Brave New Bible: A Reply To The Moderate Evangelical Position On Abortion -- By: Francis J. Beckwith

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 33:4 (Dec 1990)
Article: Brave New Bible: A Reply To The Moderate Evangelical Position On Abortion
Author: Francis J. Beckwith


Brave New Bible: A Reply To The
Moderate Evangelical Position On Abortion

Francis J. Beckwith*

For the past fifteen to twenty years a consensus on the issue of abortion has been building in the evangelical community. The consensus holds to a position that can best be described as pro-life: Since the unborn entity is fully human, and since it is ordinarily a serious moral wrong to kill human beings, therefore abortion (which results in the death of the unborn) is ordinarily a serious moral wrong. A significant number of evangelicals, however, oppose the current consensus. One type of opposition, which makes up a small minority, holds to a radical pro-choice position. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott’s views are representative of this position,1 which I have critiqued elsewhere.2 A larger opposition group takes a more moderate stance and for this reason poses a more serious challenge to the current consensus. Typical of this opposition is Dolores Dunnett’s recent JETS article.3 Other evangelicals who have taken positions similar to Dunnett’s include Robert Wennberg and Walter R. Martin.4

Dunnett defends a position on abortion (which is for the most part shared by both Wennberg and Martin) that cannot accurately be labeled either pro-choice or pro-life. It differs from the radical pro-choice position insofar as it entails that some abortions are not morally justified—for example, those that are performed for reasons of convenience, birth control, sex selection, and so forth. It differs from the traditional pro-life position insofar as it holds that the fetus is not fully human but only a potential human (or person) and hence entails that some abortions other than those employed to save the life of the mother are morally justified—for example, those that take place in the earliest weeks of pregnancy and those that are performed for reasons of rape, incest, severe genetic deformity, and so forth.

* Francis J. Beckwith is lecturer of philosophy at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas.

The purpose of this article is to critically analyze the arguments for this view. Since Dunnett’s work is the most recent representative of this position and the one with which JETS readers are the most familiar, her paper will serve as my point of departure (although I will refer to a number of Wennberg’s arguments).

I. Scriptural Problems

In order to Biblically establish her position on abortion, Dunnett appeals to (1) You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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