Bioethics @ TIU

The need for Christians to make distinctively biblical moral decisions

Posted July 5th, 2017 by Steve Phillips

I am continuing to reflect on the recent CBHD conference. One of the paper presentations I attended was related to the role of Christian faith and the church in decisions about fertility treatments. Heather Prior and an associate are doing research on how Christian couples in their community make decisions about treatments for infertility including such things as IVF. In the preliminary results she was reporting they found that many of the churches that the couples in their study attended had statements about the use of reproductive technology, but that none of the couples dealing with infertility were aware of those statements. Few had sought any counsel on their decisions from their pastors or others in their church.

I find that concerning. In my interaction with Christian students I have become very concerned that even those with strong Christian faith tend to think about ethical issues using thought patterns they have absorbed from the surrounding culture rather than using distinctively biblical ways of thinking. I don’t think this is limited to students, and this study suggests that it is not. The culture that we live in believes that people should make their own decisions about how they live based on how they feel about any decisions they need to make. It also says that those around them should affirm whatever they decide. I fear that Christians are taking on that same attitude. If we think like the world around us, we will make decisions on things such as reproductive technology based on what we desire and how we feel and expect the church to affirm whatever decision we make. When this happens there is no distinction between the church and the rest of the world.

Those who follow Jesus need to be different from the culture around us. We have access to a solid foundation for making moral decisions and living a life that is distinctive in its goodness. That foundation for making good decisions is found in the Bible and the body of the church. If we are going to be distinctive followers of Jesus we need to recognize that what we feel and desire can easily be affected by our fallenness. We need to turn to scripture and to good counsel from those in the church who have spiritual wisdom and who have thought through ethical issues well from a biblical perspective to help us live in a way that brings glory to God.

2 Responses

  1. Mick Vanden Bosch says:

    I absolutely agree. In 2013 I was a delegate to our denomination’s national synod in North America. There was a three-year study committee report on various life issues including in-vitro fertilization. Their recommendations were very sound and biblical, giving direction to the members of our denomination. However most of the discussion in the plenary session was based on anecdotal stories from individual Pastors regarding couples in their churches. I was furious. As leaders of our church we were trying to make guidelines and recommendations to assist our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This should be based on science informed by the Bible and based on biblical foundations. Instead many were arguing that we needed to start at the other end of the spectrum with where people were at and deal with that issue, rather than at the starting point with a Biblical principle that might prevent people from going down a path which leads to dangerous consequences.

  2. I fear the same is true for most Christian couples in the UK. I have recently had personal experience of more than one Christian couple who only realised after the understandable and deserved joy of the birth of their child that they had several other frozen embryos in storage which came as an unexpected shock of considerable impact.

    I think it unlikely that the IVF clinic team had not mentioned the ‘spare’ embryos being the norm. Much more likely they didn’t hear it in the clinic. All the more reason they should be hearing it from their churches. How can Christians make an informed decision if they don’t even know the basics of what is actually involved?

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