Made in God’s Image
The biblical concept of being “made in God’s image” has hugeimplications for how we are to think about childbearing, how we are to thinkabout treating fellow humans, and thus, how we are to think about abortion.Being made in God’s image is something unique to humankind. Both humans andanimals are said to have the “breath of life” (see Gen 2:7; 7:15, 22), but onlyhumans - both male and female – are said to be “in God’s image.” This meansthat God has invested something of his own reputation into human beings, as wehave the special role and responsibility of representing the one who createdeverything. This fact alone means that each and every individual human hasgreat significance and worth.
The first text that mentions humans as created in God’simage is Gen 1:26-28:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, afterour likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and overthe birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and overevery creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in hisown image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”And God blessed them. And God said them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill theearth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over thebirds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This text explains the privileged position humans have inthe world. Humans are uniquely made to both represent God and rule over theearth. And, in some sense, child bearing is connected to this special role.Since “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” is the first instructiongiven to humans, at very least each new human person that comes into the world(which is only possible through childbirth) is a new “image-bearer.” The morehumans that are born, the more humans there are to subdue the earth and spread“the image of God.”
A second text that mentions humans as created in God’s imageis Gen 9:1-6:
And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Befruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of youshall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, uponeverything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into yourhand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But you shall noteat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I willrequire a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From hisfellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds theblood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his ownimage.”
This text comes after the Fall and after the Flood. Afterthe disobedience of the first humans, the earth became violent and corrupt (seeGen 6:11), which led to the Flood and God starting over with Noah. What Godtells Noah and his sons is similar to what is said in Genesis 1:28, but thistime there is a specific warning against the shedding of blood. And the reason:“for God made man in his own image.” Therefore, not only does being “made inGod’s image” impact how we think about and value childbearing, but it alsoimpacts how we think about and value fellow human beings. We ought not killfellow humans because they have significance as God’s “image-bearers.” (In theNew Testament, James 3:9 mentions that we should even be careful in what we sayto fellow humans because they “made in the likeness of God.”) To devalue afellow human is to devalue God himself. To do harm to humans is to do harm toGod.
So now, if childbearing is a way to advance therepresentation of God on earth, with humans as bearers of God’s image, and ifwe should be careful in how we treat those who are made in God’s image, whatmight we say about abortion? Well, we ought to conclude that the deliberatekilling of life in the womb completely disregards God’s personal investment ofhimself in human beings as the unique bearers of his image. It seems to me thatif humans are basically similar to animals, then abortion does not matter allthat much – let the fittest survive. But, if humans are set apart from the restof creation, as the ones who bear the image of the creator, then each and everyperson, including the unborn, matters a great deal. Abortion, and all otherways to harm human beings, does not merely devalue and disregard human life,but it devalues and disregards God himself.