Why The Preborn have a Right to Life
The discussion of why Human Beings have a “right to life” or not has been discussed for a long time. In the Judeo-Christian worldview, a view that is reflected in the very beginning of The Declaration of Independence and is the presupposition of this article, it is maintained that the argument in favor of the “right to life” derives from the belief that God imbued mankind with such protections.
However, our discussions of the epistemology of the right to life and its implications tend to stop at God’s having granted it by fiat. As a result, it is often overlooked why this right exists. Therefore, understanding why the right to life ensures the continuation of pregnancy to term without premature termination is paramount.
First, right to life in particular must be defined in relation to another human being because nobody truly has a maximal “right to life” as is commonly understood since God can freely take that life as He sees fit without any trial; a Christian dies the same as a non-believer, even if they have their soul saved. In other words, God has no more obligation to sustain a man’s life than to take it since God owes man nothing; God may take our lives as freely as you might step on a cockroach. Thus, the “right to life” is not best understood as a positive right that someone has been bestowed, but rather it is the assertion that the taking of human life at will is an authority that we as a race do not have. This is argued by citing God’s bequeathing of dominion over all life within the world (Genesis 1:26; 1:28) but allotting for the caveat that this authority is not extended laterally (Exodus 20:13).
However, it should be noted that judicial sentencing of capital punishment for a crime such as adultery or murder is not an exception but rather an extension of this model: judicial executions derive their authority to take a sentenced man’s life by virtue of the authority of God via His prescribed punishment for that specific sin (Leviticus 24:17) and thus the executioner it is not a murderer as long as there is an accompanying due process via an appointed governmental authority (Romans 13:4).
Therefore, murder is not the infringement of some illusory or platonic “right to life” that is somehow applied uniquely to human beings, but rather it is the disordering of one’s proper authority within a divinely appointed chain of command. Hence, lynch mobs are evil while judicial executions moral. However, why capital punishment is prescribed by a Holy and perfect God as the legal and moral remedy for a murderer is of primary importance to this discussion, the justification of which is fortunately revealed explicitly: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6, emphasis mine).
The image of God places mankind uniquely into a protected class, unlike sheep or trees, that their lives are not impugned. However, to understand why being made in God’s image explains our “right to life”, an investigation of the divine image is necessary.
First, this topic has been discussed for a very long time. The problem, however, is that many of the attributes included within common definitions fall short of remaining exclusive to human beings. For example, while Humans have souls, ensoulment is likewise a property of animals (Gen 1:24) and thus cannot be a criteria for the imago dei. In fact, there is no robust set of attributes, combination of properties, or composition of abilities that can uniquely define what makes up an Image of God.
This is a photograph of my son, Eliezer Tarr, right after he was born.
Artificial intelligence will someday supersede our best geniuses while the love and devotion of dogs can often dwarf the love and devotion of fellow men, but neither the mind, body, nor spirit that compose a person can give that person their worth: personhood is irrelevant to the discussion. Michael S, Heiser says it best in His book Unseen Realm when he claimed: “The image is not something we have, but a status” (Heiser, 2019, pg. 43).
In his book, he argues that the word “in” is a loosely utilized word that can be more clearly translated as “as”– man was made as the image of God (Heiser, 2019). This view of man intrinsically being a representative of God shows that every distinct human life has the same legal status before God regardless of capability, capacity, or state of development (a child and adult are both entirely made bearing God’s Image).
The “right to life” is not the logical or legal result of possessing the proper set of constituents; it is solely the result of divine grace crystalized by legal fiat. Thus, it is not what one has but what one is. Moreover, the universality of this understanding of the divine imaging status implies that it is one’s stage in the developmental process is likewise irrelevant. This view is reflected explicitly by the Psalmist in Psalm 139:13-16, where the Psalmist discusses a continuity of their indivisible self both within the womb as they were being formed as well as prior to it via God’s foreknown plans (McQuilkin, & Copan, 2014).
This principle is applied even further in Hebrews 7:9-10, wherein the author argues that the Levitical priesthood paid tithes to Melchizedek by virtue of being within the loins of their ancestor Abraham when he paid his tithes. By implicitly accepting corporate agency, the bible thus argues in favor of a very strong continuity of any given person extending prior even to their own birth! It is this continuity of an individual identity is that explains why all individuals gain the protected status common to man at conception: by the Bible’s standard, all spermatozoa are considered a form of seed.
The relevance is as follows: by two witnesses, the Apostle Paul and the incarnate Lord Jesus, we know that the death of a seed creates the new life (1 Corinthians 15:36; John 12:24). This is a view of biology that conflicts with our current understanding, however as not only Paul but God incarnate himself asserts this biological paradigm, we must accept it wholesale. Moreover, we cannot dismiss Jesus’s usage as metaphorical as John 12:24 formulation relates directly to the literal crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and in context of John’s gospel, Jesus uses mundane natural truths to explain deeper heavenly truths (John 3:12). Moreover, Paul labels those who reject this model of biological reproduction as fools (1 Corinthians 15:36). Therefore, when applied to human beings, we find that the new human life begins after the death of that seed: fertilization.
The bible lays out that seed that must die at conception for the new child to be produced, but after conception and into the posterior stages of human development any cessation of that biological life would be a considered either a stillborn and/or a miscarriage even by biblical standards (2 Samuel 12:22-23; Exodus 23:26). Moreover, all instances of a pre-born child posterior to conception are referred to as a child (Luke 1:44; Galatians 1:15; Genesis 25:21-22) with Job calling still-borns “infants who never see the light” (Job 3:16, ESV). Furthermore, a zygote (fertilized ovum) is undeniably a living cell (regardless of whether it’s a person, a part of the mother, a tumor, a parasite, etc.).
Therefore, the new life that results from the death of the seed of the man must begin immediately at fertilization/conception rather than implantation or later and as any death posterior is permanent, a human in the zygote stage of development as well as all later stages fully bears the Image of God. Given these facts, it is undeniable that taking of life at this stage is outside the domain of man unless the pre-born life can be given a due process for some crime and then sentenced to death. For this reason, abortion is the purposeful shedding of the blood of the Image of God and thus according to Genesis 9:5-6. Since it is impossible to legitimately convict a pre-born child of any wrongdoing, it is thus innocent blood being shed.
To summarize, Human life has the status of bearing God’s Image intrinsically at every stage of development as a result of divine fiat, and any death posterior to conception is referred to as a permanent death (biblically considered the death of a child). By God’s Law, taking the life of anyone who bears the Image of God is outside mankind’s authority unless it is prescribed by God. Finally, it is impossible to convict a pre-born child of any capital offense outlined by God. For these reasons, it is undeniable that Abortion is murder.
Heiser, Michael (2019). Unseen realm: Recovering the supernatural worldview of the bible. Lexham PR.
McQuilkin, R. & Copan, P. (2014). An introduction to Biblical Ethics: Walking in the Way of Wisdom. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0-8308-6481-2 (digital). https://viewer.gcu.edu/QveWKa
Why The Preborn have a Right to Life
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Two Measures Foolish: Foolish to God for we sin – Foolish to the world for the cross.