Something Worse Than Murder
John Chrysostom (347-407) the Archbishop of Constantinople, who was nicknamed the “Golden-Mouthed Preacher” because of his great eloquence, struggled to describe a particular sin, calling it, “something even worse than murder.” The sin an eloquent man strained to name was “abortion…murder before the birth” (Homily 24 on Romans). Like Chrysostom, we are aware of the sin of abortion. Unlike Chrysostom, we are not accustomed to describing it as murder, much less something worse than murder. Here we will demonstrate that abortion is murder and explain why it is an especially depraved kind of murder.
By “murder” we mean the unjust and intentional taking of human life (Genesis 4:15-16; 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13). Not all killing is murder. Some killings occur in warfare (Deuteronomy 20:16-17), defense (Exodus 22:2), or punishment (Genesis 9:6). Such killings may be just, and therefore not murder. Some other killings are accidental or unintentional. An accidental killing is still a killing, and depending on the circumstances, the killer may be culpable. But an accidental killing is not murder (Exodus 21:13,28-32). The Oxford English Dictionary defines abortion as “the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy.” Note two things: (1) that abortion is deliberate, and (2) that a pregnancy ends (“terminates”) in one of two ways, a live birth or a dead fetus. Here we are not discussing delivery or miscarriage; but rather the intentional killing of the fetus so that the pregnancy may end. A successful abortion kills a human baby. No one can honestly or intelligently deny this fact, and all attempts to do so are as immoral as they are sophistical. Human reason teaches us that human offspring are human persons. Every creature reproduces after its own kind. Dogs produce dogs, horses produce horses, humans produce humans. A human is a human regardless of his size, level of development, environment, or degree of dependency. A small human in the womb is a human nonetheless. God’s word teaches us that an unborn human is a person (Luke 1:41-44) from conception (Matthew 1:20-21), with legal protection (Exodus 21:22-23).
Murder is the unjust and intentional taking of a human life. Abortion is the unjust and intentional taking of a human life. It is not an instance of just warfare, defense, or punishment. It is not accidental. It is the taking of a human life. Therefore, abortion is murder. More than that, it is an especially depraved kind of murder.
All sins are evil. Some sins are worse than others. Sins are aggravated (made worse) by four things: (1) the persons offending, (2) the parties offended, (3) the nature and quality of the offense, and (4) the circumstances of the offense (WLC 150-151).
In the murder of an unborn child the persons offending are the child’s own parents, who, far from having the right to kill their offspring, have the duty to provide for and protect them (1 Timothy 5:8; Titus 2:4; Ephesians 6:4). We despise Judas for betraying a friend. Much more should we despise a parent for betraying a child.
The parties most offended by abortion are God (Ezekiel 16:21), in whose image the child is made (Genesis 1:26); and the child who is murdered. God and men agree that the weak must be protected from abuses by the strong. The infant in the womb is weaker than all the widows and orphans in the world. We look down upon a man who uses his superior strength or status to exploit the weakness of a woman or a child. So too we should look down upon men and women who exploit the weakness of their children in the womb.
The nature and quality of the offense in an abortion is the unnatural and callous denial of the earliest and most basic mandate “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27). Pharaoh is hated because he sought to exterminate the Hebrews by infanticide (Exodus 1:16). If another nation were to kill our children, we would wage war upon that nation. Even animals have the natural instinct to propagate and protect their own species. Man cannot exercise dominion over the earth by removing his children from the face of it.
The circumstances of the offense of abortion pertain to the time and place of its performance. The hang man sleeps at night because he trusts that he hangs only criminals. An aborted child has neither committed a crime nor faced a judge. He is sentenced and executed before he has had time to do good or evil. As for the place, “If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man's house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light” (John Calvin, Commentary on Exodus 21:22).
Abortion is murder, and due to several grievous aggravations, it is “something even worse than murder.”