Christian Bioethics

This is an outstanding book: Bioethics and the Christian Life by David VanDrunen (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009).  While I’ve only read a few books on this subject (including stuff by Stanley Hauerwas and Gilbert Meilaender), I’m glad that this one found its way to my shelves.  I’ll no doubt pass it around to elders, pastors, and church teachers/leaders who counsel people going through tough medical issues.  One major premise of the book which is outstanding is VanDrunen’s emphasis on “virtues we should cultivate in order to be prepared to make such choices well.  Becoming a morally responsible bioethics decision-maker is the task of a lifetime and cannot be reduced to figuring out the right answer at a particular moment of crisis” (p. 15). 

Exactly!  We make tough decisions based on biblical views of sin, salvation, and service – and we make those tough choices as part of a community who may be affected by the choices we make.  VanDrunen well calls us away from selfishness and isolation in bioethical decisions.  “Not only must we think of others in the  midst of our own suffering, but we must also take account of how the decisions we make while we suffer often deeply affect others” (p. 83).  This is something to remember now before we suffer deeply: love your neighbor as yourself!

VanDrunen talks about virtues (faith, hope, love, courage, contentment, and wisdom) from a biblical perspective, with faith as the God-given fount of the other virtues.  This section on virtues comes after he sets the theological table by reminding the readers of the main truths of the faith (God’s sovereignty and providence, man as image bearing social creatures, sin, death, salvation, resurrection, and eternal life just to name a few).  One part of the virtues section I thought was outstanding was his section on contentment.  Our first responsibility as we face a tough choice is to learn contentment in whatever condition we experience, accepting the fact that God in his will and providence may not relieve us from the pain or struggle. 

“Then, from this perspective of contentment, the Christian should consider morally permissible ways to remedy her condition.  I would argue, moreover, that true contentment may significantly alter our perspective on the dilemmas we face and it may even persuade us, at times, that remaining in our undesired condition is the most ethically satisfying decision” (p. 90).

I’ll post more from the last part (where VanDrunen digs into some bioethical situations) some other time.  In summary, for now, I highly recommend this book for a variety of Christians from different backgrounds and traditions.  The book doesn’t attack all the health care woes and conundrums we face in the U.S., but it does focus on Christians and how our faith should influence our tough decisions in a God-honoring, neighbor-loving way.  Because we do live in a time and country where there are thousands of health care conundrums, we need this book all the more!

shane lems

sunnyside wa

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