By now the passing comments of Richard Mourdock in an Indiana Senate debate have made their way around the nation and have become part of the presidential debate. When asked his position on abortion, he said:
"I know that there are some who disagree and I respect their point of view but I believe that life begins at conception. The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize that life is a gift from God, and I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something God intended to happen."
The first part of his comment allows for abortion when there is a competing claim on life between the mother and the unborn child. The second half relates to the question of making exceptions when there isn't a competing life claim. For example, in the case of rape, is that an exceptional situation? His answer was that it is not. Being consistent with his view that we have a human being, probably even from the point of the initial zygote where sperm and egg join, he cannot justify abortion in that case because it is taking a life.
There are all sorts of ethical and theological issues here. For example, does a blastocyst hours or days after conception have the same moral status as a three month old or six month old fetus? If so, then IUDs and the day after pill should be made illegal (so in Mourdock's position, a raped woman should not be given a day after pill to make sure she doesn't get pregnant from the rape). Does a fertilized egg have a soul? To what extent can the religious views of an individual be forced onto American citizens who do not share that view?
But those debates are very old. Mourdock did not say, "I believe a life is a life and thus that even in the case of rape a woman can't have an abortion." He went further to say that God intended her to get pregnant. This is the Rick Warren, purpose-driven-life perspective.
It is not a Wesleyan perspective. Wesleyans believe that God has given humanity free will in some measure. Accordingly, not everything that happens is God's perfect plan or directive will.
I would go further to say that God gives the creation some degree of freedom as well. Let's call it "the laws of nature." God does not decide every time whether I'm going to stick to the ground or fly off into space. He made something called the law of gravity.
The result is that God doesn't micromanage the creation. God allows everything that happens because he is sovereign, in control of everything. But God does not direct everything that happens. Otherwise, God becomes the direct author of evil, which James 1 disallows. This is a potential inconsistency in Mourdock's position. If God intends the pregnancy, he must explain why God did not intend the rape in the first place.
In the end, this is the age old problem of evil. The best explanation--and even it is admittedly not perfect--is that God has allowed evil to exist in the world for a time. Evil happens. Some Christian thinkers, like John Piper and Wayne Grudem, prefer to think that God orchestrates and directs every single thing that happens. There would thus be no difference between God and Satan, for God would make Satan do everything he does.
At least the "free will explanation" distances God from evil. It says that God, for some reason, has allowed evil and suffering to exist for the moment, but that he will eventually destroy it once and for all, for good.