“Conceived by the Holy Spirit” – The Apostles’ Creed is Pro-Life

A couple weeks ago, I came across a post at Steadfast Lutherans proposing a resolution for the upcoming Synodical convention “to condemn the pro-choice ideology as heresy.”  I have to confess, I was initially pretty skeptical about it.

Now, this isn’t because I’m pro-abortion in any way shape or form. Indeed, the record will show that I’m unambiguously pro-life. No, I had a theological quibble. Supporting abortion is certainly unequivocally wrong and unequivocally an anti-Biblical false teaching, but is it really heresy? That’s a word normally reserved for false teachings that either deny God or deny the Gospel.  While Christians do have a moral obligation to condemn the ideology and the practice of abortion, I don’t want to make the mistake of Theological Liberalism and try to make the Church a vehicle for baptizing politics. As abhorrent as abortion is, does pro-choice ideology really violate anything other than the moral Law?

But I was wrong; it absolutely does.

That fact just struck me as I was reading the 2nd article of the Apostles Creed:

…and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit…

It is truly both obvious and undeniable–to the point that I’m ashamed I didn’t realize it initially. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Anyone who denies this has fallen into one of several Christological heresies that proclaims a different Christ and a different Gospel.

If, for example, one claims that Jesus was indeed conceived but not as a human (because a child doesn’t become human until later on), then it’s inevitably a form of the heresy of monophysitism–that Jesus was neither truly human nor truly divine, but had a 3rd nature that is some mixture of the two. If, on the other hand, one claims that it was not Jesus who was conceived, but rather something else was conceived by the Holy Spirit that later became the Son of God upon being born, then its inevitably a form of the heresy of adoptionism–that Jesus is a mere creature who was adopted as God’s Son after the fact.

The only option allowed by the Apostles’ Creed is that Jesus was human at conception–and so we must be as well. After all, Jesus took on our flesh, not some 3rd thing.

But what if the ideological issue isn’t that the unborn child is not a human, but rather that he’s not a person? Well, it’s the same story. This article of the Creed refers to the Son: the second person of the Trinity. In other words, Jesus had personhood at conception as well. If you deny that Jesus was a person at conception, then you deny that He is co-eternal with the Father and fall into some form of heresy such as Modalism or Arianism depending on the details of your rationalization. If, on the other hand, you deny that humans are persons at conception but maintain that Jesus, in contrast, was, then you once again fall into a denial of Christ’s human nature.  After all, according to you, to be human is to develop personhood over time, and the Son never participated in this stage of humanity. And if you try to avoid this consequence by having Christ’s true human nature develop personhood alongside the second Person of the Trinity, then you end up with some variation on the heresy of Nestorianism, where Christ the Son of God, and Jesus the man are two distinct entities plastered together so that they look like one being.

So in one fell swoop, the two most common rationalizations for abortion are revealed to not merely be wrong, but actually heretical–they deny Christ and his Gospel.

If you remove those two, all that remains within the scope of pro-abortion ideologies are the relatively rare rationalizations that acknowledge that abortion is murder, but argue that it should be allowed anyway (e.g. that she had no choice; that the baby is an intruder in the mother’s womb; that mothers legitimately hold the power of life and death over their children; or that mothers need to be allowed to murder because the alternative would be even worse, etc.)

The thing is, these rationalizations are already outside the Church, for Paul says in 1 Timothy 5:8, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” Once you acknowledge that abortion is murder, any variation on murdering your offspring for the sake of the mother has starkly been placed outside of Christianity. After all, what could be a more comprehensive way of failing to care for your own household than murdering them so that you don’t have to?

Any way you slice it (or perhaps any way you tear it apart with forceps) pro-abortion ideology is fundamentally incompatible with Christianity–not merely because its against the rules, but because it inevitably becomes a denial of Christ. It was always right there in the Apostles’ Creed.

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2 Responses to “Conceived by the Holy Spirit” – The Apostles’ Creed is Pro-Life

  1. tony says:

    Interesting. I’m not clear on the role of the apostle’s creed or the comparison being made. It is held up as a divine revelation of the nature of Christ outside supporting Bible verses? Which verses support this argument? And aren’t most bets off when it comes to assessing Jesus and comparing His situation to ours. Surely, diety is a a massive X factor that should make us tread lightly when making comparisons shouldn’t it?

    • Matt says:

      The ecumenical creeds are true summaries of Biblical teaching, affirmed by Christians throughout the history of the Church, and generally formulated for the express purpose of distinguishing orthodox Christianity from heresy (i.e. what we’re doing here.) If you need supporting verses for Jesus’ human nature, you can choose from pretty much everywhere in Scripture that Jesus is referred to as a man, but especially Matthew 1:20-23 and Luke 1:31-35 since they refer specifically to Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit.

      As for Christ’s deity being an x-factor, in a sense yes, in a sense no. Perfect human nature may be different from what we sinners are used to, and human nature as such may indeed behave differently when its in hypostatic union with divine nature (e.g. bodily omnipresence.) But it cannot be an x-factor in the sense of eroding or eliminating Christ’s human nature, which is what those two points of pro-abortion ideology ultimately teach. After all, as Gregory Nazianzen explained, “what was not assumed was not redeemed.” If Jesus is not truly human, then those of us who are truly human remain dead in our sins.

      And since you’ll probably ask for Scriptural support there as well, try Hebrews 2:14-17, “Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he [Christ] himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

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