What Is Wrong with Gene Editing?

Illustration for The Banner by Gisela Bohorquez

What is wrong with gene editing in embryos if we can save children from horrible genetic diseases?

This scientific technology is so new that we do not yet fully comprehend all the possible implications and consequences—unintended or otherwise—to be able to evaluate it accurately. Simply because we can do it does not mean we should. Are we certain at this point that there are no negative consequences or side effects to the child from such gene editing? And if gene-edited embryos were to become normative, how would that impact our understanding of what it means to be human and to have a flourishing life?

Our Reformed doctrine of total depravity makes me wonder if human beings are able to restrict this technology to simply mitigating disease and for benevolent ends. The temptation might be too great to avoid using gene editing as a means to make people stronger, smarter, and “better” than their non-genetically modified peers, or for other insidious goals I haven’t imagined.

There are multiple safety, social justice, and theological questions at play with this technology. But for now I suggest Christians need to seriously examine the following underlying questions.

How should we approach pain and suffering in our lives? Are suffering and pain to be avoided always, at all costs? Why did God in Jesus choose to face suffering instead of avoiding it? What does it mean to live an abundant or flourishing life? What does it mean for people born with severe genetic disabilities to live in Christ? Are we better or worse without suffering and pain in our midst and in our lives? Where is the role of trusting God with our lives and even with our children’s lives? Is the desire to control our children’s potential lives and futures rooted in our love for God, for the child, and for others, or rooted in fear of suffering, in avoidance of failure, in pursuit of comfort, and in striving for human success?

These foundational questions need to be clarified in order to ethically engage the question of embryonic gene editing.

About the Author

Shiao Chong is editor-in-chief of The Banner. He attends Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ont.

Shiao Chong es el redactor jefe de The Banner. El asiste a Iglesia Comunidad Cristiana Reformada en Toronto, Ont. 

시아오 총은 더 배너 (The Banner)의 편집장이다. 온타리오 주 토론토의 펠로우쉽 CRC에 출석한다.

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Comments

Thanks, Shiao, for your take on gene editing in embryos.  I would think if we are favorable toward medical advances in general, then we should be favorable toward responsible gene editing. We are most like God (image bearers) when we use our intelligence and reasoning for good.  Certainly there will be a period of trial and error, as with most medical discoveries.  If we applied the hesitancies that you fear and list in this article toward past and present medical advances we would be a very backward culture.  We can make a list of possible negative outcomes, as you have done, and then refuse to move forward.  Or we can imagine the possible good that gene editing can accomplish and move forward with trust in God.  Thanks, Shiao.

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