Three Parents

Dr John Zhang with the boy who has DNA from three people

A boy was born recently who has DNA from three parents.

This post wants us to move beyond the specifics of this particular case, and compassion for these parents, to asking ethical questions, and in particular: are we ready (or at least preparing) for increasingly-complex ethical questions?

My own church (Anglicanism in NZ and internationally) has, for decades now, poured huge (and often acrimonious) energy into the ethical question of whether committed same-sex couples can be blessed. Some valuable by-product might have been hoped for – development of agility with complex, new moral questions, but in my own context I generally see no such competency. I contend that the average leader in my church cannot tell their teleologicalism from their deontologicalism.

At best, what the shouting match for the church’s topic du decade has done is honed some biblical interpretation approaches (and not, mind you, in a way that is convincing across the church’s divides). But the new ethical issues increasingly confronting us cannot so easily be responded to by a Bible-alone approach. Furthermore, a Bible-alone approach may convince some within our own community, but if we are not to slide further along the church-sect-cult spectrum, and if we have done the ethical clarification that morals are not merely “for us” but “for all”, then we have to have agility in ethical theories that allow us to engage with the wider community beyond the walls of our shrinking church.

Some, in our church community, may be convinced by the side of ethical approaches that has that “it is wrong because God says it is wrong”, but beyond our walls that approach carries little weight. We will need much greater appreciation of the approach that has that “God says it is wrong because it is wrong.”

The procedure to produce a child from three parents is illegal in USA, so it was carried out in Mexico – where there is no such regulation. “For religious reasons, the mother wanted to use a technique that would not require the destruction of fertilized eggs, which an approved treatment in the United Kingdom would require. The three-parent technique was the solution.”

So here we are presented with “religiously-reasoned” decisions on ethics which eschew an individual destroying fertilized eggs but accept producing a human with three parents. Whatever religious reasoning is involved, it is not the Roman Catholic Natural Law approach. And whatever you might think of Natural Law (or the RC magisterium’s use of it), it is an ethical approach that can be vigorously applied beyond church walls in a dynamic engagement in our world, including with our lawmakers.

Ironically, engaging spiritedly in the world’s ethical conundrums may turn out to be strongly evangelistic. Should there be agreement that there is some objective ethical standard (even though we do not yet agree what it is in a certain particular case) people are walking into the moral argument for the existence of God (even though they may not realise that, acknowledge that, or call God by this name).

But what I am increasingly finding is an unquestioned stretching of the postmodern paradigm to the point where beliefs do not need foundations – “my belief is my belief, full stop, end of story.” Many young people have experienced their formation as “every belief is equally valid; beauty and truth are in the eye of the beholder.”

What do you think?

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