VIDEO Why All Human Life Is Sacred: Womb to Tomb

baby feet
Babies are made in the image of God too

Genesis 1:26–27 tells us that as humans, we are made in God’s image. But what does that mean? Ask a few Christians, and you’ll probably get several different responses.

Dr. Michael Heiser, Bible scholar and author of the new book, The Unseen Realm, says that we often base our status as image bearers on one or more of the following qualities:

Intelligence
Reasoning ability
Emotions
The ability to commune with God
Self-awareness (sentience)
Language/communication ability
The presence of a soul or spirit (or both)
The conscience
Free will

At a glance, this might seem like a strong list of qualities we uniquely share with God. We can generally agree that most of these qualities distinguish humans from the other things God created. But Dr. Heiser says, “The image of God means none of those things. If it did, then Bible-believers ought to abandon the idea of the sanctity of human life in the womb. That assertion may jar you, but it’s quite evident once you really consider that list in light of how Scripture talks about the image of God.”

In The Unseen Realm, Dr. Heiser uses the ancient Hebrew worldview of the supernatural to cast a biblical light on our relationship to the divine. To fully grasp that relationship, we have to take another look at what it means to be made in God’s image.

Referring back to the list above, Heiser says, “The problem with defining the image by any of these qualities is that, on one hand, nonhuman beings like animals possess some of these abilities, although not to the same extent as humans. If one animal anywhere, at any time, learned anything contrary to instinct, or communicated intelligently (to us or within species), or displayed an emotional response (again to us or other creatures), those items must be ruled out as image bearing. We know certain animals have these abilities because of carefully conducted research in the field of animal cognition. Artificial intelligence is on the verge of similar breakthroughs.”

Our list just got a lot shorter. If all human life uniquely bears the image of God, we have to definitively know that no other species bears (or could bear) these qualities. Or, we need to specify the combination that is uniquely human. Putting any qualities on this list is risky—can we afford to stake our identity as God’s image on any one quality? Heiser goes on:
“Defining image bearing as any ability is a flawed approach. This brings me back to my pro-life assertion. The pro-life position is based on the proposition that human life (and so, personhood) begins at conception (the point when the female egg is fertilized by the male sperm). The simple-celled zygote inside the woman’s womb, which pro-lifers believe to be a human person, is not self-aware; it has no intelligence, rational thought processes, or emotions; it cannot speak or communicate; it cannot commune with God or pray; and it cannot exercise its will or respond to the conscience. If you want to argue that those things are there potentially, then that means that you have only a potential person. That’s actually the pro-choice position. Potential personhood is not actual personhood. This thought process would mean that abortion is not killing until personhood is achieved . . .”

So how do we define God’s image (and thereby, “personhood”) to include all humans? Dr. Heiser believes that a proper understanding of Hebrew grammar makes all the difference.

He says, “The turning point is the meaning of the preposition in with respect to the phrase “in the image of God.” In English we use the preposition in to denote many different ideas. . . . For example, if I say, ‘put the dishes in the sink,’ I am using the preposition to denote location. If I say, ‘I broke the mirror in pieces,’ I am using in to denote the result of some action. If I say, ‘I work in education,’ I am using the preposition to denote that I work as a teacher or principal, or in some other educational capacity.”

Did you catch the difference there?

“Humankind was created as God’s image. If we think of imaging as a verb or function, that translation makes sense. We are created to image God, to be his imagers. It is what we are by definition. The image is not an ability we have, but a status. We are God’s representatives on earth. To be human is to image God.”

god s image

Being a human doesn’t mean you are an image of God, it means that you are imaging God by being human.

As a noun, an image is a copy, a symbol, or a representation. One dictionary defines it as “a physical likeness or representation of a person, animal, or thing, photographed, painted, sculptured, or otherwise made visible.” When we think of being made in the image of God, this is what often comes to mind—we’re fleshy images of God. God sculpted images of himself out of dust, and made them flesh (Genesis 2:7). Merriam-Webster even references Genesis 1:27 in one of it’s definitions of image: exact likeness or semblance (meaning, “the state of being somewhat like something but not truly or fully the same thing”).

Do you see the problem with using image as a noun here? It implies that there are qualities or traits that set humans apart as images of God—unique qualities which we cannot define without excluding (or potentially excluding) life in the womb. When we look at a statue, we can use a set of qualities or standards to determine what that statue represents (and how accurately it represents it). Is it a human? An animal? A mythological creature? We can even compare that statue to paintings or pictures or similar statues to determine how clearly it portrays what the artist claims it is. But that’s not how being in the image of God works.

The “medium” of God’s image is humanity. If you are human, you are in the image of God, regardless of the qualities you possess.

Heiser suggests that the image of God is a status, and imaging God is something we do by being human. Used as a verb, it means to make an image, to portray, or to project on a surface. In a very real sense, being made in God’s image means you are projecting God on earth—wherever you are, and whatever you look like. Whether you’re in the womb, or reading words on a screen, you are in the image of God.

We are “God projectors” that turn on at conception and never turn off.

Photo credit: Christine Szeto.

By Ryan Nelson

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Watching With Jesus

girl watching

Stay here and watch with Me. —Matthew 26:38

“Watch with Me.” Jesus was saying, in effect, “Watch with no private point of view at all, but watch solely and entirely with Me.” In the early stages of our Christian life, we do not watch with Jesus, we watch for Him. We do not watch with Him through the revealed truth of the Bible even in the circumstances of our own lives. Our Lord is trying to introduce us to identification with Himself through a particular “Gethsemane” experience of our own. But we refuse to go, saying, “No, Lord, I can’t see the meaning of this, and besides, it’s very painful.” And how can we possibly watch with Someone who is so incomprehensible? How are we going to understand Jesus sufficiently to watch with Him in His Gethsemane, when we don’t even know why He is suffering? We don’t know how to watch with Him— we are only used to the idea of Jesus watching with us.

The disciples loved Jesus Christ to the limit of their natural capacity, but they did not fully understand His purpose. In the Garden of Gethsemane they slept as a result of their own sorrow, and at the end of three years of the closest and most intimate relationship of their lives they “all…forsook Him and fled” (Matthew 26:56).

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 2:4). “They” refers to the same people, but something wonderful has happened between these two events— our Lord’s death, resurrection, and ascension— and the disciples have now been invaded and “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Our Lord had said, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” (Acts 1:8). This meant that they learned to watch with Him the rest of their lives.

We must keep ourselves in touch, not with theories, but with people, and never get out of touch with human beings, if we are going to use the word of God skilfully amongst them. Workmen of God, 1341 L

Oswald Chambers

Speaking Through Disappointments

Numbers 14:17-24

Often we become so focused on something or someone that we’re unable to hear the Lord. In those times, one of God’s most effective yet painful methods of getting our attention is through disappointments. But oh, how we dislike this approach!

Disappointment is one of the ways God spoke dramatically to the nation of Israel. In Numbers 14, He directed His people into the Promised Land. However, fear invaded their hearts and they were scared of the inhabitants, so they refused to enter. As a result, the Lord told the Israelites they’d “by no means see the land” for 40 years, until after the death of the generation that had been too fearful to enter (Numbers 14:23).

The postponement was so disheartening that they decided to change their minds. Sadly, though, it was too late; God had already settled the issue. And the people were distraught with grief because of what they had missed.

At that moment, when they were in the throes of their disappointment, do you think God had their attention? Absolutely. The next time He gave Israel a command, don’t you imagine they listened a bit more intently?

Tragically, failure is rather common in such situations. Instead of looking to God when disappointments occur, we are quick to blame circumstances, other people, fate, or even the enemy.

We are hesitant to believe that our loving Father could be responsible for our frustrations. Yet He is willing to use disappointments to realign our thoughts and plans with His. Consider the difficulties you have faced—might the Lord have been trying to say something in the midst of them?

Cleansed by the Word

“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:9)

Psalm 119:9-16 provides key instructions for those who would seek to please their Creator with a godly life.

“Taking heed” (Hebrew shamar—guarding) of God’s Word is the foundation upon which a godly life is built (vv. 10-11). The psalmist sought God with his whole heart and pleaded with God to prevent him from wandering (Hebrew shagah—to stray through ignorance). That plea was then turned into a confirmation and an understanding: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (v. 11).

With the assurance of these foundational elements, the psalmist promised the Lord that he will organize his life so that he “will not forget thy word” (v. 16).

Similar to the apostle John’s assurance in his first epistle, the psalmist recognized behaviors that he was already exhibiting. His “lips” have “declared” the judgments of God (v. 13). He knows that he has “rejoiced in the way” (v. 14) of God’s revealed testimonies as much as the ungodly have boasted of gaining wealth. He is no stranger to godly living and loves the way of God, seeking to excel in holiness (1 John 5:3).

The section closes with two “I will” promises, surely based upon his earlier commitment to cleanse his way. The psalmist promised to “meditate in [God’s] precepts, and have respect unto [His] ways” (v. 15). This assumes time, study, and careful thought about the purposes and intent of God’s message. It is not a promise to sit comfortably and “clear one’s mind” of cogent thinking, waiting on some voice to reveal truth. The psalmist can then “delight” in the statutes of the Word (Psalm 119:16; Romans 7:22).

As we seek to know God’s great Word, may His works refresh our hearts and delight our lives. HMM III

The Arrow of Infinite Desire

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. —Matthew 5:6

These words are addressed to those of God’s children who have been pierced with the arrow of infinite desire, who yearn for God with a yearning that has overcome them, who long with a longing that has become pain.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6)….

A dead body feels no hunger and the dead soul knows not the pangs of holy desire. “If you want God,” said the old saint, “you have already found Him.” Our desire for fuller life is proof that some life must be there already….

In nature everything moves in the direction of its hungers. In the spiritual world it is not otherwise. We gravitate toward our inward longings, provided of course that those longings are strong enough to move us. Impotent dreaming will not do. The religious urge that is not followed by a corresponding act of the will in the direction of that urge is a waste of emotion.

Oh, God, I have that longing to know You, that hunger and thirst for righteousness, that “desire for fuller life.” Move me along in the direction of that hunger, Lord, and give me the strength to follow “in the direction of that urge.” Amen.

Capacity to Think: God Wants You to Understand

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee….Isaiah 26:3

The Book of Proverbs tells us about the man who lies on his bed, turning like a door on its hinges, while the weeds grow up in his garden, choking and killing his crop. Then, when harvest has come, he has nothing and is reduced to begging for help.

Now, staying in bed when he should be cultivating his garden may not be overly sinful—but I think there is no argument but what a willfully lazy man is a sinful man!

It follows, then, in my estimation, that a person who is intellectually lazy is a sinful person. God had a reason for giving us our heads with intellectual capacity for thinking and reasoning and considering. But what a great company of humans there are who refuse to use their heads and many of these are Christians, we must confess.

Many a preacher would like to challenge the intellectual and thinking capacity of his congregation, but he has been warned about preaching over the people’s heads.

As a preacher, I deny that any of the truths of God which I teach and expound are over the heads of the people. I deny it!

I say to my Christian brother: “You ought to take that head of yours, oil it and rub the dust off and begin to use it as God has always expected you would. God expects you to understand and have a grasp of His truth because you need it from day to day!”

Meekness and Rest

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. MATTHEW 5:5

Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method!

But, we may be assured, the meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority.

Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson, but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life.

He knows that he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be. Paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing! In God, everything!

The truly meek man rests perfectly content to allow God to place His own values. He will be patient to wait for the day when everything will get its proper price tag and real worth will come into its own—when the righteous shall shine forth in the kingdom of their Father!

Having attained a place of soul rest, he is willing to wait for the coming of that day!

Lord, sometimes I get very upset at the injustices I see all around me. I don’t want to appear obnoxious or angry in my encounters with others. Season my life with Your grace, Lord. You set the highest example for us to follow.