Sunday, March 19, 2006

Abortion: a short cut to heaven?

If Christianity is true, and if heaven and hell are real places, then what happens to babies if they die? Does a soul of a miscarried foetus go to paradise? From what I understand, some Christian denominations believe that babies do go to heaven if they die before what is called the age of accountability. My problem is that the age of accountability idea does not seem to be consistent with Christianity’s response to abortion.

From what I understand, the age of accountability doctrine is as follows: if a child dies before the age of accountability, then that child automatically goes to heaven. However, if a child reaches the age of accountability, then free will comes into play, and that child must accept the responsibility for their choice to either accept or reject Jesus. The problem, however, with this doctrine is that:

  • Denominations are unclear on the exact age when someone becomes accountable;
  • There is very little biblical support for this idea. Advocates of this doctrine appeal to only a few verses (Deut 1:39 and 2 Sam 12:23); and
  • It is inconsistent with Christianity’s response to abortion.

I will focus on the third point. If the age of accountability is true, and unborn babies do in fact go to heaven, then why – in the Christian view – is abortion wrong? If 100 souls are born in a country where abortion is illegal, then through their respective lifetimes some will choose Jesus and go to heaven, while others will reject the gospel and go to hell. However, if 100 souls are aborted in a country where abortion is legal, then all 100 souls go to heaven.

Although abortion – seen in the light of the age of accountability doctrine – results in a kind of de facto salvation, it can be argued that the process of abortion has a higher ‘soul winning’ success rate than conventional evangelism. Abortion clinics around the world are ‘saving’ more souls that most successful evangelists. If abortion is resulting in a more crowded heaven, then why are Christians against abortion at all? Isn’t God’s primary desire that every soul be saved?

Note that I’m not arguing for either pro-life or pro-choice in this article. In fact, I have not yet fully made up my mind on the topic of abortion. I’m just pointing out what I see as an inconsistency between mainstream Christianity’s response to abortion and the theological doctrine of salvation.

14 comments:

Nacho said...

Kevin, thanks for the post. In my estimation religious systems get in this kind of bind quite often. The whole idea of ensoulment presents another one of these dilemmas. The Catholic Church recently reconsidered the whole idea of limbo. Bad theology most definitely -- one of the reasons why we did not baptize our children.

Thanks!

. said...

Kevin,

What a fascinating post. The age of acountability has always intrigued me, and I too have not made up my mind on the abortion thing completely, I don't think abortionism is good but I don't think making other peoples choices for them is good either.

I know in the LDS church it is considered more important for one to choose their own path then to just get everyone to heaven. Agency is a big thing in the LDS church and so abortion is considered wrong there because it limits the opportunity for the aborted individual to choose their own path latter in life.

Of course the age of acountability differs from religion to religion & some religions, or individuals, think it is better to force somebody into Heaven rather than to let them choose for themselves what they will do.

Anyway, interesting topic.

I would be curious to hear what has kept you from taking a side on the abortion issue.

Hope you are doing well.

Oh yes, and I found these two links I thought you might like, if you haven't seen them already that is.

http://www.venganza.org/
http://www.bobsagetisgod.com/

. said...

Kevin,
I finally draw your profile picture, its at my drawing blog if you want to see it.

R10B said...

Kevin,

I have always wondered what pro-lifers (as opposed, kind of, to anti-abortionists) do with this concept.

Most conservative Protestants would hold that an aborted baby is not accountable for their sin(ful nature), hence they would go directly to heaven, not passing Go, not collecting $200 dollars. Certainly if those millions of babies were not aborted many of them, according to other conservative Protestant beliefs, would end up in hell. Seems the kingdom of God is coming out ahead on this one. But at whose expense?

The main thrust of the anti-abortion contingent not the sin of a life unlived, it is in the taking of an innocent life. The life of the child is in some sense a secondary issue. It is the society that we are because of abortion that is the problem, not the society that because of abortion never will be.

Zoe said...

Interesting post Kevin. In my Christian experience (fundamentalist, conservative, evangelical) babies go to heaven.

After that though, there is a push to get those kids saved. Having my own kids & being in youth ministry there was always this anxiety about "the age of accountablility." What age is it?

One pastor told me, "God knows. God knows whether that kid is able to understand."

So as a parent, as a leader, one is on pins & needles. Okay, child is 5 now, does he understand, or child is 10 now, does she understand. God knows but how do I know?

The idea that your child could die & not know God & have God waiting up there going "sorry, I know you're only 8 but in MY omniscience I know you understood & you didn't come to me...now go away to an everlasting life of eternal fire," is literally believed. Talk about panic & anxiety.

So, the push is on for early conversion (and why not? Who wants their child(ren) in hell?) Many conversions come from an early fear of hell (and again, why not?).

Makes the death & funerals of young children interesting when the parents are sitting around wondering, 'Is my child in heaven? Did he accept the Lord in time?'Or having the other family & friends sitting around going, "Poor dears. I wonder if 'child' was saved?" Then of course, you've got the parents walking around in guilt & shame because they never led their child to Christ in time.

Sorry to go on about this.

Cura Animarum said...

The probelm of abortion is not one of accountability and whether or not one is able to circumvent the economy of salvation, but of a deep a lasting respect for all human life in al of it's forms. Abortion is wrong because we are not the authors of life. Abortion is also wrong becuase it does not resepct the divine image whcih all human life is created in and is a mirror of.

In addition, I can assure you that the Catholic Church is in no way reconsiddering the idea of Limbo and that in fact Limbo was never an official teaching of the Catholic Church in any age.

At the end of the day the relationship between any individual regardless of age or ability to reason, is a mater between that person and God and is not any of my (or any other person's).

In light of this, the question of what God does with the souls of those who die without baptism is not one that any human being can answer. What we do know about the nature of God is that God is a person of immeasurable love and mercy and has a sense of justice that seems completely countercultural. Would a God such as this reject a child simply because that child lacks a water baptism? I can't see it happening.

Kyaroko said...

I have wondered this before. Has there ever, in the history of the Christian church, been a funeral ceremony for a fetus after miscarriage?

On the same sort of thread... If God became man for the purpose of dying... if Jesus was really THE offering, THE Lamb of God that would atone for all the sins of all mankind thus rendering any more priestly sacrifices completely unnecessary, then is there anything, any act of evil that humans can do that can possibly cancel out this act of redemption by the creator? Salvation was guaranteed with the spilling of Christ's blood on the cross. How can acceptance into a heavenly after-world hinge upon the actions of a mere human pouring water onto your head?

And furthermore, why isn't Judas our greatest saint for making it all happen? This, the ultimate act of redemption, this perfect sacrifice would not have happened if it weren't for him right?

r10b said...

kyaroko...

How can acceptance into a heavenly after-world hinge upon the actions of a mere human pouring water onto your head?

You're right, it doesn't.

...why isn't Judas our greatest saint for making it all happen?

Because Judas didn't make it happen, God made it happen and He used Judas' evil deed to facilitate His plan.

bohemiantroubadour said...

If you don't like religion, why do you dwell on it. It seems like a waste of time. Move On!!!!!!

marc said...

Who made the decision that there is a rule of accountability?

r10b said...

I was always taught that there was an age of accountability. Of course it was not a hard and fast number. Now that I've given it some thought I can see no (biblical) reason to believe in such a thing. And the doctrine of election contradicts an age of accountability implicitly.

So I've made up my mind...abortion is not a free pass to heaven for the fetus.

Thanks blogosphere!

marc said...

Indeed. Not a biblical idea...I would say that all children go to Jesus including those unborn.

Kevin Parry said...

Thank you all for your informative comments on this issue! I’ve been fascinated while reading all the comments, and I truly appreciate all the input.

I just want to respond briefly to a few points that have been raised:

Eric – I think you expressed very well the reasons why Christians have a problem with abortion. However, I would like to ponder the question if God himself has a deep and lasting respect for all human life. In the Old Testament, we find many cases where God orders or condones the mass slaughter of men, woman, animals, innocent children and babies (1 Samuel 15:3, 2 Kings 8:12, Isaiah 13:18, Hosea 13:16). I admire your respect for life, but maybe one can argue that God does not share the same attitude.

Brock – why am I still undecided on the abortion question? Well, I grew up in a culture (i.e., apartheid South Africa) that was saturated with Christianity. We were taught creationism at schools, prayer time in the classroom was compulsory, and evolution was seldom mentioned in Biology classes. Abortion was illegal at that time, and for most of my life I only heard one side of the argument regarding this issue. I am now in a process of evaluating my position, and I’m busy reading up all the arguments, both pro-life and pro-choice. I will come to a decision eventually.

R10b - I tend to agree with you, there seems to be very little Biblical support for the age of accountability idea. I wonder where the idea started, and which denominations actually adhere to it? I think I will go do a bit a research on this.

Kevin

r10b said...

Kevin,

RE: Age of Acccountability: I don't know, either. I'll look into it as well and then maybe we can compare our findings. Off the top of my head I think it may be a completely emotional (and understandable) invention propped up by some proof-texting.

RE: God's Value of Life: I would like to ponder the question if God himself has a deep and lasting respect for all human life. Wow! Another great line of inquiry. One not too many are willing to consider. An absolute Yes or NO seems to throw things (OT events, NT doctrine) out of whack. What if the answer is, "SORT OF?"

Sincere appreciation comin' at ya!