Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What Does the Bible Have to Say About When Life Begins?

Biologically, every human being starts life at conception. That's just scientific fact. But some Christians who want to support abortion try to pretend they have Biblical reasons for questioning when a baby becomes a person and often refer to "ensoulment," when the soul enters the body, as being the point at which it would be wrong to take a life. Some point to the Bible's mention of the "breath of life" when Adam was created as proof that until a baby takes a breath, he has no soul and can be killed. Others think ensoulment happens at implantation, viability, when the heart begins to beat, or at some other point during embryonic development.

Of course, the idea that there can be a biological human without a soul is complete imagination. Nowhere does the Bible indicate or even hint of this. Nor does it follow that even if there were no soul, that humans would be allowed to kill such a soulless human. We were given dominion over the animals and plants, to use them for our good and even to kill them, but not over other humans - soulless or not. Thus, even if the soul were given at some point after conception, we have no authority to end that life merely because it has no soul yet.

It also makes no sense to argue that not knowing for sure if a human embryo has a soul means killing them would be permitted. It would be wrong to shoot a gun into the bushes or tear down a building if there could be a person inside. The Bible gives penalties for even the accidental killing of another person. It is our responsibility to ensure that we do not kill other humans, and thus if there could be a person there, we must err on the side of caution. If we are unsure of whether or not a woman's womb contains a human person, we must refuse to abort. The doubt does not give justification to proceed with an abortion. It requires just the opposite.

The breath of life argument is similarly flawed. The first man, Adam, being created from dust and then being turned into a living man by the breath of God is how humankind first began.
Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
However, the claim that one doesn't have a soul or personhood until the first breath does not follow from this verse. Not even close. For one thing, this isn't how people usually come to exist. This was a one-time act of creation. Adam was never in a mother's womb at all, nor was he a zygote or fetus. But in addition to that, this verse isn't talking about taking a first breath of air. The breath of life refers to the breath of God, not air. And the verse says a man newly created is a living soul. It doesn't say Adam became living, then became a soul. It sure sounds like a living human is a soul, with no point at which he is living, but not a soul. So if there's anything to learn from the creation of Adam, it can't be that abortion is okay until the first breath.

The Bible also has many things to say about the identity of the child in the womb. For example:
Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Psalm 139:13-16  For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. 
The Bible indicates in multiple places that humans exist as persons in the womb. God knows them. They're people. It even says that John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb and leaped for joy when Mary, pregnant with Jesus, arrived to greet his mother Elizabeth because he recognized the Savior while he was still in the womb.

But that's not all. The Bible also indicates that conception is the defining point at which the existence of a new person begins. For example, Psalm 51:5 says "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Here David says, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that it was him that was conceived, not some biological entity that became him.

This sort of assumption that it is a person that is conceived is all through scripture. But even more direct is what the Bible says about Jesus' conception.
Luke 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
Matthew 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
Jesus wasn't incarnated by entering a fetus in Mary's womb. He was incarnated by being conceived. That's what it says. God taking on flesh and becoming a man had to start at conception because that's where humans begin. Jesus was a zygote. The Creator of all the universe became a zygote. Let that sink in for a minute. Then try to tell me you can kill a human zygote or embryo because it's not a person. You can't.

Of course, the question of whether abortion should be legal is not solved by referencing the Bible. Not all wrong things should be illegal. To answer the question of abortion's legality we must look at what government's purpose is and the biological facts of human reproduction.

But the Bible does tell us about the morality of abortion. It is immoral to kill innocent people. A child in the womb, from conception onward, is an innocent person. Therefore, abortion is immoral. It's really as simple as that.


  1. http://solascripturachristianliberty.blogspot.com/2015/05/the-life-begins-at-first-breath-argument.html

    I'm afraid Life beginning at Conception isn't taught in The Bible.

    1. "There is the counter argument I'm aware of that Blood is The Life and the fetus' heart starts beating at less then a month. But the heart is not pumping it's own blood yet at that point but the Mother's. The Fetus begins producing it's own blood about 5 days before the Lungs are formed."

      Completely false. The baby does not ever have the mother's blood circulating through his body. It would kill him because her white blood cells would attack his cells as being foreign. Her blood never enters the body of her child. The child's heart pumps his own blood, and this starts about the 18th day after conception. The mother's blood goes no further than the placenta. In the placenta, maternal and fetal blood vessels intertwine, but the blood does not mix. Instead, oxygen, carbon dioxide, fluids, nutrients, and wastes diffuse between the two separate systems. The child gets the nutrients he needs and passes off wastes to the mother's blood to be removed. The blood circulated through the baby's body is produced first in the yolk sac, then the liver, and eventually the bone marrow. It does not come from the mother. The hemoglobin in the baby's blood is different from adult hemoglobin by having a higher affinity for oxygen, which allows the baby's blood to absorb oxygen from the mother's blood more efficiently in the placenta.

      "We don't know at what point in the pregnancy it was that God spoke to Jeremiah, but we know the visitation was six months into Elizabeth's pregnancy, exactly the point the fetus develops lungs is when John leaped for Joy in his mother's womb."

      Elizabeth was 6 months pregnant when this happened, but Mary had just become pregnant when she assented to be the mother of Christ at the angel's prompting. The preborn John the Baptist reacted with joy because he recognized the Savior, already incarnated in Mary's womb.

  2. Very nice post. As you mention above, when Mary visits Elizabeth the child in Elizabeth's womb (John the Baptist) leaps upon Mary's greeting (Lk 1:39). Organs, sacks of tissue, or "non-entities" don't leap as a form of joyous expression. Humans do. Even the early Christians in the first century understood abortion is murder as evidenced when they codified prohibition against abortion and infanticide (See Didache 2,2).

    1. Elizabeth was 6 months, so that does not contradict the First Breath argument.

    2. See above. Mary had just become pregnant with Jesus.

    3. Jared, explain to me: wouldn't the "first breath" argument require that the child actually take a first breath of air before the child is considered to have life? This is especially true if you're basing your argument on the passage of Genesis where God breathed into Adam. The fact that lungs and nostrils are formed or able to function at 6 months doesn't address the fact that breathing requires air, and amniotic fluid is not the equivalent to air. Last, if you're relying on science to support your argument (nostrils and lungs formed at 6 months) then science proves that life begins at conception (as Lindsay points out above regarding zygotes). In other words you can't have it both ways.