Revisiting Reproductive Technology's Slippery Slope in the Light of the Concepts of Imago Dei, Co-Creation, and Stewardship

By Sutton, Agneta | Ethics & Medicine, Fall 2002 | Go to article overview

Revisiting Reproductive Technology's Slippery Slope in the Light of the Concepts of Imago Dei, Co-Creation, and Stewardship


Sutton, Agneta, Ethics & Medicine


And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord' (Gn 4:1).1

This passage together with Genesis 1:27, which states that we are created in the image of God, serve as the basis for the argument in this essay. The passage above makes it clear that the child born to Eve originated from God as well as from the union of Adam and Eve. It tells us that the child was a gift from God at the same time as he was the result of Adam 'knowing' his wife Eve. That is, the child was the fruit both of the man-woman union and of divine action, wherefore Adam and Eve jointly may be described as God's co-creators.

The subject of this essay is the moral relevance of the concepts of imago Dei, cocreation and stewardship for assessments of modern reproductive technologies, including cloning.2 The first part of the essay begins with a discussion of the moral implications of the concept of imago Dei and co-creation in regard to parenthood as stewardship. It is argued that the first two concepts are linked to the third. Secondly, it is argued that, because the child is a gift from God, and because the imago Dei is passed on from one human generation to another, the child possesses the same human dignity as its parents and therefore should not be regarded as a human product and possession. In the second part of the paper the various reproductive technologies as well as cloning are examined in the light of the foregoing discussion.

Of course, there is already an impressive literature on the new reproductive technologies. This does not mean that the last word has been said. The technologies are steadily multiplying and forcing us to consider new possibilities. The debate must continue. The slippery slope of reproductive technology must be revisited again and again, as we seem to slide ever further down towards the ultimate commodification of human life.

In the Image of God

Stewardship

`So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth' (Gn 1: 27-28).

Only Adam and Eve are said to be created in the image of God. None of the other creatures are so described in the book of Genesis. While many commentators on the concept of imago Dei may have focused on those specifically human capacities such as self-consciousness and rationality in virtue of which human beings are said to be different from animals and resemble God, the focus here is on the responsibilities entailed by our likeness to God. It is noteworthy that the command to replenish' and subdue the earth follows immediately upon the description of the human pair as created in the image of God.4 This is surely with the implication that it is because the pair are created in the image of God that they have been entrusted with the task and responsibility to subdue it.

Often the call to subdue the earth has been interpreted as a licence for humans to adopt an instrumentalist attitude towards the rest of creation. Aquinas, for one, argued that animals were created for man's uses Today, a similar instrumentalist attitude can be found vis-a-vis children in the context of medically assisted conception and in discussions about the utility of human cloning with a view to tissue transplantation. But the creation of man and woman in the image of God must be understood as a responsibility of stewardship over the rest of creation, including human children until they have reached maturity and are ready to assume their share of the responsibilities involved in the human stewardship. And stewardship entails a responsibility to vicariously care for those entrusted to one's care. As stewards we have a responsibility to care on behalf of God Himself for that over which we have been given dominion. …

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