Changing Evangelical Views on Abortion and the Moral Majority’s Original Sin

Fred Clark reminds us of a very important point–evangelicals, until the late 70s and early 80s, were far more liberal on the issue of abortion than they are today (boldface mine, emphasis original):

That year, Christianity Today — edited by Harold Lindsell, champion of “inerrancy” and author of The Battle for the Bible — published a special issue devoted to the topics of contraception and abortion. That issue included many articles that today would get their authors, editors — probably even their readers — fired from almost any evangelical institution. For example, one article by a professor from Dallas Theological Seminary criticized the Roman Catholic position on abortion as unbiblical. Jonathan Dudley quotes from the article in his book Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics. Keep in mind that this is from a conservative evangelical seminary professor, writing in Billy Graham’s magazine for editor Harold Lindsell:

God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: “If a man kills any human life he will be put to death” (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22-24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense. … Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

Christianity Today would not publish that article in 2012. They might not even let you write that in comments on their website. If you applied for a job in 2012 with Christianity Today or Dallas Theological Seminary and they found out that you had written something like that, ever, you would not be hired.

At some point between 1968 and 2012, the Bible began to say something different. That’s interesting.

One reason for that is what I highlighted. In the late 70s and early 80s, Catholic conservatives were able to form a coalition with evangelicals over the removal of the tax exempt status of ‘segregation academies’–denominational private schools that de facto discriminated against African-Americans. This coalition was formalized as the Moral Majority. Until then, while it would be a stretch to call evangelicals liberal (they weren’t on the whole), they were strong supporters of the separation between church and state.

Odd how this political coalition affected the underlying theology.

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