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When Does Life Begin?

Joel Rishel

When Does Life Begin

The question of when life begins is one that has been debated for centuries. While Christians may have some disagreements on the precise moment for the beginning of life, there is broad agreement on the biblical teaching that human beings are created in the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). This means that every human life is precious and valuable, regardless of its stage of development.

Inspire Media Group conducted a poll in conjunction with network partners, and the results demonstrated an overwhelming consensus among Christians in answer to the simple question, “When does life begin?”

Of the 3,700 people participating in the poll, 91 percent said that life begins at conception; 4 percent said life begins at the first heartbeat; 1 percent said life begins at 20 weeks; and 4 percent said life begins after birth.

This contrasts with a recent poll of the general population in the U.S. by YouGov in which only 29 percent said that life begins at conception.

The Christian consensus that life begins at conception is likely informed by Bible passages that speak of God being intimately involved in the formation of each human being. Psalm 139:13–16 says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” God knows each one of us intimately, even before we are born. This is a powerful testimony to the sanctity of human life, and a reminder that every life is worthy of respect and protection.

In addition to the biblical teachings on the value of human life, there is also scientific evidence to support the idea that life begins at conception. At the moment of fertilization, a new human organism is created with its own unique DNA, distinct from its mother and father. This organism has the potential to grow and develop into a fully formed human being. In fact, a study conducted by Steve Jacobs as part of his dissertation for his PhD at the University of Chicago’s department of Comparative Human Development found that 96 percent of biologists believe that life begins at fertilization [].

Furthermore, modern technology has allowed us to see the amazing development that takes place in the womb. Ultrasound images show us the beating heart, the movement of limbs, and the formation of organs. A fetus is a living, growing human being, not just a clump of cells.

There are some who argue that life does not truly begin until the fetus is viable outside of the womb, or until it has developed certain cognitive abilities. However, most Christians acknowledge that these arguments have significant challenges.

Firstly, the viability of a fetus is dependent on many factors, such as medical technology and the health of the mother. It is not a fixed point. For instance, premature infants born before the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy need medical intervention or assistance in order to survive, but this does not mean that they were not alive before that point. Viability outside of the womb is just not a reliable indicator of when life begins.

Secondly, cognitive abilities do not determine whether someone is alive. A newborn baby does not yet have the ability to reason or think abstractly, but we would never argue that it is not alive. Similarly, a person with a severe cognitive disability is still a living human being with inherent worth and dignity.

Every human being is a unique creation of God, and we should value and protect every life from the moment of conception until natural death. May we always remember the sanctity of human life and work to protect and defend it in all its stages.

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