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Non-killing Instinct

In a September 22, 2022 Public Discourse article, David Novak observes, “When religious pro-life advocates naively invoke biblical prohibitions of homicide, they presume these prohibitions carry the prima facie moral authority of the Bible in a polity where, in fact, the Bible has no such authority.”

There are few things that strike me as stupider than the invocation of the Bible as authority in places where it is not recognized as such. In such places one must rely on natural law-type arguments, and point toward their consonance with Scripture, rather than the other way around, never treating these as “proofs,” but as appeals to a universal consciousness of the Tao: something is fundamentally wrong with a society that kills its offspring and with mothers who will the deaths of their children. One would, for example, argue in traditional oriental cultures of the gross disrespect to ancestors this involves, or in secular cultures of its genocidal aspect. Photographs of dismembered babies that assault natural affections are of this kind.

The biblical “proofs,” as proofs, unlike the condemnation, for example, of sodomy, are rather weak. What orthodox Jewish and Christian pro-life advocates actually rely upon, I would argue, is not biblical proscription as much as the enhanced sensibility to Moral Law and its rationes that the Scriptures provide—to things that everyone knows intuitively and must go mad to deny.

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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