Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bioethics and the Christian World View

Here is my essay for my final in lieu of a final exam . Hopefully it sparks some controversy and we can debate and get other people's views.

Bioethics is the application of ethics to the emerging medical technologies and biological research. It blends law, philosophy, insights from humanity and medicine to bear on the complex interaction of human life, science and technology. Bioethics covers a wide range of topics including abortion, reproductive technologies, genetic intervention, stem cell research, physician-assisted suicide, and end-of-life medical decisions. Christians have very strong views on the topic of bioethics. They base their views on the Biblical teachings of Jesus Christ. The main teaching they apply towards bioethics is the sanctity of life.
Beliefs about sanctity of life lie at the heart of all ethical debates on embryonic stem cell research, abortion, and euthanasia. Christians believe there is no doubt that human life is created at conception. They believe the Bible clearly supports the view that life begins at conception. The Old Testament provides most of the information on God’s view of life before birth, since it gives Christians the law. The law specifically addresses the issue of taking the life of a fetus in the book of Exodus. Exodus 21:22-25 states, “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” This verse says that a man who induces abortion or miscarriage is to be punished, indicating that God values life before birth. Another verse that Christians use to fight for the sanctity of life is Psalm 139 which states, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” For many Christians, this verse is all they need to explain that life starts at conception. God’s knowledge of human life begins when humans are made in the womb. God sees embryos as human life, not just a cluster of dividing cells.
Christian’s stance on abortion started at the very beginning when they were a part of the Roman Empire. The Romans had a very low view of human life and had widespread abortion practices in their empire. Many historians tend to think that poverty and food shortages were the primary reasons for the prevalence of abortion. However, historical data shows that poverty was not the primary cause for high abortion rates among the Romans in the early Christian era. At this time in history, there was little respect and honor for marriage in the Roman lifestyle. With little respect for marriage, many Roman women became involved in adulterous sex and became pregnant. They only way to destroy evidence of their sexual indiscretions was to have an abortion. Another reason for abortions was the Roman desire to be childless. Many Romans desired to be childless and unmarried because they hoped to cash in on their “friend’s” wills.
Euthanasia is the intentional killing of a patient by act or omission as part of their ‘medical treatment’ when the patient’s life is felt not to be worth living. It is currently illegal in all countries but there are strong pressures to make it legal. Christians believe that life is sacred from conception and euthanasia is murder because it involves the killing of human beings. Whether it is human life as a fetus, an infant, or an adult, Christians see God as the creator of all human life, and thus it is God’s exclusive prerogative to end an individual’s life. Genesis 9:6 states, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” Human life is not ‘our property’ but rather belongs to God. Christians believe only God has the right to take life, not doctors or ourselves.
The common foundation of human value and dignity is human nature, not the size, level of development, environment, or functional capacity of human body. Therefore, intentionally ending and thus devaluing the life of a dying patient innately opens the door to the devaluing and possible destruction of any human life. It is not a doctor’s decision or a patient’s decision to end a life. Christians believe that right can only belong to the one who created life, God.
In conclusion, bioethics and Christianity are intertwined. Abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, and reproductive technologies all conflict with the Christian’s view on sanctity of life. Christians believe that life begins from the time of conception and ends only when God decides to take one’s life. It is no one else’s right to take a life whether the life is taken while one is still in the womb or if the person is very old and near death. Humans are created in God’s image and are therefore valued above all other creatures. Abortion and euthanasia run contrary to Christianity’s beliefs and what is found in the Bible. Today, Christians fight valiantly to end these practices all over the world.


  1. "Christians believe there is no doubt that human life is created at conception."

    And therein lies a great obstacle to constructive dialogue: of course there is doubt, continually expressed by conscientious and probing doubters in and out of the field of bioethics. Doubt, not certainty, must be the starting place of all ethical inquiry.

    Indeed, if we all knew for certain what we were to do, there would be no place for ethics of any stripe.

    That said, Michael, as a pluralist I can also say that the field is richer for the struggle to include perspectives like yours. My general complaint is that your perspective leaves little room for mine.

    But let us conclude (though as Wm James asked, "What has concluded that we may conclude in regard to it?") on common ground. "The common foundation of human value and dignity is human nature" - indeed so.

    It is of our nature to disagree, and to grope and stumble towards a livable accommodation of our differences. Still, humility and fallibilism, not certainty, seem to me the better guides to that end.

  2. Just one more thing, Michael. We went through a long harangue in class to establish that there is a distinction between human life and personhood. I know that many dispute that distinction, but I continue to resent the way they simply ignore it.

  3. Dr. Oliver, I know that they tend to ignore it. Although I am a Christian I do not completely believe in most of what Christians believe about abortion, and physician assisted suicide. I am against abortion but only when it's used as a form of birth control. I feel it is ok to get an abortion in cases such as rape, incest, or if the pregnancy is detrimental to the mother or fetus/baby. And on the case of physician assisted suicide, I am completely for it. I mean if the patient is terminally ill and is mentally competent I do not see why they cannot end their life before they become completely dependent on others or when they have no real quality of life.

  4. Christians are taught to spread the word of God and his compassion. We are taught to not judge others but show the love of Christ. we should not force our view upon anyone, yet show them the love and support. there are certain morals that Christianity holds but never should that be forced upon those that don't feel the same way. by excluding those that feel different you are ensuring their belief that all Christians want to control people. perceptions of others without conversation is how we get into these divides. Saint Francis Acici said "may you always preach the gospel, and if you must open your mouth" we need to love each other more than judge each other if we are to truly call ourselves Christians.

  5. I think I can give a qualified "Amen" to putting love ahead of judgment.

    And I can certainly thank all who join me in the often-lonely search for common ground. Let's keep on looking. Life's worth it.