Thursday, April 24, 2014

RAMBLINGS ON TECHNOLOGY AND BIBLICAL ETHICS

I received the following comments and question after my post:  THE TITLE OF MY BLOG.  "... this has been kicking around in my mind for a while and kind of relates to your last post.  Do you feel like you can always find answers in the Bible?  I am thinking about some of the rather bizarre cases that come before the Supreme Court.  Something like parental rights in cases with surrogate mothers.  Usually things that come up as a result of technology.  I sometimes hear about these cases and I think that I don’t have any idea on how to even form an opinion.  It seems that technology is beginning to blur some lines that used to be distinct, yet while technology races ahead our thinking does not keep pace.  Anyway, I am interested in any thoughts you wish to share."

Well, I'm not sure where to start with this, but I'll give it a shot.

The first thought that came to mind was of a former neighbor of ours.  When we first met her, she and her husband had 3 lovely children and she showed signs of being pregnant again.  One day when Uni was baby-sitting, their oldest, an 11 year old daughter, said something about her Mom's condition.  When Uni cautiously questioned her, the little girl said something like, "Yes, Mom's pregnant again - but it's not ours."  Later we found that our petite little neighbor lady was on her 5th pregnancy; she'd had one before that was "not hers" and the present pregnancy was twins.  She was simply providing the womb for the fertilized egg supplied by others.

This, of course, was our first exposure to surrogate motherhood and it, of course, caused us to begin to think through what our position should be - or if we even should have a position.  Our neighbor had no problems or questions about "parental rights"; she saw what she was doing as a ministry to a couple in need.  As a matter of fact, she and her family became friends with the two couples she had carried babies for and even visits with them and their children.

Of course, the Bible also has a story of a "surrogate mother" of a different sort; her story is told in Genesis, chapter 16 and the following chapters.  It is the tragic tale of Hagar and her son Ishmael.  This one did stir up questions of "parental rights."

Abram, the patriarch, had been called of God to, among other things, establish a progeny through whom "... all families of the earth will be blessed" (12:3).  One problem:  Abram's wife Sarai was sterile (11:30).  So Sarai suggested to Abram that he impregnate her young Egyptian slave girl.  (We, of course, don't read that Abram was resistant to the idea of sleeping with the maid.)  Sarai, however, had second thoughts and ran off the pregnant Hagar.  Later, however, we find Abram still longing for his son Ishmael (17:18).  The real problem with this story is that, like so many in the Bible, no moral is clearly drawn; there are no neat principles to guide future generations.

But the above stories do little to increase our understanding of complex moral issues such as mentioned in the correspondence above.  So back to the question:  do I feel like I can always find answers in the Bible?  I'll give a clear yes and no to that one!

There are many matters for which there are no clear answers in the Bible.  The Book was written over a 1,500 year period in and to an ancient culture that greatly differed from that of today.  And even in its own day, it undoubtedly left many ethical questions unaddressed.  I believe that attempts to answer current questions by simply pulling isolated verses out of their contexts for "proof texts" is not only misguided, but also can actually be counterproductive - even dangerous.

On the other hand, there are many clear moral imperatives in the New Testament, some of which are quite specific.  And even more than this, there are broad commands, which while not necessarily specific to a particular case, contain principles which can be specifically applied in many instances, such as love for one's neighbor, the value of human life, care for the poor and stranger, etc.  That's why I believe the Christian needs to read his Bible, seek to interpret it correctly, to "think theologically" and to attempt to apply these principles in contemporary situations.

Supreme Court cases, like the one mentioned above, would be extremely difficult.  Another that is currently awaiting decision, is the case of Hobby Lobby and the company's refusal to pay for "morning after" pills or IUDs in their health care program.  These cases involve not only ethical/moral issues; but also matters of constitutional interpretation.  Though the Court is supposed to be apolitical, somehow decisions such as these usually end up 5/4 along conservative/liberal political lines.  And whether we form an opinion on these matters would seem to have no effect on the justices' decisions.

I agree that "technology is beginning to blur some lines that used to be distinct."  Humankind is capable of doing many things that at one time were felt to be only the province of God.  However, advances have been going on for hundreds of years, even though they seem to be increasing exponentially at present.  And along the way, it seems there have always been alarming warnings that we are "playing God."  Many - myself included - would like to see technology slow down a bit to let ethics catch up, but that is not likely.

I also fear that "can" has become synonymous with "should."  In other words, the fact that we are capable of doing something is felt to necessitate doing it.

As I stated, I may form opinions on many of these matters, but my opinions will have no effect on the Supreme Court.  And it will have no effect on those who are seeking and accomplishing scientific/technological breakthroughs.  So where does this put me as a Christian?  Where does this put us, the Church?

This is where Romans 12:2 comes into play:  "Stop being conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Our responsibility is to be "renewing our mind" as the passage says.  This involves a constant process of study of the Scriptures, allowing them to "transform" us and to develop thought patterns in conformity with them which help us to think critically about the thinking of "this age."  As Paul says elsewhere:  "...bringing every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5).

There are and will continue to be, matters where it is difficult to form opinions.  I believe we should be continually in the process of forming and re-forming our opinions based on our growth in knowledge, not only of the Scriptures, but also of what is going on in the culture around us.  It is our responsibility as followers of Jesus, to bring our thoughts into conformity with those Scriptures. But we are not directly responsible for the thinking and actions, right or wrong, of those of the culture around us, even though I believe we are responsible for influencing our culture for what is right.

So if I (or some believer in my sphere of influence) am confronted with the need for a personal decision in these areas, I will have to be as clear in my thinking as possible.  And if I am unable to see clearly to decide, I should admit my ignorance while still seeking for answers.

          TAKING A STAND
          FURTHER THOUGHTS ON TAKING A STAND

1 comment:

Skyline Spirit said...

pretty nice blog, following :)