October 9, 2007

Worldview and Bioethics

As a student of theology and evidential apologetics over 10 years ago, it became clear to me that a piecemeal approach to the content of my faith and the practical day to day was insufficient as it did not cohere with the testimony of Scripture. While Scripture captures a coherent, meaningful story from creation to consummation, it does not embrace the disorder that has plagued humanity since the Fall. And though this chaos is a manifestation of sin in the world, Christianity has not been immune to its influence of fragmentation. This fragmentation is not helpful to the believer in that it will often point him in a direction where God is not. An approach to Christian living that forces our life into fragments – the vocational and the spiritual as examples of the dichotomous secular and sacred- does not serve to give God glory in all areas of our life, even while he is sovereign over it all. This approach to living our lives before God does not represent a biblical worldview. Obviously every practitioner of his or her faith falls short, but it is my belief that the Reformed Christian worldview best captures God’s intent for humankind in all areas of life.

From Scripture, we learn the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation, all of which are answers to the questions asked by man since the beginning of time. How did I get here? Why does evil exist? How can things be better? How can I be spared death and live forever? As worldviews representative of other religions attempt to answer these questions, they often find themselves falling short or borrowing from Christianity in order to avoid charges of inconsistency. We find secularism, a religion grounded in man, a not-so-worthy-opponent to the Reformed Christian worldview, yet one that provides a great deal of challenges to the transforming of our culture.

The interdisciplinary nature of bioethics has allowed for many different voices to enter the discussion – scientists, medical professionals, philosophers, politicians and theologians. It is exciting to me, as a theologian, to see how the concept of worldview plays an important role in many, if not all, areas of bioethics including biotechnology, genetic research, end-of-life care, and so on. While bioethics is interdisciplinary, no one is without a worldview, their own set of presuppositions, and theology is able to speak to science, medicine, philosophy and politics.

So the questions of worldview, whether they are Sire’s seven questions or framed by the influence of Orr, Kuyper, or Van Til, are especially relevant to the bioethics discussions now and into the future. The question of origins is especially relevant, not only for the reformed theologian who accepts that man was created in the image of God, but also for the philosopher who posits that we are here by means of evolution. For the scientist and politician, the question may not be about how we got here, but how can we create humans again through the process of somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) for addressing the healthcare needs of humanity through embryo-destructive research. Human dignity is ultimately what is at stake with the question of origins in worldview discussions, and the best theological response to secularism on these issues will come from a reformed point of view.

Other worldview questions extremely important to bioethics matters are: How can things be better? How can I be spared death and live forever? In the advent of physical enhancements, anti-aging remedies, and embryo-destructive research and human cloning, these questions are not only being asked, but they are being answered by those whose presuppositional framework does not acknowledge that man was created in the Image of God. Rather, it is all about the possibilities of scientific progress. They believe physical enhancements or embryo-destructive research for cures should continue to be pursued. Unfettered science is where today’s secularly-minded scientists, politicians, and even some who claim to be religious, believe there is access to cures and to a more dignified way of living – or dying.

The many areas of bioethics including biotechnology and genetic research will continue to have an impact on society and require a worldview analysis from Christians in the field. Training believers to engage these areas is not just a matter of academic training, but also about preparing of families how to best answer dilemmas such as infertility and end-of-life care for family members. Trying to discuss bioethics outside of an integrated worldview framework will always leave the individual with questions and irresolvable inconsistencies. Therefore, considering bioethics issues within the Reformed worldview tradition is the manner in which I choose to educate and equip individuals and groups.

Developing and cultivating a Reformed Christian worldview is important for the Believer who wants to dig deeper into these urgent issues of our time. Bioethical reflection grounded by the Reformed Christian worldview proves to be an effective approach to engaging the issues as it seeks to glorify God as a matter of purpose.

No comments: