A pro-life friend from Michigan heard a pastor on the radio defending legalized abortion. I've heard all sorts of Biblical arguments made to try and defend abortion, but this one was especially bizarre. As Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason says, never read a Bible verse. In other words, don't just read one verse out of context. All sorts of heresies have begun that way. Sometimes to understand the meaning of a verse you have to read the entire chapter or sometimes the entire book. The Scriptures were originally not written with chapter and verse markings, and in many cases these markings are unhelpful because the chapter ends before a thought or argument is completed.
So which verse did this pastor use to support legalized abortion? Deuteronomy 30:19, which states: "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live,". This is where the pastor ended his "quote." Notice the comma at the end; the thought wasn't even completed and in fact extends for another verse: "So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
This is a pretty shameful and blatant misrepresentation of Scripture. The immediate thing that jumps out at us is this: in context, this verse isn't even talking about abortion. What is it talking about? Let's take the entire passage in context, Deuteronomy 30: 15-20: "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
So what is the choice we're talking about here? Whether to continue a pregnancy or end it by aborting the human offspring? Hardly. The choice that Moses is setting before the people of Israel is this: Choose whether or not you are going to serve the Lord and follow His commandments. If you do, your life will be extended in the land. But if you don't, if you turn your heart away from the Lord and follow pagan gods, if you choose the curses rather than the blessings, you will not enjoy the blessings of the Lord. God is the giver of Life and sustains us, but if we are not willing to perform our duty as those who serve God, we will have to suffer the consequences.
This pastor asserts that God is telling us here that God wants us to be pro-choice, that we can't force life on anyone. You can't choose life if you aren't given the choice. But that's not what this passage is saying, at all. I don't understand the people who claim that we must be given a choice if we are truly capable of making a choice. It doesn't follow from that that we must be legally permitted to have a choice in order to be able to make one. We all have a choice whether to murder, rape, or steal, even though these things are not legally permitted. And just because I am a free agent does not mean I have any right to make a choice that harms or infringes on the natural rights of another person, another being made in God's image.
Conversely, I also see well-meaning Christians using this verse as a prooftext that God wants us to choose life for our babies. I believe wholeheartedly that abortion is wrong, it is an act of murder, and God wants us to choose life. But this passage does not speak to that. This passage speaks to the Israelites having the choice of whether to serve God, and receive his blessings, or to turn their backs on God and follow pagan gods, who are impotent and worthless.
In short, to reiterate Greg Koukl, never read a Bible verse. You can get the Bible to say anything you want it to say by ripping one verse from its context. That is unwise and poor Biblical hermeneutics. And by searching the Scriptures, as the Bereans did in the book of Acts, you will be able to prevent yourself from being taken in by poor Biblical interpretations.