Bioethics: A Primer for Christians by Gilbert Meilander

Biblical Christians make headlines for their stance on a few hot button bioethical issues – namely abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Yet the realm of bioethics is much broader, and without a more fundamental approach to the role of technology and the human body, Biblical Christians seem to break down into inconsistencies very quickly. Why is it wrong to destroy embryos for medical research, yet not wrong when excessive embryos are created in the in vitro fertilization process – embryos that are ultimately either stored perpetually with no hope for life, or destroyed outright as no longer necessary?

The Biblical answer would be that neither situation is proper. Yet because IVF seeks to create life, many Biblical Christians don’t see a problem with it, even when it creates excess embryos that are then sifted through for best viability. This is an example of inconsistencies that result from not having thought (and prayed) through the many facets of biotechnology.

This book is an excellent introduction (hence the name) to a broad smattering of biotechnology applications, providing some fairly clear and lucid considerations for a Biblical Christian bioethics stance. In addition to the expected topics of embryonic stem cell research and abortion, Meilaender also covers important areas such as euthanasia, organ donation, and the quandry of the appropriateness of participating as volunteers in various medical (or other) experiments.

Only once did I think Meilaender was way off base – and that was his argument that abortion was acceptable in the case of rape or incest. While I laud the compassion that would lead Meilaender and many others to that conclusion, two wrongs don’t ultimately make a right. I don’t believe that saddling a woman with the double-baggage of both what happened to her and the destruction of a human life is ultimately the best form of compassion.

Some topics covered in this book seem very straightforward. In others, Meilaender provides food for thought and a nudge in what he feels is a good direction, while acknowledging that the individual is going to have to sort things out for themselves to some extent, hopefully through prayer and the influence og a strong Christian family & community.

This book is unabashedly Christian. While Meilaender’s conclusions are grounded firmly in the Biblical witness of a creating, redeeming and sanctifying God, his passionate and consistent arguments in favor of defending all human life in all stages of that life should resonate with a broader audience.

I enjoyed this book greatly, and was both challenged and informed through it.