GUEST COLUMN: A response to ‘God is probably not pro-life’ column
When OU’s Pro-Life Ambassadors hosted the Justice for All event last November (the giant pictures of aborted fetuses on the South Oval), I probably had more conversations about abortion than ever before.
Some of those conversations centered on whether the government should do something about abortion, but more rested on the more pivotal issue of whether the fetus had a right to life.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until last Friday in Tarrant Carter’s opinion column that I heard an argument advancing the idea that the Christian God was not pro-life.
His main argument rests on two main premises that make God responsible for miscarriages.
First, more abortions (terminations of pregnancies) are miscarriages than are caused by humans.
Second, Carter quotes some Christians saying of death, “‘It was God’s will.’” Carter also uses the term “some deaths” once. But if he really meant “some,” then he has offered no guidance on deciding for which specific deaths God bears responsibility.
So I think his second premise is likely that God bears responsibility for deaths in general. Therefore, God is responsible for more abortions (miscarriages) than humans are. As a principle, Carter says we should judge by actions, not by words.
So, judging by God’s actions, God is not pro-life where pro-life means to be absolutely opposed to abortion. Carter summarizes his point thus: “How can somebody that is responsible for the nearly one-fourth of naturally occurring abortions be considered pro-life?”
I would like to note three problems with Carter’s argument. First, its definitions of abortion, miscarriage and pro-life don’t make sense for the abortion debate. It roughly defines miscarriages as “abortions by non-human causes” and to be pro-life as being “absolutely opposed to all abortion” so that being pro-life includes being opposed to miscarriages.
These definitions make sense if abortion means “the termination of a pregnancy.” But being pro-life is not holding an absolutist stance against abortion when abortion means “the termination of a pregnancy” because, properly speaking, to be pro-life involves two specific positions on abortion.
First, pro-life includes an ethical position involving some variation on abortion’s moral wrongness.
Second, pro-life is a political/legal position involving a government abolition of abortion’s practice. For us to talk about whether abortion is morally wrong, it has to involve abortion as an action that humans do or negligently allow others to do.
Abortion’s definition in this case would be the induced termination of a pregnancy, as put forward by the American Heritage Dictionary.
To put it bluntly, miscarriages don’t qualify as abortions under a definition of abortions we would use for a debate about the ethics of the act. So while miscarriages aren’t relevant to an ethics discussion about abortion, Carter could still try to show that God is ethically responsible for them, and indeed he does.
My second problem is with this attempt. Carter’s argument moves from his second premise of God’s responsibility “in some way” for deaths to a contrast between God’s ethical responsibility for miscarriages and human responsibility for abortions.
However, he jumps from a premise that the Christian might grant – God is responsible “in some way” for death – to a conclusion that requires God being responsible in a specifically ethical way.
Further, it would not seem to follow that miscarriages would be in God’s plan in an ethically responsible way without the human-caused abortions being in God’s plan in an ethically responsible way. In that vein, it would seem to me that if we would work the kinks out of Carter’s argument, we would be moving toward some argument that would closely resemble the problem of evil.
But that moves away from whether the Christian God is pro-life toward whether the Christian God exists at all.
Third, Carter’s argument implies that we can judge the God of the Bible’s moral attributes by looking at things in the human experience. But the evil in the human experience like miscarriages, according to the God of the Bible, has resulted from human rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden.
The fact that human experience continues despite our rebellion lets us “judge” the God of the Bible – as a God who patiently and mercifully has not yet brought his day of justice when he will right the evils of the human race.
The Bible tells us why: God waits so that he may show mercy to those who, turning away from evils like abortion and promiscuity and pride, look to the Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who has borne their guilt and shame on the cross.
All in all, the argument is lacking.