Conception is not Life

Please consider just what the prerequisites are for life. Then see how God has reflected His very self in our anatomy.

Created: 2008/09/24. Updated: 2013/11/03.

Shakeup, Home


About 5 years ago as I write, say 2002, I was listening to one of the debates on TV about the ethics of human embryo research. The panel had a ďHuman RightsĒ representative along with medical, legal and industry representatives. No representative from the Church. A major moral issue and no-one felt the need to have the Church represented. Well, why bother Ė donít get God dragged into this Ė we can make up our own minds. Anyhow, the Human Rights representative had it nailed Ė when the sperm hits the egg, it becomes a life and so experimentation on the subsequent embryo is murder!

I started to wonder what the Bible had to say on this seemingly very technical issue. And there it was! But it did not seem to me that anyone else in the Church saw it. I asked some good friends Ė really keen believers, and they pretty much accepted that when the sperm hit the egg it became a life. Though there is no biblical concept of conception, these dear friends were not even prepared to entertain my suggestions. They had made up their own minds and they did not want to change. I think it was also a passion position as well, because if you weaken your stance on conception as the start of life then you open the door to abortion.

In the following section Iíll suggest just when I think the Bible describes life as starting. For the moment, donít take this on as a teaching that you must accept or reject, but look at it as a challenge. If you donít like it, then find a better biblical precedent.

What the Bible says

Iíll put down some bullet points and you see if you can connect the dots before I try and spell it out.

OK, you get the idea. The Bible says that life starts in the womb. I have heard some commentators suggest that with our greater technical insight, that we can push it back into the vagina where the egg is fertilized. But after it is fertilized it has to move up the fallopian tube into the womb and then attaches itself to the womb. Iíve seen video of this process and the embryo literally buries itself in the side of the womb.

So many embryos fail

I saw a fascinating TV series exploring the human body the commentator pointed out that even for women with normal fertility, this process of the embryo attaching to the womb was hit and miss with perhaps only one out of three successful attachments. So hereís the dilemma Ė if you believe that life started at fertilization then you are saying that from the beginning of time, twice as many embryos have simply been flushed away as total population of mankind. Since these embryos never got a chance to accept Jesus as Lord, then on the last day they will all be raised up and cast into hell! And if you think God might make an exception for these embryos then there was no need to send Jesus to be crucified.

I made this suggestion to a good friend who has considerable wisdom and he immediately came back at me with good generic stuff Ė how God alone can make that judgment and He is merciful blaa, blaa, blaa. My good friend, who I greatly respect, was not prepared to face the consequences of his assertion that life started at fertilization and simply side-stepped the issue. Certainly God will make the judgment and whatever you and I decide here wonít matter. But you get the idea Ė there is very serious consequences if life starts at fertilization.

What I say

But Iím saying that God does not see the embryo as a life until it successfully moves into the womb and attaches and starts drawing life/nutrient from the mother. The John 12:24 scripture where Jesus likens himself to a seed that must first falls to the ground, has several hints. We know that the seed is first pollinated (fertilized), but only becomes a new life by falling to the ground and drawing nutrient from the soil. This is equivalent to the embryo attaching to the womb and drawing sustenance from the mother.

The ďI in you and you in meĒ scriptures tells us that life is a two-step process ĖĖ the sperm in the egg and the egg attaching inside the womb.

God sees life as is in the blood. Leviticus 17:11 spells it out clearly. We also understand that Jesusí life (blood) was poured out on the Cross. The embryo develops a heart after just three weeks Ė it starts pumping blood and till that heart stops the person is alive! Is it coincidence that about the same time the babyís heart starts pumping blood, the mother realizes she is pregnant because of the absence of her period (blood) flow?

Do you recall how God took a rib from Adam to create Eve? Our technical insight now tells us that both red and white blood cells are created in the bone marrow. Wow, God chose a rib as the starting point for Eve because it carried with it the essence of life as He sees it Ė the blood. So the life/spirit that God breathed into Adam was transferred to Eve.

A simple Bible search for ďbonesĒ in the Old Testament reveals how much care the Israelites had for this non-perishable part of the body. (Non-perishable just as the spirit life is non-perishable.) But perhaps the most dramatic incident is in 2 Kings 13:20-21 , where a dead body comes into contact with Elishaís bones and comes back to life. There is some ambiguity here about whether we should talk about the ďanointingĒ on the bones as different to the spirit life, but it is sufficient to observe that life giving power was transferred via the bones. I donít want to start another debate by suggesting that perhaps we need to wait for bones to appear in the foetus before there is life. I just want to reinforce how the blood which originates from within the bones Ė in the marrow Ė is associated with life, as God sees it. And we must wait weeks after conception before blood is present. Exactly how long I donít know.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 is very interesting. Many versions are like the NASB that describes how we donít know the path of the wind nor do we know how the bones form in the womb. However versions like ESV translate this as we donít know how the spirit enters bones in the womb. The Hebrew text does seem open to interpretation here, but the ESV text seems to add less words in English to make sense of the Hebrew. It is also consistent with other texts that describe the spirit within the bones and so I favour the ESV here. Pretty obviously it follows that life starts when the spirit enters the child in the womb and this clearly after conception.


God does not see a life until the embryo attaches and probably not until its hearts starts to pump blood. This means that...

Now, I am not happy with embryo research or the morning after pill. I donít see it as murder though it sets precedents that are dangerously close and likely to be over-stepped! But I also donít want to overstep what the word of God says.

Still want life at conception?

I know exactly what you feel like. Let me argue your side for a moment...

OK, some questions. As soon as the sperm gets into the egg, a chemical change causes the eggís surface to block entry to any other sperm. Is that the moment of new life? Then the spermís chromosomes and eggís chromosomes merge. Is that the moment of new life? Then some more changes and the egg divides into two cells. Is that the moment of new life?

There are two issues here...

  1. Placing the emphasis on conception is expressing a desire to understand and be in control of the process. This is the battle between manís way and Godís way. Many other articles on this site affirm that the life that God sees is life in the spirit and this is something different.

  2. Can you see how emphasising the exact instant that various chemical interchanges occur as the moment of new life, tends to fall into the trap of implying that all the subsequent life is just one big chemical reaction. So whatís the big deal then if someone is murdered Ė itís just a chemical reaction. Ultimately, this is what evolution reduces life to, and Iím totally against that!

A new word to help you Ė dormant.

Remember the seed? First itís pollinated; then it grows, dries out, and falls to the ground where it remains unchanged until it rains. It lays there dormant. As water soaks into the seed it germinates. After that you can decide when to call it a new plant. Is it the root or the stem appearing, or the stem drawing energy from the sun rather than the seed? The point is, that from the moment of pollination the seed held the potential for a new plant, but the potential remained dormant until germination.

Another example. How many times might you read a passage of text, especially from the Bible, and then suddenly, in a moment of revelation, you see what it really means. The life that is in the words is suddenly in you. The potential of that revelation lay dormant in the text until the right time. Isnít that Godís way?

In the same way, from the moment of conception, the potential for life is present but dormant in the embryo until the right time. So itís OK to value the moment of conception, the joining together, as a key step to new life, but it is not yet a new life.

At the end of this article I add some more background to this concept of dormancy.

God reflected in our Anatomy

The preceding sections dealt with the radical issue I have raised in regard to conception. It shows that scriptural principles are reflected in the very origin of our life. This section is referenced elsewhere and was made into the article ďGodís AnatomyĒ.

Precedence for Dormant

Having introduced this new word I had better establish Biblical precedence for it. You wonít find ďdormantĒ as such in any translation, but letís look at its synonyms: latent, sleeping, hidden, resting, or inactive. These concepts abound...

So again, at least as God sees it, many things are established or present in some way but wait until the time is right before we see their fullness. It applies to eternal life as well as new life, and even to Jesusí victory over Satan which was won at the Cross but we do not yet see its fullness. But let me leave you with this example...

It is as God sees it!

Letís review things...

I felt I was finished, but my attention kept coming back to the moment of salvation. Here are just some of many powerful terms used to describe the life changing transition that occurs...

These spoke powerfully of a new life. But wait, havenít I just demonstrated that life, as God sees it, started in the womb? Well, that life is a slave to sin and destined to judgement and hell, but at the moment of salvation it turns off the highway to hell, onto the narrow path to life (Matthew 7:13-14). Yes, thatís it, the life that started in the womb is actually being redirected; itís just a turning point in our life.

Well, try as I did, I could not convince myself that salvation was a mere turning point or a clean-up, as if something good still lay under a grubby exterior. You see, if I view salvation as just a turning point in my existing life then all those powerful statements are just colourful metaphors merely to emphasise the importance of this turning point. But all my experience in these articles over several years, and the witness of the Holy Spirit, is that the things that often appear symbolic to us are actually the way God sees it. And God sees salvation as the end, washing away, death, of the old life and the beginning of a new life. And if that is how God sees it then that is what it is!

If you still want to see salvation as a change, a total make-over, of your existing life then you can still get to heaven, but I think you are dramatically under-selling what Jesus did for you on the Cross. I know that it just feels like a change, and sometimes it does not even seem that obvious to us at first, but God sees us as new. Perhaps you have always seen it this way. Perhaps Iím getting excited because I just figured this out driving home from work tonight!

In regard to life starting in the womb, after conception, this powerfully shows how God sees our new life in Christ starting not as we would, and should make it easy for you to accept life, as God sees it, starting after conception.

Against Abortion

I again felt this was finished. Then I decided to add some clarification as to why certain references in the Bible to birth should not be taken to imply that life starts at birth. At the time I was not even conscious that someone might try to use this to justify abortion. I began this article only thinking about life starting at conception or a couple of weeks later. But I had some spare time, and that is very rare, and I came across the following article that had been in a CMI Info update I received a couple of months earlier, and never read because I was busy. It was about some extreme views on abortion that are being promoted. Iím sure it was in the Lordís timing. Maybe you shouldnít even read it. I was grieved for days.

Why bother expounding the Bible when such horrors go on and some nominal Christians even support it. It was obvious that unbelievers will find some excuse to justify whatever they want Ė but a believer?

Modern science affirms that the baby in the womb is not part of the mother, though dependent on her for nutrient. And after birth it is equally dependant. Why can we betray this life entrusted to us just because it is still in the womb? Ultra-sounds and the like enable us to see the child while still in the womb. Most mothers, my wife included, were quite conscious of this new independent life within them during the pregnancy. Even birth is initiated by the baby releasing various chemical triggers Ė itís not initiated by the motherís body.

Where do we teach responsibility, because that is what the law of love is all about Ė not your rights? So many couples are desperate to adopt. I have heard accounts of women later in life totally distraught because they had a abortion and now realise what they did and regret it bitterly. Why does counselling of women and girls who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy limit itself to possible medical side-effects and not the life impact? Why is the baby made the victim? Why does our health-benefits contribute towards the cost? I would wish that no doctor, sworn to preserving life, could be found in this nation to perform the procedure. Why do people use the small percentage of cases like rape, or when the motherís life is threatened, to justify the vast majority of convenience abortions?

As grieved as I am, and desiring all the above measures to support girls, women, in distress, I cannot find it in me to use legislation to enforce my, and Godís, desire. The law never solves problems Ė only knowing Godís grace and forgiveness can transform a heart.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASBģ

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