“All they that hate me love death” (Proverbs 8:36)
Sadly, because all men without exception are sinners, the most fundamental factor in understanding anthropology is the Thanatos factor. With entirely non-Freudian implications, the Thanatos Syndrome is simply the natural sinful inclination to death and defilement. All men have morbidly embraced death (Romans 5:12).
At the Fall, mankind was suddenly destined for death (Jeremiah 15:2). We were all at that moment bound into a covenant with death (Isaiah 28:15). Scripture tells us, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).
Whether we know it or not, we have chosen death (Jeremiah 8:3). It has become our shepherd (Psalm 49:14). Our minds are fixed on it (Romans 8:6), our hearts pursue it (Proverbs 21:6), and our flesh is ruled by it (Romans 8:2). We dance to its cadences (Proverbs 2:18) and descend to its chambers (Proverbs 7:27).
The fact is “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18). And, all those who hate God love death (Proverbs 8:36).
It is no wonder then that abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment have always been a normal and natural part of human relations. Since the dawning of time, men have contrived ingenious diversions to satisfy their fallen passions. And child killing has always been chief among them.
Virtually every culture in antiquity was stained with the blood of innocent children. Unwanted infants in ancient Rome were abandoned outside the city walls to die from exposure to the elements or from the attacks of wild foraging beasts. Greeks often gave their pregnant women harsh doses of herbal or medicinal abortifacients. Persians developed highly sophisticated surgical curette procedures. Chinese women tied heavy ropes around their waists so excruciatingly tight that they either aborted or passed into unconsciousness. Ancient Hindus and Arabs concocted chemical [contraceptives]. Primitive Canaanites threw their children onto great flaming pyres as a sacrifice to their god Molech. Polynesians subjected their pregnant women to onerous tortures—their abdomens beaten with large stones or hot coals heaped upon their bodies. Japanese women stood over boiling cauldrons of parricidal brews. Egyptians disposed of their unwanted children by disembowelling and dismembering them shortly after birth. Their collagen was then ritually harvested for the manufacture of cosmetic creams.
None of the great minds of the ancient world—from Plato and Aristotle to Seneca and Quintilian, from Pythagoras and Aristophanes to Livy and Cicero, from Herodotus and Thucydides to Plutarch and Euripides—disparaged child killing in any way. In fact, most of them actually recommended it. They callously discussed its various methods and procedures. They casually debated its sundry legal ramifications. They blithely tossed lives like dice.
Abortion, infanticide, exposure, and abandonment were so much a part of human societies that they provided the primary leitmotif in popular traditions, stories, myths, fables, and legends.
The founding of Rome was, for instance, presumed to be the happy result of the abandonment of children, [Romulus and Remus]…Oedipus was presumed to be an abandoned child who was also found by a shepherd and later rose to greatness. Ion, the eponymous monarch in ancient Greece miraculously lived through an abortion, according to tradition. Cyrus, the founder of the Persian empire, was supposedly a fortunate survivor of infanticide. According to Homer’s legend, Paris, whose amorous indiscretions started the Trojan War, was also a victim of abandonment. Telephus, the king of Mysia in Greece, and Habius, ruler of the Cunetes in Spain, had both been exposed as children according to various folk tales. Jupiter, the chief god of the Olympian pantheon, himself had been abandoned as a child. He, in turn, exposed his twin sons, Zethus and Amphion. Similarly, other myths related that Poseidon, Aesculapius, Hephaistos, Attis, and Cybele had all been abandoned to die.
Because they had been mired by the minions of sin and death, it was as natural as the spring rains for the men and women of antiquity to kill their children. It was as instinctive as the autumn harvest for them summarily to sabotage their own heritage. They saw nothing particularly cruel about despoiling the fruit of their wombs. It was woven into the very fabric of their culture. They believed that it was completely justifiable. They believed that it was just, good, and right.
But they were wrong. Dreadfully wrong.
Life is God’s gift: It is His gracious endowment upon the created order. It flows forth in generative fruitfulness. The earth is literally teeming with life (Genesis 1:20; Leviticus 11:10; 22:5; Deuteronomy 14:9). And the crowning glory of this sacred teeming is man himself (Genesis 1:26-30; Psalm 8:1-9). To violate the sanctity of this magnificent endowment is to fly in the face of all that is holy, just, and true (Jeremiah 8:1-17; Romans 8:6). To violate the sanctity of life is to invite judgment, retribution, and anathema (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). It is to solicit devastation, imprecation, and destruction (Jeremiah 21:8-10). The Apostle Paul tells us, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
But the Lord God, Who is the giver of life (Acts 17:25), the fountain of life (Psalm 36:9), the defender of life (Psalm 27:1), the prince of life (Acts 3:15), and the restorer of life (Ruth 4:15), did not leave men to languish hopelessly in the clutches of sin and death. He not only sent us the message of life (Acts 5:20) and the words of life (John 6:68), He sent us the light of life as well (John 8:12). He sent us His only begotten Son, the life of the world (Joh 6:51), to break the bonds of death (1Corinthians 15:54-56)…“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)…In Christ, God has afforded us the opportunity…to choose between fruitful and teeming life on the one hand, and barren and impoverished death on the other (Deuteronomy 30:19).
Apart from Christ, it is not possible to escape the snares of sin and death (Colossians 2:13). On the other hand, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2Corinthians 5:17). All those who hate Christ “love death” (Proverbs 8:36), while all those who receive Christ are made the sweet savour of life (2Corinthians 2:16).
The implication is clear: The pro-life movement and the Christian faith are synonymous. Where there is one, there will be the other: for one cannot be had without the other. Further, the primary conflict in temporal history always has been and always will be the struggle for life by the Church against the natural inclinations of all men everywhere.
Conclusion: Death has cast its dark shadow across the whole of human relations. Because of sin, all men flirt and flaunt shamelessly in the face of its spectre. Sadly, such impudence has led to the most grotesque concupiscence imaginable: the slaughter of innocent children. Blinded by the glare from the nefarious and insidious angel of light (2Corinthians 11:14), we stand by, paralyzed and mesmerized. Thanks be to God, there is a way of escape from these bonds of destruction. In Christ, there is hope. In Him, there is life, both temporal and eternal. In Him, there is liberty and justice. In Him, there is an antidote to the Thanatos factor. In Him, and in Him alone, there is an answer to the age-long dilemma of the dominion of death.
By George Grant: pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church, church planter, author, president of King’s Meadow Study Centre, founder of Franklin Classical School, and chancellor of New College Franklin.