Summary: Bioethics & Timeless Truths For Changing Times
The rate of technological and cultural change is so fast and comprehensive in these days in which we live that futurist Alvin Toffler has likened the phenomena to waves sweeping over society and labeled the feeling of disoriented perplexity that settles over us in the wake as "Future Shock". Many of these changes appear to be so profound that the pressure to abandon traditional values and beliefs from academia, media, government, and even certain factions within organized religion can feel overwhelming. However, there is more at stake than whether we send letters to acquaintances via the post office or through the computer electronically. Rather, such radical shifts of the paradigms through which we sift reality and experience will ultimately impact how we see ourselves and how we value other human beings.
With the technical complexity inherent to many of the latest developments in the fields of biology and medicine, it is easy to fall for the assumption that ethics and morality in these disciplines would better be left to the highly educated such as scientists or philosophy professors. The field of bioethics is a relatively new area of study in comparison to the totality of human knowledge. Because of its frontier nature as ethically uncharted territory, it is a discipline in desperate need of a solid Christian presence as it is pretty much a wide open field in which the ambitious and enthusiastic can plant their flag in the hopes of persuading the masses as to the propriety of a respective position.
As Christians, it is the fundamental assumption of the believer that all truth is derived from God as revealed to us either directly from His word (the Bible), deduced from reflection upon His word, or discernable from His creation construed in the light of His word. II Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All scripture is given inspired of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Likewise, Psalm 19:1 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the works of his hands (NIV)."
Since this is the case, God's law is written across the whole of creation. Try as men might to ignore or escape these binding commandments, they ultimately cannot and are seared by their own consciences as evidenced by the responses that often border on violence as typified by homosexual militants reacting whenever someone responds with anything less than a standing ovation or lavish government subsidies for this particular lifestyle. Romans 2:14-15 says, "Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”
Though the Bible might not address specific bioethical issues directly by name such as stem cells and cloning, a number of the Good Book's foremost passages and doctrines serve as the foundation to a Christian response to these kinds of challenges arising in the world today. As the basis to all divine law contained within both the Old and New Testaments, the Ten Commandments serve as the guiding principles for all healthy relationships with both God and man. Prominent among these is the injunction "Thou shalt not murder."
This admonition was not handed down arbitrarily just so God could laud his authority and power over us. Rather, this commandment was set in place as recognition of man's unique status as a creature made in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 says, "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image'...So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." This image of God in each individual is so sacred that no individual should be able to take the life of another without serious consequences. Genesis 9:6 warns, "Whoever sheds the blood of man; by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."
Thus, the fundamental consideration in regards to these complex issues arising as a result of advances in biotechnology is that of personhood. As these scientific developments promise more and more of the things we as human beings crave the most in our earthly lives such as freedom from disease, prolonged life, or even enhanced abilities and children designed to our specifications, it becomes easier and easier to view other human beings as a means to achieve these goals for ourselves rather than as those whose lives we would like to see improved.
For while all of the issues raised in a cursory bioethics survey start off with noble-sounding justifications, when we look behind the lofty pronouncements, many of us would be shocked by the staggering numbers of bodies concealed behind the curtain. Perhaps one of the first bioethics debates to grip the public consciousness was no doubt abortion.