ESCR and the Law of God

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Puritan Board Sophomore
President Obama announced on Monday that he is reversing the ban on Federal funding for stem cell research. Obama called for scientists to follow facts not ideologies, saying, “Our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values.” I find it interesting that Obama can make a separation between facts and ideologies. How does Obama propose that one go about separating fact from ideology? Does he propose that ideology is not based upon fact? Does he propose that facts are discovered somehow in a vacuum, totally safe from ideology? Can we even say that what Obama said on Monday was not driven by ideology? After all, Obama admitted he was a man of faith—whatever the heck that means.

I posted these theses last spring. I posted them in response to Gov. Grandholm’s proposal to bring stem cell research to Michigan. Sadly, the proposal passed. Now the Federal government has lifted the ban on Federal aid for stem cell research. I want to offer these theses again, hoping that I will get a wide audience. There are many who call themselves Christians, who support embryonic stem cell research. I want to be clear, ESCR, is in no way supported by Scripture. It is in contradiction to the Scripture’s teaching on the sanctity of life. No one who calls themselves Christians should be in support of ESCR.

The theses below are ideology. I am fine with calling them ideology. I do not think for a second that the theses are opposed to fact. Christians are at war with the world, not with tanks, bombs, and guns, but we fight the world's ideologies with the principles of the Bible. The battlefield upon which we fight is in the mind and in the heart. There is an ideology at work in stem cell research, we must ask whether or not it is an ideology that corresponds to the teaching of Scripture. It is my contention that the ideologies behind stem cell research do not correspond with the revealed truth of the Bible. That is what I set out to prove in these theses.

Part One: Of the Law of God
I. There is only one Lawgiver in the universe; that Lawgiver is God who created the heavens and the earth and all things therein, both visible and invisible. (Isa. 33:22; Jas. 4:12)
II. God gave to Adam, the first man, the Law, which is a rule of life that reveals the way of perfect holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
III. This Law was originally implanted in the heart of Adam, and as it was written on his heart there was no need to write it in stone. (Rom. 2:15)
IV. Adam was bound to this Law as a Covenant of Works in Paradise, by which if he kept it was promised life, but upon the breaking of it was threatened with death. (Gen. 2:9,16,17)
V. Adam broke this Law, and as a consequence he and all his posterity became subject to sin and to the curse of the Law, yet the works of the Law remained on their hearts, although it was mainly unintelligible to them. (Gen. 3:16-19, Rom. 5:12,13)
VI. Yet the Law was not abolished because of Adam's transgression; he and all his posterity remained under obligation to keep it.
VII. Nevertheless, Adam’s transgression brought mankind into an estate of sin and enmity against God and His Law. Mankind is not able to keep the Law of God, because he is carnal and the Law is spiritual. (Rom. 8:7)
VIII. As proof that man is still under obligation to keep this Law, God wrote it with His finger on two tables of stone and gave it to Moses as a testimony to His people forever. (Ex. 31:18)
IX. God, however, did not leave man to perish in his sin, but provided a way of salvation in the New Covenant. (Gen. 3:15)
X. This New Covenant is a Covenant of Grace and is spoken of throughout the Old Testament and carries with it a promise to forgive sins and to rewrite the Law on men's hearts. (Jer. 31:31-34; Ez. 36:25-27)
XI. The New Covenant is different from the Covenant of Works in that it does not require obedience as the condition for eternal life; the condition in the New Covenant is faith; obedience is the consequence of faith and is worked in us by God. (Eph 2:8-10)
XII. The same Law that is a perfect rule of holiness, justice, goodness, and truth was written on man's heart before the fall, was written on two tables of stone after the fall, and will be rewritten on the hearts of those who are saved by grace through faith in the New Covenant.
XIII. Therefore, there is only one Law to be a perfect rule of holiness, justice, goodness, and truth, and no one may add to it or subtract from it. (Deut. 12:32)
XIV. Moreover, this Law flows from the very eternal and unchangeable character and essence of God who is pure holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. (Isa. 6:3; Ex. 34:6,7)
XV. Since God is eternal and unchangeable, so is His Law; therefore, it cannot be abrogated by anyone, nor can it be made obsolete by any new circumstance. (Ps. 119:89; Matt. 5:17,18; 24:35)
XVI. Furthermore, man will always be called to revert to the Law whenever confronted with any ethical situations, for where justice and mercy are required, the Law will instruct him in the ways of justice and mercy. (Micah 6:8)

Part Two: Of Christianity and Science
XVII. The Christian Religion is by no means opposed to science; rather, it fosters a love for the study of the created order.
XVIII. All of the created order belongs to God, yet, since He made man in His image, He has given man dominion over the earth and a mandate to subdue it. (Ps. 24:1; Gen. 1:26-28)
XIX. Man is called by God to study the created order and learn its laws and dynamics, and especially how it shines forth the glory, majesty, and wisdom of God. (Ps. 8; 19:1-6; 104:24)
XX. True science, then, is the study of God's created order for the glory of God and the benefit of mankind.
XXI. This mandate, however, was given before the fall; man can no longer fulfill this mandate in a way that isn't defiled by sin. Sin is opposed to giving God glory and benefitting mankind; thus man is no longer capable of true science.
XXII. Moreover, man is entirely unaware of the scope of his own depravity. While he now knows good and evil he is not able to properly distinguish between them. (Jer. 17:9)
XXIII. This does not mean that man is entirely incapable of discovering the laws of nature or of benefitting mankind.
XXIV. Rather, God has not left this world without a witness of Himself, and has placed His common grace as a restraint upon man. With this common grace man is able to achieve somewhat of those virtues that are highly esteemed in the Law, even some of those things which are a part of true science, yet in an unsaving way and not without defilement of sin.
XXV. Proper restraint, then, is due when studying the laws and dynamics of the created order.
XXVI. Science only serves man best when it is kept under the restraint of the Law of God.
XXVII. Without this restraint, science is likely to become an engine of great evil, as can be attested by many examples in history (thus the Nuremburg Trials).
XXVIII. This restraint, however, should not be seen as a barrier but an aid to scientific liberty, for true liberty is only achieved within proper bounds, and history can prove that the best of scientists were Christians who did their work within the bounds of the Law (see Pearcy and Thaxton, The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy).

Part Three: Of Cloning and ESCR
XXIX. One of the most important principles scientists and researchers must be careful not to violate is the principle of the sanctity of life, which is embedded in the sixth commandment. (Ex. 20:13)
XXX. This most sacred principle may be summed up in this way: Life is a gift of God who is the author and giver of life; the right to declare when to make life and when to take life belongs to Him alone.
XXXI. It was God, not man, who declared that man could kill animals for sacrifice, and it was God, not man, who declared that man could kill the animals and eat them for food. If we cannot take the life of an animal at will, how much more, then, can we not take the life of a man at will. (Gen. 3:21; 9:3)
XXXII. God created man and woman and told them to "be fruitful and multiply," thus the making of life God placed within the bounds of the marital relationship between a man and a woman, but it is God who forms the life in the womb. (Gen. 1:28; Ps. 139:13-16)
XXXIII. If either killing or making life is done outside of what God permits, it is an immoral act.
XXXIV. There is a general principle of life that is found in all animal life. However, God breathed a special principle of life into man. That special principle of life is called the soul. (Gen. 2:7)
XXXV. The soul is primarily where the image of God resides, although it is to be found in all of man's being.
XXXVI. The fact that man has a soul and was made in the image of God gives him a greater sanctity than that of the animals. (Matt. 12:24)
XXXVII. That the general principle of life is there at the moment of conception is without doubt.
XXXVIII. The precise moment when the special principle of life enters the forming child is known only to God, yet that does not take away the sanctity of the life that is being formed, for the general principle of life is still there even if the soul is not.
XXXIX. Those who say that it is entirely ethical to destroy the forming embryo since it doesn't have the same value as a baby with a brain or a soul must prove that it wouldn't be unethical to have destroyed Adam before God breathed a soul into him.
XL. Those who say that the soul enters the fetus at forty days cannot provide any proof whatsoever of this claim.
XLI. That the soul enters at the moment of conception seems likely given the biblical data, yet it should be maintained that only God knows the precise moment when He gives the soul.
XLII. That the forming embryo is human is incontrovertible since it contains the unique genetic codes of a human being.
XLIII. The fact that "nearly 60% of all fertilized eggs fail to implant or complete their development" (Charo 84) does not negate the sanctity of the life within the womb. No one would say that the fact that a good percentage of children get sick and die negates the sanctity of life.
XLIV. That the fertilized egg cell has greater value than, say, a skin cell that is also "alive" (though not in the same sense as the fertilized egg cell) and has human genes is also incontrovertible, since this is God's sanctioned method of making life.
XLV. Nevertheless, we must say that an embryo created by somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is also human and has sanctity since it has human genes and has the principle of life, even though it is made outside the bounds of God's permissive will.
XLVI. Natural cloning where twins are created in the womb is part of the natural process of birth that God created and sanctioned. Cloning by means of SCNT is not God's sanctioned means of making life; neither is it permissible under the mandate to subdue the earth.
XLVII. While adult stem cell research is permissible and commendable in that it may prove beneficial to mankind, ESCR is unethical since it involves the destruction of a human embryo that has the principle of life, and may have a living soul.
XLVIII. Those who claim that ESCR is ethically right because it has the potential of helping many people, argue from a utilitarian ethic which is not a Scriptural ethic.
XLIX. Finding cures for diseases is a noble cause, and Christians have always seen curing the sick as a calling from God, yet it is immoral to kill human life in the name of finding cures. And it is even more immoral to create life by cloning in order to destroy it in the name of research.

Works Consulted

Charo, R. Alta. "Every Cell is Sacred: Logical Consequences of the Argument from Potential in the Age of Cloning." Cloning and the Future of Human Embryo Research. Ed. Paul Lauritzen. New York: Oxford, 2001
Davis, John Jefferson. Evangelical Ethics: Issues Facing the Church Today, 3rd ed. Phillipsburg: P&R Pub., 2004
Hollinger, Dennis P. Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002
Kilner, John F., Rebecca D. Pentz, and Frank E. Young, eds. Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes? Carlisle: Paternoster, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997
Kuyper, Abraham. Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1931
Pearcy, Nancy. "Technology, History, and Worldview." Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes? Eds. Kilner, Pentz, and Young. Carlisle: Paternoster, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997
Pearcy, Nancy, and Charles B. Thaxton. The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy. Wheaton: Crossway, 1994
Peterson, James C. "Is a Human Embryo a Human Being?" God and the Embryo: Religious Voices on Stem Cells and Cloning. Eds. Brent Waters and Ronald Cole-Turner. Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2003
Westminster Confession of Faith. Glasgow. Free Presbyterian Pub., 1958
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