A Few Thoughts On Genetic Engineering (part three)

The Need for Biblical Ethics

Many agree that “If we do adopt a policy of human genetic engineering, we ought to do so with extreme caution.”[1] I believe that a biblical and Christ exalting ethical system is necessary to provide bedrock convictions. Without the Bible we are left to our own devices, to do what is right in our own eyes.

The Bible does not address the subject of genetic engineering directly. You will not find “genetic modification” in a Bible concordance. The Bible does, however, provide foundational principals that are vital for us to consider and apply. The storyline of the Bible and of reality provides some very important insights.

First, in the beginning of the story of Scripture we see that God created everything, and He created it very good (Gen. 1:31). God is the Great Creator but we also see that we are made in His image and are also creative (Gen. 1:26-27). We also see from the fact that we are made in the image of God that all human life is precious and should be protected. This is where we get the concept of the sanctity of life. We also see from the beginning of Genesis that humans are called to subdue the earth, we are to reign under God as His vice-regents. So, we are to obey His will and bring blessing and flourishing to all we can.

This is important to remember when we consider gene editing because we learn a number of things. 1) God made us creative and made us to bring flourishing and blessing. 2) God also made us to obey Him, He is the Lord. We should never do anything that is outside of His will. 3) The fact that God is the Creator of all provides a basis for the reasonableness of the laws of science. We can make logical deductions and seek out God’s creative design because God has designed things in a reasonable way.

Second, the story of Scripture also tells us about the tragic Fall. Humans sinned and this brought curse and chaos to the world. Things are not the way they were supposed to be. We are separated from God and our bodies are riddled with sin. Our genes are not what they should be. So, as we think about gene editing, the doctrine of the Fall gives us the reason why this conversation is even happening. Things are not the way they are supposed to be.

In the third part of the story of Scripture we see hope. We see that God in love sent Jesus to fix our problem of separation, sin, and sickness. This is important to remember as we consider gene editing because no doctor, scientist, or politician, or anyone or anything in all creation will or can be our savior. Jesus Christ is our Savior. Jesus has brought salvation through His death and resurrection and will make all things new at His coming for those who trust in Him. No one else is the savior, even if they can and should do as much good as possible.

We also see that people’s minds and motivations are corrupted. People don’t always make the right choices and because of that tragic consequences often follow. So, as we consider genetic engineering, we would be wise to remember the tragedies that happened as a result of eugenics. 

The fourth part of the story of Scripture that speaks of the new creation points us to a sure hope. Here, on earth, we will not completely succeed. We won’t bring heaven on earth. And many utopian attempts have been closer to bringing hell…

As Edwin Black said in his book, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, “Mankind’s quest for perfect has always turned dark.”[2]


[1] Glover, “Questions About Some Uses of Genetic Engineering,” 531.

[2] Black, War Against the Weak, 9.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 10 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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