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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

25 September 2005

Conception, Respiration, and Life

Q: As Christians we believe that life begins at conception and therefore abortion at any stage is wrong, because you are killing a child. Is there any Scriptural support for this viewpoint?

I believe this, however, I have a friend who agrees that an unborn child is indeed a “life,” but we disagree at what point the flesh becomes a life. What reason can I give that this point is at conception? His argument is that although God made Adam’s flesh, he wasn’t “alive” until God breathed into him, and the point at which God “breathes” into a baby’s flesh is unknown and can’t be assumed to be conception.

A: I’ve wrestled with this question myself, with no satisfactory answer. However, there are some questions that are better to “unask” then to pursue, since they lead us away from the center of the issue.

Without respiration, we cannot say that the child is “fully” alive. Yet even in utero, we know that children react to outside stimuli. They can start seeing bright light and can hear by about the sixth month. An interesting thing is that this is how old the baby in Elizabeth was when Mary, the Mother of God visited her and told her the good news. It was at this news that the babe who would be called John “leaped for joy” (see Luke 1:26-45) in his mother’s womb.

We also know both good and the bad news for the unborn from Scripture: God knows people while they are still in the womb (e.g., Jeremiah 1:5), while David, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, acknowledged that he was sinful not only from birth, but was sinful, stained with the sin inherited from Adam at conception (see Psalm 51:5). Why would God count as guilty one who was not alive?

God doesn’t talk about degrees of life. He is the God of the living and as such, He made laws for Israel concerning the health of the unborn and meddled in the affairs of pre-born babies (e.g., Exodus 21:22-25). Whether or not He holds children eternally accountable for their sinfulness before their first breath (and I don’t see clear Scriptural evidence that He does), He certainly holds accountable those adults who would prevent this first breath from ever being drawn.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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04 October, 2005 20:54  

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