Abortion: Life Begins at Conception

There is perhaps currently no more controversial topic in our country than abortion. Abortion divides our politics and often our dinner tables. As with most of the attempted meaningful conversations I see taking place in the public square, this conversation seems at times to be driven largely by tweet length statements packed with emotional appeal but lacking any sense of well thought out reason or logic. Abortion is far too important a conversation to leave to emotion based reasoning though. If we are talking about the destruction of a life, then from the Christian worldview we must consider this with utmost severity. In the eyes of God, all life is precious. When the dignity of life is threatened we ought to find Christians standing in the gap proclaiming the radical idea that every life is of deep importance and significance to God, including those in the womb.

One of the most common objections I receive is that the Bible does not mention abortion. This is simply put untrue. The Bible is full of statements affirming that life begins at conception and that the life in the womb is indeed fully human. Below is a brief summary of a few of the most critical passages. In sharing these passages I simply aim to dismantle the false argument often made against the Christian position and replace it with the reality of what the Bible actually says on the topic.

Psalm 139:13-16 God Knows and Plans All Our Days Even in the Womb

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:13–16 (ESV)

The Psalms of the Old Testament are largely Hebrew poetry. When we read of the inward parts in the above passage, it is a reference to the seat of the emotions and the affections, the hidden part of a person where grief may be experienced, where the conscience exists, and where deep spiritual distress can be felt. The Psalmist says, “you formed me…” The entire context is a reference to a child forming in the womb of its mother. Our soul and our human experience begin in the womb. God is intimately involved in every step. It is God and God alone who upholds a pregnancy. Every child in womb, and every child out of womb, is being molded by God.

Psalm 139 goes on to say that we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” In other words there is a particular holiness to an unborn child. There is a marveling that takes place over the child in the womb. Every time we see a pregnant woman the Christian should pause and say, “Wow, look at what God has done.” This author cannot approach a pregnancy in a non reverential way. Whenever we speak of a child in a womb in non-human terms, we degrade that child from its true status before the Lord.

Verse 16 reads, “you saw my unformed parts.” The word “unformed parts” is an English translation of the Hebrew word for embryo. It’s referring to a child that is between 0 and 8 weeks old, when it is still an embryo and doesn’t quite have the final form of a human being with all its limbs in place. What verse 16 is saying is that before conception, “when as yet there were none of them” God had already written all the days of his life, including the days of the embryo. The author is glorying in the God that knew Him intimately as a person even in the embryonic stage of life.

Exodus 21:22-25 The Penalty For Harming a Child in the Womb

A second critical passage is found in the Old Testament law. These laws were to guide God’s people and demonstrate God’s heart of justice. We read in Exodus 21:22-25

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Exodus 21:22-25 (ESV)

This law gives full dignity and value to the child inside the mother’s womb. It states that if two men are fighting and they hit a pregnant woman in a way that causes her to go into labor then they must examine the child after it is born. If the child is stillborn then the one who hit the pregnant woman and caused the child to die will be punished for taking a life. This is vital. Under the Mosaic law the punishment for murder under the Old Covenant was death. Leviticus 24:21 reads, “Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death.” And so what the Exodus 21 passage above reveals is that God considers the child in the womb a full person, and that harm done to to that child in the womb should be treated the exact same as if it were harm done to a person outside of the womb, “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Luke 1:41-44 Children in the Womb Experiencing Joy

The third passage to consider is Luke 1:41-44 where young Mary who is pregnant with Jesus visits Elizabeth. Elizabeth is pregnant at the time with the child who would grow up to become John the Baptist. As soon as Mary comes near Elizabeth, Elizabeth is startled by her baby leaping inside of her womb and then she says:

For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

Luke 1:44 (ESV)

Why is this small verse important? The text gives us the reason why the child leapt inside of Elizabeth’s womb, it was because of joy. Joy is a human emotion. To experience joy is to be something far more than a clump of cells, to experience joy is to be a human being!

In 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided upon, the scientific community had far less of an idea what was happening in the womb compared to what we know today. The science of the day did not allow us to peer into the womb and watch a child move, and suck their thumb, and experience life in the womb. The great problem with the pro-choice movement today is that science now allows us to do just that. In article written by the Atlantic last year titled Science Is Giving the Pro-Life Movement a Boost we read: 

The pro-life message has been, for the last 40-something years, that the fetus … is a life, and it is a human life worthy of all the rights the rest of us have,” she said. “That’s been more of an abstract concept until the last decade or so.” But, she added, “when you’re seeing a baby sucking its thumb at 18 weeks, smiling, clapping,” it becomes “harder to square the idea that that 20-week-old, that unborn baby or fetus, is discardable… New science is “instilling a sense of awe that we never really had before at any point in human history,”

Emma Green. Science Is Giving the Pro-Life Movement a Boost. The Atlantic.

For the Christian, what science is now revealing about what a child in a womb knows and experiences and feels, is not surprising. It’s been in the Word of God always! Once again, science is catching up to what the Word of God has always consistently revealed.

I have only highlighted three texts for brevity’s sake, but the Bible is full of important passages that affirm the life of the child in the womb (Genesis 25:22, Job 31:15, Jeremiah 1:5, Isaiah 49:1, Hosea 12:3, Psalm 51:5, Matthew 1:18, Luke 1:15, Galatians 1:15, etc.). There is far more to say than what has been said above, but I wanted to provide footing for those who are confronted by the false argument I have been confronted with in the past, that the Bible says nothing on the topic of abortion. The Bible is clear, life begins at conception.

Where Do We Go From Here?

I believe that legalized and celebrated abortion will be one of the great tragedies our nation will look back on one day and wonder how we permitted it to take place. As Christians it is good and right to hate evil and injustice when we see it. It is good and right to speak and act on behalf of the vulnerable and the oppressed, to seek change in accordance with God’s design. As Americans with the power of our vote to see change enacted, we ought to make an issue like this of utmost importance. As long as thousands of children are robbed of their life every day in our country it cannot be a secondary issue.

And we can also demonstrate Christ-like love by stepping into the very real and challenging world of foster care and adoption. Throughout history, Christians have always led the way in adoption, especially because of the Spiritual realities of our own adoption into God’s family through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. I share the video below as encouragement to other Church and Christians who might come across this. Our Church has mobilized our folks around Foster Care and Adoption as part of our overall voice into this conversation. We must always speak with clarity and act with sacrificial Christ-like love.

The Park Community Church Adoption Fund

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