Bible Study: Surrogate Parenting

Rev. Robert Fleischmann, National Director, Christian Life Resources


Correct decision-making is determined by Scriptural principles. Some decisions are easy because some principles explicitly address a particular application. For example, it is easy to decide that not stealing is a proper decision because the Scriptural principle against stealing (i.e. 7th Commandment) clearly touches that point. Where the decision-making process becomes complicated is when we address issues that are not specifically mentioned in Scripture. Such an issue is surrogate parenting. To arrive at the correct decision involves applying various Scriptural principles to that specific situation. As I see it the following principles are applicable in this circumstance:

1. Truly Right Deeds and Decisions Can Only Come from a Heart of Faith Guided by the Word of God

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

The point to be made with this principle is that while we often want to know WHAT SHOULD I DO or HOW SHOULD I DO IT the real question is to look at each option and to ask WHY SHOULD I DO IT. Specifically, am I motivated by faith in God which reflects itself in a desire to do his will? Can I do this and fulfill God’s will to do all things to his glory?

2. Children Are a Blessing

Genesis 17:16 “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Genesis 28:3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples.

Children are a blessing which is different than a right. God, in his wisdom, sometimes chooses to bless some people with children and he withholds that blessing from others. As with all blessings, such as wealth, success and prosperity, God’s sharing and withholding of them may not necessarily be liked by us. Nevertheless, Christians should carefully search their heart in the matter of infertility to assure that they are not presuming a blessing to be a right. Such selfishness is a sin.

This does not, however, preclude someone from trying to have children when they have been diagnosed infertile. Motive, or attitude, will be a major determinant here of what is right to wrong. If the approach is that one will pursue other options in the hope of receiving God’s blessing of children then, with regard to attitude, there is no sin. However, if the attitude is that I absolutely reject God’s judgment to withhold the blessing of children from me and I will fight to get what is rightfully mine as other families also have children, then the attitude is wrong and sinful. For these reasons, even the common practice of adoption can be right or wrong depending upon attitude.

These first principles refer to attitude. Attitude and mechanism are the two considerations before us when making ethical decisions. Once we know the attitude is correct before God we must then examine the mechanism or the way something is accomplished. For example, in regard to adoption, even if the attitude was entirely correct but illegal activities were going to be carried out to adopt a child then adoption would be sinful in that circumstance. We must, therefore, critically evaluate the mechanism of surrogate parenting.

3. God Is the Author and Terminator of Life

Deuteronomy 32:39 “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.”

Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

Throughout any considerations of the procreation process a Christian will stand in acknowledgment of God as the Author of life. Whether we consider using birth control or fertility drugs the attitude should be one of recognizing that God creates life through us and that in the way we use birth control or fertility we are simply serving as stewards of our role in procreation. While that attitudinal awareness is important the point of specific interest here is the sanctity of human life and God’s unique and exclusive right to end it. Any activity that would intentionally (and carelessly) cause the ending of someone’s life, regardless of whether it be in the twilight years of life or in the embryonic stage, sins.

Scripture leaves no doubt about life existing at conception. The gospel writer, Luke, in 1:41,44 and 18:15 uses the same Greek word to describe children both inside and outside of the womb. He saw no distinction.

David, in Psalm 51:5, was so aware of the existence of life at conception and the horrible nature of sin that he acknowledges his own accountability before God for sin not just from his moment of birth, but from the moment of conception. I should also add that the ancient Hebrew had a pretty clear understanding that conception was intimately tied to the passion of intercourse and not to some later stage of embryonic development.

The point I would make here is that any procedure that would involve the careless endangerment or taking of embryonic life is unacceptable. If a surrogate parenting procedure involves the harvesting of a number of eggs from a woman, fertilizing them in a lab setting, allowing them to develop, and then destroying “unacceptable” embryos while implanting that one or two more “healthy” embryos, then such a procedure involves the taking of a human life and is therefore unacceptable according the God’s Word.

This procedure is called in-vitro fertilization (IVF). The literature I have in the office discusses its use with surrogate parenting programs. It may not necessarily be used in all programs but if so, I would say God’s Word forbids it.

4. Children ARe to be Borne Within the Marriage Setting

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

It is within the bonds of marriage that God instituted the blessing of bearing children. There are other passages that further illustrate this point as well as speaking negatively of children borne outside of marriage. In this regard I would say that at this stage of my studies it appears that regardless of how children come into being, the “one-flesh” concept of the husband and wife carries with it the idea of both parties contributing to the cause of procreation. I had mentioned to you over the phone that I have heard of a woman offering her eggs to another woman and they are naturally fertilized in the recipients womb and carried to term. There is a part of me that would say this is acceptable as are organ transplants. But the concept of the sexual union designated only for marriage and the concept of “one-flesh” appears to be God’s way to distinguishing the procreative process as something far different than organ transplantation. A child is the unique offspring of a father and mother. Its flesh results from the contribution of two fleshes having joined as one. The fact that technology has enabled us to circumvent this process does not change the end result of a child coming from two parents.

For that reason I would have difficulty condoning even the sharing of eggs from one woman to another. While such a process might not violate the lusting aspect commonly understood in the context of the sixth commandment, it does appear to violate the “one-flesh” concept of child-bearing and thus would, in fact, if not in passion, violate the sixth commandment which was given to preserve the integrity of the marriage relationship as well as the status of being single.

The question may be asked, therefore, that if the “one-flesh” concept ought not be compromised in surrogate parenting then is there not a problem with adopting a child who comes from the “one-flesh” relationship of others? Here is where motive or intent come into play. An adopting couple does not, itself, seek to compromise or to encourage others to compromise the “one- flesh” concept. Rather, prompted by the principle to show love for others, they seek to provide a home for the homeless. Scripture gives a number of examples where believers have “adopted” others to be as their own as an act of love and concern (see, for example, the account of King David and Mephibosheth). No violation of the marriage bed is intended or practiced on the part of the adopting couple. They act to fulfill God’s will to care for the widows and orphans.

Related to this principle is also the concept of a woman carrying the fertilized egg of another couple. If this procedure involved the mechanisms of IVF as I outlined them previously, then a Christian would naturally reject this option. However, if the procedure does not involve the killing of embryos then we must again consider the “one-flesh” concept. A third party becomes part of the “one-flesh” concept of marriage in the procreation process. While Scripture is silent on the specific subject of surrogate parenting using today’s technology it does speak clearly about the monogamous relationship of marriage.

Some might argue that the surrogate is not becoming “another wife” for a man. This begs the issue of what is God’s definition of marriage. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman to accomplish three purposes: 1) companionship (Genesis 2:24), 2) bearing children (Genesis 1:28), and 3) sexual purity (1 Corinthians 7:2). Even with the consent of the wife, a violation of any of these three purposes compromises the integrity of God’s intent for marriage. It would be wrong for a wife to relinquish her role as companion, even for time, apart from service to God in prayer. It would be wrong to share the sexual relations meant for the marriage relationship with others. So also, is there error to share the child-bearing responsibilities.

In considering these purposes of marriage I must also add the reminder that while these are purposes of marriage they are not mandates in marriage. If a man or woman cannot provide the sexual relations in a marriage that does not mean the marriage is dissolved. In the same way, if children cannot come through a marriage does not mean the marriage is no longer valid. All of this is the subject of God’s blessing.

5. Final Comments

My study of Scripture leads me to believe that surrogate parenting, in any manner I am aware of, would be unacceptable to God. For that reason a Christian should not seek to obtain a surrogate parent or seek to be one. On the other hand, a Christian may encourage others to obtain fertility treatment and/or surgery to increase the possibility of bearing children. Also, while we may be overwhelmed by the long adoption waiting lists, a Christian couple can find other ways to show parental love through foster care and adopting hard-to-place children.

I know that it is easier to speak of this academically without sharing the emotional disappointment of being barren. I don’t mean to sound cold in this matter. I have wrestled with infertile couples a number of times and am well aware of the emotions involved. But I believe a careful review of Scriptural principles will suggest, if not clearly direct, a believer to avoid surrogate parenting.

[Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. NIV. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.]

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