Human life is precious. That should go without saying. However, in this day and age, it seems this basic tenet of society has been forgotten, or more maliciously, deliberately tossed aside. The problem that arises is that when we cast aside human life as if it does not intrinsically matter to building and maintaining a decent, thriving society, we also discard the very soul of society itself. Society would not exist without human life. This is why we must make every effort to protect the sanctity of life itself. But how can we do that in a world that has become so desensitized to death, and to the destruction of life even before it comes into existence.
Now I understand people have become wary of others pushing certain views, be they political, religious, or otherwise. I want to make it clear from the outset that while we are going to be discussing issues in this edition of Uncovering Christianity that are polarizing to some, they will be discussed in terms of morality. This series is, of course, one dedicated to looking deeper into Christianity, and so we will be exploring this topic in terms of Christianity and Biblical context as well.
Life itself is one of the most important aspects of this world. In the Christian perspective, life came into existence when it was created by God Himself. As mentioned previously, the world and all it entails, including human life, was created in six days, the seventh being a day of rest. God saw that His Creation, the wondrous expanse of life He had crafted, was good. We will go deeper into the world of Creation in a future edition. When God created human beings, the first being Adam and Eve, he created them in His image:
So God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27)
God gave us life. It was our duty to protect it. After God created man and woman in His image and likeness:
God Blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky, and every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)
In saying “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth, and subdue it”, it is clear God wishes for man and woman to have children, for more humans to be born, grow, and continue in this cycle, filling the Earth. Human life was looked upon with great regard by God. He created us with a specially dignified status amongst all other creatures on this Earth. And so we were called upon to procreate and protect the sanctity of life itself.
Procreation brings us, of course, to discuss the matter of when life begins, and the polarizing issue of abortion. In the modern world, there are those who are pro-life, and those who are pro-choice. Pro-lifers are those who oppose abortion, holding the view that the unborn baby is a human life from the moment of conception. Those on the pro-choice side of the matter often claim it is a woman’s right to choose whether or not she wishes to give birth to a child she has conceived, and that the unborn baby is not necessarily a human life, often using the terms “clump of cells”, “fetus”, or even “parasite” to describe the innocent life inside the mother’s womb. All of these terms are used in order to dehumanize the unborn baby as a means of justifying destroying it.
Over the years, I have seen two arguments made by those who are pro-choice in reference to the Bible to justify abortion. They will either claim that “nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about abortion”, or they will take a Biblical passage out of context in an attempt to justify their views. Both of these arguments, from a Biblical standpoint, are easily dismantled.
First, let us address the claim that there is no mention of abortion in the Bible. This claim is incorrect. There are several verses that address the matter, although not explicitly. Rather, they address it in a way that is clearly intentioned, but without using the word “abortion” itself. The first, as we have already looked at, is Genesis 1:28. God wished for man and woman to “be fruitful and increase in number”. The only way for them to increase in number would be to conceive a child, or children. In other words, God was in favour of procreation.
Before we move on to the next verse, I would like to take a brief moment to discuss the word “procreation”. In essence, there are two parts to this word: “pro” and “creation”. Procreation practically means “for life”. To procreate is to create life. It is all in the word itself.
The next verse that addresses unborn life is Psalm 139:13-16. It reads as follows:
It was you who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; all your works are wonderful; I know that very well. My every bone was known to you when I was being formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Before I took shape, your eyes saw me, and before any one of my days came to be they were written down in your book.
It is a really beautiful verse. It truly brings forth the sanctity of life and puts it on clear display for anyone willing to read and understand what the words mean. (Sidenote: The Book of Psalms is one I would highly recommend reading for anyone who is exploring the Bible and the faith more, even for those just starting out. It is a really wonderful book and shows just how incredible the presence of God is and can be in our lives.) It clearly explains how we each came to be, and how God knew us first before anyone else did. God created us in His own image and likeness, knitting us together in the wombs of our mothers. Each of us are wonderfully made, all with our own unique features and perfect imperfections. It is important to note that this world is not perfect, we are not perfect. But each of us is perfect in our own way, so long as we are living a fulfilling life and working toward our purpose in life. The unborn, innocent human lives created in God’s image and likeness, are perfect. They have not yet been touched by corruption in this world. They are perfect, innocent human lives that must be protected and given every chance to enter this world, just as was intended in their creation.
Oftentimes those who are pro-choice will argue that an unborn baby should be aborted merely because it has some sort of “imperfection”. One that I have heard and seen on far too many occasions is Down Syndrome. Pro-choice individuals would say it is justified to abort a baby with Down Syndrome, just because the baby has Down Syndrome. But how can we in good conscience take a human life simply because it is not what some view as “normal”? A baby with Down Syndrome is no different to any other human life. All human life is equal; That is important to remember. Yes, a baby with Down Syndrome may look different and behave somewhat differently, but that does not change the simple fact that it is a human life. It does not change the fact that it is an intelligent human being, capable of leading a good and decent life here on Earth. In fact, those with Down Syndrome are typically much more emotionally engaged with others and are amazing in their own ways. Just because they have an extra chromosome, a genetic feature that others do not possess, they do not deserve to have their lives taken from them.
Jeremiah 1:4-5 is similar in nature to Psalm 139. It reads:
The word of the Lord came to me saying: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, and I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
In this verse God is addressing Jeremiah, but it is again clear that He wants us to have life, and that He know us all before we are born, setting us apart from one another, giving us our own special gifts and talents.
The next verse is also from the book of Psalms:
Sons are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the sons of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them, for he will not be put to shame when he contends with his foes at the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5)
This verse shows us that children are a gift from above, that they are valuable. They are indeed one of the greatest gifts from God that we can hope to receive. We should not take them for granted, including when they are not yet born.
Our next verse comes from the book of Proverbs. It reads:
There are six things the Lord hates, seven His inner being detests: the proud look, the lying tongue, hands which spill innocent blood, the depraved heart, feet which speed towards evil, a false and lying witness and the man who sows discord among people. (Proverbs 6: 16-19)
These tie in to the Ten Commandments, which we discussed in the third edition of Uncovering Christianity (Rules And Morality). Of course, the main focus for this edition is the third thing written in the verse above, “hands which spill innocent blood”. As was said from the outset of this edition, human life is precious. Taking a human life is one of the most terrible things one can do. The most innocent of human life is that of the unborn baby in the womb. Taking such a life is spilling innocent blood, a most tragic and reprehensible action.
Finally, we have the most obvious yet often disregarded line from the Bible that is completely and clearly against abortion:
You shall not kill. (Exodus 20:13)
It is simple, yet often it is cast aside as if it does not apply to abortion. The truth is it does. When you take a human life, you are killing someone. Now it is obvious this means we should not kill those who have already been born. Their lives are precious and must also be protected. But if we look at this in terms of the unborn, we can see that the rule also applies to their protection. As we have seen from previous verses cited, an unborn baby is a human life. But for those who are not necessarily religious and do not believe life begins at conception, do not take it from me, take it from science.
When fertilization takes place, an embryo is created with its own unique DNA, its own genetic makeup. It is a human life. Scientists agree. Dr. Maureen Condic, Director of Human Embryology instruction and Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah’s School of Medicine, has written that “the conclusion that human life begins at sperm-egg fusion is uncontested, objective, based on the universally accepted scientific method of distinguishing different cell types from each other and on ample scientific evidence (thousands of independent, peer-reviewed publications). Moreover it is entirely independent of any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos.” A study carried out by Steven Andrew Jacobs from the University of Chicago took a sample of 5,502 biologists from 1,058 academic institutions. These biologists were separated into 60 groups, which “assessed statements representing the biological view ‘a human’s life begins at fertilization’”, whereby “each statement was affirmed by a consensus of each group, including biologists that identified as very pro-choice (69-90%), very pro-life (92-97%), very liberal (70-91%), very conservative (94-96%), strong Democrats (74-91%), and strong Republicans (89-94%). Overall, 95% of all biologists affirmed the biological view that a human’s life begins at fertilization (5212 out of 5502).” The statistics from this study demonstrate that biologists from all walks of life, of various political and religious beliefs, agree that human life begins at fertilization (conception).
This makes sense, because basic biology says that when fertilization occurs, a human life is created. From that point forth, that is a human life that will grow, that will develop into a human being. And no, it is not part of the mother’s body. It may rely upon the mother’s body for survival when it is developing inside the womb but is a separate human being.
But it seems today that science has become corrupted by partisanship and ideological bias. The problem that arises is this: basic biology has been forgone by many to push their own political agenda that holds a blatant disregard for human life. People worship scientists as if they are gods, thus inflating their egos and giving them every excuse to push their ideology onto everyone else as “science”. In doing so, real science gets lost in the noise of false ideological “science”. Yes, science has its place in society. But so do basic moral principles.
Pro-choice individuals like to take the Bible out of context to claim that God is also pro-choice and justify abortion. The verse most often used for this purpose is Numbers 5:19-22,27-28. It reads as follows:
19-22: He (the priest) is then to make the woman agree to an oath. He shall say to her: If it is not true that a man has slept with you, that you have gone astray and defiled yourself while under your husband’s authority, then may this water of bitterness and cursing do you no harm. But, if it is true that you have gone astray, and have defiled yourself by sharing your bed with a man other than your husband – here the priest is to pronounce an execration and a curse and say – May the Lord make of you an example of malediction and a curse among your people, making your genitals shrink and your womb swell! May this water of cursing enter your body to swell your womb and to shrink your genitals! The woman shall answer: Amen! Amen!
27-28: After he has made her drink it, if it is true that she has disgraced herself, deceiving her husband, then the water of cursing that goes into her shall indeed be bitte: her womb will swell and her genitals shrink, and she will be a curse among her people. But, if she has not disgraced herself and is clean, then she will go unharmed and will bear children.
The fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers focuses on three things: Expulsion of the Unclean, Restitution for Wrongs, and the Test for Suspected Adultery. The above verses are taken from the section on the test for suspected adultery. It is often misinterpreted by those who are pro-choice. They take it that the bitter water given to the woman will cause her to miscarry. The reason they come to this conclusion is a matter of translation. The original Hebrew terms used were “beten”, which is translated as “stomach”, “abdomen”, or “womb”, and “tsabeh”, which means “to swell”. The Hebrew words for “thigh”, “falling away”, and “wasting away” were also used. Most versions of the Bible stuck to the original translations when they were written. The only two that did not were the NIV and NRSV. The translators of these two Bibles clearly decided to follow Biblical commentary that claimed the thigh falling away was a Hebrew euphemism for miscarriage, with these two Bibles instead stating in these verses from Numbers that the woman’s womb would “miscarry”.
Even if the miscarriage translation was correct, this is not at all a justification for abortion. There is nothing to suggest the woman mentioned is pregnant, and it is clear that an abortion is not being performed. In fact, miscarriage is mentioned in the Bible, but in such a way that the unborn baby’s life is viewed as equal to that of the mother’s. Exodus 21:22-25 states:
If people are fighting and a pregnant woman is hit, so that there is a miscarriage, but she is not injured, the one who hurt her will pay the fine demanded by her husband and sanctioned by the court. But, if there is serious injury you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stroke for stroke.
The “injury” referred to in this verse, an injury which is to be compensated for like all others, applies not only to the mother but also to the child. The final nail in the coffin of the argument that abortion is supported by the Bible is this: there is no abortion legislation in Biblical law. Why? Because it was such an unthinkable thing that any woman would want to have an abortion that there no need for the offense to be mentioned. The only rule necessary to prohibit abortions was the 6th Commandment: You shall not kill. The Bible and God are very much pro-life.
And just quickly on the cases of pregnancy from rape and incest (because I know it is something many bring up), these are rare, and we cannot use a minority of cases to justify the majority when it comes to abortion, most of which are sought as a matter of convenience given the baby would cause an inconvenience to the mother in some way, be it stalling her career or her ambitions or the like. Personally, I do not believe an unborn child should have to pay for the sins of someone else, in most cases the father. I understand this may be difficult to comprehend, but there are many human beings born out of rape and incest that end up living decent, if not exceptional, lives. Why should they lose their chance at life because of the way in which they were conceived?
There is one final issue surrounding the sanctity of life that we must touch on: capital punishment, or, as it is widely known, the death penalty. This has become a point of contention even amongst Christians. There are indeed Catholics who support the death penalty, and it is something that I have been at odds with since discovering. As a Catholic myself, I oppose the death penalty for the sole reason that it is the taking of a human life. One of the tenets of our faith is that we should not kill. Nowhere in the Ten Commandments is there an exception to the rule given.
Now it is understandable that people would see the death penalty as justifiable for the worst criminals: Those who commit murder, rape, and other heinous crimes. These kinds of people are indeed vile and do not deserve freedom. But we should not kill them either. That would make us no better than them. Just as a murderer took a life, we would take their life.
I do not understand how Christians, those who live their lives by the moral principles and values of the Bible, can support the death penalty yet oppose abortion. They are both the taking of a human life. All human life is equal. One human life is not above nor below another. We all make choices, some good, some bad, that determine our place on Earth. But none of these choices devalue nor increase the value of our human life. As a Catholic, I believe in a consistent ethic, a consistent value, of life, from the point of conception to the point of natural death. The death penalty devalues life. Human beings are not supposed to be savages. We are supposed to be civilized. The death penalty, however, makes us appear to be the former. If you are going to oppose abortion, you should oppose the death penalty. Likewise, if you oppose the death penalty, you should oppose abortion. Both are the taking of a human life. Both show blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life.
Now I know that it may seem like my Catholic faith biases me against abortion. But the sanctity of life is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of morality. Those whose lives are guided by good and decent moral principles, ones that likely align with the same moral principles of Christianity (as we discussed in the previous edition of Uncovering Christianity: The Anonymous Christian), would likely agree that it is immoral to take the life of an innocent human being, and thus the life of an unborn child. But some may still be uncertain about abortion, or even be of the thought that it is acceptable. So, I want each and every person to ask themselves a question: Is it morally right to take an innocent human life?
Life is valuable no matter who the human being is, no matter their circumstances, no matter their choices, no matter their place in the world. Human life takes precedence above all other things in this world, including money and power. Material things like money and power are only temporary. They do not add nor take away value to human life. Our life on this Earth is not permanent. But we must protect human life no matter what. What increases the meaningfulness of life is love, happiness, hope, faith, charity, peace, all those things that enliven and enflame the heart and soul. Who we spend our lives with can also enrich them and make them worth living. Life is precious. It is a gift. Accept it humbly, protect and defend it, live it well, and do it justice.
This is the Sixth Edition of a Series entitled Uncovering Christianity: Exploring the Roots of the West. This series explores the values and ideas originating from Christianity, looking back at Biblical times, and relating them to the modern world. There are central themes to each piece in this series, with key messages throughout to guide you in your own life. The series also looks at some of the threats to the roots of Western Civilization and discusses what can be done to placate them and protect the foundation of society. Keep an eye out for new series pieces each week.