A Holy God And The Sanctity of Embryos

A Holy God And The Sanctity of Embryos March 4, 2024

Are embryos human beings? This is the question recently answered by the Alabama Supreme Court. In Alabama, a fertilized human ovum is a human being. Chief Justice Tom Parker did not rely on science or the law for his conclusion. He decided to use biblical quotes and appealed to the holiness of God for his conclusion. The Bible and Christian fundamentalist theology are his ultimate sources of legal authority.

Lawyer Theology

Lawyers by definition are legalists. When fundamentalist lawyers begin interpreting the Bible their default interpretive method is often flat. That is to say, the measure is the same as interpreting any law. It is common for fundamentalists to claim constitutional “originalism” and base all interpretations on the text as written. The gospel writers depict Jesus against, not the Law of Moses, but the insistence the Pharisees and scribes placed on absolutist interpretation.

Yes, I am well aware John Calvin was also a lawyer, Luther was a law student, and Augustine was a teacher of Rhetoric. All three men stumbled over absolutism too.

Embryos And Poetry

Does God know embryos by name? Two great examples of flattening interpretation is found in the anti-abortion arguments from Psalm 139:13-16 and Jeremiah 4:5. These texts are poetry. They speak of God knowing and choosing the prophet and David before they were born. Somehow though, legalistic interpreters apply these passages to every zygote. Yet, neither of these texts should considered scientific understandings. Is the mother’s womb really the depths of the earth? (Psalm 139:15) Or did Jeremiah fail in his prophetic task “to pluck up and pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant?” (Jeremiah 1:10b).

Let’s take a look at science and genetics of human life.

Science and Philosophical Considerations of Human Life

What is a human life? What is human life? Not the difference between these two questions? A human red blood cell contains all of the genetic coding of the embryo from where it originated. The red blood cell is human life. A human life is that of a human being. The embryo from which the human being began was not a human being. The embryo, like the red blood cell, cannot be said to possess human being. Invitro Fertilization, like natural fertilization, does not create a human being.

A human life does not begin at conception. We know this from the existence of identical twins and triplets. Someone arguing for the existence of a soul beginning at conception would then be required to admit the presence of two or more souls potentially. Despite popular thinking, human genes do not make human beings. Human share genetic sequences with other creatures. Human DNA does not necessarily make a human being.

Judges and Embryos

We live in a bizarre world where laws are expected by many to determine scientific doctrine. Even if judges and legislators are up to date on scientific research, their rulings would have the effect of determining scientific conclusions. Newton’s explanation of gravity is replaced by Einstein’s explanation. Should a judge rule between these two? In much the same way, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court acts as if he is the final authority on theology and genetics. Tom Parker cannot enshrine his views beliefs into law and thereby make them true. Science does not work that way.

A lesson from History is appropriate. Josef Stalin declared the ideas of Trofim Lysenko orthodox Marxist genetics. Lysenko reject Mendel’s understanding of genetics and embrace Lamarckian ideas instead. The move by Stalin enshrining Lysenko’s ideas into law hampered Soviet genetic research. The United States has done the same thing with a theology of embryology. By doing so we curb the rights of living and breathing citizens.

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