Moral Battle For Stem Cells
This Sunday evening, the LIFE Group in which I participate will begin a new study series. It is a six-session series on Bioethics. Roughly three fourths of the group either works in or is formally trained in some area of the medical profession. Couple that with the increasingly important role medical technology plays in our personal lives and public policy, it seemed like an incredibly relevant topic for study. This session concerns the moral battle for stem cells. I will not take the time or space to share the bulk of the study, but I do want to share a few thoughts (and hopefully generate some discussion).
Let’s start with a couple of short passages from the Bible:
“You must not murder.” Exodus 20:13 (from the Ten Commandments)
“You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 (from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount)
The following is from “Moral Battle for Stem Cells” from Christianity Today International, (c) 2007.
The biblical admonition against murder is clear. But is embryonic stem-cell research the same as murder? The embryos, under President Bush’s guidelines, have already been destroyed. Still, some say that the federal funding of the existing stem-cell lines from these embryos would support a culture of death. What do you think?
In Exodus, as God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, we see that one of the chief concerns of God is preservation of human life. In the New Testament, Jesus expands our understanding of this respect for life by broadening the concept of murder. Not only is it the taking of life from another human being, but we are also placed in danger of judgment when we treat others as valueless. In Matthew 5:21-22, the word raca means “empty-headed one.” In current terms, the term would translate as “an airhead,” “a dimwit,” or “an idiot.” To declare someone as raca means to say there is nothing of value in them and they have nothing to contribute to society.
[Q] Does the understanding of raca used in this passage inform the embryonic stem-cell debate?
The bible is clear. Murder is a violation of God’s moral law. But is embryonic stem-cell research murder? In my understanding, if an embryo is properly implanted, it will grow until a child is born. That makes that embryo an early stage of a child. If the research on the embryo would prevent it from maturing into a child (obviously by destroying it), this is clearly murder. Under former President Bush’s guidelines, the embryos used for research have already been destroyed. I do not think this necessarily supports a culture of death. If this embryo is simply a young human and it is already dead, is using it for research really any different than if my body were used for scientific research after I am dead? I don’t think so.
Anytime Jesus taught on the law, He did not abolish or negate it. He enhanced it. He took it from the letter of the law and showed us the spirit of the law. These verses from Matthew are an example of this. We are people; every one of us is created in the image of God Himself. Each of us has value. From the youngest unborn to the oldest on his or her deathbed, these are not just people, but souls created with value to the Savior. If they matter to God they should matter to us.
What do you think? How do these and other passages of Scripture inform the embryonic stem-cell debate. Please comment below.