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Mohler offers ‘Christian worldview’ on cloning’s dangers in new book

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–The image of an eccentric
scientist gleefully championing human cloning as a step
toward union with God may appear more suited to a 1950s “B”
movie than to television’s “Nightline,” but Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. warns
that such a development should be taken seriously as an
“eugenic temptation so powerful that only the Christian
worldview can restrain it.”
Mohler’s commentary on the ramifications of the
emerging debate is included in Westminster/John Knox Press’
new book, “Human Cloning: Religious Responses,” and has been
cited by a presidential commission and congressional
committee probing the incendiary issue.
Mohler’s analysis joins chapters by religious leaders
such as Princeton Theological Seminary social ethics
professor Peter J. Paris, Duke Divinity School theological
ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas, U.S. Catholic Conference
Committee on Science and Human Values director David Byers,
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary theology professor
Karen Lebacqz, and Church of Scotland Society, Religion and
Technology Project director Donald Bruce.
The book’s publication coincides with an
ever-escalating scramble for ethical footing in the
scientific community following the successful cloning of a
sheep in Scotland. Within a year since the emergence of
“Dolly,” as the clone was dubbed, Chicago physicist Richard
Seed has announced he has marshaled a team of scientists
prepared to begin work on cloning a human being, along with
volunteers willing to be cloned.
Proposed legislation to ban human cloning has not
progressed beyond the preliminary stages of congressional
deliberations, though the state of California has banned
human cloning and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has
sought to clamp down on Seed and others who wish to plunge
into such projects without the agency’s approval.
Comparing the current cloning proposals to Aldous
Huxley’s vision of a socially engineered totalitarian state
in his 1931 novel “Brave New World,” Mohler writes that
Dolly may be “the face of the future” as cloning
technologies proliferate. One need not capitulate to the
unbiblical ideologies of the animal rights movement, he
maintains, to recognize the “nightmarish scenarios of
unforeseen consequences” possible in the cloning of animal
life. These pitfalls include the perception of these
“engineered life forms as human creations” and threats to
biodiversity “God clearly intended” as a mark of his
The question of cloning animal life cannot be engaged,
Mohler asserts, apart from the biblical revelation on
humanity’s divinely granted rule over the animals.
“The dominion granted to human beings is not inherently
ours; it is a delegated rulership. We rule over the animals
by the authority of our Creator, and thus we will answer for
our stewardship and our dominion. … Put bluntly, we were
not commanded or authorized to create new forms of life as
extensions of our own designs and ego,” Mohler explains.
The subject has rapidly advanced from concerns of
cloning sheep, he notes, to the even more startling
possibility of cloning human life. Although the issue has
raised ethical hackles in the scientific, political and
religious communities, Mohler argues that only a Christian
worldview can provide answers to the precarious ethical
questions raised.
“Having denied the existence and authority of God the
Creator, all that remains for modern secularists is the
artificial morality of an ad hoc ethic,” he writes. “Any
opposition to cloning — human or otherwise — is merely
The Bible, however, presents humanity not as “cosmic
accidents,” but as “the pinnacle of God’s creative purpose,”
possessing the very image of God. The presuppositions of
naturalistic science simply cannot provide ethical
guidelines in this uncertain terrain, Mohler writes.
“This explains why contemporary secular debates
concerning the value or sanctity of human life are so
inherently confused,” he continues. “We will ascribe value
to ourselves by an act of the will. But as the murderous
twentieth century has shown, those who ascribe value to
human life by an act of the will can also deny that same
value by a similar act of the will.”
Mohler identifies a root of the contemporary human
cloning debate in the age-old eugenic temptation to limit
the reproduction of “inferior” persons or races while
encouraging the breeding of the “superior” persons or races.
Such a view provided the skewed self-justifications of Nazi
Germany and raises its head in contemporary culture as
“parents, putting themselves in a consumer posture, are
demanding increased genetic knowledge in order to give birth
to designer babies” which may be legally aborted if “judged
to be of insufficient quality.”
The debate also portends fearful possibilities for the
future of the family unit, already besieged by the sexual
revolution which eschews marital fidelity, a modern
contraceptive mentality which disconnects sexual activity
from reproductive consequences, activist feminism which
portrays the family as “a domestic prison from which women
should make a clean escape,” and a homosexual rights
movement which seeks to shake the very definition of family.

“Modernity’s assault on the family would thus be
complete with the development of cloning,” Mohler contends.
“Already stripped of its social functions, the family would
now be rendered biologically unnecessary, if not irrelevant.
Final liberation from the family and the conjugal bond would
be achieved.”
Human cloning, “the over-reaching of the creature,” is
a by-product of the modern naturalistic evolutionary mind-
set, Mohler says.
“Mainstream evolutionary scientists argue against any
design in the universe and any special value to human
beings, other than the evolutionary development of
consciousness,” he observes. “Given such a worldview, which
denies both Creator and creation, the aspiration to become
masters of our own destiny is natural and rational. If we
are not created in the image of God, then we will be our own
gods. If there is no divine Creator, no Maker of heaven and
earth, then we will have to take creation into our own
Mohler writes the Bible alone “reveals our creaturely
identity, our sinfulness and the limits of our authority and
Mohler concludes, “Christians should engage in this
debate on biblical terms and contend for the sanctity of all
created life as well as for the distinction between the
creature and the Creator. All technologies, including modern
genetics, must be evaluated in terms of the biblical
revelation and the totality of the Christian worldview.”
C. Ben Mitchell, assistant professor of Christian
ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and
consultant for biomedical and life issues for the SBC Ethics
& Religious Liberty Commission, hailed Mohler’s contribution
as “a thoroughly evangelical and Baptist response to
Mitchell said Mohler’s chapter was cited in the
National Bioethics Advisory Council’s report to President
Bill Clinton. Additionally, both Mohler and Mitchell were
asked to submit papers on the cloning issue to the U.S.
House of Representatives Committee on Science. The committee
is considering several legislative responses to the cloning
controversy, including a bill by U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers
(R-Mich.) which would ban all human cloning work.
“The cloning debate and the burgeoning biotechnology
industry portend both great good and great evil,” Mitchell
warned. “Without a moral compass, pointing to the sanctity
of every human life, great evil will result. If we can
harness this new technology and direct it toward healing and
relief of human suffering and humble dependence on the
sovereign Creator, great good might result. Sadly, we may
not know until it’s too late what we have wrought.”
The ERLC has supported legislation to ban human
cloning and has urged Congress to work with multinational
bodies to establish a global ban on human cloning.

    About the Author

  • Russell D. Moore