One of the major scientific areas of discussion and debate today is in the area of stem cell research. Both the philosophy and the morality of this area of research and practice are "red zones" in political, medical, scientific, and religious environments. The reason for the debate being that researchers and medical specialists are more in favor of using stem cells from embryos.

Stem cells are launching a whole new universe of medicine, curing deadly diseases with the promise of custom-made tissues and organs. There are two main sources of stem cells:

  • Embryonic stem cells

  • Adult stem cells

We will discuss these sources later. The key "hot button" for evangelical Christians is the use of embryonic stem cells: those extracted from embryos. Most Christians, including many scientists and medical doctors, believe that life begins at conception when the sperm from the male fertilizes the egg of the female. Many stem cells are taken from an aborted fetus, which immediately incites reaction from anti-abortionists, who are against any research that results in embryos being destroyed.

Anti-abortionists and those on the political right (most evangelical Christians) claim that the fetus, the embryo, and a baby should be protected: that time is the only difference in their development. This causes a political backwash, thereby putting pressure on politicians who want to please Christians so they can get their vote. It also puts pressure on the medical and scientific research community because of the debate over ethics, morality, and the philosophy of life.

Let us examine briefly the thought basis of most non-Christians concerning the nature of the child in the womb of its mother. Their belief system about the origin of life is usually derived from one of the following:

  • The theory of evolution;

  • What they know others believe;

  • Philosophical and historical development.

Let's discuss the third one above, because it has influenced thought over the last 2,000 years. The philosopher Aristotle believed that life evolved through three (3) stages: vegetative; animate, and intellectual. Even though he was probably talking about the emergence of entire populations, people began to believe that the human embryo traveled this course as well. The embryo, immediately after conception, being the vegetative stage; then, the animate stage where the muscles and limbs begin to grow and move . . . and finally the intellectual. People began to relegate the first two stages to the womb, with the final stage after the birth. So, many people in their minds do not feel that the embryo becomes human until after birth.

Science, however, proves that life begins at conception. When the male spermatozoa races to fertilize the egg in the mother's womb, and collides with the egg, the result is conception. At conception, DNA and all programming, including the blood type and genome characteristics are included in the package. This is why different scriptures refer to God's acknowledgment of a particular, unique life in a mother's womb having a given name and a given destiny to perform.

Examples of uniqueness of life are found in Jeremiah Chapter One, Isaiah Chapter Nine, and Isaiah Chapter 44:28 and 45:1-3. To say that some embryos have this quality of uniqueness of life and some do not have is foolishness and not scientifically sound. The fact that some of these were prophesied ahead of time show that they were to be lives: human lives. If they weren't human life BEFORE exiting the womb, and IF that embryo or fetus were removed before birth, they would NEVER have been born . . . and neither would you have been born from your birth mother if your embryo or fetus had been removed.

The purpose of this study is to acquaint the Christian leader with the forefront of medicine in the area of stem cell research, and to provide a framework for the following:

  • Knowledge to draw on when teaching others;

  • Ability to communicate with others knowledgeable in this field;

  • Information to make a scriptural decision as to the ethics involved.

It is easy to condemn a practice when one knows nothing about it simply by quoting a few verses from the Bible; however, we must be honest scholars and ministers, which requires that we know something about the field with which we are concerned. Also, it helps our credibility with the scientific and educational community. And, thirdly, it gives us options to maybe advocate the use of something that may be very helpful to humanity by recommending guidelines of operation.

My purpose in teaching this subject is not to force you into a dogmatic position concerning stem cell research . . . remember, this is "The University of Excellence" . . . but to give you insight and information from which to formulate your own ethical conclusion, and possibly to enrich and augment this particular area of science and medicine.

It's worthy to note that hospitals and humanitarian relief agencies were not in any kind of abundance until after Christianity was embedded into society. Jesus came to bring wholeness to people: He never refused healing to anyone.

"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him." [Acts 10:38]

No matter what our individual gifts and skills are in the Body of Christ, we are all to be ministers of healing. With that in mind, let us embark on the study of stem cell research.

As mentioned above, there are two main sources of stem cells:

  • Embryonic stem cells, and

  • Adult stem cells

Also, embryonic stem cells can be harvested, or plucked, from two sources:

  • In vitro fertilization

  • Nuclear transfer

In vitro fertilization (the origin of the name is derived from Latin, meaning "in glass") is the fertilization of an egg through a biological process taking place in a test tube, a culture dish, or elsewhere outside a living organism. That is, other than through sexual intercourse directly between a man and a woman.

Nuclear transfer (or, therapeutic cloning) is when a nucleus of a certain type of cell is inserted into an egg whose nucleus has been removed.

Scientists can use either of the two methods above for providing embryos; then, after five days, transfer the embryo's inner cell mass, comprising around 40 stem cells, to a laboratory dish. (Note: A five-day-old embryo is smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.) After many months of re-plating and transfer these cells have grown into millions of healthy cells.

The idea underpinning this medical revolution is to use the stem cells to repair sick organs and tissues. This would eliminate such things as the use of bone joints being replaced surgically with metal joints and pumps being used for insulin. The cells in a young human embryo transform into 200 or so different kinds of cells that make up the human body.






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