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March 29, 2011

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on

And as often happens when these kinds of global conflicts ensue, it forces to our attention other moral considerations which we may not had previously thought about, unless something like a major European war had broken out. In this case, I'm referring to specifically the issue of surrogate adoption or surrogate motherhood, as the case may be.  An article recently published in Euronews begins, "Ali, a three week old baby boy has never met his biological parents, and is waiting in a bomb shelter in Kiev for someone to come pick him up." And that in and of itself is a bit of a shocking statement Ali, a boy that is three weeks old has never met his biological parents. Immediately, we are confronted with the question, how is it possible that you have a three week old baby boy who has never felt the embrace of his biological mother? And of course the answer to that question is the answer of surrogacy. 

The article continues, "Born to a surrogate mother in Ukraine. He's one of dozens of babies stranded in the capitol as relentless attacks from Russia. Russian forces up end a controversial business in which women bearing life for infertile couples are now trying to escape death. Now, right off the hop, we need to take a moment and define what surrogacy is, the word surrogacy essentially means one who stands in for a another. And when it comes to birthing children, there is a business, a lucrative business which takes place largely in the United States and Ukraine, but in many other countries around the world, in which couples who are experiencing infertility will search out a contractual relationship with a young woman who is of child bearing age, who will then bear that child on their behalf.

Now, how is such a thing possible? As Christians, we need to step back and we need to recognize that this kind of technology simply did not exist as recently as just a few decades ago. But we are now living in a day and age in which there are a number of reproductive technologies assisted reproductive technologies, which exist, which makes something such as surrogate motherhood or surrogate birthing possible. Now as Christians, we need to step back and ask the question, is this moral Does this meet with God's approval, and as we look at this issue, we need to recognize that there is an awful lot that is involved in this that should give Christians cause for rejoicing and for celebrating, but at the same time, there are things involved with assisted reproductive technologies that should give Christians great pause. Indeed, some of these things should meet with the Christians disapproval. All of it comes from the moral corruption that inevitably ensues when blessings are divided. For example, God will give to us the blessing of marriage. And with that blessing of marriage comes a follow on or subsequent blessing, such as having children. In our day and age, we live in a society in which we are constantly trying to divide blessings as God has given them. And as God has intended them, we are constantly trying to divide blessings from one another, for example, we have young people today who wants to experience the joy and the pleasure of sex, but they don't want the commitment, or the lasting obligation of marriage. And so now we've understood that sex is possible and even preferable beyond and outside of the bonds of a marital relationship. This doesn't just extend to marriage, it extends to all manner of things. Now apart from marriage is a moral complication which we must face in our day and age. Now, as we look at these issues as Christians, we need to step back and we need to be reminded of the fact that there is a degree of moral complexity here, which we must sort through, we need to think critically about what it is that God intends for us.

We need to think critically about how we should seek to receive those blessings from God. And we also need to worry about the tendency which happens nearly all the time in which people are pursuing the blessings that God intends for them to have and yet those blessings begin to take on a significance that is ungodly. Just consider for a moment, the reality of wanting to have children, every married couple should want to have children. Indeed, the Bible says that children are a gift from the Lord. The Bible encourages having children.

And so the desire to have children is a godly desire. We should want to have children, every couple, every married couple should desire to have a child there is absolutely nothing wrong with having children. And we would go further and say that the scripture casts a lot of doubt on anyone who would want to be married and yet not want to have children. There is something morally questionable about that. But within the pursuit of having children, we understand that there are undoubtedly many married couples who experience infertility. And as Christians thinking biblically about this, when we see how often and how regularly the scriptures ENCOURAGE children and for married couples to pursue having children, we must grieve with those who are experiencing infertility. Now, of course, infertility is the ability of a couple to conceive or to bear children. And it's usually owing to a lack of some normal biological function, either in the man's or the woman's reproductive systems. And so as we grieve with these individuals, their infertility their inability to conceive children through the normal or natural process through which God intended.

We also can rejoice that with the advent and the grace of modern technology, there are certain technological medical benefits available to us today, which can help people to overcome the curse of infertility that the sting of infertility the the inability biologically to conceive which must naturally be the result of the curse, the result of the fall, I should clarify and say that when I, when I use the term the curse of infertility, I don't mean to suggest that somehow individuals are deserving of not being capable of having children. Rather, what I'm saying is simply that the curse broadly speaking, the curse of the fall, which all humanity suffers under that curse, as we live in this broken and fallen world, sometimes flicks some couples in certain ways in which other couples do not experience this same affliction. And when I speak of the curse of infertility, I am not meaning to intend that the couple who is experiencing infertility is somehow deserving of it beyond another couple who happens to have children. Rather, I'm merely speaking in terms of the category of the fact that we live in a fallen world and as a result of living in a fallen world. Some couples will experience infertility, the curse of infertility, which is the overflow of the curse of all humanity as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Now, infertility has been a source a source of deep sorrow for both men and women, but especially for women, for all of human history. As we can see from the earliest chapters of the Bible, women have grieved the inability to conceive and bear children. Sarah was unable to bear children to Abraham for most of her life until she miraculously bore Isaac and her older age. Jacob's wife Rachel was unable to bear children for a long time after her marriage to Jacob as was Samson's mother, the wife of Minoa. Hannah, the mother of Samuel cried out to the Lord in deep sorrow because of her infertility.

And in the New Testament, we find Zechariah and Elizabeth, as we read in Luke chapter one that they had no child quote, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years and quote, however, again, we see God's miraculous intervention, Elizabeth eventually gives birth to John the Baptist. These narrative examples show that overcoming infertility is indeed something that pleases God. And it's often a manifestation of His blessing on a couple that they are in time with His grace able to overcome infertility.

In addition, there are some general passages that show God's great blessing when he gives children to women who had previously been barren. We see these expressions throughout the Scripture. For example, just consider Psalm 113 And verse nine. It says he gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children Oh, praise the Lord, or again in Exodus chapter 23, verse 26, there's a promise from God if they would be faithful if Israel would be faithful to follow His covenant commands. There is the statement quote, none shall miscarry or be buried in your land and I will fulfill the number of your days what a what an incredible promise or a When we read in Deuteronomy chapter seven, God speaking to his people, you shall be blessed above all peoples, there shall not be male or female barren among you, or even among your livestock. There the promises extended beyond humanity to the animals that goes beyond just the people of Israel, the chosen people of God to the actual animals that they would care for.

We see this over and over and over again. And so when we encounter a married couple, who is infertile, or is in some way and capable of bearing children, we should grieve with them. God in His wisdom shows compassion, and he has an awareness of the deep grief of childlessness. In several passages. We read of the story of Rachel in Genesis 30, in verse one, in which Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, and she envied her sister. And she said to Jacob, give me children, or I shall die. And we recount there in that particular passage that God had compassion on Rachel, and blessed her with children, or again, when we consider the account of Hannah, in First Samuel, Hannah, but to Hannah, her husband gave her a double portion because he loved her though the Lord had closed her womb. And her rivals, the other wives used to provoke her grievously, in order to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. And so it went on year by year, the Scripture tells us, as often as Hannah went up to the House of Lords, she was provoked, and therefore Hannah wept, and she would not eat, and Elkanah who is her husband, said to her, Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than 10 sons Elkanah is trying to encourage his wife, Hannah, and he does so in the ways in which she is able rather feeble attempts. Of course, she loves her husband, but she is longing, deeply longing and yearning for a child. And we read in this account that God heard her prayer. And God answered that request by giving her a child. And so over and over again, we see within the scriptures, this compassion from the Lord, for those individuals who were childless. And as Christians, we should feel deep compassion, and a deep sorrow, we should grieve with those who struggle to have children.

With that in mind, as we consider reproductive technologies, we need to understand that this is a little bit of the Wild West. Modern medicine is, in general, a moral good, it is morally good, generally speaking, Modern medicine has been used overcome many, many diseases and disabilities today. And so we should view this as a good thing. And as something for which we can give thanks to God. God has put resources on the earth for us to discover and to develop, including resources that are useful for medicinal purposes. And he has given us the wisdom and the desire in order to do this. And so as we look at modern medicine, we therefore need to understand that it is morally right to support and welcome advances in modern medicine, that today can bring health to people with various diseases and disabilities, and this would include infertility.

And so while we can give thanks for modern technologies, that can help us overcome infertility, we also must be cautious in that our pursuit of a child does not become the pursuit of a good separated from the goodness of God, in other words, to turn the desire for children into an idol. And, and so as we look at that, we need to understand that children should not take the place of our creator in terms of where our ultimate affections and where our worship needs to be oriented.

And so, as we look at then this category of assisted reproductive technologies, then we need to understand that there will be some technologies that are morally acceptable, and at the same time, as we look closely at the process of conception and how God intended it, we will discover other reproductive technologies that are morally unacceptable, like to start first off by discussing morally acceptable reproductive technologies. A general category for various medical methods again, to help people have children is called assisted reproductive technology and so on. Want to consider some specific kinds of modern assisted reproductive technology. However, a word of caution again in order medical technology in this area is developing at such an incredible speed. And it's impossible to predict what new technologies or what new procedures might be available in the next several years. So other evangelical ethicists have analyzed reproductive technologies in far greater detail than what I'm going to be able to do in this podcast today. And so I hope you'll read more broadly and consider more carefully beyond just what I talked about today.

However, at the same time, I also hope that the individual topics that I might discuss today will provide at least a pattern of ethical reasoning that listeners to the observer might find useful in evaluating future technologies, and future medical procedures, three conclusions, which we need to bear in mind three three guiding principles which we need to bear in mind,

  1. Modern medicine is generally morally good.
  2. The unborn child is indeed a human person from the moment of conception. However, the pursuit of being pregnant the pursuit of having a child must be a careful one because we do not want the pursuit of a child to take on an idolatrous position in our lives. So that's the second one that's an that's a moral doozy right there, we should treat the unborn child as a human person from the moment of conception. However, the pursuit of conception should not be idolatrous.
  3. And then number three, God intends that a child should be conceived and born to a man and a woman who are married to each other.

Now, these are the three principles that I think will give us a useful perspective from which we can look at the issues involved with reproductive technologies. The first issue the first one is artificial insemination. And this is a medical technique in which the wife is artificially inseminated by her husband. And it uses it uses material from the husband. But it is assisted through a delicate process of artificial insemination. And it simply enables a wife to become pregnant by her own husband's sperm, when for some reason, it's physically impossible or physically unlikely for this to happen through the more normal or ordinary sexual process. And that's we would look at that artificial insemination as a wonderful us technological assistance to conception, that would be morally acceptable for a husband and wife to pursue.

The second technology would be in vitro fertilization. In Vitro Fertilization IVF is the process of joining together a woman's egg and her husband's sperm in a laboratory, rather than inside of the woman's body, Latin phrase in vitro means in glass. And so the idea of doing this in vitro is to say that it's been done in a test tube, evangelical Christians differ on the moral acceptability of this procedure. My own position is that in principle, there should be no moral objection to in vitro fertilization, at least as far as scriptural standards are concerned. So long as and here's the important qualification, so long as no human embryos are destroyed in the process, or so long as there are not a surplus of human embryos that are then stored in cold storage long term.

Now, that would make the process of in vitro fertilization incredibly expensive. One of the methods that doctors and medical institutions use in order to try to bring down the cost of in vitro fertilization is the fact that they will try to establish as many embryos as possible they will hold these embryos, then in long term storage frozen, and then when it comes time to artificially inseminate the wife, they will then try to implant several different embryos in order to increase the chances of pregnancy. I don't believe that those in those that that whole process is morally acceptable in God's eyes. I do think that there is in terms of the in vitro process for a singular embryo to be implanted into a wife. I do think that there is no scriptural objection to that. I think that that is a moral, a moral good, and one in which Christians could take advantage of it, if they needed to.

And so this brings us then to what we need to look at more closely now, which is modern reproductive techniques. which are morally unacceptable. The same three moral principles listed above would lead us to conclude that in vitro fertilization with selective reduction would be in God's eyes morally unacceptable. Again, in many uses of the in vitro fertilization, many numerous eggs are fertilized, and then the doctor chooses the one or possibly two embryos that he thinks are most likely to survive. The doctor chooses the two embryos that he thinks have the greatest likelihood of success. And the doctor implants those embryos into the woman's womb, and then destroys the others. Now, I think that is clearly sinful according to God's word. This is the destruction of human life. And as a result, we as Christians should not consider it to be morally acceptable.

This process of in vitro fertilization with selective reduction is often accompanied by Pre–Implantation Genetic Diagnosis, or PGD. What is PGD? Well, this is the most commonly used genetic screening process for diseases in the embryo. And this is done around five to seven days after fertilization one cell or sometimes two is removed from the embryo that has been conceived by in vitro fertilization prior to implanting the embryo into the mother. Since this cell is like all others in the child's body, it contains the entire genetic complement of that individual. And just as any living person can be genetically tested using a cell from that person, well, so this cell from the embryo can be tested prior to the embryos implantation, and therefore, they can screen for a wide range of diseases or potential genetic complications. And they'll present this data to the prospect of parents in order so that the prospect of parents can make a decision on whether or not they want to go ahead and implant the embryo based upon its genetic makeup. This is morally unacceptable. This is this is murder. This is murder on the basis of genetic discrimination. This procedure leads to the destruction of the embryos that are not implanted, which again, is the destruction, the murder of God's people the murder of little children who are created in His image and therefore, as Christians, we should be horrified that this takes place and we should not consider it morally acceptable whatsoever. In addition, this procedure can easily be adapted to promote a form of eugenics, which again, is this idea of screening embryos on the basis or the belief that there are only certain types of genetic compositions within individuals that are desirable or acceptable or should be allowed to live. similarities to the theories of the American eugenics movement of the early early 20th century should the resurfacing of these ideas should give us cause for serious concern.

Similar to in vitro fertilization with selective reduction is IVF, with multi fetal pregnancy reduction. In this case, several fertilized eggs are implanted in a woman's womb and after a period of time, the one or two unborn children that look the strongest and the healthiest are allowed to survive while the others are destroyed. This too, is a form of abortion.

And then there's artificial insemination by donor artists artificial insemination by donor. This is when this happens. What it is, is it's a sperm of a man who is not intending to be the husband, and he provides his sperm in order to impregnate a young woman who is desiring to have children but seeks to do so without being married. Now, some ethicists believe this is morally acceptable in certain cases, but as a Christian and as individuals who understand that the blessing of children is never intended to be to be separated or divided from the blessing of marriage. We cannot accept artificial insemination by donor this oversteps the boundaries of the pattern, which God established in Scripture, which always seeks to guarantee that a child would be born into a family born specifically to a man and a woman born to a father and a mother who are married to each other. But in this particular case, artificial insemination by donor. This leads to conception by a man and a woman who are not married to each other, who may never have even met each other. And this is clearly wrong. Again, when we understand that when we understand that these pregnant, these reproductive technologies exist, while we should celebrate certain aspects of these technologies, We need to be cautious and understand that other aspects of these technologies are violations of God's moral order.

This brings us last of all to surrogate motherhood. This is when you have a couple who are capable who are incapable of bearing children. And they search out they seek out the services of a young woman who is of child birthing age, in order to have this woman enter into a contract with them in order to bear their child. So this woman would therefore be artificially inseminated with an embryo that was brought about conceived by the genetic material of a biological father and a biological mother. And then this woman would bear that child to gestation and this arrangement would involve money an exchange of money from the couples seeking the child to the woman who is bearing the child. Now this arrangement, again violates God's intention that children should be conceived to a man and a woman who are to be married to each other. In addition, there are numerous likely emotional components of this arrangement that must be given serious consideration. It's likely that the personal intimacy involved in carrying and bearing a child will be so deep that the process of surrogate motherhood runs the danger of putting a nearly intolerable strain on the marriage, the husband and wife are including a third person into their marriage relationship. And the husband, the husband and the wife are trying to bring a child from someone else into their home to be their child. And the surrogate mother during the period of carrying the child will likely feel a strong emotional attachment to the child that she is bearing and the deep bond that inevitably develops, this bond will be broken only with much heartache. And we've seen in multiple headlines. That what started off as a business arrangement quickly descended into a horrific, horrific and catastrophic legal battle, as surrogate mothers are fighting in order to hold on to these babies that they no longer wish to give over to the biological parents. But as we recall, a child once conceived, is indeed a child. It is a person created in the image of God, and that conceived person deserves to be loved.

And this brings us back to modern reproductive technology, that is a moral good, and that is the ability to adopt an embryo. Again, often during the process of in vitro fertilization, more of a woman's eggs are fertilized in the laboratory, then are implanted into her womb. And, as we've previously noted, instead of destroying these embryos, some couples decide to freeze them in case they decide to have more children later or for other reasons.

As of 2015, it was estimated that there are more than 1 million frozen embryos and storage in the United States alone. Many of them will never be claimed or used by the original parents. And this all leads us to the question what should be done with these embryos. If we consider these frozen embryos as orphans who have been abandoned by their parents, then it is clearly morally right for Christian couples to adopt those frozen embryos, to bring them to birth, and to raise them in their own families as their own adopted children. In fact, God may bring much blessing to those who adopt and raise these embryos as their own children, as we read in James chapter one, religion that is pure and undefiled. Before God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

As we reflect, last of all, on these babies, these 19 Baby children that are right now hostage in Kiev as a result of the Russian invasion, who are waiting to be reunited with their biological mother and father, we come to again, the moral complexity of this issue. These are children, they are now born. And although there is great wrong that has been done by using surrogate mothers, although we can look at all these reproductive technologies, and we can evaluate them and we see clearly in the case of surrogate motherhood that it is wrong because it divides the birthing of children from from marriage, we still see these children, these babies that are now in an orphanage in Kiev, and our heart grieves for those children. We may disagree with the manner in which they were conceived and how they were brought into this world. Nevertheless, they are they are Children are created in the image of God. And they need to be loved. They need to be taken into a home they need to be provided for, cared for, and nurtured. And so while we disagree with the surrogate mother, surrogate mother business in Ukraine, we should still pray that the parents of these babies who have been born in this way would be sped into Ukraine provided safe access that they could rescue their children.

Now, I would invite you to pray with me to that end, there is a lot going on in the world that deserves careful moral consideration. And as regards assisted reproductive technology, there is some of it that is good for which we can give thanks to God and there is much of it that is bad that seeks to divide blessings that God never intended to be divided. In all of these things. We should continue to pray come quickly. Lord Jesus, come quickly. And we should pray. May these parents of these children, be reunited.

Tags: god, children, marriage, christians, wife, moral, woman, couple, ukraine, conceived, infertility, implanted, birthing, embryos, in vitro fertilization, frozen embryos, artificial insemination, reproductive technologies