Modern views about abortion in the Christian Church tend to be shaped by beliefs that dominate the culture. Even the language the church uses to talk about abortion--when it has the courage to talk--is the language of the culture and not of the church. Hence, many in the church have developed the conviction that abortion is not an issue suitable for discussion in the church. It is a social and public policy issue and will be resolved--if it is ever resolved--in that arena. The church, many assume, has nothing significant to contribute to the discussion.
John Calvin wrote of the Apostle’s Creed that it is the summary of what is essential to Christian Faith. Many of us repeat the words of that creed every Sunday as part of our worship of God. The purpose of this series is to demonstrate that essential beliefs of Christian faith have application to the most critical social issue of our time. The series also is an attempt to approach the subject of abortion with the language and the faith of the Church and to see the conflict that exists between the Church’s faith and the culture’s faith on this important matter.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
Here, in this first sentence of the creed, we affirm the familial relationship between God and humanity. It is he who has made us and not we ourselves. God is both author and ruler of all creation. Along with the intimacy of this family relationship we discover God as more powerful than anything in his creation.
The weirdness of God's world
Writing about J.R.R. Tolkien in Credenda Agenda, Douglas Jones reminds us of what he calls "the weirdness of God’s world." Some Christians, he says, dismiss stories like Lord of the Rings as "fantasy," as if to say they belong only to the imagination, and not to the real world.
Then Jones compares Tolkien’s "fantasy" to the account in 2 Kings 6:17 in which Elisha prays for his servant, whose terrified eyes are fixed on the great army of Syrians coming against them. Elisha asks God to reveal "reality" to his servant. God opens the eyes of the servant to see the mountains filled with horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. "The servant’s scientific vision was utterly unrealistic and narrow. The reality was far more fantastic."
The Bible is filled with fantastic accounts of walking through a sea on dry ground, of walking on water, of casting out demons, of instant healings and even the raising of people who are dead.
This is at the heart of what we profess when we declare God to be "Almighty" ruler of heaven and earth. The world visible to our eyes deceives us; it is what is unseen—the invisible Creator and Ruler actively at work in our world—that makes the universe entirely free from unalterable destiny.
The visible world is only one level of reality. It opens up to a higher level, invisible to our sight—the spiritual realm of its Creator and Ruler. God gives the visible universe its order and reliability, its harmony and constancy. But these qualities are not independent of God. And they do not limit God’s activity in the world. At times, God surprises us and blows away our understanding of how the world appears to work. When God breaks in he changes everything. He did it over and over in the biblical accounts, and supremely in Jesus.
Because God is Almighty, no outcome is entirely predictable...
This means that apparent outcomes in situations are not locked-in destinies. We cannot be sure that a child born into poverty is destined to be impoverished. We cannot be sure that a medical diagnosis of severe deformity means that an unborn child is incurable or that the diagnosis itself is infallible—or—above all, that a child born in adverse conditions cannot, by the mercy and grace of God, overcome every obstacle in this visible world. We cannot be sure that an unborn child declared to have limited life expectancy will die.
...And no outcome is an accident
All human beings are created by God. Even those conceptions that occur seemingly by accident or violence are reside under God’s care, and have arrived in his providence, not ours.
We live in both a visible and invisible reality
And because this world is the only kingdom visible to our eyes, we cannot know anything about that child’s life in the eternal kingdom. As we learn from the fantastic accounts of the Bible, what we see in the end is not what we get.
This God who is the Almighty maker of heaven and earth is our Father, our "Abba," our dear caring "Daddy." Because God is in intimate relationship with all those created in his own image, we Christians especially have hope that every child, no matter what his or her circumstances, yet has the possibility of redemption and adoption into the family of God.
In that kingdom, now invisible to our eyes, each little child may take his or her place at the head of the King’s table and be called most beloved of the Father. The Bible gives us hope and reason to believe that table will be filled with those who in our universe are diseased and crippled, suffering and dying.
When the Bible tells us to "be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect," it means that we too, because of our hope, and because we are participants in that unseen kingdom even now, welcome unborn babies, even those with seemingly poor prospects for the future. And we welcome the mothers who also seem to have poor prospects for the future. We do it with the faith that God can intervene and we can make a difference in the outcome of their lives.
Our confidence comes from our confession that we believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.