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What Should We Do?

How should the worldwide Christian community think about the human embryonic stem cell controversy? We recommend thoughtful Christians abide by three rules. First, trust the truth. To acknowledge Jesus Christ as the “way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) is to acknowledge that our faith is rooted in truth, that no genuine truth can take us away from God. Theological truth should work in concert with scientific truth. As we understand the science of human development better, our theological views must encompass that truth.

Second, steward our talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In our own era, we count as talents the fact that our society is poised on the brink of breakthroughs in science and medicine that could dramatically enhance human health and wellbeing. Christian input to public policy is a matter of stewardship. It is important for all Christian voices to be heard, including and especially those from the “beneficence” perspective that have been overridden by the “embryo protection” voices.

Third, strive for human betterment. The biblical commandment to love God and neighbor (Matthew -40) applies to us both directly and indirectly. Indirectly, thoughtful Christians support thrusts in the wider society toward increased levels of justice, peace, caring, and human flourishing. Directly, we believe that Christians can, with good conscience, support scientists engaged in stem cell research.

This means we should pause, open our ears, and through the din of the shrill public debate listen carefully for coherent moral positions to be set forth. Thoughtful Christians should examine the three moral framework: the embryo protection framework, the naturalist or anti-playing God framework, and the medical benefits framework. Are they internally coherent? Are they supported by truth? By theology? Can common ground be found among them? We recommend weighing judiciously what is being said in every argument; then make a commitment, and then leap into the public fray. Such a commitment will be the result of careful judgment, not an unequivocally clear demand by God. The purpose of the field of ethics is to help people by providing a way through an otherwise messy situation. Thoughtful Christians have an opportunity and a responsibility to offer carefully considered judgments and suggested paths for the wider society to follow.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Gaymon Bennett, Karen Lebacqz and Ted Peters

Go to Genetics Topic Index

What Should We Do?

Stem Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief
The Promise and Science of Stem Cells
Stem Cells and Cloning
Framework #1: Protecting the Early Embryo
Framework #2: Protecting Human Nature from Brave New World
Framework #3: Medical Benefits
Jewish and Muslim Frameworks
More Ethical Questions
What about Other Sources of Stem Cells?
Souls, Humans, and God
Further Reading


Gaymon Bennett, Karen Lebacqz and Ted Peters

See also:
Pain and Suffering
Books on Biology, Genetics and Theology
DNA Double-Helix