Q&A on the Beginning of Life
QUESTION: When does life begin? I know that life begins at the time of conception. I say with the Psalmist, “Truly I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived.” But when does conception take place? Is it at the moment the egg is fertilized, or is it when the fertilized egg implants in the womb? What did David mean when he said “conceived”? Can I say with absolute certainty that life begins when the egg is first fertilized before it reaches the womb?
ANSWER: For decades, the term “conception” has undergone redefinition in our society. Volumes of medical literature had previously reflected the long-standing teaching that conception and fertilization were the same thing.
Yet some years ago, some people sought to redefine conception as implantation of the embryo in the uterine lining. Rather than viewing conception as the point of fertilization they refer to conception as a “process” that begins at fertilization and ends at implantation. This new definition conveniently obscures the fact that some chemicals and devices designed as “birth control” actually prevent the developing life in the embryonic stage from implanting in the uterine lining.
Follow closely what is being done. The pro-life mantra has maintained “life begins at conception.” Until recently “conception” and “fertilization” were synonymous. By redefining “conception” as “implantation,” manufacturers and advocates of abortifacient forms of birth control (which prevent implantation of the developing child) claim no abortion occurs since “conception” (by their redefinition) does not occur.
Biblically, the Hebrew words convey the truth clearly. The Scriptural teaching in Psalm 51:5 uses a word for “conceived” that closely relates to the passion of the procreative act. The Hebrew word for conception does not permit us to think of life as beginning at a point later than fertilization.
Biologically, the only differences between maturing life at fertilization and at implantation are size and geography. That which grants “personhood” to the implanted embryo is present in the newly-created life at fertilization. That genetically-unique human being continues to mature throughout its life – whether before or after birth. From fertilization to birth, life matures. What changes is geography.
In summary, the Hebrew language intimately ties the word “conceive” with the passion of the procreative act. Biology confirms the unique genetic blueprint is already present and completely programmed for human growth when fertilization occurs. Therefore, Scripture supports “conception” to mean life is created and exists at fertilization.
It is more than coincidental those church bodies that reject the truth of the existence of life at fertilization also reject select portions of Scripture – including the denial of the Psalm 51:5 proof passage to explain the existence of life at fertilization.
Yes, you can say with absolute certainty that life begins at fertilization. To establish a new starting point for the beginning of life is utilitarian and obscures both theology and biology.
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