When Does Life Begin?

This past week, I received the following inquiry:
“When would you say a person’s soul is created?”

It is an immensely important question. At what point are we a living being? When does human life begin? It is a question which needs a clear and definitive answer, especially in light of the freedom with which pregnancies are being terminated in our present day. Between 2010 and 2019 (the last year for which we have statistics), there were just shy of 1 million abortions reported in Canada1. From 2009 to 2018 (the last year for which data is available), our neighbours to the South have reported just over 6.7 million abortions.2

We could talk about the science3:

  • Week 6—a heartbeat and brainwaves can be detected;
  • Week 8—fingers and toes are developed;
  • Week 10—all internal organs are formed and functioning;
  • Week 13—swallowing and sucking (ie. thumb in mouth);
  • Week 17—finger and toe nails, eyebrows and eyelashes;
  • Week 23—startles and jumps at loud sounds;
  • Week 26—able to distinguish between voices heard…

The science is intriguing and should be eye-opening for those who think of an embryo or fetus as nothing more than a mass of tissue. However, the true verdict of the beginning of life, of when we become a person, a living soul, is found by asking the Creator of man.

An August 2018 Baltimore Sun4 article adorned with an image stating “I ♥ Abortion Providers” declares, “The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms when life begins. In Genesis, chapter one, God answers the question himself. He forms a figure from the Earth, but it does not become Adam (“man” in Hebrew) until God “breathes into him the breath of life, and he became a man.” The author, William Smith, surmises, “life begins when you draw your first breath,” and thus concludes “There is no question, no moral ambiguity. Abortion destroys an empty vessel, it does not kill a human being.” He chides “supposedly religious people,” for if only we would read the Bible, then we would know abortion is not a moral concern but just a medical issue.

Let me correct Mr. Smith. The text he is referring to is in Genesis 2, not Genesis 1. It would seem he is also among those who need to read the Bible a bit more.

We need to acknowledge this was an extraordinary situation. Adam was not conceived and developed in the womb, he was fashioned out of dust by the hand of God. Genesis 2:7 says “…man (Heb. Adam) became a living soul” (KJV) when God “…breathed into his nostrils the breath of life…” No one else, except presumably Eve (Genesis 2:21-22) was created and came to life in this manner.

According to Mr. Smith’s reasoning, a child out of the womb who hasn’t begun to breath is not a human being. It takes up to 10 seconds after birth for a newborn to take a first breath, and between 5-10% of infants require some form of stimulation to initiate breathing.5 Mr. Smith’s logic makes after-birth abortion a medical issue, not a moral concern!

Well, let’s return to the initial question and go deeper into the Bible than page 1. At what point are we a living being? When does human life begin? Hear the words of David:

Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. (Psalm 139:16; cf. Job 31:15)

Again, listen to what the Lord said to Jeremiah:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5; cf. Isaiah 49:1, 5; Luke 1:41)

The Bible clearly reveals that life begins long before the first breath. Life begins at conception, before we begin to take form and shape within our mother’s womb. While we are yet unformed in the womb, God knows us and has a plan for us.

1   arcc-cdac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/statistics-abortion-in-canada.pdf
2   usafacts.org/data/topics/people-society/health/maternal-early-childhood-
3   babycenter.com/fetal-development-week-by-week
4   baltimoresun.com/opinion/readers-respond/bs-ed-rr-abortion-law-letter-
5   bellybelly.com.au/birth/when-do-babies-take-their-first-breath/

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