Pastor John’s “Through a Glass Darkly”
Hello Church Family,
I hope you’ve experienced the comfort of the Lord’s presence this week. I want to follow up on a statement that I made last Sunday morning regarding the sanctity of life. I said, on behalf of our elders: it is our unwavering conviction that personhood begins at conception. In my previous email I explained why the issue of personhood is, in the words of attorney and ethicist, William Saunders of Family Research Council, the “single most important ethical issue that we as Christians will face this century.” Well, here I’d like to offer three reasons why we believe that personhood begins at conception:
1. God recognizes (and loves) people in the womb. In Psalm 139, we have the first-ever, divinely inspired ultrasound. In verse 16, David says, “your eyes saw my unformed substance.” The key word in this section is the Hebrew word golem. It refers to a human embryo, the “unformed substance” that has yet to take bodily form, but is in every way a living person. Dr. J. Jefferson Davis comments: “the point to be noted here is that during the earliest stage of human life—when the embryo does not look human—vulnerable human life is seen by God and is the object of his divine awareness and concern.”
2. Jesus took on human personhood at conception. John 1:14 tells us that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” But that prompts a question: at what point did Jesus become flesh? Was it at conception or birth? The answer is revealed in Luke 1. Troubled by the announcement that she will give birth to a son (since she’s a virgin), Mary takes a trip to see her relative, Elizabeth, who’s also pregnant. And when Mary walked in the door to Elizabeth’s house, “the baby leaped in her womb” (Luke 1:14). The embryo (Greek: brephos) in Mary’s womb was already recognized to be the person of the Messiah. OT scholar, David Atkinson, says: “The Word became flesh, so to speak, right down to the level of our genes; this confers on the embryo sacred and inviolable status.”
3. Human beings enjoy a continuity of personal identity from the moment they are conceived. From his humble beginnings as a zygote, all the way through adolescence and adulthood, man is involved in an uninterrupted process of maturation. For example, even though a person (naturally) looks drastically different at 75 years of age than he did while an embryo, he remains the same person, in essence, at every stage. His DNA was established when he was conceived and it hasn’t changed. There has been no break in the process of his maturation. He is precisely the same human being he was at conception. So any sort of assignment of personhood between conception and death is purely arbitrary, and cannot be accepted.
Here’s the good news: God sees us and knows us from the moment we are conceived. How comforting is that! And he wants people of all ages (from the moment of conception) to be protected, loved and respected as those who bear his image.