Ours is an age of the discount human life. Once valued and esteemed above all creation, guarded as sacred and treated as holy, today the value of human life is often devalued to be on par with animal and plant life. Teachers who feed our children a continual self-esteem diet will move to the next lesson and vigorously teach that there is no difference between the child and the monkey at the zoo. No wonder the self-esteem message isn't getting through!
One of these teachers of the discounted human existence attempts to refute the Judeo-Christian idea of the sanctity and rightful role of dominance of human life, by stating that,
"The field of taxonomy clearly shows humans are Homo sapiens, primates in the animal kingdom. The denigration of other beings and the domination of the planet are doctrines set forth in the Christian's precious Bible....This is typical arrogance neglecting the obvious fact that the environment is humanity's 'master' (we are NOT the environment's master.) Without realizing that we are but tenants on this planet we are doomed to be evicted by the environment itself."1
This skeptical view of humanity stands in stark contrast, and thus is far inferior to the biblical view.
The seeds of this low-view of human existence are planted in the classroom, and later bear fruit in euthanasia, the harvesting of human parts, the denial of society's obligation to capital punishment, and abortion. The liberal spin on abortion is that there are twenty-one abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age. Twenty-one out of a thousand doesn't sound as rampant as one out of four pregnancies. The liberal spin number is accurate, but look more closely and you'll see that their report is on abortions per 1,000 women, not per pregnancy. Only a small minority of women of reproductive age is reproducing in any given year. This kind of spin is used because the statistic is not nearly as shocking as one out of every four pregnancies ending in abortion. The liberal spin ignores the 1.31 million abortions in the United States in 2000 alone.2
When confronted with the upsetting statistics on the disproportionate number of American poor women ending their children's lives through abortion, Elizabeth Cavendish of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League doesn't condemn the high rates but rather cries, "We're seeing the result of policies that don't afford equal access to contraception."3 Cavendish speaks as if equal access to contraception was a primary roll of government and one of our unalienable rights. How could anyone consider contraceptive entitlement more important than 1.31 million aborted children? Such disturbing news came in the same issue of the Washington Times that declared, "Miss America Told to Zip It on Chastity Talk."
In a see-saw effect, the demise of the sanctity of human life has given rise to the idea of the sanctity of the environment. The same crowd that promotes abortion "rights" is the crowd that worships the creation rather than the Creator. When Senator Lautenberg was introduced as a candidate for the Senate from New Jersey, a political move many interpreted as illegal under New Jersey law, Governor McGreevy hailed Lautenber as one who protects a woman's right to choose and the sanctity of the environment. This is the classic "kill the baby, save the whale" position held by many liberal politicos.
The Unification Church, among others religions, promotes a "Sanctity of Nature" belief, saying,
"Reverence for life begins with the recognition that human beings are but one species of living beings. All living beings are God's sacred creations, endowed with spirit, consciousness, and intelligence. Our reverence is heightened by the recognition that the interdependent web of life is wonderfully self-sustaining and productive. We see the results of human depredation of the environment, which have damaged the original balance of nature."4
The Moonies then conclude with "texts praising Mother Earth as the Source of life and its great Sustainer and Supporter."5
The Judeo-Christian world-view of human life is far superior to this devalued measure of human life found in America and western Europe today. Both the Old and New Testament teach a clear sanctity of human life. Human life is sacred for at least three reasons.
Human life is sacred because of its unique potentiality. Animals have potential but not in the same way as humans. Animals simply live under the dominion of mankind, eating, drinking, reproducing, and surviving. Animals have no dreams for the future, no plans for a better tomorrow, no system to improve themselves for their own and their posterity's benefit.
While animals have no productive potential, humans are born to produce. From the beginning, mankind was placed on this earth to cultivate it and keep it (Genesis 2:15).6 Because of our potential, humans are concerned with time, dates, and deadlines. Your family dog doesn't wear a watch or check the calendar. With no potential, these essentials of our lives suddenly become quite non-essential. If your son were to sleep twenty out of every twenty-four hours, you would be irate because he was destroying his potential. When your cat sleeps twenty of every twenty-four hours you give it no concern whatsoever. Why? Your child possesses a unique potential that your pet does not share. Because of mankind's potential you teach your child to sing:
I am a promise, I am a possibility.
I am a promise with a capital "P."
I am a great big bundle of potentiality.7
The psalmist praised God for this unique potential. What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him? And the son of man, that Thou does care for him? Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God, and dost crown him with glory and majesty! Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet (Psalm 8:4-6).
But human life is sacred not only for its potentiality, but also because of its responsibility. Animals live on two very low levels of responsibility, the first of which is instinct. An animal does what is "right" for that animal not because of the lessons of morality taught by its parents, but because of the instinct placed in the animal's DNA by God Himself.
The second level of responsibility is only slightly more intelligent than instinct and still does not involve the making of a moral decision. An animal will behave based upon reinforcement, positive or negative. Those animals that have the ability to do so will perform what humans may consider "good" or "bad" based upon the rewards or consequences they will experience. The animal does not, however, carry out these actions because the action is morally good or bad, but because the immediate consequence is good or bad. Morality never enters into the framework of the animal's behavior.
Mankind, on the other hand, has a moral code. This code is part of his spiritual DNA, which is why Romans 1:19-20 teaches that, knowing right from wrong we are "without excuse." Even more express is the moral teaching that has been passed from one generation of mankind to the next since the creation of time, especially in the Holy Scriptures. In the Garden of Eden, only Adam and Eve — of all God's creation — were given the prohibition from eating from the Tree of Knowledge. This level of responsibility set mankind above the animal kingdom. Would there have been consequences to a bird that ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree? Had a worm eaten its way into the core of the fruit would there be such a thing as "the fall of the worm"? Absolutely not! The bird or the worm has no level of responsibility. In this, mankind is unique and sacred.
Finally, mankind is different because of his spirituality. Animals have no religious dimension of existence. When King Solomon began to test the various world-views of his day, which are surprisingly still the prevailing world-views of our day, he became sorely discouraged to think that man and animal could be made of the same stuff spiritually. If we come to the conclusion that, "the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they have all the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast", then we certainly would conclude, all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 3:19). Solomon was only encouraged as he concluded that, the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Jesus was clear that for mankind there is a place of "eternal punishment" and a place of "eternal life" (Matthew 25:46). For this reason, mankind alone worships the Creator and gathers together in like-mind with other men and women to honor God. The animal has no capacity to worship and no eternal soul to save.
A Christian world-view of human life is that mankind is unique in potentiality, responsibility, and spirituality. Thus, the life of a human, from conception to death, is holy. Our conclusions concerning abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and medical ethics must be rooted in this Christian world-view. Those who do not understand the inherent superiority of mankind over the balance of creation will, in turn, make wrong decisions in these vital areas of public policy and the consequences will be disastrous to the future of mankind.
2 Washington Times, October 9, 2002
6 All scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible, The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, CA, 1977.
7 Copyright 1975, William J. Gaither, Inc. ARR UBP of Gaither Copyright Management.
Dr. Randy White is pastor of First Baptist Church in Pampa, Texas.