Preface to the second edition

As the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Harold Wilson once famously declared, ‘A week is a long time in politics.’  If that is so, a dozen years is definitely a long, long, long time in bioethics. Responding to the Culture of Death was first published in 2001, and bioethical issues have relentlessly marched on during the intervening decade and more.  Hence the need for this second edition.

The book now has a new, no-nonsense title.  Yet Bioethical Issues is still a beginner’s book, an entry-level reader, or, as the first edition called itself, a primer.  However, every chapter has been extensively revised and expanded, the text has been tweaked and the paragraphs polished—the book is now twice the size of the original.  Statistics have been updated.  Novel issues, such as stem-cell technologies, human-admixed embryos, saviour siblings, assisted suicide and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 have been included.  Questions for personal reflection and group discussion have also been added. In many ways, it is a new book.

But not all has changed.  Amid the complex flux of bioethics, three issues have remained resolutely constant.  First, the truths of Scripture—the once given—continue as they were, as they are and as they will be (2 Tim. 3:16).  Second, the moral condition of men and women—fallen, sinful and lost (Rom. 3:23)—is unchanged, and so we all persist as rebels in desperate need of rescue.  Third, the culture of death is still with us—indeed, it is flourishing on our doorsteps—and therefore the call to respond has become ever more urgent.

As a consequence, the twofold aims of the original book roll on.  Yet understanding and responding to this culture of death, the very subtitle of this second edition, can be both wearying and wearing.  At times it can seem that, in the words of 2 Corinthians 4:8–9, we are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and even struck down.  The full-orbed Christian life can certainly get tough.  But listen: we are not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned and not destroyed.  And though I am often alarmed by news, distraught by events and disappointed by the responses of others—particularly of Christians—I still believe that truth will finally win the day.  That is gospel comfort.  So I do not lose heart and I keep pressing on.  Ultimately, it is not about me or you; it is about God’s purposes and his glory. For that I am ever thankful.

During the past decade, since the first edition was published, I have moved up a generation; I now have eight grandchildren, maybe more by the time you read this!  My new status of Grandpa has served not only to reinforce how we are all ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Ps. 139:14), but also to galvanize my resolve to cherish, defend and protect all human life, from fertilization until natural death.  So it is to this newborn generation of my family that I dedicate this second edition.  May they yet live to see and enjoy the establishment of an enthusiastic culture of life.  The realization of that hope depends so much upon how Christians understand and respond to these bioethical issues during the coming years.

So, how about you?  Are you ‘in’ or are you ‘out’?  And if the latter, why, and on what grounds?  With all due respect, you too need a bioethical epiphany.  I hope this book helps bring it on.

John R. Ling
New Year’s Day, 2014