Thinking Out Loud

April 27, 2013

A Couple’s Moral Responsibility to Frozen Embryos

Filed under: ethics, marriage, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:12 am

Christian Biomedical Ethics

Yikes! The world of biomedical ethics is complicated, but even more so when overlaid with a Christian worldview.  Take this question submitted to Russell D. Moore’s blog, Moore To The Point:

Dear Dr. Moore,

I know you don’t believe in in vitro fertilization, but my wife and I found it was a good solution to our infertility problem. We created multiple embryos, and carried two to term. We cannot afford any other children, so another round of pregnancies is not an option. Our quiver’s full. My conscience is bothering me a little, though, since we banked a number of other fertilized embryos, just in case the first round didn’t take. Do we have any responsibility for these embryos?

Sincerely,

A Stressed Dad

Okay, so if you haven’t read the column or haven’t peeked below, which way do you think he’s going to go on this?  Or, being perfectly honest, what the answer you would like to see, or the answer you would give if anyone asked you?

Time’s up!  Here’s a little bit of his answer, but clicking the link in the first paragraph here is highly recommended:

Dear Stressed,

Your quiver’s fuller than you think…

…In a Christian vision of reality there is no such thing as an “almost person,” which is what we think with the abstraction of “fertilized embryos.” Someone is either a human person, and therefore my neighbor, or not. You do not have “frozen embryos.” You have children, frozen in this cruelly clinical world of suspended animation.

It is one thing to decide you can’t afford to have children, before you conceive children, just as it is one thing to decide you can’t afford to marry, before you marry. You’re married though, and you’ve conceived children. You have an obligation to them. The one who does not care for his own household is, the Apostle Paul says, “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8).

This doesn’t mean your game-plan is easy. There’s a cross to take up here. The path from frozen storage to birth is difficult, whether through bearing those children or making an adoption plan for them into loving families. But these are not things; these are persons, worthy of love and respect and sacrifice…

Any surprise or shock I had at his answer stemmed not from fundamental disagreement but from entering a world of consideration that was completely foreign to me.  A few days ago, I had no opinion on this issue.  Today, I see a couple in a particular situation who have sought advice that may not necessarily be the advice they want to hear. Despite this, I still find myself torn.

I want to look the couple in the eye and say, “I see your pain and struggle with this.” Then I want to look Dr. Moore in the eye and say, “That was a very wise answer.” In other words, “I agree with you and (turning my head) I agree with you.” It’s a great stance if you’re going into politics, but I’m not sure how it plays out in the world of faith and ethics.

Rather, there is the feeling of being confronted with an issue that is beyond yourself, something you feel you lack capacity to assess. Where is Solomon when you need him? I suppose that’s the role that Dr. Moore is being asked to play here.

He concludes by linking alluding to a familiar scripture passage,

Your conscience might seem to be a nuisance to you… But a nagging conscience can be a sign of grace. It might be that what you are hearing is a happy foretaste of obedience to Christ, as you hear his voice saying, “I was frozen and you remembered me.”

What do you think?

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September 8, 2012

A Christianity Today Link List

A few weeks ago I lamented that Christianity Today (CT) seemed to be moving toward a platform where only subscribers would get access to certain stories. Since then, I haven’t run into that so much.

It’s possible someone there had the good sense to say, ‘Magazines as we know them will soon disappear, and paid subscriptions will go with them, so we would be better to just build a loyal internet following over the next several years.’

Or something like that.

I know that’s what I’d say.

These links go back to early August, but represent a colorful mix of stories I followed recently.

It’s a rainy day here in the Great Lakes region; hope these links provide some reading to keep you busy.

August 25, 2010

Wednesday Link List

I was scrolling back through previous link lists, and I do miss the more creative titles.  I’d forgotten about “(B)link and You’ll Miss It.”   That was gold.   I’m available for copywriting your next brochure, and for children’s birthday parties.

  • Our upper and lower cartoons this week are from a source I only recently discovered.   Steve Wall is a Canadian living in British Columbia and his comic series is titled Trees of the Field.
  • Continuing our Canadian theme, this week CNN’s belief blog picked up on a self-published book by Calgary pastor of New Hope Church, John Van Sloten with the creative title The Day Metallica Came to Church. Also tracked down more information on his church website.
  • One more item of Canadian interest:  This week — nearly four months later — Christianity Today picked up on the Christians Horizons case involving lifestyle requirements for employees.   [You can read my version here,  as well as my original 2008 report.]
  • Take the scenes from the family-friendly movie Mary Poppins and re-edit them so it looks like a horror film.   Then, take the faux-movie-trailer and use it as an analogy for how some people re-edit Christianity to suit their purposes.   Check out this article by Dan Kimball.    [HT: Scott Shirley]
  • There’s much talk these days about “earning the right to be heard,” and needing to get to know someone before you can “speak into their life.”  But Dan Phillips contends that if he meets someone who is not a follower of Christ, there are fifteen things he already knows about them.
  • Here’s a t-shirt design (at right) I found on a tumblr blog, Churchy Design.   The shirt, of course, is called King of Kings.
  • OK.  I know some of you want to dig into something a little lengthier.  Here’s a piece from Catholic World Report on the implications of the current shortage of organs for organ transplantation.   It involves biomedical ethics, including our definition of death.
  • In another longer piece, Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk traces the life journey of the pioneer of the blended worship concept aka Ancient-Future worship, Robert Webber.
  • For most readers of this blog, the phrase “Prodigal God” refers to a book by Tim Keller.   But it’s also the name of a musical by Brian Doerksen featuring guests including Ron Kenoly and Colin Janz.   Find out more about the double-CD releasing October 12th, and enjoy listening to a preview of five songs.
  • A Sunday School teacher walks into a Christian bookstore looking to buy some novelty items like pencils or stickers for her young class.   But the clerk suggests that’s not what they need.
  • Theology professor Roger Olsen says that for his students — not to mention other theologians — the issue of Biblical inerrancy is as much a stumbling block as anything else.  He prefers to use a different word that’s close, but better suited.
  • Darrin Patrick calls them “bans.”  Neither boys nor men.   They play a lot of video games and watch a lot of pornography.   Their need to learn how to be men is, in his terms, a cultural crisis.   Read more at Resurgence.   [HT: Dwight Wagner]
  • Darryl Dash provides a pastor’s perspective on visiting other churches while on sabbatical.   Only this time they embedded themselves as a family in a single church-home-away-from-home.
  • Darryl also had a link in his weekly Saturday list this week to Justin Taylor’s piece which is an “interview” with the Apostle Paul to try to bring a different form to Paul’s discussion of the law in Romans 7.
  • Simon Sweetman takes the proverbial discussion of “Christian” music as a genre to the streets with a blog post at the award-winning New Zealand news site, Stuff.nz.
  • Here’s that other comic from Trees of the Field (click on either image to link) …That’s it for this week; today marks only 4 months to Christmas, so I’m off to do my shopping!

August 10, 2010

The Last Christian: David Gregory’s Brave New World

The year is 2088…

Any kind of futuristic writing — both fiction and non-fiction — requires taking a great deal of risk.  Especially if you incorporate technologies that some readers find just plain silly.   What if the audience doesn’t see your vision of that era as plausible?   A few bad reviews and your book is fodder for recycling.

Fortunately, David Gregory (Dinner With a Perfect Stranger, A Day With A Perfect Stranger) is able to navigate the future just fine, thank you.   While he hasn’t lost the heart of an evangelist that so characterized his shorter works mentioned above, any apologetic in Last Christian is weaved into a much larger, much more complex plot.

That plot concerns biomedical advances that are becoming reality towards the end of the 21st century.   But it’s the absence of religious ethics that characterizes the world in which these so-called ‘advances’ are taking place.   Into that environment steps a character who is almost literally from another time.  Someone who doesn’t fit into such a world.   Someone who discovers that the unease is mutual.

As a mostly non-fiction reader, I now fully understand the meaning of the oft-used, “that was real page-turner.”   This is a book possessing a literary intensity I have not experienced in a long, long time.  Each chapter — and the narrative moves along quite rapidly — ended with a surprise, driving me deeper into what followed.   That pace — and those plot twists — continue right up to the end.

But don’t take my word for it.   Allow me to do something I’ve never done before here, and steal some consumer reviews from a retail website:

  • As I read the back cover’s description, I thought to myself, “Yeah, right.” Then I read the book. Gregory’s use of existent technologies, experimental technologies and not-too-far-distant-future-type technologies renders this fictional work very believable. As for there only being one Christian left in America in 2088? Well, even that isn’t so hard to imagine if you see how rapidly we’re following Europe’s footsteps, using no discernment governmentally, socially and even the evangelical church seems to be losing it’s bearings on the gospel and God’s Word…
  • This book was full of nail biting edge of your seat suspense, with a few twist and turns you won’t expect or see coming! … I would love to see this as a movie!
  • Christianity has died out completely. The mega-churches of the 90’s are now schools and malls. While all this sci-fi stuff is entertaining to read, the heart of the book goes much deeper. Gregory makes a really important point in his book. The reason, he writes through one of his characters, that Christianity died in the US early in the 21st century is because Christians didn’t look any different than non-Christians. Their lives hadn’t been transformed by the power of the Gospel.
  • David Gregory’s America seems so far removed from our current way of life, but it’s easy to see how we could easily venture down the same road. The Christian worldview is becoming an object of disdain for many, and technology is advancing at an incredible rate. The Last Christian was a fun and entertaining read. It’s a science fiction thriller with Christian apologetics mixed in. Although it was certainly a page-turner, it also caused me to really think about some serious issues in our culture today
  • Christian fiction has taken a direction that is wonderfully exciting and The Last Christian is a fantastic example!
  • I was shocked by the many things that are slowly taking root even now in America, despite the book’s setting being in 2088. At this time, Americans have become accustomed to feeding their desires and pleasures through entertainment and enjoyment. …many live in virtual reality more than they do in the “real world”. In the name of tolerance and acceptance, all things are acceptable and morality is something each individual decides for his or himself…

I compared these reviews to a few from “the usual suspects” list of bloggers, and while I recognize that some of these reviewers’ blogs as well, I think they said it best.

My recommendation here leans a little more toward Christian readers, but some other reviews spoke of possibilities in giving or loaning the book to someone outside the faith; perhaps provided they had demonstrated some spiritual openness.   It certainly speaks in a mature manner to some of the main elements involved in following Christ, as well as addressing what Christianity isn’t.   Age-wise, because of the ‘sci-fi’ flavor, I can see this book appealing to older teens as well as adults, provided they can commit to the 400+ page count.  (We’re talking about four times the word count of the two Perfect Stranger titles.)

The two of David Gregory’s shorter books mentioned above already exist as movies.   Could Last Christian make it to the big screen?   It would be an extremely fast-paced film to be sure; but for now, we have the book which earns my highest recommendation.

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