Green Light for Germ Line

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, February 15, 2016

Green Light for Germ Line

Lost in the headlines of presidential debates and winter storms was a development that can only be called nightmarish. British scientists have been granted permission to genetically modify human embryos.

Please re-read that last sentence.

But before the horror sets in, a bit of history:

The beginning of the 21st century was marked by the race to decode the human body. The Human Genome Project was the most expensive, most ambitious biology mission in history. It's been called biology's equivalent to NASA's moon shot. The goal? Nothing less than the operating instructions for a human body. 

With that knowledge, we were poised to revolutionize the detection, prevention and treatment of conditions from cancer to depression to old age itself.

So what’s not to like?

First, we can use genetic testing to encourage the taking of life. People find out that they are going to have a child with Down’s Syndrome, and they may be encouraged to end that child’s life. 

Pre-natal testing can also confront parents with whether their children will have hemophilia, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy. And, most recently, whether their child has a genetic tendency toward dwarfism. 

Within 10 years, tests should be able to tell a woman whether the child she is carrying has up to 100 or more gene-related abnormalities. Then, as one doctor at the National Institutes of Health has been quoted as saying, “...the parents would have to make a decision…is this baby acceptable or not…” based on what they have found.

But then there’s the tampering of the genes themselves.

This can go one of two ways:

First, you can perform what’s called somatic cell therapy, which is when you do something to an individual body that stops with that person and that person alone. Or you can do what’s called germ-line therapy, which is radically different. 

Germ-line therapy is when you actually change the human stock. 

When used to apply medical healing to an individual, somatic cell therapy holds great promise. But germ-line therapy plays with the very nature of our creation, impacting generations. It’s the changing of the human makeup.

And it cannot be undone.

This kind of genetic work is not simply frightening, but totally at odds with the Bible.

It’s we-made vs. God-made.

It’s manufacturing vs. Creation.

It’s trying to make ourselves in our own image vs. being made in His image.

And it opens the door to nightmarish possibilities, including the creation of a super race of people who can afford the best genetic enhancements, over and against those who cannot.

Now, re-read – again – this sentence:

“British scientists have been granted permission to genetically modify human embryos.”

Dear God.

James Emery White


Sarah, Knapton, “British scientists granted permission to genetically modify human embryos,” The Telegraph, February 1, 2016, read online.

Sharon Begley, "Decoding the Human Body," Newsweek, April 10, 2000.

“Dwarfs quality of life focus of NIH study to aid research,” Mary Otto, Knight Ridder, as appearing in The Charlotte Observer, Tuesday, May 2, 2000, p. 6A.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Green Light for Germ Line