What Is Biblical Personhood?
Behind every major twist and turn throughout history, there is a social movement, driven not by legal subterfuge and political compromise, but unabashed truth, courage, and clarity.
As a movement, we know what our goal is: To have our government and culture recognize that every innocent human being has an inalienable right to life. The close relationship between the social conscience and representative democracy is at the heart of American and world history. Behind every major twist and turn throughout history, there is a social movement, driven not by legal subterfuge and political compromise, but unabashed truth, courage, and clarity. In his famous letter from a Birmingham jail, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., sums up our beliefs:
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well-timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”
Throughout Church history, the doctrinal teaching on human life has been based on Genesis 1:26-27, which says that humankind is created “in the image of God” (Imago Dei) and therefore, has intrinsic value at all stages of life. This is the bedrock of Western civilization’s understanding of human dignity. Because we bear the image of God, all humankind—and by extension, every human life—possesses a unique worth that demands respect and legal protection. Each human life, from its earliest stage of development, is a unique person who bears God’s likeness and deserves the same protection under law that is afforded to all other persons in our society.
The respect for human life, then, is due regardless of the manner of conception, whether through the marital act or through a heinous act of rape or incest; whether the egg is fertilized in vitro or ex utero processes in a lab. Regardless of developmental stage, degree of disability, level of dependency, or wantedness, a human life has immeasurable worth in the eyes of God—an inestimable, intrinsic value that must be acknowledged by the culture and protected in its code of law. This is the essence of biblical personhood.
Personhood is the only strategy that takes us beyond the abortion-rights debate and appeals to the conscience of the abortion-minded mother and father. It transfers the focus from women’s health rhetoric to historic truths about human rights and human value. Personhood also allows us to speak biblical and biological truth into the entire spectrum of sanctity-of-life issues, including destructive embryonic research, cloning, unethical reproductive technologies, newly emerging biotechnologies, transhumanism, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. What’s more, organizations and leaders across multiple industries are already debating policies for the future, when legal personhood is granted to artificial intelligences, cyborgs, and other post-human entities.
Delaying a personhood strategy at this point in the pro-life movement is folly. The future waits for no man.