The Political Church: The Democratic Party Does Theology, Part 2

Here are the Patristics on abortion. You can see that the very earliest documents routinely and repeatedly prohibit abortion. In fact, one of the truly distinctive doctrines of the early church was its opposition to abortion and infanticide, both of which were common in Hellenistic culture. In fact, when non-Christians left unwanted children in the local forums to die from exposure, Christians routinely rescued the babies, adopting them.

(Quotations gleaned from Religious Tolerance; some sources are Gnostic or otherwise not orthodox) —

  • The Didache (also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) dates from the first half of the second century CE. It states: “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion.” (2:2) It also says that “The Way of Death is filled with people who are…murderers of children and abortionists of God’s creatures.” (5:1-2)
  • Barnabas: “You shall not kill either the fetus by abortion or the new born” (Letter of Barnabas, circa 125)
  • The Apocalypse of Peter (circa 135 CE): “I saw a gorge in which the discharge and excrement of the tortured ran down and became like a lake. There sat women, and the discharge came up to their throats; and opposite them sat many children, who were born prematurely, weeping. And from them went forth rays of fire and smote the women on the eyes. These were those who produced children outside of marriage, and who procured abortions.”
  • The Apocalypse of Peter (circa 135 CE): “Those who slew the unborn children will be tortured forever, for God wills it to so.”
  • Athenagoras: “We say that women who induce abortions are murderers, and will have to give account of it to God. For the same person, would not regard the child in the womb as a living being and therefore an object of God’s care and then kill it…. But we are altogether consistent in our conduct. We obey reason and do not override it.” Petition to Emperor Marcus Aurelius (121-180 CE), circa 150 CE
  • Clement of Alexandria: (circa 150 – 215 CE) “Our whole life can go on in observation of the laws of nature, if we gain dominion over our desires from the beginning and if we do not kill, by various means of a perverse art, the human offspring, born according to the designs of divine providence; for these women who, if order to hide their immorality, use abortive drugs which expel the child completely dead, abort at the same time their own human feelings.” Paedagogus 2
  • Tertullian (circa 155 – 225 CE): “…we are not permitted, since murder has been prohibited to us once and for all, even to destroy …the fetus in the womb. It makes no difference whether one destroys a life that has already been born or one that is in the process of birth.”
  • St. Hippolytus (circa 170-236 CE): “Reputed believes began to resort to drugs for producing Sterility and to gird themselves round, so as to expel what was conceived on account of their not wanting to have a child either by a slave or by any paltry fellow, for the sake of their family and excessive wealth. Behold, into how great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by inculcating adultery and murder at the same time.” From “Refutation of all Heresies” 9:7
  • Minicius Felix (a Christian lawyer; circa 180 – 225 CE): “Some women take medicines to destroy the germ of future life in their own bodies. They commit infanticide before they have given birth to the infant”
  • St. Basil the Great (circa 330 – 379 CE): “She who has deliberately destroyed a fetus has to pay the penalty of murder…here it is not only the child to be born that is vindicated, but also the woman herself who made an attempt against her own life, because usually the women die in such attempts. Furthermore, added to this is the destruction of the child, another murder… Moreover, those, too, who give drugs causing abortion are deliberate murderers themselves, as well as those receiving the poison which kills the fetus.” Letter 188:2
  • St. Ambrose: (339 to 397 CE) “The poor expose their children, the rich kill the fruit of their own bodies in the womb, lest their property be divided up, and they destroy their own children in the womb with murderous poisons. and before life has been passed on, it is annihilated.”
  • St. John Chrysostom (circa 340 – 407 CE): “Why sow where the ground makes it its care to destroy the fruit? Where there are many efforts at abortion? Where there is murder before the birth? For you do not even let the harlot remain a mere harlot, but make her a murderer also. You see how drunkenness leads to whoredom, whoredom to adultery, adultery to murder; or rather something even worse than murder. For I have no real name to give it, since it does not destroy the thing born but prevents its being born. Why then do you abuse the gift of God and fight with His laws, and follow after what is a curse as if a blessing, and make the place of procreation a chamber for murder, and arm the woman that was given for childbearing unto slaughter?” Homily 24 on Romans
  • St. Jerome (circa 342-420 CE): “They drink potions to ensure sterility and are guilty of murdering a human being not yet conceived. Some, when they learn that they are with child through sin, practice abortion by the use of drugs. Frequently they die themselves and are brought before the rulers of the lower world guilty of three crimes: suicide, adultery against Christ, and murder of an unborn child.” Letter 22:13
  • Tertullian circa 160-240 CE: “For us [Christians] we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter when you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to birth. That is a man which is going to be one: you have the fruit already in the seed.” Apology 9:6
    “They [John and Jesus] were both alive while still in the womb. Elizabeth rejoiced as the infant leaped in her womb; Mary glorifies the Lord because Christ within inspired her. Each mother recognizes her child and is known by her child who is alive, being not merely souls but also spirits.” De Aninta 26:4
  • The Synod of Elvira, held in Spain in 306 CE: “If a woman becomes pregnant by committing adultery, while her husband is absent, and after the act she destroys the child, it is proper to keep her from communion until death, because she has doubled her crime.” Canon 63.
  • The Synod of Ancyra, held in 314 CE, condemned abortion. The penalty was 10 years of penance
  • The Apostolic Constitutions (circa 380 CE) allowed abortion if it was done early enough in pregnancy. But it condemned abortion if the fetus was of human shape. “Thou shalt not slay the child by causing abortion, nor kill that which is begotten. For everything that is shaped, and his received a soul from God, if slain, it shall be avenged, as being unjustly destroyed.” 7:3:15 This document claimed to have been written by the apostles. However, it was actually written late in the 4th century CE at about the time that Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and serious oppression of Paganism started.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.
My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.

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2 Responses to The Political Church: The Democratic Party Does Theology, Part 2

  1. Terry says:

    Thank you for demonstrating that we have a long history as Christians of trying to protect innocent and vulnerable people from those who would harm or kill them.

  2. Helez says:

    What amazes me is that we have a culture of medical ethics that allow these procedures on demand! Very interesting read Jay… thanks.

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