When is Man?
Scripture Defines Abortion
By Benjamin Johnson
The abortion debate continues to surge forward, often violently, in the current political maelstrom and the generations that follow our own require a solid foundation upon which to evaluate this issue. It is my intention to define the subject of abortion from a thoroughly Biblical perspective.
I am a Christian, like many of you, and I recognize that there are many Christians who have taken opposite sides in this tender debate. As we are a “people of the Book” and as the Bible is our rule and authority in life, it is imperative that we approach this question from its pages.
There is hardly room here for an exhaustive examination of all that the Bible would say to us on this issue. However, I do believe that our LORD provides us with a lucid answer and I want to share it with you.
Already, it should be obvious on which side of the debate I am standing. Those who would describe themselves as “pro-choice” do not, in general, feel that the Bible is clear on this matter.
The entire debate rests upon the question, “What or, better still, when is man?”
Advocates of abortion often argue that Scripture provides no clear indication as to the stage of maturation in which a zygote, embryo or even a fetus “becomes” a human being-as distinct, I suppose, from a mass of tissue or a mere biological entity with no particular genus.
According to Scripture, humanity was created in the “image of GOD,” “after His likeness” (Genesis 1:27; 5:1), which may be the most important fact about us. Human beings are precious and it is the “image of GOD” in us that makes us precious (Genesis 9:5-6; Psalms 8:4-5; James 3:9-10), His “likeness” in us that distinguishes us as distinctly human.
As GOD`s “likeness” is the central fact which defines a “human being,” it is imperative to this discussion to discern what is meant by the “likeness of GOD,” yet, guided by the central purpose of this article, only one aspect of that “likeness” need be established: the fact it distinctly involves our moral nature.
In Genesis 5:1, we are given that man was made “in the likeness of GOD” and, utilizing the same term a few verses later, we read that Adam also “fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image…”(v. 3).
According to Paul, we, as Adam`s descendants, inherit Adam`s moral nature through his “likeness”. However, because Adam`s moral nature was corrupted as a result of his disobedience, he brought spiritual death to all humanity (Romans 5:12-19). We are sinful by nature and that is why, according to Scripture, the heart of man is “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
In the same way, as GOD is a moral Being, His “likeness” is intrinsically moral (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Thus, we are called by Christ to be perfect, as GOD is perfect (Matthew 5:48) and to be merciful, as GOD is merciful (Luke 6:36). We find no moral command given to the animals GOD created. Instead, it is the moral relation that exists between mankind and our LORD that most concerns Him.
Starting from this fact, we shall be able to determine the nature of abortion, according to Scripture.
In Psalms 51:5, David declares, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The term “conceive,” used by David, is the Hebrew harah, which means “to be or to become pregnant” and he contrasts it with both maturation in the womb and birth, being “brought forth.”
David is not, of course, revealing to GOD that he came into existence as the product of a sinful union between his parents. That would have excluded David from ever entering the assembly of the LORD, much less being anointed king over the LORD`s chosen people (Deuteronomy 23:2). Rather, in the context of the verse above, David is reaching into the depth of his own sinfulness, illuminating the depraved nature that all of us have inherited from Adam, a sinfulness that is present from our very conception.
Yet, apart from the “image of GOD,” it would not be possible to speak of a zygote as being “in sin,” possessing a moral nature that is already in the sinful “likeness” of Adam.
Thus, even as a zygote at the moment of conception, David was the bearer of the “image of GOD,” making that tiny zygote as human as you and me.
Moreover, if a person bearing the image of GOD is alive in the womb at the moment of conception, then abortion at any stage of pregnancy is murder.