Sanctity of Human Life

This week I was leading a discussion for the college students on ‘the big story’ of the Bible. We started, of course, with creation (after a brief prologue on the eternal community of the Trinune God). I am reminded almost daily how important Genesis 1-3 are for us as believers. There is so much explanatory power in those three chapters. Together, we spent a fair bit of time discussing the following verses:

The traditional view of the sanctity of human life will collapse under pressure from scientific, technological, and demographic developments. By 2040, it may be that only a rump of hard-core, know-nothing religious fundamentalists will defend the view that every human life, from conception to death, is sacrosanct.

(from “The Sanctity of Human Life,” Foreign Policy, September-October 2005, pg. 40)

As I was preparing last week to lead this discussion, I was also reading a great book Education for Human Flourishing: A Christian Perspective (Christian Worldview Integration). I stumbled upon this quote from Peter Singer, a Princeton ethicist (quoted unapprovingly):

[Genesis 1:26] Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [29] And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. [30] And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. [31] And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

The sanctity of life, so important to a truly Christian view of the world and so deeply rooted in Scripture, is being challenged in multiple ways. There are those, like Singer, who denigrate human life directly – lowering mankind to nothing more than another animal species, denying humanity possesses an immaterial soul. Others, it seems to me, denigrate humanity indirectly by elevating nature to the level of humanity – like the Bolivian government recently putting ‘Mother Earth’ on equal footing with humanity, granting her (it) human rights.

Christians should obviously be very concerned about these societal trends. But, beyond the broader societal implications, it would behoove us all, as believers, to ponder often whether our actions towards our neighbors reflect the dignity with which God has bestowed them. They, too, are image bearers, whether of a different gender, race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation. All of us are image bearers, and in each and every one of us, the image has been marred and twisted by sin. Still, as image bearers, we possess an inherent dignity that is uncommon – no other part of God’s good creation shares it.

In Lewis’ The Weight of Glory, he argues that while it may be possible to think to often of our own dignity and glory, it isn’t possible to think too often of our neighbors dignity and glory. He continues, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to our senses.” Though we readily affirm humans are all image bearers, does our lack of civility bring our beliefs into question? Do we really believe it? Do we live as though each ?