This document reflects commonly held beliefs based on scripture which have been endorsed by the church's Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the Executive Presbytery.
What is the Assemblies of God position on cloning and genetic engineering? Is it the same on the cloning of animals and humans? Are there any circumstances in which genetic engineering would have positive value?
Advances in modern medicine and scientific research have brought before society and the church issues that just a few decades ago existed only in the imagination of science fiction writers. Though the Bible was written 2000 or more years ago–long before many 20th century questions were raised–the Assemblies of God believes that the God who created our world and the universe, provided in His inspired Word the principles we need to make moral decisions on any modern questions that may confront people.
However, we recognize there are aspects of modern medicine that do not to measure up to the divinely ordained directives God has given us in His Word. An example of one such medical procedure is abortion. Though declared legal by human authority, it violates the biblical principle of the sacredness of human life. In recent decades, questions about genetic engineering, gene modification, and cloning of animals and humans are on the minds of many. Though there are not specific biblical statements on these issues, we believe Scripture provides guidance.
Human Cloning. The cloning process involves taking a cell from the tissue of a live animal or human, inserting all or some of the genes from that cell into an embryo which is subsequently placed in the womb of a living creature, ultimately to be born as a clone of the live being from which the cell was taken. We feel strongly that such a procedure involving human cells is not in keeping with biblical principles on the God-given individuality of human life. Meditating on his own physical existence, Job declared that God gave life and He ended it (Job 1:21). Though we may understand the processes of conception, pregnancy, and birth, for humans these are not mechanical stages. God is at work creating a body to be an abode for an eternal soul. Any attempt to procreate human life outside of God’s parameters is an attempt to usurp God’s greatest act of creation, that of human life possessing both body and soul.
Furthermore, each human being is a unique creation of God. The psalmist David, writing under divine inspiration, recognized this God-ordained distinctiveness of the individual, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be" (Psalm 139:13-16).
Some have claimed that the cloning of humans could provide replacement organs that would prolong the lives of persons already living. While this view seems to line up with the sacredness of human life at first glance, it probably means taking one human life to extend the life of another. We believe such decisions should be God’s alone. Furthermore, the driving motive for cloning humans seems to be for the benefit of those doing the cloning or those who desire some organ for extending life. No thought is ever given to the terrible toll that would be taken on the failed clones or the successful clone that provides harvested organs. Scottish scientists who cloned the sheep Dolly indicated that there were 276 failed cloning attempts before the successful one. No mention is made of the failures where deformity and abortion may have transpired.
Animal Cloning. The cloning of animals presents a difficult dilemma. The Bible recognizes that animals are a source of food for humans. It also gives humans dominion over the animal world –and by implication over the plant world (Genesis 1:26,28). There is also an instance in Scripture where selective breeding of animals took place (Genesis 30). Some recent research has sought to produce milk through genetic engineering that would be therapeutic and enriched for the benefit of those who drink it. Such research would seem to be acceptable as long as the animals used in the research are not mistreated. Animal life does not have the standing in God’s sight that human life has, but there is no justification in Scripture for needless abuse and mistreatment of animals.
Mixing of Animal and Human Cells. Genetic engineering reports have noted the insertion of human genes into animals, possibly for cloning purposes. Scripture would seem to forbid such a practice. Exodus 22:19, Leviticus 18:23 and 20:15,16, and Deuteronomy 27:21 order death as the penalty for humans and animals that engage in mutual sexual intercourse. The thought is repulsive and the death penalty could have been ordered because of the social stigma. But God may also have forbid the practice because of genetic complications that could have resulted.
It would be easy to oppose all research in areas of cloning and genetic engineering. There are voices in the medical community declaring that whatever experiments can be done in cloning and genetic research must be done. They express no moral or ethical parameters or guidelines such experimentation should respect. They don’t seem to understand the negative implications that can result from unrestricted research and experimentation in the modification of human and animal life.
There have been abuses in the past when the possibility of successful genetic engineering was much less likely than it is today. Hitler and the Nazis conducted abusive research on prisoners in concentration camps, seeking to produce a master race of Germans. Unregenerate persons, whether naive and primitive or learned and technical, can engage in terrible acts if there is not a moral and ethical standard to which they are held accountable. Not all of society appreciates the Christian’s respect for the ethical guidelines of Scripture. But without such a standard anything can result. We call on everyone engaged in scientific and medical research to find a standard of ethical and moral conduct, to articulate it clearly so all of society understands the premises on which any such research and experimentation is conducted. We believe God’s inspired and authoritative Word, the Bible, is that standard.
The above statement is based upon our common understanding of scriptural teaching.
All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) unless otherwise specified.