Down Syndrome and the Image of God

A couple of years ago,  Richard Dawkins responded to a lady on Twitter who posed an interesting moral dilemma. She tweeted she wouldn’t know what to do if she found out her unborn child had Down Syndrome. Dawkins’ reply; “Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

Meet CPhoto Aug 26, 6 57 18 PMheston Hearron, my brother. Cheston has Down Syndrome.

I am not at all offended by the comments of Dawkins. His response is exactly what one would expect from an individual positing an atheistic worldview. Dawkins is merely acting out the logical implications of his view. Dawkins’ worldview is devoid of God, so when faced with such a moral dilemma, he does what he thinks is right for him. Furthermore, his moral answers will change from person to person and even culture to culture. He even has his own category of immorality: bringing a baby with Down Syndrome into the world. The implications of this view are obvious.

As a Christian with a biblical worldview, I would have given this woman a different answer. As a theist, when faced with a moral dilemma, I have a firm anchor-point; God’s unchanging nature that grounds morality. I would challenge her to think about the God question. If God exists and has created human beings in his image then it would be immoral to end the life of this child just because he has Down Syndrome. This answer does not change from person to person nor culture to culture. It is an objective moral value. To terminate the child’s life, is to place oneself in a position reserved only for God. The image of God is a very powerful argument for equal rights for all human beings. There is no physical trait that all human beings share. There are tall people, short people, large people, small people, smart people, dumb people, those who are socially useful and those who are socially useless. Yet, we all feel that every human deserves to be treated equally. I know of no one who thinks attractive people deserve more rights than unattractive people. So, since you cannot put your finger on a physical trait that grounds equal rights then perhaps what grounds them is non-physical. The image of God is the perfect candidate for the grounding of equal rights. To be an image bearer, is to reflect certain characteristics of God. We are capable of relationships, we display emotions and we make choices. These are all characteristics of God. However, the image of God is tarnished because of sin and will one day be completely redeemed when Christ returns. Atheism eliminates the image of God and therefore has no justification for human rights.

When I am around my brother, he makes me laugh! He is a wonderful uncle to my 2 children. They love him dearly. He is highly functional and genuinely loves people.My parents would inform you that it has not been easy rearing a child with Down Syndrome. But they also would tell you that the joy he has brought into their lives and the lives of others cannot be measured. The world is a better place because of Cheston Hearron.  I am reminded of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (I Cor. 1:27-28) “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are…”

He chose Cheston!!



17 thoughts on “Down Syndrome and the Image of God

  1. Cheston Hearron would cross an entire room just to give me a huge, much needed, hug! His love is unconditional!!! I am a better person to have known him and his awesome family!


  2. Well-stated…Cheston provides the perfect argument for not aborting a child with “abnormalities”. God’s love is always seen through Cheston’s pure heart and loving demeanor. I am thankful for him, for your family who sacrificed to give him a quality life, and for you–defender of the faith that assures us that every person has value and a purpose for being on this planet!


  3. I have often wished we were all more like Cheston. This world would be a better place. Cheston has blessed me over & over thanks to Gods wisdom!!!


    • We also have been blessed with a down syndrome child, Aaron is nearly 4 at the time he was born I wondered why God placed him in our family but in a very short time I have realise the blessing he is to our family and it is only the beginning thank you for a wonderful article


  4. In the interest of informed reaction, not everyone feels this way. Dawkins was entirely right about this, from a moral and ethical perspective. I would assume that many Christians, who live in the real world of informed choices, have made, and will continue to make, the choice for a planned, healthy parenthood.


  5. Many examples in nature follow the entropic style of sustainability. As a result, all species have a sustainable model of survival. This model could lean towards reproduction in large numbers in overcoming an environment that would easily snuff them out — or, this model could employ camouflage, defence toxins, or evasion by speed.

    To this, the survivability of a species rests on the sustainable function of its members. Consider a pack of wolves, where one became injured. Does the sociality of the pack hunt for it, care for it, and thus risk the survival of the whole pack to aid the injured wolf of unknown fate? Of course not. The injured wolf becomes a meal — ensuring the continued survival of the pack as not compromised.

    If one were to find a robin’s nest with 3 newborns, the parent would make a fuss (noise) and dive at the intruder who found the nest. For this species has a healthy level of sociality as ensuing the survivability of its young. However, if one were to pick up the small hatchlings with their hands and place them back, what might the parent do? For some species, the nest would be aborted. For the risk of contamination and possible disease is not worth the risk.

    For humans, Universal Rights is the only sustainable model of survivability. For in this instance, the rights of an unborn child is equal to it’s maximum potential, while never affecting the rights of others. As a result, the unborn child with a genetic abnormality has the right to survive and function — so long as the child’s existence does not affect the rights of others.

    Evidently, a child with such a disability would represent a load on the social function of the respective society. Further to this, this individual would suffer a diminished existence.

    As a thought experiment, what might be the future of the human species if downs syndrome steadily increased over time? What if the ratio of healthy children verses downs children were equal? Would our society invest in a changing culture of specialized care for the growing downs population? To what end — the extinction of the human race?

    Do not confuse biological sociality with god-given morality. For if this were the case, all species would be labeled killers for not compromising the survivability of said species.


    • Hi Drexus, I need clarification. In your worldview, what is the basis for human rights? Do all humans have equal rights? Are these rights external or internal?


      • Universal Rights are based on the sustainable function of a species as evident of a supporting environment that allowed such function sustainably.

        No species adapts a capability as not contributing to the sustainable function of said environment. As a result, the rights of any individual are specific to the function of their species as developing a need in performing said function.

        The right to free speech: a sustainable function of species of sociality.

        The right to clean water, free movement, etc.: all fundamental functions of a species as needing these to survive.

        However, these rights are dynamically limiting. For instance, you cannot claim the right to affect rights of others. Thus, you cannot prevent someone else from sustainable function. On the flip side, if you affect the rights of others through some process, you loose the right to conduct said process as a sustainable function.

        What right does a tree frog have by living in the forest? The frog has every right — as evident to the species existing sustainably for millions of years. No interpretation is needed much less consensus. The right exists and is upheld irrespective of anyone having to say so. Hence, universal rights are never bound by any social construct — any more than gravity.

        Gun Control: The rights of any individual allow for protection, as not affecting the rights of others. Thus, if you want protection from gun related crimes, get a vest, not a gun.

        Education: Any individual of a species of sociality is entitled to all benefits offered through the function of sociality. For sociality is a survival trait of said species as evident by having said capability developed over millions of years.

        Human rights is a concept as vetted by a social construct. Given all social constructs are subjective in nature, the idea that consensus was needed to define Human Rights as sustainable is only as sustainable as the logic that conceived the concept. Bottom line, if you need consensus to establish something, then it’s subject to reinterpretation and even corruption.

        Universal Rights is biological, not social — thus the social function of our species is inherently governed by our adapted sustainable function.


  6. This is beautiful! Do you mind if I share this? As a Christian myself, I firmly believe that each person is specially made by God, and all deserve a chance at life. I work with children with Down Syndrome and I am blown away at their creativity and uniqueness! Thank you for writing this article–very insightful and encouraging!


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