In view of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the subsequent conversations that will take place in its aftermath, I will communicate the underlying false ideology that empowered the courts to make that decision back in 1973. I will also clarify in more detail the biblical view of when life begins and when a child in the womb becomes a person. This information will empower you to speak into the conversations you will have about abortion, personhood theory, and other such subjects like euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism and other related ethical issues. As I have said over the years: knowledge is power.
The Marvelous Passage of Psalm 139:13-17
Psalm 139 is the central Scripture that identifies the miracle of conception. I am using the NLT as it communicates a little more clearly, but I also render the Hebrew words at times for further understanding.
13 “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous–how well I know it. 15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. 16 You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” – Psalm 139:13-16 NLT
My Comments on these verses below.
139:13 You knit me together in my mother’ womb. The concept of “knit me together” is the forming of a baby’s inward parts that are shielded in the marvelous protection of the embryonic child while growing in the womb. “Knit together” also includes a weaving type of process. When gazing under a microscope we notice that the DNA molecule is woven together. This is describing the divinely designed period of pregnancy, where God providentially watches over the development of the child while yet in the mother’s womb.
139:14 …wonderfully complex. The word “wonderfully” (pālā) in Hebrew, stresses the aspect of being different, distinct, or separate. Each baby is designed to be like all human beings in the overall aspect, but uniquely different from all others in detail. All humans are awe-inspiringly distinct and unique, which ought to be a catalyst to cause us to marvel, be astonished, and filled with wonder! As you read this text are you now filled with awe? If so please stop and praise God out loud!
139:15 …being formed in utter seclusion. Literally, “my frame” or “my bones” were being made, which is a child’s skeletal structure that was being formed under the watchful eye of Yahweh God. The words “utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the darkness of the womb” is self-explanatory. The KJV of verse 15 says, “My substance was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the hidden parts of the earth.” “Curiously wrought” means embroidered, once again referring to the double-helical DNA molecular program which organizes, part-by-part, the beautiful structure of the whole infant. The “hidden parts of the earth” refers to the basic elements (dust or dirt) parts of the earth. Just as Adam was formed from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7), so is mankind, as we are physically made up of these elements.
We are learning more every year about the miraculous workings of the DNA system, but there is still much that we do not know as even Ecclesiastes 11:5 states, “Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones [are formed] in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things.”
By the way, if we knew everything about God we would never have to wonder, and I guess we would be God! ☺ “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law” – Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV
139:16 You saw me (my unformed substance) before I was born. This is absolutely staggering as it reveals that God recognized the baby as a person before it was conceived! The secular community has adopted the view that life begins at conception, but it heretically believes that the baby does not become a person until some later arbitrary time. From this passage God considers the baby at the point of conception, and even prior to conception, being a person! This is profound and, I might say, contrary to the radical lie being propagated by millions of people to justify the barbarism of abortion.
139:16 Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” God sovereignly ordained our lives before we were born. This powerful thought is reiterated in Jeremiah 1:5: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born, I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” God recognizes personhood prior to conception!!
In Revelation 20:12 the Apostle John records that there are books being kept by God that are recording the deeds done by unbelievers and that they will be judged by what they have done.
My introduction to this concept came out of my reading of one of my favorite author’s books, “Love Thy Body” by Nancy Pearcey.
Personhood theory is based on a false notion of Truth, called the fact/value split.
Please look to my article titled: Is There a Gatekeeper of America, dated March 26, 2020, for a more detailed understanding of the fact/value split.
As an aside ,while in my first years in college and in the providence of God I read the late Francis Schaeffer and two of his revolutionary books, Escape from Reason and The God Who is There, which the Spirit of God used to transform my thinking about how God’s Truth impacts the broader culture. In these two books he expands on the false premise of the two-story paradigm for interpreting the world.
Personhood theory separates the body from the person.
Illustrated like this:
Upper Story: Person / Value
Lower Story: Body/Fact
To be biologically human is a scientific fact that exists in the lower story. But to be a person is an ethical concept, defined by value. Applied to the abortion debate, a baby is acknowledged to be human from conception, in the sense that it is a biological organism knowable by the empirical methods of science (lower story). But it is not thought to be a person with moral standing, nor does it warrant legal protection. Thus, the conclusion from Roe. vs. Wade. Later, at some undefined point in time, the baby jumps into the upper story and becomes a person typically defined in terms of a certain level of cognitive functioning, consciousness, and self-awareness. When one becomes a person is not knowable. When an attainment of moral and legal standing is reached, the (person) is then placed in the value category (upper story) because it is now a person.
The Implications of Such Faulty Thinking
The assumption at the heart of abortion is personhood theory with its two-tiered view of the human being—one that sees little or no value in the living human body, but places all our worth in the mind or consciousness.
Personhood theory presumes a low view of the human body, which ultimately dehumanizes all of us. For if our bodies do not have inherent value, then a key part of our identity is devalued. This same body/person dichotomy, with its denigration of the body, is the unspoken assumption driving secular views on euthanasia, sexuality, homosexuality, transgenderism, and a host of related ethical issues.
Christianity holds that that the body, soul and spirit together form an integrated unity—that the human being is an embodied soul and spirit. By contrast, personhood theory entails a two level-dualism that sets body against the person, as though they were two separate things merely stuck together. As a result, it demeans the body as extrinsic (not part of) to the person—something inferior that can be used for purely pragmatic purposes.
In this two-story worldview, that separates the body from the person, it means that a baby conceived in the womb does not qualify as a person. The baby in the womb must earn the status of personhood by achieving a certain level of cognitive functioning—the capacity for consciousness, self-awareness, autonomy, and so on.
Personhood theory is the assumption behind most of the common arguments for abortion. For example, when John Kerry was running for US president in 2004, he surprised the public by agreeing that “life begins at conception.” In that case how could he support abortion?
Here was his answer:
“My personal belief about what happens in the fertilization process is a human being is first formed and created, and that’s when life begins. Something begins to happen. There’s a transformation. There’s an evolution. Within weeks, you look and see the development of it, but that’s not a person yet, … it’s not the form of life that takes personhood in the terms that we have judged it to be in the past….”— Peter Jennings Interviews Sen. John Kerry, ABC News, July 22, 2004
The implication is that if the pre-born child is deemed to be human but not a person, it is just a disposable piece of matter—a natural resource like timber or corn. It can be used for research and experiments, tinkered with genetically harvested for organs, and then disposed of with other medical waste.
A True Story
One Right to Life weekend when I was pastoring, I had finished my teaching on Psalm 139:13-15, regarding the miracle of conception, when life begins and God’s view of the unborn child in the womb. A medical doctor confronted me after the service with above-average anger, as he condescendingly berated me for ignorantly teaching that a “fetus” was anything but a blob of tissue, and that it could and ought to be used for stem cell research. The argument was intense between us, and it soon gathered a small audience as people grouped around us to see and listen to the dialog. Friends, we are called to be courageous (Joshua 1:7,8), argue or reason, (Acts 17:2 KJV), persuade (2 Corinthians 5:11), be zealous for righteousness (Titus 2:14), not be intimidated (Ezekiel 3:7,8), while at the same time talking to people in a gracious manner (Proverbs 22:11 NLT). I actually had a good time, ☺ and I have discovered that many times the benefits of such a relatively public discussion are for the onlookers.
In 1973, the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade ruled that even though the baby in the womb is human, it is not a person under the Fourteenth Amendment, which prohibits the states from depriving “any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Since a child is not considered a person, they are not protected.
Aren’t you praising God for the latest ruling from the Supreme Court that has overturned Roe v. Wade?
If one favors abortion, they are implicitly saying that in the early stages of life, an unborn baby has so little value that it can be killed for any reason—or no reason—without moral consequence. Whatever your feelings, that is a very low view of life. Then, by sheer logic, you must say that at some later time the baby becomes a person, at which point it requires such high value that killing it would be a crime.
Several years ago, I asked a close relative, who believed in abortion, “at what point does one become a person?” The response was “I think right after the baby is born, comes out of the womb and takes its first breath.” Think about that my friends, not until the baby breaths its first breath is he or she considered a person? The travesty is immense to think of the buy-in to the false narratives being propagated and believed in by millions of people through Personhood Theory. The greater tragedy is the fact that the leadership of this country would propose, fund, and propagate such an egregious lie. Individually, and as a nation, we will clearly be held accountable to our Holy and Righteous God.
Years ago, one elder at Rolling Hills asked me with a disparaging tone, “Dale, why are you so concerned about the life of the unborn?” Hello, how tragic is that?
I mention the following to provide ways that churches can do much more to help stem the tide of abortions in our country.
Over the years of my ministry, I fought for the life of the unborn! I taught from God’s Word the truths related to abortion and when life begins. We celebrated Right to Life Sunday each January. In one service I invited a top Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist to talk about the life of the baby in the womb showing pictures of a baby’s progressive stages of development. There were conversions to Christ from men and women on those Sundays that had chosen abortion, after experiencing the forgiveness of Christ. It was glorious to see the transformation of these individuals. I was instrumental in raising over $150,000 in one year to oppose abortions. I spearheaded the signing of hundreds of petitions to preserve life. I fostered a church climate where people in our congregation temporarily adopted young mothers and paid for the birth of their children. A young couple originated the idea of filling baby bottles with money collected by our children, and they sponsored the bottle drive for the State of Oregon. Thousands of dollars were raised over the years. A lawyer in the congregation worked to find adoptive parents when requested. I spoke to over 7,000 people in Pioneer Square in Downtown Portland supporting the life of the unborn. Of course, there were protestors☺!
Suggested Actions to Take
#1 Explain to someone else two points from Psalm 139:13-17. If you have a Henry Morris Study Bible, his commentary on these verses are profound.
#2 In a sentence or two explain Personhood Theory.
#3 Describe the false two-story concept and how it relates to abortion.
#4 What did you learn from the John Kerry quote that provides insight about why proponents conclude abortion is justified.
#5 What did you glean from my confrontation with the medical doctor in our congregation?
#6 From what I accomplished regarding combating the abortion epidemic what two ideas could you take to your pastor that your church might do?