Personhood – Part 1

I ExistFor you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand—when I awake, I am still with you (Psalm 139: 13-18).

I recently had a conversation with a friend regarding a woman’s right to choose which, for those who may not know, is the euphemism for abortion in American politics. My friend made two points which have become standard in the argument of those on the left who advocate for unrestricted access to abortion. He told me that, regardless of the validity of my argument, I have no right to tell any woman how to manage her body; those decisions are between her and her doctor. He also said, after hearing my views on the subject, that it was simply my opinion and he respected it, but my opinion is no more certain or valid than the one of a person who supports “a woman’s right to choose.”

This argument is not uncommon. Anyone who follows the news regularly has certainly seen Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul sparring with Democrat National Committee Chairperson Debbie Wasserman-Schultz over this very issue. Reporters asked Senator Paul, who is pro-life, whether or not he supported making exceptions to his anti-abortion stance for cases where the mother 1) had been raped, 2) had been the victim of incest, or 3) was in danger of death if she carried the baby to term. Senator Paul did something that most pro-life Republicans are too spineless to do. He told the media to ask Debbie Wasserman-Schultz if she was ok with aborting a seven pound baby that was just about to be born. “Ask Debbie when she’s willing to protect life,” Senator Paul replied. “When you get an answer from Debbie, come back to me” (Bradner 2015).

In an emailed statement Debbie did respond:

Here’s an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul (Bradner 2015).

Of course, what Debbie is actually saying in her response, is that, yes, she is ok with aborting a seven pound baby that’s just ready to be born. So, if a woman and her doctor decide to abort the woman’s baby 10 seconds before it’s delivered, Debbie is fine with that because it’s a woman’s right to choose. Evidentially, the baby is not a person and has no rights under the U.S. Constitution.

Senator Paul, however, in his statement gets to the real point of the entire debate. When are you willing to protect life? Unlike the “right” to abortion discovered by the Supreme Court in the penumbra of the U.S. Constitution, the duty of the government to protect the life and property of its citizens is explicitly enumerated. It is actually the duty of the government to protect the civil rights of its citizens. When we stop setting up straw man arguments about rape babies and coat hanger abortions we begin to see what the real issue is in the debate regarding “reproductive rights.” When does life begin?

If that thing inside a woman is not a human being, from a legal standpoint, it doesn’t matter what you do with it. Abort it, carry it to term, what is the difference? The People, through their elected representatives should be free to make any law they like if this is the case. If, however, that thing is a human being, it has civil rights given to it by God and protected by the U.S. Constitution. There is no third option.

The post-modern mind does not deal in terms of absolutes, however. There is no black and white, Right vs. Wrong or, God forbid, Good vs. Evil. There is only opinion, experience, and emotion. No one person can say that any other person’s opinion, based on their personal experience and guided by their emotions, is wrong. To do so would be intolerant and unloving…unless, of course, you are dealing with a conservative Christian. Those people are just racist, sexist, bigoted homophobes.

My objections to abortion begin in my gut. Before any religious, moral, or ethical questions are taken into account, the practice is disturbing. It is disturbing to me because it is, like a lot of other disturbing things are – destructive. Forget about when the baby becomes a human being for just a moment. You cannot deny that abortion destroys something, and that “something” is alive, and is meant by God, or nature, or evolution to, at the very least, become like me and you. To destroy that “thing” is, right off the bat, distasteful to me.

It isn’t like a tumor that is destructive to the body and is removed. Destroying the tumor, in that case would be a constructive act. Also, that tumor isn’t going to grow up and eventually want me to send it to college. Being what it is, the idea of abortion is also contrary to how I have prepared myself for my own life in this world. I have spent my young adulthood getting myself ready to do constructive things. Being a teacher builds up society by passing knowledge along to another generation. Music, among other things, enriches the cultural landscape. Even being a policeman is constructive, in that we enforce the laws that give defined borders to our society, and help keep it from breaking down. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m predisposed to revulsion of things destructive, and abortion is, to me, the ultimate destructiveness – destroying life before it even has a chance. War, killing, even capital punishment, are all distasteful, though can sometimes be justified. I have a difficult time with the destruction of what my conscience tells me is life, using what seems to me to be selfish or false justifications. Anyway, that is where my opposition to abortion begins.

Most importantly, however, God’s Word calls what is created in the womb life.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

Moses wrote in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Taken literally, that would mean that a fetus isn’t “alive” until about 21 days after conception, when it develops a rudimentary cardiovascular system and, for all intents and purposes, its own blood supply (Delp n.d.). If this is the case, something like the morning after pill cannot be objected to from the standpoint that it is destroying life, though it is still distasteful to me. However, to paraphrase Martin Luther, it is never safe act against your conscience[1]. Right now, my own personal Jiminy Cricket is still screaming the words to Psalm 139 in my head:

“Your [God’s] eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).

So, for the time being, I will err on the side of safety – life begins at conception.

To maintain, as is suggested by some in the abortion rights movement, that a baby’s personhood is contingent upon whether or not the mother wishes to have a baby, is absurd and threatens the rights of all Americans. The fact that one’s personhood is not contingent upon how one is viewed by another should be self-explanatory.

A woman who walks into an abortion clinic to terminate an unwanted pregnancy is exercising her right to privacy in making decisions about her reproductive health with her doctor. However, if that same woman is attacked while on her way to the clinic, is robbed and beaten and miscarries as a result, the attacker can – and most likely will – be charged with homicide of an unborn child. Surely, even to the obtuse progressive mind, this must cause some cognitive dissonance.

In the two scenarios given above, there is no difference in either the baby’s status before death, or its ultimate end; only the means of arriving at that end – the termination of the pregnancy – is different. In one case the state allows for the “termination” without restriction, or sanction against the mother or doctor simply because she wishes for the pregnancy to end. In the other, the state prosecutes in order seek justice for the unlawful killing of one human being by another – the definition of homicide. If people can fall in and out of the category of “person,” then no one’s rights are guaranteed. That means that there is some arbitrary, man-made standard of what constitutes personhood. If that is the case, that also means that whatever group happens to be in authority at any given time can redefine what it means to be a person to fit their goals.

Peter Singer, attempting to take the words of the Athanasian Creed and twist them to aid his anti-Christian argument, cites the early Christian fathers by calling a person a being with a rational substance [2]. In an MSNBC interview Dr. Singer said the following:

It’s never been the meaning of a person that it was simply biologically a living member of the species Homo sapiens. If you look at the origin of the term it comes from a Latin persona, meaning a mask worn by actors in a play; and then it became a role, and it was used in early Christian theology, actually, in the doctrine of the Trinity. Three persons in one, right? So, God the Father, the Holy Ghost, and then Jesus, right? So obviously you don’t have to be human to be a person, in that sense. And the early Christian theologians thought that a person is a being with a rational substance. So the idea of rationality, in some way, comes into it [personhood]. And I would say, therefore, that the best sense of a person is a being with some awareness, some rational awareness of who they are existing beyond simply the physical organism (Singer 2011).

When the host pointed out to Dr. Singer that this definition would likely exclude four month-old-babies from being people, he agreed.

Well, possibly. I don’t think it’s problematic to say that a four-month-old baby is not actually a person; I think that’s simply true. Now, that doesn’t determine what the law ought to be. You might say that the law should say from birth on, everybody counts legally as if they were a person…that’s distinct from the question of which beings are persons (Singer 2011).

I just don’t understand where he gets that “ought” from. Sure you might say that. Others, however, might say that the law should say you only count legally as a person from age five years and up, or that you cease to be a person when you are no longer a productive member of society…or if you are a Jew…or a homosexual…or who knows? They might say this unless, of course, there is some objective standard. Either people have rights, or they don’t. Either personhood exists, or it doesn’t. Either an unborn baby is a person, or it isn’t; how we answer these questions will determine what kind of society we will have.

Abortion takes the life of another person. Being sinful human beings we do not like the mirror of God’s Law being held to our faces to show us our sin. We are self-centered and seek to justify our selfish actions any way we can that does not involve acknowledging our sin, and repenting of that sin. We will even try to talk ourselves out of what we know – that the living but unborn are persons in the sight of God from the time of conception. Thanks be to God Almighty, who by the death of His Son Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord and Savior, has overcome sin and death, and graciously offers us all forgiveness for all our sins through faith in Him.

Works Cited

Bradner, Eric. “Rand Paul: Grill Dems about abortion, too.” CNN. April 9, 2015.http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/08/politics/rand-paul-abortion-democrats/ (accessed April 17, 2015).

Delp, Valorie. “Empryonic Stage of Fetal Development.” Love To Know. http://pregnancy.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Embryo_Fetal_Development. (accessed April 17, 2015).

“Luther at the Imperial Diet of Worms 1521.” A Mighty Fortress is Our God: Martin Luther. March 3, 2003. http://www.luther.de/en/worms.html (accessed April 17, 2015).

Singer, Dr. Peter, interview by Chris Hayes. The Battle Over Women’s Bodies (November 6, 2011).

“The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Lutheran Church.” The Three Ecumenical or Universal Creeds. September 2008. http://bookofconcord.org/creeds.php (accessed April 17, 2015).


 

[1] Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen (Luther’s Conscience Quote 2003).

[2] Excerpt from the Athanasian Creed regarding Christ: Perfect God and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood; Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but one Christ: One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the manhood into God; One altogether; not by confusion of Substance, but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ (BOC: Ecumenical Creeds 2008).


Comments

Personhood – Part 1 — 10 Comments

  1. In the Abstract of his paper, “Nuremberg and the Crime of Abortion” (University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 42 Winter 2011, 283-394), Liberty University Prof. Jeffrey C. Tuomala states (p. 283):

    “The Nuremberg tribunals generally limited their jurisdiction over crimes against humanity to offenses committed during wartime. The post-WWII doctrine that high-level government officials are liable for massive human rights violations committed against their own citizens in peacetime has become widely accepted and has major implications for international criminal law.”

    In his conclusion, Prof. Tuomala states (p. 394):

    “The prosecution’s theory that the German government unlawfully encouraged abortion by providing or funding abortion services directly applies to the U.S. government’s practice of providing abortion services in federal facilities and providing funding for abortions. The prosecution’s theory that the German government committed crimes against humanity by prohibiting Polish courts from punishing abortion is analogous to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, which effectively prohibited states from protecting unborn children.”

    May God lead Christians in their vocation as citizens of the United States to publicly discuss, plan, demand and work to establish a similar Nuremberg-type trial, conviction, and sentencing of current and former high-level government officials in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, state governors, state legislators, doctors, businessmen, bankers, leaders of Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, and representatives of the major political parties who have promoted, enabled, funded and conducted crimes against humanity through the genocide of 55 million persons in the womb.

  2. Re: “Moses wrote in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Taken literally, that would mean that a fetus isn’t “alive” until about 21 days after conception..”

    This is a dangerous misrepresentation of that passage. Moses is specifically relaying prohibitions about eating/drinking animal blood. Out of context, the way you quote this, animals would be given personhood status by nature of having blood.

    It’s not about not offending Jimmeny Cricket, but about recognizing what Scripture teaches about life: it’s from God, and from conception. (Ps. 139).

    If life starts 21 days after conception, what was Jesus doing for those three weeks after he was “conceived by the Boly Spirit”?

  3. A number of comments:

    1) “If that thing inside a woman is not a human being, from a legal standpoint, it doesn’t matter what you do with it… If, however, that thing is a human being, it has civil rights given to it by God and protected by the U.S. Constitution. There is no third option.”

    I think that this is a misstating of of the case. At issue is legal “personhood,” not whether or not the developing embryo or fetus is a “human being”. There may be those who believe that the embryo or fetus is a human being, but not yet a person, legal or otherwise, due to any number of criteria. Most often, that criterion is volition, the ability to choose. That criterion presents a slippery slope, however, because what do we do with Alzheimer’s patients, or those with dementia? Are they no longer persons, legal or otherwise?

    2. “Moses wrote in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of a creature is in the blood…” Taken literally, that would mean that a fetus isn’t “alive” until about 21 days after conception, when it develops a rudimentary cardiovascular system and, for all intents and purposes, its own blood supply (Delp n.d.).”

    This is a misapplication of the passage, which doesn’t seek to determine when the human creature is alive. While the embryonic heart (not fetus–that stage of development begins at week nine) begins beating about day 22, a rudimentary vascular system and blood supply are already in place. If they weren’t, why would the heart be beating?

    Furthermore, we don’t look to any arbitrary point on the embryonic/fetal timeline post-conception to determine whether or not something is alive or has value. This is precisely the mistake pro-aborts make. All “significant” points are merely “markers” noting different stages in human development. Once conception occurs, it’s human.

    3. So, for the time being, I will err on the side of safety – life begins at conception.”

    This is a curious statement, since life indeed begins at conception, which is a 24-hour process during which male and female chromosomes intermingle, resulting in a genetically unique human being. That’s just a scientific fact.

    4. Re Singer: “And the early Christian theologians thought that a person is a being with a rational substance. So the idea of rationality, in some way, comes into it [personhood].”

    Early Christian theologians sought to use Scripture and the science of their day to discuss difficult questions concerning nascent human life. They were wrong, just as the Medievalists were wrong, just as Luther was wrong, given his indebtedness to Aristotle’s take on natural science. However, one can use Aristotle’s “kind” argument in creating an account of human personhood that recognizes the “potentiality” of rational thought. Thus, all human beings, from the moment of their conception, are persons, given their potentiality and eventual use of rational thought. Singer is a utilitarian, who also believes that parents ought to have the right to destroy their own children (post-birth) up to age two.

  4. The argument from personhood and rights falls short and does not serve a Christian stance against abortion. First off, many clergy dealing with women in crisis report that there is no question as to whether or not this is a child in most cases. The situation is that the well-being of the mother under some personal criteria which she makes of her own accord and free will and her right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is being weighed against the rights of another being, the child, who is perceived as interfering with the woman’s free exercise of rights. In some cases, it is perceived as the woman’s right of self-defense against this other person. While we may find this morally repugnant, the arguments are rational.

    Further, trying to find a non-religious, purely rational reason for establishing some point in time where a person comes into being, you run into a dead end. At “conception”, several eggs may be fertilized but they do not all implant and there are, in many cases, “conceived” children, that is, fertilized ova, that are cast off. Even conception gets fuzzy, in purely scientific terms. All that can be established, by law, if one wants to establish something by law, is an arbitrary point in time. You’re asking for an irrational, gut-level verdict that gives one person rights against another person and binds one person to the rights of another in a way that Americans do not tolerate. Let’s go to Rand Paul and ask “Does your friend/ enemy/neighbor have a right to sustenance from you and are you bound to feed your friend/ enemy/neighbor, no right of refusal?” To a woman who believes in choice, this is the same question. Trust me, Rand Paul is not your ally. Nor are most Republicans allowing for rape and incest provisions.

    The “right to life” is a creation of mankind. The GIFT of life is what we receive from God. (SC, Explanation to First Article of the Creed). The right to that gift is God’s. My life, your life, anyone’s is not an entitlement. The only one entitled to our lives is God. God is entitled your life and the life of the child He quickens in the womb. This is not a matter for legality or earthly authority. This is a question of faith. Do not take the argument into the world on the world’s terms. Do not take it to the opinions of mankind, or courts, or congresses, or voting booths – the dictates of God are not subject to any of these and are not vindicated if any of these approve.

    So, how do we stop the sin of abortion? By making disciples of all. It is in service and mission that we work this out. We can offer compassion and care, material support, encourage adoption of children into proper families, not kept by single women and raised by grandma because they are “blood kin.” We can have proper families and witness to the world by showing God’s loving plan. For all who are in anguish and confusion, there the Gospel and assurance of forgiveness, no matter what happens. Instead of setting life against life, rights against rights, we devote ourselves to the stewardship, the care and keeping of all life as God’s gift. Most of all, affirm life and let God defend it by His own Word. The Gospel, carried into the world, will solve the problem. Christ, not the courts, not reason, not the people or elected officials, is the only answer. Take all the time you spend on petitions and picketing and fundraising and make disciples. That is the only way to save God’s children.

  5. I can’t get over how that women are the most vociferous and covetous advocates of abortion. Where is their maternal instinct to protect defenseless little ones? My mother would have chewed through razor wire to protect my brother and me. This phenomenon is counterintuitive and may be in part what Paul was referring to in Romans 1:26. I can envision Planned Parenthood with their own sign like the golden arches that touted 55 million served. Singer, Sanger, sick. The longer I live the more I understand Luther’s exhortation to live a life of repentance. God heal our land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

  6. I’m not understanding this at all.

    1. “Further, trying to find a non-religious, purely rational reason for establishing some point in time where a person comes into being, you run into a dead end. At ‘conception’, several eggs may be fertilized but they do not all implant and there are, in many cases, ‘conceived’ children, that is, fertilized ova, that are cast off. Even conception gets fuzzy, in purely scientific terms.”

    I’m not seeing the point. If indeed a person is a human being in every sense of the term (here we’re not talking about legal personhood, which, in the US, begins at birth), then conception, a 24-hour process, is indeed the “point in time when a person comes into being.” Whether or not several eggs are fertilized is moot; each fertilized egg would be a “person” in this schema. Even “cast off” (miscarried? fertilized eggs destroyed after an IVF process? what are we talking about here?) fertilized eggs would be persons. Conception isn’t fuzzy. Mysterious, yes, and there’s still a lot to be learned. But down to the genetic and chromosomal level everything is pre-programmed by the Designer.

    2. “The “right to life” is a creation of mankind. The GIFT of life is what we receive from God. (SC, Explanation to First Article of the Creed).”

    This is typical, “confessional” drivel, a grade school attempt to “one-up” standard English using the “trump card” of the catechism. Not only do we possess the right to live (as evidenced by the Fifth Commandment), we also possess the right to marry (as evidenced by the Sixth, expertly discussed by Melanchthon in Ap XXIII; Melanchthon specifically calls marriage a “right”), as well as the right to private property (as evidenced by the Seventh), and so on. “Rights” language is part and parcel of the Reformation, old bean.

    3. “So, how do we stop the sin of abortion? By making disciples of all.”

    And the three bears. I guess we stop murder, adultery, lying, etc., by the same. Christians do all those things, although mortal sins drive out the Holy Spirit. No, dear one, the church preaches the Gospel, and the State kicks bootay. Greatly reduce abortion by making it illegal; that’s the State’s job (which it isn’t doing, as it currently promotes immorality and vice).

  7. @Mark #5: “I can’t get over how that women are the most vociferous and covetous advocates of abortion.”

    Gallup’s Gender Gap in Voting for President in the final Pre-election polls shows the percentage points for the difference in women over men favoring a vote for the Demonicrat candidate for President. The data shows that

    1. Since a serial adulterer/rapist ran in 1992, the majority of women polled in favor of the Demonicrat presidential candidate.
    2. Since the 1952 elections, women have consistently tended more than men to favor voting for Demonicrats
    3. In the 2012 election there was a 20 point difference for women over men in preferring the Demonicrat candidate.

    With this data indicating women’s preference is for a candidate whose party has a pro-murder-by-abortion plank in their platform for the last 50 years, advocating genocide of persons in the womb by vociferous and covetous female traitors is not so surprising.

  8. @Robert #6

    There is nothing rational, scientific, or provable to define a “human being”, in any sense, as a fertilized ovum. Nothing can be argued. You can only state. on faith, that it is a human being. This is not a basis for law.

    Should the law jump to the conclusion, against reason, that it is a human being, then you have the rights of the mother against the rights of the child where the mother may insist that her fundamental, rational, and acknowledged rights are violated by the child.

    God is not the “designer” He is the Creator. He brings each new life into being, not by a process He designed but directly. It is because we recognize this by faith and see our lives as gifts from God to us and one another that we give up our perceived rights against one another. No government can accomplish that by law and one that is pledged to be agnostic in matters of faith cannot make any laws respecting that truth.

    The “right” to enter into marriage was set against the government and the Church, both of which were contriving to restrict marriage. But even though two consent to marriage and take vows, it is God who creates the bond and it is God who has, in the same manner of Adam and Eve, given each to the other. The “right” asserted is an assertion of God’s right to join without earthly interference.

    Property, it will be noted, is biblically understood as one’s possessions and the fruits of labor. Land and houses on open land were retained as God’s property in perpetuity (Leviticus 25) and, even then, the earth, all in it and all that comes from it remains the Lord’s to this day (Psalm 24). We are stewards, not owners. How has our society, our church, Christians, and governments made a hash of this with rational ideas of property?

    We are confessional. These are simple ideas. Not drivel or trumps of language. They are ideas that are failing to penetrate the hearts of those indoctrinated by state, nationality, ethnicity, and culture.

    Here, we, the people, are the state. As long as we are sinful, focused on personal rights, are acting out of self-interest and self-preservation, we will derive and create laws from those perspectives. Legal abortion is a product of liberty and rationality. As long as the people desire the right to murder under certain circumstances, the laws that proceed from the people will follow suit. Reaming focused on stopping only the abortion and criminalizing it does nothing to minister to the women in need of Gospel. Remember, in every instance where abortion is being considered, there are two lives which God desires to save. Your call for law ignores that. The exceptions made by most for rape and incest seek only to make exceptions where the woman’s promiscuity cannot be judged. I find the language in all these arguments incredibly unmerciful to women and I can promise that they, as the people, are hearing that, too, and being pushed away from God.

    Yes, the answer to all sin, both forgiving it and stopping it, is Christ.

  9. “There is nothing rational, scientific, or provable to define a “human being”, in any sense, as a fertilized ovum.”

    Such a statement displays either a profound ignorance or utter disregard of the biological facts of human conception. At the First International Conference on Abortion in October, 1967, 95 percent of the medical professionals, biological scientists and experts in law, ethics and the social sciences answered the question, “When does human life begin?,” with the statement:

    “The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg, or at least the blastocyst stage and the birth of the infant at which point we could say that this was not a human life. The changes occurring between implantation, a six-weeks embryo, a six months fetus, a one week-old child, or a mature adult are merely stages of development and maturation.”

    Because the unjustified killing of a human being is murder, the onus is on the abortionists to prove between fertilization and through birth there is no human being maturing in the womb.

    “Legal abortion is a product of liberty and rationality.”

    Liberty and rationality are gifts from God. Legal abortion is the demonic perversion of liberty and rationality, as is the claim that legal abortion is a product of liberty and rationality. Legal abortion is also part of the genocide of persons in the womb, a crime against humanity, and treason. Those responsible, especially pro-abortion judges, politicians, doctors, providers, and supporters, should be brought to justice, tried, convicted, and sentenced for those crimes. And the sentences should be publicly executed.

    One has come to expect little support from some Christian pro-life groups, including clergy, for pursuing pro-life justice. Such lack of support weakens their pro-life position because it eliminates any moral claim for opposing abortion and reduces the pro-life position to an equivalent one of wearing appropriate-colored socks. If abortion is wrong because it is murder—and it is, on a genocidal scale—rather than wearing the wrong color of socks, then a pro-life position must truly be a decision for pursuing justice.

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