Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bioethics and Emmanuel's Return

Our guest blogger this week is John Silvius, Center Associate for Environmental Ethics.

In the December 4 entry, we reflected upon the incarnation, where God became flesh and dwelt among us as our Emmanuel. His entry into this world to reconcile it from the fall signifies the value He places upon human life and all of His creation. But how will He bring reconciliation and justice to all?

The writer of Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 8, exclaims, "You have made Him for a little while lower than the angels . . . you have put all things in subjection under His feet" (Heb. 2:7-8). But then the writer laments, "But now we do not yet see all things subjected to Him" (Heb 2:8b). Indeed, the Earth remains shrouded in the darkness of sin, greed, injustice, and conflict. How then can we sing the words of hope and joy penned by Isaac Watts in 1719?

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

The answer comes when we realize that these lyrics, inspired by Psalm 98, look beyond the present age to the future return of Emmanuel to Earth. At that time the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6b). Then joy will overflow from fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains, and justice and righteousness will prevail.

Today, although we do not yet see Him enthroned as king on Earth, we celebrate at Christmas His first coming to pierce the darkness of human hearts and to free us from sin. By His first coming, He aimed to reconcile and then transform us by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). Then, as ambassadors, we bring the light of Emmanuel’s kingdom of grace, mercy, and truth to the broader culture. To a culture that devalues human life and all of God’s creation, we are called to present a biblical perspective through polite discourse and lifestyles that demonstrate victory over the materialism of our day.

Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). What attitudes and actions toward others or toward God’s creation are consistent with this prayer and your role as an ambassador of Christ? What roles can you play in your family, church, community, and in education to engage the broader culture with a “biblical bioethic?”

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Of Babies and Body Parts

This holiday season is all about new life. But in a cruel parody of the Christmas story, grisly news has emerged from the Ukraine. According to the BBC News Service, it appears that healthy newborn babies have been slaughtered as a source of stem cells. Video evidence from actual autopsies reveals dismembered infants, and raises disturbing questions about how they died. According to the BBC:

Ukraine has become the self-styled stem cell capital of the world. There is a trade in stem cells from aborted foetuses, amid unproven claims they can help fight many diseases.

But now there are claims that stem cells are also being harvested from live babies.
A British forensic pathologist is "very concerned to see bodies in pieces," as might be the case if stem cells were removed from the bone marrow of these infants.

There is real value to using bone marrow as a source of stem cells; such treatments have been used with volunteer adult donors for many years. Yet the rich clients who pay to obtain them from dead babies cannot seriously expect that some sort of "ethics" will guide the Ukrainian doctors who are complicit with murder.

If this horrible story turns out to be true (and the early evidence is very worrisome), it will be just one more indication of the hype and hysteria over "stem cell research" that promises much more than it can deliver.

BBC News Story

Monday, December 04, 2006

Emmanuel and the Environment

Our guest blogger this week is John Silvius, Center Associate for Environmental Ethics.

In the last entry, we saw that the incarnation is "the ultimate testimony to the value of all human beings." The baby born of Mary in the straw amidst the animals in the stable also provides the foundation for a Christian environmental stewardship ethic. For when God became flesh and dwelt among us as Emmanuel, He demonstrated that the value and the good He saw in His original creation (Genesis 1), now groaning under the curse of sin (Romans 8: 19-23), was worth His entry into flesh to "reconcile all things to Himself . . . whether things on earth or things in heaven" (Colossians 1:20). The breadth of Emmanuel’s redemptive plan extends to the soil and water, the lion and the lamb, and to His fallen stewards of creation. This should give us pause this Christmas when we converse with those outside of Christ. Many unbelievers doubt that God or heaven-minded Christians care about the environment. Allow me to illustrate.

A recent book, Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, by E.O. Wilson, is written in the form of an open letter to a Baptist pastor. It is a plea for religion and science to unite "on the common ground of biological conservation" to solve the environmental problems of Earth. Wilson, a distinguished Harvard biologist and self-proclaimed "scientific humanist," makes this challenging statement: "I am puzzled that so many religious leaders, who spiritually represent a large majority of people around the world, have hesitated to make protection of the Creation an important part of their magisterium. Do they believe that human-centered ethics and preparation for the afterlife are the only things that matter?"

How would you respond to Wilson’s question? Have we unknowingly conveyed an unbiblical message that Emmanuel came to save humans only while leaving the rest of creation that groans for His coming? May the message of Emmanuel and the scope of His redemptive love which includes the whole of creation (or "the environment") embolden us to articulate with grace the message of a robust "Christian environmental ethic."

Center for Bioethics Resource Page on Environmental Ethics