Tag Archives: Sanctity of Life

Fearfully & Wonderfully Made

“For You created my innermost parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, because I am awesomely and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.”
– Psalms 139:13-14

It’s been said that if wombs had windows, abortion would be no more. Then we would be able to see with our own eyes what the Psalmist described above thousands of years ago. But ultrasonic imaging, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) have given us unprecedented windows into the status of the unborn human.
Today I want to highlight 2 sets of photos from Bruce Carlson’s 4th edition (2009) of “Human Embryology and Developmental Biology” textbook (pages 179-180). The lead photo above is an SEM photo of the hand (A) and foot (B) of an 8-week-old fetus. Notice the detail at only 8 weeks. That is obviously not “just a clump of cells” as abortion supporters would have you believe. The arrows point to the volar pads where epidermal ridges will start forming between 11 and 17 weeks. Oh boy… “epidermal ridges.” Well, you might know those better as … fingerprints! Yes, the fingerprint patterns that can uniquely identify you as an adult person are already discernible below the surface of the skin before the end of the first trimester. In fact, the other series of photos below, also taken with a Scanning Electron Microscope, are of the obvious loop pattern of the fingerprint of a 14-week-old fetus. The fingerprints will be visible on the surface of the skin by the end of the 5th month, but as you can see for yourself, the unique pattern is already formed far earlier.

Fingerprint patterns of a 14 week old fetusBut now the question for you, dear reader, is what will you do with this information? We cannot live in denial of what we now see so clearly. The case for the life of the unborn is similar to the case for American slaves in the 1860’s: pictures tell an undeniable story. There was a famous picture of an escaped slave, dubbed “Whipped Peter”, who escaped from a Louisiana plantation to a Union camp during the Civil War. He was photographed because of the severity of the beatings he had endured and the scarring that showed plainly the injustice of chattel slavery. That picture was reproduced and distributed to wake people up to the real horrors that had occurred. While it was easy to discuss the subject of slavery detached from the real effects of it, pictures like the one here brought the discussion home in all its gruesome messiness. Likewise, pictures have been vital for the pro-life cause from the beginning because it’s harder to whitewash the facts with euphemisms about “reproductive freedom” and “choice” when there’s a picture of a clearly dismembered human body in front of you. But now, it’s not just pictures of the effects of abortion that are available for any who dare to look at them. It’s pictures (and now video) of the baby in utero moving and kicking and sucking her thumb, doing many of the same things we love to see newborns do. The new “4D ultrasounds” are showing in unprecedented clarity and detail the humanity and personality of the unborn in real time.

While I have serious theological disagreements with the Roman Cartholic Church, Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, recently explained very succinctly why abortion is such an important issue – “Abortion is the axe laid to the roots of the tree of human rights: when our culture encourages the violation of life at its youngest and most vulnerable condition, other ethical norms cannot stand for long.”[1] So very true. Will you stand by while the tree of human rights is chopped down? Now that you know the truth, and have seen it with your own eyes via the wonders of modern technology, can you keep silent? I know I can’t, and I hope you won’t be able to either. 

[1] “Before I Formed You in the Womb I Knew You: A Pastoral Letter on the Human Dignity of the Unborn, Holy Communion, and Catholics in Public Life”, Salvatore Joseph Cordileone, May 1, 2021.

The Down Low

The Good Samaritan - Vasily Surikov (1874)
The Good Samaritan – Vasily Surikov (1874)

In the Christian view, every person is made in the image of God and has intrinsic value.[Gen 1:27] This doctrine, sometimes referred to by the Latin term imago Dei, is serious enough that God gives it as the basis for capital punishment when someone murders another human.[Gen 9:6] That each person really does have such high value, as an essential characteristic of their humanity, is nice in theory, but how does that play out? Are the nobodies really as important as the bigwigs and high rollers? While God certainly can use both, it seems like He uses the low people and the “foolish things of the world” to accomplish His work more than the wise and powerful.[1 Cor 1:27-29, James 2:1-5] So, in treating the passed-over people with dignity and respect, we may be closer to working in God’s plans than we are when working with the great and mighty.

Consider that the first disciples called by Jesus were not religious teachers, law experts, or powerful princes. They were only simple fisherman, but notice how God used this fact, as people hearing Peter’s speech were amazed that these weren’t “learned men”.[Acts 4:13]  What they were was honest, humble men, able to report exactly what they saw and heard of the events of Jesus’ ministry on Earth.[Acts 4:19-20] And that’s exactly what was needed of those first disciples – honest eyewitnesses to tell the story. God later used the exact opposite of those rough and tumble fishermen when He selected Saul of Tarsus to be His ambassador. Saul was a Pharisee, the cream of the crop in devotion to the Jewish Law, with a familial and educational pedigree to match. [Acts 22:3, 26:4-5, Phil 3:4-6] Yet his stature and accomplishments blinded him to seeing God’s witness, and ironically, he persecuted the people (Christians) that had found the fulfillment of the Jewish Law he so zealously followed. God had to bring him low before He could build Saul the Pharisee into Paul the Apostle. Once that happened, however, God used Paul’s understanding of the Jewish Law and prophecies to explain His plan of salvation via rich, deep theological treatises like Paul’s letter to the Romans, among others. Paul counted all his previous accomplishments as insignificant compared to the knowledge of Christ.[Phil 3:7-8] Each type of person God called had their purpose, but all needed humility before they could be used to full effect. In fact, God’s entire plan of salvation for the human race wasn’t brought about via the juggernaut of the Roman empire (although He used them to enable the quick spread of His truth when the time came). Nor was it accomplished by Alexander the Great, or any other “great” rulers. Instead, His plan revolved around a small nation, a small tribe, and a nondescript family from a small town, all to bring forth a Savior who would change everything! Indeed, in God’s economy, He chooses to exhibit His power and accomplish His goals specifically through our weakness [2 Cor 12:9], that it may be evident to whom the credit is due.

This inherent value of all people, no matter their position in life, has had significant implications for every Christian. How God values people is how we should value people. Consider the long history of Christians reaching out to those neglected and rejected by the rest of society. Christians started (as in, originated) charitable hospitals in the 4th century to minister to any of the sick at a time when only certain rich or privileged citizens could get medical care.[1] They started asylums to at least try to care for the insane.[2] Christians, as a whole, have consistently opposed infanticide, child abandonment, and abortion from the beginning, recognizing the worth of these most defenseless members of society, and working at great cost to themselves to protect them.[3] They started schools to teach people to read and write wherever they went. In fact, Neil Postman points out that 17th century New England had “quite probably the highest concentration of literate males to be found anywhere in the world at that time.” Equally impressive was women’s literacy rates that far exceeded the best male literacy rates in England at the time. What caused this anomaly? Says Postman, “the religion of these Calvinist Puritans demanded that they be literate.” In addition, Postman also notes that almost all early New England towns passed laws requiring schools be established to teach reading, writing, and grammar, for the express purpose of combating the schemes of Satan.[4] The pilgrims believed that if God has graciously provided His plan in writing, it behooves us to be able to read and comprehend it. But when we read and comprehend it, we are confronted with challenges through the Bible to care for, defend, and help those who can’t take care of themselves. And I couldn’t even begin to list all the Christian charities dedicated to helping orphans, the poor, the starving, the sick, the illiterate, the refugees, the homeless, the handicapped, and on and on. But why? Are we simply “scorin’ points for the afterlife” as Weird Al Yankovich once sang?[5] On the contrary, “we love because He first loved us.”[1 John 4:19] We bless others because of how richly God has blessed us. And no, I’m not talking about that offensive, false, “prosperity gospel” that focuses on fleeting, fickle fortune.  If I lost everything in life, up to and including my life, God’s grace would still make me more blessed than all the riches of all the billionaires in the world. With that in mind, how can I not want to share whatever I do have with others, but especially the free – yet priceless! – good news of salvation through Jesus?

In the Bible, we see the gospel of Christ reaching out across all borders and divisions that typically separated people; gender, class, race, nationality, age, status, education – the invitation was open to all.[Gal 3:28, Col 3:9-11, Rom 10:11-13] In Christ, there are no castes, no untouchables, no one off-limits to reach out to. There is no minimum amount of wealth to “buy in” to heaven, no minimum (or maximum) IQ or educational knowledge to serve God, no minimum number of years invested or minimum number of good deeds required to be saved. He truly makes it so that whoever will can be saved, from the poorest beggar to the richest king, from the grade school dropout to the rocket scientist, from the sweetest child to the most hardened criminal. We all approach the cross of Christ on the same low footing. Without Christ, we are all equally guilty, and yet, all still intrinsically valuable and loved in God’s sight.

[1] Alvin J. Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), p.155.
[2] ibid., p. 160.
[3] ibid., pp. 48-60.
[4] Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, (Penguin Books, 1986), pp.31-33.
[5] Weird Al Yankovich, “Amish Paradise”, 1996, the nevertheless cleverly funny parody of “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio.