How to Survive the 21st Century

In many ways this is a very difficult time to be living on planet Earth. I am sure that every period of time in the earth's history could be described by the preceding sentence, but there are certainly a variety of new issues and decisions being forced on today's inhabitants of planet Earth. Just being born is an accomplishment on a planet where millions of human lives are being snuffed out before birth occurs. After one is born, there is the question of genetic screening--questioning whether some people should be allowed to live or to reproduce based upon whether a map of their genes reveals that they will develop an inherited disease. Those who have a problem are likely to be encouraged to kill themselves with the assistance of a physician so they do not soak up large amounts of money or endure pain in the process of dying. The process of producing a child is becoming more technological for those who have a problem in conceiving a child. Invitro fertilization, artificial insemination, and a variety of screening processes designed to cull out unfit humans are all things that our technological world is forcing upon us. The choices involve morality, and they impact us all as we attempt to share our faith with others.

All kinds of reactions seem to be given to the kinds of issues described above. Some would tell us that all of these things are wrong and an invasion of God's sovereign control of the cosmos. Other would tell us that they are technological questions and that religious perspectives have no place in them. Einstein once said, "Religion without science is lame, but science without religion is blind." My understanding of that statement is that science can help religion in its understandings, but science cannot determine how its discoveries should be used without religious guidance. In this article, we would like to suggest some general principles that may be helpful to readers as they consider the issues of our day.


In the New Testament people are defined as "the temple of God," and there is even a warning not to "defile" that temple (1 Corinthians 3:16). Any medical procedure which improves our physical health without damaging someone else's would be contributing to be the temple of God in a positive way. Throughout the pages of the Bible, caring for one's body and enjoying good health were virtues and virtually no restrictions were put on how the body was to be cared for. Our spiritual health, on the other hand, is much more tightly controlled. While we are told that the food that goes into us does not make us better or worse, we are also told that our words do (Matthew 15:11). The biblical "thou shalt nots" are primarily spiritual in application and impact, and in fact God tells us He looks on our thoughts and attitudes and not on the things people see (Hebrews 4:12).


There have been times when I have worked with couples who were having difficulty in conceiving a child. In some of these cases, the couple was struggling with whether or not to go to a medical facility to help them with the problem. Their concerns centered around whether some of the processes violated biblical teachings. Does the removal of an egg from a woman, the addition of sperm from her husband or someone else, and the re-implanting of the egg in her womb constitute adultery or a violation of God's sovereignty. Similar issues are involved with the transplant of an organ from one person to another and whether that would contaminate the "temple" of 1 Corinthians 3:16. Another example is the removal of a brain-dead person from a life support system and whether that constitutes murder? There are an ever-growing number of choices being forced upon us as the scientific world advances in its ability to alter our lives biologically.

It is vital that those living in the 21st century be able to separate physical questions from spiritual issues in dealing with the kinds of examples we have just listed. Adultery, for example, is primarily a spiritual issue. When two people get married, they join in a union that is far above and beyond the production of children. Eve was created as a "help meet" for Adam--not a baby factory. 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 emphasizes the sexual relationship between man and woman and the responsibilities involved with no discussion of the production of children. The reason for divorce being allowed only for adultery emphasizes the relationship or oneness of man and woman and has nothing to do with children. Desiring to have a child and being willing to give of oneself to meet that child's needs is a concept and responsibility that is only indirectly related to sexual activity. As the parents of three adopted children, my wife and I had to choose to have children and pursue that desire intensively. Our children have to know that we are not their parents by accident but because we wanted to have the opportunity. Some people become parents accidentally, and frequently there is a lack of commitment to that child when that is the case.

A similar type of argument can be made for artificial organs or organs transplants. The concept of our bodies being the temple of God is a spiritual concept. We are no less the temple of God because we have a disease, are old, or have lost a limb. To be able to extend the life of another person so that they can serve God more effectively because they received my heart when I no longer can use it is a beautiful thing.


Have you ever thought about what the most basic problem is with the taking of a human life? It is true that having law and order is sometimes related to the act of murder, although abortion in our culture clearly is viewed in a different way. This inconsistency is due to the fact that the taking of a human life is handled in a purely physical way.

A more fundamental and biblical question is what God's plan is for that life. I heard an anti-abortion song recently titled "What Was I Supposed to Be?" The song pictures aborted babies asking Jesus what God's plan for their lives were--were they designed to cure a terrible disease, be a great political leader, or a missionary to bring peace and healing to the world? Paul was referred to as "a chosen vessel" (Acts 9:15) and there are many references in the Bible to cases where God had a plan for a person's life.

Questions like abortion, euthanasia, pulling the plug (a different issue than euthanasia), organ transplants, etc., need to be evaluated with an eye to God's sovereignty and design. A brain-dead person who has achieved a full life--at least has done all that he/she can be expected to do--is not murdered when a plug is pulled. God is still in control of the person's recovery and his/her purpose in life is totally in God's hands. The tragedy of Dr. Kevorkian is that much of the good a person might accomplish and any possible intervention of God in the process is negated.

I have heard many doctors say, "we have done all we can do." Turning loose may be difficult, but placing a loved one in God's hands where they can be free of all of the problems of this life may be the most loving thing we can do.

                            --John N. Clayton

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