Our culture today has very subjective and illogical views on what it means to be a person. For one of several examples, some say that an unborn baby with Down syndrome is not a person. In fact, as many of our readers know, pregnant women can have tests to see if their unborn baby has a defect or health issue. Moreland and Rae explain:
“It is widely assumed that if the couple were to get bad news about their child’s genetic makeup, they would end the pregnancy. But consider what that assumption indicates about the view of a human person. This kind of presumption about prenatal genetic testing suggests that personhood and the attendant rights to life are dependent on the child’s possessing an acceptable genetic makeup. What constitutes such an acceptable makeup would be entirely up to the subjective preferences of the parents. It is solely the genetic anomaly that, in the minds of the parents, renders the fetus as less than a full person, since without the child’s anomaly, the parents would undoubtedly consider ending a pregnancy with their wanted child as immoral.
The fact that couples would end a pregnancy on the basis of genetic abnormality assumes that the fetus in the womb is not a full person. Without that assumption, there would be no morally significant difference between ending the pregnancy when a woman is carrying a genetically defective fetus and ending the life of a genetically handicapped adult. Society and the law take the latter as absurd, and in fact the argument is commonly made that the law owes even greater protection to the genetically handicapped because of their vulnerability. If personhood is denied based on genetic abnormality, then there is no justification for protecting the adult genetically handicapped population, which faces physical, mental and genetic challenges. Prenatal genetic testing and the corresponding assumptions about ending a pregnancy indicate a deeply flawed view of a human person. Further, that assumption about what constitutes a person is illogical, since it cannot be applied evenly to all segments of the population.
I agree. This example shows how our culture has a subjective and illogical definition of “person.” Thankfully in Scripture we find an objective and logical definition: to be a human is to be a person and to be a person is to be a human. This is assumed in Bible stories. Furthermore, in Scripture a baby in the womb is considered a person. It was David himself whom God knit together in his mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). Even terminally ill humans are considered people in Scripture (e.g. the story of Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8). This is objective and it makes sense.
Finally, this biblical definition of person means that all people – from embryos to newborns to middle aged to senior citizens, whether very healthy or very ill – all people are created in God’s image and have dignity and worth because of it. All these are people Christians are called to love and serve. Don’t let anyone tell you that the Christian view of man is oppressive and dehumanizing. The opposite is true!
The above quote is found on pages 308-309 of Body and Soul by J.P. Moreland and Scott. B. Rae.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015