Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bringing up Baby with the Bible

In my last post, The Ethics of Birth, I wrote about the decline of biblical morality and the full-bore acceptance of Social Darwinism as it pertains to beginning of life issues. This was a philosophical treatise based on biblical understandings, but without delving into the Scriptures. This post is meant to be a strictly biblical understanding of the importance of right neonatal action and the worship of God through procreation.

Let us start at the beginning. Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground (Gen 1:26-28)." Gen 9: 5-6 says, "from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." Human life is especially sacred to God. It is so because God made man in his own image. Humans are created to be the highest form of life and the highest form of praise, praise formed by God's own hands and empowered by God's own breath. Sin, and subsequent death have twisted the praise that God made for himself.

God is ultimately concerned about his own name/image/reputation. Because God is perfect (Deut 32:4; Matt 5:48), he is most worthy of praise (1 Chron 16:23-29). God is rightly concerned for his glory (Ex 20:4-6). Man was created in the image of God. The word "image" is a word that is related to "idol". The function of an idol in Ancient Near-East (ANE) culture was to act as the mediator between a god and a person. The person prays to the idol and the god hears the prayers. The god gives his will through the mediation of the idol.

Genesis presents a different picture. Man himself is the idol of God. He is cast from the earth and bears the very image of his creator. Yet unlike other, man-made, idols, this idol can walk, talk, bring things about, and even participate with God in creation through sexual procreation. We are the created instruments tuned to praise our God, and meant to mediate for all of creation to God. Before we go too far, however, we must see that if instruments we are, we are broken ones. In Gen 3, we find that the first idols were cast down and were twisted into dim mirrors that only poorly reflected the nature of their God. Only in Jesus is that image restored. Jesus is the perfect mediator (Col 1:19-20). Yet Jesus, the innocent one, the one in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in bodily form (Col 2:9), was murdered by men. In the ANE, one of the worst acts was the capture or desecration of an opposing force's idol. Jesus was captured, desecrated, and killed - a defilement on the King's image is a defilement of the King himself. In killing God's perfect image, man attempted to kill God!

What does this have to do with children? Each human person, born into sin, is a marred image of God, but is still an image of God. For each one killed, there will be an accounting for their blood. God sets strong punishments for the killing of a child. In Ex 21:22-24, "If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman's husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot. . ." If men accidentally kill an unborn baby, their lives are forfeit! What of those people who kill them intentionally? The image of God is sacred.

Now that we have established that the image of God, carried by all humans, is sacred, what about the genetic manipulation of that life? As we have seen, God created man "very good," but man is now a twisted an marred image of God. Yet God also says, through his prophet-king, David, that man is wonderfully made. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-16). God not only knows but actively works in forming his creation. David harkens back to the creation of Adam in v. 15, casting himself as a new Adam of sorts. God said of Jeremiah the prophet (Jer 1:5), "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." God creates people as he wants them to be. He is not surprised at how anyone turns out. Whether we are buck-toothed, knock-kneed, pigeon-toed, obese, gangly, balding, mentally handicapped, or physically deformed, we are God's fearfully-made creation.

But how could God create his images to be deformed? Are we not already deformed spiritually? When we comes screaming into the world, we are spiritually stillborn. We require Jesus' blood to wash us clean and give us new birth (Rom. 5:6,8). Further, who are we to demand anything of God? Romans 9:14-24 says, What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?'" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath - prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory - even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

We have no right to manipulate what God has formed. Just because we can genetically alter humans (or animals) does not mean we should do it. We will have to give account to God for our actions. Our imperfections are symbols, pointing to the imperfection of man, due to sin. Our urge to band-aid over our spiritual ugliness with cosmetic manipulations only compounds the issue. We want to ignore our sin, sweeping it under the rug. We do not want "better living through science," we want "to be like God." We want to have our own way, physical perfection, and eternal life. Yet Scripture tells us this is not achievable in this life, or outside of Christ.

How should we then treat our fallen, imperfect children? We teach them the Gospel. We do this by holding up two things; the idol, Jesus Christ, and the mirror. Teach your children the Law (Deut 4:5-10; 11:18-19; Ps 34:11-14; Pro 4:1-7; 13:24; 22:6; Lk 2:51-52). Teach your children about Adam's sin, the Israelite's grumbling in the wilderness, their rejection of the Law and subsequent diaspora, and their eventual murder of God in bodily form. In Adam, in Israel, we all fall. Jesus is the only salvation from all our ills. If you want a perfected child, let them come into the world reflecting the sin that infects us. Maybe, by it and instruction, they will come to saving faith in Jesus Christ and eventually be perfected. Romans 8:19-25, The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

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