Can a Christian Support Abortion? The Theology of Abortion

Recent polls indicate that the majority of Americans are pro-choice with regards to abortion. This is interesting considering that similar polls tell us that the majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians. This begs the question, Can a Christian support abortion?

Without getting into any of the medical details of or even physiological reasons for abortions (for I am not a physician or a physiologist), I would like to deal with the issue from a purely theological standpoint. Where one stands on abortion, I submit, has more to do with one’s theology than they realize.

Can a Christian support abortion? The answer is “yes,” if their theology allows them to do so. The issue comes down to one’s beliefs concerning the creation of the soul. The theological issues of abortion are not spoken of or understood much today, yet the implications are significant. The question that one must ask with regards to this issue is this: When does the soul/spirit (immaterial aspect; henceforth soul) join with the physical (the material aspect) of a person? This is often referred to as a debate about the constitution of man. If the soul is part of the physical body from conception, then abortion is out of the question. The person is a complete person, material and immaterial, from the beginning and has not only divine recognition, but a divine mandate for life. Any premature cessation of this life by an outside agent would amount to murder. But if there is a time when the physical “fetus” is without an immaterial aspect, then, during this time, the fetus is not a person, but simply an extension of the mother’s physical nature. The question is, when does the body receive the soul?

There are two positions that have been represented prominently throughout church history and it is with these two I would like to wrestle.

1. Creationism: The belief that the soul is created directly by God and “inserted” into or united with the body which in turn is created indirectly by God through the parents. In other words, the soul is created immediately by God, while the body is created mediately by man. This position has significant support in contemporary and historic theology. Noteworthy adherents to this position include Wayne Grudem, Charles Hodge, Louis Berkholf, John Calvin, and enjoys the support of most Roman Catholics. The basic defense for this position is that God, the father of all spirits (Heb. 12:9), is the only agent that can create an immaterial entity. Kind gives forth to kind. Man is physical and can only birth physical. Therefore, God must have created the soul directly, outside of the mediating agency of man.

2. Traducianism: (from the Latin tradux meaning “inheritance or transmission”) The belief that while God is the ultimate creator of all things, He uses secondary causes to bring them into existence. If God ceased from creation after the sixth day and no longer is creating ex nihilo (out of nothing), then all creation since the sixth day is initiated mediately through secondary causes, including the soul. To put the matter plainly, parents are just as involved in the creation of the soul as they are the body. God does not use special process for the creation of the soul. The basic defense of this position is focused on the negative implications of the creationist position. If God creates the souls directly, without the mediating support of humanity, how does one explain the sinfulness of the soul. If people are born with a fallen sinful nature (Ps. 51:5), how did the soul become corrupt? Did God create a sinful soul and place it in a sinful body? Can God create something impure? Traducianist are quick to charge the creationist with making God directly responsible for sin. The traducianist does not elevate the value of the soul above that of the body. Therefore, a traducianist believes that the soul/spirit is created in and with the body. Their is not two acts, but one.  Traducianism is not without it support. Noteworthy traducianist are Tertullian, Martian Luther, Jonathan Edward, and Millard Erickson.

Now, back to the topic of abortion. Theologically speaking, it is impossible for there to be a Christian traducianist who supports abortion. Why? Because the traducianist’s theology precludes a necessary belief that a person is complete from the moment of conception. There can never be a time when the child is without a soul. The parents provide the soul at the same time and in the same way as they provide the body.

A creationist, on the other hand, may support abortion. Why? Because no one can say with any amount of certainty when the body is united with the soul. Is it at conception? Implantation? During the first, second, or third trimester? At birth? Or even sometime after birth like the age of accountability? This leaves a slight crack in the door theologically. A deferment to ignorance is usually the best recourse for the creationist, not knowing when the soul is united to the body. While this deferment may suggest that the best stance for the creationist concerning the abortion issue is one of non-support, this does not necessitate this position. One can be a Christian creationist and support abortion based upon a reliance in the findings of the medical community. If the medical community can provide further information that leans in favor of a stance that a fetus is not really a person based upon issues of psychological response along with physiological issues dealing with the parasitic nature of the fetus, then the creationist may lean in favor of a pro-choice stance on the issue.

I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, so I am going to say something as clearly as I can: Our stance concerning the issue of abortion is not our guide with regards to this theological issue. In other words, we do not choose the position that best fits with our agenda one way or another. We must seek to find the truth, not defend our preconceptions. If creationism is the best option in dealing with the biblical evidence, then that is where we go. We then let the scientific community deal with the issue of abortion, providing answers about when life begins. But if the traducian position provides better answers, then we go there, letting its theological implications provide us with a proper response to the issue of abortion.

I am a traducianist. Not because I seek a solid theological stand against abortions, but because I believe that it is the best option that deals most comprehensively with the biblical data and a systematic Christian worldview. I believe that the creationist view (which is the most prominent and popular among laity) assumes an implicitly unchristian stance concerning the relationship of the body and the soul. There is no reason to say that the soul is of special nature, having to be created directly by God.

This line of thinking (that the soul must be created directly by God) evidences more of a Gnostic worldview than it does a Christian worldview. Gnosticism was a first-century Greek philosophy that crept into Christianity here and there, and still plagues our thinking at the most fundamental level. The Gnostics were dualists, believing that all things material were essentially evil, while all things spiritual were essentially good. For a Gnostic, the ultimate goal was for one to escape the confinement of the material body, finding fulfillment in the spiritual existence. But the Christian worldview is just the opposite. Christianity affirms the essential goodness of all creation, even though it has been infected with sin. Our goal is not to escape the physical world, but to sanctify it. God declared all things good at creation. All that was involved in this declaration was the physical world, including man’s physical nature. When man sinned, God did not cast aside His original intent opting for a “plan B,” but immediately began the process of redeeming the world that He created. When people die, there is an unnatural breach in their personhood, separating the immaterial from the material, but this does not suggest that the immaterial soul is somehow better or more highly favored in God’s eyes than the body. In fact, the consummation of redemption comes at the resurrection of the body, when the soul is reunited with the physical body and the new heavens and new earth (material) are created.

This Gnostic disdain for the physicality has unfortunately found its way into Christianity in many ways. In the early Church sex was seen as a necessary evil rather than a beautiful creation of God. Monasticism was highly valued thinking that the pleasures of this world were all evil. People have seen culture and government as evil because they are part of this world. The Bible is seen as a book of God to the neglect of the contribution of man (this has had great repercussions hermeneutically). Finally, I believe the Church has devalued the body and elevated the soul, believing that while man can create the body, only God can create the soul. There is no reason for this. They are both equally miraculous.

I believe that the traducianist theory answers the questions of anthropology better than the creationist viewpoint. While their are many good Christians, contemporary and throughout church history, who have held to the creationist view, I believe that they are wrong. Having said this, I believe that when it comes to abortion, while one’s theology may allow them to support it, I believe that this theology is not only wrong, but evidences more of a Gnostic worldview than a Christian worldview. The body and the soul cannot be dichotomized in such a way. The parents create both the body and the soul at the same time as mediate agents of God.

In short, I believe the issue of abortion is a theological issue. Sadly, I believe, this understanding escapes the forefront of the debate because so many in the church today have relegated theology to a seat of irrelevance and impracticality.

To hear more about this issue, listen or watch The Theology Program session 4 of Humanity and Sin.

151 Responses to “Can a Christian Support Abortion? The Theology of Abortion”

  1. This is very enlightening, Michael. I know that in Genesis there are various translations of Genesis 2:7. After God “…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” some translations say “…and man became a living being” and some say “… and man became a living soul. ” If the best translation is “soul” than man does not HAVE a soul, man IS a soul. For those of you who are studied theologians, which do you think is the best translation? And what is it that we mean when we say “soul?” I think it is very important to know that, because that can help us determine what we think about abortions.

    It sounds like you are equating soul and spirit as one and the same, Michael. I know other people would say that humans are made up of physical, soul, and spirit where spirit is the life-giving “substance” and soul is more like the personality/mind of a person.

    I have not sorted this all out for myself. Abortions seem to me to be not what God or nature or anything else would want. Yet, what would you tell a married couple when the doctor advises them that if the baby is not aborted, both the baby and the mother will die? If you believe any abortions are murder, then I guess you have to say, “Oh well. God gives life and he takes life and that’s the way the cookie crumbles” so to speak. It may be that the mother feels so closely connected to her baby that despite the fact that she has been told she will die, she just cannot choose to end her baby’s life anyway. Perhaps she will say that God can produce miracles and she will hope for a miracle. I pray that none of us and no one we love will ever have to face such a decision.

  2. Joanie,

    You are right about the different translations of Gen 2:7. Most would say that we should translate this as “living being” rather than soul. It uses the same phrase for the animals. The idea is that when God breathed into them, He breathed life, not a soul. This would better support Traducianism.

    I am in full agreement with you that any choice that one has to make in such a situation would be beyond my comprehension.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Theologically, they both have some problems. One of the things with a traducian perspective (to which I lean), is that just as parents can produce a less than ideal human (i.e., birth defects), traducians also affirm that the soul is born defective (total depravity, etc.). But if a child can be born without arms or legs or certain organs, could a child be born without a soul? Or would that situation be more analogous to being born without a brain (anencephaly) or without a head (acephaly), where survival is 0%? After all, when the soul is not joined to a body, the body is dead. Could some souls be “more defective” than others?

    With a creationist view, could God choose not to give a soul to someone? Or is it guaranteed that every single child born will be provided with a soul, which is promptly corrupted?

    Oddly enough, though, from a purely secular point of view, abortion is untenable. Greg Koukl at has an incredible argument against abortion in which he never appeals to the Bible. There’s just one question to ask: “What is it?” If it’s just tissue, then who cares about privacy or choice or anything else — just cut it out like a mole. If it’s a human, then no issue of privacy or choice will even matter. He then goes on to show that no matter how we define human, that definition either applies equally to a fetus or is arbitrary.

    As with Michael, I have no answers, only more questions.

  4. Richard, I agree with the difficulties of the issues.

    The traducianist would say that it is impossible for their to be a case where the soul is not present in and with the body since it is vitally connected to it. It would be like saying what if there was a body without cells? Mysteriously, although you cannot test it or see it in a microscope, the immaterial aspect, according to the traducianist, is a part of the body from the beginning and the body cannot be without it. A good definition of death is the separation of the immaterial from the material. This separation is mysterious and unnatural and make the resurrection necessary so the we, in the resurrection, can be complete once again.

    While the body is born with the effects of the fall, so is the soul. These effects do vary and the immaterial will always most certainly be deformed by sin. When God redeems the world, the complete person, body and soul, material and immaterial, will be restored.

  5. This whole idea of the body being part of the “good” creation of God was one of the more important ideas I took from Humanity and Sin. I had naively held a Gnostic view of the body. In fact, I was so adamant in my reckless view of the body, that I had said on several occasions to not spend a lot of money on my funeral — just put me in a hefty bag and throw me in a dump, ’cause that’s not me. Sounds really horrible now, but my thinking was, “The soul is what counts, the body is going to decay, and God can recreate me from whatever he wants at the resurrection.” But as H&S and this post points out, our “selves” are not composed of just a spirit with a body chained to it. God created us as material and immaterial.

  6. James Snapp Jr May 26, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Greetings C. Michael Patton,

    Acknowledgement that some abortions might not be murder — i.e., that they
    might not involve the separation of an innocent human soul from a human
    body — is not the same as lending support to all or any abortions. If one
    considers that children are a gift from the Lord, then, barring rare
    circumstances, a woman’s awareness that she is pregnant may be
    considered a signal of God’s intent to give her a gift. Shouldn’t it be
    incumbent upon Christian parents to co-operate with what appears to be
    a divine intention, regardless of whatever ignorance we may have about
    exactly how and when this gift will be given? Istm that the right Christian
    approach to pregnancy (barring those rare circumstances) is one of

    On the question of ensoulment and some related issues, I welcome you
    to consider three essays I wrote some time ago, which can be found
    near the bottom of the homepage of the Curtisville Christian Church website
    or you can go directly to the first essay at .

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  7. “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
    (Psalm 51:5)
    13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139)
    22 “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21)
    These verses are self-explanatory, and although many would not like to hear this, the babies(or fetus’, whatever you want to call human life at its beginning) are not getting the chance to accept salvation. Robbing them of their physical lives is also robbing them of their spiritual lives. Psalm 51:5 says it all…Please don’t try and justify murder.

  8. Causing a woman to give birth prematurely, or miscarry, note, is implicitly distinguished from a”serious” situation or injury, in Ex. 21. So abortion is not serious, it seems here.

    Why not? Surely, to be a human, we must have a mind or spirit or intelligence, all closely interrelated; otherwise, we are just an animal. As Christianity often affirms.

    Therefore, one of the main objections to current “Catholic” anti-abortionism, is that it is not really Catholic; it violates much Catholic tradition. About the soul, specifically. Ignoring for example not only much of the Bible, but also, say, one of its own central saints and theologians, Aquinas: who asserted that the soul did not enter the body until 40-90 days.

    Aquinas’ argument appears to be in part, Biblical: parts of the Bible suggest we are not yet “formed” at a very young age.

    And in part highly rational: a very young fetus would not seem to have enough structure or or a brain, to be “rational” or have Reason (a word which it appears A. himself used?). Would not have enough of a brain to have the intelligent spirit we say is what distinguished us from animals. Thus, in the same way we might have a defective brain, we could have a defective soul. Indeed, many Christians in another context, assume even our souls or spirits are somewhat bad, are stained with original sin etc.. … until we receive Christ.

    What did the Bible itself say, finally? Finally, Numbers 5 appears to have God himself, ordering a priest to perform an action, administer a drug or powder or “dust,” which causes a woman’s “womb” or lower “thigh” to fall; which, if performed on a pregnant woman, would in effect be an abortifacient; would induce an abortion.

    Thus God orders a priest to perform an abortion, in the Bible, it seems.

    Because, in all likelihood, we are not really fully human, en”souled,” until rather late in development; many would say indeed, not until … natural, timely, full-term birth. The moment when God indeed (and Natural Law), apparently felt we were at last complete enough at last, to enter the world.

    In the meantime, even the Church has suggested in yet another context, that the baby who dies before birth, baptism, is in “Limbo”; a place where its status is at best, undermined; and is not firmly declared to be human.

    Surely there are other ways to be “fruitful,” than just having kids? Being fruitful in our “works,” or “spirit,” say?

  9. Dr. G,

    In Luke chapter 1, the mother of John the Baptist claimed that her baby “leaped for joy” within her when she was greeted by the mother of Jesus. This was in her 6th month of pregnancy. To leap for joy in the womb certainly implies having a soul and being aware of at least some of what is going on around him.

  10. Here’s my struggle with thinking the soul enters the body at conception (whether from a traducianist view or a creationist view): abortion is not the only method we have of terminating a fertilized egg. Hormonal forms of birth control (the pill, patch, shot, etc.) don’t just work by trying to prevent the egg from releasing. They also make the walls of the uterus slick to try and prevent an already fertilized egg from attaching. If abortion is wrong because the soul enters the body at conception, then all forms of hormonal birth control must also be wrong. If abortion is the equivalent of murder, hormonal birth control is the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette on someone. Is that really more ethical?

    But it goes further than that. For a fertilized egg to fail to attach to the uterus is a very natural process. It happens all the time with couples who are trying to get pregnant and aren’t using any hormonal forms of birth control. Between abortions, women on birth control and plain ol’ natural processes, an awful lot of souls are going into the fertilized egg and then meeting their doom. Is heaven (and possibly hell, depending on your view) really going to be filled with the souls of unlucky blastocysts?

    Yet I think examples like the account Cheryl (#9) cites in Luke 1 of the unborn John the Baptist coming into proximity with the unborn Christ make it very clear that later in the pregnancy, babies definitely have souls.

    I’m drawn to the traducianist view for other reasons, and I consider myself to be pro-life both religiously and politically, but I am not drawn to the notion that the soul enters the body at conception.

  11. To be sure, we are arguing that an embryo is not human, merely in the earlier days; “from conception.”

    I would not like to argue much more. But hypothetically, as for even 6 months: is an embryo human, mere because it kicks? Even at a sound?

    Animals have reflexes, that can cause them to grasp things – and kick. Indeed, perhaps animal embryos do this. I t doesn’t mean they have a soul; or are human.

    What makes us human, Aquinas suggests, is a developed, “formed” brain, and intelligence; part of our spirit or soul. While that intelligence develops not just in the womb, but even more, after birth, in socialization.

    No doubt, any pregnant woman who intends to carry to full term, and give birth, should rigorously protect the health of her embryo; as perhaps not quite fully human yet, but as forming the foundation of indeed, a real human being. While many laws suggest that, right at 6 months, it might well be. Here, we are arguing against “conception.”

    In any case, many of us (including myself) are repulsed by abortion, the Church urges us to note that there can be other “proportionate”ly more important “issues” to consider in the voting booth; like innocents killed in wars, withholding health care, and so forth.

    As for very early forms of gametes and embroys? Remember in the 1950’s or so, when elements of the Church declared that “every sperm is sacred”? Obviously, we can push things bad too far. Millions of sperm are used up, every time a male has an orgasm. By this standard, even a male who only had sex once every nine months with his wife, and got her pregnant every time … would still be a mass murderer.

    So when do we become human? One central principle of persons like Aquinas, is this: a clump of cells just isn’t “formed” enough to be human. We likely become human, when we are distinguised in our abilities – our mind or spirit – from the animals. A moment rather later than … “conception.”

    By the way, when the Church puts the date at “conception,” it thereby goes against two of its own greatest saints; Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas. While the Code of Canon Law, 1917 ed., and to some extent the current (1983?) edition, made Aquinas the foremost theologian of the Church; the saint and “angelic doctor,” whose work it said, was to be the foundation of the education of all future priests, in seminaries.

    Why does the Church now turn its back on the saints?

  12. By the way, we can update “traducian”ism enough to have it allow that we do not have a soul till well after conception, and thus allow abortion.

    The basic idea in much of biology and in Aquinas, is that a certain brain mass and brain complexity, in Biblical language”form”ing, is necessary before we have a characteristically human intelligence/spirit/soul. And a pin speck of matter, at conception, does not have that …yet. That comes later … as the embryo “grows” a bigger brain; or grows in “wisdom” and so forth.

    The soul appears in part (or some might argue, even in whole?) by the action begun by parents. But it does not begin to fully emerge, in a complete form worthy of the term “human,” till well after conception.

    So we can have a traducianism, that does not assume humanity from conception.

  13. Dr. G,

    There are several things here on my mind. I am curious as to how you view pregnancies in the animal world. Is a dog a dog at conception for instance? Is a cat a cat at conception? Or do you believe it is only humans that don’t become human until a later time?

    Secondly, I take it from your comments above that you are probably a Catholic. I am not and I don’t think a lot of the others posting here are either. So to state that certain of the saints of the past that were to be the basis for all future education of priests are now being ingored doesn’t have the same impact for us that it does for you.

    And finally, I read the Exodus 21 verses you mentioned above in a different way than you do. I think that they very possibly may refer to the woman delivering prematurely and no further evil happening to her and no further harm coming to that child–death or problems related to prematurity. If that is the case, then this Scripture would not be downplaying the seriousness of this issue as you believe it to be.

  14. 1) Is a small microscopic glob of cat cells really a cat? No. If you went to a pet store to buy a cat, paid $100 dollars for one, and got a glob of cat cells, would you be satisfied?

    2) I’m not Catholic. I just mention it, because it is one of the major Christian traditions; and the major voice in anti-abortionism. While in any case, Aquinas argues much of his case, on the basis of Reason. We read Aquinas, even in Protesant seminaries.

    3) I read Ex. 21 (or Num. 5?) differently than you. After a miscarriage (in those days) the embryo is all but already dead; but the Bible considers that no “harm” is done. So long as the adult mother is not hurt.

    And this is just one of many scriptures.

    Note that the Bible never, ever mentions abortion specifically by name; suggesting (in a weak way to be sure) that God did not think it was so important. While in conrast, the Bible mentions helping the poor, some say, hundreds or thousands of times.

    Then as we read the rest of the Bible … it does not in fact seem to support the conception position. We are “Being knit” in the womb; suggesting we are not completed yet there, for example. God “knew” us before we were born; but did he know the fetus?

    To say a mere clump of matter or cells, is a human being, is to denigrate adults, and the human mind or soul or spirit; which is most evident, after birth.

    Be honest: would you trade your life one-to-one, for a clump of human cells? That look in a microscope, like a soccer ball? Is that really a human being?

    We might be able to clone a human being from a cheek cell one day; does that make a cheek cell human? What happens when I swallow?

  15. Dr. G,

    I would. And yes it is.

    Just because it doesn’t look human yet doesn’t mean it’s not. You’re like the guy in the crows nest. His job was to cry “Land Ho” at the first sight of what he recognized as land. He didn’t have to explain it was land because he saw trees and sand. Even though those are parts of land.

  16. Dr. G,

    It seems to me that the ideas you put forth in your last comment truly could be a proverbial “slippery slope”. What becomes of the severely developmentally disabled from birth in this scheme of things? Are they “sufficiently formed” to qualify as human or not? Who is to make the final judgment call here? Do we then say it is permissible to take the life of one with severe metal disabities from birth because they don’t qualify as being human? Really, if this scheme of things is followed to what may very well be it’s logical conslusion, the thought of where it could lead us terrifies me.

    What happens to the one with severe brain damage that is in what appears to be a permanent vegatative state? Did they lose their humanness because they can’t act in a way that distinguishes them from animals? Is it alright then to kill them?

    This whole discussion is leaving me cold. God ultimately is the giver of all human life even if it does come about through the agency of human parents. What right does anyone think they have to take that life that He has given at any point because in our minds it is not “fully human” yet? Even if we could prove that a human soul is not there at conception, what right do we have to destroy that life given by God with all of the potential of a lifetime ahead of it? I honestly don’t think there is any justification for it at all.

  17. Dr G,

    Why does the phrase “being knit” in your mind seem to equate to not having a soul yet? Of course we are not completely formed at conception, that is very obvious from a physical standpoint alone. Why do you automatically seem to assume that it also means that the soul is not “knit in” there yet?

    And frankly, if I went to a pet store to buy a dog or a cat, I would be expecting to buy a full term, several months old animal. Not a “clump of cells”. That doesn’t mean that clump of cells is not a cat or a dog–just that it is a cat or a dog in the earliest stages of development.

  18. “Being knit” suggests not yet complete; which opens to the possiblity that it does not completely have a soul yet.

    Perhaps after all,our normal/natural idea of what a cat is – four legs; fur; meows for food – is really the best; and extending that to something that does not match that at all, a clump of cells, is … not natural. While Paul commends the non-Jews, Gentiles, for doing by “nature” what the law requires. And “Natural law” is a major subdivision of Theology.

    Why assume there is a complete soul there? When clearly there is not even a complete body? If soul and body are intimately linked and parallel … why not suggest the soul is imcomplete when the body is?

    Note by teh way,, that most theologians suggest that the old word “soul” really stood basically for our spirit or intelligence, our consciousness, and even our “reason” some said. It wasn’t something entirely different and separate from that. And does a clump of cells have that?

    What about the guy who saw a tree top at see, and said “Land Ho” … but then when the ship got there, saw just a potted palm floating in the water.

    What standard are you usuing to say a clump of cells is a cat? If a clump of cells is a cat, then what about … the pencil on my desk?
    Could you prove it is not a cat?

    Or that it doesn’t have soul? What is your criterion? You saw a potted palm floating in the water? Land Ho.

  19. (1) Is a small microscopic glob of cat cells really a cat?

    According to its DNA it is. Even the most rabid atheist scientist will attest to that. Even one DNA cell makes the difference between a human individual and anything else.

    (2) While the Bible doesn’t specifically use the word abortion, which is a modern day term, the Lord says:

    “I have called heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life, that you and your offspring might live.” ( Deuteronomy 30:19)

    Hard to argue with that statement.

  20. 1) Nope. A clump of DNA is a clump of DNA; that might someday become a human being. In the meantime, note a semantic nuance: it is a “human cell”; it is “human,” but not a human being.

    That this is what Biologists meam, is confirmed in part by their actions: obviously ew if any embryologists think embryos are human; they experiment with them all the time.

    2) Yet indeed, chose “life”; but every week or so, a fried chicken dies for my meal. Was that “life”? And in the Bible many holy men eat meat sacrifices.

    So what “life” are we talking about? Animal lives apparently are not quite fully important as other things.

    And if the embryo is not human? Then it is … ?

    Easy to argue with that statement. Got any more?

    I set before you a blessing and a curse, on false ideas.

  21. Then, my good doctor, you are arguing with the entire scientific community, plus the Lord.

    May I ask you something: Do you, as a doctor, perform abortions?

  22. Dr. G,

    You said, “Yet indeed, chose “life”; but every week or so, a fried chicken dies for my meal. Was that “life”? And in the Bible many holy men eat meat sacrifices.”

    You know that verse taken in context has absolutely nothing to do with eating the flesh of an animal. And obviously, animal life is not as important as human life Biblically speaking.

    So what are you implying here–that a human embryo is merely animal life? Sorry, but I can never buy that one.

  23. Dr G,

    Do you believe that the state of being immortal that goes with being human is something that we grow into as the brain develops too?

  24. And no, despite protestations to the contrary, animal lives, such as chickens are not the same as human ones. Chickens don’t have a soul, neither do cats. They are animals of pure instinct.

    Of course if you are a PETA enthusiast, (are you?) you are probably much more interested in preserving cats and dogs and other animals than you are human beings.

    Sorry, but your chicken argument has never made sense to me. If I’m nothing more than a chicken to God, why did Christ have to die on the cross for humanity?

    Why not just do it for a chicken instead?

  25. The chief pro-abortion argument, is that an embryo is not “ensoul”ed; therefore is not human. Therefore it should have no special status.

    Such a clump of cells without a human woul would be … an animal, or less. A mere spiritless body. And so its death would not be so serious as say … executing innocent persons in wars, for example. People, bodies, that do have souls.

    Who is not following God? Listen to my biblical – God-based – arguments.

    You misunderstood my remark: I said too, that the medical community did not regard the embryo as human, either.

    I am not a medical doctor.

    There are many, many arguments about “life” in the Bible; here and in a hundred other places. Some even say it often means, chose the life of God, the spirit; and does not have to do with avoiding physical death. Indeed, Jesus himself chose not to try escape, physical death on the cross.

  26. But the fact is ,Dr. G., all things are ordained by God, except things like abortion which is actually, and let’s honestly admit it, just another birth control option for those who are too lazy too take precautions in the first place. Rationalizing that away makes folks feel more comfortable. That’s really the issue here.

    I have worked with many young girls to help them keep their babies who have admitted as much.

    So what are you a ‘doctor’ of?

  27. I’m sorry, Dr. G, but our interpretation of Scripture here seems to be two totally different things. You haven’t convinced me.

    And by the way, you referred the Numbers 5. You said a priest was to give a woman something to cause an abortion. I don’t know how you get that out of that chapter. It says it would make her belly to swell and her thigh to rot. That doesn’t sound like an abortion to me.

  28. It would be better if girls used birth control.

    In Num. 5, it is commonly thought that the “belly” and probably upper “thigh,” in effect encompased/described, in ancient language, the .. womb. While anything that destroyed the womb in a pregnant woman? Would also in effect, be an abortion.

    Chose the life of God; what the Bible really says.

    We were immortal some might say, even before a soul or a body; the second God thought of us? I haven’t thought much about this yet: what do you think? Perhaps all things are immortal, in that they live on in the mind of God?

  29. Dr. G.

    I think this, since you asked: We would do best to consider what if Mary thought like popular opinion on abortion nowadays. What if she had chosen to abort Jesus? Where would mankind be?

  30. God works through, “fills,” “all things”; not just Jesus.

    Jesus himself was even often rather modest, humble, about his own status: usually refusing to directly refer to himself as God (or, 99% of the time, as “Christ”; Jesus instead merely asking others, “who do you say I am?”. Jesus constantly deferring it might seem to many, to God the Father; and referring to another, others, that would come after him.

    God fills all things. God is everywhere.

    That is where we are.

  31. Dr. G,

    By immortal I mean the state of being that will continue to exist for all of eternity in either heaven or hell. That is something that all of the human race are born with.

    Since man is immortal, killing man is a mighty weighty thing to do.

  32. Since man is immortal, killing man is impossible to do.

  33. Dr. G,

    You know as well as I do we are talking about physical death here. And you know as well as I do that immortal man can die a physical death. My point is that to mess with God’s creation that He has placed such value on as to give them immortality seems to me be a mighty weighty and dangerous thing to do

  34. Er, Dr. G., are you saying that Christ is all things to all people no matter what their belief? That sure doesn’t seem to seem to coincide with the God of the Bible.

    But as a retired former journalist, I am always open to hearing both sides. So give me, and the rest of us here, the specific facts of what, where, why, who and how that we ask from other folks to prove their opinions.

    Ready and waiting.

  35. I am referring to a comment you made to mbaker, Dr. G. You said God works through all things, not just Jesus. Surely you don’t mean to say that Jesus was not totally unique in all of history in that He was the only one sent to be our Saviour? The only one that was completely God and completely man at the same time?

    Your answer to the question she asked makes absolutely no sence at all unless you are saying that Jesus was no different than anyone else.

  36. Yes it is very, very, very serious, to take a life. And yet … every day, we do it; we mess with God’s creation, and kill a cow for dinner.

    There are many kinds of “life.” No doubt we should respect 1) all life, the environment; but there are things, unfortunately, we kill so we can live. Like the fish you had on Good Friday. Far more important to be sure, (at least to us), is 2) a human physical life. But the critical question in the anti-anti-abortion position … is whether the very young embryo is human. As defined as, having a human soul or spirit or intelligence. Evidence is that it does not.

    God “fills all things”; he is everywhere. Some even say that when bad things happen, God is even in them, in that he allowed them to happen. God some say, even created the Devil himself; who else? Some would therefore suggest that to be sure, though God is in all things, he does not necessarily approve of all things in some way. Although he created them.

    What do you think of this? Strange indeed, that he should be in everything … and at the same time disapprove of parts of what he made.

  37. Killing a cow for dinner is not the same as taking a human life. God gave us permission to eat animals and forbids us to kill humans.

    Could you please tell us what you meant in your answer to mbaker above that we have both asked about?

    And again I will say that even if you could prove to me beyond the shawdow of a doubt that an embryo or young fetus has no soul, I could find no justification whatsoever for taking the life of one that God intended to have that soul.

  38. Sorry; maybe next day. Work to do.

  39. DR. G,
    A caterpillar becomes a moth….but boy do we get nice silk from the silworms. The point is, just because it does not look like us yet does not mean it is not one of us. That’s the concept people need to understand because a glob..or zygote…is completely human. If you look at it’s dna it will still be human no matter what. So therefore I conclude that if it has human dna then it must be human and living. It has to be living because it divides itself until we recognize what it has become.

    What are the requirements for something to be alive?

    Nahle, N. (2004). Definition of Life. Obtained on (month) (day), (year), from Biology Cabinet. New Braunfels, TX.

    “a delay of the spontaneous diffusion or dispersion of the internal energy of the biomolecules towards more potential microstates.”

    More potential? You mean the tiny zygote has potential to become more? Yes it does, therefore it has life. And human life has a being and a soul. Just because it does not look like it yet, it is still there.

    I would challenge you now, ask any mother who miscarried or even had an abortion, sometimes those mothers feel a kinship with the child. They sense the presence of the child. It is there with them. So it must have a spirit.

  40. Dr G.

    I would like to go back to that Numbers 5 Scripture we were talking about earlier. A thought has just come to me about that whole situation that seems to be pertinent to me.

    If it is indeed true that the drink the priest gave a guilty woman caused an abortion, was this not a direct judgment from God upon the sin of this woman since He is the one that ordered it done? That wouldn’t be the first time that the Lord has taken a child in death because of the sins of the parents. (See I Kings 14 and II Samuel 12). And these were children that He took after the birth of the child so no one can argue that they were not human yet.

    If He could do it with children that were already born as a judgement, He could certainly do the same with a baby before it was born. I don’t think that in any way proves that the Numbers 5 child was not yet a human being.

    And it is one thing for the Lord to take a child as a judgement against a sinful parent. It is another thing completely for any man or woman to take it upon themselves to take the life of that unborn child for the sake of convenience. That is like comparing apples and oranges as the old saying goes.

  41. G. “the critical question in the anti-anti-abortion position … is whether the very young embryo is human. As defined as, having a human soul or spirit or intelligence. Evidence is that it does not.”

    I’m not aware of anyone (public writer, ethicist, textbook, society policy) that seriously puts forward the position that the critical question is whether the embryo is human. What is it? a dog? a salamander? It has human DNA; it’s human. Of course, on a practical basis it is necessary to bring people to a conscious awareness of this fact, as often people refuse to think about that as they are going through the abortion process. Of course, pro-abortionists would like that to be the critical question, but their desire and their dissembling and disengenuous attempts to do so do not in fact make it so.

    It is inappropriate to redefine “human” as requiring a soul or spirit or intelligence. First off, that is not the usual use of that word, either in regular parlance or in biology. Second, many doctors and scientists are strict materialists or physicalists and would not therefore agree with a dualist view (i.e., that humans are composed of a material body and nonmaterial soul). Consequently, your usage is (unintentionally) misleading and prevents dialogue from occuring.

    Richard John Neuhaus made a very important observation when he stated, “Who belongs to the community for which we accept common responsibility? That, I would suggest, is the question that defines the disagreement over abortion law.” First Things (June/July 2001). That is, is a developing human in the womb a human that we want to, or should, protect?

    To propose that the question is one of deciding whether the developing human is “human”, is to mask the real issue. It supposes that the question is biological, or scientifc, when in fact the question is one of values. How much do we value the developing human? (similarly, and linked to the same issues, is the question of how much we value the elderly, the mentally deficient, the unconscious, the terminally ill, etc.).

    It is not commonally known that the question of value has, in American courts, been answered the opposite way that it was in Roe. In Stenberg v. Brown (1970) a three-judge federal district court upheld an anti-abortion statute, stating that privacy rights “must inevitably fall in conflict with express provisions of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments that no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law.” After relating the biological facts of fetal development, the court stated that “those decisions which strike down state abortion statutes by equating contraception and abortion pay no attention to the facts of biology.” “Once new life has commenced,” the court wrote, “the constitutional protections found in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments impose upon the state the duty of safeguarding it.” Yet in commenting on the unborn person argument in Roe, Justice Blackmun wrote that “the appellee conceded on reargument that no case could be cited that holds that a fetus is a person within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.” He did so despite the fact that he had cited the case just five paragraphs earlier! The failure of appellees and the Court to quote and consider Stenberg correctly is both unfortunate and inexplicable.

    A significant, and I believe fatal, flaw in the reasoning of people like G is that they consider humans instrumentally and functionally, much like philosopher Mary Ann Warren who defines “personhood” in terms of consciousness, reasoning, self–motivated activity, the capacity to communicate about indefinitely many topics, and conceptual self–awareness. If you can do all those things, you’re a person; if you can’t, you’re not.

    To that I would echo the reply of J. Budziszewski, ”
    The functional approach to personhood seems plausible at first, just because—at a certain stage of development, and barring misfortune—most persons do have these functions. But to think that they are their functions blows the core right out of the moral code.

    “Warren offers her definition to justify abortion. Obviously, unborn babies are not capable of reasoning, complex communication, and so on. If they cannot perform these functions, then by Warren’s definition they aren’t persons, and if they aren’t persons, they have no inherent right to life. But it cannot end with abortion. If unborn babies may be killed because they lack these functions, then a great many other individuals may also be killed for the same reasons—for example the asleep, unconscious, demented, addicted, and very young, not to mention sundry other cases, such as deaf–mutes who have not been taught sign language. In Warren’s language, none of these are persons; in biblical language, she refuses to recognize the imago Dei. She does claim to oppose infanticide—but only because any given infant is probably wanted by someone. She does not concede that the infant has an inherent claim to our regard, and if no one does happen to want it, then, she says, “its destruction is permissible.”

    “The cure for such blindness is not to tinker with the list of functions by which we define persons, but to stop confusing what persons are with what they can typically do.” The Second Tablet Project, First Things (June/July 2002).


  42. I agree John C. T., this argument certainly does not end with an embryo but it has far reaching implications for others as well. As I mentioned above, I think it is truly a slippery slope argument.

    I think the following Bible verses were mentioned in the original article, but I am going to quote them in full here:

    “Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
    Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.
    How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127:3-5

    Since this is the blessing and the reward God gives people in having children, I don’t know why in the world any Christian would even consider aborting a child.

    What a slap in the face it must be to God when one of us treats His gift and His blessing in such a callous way as to say we don’t want it, thank you very much, and then proceed to destroy that blessing (and life) through abortion!

  43. John CT,
    Good rebut. Of course it does get down to how we perceive persons. In the eyes of science does a Caucasian fetus hold more worth than an African one? Or Asian? Or Indigenous? That was the prevailing consensus at the beginning of the 20th century and was expounded by socialist Margaret Sanger.

    Now we could argue saying Margaret Sanger felt some sort of sympathy toward the less fortunate because of the dreadfulness of poverty she viewed as the cause of so much misery. So she began to advocate birth control, but only within certain groups.

    The Breeding of the Thoroughbred was written to express her disdain of certain types of persons she deemed were unworthy to breed. So it asks the question, why were those people worthy of such disgust on her part?

    When does a person begin? At the moment they have reason, or the moment we recognize them as having it? If we believed in science of the 1700s, we would never accept Africans and Native Americans as even having souls. Jews would still have horns on their heads and the Irish would still be enslaved with the Africans.

    Now I know people will jump on that last statement, but it is an historical fact, just look it up before you jump on me.

    This question goes beyond human, it wants us to define what a person is. A person is a being with a soul. Whether there may be something medically wrong that causes limited emotion or reason it still has a soul. That soul is it’s life.

    “And God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living soul.”

  44. John CT:

    1) Read some more. The literature by servious ethics professors and others, from the days of Aquinas, often decided that a) the thing that makes human beings more than animals, is our human mind, spirit, or soul. So that b) the crucial question in abortion, is … does the embryo have one of those? Most serious literature, like that cited in the beginning of this article – no sensationalist chat – addresses “homization,” en”soul”ment, as the central issue. Indeed, religion often suggested that what makes humans special, is their soul or spirit. The spirit is a key issue for God himself.

    2) You are on a slippery slope too: is the intelligence and spirit of a cat, as good as human, now? where is the line after all?

    3) Semantics: A piece of skin has human DNA in it; it is therefore known as “human” skin – but not “a” human, or a human being.

    “Human” is used that way, in Biology.

    4) Neuhas’ remark here is strictly speaking, not a statement at all, but a question: “Who” would …

    5) Yes, it is values. Do you value the human spirit, intelligence … or not? Do you value a mere piece of matter, more than something with a soul or spirit?

    6) By the way, we can simply draw a line and end the slippery slope: for various other reasons, some suggest … that someone with say teh permanent loss of ability, leaving them with less than 1/4 of a human mind, is no longer human.

    A line that would allow the humanity of … the deaf; the disadvantaged, but not the brain dead. Or in Biblical terms, those without a “spirit.”

    Without that, you are valueing the spirit on intelligence of a cat or less, as human. You are on teh slippery slope too.

    7) Quote both decisiions in their entirety, not misleading parts; Blackmun knows the law better than you.

    8) So people that can “functionally” do nothing at all – who, in biblical language, have no “fruits,” “works,” “deeds” – can still be wholly good? When does an entity that has no coventional human attributes – intelligence, arms, legs – cease to be a human being? Nowhere? No line at all? If so ,t hen prove to me the pencil on my desk is not a human being. Slipperly slope for you too.

    9)If you look at a young embryo, as blatocyst, its does not even look human, or like the “image of God”: “Imago Dei.”
    I am sorry some scholars do not have image of God in their mind; a significant theolical shortfall.

    10) To be sure, we sleep .. but can wake up in a second and do the works of God. Can a blastocyst do this? So how about setting the bar .. above a blastocyst? And above the brain dead?

    11) “By their fruits you shall know them”; God’s functionalism.

    12) Ignoring our basic intelligence and arms and legs, what God gave us, and sliding down the slippery slope that might make an animal, a cat, as good as a human … slaps God in the face.

  45. Dr. G,

    Since you seem to be so 100% certain that our spirit and soul are tied completely to the brain and it’s development, can you please explain to me how a person’t spirit or soul can possibly go on living after that person is dead? Remember the Scripture says: “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” If the soul or spirit is so completely tied up with the brain, that spirit would have to cease to exist, would it not, when the brain died? Doesn’t the fact that this is not the case according to the Bible say that there is something more going on here than what science admits? If the spirit can exist past death without a brain, why are you so certain it has to wait for a certain amount of brain development in an embryo or fetus to exist?

  46. Very good points Cheryl (both in your most recent and also earlier comments). The theology of God’s attitude toward the unborn cannot, and should not, be derived solely from verses that mention pregnancy (and even there I, and I assume you also, disagree with G’s interpretation).

    A pro-abortion stance represents, and is indicative of, a disordered understanding of humankind and of children. As Kara correctly notes, Sanger had it in for blacks. In America, children are regularly aborted–and parents pressured to do so–if they are defective, as is proved by the rapidly dropping numbers of live born Downs Syndrome babies. In China, there recent decades have seen 32 million more men than women born, and sex selective abortions have increased in proportion to increasing access to ultrasound.

    Abortion is more than a slippery slope–even from a natural law perspective; it is a divide, a chasm, a cliff that once crossed over leads immediately to a materialist, instrumentalist, economic, and de-humanizing approach to human life.


  47. G, if you’re going to ask people to read more, at least point them to what you’ve read (as I did).

    There is a significant difference between the question of “is that animal a dog or a human” and “is there a difference between a human and all other animals that makes a human qualitatively different”. You’re first point confuses those two issues and misunderstands the point made in my post. A human is genetically different from a dog; that’s why we call one a human and the other a dog and categorize them into different species, etc. For many scientists and other people it ends there (e.g., Dawkins (a darwinist), Singer (an ethicist)), for they say that humans are merely animals, though ones with a more complex brain. So, in that regard, it is settled science that an unborn human at any stage of development is human.

    The second question, which you conflated into the first, is whether there is some divine spark, or spirit, or nonmaterial aspect that separates us from all other animals, and which grounds a belief in human exceptionalism. In the context of that question one may ask if all living humans have that attribute, and whether it can be gained or lost during the period that the human is alive.

    As for the nonsensical skin argument, an unborn human at any stage of development, is a complete human at that stage of development. A piece of skin, on the other hand, is only that—a piece—it is not a complete human organism at any stage of development nor does it resemble a complete human. It is a specialized piece of tissue from part of a complete human. Note that this entails that what consitutes completeness at each stage varies, but that completeness is organically and intimately and inevitably connected to previous and successive stages of development of that complete human.

    G, “If you look at a young embryo, as blatocyst [sic], its does not even look human”. To which I reply, “???” It does look human, it looks like a human blastocyst. In any event, since when can physical looks ground a theory of morality? I suppose in the land of Ken and Barbie, but not in a serious moral discussion.

    As to the legal argument, you did not indicate any way in which my quote did not support the point I was making, nor anyway in which it misrepresented the two legal decisions.

    BTW, you can post to me as “Dr. J”, since I play basketball.


  48. I here of course support and value the mind and soul; but your supporting an argument that might even declare a sperm a human being, or a brain-dead mere “body,” or a bit of matter without a soul, as human, is an insult to humanity and God; it is de-humanizing.

    Look for the beam in your own eye; the slippery slope in your own arguments; which lead us to slide down a slope that eventually declares things with no human attributes at all – a cat; a pencil; an animal – as good as human.

    After all, probably you put a line in there somewhere yourself, don’t you? Slide a little further: 1) an adult is a human being; 2) a baby is human; 3) an embryo is human; 4) a sperm is human; 5) the meal that you ate last week that furnished the matter to make that sperm is a human being.

    Of course we can and should avoid the slope; and so we draw a line. Where You draw the line?

    I am a lifetime, activist supporter of human and minority rights, by teh way. And of course, we draw the line of “human” in such a way as to include all kinds of disadvantaged persons. And babies. But … clumps of cells? Cats? Your last meal? Where do you yourself draw the line? And why?

    Everyone draws the line. The qustion is: have your drawn it correctly? State why you draw it where you do … to keep yourself from sliding down teh slippery slope that leads to declareing all kinds of souless bodies as good as human? And in the process, degrading the human soul?

    Who is the dehumanizing, soulless person here, after all? Look for the beam in your own eye.

  49. Dr. G,

    Please at least try to answer my last question. If you can come up with no good answer to that one, all of your questions as to where to draw the line are mere nonsence because there is no way at all that you can prove that an embryo doesn’t have a soul or a spirit.

    To me your Biblical arguments have proved nothing. And we certanly have no proof that science is correct in what they are saying at this point either. They can not prove what they say either.

    I have tried to ignore to this point your ongoing question about your pencil. I am sorry, but that is the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard. A pencil is by nature an inanimate object and it certainly does not have the DNA of a cat or a human embryo. And taking your version of the slippery slope back to the food we eat as being as important as a human being (which by the way, you implied yourself in an earlier comment), with a soul and spirit is ridiculous also. The food we eat is not something that is alive and growing when we eat it and God gave us the command to eat both plant life and animal life for our sustenance. Again, you are arguing apples and oranges.

  50. Your point about the beam is irrelevant to reasoning based on logic, unless you are ripping that reference out of its original context and normal usage and merely stating that you believe there to be a flaw in my reasoning.

    A sperm is not genetically a complete human, nor is it ON ITS OWN organically and intimately connected to previous and later stages of human development. It cannot, without fertilizing a human egg, ever progress through any stages of human development. It is not, without the genetic contribution of the egg, a complete human being. That’s a pretty obvious, hard and scientific line. In your listing of adults to meals, you did not provide any attribute that commonly makes those things all human. Indeed, there is none, and so there is no slippery slope.

    If one believes, as I do, that a human nonmaterial component (I’ll call it “spirit’) is attached to and coexists with a living from the moment of conception until the body is completely dead (not merely brain dead) vitiates your argument. I, along with many others do not see that as dehumanizing, but as elevating and as glorifying to God and respectful of what he has done. Someone with a different concept of God (you) do not take it that way, but the bare fact of asserting that a zygote has a soul does not in and of itself defeat my position.

    Since no one can point to a spirit, or put it in a test tube, there is no way of determining scientifically or medically when a spirit enters or leaves a human. One cannot say with certainty that an alleged “brain dead” human does not still have a soul (moreover, “brain dead” is neither a scientific term nor a rigorous medical term). In fact, many medical doctors and scientists deny the existence of the soul for that very reason. One therefore has to establish on other grounds when the soul/spirit is with the human body and connected to it in some relevant way. You have not provided adequate grounds for your belief that it is later than conception and earlier than so-called brain death.

    My view, while I believe it is consistent with what we know of God and His Words, is also based on caution. I cannot know when the spirit is present with and connected to a human, and therefore I will not damage or kill a human at any stage of its life.

    Dr. J

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