Religious Discourse and Postmodern Rationality in Bioethics

By Radu, Cristian | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Religious Discourse and Postmodern Rationality in Bioethics


Radu, Cristian, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


Key Words: bioethics, religion, Christianity, life, suffering, death, family, postmodernism, rationality, Stefan Iloaie

A title that associates rationality with the religious discourse might seem surprising at first, the more, the article discusses the study of an Orthodox priest: Stefan Iloaie - Cultura vietii. Aspecte morale În bioetica. In the history of culture, the conflict between the celestial and terrestrial dimension of mankind, between spirit and reason was a permanent source of debate and controversy. At a first glance, this conflict might seem as if it was initiated by the very act of Creation: man is a created being but, at the same time, God created man in his own image. In other words, if the act of creation sets immutable limits, the same act grants the status of a creator that includes the irrepressible impulse for knowledge, for overcoming the limits that God dictated. It is quite clear that the creative impulses have materialized in scientific activities and arts, while religion oversees these activities and makes them part of the divine order of creation. Hence the premises were set for a permanent conflict which was later inflamed by the constant progress in science. The attitudes that collide are also well known: the advocates of science accuse the Church of being conservative and of trying to unjustly repress individual freedom, while the Church followers, accepting the progress in science, condemn the abuses of science that defies the primordial order in the name of a misunderstood freedom, with severe consequences for the future of mankind.

The recent discoveries in biotechnology and medical science are examples of decisive progress and inevitably they generate much debate. A new discipline, bioethics, has taken over and has subordinated these debates. The new discipline of bioethics has a vast area of research and the theoretical contributions it generated are very consistent. Obviously, it cannot be otherwise taking in consideration the fact that the scientific contributions in this case make the difference between life and death, in the most authentic meaning of the terms.

Among the most remarkable theoretic interventions in this area, is the study signed by Father Stefan Iloaie, Ph.D.,teacher and chancellor at the Orthodox Theology College, part of "Babes-Bolyai" University, Cluj Napoca. Bioethics seems to be one of the author's constant preoccupations, since this book was anticipated by an ample study published in the Journal for The Study of Religions and Ideologies1 and by other articles on the same subject published in the Romanian specialized literature. His mission and his theological education have a great impact on the author's reflection therefore the volume we are discussing has a clear and coherent Christian vision on the theoretical aspects of bioethics. The central objective, set from the beginning, is to "present some of the fundamental concepts of Christianity, in its Orthodox specific, that can be applied to bioethics thinking and decision making"2. The implicit premise is that the foundation of ethics lies in the Christian dogma, therefore the Church has the obligation and the authority to decisively intervene in the area of interest of bioethics. If bioethics is regarded as a discipline with an essentially mediating function ("a connecting bridge between science - especially medicine and biology - and the human system of values included and discussed in the moral domain"3), the author suggests that the Church must orient the debates and offer solutions. More precise, one of the fundamental ideas of the text is that the existence of bioethics is motivated by the desire to reconnect reason with faith, after the two were unfortunately set apart in the modern and postmodern age. The suggestion made here is somewhat surprising: by trying to fix the rupture that originated it, bioethics has to practically undermine its own justification and to work for its own extinction. …

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