Our discussion began when my seat mate commented that he had observed my wife across the aisle. In observing her modest attire, he had questions about our identity. This opened the door for me to feel free to ask him questions about his faith. He seemed happy to inform me that he was a devout Catholic.
Our discussion turned to history as I asked him if he knew about Anabaptism. Does anyone else struggle with feelings of superiority when discussing the history of the reformation with the children of those who persecuted our forebears? I tamped down my pride and tried to turn it into a thankfulness to be a part of a church with a Bible heritage. I am ever inspired by those who were willing to live for God in their generation, regardless of the cost.
After a while, our discussion turned to the present. My seat mate frankly asked me “Are your churches prepared for the onslaught of the liberal pressures of humanism? Are you resisting the waves of how man is manipulating his own body for his goals?”
I wanted to tell him, “Yes! We are deeply rooted in the Word of God!” but I hedged. I wasn’t sure I really understood what he was talking about. And I wondered if he being a devout Catholic was going to ask me if our church members practice birth control to prevent having “too many” children.
So I waited while he rooted through his bag and found a magazine. He held it out to me, and I began to read...
“Humanity 4.5. The distinctly transhumanist horizon comes about when our project of mastery turns its attention to our own bodies. They come to be treated as raw material, resources available to satisfy our free individual preferences. Our will to transcend nature through projects of mastery mounts a rebellion against the natural constraints of the organic human body, harnessing the power of technological innovations to render it the instrument of our arbitrary will. Why should we tolerate bondage to our frail flesh when we can split atoms and destroy cities?
From the low-tech mania for tattooing and piercing, through the medium-tech tools of abortion, hormonal birth-control, and transgendering, to the high-tech visions and explorations of genetic engineering and cyborgism, this rebellion seems to be gathering steam. An aggressive assertion of bodily self-ownership is becoming the new normal, with the status of a fundamental right.
Politically speaking, the assertion of individual self-ownership is a central feature of libertarianism. The transhumanism of Humanity 4.5 is thus an extreme expression of the libertarianism that is spreading through American society...1”
I then asked him if I could snap a photo of the page. Since that day, I have often gone back to re-read and ponder these words. I never did give him a firm answer to his question. Have we really thought through the implications of choosing to use our bodies as “raw material”? Of acting like we are the owners and God is a bystander in the sanctity of life?
This article is a consideration of some of the issues that libertarianism is promoting. How will these issues filter down to us? Can we believe as Christians we have power over our own bodies and then only choose the good? Or will we choose to believe that all forms of selective sovereignty are wrong?
The Slippery Slope is slippery because everyday life hands us many difficult situations. Some families have too many children. Other couples are barren. Life doesn’t seem fair. We are tempted to think, “Here is a problem that God is not addressing and we have a reasonable solution.” Even men of faith wrestle with this mental journey. We all remember Abram in his struggle with the promise of a son and innumerable descendants. The reality was the years were passing by with no solution. Then Sarai presented a solution. It all seemed so simple. What can be wrong to choose to have a child on your own terms? Wasn’t the goal to help God fulfill His promise? But was this God’s plan? Did He need their help? Was the choice that brought Ishmael into the world an act of faith or an act of unbelief?
From our perspective generations later we see the mask the tempter was wearing. We see the difficult reaping they experienced in their generation and in generations to come. But do we even recognize these same patterns when they arise in our lives?
Now we seem to have a host of “Sarai” answers. As in the days of the tower of Babel, men are banding together for what they can accomplish without regard to the fear of God. When men join their ideas, they achieve accomplishments that go far beyond what isolated individuals could achieve.
Add to this the theory of evolution. In 1859, just before the beginning of the American Civil War, Charles Darwin advanced the theory of that life began by random natural processes. This theory has paved the way for mankind to live without godly perimeters. By eradicating Creation from our history, scientists have also eradicated the Creator’s directives from our lives. One of the most Sovereign activities of the Creator was creating life. Now we too can claim ownership to that.
Mankind wishes to free the creation of life from its original boundaries. Today we have a plethora of choices regarding this most holy and sacred miracle. For decades science has opened the door for preventing conception or eliminating life before birth. Now science is opening the door to bringing forth life in situations not formerly possible.
One line of logic is if we can use science to prevent life, certainly we can use science to help bring forth life. But maybe it is time for us to go back and reexamine the liberties we have taken. If we selectively choose to remove any of our Creator’s principles in order to hinder or create life, are we not helping to open the door to the experimentation which seems to have no barriers? It is true, some of these practices shock us by their blatant disregard for the Creator. But others come sneaking in, appearing innocent and innocuous. But wouldn’t we have to admit they all are linked by a common element – that man has sovereignty over life?
In the guest editorial in the last issue, a strong case was made that man is deliberately usurping from God the right to tamper with human life. In this issue we will investigate how this looks in practical ways.
Mankind has long practiced abortion, the murder of unborn children. We have no evidence that churches of Anabaptist descent have defended abortion. Our understanding is that life begins at conception, and we have sensed that abortion is a desensitized murder. The Bible plainly teaches that murderers will not go to heaven (1Jo 3:15, Rev 21:8). But have we understood that the present day pill accomplishes some of its effectiveness through its abortive qualities? Isn’t it astounding how the mask of a pill can make this form of murder appear so innocent? Think about it, “Can the driving motivation of having a desire to escape the burden of bearing children be the heartbeat of our Creator?”
Euthanasia of non-sentient deformed beings. There is increasing pressure to relieve society of the burden of children with birth defects. Here is a recent quote from biologist Jerry Coyne “If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect, microcephaly, spina bifida, or so on, then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born?...I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral,” he said. “After all, newborn babies aren’t aware of death, aren’t nearly as sentient as an older child or adult, and have no rational faculties to make judgments (and if there’s severe mental disability, would never develop such faculties)...The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion—in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul. It’s the same mindset that, in many places, won’t allow abortion of fetuses that have severe deformities. When religion vanishes, as it will, so will much of the opposition to both adult and newborn euthanasia.1”
Artificial insemination. If a barren woman is barren because she is married to an infertile man, by choosing artificial insemination she may still enjoy the benefits of motherhood and family without committing adultery. She doesn’t need to know the father and yet may have some say as to what the genetic code of the child will be. Best of all she has reason to believe her own genetics and personality will in some way blossom forth in the child that is to be. Another advantage of this is that there does not need to be an adoption process. By this process, even single women may have a household of children of their own by simply experiencing as many pregnancies as they choose. But is this process within our Creator’s plan for bringing forth life?
In-vitro-fertilization and embryo adoption. This process is more complicated. There needs to be a formal adoption. The genetic code is going to very much be a surprise package. But again, a barren woman or an unmarried single may have a child; or an entire family if so desired. A couple may experience the joys of parenting in ways not formerly possible. And one can rescue a life doomed to live and die without a physical existence. But what is our Creator’s view of this? Is He still involved in giving of life in the way He designed? Can this be within His plan?
Same sex marriages and one flesh unions. Our society flaunts their freedom of lifestyle, in the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender unions. Many of the depravities described in the epistles (Rom 1:26-28) that we as an older generation thought we would never witness are becoming supposedly acceptable. Even more astounding is that those of us who hold to Biblical values are represented as bigoted, intolerant and therefore uncharitable! And of course a union which formerly was bound to be destitute of children may now have their own offspring. We know this is an abomination unto the Lord; it has been from creation and will be until the close of time (1Co 6:9-11).
The sobering question we as American Anabaptists must face is, “Has our choice to manipulate God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” and relieve or lessen this responsibility from the “one flesh” calling muted our witness or contributed to other’s boldness to manipulate Creation principles for their desires?” Need we elaborate on this? For several generations already, many in the Anabaptist community have decided that parents have the liberty to decide if and when they wish to have another child. We call it “family planning” when it is clear the planning is all about not having a family the way God would have it, but one according to one’s own preferences.
The Solid Foundation. Our Creator designed a special plan for procreation of the human race. Will we be courageous enough to “marry” His plan and submit to the outcome? Let us ponder the implications of His plan and His early commands to mankind.
Our Creator’s repeated command to mankind to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:22, 8:7, 9:1) is intricately related to His directive that the married couple “shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:24). Can we not see that to separate these two is stepping outside His Divine purposes? God intends for the married man and woman to come together in physical union and intimacy (1Co 7:5) and for them to bring forth (birth) and parent the children conceived in this union (Mal 2:14-16). Is He pleased with human “improvements” (which are really nothing but interference) with His plan?
As disciples of Jesus Christ – He who restored mankind to the Creation order (Matt 19:4-6) – we too must be committed to these twin principles of God’s plan. In other words, we recognize it is going against the Divine plan to form a “one flesh” union outside of marriage (1Co 6:15-17) or to refuse the “one flesh” union in marriage (1Co 7:5). Furthermore it is contradicting Divine will to prevent the “...fruitful and multiply...” heritage (Psa 127:3) that results from such a union. God has planned that the marriage union of one flesh and being fruitful and multiplying are expressions of His ongoing creation of the Human family. Bible teaching reveals that God is intimately involved in the formation of each child who is conceived, in both personality and physical features (Psa 139:13-17). Furthermore He promises to personally bless and enable each of the offspring who are conceived in His plan (Isa 44:2-5).
In recognition of these facts, we wish to reaffirm the following positions.
We believe God opposes all same sex unions that are supposedly called marriage. Also we believe God opposes all transposing of gender after conception. These innovations are clearly outside our Creator’s purposes.
We believe that it is God’s will for the “one flesh” union of husband and wife to produce children. Along with this we believe God’s will is contradicted in efforts to deliberately prevent conception and/or the termination of the life of the unborn child in the name of “family planning”. We recognize and submit to God’s sovereignty over the generations of men and understand that He holds the keys of life.
We believe God opposes all efforts to artificially conceive life or bring to birth through implantation of life outside the one flesh union of the marriage bed.
We understand our Creator made a distinction between human life and animal life. Mankind is given dominion over the animals (Gen 1:26,28). There is conspicuous lack of any such privilege/responsibility of mankind being given dominion over human life. The only exception is when governmental authorities exercise capital punishment to punish the murderer (Gen 9:5-6).
We support the concept that the barren and unmarried will bring forth a fruitful life by accepting God’s will and purposes for them with the opportunities He places in their hands (Psa 113:9).
Let us be as the brother whose eyes were opened to the sovereignty of God in the sanctity of life when he read the verses from Deuteronomy. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deu 32:39)
We all know the worldly Christian and unbeliever will scoff at these principles. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Tit 1:16). But let us who have a legacy of faith be among the heroes of faith from other generations and rise to the challenges of our day. Let us choose to permit God be God in our family choices. Then we can give a solid affirmation when questioned as to our beliefs about God’s sovereignty over life.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1Co 6:19-20)
First Things November 2015 Issue Written by Mark Shiffman