Frequently Asked Questions About Christianity, Answered Honestly!
Are Organ Transplants Biblical?
-by Tony Warren
Is it biblical for Christians to have organ transplants? This is a question which (because of advanced medical procedures) is asked a lot more frequently today. People would like to be sure of just what the Bible teaches on the subject so that they can make a biblical decision on what position they should take. It is these type of questions that we should savor because they force us all to spend the necessary energy to examine some of the issues that we might not otherwise think about.
Part of this problem stems from the modern day dilemma of the wisdom of using life support systems. I am not a doctor of course, but when someone is declared brain dead, I am told that the person is already dead and the body is kept alive only by 'artificial' means. The theory being, without this 'artificial' life system, the body would be dead also. However, knowing man's penchant to stretch the truth for his own purposes, I cannot say one way or the other. But perhaps the real issue here is the over-use of life support systems in going to extraordinary lengths to prolonging life.
As for the question of a transplant itself, it is admittedly a difficult subject because there is nothing in scripture that explicitly speaks to the issue (for obvious reasons). Which of course means that we have to glean our answer from general biblical principles, ideals, and by what we know would not be glorifying to God. There are those who say that they just have a feeling, or that they intuitively believe that organ transplantation is wrong and unethical. But answers to such questions must be harvested from the Bible through earnest examination, study, and prayer before God. Even in a difficult area such as this, I believe that we can come to some very Biblical conclusions through prayer and consultation with God's word. This is where we should start. The broader principles of scripture will usually guide us in the way we should go.
Some might be surprised to learn that I don't 'necessarily' see anything inherently wrong with simple organ transplants. Of course I totally oppose taking organs from someone whom the medical establishment considers 'brain dead,' but is not actually dead. Despite what some Physicians claim, there is no grey area (no pun intended) with regards to this. We are either alive, or we are dead, and to take an organ from someone still alive is to be considered that which causes his death, and therefore, murder. This is a totally different issue than what I am speaking about today. But if someone has already died, I don't see any problem with the donation of organs or tissues. When someone is dead, their soul has left the body and it is nothing but an empty shell. To be treated with respect of course, but not 'as if' it was still the living.
- "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps."
2nd Samuel 12:22-23
The dead have no more use for any body parts, and the parts decay and return to the dust from which they came. If they can be used (without breaking God's laws) to save a person's life, then why would we not use them?
Some might wince at the thought of a transplant, but I don't think they stop to consider that even a blood transfusion is a transplant of sorts. Would any Christian (besides those in cults) wince or object to any of us having a blood transfusion? Yet a blood transfusion is simply transferring part of one body to another in order that the other person might live. I see few Christians objecting to that. Likewise I don't see anything in the Bible that makes it inherently wrong to take bone or bone marrow from one person to save another. IWe all come from the same ground, and our body is not the essence of who we are. I see nothing wrong with taking skin grafts from one person to save a burn victim or in order that another person might continue to live after an accident. We often hear of one brother giving up one of his kidneys to another brother who would have otherwise died. I cannot in good conscience and reliance upon the word of God look at this and declare that I see scripture define this as an unlawful act. I honestly don't see any mandate in the Scriptures for this to be called sin.
- "And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?
- But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
If our conscience is clear that we are not violating God's word, harming ourselves or committing sin by allowing a graft of skin, transferring of flesh, bone, marrow, or blood, then why would we think we are defiled by the graft of an organ? Sin against God comes when we do something to harm our body or the body of others. So while I realize that the definition of harm can be somewhat subjective, I am not convinced 'by scripture' that simple transplants are either defiling the body, doing harm to ourselves, doing harm to others, or that it is ungodly in any way. If we would do something to our body that would indeed harm it or cause our death, that would definitely be another matter. But simple transplants do not fit that criterion.
A few Theologians have decried transplants claiming that it goes against the natural law. But then so does medicine, and God allows for the use of this in the healing of the body (1st Timothy 5:23). No one decries the un-natural act of putting thread in the skin to sew up a gaping wound or putting screws in a bone to repair it. You hear no one saying this is defiling the Temple of God. Yet they arbitrarily say that transplants will because it is un-natural (as if these other things aren't).
Still others say it goes beyond that and takes away from the respect we are to have towards the body (in the belief that it will rise again). But I don't think that organ transplants have any bearing on that, nor do I believe that this is a legitimate defense for banning transplants. There are people who have drowned, their bodies been eaten by fish, digested into microscopic pieces and scattered all across the ocean floor. They will still rise again for the judgment. People who have been burned into nothing but a handful of ashes will rise again irrespective of what happened to any parts of their body. And so I don't believe this has any biblical validation in regards to this question.
Others use the scripture that 'our body is a Temple of God' (which of course it is) to defend their stance of no transplants, but to use that as a reason that we should not give parts of it to another I believe is overstepping borders of what that verse prescribes. I don't think it is a defensible position, considering Scripture and rational thought. If one were to hold consistently to this position, then in all honesty they should also be against blood transfusions. Because we are taking a live (living) part of our own body (blood) and placing it into another body, exactly as one would be doing with any organ. Part of one Temple to be used in another. The principle remains the same. If the taking skin from another or a kidney from another defiles the body, why not the taking of blood from another? It seems to me this line of thinking is inconsistent and hypocritical if we aren't against blood transfusions also. And yet we don't see very many people condemn blood transplants.
The truth (as I see it) is far less complicated, and is revealed in the knowledge that we defile the body of the temple of God more by our daily sins than we ever would by a simple transplant, or by the compassion of giving someone life by sharing our blood, kidney's etc. The flesh is not the Holy thing, it's what dwells therein that is Holy.
- "Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled."
1st Corinthians 15:50
Flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God because it's stained with sin. It's not the holy thing. So where is it going? The answer is, nowhere. It will return to the dust because the flesh is not what the Kingdom of heaven is all about. It's merely an earthly tabernacle for the soul and spirit while we are on this earth. It is the soul and spirit that shall endure.
- "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."
2nd Peter 1:13-14
We respect the body, we don't glorify it. That body of flesh is like the temporal tabernacle we have on this earth which shall not endure. It is a temporary necessity, but it is not a Holy thing apart from Christ. But before you quote to me scripture that says it is, let me tell you that I agree, and explain what I mean. What I mean by this is that it is made Holy by Christ dwelling within us. It is not Holy in and of itself. It is the Spirit of God making His habitation within us that makes our body Holy. In this way we are the Holy Temple of the Lord, the habitation of God.
- "Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
- Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me."
The Tabernacle is Holy because He who dwells therein is Holy. An analogy (as imperfect as it may be) is that it is like a literal or physical church building or tabernacle. It is the Holy place, the House of God. Yet we would not think it wrong to take some extra pews out to share with another church that might have had some fire damage and was in need of them. We would not be defiling the House of God by doing so. Yet we would be defiling that same house of God if we went in and spitefully broke up all the pews there. i.e., it's not really a matter of law, since there is no law prohibiting this. It's a matter of conscience, for the Kingdom is not meat and drink, it's spiritual. No, it's not a perfect analogy, but I'm sure you get the point. It can be likened to circumcision. Yes, it was commanded and thus a requirement, and yet it was not physical circumcision that saved or helped anyone. It was a spiritual circumcision of the heart hat had all the efficacy. Likewise, was not uncircumcision made (Romans 2:26) circumcision by faith? Just as in Christ's lesson that it wasn't what we put in our mouths that defiled the body, it was what comes out of our mouths (our doctrines). In this same vein, I don't think that it is the removal or transplanting of an organ that defiles the body, but the false teachings that we have within our bodies that defile it.
The way I see this question is that so many Christians miss the "actual" point about the body being the temple of God. But I also remain open-minded (to the scriptures) about this, and will readily listen to what scriptures anyone can bring to bear on this question. I simply do not see any prohibition (either implicitly or otherwise) in the scriptures of transplants or blood transfusions. As I have reached my conclusion, so you must likewise reach your own conclusion by prayer and the careful consideration of all the pertinent scriptures. For whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.
And may the Lord who is Gracious above all guide us into the
truth of His most Holy Word.
- "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
Copyright ©2000 Tony Warren
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Created 7/23/00 / Last Modified 7/24/00
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