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.” 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.
Types of Genetic Engineering
As you read this, remember, “The best insurance against possible abuse is a well-informed public.” So, with that in mind, let’s look at four types of genetic engineering.
First, and lest controversial, is somatic gene therapy. The way I remember what somatic refers to is by remembering that soma is the Greek word for “body.” Somatic gene therapy involves the manipulation of gene cells within the body that are non-reproductive. So somatic genes that are edited do not get passed on to future generations.
Second, germline gene therapy involves the genetic modification of the germline cells (eggs or sperm). So germline therapy changes the genetic make up of the individual and is thus carried on to future generations. That is one of the reasons that “No aspect of gene therapy is more highly charged than that of germline or germ-cell therapy.” One of the questions that is important to ask regarding germline gene therapy is: “Will a ‘deleterious’ gene of today be considered a ‘deleterious’ gene tomorrow?”
This discussion, I must remind you, is not some sci-fi dream, “Many assure that within our decade, depending upon the family and the circumstances, height, weight and even eye color will become elective.”
The topic of genetic engineering makes me think of the movie Universal Soldier where the soldiers were genetically engineered to have superior strength and heal quickly. The
Boys from Brazil is another movie that has genetic engineering as part of the plot. In this movie there are ninety-four clones made of Adolf Hitler and sent to different parts of the world. Examples of plot twists and possible plot twists could be multiplied but does it make sense to realistically think about genetic engineering?
Specialists from varied backgrounds think so. Take these examples:
Megan Best has said: “Genetics will have an important role in shaping society in the future because it increases our understanding of how disease occurs and how treatments work differently between individuals. It promises new ways to improve the health of the population.” “Full of promise, full of challenges—we will all be involved in the genetic revolution before we know it.”
George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, said in 2016 regarding genetic engineering that “It is urgent that citizens around the world inform themselves and participate in this rapidly moving set of decisions.”
“Prominent voices in the genetic technology field believe that mankind is destined for a genetic divide that will yield a superior race or species to exercise dominion over an inferior subset of humanity. They speak of ‘self-directed evolution’ in which genetic technology is harnessed to immeasurably correct humanity—and then immeasurably enhance it. Correction is already underway. So much is possible: genetic therapies, embryo screening in cases of inherited disease and even modification of the genes responsible for adverse behaviors.”
The way we think deeply matters. Adam S. Cohen says this in his essay, “Harvard’s Eugenics Era”: “There are… forward-looking reasons to revisit this dark moment in [Harvard’s] past. Biotechnical science has advanced to the brink of a new era of genetic possibilities. In the next few years, the headlines will be full of stories about gene-editing technology, genetic ‘solutions’ for a variety of human afflictions and frailties, and even ‘designer babies.”
Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy that “Times of difficulty will come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Why? “For people will be…” People will be a lot of things… There are nineteen descriptions given.
It’s interesting to note that four of the nineteen descriptions are compounded with love. People will be “lovers of self, lovers of money,… not loving good,… lovers of pleasure” than it says, “rather than lovers of God.” These people love but it’s the wrong love. “What is fundamentally wrong with these people is that their love is misdirected.”
When people are “proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, reckless, and swollen with conceit” it is because of a worship problem. It is because they love themselves and not God.
I am going to March for Life in Washington, D.C. today so I thought I would share my thoughts on abortion. First, though, let’s look at a little bit of the…
Background of Roe vs. Wade
Roe v. Wade was decided 46 years ago on January 22nd 1973 by a vote of 7 to 2. The court affirmed the legality of a woman’s right to have an abortion. The court held that the some of the Texas statutes violated the right of privacy. They held that a woman has a right to have an abortion under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Since then there have been approximately 61million surgical abortions in the United States.
Justice Henry Blackmun wrote an opinion that stated that the restrictive abortion laws (from Texas and Georgia) were unconstitutional. “Blackmun’s opinion stated that because of uncertainty about the medical and moral status of the fetus, the state could not adopt a particular theory of when life begin—they could not decide, for example, that because life begins at conception fetuses have the same rights as newborn infants.”
Although some deny that Roe established a right to abortion on demand, that was its practical effect, as The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States says.
The Sanctity of Human Life
Human life is sacred. This truth is grounded in the Bible. The Bible teaches us that humans are made in the image of God (very often referred to by the Latin imago Dei). This truth is seen in various places in Scripture (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-3; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7 Col. 3:10; James 3:9) but the most prominent is Genesis 1:27: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
So, Christians are called to have concern for and show compassion to all people. Humans–all humans–have great worth! We have worth beyond what we do, we have worth in who we are. We also are to follow the model of Jesus who showed concern for all people.
The Christian Call to Action
The Bible calls us to action. The Bible calls us to stand up for the oppressed (Is. 1:17) and to speak for those who cannot speak (Prov. 31:8-9 cf. 3:27).
We have already made some important observations about how the Christian worldview impacts Christian art. In this post, we are going to…
Consider the Crash
Man disobeyed and rebelled (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:6) and this brought spiritual and physical death (Gen. 2:17; 3:19), pain (3:16-17), difficulties (3:18-19), and separation from God (3:23-24). This is the bad news that we all live in (so, in a future post, we’ll consider our current condition).
In Genesis 3:1-24 we see the Fall of humanity. We see various forms of death given birth to. We see “’an ever-growing avalanche of sin, a continually widening chasm between man and God’. It progresses from disobedience, to murder, to indiscriminate killing, to titanic lust, to total corruption, and uncontrolled violence.” Sin truly brings a litany of death. “Disease, genetic disorders, famine, natural disasters, aging, and death itself are as much the result of sin as are oppression, war, crime, and violence. We have lost God’s shalom—physically, spiritually, socially, psychologically, culturally. Things now fall apart.” Sin opens Pandora’s box and unleashes a horde of evil.
As we have seen, God’s creation was intended to be good, beautiful, and aesthetically pleasing to our senses, emotions, and intellect beyond what we can imagine. So, in the Fall, we see we have marred more than the mediocre; we have marred the Michelangelos of the world. We have marred superb beauty and made it unbelievably hideous.
“Why does a person’s sexual preference matter? If a guy loves another guy why can’t they hook up? Why would God have a problem with that? God created everything, right? So, did He create homosexuality?”
I appreciate those questions. They are important because sex and sexual identity are deeply personal as well as powerful. So, the main question seems to be: Did God create homosexuality, is it part of God’s good design? In order to answer this question, I need to ask you a question. Do you consider yourself a tolerant person? Will you hear me out and listen to my perspective?
If you answered that you are a tolerant person, that’s great. That will be helpful as we look at this controversial subject. So, I ask you to kindly consider my perspective on this question.
I want to be faithful to what I believe the Bible teaches because through it God shows His love and grace. So, as we consider this question, I deeply want the love and compassion of Christ to come through. He loves us all and wants us to have abundant life here and now and forever. Yet, life holds many struggles and temptations.
As we consider this question, we are all caught up in God’s story, a story that can be summed up as creation, fall, redemption and new creation. What does the Bible have to say about this issue? The Bible provides directions to protect us and help us thrive. This is part of God’s good design. The directions include prohibitions against certain types of sexual activity. Those that violate the directions God has given often suffer for it. Individuals that struggle with homosexuality need to realize that natural disposition does not justify it any more than any other sin. And the fact that society elevates sexual fulfillment to the point of communicating that it is the purpose of life does not exempt it from God’s prohibition any more than any other sin. If you are struggling with this issue, then join the rest of us sinners and turn to Christ, who is good. God has given us the means to live within His good design.
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 9 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. :)