This week U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock is being thrashed by the media and abandoned by fellow Republicans for saying that pregnancies resulting from rape are “something that God intended to happen.” Mourdock, of course, is not saying anything that should be controversial for conservative, evangelical Christians (or Roman Catholics, for that matter). He’s not claiming that rape is God’s will, but instead that every child, regardless of the circumstances of his or her conception, exists because God brought him or her into existence. Of course, his political opponents are attempting to spin Mourdock’s comments and claim that he believes that rape is something that God wills.
It is inconceivable that a politician in today’s world would make such a statement! Nevertheless, there will be those who argue that Mourdock said just such a thing and it will cost him at the polls. Rather than focus on the sad state of political discourse in our country, however, I’d like to challenge us to approach this whole issue from a biblical worldview and form our opinions about such issues as abortion and the will of God from Scripture rather than perceived political expediency or emotionally-driven preferences.
First, let me briefly (that’s an understatement!) address the issue of God’s will. The Bible speaks of God’s will in more than one way. We are right to think of any evil or sinful act, such as rape, as wrong and contrary to the will of God – if we are thinking of his prescriptive will, or his will of command. When we say, for instance, that God’s will is for us to abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3) we are referring to God’s revealed will of command. All the commands of God, whether positive or negative, fall into this category. However, Scripture also speaks of God’s will in another sense. God has a sovereign plan for all of history and for every single human being. The details of this plan are not revealed, and therefore some prefer to call this God’s secret will. I prefer to speak of his sovereign will, since at times God does reveal the details of his plan and he has made known to us in broad strokes what his plan for history is.
Over and over we see in the Bible that God’s sovereign will often includes the sinful actions of human beings. For instance, Joseph says that, while his brothers actions were wicked and they intended to accomplish evil by selling him into slavery, “God meant it for good,” (Genesis 50:20). The “it” is the evil act of selling their brother into slavery. Joseph’s brothers are sinners and are guilty before God, but their sinful actions were planned by God and served his purposes in rescuing his people from famine and temporarily removing them from the Promised Land. So certain is Joseph of God’s hand in these evil acts that he can proclaim to his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth…” and that, “it was not you who sent me here, but God,” (Genesis 45:7,8). Certainly, their actions violated God’s will of command. Yet, mysteriously, those actions remain a part of his sovereign will.
This is a mystery that we cannot fully comprehend, but one that we must accept. It lies at the heart of the Christian faith, for we see these two wills of God at work in the death of God’s Son. In Acts 4 the Apostle Peter prays to the “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them,” and proclaims, “truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place,” (Acts 4:23, 27-28). Notice that Peter is not painting with broad strokes, as if God’s plan was to sacrifice his Son, while leaving the details of who might carry that plan out up for grabs. Herod, Pilate, the Roman soldiers, and the Jewish religious leaders are specifically included. Their actions led to the murder of an innocent man. They killed the Son of God! And yet, all of the sins of these men that led to Christ’s death were a part of the sovereign plan of God.
Now, to return to the issue of rape, pregnancy, and abortion, we must admit that we cannot simply say that rape is not a part of God’s will without qualification. We can say that rape is evil. We can say that rape is a violation of God’s commands. We can say, in that sense, that rape is not God’s will. But we cannot say that the rapist (or any other criminal) has thwarted God’s sovereign plan by his actions. What’s more, if we embrace a biblical view of God’s sovereignty, we will be able to more clearly see how God can intend good to come from another’s evil actions. Pregnancies resulting from rape are not an accident, nor are they unplanned by God. Every human being exists because God wills him or her to exist, regardless of how young he or she is or how he or she was conceived.
In the end, abortion is not a complicated political issue. Either babies are babies, regardless of age or ability, or they are not. Whether a pregnancy is the result of a married couples’ relationship, a sexual relationship outside of wedlock, or of something as horrible as rape, a baby is still a baby. Humans are humans, regardless of which developmental stage they happen to be in at the time. To say otherwise is to ignore science, common sense, and most importantly, Scripture. People are not accidents. Babies are not mistakes, even if our sins, or the evils done by others lead to their conception.
There is great hope in knowing these things! No longer do the victims of rape have to live with the belief that their child is a mistake or a tragedy. No, in God’s sovereign goodness he uses our greatest pains and most terrifying experiences to bring life and joy into the world. Evil is still evil, but life is still life, and children are still a blessing from the Lord.