Technological advancement provides many benefits in the bioethical realm. But often the ability to do something surpasses the ethical question of whether we should do something. There is an important distinction between an is, what can be done, and an ought, what should or must be done, particularly in the ethical and bioethical realm.
Often these bioethical questions are not thought about before being faced with an ethical, existential moment. At that crisis point, it is difficult to think wisely and discerningly. When we face life issues – either love for another (in end-of-life decisions) or a sense of entitlement (in reproductive matters) – we are almost always pressed to an ought, without thinking through the ethics and morality of the matter. The time to think about such matters is before that existential moment.
Added to these ethical matters is our present cultural moment. There may have been a time when the church and cultural mores were similar. The church did not have to teach or press some of the moral matters because they were affirmed in the culture. That is no longer the case, and yet, the culture continues to catechize the people of God, the church. We are living at a time when not only are the ethics, bioethics and morality not embraced by the culture, they are despised. And often we have not rightly understood these issues ourselves, and thus we have been unable or unwilling to teach/catechize God’s people on these critical matters.
Here are a few things to consider in the realm of biblical ethics and bioethics:
- Foundation for Biblical Ethics and Bioethics. The concern is that too few understand how to move from the Bible to theology to ethics to bioethics. The past two years have shown that we have a lot of ground to cover when it comes to understanding moral/ethical theology in the public realm. Furthermore, the church has expected the culture to reflect biblical and ethical mores, to affirm the ethics/morality of the church, and the church has also allowed the culture to teach and model acceptable ethical norms. That day is no more (if it ever was), so that now when the culture no longer reflects those ethical matters, and in fact is antagonistically opposed to them, the church needs to catechize in the moral/ethical realm once again, both in content and character. In this way the church will manifest her heavenly citizenship while living in the world.
- Biotechnology, Genetic Engineering and Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ART): AIF, AID, GIFT, ZIFT, IVP, Surrogacy, Etc. These are several of the issues we are addressing in the church. Consider this: how many of these issues do you address during premarital counseling? Many married couples conclude if they want a child, they deserve a child. What happens if/when that couple experiences infertility? If that is the case, how do they go about having a child? Not all these means are ethical/moral or God-honoring. What is and is not acceptable as Christians?
- Abortion, End of Life Treatment, Alzheimer’s, Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. This is another realm we are facing in significant ways. Depending on what happens with the SCOTUS decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, Women’s Health, Christians and the church may have to reconsider our approach to addressing abortion more at the local and state level, rather than the federal. And what about the end-of-life treatment? How do we help Christian families think about such matters grounded in the sanctity of life and the imago Dei? How do we discern if/when we truly and rightly prolong life, and if/when we inappropriately delay death? And how do we understand Alzheimer’s and the imago Dei? Are we equipped/prepared to minister to an increasing number of those who have little to no memory? How do we live out the truth that “God will never leave you nor forsake you” with them?
- Enhancement, Artificial Intelligence, Transhumanism and Posthumanism. This is impacting us, and many do not even know it. Our lives are being monitored to the degree that if most knew, they would likely be shocked. And even though this may be considered to be the stuff of science-fiction novels or movies, it continues to make inroads into our lives in increasing measures. An increasing number of people prefer to live a virtual life over against a real, personal, embodied, flesh-and-blood existence, or at least a hybrid. For example, consider the metaverse. Many take this very seriously, and this is their hope for eternal life. How much of this is stewarding God’s creation for human flourishing and how much is an attempt to build Babel, to be the creator and master of one’s own destiny, which fits the expressive individualist spirit of the age.
These are just a few of the major issues we ponder as we consider The Bible and Bioethics. Many more topics could be added.
I am grateful we have Matthew Eppinette, Executive Director of The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity (CBHD), Affiliate Professor of Bioethics, Trinity International University, with us to address a few of these important issues in our preconference sessions. Grounded in the Scriptures, there is much we will learn as we seek to “understand the times” and to live faithfully, such that we both model and teach how to live joyfully under the sweet sovereignty and purposeful providence of God and the loving Lordship of Jesus Christ in the ethical and bioethical realm of our lives.
Please plan to join us at The Orchard, February 9-11. Come prepared to learn, to be challenged, to fellowship, to be edified, to worship, and to be encouraged in so many other ways. And do not plan to come along. Invite someone to join you.
The Conference schedule can be found here. Registration details are found here. Online registration is closing at noon on Friday, February 4, so register now. On-site registration is available as well.
I look forward to being with you and many others from our EFCA family!
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