What would God think about CRISPR technology?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: What would God think about CRISPR technology?

Answer: Did you know that most prisons prohibit the distribution of hardcover books among the general population? I see the wisdom in this. Although books are “good” in the main — hopefully containing truth that could help an inmate mend his or her ways — it would be easy for a violent person to injure — or even kill — someone by beating them with the book’s hard corner.

But note this well: hardcover books are not the problem. People are the problem... and people are the problem with CRISPR too.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. It is a gene-editing technique. As such, it is neither moral nor immoral. It is a tool to be used by “moral agents” ... which is what philosophers call beings who can choose to do good or evil. God, angels and human beings (Romans 2:14-15) are the only types of moral agents, and since God and angels don’t need CRISPR, human beings will take today’s focus.

Unfortunately, the Bible has no teachings on CRISPR. In fact, it is light on teachings about medicine in general... which is a much broader category. However, Got Questions Ministries addresses the issue of a Christian using prescription drugs on its website, so we will jump off from there. The article starts with a disclaimer, and it ends with a sensible way to proceed. Here is that segment.

Many Christians wrestle with their decisions over accepting valid medical therapies, including the use of prescription drugs. The Bible does not give us much on this subject….

In the end, a Christian’s use of prescription drugs is between that Christian and the Lord. The Bible does not command the use of medicinal treatments, but it certainly does not forbid it, either. The child of God should care for his or her body as being the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). This means taking preventative care, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting proper exercise. It also means taking advantage of the wisdom that God has given skilled researchers and physicians. We understand that God is the Healer, no matter by what means He heals, and we give the glory to Him.

https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-prescription-drugs.html.

What does this have to do with your question? No one can say definitively what God “thinks” about CRISPR technology. The Bible doesn’t say anything about it... or even provide a strong allegory. What this means is that Christians will come down on both sides on the gene-editing issue... some embracing the technology... and some calling it the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:7).

Look at the Christian division over the COVID-19 vaccine, for example. Millions of us are reading the same Bible… under the direction of the same Holy Spirit… having access to the same information about the vaccine. But not only is there no consensus — there is fighting in the streets!

Now, the issues surrounding CRISPR may be less imminent than those of COVID-19, but they are no less important. That being said, it would be foolish to expect a “Christian consensus” about CRISPR technology. A lot of us think we know what God thinks. But since our positions often contradict one another, that’s demonstrably untrustworthy information.

For many Christians, the “bridge too far” is modifying unborn children or using their cells to test and/or manufacture drugs or therapies. A significant percentage of Christians who are against the COVID-19 vaccine are against it for that reason... and CRISPR technology is knocking on that same door.

But there is division even among us Christians who advocate for the unborn. Some of us see these technologies as helping “human flourishing”... and human flourishing is how God advances his kingdom. We understand that life is messy... but that God sees the big picture.

Another point of division is using gene splicing to create “designer babies.” People see this as playing God. However, these same people have much less of a problem “playing God” when it comes to using gene splicing to repair genetic diseases in pre-born children.

Let me give you my personal take on all this, and I will end my answer with some observations from a Christian who deals with these types of quandaries for a living... Dr. Daniel J. Hurst.

In addition to being the Director of Mainsail Ministries, I am a retired communications technician. I simply love the advancements in medicine and technology! They have allowed me to live a long life and reach people all over the world.

Now, if I were born 100 years ago, I probably would have died in my 40s or 50s. But here I am — a septuagenarian — impacting the world for Christ… but with a coronary artery bypass here and some RA therapy there. I’m a walking argument for modern medicine! The question is, where should we draw the line? Different people draw it at different places.

The problem is that technological advances are a two-edged sword. They make evil more productive too! But I leverage instant global communications to reach an audience only dreamed of before radio was invented. I assume that the “good” is keeping ahead of the “evil” in technology... although it feels like the good guys are losing much of the time.

Note also that many of the things we don’t think twice about doing today would have been thought of as wasteful and/or evil by many of our forbearers. Now, I love our history! But don’t fall into the traps of legalism or puritanism. God wants his people to flourish. Furthermore, he placed us where we are in time. But it’s still on us to make decisions about those gray areas.

If you would like to know more about crisper technology without getting too bogged down in science, click here. The Gospel Coalition has a handy primer on this.

Following is an article segment from The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’ll let Dr. Daniel J. Hurst have the final word. God bless you.

Should all genetic editing be opposed by Christians?

I believe the answer here to be “no,” though there is room to disagree. Genome editing that seeks to eradicate disease and increase human flourishing has merits and can be thought of in similar terms to other pharmaceutical and biotechnological interventions. However, the means of testing such interventions must be carefully established and only be proceeded with caution.

It seems that nongermline genome editing in adults who can provide informed consent can be done in a manner that is ethical and may bear similar risks as participating in clinical trials. In contrast, in regards to genetic editing of embryos who cannot provide informed consent and weigh the risks and benefits of procedure, we are called to love them and view as fellow image-bearers of God regardless of their utility or any infirmity they may have.

This conversation has to begin from a position that sees children as a gift from the Lord (Psa. 127:3-5), not as a project on which to run experiments with an unknown outcome under suspect motives and unnecessity. This, along with fears that such technology can easily devolve into eugenics and designer babies, should give us additional hesitation to perform such procedures on human embryos.

https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/how-should-christians-think-about-crispr-and-gene-edited-babies/

(Daniel J. Hurst (Ph.D., Duquesne University) is on the faculty of Cahaba Family Medicine Residency in Centreville, Alabama and serves as an Associate Research Fellow with the ERLC.)

 

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20211206 Does God want us to use CRISPR technology? ).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)