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11. Of Spiders and Reproductive Technologies

One of my favorite seminary courses was a media arts class in creative writing. Near the beginning of the semester, the prof gave us an assignment to write something relating to spiders or webs. Having just read Proverbs 6:6 (“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways and be wise”), I came up with the following:

Why does He tell us to go to the ant?
Why not the spider who toils all night weaving web in time for morning dew?
The ant—he hustles to maintain; but spider—she spins, a pirouette of beauty in her work. Isn’t she more like Him than he?
Like the woman in fine purple, she toils, her hands grasping the spindle.
Along with some heroes from B-rated movies, we think of black widows, deception, the kill. But spider is regal. She’s far underrated.
Why does He tell us to go to the ant?

My professor wrote a reply that fascinated me. What I had read as a limit—go only to the ant—he urged me to observe through new eyes: “Why do you assume He means you to observe only the ant?” Dr. Grant wrote. “Perhaps He means for you to start with the ant, then let that lead you to other observations. Why make God’s instructions limiting here when they aren’t intended as a prohibition but rather as a springboard to further discovery?”

He asked a question that struck at the heart of my worldview. Is God ultimately a rule giver or a life giver? Do I see limits where there are none, making His words red and blue when perhaps they’re varying shades of purple? And do I categorize rigidly as sinful/acceptable issues that might more properly be categorized as wise/unwise?

In his award winning work, The Mystery of Marriage, Mike Mason observes the apostle Paul’s discussion about celibacy vs. marriage and notes that no hard-and-fast rule is given stating which is better in every case. Then he observes that our Lord was concerned “not just to give advice but to withhold it. His way was not always to provide answers, but more often simply to create a climate of moral and theological questioning such that a true searcher could himself hit upon the right answer.”

Such is our Wonderful Counselor that in many cases He would prefer for us to make decisions based on love, which looks different in different circumstances, than to make a hard, fast rule which applies to every circumstance.

My experience in discussions about surrogacy is that most people of faith respond immediately with “that is wrong.” And I was one of them. Yet what about couples who have already allowed the creation of “excess” embryos? If they want to donate one of their embryos to a husband and wife who are unable to have children, isn’t a gestational surrogacy arrangement the moral high ground compared with donating the embryo to science for dissection?

I have found instructive this prayer by Susanna Wesley: “May I adore the mystery I cannot comprehend. Help me to be not too curious in prying into those secret things that are known only to thee, O God, nor too rash in censuring what I do not understand.”

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