Faith in Focus

Free or Responsible


(This article was first written for the SPUC newsletter)

A recent Time magazine article began with a remarkable statement:

"If scientists could eavesdrop on the brain of a human embryo ten, maybe twelve weeks after conception, they would hear an astonishing racket. Inside the womb, long before light first strikes the retina of the eye or the earliest dreamy images flicker through the cortex, nerve cells in the developing brain crackle with purposeful activity. Like teenagers with telephones, cells in one neighbourhood of the brain are calling friends, and they keep calling one another over and over again, 'almost...as if they were autodialing.'" (Time, Feb 3, 1997, p. 34).

Two pages later the magazine carries a magnificent photograph of a six week old embryo showing the formation of the head, almost as big as the body, "richly irrigated with blood vessels", as well as arms and hands with developing fingers.

This is striking evidence for the early development of the mind of the human person, a development that continues at a great rate, as the article points out, in the early years of childhood.

It provides further evidence for the life and complexity of the body and mind of an embryo. Which only highlights the tragedy and evil of abortion; that such a remarkable process should be suddenly destroyed, that this developing life is cut down in its earliest and yet astonishing stages.

Time's remarkable description is a further argument for the protection of this developing life. It was unfortunate, but hardly surprising, that the article did not develop the implications of this discovery. Time magazine endeavours to operate out of a "neutral" position on such questions as abortion, merely reporting what is happening around the world.

Yet, how can we remain neutral in the matter of abortion in the face of such evidence for the physical life and mental activity of the person developing in the womb?!

Why don't people in this city and country see this more clearly? Why is it that so many are blind to the murder that takes place daily and with horrifying regularity in abortion clinics around the country? Why isn't there a ground-swell of public opinion against such a practice?

One reason is that there is no consensus in our society about what is right or wrong, good or evil, true or false. Everyone has their own ideas. For the sake of peace and getting on together we follow the opinion of the majority, but the prevailing view is that you can do what you like as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. Our nation is not guided by any absolute standard; there is no benchmark, no foundation to build a clear ethical structure.

Developing out of this is a belief in the supreme right of the individual to please himself, or herself. There is a great emphasis on personal freedom - you may do as you please, what you want. This attitude is rampant in our society. It leads people to walk out of their marriage because it isn't personally fulfilling, to take up work for the sake of their "needs" but to the neglect of their children, to ignore the well-being of their family for the sake of their own pleasure and fun. It even leads some women to take the life of the child growing within them because that child is inconvenient to them.

How are we going to recover a sense of personal responsibility and remove the scourge of abortion from our society?

One way is to point out that this embryo is actually a little life, a developing child, a person with a body and soul. The Time article is powerful evidence for this.

But we need something more foundational than this. In New Zealand we need an awareness that we have been created by God and are responsible to Him for the life we have. We need to believe that God is the Creator and Maker of this world and that He is the Author and Giver of life. We must also believe that He has made Himself known to us and made it possible for us to know Him.

What's more, He has revealed His will for us. His will give us a basis for deciding between right and wrong and is a guide for making decisions, including decisions about life in the womb.

Christians and the church have a great task - to direct people back to God and His Word, because it is only by establishing this as the basis that we can hope to persuade people about the sanctity of the life of the unborn child.

Rev. John A. Haverland (Bishopdale).

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Faith in Focus /NZ Reformed Church / gmilne@ihug.co.nz / revised March 96 / Copyright 1996