Christian Themes

At the beginning of this book, Meilaender clearly indicates his belief that bioethics is not merely for bioethicists but also part of the role of all citizens—physicians, patients, and philosophers alike. In the same way, his approach is not simply to write an apologetic for one viewpoint among the many. This author firmly insists that to speak of “Christian bioethics” is to broaden one’s ethical focus, not narrow it. Only an ethical approach that is mindful of human history can hope to find wisdom in such decisions. This approach invites the reader to consider the larger context of human life, beyond any agenda to simply advance science or technology, in which a decision about medical treatment or research involves recognition of the limits of human nature. The Christian especially should be aware of how the cosmological implications that follow from bodily decisions can be more significant than any physical results.

The fact that Christianity centers on the Incarnation and is sustained by the Resurrection of Christ means that we can neither regard the human body as a mere tool at the mind’s disposal, nor stake too much hope in medical progress and relief. This author emphasizes throughout the book that the satisfaction that medical science purports to offer is not ultimately a true source of fulfillment. The vulnerability of bodily decay, while difficult to grapple with, is an important reminder of the fact that we also are creatures. We are not our own creators, nor are we in full control of human events. The hope for physical health and satisfaction that drives modern medicine and often creates bioethical dilemmas is not an inappropriate desire, as long as it remains subject to the Christian hope that looks beyond physical well-being. Meilaender begins and ends his primer on bioethics affirming Christ as the true source of hope, and highlighting the difference between the responsibility to protect physical health and a misguided desire to find wholeness through medical knowledge.