In Jurassic Park, the chaos theorist played by Jeff Goldblum quipped that scientists were in such a hurry to find out if they could that they never took the time to consider whether they should when it came to resurrecting extinct dinosaurs through genetic cloning technology. The comment was quite profound as it also has considerable bearing on the application of similar technologies to the human species as well.
Futurists have estimated that nearly 90% of the knowledge today has been discovered within the past decade. This is especially true of scientifically complex fields such as biology and medicine.
Ethics is the branch of philosophy concerned with determining what is right and wrong. Bioethics attempts to apply these principles to issues relating to matters of life, its quality, and preservation. As such, it is a relatively new field of inquiry coming to prominence since the 1980’s.
As a new discipline, overall bioethics is underdeveloped with Christian involvement scantier than it ought to be. With its frontier flavor however, bioethics is not confined solely to those with doctorates in esoteric subjects. Rather it is a field needing input from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives if mankind is to chart a balanced course into what was before now unexplored territory.
For example, many couples unable to have children on their own have turned to a number of fertilization techniques where egg and sperm are brought together outside the body for implantation inside the womb. While the practice has become quite commonplace, it is in fact fraught with a number of ethical dilemmas that need to be addressed by the church.
For starters, the reader will note that nowhere above is it spelled out that the sperm and the egg belong to the husband and the wife of the couple seeking to have a child. Sometimes these are donated --- often bought and sold like farm produce --- from total strangers, undermining the sanctity of the marriage covenant and no doubt unsettling the identity of the child should the offspring ever learn of his true parentage.
Yet of even greater concern in these procedures is when more eggs are fertilized than are needed. Since it can be concluded from Matthew 1:20 that fertilized eggs posses life, quite a dilemma develops over what to do with the leftover embryos.
If these individuals are disposed of, it becomes an act of murder. They can be placed into storage for up to seven years if the couple would like to have an additional baby in the future; but what happens if the couple divorces?
These conundrums and many others just like it are the result of the underlying worldview upon which much of contemporary culture rests. For since the days of the Renaissance, up through the Enlightenment and French Revolution and no doubt accelerated by Darwinism, no longer is God and His Word seen as the ultimate source of moral authority. Rather, the moral focus has switched to human autonomy in either the form of the individual or the state.
In the Book of Genesis, the student of Scripture learns that man is created in the image of God. As such, upholding this ideal preempts individual happiness when personal satisfaction comes into conflict with innocent human life.
Unfortunately, in this day the preservation of innocent human life often takes a backseat to “I want” and “me, me, me”. Such anxiety can drive the longing soul inward to concentrate on one’s own existential despair rather than outward towards those with even greater needs.
For example, a couple unable to have children on their own biologically wanting to have one --- often pressured into it by members of the congregation and clergy thinking they know more about the will of God for other people than the people themselves --- often turn to artificial fertilization these days rather than other ways to satisfy an otherwise humanitarian impulse such as adoption or other charitable pursuits.
Likewise, at the other end of the continuum of selfishness are those that, rather than coveting life so much that they would dishonor it by an illegitimate attempt to grasp at and possess it on their own terms rather than through God’s providence, that view life needing care beyond the ordinary in order to be maintained such as that at the beginning or end of temporal existence as an inconvenience to be done away with as soon as possible.
Those holding to the Biblical position of respecting the image of God within each individual irrespective of the physical frame’s condition would do what was within their power to defend the young under their responsibility and lend comfort to those passing out of this life on God’s timetable rather than according to some arbitrary definition of quality.
Furthermore, if those in their declining years were treated as human beings created in the image of God rather than as beasts of burden that have outlived their usefulness, senior saints might enjoy a better quality of life irrespective of their bodily circumstances.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.