On Theological Anthropology in An Age of Engineering Life
May the tissues (for example, stem cells) from a human fetus be used to look for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease?
Should scientists clone human beings, simply because it is possible?
May humans manipulate the environment in whichever way suits them, no matter the effect on other species?
Should Christian farmers grow genetically-modified foods?
When The Canadian Council of Churches’ Commission on Faith and Witness was asked to consider such important, troubling, and complex questions, we found we were led to the foundations of our faith. None of the questions is abstract; all are urgent, because they are about matters that are happening here and now to each of us. These matters have effects much bigger than we can see, but require that we make choices. In making choices, our humanity is disclosed.
In this short pamphlet intended for ordinary believers – and anyone else who is interested and concerned! – we obviously cannot say all that is possible to say about the new genetic sciences and technologies, or about how scientific and industrial activity affects the earth and all that is within it (Psalm 24:1-2).*
We can, however, speak of what is crucial and common to us as we wrestle faithfully with such subjects. The questions posed above constitute a mere beginning. We are not raising all the questions that could be raised. And we are not offering one-size-fits-all answers to the questions we have raised. We offer this publication as a guide for further exploration, further study and reflection. We encourage you to become as informed as possible about the fast-approaching scientific future; but we do not need great technical or scientific expertise to begin serious reflection on, for example, genetic engineering in light of our faith.
The Commission members belong to many different Christian families. We have different traditions, different ways of thinking, understanding, speaking, and praying. Yet as we reflect together on such questions, we find that we all approach them from the same source. That source, that fundamental sense of who we humans are before the face of God, is shared by us all. And it is from that common source that we explore these exciting but difficult questions. As an experienced poet told an eager young person: “learn to love the questions.” Even in the questioning, we learn to love God, and one another.
All of us have to wrestle with these questions in our own way, but we first need to help each other to understand “what humanity is all about” in order to make life-giving, life-respecting decisions. Indeed, we believe that facing up to our human condition is part of what it means to be human, and what it means to be Christian. Every generation must respond to the questions of its own time. Yet it is one of the delightful mysteries of being human that we learn how to live in a new age by drawing on the one living God of all ages, all times, and all places. This One God is the self-revealing Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.