Saturday, January 18, 2014

Prenatal Science and Theology

C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) was a powerful “Prince of Preachers,” and prolific author. By one estimate he preached to over ten million people. My personal favorite is Spurgeon’s The Treasury of David, a lengthy commentary by Spurgeon blending his own sayings with those he assembled from other authors. Virtually every chapter and verse in the Book of Psalms is covered. Primarily a theologian, Spurgeon also possessed an enlightened view of the harmonious relationship of science and theology. In our modern times, many Christians thrive on this relationship. Others stumble, sometimes perceiving the link to be a barrier.

Spurgeon articulated his lofty respect for both science and theology. In his commentary on Psalm 19, he opined that King David “had devoted himself to the study of God’s two great books—nature and scripture.” Today some conservative theologians diminish the “book of nature,” elevating their personal interpretation of Scripture as though it were superior to the revelation of God as he has revealed himself in creation. The discussion of general revelation (man’s correct reading of nature’s “book”) versus special revelation (the inspired words of God, subject to man’s interpretation of that revelation) should never contradict each other.

Charles Spurgeon may be amused, even distressed at the discomfort experienced by some conservative Christian commentators as they study modern scientific discoveries in the world of geologic history. This is particularly true with respect to the age of the earth. Secular scientists would also experience amusement and distress when experiencing the “conflict model” of the relationship between science and theology by church spokesmen dismissing undisputable mainstream science.

The 30-page commentary on Psalm 19 begins with a paragraph containing this quote: “How foolish and wicked are those who instead of accepting the two sacred tomes, and delighting to behold the same divine hand in each, spend all their wits in endeavoring to find discrepancies and contradictions. We may rest assured that the true “Vestiges of Creation” will never contradict Genesis, nor will a correct “Cosmos” be found at variance with the narrative of Moses. He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, “My Father wrote them both.”

Psalm 19 proclaims the “heavens declare the glory of God.” The cosmos was the subject of King David’s discovery. Psalm 29, Spurgeon instructs, is “best rehearsed beneath the black wing of tempest, by the glare of the lightning, or amid that dubious dusk which heralds the war of elements.” He instructs us that even nature’s severe events are within God’s purview and will. Spurgeon reminds us once more that “…we have God’s works and God’s word joined together: let no man put them asunder by a false idea that theology and science can by any possibility oppose each other.” In Psalm 139, the pre-born child was the inspiration for David’s exultant praise. We remind readers that modern scientific knowledge has reinforced the inspired words of the Psalmist. Scientifically, however, there is no error or inaccuracy in Psalm 19, Psalm 29, or Psalm 139.

We close with a few modern facts relating to prenatal life and fetal development. Modern science extends far beyond the inspired vision and knowledge of King David. It is able to provoke spiritual wonder matching and exceeding the insights of the ancient king of Israel. Our recent post on the blueprint for prenatal building of the human body was only the beginning of the story of human life from “conception to consciousness” in one calendar year.

The union of male sperm and female ovum is classic modern knowledge. This union forms the human zygote, a single diploid cell containing two sets of chromosomes—one set from each parent. The human zygote cell divides numerous times and after about five days has formed a 200-300 cell blastocyst, a hollow, spherical structure. By now the blastocyst has migrated to the uterus and prepares for implantation 8-9 days following fertilization. Implantation is a critical event for survival of the embryo and finally establishes a physical connection with the mother. Until then the mother was a “host” for the embryo. The embryo, therefore, is a separate and fully human being from fertilization until implantation. From implantation onward, this separate human being receives nourishment from the mother throughout her pregnancy.

The wonders of creation and development of human life in the womb speaks loudly that every pre-born child is fully human and worthy of tender care. Neither faulty science nor faulty respect for the living may destroy this fact. We hope to build upon this preliminary foundation in future posts.