Book Review

Helping Christians respond to a pro-choice theological ethic

A critique of "Abortion and the Christian Tradition"

January 17, 2020

I serve in pro-life ministry, and I hear a wide variety of reasons for abortion. Most frequently, the reasons are medical, financial, or related to the responsibilities of parenthood. However, a few weeks ago, a post-abortive woman said something that significantly shifted my understanding. She said, “I know that it was a baby, and I know I killed my baby. But at least I know that he or she will go to heaven, and that will be a much better thing for my baby than to let it suffer here.”

I wrestled with this statement for several days. I know this is certainly not the only mother who is post-abortive who has justified her actions with such a thought. How should Christians process and respond to this logic?

A mothering decision? 

Ironically, the same week that I heard about this particular woman’s reason for abortion, I began reading Margaret Kamitsuka’s newest published work, Abortion and the Christian Tradition: A Pro-Choice Theological Ethic. The central argument she makes happens to be that the decision to abort is actually a mothering one. It is not a woman’s decision to become a mother or not, but instead it is a decision that ends a mother’s obligations before her child comes into the world. 

Kamitsuka identifies herself as a “Protestant feminist,” and I’m afraid her justifications for abortion get even more disturbing. Not only does she suggest that the decision to abort is a mothering one, but she also argues “for why abortion should not be labeled as ipso facto sin (and certainly not murder), and why Jesus’ definitive sacrifice on the cross should be seen as freeing women from offering their bodies for compulsory gestation.” 

In addition, she suggests that if we look at the crucifixion from the perspective of God as “Mother” (she recommends this is necessary, because viewing God as “a begetting Father of the creeds who might be seen as turning away from a woman considering or having an abortion” is not helpful for understanding the prism of women’s reproductive loss), then we can hold a theology of death at reproductive losses, including abortion, and can be healed in the “womb of the Trinity.”

Considering both the statements made by the post-abortive woman and Kamitsuka, the believer’s response can be summarized as this: a correct knowledge and understanding of theology and the gospel is critical to being pro-life. 

An attack on the image of God

Kamitsuka’s argument cannot stand without denying that all human beings are made in the image of God from conception, accepting a processive, emergent view of the incarnation and personhood, and believing that there is a female component to the Trinity who sympathizes with and accepts a woman’s right to end the life in her womb.

The author downplays what is stated in Genesis 1:26-27, with the pivotal statement, “So God created mankind in his own image” (v. 27a) by writing, “The concept of humans created in the image of God is rooted in a few decisive verses in the book of Genesis.” Essentially, she begins trying to dismantle imago Dei because it’s only in the Bible a couple of times. Later, she implies that even if we do accept imago Dei as being relevant to all humankind, we still cannot directly apply it to fetal personhood. 

If God made the first living man and woman in his image as is stated in Genesis 1, and science shows that life begins at conception (Kamitsuka cites research from 2008 and 2016, arguing that there is scientific ambiguity on when life really begins; however, even as recently as 2018, we have seen increasingly more scientific evidence that life definitively begins as soon as fertilization occurs), then we must believe that we are made in God’s image from the moment that our lives began. Because everything else about our humanity is inherited from Adam and Eve, we must also conclude that our role as God’s image-bearers was inherited from them as well. Therefore, if image-bearing is an inherited part of human life, and human life begins at conception, then image-bearing begins at conception. 

In order to stand firm for life, we must know, understand, and believe biblical theology. We also must affirm that it is only the hope of the true gospel that will transform minds and hearts to value human persons from conception. 

Even though verses like Psalm 139:13 are describing the lives of specific individuals, and New Testament verses such Colossians 1:20, James 3:9, and 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 are describing discipleship, we can conclude that the authors of Scripture show an inherent understanding that life begins in the womb. If this were not the case, then they would not use such language to address their audience. Kamitsuka argues that we cannot take Psalm 139:13 (“You knit me together in my mother’s womb”) as being applicable to all fetal life, because it’s a reference that David makes specifically to himself. However, if this is true, then that implies that we cannot take any personal statement made by David in the Psalms to be true for all humanity. When he says “The Lord is my shepherd” in Psalm 23, does that mean God is only David’s shepherd, and God is not a shepherd to anyone else? Of course not. 

Becoming human

However, since Kamitsuka believes that relating imago Dei to fetal value lacks reliability, she takes her processive, emergent view of the incarnation and relates it to human personhood. She believes that, just as Jesus became divine over the course of his life, becoming God at the resurrection, we also gain personhood over time. While there are multiple passages that show that a processive, emergent view of salvation is contrary to Scripture, the most obvious is in Luke 2 when the angel comes to the shepherds and says in verse 11, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” The angel did not say that this newborn baby will become Christ the Lord; he said that he “is Christ the Lord.” 

Also the book of John, we see Jesus identify that “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). Throughout his ministry, his disciples identify him as God as well. In John 20:28-29, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!’”

Just as Jesus did not become God over time, but was born fully God and fully man, so we are also not saved over time. Ephesians 1:13 makes this clear: “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal the promised Holy Spirit.” Salvation occurs in an instant upon the belief of the gospel; the process of sanctification (becoming more like Christ) occurs over time. 

God as father, not mother

Finally, regarding God as “Mother” is a common facet of feminist theology, yet it is not backed by Scripture. As John Cooper makes clear in his book Our Father in Heaven: Christian Faith and Inclusive Language of God, even the passages of Scripture that illustrate God’s tender and nurturing character do not include feminine titles. There is never a case in Scripture where God is identified by a feminine pronoun, or even a metaphorical predicate noun. Cooper states, “In other words, God is never directly said to be a mother, mistress, or female bird in the way he is said to be a father, king, judge, or shepherd.” 

If God is not a “Mother,” then there is no “womb of the Trinity.” Kamitsuka states near the end of the book, 

“In this context of miscarriage and stillbirth, God is envisaged as compassionate Mother, because God also suffered the death of her own Son. I submit that this same image of a mothering, suffering God could also speak to abortion. I imagine a woman having an abortion and, between the painful dilation and cramping, uttering a prayer to God: ‘Shekhinah, in the darkness of your womb we find protection and comfort!’ For the stigma of abortion to be overcome, one needs to imagine this prayer being heard by a mothering God who turns her face not away but toward such a woman and feels compassion for the death that the woman brings into her own womb.” 

Since there is no biblical ground to stand on that God is a mothering God,  “the stigma of abortion” cannot be overcome.

Without misrepresenting the biblical understanding of imago Dei, without denying that Jesus was fully God from birth, and without adding “God as Mother” to the Trinity, we cannot have a pro-choice theological ethic according to Kamitsuka’s definition. This is why theology matters.


Kamitsuka remarks, “Ethicist Bertha Manninen has recently noted how ‘voices within the younger generation of pro-choice advocacy’ are reconsidering speaking of the fetus as having inconsequential value, especially given the reality that some women experience abortion as an entailing loss.” We are facing a new generation of pro-choice advocacy that acknowledges that a fetus has value, but without the full consequence of personhood as made in the image of God. In order to stand firm for life, we must know, understand, and believe biblical theology. We also must affirm that it is only the hope of the true gospel that will transform minds and hearts to value human persons from conception. 

The Church must understand the profoundly difficult responsibility that we are asking a woman to take on when we plead with her to preserve the life of her child. And, yes, the local church will fail at supporting her sustainably if a firm plan of action is not in place. This is why every local church must understand what it looks like to be holistically pro-life. We must organize intentional plans and take action to establish pro-life advocacy. Most importantly, we must be willing to provide continual spiritual and material support for women, families, and orphans in need. 

It is our primary obligation to reach abortion-minded individuals winsomely with gospel hope. We must also commit to the care of women, families, and orphans with the utmost intentionality within our local churches and on the mission field. Believers, may we be moved with compassion to take action, and may we see the hope of the gospel transform abortion-minded hearts throughout the world.

Laurelen Muller

Laurelen Müller serves as the executive director of Speak for the Unborn. She helps to implement the big picture vision and mission of the ministry in every capacity, oversees administrative volunteers, trains & equips Network Churches, and plans organizational development. She and her husband, Michael, live in New Albany, Indiana, with … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24