This article originally appeared on May 10, 2022 at Baptist News Global.
Few topics enflame conservative evangelicalism’s self-righteous ire like the topic of abortion. We’ve all seen social media posts from friends that depict or describe abortion procedures in the most graphically violent ways in order to shock us.
Who could possibly be in favor of violently dismembering the most helpless among us? The Democrats, of course, they say.
No matter what candidate the Republican Party nominates, many conservative evangelicals assume that to withhold a vote for a Republican politician is to vote for the inhumanity of violence toward babies. And thus, the conservative evangelical conscience is bound to empowering the Republican Party, while Democrats are demonized as inhumane.
The inhumanity of the lake of fire
Of course, nothing brings cool-headed mindfulness to a conversation like the dread of eternal conscious torment. While there has been a growing intrigue among some Christians in the idea of ultimate redemption — the teaching that everyone has been reconciled to God and will one day be fully healed by love and accept their reconciliation — there are more who believe in annihilationism — the idea that all non-Christians will be punished in the afterlife by a literal death of ceasing to exist.
“Nothing brings cool-headed mindfulness to a conversation like the dread of eternal conscious torment.”
But the overwhelming majority of conservative evangelicals in the United States believe in eternal conscious torment — the idea that all who do not accept the evangelical theology of penal substitutionary atonement will be punished for all eternity in the torments of a lake of fire and brimstone that’s even more terrifying than hell itself.
To reflect the pro-life movement’s apparent affinity for utilizing graphically violent language, this means that billions of humans will be writhing and flailing while screaming and gnashing their teeth as fire and brimstone engulf their skin and worms crawl in and out of their bodies that were designed specifically and exclusively to feel the most infinite measure of physical pain to the fullest degree possible for all eternity, all while conservative evangelicals sing songs and receive pleasures forevermore.
The way conservative evangelicals in the pro-life movement think about abortion in light of that reality becomes an exercise in mental gymnastics that destroys the humanity of us all, as well as the humanity of God.
Original sin and aborted babies
Conservative evangelicals in the pro-life movement believe life begins at conception, and therefore conception is the birth of the soul. So whenever death happens after conception, their theology teaches that the soul will spend eternity either in heaven or hell.
They also believe in the doctrine of original sin, which teaches that all humans, as physical descendants of Adam, inherit the sinful nature and death that were introduced into the cosmos through Adam in the Garden of Eden. Even many evangelicals who accept evolution often figure out some way to uphold this idea of original sin, despite the absence of a universal ancestor.
So the question that gets raised is whether original sin would condemn aborted fetuses to an eternity in hell before they ever took a breath.
“For those who believe in original sin and eternal conscious torment, the eternal destiny of an aborted fetus creates a quite disturbing theological conundrum.”
Would a blastocyst soul that dies three days after conception with no consciousness suddenly wake up with a fully developed human body burning in eternal conscious torment? One might assume that even the most inhumane among us wouldn’t imagine or accept such a fate for anyone. But for those who believe in original sin and eternal conscious torment, the eternal destiny of an aborted fetus creates a quite disturbing theological conundrum. Do you reject your theology in the embrace of your humanity? Do you suppress your humanity while grasping on to your theology? Or do you reconsider your theology?