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3.23.2007

ART and the Heart

I'd like to dedicate a few posts to reviewing some of the reading I've done with the intent of making an informed, biblical decision about what family-building path to pursue next (if this IUI is not successful). For some of my previous thoughts on this decision, read this, this, this, and this.

A short, but helpful, resource I found was the chapter "To Have or Not to Have Children: Special Issues Related to the Family (Part 1)" in Andreas Kostenberger's book, God, Marriage, and Family. The chapter begins by saying that "there is perhaps no one who can better appreciate the value of children today than a woman who is unable to conceive and who desperately wants to have children of her own." The section that specifically addresses artificial reproductive technologies (ART) kicks off with this sentence: "In light of the clear scriptural mandate for couples to 'be fruitful and multiple' (Gen. 1:28), one of the more difficult trials a married couple can face is the inability to have children." Clearly, the author has empathy for the infertile, huh?

After a brief description of various ART procedures, he gives some principles for evaluating the ethics of it all. The principles are 1) respect for the sanctity of human life, 2) respect for all human beings as image bearers, 3) respect for the fidelity of the marital bond, and 4) the heart of the one wanting to use ART. As relates to IVF, principle #1 means being willing to transfer and carry to full term every embryo created, and principle #2 means generally not freezing embryos. I agree with both of those applications. Principle #3 indicates that doing IVF with donor eggs or sperm is questionable, but I wonder if it has any implications for embryo adoption? I understand that combining the wife's egg with donor sperm or vice versa could be considered an intrusion into the exclusive bond of marriage, but would carrying an embryo with no genetic material from either spouse be a similar intrusion? Is embryo adoption essentially the same as standard adoption, or does pregnancy - the mingling of that embryo with the wife's body - make it different? We're not actually contemplating embryo adoption right now, but these are still interesting questions to consider. Principle #4 was the most illuminating:
A fourth and final principle that ought to guide the evaluation of whether or not to use reproductive technologies relates not so much to the form of technology but the heart of the one wanting to use it. While the desire to have and raise genetically related children is grounded in the created norms and cemented in God's imperative for us to "be fruitful and multiply," it is nonetheless important not to place one's hope or sense of worth too greatly on one's ability to have children. The final hope of the Christian does not lie in the ability to manipulate human reproductive systems, nor in the ability to have children at all. Whether it be through direct miraculous intervention (as in Hannah's case) or through the technological advancements made possible through the minds God has given us, children are a gift from God. Beyond this, Scripture indicates that our ultimate hope lies not in our ability to have children but rather in our Savior Jesus Christ (p. 147).
I need to hold fast to what is said here! As we consider the option of IVF, I need to keep asking myself: Am I looking for my identity in the experience pregnancy and childbirth, or in my sovereign Creator? Am I placing my hope in the possibility of a conception carried to full-term, or in my Savior who will bring me from this vale of groaning to the bliss of heaven? I think we could do IVF in a way that honors life. But if it is to be done in a way that honors God, I must make sure that my desire for a child is not blown out of proportion, and object to be won willy-nilly, but rather that it is in its proper place, submitted to God's good will.

3 comments:

The Town Criers said...

Making these decisions are so hard. Do you also have someone in the church who can help you make the decision?

andrea_jennine said...

(Wow, Mel - you're quick off the bat during your designated Comments Week!)

Yes, thankfully. Though we are in a relatively small and VERY fertile church, there is one couple that has done IVF and one couple that was on the brink of doing IVF when they had a surprise conception. We've also talked a lot with one of our pastors and his wife, who are some of our best friends.

Baby Blues said...

I know what you mean. It's difficult to understand or accept God's plan for us. Going through ART has made me question my path. But I just keep in mind...

Matthew 7:7-8 "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

After all we try to do, we have to realize that He still has the final say. Because the gift of life is His to give, in His time.