What the Bible says about human life in the womb

December 2, 2021

The eyes of the nation are turned toward the Supreme Court this week as the Justices heard the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This is a pivotal moment regarding abortion rights in America. Never before has the Court seemed more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade than it does at this moment, and it could be decades before another chance like this arrives. Many articles will be able to better explain the legalities of this case. While it is important to consider what the Constitution says about abortion, it is even more important to consider what God says. Below is a brief overview of the Bible’s teaching on early human life.

What the Bible says about life

John and Jesus

The Bible is clear that all human beings are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), that the wanton shedding human blood is deeply sinful (Gen. 9:6), and that life even at the earliest stages is precious (Ps. 139:13-16).  In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read of Mary, the mother of Jesus, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Luke tell us, 

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me” (Luke 1:39-44). 

This text tells us a few things. First, Elizabeth speaks of her child in terms indicating he is at that moment, in her womb, alive and worthy of being spoken of as a baby, not simply a potential life. He was a prophet from the womb as he was declaring that this was the Christ. Gabriel even tells Zechariah, John’s father, earlier in the chapter that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). 

The Greek word for “baby” in 1:41, 44 is brefoß (brephos). Luke (who, if you will recall, is a doctor) uses the same word to describe the infant, Jesus, in the next chapter during the narrative about the shepherds. He writes, “This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby (brefoß) wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger” (2:12). It is also the same word Luke uses in 18:15 to describe the infants (brefoß) that the people tried to bring to Jesus when the disciples sought to prevent them, and Jesus rebuked them.

Aside from what this text tells us about John, it says a great deal about the Lord as well. Both John and Elizabeth recognize that Jesus is, at this specific point in time, the Messiah. Luke 1:26 says Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary. Even if Elizabeth were nine months pregnant when this meeting took place, the furthest along that Mary could have been is around 12 weeks. This is well before the US Supreme Court’s litmus test of viability. When Roe v. Wade was handed down, this was believed to be around 28 weeks.

Job and David 

In Job 3, after seven days of sitting quietly on the ground in mourning with his friends, Job speaks and curses the day he was born because of the unthinkable suffering he had endured. He says, “May the day I was born perish, and the night that said, “A boy is conceived” (3:3). Job does not view the beginning of his existence from viability or from the moment he passed through the birth canal. He views the beginning of his life from the moment he was conceived, which has direct bearing on the abortion debate today. 

David says something similar in Psalm 51 when speaking to the depth of his sinfulness. He said, “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (51:5). David and Job did not see their own lives as coming after that which was conceived in the wombs of their mothers. Rather, they identify their beginning from the moment of their conception. 

Furthermore, David speaks of God’s work in fashioning him in his mother’s womb in Psalm 139. He says, 

For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began (139:13-16).

David is not speaking of his potential self in these verses. Clearly, he believes that what was in his mother’s womb was not merely a “product of conception” but rather himself as a formless, immature baby. He also indicates in 139:16 that while his days began at birth (that would be the counting of them as one would count a birthday) that his life and existence had already begun. 


Ultimately, human life is valuable because man is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). Man does not derive his own worth from inside himself but from his Creator. Abortion is such an egregious evil because the destruction of life made in his image is a destruction of the image of the holy, almighty, infinitely glorious, and eternally valuable God.

Abortion has caused the destruction of countless lives — inside and outside of the womb. Women who have had an abortion should not suffer alone. These women or those who believe that their only hope is to have an abortion should find safety, not ridicule, from those in the pro-life movement. Loving both mother and baby is the only acceptable option. Stopping the death of unborn babies is but one part of a holistic worldview that churches who promote life must have. This issue is one piece of a larger framework for creating healthy marriages and families and enabling the society around us to flourish.

Believers everywhere should pray for this week’s events at the Supreme Court. Pray that God will have mercy on our nation. Pray that the scourge of abortion will end. Pray that the sun will finally set on the great human rights crisis of our time. Pray that those made in God’s image will no longer have to be subject to instruments in the hands of abortion doctors. Pray that moms would be encouraged to embrace the unborn life inside of them. And pray that the right to life will prevail. 

Jeremy Lloyd

Jeremy Lloyd is a Ph.D. student in ethics at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City. He and his wife, Erica, live in St. Louis with their five children. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24