21 August 2012
13 For you formed my inmost parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16 (ESV)
A certain word in the dictionary is defined as “something useful that can be turned to commercial or other advantage.” Asked to guess the word, most people would likely suggest something like “commodity,” “asset,” or “capital.” In the brave new world of reproductive technologies, however, that definition is coming frighteningly close to defining the word “human.” Creation implies control. If scientists and researchers convince themselves they are sovereign over when and how human beings are made, it will not be long before they also believe they are sovereign over how those people are “put to use.”
David, the psalmist, sang beautifully of God’s intimate and inexhaustible knowledge of him. His words (v. 4), his daily routines and habits (v. 3), his secret thoughts (v. 2), and his lifespan (v. 16) were known before the Lord. God’s hand would continue to guide him no matter where he went in the world (v. 7-10). Even the blackest night would be as daylight to God’s watchful eyes (vv. 11-12). The Lord’s superintending care extended to David even before his birth. While he was yet in his mother’s womb, God “knit him together,” intricately weaving his “unformed substance” into a human body and carefully arranging the days of his life before a single one of them happened. David marveled at the intimate, personal care God exercised over him—even in his pre-natal life.
Assisted reproductive technologies tempt people to see children as technological projects to be pursued rather than gracious gifts to be received. With in vitro fertilization (IVF), for example, doctors harvest and fertilize several eggs, subjecting the embryos to a strict selection process to determine which ones they will transfer to the uterus. Those rejected are either used for research, stored in frozen nitrogen, or destroyed. In a typical procedure, doctors implant two to four embryos, hoping one of them will develop normally. If more than one begins to grow, they ask the parents to consider “selective fetal reduction”—a euphemism for aborting one or more of the babies.1
Questions about the beginning of life and the ethics of reproductive technologies are far from academic. They puzzle thousands of couples, and any pastor who is rightly involved in the lives of his people will face these questions often. Glib answers will not do.
A couple traumatized over infertility may well jump at any technology which promises them a healthy baby and an end to their pain. They should also know that there are alternatives to procedures which involve destroying embryos. Finally, they need the assurance that, despite their infertility, God is a loving Father who sees and knows their lives, just as He knew David’s life. God loves His children and is not indifferent to their pain. After all, the same psalmist who wrote of God’s omniscient care was buoyed by the experience of God’s gracious presence, even when he walked through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4).
Edwin C. Hui, At the Beginning of Life (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 192-193. Also Agneta Sutton, “Revisiting Reproductive Technology’s Slippery Slope in the Light of the Concepts of Imago Dei, Co-Creation, and Stewardship,” Ethics and Medicine 18.3 (Fall 2002): 145-154.
article adapted from Kairos Journal
First Baptist Church of Perryville is located one and a half miles east of Rt. 222.