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.”
There is something about physical harm and pain that reminds us to look before we… leap. Why? Because we leaped one too many times without looking and our brain has trained us not to do that again. That’s the way our brains work. And our brains work well. That is, at least, for a lot of things. However, our brains may work against us when it comes to others things.
We sit down and watch a cute, funny dog video on YouTube and that’s fine; no pain. Actually, we quite enjoy it. Our brains do not tell us: Look before you… watch. So, we don’t. We don’t consider what we watch or how often we watch because, after all, we like it.
What is “entertainment”? What does that word mean? It has been defined in this way: “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.” So, entertainment gives us pleasure, enjoyment, and diversion; especially by a performance of some kind. For instance, I was entertained at NitroCircus when Travis Pastrana did a double backflip on a dirt bike.
To quote someone from a different arena, it would have been fitting for Pastrana to scream out:
“Are you not entertained?! Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you are here?!”
There is a danger that people will die in entertaining us but is there also a danger for us as we are endlessly entertained?
Neil Postman wrote in 1985 about the danger of, as his book title says, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and that was before public internet, let alone social media and the smart phone. It is not an understatement to say that we are likely to amuse ourselves to death. There are serious health risks for us when all we care about is entertainment. There is the further danger that we’re not living and loving as we should. We’re liable to amuse ourselves until death, and never do anything worthwhile with the time we’ve been given.
I have found Evernote very helpful. It allows you to create shelves, notebooks, and pages so that you can keep various lists and thoughts on any number of topics. It also allows you to tag everything. It has helped me be more organized and it has been very helpful because it is always with me and accessible. Actually, the first draft of this post was written on Evernote over the course of a few days. [free]
Advice: Use Evernote. And take the time to learn from the tutorials. It will be worth it to organize your notes and be able to find and track your thoughts.
I have found this app very helpful. You can save articles in Pocket, tag them for quick recall, and even share on social media. My favorite thing about this app is that it will read to me! I can now drive and “read” articles. [free]
Advice: Don’t spend all your time pocketing things, actually read stuff. Second, there’s no way to underline or make notes so screenshot the parts you want to capture and add them Evernote.
Paul, in the book of Ephesians says,
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
We are told to make the “best use of the time.” So, let’s be intentional about our time (“look carefully”). Let’s question “the best use of the time.” Let’s use technology as an aid and not a distraction and hindrance to accomplishing the things we have been given to do.
Jonathan Edwards points out that
“If men were as lavish of their money as they are of their time, if it were as common a thing for them to throw away their money, as it is for them to throw away their time, we should think them beside themselves, and not in the possession of their right minds. Yet time is a thousand times more precious than money; and when it is gone, cannot be purchased for money, cannot be redeemed by silver or gold.”
Who are the most influential and popular thinkers, philosophers, and theologians today? Who is teaching the most people? John Piper? William Lane Craig? N. T. Wright? Francis Chan? The local pastor? Nope.
“The most influential theologians in the United States of America are screenwriters, producers, lyricists, and musicians. These Hollywood theologians’ convey their messages through movies, televisions shows, and popular music.” America’s “philosophers” and “theologians” are people like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, Kanye, and Vin Diesel.
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. :)