“What About Abortion in the Case of Rape or Incest?”

Dear Sue,

I just read your article on abortion as a source to prepare a message on abortion. Thank you for a well written, well documented work. Many of the sermon reviews I have done so far lack documentation for the claims being made in the sermon. I am curious to know more regarding your point when you touched on the issue of abortion because of rape or incest. What you would say to women in those situations, and do you leave a little more room for personal decision there?

Thank you for your kind words about my article.

Since I am a woman, I’ve definitely thought about the possibility of pregnancy resulting from rape: what would I do if it happened to me? As traumatic and life-altering as rape is, I would still need to pass it through my Christian worldview filter, and I come to these conclusions (which also apply to incest):

1. God is still in control, even when He allows unspeakable evil into our lives.
2. Because He is good, that means He has a purpose and a plan to redeem even unspeakable evil, which means we can trust Him.
3. Pregnancy resulting from rape or incest brings an innocent child into existence, who has a right to life because God has made him or her in His image. He loves them and He has a plan for their lives, or they would never have been conceived.
4. Aborting a baby conceived by rape or incest doesn’t make the pain go away, and it doesn’t make the problem go away.
5. It makes it worse because the lingering guilt of abortion is horrific. A woman will often start to think of her life as divided into BA/AA (before the abortion/after the abortion).
6. In addition to the trauma of being raped or incested, a woman is then further burdened with post-abortion syndrome. (See my article “The Dark Underside of Abortion.”)

I understand that from a human standpoint, giving “more room for personal decision” to abort in the case of rape or incest makes sense. But from an eternal, biblical perspective, it still violates God’s command not to murder, and it still incurs the consequences of one’s own sinful choice. When a woman is victimized by rape or incest, she is not responsible for what was done to her, but she is responsible for her response to being sinned against. Sinning against her unborn baby and against herself is not justified, even though we certainly understand why she would do it. The need for compassion is excruciating. Which is why, if I were were talking to someone pregnant as the result of rape or incest, I would gently and lovingly give her the bigger picture of what is at stake.

Thank you so much for asking for clarification on my position on this important question. I am grateful for the chance to explain what I have hammered out concerning this very difficult issue.


© 2009 Probe Ministries

“Why Doesn’t the Bible Specifically Condemn Father-Daughter Incest?”


In “How Can a Just God Order the Slaughter of Men, Women and Children?” your author quoted the Bible as saying incest with someone’s daughter was forbidden. I have Revised Standard Edition of the Bible, and I have noticed that in this version, at least, it says “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your nakedness.”

Out of this whole long list of people (relatives) one is not supposed to have sexual relations with, in Leviticus 18, only the daughter is omitted. I have always wondered about this. You could say, well, it’s inferred that someone should not commit incest with one’s daughter. But why list all the other relatives one by one, and leave out the daughter??? It seems very suspect that the author of Leviticus would make a very detailed, explicit list, and yet still leave out the daughter.

As an incest survivor, this bothers me greatly that even one version of the Bible would have this translation.

My heart hurts for you. I am so sorry to hear about your sexual abuse. Did you know that the Hebrew word for incest is “confusion”? Appropriate, isn’t it?

You’re right, there isn’t a specific prohibition against father-daughter incest in the Bible, although I do believe it is covered under Lev. 18:6, “None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD.”

I found this interesting statement on a website (www.arlev.clara.net/lev038.htm):

Father and Daughter

It needs to be noted that sexual relations between a father and his daughter aren’t mentioned as being forbidden in either this passage or chapter 20 which follows. This is a tricky problem but it seems best to follow Wenham’s explanation on this in seeing this prohibition as already in existence amongst the Israelites and so not repeated here.

The implication of Genesis 19:30-38 appears to be that such a union was unacceptable in the eyes of the natural culture of the tribes and didn’t warrant a comment forbidding what was already accepted as illicit.

Wenham notes (page 254) that:

It is expressly forbidden both in the laws of Hammurabi . . . and in the Hittite laws . . . In other words these regulations extend the prohibitions on incest already accepted in other parts of the ancient Near East

Since even the Gentiles knew that incest with one’s daughter was unthinkable, perhaps that’s why the umbrella prohibition of Lev. 18:6 was understood to include one’s own daughter.

I also checked with a great friend of Probe, Dr. Reg Grant (professor at Dallas Theological Seminary), who also added this:

I went to the NET Bible and found this little note on 18:6 (which is the place I would have taken her as well):

Heb “Man, man shall not draw near to any flesh of his body/flesh.” The repetition of the word man is distributive, meaning “any” [or, “every”] man (GKC 123.c; cf. Lev 15:2). The two words for flesh are combined to emphasize the physical familial relatedness (see Hartley, Leviticus [WBC], 282 and Levine, Leviticus [JPSTC], 119).

It’s interesting to me to see the emphasis of the Hebrew in Lev. 18:6: first, literally, “no man, man,” indicating that this is across the board for EVERYONE, and secondly, the repetition of both Hebrew words for “flesh” (literally, “flesh of flesh to him”) to cover every family relationship.

I hope the fact that the unspeakable horror of father-child incest is not specifically forbidden in Scripture does not make you feel that it is any less heart-breaking to God than it is. There are no words for the depth of my compassion for anyone who has to live with the soul-wounds of this horrible sin and trauma. Again, I am so sorry.

Sue Bohlin

Probe Ministries

P.S. A reader sent an email responding to this article, suggesting that the prohibition in Lev. 18:17 (“You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter; you shall not take [in marriage] her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness they are close relatives, it is evil counsel”) also works to include daughters and step-daughters.

“What’s God’s Plan for Sex in Marriage?”

I’m wondering if the bible addresses the issue of sexuality after marriage. Is sex only for pleasure acceptable once a couple is married? If so are their certain ways married couples can have sex? I.e., different positions that are appropriate and others that are not?

I look forward to the day when I have a wife and can enjoy these gifts, but I want to make sure that I’m doing it in a God honoring way.

It sure does! A whole book about sexuality after marriage! The Song of Solomon is extremely erotic, but it’s written in symbolism so a lot of people miss it if they’re looking for only the literal. For instance, the use of “fruit” usually refers to the husband’s genitals, and “garden” to the wife’s. God’s word on sex after marriage is “Eat, O friends, and drink; drink your fill, O lovers.” (SoS 5:1)

Jody and Linda Dillow have written two excellent books on God’s view of sex; Jody wrote Solomon on Sex (which is out of print, but you can find it used online), and Linda co-wrote (along with Lorraine Pintus) the book Intimate Issues. They offer three guidelines for discerning what God permits in sexual expression:

1. Is it prohibited in God’s word?
2. Is it beneficial? (In other words, does it harm people or hinder the sexual relationship?)
3. Does it involve anyone else?

Here’s their list of what God prohibits in His Word:

Fornication (immoral sex, which is any sex outside of marriage)
Lustful passions
Obscenity and coarse jokes

There is more freedom than there are restrictions for married couples. If God doesn’t prohibit something, and it doesn’t involve anyone else (whether through video, the internet, print media or in the flesh), and it’s acceptable to both people, then God gives a green light and says, “Enjoy!”

The Dillows also provide six reasons God gave the gift of sex:

1. To create life
2. For intimate oneness
3. Knowledge
4. Pleasure
5. Defense against temptation
6. Comfort

As you can see, only one is procreation!

I hope this helps.

Sue Bohlin

“Is Cloning Inherently Evil?”

I have several questions about cloning.

1) I understand the dangers of cloning, which in themselves are enough to warrant banning the practice. But I’m trying to understand if there is there anything inherently evil or anti-biblical about cloning (for reproductive purposes). Is it simply a technology, comparable to in vitro fertilization, that could be used for good or evil, or is there something inherent in it that is against God’s will? (Perhaps removing the nucleus of the original egg cell?…I just don’t know)

2) I’m wondering about the biblical laws against sexual relations with a close relative (brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, etc. from Leviticus 18). Is it true that children born to parents who are close relatives are more likely to be deformed? And if so, is there a known reason this occurs genetically? And to relate that to cloning, is this possibly why clones are often deformed? I wonder if the deformations are a result of problems with the “process” or if there’s a “built-in” reason that cloning will always, on the whole, fall short of sperm-and-egg conception?

3) How long would the cloned human embryo in November 2001 have lived in order to divide to six cells? Is that a matter of seconds, minutes, hours, days? I imagine it’s very short but wondered how short.

You ask some good questions. Here are my brief responses.

Is there anything inherently evil or anti-biblical about cloning?

1. The only inherent evil in cloning that I see is the resulting devaluing of the individual, since you have brought this particular person into existence for a reason that is beyond simple reproduction in marriage. This places unrealistic expectations on the clone and tells them their value lies in those expectations and not on their intrinsic value as a human being. Some hold that the process itself is evil since it clearly deviates from the God-ordained union of sperm and egg. But that is also the case with identical twins. The second twin was the result of a budding process delayed from the initial union of sperm and egg, similar to cloning.

Is it true that children born to parents who are close relatives are more likely to be deformed? And if so, is there a known reason this occurs genetically?

2. Children resulting from incestuous relations do have a higher incidence of genetic deformities which is the reason for state laws forbidding them. All of us harbor harmful recessive genes in single copies that are not expressed because they are masked by normal dominant gene copies. Siblings and first cousins will share many of these same recessive genes because the genes came from the same parent or grandparent. But when close relatives have sexual relations and a child results, these shared family recessive genes can be paired in a homozygous condition which allows the recessive harmful gene to be expressed. Such children are not always born with these defects but the chances are much higher than normal.

But this probably has little to do with the problems faced by cloned embryos. Nobody really knows what is going wrong with the cloned embryos but my suspicion is that the process of removing the original nucleus in the egg and the subsequent placement of the new nucleus in the egg cell disrupts the complex and intricate arrangement of important signal proteins in the egg cytoplasm and membrane. Rearrangment of this critical spatial orientation could put important proteins in the wrong places, meaning early development signals are missed or misplaced. This would have devastating consequences for the embryo. If this is the case, then at least current cloning techniques may never be able to escape the low success rates currently experienced.

How long would the cloned human embryo in November 2001 have lived in order to divide to six cells?

3. The cloned embryo which reached the six cell stage was probably no more than 3-4 days old when it stopped dividing.

Hope this helps.

Ray Bohlin
Probe Ministries