Bede Griffiths on The Jesus Prayer

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Fr Bede Griffiths on Jesus Prayer: “If anyone asks me how I pray, my simple answer is that I pray the Jesus prayer. Anyone familiar with the story of a Russian pilgrim will know what I mean. It consists simply in repeating the words: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I have used this prayer now for over 40 years and it has become so familiar that it simply repeats itself. Whenever I am not otherwise occupied or thinking of something else, the prayer goes quietly on. Sometimes it is almost mechanical, just quietly repeating itself, and other times it gathers strength and can become extremely powerful.

I give it my own interpretation. When I say, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God”, I think of Jesus as the Word of God, embracing heaven and earth and revealing himself in different ways and under different names and forms to all humanity. I consider that this Word “enlightens everyone coming into the world”, and though they may not recognise it, it is present to every human being in the depths of their soul. Beyond word and thought, beyond all signs and symbols, this Word is being secretly spoken in every heart in every place and at every time. People may be utterly ignorant of it or may choose to ignore it, but whenever or wherever anyone responds to truth or love or kindness, to the demand for justice, concern for others, care of those in need, they are responding to the voice of the Word. So also when anyone seeks truth or beauty in science, philosophy, poetry or art, they are responding to the inspiration of the Word.

I believe that that Word took flesh in Jesus of Nazareth and in him we can find a personal form of the Word to whom we can pray and to whom we can relate in terms of love and intimacy, but I think that he makes himself known to others under different names and forms. What counts is not so much the name and the form as the response in the heart to the hidden mystery, which is present to each one of us in one way or another and awaits our response in faith and hope and love.

When I say, “have mercy on me, a sinner”, I unite myself with all human beings from the beginning of the world, who have experienced separation from God, or from the eternal truth. I realise that, as human beings, we are all separated from God, from the source of our being. We are wandering in a world of shadows, mistaking the outward appearance of people and things for reality. But at all times something is pressing us to reach out beyond the shadows, to face the reality, the truth, the inner meaning of our lives, and so to find God, or whatever name we give to the mystery which enfolds us.

So I say the Jesus prayer, asking to be set free from the illusions of this world, from the innumerable vanities and deceits with which I am surrounded. And I find in the name of Jesus the name which opens my heart and mind to reality. I believe that each one of us has an inner light, an inner guide, which will lead us, through the shadows and illusions by which we are surrounded, and open our minds to the truth. It may come through poetry or art, or philosophy or science, or more commonly through the encounter with people and events, day by day. Personally I find that meditation, morning and evening, every day, is the best and most direct method of getting in touch with reality. In meditation I try to let go of everything of the outer world of the senses, of the inner world of thoughts, and listen to the inner voice, the voice of the Word, which comes in the silence, in the stillness when all activity of mind and body ceases. Then in the silence I become aware of the presence of God, and I try to keep that awareness during the day. In bus or train or travelling by air, in work or study or talking and relating to others, I try to be aware of this presence in everyone and in everything. And the Jesus prayer is what keeps me aware of the presence.

So prayer for me is the practice of the presence of God in all situations, in the midst of noise and distractions of all sorts, of pain and suffering and death, as in times of peace and quiet, of joy and friendship, of prayer and silence, the presence is always there. For me the Jesus prayer is just a way of keeping in the presence of God.”

 

Quoted by Adam Bucko

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10211179101673492&set=a.10200848330170661&type=3&theater

A Christian’s Perspective on the Ethics of Genome Editing

Title The Ethics of Gene Editing

 

The Ethics of Genome Editing

A Christian Perspective

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Christian Biomedical Ethics Theological Framework

We need a framework to look at the rapidly advancing challenges of emerging new technologies. Technologies such a genome science, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and the Digital Person will redefine the structure and nature of our civilization within the next few years. Are these technology helpful or harmful? What should be the Christian faith communities’ respond to them? These new technologies would not be found in the Bible, a text that was written more than two thousand years ago. Where then are Christian to seek guidance for their discernment? A framework to guide our thinking is needed.

I suggest that a Christian biomedical ethics framework should include these four pillars.

  1. The Sovereignty of God
  2. The Sanctity of Human Life
  3. The Stewardship of Man
  4. The Way of Love

 

The Sovereignty of God

1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)

Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.

Our foundational belief is that God created everything and he is in control of everything. Any scientific experiment will only succeed with His permission. Since it is his creation, we cannot bend the rules of physics and biology without his allowing it.

 

The Sanctity of Human Life

Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

 

Exodus 20:13 (NIV)

“You shall not murder.

Human life is sacred because we are made in his image. In certain circumstances, we are allowed to kill other human beings.  Just War is argued by Augustine and other church fathers that is ia llowed to kill enemy soldiers in a war. Even Bonhoeffer reasoned that it is justified to kill Hilter during the Second World War. He was caught and executed. Murder, however is condemned.

 

The Stewardship of Man

Genesis 1:28 (NIV)

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 

Also called the Cultural Mandate, mankind is to reproduce and populate the then empty earth. The second part is that we have dominion over God’s creation. This means that we are allowed to improved and manipulated God’s creation for the good of mankind. Scientific and technological advances have improved the quality of living and living standards of mankind.

 

The Way of Love

Matthew 22:37–40 (NIV)

Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

 

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is a beautiful illustration of this principle by Jesus. A Jewish man was mugged and left for dead by robbers. His fellow tribal people step aside and refused to help him. It was finally a Samaritan, an outsider and outcast who helped the injured man out of altruistic reasons. The guiding principle for bioethics is the way of love. It is not to do harm but do good to others.

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A Pastoral -Theological Approach to Christian Biomedical Ethics

As we look at genome editing through the lens of the Christian framework, there is much support for it. However, it needs to be regulated. This need for regulation is also an ethical consensus among scientists who suggest the following:

(1) Promoting well‐being

(2) Transparency

(3) Due care

(4) Responsible science

(5) Respect for persons

(6) Fairness

(7) Transnational cooperation

 

This is comparable to the Christian framework. It is unfortunate that ‘rogue’ scientists for whatever reasons failed to abide by these guidelines.

 

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Genome editing research

Genome editing is recent and research was carefully regulated. It is only recently that certain human applications were allowed:

  1. (2015) Treatment of CD19+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia in an 11-month old child. Modified donor T cells
  2. (2015) remove gene, Beta-thalassemia, China
  3. (2017) remove gene, Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, USA
  4. (Feb 2019) in vivo with Hunter Syndrome, California

In December 2018, there was a public outcry when a ‘rogue’ scientists revealed that he had enabled the birth of a set of twins, Lulu and Nana, on whom he had disabled their gene for CCR5, a protein vital in preventing HIV infection.

 

Genetic Engineering

  1. Animal husbandry

Humans have been cross breeding their animal stocks or cross-fertilizing their crops for better and healthier stocks or crops.

  1. Genetic Modified Organism (GMO)

Where there were some initial reaction to GMOs, these seem to have died down when there is more acceptance of them. In 2009,  Atryn, an anticoagulant which reduces the probability of blood clots during surgery or childbirth was extracted from the goat’s milk. Human alpha-1-antitrypsin is another protein that is used in treating humans with this deficiency

  1. Genetic Modified Animals

Creating pigs with greater capacity for human organ transplants (xenotransplantation)

 

Ethics of Genome Editing

What does the ethics of genome editing covers?

  1. Modifying the human genome –genetic correction and enhancement
  2. Safety and effectiveness
  3. Existence of alternative approaches
  4. Off-target results
  5. Epigenetics
  6. Future generations

 

Each point is important but the key is in the difference between genetic correction and genetic enhancement.

Genetic Correction

By genetic correction, we mean editing a rare mutation that has a high probability (penetrance) of causing a severe single-gene disease, with the aim of converting the mutation into the DNA sequence carried by most people. Assuming that it can be done without errors or off-target effects, genetic correction could have a predictable and beneficial effect.

Genetic Enhancement

Genetic enhancement, by contrast, encompasses much broader efforts to ‘improve’ individuals and the species. Possibilities range from attempting to modify the risk of a common disease by replacing particular genetic variants with alternative ones that occur in the human population, to incorporating new instructions into a person’s genome to enhance, say, their memory or muscles, or even to confer entirely new biological functions, such as the ability to see infrared light or break down certain toxins.

Genetic correction is lifesaving as most genetic diseases are lethal. It is also localized to certain abnormal genes so editing them should not have much effect on other areas. Genetic enhancement is often an option. The danger is germline modification in which an editing down is passed onto future generations. In other ways, we could be creating an inheritable disease.

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A Christian Perspective on Genome Editing

My perspective at this moment is

  1. Research and clinical studies on genetic correction should continue with adequate oversight
  2. A moratorium on genetic enhancement (includes germline editing)

A moratorium maybe for 5 years and a review whether the issues of safety and effectiveness; existence of alternative approaches; off-target results; epigenetics; and consequences on future generations have been settled with future improvement in technologies.

 

16 April 2019

Be Still

Insight from this retreat at BGST.

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‘be still’ is not the lack of physical activity but the ‘state’ of being in God’s presence to know him.

BGST Retreat 27 Apr

A World Full of Awe

A special guest post from a dear friend, Christine Aroney-Sine.  I contribute an occasional  post to her wonderful and inspiring blog, Godspace

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Yesterday I made yoghurt. I heated the milk to 160F, allowed it to cool to 125F and then added 1/2 cup of yoghurt from my last batch. I ladled into quart jars, placed them snuggly under a warm blanket and six hours later I had yoghurt. I stood and stared at it in awe, amazed by the fact that tiny microbes have been at work diligently transforming my milk, solidifying it into a delicious tangy yoghurt.

This is the first time I have ever taken notice and been fully attentive to this wonderful fermenting process. Usually I just take it for granted, but this month I have decided to take the “awe and wonder challenge” and find at least six things each day that give me a sense of awe. Today it was my yoghurt making that first caught my attention.

Sadly though children experience awe a hundred times a day, adults rarely do. So much of what seems miraculous to a child adults dismiss as unimportant. Or they rationalize it away with scientific knowledge destroying the mystery and wonder of God in the process. We live in an awe deprived world. We sit in front of computers, not under trees and rarely take time to notice the grandeur of God’s world and of those we share it with. Yet awe and wonder change the way we look at ourselves and our world reorienting our thinking and our actions away from ourselves to the needs of those around us.

This month I have added a “daily dose of awe” experience to my spiritual disciplines. My husband and I have rechristen our daily walks “awe and wonder walks” pointing out to each other the blossom laden trees and brilliant smiling daffodils that take our breath away. Sometimes we stop for a few minutes just to admire them. It is fun and inspirational, connecting us to God in vital and enriching ways.

I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering child-like wonder, is essential for our spiritual health too. It was this conviction that prompted me to write The Gift of Wonder in which I explore twelve childlike characteristics that I think make us fit for God’s kingdom. Did you know that a daily dose of awe makes us more caring and compassionate people? Regular reminiscing and nature walks make us healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. Gratitude transforms our lives and our faith in incredible ways.

My own growing joy and delight from my “daily dose of awe” experiences encouraged me to apply the same principal to other activities. On the plane, I am the one with my window shutter down when everyone else is trying to see their screens. I am inspired by the landscape we pass over. I look down at the meandering rivers shining in the morning sunlight. That’s God doodling I exclaim.

The Bible too is full of awe. We hear it in David’s exclamation of praise in Psalm 65:8 for example

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders

Where morning dawns, where evening fades,

You call forth songs of joy.

Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go.

Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go. We gasp at flowers sparkling in the sunlight, and stop to drink in the song of birds in the trees or stand on the hill to better watch the wind rushing through the grass. Then our eyes shift to the people around us. The image of God is etched in each one of them. It is not just our friends and family who give us a sense of awe. The resilience of the homeless and the strength of the abandoned also inspire us.

Opening my eyes to notice the awe inspiring world in which we live and the awe inspiring people we share it with has transformed my faith. I want to continue noticing the wonder of the changing seasons and immerse myself in their beauty. I want to increasingly be drawn into the presence of our fun loving, joy filled God. This is a great time to get out and have some fun in God’s world. Will you join me in discovering the wonder of God and of God’s world? Take the awe and wonder challenge with me. See how many miracles unfold before you each day.

About Christine Aroney-Sine
Contemplative activist, passionate gardener, author, and liturgist, Christine loves messing with spiritual traditions and inspiring followers of Jesus to develop creative approaches to spirituality that intertwine the sacred through all of life.  She is the founder and facilitator for the popular contemplative blog godspacelight.com.   Her most recent book is The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God. (IVP 2019)
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Artificial Intelligence and God

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The subject of artificial intelligence is an area of concern and even fear among computer scientists, sociologists and theologians in the last couple of years. Artificial intelligence as self-learning and self-improving software has beaten chess grandmasters and recently human computer gamers in a complex online game named Starcraft II. The AI software was actually learning from both its successes and mistakes. Initially called machine learning, now it has a better name of deep learning. With hard-take off or intelligence explosion computer scientists believe that Artificial General Intelligence (ACI), a software that is on the level of a human mind may be achievable in 5-10 years. After that the software may achieve the level of Artificial Super Intelligent (ASI) is a matter of weeks or days. Then as the ASI continues to improve, it will become ‘god’!

Having been brought up on a steady diet of science fiction books and movies, I am aware of the bad rap ASI has. First, the HAL 9000 in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel 2001 killed of the human astronauts because the ‘human factor’ is the only risk to it fulfilling the completion of its mission, the movie trilogy The Matrix where humans beings were reduced to a source of electricity (batteries), and SKYNET of the Terminator fame who tried to terminate all human lives on earth (no idea why). Second, instead of eliminating humans, the ASI may choose to merge with human and be a benevolent healing factor on earth as is so beautifully shown in the movie Transcendent. Finally, I do not seem to recall any sci-fi stories where the ASI is so frustrated that it left earth and the silly humans behind, which is a likely third option. As you can surmise, much of our thinking AI comes from the fertile and imaginative minds of science fiction and speculations.

When ACI and ACI appear, and it is a matter of time when it does, will it affect our worship of a monotheistic God who created the heavens and the earth? First, God by definition is omniscience, omnipotent, and omnipresent. An ASI, no matter how much it improves on the software and hardware, can never be omniscience, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Second, God by definition exist outside creation (otherwise God would have to create Himself). An ASI will always remain part of creation. Finally, God can create ex hilio, i.e. He can create something out of nothing. An ASI can only create with what materials on hand (if it has hands). It is therefore baseless that an ASI will become God.

What is not baseless is that ASIs will change our existing world beyond recognition within many of our lifetimes. So our call to computer scientists, corporations, institutions and governments is not to stop creating ACIs and ASIs. They will be doing it anyway. Our call is for them to produce safe ACIs and ASIs, with ethical subroutines. Like Data from Star Trek Prime Universe. Or with a modified Isaac Asimov’s first two laws for robots:

(1) No AI will harm a human being

(2) No AI will by action or inaction allow a human being to come to harm

 

 

29 Jan 2019

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5 Ways How Violin Spices Up Medical School for You

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Blog post from my ex-student who is now a colleague

As a medical student, I was often asked, “How’s medical school?” The easiest and honest answer would be, “Busy.” However, there was one special interest that I invested in medical school which I have no regrets about. After a busy day in the wards, I would take out my violin and immerse in any tune that comes to mind. Violin was the passion I cultivated, my source of joy, something to keep me sane in a demanding course of study. It also made me a better medical student in so many ways I felt it would be a pity not to let you know. So, I’ll like to share 5 Ways How Violin Spices Up Medical School for You.

via 5 Ways How Violin Spices Up Medical School for You

You are one

 

Thomas Merton, in one of his classes for his noviates, was attributed to have said, “in order to have a spiritual life, you first have to have a life’. In one comment, Merton highlighted what is wrong with our spirituality today. Somehow, in the dark corridors of Church traditions, we were taught the sacred-secular dichotomy. Some part of life is spiritual while the bulk of life is ‘secular’. Only a few spiritual elites such as nuns and monks and members of the clergy live the spiritual life. The rest of us who work the earth and brought forth food by the sweat of our brows lived secular or non-spiritual life. This dichotomy fragmented our understanding of spirituality and hangs a false understanding of what Jesus meant to ‘abide in Him’. Merton meant that our spiritual life is to be found in our normal everyday life and not apart from it. It involves working, eating, sleeping, playing as much as praying, studying the Bible and attending church services.

Many of us try to live a spiritual life apart from our normal life. Living this dichotomy is doomed to failure. Trying to divide the body, soul and spirit and dealing with each individually leads to a fragmented, broken, and disconnected life. If we can only understand that Christian spirituality teaches a holistic concept that their spirit, soul and body are one, then we are on our way to integrate our lives as a holistic walk with Christ.

 

14 Jan 2019

Keep Me In Touch With My Dreams

Keep Me In Touch With My Dreams

Ted Loder

Guerillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle

Oh Lord,

in the turbulence

and loneliness

of my living from day to day

and night to night,

keep me in touch with my roots,

so I will remember where I came from

and with whom;

keep me in touch with my feelings,

so I will be more aware of who I really am

and what it costs;

keep me in touch with my mind

so I will know who I am not

and what it means;

and keep me in touch with my dreams,

so I will grow toward where I want to go

and for whom.

 

 

O Lord,

deliver me

from the arrogance of assuming

I know enough to judge others;

deliver me

from the timidity of presuming

I don’t know enough to help others;

deliver me

from the illusion of claiming I have changed enough

when I have only risked little,

that, so liberated,

I will make some of the days to come different.

 

 

O Lord,

I ask not to be delivered

from the tensions that wind me tight,

but I do ask for a sense of direction in which to move once wound,

a sense of humor about my disapointments

a sense of respect for the elegant puzzlement of being human,

and a sense of gladness for your kingdom

which comes in spite of my fretful pulling and tugging.

 

 

O Lord,

nurture in me

the song of a lover,

the vision of a poet,

the questions of a child,

the boldness of a prophet,

the courage of a disciple.

 

O Lord,

it is said you created people

because you love stories.

Be with me as I live out my story.

 

Gene-edited Children Are Here!

 

Gene-edited Children are here: Scientists playing God again?

On 26 November 2018, the world was stunned by the news that gene-edited girls were born in China. This was confirmed two days later by He Jiankui during a gene-editing summit in Hong Kong. There has not been any independent verification that the two gene-edited girls have actually been born so far. The reason given for the gene- editing was to disable a gene called CCR5 and thus make the person immune to HIV.

CRISPR, the technology to edit genes, has been around for a number of years. CRISPR is the abbreviation for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. It enables scientists to edit genes by allowing them to add, delete and ‘cut-and-paste’ the genetic code. It was a major breakthrough. By almost unanimous consensus of most government and scientific communities, gene-editing of human beings has been out of bounds. Until now. The major concern of gene- editing and gene therapy, in general, is that while we know what a specific gene can do, we do not know what the interactions and effect a particular gene can have on the whole genome, what scientists called the ‘off target effects’. Thus modifying a specific gene can have unforeseen circumstances on the person. The other main issue is that gene-editing may not affect all the cells resulting in mosaicism – a condition in which the person has two sets of cells; the normal cell and the gene-edited cells. No one knows how this will affect a human being. What is even more shocking about He’s claim is that he helped to birth two gene-edited girls. This means that the edited genes of these children may be transmitted to their children.

We have been improving and enhancing human beings since we appear on this earth. Through new knowledge in medicine, science and technology, we have been making humans healthier, live longer, able to recover from some diseases while limiting the effect of other diseases, participating in selective breeding through socioeconomic policies, and replacing missing parts with ever sophisticated appendices. We can even change our physical appearance and sexual bodies through surgery. Until recently, we have not touched the human genome. The mapping of the human genome was completed in April 2003. CRISPR, developed in 2009, was already used to edit human gene as part of an experiment in 2015.

Should scientists be allowed to edit the human genome? What is the Christian perspective on this? It must be recognized that this is not a simple issue. There are many people who may benefit from this technology:

  1. There are people suffering from diseases caused by a mutated gene which is either inherited or by mutation. In principle, these people may be cured by gene-editing, either removing, modifying or replacing with a normal gene.
  2. There are people who are well but are at high risk for future disease. Most inherited cases of breast cancer are associated with mutations in two genes: BRCA1 (BReast CAncer gene one) and BRCA2 (BReast CAncer gene two). At present, women with either or both of these genes are advised to undergo a total removal of both breasts because the risk of breast cancer is too high. There are also identifiable genes for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, baldness, Huntington Chorea and others. Would gene-editing be beneficial for them?
  3. Using gene-editing human T cells to kill cancer cells. T-cells are the soldiers of our immune system. If we can gene-edit these T cells to attack the cancer cells in the body, we can effectively cure people who are suffering from cancer.
  4. There are people who want some sort of enhancement to their genetic makeup for various reasons.

The Christian response to gene-editing is often based on the value of the embryo, and the imago dei or the image of God. Genome editing acknowledges the value of the embryo and respect to the imago dei so these arguments are not arguments against it. The Church has slowly assimilated most medical advances into her traditions and theology. The discovery of penicillin to combat infectious disease, the technological improvements of surgery, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) pregnancies, contraception, organ transplants are all examples of gradual acceptance by the Church in spite of initial resistance. Will the Church accepts gene-editing for people in groups (1), (2) and (3) above? Many Christians seem to think so. In the July 26, 2018 Pew Report, 57 percent of highly religious Americans support gene editing as compared to 72 percent of all Americans. (Pew identifies highly religious Americans as those who attend services at least weekly, pray daily, and say that religion is very important in their lives.)

Jeff Hardin, Professor and Chair of the Department of Integrative Biology and Faculty Director of the Biology Core Curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a committed Christian noted,

These considerations lead me to a few suggestions for Christians in their thinking about genome editing. First, in thinking through how we ought to apply technology to the embryo, we should aim to treat the embryo as a patient and an end, a begotten gift, rather than a means, at all stages of development. Secondly, we must balance two realities of our relationship to technology. On the one hand, Christians are called to love, which means we ought to use technology to prevent disease. On the other hand, we should be wary of excessive technological optimism, especially when the use of technology violates important Christian values. Clearly, these considerations are in tension with one another, but we must seek to balance the two truths against one another.

In our consideration of a Christian perspective of genome editing, we may be asking the wrong question. Instead of asking the biology of or the technology of, we should be asking the spirituality of. What does the Bible teach about the advocacy for the poor, the sick, the defenseless, and the disadvantaged? And what does the Bible teach about love. Perhaps then, we are ready to discuss the Christian perspective of gene-editing.

Safespace complete interview on Biotechnology: Are We Playing God?

Biotechnology is both a blessing and a curse to modern man. But, how do we, as Christians, tackle this ethical dilemma? Are we playing God when we use Biotechnologies to manipulate life? In this episode, Alexa Ho sits with Dr Alex Tang to talk about the breakthroughs of biotechnology and how should the church navigate its many ethical challenges that ensue. Listen in to our episode “Biotechnology: Are we playing God?”

Link:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL65SzbncP3