03 August 2001

moral theology & birth technology

According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, it is the job of church synods and councils to "determine controversies of faith, and cases of conscience" (31.1). It is, after all, among the duties of our ecclesiastical superiors "to instruct, counsel, and admonish" those of us who fall under their care (Larger Catechism 129).

This is why it is so distressing that my own denomination, the PCA, has failed to provide us any instruction and counsel with regard to birth technologies such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), despite the fact that such procedures have been around for over 20 years. I know there are many infertile couples in our churches struggling with this very issue, looking for answers, hoping that their pastors will give them biblically and medically informed counsel. And I'm sure their pastors try to do their best.

Nevertheless, the issues here are complex, in need of careful weighing and consideration by a multiplicity of wise minds, particularly those Christians who are specially trained in the fields of medicine, theology, counseling, and ethics.

I am grateful that the issue has finally been raised publicly in a "discussion" that is taking place through the forum of the PCA News. I hope our presbyteries are paying attention.

But I also question the wisdom of the manner in which the issue has been raised: in a public forum, with sometimes acerbic exchanges, with the appearance that every individual's opinion is as valuable as every other's, and with the potential to hurt those who may already be going through a lot of personal anguish. Is this really appropriate? Why haven't we done better?