Bioethics: The Church And The Family -- By: Scott Rae

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:1 (Mar 2016)
Article: Bioethics: The Church And The Family
Author: Scott Rae

Bioethics: The Church And The Family

Scott Rae*

* Scott Rae is dean of faculty and professor of Christian ethics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, 13800 Biola Avenue, La Mirada, CA 90639. He delivered this presidential address at the 67th annual meeting of the ETS in Atlanta, GA on November 18, 2015.

Abstract: This paper highlights several emerging trends in bioethics and explores how they affect both the church and the family. These include prenatal technology, infanticide, assisted suicide and eugenics, gene editing, and enhancement biotechnology. It then argues that the church has been under-educated in bioethics for some time, particularly in the areas of abortion, dealing with the end of life, and reproductive technologies, especially IVF.

Key Words: bioethics, abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide, gene editing, designer children, end of life, reproductive technologies, IVF.

I am delighted to have the privilege of delivering this year’s ETS presidential address, on the intersection of bioethics, the church, and the family. I should warn you in advance of the occupational hazards of stepping into this field, as I routinely caution my philosophy students who are desirous of taking up this field professionally. God, in his providential sense of humor, has seen fit to have my field “follow me home” for the past 30 years. As a result, these are not purely academic discussions divorced from the shoe leather of real life. At several times in the life of my family, I have had these discussions at the bedside of loved ones and around the kitchen table at home. For example, I never anticipated that my initial interest in the ethics of reproductive technologies, which began in the late 1980s, when IVF was only 10 years old and surrogacy was the stuff of TV miniseries, would come home with me. It was right about then that my wife and I began a roughly four-year, very painful journey with infertility. Ours had a happy ending, as we have 3 grown kids today, but it was only through what the non-theologically oriented would call pure luck, that I call the providential grace of God, that we discovered the root cause of the problem.

Phase II of my field following me home began in the early mid-90s with the first assisted suicide initiative on the ballot in California. I was asked to speak on the subject and participated in a handful of debates in health care settings, and carefully followed the court decisions on this throughout the 1990s, and have watched it closely to its passage into law just a few months ago in California. The debate over PAS generated a great deal of discussion about the broader issues around end-of-life care, most of it good and necessary discussion. It was ar...

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