LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–In vitro fertilization. Stem cell research. Cloning. Genetic engineering. These issues may seem strange, mysterious and straight out of a futuristic movie. But in the constantly mutating world of bioethics, issues like these have become increasingly prominent and pressing.
New questions arise daily. How do Christians confront such controversies in cutting edge medical technology? Can Christians keep up with the changes? How can believers become better informed of bioethical issues?
A professor at Southern Baptist Seminary Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is attempting to answer these cultural quandaries. Through a recently released book and an Internet column, William Cutrer is providing a means for Christians to digest and subsequently respond to modern bioethical issues.
“My strong encouragement would be to don’t speak first and understand later,” said Cutrer, C. Edward Gheens associate professor of Christian ministry. “[The issues are] not so complex that the average, well-read Christian can’t understand them and articulate a position.
“I think there are some things that we can support, and there are some things that we can adamantly stand against. But we better know what it’s about or we’ll come off looking unintelligent, uninformed, out-of-step.”
Responding to this lack of education, Cutrer and coauthor Sarah Glahn have penned a novel that both entertains and also informs about some of the most crucial ethical questions of our day. Categorized as a medical techno-thriller, “Lethal Harvest” (Kregel Publications) bases its plot on issues such as cloning and genetic engineering.
While these issues are indeed urgent, they are sometimes less than exciting to the average Christian, Cutrer said. Thus, he and Glahn have tried to present them in a popular and readable format.
“Having lectured and written on those issues, I’ve found most people don’t find them very fascinating,” Cutrer said. “So recognizing that Jesus often put deep spiritual truth in story form, we thought we’d try to weave very compelling character stories.”
Readers can expect to follow the lives of a journalist, her husband and two doctors in a clinic as they try to sort through an unexpected death, some unusual research findings and some complicated relationships.
“We want it to be an enjoyable kind of novel … but [also one] that gets you thinking,” Cutrer said.
Some of the scenes are derived directly from real cases that Cutrer, a licensed obstetrician, has handled throughout his years of medical practice.
“I tried to put a lot of realism into the medical side of it,” Cutrer said. “My medical experience has put me in some real life-or-death situations.”
Other scenes and issues in the book were based on forecasts of future medical technology. Yet, even in the year’s writing time, many of those prophesies are already being fulfilled.
“We tried to project ahead as to where the science would be and guessed pretty well,” Cutrer said.
For instance, the cloning techniques being predicted more than a year ago were still seemingly far off. But while human cloning has not been successful yet and is still illegal, Cutrer doesn’t doubt that there are places in the world that are trying.
“I hope people enjoy the characters,” Cutrer said. “But I hope that doesn’t cover the fact that they are dealing with some real life crisis issues that aren’t out of the realm of possibility in the next few months.”
Christian themes are strong throughout the novel, Cutrer said. Yet, he hopes the book will prove accessible and enjoyable to the non-believer as well.
“It’s the kind of book that we want Christians to be able to give their friends because it’s a good read,” he said. “But you will see the gospel laid out clearly and decision-making and consequences.”
Readers will not have to wait long for more novels from Cutrer and Glahn. A sequel to “Lethal Harvest” is on the way.
In the meantime, those who would like to find out more about these bioethical issues can check out Cutrer and Glahn’s biweekly column on the Christian Internet site, ibelieve.com.
“We’ll look at dilemmas created by cutting-edge developments in science and technology through the lens of a biblical worldview,” Cutrer said. “We’ll explore how biotech advancements affect you and, most important, give you the chance to ask those top-of-mind questions that leave you baffled.”
For each issue, the coauthors “lay out the battle, reflect it against Scripture and then let people think about it and write us back,” Cutrer said.
So far, he and Glahn have considered questions dealing with infertility, cloning issues, end-of-life decisions and the Human Genome Project. The response has been very positive.
As readers pose other questions, Cutrer said he and Glahn may write articles specifically related to answering the issues raised.
And as with “Lethal Harvest,” Cutrer hopes the Internet will prove to be a “readily accessible way of considering some of the tough ethical questions of our day” in a scriptural manner.
“Our hope is to stimulate deep thinking and appropriate action,” he said. “In the process, we’ll seek to uncover a Christian consensus in key areas and extend grace in cloudier issues.”