by Adrian Teo & Donald Calbreath
NOTE: Paper to be published in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith.
The use of embryonic stem cells for medical research raises difficult ethical questions for many Christians. Robert Boomsma's article in the March 2004 issue of PSCF presents one popular perspective for justifying its use. This paper is a critical response to that view and attempts to show that there are sound reasons for opposition to embryonic stem cell research. The arguments presented are shown to be consistent with the Reformed Christian worldview which recognizes the significant worth of the human being because of God's will. Human beings are to be respected and protected in their life and dignity at all stages in their development from conception to natural death for the reason that we are predestined by God for His purposes and also created in His image. To allow such research that requires the destruction of human embryos, however noble the purpose may be, is to treat the human person as merely a means to serve ends unrelated to the well-being of the embryos in question. The authors argue that such actions would be disrespectful, which in essence, constitute a direct attack on human worth and dignity and therefore, on God's image and will.
The controversy over the appropriate and moral use of human embryonic stem cells (hES) is of particular concern among Christians, primarily because Christians remain divided on the question of the beginning of human life and its corresponding worth. Robert Boomsma's article in the March issue of PSCF 1 makes the claim that, from a Reformed Christian perspective, the issue is one of "alleviating disease" in order to assist in the redemption of the "brokenness of creation."2 The proper application of hES technology is, according to Boomsma, a way of fulfilling the "stewardship responsibilities of developing, caring for, and helping redeem the creation."3 In this paper, we will show that there is an alternative and opposing perspective that places the moral status of the embryo as the prime issue and the value of human life in God's plan as foundational. Furthermore, it is a perspective that is just as firmly rooted in the Reformed tradition which insists upon the lordship of God before all other considerations, including our call to be stewards of creation and transformers of culture.