Reviewed by: Joel D. Fick
Date posted: 09/26/2010
Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions, by David VanDrunen. Published by Crossway Books, 2009. Paperback, 256 pages, list price $19.99. Reviewed by OP pastor Joel D. Fick.
The ethical questions surrounding the issues of life and death are certainly not new. The holy women of old felt the aching sorrow of infertility as much as holy women do today, but for Sarah "assisted reproduction" involved a handmaiden rather than a reproductive specialist. Due to advances in medical technology, Christians today are faced with a host of medical scenarios that raise ethical questions that previous generations of believers never before had to consider. And although the Scriptures do not give direct answers to these bioethical questions, nevertheless the Scriptures are not silent. "The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for [God's] own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture" (WCF 1.6). It is with this presupposition that Dr. David VanDrunen has written his excellent book Bioethics and the Christian Life: A Guide to Making Difficult Decisions.
This book has many strengths. VanDrunen writes with a clarity and conviction that make the book both accessible and engaging. It quickly becomes apparent to the reader that the author is both well informed with respect to the bioethical conversation and well Reformed with respect to the theological context from which he writes. A brief perusal of the book reveals VanDrunen's strong use of Scripture citations, while a closer reading demonstrates that such appeals are backed by equally strong exegesis.
Perhaps the book's greatest strength is that it does not pretend to be a handbook of prepackaged answers to difficult questions, but rather, as its title suggests, is "a guide." VanDrunen seeks to equip his readers with a biblical framework so that they might apply the principles of God's word to the concrete situations that most will inevitably face. To this end, he orients his entire discussion around fundamental theological doctrines and Christian virtues. In laying this groundwork, the book transcends the narrowness of its topic and has application to many aspects of the Christian life. VanDrunen provides us with a biblical framework for thinking not only about the bioethical questions we are asking today, but also about the questions we will be asking tomorrow. Still, VanDrunen does not shy away from the questions we are asking today. He tackles everything from beginning-of-life questions regarding stem cell research and assisted reproduction to end-of-life questions concerning foregoing treatment and assisted suicide, all the while applying the truth of God's word in a sound and reasoned way.
In writing Bioethics and the Christian Life, VanDrunen has done a great service to the church. Here is a book that is well suited for a reading group or an adult Sunday school class, and should be required reading for any course on Christian ethics. It is recommended for every pastor's library and should receive consideration for church libraries and book tables.