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In Vitro Fertilization - Issue #43

Yesterday, an essay opposing in vitro fertilization I co-authored with Andrew Walker was published at
The Path Before Us
In Vitro Fertilization - Issue #43
By Matthew Lee Anderson • Issue #44 • View online
Yesterday, an essay opposing in vitro fertilization I co-authored with Andrew Walker was published at The Gospel Coalition. I had meant to say one or two things about it, and about the defense of in vitro that was published at the same time. But that mushroomed into 2500 words of extremely lively and forceful criticism. I concluded that it would be unwise to publish such an essay, even in this less formal of venues, without having someone else read it. I hope to make it public in some forum on Monday–if not ‘out there,’ in here.
In the meantime, I would welcome any and all feedback and questions on this essay. I know well that the ethics of procreative means are extremely personal; there is no arena of our lives that so intimately or so delicately affects us. And I have no doubt that my essay, and the force of my objection to the practice, might be off-putting to some. I make no apology for that; these matters require directness and forthrightness, and argumentation that is as weighty as they are.
But I do hope you’ll challenge me on it accordingly. While I am bold in my denunciations, I also hope and pray I’m amenable to reproof and correction–especially from those who show themselves to be careful and judicious readers, as so many of you have.
For many Christians, Scripture’s silence about IVF means that the only moral question is how we treat embryos created in the process. Such an argument, though, intrinsically undermines the normativity of Genesis 1 and 2 for both sexual ethics and also bioethics—a normativity that Jesus himself ratifies in Matthew 19:4Genesis 1:26–28 clearly indicates human fertility has been folded by God into the structure of creation and into his providential plan for the earth’s cultivation. And while Genesis 2:22–25 does not mention procreation directly, the interdependence of sex and generation is explicitly presumed. The man and woman cleave to each other and become “one flesh.” But they do so only within a context already structured by kinship bonds established by procreation: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Sexual intercourse is inherently and intrinsically ordained by God toward procreation: A union that is “one flesh” cannot escape this reality, even if the couple chooses to deny it. To view this interdependency as simply contingent, rather than normative, radically undermines the place of Genesis 1–2 in both theological anthropology and ethics.
Such a principle is not, in this way, only founded on biology or considerations from natural law; it stands beneath the whole of how Scripture speaks about marriage, children, and God’s action in bringing about both. The biological reality of procreation simply demonstrates how special and general revelation speak with one voice. Children are a heritage and gift from the Lord: we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God in the womb. Such divine action happens in and through the human act that is a union of unmediated love between the potential mother and father and no one else. In this way, exclusivity within human generation corresponds to the exclusivity of marriage.
The normative inter-relationship of marriage, sex, and procreation stands beneath Abraham’s wrongness in turning to Hagar in attempting to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promised gift of blessing (Gen. 16). It is not sexual intercourse per se that Abraham seeks, but an heir. Abraham’s decision moves the continuation of the covenant outside of his union with Sarah, and in that way is nearer to surrogacy than to IVF. Yet in dividing what God holds together for the sake of bringing about the blessing on his own terms, Abraham enacts the same problem that besets contemporary artificial reproductive practices.
We think Scripture is unambiguous about the inextricable normative union of procreation and sex. What God has established in creation should be respected. We will elaborate on that principle by specifying four different concerns.


On Unrelated Matters
Rom-Coms Were Corny and Retrograde. Why Do I Miss Them so Much?
The Penultimate Word
“The ground of creation is God’s grace, and the fact that there is a grace of God is real and present to us, alive and powerful in God’s Word. By God speaking and having spoken His Word in the history of Israel, in Jesus Christ, in the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ and right up to this day, and by His speaking to all futurity, the creation was and is and will be. What exists exists, because it exists not of itself, but by God’s Word, for His Word’s sake, in the sense and in the purpose of His Word.” – Karl Barth
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Matthew Lee Anderson

Considerations from the intersection of theology, ethics and society.

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