Theme: God’s Omnipotence and the Human Person
In this week’s lessons, we learn about the benefits of God’s omniscience for his children.
Scripture: Psalm 139:13-24
We have already seen that David is writing with his heart as well as with his head in this psalm, and this means that he is not thinking of God’s omnipotence abstractly but as it applies to him. More particularly, he is thinking of the power of God in forming him while he was still in the womb of his mother. No wonder God knows me, he says. God made me. He formed me from my very first moments, from my beginning, as he states in verses 13-16: “For 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.”
Here we have to talk about abortion and the Bible’s teaching about the individuality of a child while it is still in its mother’s womb. David is not writing about abortion, of course. Nothing could be farther from his mind. But no one can read these verses thoughtfully today without reflecting on their obvious bearing on this important contemporary problem.
What is the chief issue in discussions about abortion? The chief issue concerns the identity of the fetus: Is the embryo a human being? People who argue for the right of a woman to have an abortion—”It’s my own body; I can do with it as I please”—usually argue that the fetus is not yet a person, but is only a part of the woman’s body, like a gall bladder or appendix that she can elect to have removed. That is why language describing the unborn child has changed so radically. A generation ago, everyone referred to the unborn child as a baby, and mothers knew they were carrying a baby. But it is hard for anyone to think calmly about killing a baby. So today, people talk about the fetus or the embryo or even “mere tissue” instead. To get rid of some “tissue” doesn’t seem so bad. We can live with that vocabulary. But this is not the way the Bible speaks of the unborn child.
What is more, growing medical knowledge of unborn children undermines that comfortable delusion. When does the embryo become a person? The great Greek philosopher Aristotle speculated that the fetus becomes human when it quickens in the womb, that is, when the mother feels it move. But we know today that the movement of the fetus is only a matter of degree. The baby is moving all the time. Others have argued that the fetus becomes human only when it is old enough to survive outside the womb. But that is a relative matter too, since advances in the care of premature babies make it possible for even extremely tiny infants to survive, certainly infants that are younger and smaller than many that are being aborted. It is increasingly common today to identify life with brain activity. But we know that there is brain activity in the unborn child even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. For that matter, there is a beating heart and the circulation of the baby’s own blood as well.
The problem with trying to determine a point before which the developing child is not fully human is that there is no easily identifiable point to do it. There is an uninterrupted development of the child from the very moment in which the sperm of the father joins the ovum of the mother and the cell begins to divide. The father’s seed cannot multiply by itself. Nor can the mother’s egg. However, as soon as the two sets of chromosomes combine, not only does the development of life move forward steadily unless interrupted, either accidentally or deliberately, but the life that is developing is a unique life. There is no other combination of chromosomes exactly like these new ones. The fetus is already a uniquely determined individual.
What does Dr. Boice mean when he says David wrote with his heart as well as with his head?
What does the Bible teach about the individuality of the child in the womb?
Reflection: Given the medical and biological knowledge we have about what goes on in the womb and the baby’s development, even from conception, why do people still support abortion and in some cases even exult in having gone through one? What does that communicate about their views of God, other people, and even themselves?
Prayer: Thank God that he formed you while you were in the womb. What are the implications of that for your own significance and for how you treat other people?
For Further Study: To learn more about God’s omnipotence, download and listen for free to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Our Omnipotent God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)