Lately I’ve been grappling with the idea of “intrinsic value” which seems to be, well, essential, to most thought provoking pro-life human value arguments. This idea escapes so many people – in argument after argument I’ve noticed that few seem to grasp what “intrinsic” means, offering instead their own interpretation. And it’s not merely the pro-choice crowd that misunderstands the idea.
Stand to Reason’s Greg Koukl, while interviewing Robert P. George (who, along with Christopher Tollefson wrote “Embryo:A Defense of Human Life”) mentioned that radio host and columnist Dennis Prager, while understanding the pro-life position, also failed to grasp the meaning of “intrinsic value”. (Listen to STR Podcast of 2/19/08 at 37:30 in)
Inspiration being what it is, the other morning I woke up with bread on my mind – how wonderfully diverse bread is, and yet so representative of humanity in terms of illustrating this idea of our intrinsic value.
Like people, bread comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes and different forms, from whole loafs to flat breads to rolls and biscuits. Sometimes yeast is added, sometimes it isn’t. It also comes in various colors, textures and tastes based upon numerous ingredients, yet it all has one single thing in common: grain flour.
From a challah loaf to a pita pocket, without grain flour, there is no bread. It could be said that particular ingredient is intrinisic to bread.
The analogy to human beings is that our flesh and blood, the human cellular material which is the combined ingredients from both mother and father, defines us as humans – not any other ingredient that might be added after.
Our flesh and blood is intrinsic to our nature as human beings, to our very personhood as beings. Just as you can’t remove the grain flour and still have bread, you cannot remove flesh and blood and still have a human being regardless of their concious state.
Disconnecting personhood from flesh and blood (dualism) undermines all bodily rights reasoning for abortion. How can you rightly claim it’s your personal body, if you don’t believe it has a coherent, intrinsic value as a whole?
When Christ lifted up the loaf, he may have been illustrating more about his relationship to humanity than what was immediately apparent.