Thursday, December 22, 2005

Important Christmas Comments

Here's a Christmas message from Nigel M. de S. Cameron, the Chairman of the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network.

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded of all those South Korean women signing up on a website to donate their eggs to disgraced professor Hwang Woo-suk's cloning project. They include an entire class of 33 high school girls - around the age of Mary, the mother of Jesus. And they offer their eggs to bring into being tiny embryonic humans - destined to die a few days later in the hands of scientists. But it was an embryo that size that God took as his human form. As Wesley, the greatest poet of Christmas since he was of all hymn-writers most alive to the divine assumption of human nature, sang:

Our God contracted to a span

Incomprehensibly made Man.

He was "made Man" as a baby; to be precise, he was manifest as a baby having been miraculously conceived in his virgin mother's womb, in a central Christian doctrine of telling relevance to contemporary bioethics. Human nature, in its indivisible and ineffable dignity and from its first beginnings, bore the weight of the Second Person of the Trinity. Any lingering doubts that humankind may have had as to human worth were vanquished with one stroke of the divine pen as "the Word became flesh." It is not the Christian view - pace Peter Singer - that members of Homo sapiens are uniquely significant in themselves, in a power grab among species. Having made us in his image, he now deigns to take our own form for himself. We derive our dignity from God, and he has underlined that dignity in terms that would be sheer blasphemy were they not revealed at the heart of our faith: by walking with us as one of us. And - in another aspect of this doctrine of equally telling relevance to the bioethics of "posthumanism " and all its works - he bears our human nature still. Hear Wesley once more:

Of our flesh and of our bone,
Jesus is our brother now.

Or in the more prosaic terms of Princeton's Charles Hodge, doyen of Reformed theologians of the nineteenth century, "he who sits on the throne of the universe is both perfect Man and perfect God."

Christmas, as the festival of the Incarnation, is the world's opportunity for reflection on what it means to be human, to bear this nature that God modeled after his and has taken to be his through the en-fleshment of his Son.