May 26, 2013

Bono, GMO's and the Bible

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO's) for Third World Countries

I have seen recent posts in the news and on blogs concerning genetically modified organisms or GMO’s. As there has been a lot of discussion recently of the biblical, ethical and moral implications, I as a Christian felt compelled to at least comment.

I will admit outright that I’m torn on this one from a biblical/theological viewpoint. To some extent as Christians we have an obligation to help keep people from starving to death and care for our fellow human beings as they are all created in the image of God. We live in a fallen world and the lesser of two evils is to prevent a painful death from starvation. The issue is more political and governmental than it is shortage of foodstuffs most of the time. I feel the secular ground swell against GMO's is an issue not of tampering with God's order so much as it is tampering with people's health. People are not so concerned with the theological issues as they are with the biological issues. Some Christians will be concerned with both but most just see this as another case of corporate and governmental over-reach with high-profile spokesmen like Bono banging a drum for it (pardon the music pun).

On the flip side of the coin, Monsanto (and companies like them) controls 90% of worldwide GMO seed stock. The possibility of GM contamination in our food supply is practically unavoidable at this point. Man is tinkering with the basic elements within the Creation and changing them so that they are probably not even within "their own kind" anymore. The question is: Is it unbiblical to tinker with the genetics of plants? Are we undermining basic tenants of Biblical Creation and doing it under the guise of humanitarianism? Bono from U2 has used his notoriety and high profile public image to endorse this and help make this happen for companies like Monsanto as noted here. I suggest the Bono may be well-meaning but perhaps jumping the gun prematurely before all the data comes back concerning the safety of GMO's. Perhaps he should have stuck to his music this time? it unbiblical to propagate genetically modified foodstuffs? To rearrange the basic genetic building blocks of agricultural life to produce a heartier strain of corn or grains that are resistant to insects but might end up being unhealthy to people? My question is this: Haven't we been doing this for centuries in the form of animal and plant husbandry? This to dramatically alters genetics in plants and animals. Husbandry that has produced some really stellar hybrids that produce healthier and heartier yields...while simultaneously producing some horrid and sickly mutations that were short lived or non-viable

Did the Bible forbid the mixing of seeds as I have read on other Christian blogs (and thereby claim that any mixing whatsoever is evil and sinful even now in this day and age)? Is mixing of seeds and livestock forbidden in the Bible? Yes, it was. Does this mixing prohibition still apply today? No. Are things of the Creation to remain within their kind or is it evil to move beyond certain borders? Plant to plant, animal to animal or human to human? Is there to be a distinction? 

I will note outright that in humans, there should be a distinction when it comes to genetics as I will speak of later. Plant and animal I am not so sure based on biblical evidences. Right from the beginning we see that God created within "their kinds" and God saw that it was good. People must understand that this was pre-Fall and what was good then became fallen and twisted after the Fall being subject to the curse. Every iota of husbandry, breeding and hybrids have been an attempt to improve upon a fallen Creation, not God's original intended order or actual good Creation. Could man improve upon God's original Creation? No. Could he possibly work to improve things in the fallen Creation through God's common grace? I suggest that through industriousness, well-meaning intent, adherence to God's will and God's allowance through His sovereignty, He may have allowed for us to at least right some wrongs through Christ. But like everything else man does, it comes with sinful side-effects or circumstances. In the case of genetically modified foodstuffs, nutrition suffers and toxins that might not have originally been in the food are introduced. It ends up being a trade-off of one negative for another negative or desirable traits like farm-ability or insect resistance.

Genesis 1:11 ~  Then God said, "Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds." And it was so.

Genesis 1:20-21 ~ And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good...

We see what happens when the angels defied the natural order of things and did not stick to their own positions or realm and were reserved for condemnation in darkness.

Jude 6-7 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Additionally, in the Bible we see things like the Holiness Codes of Leviticus 18-20 and how it forbids specific mixing. There are prohibitions of mixing people in terms of race like the Israelites and other nations. This is not because the Bible is racist, it is because God was trying to prevent the spiritual contamination of pagan practices and keep His people distinct and holy. People were not to mix in a sexually immoral ways either as in marrying pagan women which eventually caused King Solomon to apostatize. Nor were people to mix certain seeds, livestock, etc. If we try to bridge the same principles from sexual immorality to the mixing of seeds, livestock and fabrics in Leviticus 19, the argument does not hold up.


It is because the laws concerning human relationships were couched in covenant and were also based in moral grounds or were moral laws and pertained to keeping God’s people separate from the surrounding immoral nations. They were to be adhered to, to keep Israel as a holy priesthood used to interact with the nations of the world. The livestock, seed and fabric restrictions were ceremonial and civil restrictions that have been abrogated or fulfilled in Christ…so the mixing of seeds is not a violation of the Law per se since the ceremonial and civil aspects of the law no longer apply as requirements for Christians, they were under a different dispensation under the Law for Israel.

We must realize there were different types of laws: Moral, Ceremonial and Civic. We must understand that ceremonial and civic laws no longer apply but moral laws can still apply because they can continue to make a person holy. These laws (moral) include things like the Ten Commandments. Let me ask you this: If someone does not kill or cheat on his neighbor’s wife…it’s a good thing, right? Leviticus 19 is what the Jews considered the Kedoshim קְדֹשִׁים or Hebrew for "holy ones" and were mainly statements and penalties for transgressions of the Holiness code of Leviticus chapters 17-26.

Animals are not to be interbred with other species, just as humans are not to have intercourse with animals (Leviticus 18:23). Holiness relates to purity, which inter-species breeding or sexual abomination destroys …i.e.: Gen 1:24-25, "of the same kind". If sacrificial animals are in view here this law could have been put in place in order to stop inter-breeding between acceptable sacrificial animals and those that were that the offspring which would’ve been unacceptable for sacrifice wouldn't be inadvertently used for sacrifices. This would've been an unacceptable or polluted sacrifice and would've been considered cheating God (Malachi 1). Plants/seeds were not to be mixed either. Mixture of seeds and the resulting mixture would be hard to separate at harvest, so it was better to keep them separate from the beginning. Separation of seeds does not necessarily imply that mixing after Christ’s advent is something to be viewed as evil or an abomination.

So what does one do with GMO's from a humanitarian perspective or from a “love thy neighbor” viewpoint in modern times? 

Like I said, I’m torn. 

Do we let people in Third World countries die from starvation (which is one of Bono's concerns) because we are worried about monopolistic corporations controlling and contaminating the world’s food supply or do we try and help the less-fortunate even though we might be poisoning them down the road in the long run? It is like choosing to kill one’s self or kill another person with a lethal injection or saving them to live a sickly malnourished and diseased life. Nor am I naive enough to believe that a wholesale "experiment" of GMO's on an entire continent will stay confined to that continent (Africa). We know our governments do not necessarily do things in our better interest, why would this issue be any different?

So if the Bible does not strictly forbid or speak to genetically modified foodstuffs per se, where do we look to determine a morally justifiable position? I personally have looked to the Golden Rule in Luke 6:31 and to the greatest commandment according to Jesus for my moral high ground in this issue. In the end, I need to opt against GMO’s as a precautionary measure until all the facts about GMO are in. I would like having as much data and facts as possible before making a decision that so profoundly affects so many people. I decided against GMO’s based on two specific theological principles. They are quite simple and what is ironic is that one is mentioned right within the holiness code of Leviticus.

“Love your neighbor as yourself” Leviticus 19:18


"Do to others as you would have them do to you". Luke 6:31

We need to ask if producing a GM food could harm someone. If so it is clearly wrong to impose these types of foods on unsuspecting people (or even suspecting but uninformed ones [product labeling]). Due to the fact that we do not know what the long-term effects of GMO’s are on the human body, they must be viewed as ethically and morally suspect. Of course starving people would eat them…but it would be like us giving rat poison to our children. Why would we do this if we were unsure of the effects of the poison/food on humans? The answer is: We wouldn't. To satiate the pain of hunger in mercy we could be slowly poisoning them to death like feeding them Strychnine. When it comes to non-consumables like cotton I am not horribly concerned.

What I also find particularly unnerving about genetically modified foodstuffs is the ideologies and presuppositions of many of the people that are doing the modifying. Many are of a scientific/biological bend. Many of these are methodological naturalists and by their very nature are atheistic or at least firmly adhere to an evolutionary principle devoid of God. Furthermore, many within this realm view man as nothing more than an over-evolved simian or bipedal primate. With my own eyes I have often seen naturalistic evolutionary adherents take a low view of the human being since they believe we are nothing more than the sum result of millions or billions of chemical reactions or mutations over eons. I as a Christian take a much higher view of man in a much shorter time-frame. It unnerves me that many in charge of these modifications or willing to do them tend to be a godless lot. Frankly, it scares me.

Addendum: As for genetic modification of humans we must draw a line here because we are then crossing a theological border that should not be crossed. I believe this if only for the reason that we are dealing with a created being unique from the rest of Creation in that they are specifically created in the image of God and are the only being that have a soul and are capable of volitional will based in reasoning. We are spiritual beings, not just a beast of the field...contrary to what evolutionary dogma will tell you. More importantly we are beings God came to save in His incarnation as a human. By God coming as this being He instilled a specific and unique dignity and purpose to it that should never be tampered with or allow it to cross between "kinds".

This of course just touches the tip of the iceberg. I have barely scratched the surface of this issue. Obviously, there is much more to this issue than the points I have raised here. I just felt compelled to mention a few. What are your thoughts?

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