What Difference Does it Make?
What is the Christian view of cloning?
While the Bible does not specifically deal with the subject of cloning, there are principles in Scripture given which may shed more light on the subject of cloning.
What is Cloning?
Cloning requires both DNA and embryo cells in order to take place. First, DNA is removed from the nucleus of a donor creature’s cell. The material, bearing coded genetic information, is then placed in the nucleus of an embryonic cell of another creature; the cell receiving the new genetic information would have had its own DNA removed in order to accept the new DNA. If the cell accepts the new DNA, a duplicate embryo is formed. However, the embryo cell may reject the new DNA, and will die. Also, it is very possible that the embryo may not survive having the original genetic material removed from its nucleus. In many cases, when cloning is attempted, several embryos are used at a time, in order to increase the odds of a successful implantation of new genetic material, and therefore, duplication. While it is possible for a duplicate creature to be created in this manner (for example, Dolly the sheep), the chances of successfully duplicating a creature exactly, and without complication is extremely slim.
Human beings are created in the image of God, and therefore, are unique.
Genesis 1:26-27 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (27) God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
If man is created in God’s image and likeness, and is unique among all creations, then that is something to be valued, and not treated like a commercial commodity to sell or to trade.
Some people have promoted cloning for the purpose of creating replacement organs for people who need transplants, but cannot find a suitable donor. The thinking is that to take one’s own DNA and create a duplicate organ composed of that DNA would greatly reduce the chances of organ rejection.
The process of cloning requires human embryos to be used; while cells can be generated to make new organs, it is necessary to kill several embryos to obtain the required DNA. In essence the cloning would “throw away” many human embryos as “waste material” and with it the chances for those embryos to grow into full maturity. Killing embryos is the same thing as killing persons.
Science asserts that life does not begin at conception (the formation of the embryo). The Bible teaches differently.
Psalms 139:13-16 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. (14) I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. (15) My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; (16) Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.
This refers to the writer being known personally by God before he was born.
Isaiah 49:1-5 Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. (2) He has made My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. (3) He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory.” (4) But I said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity; Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward with My God.” (5) And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength)
This speaks of God calling Isaiah to his ministry as a prophet while he was still in his mother’s womb. All of this points to the Bible’s stand on life beginning at conception. In light of this, cloning, with its destruction of human embryos would not be consistent with the Bible’s view of human life.
Additionally, if man is created, then there must be a Creator, and man is therefore subject and accountable to that Creator. Although popular thinking in the form of secular psychology and humanistic thought would have one to believe that man is accountable to no one other than himself, and that man is the ultimate authority, the Bible teaches differently.
The Bible teaches that God created man, and gave man responsibility over the earth (see Genesis 1:28-29, and Genesis 9:1-2). With this responsibility comes the obligation to answer to God. This means that man is not the ultimate authority over himself, and that he is therefore not in a position to make decisions about the value of human life. Neither then is science the authority by which the ethics of cloning, abortion, or euthanasia are decided. According to the Bible, God is the only One who rightfully exercises the sovereign control over human life. To assert control over things like this is to place oneself in God’s position. Clearly man is not to do this.
Again, in thinking that man not a creation, but simply another creature, it is not difficult to look upon human beings as machines or mechanisms which need maintenance and repair. We are not just a collection of organisms, which accidentally occurred, and have remained in place for some time. The Bible clearly teaches that God created each of us, and has a specific plan for each of us. Further, He seeks a personal relationship with each of us, through His Son, Jesus Christ. While there are aspects of cloning which may seem beneficial, mankind has no control over where cloning technology may go. It is foolish to assume that only good intentions will direct the utilization of cloning. Man is not in a position to exercise the responsibility or judgment that would be required to govern cloning of human beings.
Some Other Questions That Surround This Issue
- Why did God create us? The short answer is “for His pleasure.” Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created. Colossians 1:16 reiterates the point: All things were created by Him and for Him. He did what pleased Him, and since God is perfect, His action was perfect. “It was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
He also created us to be in His image and in His likeness (Gen 1:26)
- What does it mean that man is made in the image of God? On the last day of creation, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). Thus, He finished His work with a “personal touch.” God formed man from the dust and gave him life by sharing His own breath (Genesis 2:7). Accordingly, man is unique among all God’s creations, having both a material (body) and an immaterial (soul / spirit) part.Having the “image” or “likeness” of God means, that we were made to resemble God, not in the sense of God’s having flesh and blood. Scripture says that “God is a spirit” (John 4:24) and therefore exists without a body.
The image of God refers to the immaterial part of man. We are able to commune with God through our Spirit. The animals don’t have this. It is a likeness mentally, morally, and socially.
The big question that arises is; would a cloned human being have the above characteristics. Would they have a spirit and soul? Could they get saved?
- How are human souls created? There are two primary views on how the soul / spirit is created. Traducianism is the theory that a soul is generated by the physical parents along with the body.
What is the support for this view?
- In Genesis 2:7
- Adam had a son in his own likeness (Genesis 5:3).
- God did no further creating (Genesis 2:2-3).
- Adam’s sin affects all men — both physically and spiritually
Creationism is the view that God creates a new soul / spirit when a human being is conceived.
What is the support for this view?
- Creationism was held by many church fathers
- It also has Scriptural support.
- Scripture differentiates the origin of the soul from the origin of the body (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Isaiah 42:5, Zechariah 12:1, Hebrews 12:9).
- If God creates each individual soul at the moment it is needed, the separation of soul and body is held firm.
- There is also the view of reincarnation
- There is also a view that all souls were created at one time, awaiting a body
The ultimate answer to the question is that the soul / spirit does not exist before it inhabits the body.
Whichever view is correct, all agree that the soul does not exist prior to conception.
- How should a Christian view genetic engineering?”
It is difficult to establish definitive scriptural references on this topic alone. So we will need to establish a grid of principles in order to determine a view on genetic engineering.
The element of greatest concern on this issue involves how much liberty mankind can take in its responsibility to care for the human body and the rest of creation. There seems to be no doubt that the Bible exhorts us to be responsible for physical health. Proverbs refers to certain activities as to bringing health to an individual (Proverbs 12:18). The Apostle Paul states that we have a certain propensity to care for the body (Ephesians 5:29). He also encouraged his protégé to take medicinal action for his infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23). We are also aware that believers have the distinct responsibility of responding properly with the body in that it is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). We are to show our faith by offering assistance to those who have physical needs (James 2:16). Therefore, one would conclude that as Christians we should be concerned about physical well-being and the benefits of securing help toward health.
The creation was to be under the care of humans (Genesis 1:28; 2:15-20), but the Bible tells us that creation was impacted by the sin of humans (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:19-21), and anticipates being corrected. It is possible to conclude that as caretakers for the creation, humans have an obligation to “fix” the affects of the sin curse and attempt to bring things into a better alignment. Therefore, the use of scientific advances could be used for the betterment of the creation.
- There is a concern of genetic engineering taking on a role beyond what God has given to us as His creation. The Bible states that all things were created by God and for Him (Colossians 1:16).
As individuals we are made in God’s image and therefore should be subject to His plan (Genesis 1:26,27; Matthew 22:20,21). . God designed His creation after certain “kinds” (Genesis 1:11-25). Too much manipulation of the genetics (altering species) could be delving into issues reserved for the Designer.
2. There is a concern of genetic engineering attempting to preclude God’s plan for restoration of creation. As stated above, the creation was affected by the events recorded in Genesis 3 (mankind’s rebellion against God’s plan).
Death entered into the world and the genetic make up of man and the rest of creation began a change toward demise. In some instances, the genetic engineering could be seen as an attempt to undo this result called the “curse.”
However, God has said that He has a remedy for this called redemption through Jesus Christ. It is described in Romans, chapter 8, and 1 Corinthians, chapter 15. The creation anticipates newness associated with the culmination of God’s promise to restore things to an even better state than in the original. To go “too far” to fight the process may compete with the responsibility of individuals to trust in Christ for restoration (Philippians 3:21).
3. It seems evident from general Scriptural study that God has a plan for the process of life. It seems evident that the process is unique and purposeful. There is concern that if humanity interferes with that process that something could go wrong. For example – Psalm 139 describes an intimate relationship between the psalmist and his Creator from the time as earlier as the womb.
Would genetic manipulation to create life outside of God’s plan jeopardize the development of a God-conscious soul? Would interfering with the process of physical life affect the prospects of spiritual life?
Romans 5:12 tells us that all humanity sins because Adam sinned. It is understood that this involved a transference of a sin nature from generation to generation so that all have sinned (Romans 3:23). Paul explains the hope of eternity through the conquering of the affect of Adam’s sin. If all that are in Adam (from his seed) die, and Christ died for those in such condition – could life created outside of that “seed” be redeemed? (1 Corinthians 15:22, 23).
4. There is concern that such bold strides in genetic engineering are motivated by a defiance of God. Genesis 11:1-9 discusses what happens when the creation attempts to exalt itself above the Creator.
The people were unified, yet they were not submissive to God’s design. God as a result stopped their progress. God certainly recognized that there were some dangers involved with the direction that the people were headed.
We have similar warning in Romans 1:18-32. Here God describes individuals that have become so enamored with the creation (actually worshipping it rather than the Creator) that those individuals spiraled down to destruction. There is a danger that genetic engineering could foster similar motivations, and ultimately, similar results.