Reacting RightlyWe live in an age when there are many things going on in the world to which we may feel inclined to react. One cannot pick up a newspaper without seeing articles about things to which we are all sensitive. Issues flood our television sets, and there are always people at work who want to start an argument by bringing up some controversial subject and taking a position on that subject which they know we will object to. One of the problems with all this is that we have people in the religious community who are more than willing to give their own personal judgment on a subject, and make it sound as if that is the official word from Jesus Christ. When these folks take an extreme position on a subject, especially a position that is not carefully thought out, it brings massive negative fruits to the Christians system and forms a stumbling block for many people in the world who are not Christians, but are considering Christianity. It also causes major problems for our young people who frequently understand the issues better than adults. Let us take a few examples to try to demonstrate the problem we are trying to address in this discussion.
Cloning offers the hope of solving some of the most difficult problems facing mankind. It is entirely possible that within the near future we will be able to clone human organs. What that could mean is that cancer would no longer be a disease of consequence. If a person had liver cancer, all that would have to be done would be to take a few healthy cells out of their liver and clone a new liver. We would then remove the diseased liver and replace it with the cloned one. The cancer would be gone, and there would be no rejection problem because the new liver would be from the cells of the patient. Progress has already been made in doing this in animals, and the possibility of doing it in the near future in humans is very real.
Cloning also may provide mankind with the ability to solve our food problems. Crops that are difficult to grow or which have special nutritional value could be cloned so that maximum nutrition and quantity would be available from every crop we grow. The potential that cloning offers in agriculture is staggering, and already animals in danger of becoming extinct are being cloned and studied to see how they may be able to help solve some of the major problems humans face.
In view of all of this, why would anyone oppose cloning. The immediate response is "It is wrong to clone a human being." The foolishness of cloning humans is obvious to most people. Not only is there the probability of things going wrong, but we live on a planet that has too many people as it is, so why would one want to increase that number. It is only the lunatic fringe of our society which is proposing the cloning of humans. Cloning your mother will not produce your mother. At best it would produce something that looks like your mother, but what makes up a human is` love, caring, compassion, experience--things that cloning does not produce.
Should Christians oppose cloning? Absolutely not. Should Christians oppose the cloning of a human being ? Absolutely. The fact that cloning can be misused does not make it something that we must oppose. Aviation fuel was used to cause tragedy on September 11, 2001. Does that mean that we should oppose the production of aviation fuel? It is important for us to know what we are opposing and to teach and explain to those around us what are real issues and what are not, and cloning is a classic example of this.
Stem cells offer a very similar issue with a slightly different twist. The stem cell issue has been accelerated by Nancy Reagan and other public figures who have had family members suffer diseases that stem cells might be able to help cure or alleviate. There is no question that stem cells may offer help in treating Alzheim-er's, Parkinson's, diabetes, and a variety of other ailments which afflict human beings. What has clouded the stem cell issue has been the possible use of aborted babies to secure stem cells. The pro-abortion faction has seized upon this to push their agenda, and there has been a concerted effort by some to make it appear that the only source of stem cells is aborted babies.
The fact of the matter is that stem cells are available from a wide range of sources. While aborted babies may be a source of stem cells for research, they would never be a solution to any of the diseases to which stem cell research is directed. The reason is that there are not enough babies aborted in the whole world to meet the demand for stem cells that would be created if all of the diseases being considered for stem cell research were supplied.
The more productive research with stem cells involves using stem cells that are taken from one's own body, for then there is no possible problem of rejection and no shortage of stem cell material. Once again it is important to understand that Christians should not be identified as being against stem cell research, but rather we need to make clear that we want responsible medical research using real materials that can offer real solutions to the needs of the world in which we live.
Perhaps the most volatile issue in this area of discussion is the subject of evolution. We want to make it clear that we have consistently opposed those who would promote atheistic neo-Darwinism and the rejection of God. There is no question that some very horrible consequences have come and will come from the acceptance of the idea that man is just a highly evolved animal produced by rote mechanistic chance, with no special value and no connection with God. The problem is that evolution is not the property of atheists. Just because a large number of atheists believe in democracy does not mean that embracing democracy means embracing atheism. In the same way, much of our understanding of evolution speaks eloquently of God's design and purpose in the creation and demonstrates the impossibility of chance producing all we see in the natural world.
Evolution does not deal with creation. What it deals with is the changes that may have taken place in things already created. The origins of time, space, matter, and the precursors of life are not things evolution attempts to deal with. How living things change and adapt to the changing Earth and to different environments on Earth is a subject of evolution. It is also an area in which evolution contributes to the well being of mankind. How insects change and adapt to environmental conditions is a major understanding that people in agriculture have to have. How viruses and bacteria change to cause good and bad things in human beings is important to medicine. How animals change to produce less fat and better nutritional value is vital to the meat industry.
It is important that we understand what is factual and what is
theory, and that we not react to the word "evolution" in an uninformed
way that makes us deny obvious changes in the natural world. The more
we understand of the creation, the
more we understand of the creator.
New discoveries are not a threat to the believer in God, and in fact
improve and enhance our understandings of God's wisdom and creative
power. Our battle as believers is with those who would attempt to use
evolution as a means to demean God and the Bible and promote personal
agendas which justify the abuse and denigration of human beings.
Christians have participated in many cases in abusive behavior towards homosexuals, instead of the love, care, and compassion that God commands. Why is it that an alcoholic is not given the kind of abuse that homosexuals are? There is as strong a case for alcoholism being genetically influenced and yet the Christian community has not reacted in the same way as it has to homosexuality. Promiscuous sex is certainly a more prevalent abuse of God's plan for marriage in our culture, and it is a destructive lifestyle promoting STDs and even more damage on children than homosexuality has.
Our point here is not to promote or condone homosexuality. We have consistently said in this journal that homosexuality is a destructive lifestyle in its basic nature, but Christians are to be loving, caring, helping people who help others find solutions--and that has frequently not been the case.
It is no secret that the American public schools are in trouble. As a public high school teacher for 41 years, I am more aware than most people of the challenges and problems that exist in public schools. The fact is that public schools are not the same everywhere. In some places public schools are battlegrounds with gangs and racial conflict making just walking down the hall dangerous. Prostitution, drugs, alcohol, and abuse of all kinds can be found in public schools in many places. The fact that such things exist cannot be denied, but it is also important to understand that not all public schools have these problems.
Many Christians have reacted to the problems of public education by withdrawal. Home schooling and private schools of all kinds have exploded in popularity in recent years. It is important to look at the reality of situations and at the motivation that Christian parents have in putting their children into home school or private school situations. If the purpose of withdrawal is to keep a child away from "the nasties," it may be misguided--especially if "the nasties" are simply the parents' prejudices. Part of "training up a child in the way they should go" involves teaching them how to get along with people from different cultures and belief systems. Even learning how to deal with values and opinions that are different from your own is important.
Public schools remain important in our country and in our life-styles. When Christian families have a special needs problem for a child it is almost inevitably the public school system which is called upon to try and deal with the problem. Enrichment programs in many public school systems are far beyond what any individual or private school can offer. It is important that Christians not abandon the public schools and thus by default turn them over to people hostile to Christianity.
Parents need to be involved in the public schools. Learn what the teachers are about, and find out what the children are being taught. Many public schools are doing a wonderful job and have numerous Christians teaching in them. There is a place for private and home schooling, but parents need to make informed decisions about their child's education.
In recent years science has investigated the makeup of the human genetic structure. Francis Collins, the director of the project, is a believer in Christ and has written extensively about the value and purpose of the human genome. Like cloning and stem cells, the human genome has the potential for abuse, but that is not the reason to study it and learn about it.
Knowing the makeup of the human genome will give us the ability to discover and treat a variety of diseases. It is also a useful tool in helping couples plan for their children, avoiding high potentials for babies which have massive congenital problems. Jesus talked about the importance of calculating the cost before building something or entering into a battle (see Luke 14:28-32). We would suggest that parenting involves similar planning. Couples need to know if there is a high risk to their baby from the genetic affects of the world around us. This is not something evil or dangerous; it is simply using the information that God has allowed us to secure to avoid pain, suffering, and negative consequences to all that man has done.
Christians need to react responsibly to the world around us. That means not overreacting, not getting caught up into badly thought out responses to social problems, and not endangering ourselves, our children, or our finances by psychotic reactions to change. God will lead us as we strive to have "a good report of those which are without" (1 Timothy 3:7), but we have to be informed, caring, and concerned people to do what God would have us do. It is only by being the light of the world in this way that we can truely speak to a lost and dying world.
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