by Craig Branch –
Veritas (Introduction to Areopagus Journal Vol. 3 No. 1, January-February 2003)
This is the first issue of Areopagus Journal for 2003 and it is the inaugural issue of our new format. We made some changes. Rather than a quarterly journal, we are now a bimonthly journal. Your subscription brings six issues rather than four. We still have a four-color cover, but have reduced the number of pages per issue and are using only two colors on the inside. We will now have more frequent contact with our readers and be able to respond to issues more quickly. Enjoy and be stretched.
In this first issue of 2003, I return to my commentary in our very first Areopagus Journal of 2001 where I wrote, “The Apologetics Resource Center is involved in the process of understanding the times and the alien philosophies opposed to God’s truth as well as understanding and effecting the antidote of both knowing God’s truth and being God’s truth in our home, neighborhood, and culture.” We individually, and the church collectively, have a responsibility, as salt- and light-bearers in the world, to provide an apologetic on issues like homosexuality, euthanasia, pornography, capital punishment, reproductive technology, genetic engineering, alternative (new age) “medicine,” gambling, social justice, the church and politics, the sexual revolution, relativism, and economics.
As John Seel observed in the Evangelical Forfeit: Can We Recover, “American evangelicals face growing spiritual and cultural trouble. We have forfeited our influence within American society and are on the verge of forfeiting the vestiges of our biblical identity. . . . Ineffective evangelism, a search for identity, playing the victim, a call to arms, withdrawal from engagement, a crisis of leadership—today America’s first and once dominant faith community faces serious challenges.”1 Noted Christian philosopher William Lane Craig adds, “The results of being in intellectual neutral extend far beyond oneself. If Christian laymen don’t become intellectually engaged, then we are in serious danger of losing our children.”2
Chuck Colson rightly concludes that we live in a culture in “which the most profound moral dilemmas are addressed by the cold logic of utilitarianism,” and thus “a slide into barbarism. . . .If our culture is to be transformed, it will happen from ordinary believers practicing apologetics over the backyard fence.”3
A sign of this individual and collective cultural rebellion against God is dramatically displayed in the subjects of this issue of Areopagus Journal: Genetic Engineering and Human Cloning. The theme, “Nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them,” is taken from Genesis 11:6 and the Tower of Babel event. In this passage, we see the first public declaration of humanism in that the people said let us make an autonomous, unified name for ourselves in order to achieve social stability (11:4). Man, then as now, sought independence from God and wanted to elevate himself as God. Without this assault being checked, there would have been no end to the ambitions of men to become complete masters of all creation and their own perceived well-being. God mercifully intervened back then to prevent a self-destructive course, and we pray that he will intervene again.
We know we are called to be truth-bearers and salt and light. We are called to give an answer to those who again seek to build a tower “whose top will reach into heaven.” In 1932, Aldous Huxley wrote Brave New World. In it, he satirically pretended that universal human happiness had been achieved with the control of reproduction, genetic engineering, and utilitarian control by the state. He saw that state control, using technology and the enthronement of science, destroyed human values, dignity, and morality. Could this “Brave New World” be right around the corner? In February 1997, Dolly, the first successful cloning of a mammal, occurred. In November 2001, American researchers claimed to have produced the first cloned human embryos, which died after a six-cell stage. And now a bizarre UFO cult, the Raelians, claim to have produced a cloned baby, although no verifiable proof has been forthcoming.
On November 28, 2001, President George W. Bush created a Council on Bioethics headed by a respected and distinguished bioethicist, Leon Kass. The entire panel recommended a ban on “cloning to produce children,” and the majority called for a “four year moratorium on cloning for biomedical research,” while indicating a need for a thorough federal review of practices and issues involving research-type cloning.4 A four-year moratorium does not stop the issue of research clonings, it only forestalls it. And the recommendation, if acted upon by Congress, only involves federal funding, allowing private practitioners to proceed in private business enterprises.
Cloning, stem cell research, and genetic engineering all raise the issues of identity, individuality, the meaning of having children, the relationship between science and society, the manipulation of some humans for the benefit (perhaps) of others, and whether society can or should exercise ethical and prudential control over biomedical technology. Some argue that cloning to produce children could allow infertile couples to have genetically related children. It could permit couples at risk of conceiving a child with some genetic disease to avoid having an afflicted child. Stem cell research and genetic engineering could help defeat terminal illnesses and debilitating diseases. Indeed, Daniel Perry estimates that 12.5 million suffer from diseases and disorders that might be aided by stem cell and genetic engineering research.5 But at what cost?
Atheist magazine Free Inquiry devoted its Winter 2002-2003 edition to “Defending Cloning and Stem Cell Research Against Faith-Based Curbs.” In it, Professor David Tuggle at SUNY concludes, “the only arguments that can be advanced against research cloning are blatantly ideological. One extreme position holds that all embryonic stem cell research or use involves the destruction of human life, and thus must be banned because it sacrifices one individual for the sake of the treatment of another individual’s disease. Clearly, such a position would also ban abortion under any circumstance including rape or incest.”6
Another contributor is clear as to the philosophical basis and outcome of cloning. He writes, “Cloning does not threaten the balance of life but our perception of its sacredness. In fact, cloning dictates the overthrowing of our faith. . . .Cloning scares us because it is proof positive of this grip we have over the planet. Cloning is nothing but undisputed proof of both our omnipotence and God’s absence. . .that nothing is potentially inaccessible to us. . . .The cloning debate crystallizes this tremendous fear we have of finding ourselves sole masters of our destiny.”7
And God said, “And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible to them.” (Gen. 11:6). But let us confuse their language. Let us become equipped as God’s agents to demonstrate the problems with their positions and the inevitable slippery slope that will lie ahead. We offer two articles setting forth the issues and the fatal consequences of pursing this course. The first is “Genetic Engineering: Benefits and Dangers” by Mark Foreman, who teaches Philosophy of Religion at Liberty University. He strikes the balance of our cultural mandate to utilize research and technology to reverse the effects of the Fall, but he does so within the boundaries of the ethical limits proscribed in Scripture.
The second, “To Clone or Not to Clone?” is written by my friend, bioethicist Donal O’Mathuna, and medical doctor Walter Larimore. They describe the issues, the processes, and the moral and physical consequences of such endeavors.
Let us not be guilty of the charge of the great Anglican theologian Alister McGrath: “The ‘scandal of the evangelical mind’. . .lies in the fact that, in the recent past [and now], evangelicals have failed to allow their faith to shape their understanding of the world.”8AJ
Craig Branch is Director of the Apologetics Resource Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
1 John Seel, The Evangelical Forfeit: Can We Recover (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 11, 13.
2 William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), xv.
3 Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Should We Live? (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1999), x.
4 See this report at http://www.bioethics.gov/cloningreport/fullreport.html.
5 Daniel Perry, Science 286 (nov. 12, 1999): 1423.
6 David Tuggle, “Everybody Must Get Cloned: Ideological Objections Do Not Hold Up,” Free Inquiry 23:1 (Winter 2003): 33.
7 Olliver Dyens, “Cloning,” Free Inquiry 23:1 (Winter 2003): 39.
8 Alister McGrath, A Passion for Truth (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1996), 243.