Can Christian Couples Seek The Assistance Of IVF?
IVF, an acronym for In Vitro Fertilisation, is a process in which a woman’s eggs are removed and mixed with a man’s sperm for pregnancy to take place. Record has it that thousands of babies have been born through this method since 1978, when it was first discovered. And though this procedure is gaining popularity by the day, some are still expressing reservation, especially with regards to the perceived ‘unnaturalness,’ as sometimes the sperm donor may not be the actual husband, but someone else. And then the sperm and eggs mix is done outside the woman’s womb. But since the efficacy of this technique is not in any doubt, can Christian couples, who have waited upon the Lord for years resort to IVF to assist them in their quest for the fruit of the womb? Can the husband, in all righteousness, claim the child as his in the case of another sperm donor? Is it at all Biblical? What is the implication of this whole arrangement? CHRIS IREKAMBA took the issue to the clerics.
‘If Your Faith Can’t Carry You, Go For IVF’
(Pastor (Mrs.) Ngozi Oluwagbemiga, Famous Gospel Proclaimers Ministry, Ojodu, Lagos/CEO of Charity Mission Empowerment Foundation in Africa)
IN dealing with this issue, we must consider such factors as geographical location and culture. In the Western world, the issue of reproduction is not such a big deal in their marriages. But to us in Africa, particularly Nigeria, it is a big issue because of the bond that exists between family members. Many Christians may be reluctant to embrace the idea, but when they have been married for many years without a child, how would they feel? Usually, believers would say ‘have faith in God.’ We have seen a lot of Christians who tried IVF and it never worked. I also know Christians that did it and the Lord blessed them through it.
We must be realistic. What works for you might not work for me. Jesus had different methods of healing people. With some, He had to speak of the word, but with others, He had to mix the sand with His saliva and He got them healed. This tells us that we are different and our destinies in life run in different parametres. So, whether someone conceived through IVF or natural conception, it is still God that makes IVF work.
I think if a Christian’s faith can’t carry him/her as a child of God; s/he can go for IVF rather than wait indefinitely. It’s just like going for surgery because you want to have a tumour removed, and you have been praying for it to be removed. There’s nothing wrong if you go through surgery to have it removed. And when it comes to IVF, sometimes you don’t even know the donor. If people can adopt a child, why can’t they go for IVF? Having your own child through IVF is even better, because the child developed in your own fallopian tube.
It should be a welcome idea. I know many Nigerians that God has blessed through it. Does God want me to do IVF? He might not, but my sister might just need it. So, ones revelation should not be generalised.
For instance, someone else might wait for 30 years on the Lord, but that other sister may not be able to do that, as in 30 years time, she might have passed her reproductive age. But if IVF can help, why not go for it? I think as Christians, we should interpret the word of God correctly. I personally don’t see anything wrong in people donating blood once it is from a good source. I think people shouldn’t use donors they don’t know, but and if they must, then they should sanctify it. Once this is done, then it’s okay. Sometimes it is the husband’s sperm that is used, but if it is coming from strangers, please don’t use it.
We should welcome the idea in Nigeria, but not at the expense of disbelief in God. We must believe absolutely in God because from Him comes these children and if it comes through this channel, a child is a child.
Is it Biblical to accept blood donation from another person? We might not have where it is written in the Bible that people should go for IVF, but we should also know that the Bible is a general guide that throws light upon the word of God. So, if we find ourselves in a tight situation, or one as complicated as infertility and the couple in question has tried everything, including praying and the Lord is giving them the relief in the form of fertilised sperm outside the normal procedure, I see nothing wrong with that. When you go to Motherless Homes to adopt a child with time, the child will begin to look like the foster parents. It is the same thing with IVF and that is why both parties must agree before hand, especially if you don’t know where the sperm is coming from.
If adoption is welcome, why can’t the same apply to IVF, especially in extreme cases? Even if the sperm is directly from the husband, it will still affect our faith as Christians because of our culture and the mentality of black people. If there is wide acceptance of IVF, there is the possibility that people will no longer want to wait on the Lord; they won’t want to pray any more. But IVF should not be a substitute for our faith in God. This will also affect the church, as people will now say, ‘if I can get this thing so cheap, I don’t need to serve God or depend on Him.’ There is another implication to the effect that if the child misbehaves in future, people will say, ‘who knows the father or where s/he comes from.’ So, there is always the repercussion. However, if you had a child through IVF, you don’t need to broadcast it.
‘IVF Is Not Good For Christians Because God Is The Giver Of Children’
(Pastor (Mrs.) May Augustus, Foursquare Gospel Church, Ojokoro, Lagos)
IF anybody settles for that arrangement, s/he doesn’t have faith in God any more. It is not advisable because God is the giver of children. If you are a genuine Christian, then you should wait patiently for the will of God to be done. That is the way I see it. The Lord knows us and if He says you are going to have children, surely they’ll come.
Everything depends on God. What if you opt for that process and thereafter have problem with the child? He or she may become a serious problem, which you will later regret, so why don’t you wait on God? If you truly trust in Him, He will surely do it for you because He had said in His word that there would be no barrenness in His House. If you trust Him faithfully, He will surely grant your heart’s desire.
Also, it is not biblical. I have not really seen such in the Bible or anywhere else. If a woman actually conceives through that process, but the Lord does not perfect that child, then it is not His will. And what if the child turns out to be a moron or someone that will bring disaster to your family? For me, it is not advisable.
‘Catholic Doctrine Does Not Encourage Such Things’
(Rev. Fr. Ralph Madu, Secretary General, Catholic Secretariat, Abuja)
WE have our Catholic morality and the Catholic doctrine does not encourage such things, though they are in vogue today. You see them everywhere and people are advertising them. You know there was a time the National Assembly wanted to legislate on the control of IVF. Our argument then was, ‘you have not approved it yet you are talking of controlling.’ It’s just like somebody saying, ‘I want to control prostitution.’ You don’t control what has not been allowed. It is when this is done and there is excess then you can talk of controlling. The Catholic Church doctrine is very distinct on those issues. That is why I said many people ask questions and they lump Christianity together. Even though some other churches are Christian, but they don’t have dogma or doctrines, as such. Every thing depends on the Bible.
One thing people don’t appreciate is the fact that it is the Church that composed the Bible through divine inspiration. So, there is more in the Church than is in the Book. Some people are not taught all that, they just say suna scriptura: whatever is not in the Bible, whatever is in the Bible. They just interpret whatever they want to do. They forget that there is an institution that was responsible for the compilation of the Bible, which means there was something already in the institution including the Bible or whatsoever makes up the Bible. But some people don’t know all this they just get up and carry the Bible. You won’t see some of these things there, but the doctrine of the church is very specific on the matter.
The argument of people who are in favour of IVF is that it is God who has given man the wisdom to invent IVF and all that and therefore, they encourage people to go for it. But you know that creation is essentially the handiwork of God and that is our line of argument. We don’t advocate or encourage that Christians should go for it; rather they should wait upon the Lord.
‘I Don’t Support Anything That Is Not Bible-based’
(His Grace, Most Revd. Emmanuel Josiah Udofia, Primate of the African Church/President, Christian Council of Nigeria)
PERSONALLY, I’m not favourably disposed towards anything that is not supported by the scripture. Everything must be based on God’s Word. The Lord has promised us that He would bless us. If after marriage somebody stays for some years without fruit of the womb that does not mean that God cannot still bless him or her with a child in the future or that miracle cannot happen in that marriage. There are situations when God wants to test our patience. So, I believe that married couples that are yet to experience the blessing of children should wait on the Lord. That is what the Bible says.
I know married couples that waited for many years before God blessed them with children. Some experienced 15 years delay and today, they have received the Lord’s blessing. Some even waited more than 15 years before receiving the Lord’s blessing. If God could bless Sarah and Abraham with a child in their old age, that same God can still do it for married couples that have faith in Him.
It’s God that created human beings. The Bible says that children are gifts of God and if He is the One that gives children, it, therefore, means He has not stopped from blessing people with children. Couples should wait on Him and they will surely experience the Lord’s blessing.
‘I Know Of Christians, Even Bishops And Pastors Who Have Done IVF’
(Pastor Johnson Funso Odesola, Member, Governing Council of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG/Special Assistant to the General Overseer, Admin. /Personnel)
TECHNOLOGY is to make life easy and as such, if there is any benefit from technology, I think we should tap into it. My view is that if a married couple has waited for so long without a child and they have the means to do IVF, then they should go ahead and do it. I have seen people who did IVF about five times, but failed. So, if IVF works, it means that God must have breathed on it and answered their prayers. In my opinion, I don’t think it’s bad to opt for that method.
On whether it is biblical or not, I would like to point out that there are some things the Bible is silent about. For instance, before Jesus’ time, women were considered to be properties, but when Jesus came, He didn’t talk about it. There are quite a number of things that Jesus didn’t talk about, and so the Bible is silent on certain issues. So, there are so many things that we just have to fashion out by ourselves.
I don’t think IVF is contrary to the Biblical injunction. And though I have never advised Christians to do it, but I know Christians, even bishops and pastors who have done IVF. And they are living happily in their families. For me, I think it’s okay because the Bible is silent about it and we don’t have to make the Bible say what it didn’t say.
If they have to get help from a donor, that is the area where I actually disagree with a bit, because if they source sperm from other people or another woman’s husband, that child could be regarded as illegitimate. That child could be regarded as bastard. But if it is from the woman’s husband, that is fine.
If the fertilisation process is through the husband and wife, technology can be allowed to enhance it. But if the donor is a stranger, the implication is that they now have a child that is really not theirs and this could be dangerous for the family to manage in future.
‘IVF Is A Means Of Fulfilling God’s Purpose In Marriage’
(Bishop Isaac Olawuyi, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos Mainland, Methodist Church Nigeria)
THE growing phenomenon of scientific discovery in solving myriads of human problems in this generation cannot be ignored. Science has come up with stunning discoveries, which has helped in accomplishing God’s purposes for man. Its advancement has brought answers to many mysteries and questions. And so, scientific attempts cannot be condemned outright on the basis of non-biblical supportive evidences. IVF has brought joy and hope to many families.
In the first instance, it is not the will of God that after marriage, a couple should be without child. Bible commanded the first couple to be fruitful and multiplied (Gen 1:28). It is His intention that none shall be barren (Exod 23:26). It is, therefore, apposite that science is in the process of fulfilling God’s intention. It does not by any means run contrary to the fundamental will of God for man.
The area of contention is the ethical ground of taking another man’s sperm or eggs of another woman to bring the child into the world. Will the couple still regard the child as theirs? Is there a moral justification of such act? Is it not tantamount to a woman sleeping with another man in order to get a child? Bible may be silent on it, but will the conscience do?
The couple may seek scientific help to fulfill their marital expectations, but it should not be done in a way that may at the end wound their conscience and render their joy useless.
In a bid to get a child, many anxious couples have gone the way of using evil power, which caused them sorrows in the end.
I advise that couples looking for the fruits of the womb should not go the way that may at the end bring regrets and sorrows. To have children is good, but being without a child in life does not mean one is unfulfilled.
A Christian can be fulfilled without having a child because there are other ways of getting fulfilled. We can adopt a child, or take care of orphans and the less privileged.