Ask RC: Is IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) a sin? Why or why not?
Not long ago I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of speaking at The Baby Conference, put on by my friends at Vision Forum. There nearly two thousand people gathered to joyfully agree with God that children are a blessing. I was honored to speak about my own daughter Shannon who has special needs, as well as my two youngest sons who joined our family through adoption. I write then as someone committed to the biblical concept of children as gifts of God. I write also as a husband who, due to age and sundry health issues, has been persuaded for some time that God would no longer bless my dear wife and me with children, save through adoption. I write all the above to establish my “pro-baby” bona-fides before considering my concerns with IVF, which are three-fold.
First, no Christian, no human ought to support any technology, no matter how joyful the outcome might be, that includes the self-conscious decision to murder little babies. Too often that is precisely what is done with IVF. Because of the expense and risks of the procedure it is common practice to harvest multiple ova, fertilize them all, and then implant only the most “likely” to thrive. The rest are either destroyed, or frozen. This is sin, grievous sin. In some cases this sin is compounded with the ghoulishly euphemistic “selective abortion” where once again those feti least likely to thrive are aborted.
Some Christians, however, cognizant of the above, seek to go through the IVF procedure while escaping the above barbarities. They only fertilize what they plan to implant, and carry these to term. The problem here, in my judgment, is akin to a problem with birth control- it separates what God has brought together. Though there might be still some latent gnostics in the Christian realm that see the marital act as a necessary evil allowable only when conception is possible, that is not my position. That said, there is something perverse about separating the marital act from its fruit. Let me draw a comparison. Food is for us, by God’s grace, both fuel, and a pleasure. God could have designed food as tasteless power pills. Instead He blesses us with the delights of the dining room. There is not a thing wrong with enjoying ones food, beyond its nutritional value. There is something wrong, however, when we try to separate the two, when we seek to seize the pleasure and avoid the nutrition. We call this perversity bulimia. Artificial birth control, one could then argue, is sexual bulimia. Of course in the case of IVF, the separation isn’t to avoid the blessing of the children, but it is nevertheless a separation of how God designed things. (I am grateful on this point to a delightful article I read by Rodney Clapp years ago, published in Re:Generation Quarterly entitled “Why Christians Have Such Lousy Sex Lives.”)
Third, and here it gets even more subtle, I’m afraid IVF, which in the case of many Christians is a temptation precisely because these dear folks agree with God that children are a blessing, is tantamount to trying to pry the blessing of children from our Father’s hands. God affirms in the Bible that He opens and closes the womb. Certainly those who add to their quivers through IVF haven’t actually trumped the sovereignty of God. They have merely failed to honor it.
It is true that children are a blessing. They are not, however, the only blessing from God. Those who are persuaded that they cannot conceive, would be counseled by me to consider adoption, or to consider how God might best use them while childless. I would, of course mourn with those who so mourn, even as Denise and I have mourned when her womb was closed. I would not either, assuming the rejection of the first option that involves the murder of children, loudly condemn those who try IVF. My advice, however, would be to steer clear.