Cape Town 2010 Multiplex Session Examines Ethics of Emerging Technologies from a Christian Worldview

General October 28, 2010

Medical and Ethical Experts Address Culture of Life, Biblical View of Death and the Image and Character of God that Inform Response to the Human Condition

Cape Town, South Africa, 23 October 2010 – One of the distinctives of The Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization has been the emphasis on interaction around obstacles facing the global Church, and prioritization of common solutions for the future. These have been mainly facilitated during 24 ninety-minute 'Mutliplex' sessions held over the six afternoons.

On Saturday, several hundred participants filled a hotel ballroom across the street from the Congress hall to focus on 'Ethics, Emerging Technologies and the Human Future,' led by John Wyatt, Professor of Ethics – Perinatology at University College, London, and Peter Saunders, CEO, Christian Medical Fellowship.

Professor Wyatt contrasted the natural, given world with the artificial, created world, observing that the human body used to be natural, but is becoming more and more artificial as the distinction between animal and machine is disappearing. 'New bio-technology has enormous therapeutic potential, but it also carries an inherent potential for manipulation,' he said.

'The great dream of new technology is that the old ways we have learned to expect for thousands of years as part of the human condition – such as infertility, disability, incurable genetic diseases, ageing and degenerative conditions – are now merely temporary, and can be reversed.'

Peter Saunders spoke of 40 million abortions since 1973. 'This is resulting in a significant demographic change in the gender infrastructure in some countries, and is impacting the elderly population in others.’ He continued, 'The generation that killed its children is now being killed by its children.'

But technology has also had a dramatic impact on other issues affecting the beginning of life - contraception, infertility, pre-natal selection, designer babies, cloning and various potential applications involving embryonic stem cells. Each brings significant related moral and ethical issues, fuelled by advancing technical knowledge, a rise in patient autonomy and media-fuelled expectations.

'Autonomy says, "I want it"; technology says, "we can do it"; moral relativism says, "why not?" and secularism protects the rights of these three,' Dr Saunders continued. But the fruit of secularism is choice, not revelation; rights, not responsibility; and personhood, not sanctity of life.'

Dr Saunders contrasted this secular/humanist worldview with the Christian/Hippocratic approach (on which medical science and practice are built) saying the Christian believes that human beings are not merely one of many species, but rather made in God’s image. As such, each individual has inherent value, regardless of his or her productive value to society, making it incumbent on the strong to make sacrifices for the weak - rather than the reverse, as humanism espouses.

'The Church must take a Christ-like approach as his “image-bearers”, exhibit Christ-like character and maintain Christ-like obedience on critical issues, such as human dignity; creation stewardship and science; sanctity of life; moral purity and justice and equality,' he said.

Prof Wyatt highlighted Christian thinking on death, which he observed is not 'natural', but rather an enemy against which we are called to fight. By God’s grace, death can become a 'severe mercy,' a strange kind of healing, and a gateway to a new revelation.

'In biblical thinking, human beings are not self-explanatory, but derive our meaning from outside ourselves,' he said. 'Each human being is not only a gift from God, we are a reflection of his character.

'When God breathed into the human body, Adam became an original model human being,' Prof Wyatt said. 'In the resurrected person of Jesus - the new Adam - we see God’s first and eternal vote of confidence in the original humankind. If that original model of humanity was good enough for Jesus, then perhaps it is good enough for us as well.

'Think of a human being as a flawed art masterpiece, for which we are stewards of God’s creation,' he concluded. 'There is a difference between restoration - refurbishing or replacing lost function - and creation, or recreation of a new work of art.'

The Lausanne Movement is a worldwide movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization. For more information, please go to www.lausanne.org.


Editor’s note: for more information, www.lausanne.org/news-releases or www.lausanne.org/conversation, or contact A. Larry Ross [email protected] or Julia Cameron [email protected] 

Cape Town 2010, 16-25 October, was the latest global congress sponsored by The Lausanne Movement, begun by Billy Graham in 1974. The Congress is possibly the most representative gathering of the Christian church in history. Apart from the 198 countries meeting in South Africa, it extended to another anticipated 100,000 individuals at nearly 700 GlobaLink sites in more than 90 countries around the world.