Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in biological research in genetic engineering, including cloning and stem cell research. These are seen as ways to potentially improve the length and quality of life on this earth.
[NEED A LIVER? HERE, HAVE A KIDNEY TOO]
These new developments in therapeutic research have the potential to be tremendously beneficial. For example, if you ever needed a liver transplant, scientists could harvest your stem cells and use them to grow a new liver for you. Scientists have also begun to explore ways to stop the process of aging through genetic engineering. The implications are staggering—conceivably, all genetic disorders could be eliminated. Furthermore, it may eventually be possible to lengthen your lifespan indefinitely.
[HOW IT WORKS]
Genetic engineering involves the manipulation of DNA. Cloning involves removing the nucleus of an egg cell and inserting a nucleus from an adult cell. The resulting individual is genetically identical to the adult from whom the source nucleus was taken. Stem cell research involves the use of cells which have the ability to give rise to particular tissues of the body to produce new organs or tissues for transplant.
[THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH]
Could we be heading towards a future where death does not exist? Probably not in our lifetime, but eventually, it appears likely. The question then becomes, is a death and disease-free future desirable?
Many people would answer yes. Certainly in our society, where comfort and the avoidance of pain are highly valued, a death and disease-free future is an attractive notion. And if we could defeat death, “that undiscover’d country from whose bourne no traveler returns,” we’d eliminate the second-greatest source of fear and anxiety for humans (the first is public speaking). Indeed, this fear is perhaps a greater motivation to seek immortality than even the avoidance of suffering. As Hamlet observed in his famous soliloquy, “the dread of something after death…makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others we know not of.” And so we’re afraid, of death, but also of the future. There is a sense in which if death could be conquered, we could rest knowing that our future is secure.
And yet, death has been conquered. Christians know that in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, death was defeated, and now we are free to have eternal life. We can rest because our future is secure in Christ. Christians know that this world is passing, and that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).
As for immortality, the quest is pointless. It’s like searching everywhere for your car keys only to find you’ve had them in your hand the whole time. As C.S. Lewis pointed out in “The Weight of Glory,” “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.” We will all live forever, if not on this earth, elsewhere. Knowing this, we realize the goal is not to merely survive on earth, but rather to truly live a life worth living.
Even if science finally does “defeat death,” this world is still passing away. No matter how much time we spend on this little ball of dirt, all that is temporal will eventually come to an end; school, job, finances— none of it will matter. As Christians, we don’t have to scratch and scramble for “the good life” of comfort and material worth, because we know what is really important. We were made for eternity with God, a glorious eternity already in existence.
Whatever is going on in our lives at the moment, we know that it will pass. Living life in the light of eternity means learning with Paul the secret of being content in any and every situation, knowing that we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:12, 13).
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).
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