To apply the word engineering to genetics means that certain skilled humans can change other humans. Does this also mean that God, in one respect at least, has in fact relinquished his role as creator and sovereign over man’s destiny? Can Christians still affirm that our Lord Jesus Christ holds the entire universe in his hand? Genetic engineering seems to pit the skills of scientists against the Creator God. It also seems to pit the power of a small handful of elite scientists against the public welfare and the future of all humanity.
But there are two sides to this coin. If you carried hemophilia in your genes and the genetic engineers could deliver your child from this affliction, would you reject their science? The gift of knowledge brings both good and evil fruit—good when it springs from those who are good, and evil when it flows from evil hearts and minds. We can point to the benefits of genetic engineering. We can also point to wrongdoing within the scientific community when one of their own has transgressed their own guidelines for experimentation. We remember, too, the frightening possibilities presented to the world at Los Alamos in 1945. Nuclear engineering won the war; it also made possible the annihilation of us all. Nuclear medicine is a boon; nuclear war is an irrational nightmare.
In theological terms, we have no doubts whatsoever that God controls the universe. We remain constantly dependent on Christ’s power. We are troubled not only by what people who do not acknowledge God—or the ultimate moral commitments that flow from him—may do in the name of improving the product, the race, the basic building blocks of creation. We are also concerned about the tragic consequences of the berserk scientist or the well-planned experiments that go awry, even when conducted by the best-intentioned scientists in the world.
At this point, we are neither prepared to condemn altogether nor to approve of genetic engineering. But we are prepared to urge great caution. And prayer. And responsible action in both the academic and political communities. When have Christian people last agonized with God over what happens in the genetics lab? When have they prayed for scientists as much as they have cursed them? When was the last pastoral prayer offered for our scientists—both unbelieving as well as believing?
Earnest prayer will bring responsible Christian statesmanship, within both the academic and political arenas, to monitor this well-intentioned tampering. Each new genetic invention is a cause for concern. It should also cause us to seek grace and wisdom from the Almighty that we might be spared the devastating consequences of unwarranted genetic experimentation, and that those who see no difference between tinkering with the genetic code and computer memory chips may experience a moral transformation to bring them under the perfect law of love to God and to all human kind.
When george gallup began asking people in 1947 whether or not they were church members, more than three-fourths of them said yes. It has been downhill ever since. Now the decline appears to have been arrested. In 1980 Gallup found that 69 percent said they were church members, compared to 68 percent in both 1978 and 1979. Meanwhile, since 1958, a peak year for church attendance, the rate of churchgoing has dropped—from 49 percent to 40 percent in 1980. More people say they belong to church than actually worship there.
Among members who do not worship, as well as among those who neither belong nor worship, there is a fruitful field for thoughtful, compassionate, understanding evangelism. America still has a considerable core of baptized unbelief as well as unbaptized unbelief. But America also has a core of people who want to change that. Many of them will gather at Kansas City from July 27 to 30 to talk and pray together about how to bring about conversions to Christ among the churched and the unchurched. The American Festival of Evangelism merits participation by all who care about the soul of America (see interview, p. 22). There is no need to recount the country’s ills. Lostness is a terrible thing. May God bless this festival to the enlargement of the church universal.
When so many conservatives were elected to Congress last November, antiabortionists were euphoric about the prospects of passing a human life amendment to the Constitution. When the dust settled and noses were counted, however, it became evident there were still too few votes to pass the amendment. An addition to the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in Congress before it is sent to the states for ratification. Many members of the House and Senate oppose abortion, but certainly not two-thirds of each. With that reality, the prolife lobby decided on a two-year wait, hoping that more antiabortion candidates could be elected in the 1982 congressional elections.
But something happened recently that suddenly puts the banning of abortions within reach much sooner. A young constitutional lawyer from Harvard, Stephen Galebach, is pressing for passage of a human life bill, not an amendment. The bill would merely state there is “significant likelihood” that human life exists from conception, and therefore the unborn cannot be deprived of their right without the due process of law granted to everyone. The bill, of course, would require only a simple majority for passage, not two-thirds, and the states need not ratify it.
Here is the reason for it. In the regrettable abortion decision of 1973, Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court did not address the crucial question of when life begins, because, said the Court, it did not have the expertise to do so. Neither does Congress; but according to Galebach, it need not prove that life begins at conception to pass a bill protecting the unborn. It need only believe that such life probably exists. Congress has often acted to protect life when the uncertainties were at least as great as they are in abortions, Galebach argues. It has regulated new, untested drugs, and the use of tobacco, and it has regulated passive restraint systems in cars—all by calculating the risk that human life will be lost without federal action. In all these cases, as in abortion, the possibility that life will be preserved means that some people will have to be inconvenienced.
This is a new development in the long fight to protect the unborn. Because of the possibility that it can win, it is imperative that the antiabortion organizations that have been leading the charge lay aside their past differences and start pulling together. They have not always acted in unison because of some legitimate differences of opinion about the proper way a human life amendment should be worded. While the competition of ideas can lead to stronger language, it can also build up invisible walls of discord, and we believe this has been the case. These walls must tumble if antiabortion groups are to prevail in the campaign for the human life bill. In the years when the antiabortionists’ voice was weak and lonely, it didn’t matter so much that the leaders were fragmented. Everybody’s effort was needed. But now that voice has matured and deepened, and speaks with authority. It must not speak in discord. As one of the antiabortion newsletters put it recently, “power dissipated is power lost.” No truer words have been spoken.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more