In the past few days, the news of genetically-edited babies produced by a Chinese scientist has gone viral. It has received almost universal denunciation, essentially on the grounds that it is the application of a technology with unpredictable risks, without rigorous assessment, used irresponsibly on human beings, which may lead to devastating results.
Obviously the condemnation is justified. But the criticism will sooner or later disappear, as the technology involved is further enhanced and becomes more mature. The content of people’s criticism shows that they are not against genetically editing babies, but against the fact that it is not carefully regulated.
For Christians, it is inadequate to think only along these lines. In secular ethics, the goal is to seek the “public consensus”, based on the interest of the majority. In Christian ethics, however, we seek a sanctified life. As was stated in Leviticus 19, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”
The following three verses are what God has to say about human life.
First Verse: The Nature of Man
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
To consider the nature of the life of man, we have to go back to where humans began.
In Genesis 1, God created the universe in 6 days. At the end of each day, God affirmed His creation, saying, “God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25) But on the sixth day, God said “it was very good,” because he had created man on that day.
In God’s eyes, why was the creation of man “very good”, better than what were created in the previous five days? (In the eyes of man, the things created in the first five days often seem better than what was created on the sixth day!)
God’s creation on the sixth day is special, because human are created in the image of God.
Although the Bible is not very explicit about what the “image of God” is, there are at least two levels of meanings:
1）Humans have a special relationship with God.
In all of creation, only man is made in the image of God, and a special relation exists between man and God, which is not found in other creatures.
2）Humans reflect some of God’s attributes.
Since humans are made in God’s image, there are naturally some similarities. A person’s essence can reflect certain attributes of God. As the Lord said in Leviticus 19: “Be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” In the Gospel, Jesus also said: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat 5:48)
Humans are not God, and will never be God, but we reflect God’s attributes. Besides showing us the essence of our life, it should direct us in making ethical judgments. Are these scientific experiments (intended to make humanity “perfect”) compatible with the Biblical teaching to “be perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect”?
Second Verse: What is the Origin of Man’s Value?
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)
After the Flood, God commanded Noah not to kill. God’s reasoning was not based on public interest considerations, but on man’s nature. This verse explicitly states that the biggest problem with killing humans is that they have the image of God. In other words, whoever kills is the enemy of the Lord. God sees humans as valuable not because of what they have—external possessions—but because of what they are.
Behind the experiment to genetically edit human embryos, there is a set of criteria that judges human value by what a person has. Screening human genes means screening humans. And very often, “screening” simply means killing—eradicating those who “have no value” according to genetic-screening criteria.
When screening is aimed at those who are already born, it means an extermination (under “racial hygiene laws”) as in Hitler’s genocide. When screening is aimed at those who are in the womb, it means fetal sex identification, and the “Family Planning Policy”. And when screening happens before that–with embryos in IVF labs–it is called “genome editing”.
The concentration camp at Landsberg am Lech, 1944
Third Verse: How to Treat the Smallest Human Beings
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Mat 25:40)
Among today’s assisted reproductive technologies, a “test-tube baby” is the closest thing to a genetically-edited baby. The only difference is what is being screened—genes or babies. “Test-tube baby” (IVF) technology is now quite mature. Let’s talk about the typical IVF process.
Mature eggs and sperms are collected from a couple, and then used for multiple fertilisations in a laboratory. Then, one or more of the fertilized eggs (embryos) are implanted in the woman’s uterus, followed by a period of observation. After the embryos grow, and the parents decide how many they want, the unwanted embryos are destroyed.
In a typical IVF case, there might be 5 embryos that have been fertilized. If the parents want 1 child, then 2 embryos will be implanted. At least 1 of the embryos will be miscarried, or aborted. Then, there will be 3 leftover embryos, which will be frozen in the hospital. And so, there are now many forgotten or abandoned embryos in hospitals.
There are no longer many people who denounce this “safely regulated” technology. But as Christians, who know the Lord of life, there are some things to consider. Some Christians who want their own biological children will choose to employ “test-tube baby” technology to realize their wish. They will only implant one fertilized egg, and will not opt for genetic screening (i.e. ” abortion of fetus with genetic abnormalities”). If their attempt at IVF fails, they will try again.
There are some Christians who put their frozen eggs in the hospital when they were still non-believers. After coming to understand the Bible’s teaching on human life, they do not want to abandon these yet-to-be-born humans. They choose to continue to grow the remaining fertilized eggs.
There are also Christians who do not continue the IVF process, but want to honor the humanity of their embryos. Some people will even have a burial ceremony.
Some other Christians, learning the example set by God, choose to adopt orphans and raise them as their own children. They bring the orphans into their homes, based on a set of values entirely different from people who simply abandon their embryos in the IVF clinic.
Postscript: Pandora’s Box?
After last week’s news story, many people talk about a “Pandora’s Box” that could be opened. But in fact, we shouldn’t be surprised, because there are already so many Pandora’s Boxes that have been opened—and many have never been closed.
In our generation, the greatest cause of death is abortion.
In the past, people abandoned their children after they were born. Today, technology allows the abandonment to be performed during pregnancy. Every year, 50 million healthy fetuses—with no need to be genetically modified, and who are carrying no risks—are directly killed. They are torn into pieces on operating tables, before being incinerated and dumped in landfills as garbage (or tossed in the trash or sewer).
Comparatively speaking, is it really that evil that those Chinese twin girls were genetically edited? If killing a fetus is such a trivial matter, how serious can it be to alter an embryo’s genes?
Conversely, if it is really unethical to experiment on an embryo in a laboratory, how should we assess killing a baby on a hospital operating table?
Given that Christians in China generally keep their mouths shut about abortion, our criticism against genome editing is like a street-sleeper who is given a hotel room, and suddenly starts complaining that it isn’t clean.
If we cannot see the sins that are already happening all around us through the lens of man’s true nature—which is the only way we can build a line of defence for human life—then I’m afraid that people are only shocked about genetically edited babies because it’s the first time they’ve heard about it. If Christians remain silent about abortion now, the next generation of Christians will readily accept genetic editing.
Do you truly value life? Do you really see that man is “made in the image of God”? Confronted by well over 10 million cases of abortion each year, do you want to do something? You’re welcome to join us on WeChat by using the QR Code below.
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