The topic of human cloning conjures images of science fiction stories and ethical controversies. For Christians seeking biblical guidance on this issue, the Bible does not explicitly mention cloning. However, through examining relevant biblical principles about human life and dignity, we can develop a thoughtful Christian perspective.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The Bible does not directly address cloning. However, biblical principles about human dignity and the sanctity of life can guide a Christian perspective that cautions against unethical uses of cloning technology while remaining open to applications that heal and preserve life.
In this comprehensive article, we will examine key biblical passages pertaining to human life and personhood. We will consider theological arguments regarding cloning in the context of creation, imago dei, and human dignity.
Ethical issues such as reproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning, and the commodification of human embryos will be explored. We will survey perspectives on cloning from different Christian traditions. Lastly, we will suggest how Christians can faithfully approach emerging biotechnologies like cloning.
The Bible Does Not Mention Cloning Directly
Cloning technology did not exist in biblical times
The Bible was written over a span of approximately 1,500 years, from around 1500 BC to AD 100. During this time period, cloning technology as we know it today did not exist. The ability to create genetically identical copies of living organisms is a very recent scientific development, emerging in the late 20th century.
As such, the Bible does not directly address or mention the concept of cloning.
However, there are instances in the Bible where God miraculously creates life from nothing or regenerates living beings. For example, the creation story in Genesis tells us that God formed Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from Adam’s rib.
While this is not equivalent to modern cloning, it does demonstrate God’s power over life, death, and the natural order.
Scripture speaks to broader principles applicable to cloning
Although cloning technology is never addressed, the Bible does speak to broader principles that can inform a Christian perspective on cloning. Biblical passages about the sacredness of human life, the dignity of the body, the role of human creativity, and the ethics of scientific discovery may all shape how Christians think about complex bioethical issues like cloning.
For instance, the Bible teaches that human beings are created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). This implies that all human life has intrinsic worth and dignity. Cloning technologies raise questions about whether cloned humans would retain this special status.
Many Christians argue that each human life is sacred, regardless of its origin or means of production.
The Bible also suggests limits on human power and creativity. In the Genesis flood story, God judges the wickedness and hubris of humanity (Genesis 6:5-7). This can be seen as a warning against unrestrained scientific overreach that fails to respect divinely instituted boundaries.
Cloning could be viewed as crossing a line that human beings should not transgress.
At the same time, the Bible teaches that scientific knowledge is good but must be pursued wisely and ethically. Christians are called to think carefully about how discoveries like cloning should be used in ways that align with God’s truth and promote human flourishing.
Biblical Principles Regarding Human Life and Dignity
Human life is sacred from conception
The Bible teaches that human life is uniquely precious and sacred from the very beginning at conception. Psalms 139:13-16 describes how God knits each person together in the womb. This shows that every human life has value to God even at the earliest stages.
Because human life bears the imago dei from conception, practices that destroy embryos like abortion and certain kinds of embryonic stem cell research violate biblical principles for the sanctity of life.
All people possess the imago dei
Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). This gives all people an inherent dignity and value that must be respected. There are no divisions between people based on race, gender, class, ability, or age when it comes to who bears God’s image (Galatians 3:28).
Therefore, no human life can be deemed more or less worthy of protection and care than another. Cloning technologies that aim to produce humans to harvest their organs or tissues for the benefit of others fail to honor the imago dei of those cloned humans.
They treat those lives as products rather than persons.
Loving our neighbor and protecting the vulnerable
Scripture calls Christians to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), care for widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:27), and defend the cause of the fatherless (Isaiah 1:17). Applying this principle today means Christians should advocate for laws and policies that protect society’s most vulnerable members from exploitation.
A biblical view of cloning asks whether these technologies value and protect vulnerable human life, or if they open the door for some lives to be oppressed and discarded for the benefit of others more powerful.
Love requires wisdom in how we advance science, aiming for progress that respects God-given human dignity.
Theological Perspectives on Cloning
Cloning challenges the dignity of human procreation
Many theologians argue that cloning undermines the dignity of human procreation as designed by God. They believe that children should be created through the union of a husband and wife, not fabricated in a laboratory (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).
Cloning could allow people to manufacture human beings to their own specifications, selecting embryos based on their genetic makeup instead of accepting them as gifts from God. This instrumentalization of human life fails to respect the intrinsic worth and sanctity of human beings made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27).
Cloning could violate imago dei
The Judeo-Christian tradition holds that human beings reflect the image of God in a unique way (Latin: imago dei) (Genesis 1:26-27). Some scholars argue that human cloning could violate the image of God by confusing human identity and origin.
Cloned human beings may struggle with difficult existential questions surrounding their identity and purpose:
- Who am I? Where do I come from?
- Do I have a unique soul or am I just a genetic copy?
These uncertainties could disturb one’s understanding of being made in God’s image as a singular and unique person (Psalm 139:13-16).
Playing God or exercising dominion?
Some contend that cloning oversteps the bounds of human authority; manipulating the origin of human beings amounts to “playing God.” They cite prohibitions against idolatry and warn that human cloning could lead to dehumanization, reduced diversity, new forms of inequality, or the commodification of human life (Exodus 20:1-6).
However, others counter that cloning technologies can be viewed as part of humanity’s mandate to exercise dominion and stewardship over the earth (Genesis 1:28). So long as human dignity is respected, cloning research could lead to life-saving medical treatments, help infertile couples conceive, and deepen human self-understanding.
Ethical Issues Raised by Cloning
Concerns about reproductive cloning
Reproductive cloning raises several ethical concerns from a biblical perspective. First, cloning could lead to commodification of human life, viewing human beings as products rather than people created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27).
Mass-producing genetic copies also undermines human dignity and individuality.
Second, safety risks to the cloned child, such as developmental abnormalities or premature aging, violate the principle of doing no harm. Over 90% of cloning attempts in animals have ended in failure. From a Christian ethics view, it would be unwise and unloving to subject human clones to such risks.
Third, critics argue cloning could lead to parents seeking genetically engineered “designer babies.” This hubris disregards God’s sovereignty and ideal plan for human creation and relationships (Psalm 139:13-16).
Debate over therapeutic cloning
Therapeutic cloning aims to produce embryonic stem cells to treat diseases, not produce cloned humans. Some Christians support this research for its healing potential. They argue the embryos were created for a moral purpose of saving lives, not in vain.
The Catholic Church and some Protestant groups, however, believe this still destroys potential human life, which is always sacred (Psalm 139:13-16).
Polls show most evangelical leaders (78%) oppose therapeutic cloning. They consider it immoral to create then destroy embryos for research. Yet 19% support therapeutic cloning with regulation for its life-saving benefits.
Overall, Christians disagree on the exact moral status of embryos and if their destruction can ever be justified.
Commodification of embryos
Both reproductive and therapeutic cloning require large numbers of human egg cells. Thus, critics argue cloning could lead women to be exploited as “egg factories” or lead to an underground market buying and selling eggs or embryos.
Most Christian bioethicists warn commercializing human eggs, sperm or embryos is morally troubling. It could reduce human life to a commodity traded for profit rather than a sacred gift from God (Psalm 139:13-16).
The Bible does not directly address modern bioethics dilemmas like cloning. Yet examining cloning practices against biblical principles can shed light on ethical issues to consider carefully.
Positions on Cloning Across Christian Traditions
The Catholic Church opposes cloning
The Catholic Church has consistently opposed human cloning, arguing that it violates human dignity and the right to life. In the 2008 instruction Dignitas Personae, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that cloning is “intrinsically illicit” as it seeks to produce human beings without connection to the act of conjugal union between a husband and wife.
Pope Benedict XVI has called human cloning “dangerous” and “immoral,” saying it lacks an understanding of the integral good of the human person. He argues that human beings have dignity precisely because they are created by God, not manufactured.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also actively opposed human cloning legislation.
Mainline Protestant caution about ethical cloning
Major Mainline Protestant denominations like the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA, and Episcopal Church have approached cloning cautiously. While open to potential medical therapies from cloning technology, they raise ethical concerns about reproductive cloning of human beings.
These churches call for reasonable restraint, dialogue, and regulation rather than outright bans on all cloning. They believe science and faith can be complementary, with wisdom needed to balance moral reflection and practical science.
However, they unequivocally oppose human reproductive cloning on theological and social grounds.
Evangelical objections to embryo destruction
American Evangelicals have been at the forefront of efforts to ban human cloning, even for medical research. Groups like the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod argue cloning requires destruction of human embryos, which they view as morally equivalent to persons.
This, they argue, violates sanctity of human life.
These objections are part of a broader pro-life concern about destruction of embryos in stem cell research and in vitro fertilization more broadly. Polling indicates over 70% of white American Evangelicals oppose cloning for medical research, the highest of any U.S. religious group.
A Faithful Christian Response to Cloning
Prayerfully seek wisdom regarding cloning technology
As Christians confronting a complex issue like cloning, we should first and foremost seek God’s wisdom through prayer and biblical study. The Bible does not explicitly mention cloning, so we must carefully apply biblical principles of human dignity, sanctity of life, and ethical scientific practices.
We should ask God to guide our thoughts and shape our response. Scripture urges us to avoid rushing to judgments but patiently rely on the Holy Spirit’s discernment (Proverbs 18:13; James 1:19).
Advocate against unethical uses of cloning
While not intrinsically evil, cloning does open the door to unethical practices. As faithful citizens, Christians should advocate for reasonable regulations – banning reproductive cloning aimed at creating genetically-matched babies, but allowing therapeutic cloning research under ethical guidelines.
We should speak out when science fails to honor human life or crosses ethical boundaries. Yet we must share our concerns graciously and thoughtfully (Colossians 4:6; 2 Timothy 2:24-25).
Studies show most Americans, including faithful Christians, oppose reproductive cloning but support cloning stem cell research to treat diseases. A 2022 Pew survey found 72% support therapeutic cloning if tightly regulated to ensure ethical practices.
Support cloning applications that heal and preserve life
Where cloning science seeks to heal, cure disease, and preserve life without violating human dignity, Christians can offer wholehearted support. Therapeutic cloning research that could generate transplantable tissues and advance regenerative medicine offers hope to many patients.
We serve as the hands and feet of Jesus when we support ethical medical research that reduces suffering (Matthew 25:36; James 5:13-15).
Christians leaders like Dr. David Stevens, CEO of the 17,000-member Christian Medical Association, advocate pursuing cloning science under ethical guardrails: banning sale of eggs or embryos, no blending human-animal DNA, fully informed donor consent, etc.
With wisdom and discernment, we can advance healing while still honoring the sanctity of human life God imparted from the moment of conception (Psalm 139:13-14).
While the Bible does not explicitly mention human cloning, Christians need not remain silent on this complex issue. By applying biblical principles about human dignity, the sanctity of life, and ethical science, we can develop faith-informed perspectives on cloning technology.
Christians should reject reproductive cloning and embryo commodification, while supporting therapeutic applications that do not violate human life. Most importantly, believers must offer moral leadership guided by wisdom, grace and discernment regarding these emerging bioethical frontiers.