Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When Does Life Begin?

SKEPTIC: What do you believe happens to the soul of an embryo that is aborted, and is your belief based on the Bible?

PREACHER: Bible passages such as Psalms 139:13~16 and Isaiah 44:2 suggest that God is involved with the pre-birth condition of human beings. Since humans are created in the image of God, and have intrinsic value, the termination of a pregnancy would seem to be interfering in what God is doing. Although the Bible doesn't speak out about what happens to the pre-born in an abortion or a miscarriage, it can be inferred that since men are guilty before God because of their sin that they are responsible for and we can hardly say that an aborted fetus can take responsibility. A lot of evangelical scholars think that aborted fetuses get to go to heaven. I heard my seminary teacher comment that the Bible is silent on this matter for the very reason that if it proclaimed that fetuses go to heaven, the superstitious people in the middle ages would have killed many babies thinking that by doing so the babies would go to heaven. I believe that God intends for all souls to go through this life and when men interfere by abortion, they will be held accountable on judgement day.

SKEPTIC: Okay, I'm a little confused. You say the Bible doesn't have anything to say about what happens to the souls of those who are never born (which is a little surprising to me). Does the Bible specifically say that life begins at conception (the basis for the Christian belief that abortion should be illegal)? You also say that many scholars think that these souls go to Heaven, and that you believe that men will be accountable to God if they interfere in the process with abortion. What you haven't said is what YOU believe happens to these souls. Are you taking a neutral position, saying that you don't know? Are you saying, like Obama, that these sorts of questions are "above your paygrade?"

PREACHER: The Bible passages I quoted above infer that the fetus in the womb has a soul. Coming through the birth canal successfully doesn't suddenly make the fetus a human being; it already is. As for the existence of unborn souls (and that is where conception has not occurred, yet) the Bible doesn't say anything. Some philosopher has made a statement about the pre-existence of souls, but that is not from the Bible.

As far as the Bible specifically saying that life begins at conception, I think you are wondering when the "concepted thing" becomes a human being. Science hasn't determined that, yet. And I believe it would be very difficult to do so. Since we are accountable to God, I believe in playing it safe and saying that conception is the point of becoming a human being. Personally, I believe that the souls of these little ones go to heaven, but I can't be dogmatic about it. My opinion is based on what I know God is like from how He is revealed in the Bible.

SKEPTIC: The Bible verses you mentioned don't seem to really address when life begins per se. On the other hand, Genesis 2:7 seems to clearly say that life begins when a person takes his or her first breath.

"And God made man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul."

In any event, I have two main points. First, it seems ridiculous to me that government should or would outlaw certain medical procedures based on religious ideas about the soul, and second, if you really believe that the souls of aborted fetuses go to Heaven, then you're not doing those souls any favors by not wanting them to be aborted. In other words, if a baby is born and doesn't guess right on the religion question and ends up burning forever in Hell, it seems that he would've been a whole lot better off being aborted. At least then he would have gotten a free pass into Heaven.

PREACHER: Genesis 2:7 is a record of the unique creation of the first man and shouldn't be taken to mean that until one has breathed, he has no soul. Empirical scientific evidence shows that a fetus is a viable living being before it takes its first breath. As long as a large group of citizens believe a "religious" concept, doesn't it behoove the government, if it is a government by the people and for the people, to respect their position? I believe that it is God's will that human souls go through this life. And it isn't an issue of guessing the right question, it is an issue of whether you want to love God or not. When men perform an abortion the fetus becomes their victim. I believe that God cares for those who are victimized. So, He must do something for them.

SKEPTIC: I don't think the government has any business legislating anything that is based on a religious concept. The whole "separation of church and state" thing is a very important element of our democracy. If people don't respect that, then you end up with a theocracy, something that the Taliban has shown us doesn't really work all that well. Also, you talk about a "large group" of people who want to outlaw abortion, but polls have always indicated that the large majority of Americans are against repealing Roe v. Wade.

PREACHER: The polls seem to be very close with the pro-choice position leading. Shouldn't the government pursue a position of compromise on this issue?

SKEPTIC: Well, let's see. We just had 8 years with a pro-life president and a conservative Supreme Court, and yet not a lot changed in regard to the legality of abortion. In fact, we now know that Bush and the GOP were blatantly using the pro-life Christian community for their own political purposes, with no real intention to change anything. So now Americans have overwhelming elected a pro-choice president. What kind of compromise would you expect Obama to pursue, exactly?

PREACHER: I would like to see him pass legistation to protect the right of doctors, who are opposed to abortion for religious reasons, to not be forced to perform it.

SKEPTIC: There are no doctors being forced to perform abortions. The current law, which has been in place for decades, protects doctors from being forced to perform abortions if it goes against their conscience. But Bush snuck in a new regulation right before he was run out of office which broadened those protections. So now it's okay for any health-care worker, as a right of conscience, to refuse to even give out any abortion information at all to someone seeking that information. They can even refuse to pass on a referral. It also allows pharmacists to refuse to sell birth control. Obama and pro-choice groups are in the process of attempting to roll back these additional protections. No one is trying to force doctors to perform abortions.

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