Presentation on theme: "Beginning of Life Philip Thompson"— Presentation transcript:
1 Beginning of Life Philip Thompson Professor of Bible, Harding UniversityPreacher, Rose Bud Church of Christ
2 Embryo-Destructive Procedures Embryonic stem cell researchCloningSome birth control methods; those that permit fertilization but prevent implantationSome ART procedures; IVF as it is typically practiced in the U.S. which involves the creation of “surplus” embryos.Abortion
3 General Considerations Attitudinal: The importance of extending grace, compassion, and understanding to women who’ve had abortions (without necessarily giving approval to their actions)Rhetorical: The importance of avoiding language that prejudices and inflamesHermeneutical: The importance of recognizing that the Bible – at the rule level – is “silent” on abortion. Why?
4 Homiletic Hint Do not overuse statistics in your sermons! Nevertheless, some might be impactful.
5 Abortion in the US: 2010 (CDC) Abortion numbers: 765,651 legal induced abortions in the 49 reporting areas2010: 765,651Abortion ratio (number of abortions per 1,000 live births): 228Abortion rate (number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44): 14.6
6 From 1999 – 2010From the number of abortions, the abortion ratio, and the abortion rate of abortions all have decreased.Legal induced abortions peaked in 1990 and have been trending down since.
7 U.S. Share of Abortions Worldwide Abortion Worldwide:Each year, 46 million abortions occur worldwide.The United States accounts for approximately 5% of the world’s population and only 3% of abortions worldwide.Other CountriesSource: Henshaw et al., 1999(1995 data)
8 Most Important Reason for Having an Abortion (AGI Study 2004) Rape and incest combined: < 0.5%Mother has health problems (therapeutic): 4%Fetus has possible health problems (eugenic): 3%
9 Abortions for rape, incest, threat to mother’s health, and possible fetal health problems – all combined8% of all abortions!
10 and possible fetal health problems Abortions for all reasons other than rape, incest, threat to mother’s health,and possible fetal health problems“Elective”92% of all abortions!
11 Among All Reasons for Having an Abortion Can’t afford baby now: 73%Has problems with relationship: 48%Unmarried: 42%Has all children she wanted: 38%Would interfere with education plans: 38%Would interfere with career plans: 38%Unready for responsibility: 32%Would interfere with care of children or dependents: 32%
12 Homiletic Hint Address the 92% separately from the 8%. If you lump all abortions together, some might reject the good points you make about the 92% of elective abortions by bringing up the 8% of “hard cases.”Arguably, the 8% of “hard cases” raise a different set of ethical considerations than the 92%.Rape and incest – acts of violence to which the woman did not consent (though this does not affect the fetus’ standing)Therapeutic – principle of self-defense
13 Homiletic HintChallenge the church to minister to women as well as to protect fetuses.Remember reported reasons include: “Can’t afford baby now,” “problems with relationship,” “unmarried,” and “unready for responsibility.”Holistic pro-life ministry gives the church credibility in voicing objections to abortion.
14 Abortion: Two Values in Collision The woman’s autonomy and the right to exercise choiceThe moral status of the fetus and the fetus’ right to lifeWhen these two values collide, which has priority? May the liberty of one life (the mother’s) trump the existence of another (the fetus’)?
16 Homiletic HintMost sermons on abortion focus on the moral status of the fetus (understandably so because it is the ‘bottom line’ consideration).However, since autonomy is the societal reason that trumps all other considerations, critiquing it must not be overlooked.From a biblical perspective autonomy is not absolute. (1 Cor. 6:19-20; 7:4-5)
17 What is the moral status of the embryo? THE BIG QUESTIONWhat is the moral status of the embryo?
18 Moral Status of the Human Embryo/Fetus What is the fetus?Life?Human life?Person?Person entitled to full moral status and protection?Biology 101 answers the first two questions. Philosophy raises the question of “personhood.”
19 When Does Human Life Begin? ABORTIONWhen Does Human Life Begin?Science teaches that human life begins at fertilization (syngamy-fusion of the gametes).The one-cell zygote is genetically unique and the first state of the self-directed development of each embryo.David E. Smith, MD
20 Embryo-Fetus and Personhood Option #1: The embryo-fetus should be granted the moral status of “person.”If the fetus is a “person,” it has a serious claim to life.Abortion would be a case of “killing” and something not to be undertaken without reasons sufficient to override the fetus’ claim to life.Only conditions of the same sort that would justify the killing of an adult person (e.g. self-defense) would justify killing a fetus.
21 Embryo-Fetus and Personhood Option #2: The embryo-fetus should not be granted the moral status of “person.”If the fetus is not a “person” in a morally relevant sense, then its claim to life is not as serious as that of a “person.”No claim to life?Some claim to life? … Equivalent claim as…?Abortion would not be a case of “killing” equivalent to the killing of an adult.An abortion is not essentially different from an appendectomy.
22 Embryo-Fetus and Personhood Option #3: Though the embryo-fetus is not a “person” it is a “potential person.”The ‘logic’ of Roe v. WadeThe fetus’ potentiality makes it unique and distinguishes it from a clump of organic material.Because the fetus becomes a “person,” abortion does present a moral problem and should be undertaken only for serious reasons.
23 Continuity of Personal Identity from Conception Onward Should we say “human embryo” or “embryonic human”?The human embryo is simply a human being in the earliest stage of development. No change in essence or substance occurs through the developmental stages.“Embryonic human” best captures the notion of continuity of personal identity through predictable developmental stages.
24 Moral Status of Embryonic Human Each of us was once an embryoJust as we were once infants, children, and adolescentsNot something distinct – rather a stage in developmentNone of us was ever a sperm or an egg.But each of us was once a zygote, embryo, fetus, infant, child, teenager… (stages of development)David E Smith, MD
26 “Decisive Moments”The difference between a fertilized ovum and a fully developed baby just a few minutes from birth are considerable, but the difference is not one of essence or substance. Further, the process of development is continuous.…Conception……………………..Birth………...
27 “Decisive Moments”At what point should the developing entity in the womb be granted the status of “person”?ConceptionImplantation (7-10 days)Acquisition of EEG (first detectable brain waves at days; pathways at 26 weeks)SentienceQuickening (16-20 weeks)Viability (25 weeks…22 weeks…20 weeks…?)Birth (40 weeks)A point beyond birth
37 Homiletic HintFocus on the point of continuity of personal identity in a sermon titled, “When were You first ‘You’?”Illustrate with your own “Ella” (or Prince George of Cambridge).Utilize biblical texts that suggest continuity of personal identity from womb to grave to eternity. (See verses in next section under “personhood.”)
39 Decision-Making about Abortion at Four Levels Particular Judgments – To have an abortion or notRules – The Bible is silent at the rule levelPrinciples – The Bible speaks at the principle levelBasic convictions (Worldview) – The Bible speaks at the worldview level
40 Biblical Principles Violated by Elective Abortion The principle of selfless love of neighbor. (Lev. 19:18; Lk. 10:29-37; Rom. 13:10)The principle of protecting the weak, the innocent, and the defenseless. (Deut. 10:18; Ja. 1:27)The principle of respect for human life. (Gen. 1:27; 9:6)The principle of assuming responsibility for one’s actions. (Lk. 19:8; Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10)The principle of allowing God to bring good out of a difficult situation. (Rom. 8:28)
41 Homiletic HintThese principles furnish the main substance of sermons on abortion.For example, early Christian writings addressing abortion most often cited the verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and not “You shall not kill.”
42 Three Pillars of Roe v. Wade Pillar #1: PrivacyPillar #2: PersonhoodPillar #3: Viability
43 Homiletic HintA sermon on “Roe v. Wade and the Bible” could addresses the pillars of the ruling from a biblical perspective and also expose some of the questionable legal and philosophical reasoning behind the ruling.See: Justin Dyer, “Roe v. History,” Touchstone (January/February 2014):
44 Biblical Response to Pillar #1: Privacy As imagers of God, human beings are moral agents who have the freedom to choose.The question is whether our choice is just.Autonomy is not absolute.1 Corinthians 6:131 Corinthians 6:19-201 Corinthians 7:4
45 Biblical Response to Pillar #2: Personhood The Bible indicates that God relates to us personally before birth.“For you formed my inward parts…You knitted me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed substance…” (Psalm 139:13-16)“Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb…” (Isaiah 44:2, 24)“The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jeremiah 1:5)
46 Biblical Response to Pillar #2: Personhood The Bible recognizes a continuity of personal identity that begins at the earliest points of pregnancy and continues into adulthood.“Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb…” (Isaiah 44:2, 24)“The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.” (Isaiah 49:1)“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you…” (Jeremiah 1:5)“…blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-44)
47 Biblical Response to Pillar #2: Personhood The Bible’s view of the fetus supports the ontological/substantive view of personhood rather than the developmental/functional view.When were you first you?Embryos and fetuses do not differ qualitatively from adults, only developmentally.Every human being begins life as a single-cell zygote, develops through the embryonic stage and then the fetal stage, is born and then grows through infancy, childhood, and adulthood, until death. Throughout these developments, the human being is the same human being at every stage.
48 Biblical Response to Pillar #3: Viability Viewing viability as the marker event is arbitraryNo fundamental change in the nature or essence occurs andEven the newborn infant is not viable without the aid and protection of others.God relates to the unborn before the point of viability.“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” (Jer. 1:5)“Your eyes saw my unformed substance…” (Ps. 139:16)
49 The “Logic” of Roe v. Wade “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”Justice Blackmum, Roe v. Wade
50 The Incarnation “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14) The beginning of the Incarnation of the Word was not the birth of Jesus, but rather his miraculous conception.Jesus Christ, God incarnate, was once a zygote!“Any why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:41-44)“Jesus” who died and was raised for our sins is the same “Jesus” who was in Mary’s womb!
51 Exodus 21:22-25 Interpretive View #1 “When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows…” (NRSV)MiscarriageHarm to motherImplications:The fetus possesses a moral status that is less than the mother’s.Fetus is not considered a “person,” and thus, abortion (feticide) is not “killing” equivalent to killing an adult.
52 Exodus 21:22-25 Interpretive View #2 “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury…” (NIV)Premature birthHarm to mother or fetusImplications:The fetus possesses a moral status that is equal to the mother’s.Fetus is considered a “person,” and thus, abortion (feticide) is “killing” equivalent to killing an adult.
53 Exodus 21:22-25Deals with the unintentional injury of a pregnant woman and her fetus by a third party. (as does U.S. law)Does not deal with intentional injury of the fetus by the pregnant woman.
54 Textual Evidence Conclusions Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics The human child is a creation and gift from God.The Bible recognizes the mystery of the process of fetal development and affirms God’s role in forming the fetus-embryo-unborn child.God has knowledge of those who will be born (the fetus-embryo-unborn child in the womb) before they are born.
55 Textual Evidence Conclusions Glen Stassen and David Gushee, Kingdom Ethics The developing fetus in the womb was treated as worthy of some legal protection in the O.T.The Incarnation began with the miraculous conception of Jesus and not with his birth.Mary showed hospitality to a child she did not expect and whose presence invited difficulty and suffering into her life.
57 Early Christian Writings are Not Silent “Love your neighbor as yourself …You shall not murder a child by abortion nor shall you kill a newborn.”(Didache, ca. A.D. 100)“You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not murder a child by abortion nor shall you kill a newborn.” (Epistle of Barnabas, ca. A.D )“[In a vision of hell] I saw…women…who caused abortion.” (Apocalypse of Peter, ca. A.D. 135)
58 Jessica ‘Thompson’ Kyle Thanks for Life!“I am thankful that 30 years ago a teenage girl got pregnant and decided not to have an abortion, and that my parents hadn’t been able to have a child biologically. God knew what family we were supposed to be. I am so grateful that I was loved so much by my God, my parents, and that strong young woman to be given the life I have.”Jessica ‘Thompson’ KyleNovember 2012