Of Spiders and Reproductive Technologies

By May 21, 2005 March 13th, 2015 Bioethics, Infertility, Uncategorized

One of my favorite seminary courses was a media arts class in creative writing. Near the beginning of the semester, the prof gave us an assignment to write something relating to spiders or webs. Having just read Proverbs 6:6 (“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise”), I came up with the following:

Why does He tell us to go to the ant?
Why not the spider who toils all night weaving web in time for morning dew?
The ant—he hustles to maintain; but spider—she spins, a pirouette of beauty in her work. Isn’t she more like Him than he?
Like the woman in fine purple, she toils, her hands grasping the spindle.
Along with some heroes from B-rated movies, we think of black widows, deception, the kill. But spider is regal. She’s far underrated.
Why does He tell us to go to the ant?

My professor wrote a reply that fascinated me. What I had read as a limit—go only to the ant—he urged me to observe through new eyes: “Why do you assume He means you to observe only the ant?” Dr. Grant wrote. “Perhaps He means for you to start with the ant, then let that lead you to other observations. Why make God’s instructions limiting here when they aren’t intended as a prohibition but rather as a springboard to further discovery?”

He asked a question that struck at the heart of my worldview. Is God ultimately a rule giver or a life giver? Do I see limits where there are none, making His words red and blue when perhaps they’re varying shades of purple? And do I categorize rigidly as sinful/acceptable issues that might more properly be categorized as wise/unwise?

In his award winning work, The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason observes the apostle Paul’s discussion about celibacy vs. marriage and notes that no hard-and-fast rule is given stating which is better in every case. Then he observes that our Lord was concerned “not just to give advice but to withhold it. His way was not always to provide answers, but more often simply to create a climate of moral and theological questioning such that a true searcher could himself hit upon the right answer.”

Such is our Wonderful Counselor that in many cases He would prefer for us to make decisions based on love, which looks different in different circumstances, than to make a hard, fast rule which applies to every circumstance.

My experience in discussions about surrogacy is that most people of faith respond immediately with “that is wrong.” And I was one of them. Yet what about couples who have already allowed the creation of “excess” embryos? If they want to donate one of their embryos to a husband and wife who are unable to have children, isn’t a gestational surrogacy arrangement the moral high ground compared with donating the embryo to science for dissection?

I have found instructive this prayer by Susanna Wesley: “May I adore the mystery I cannot comprehend. Help me to be not too curious in prying into those secret things that are known only to thee, O God, nor too rash in censuring what I do not understand.”

Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • Rae says:

    This is fascinating. I’d not thought much about the ethics of GS – interesting post. Grrl at chezmiscarriage.blogs.com is using a GS but all her archives are down at the moment unfortunately.

    Maybe we should use the rationale of Paul that while something may be permissable it is up to the individual to work out whether it is helpful for them.

    In her book Hannah’s Hope, Jennifer Saake talks about making decisions about how far you will go with treatments before you actually reach the point of having to make those decisions. When we’re faced with the decision often we are so desparate for anything that will work that we rush through the decision-making. The counsel to think these things out in advance is a wise one.

  • Anonymous says:

    As an infertile Godly woman, I used to rigidly appose things such as gestational surrogacy and donor eggs/sperm. I needed those hard/fast rules to navigate the scary world of Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Things made sense with rules in place, but those rules also boxed God into a very limited space.

    Little did I know that my infertility journey would include a loving sister… a sister who cried with me the moment of my diagnosis (ovarian failure at 16 years of age). A sister Who wept with us in our losses and disappointments… a sister who would offer to donate eggs to us in an attempt to offer us the “best” chance of pregnancy.

    What love?! What greater gift. It wasn’t on my radar, but it certainly was on God’s. He led her, my husband, and myself to a place where we could see this process for what it was… a loving gift.

    Thanks for sharing Sandra…


  • Sandra, thank you. I too have found long-held convictions recently challenged. For me it was a matter of legalism. I had sought the Lord so hard on what I believed He was leading our family to do or not do that my rationale was, “If it’s wrong for me, it must be wrong for everyone.” But in so believing, I wasn’t leaving room for grace, for God’s personal leading and conviction in the lives of others, for the possibility that I might not “know it all.”

    Now, if asked for counsel about various forms of 3rd party reproduction, I often encourage the couple to look to the question of benefit (see 1 Corinthians 6:12) rather than moral limitation. I ask, “When your child wants to know how he joined your family, will you be able to honestly answer him without shame or secrecy?” There can be many long-term consequences for both the child and all adults involved, and these must be honestly faced from the start of the situation cannot be healthy. But, after all these are addressed, if God leads a family to a choice such as surrogacy, especially when it is the difference between the life or death of a child, who am I to argue!

    Jenni Saake
    – Founder, Hannah’s Prayer Ministries http://www.hannah.org
    – Author, Hannah’s Hope: Seeking God’s Heart in the Midst of Infertility, Miscarriage and Adoption Loss http://www.HannahsHopeBook.com

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