The value of human existence that Scripture teaches provides a basic case for the human right to life. Human rights can be associated with the human value in relation to certain rights that pertain to the sustainment of a healthy human condition. This is because the value of a human life is such that it is morally wrong to take it away. Humans are obligated to allow other humans a certain existence based on their innate value. Consider the argument:
- There is value innate to being human.
- To destroy a human is to destroy a valuable thing.
- It is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value.
- Therefore, it is wrong to destroy human life for any purpose of lesser value than said life.
- Therefore, all humans have a right to such an existence.
Premise two naturally follows from premise one. The second conclusion follows from the moral obligation of the first. Thus, for the above argument to stand, I must prove to the reader that: 1) there is natural worth in humanity (premise one), 2) it is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value.
Natural Worth in Humanity
Humans are created by God in a wonderful and awe-inspiring manner (Ps. 39:3-15). Humans have a purpose; we are not accidents (Ecc. 2:13-14). A person’s soul is of greater worth than the whole world (Matt. 16:26). Most importantly, humans were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Bearing God’s image does not mean that we are little gods. God is much more dissimilar to us than He is similar, yet there are affinities. We are creative, relational beings who are capable of reason and language. The relationship that humanity can enjoy with God is unique in the cosmos. Angels, trees, stars, dogs – none of these created things can engage with God as we do. God created us with the capacity to know and love Him, then He chose to know and love us. There is value innate to humanity due to the way that our nature, in certain ways, reflects God’s. No other part of God’s creation manifests Himself in this way, and so we are in this sense valuable in our cosmological context. While this is true, it would be false to assume that God’s love or the opportunity for it are entitlements innate to being human.
God does not have a gospel for animals or plants and He did not extend salvation to Lucifer and the fallen angels (2 Pt. 2:4). Human beings are the one group of creatures that are the potential objects of God’s salvific love. “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved,” (Rom. 10:13) – this is a promise specifically for humans. There is not, however, any worth in us that warrants God’s salvation (Tit. 3:5). The fact that all humans are offered salvation does not mean that we are entitled to the opportunity. God has a desire that all people be saved, but this desire does not warrant Him to use His sovereignty to save all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4). If there was something innate to humanity that made us entitled to salvation, then it would be morally wrong for God to refrain from saving anyone. God has no such obligation (Rom. 3:9-12). Rather, as the judge of all things, He has a moral obligation to carry-out justice for the unrighteousness of the world. Yet God is not even obligated to make humans the potential objects of His saving love. There is nothing innate to humanity that warrants God to save us or to offer us salvation. In relation to God, we have no entitlements.
What we may say in light of humanity’s value is that we are set-above, in some respects, the rest of creation. Bearing God’s image is unique to us and it links us to the supremely worthy and beautiful God in ways that no other part of creation can lay-claim to. In relation to God, our worth entitles us to nothing. Any worth that God attributes to us in relation to His holy character is worth determined by His unconditional love, not innate to being human. In relation to creation, we seem to have an exalted place of value. We can call this our cosmological worth. We are valuable because through bearing His image we represent God in creation. To attack or defame a human is to implicitly attack or defame God.
Destruction for Less-Valuable Ends
Seeing that there is clearly a degree of worth innate to humanity in relation to the rest of creation, it is self-evident that to destroy a human life is to destroy a valuable thing. What must now be proven is that it is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value. Consider first whether or not it would be wise to destroy your ten dollar bill in order to receive a five dollar bill from your friend. Such an act goes against conventional wisdom, because in-so-doing you gain nothing and lose five dollars (we assume that there is nothing special about the five dollar bill that your friend gave you). This is also poor stewardship, because the ten dollars was destroyed, not simply misplaced or given away. The amount of monetary paper-funds in the U.S. declined by ten dollars. This shows the communal effects of such an action, however small and insignificant they may be. When one object is destroyed to achieve an end of lesser value, a community of people suffers and is affected in one way or another.
It is wrong to kill a litter of puppies simply because it makes you happy to do so. It is wrong to burn a forest down in order to find the quarter that you lost inside. It is wrong to blow-up your friend’s car to satisfy your anger, because he annoyed you today at work. These examples may seem extreme but they illustrate the point well: it is wrong to destroy a valuable thing to reach an end of lesser value.
Therefore, it is wrong to destroy human life for any purpose of lesser value than said life. Humans are entitled to a certain existence therein. To apply this ethical principle when faced with the option of killing a fellow human, we need only ask one question: is my reason for killing this individual more valuable than the individual himself? Does the effect of this killing have greater worth than the human life that I will be destroying? This question has especially serious applications for abortion.
Does killing this baby bring about something that is more valuable than the baby himself? What price, valuation, or appraisal should persuade an individual to take the life of a baby? It cannot be justice, as if the baby’s death brought due process to the rape of a woman, because the baby did not commit the act and has yet to interact with other people in any moral capacity. It cannot be money, as if the baby could not be provided for, because Scripture teaches us that an individual’s worth goes beyond material things and the act of abortion would be the very pinnacle of not taking care of the infant. It cannot be birth-control, as if the baby did not fit into plans or preferences for the parents, because surely inconvenience and fleeting desires do not warrant the death of a child. It cannot be birth-defects, as if the child is expected to have some kind of handicap, because the chances of the child being born handicapped are always less than the chances of him dying from an abortion and no amount of cognitive or motorized defection within the infant makes him less of an image-bearer of the Almighty.
The Right to Live
It seems reasonable to admit human value is such that it is morally wrong to destroy human life without sound evidence that such a death will effect a more valuable end. I conclude, most boldly, that the unborn infants in the United States (and all over the earth) are entitled to life and we are not entitled to take it from them. This entitlement is innate to their existence as human beings. All unborn infants have a right to live and be born. To take away such a right is to not only steal their life in murder and to commit the immorality of infringing upon a human right, but to disrespect and dishonor the image of God manifested in the qualities of their existence. To justify an abortion, one must present undeniable evidence of the worth of a specific effect that is greater than the loss of that baby’s life.
As a concluding thought, I would like to point out that the above argument makes room for abortion in certain cases – namely: an end of greater value than the unborn baby. First, is there any end of greater value than the baby? Second, if such ends exist, what are they?
In answer to the both questions: I can perceive an argument in which the life of the mother is said to have greater value than the life of the baby. The mother has been invested in more than the baby, making her death a greater loss in terms of resources. The mother also would be a greater immediate loss to society, since she has a greater independence than the baby.
Beyond the end, “life of the mother,” I cannot perceive any end which is greater than the life of the baby. Yet even in this argument, I’m not sold on whether abortion would be ethical. The death of a mother would be by the inactivity of the doctors (i.e. they were not the ones killing her) while the death of the baby would be by the activity of the doctors (i.e. they are the ones killing him). The object that causes death in the former case is the baby, who involuntarily does so in a situation that is – mentally and physically – out of his control. The object that causes death in the latter case is the doctor, who voluntarily does so in a situation that is in his control. Therefore, I am not sure it is just even in this case to kill the baby. However, I understand that the argument exists and can be perceived by some to be sufficient.