We say human life has sanctity because there's something intangible that sets us apart from other creatures. It's true from the moment we're conceived, and is not something we gain at a later point in our mother's pregnancy or at birth. If we're human, it's ours.
Saints and sinners alike have it. We have it whether we're male or female, and regardless of ethnicity or race. (There is only one human race.)
No one has more or less of it than another human being -- no matter our level of virtue, intellect, skill, ability, power, or wealth. All share this quality equally.
In fact, the sanctity of human life is the basis for human equality -- an equality that includes the comatose, the disabled, and the incapacitated.
It gives us all dignity and value. Because this quality is innate in the human person -- not achieved, but granted by God -- it can never be lost. Nothing alters it -- not age or illness or death. Our experiences neither add to it nor subtract from it.
The image of God -- that stamp of His likeness that we all bear -- cannot be erased, expunged, or ignored. It was there at our creation and is the heritage of every member of the human race.
Though sin has distorted the image, we still bear God's likeness. It was there when Noah and his family stepped out of the ark -- which was after the worldwide flood had punished the rest of mankind for extreme violence and sin, and long after Adam's Fall.
Being made in God's image means we can have a relationship with God, communicate with Him, steward the earth in His stead, and so much more. But it's very important for us to insist that bearing God's image is not dependent on any of those functions.
For instance, a human being bears God's image despite the fact he may be unable to communicate. Similarly, a person has dignity and worth even when she does nothing but lie helplessly in bed. Indeed, the vilest sinner, existing in unrepentant opposition to God, also bears His image. How do we know? Because God has declared it!
A lot of people think the sanctity of human life is inconvenient, that it gets in the way of scientific progress -- stem cell research, three-parent embryos, 'death with dignity,' and other 'advances.' As Richard Weikart reports in his book, The Death of Humanity, "The idea that Darwinism has demolished the Judeo-Christian sanctity-of-life ethic has become so widespread among scientists that many regard as unthinkable the claim that humans are made in the image of God."
Nothing nonhuman has ever come from human parents, yet scientists and philosophers would like us to believe that if a person is incapable of doing certain things, he or she is subhuman. By their definition, this category could include babies not yet born or newborn infants, the profoundly disabled, and those who've become unconscious.
We, on the other hand, trust that all human offspring bear the image of God regardless of ability. And human history has shown that demolishing the biblical pro-life ethic is a very dangerous thing to do.
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