Worldview and Abortion

The whole idea of worldview seems so philosophical. Even the word itself seems to take you into that arena. And certainly the philosophical element is there. You can get into some really deep discussions about the topic if you want to.

But there is really nothing more practical than the real world expressions of worldview. What people believe in the core of their being will be expressed concretely, and blatantly, in everyday life. It determines the way we think and the way we act.

This week marks the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. While many have argued that this was purely a legal decision based on a lack of evidence that an embryo is an actual human life, it is actually based on a worldview assumption. The practical outcome of this decision is that during the last 34 years, over 42 million pre-born babies have been put to death.

In this article, we want to take a look at how a person’s worldview plays into decisions like this so that we can more clearly understand the practical implications of worldview and make more informed decisions about how we should personally respond.

When specifically thinking about abortion, there are three questions that we need to deal with. We need to understand:
1. When does life start?
2. Who has the right to end another’s life? and
3. What is the value of human life?

Let’s look at question one. Whereas there used to be more confusion in scientific circles about the moment life starts, there is now a pretty strong consensus in the scientific community that life begins when a sperm and ovum come together. At that point, a new individual is created which is unique from its mother. But this fact alone is not sufficient to put aside the arguments of abortion proponents. To many in the “abortion on demand” community, the certainty of the presence of life is not the most important factor. Rather, they are more concerned with the relative value of the life itself versus the need, or desire, of the mother to have control over her own body.

As for question two, abortion proponents also have ways to finesse this issue. Very few would probably be proponents of killing already born individuals. But they manage to put pre-born children into a different category. They assert that the preborn do not yet have any kind of quality of life – as if the so called “quality of life” is somehow more important than life itself.

But it is question number three that gets us to the real point. This is the one that directs us straight to the issue of worldview. The question becomes, where does the value of life come from? While as Christians we believe that there is an objective answer to this question, people who come from other worldviews will answer this question in entirely different ways. And, of course, the way that the question is answered will determine the way that life is treated in the real world.

Let’s start by identifying how the different worldviews deal with the topic of the value of life, and we will begin to see why there are varying positions on abortion.

Naturalism
The Naturalistic worldview does not acknowledge the existence of the supernatural. It’s defining element is that everything which exists is the result of eternal evolutionary processes. There is no creator God who did anything intentionally, so there is no transcendent meaning in any part of the natural order.

As a result, whatever meaning that individuals experience about anything in this life, is believed to be self created. This, of necessity, also applies to the human individual. There is no inherent meaning to the life of human beings. We are simply the top of the food chain. Humans are nothing more than the animal creature which has managed to evolve a more complex brain than any other animal.

When applied to the topic of abortion, this means that an embryo is nothing more than a mass of tissue with no inherent value. If value is assigned to it, it is simply the arbitrary meaning that an individual or group gives it based on personal or group needs. So, if killing the embryo does not cause problems for the individual or for society, there is nothing wrong with it.

Animism
Animism asserts that humans are physical beings with a spiritual core. When a human’s body dies, the spirit enters the spirit world and lives its life in that realm. But there is a connection between the material and spiritual world. Humans and spirits live in a symbiotic relationship with one another. Humans perform sacrifices and give offerings to care for the needs of the spirits residing in the spirit world, and the spirits respond by taking care of the needs of the humans in the material world. If a person does not take care of the needs of a particular spirit, that spirit will cause bad things to happen to the human until they correct the problem.

Typically, individual humans are responsible to care for the spirits of their own family or clan. There is not really a particular interest in the people who have no connection with them.

As it relates to abortion, again, the primary interest also relates to the spirits of one’s own group. Typically there is not a full fledged theological doctrine related to abortion, though many would understand a fetus to be a living spirit. If a group decides that abortion is acceptable, family members would still be responsible to ceremonially take care of the needs of that spirit in the other life.

It gets a bit more complex, though, as it relates to individuals and spirits who are not connected to a person’s own group. There generally would not be any deep concern about outsiders unless they somehow had the power to inflict problems into one’s own life or group.

Far Eastern Thought
In Far Eastern Thought, all of life is understood to be connected at its core, and every individual life form is on a path toward unity. Typically the journey toward unity progresses through many reincarnations – each one hopefully taking the life closer to “oneness with the ultimate impersonal One.”

As a result, the life force, in every form, is considered the most important and sacred element of reality. Since parts of the life force exist in every form of life, it is the goal of the adherents of Far Eastern Thought to preserve life to the highest degree possible so that each one can live out its destiny in its current incarnation. This plays out in slightly different ways in the various
expressions of Far Eastern Thought, but this is the general principle.

As a result, abortion would typically be looked on as highly undesirable. An embryo is understood to be a life force that is in the process of entering into a new incarnation based on its previous existences, and should be allowed to fulfill its destiny in its  current place.

Theism
In general, Theistic worldviews understand an individual to be a creation of God, and therefore of great value. There are, though, a wide variety of expressions of Theism which are conveyed in a wide variety of views related to abortion.

Some believe that personhood begins at conception, while others see its beginning at the birth of a child. This results, then, in a variety of ways abortion is viewed. Most theistic groups have some kind of holy book or a prophet that is considered authoritative in matters of morality. Some of them may provide justification for abortion under certain circumstances while others see it simply as wrong. You must consult each one individually to determine its particular viewpoint.

Relational Revelation
Relational Revelation is, of course, the form of Theism which represents Biblical Christianity. The Bible clearly teaches that human life is of highest value, and that each person is individually created by God in his own image. We also understand that life begins at conception and that it is not the place of any person to take the life of an innocent human being.

As a result, Relational Revelation understands an embryo to be a human life, and the taking of that life by abortion is understood to be the taking of innocent life – murder.

Summary
As can clearly be seen, there are many different views about abortion, and the different understandings are based on the presuppositions of the various worldviews. There is no belief about abortion that is just out there on its own. All of them start with a set of worldview beliefs and emerge from there.

What is clear, though, is that the various views literally contradict one another. It is not possible for abortion to be acceptable and not acceptable at the same time. And even for various views that agree with one another on the acceptability of the practice, their reasons for it literally contradict one another. The fact is, something is the Truth about the essential nature of a preborn. It is either a viable human being or it is not. Either is has intrinsic value or it does not.

Relational Revelation (our Christian faith) teaches us that abortion is the taking of innocent human life – a life that God created in his image to achieve a particular purpose in his economy. We can have confidence that this is the Truth because the worldview represented by Relational Revelation matches up most closely with reality as we experience it in this life.

Hopefully it has become abundantly clear that understanding worldview is not merely some abstract academic pursuit. It has practical implications to every part of our life and witness. What we believe does matter and is expressed in daily life. And in the case of abortion, the implications of that fact literally relate to life and death.

© 2007 Freddy Davis