Chapter 5 :Evaluating the DataIntroduction and Old TestamentNothing is more ludicrous than to assume life begins at conception. The problem relating to it theologically, doctrinally, biblically and every other way are absolutely heretical, ludicrous and a manifestation of the emotional revolt of the soul and ignorance in regard to the teaching of the
Word of God. Most evangelicals and fundamentalists who hold to this view (life begins at conception) have copied once again the Roman Catholic Church because of their ignorance of the Word of God. [This is] heresy. These are strong words. While these statements may be examined in areas outside of a theological framework (that is, logically and philosophically), it is just that framework that will be the focus of this chapter. Thieme's indictment is clear: If you believe life begins at conception, you certainly do not know the Word of God. According to Thieme, a true student of the Word knows that the Bible teaches life begins at birth. Utilizing the literal foundation of interpretation previously discussed, these propositions are analyzed and evaluated. Each point is examined to see if it is a cogent Scriptural conclusion.
Preliminary MattersHistorical Inaccuracies Before Thieme's propositions and doctrinal position are assessed, a few side issues need to be discussed. Thieme clearly sets his position in contrast to Traducianism. In other words, when he goes on the attack, he attacks Traducianism. Though he calls himself a "modified" Creationist, he strongly implies he is speaking for Creationists. While Thieme states in his book that some Creationists believe that life begins at conception and others at sometime during gestation, Thieme mentions theologians such as Jerome, Aquinas, Calvin, Berkhof, and Hodge as being Creationists. Thieme immediately then states that Creationism distinguishes between biological life and soul life (as if to tie these theologians to his notion of biological life). This is followed by a "clarification of the Creationist position." Thieme's intent is to lead one to believe that the Creationism that he espouses (namely, soul imputation at birth) is a widely held view among Creationists. He then sets himself in opposition to Traducianists. While Thieme is opposed to Traducianism, his major opponent, in reality, is conception Creationism. This "substitution of opponents" at best is misleading; at worst, it is deceiving. He incorrectly states that the majority position among Christians is Traducianism. While he does comment in his book that the Eastern Orthodox Church is Traducian, he states repeatedly in his lectures that the Roman Catholic Church is Traducian. This assertion is clearly false. Harold O.J. Brown points out that the most widely held view is Creationism. This position is held by most Calvinists and the Roman Catholic Church. The New Dictionary of Theology also states, "Creationism is the official teaching of Roman Catholicism." Not only is Creationism the official teaching of Catholicism, their officials have seen fit, through their ordinary magisterium, to condemn Traducianism. Most conservative Protestants are Creationists who believe that life begins at conception. Thieme represents a very small number of Creationists. While this is certainly not an argument by majority, the point must be made that Thieme has shown a considerable lack of scholarship in representing his view and misrepresenting the Roman Catholic view. Another related issue is Thieme's comment on the early church. Thieme attests, "One of the greatest theological problems that was resolved by the early church, but has become
unraveled since that time, is what is the origin of life" (emphasis added). The clear implication of this statement is that the early church fathers were "squared away" in knowing that Scriptures taught that life begins at birth. This is unquestionably a false statement. Thieme offers absolutely no historical evidence to support this proposition. In fact, historical research supports the opposite conclusion. In his valuable work, Abortion and the Early Church, Michael Gorman clearly details the position of the early church both on the status of the fetus and the concept of abortion. Based on his research, the following is a brief survey of statements made and positions held by early church fathers. The earliest Christian views on abortion and the inherent view of the status of the fetus are found in the Didache and the Epistle of Barnabas. The Didache states, "Thou shall not murder a child by abortion / destruction." The Epistle of Barnabas repeats the exact same words. Comments preceding the abortion prohibition in the Didache state that one should love his neighbor more than his own life. The idea is that the fetus is not seen as part of its mother, but as a neighbor. Abortion is viewed as "self-centered" and not "other-centered" neighbor love. The Apocalypse of Peter, an important non-canonical apocalypse, additionally shows how the early church viewed abortion. A portrait of hell itself included graphic details of those who aborted children. Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215) wrote about aborted children who were taken to safety by an angel while the parents are punished for their sin. Clement also quotes from an unknown writer who argues that the fetus is a living soul. Clement states that this author quoted Scripture to support his conclusions (namely, Luke 1:41). Clement himself wrote extensively on abortion. A common and repeated theme was that abortion was the taking of a human life that is under God's care, design and providence. Athenagoras was an early Greek apologist for Christianity. When defending Christianity against false accusations, he mentions that women who abort their children are murderers. Athenagoras spoke for the accepted orthodox Christian position. Another well-known early church father and apologist was Minucius Felix. He wrote extensively about many subjects, including abortion. He accused the pagans of committing "infanticide" before they give birth. The Latin word translated "infanticide" is parricidium, which is a Roman legal term for intentional killing, especially the murder of a relative. Many others, such as Hippolytus (ca. 170-236) and Cyprian (ca. 200-258), viewed abortion as murder. As Christianity was furthered established, ecclesiastical laws against abortion were passed. Great church fathers, such as Jerome, Basil, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrystostom, commented on their view of the status of the fetus in the womb. Basil (ca. 330-379) mentioned that abortion is murder, even as the fetus is in a formless state. The well-educated Bishop of Milan, Ambrose, also spoke out against abortion, quoting Jeremiah 1:5 and noting God's care and providence of the fetus. Jerome (ca. 342-420) also viewed abortion as murder. While Augustine, like Tertullian, saw a distinction between a formed and unformed fetus, both men viewed abortion as being wrong. The great "golden-mouthed" John Chrysostom vigorously condemned abortion. The ecclesiastical laws themselves, starting with the Council of Elvira about 305, condemned abortion. Another council of bishops at Ancyra set punishments for abortion. This additionally generated comments by church fathers condemning abortion. Concerning the church's historical view of abortion and the status of the unborn, one study concludes:
For the whole of Christian history until appreciably after 1900, so far as we can trace it, there was virtual unanimity amongst Christians, evangelical, catholic, orthodox, that, unless at the direct command of God, it was in all cases wrong to take innocent human life. Abortion and infanticide were grouped together as early as the writing called the Didache which comes from the first century after the crucifixion. These deeds were grouped as murder in that those committing or co-operating in them were, when penitent, still excluded from Communion for ten years by early Councils. . . . The absolute war was against the deliberate taking of innocent life, not in the sense of sinless life, but in the sense that life which was innocens (not harming). . . . We may note that this strictness constituted one of the most dramatic identifiable differences between Christian morality and pagan, Greek or Roman morality. The many church fathers who viewed abortion as murder clearly recognized the fetus to be a living human being under God's care. One certainly cannot murder someone that is not a living human being. Two conclusions may be drawn from the preceding information: 1) Thieme's comment that the early church viewed life as beginning at birth is clearly false; and, 2) even with a distinction between a formed and unformed fetus, the taking of that life was never an option approved by the early church. The mindset of the early church was a far cry from Thieme's comment that Roe vs. Wade (and the subsequent freedom for the mother to kill her unborn) "is probably one of the wisest and most brilliant decisions that the Supreme Court has made in many, many, many years," and that the decision to abort the child "is a private matter between a doctor and a patient."
The Art of DiversionAnother example of Thieme's failure to argue properly for his position is his use of straw man arguments or diversion of the issue. Proper logical structure was discussed in chapter 3 and is a basis for the critique that follows. Theologically and logically, Thieme states his position in contrast to a position that does not exist or is irrelevant to the issue at hand. For example, Thieme uses a major diversionary argument as he elaborates on John 1:3. The context of the passage (as well as others, such as Colossians 1:16), points to Christ creating all things. This would certainly include an individual's soul. Thieme belabors the point that Jesus Christ created everything. Somehow, Thieme must bel