What Do We Do With Clones?
Does election apply to humans and equally to clones or other "manufactured" humans? Even posing the question is bizarre, isn't it? The short answer: It's very likely that clones have every ethical privilege and protection that any other human being has in the sight of God. They are not second-class ethically, and they are not animals. What is our argument to support this, Biblically? What follows is a moral discussion and not an attempt to etch in stone a particular interpretation of applied Biblical morality.
First, we must affirm that it is God Who both elects and infuses His image and spirit into man or clone. God does not infuse sub-humans with His image or spirit, and does not make sub-humans living souls. The onus is on those who would argue the contrary, to prove the sub-humaness of clones from a Biblically ethical perspective (the physiological argument is dealt with below).
Second, with God nothing is impossible (Lk.1:37; 18:27, etc.). In terms of our ordinary experience, if a clone is capable of being indistinguishable from another human being, and I hasten to add that I'm not sure what all of this entails, then theoretically it may not be possible for us to know for sure that a given person was in fact a clone; in the same way the elect of God are not marked out externally from other human beings (and of course, according to the Scriptures, no one can know the heart or mind of another). If clones are indistinguishable from other humans, on what basis would we exclude the kinds of confessions of faith and practice that we accept from other humans (which we assume are not clones or manufactured)?
Third, is "distinguishability" decisive on this issue? Or, "cloneness"? No, but for many it might appear that way. In no sense does the Scripture teach that "humanness" depends on physical or mental (emotional or affective) endowment or capability. In other words, human beings do not depend for their humanity on their physical or mental condition. Physical, mental, or emotional (affective) deformity or retardation have no bearing on whether a person is capable or a fit carrier of the image of God. There is no direct or indirect theological argument that can be derived from Scripture which would permit any man to evaluate, much less condemn, the humanity of another person. We are to treat all external conditions as external and potentially curable (if defective in some way, even birth defects, autism, and the like); and we are to judge every person's words and deeds in terms of God's moral requirements (e.g., to judge righteous judgment [Jn. 7:24], to call sin sin, etc.). We have already proved from Scripture that God knows His people before conception, and that from conception (that which occurs in the temporal realm), man is born in sin; that is, personhood, as we experience it, has begun (Ps. 51). Therefore, before a person is "viable," he is considered human from God's perspective. Ability and viability are not ethically significant conditions.
Cloning and IVF
Fourth, IVF, or what is called "in vitro fertilization" of human egg and sperm, and the subsequent implantation of that egg into a human uterus, is the technology which first successfully challenged traditional notions of Biblical morality with respect to the "manufacture" of human beings. There is a direct correspondence between the morality of IVF and subsequent technologies, which include human cloning. While never to be confused with cloning, the idea that man can manipulate human reproductive functionality in this way, and not be condemned for it morally, was the ethical prerequisite for what would follow. Human cloning is a more aggressive (and immoral) technological and scientific procedure.
The moral reasoning behind IVF is perhaps instructive and pertinent in that it has already found its way into the cloning controversy. IVF was successful for a variety of reasons, but perhaps two stand out as undermining Biblical morality. First, it was considered "a higher, more noble, more compassionate, more beneficial cause" to enable otherwise worthy parents to have offspring when the only obstacle was their biological inability to generate children in the normal way. Second, the empirical fact is that an IVF baby is genetically the same as his or her siblings provided that only the original parents' egg and sperm were used, thus making them indistinguishable from babies conceived in the normal fashion. So, the IVF argument goes, what real difference do the mechanics of conception make? This is not just a materialistic or naturalistic argument; it is also a pragmatic one: do not the ends justify the means?
Christian ethicists have suggested another factor. It is likely that some IVF children have become Christians in their lifetime. Do we deprive God, do we thwart the will of God in banning IVF? Have we created another ends-justify-the-means argument, simply substituting the end of personal salvation, in place of the more generic "Wouldn't it be desirable or good in some sense, to have children?" Does the morality of IVF and/or other products of human reproductive technology depend for its morality on the capacity of the person (or "product") to receive Christ as his Savior? Or are we in fact making a non-knowable/verifiable spiritual condition (election) the basis of moral truth? We must answer: IVF is also immoral or ultimately destructive of Biblical morality because, at the very least, it assaults the sovereignty of God.
God, not man, determines life and death, despite man's technological ability. It is God Who opens and closes the womb, Who stops, diminishes, or releases egg and sperm. There is no methodology which does or can supplant God's will and causality in this area. All atheistic scientists can do is to measure the degrees of failure and success, experimentally. Biblically and culturally across the centuries, fecundity is seen as God's blessing and barrenness is seen as God's curse. These are not just moral or cultural notions, but facts expressed in the physical realm. But because it is God Who determines such conditions, man cannot absolutize these facts (which in themselves are only so at a point in time). The Bible records the dramatic examples of barren women who conceive (e.g., Sarah the wife of Abraham and Hannah the mother of Samuel). Man is not permitted to usurp what is clearly God's prerogative using science and technology. But how do we know when we're doing this?
While such applications are admittedly difficult at times, the principles are there for "those who have eyes to see and ears to hear." We should, for example, be able to see the moral and medical differences between (a) wives understanding their ovulatory cycle and couples cooperating with the physiology of fertility, and (b) the artificial and chemical manipulation of the human endocrine (hormone) system which not only destroys normal ovulation, but often produces pernicious and dangerous side affects, the extent of which are not fully known or accepted by the medical community. Cloning is justified along precisely the same lines, except the product is seen as having innumerable applications, from the treatment of many diseases to the quality and organization of entire human societies (eugenics). God in His grace gives His people the ability to recognize the truth of a thing (if we will but persevere) and the ability to reason in such a way as to produce or sustain righteousness in human conduct.
Biblically, the moral and the physical aspects of human reproduction are inextricable. One cannot exist without the other. Yet, man in his sin will develop ways to circumvent (he thinks) the moral reality by defeating the physical or material limitations. It is man's sin that tells him that what is real and true is what is physical or material. In sin, matter precedes faith, if there is a place for faith at all. Sinful man holds to this faith because he believes that matter is ethically neutral (that is, the meaning of a thing is purely arbitrary). In Christian truth, what is moral — that is, faithful to God and to God's Word — determines the meaning of the physical or material manifestation.
If God permits the complete and successful cloning of human beings, it will not be an aspect of His grace or providence, but yet another test for man (or a curse on human society). Notwithstanding, a clone appears to merit the same privileges and obligations incumbent on any other human being.
- 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]