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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 question which (because of advanced medical procedures) is asked more frequently today. People would like to be sure of just what the Bible teaches on the subject so that they can make a biblically based decision on what position they should take. It is these type of questions which we should savor because they force us all to spend the necessary energy to examine some of the issues which we might not otherwise think about.

part of this problem stems from the modern day dilemma 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 is that without this 'artificial' life system, the body would be dead also. 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, prolonging life to extraordinary lengths.

As for the question of transplants itself, it is admittedly a difficult subject because there is nothing in scripture which 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 with the Sword of the Word in earnest prayer before God. Even in a difficult area such as this, we can come to some Biblical ideals, and prayer in consultation with God's Word is where we should start. The broader principles of scripture will usually guide us in the way we should go.

Proverbs 16:9

  • "A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps."
Some might be surprised to learn that I don't 'necessarily' see anything inherently wrong with simple transplants. Of course I totally oppose the taking of organs from anyone whom the medical establishment considers 'brain 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 the taking of an organ from someone still alive is that which causes his death, and therefore is 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 a empty shell. To be treated with respect, yes, but not 'as if' it was still the living.

2nd Samuel 12:22-23

  • "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."
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 life, then why could 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 Christians (besides cults) wince or object to any of us having a blood transfusion? Yet a blood transfusion is the transferring of part of one body to another in order that the other person might live. I see few Christians objecting to that. I don't see anything in the Bible which makes it inherently wrong to take bone or bone marrow from one person to save another. I see nothing wrong with taking skin grafts from one person to Save a burn victim or in order that another may live. 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 canon for it to be called sin.

Titus 1:15

  • "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."
If our conscience is clear that we are not harming ourselves or committing sin by allowing a graft of skin, transferring of bone marrow, or blood, then why would we think we are defiled by the graft of an organ? Sin against God comes in 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 thus far 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 criteria.

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 illustrates. I don't think it is a defensible position. If one were to hold consistently to this position, then in all honesty they should also be against blood transfusions. Because we are taking live (living) parts 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's inconsistent and hypocritical it seems to me. And yet we don't see very many people condemn blood transplants.

The truth (as I see it) is far less complicated, and is 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 giving someone some of our blood. The flesh is not the Holy thing, it's what dwells therein that is Holy.

1st Corinthians 15:50

  • "Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption."
Flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God. It's stained with sin. So where is it going? The answer is nowhere. It will return to the dust because that's not what the Kingdom is all about. It's merely an earthly tabernacle for the soul while we are on this earth. It is the soul which shall endure.

2nd Peter 1:13-14

  • "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."
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. But before you quote to me scripture which 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.

John 6:63

  • "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."
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 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 which 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 really a matter of the heart, 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's like circumcision. Yes, it was commanded, a requirement, yet it was not physical circumcision that helped anyone, it was circumcision of the heart. Likewise, was not uncircumcision made (Romans 2:26) circumcision? 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). Likewise, I don't think that it is the transplanting of an organ that defiles the body, but the transplanting of false gospels into the body that defile it.

This is how I see this question. I think that so many Christians miss the 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 else 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. But as I have reached my conclusion, so you must likewise reach your conclusion by prayer and the careful consideration of all 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.

Peace,

Copyright ©2000 Tony Warren
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Created 7/23/00 / Last Modified 7/24/00
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