The Unborn Child

The nine months of waiting for a baby can deepen a couple’s relationship and bring them closer to each other than any other time in their marriage.

Especially for a young couple looking forward to their first child, there is a sense of excitement and the thrill of the unknown – a strange mixture of anxiety and joy.

There is also awe before the mystery of new life and the responsibility of parenthood.

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Few couples experience this sense of awe and mystery today. Pregnancy is seen less as a joyful affirmation of life than as a routine medical condition, and any secrets a mother might once have had are now trumpeted to friends and relatives alike in the form of test results and ultrasound scans. But is the development of a baby in its mother’s womb only a biological process?

In his book Innerland, my grandfather Eberhard Arnold described the unborn child as a soul – a being waiting to be called out of eternity.” If this is true, then pregnancy requires not only medical care but also reverence – and we should pay as much attention to a mother’s spiritual needs as we do to her check-up appointments.

For the unborn as well as the living child, a secure and loving family life is of utmost importance. Even while still in the womb, a child can suffer if it does not feel nurturing love and tenderness. Thus bickering and fighting between husband and wife can harm the developing baby, just as do drinking or smoking. Of course, positive emotions and experiences will affect a baby to the same degree, so expecting parents should be encouraged to sing and pray together with their new child – even before it is born.

That an unborn child can share in the emotions of its mother is illustrated beautifully in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:41–44):

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.  Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.

In a similar way, the German writer Joseph Lucas says that a mother’s thoughts are passed on to her child while it is still in the womb. Everything good in her – her love, her purity, and her strength – is planted into the child’s being before it is born. In a certain way, he says, a mother’s life during pregnancy lays the foundation for all later education. What comes after birth is “the unfurling and developing of what has already germinated in the soul.” When a mother finds out that she is pregnant, she should thank God. When Eve gave birth to Cain she said, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought a man into being” (Gen. 4:1). She did not say, “with the help of Adam,” but “with the help of the Lord.” God has a plan for each child, and we must stand in awe of it.

What about pregnancies that end in miscarriage? Doctors are quick to reassure couples that such a loss is nature’s way of ending a life that was not to be, and in one way, this is true. Still, even the shortest pregnancy represents a life – a being with a soul. For this reason a couple should not be rushed over their loss, or be made to feel guilty about their grief. On the other hand, they must eventually find peace over the matter and accept God’s will.

Of course, medical tests – like ultrasound exams – can give doctors useful information about a pregnancy, which can then guide decisions about labor and delivery. But such information is not always a blessing. In almost all cases nowadays, tests which reveal potential abnormalities and defects lead to a “termination.”

Only God knows exactly how many innocent unborn children are aborted each year, but we know that this number reaches the millions. And abortion is murder, without exception. It destroys life and mocks God, in whose image every unborn baby is created. Therefore a woman who has had or is contemplating an abortion will always suffer torment of conscience. She can find healing only in Christ, who forgives every repentant heart.

Even the most persuasive arguments about quality of life or a mother’s health should not sway us – nor should the case of rape. Who are we to decide whether or not a soul should reach the light of day? The most disabled child can give God glory. I have experienced this many times. And it is never we who have laid such a burden on the child’s parents, but God – whose will works for the best in every situation (Rom. 8:28).

In a world obsessed with perfection and choice, we would do well to remember that God is a perfect creator, and that his children ought not to find fault, but simply praise:

You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Ps. 139:13–16).


This essasy is from the book  Why Children Matter



  • Johann Christoph Arnold

    Johann Christoph Arnold’s books have sold over 350,000 copies in twenty languages. An outspoken social critic, he has addressed gatherings throughout the world. Born in 1940 to war resisters driven out of Nazi Germany, Arnold’s parents fled Europe and settled in Paraguay. At fourteen, he moved to New York, where he has lived ever since. He and his wife, Verena, have eight children with more than three dozen grandchildren. His most recent book is Why Children Matter

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