Before reading this, if you and your spouse have gone down the path of IVF, you may find this difficult to read. This blog posting suggests that the path of IVF involves a husband giving up, at least part of his leadership and a wife submitting to someone other than her husband. Also suggested is that this step is outside of God’s design for marriage. These conclusions can be debated. In marriage, husbands often allow others to, in a sense, take the lead in various decisions that impact upon their wives. Consider cancer treatments that are largely direct by doctors. Many would question a husband who does not allow some leadership to taken by the doctor when it comes to his wife’s cancer treatments and would question a wife who does not, in some way, submit to the needed cancer treatments. So, allowing others a sense of leadership or submitting to others leadership within the context of marriage may not always be inherently wrong. The purpose of the blog posting that you are about to read is to encourage you to think about these things rather than just accepting that the way laid out by others is the correct path to follow. I also hope to encourage you to consider some of the ways that IVF is different from God’s original design.
Compare the natural way of procreation to the In Vitro Fertilization’s way of reproduction.
In the normative way of procreation, that God has designed, the husband leads his wife, who, out of love, submits to his loving advances and opens herself to him and they share an intimate sexual union that gives opportunity for the sperm of the husband to unite with the egg of the wife, in the supportive environment of the mother’s fallopian tube. Somehow, by the power of God, the union of the egg and sperm result in a new life. The new child is guided to the supportive womb of his mother and supported and nourished there, for some nine months, along with the husband at his wife’s side.
This is the result of God’s direction that a man is to leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, that the two become one, and that they be fruitful and multiply. Once the husband deposits the sperm, the miracle of procreation is left in the hand of God.
As we think about procreation and IVF, let us remember that everything that God created, as well as all of the laws that govern creation as well as morality are all, in some way, a reflection of God. “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and Divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Rom 1:20). Mankind, was created in the image of God and, as such, reflects God in a more complete way. So too, the normative way of procreation has something special and beautiful to reflect of God’s creative self.
In IVF there is more than husband, wife and God. Does not the husband give some of his leadership role over to another person? The husband, with his body, does what he is told and masturbates his sperm into a container. The husband allows the other person to take control of the wife. In a sense, the wife submits her body to the other person, who is not her husband and does with her body what the other person tells her, when he tells her. (takes medication, submits to examinations, etc.) The wife opens her body to the other person, allowing the insertion of sterile instruments and lets the other person remove eggs from her. The other person then takes the sperm and the eggs and puts them together in a somewhat hostile environment in a glass container. The other person selects the newly growing child that he thinks is the best one and eventually inserts into the wife the child into her womb.
With IVF, it is no longer the simple intimacy of a husband cleaving to his wife and the two, as one flesh, procreating a child, as directed by God. Instead, rather than leaving the creation of their child under the control of God, another person is selected and given control. The other person comes between the one flesh union of the husband and the wife and directs things. Rather than leaving the egg and sperm and waiting on what God will do, the egg and the sperm get handled and manipulated by the other person, to make a pregnancy happen. The other person decides, as the one in control, which embryo to select. (Actually the other person is likely a number of other persons, if you include all involved in the handling of the sperm and eggs.)
It is true that in other restorative medical procedures, such as investigating and restoring cancer, that leadership is given over to another person who, in turn, is submitted to. But is it the same? With cancer brokenness is trying to be repaired. Is not procreation, in some way different than just trying to repair brokenness? With procreation, there is the mystery of the forming of a new person that is not part of repairing brokenness, that is what much of medicine is about. Is there not a mysterious part to procreation that goes beyond repairing brokenness, such as the determination of which egg wins out in egg production not stimulated to produce the many eggs needed to make IVF work, such as the determination of which sperm make it to the fallopian tube to take part in fertilization, such as the timing of family and the delays between children that are all part of non-manipulated procreation? There may be reparative parts to reproductive medicine that do not try take over the intimate mysterious part of procreation. These may include things such as the investigating of and the unblocking of scarred fallopian tubes. Such assistance also requires the giving of control and submission too a third party, but is the third party entering into the intimate mysterious part of procreation the in the way that is needed for reproductive IVF to work?
To what extent is the image of God, that is created into normative procreation, obscured in the process of IVF? To what extent does this matter? For more on IVF and the image of God see my blog posting, IVF – And the Image of God.
Is the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden, multiplied in IVF? Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, they wanted to do be in control and do it their way, rather then to submit to the good way of the Lord.
To what extent is the use of IVF a case of wanting to be in control of our procreation, rather than trusting God to manage it?
To what extent is the promotion of IVF involved in separating what God has put together?
To what extent do the IVF doctors and technologists attempt to takes God’s role in procreation?.
I am indebted to Dr James Grier, from Grand Rapids, Michigan and to Dr W.H. Velema from the Netherlands for prompting me to consider IVF in terms of the impact it has on God’s design for procreation and for providing structure to my thoughts.