby to respond in some way to God—even in the womb. John the Baptist leapt with joy in his mother’s womb in the presence of Mary who bore the Lord Jesus—who was at that time a 2-3 week old fetus. Thus we have the fetus John expressing genuinely human emotion in the presence of a very early-term fetus named Jesus. In addition to this evidence, the Bible again and again speaks of conception as the time at which one’s personal history begins. Birth and conception go hand in hand as the biblical writers comment on their various responses to and knowledge of God throughout their lives (see, for example, Ps 51:1, Job 3:3).

I will get to the ambiguous Exodus 21:22-25 text this weekend.

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis said...

Cokhavim said:

However, just to throw a wrench into things, consider this passage: Ex. 21:22-25. What do you all make of that? Not only is it sexist (paying the husband alone, and not to both wife and husband), it also seems to consider the fetus as not really a life. In fact, this passage is exactly why religious Jews today permit abortion. It says "life for life" but no life is taken as punishment for the miscarriage, so the fetus is not actually a "life" (the word is "nefesh"). This is only one passage, but it seems to strongly contradict the pro-life stance. I would appreciate comments about this.

RMG response:

Exodus 21:22-25 stipulates OT case law for two alternative consequences of a pregnant woman being accidentally hit by men who are fighting with each other. The first consequence (case 1) is set forth in vs. 22; the second consequence (case 2) is set forth in vs. 23-25. The text admits of various interpretations, which generally fall into two different views, each of which arises out of a different translation of a key phrase.

Generally speaking the two views turn on whether the Hebrew text in vs. 22a is translated so as to say the woman gives birth prematurely (view 1), or is translated to say the woman has a miscarriage (view 2). View 1 permits either a live birth or a miscarriage. View 2 permits only a miscarriage.

The first view is represented by the TNIV. The second view is represented by the NRSV.

TNIV, Exodus 21:22-25: "If people are fighting and a pregnant woman is hit and gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

NRSV, Exodus 21:22-25: When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman's husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

However, the Hebrew text does not say “there is a miscarriage.” It says, “her children come out.” The KJV quaintly puts it, “so that her fruit depart from her.” The text does not require the death of the fetus, but rather offers the possibility of either death or survival. Thus view 1 is a more literal and accurate rendering of the text, and also allows for the woman’s offspring to come forth unharmed.

According to view 1, verse 22 (case 1) speaks of a scenario in which the woman is hit and “her fruit departs from her,” yet her “fruit” remains alive and well and the mother sustains no serious injury. (I couldn’t resist the KJV language here.) The man who hit the woman must then pay some agreed-upon compensation. But if, as in verses 23-25 (case 2), the woman is hit and the child or the woman or both sustain serious injury or death, then the offender must be punished in accordance with the severity of the injury or injuries. However, OT law required capital punishment only when the killing was willful and premeditated (see Numbers 35:31). Therefore, even if the mother or child or children were killed, the man responsible would not be required to die, but could ransom his life by surrendering to the father and/or husband of the deceased a monetary payment equal to the value of the life lost.

On this view, the fetus is deemed a human life—a life whose serious injury or death cannot be compensated merely by a routine fine, but must be addressed by the same means as any accidental injury or fatality of any human being.

Regarding the contemporary Jewish understanding of this text: The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004) sets forth various views on this text. The view that considers the unborn fetus to be not a living person because only a monetary punishment is required for its death (Halakhic exegesis) concludes from this only that “abortion is permitted when necessary to save the mother”—which is a pro-life view!

The Bible never makes any provision for anything resembling potential life or pre-human life or considerations of quality of life or any of the other contrived notions devised in our modern/postmodern/post-human culture. A respect for human life at every stage of life is consistently upheld throughout the Bible. This view is consistent not only with the literal reading of the text itself, but also with the overall tenor and teaching of Scripture. Biblical truth is rightly discerned not only by careful exegesis of the text itself, but also by incisive assessment of that which, although not explicitly stated in Scripture, is logically entailed by what the Bible says.

Rebecca Merrill Groothuis said...

Cokhavim said:

"Where did Dutch Sheets get the ridiculous idea that you are just a "remnant" in your nation? Where did he get the idea that America has 'rejected God'?"

I rather expect that Sheets was comparing the American church today with what it formerly was, not with what other nations now are. But I will have more to say on this subject in post(s) to come.