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Theological principles

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Reproductive Options


This material is from “Problem Pregnancies and Abortion,” pages 4-10, a report received and approved by the 204th General Assembly (1992).

Our Presbyterian understanding of Scripture

The unique and authoritative witness we have for the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is Scripture … Scripture is not a book of formulas, of directions in a mechanical sense. It is a book of history, of poetry, of letters, of stories, and in the midst of these forms are commandments and teachings … In Scripture we learn again the character, will and purposes of God that should govern our lives. We reappropriate the ways in which the people of God in the past have been led to do what God wanted them to do in their situations, so that we are open to God's guidance in our own.

What the Bible tells us

In our biblical study we learn that human sexuality is a part of God's creation, human creatures are given decision making character and God is concerned for all creation. Sin has entered the world … the fall of creation has had great effect on human sexuality and procreation. Yet God is always involved in the work of redemption.

How to use the Bible in matters of disagreement

Part of the task of the church is to wrestle clearly and faithfully with the different issues that face human beings in the midst of a fallen creation. But this does not mean the answers are obvious, or that Scripture addresses clearly and directly all our contemporary concerns … When we have faithfully engaged in such discussion, even though we do not agree on all matters and significant differences remain … we can also proclaim with great confidence that the God who created a good world continues, through Word and Spirit, to love and work for a fallen one.

Biblical agreement and disagreement

Though we agreed on this biblical and theological foundation, there remain significant differences beyond this point. (Here the report includes two different interpretations of biblical materials regarding abortion, page 9).

Clearly there is both agreement and disagreement in our use and interpretation of Scripture … The committee agreed that there are no biblical texts that speak expressly to the topic of abortion, but that taken in their totality the Holy Scriptures are filled with messages that advocate respect for the woman and child before the birth …

The following is found in “Covenant & Creation: Theological Reflections on Contraception and Abortion,” pages 58-60. Received and adopted by the 195th General Assembly (1983).

Stewards of life

Biblical faith depicts persons as stewards of life, heirs who are responsible for the care of God's world. This responsibility leads persons of faith not only to an exploration of all of creation but also to efforts that maintain order, secure justice and improve the quality of life …

Covenantal responsibility

There is no point in the course of pregnancy when the (theological) issue of abortion is insignificant. The serious theological decision is to be made on the basis of the covenantal character of parental responsibility. Bearing children is a process of covenant initiation that calls for courage, love, patience and strength. In addition to these gifts of the Spirit, parent child covenants also include the economic as well as the spiritual resources appropriate to the nurture of human life. The magnitude of the commitment to be a human parent cannot be overestimated and should not be understated.

The decision to terminate a pregnancy may be an affirmation of one's covenant responsibility to accept the limits of human resources. Because we understand the morality of abortion to be a question of stewardship of life, the responsible decision to choose abortion may arise from an analysis of the projected resources for caregiving in a specific situation.

Abortion can therefore be considered a responsible choice within a Christian ethical framework when serious genetic problems arise or when resources are not adequate to care for a child appropriately. Elective abortion, when responsibly used, is intervention in the process of pregnancy precisely because of the seriousness with which one regards the covenantal responsibility of parenting.

God's guidance

Biblical faith emphasizes the need for personal moral choice and holds that persons stand ultimately accountable to God for their moral choices (God alone is Lord of conscience) … Even in the face of the most difficult decisions … the gospel assures us that we can trust in God's spirit to guide us in our decision …

God's Grace

The gospel reminds us again and again of God's grace, which is sufficient for us in spite of our limitations, and assures us that even if we err in misusing our freedom, God's forgiveness restores us in covenant love …

Affirmation of human conscience

The Calvinist affirmation of conscience as one of the primary junctures at which the power of the Holy Spirit breaks through into human experience is grounded in both the Old Testament call to human responsibility, as set forth in God's covenant with us, and the New Testament assurance of the work of the Holy Spirit as our enabler and guide in the exercise of human freedom before God.


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