Francis Collins, Christianity, and Embryonic Stem Cell Research


Dr. Al Mohler has put up a brilliant article talking about Francis Collins’ position as the head of the National Institutes of Health. Collins, though a Christian, has backed down on embryonic stem cell research and said that while we shouldn’t create embryos for the purpose of farming them for research, we should use the ones that are going to “go to waste” anyway. Mohler does an excellent job of pointing out that two wrongs don’t make a right; just because these embryos will likely go to waste doesn’t give us the right to perform experiments on them.

But more importantly, Mohler points out that Collins – despite his strong advocacy for theistic evolution and borderline naturalistic thinking – is still looked at as a “clown” by many of his peers, simply for being a Christian. In other words, no matter how many compromises Collins makes, whether it be in his view of creation or in his view of humanity, so long as he holds the title “Believing Christian” he will have no respect from his peers.

Is it any wonder why Paul warned the Colossians not to give into the false philosophies of the world? Notice what Paul writes in Colossians 2:6-15:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7; Colossians 2:8-15 ESV) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

While many people are familiar with verse 8 (not to fall into idle philosophies) we often ignore the passage. Paul is not being cranky or trying to control the populace, but rather he is pointing out that Christ has conquered such philosophies, hence their vanity. They contradict Christ, who does not point to truth, but is the Truth (c.f. John 14:6). To adhere to a false philosophy or practice in the world is to go against Christ, because if the truth is not in these philosophies then Christ is not in these philosophies, making them automatically against contra Christus. Paul’s warning is for our own holiness, for if we wish to be like Christ then we should seek Christ and not adhere to beliefs that do not represent Christ.

The Apostle John seemingly echos Paul when he writes in 1 John 2:15-27,

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.

I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

Notice that when John says “do not love the world” he offers a clarification. He points to the sinful desires of man and the pride of man. What are these false philosophies if not the epitome of pride? Paul points out that such falsities exist in opposition to Christ. John shows that submission to Christ requires humility. Thus, to submit to Christ requires humility while opposition to Christ requires pride. Even more, however, the one who denies Christ is not just misguided, but is a liar.

To deny the Son is to deny the Father and to lie about the nature of things. To deny that Christ existed is as much a lie as to deny that George Washington existed, but the denial of Christ is far worse. While the denial of George Washington might put you at odds with many American historians, denying Christ puts you at odds with God, the creator of the Universe and ultimate judge of mankind. John is very clear that those who deny Christ comes from the Father do not have the truth in them. Keeping John’s words in mind, when we look to Paul we quickly realize that when we buy into philosophies from these liars we too represent a lie, hence the warning to avoid worldly philosophies.

It would do Francis Collins much good to reflect on these two passages. While I’m not saying that every Christian has to be a 6 day creationist (I don’t believe in a literal 6 day creation myself), a Christian does have to have standards in his belief. While a Christian can promote scientific research, especially concerning stem cells (adult stem cells need to be researched), he must do so within proper ethical boundaries. Just as few humans would advocate performing experiments on Jews in a concentration camp since “they’re going to die anyway,” we should, with equal disgust, refuse to perform experiments on human embryos since “they’re going to die anyway.” It is morally repugnant that we should treat the image of God as a medical experiment rather than with the dignity that is deserved.

And this is where Collins ultimate problem rests; he doesn’t trust God enough to believe that we’re actually made in the image of God. After all, if we treat Genesis as purely narrative and that nothing in there points to a bigger truth, then humans really aren’t a special creation and aren’t really made in the image of God. Thus, humans are given no special rights other than the rights we give to ourselves, which ultimately are arbitrary. In seeking to compromise his faith for a well-respected Presidential appointment, Collins unwittingly abandons his faith and one of the central cores of Christian theology, that all humans are made in the image of God (and an embryo is a human).

When we adopt the philosophies of the world in order to please the world the world will not love us. When we compromise our faith in order to make the world our friend, the world will not love us. When we deny many of the tenets of Christianity – the infallibility and inspired nature of the Bible, the miracles of the Old and New Testaments, the exclusivity of Christ, and so on – the world will not embrace us. It is only when we deny the existence of Christ as God, the exclusivity of Christ, the Incarnation, and God Himself that the world will begin to love us. To deny the deity of Christ and say he was a moral teacher will gain you ground. To deny God all together will make you a friend to the world. But in doing so, you have adopted a lie and become a liar, forfeiting your place in eternity with God.

What is worse, however, is that when we begin to compromise our beliefs in our futile attempt to please the world, we end up displeasing God. Notice how both Paul and John say that when we love the world or adopt worldly philosophies, the Truth is not within us. This means that compromise on our essential beliefs leads to Christ having nothing to do with us. We are left displeasing God when we even attempt a compromise on essential beliefs. It would seem that when we attempt a compromise to please the world, but still love Christ, we end up failing at pleasing God and the world. It would be better to pick one and hate the other.

We can never appease the world because the world denies Christ. So long as they deny Christ we will never be loved by the world. We must choose who we will please; we will either please Christ by affirming Him in all aspects or we will please the world by denying Christ in all aspects. There is no in between.

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