Theological Affirmations on the Sanctity of Human Life
In the beginning, God spoke and time began. (Gen. 1:1ff) Galaxies came to be; stars and worlds, fauna and flora were birthed in divine thought. Their existence is the very expression of divine creativity. In the climax heavenly imagination, the Artist affirms that “it was very good indeed.” (Gen. 1:31) This pronouncement succeeds the Trinitarian prerogative to shape man in the similitude of his own person, “according to our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26) The occasion for the Godhead’s opus of existence precipitates an assortment of affirmative truths upon which we who bear his resemblance might stand with certain confidence and adamantine conviction. Namely, it is affirmed that God esteems human life; that God creates human life in the womb; and that God’s esteem of human life is evident from conception and carries on through its conclusion, furnishing his disciples with incontrovertible doctrine upon which to stand.
It is affirmed by those who cling to God’s gospel that God values human life. God’s attestation of humanity’s dignity is accompanied by his elevation of humanity’s nobility. (Gen. 1:26) The Godhead declares that man “will rule” over fish, birds, livestock, over “the whole earth.” The operative designation “rule” intends to signify mankind’s position of dominion and subjugation over “the whole earth” and all that is in it. Such designation denotes the esteem with which the Godhead considers humanity, that which is fashioned in his likeness. Notwithstanding the veracity of a shared Creator, mankind is not merely another animal. Rather, he is a creature whose very creation is most congruous with the divine. His very blood bears God’s resemblance. (Gen. 9:6)
Additionally, it is affirmed that God creates life in the womb. God’s likeness is not something into which humans grow. On the contrary, the exhibition of divine likeness is begun at conception. “For it was you who created my inward parts,” the psalmist proclaims; “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Ps. 139:13, emphasis added) The psalmist’s rhapsody of his own formation conveys God’s weaving together of all the “inward parts” of his being. The “inward parts,” or “reins,” as it is elsewhere translated, is indicative of the inmost faculties and desires and affections of the person. It is upon this deepest stroke of existence that God himself has enstamped his resemblance. “You clothed me with skin and flesh, and wove me together with bones and tendons.” (Job 10:11) From the instant of conception, God manifests his remarkable and wondrous ability to create. (Ps. 139:14–15)
Furthermore, it is affirmed that God values human life from conception. God’s intertwining of mankind’s substance is amplified by God’s knowledge and recognition of mankind’s personality at the moment of conception. “I chose you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart before you were born,” says the Lord to his prophet Jeremiah. (Jer. 1:5, emphasis added) God the Creator is acquainted with Jeremiah’s person prior to his birth. This substantiates the notion that one’s humanness and personhood begins in the womb, an assertion which reappears throughout the Scriptures. (Job 3:3; Ps. 51:5; Matt. 1:20–21; Luke 1:30–31, 41–44; 2:16) By the same token, before the birth of any person, prior even to their conception, God has discerned their person and decreed their purpose. “Your eyes saw me when I was formless,” writes the psalmist; “all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.” (Ps. 139:16) The word “formless” is a Hebrew term for “unformed matter,” that is, an embryo or fetus. Therefore, it is affirmed that God’s esteem of one’s life is an unshakable verity while that life is still in utero.
Lastly, it is affirmed that God values human life through its conclusion. The orchestration and designation of humanity is borne not by man’s frame and fortitude, but by God’s. God’s authoritative word sets and sustains the course of one’s entire life. Mankind cannot overrule his Creator; one cannot autonomously govern one’s existence, deciding the length of their days. Rather, the life and breath “of every living thing” is in God’s hands (Job 12:10); it is he who carves out or cuts short one’s days in the fabric of time. (Job 14:5) Notwithstanding the deformities or defects with which one must endure, God’s handiwork is not shortened or stunted. God’s creative voice is not muted by life’s imperfections. (Ex. 4:10–11; John 9:1–3) Neither, therefore, ought they to be used to sanction the premature ending of life.
The foregoing affirmations attend unto a devout sanctity of human life. These corollaries amplify the oath of those resolved to an adamantine adherence to the gospel of God. Furthermore, it is avowed that the antecedent declarations irrefutably lead to an unequivocal denunciation of the modern practices of infanticide, euthanasia, and elective abortion, as well as to an indefatigable responsibility to defend the defenseless. As God creates and values the embryo in the womb, so ought those who claim to be his disciples uphold such esteem of humanity’s life. God evinces specific prohibitions for murder (Ex. 20:13), especially that of the innocent. (Ex. 23:6–7; Amos 2:6–7) Early church father Tertullian (155–240 A.D.) gave strong averment to that end when he stated: “To hinder that which might be born, is but an anticipation or hastening of murder; and it is all one, whether a man destroy that life which is already born, or disturb that which is preparing to be born.” (Bingham, 16:988) The equivalence of abortion and murder was later ratified by Protestant and Catholic apologists in the 16th century in the Moral Theology of Peter Dens, in which it is asserted that it was “undoubtedly homicide” to abort a living fetus, and exposed one to all the “penalties of homicide” incurred. (Dens, 282–286)
One’s spiritual devotion, therefore, should disclose one’s default ethical position whenever one is presented with the conflict between “pro-life” and “pro-choice” argumentation. The doctrine of God is evident in its directive to preserve, promote, and protect the sanctity of human life. Consequently, those who cleave to the faith and Word of Christ are bound to advocate on behalf of the poor and defenseless. (Prov. 24:11–12); and there is no one more defenseless than an unborn baby.
Joseph Bingham, Origines Ecclesiasticæ: The Antiquities of the Christian Church (London: H. G. John, 1846).
Peter Dens, A Synopsis of the Moral Theology of Peter Dens: As Prepared for the Use of Romish Seminaries and Students of Theology, translated by Joseph Berg (Philadelphia: Lippincott & Co., 1856).