Bible was written long before mankind devised genetic engineering,
in vitro fertilization and organ donation. Yet God knew that
dilemmas of conscience would arise because of these things,
and although they are not directly discussed in the Bible, he
has given us the moral principles on which to base our judgements.
In Bible times, medicine was shrouded in superstition with
little knowledge of anatomy, physiology and microbiology.
the last 100 years or so, there was little change in medical
technology. It is only in recent years that we have had so
much choice about the nature of treatment and the option for
medical intervention for everything from cosmetic surgery
contraception to life-saving surgery.
Some people today hold the view that all sickness can be overcome
by prayer without the need for conventional medicine.
This belief can extend to denying medical or surgical intervention
to oneself and even one’s children.
There is no doubt God can choose to heal miraculously. In
James’ day, without miraculous intervention from God,
was often not much anyone could do to heal the sick.
1. Is James saying that prayer should replace medical intervention,
or supplement it?
2. Does prayer always lead to healing?
3. Is prayer for the sick now obsolete because we are capable
of treating many conditions medically or surgically today?
4. To what extent can medical intervention be permitted free
rein? Are there limits to what should be permitted?
5. What should our attitude be toward our bodies in the context
of medical intervention? (See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
There is only the space to explore a few issues here. This
brief discussion is not meant to suggest that any of these
simple, nor that the same answer applies in every case.
Elective abortion is the deliberate termination of a pregnancy.
There are many reasons why a woman might have an abortion
and each requires consideration in its own right.
God sees a person in all his potential before he is born; his
whole life is laid out before him. The decision to cut off that individual from any hope of knowing God and experiencing life
must not be taken lightly. The sixth of the ten commandments is “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
It is an awful tragedy that so many couples are desperate to adopt children, yet in the same hospitals in which hopeful couples queue for infertility treatments, babies are being aborted every day.
See Psalm 139:1-16. If God knows us individually before birth, does this mean each of us is a unique individual before birth?
If so, when does this unique existence begin?
Discuss the scriptural principles and practical implications
of each of the following. In each case, could abortion be
justified? What sort of support could/should be offered to
a couple or mother facing this decision?
1. Continuation of the pregnancy will result in death or serious
illness for the mother.
2. Tests show the baby has a deformity or disease which will
be severely debilitating or fatal after birth.
3. The mother is underage.
4. The mother is in an unsuitable family situation.
5. The pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
6. The baby would interfere with the mother’s career
or she does not yet feel ready for the responsibility.
Many infertile couples seek medical assistance to have a baby.
This can range from hormonal and other non-invasive treatments
to enhance fertility, through techniques such as IVF, to
donor sperm and eggs and even surrogacy.
Surrogacy is when one woman carries a baby on behalf of another
woman. A form of surrogacy was practised in biblical
times. Abraham’s wife Sarah gave him her maidservant
concubine in order to have children “through her” (Genesis 16:1-4). God permitted men to have more than one wife in Old
Testament times, but this was never ideal (Matthew 19:4-5).
To have sexual relations with someone other than your spouse
in order to have children would be adultery.
Concubine: a secondary or inferior wife, often a slave.
One form of assisted conception is in vitro fertilization
or IVF. This involves taking the eggs and sperm of a couple
and allowing fertilization to occur in the laboratory. (“In
vitro” means “in glass”; that is, in a test
tube). The embryo(s) are then implanted back into the mother
and the pregnancy continues in the normal way.
1. Would it be acceptable to use donor sperm or eggs in order
to conceive a child?
2. Would IVF be acceptable if the eggs and sperm used were
from a married couple?
3. Usually many embryos are produced but they are not all
implanted at once. Unused embryos are frozen for later use,
almost all of which are eventually destroyed. Is this creating
and destroying life? Is it wrong?
Blood transfusions are given in cases of life-threatening
blood loss. The transfused blood supplements the patient’s
blood until the patient’s body replaces what was lost.
To refuse a transfusion can result in the patient’s
These procedures were unknown in biblical times, yet some
people today are vehemently opposed to them. They cite the
prohibition against eating blood:
But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is
the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat.
This prohibition was first given to Noah after the flood. Genesis 9:4 It was
repeated in the law of Moses and in the requirements on Gentile
believers in the New Testament. Acts 15:29
1. Is blood transfusion the same thing as eating blood?
2. What reason did God give for prohibiting eating blood?
3. Is it appropriate to give blood to save the life of another
4. Are we still prohibited from eating blood?
5. What was wrong with eating “the life”?
Organ donation may be used to save the recipient’s life.
Some organs such as bone marrow or a kidney may be removed
while the donor is still alive. Others such as hearts, lungs,
corneas and livers are removed after death, in which case
the recipient’s life is saved as a direct result of
the death of another.
Some people feel that the body of a deceased person should
not be desecrated by organ removal.
1. Is there a scriptural precedent for this?
2. Is the power of God to raise our bodies from the dead and
restore them to life limited
by their state of decay or the absence of parts? (See Ecclesiastes
9:5-6, Genesis 3:19;
3. Would organ donation from an animal be acceptable to God?
Genetic engineering is a broad issue. It covers a range of
practices from selective breeding of crops and animals to
manipulation of the genetic code. Some benefits to mankind
include better crop and livestock production, control of major
insect pests and diseases, and the cure or prevention of many
deformities and diseases.
However, few things that mankind has devised have been wholly
good; there is often a “down side” to new technology.
is difficult to believe that genetic engineering of humans
would be done solely for the benefit of the sick with no element
pride, covetousness or greed. The only true improvement to
human make-up will occur at the return of Jesus when his
faithful followers are made immortal and sinless.. 1 Corinthians
1. Your child is born a haemophiliac. By implanting genetically
modified cells into the child, the body can manufacture the
blood clotting agent required. Then your child could live
a normal life and stop having frequent blood transfusions.
Would this genetic modification be wrong?
2. Is it moral and scripturally permissible to alter a person’s
genetic make-up for any reason?
3. Is it acceptable to alter the genetic make-up of any aspect
of God’s creation?
God creates and sustains life:
|Genesis 2:7; Job 12:10; Psalm 104:29-30; Ezekiel 18:4; Acts 17:25.
Do not kill:
|Genesis 9:6; Exodus 20:13; Leviticus 24:21; Matthew 19:17-18.
The unborn child:
|Psalm 119:73; 139:15-16; Isaiah 49:5; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41.
|Genesis 16:1-4; 30:3,9; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 7:2; Ephesians 5:3; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8; 22:15.
Blood and life:
|Genesis 9:4-6; Leviticus 17:11-12; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:20,29.
Sickness and healing:
|2 Chronicles 16:12; Isaiah 38:1-5; Mark 1:32-34; 5:34; Luke 5:31; John 11:4; 1 Corinthians 11:30; Colossians 4:14; 1 Timothy 5:23; James 5:14-15.
1. Suppose your father has been in a major car accident and
is on a life-support system in critical condition in hospital.
The doctors say there is little chance of him recovering consciousness.
They ask you whether you wish to turn off the life-support
(a) Would it be wrong to agree to turn off the life-support
(b) Suppose the doctors had said he would probably regain
consciousness, but would have no ability to communicate. Would
that change your decision?
2. How far should a Christian married couple go in seeking
assistance to conceive a child? Can you justify your opinion
from the Bible?
3. In Bible times, people sometimes treated each other with
great brutality-when it came to conquering cities or exacting
revenge, children were not pitied any more than adults. God
himself ordered the destruction of entire communities. How
can you reconcile this view with the image portrayed in Psalm
139 of a loving God who takes a personal interest in each
4. Is it appropriate for a Christian to take a career in medicine?
What about biotechnology such as genetic engineering?
1. What should be a Christian’s attitude toward:
(a) their own illnesses?
(b) others’ illnesses?
What practical assistance should we give to those who are sick?
Find examples and instructions in the Bible.
2. Are any or all forms of contraception acceptable? Are there
some forms of contraception which actually cause a very early
abortion? Are there any scriptural precedents for or against
contraception? (Start by looking at Genesis 38:8-10.)
3. Find some examples in the Bible of childless couples. Was
childlessness viewed any differently in Bible times than
now? What can we learn from their approach to this dilemma?
• Life and death decisions by Orr, Schiedermayer and Biebel
(published by NavPress, 1990). An excellent and thoughtprovoking
book exploring many medical issues.
• Wrested scriptures by Ron Abel (published by The Christadelphians,
Pasadena). Pages 66-67 discusses blood
20. Sexual morality