You should know that the ethical issues regarding human cloning have been addressed in print by an advisory board to Advanced Cell Technology (Worcester, MA). The gist of their moral reasoning is (not surprisingly) a cost/benefit trade-off analysis; a pragmatic theory which assumes that human beings have no intrinsic moral value; which permits them ethically, to measure the worth of a human being by the benefit they can be to others. If they can measure that benefit in some tangible or empirical way, then they have an objective justification to assert that their actions are morally desirable or sound. That benefit can take the form of creating, buying, or selling human biological parts used to treat disease.
Our argument can't be grounded in pragmatic theory; it must be founded on Biblical absolutes. We must further say that when Biblical morality governs human action (ethics), those decisions will be the ones that truly work, and will be the "greatest good for the greatest number." It may not appear so, because, from our limited perspective, God's judgment may be operative more than His providential blessing. Nonetheless, our obligation is to understand and affirm the Biblical ethics which lies behind this problem, in order for us to know that this battle, along with so many others in the wars of unbelief, must be sustained for the long haul. Morality is always a life and death issue, whether individually or for a nation.
What exactly would a Bible-believing Christian say about human life which would, by definition, exclude it from cloning or any other procedure which renders human beings as so many "biological objects," on the same level as other animals?
Cloning is "playing God" in the sense that man has devised a way to imitate what God has done to create or reproduce human life. By "imitation" we mean that man starts with life and then attempts to replicate it; man doesn't start with "nothing," as God did.
What distinguishes man from sub-human life is that only man bears the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness with dominion; and man is accountable for exercising these faculties (or attributes) to the glory of God and to the benefit of his fellow man, all according to God's law-word so that all of creation is respected and subdued in order to further the kingdom of God. The classical references for the first three images of God in man are from the New Testament; the last one is from Genesis chapter one.
We contend that knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion were all operative before the entrance of evil and sin into man's world, called the Fall (Genesis 3). In summary, we can think of these images this way:
Knowledge (Col. 3:10) was given by God to Adam so that he could tend and protect the Garden, name the creatures, and be aware of his "wife" and potential "family." The Tree of Life, it is assumed, contained within it all kinds of knowledge, scientific, social, and ethical to sustain man's eternal service to God in creation, in the temporal realm. There was no separate tree called "The Tree of Knowledge." The only tree which was forbidden to man was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Moral knowledge was not forbidden as a class of knowledge since God had already mandated and distinguished certain callings and conditions which were the evidence of God's sovereign moral choices to man. (For example, while God created Adam capable of being an omnivore, he was commanded not to eat [or kill] animals or fish for food, but to be vegetarian. Thus this dietary regimen had both physiological-scientific and moral justifications.) What was forbidden was not moral knowledge, but "autonomous moral agency."
Righteousness (Eph. 4:24) was given by God to Adam, the evidence of which is the gift of eternal life. It was a gift in that Adam received the condition of eternal life by design and, in fact, it was not due to any obedience on Adam's part to earn it. He could lose his eternal life by disobedience, but he could not and did not gain eternal life by obedience. Adam was originally created to be "right with God." He was not created (morally or ethically) "neutral."
Holiness (Eph. 4:24) was given by God to Adam, in that man was separated from ("holy") all other creatures both physiologically, and especially ethically (i.e., spiritually or "soulishly"). Animals and rocks are not "holy" in this sense. Animals and rocks do not have moral obligations and they do not sin. Later, after the Fall, man's holiness would take on the necessary characteristic or condition which we call "separation from sin."
God commanded Adam to have dominion (Gen. 1:26). Two aspects are pertinent. First, only man was commanded to subdue the earth and only he was equipped for this task. Whales, eagles, and locusts, while all superior to man in various physical capacities, will never take dominion. Second, man's life is purposeful in a specific way, that purpose owing its definition to the eternal will and counsel of God. Man cannot call just any lifestyle morally acceptable or a substitute for that which God has purposed for him. For example, man is not morally permitted to destroy creation in the name of taking dominion over it. Man is not permitted to be a miscreant with respect to God's decree and law.
These images or attributes are original with man before the entrance of sin and death into the world. This is very important: Research to relieve pain and suffering assumes a sin-ridden, fallen world. The value of man, however, preceded sin and death. Mankind's value as intended and created by God transcends the medical exigencies or imperatives of a fallen world. This means that man, in the name of medical science, cannot be made legitimately a victim in the war against the affects of sin (e.g., disease, birth defects, and the like.) It is God's will that man, in faithful obedience to his Creator and His Word, take dominion over the earth including, we can safely say, human diseases. (Whether this will ever be accomplished 100% is beside our point.) The images of God in man permit (regenerate) man to make godly use of all the means which God has appointed in the war against human pain and suffering. The definition of all is the crux of our ethical concern.
Ethics (morality, spirituality) is basic to man, not physiology or materialism. What caused man to die, to lose eternal life, according to the Bible? That the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was physically poisonous? No. If this were true, then matter (physicalness), not faith, would be basic, and would explain why some physical law caused physical death. But the Bible teaches the opposite as to the origin of human death (mortality.) An ethical violation - the willful disobedience of God's Word, which is a violation of some non-material, non-physical property, caused physical or earthly death. Moral law is at least as "efficacious" over the physical realm, as physical law is over the physical realm. While we can and do manipulate the causality inherent in creation (e.g., scientific laws) we cannot manipulate the ethics inherent in creation (e.g., God's special revelation.) That man tries to do so is one aspect of his "original" sin, what Rushdoony called "the effort to determine for himself what is right and wrong, apart from God's law."
This being the case, the Bible is consistent when it insists that man is "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Ps. 139:14). Job acknowledged God's sovereignty and handiwork in the creation of man (Job 10:8-13) as well as his destiny. However, and this is critical to our argument, man is more than his biochemistry, even if it is God Who ordained the biochemical laws and mixed a unique concoction, as it were.
What God declared unto the prophet Jeremiah, He really declares to all men, at all times: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. 1:5). This means that man is ordained of God, in election, that is "before I formed thee in the belly," with meaning and significance in and for this life. What gives life meaning is not how man tries or fails to rearrange the circumstances and conditions he finds around him, but whether and how he responds to God's individual calling, and whether God and His inscripturated Word is alone the authority he uses to evaluate his life. (In philosophical terms, the direction of meaning in human life is from the transcendental to the immanent.)
We believe this is what Scripture teaches concerning the nature of the human condition. The so-called cloning of human beings, the use of human beings as animalistic objects in scientific experimentation or as [commercial] property is an assault (enmity) on God and what He as created as His image bearer. No gray area exists in the Scripture, nor in real life. Moreover, God has predestinated every aspect of the ethical realm. One resulting axiom is that the ends never justify the means, nor do the means ever justify the ends. Both the means and the ends must be godly (conforming to or consistent with, God's law-word). Neither can there be a cost/benefit trade off when human life (God's image bearer) is made to be sub-human.
If all the foregoing is true, this must be our position: there can be no redeeming (beneficial) value in any part of this work. It must be opposed and banned for moral and ethical reasons.
- Eugene C. Newman
Gene Newman, a Jewish Christian since 1981, has been married to Robin (Armenian father) for 37 years, and has ten children and nine grandchildren. He’s a Ruling Elder in his EPC church, and has taught the Reformed and Reconstructionist faith for 25 years. He and Robin have been homeschooling for 19 years, and Gene is the former president of Christian Home Educators of Michigan (1993 to 1999). He is currently vice president for a company in the wholesale pharmaceutical industry (15 years). Email: [email protected]