A large bronze image of the god Cronus stood in the Tophet of Carthage. His hands extended with palms facing up and arms angled slightly downward so that children placed in his arms could be rolled into a pit of fire.
During the sacrifice, loud drums beat to drown out the sound of children’s cries as the fire melted their flesh. Children were sacrificed whenever despair struck the Carthaginians. In the year 310 BC. J.-C., Agathocles, the tyrant of Greece, invades Africa. People alleged that Cronos had turned against them. Thus, “in their zeal to repair their omission, they chose two hundred children from among the noblest and publicly sacrificed them” (history library20.14).
Throughout history, children have been victims of sacrifice. But is it related to the modern abortion debate? Yes! Children can no longer be sacrificed to bronze statues, but they are sacrificed in staggering numbers to the living god of self. Convenience has replaced superstition, but the crime is the same.
Due to advances in modern science and ongoing debates over the past century, many believe that abortion is a new practice. It’s not.
Due to advances in modern science and ongoing debates over the past century, many assume that abortion is new. It’s not. At this critical juncture in modern debate, as the Supreme Court debates whether to strike down deerit is important for Christians to hear the cogent arguments of church fathers that unborn life is worth protecting and to learn how the early church responded to sacrifice, abandonment and neglect. child abortion.
Pro-Life Voices Among Fathers
christianity early writers universally condemned the practice of abortion. The end of the first century Didache set the tone: “You must not abort a child or commit infanticide” (2.2). Likewise, the Epistle of Barnabas (AD 70-135) commands: “You shall not kill the child by aborting it; neither will you destroy him after he is born” (19).
Time and time again, early Christian writers declare abortion to be murder:
And when we say that these women who use drugs to induce abortion are committing murder, and will have to answer to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the fetus even in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has come to life, to kill it; and not to expose a child, as those who expose them are liable to child murder. (Athenagoras, A plea for Christians)
The woman who deliberately destroys her unborn child is guilty of murder. (Basil, Letters188.2)
[By abortion] life is taken from them before it has been given. (Ambrose, Hexameron18.05.58)
Some go so far as to take potions to ensure sterility, and thus kill human beings almost before they are conceived. Some, when they find themselves with a child because of their sin, use drugs to have an abortion, and . . . (as often happens) they die with their offspring. (Jerome, To select Letters22.13)
No woman should take drugs for the purpose of abortion, nor kill her children who have been conceived or who have already been born. (Cesaire, sermonssermon 44)
Chrysostom (AD 349-407) went further by stating that abortion is “even worse than murder.” For I have no name to give it, since it does not take away the born thing, but prevents it from being born” (Homilies on the Epistle to the Romanshomily 24).
Why was speaking for life non-negotiable for Christians since the early days of the church? The answer lies in the conception of the soul of the fathers of the Church and in their conviction that the indelible image of God is given to human persons from their conception (Genesis 1:26-27; Ps. 139:13-16 ).
Tertullian rejected Plato’s view that eternal souls are inhaled at birth and expired at death (On the soul25). He argued that this view denied life in the womb. Tertullian asked the mothers: “Tell us, then, if you feel in the embryo which is in you a vital force other than your own, with which your entrails tremble, your flanks shake, your whole belly throbs, and the burden that oppresses you constantly changes consistency. position?” (On the soul25). The same evidence holds true today. Many women find that they can no longer deny the life of an unborn child once they hear the heartbeat, the child begins to spin, or they feel its first kick.
As he continued to describe in his Apologies, a seed is planted at conception which becomes a person full of fruit. Digging up the seed is like cutting down the tree. So just as killing a grown adult is doomed, annihilating his seed should also be doomed.
Surrounded by a culture where children were dismantled, discarded and sacrificed, the early church fought vigorously to protect unborn life. Christians adopted children who had been abandoned and spoke with vehement rhetoric about the abhorrence of abortion.
But the writings of the fathers unfortunately offered little grace to the men and women who chose abortion. Christians today should follow their lead in hating abortion and speaking out boldly, and we must also be quick to offer the grace of the gospel. To men and women who mourn their sin over a child in the womb, Christ offers forgiveness. Parents can run to him and free themselves from the guilt that only he can give. Only her blood can whiten the crimson stain of abortion that has been smeared on the souls of millions.
Only the blood of Christ can wash away the stain of abortion that has been smeared on the souls of millions.
I am heartened by the number of Christians caring for unborn and vulnerable lives through crisis pregnancy centers, women’s shelters, foster homes and adoption. I am grateful for Christians who show love to those who have had abortions. It is this work that ensures that we are not just anti-abortion, but pro-life.
Until the return of Christ, Cronus will thirst for the blood of children. Even today, you can hear the drums beating through the cries of the pro-choice movement, calling on those who want a different life to come and offer their children to it. But the cross of Christ sounds a better word, ringing with hope that the good child has already sacrificed himself.
Contrary to child sacrifice, God’s own Son gave himself for us on the cross, the “holy for the lawless, the innocent for the guilty, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the ‘immortal for mortals’ (Epistle to Diognetus9.2). Unlike pagan rites that only appease an angry God, Christ’s sacrifice paid the just penalty for our sins, accomplished our forgiveness, and secured new life. In Christ, God took the sins of selfishness, greed, covetousness, and even the killing of innocent children. He placed those sins on his own innocent Son so that we could both be welcomed and loved, and share his love with others.
deer may soon be dead, but the fight for life will continue. As Christians, we have a rich heritage of both defending life and offering new life. Let’s learn from the past and continue for our generation.