Evangelicals & Life

There is no more important issue that confronts our society than life. When does it begin? When should it end and under what conditions? Who has the final say? These and other questions are amongst some of the most fundamental questions human will ever have to wrestle. Life is not like a movie where when things do not happen the director likes he can call “cut” and redo the scene. Instead, the Bible says, ” And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” (Hebrew 9:27) There are two fundamental worldviews concerning mankind’s entry into time and space. The pro-life position and the pro-choice position. I use the term “pro-choice” because that is the self-designation those who constitute this position prefer but I strongly believe the accurate designation to be “pro-abortion” but that is not my argument in this article. While Evangelicals make up a good number of those in the pro-life camp it is not necessarily limited to only Evangelicals. In fact, I listened to a recent debate on the Unbelievable Podcast where a humanist was the pro-life advocate while someone who claimed to be Christian advocated for the pro-choice worldview. We have really jumped the shark when a non-theist argues a more biblical position than a professing Christian but again that is not my thesis in this blog post. Let me get to my thesis before I drift too afar and lose my audience. My thesis is Evangelicals need to be very careful in their critical thinking concerning their theology regarding life. I submit for the reader’s consideration that artificial interjections in the area of procreation are anti-Biblical and anti-God. The artificial injections in consideration are In Vitro Fertization (IVF) and the birth control pill (I will not address other than in passing concern the question of birth control. Lord willing, I will address that issue in more detail in a future blog post). I repeatedly see Evangelicals employing bad terminology and faulty and inconsistent logic when they attempt to engage others in dialogue concerning life. A couple of weeks a fellow Evangelical was engaging in dialogue with someone and responded, “The Bible says do not kill.” The other party responded in criticism pointing out that soldiers and policeman would never be able to perform their duties based on that declaration. If Evangelicals are to be effective in proclaiming God’s truth in the marketplace of ideas then we have to be precise in our language. The Bible does not forbid “killing,” it forbids murder. There is a profound and substantial difference. Murder is the unlawful taking of a human life. There is nothing inherently wrong or immoral with killing. We would never charge a lion with murder when the lion hunts and devours a deer for supper. Equally, we do not charge a policeman with murder when he justly takes the life of a person committing a criminal act. Nor would we charge a solider with murder for taking the life of a combatant in times of war as long as that soldier is performing his acts in support of his government engaging in what would be termed a just war. So, that theological nuancing is one thing and that understanding should be readily apparent to all sober-minded Evangelical. This knowledge should be low hanging fruit to even the most non-sophisticated Evangelical. I now want to draw our attention to an issue that is not so readily appreciated or contemplated. I believe too often the average Evangelical does not appreciates the necessity for critical thinking and consistency in our logic. The pressing issue before us is how Evangelical should respond to the issue of (IVF). If Evangelicals truly believe that life begins at conception and is worthy of dignity and statehood UNTIL the point of natural death then this worldview would necessitate Evangelicals being 100% AGAINST the employment of this technology. If Evangelicals follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion (consistency) we must conclude the life conceived in the test tube is an actual human being created in the image of God. Yet, many of the embryos developed in this procedure are ultimately discarded. That, when applying the logic consistently, is MURDER.  How else can it be understood? The moment an egg is fertilized by a sperm conservative Evangelicals believe life has begun. Hence, the quandary of using IVF as a means of family planning. I think it advisable to note at this junction in the pursuit of consistency I am against birth control for the same theological/philosophical reasons. I concede other Evangelicals come to different landing points on these two issues. All I do is add my dialogue to an on-going conversation in the Evangelical community for consideration. I just want to impress upon the Evangelical reader the need to develop a philosophy of critical thinking and consistency. When we do not we open up ourselves to an earned rebuke from our opponents. I would like to mention in passing the criticism that if Christian are really pro-life they need to be more energetic feeding the poor, clothing the naked and the such is really a faulty line of thinking. We cannot nor should we attempt to be all things to all people. Consequently, we typically choose to narrow our focus and concentrate on one particular pursuit. I heard someone explain it like this: Would we expect people who are committed to find a cure for Diabetes to also work diligently to eradicate Cancer? No, we would expect those with a passion to cure Diabetes to devote their primary focus towards that pursuit. We have Evangelicals on the front lines fighting the good fight to feed the hungry, we have other Evangelicals sharpening their focus to house the homeless. And we have some Evangelicals who heart’s pursuit is life in the womb. Thus, the charge that Evangelicals need to be equally engaged in disparate pursuits falls under the weight of the argument.  I want my basketball star focusing his energy on developing a three-point shot, not learning how to hit a curve ball. I will not take the time here but the Bible, especially in the OT, clearly shows the God of the Holy Writ to be the ultimate determiner of both life and death. Woman like Rebecca and Hannah experienced barrenness (inability to bear children) and the only remedy available to them was to seek the face of God. In these two cases God graciously “opened” their womb. In countless other cases, some historical and some surely contemporary, God chooses to allow the womb to remain “closed.” This is part of God’s secret counsel (Deuteronomy 29:29). Evangelicals are expected to trust His plan by faith. These are not easy issues and a great care of pastoral care must be employed when ministering to those who are struggling with these weighty issues. I do not write from a sense of moral superiority and theological astuteness. I write as one attempting to think soberly and with a great sense of fear and trembling for it is no small matter to be in error as one attempts to communicate on behalf of the Divine Creator of all that takes place in time and space. I can remember a doctor advising me to place my daughter on birth control pills to address a hormonal issue. After reflection on my theological understanding I rejected the option. Consequently, my daughter has been “forced” (by my parental decision) to endure some cosmetics issues that may have been eliminated but I believed it would have sent the word message to both her and her other sister. I would have never given my son condoms for the very same theological reasoning. Again, the necessity of critical thinking and consistency among Evangelicals. What do you think about my thesis? Should Evangelical endorse and participate in IVF. How about the use of birth control?  If a person is NOT married would be the legitimate use of birth control pill be for?  If a person is married wouldn’t that understand that God is the ultimate determiner of conception?  Wouldn’t they understand that Satan cannot produce life so what is the fear?  Would God place more on them that they can bear? I look forward to your feedback, even if you happen to disagree.  All I ask is if you do you make cogent argument(s) that support your thesis and you do not engage in ad hominem argumentation.  Ad hominem argumentation is when you attack your opponent personally instead of attacking his line of argument. Keep your hands to the plow and seek to serve and audience of One!

4 Comments
  1. My own research is now five years old and that’s a lifetime in the tech arena. If someone has newer info, I too would be interested to hear of it.

    One follow-up point: your reply causes me to wonder if you noted the “not” relative to the Christian couple. They did not have any embryos frozen. I can find no fault in their approach and applaud their ethical stance.

    I’ll reiterate: their approach is rare. The general use of IVF includes both selective abortion and frozen embryos. The former is obviously, blatantly wrong. The latter also makes me uncomfortable as life often derails the best laid plans and even couples whose firm intent is to utilize those frozen embryos may find themselves unable to do so. This proved to be the case with the couple I reference. Had they followed the normal route and frozen some for future use, they would in fact have been faced with a moral dilemma as other physical complications make another pregnancy unlikely.

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  2. Relative to IVF, for a long time I was of the same opinion. When first used, IVF was exactly as you describe. Many eggs were fertilized in the process and most were discarded. The technology has advanced to the point where eggs are separated and individually fertilized. This allows the parents to specify the exact number of eggs to be fertilized and implanted. From an ethical standpoint, just one egg can be fertilized and implanted. There is no need to discard fertilized eggs. Because the success rate is still low, many couples opt to have more than one egg implanted, improving their chances of one making it to term. IMO, this does give couples a viable, ethical option.

    Having said that, the improved technology brings a new twist. The reason we don’t see the multiple births as we did when IVF began is the abortion technology also improved. Couples will often still have multiple fertilized eggs implanted and if too many survive, employ selective abortion. Also due to the cost of harvesting eggs, many also have extra eggs fertilized and frozen for future use.

    I actually know a Christian couple who became parents via IVF. Because of the things you reference, they chose to fertilize and implant only two eggs. They were praying for both to make it, but one miscarried. And even though the harvesting process is expensive, they chose not to fertilize and freeze eggs. They were sure they’d like more children, but they weren’t willing to risk the possibility they’d have to discard them.

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    • I would need to see the hard data but even you acknowledge fertilized eggs are “frozen” to be potentially used at some future date.

      While one never cover all aspects of a subject let me make it explicitly I am against IVF in general for the same reasons I am against birth control.

      As part of a theological framework I believe life and death are exclusively the domain of God alone.

      Can I be wrong in total or some particular? That is clearly a possibility. That is why I am keen on consistency and the need for critical thinking.

      I welcome your “pushback.” It forces me to refine my position and delve deeper in the matter.

      I am uncomfortable ethically with embryos being frozen until a later time that may or may not arise.

      Thanks again for wading in. I encourage others to do the same. That makes the enterprise all the more edifying.

      Keep your hand to the plow!

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    • Because the success rate is still low, many couples opt to have more than one egg implanted, improving their chances of one making it to term. IMO, this does give couples a viable, ethical option.

      Again, I am philosophically against the practice en toto. Harvesting more than one egg implanted (equals life, my editorial) because of low success rate is problematic and in my opinion unethical and infringing upon territory reserved for God alone.

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