Assisted Reproduction Technology or ART includes a variety of techniques some of which are artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, and the use of a surrogate. Artificial insemination is the process of using donor sperm (from an anonymous source or from the prospective father) for fertilization. In-vitro fertilization occurs when both the unfertilized ovum and sperm are placed in-vitro/in a dish with suitable fertilization conditions. After fertilization transpires, the developing embryo is then implanted into the mother’s uterus for further development and delivery. Bioethical issues such as the right to have one mother and father, creation and destruction of embryos, and the developing child’s mental and physical welfare may arise with the use of these ART procedures. In this essay I will seek to explain my Biblical research on this topic and what I hypothesize as the overarching biblical position on ART.
Engaging in the process of procreation is one of our mandates from God. After Creation, God proclaims the charge, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) and all throughout scripture, children are seen as a blessing from Him (Psalms 127:3-5). Thus, the desire to reproduce is inbred within us, placed there by our creator. Biblically the condition of barrenness is looked upon with disdain, one of the worst things that could happen to a woman in biblical times. This may be because of this strong inbred need for a biological bond between parent and child or it may also be because in Biblical culture, infertility was thought of as a curse from God (Gen. 20:17-18) while fertility was seen as a direct blessing from God(Ex. 23:26). Infertility was also a major problem in biblical times because of inheritance rights associated with the culture of that day; if there was no heir in the family then the family line would disappear (Num. 27:1-11).
Examples of women in the Bible who were afflicted with infertility and tried to remedy their condition without consulting God include, Sarah the wife of Abraham (Gen. 11:27-25:11) and Rachel the wife of Jacob (Gen 29:31-Gen 30:3). In both instances, the solution found by these women was rooted in the addition of a third party into their unit of holy matrimony. These human solution’s repercussions were often worse than original problem and created a domino effect by not only greatly affecting the parents involved in making the decision but also affecting the subsequent child and those surrounding the vicinity of impact.
In both cases, it is interesting to note that the drive behind these women’s desire for fertility was not untainted but their desire was deeply rooted in selfish ambition (Gen 16:1-2 and Gen 30:1-2). Perhaps their destructive and desperate aggression in desiring a means for fertility clouded their mental judgment and prevented them from consulting God. Children are a blessing from God, and when we start to inflict our own selfish means on this blessing then the situation becomes horrendous.
Within the Bible, there are also examples of women who waited on God’s promise of fertility in the face of barrenness. One such example would be of Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah and the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:6-16). In this story there is a certain obstacle to fertility that makes the resulting pregnancy “miraculous”. The obstacle was the age of John the Baptist’s parents (Luke 1:7,18). The biblical account proposes that Elizabeth was so advanced in age that she had already been experiencing menopause. However, when God told them that they would have a baby, she did conceive a child, and John the Baptist the forerunner of Christ, was born.
I have always perceived, due to common unquestioned theology, the story of John the Baptist’s birth to be a miracle with no earthly explanation. However upon closer examination of the story, I wish to make the hypothesis that God may have employed some type of celestial means of ART in this birth process.
God is the creator of all things, and I believe that He is the greatest scientist. He has all access to knowledge that far exceeds our earthly comprehension. While our knowledge may not be comparable to God’s, this does not mean that we should not pursue knowledge to learn more about Christ and His creation. In fact, we are encouraged to continue the quest for understanding and by doing so, be drawn closer to Him (Prov. 18:15, Prov. 15:14, E.G.W. education pp. 18, 19). Because science has increased tremendously in recent years, we now have some insight into the methodology that God may have employed in this extraordinary birth. This method is hypothesized as a selected scientific means through the processes of ART (perhaps increase of certain hormones, etc) that could have aided in Elizabeth’s pregnancy.
The final biblical example I would like to analyze is the birth of Christ (Luke 1:30-35). Commonly in Christianity, we accept Jesus’s birth as the miraculous Immaculate Conception with no further investigation. However while taking the class developmental biology (deals in depth with procedures of ART) and bioethics simultaneously, I started to wonder if some of the processes under the umbrella of ART had anything to do with this “extraordinary birth”.
My thinking stems from the fact that there is reference to the trinity in the old testament (Gen. 1:1-2-Holy Spirit, Deut. 6:4-trinity, Isiah 12:2,3-Yeshewa/Jesus). Consequently, it is evident that the trinity existed well before Jesus came to earth. All elements of the triune were equal in sovereignty and majesty yet different in attributes (Col.2:9). However when Jesus came to earth He was still a part of the triune, with the same purified nature, the only exception to his heavenly form was that is he took on the likeness of man(Philippians 2:5-11).
Through prayerful consideration I have hypothesized that some heavenly form of ART was embedded in the process of Jesus’ course to take on humanity through being birth from Mary’s womb. My hypothesis regarding this extraordinary birth states that God/the trinity simply changed one celestial form of the trinity to become a man. Specifically, the trinity changed the form of Yeshua to become a simple human embryo, the humblest of every human form and then proceeded to implant this heavenly embryo into Mary. In my hypothesis this is a form of ART, specifically in-vitro fertilization. Consequently, this is to say that though Mary was Jesus’ earthly mother, she did not truly share any concrete genetic information with Jesus, because factually Jesus was her creator. Thus, Jesus was able to preserve His sans-sin Godly nature, within humanity.
In conclusion, I do not believe that the Bible completely forbids the use of any form of assisted reproductive techniques. However, I do believe that the Bible warns us, through biblical examples, against using 3rd parties (Surrogates, donated eggs or sperm) in the birth process. Another aspect of caution pertaining to this ethical issue that I found to be constantly implied in my biblical study is the caution against impure motives in conceiving a child. When the focus of procreation is centered on selfish ambition, perhaps saving a marriage or satisfying one’s need for a biological bond, and not on the will of God then major problems ensue. With all this said I believe that it is most vital when making a life changing decision, that may not only affect your life but perhaps the life of an unborn child, to supplicate to God in prayer and wait on His will.