A Biblical View on IVF, Artificial Insemination, & Surrogate Motherhood

by Dr. Stephen Kim

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore… (Genesis 4:1)

My position on this topic is very straight-forward: I believe that a married couple should only have children through the act of sexual intercourse within the confines of their heterosexual monogamy. Conception via coitus. That’s it. No IVF. No artificial insemination. No surrogate motherhood. God never intended childbirth to be extricated from sexual intercourse within a marriage.  I’ll explain my biblical rationale for each in a moment. Sex and procreation are cornerstone purposes for marriage.

Pastors in the 21st century must be prepared to answer biblically on this topic.  A cursory perusal of the topic on the internet showed me that the vast majority of Christians are wrong when it comes to these issues. Under normal circumstances, children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3).  Children, however, are not the end-all-be-all.  Methods and heart intentions matter (e.g., two gay men using a surrogate mother to have a child certainly does not glorify God).

We also live in a fallen world, and in a fallen world, conditions such as infertility exists.  In a fallen world, sin might cause the desire for certain blessings (i.e., children) to become inordinate and thereby, idolatrous.  Without question, unbelievers will use whatever means possible to procreate children in their own image; but Christians must be sure that their desire for children does not supersede their desire for God for that would clearly be idolatry. Yes, use medical technologies to fight disease, correct myopia, and work against other effects of the Fall; but never use medical technology to violate Scriptural principles.  Christians must stay resolved that at the end of the day, we will always praise and worship God–irrespective of whether or not He grants us children.

WHAT CHRISTIANS BELIEVE

Christians believe that God is the sole Author of life.  God gives and only God takes away.  Christians believe that life begins at conception (the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg) (Psalm 129:13).  Christians, therefore, believe that abortion is murder–a heinous crime against an image-bearer of God (Genesis 9:6).

In light of all these new medical technologies (which certainly were not around when the Bible was written), infertile Christian couples are now tempted with a choice: utilize these technologies or remain childless.  Thankfully, though the Bible does not address these issues explicitly, it contains enough to help guide us through these difficult issues.  (Additionally, let’s quickly deal with the Mary issue:  Mary’s pregnancy with Christ was a miracle–a supernatural event and therefore, is not germane to our current discussion.)

THE ISSUE AND THE OPTIONS

Although I disagree with several of his conclusions on this topic, popular Reformed theologian, John M. Frame, aptly drew up the following options available to couples:

Recent developments in science have created new alternatives in human reproduction. We may consider here

  1. artificial insemination by the husband (AIH),
  2. artificial insemination by donor (AID),
  3. surrogate motherhood (SM), and (4) in vitro fertilization (IVF).

These may be combined in various ways.

(I am now going to assume that the reader has read up on these options and knows what each option entails.)

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

Yes, the verse above means more than just sex, but at the bare foundational level, it’s talking about sex.  There’s no way around that.  The complementary reproductive parts of a male and a female fit, and they were designed to perfectly fit to the glory of their Creator.  This union, then produces pleasure, intimacy, attachment, and children.

Christian couples ought to “be fruitful and multiply” through the act of sexual intercourse.  Every Christian agrees with that statement.  Where Christians disagree however, is whether or not marital sexual intercourse should be the only way to produce young.  It is my belief that Christians either trust God to give them babies naturally (through marital sexual intercourse) or they trust God and not have their own offspring the rest of their lives.

One big reason why sexual immorality is prohibited in Scripture is because children were not to be born outside of sexual relations within marriage. This is why both adultery (Rom 13:9) and fornication (1 Cor 6:18) are prohibited by God.  It seems very plain to me, that within Scripture, the following is the sequence that God has ordained: “Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son” (Ruth 4:13). Evidently, God is the one who gives conception–through sex; and at other times, God withholds conception. The choice wholly belongs to the Lord. God, in His infinite wisdom, has ordained some married couples not to have children–that’s just a fact of life in a fallen world.  Not having children however, is not the end  of the world.  Disobediently producing one’s own young is far worse than staying childless but obedient to the Lord’s will.

In sex, “two become one.” The result of sex is often a child. Nothing manifests the consummation of a marriage more than one’s own offspring.  Containing exactly 50% of the mother’s chromosomal DNA, and 50% of the father’s chromosomal DNA, children are the flesh-and-blood reality of two having become one.  Furthermore, the Bible is replete with narrations testifying to the fact that it is God who (both) gives and withholds children from the womb.   Modern reproductive technologies seek to supplant the sovereign hand of God in this process.  The results of such idolatrous pursuits are never good (I’ll speak more on this at the end).

1. Artificial Insemination by Husband

Wrong because it is not produced by the “one-flesh union” of husband and wife.  Yes, it is the husband’s sperm, but the child is not being produced through marital sex (hence, the term, “artificial”).  Rather, the husband’s sperm is strategically placed by doctors near the egg at the right time.  This is not God’s design, it is not natural, and yes, it is artificial in every sense of the word.

2. Artificial Insemination by Donor

If you disagreed with my last position on “artificial insemination by husband,” and felt as if that’s “okay,” then what’s your rationale for thinking this one’s wrong?  You might say, “Well, because it’s a donor.  It’s adultery!”  No, it is not.  Adultery is having sex with someone other than your living spouse.  Again, no sexual intercourse occurs during artificial insemination.  So then, why is it wrong?  For one reason: because, again, the child will not be the product of lawful, marital sex–as per God’s intentions. (This also answers the question of why it’s wrong for a lesbian couple to have children using this method.)

3. Surrogate Motherhood

Wrong, again, for two reasons: no marital sex and the selling of one’s body.  A third (usually paid) party carries the externally fertilized egg of a commissioning woman (there are cases where the surrogate mom donates her egg, but I don’t believe I even have to address that issue).  Both the selling of her body for pregnancy and the non-sexual conception of the child are wrong.  Furthermore, God expects the woman to carry and bear the child herself: Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control (1 Tim 2:15).  God’s expectation evidently is, “Unless you bear the child, I don’t expect you to have your own child.”  The abolition of God’s design leads to stories like this one from The New York Times:

I did not give birth to my son. He is the product of my egg and my husband’s sperm. After half a decade of trying to become pregnant, sometimes succeeding but always failing to carry a baby successfully to term, I came to the conclusion that if we wanted to have a child who was genetically related to us, we would have to find a woman with a more reliable uterus to gestate and deliver our baby. That was in April 2007. I was 39 years old. Exhausted by years of infertility, wrung emotionally dry by miscarriage, my husband and I decided we would give gestational surrogacy — hiring a woman to bear our child — one try. It was a desperate measure, to be sure, and one complicated by questions from all the big sectors: financial, religious, social, moral, legal, political.

On May 11, 2007, my husband and I sent an e-mail message to a New Jersey lawyer who specializes in gestational-surrogacy cases. In July, a doctor coaxed eight egg cells — oocytes — from my ovaries and fertilized them with my husband’s sperm. By the beginning of August, a substitute schoolteacher from Harleysville, Pa., named Cathy Hilling was pregnant with our child. On May 11, 2008, I was holding my 3-week-old son in my arms. It was Mother’s Day.

Such blatant idolatry of producing little ones bearing your own image is certainly not God’s design!  Again, if you’re going to argue against me, how then, will you make your case against gay couples who are now having children using this method? (One cannot simply state, “because homosexual unions–in and of themselves–are immoral” as a response for it still does not answer the question, “Why, if no sex is occurring, is it wrong for a man to pay a woman to bring forth precious children into this world?”  Only my position gives a bonafide response.)

*The only exception for surrogacy would be cases where a caring woman takes an embryo that’s about to be discarded and graciously opens up her womb for the full-term development of that embryo so that the child could live.  This would be identical to the adoption of an unwanted pregnancy and it is the literal “laying down” of one’s life for another.

4. In-vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Wrong because it does not involve marital sex (it’s test-tube fertilization).  Wrong because in most cases, multiple eggs are fertilized and later discarded when unused (synonymous with having multiple abortions).  Wrong because, again, it is idolatry in full display.  IVF is usually unsuccessful, highly expensive, and blatantly demonstrative of an obsession to have a baby.  As Christians, if we do not stand firm on these issues, the future will be ominous.  I came home to the horrific news that British lawmakers have voted in favor, to the creation of “three person-babies” using modified IVF.  The vote will now allow for the murder of “genetically defective” embryos (see diagrams below), and it will pave the way for “designer babies.” According to the BBC:

The UK is now set to become the first country to introduce laws to allow the creation of babies from three people.  In a free vote in the Commons, 382 MPs were in favour and 128 against the technique that stops genetic diseases being passed from mother to child.  During the debate, ministers said the technique was “light at the end of a dark tunnel” for families.  A further vote is required in the House of Lords. It everything goes ahead then the first such baby could be born next year.  Proponents said the backing was “good news for progressive medicine” but critics say they will continue to fight against the technique that they say raises too many ethical and safety concerns. Estimates suggest 150 three-person babies could be born each year. Prime Minister David Cameron said: “We’re not playing god here, we’re just making sure that two parents who want a healthy baby can have one.”

Here are two diagrams of the process (pictures from BBC):

IVF 3 Parent

IVF 3 Parent 2

As Christians, we firmly believe that children are a gift from God.  As Christians, we will care for all humans (regardless of how they were brought into this world).  However, as Christians, we must not idolize the prospect of having children.  Such sin will only lead our families and our society into ethical and spiritual demise.

We do well to remember the words of Jesus: “‘And the two [not three] will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:8).

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About Dr. Stephen Kim

Dr. Stephen Kim is the senior pastor of Mustard Seed Church in New York City. He has also served as Associate Director of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, NYC Extension Center. Pastor Stephen is the happy husband of one beautiful woman and the joyous father of four beautiful children. As a pastor and writer, he is passionate about accurately feeding Christians the Word of God: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?" (Matthew 24:45).
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12 Responses to A Biblical View on IVF, Artificial Insemination, & Surrogate Motherhood

  1. Anonymous says:

    We cant have children
    So what that makes us

    Like

  2. I was a surrogate for a AMAZING couple! I was CALLED by GOD to do this! I fully believe that. I see nothing wrong with helping another woman! Just because her uterus cant carry the baby dosnt mean mine will not or can not… i believe God gives us the wisdom and the modern medicine to do the things we do! I have 110% faith in God but that dosnt mean im dumb enough to walk into traffic… would you not allow your child a prosthetic leg if he or she was born with out it because that was Gods will? What about hearing aides so your baby can hear your voice?

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  3. johanna says:

    You can advise against ivf, surrogates, etc for reasons of wisdom, but when you say “wrong” you are adding to God’s Word. That is a serious offense according to the Bible.

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    • Carmen SeekingJesus says:

      Amen! I really do believe these decisions are personal between a couple and God. Some christians believe its a sin to eat pork or celebrate Christmas. Others don’t. I do think some things are personal and we should not add burdens to New Testament covenant believers. The Bible says what we should do or not do and there is no mention of surrogacy being wrong there. Nor does it say a woman has to have a child to be saved.

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  4. Wale. says:

    “God, in His infinite wisdom, has ordained some married couples not to have children–that’s just a fact of life in a fallen world”

    No sir…..its a consequence of the fallen world that we are in not because God throws dice as to who gets & who doesn’t. (He still remains a good God jer 29:11) The exceptional cases we see in the bible were for specific reasons of glorifying his name. Otherwise its His default position that we all be fruitful & multiply….

    As concerns IVF & co.. Whilst your correct to warn against childbirth becoming idolatry (Perhaps also why Abraham was tested with Isaac’s sacrifice)..i think the more spiritual argument to be made here (as opposed to the one flesh argument) is one of ‘FAITH’….

    Couples with even the faith of a mustard seed can move the mountain of infertility. Seeking out other methods borders on giving up on God …… Without faith it is impossible to please him.

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  5. Tiffany S. says:

    the story of Abraham and Sarah in Genesis chapter 16. Sarah could not bear children, so she gave her servant, Hagar, to Abraham so she could have his children. This was a common practice at the time, since a childless woman was shamed by her friends

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  6. Tiffany S. says:

    Jesus was born to a surrogate mother if you remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. derklempner says:

    Dr. Kim writes: “My position on this topic is very straight-forward. I believe that a married couple should only have children through the act of sexual intercourse within the confines of heterosexual monogamy.”

    Then he writes: “God never intended childbirth to be extricated from sexual intercourse within a marriage.”

    I’m certain I’m not a theologian nor a biblical expert, but aren’t these two quotes in direct violation of the biblical story of how Jesus was conceived? Doesn’t the bible specifically contradict what Dr. Kim writes?

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  8. These are provocative ideas but I just don’t see any real scriptural basis against IVF or other fertility treatments. I think a better case can be made for not using surrogacy but even then it’s not clear-cut. There’s just no clear Biblical reason to believe that God actually wills some couples to not have children and that if they try to do so, they are being disobedient – unless if the Holy Spirit gives some sort of very clear communication to a couple that they are to remain childless! Clearly exceptional circumstances and not the norm.

    In Hannah’s case, we are specifically told that God closed her womb; this is important because it suggests these are special circumstances and God’s act here was different from ordinary infertility. God, in his wisdom, did this intentionally so that Hannah would cry out to him for a child who would be dedicated to the Lord (which otherwise would not have happened if she was fertile.)

    There’s no reason to believe that it is sinful to produce a child by anything other than the “one-flesh” union. If there was actual scriptural evidence I’d be happy to take your view (as a single man, I have no personal investment in methods of artificial insemination.) Your argument is predicated on an apparently Calvinist view of God in which he “ordains” certain couples to have children while others don’t. As someone who finds the Molinist view of God’s sovereignty most convincing, I don’t see any reason to think (aside from exceptional circumstances like Hannah) that some couples have been “ordained” to childlessness. Generally, the only reason anyone is barren or infertile is because of the effects of sin and disease in the world.

    Your reasoning suggests that people who have lost a limb ought not to get a prosthetic replacement because God has ordained their present state; or for someone with bad eyesight not to get glasses because God has ordained their current vision; or for a diabetic not to take live-saving insulin. We might as well throw out most, if not all, of modern medical technology and medicine because it’s somehow subverting God’s will. And this post says absolutely nothing about adoption. You could make a good case for choosing adoption over IVF or surrogacy, particularly on the basis of many scripture passages that describe our adoption into God’s family through Jesus.

    But “idolatry” is a weak basis for your views: it’s easy to envision circumstances where a couple has children through IVF without “idolizing” children. The methods mentioned in your post CAN be used from idolatrous intent, but aren’t NECESSARILY used as such. A potential for abuse doesn’t justify totally ruling them out. At any rate, the thing being idolized is not necessarily bad – it necessitates a change of perspective. For example, I might idolize playing guitar (a good thing) and elevate it to an unhealthy place in my life, but the solution isn’t necessarily to totally discard it from my life – it’s a change of priorities and moving something that is good back to its proper place. Likewise, a couple with an “idolatrous” perspective toward children need not give up on having children, but re-evaluate their motives.

    “Again, if you’re going to argue against me, how then, will you make your case against gay couples who are now having children using this method?”

    Gay couples having children aren’t wrong because they use surrogacy, they’re wrong because homosexual unions are intrinsically immoral and not God’s design for marriage (a man and a woman.) A homosexual couple by definition cannot reproduce. But a heterosexual married couple is designed to do so, meaning that an inability is a disruption of their normal function that may be fixed through medicine or other treatments.

    I found plenty of wisdom in the controversial posts about ten men/women not to marry, but not so much in this one. As a final note, I was conceived normally but without fertility treatments my mother would never have been able to get pregnant in the first place. I rather like existing so I’m glad that my parents aren’t Calvinists.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What about adoption? The bible does have much to say about orphans… thoughts?

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    • pastorstephenkim says:

      Adoption is fine, but let’s do it for Christ-honoring motives–not merely for the sake of “having children.”
      There needs to be a love for God, a genunine love for the orphans, and a self-sacrificial heart in the entire adoption process. This should not merely be a “last option” when a couple can’t have kids of their own.

      “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

      Like

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