Stem Cell Research: An Orthodox Response

Written By: on Nov 1st, 2009 and filed under Articles, Youth And Faith.

before implantation. Comparing this six or seven days old embryo with the six to seven days old embryo within the womb of St. Mary gives us better understanding of the situation. Moreover, let us imagine how important and dignified an embryo will be for the Creator Lord, who has willed to unite Himself to an embryo during its creation.

The Scriptures teach that the unborn is a human being. However, some theologians define human being as a being possessed specific characteristics or attributes, such as hobbies, sentiments and a conscience awareness to be classified as a person. Thus, since the embryo doesn’t fit this definition or possess certain characteristics or attributes, it can’t be a human person, only a human being that will become a person sometime after birth. This is a capacity-based notion on human being because it separates the doctrine of created man as a body and rational soul. The person is a part of that embodied created human. Therefore, the embryo is a human being with a body and a rational soul.

Exodus 21:22 assists us in our understanding that the unborn are a human being. It reads: “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide.” The Hebrew word for “child,” (yeledah) is the Hebrew word that describes unborn (Exodus 21:22), newborn (Exodus 1:18), teenager (Genesis 21:15; 37:30), and middle-aged adults STEM (Cf. 2 Chronicles 10:8, 10, 14). This leads us to say that yeled, at least for bilical prose, suggested or hinted at the personhood of the fetus since the same term could apply to persons. Hence, whereas Exodus 21:22 does not directly address the personhood of the fetus, the passage does intimate, by using yeled instead of golem (translated ‘unformed substance’ Psalm 139:16) and nepel (Psalm 58:9), that the fetus is more than parental property. It is a yeled, a human being, a child, a fetus with personhood.
Stem cell research on spare defrosted human embryos is contrary to the Word of God. It trivializes not only the doctrine of the incarnation, but also views parenting as producing children as products or commodities.

This abandoning of human embryos to stem cell research contradicts the parents’ role to raise their children in the instruction and discipline of the Lord (Ephesians 6:1-3). These embryonic children are the work of God given to parents in order to love, nurture, and cherish to His glory.
More passages can be cited to establish the claim that God knows, calls and loves each person before birth just as much as after (Ps. 139:13-16; Jer. 1:5; Is. 49:1; Gal. 1:15, etc.). Jesus and John the Baptist are announced before their conception (Matt. 1:18; Lk. 1:13, 31). Isaiah, Jeremiah and Paul admit to being called to particular tasks before or during their time in the womb. The book of Hebrews refers to Levi the priest being, at one time, “still in the loins of his ancestor”, referring to his great-grandfather Abraham. (Heb. 7:10). All this suggests that God’s knowledge of people is not limited to a timeslot after birth but extends back “beyond the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

In this context we need to further out our discussion with the following questions too, namely,

(1) The moral, legal, scientific, and Scriptural view of ‘what does it mean to be human?’
(2) The destruction of human embryos as a means to an end.
(3) The source of stem cells from donated, as well as unwanted and abandoned frozen embryos.
(4) The issue of complicity as it relates to others who use and destroy embryos donated by infertile couples.
(5) The relationship of ESCell Research to elective abortions.
(6) The Scriptural view of procreation and parenting within the context of marriage.

If the embryo can be understood the weakest and least advantaged of our fellow human beings, no community is really strong if it will not carry its weakest members. Against the background of such a question, we reflect upon the significance of stem cell research as it relates to caring for the weakest members of the body of Christ, the human embryo, which is narrated as the bricks in the temple of the living God as St. Paul says (II Cor 6:16) and God will destroy the one, who destroys the temple of God (I Cor 3: 16-17).

The human embryo is created in the image and likeness of God. This image was lost by transgression of the commandment of Adam and Eve in the fall into sin, but restored and renewed for humankind by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who is the image of God (Philipians 2:6; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). Therefore, we do not kill, but help, befriend, and support the unborn embryo in every bodily need. Viewing the destructive use of stem cell research on human embryos through the cross of Jesus, all human life, from the zygote [fertilized egg] to the embryo to the fetus to the newborn to the older adult belongs to the Lord, its Creator and Redeemer (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Therefore, in short, the Orthodox Theology can not undersign ES Cell research for furtherance. What it can maximum say is to advance adult Stem Cell research as well as umbilical cord stem Cell

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1 Response for “Stem Cell Research: An Orthodox Response”

  1. Suraj Iype says:

    Excellent article from Fr Dr Mathew which really underlines the teaching of the Orthodox Church on the rights of unborn children .

    This article was a real pleasure to read.

    Suraj Iype

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