Abortion: A Biblical and Theological Analysis-Part 7

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2003
The final question the authors answer in this series is: How do the theological implications of man’s “creation in the image of God” relate to abortion?

How Do the Theological Implications of Man’s “Creation in the Image of God” Relate to Abortion?

The Bible teaches in Genesis 1:27: “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Further, in verse 31 God calls His creation, including man, “very good.” Biblically then, man is not the chance prod­uct of impersonal matter as the materialists and evolutionists claim.[1] Rather, man is created in God’s image, providing him with dignity and value, which no one else has the right to destroy.

In his History of European Morals, historian William E. H. Lecky (1955, pages 20-24) observes that one of the fortunate consequences of the rise of Christianity was the under­standing among people that man was made in the image of God. He notes that with this understanding, abortion was on the way out.[2]

It is not difficult to see why. A poll of those who are of the pro-choice camp would un­doubtedly reveal the great majority are materialists who deny man’s creation by God. In fact, several lines of evidence can be produced showing the logical influence of materialis­tic, evolutionary thinking upon the modern abortion holocaust.[3]

It is seriously argued today by some evolutionary scientists that the child undergoes the various stages of human evolution during its development in the womb. This scientifically discredited concept is termed ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. Because the fetus is allegedly a “lower form” of life in its early stages and not human, it is therefore not murder to kill it since it is merely a “fish” or a “reptile.” For example, the Los Angeles Times (Janu­ary 29, 1989, part V) cites one scientist who believes,

From a single primordial cell, the conceptus progresses through being something of a protozoan, a fish, a reptile, a bird, a primate and ultimately a human being. There is a difference of opinion among scientists about the time during a pregnancy when a human being can be said to emerge. But there is general agreement that this does not happen until after the end of the first trimester.

The modern rise in acceptance of abortion is much more easily understood if contempo­rary man believes there is no God and that man ultimately has no meaning or value. After all, people who truly believed God existed and that man was a wholly unique and very special creation of God, would find it—one would think—extremely difficult to deliberately support the destruction of such life. In fact, we suspect the abortion debate today is largely a debate between two fundamentally hostile camps: theists and atheists (or materialists). Here is a brief chart showing the two different world views in relation to life in the womb:

PRE-BORN CHILDREN

Abortion View (“pro-choice”)

  1. The fetus is protoplasm or tissue; a nonhu­man or non-person.
  2. Naturalistic evolutionary view of conception and gestation; conception and pregnancy are profane.
  3. Human life or personhood begins at viabil­ity, birth or some other arbitrary point.
  4. Conception is a process.
  5. Children are a burden or an inconvenience.6 Conceived life is viewed as temporal only,based on materialistic presuppositions; nosoul at conception.
  6. No image of God.

Biblical or Christian View (“pro-life”)

  1. The fetus is a human being, a living person.
  2. Conception and pregnancy are sacred and holy; men and women are co-creators with God in the process of conception. God molds and fashions the child in the womb.
  3. Life and personhood begin at conception.
  4. Conception is the point the sperm and egg unite.
  5. Children are a gift from the Lord.
  6. Conceived life is not merely temporal, but also eternal; the soul exists at conception.
  7. The fetus contains the image of God.

Philosopher David K. Clark discusses how the denial of man’s divine image logically repudiates the sanctity of life and opens the door for abortion, infanticide and euthanasia.[4] For example, writing in the journal Pediatrics for July, 1983 (p. 129) Peter Singer alleges:

We can no longer base our ethics on the idea that human beings are a special form of creation, made in the image of God…. Our better understanding of our nature has bridged the gulf that was once thought to lie between ourselves and other species, so why should we believe that the mere fact that a being is a member of the species homo sapiens endows its life with some unique, almost infinite value?[5]

In a previous article we saw that biblically, God and men were co-workers in the produc­tion of life; that life was much more than solely the natural product of procreation. Indeed, when one considers how minuscule is our understanding of the process of conception and gestation, ruling out divine co-creatorship a priori would appear to be unwise in the least. For example, modern research:

…has created the impression that with some understanding of DNA the mystery of [cell] differentiation—even of life itself—has been solved. The fact is, however, that the path from the genes to the configuration of the organism is still not even discernible by way of suggestion. What is going on between so-called genetic information in the life process of configuration is still completely unknown. Therefore, it is still questionable to present the genetic substance as the text of a book, as it were, already containing all directions for the differentiation at each moment of the development and for every part of the organism. If we imagine, for instance, the genetic substance as a kind of cookbook, it would have value only if a cook were to use it, but it remains entirely unexplained who in the system of cells this cook is.[6]

The “Cook,” of course, is God, who is actively present in the production of a unique new life.

Because man is made in the image of God, life is by definition sacred and should not be destroyed. The capital punishment prescribed in Genesis 9:6 is based exclusively upon the image of God in man, that is, on the basis of man’s divine value and importance: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.” In Numbers 35:33 (NAS) God warns: “… you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood [murder] pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it.”The “image of God” is not only something present at conception due to the natural/ supernatural nature of the process involved, but the image of God is also something that a person grows into as well. The “image of God” probably involves a great deal more than any theologian has yet considered; however, one thing is certain: it is only fully complete when the redeemed are finally “like Him” in eternity (I John 3:2).

But it may also be true that God’s image is most fully revealed when, through the mar­riage union, there is the creation of new life. In all eternity, few human acts will match that one, single, profound reality—the bringing into existence of an eternal human being. Thus, the “image of God” is ultimately a part of the creative power supplied to the fetus, providing spiritual power for it to develop in the manner that it does—not only through birth but also through adulthood, death and eventual glorification.[7]It is even suggested that the genetic combination of ovum and sperm produces a human being not because of the genetic process per se but from the fact of “the image of God incarnate in the genetics of concep­tion.”[8] Thus:

From a philosophical point of view, the distinction I am making is analogous to the aristotelian distinction between form and substance: the human parents provide the substance and the divine image provides the form of humanness. Both form and substance are present at conception, but both grow into the manifestation of the image of God.[9]

And it is here that we see the full horror of abortion. In James 3:9 we are warned not even to curse other men because all men are made in the image of God. But what abortion does is not only to destroy the image of God, but in addition, it prevents the image of God from ever being fully manifest in this life:[10]

We conclude, then, that abortion is a very serious sin against the purposes of God in creation and should be permitted only in those extremely rare cases where the life of the mother is at real risk! Then abortion is the lesser of two evils.[11]

Notes

  1. For sound critiques of evolutionary theory see R. L. Wysong, The Creation-Evolution Controversy
    (East Lansing, MI, Inquiry Press, 1985) and W. R. Bird, The Origin of Species Revisited (New
    York, Philosophical Library, 1989).
  2. Harold O. J. Brown, Death Before Birth (Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, 1977), p. 123.
  3. e.g., James K. Hoffmeier, (ed.) Abortion: A Christian Understanding and Response (Grand Rapids,
    MI, Baker, 1987), pp. 90-91; Paul Fowler, Abortion: Toward an Evangelical Consensus (Portland,
    OR, Multnomah Press, 1987), pp. 39-40, 46-49.
  4. David K. Clark, “An Evaluation of the Quality of Life Argument for Infanticide,” The Simon
    Greenleaf Law Review, Vol. 5 (1985-1986), pp. 93-112; cf. Lynn D. Wordle, “Sanctioned Assisted
    Suicide: Separate But Equal Treatment for the New Illegitimates,” Issues in Law and Medicine,
    Vol. 3, no 3 (1987); Joseph Richman, “Sanctioned Assisted Suicide Impact on Family Relations,”
    Issues in Law and Medicine, Vol. 3, no 3 (1987). cf. Dennis J. Horan (ed.), Infanticide and the
    Handicapped Newborn, (1982); M. Kohl (ed.), Infanticide and the Value of Life, (1978).
  5. Clark, “An Evaluation of the Quality of Life Argument for Infanticide,” pp. 97-98.
  6. Thomas W. Hilgers, M.D., Dennis J. Horan and David Mall (eds.), New Perspectives on Human
    Abortion (Frederick, MD, University Publications of America, Inc./Aletheia Books, 1981), pp. 13-
    15, emphasis added.
  7. Hoffmeier, (ed.) Abortion: A Christian Understanding and Response, p. 90.
  8. Ibid., p. 91.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.

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