The practice of artificial insemination may be approached from various angles. It has a medical or biological aspect. Then again it raises legal questions, and the act itself as well as the status of the child thus born must be considered. In addition there certainly is it religious or ethical side to the subject and one must ask whether God approves or condemns the act. However, I trust it will be understood that the present writer, being neither a physician nor a lawyer, must restrict himself to the religious or ethical aspect of the matter. The question to be answered is, Does God approve of the practice of artificial insemination?
Interference with Nature As I understand it artificial insemination is employed when married couples do not become parents in the natural way of legitimate marriage relationship and when this failure is caused by a deficiency, most often, I think, in the husband. The husband appears to be sterile and cannot become a natural father. Now artificial means are used to achieve pregnancy. Some Christians would condemn the use of these means for the Simple reason that they are artificial and not natural. It should be understood that such an argument is not biblical…ye not only may interfere with the course of nature, but at times we are supposed to do just that. Man must subdue the earth or nature and exercise dominion over it (Genesis 1:26–28; Psalm 8:6–8). Moreover, this is regularly done by God-fearing people without any scruples. Christians irrigate or sprinkle their fields or gardens in seasons of insufficient rain. They are injected with insulin in cases of irregular digestion. Why should a sterile husband or wife not seek medical aid for the removal of that deficiency?
However, though we may and must at times interfere with the course of nature, not all means suggested and available for such interference are for that reason legitimate. A patient suffering from the dread disease of cancer may, with certain restrictions, petition God for relief in death, but he may not commit suicide. Likewise, childless couples should pray for the fulfillment of their yearning for parenthood and should, in line with their prayers, employ means which are legitimate and, therefore, approved by God. They certainly should consult their physician. However, the question is whether they may resort to artificial insemination. This would perhaps make conception and motherhood possible. Also, this appears to be at the disposal of medical men and is said to be gaining in popularity.
Distinction to be Made
In answering this question it is highly necessary to make an important distinction. I have been informed that conception is sometimes made impossible by a physical defect in either the husband or the wife. This defect may even have an emotional basis. Medical science seems to be able in some such cases to overcome the obstacle or to correct the defect and to give aid in an artificial way, so that conception results. However, in such instances the husband of the wife is invariably the donor—it is he who supplies to his own wife; and the wife of the husband is invariably the donee -it is she who receives from her own husband. I am not acquainted with the medical methods used in such cases, but assuming that these are legitimate, I feel that such medical aid received by childless couples is not reprehensible. In fact it appears to me that they may employ such aid with thanksgiving and use it prayerfully.
However, when speaking of artificial insemination we regularly trunk of an altogether different situation. As a rule the donee, the wife, receives from a donor, a man who is not her husband, who is a stranger to her and whose identity is supposed to be kept concealed forever. Though certain well-known and essentially legitimate impulses are made inoperative with artificial insemination, the fact remains that the wife receives from and conceives by a man not her husband, and likewise the man “donates” to a woman not his wife. Are such acts on the part of the donee and of the donor ever legitimate? That is to say, does God permit such acts?
It need not be said that the expression “artificial insemination” is not found in Scripture. Of course, that does not surprise us. We could not expect anything else, for the simple reason that at the time the Spirit of God produced Scripture, medical science was not developed and artificial methods to produce conception were not known. However, that certainly does not mean that Scripture is silent in regard to this matter, with the result that its use is left to man’s choice and the act or method must be considered an adiaphoron—an indifferent matter. As Reformed Christians we have always insisted that Scripture demands not only what is specifically and explicitly stated in so many words, but also what must be deduced from its commandments, with the necessary consequence. Jesus taught us this truth and illustrated it in his expositions of certain commandments in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7).
I assume that no one will deny that Scripture restricts the act of copulation or sexual intercourse to couples legally married. Even the precipitation of this act by young people, who are engaged stands condemned. Promiscuity and adultery are, of course, forbidden and marked as heinous sins. These points need not be argued. Now the question is to be put, Must artificial insemination as described above the donee and the donor not known to each other and far less married to each other -be classified as promiscuity or adultery? All are agreed that if such strangers should bring about conception in the regular way, that is to say, by actual physical and carnal relation, adultery would have been committed. What else can be said? However, with artificial insemination direct physical contact is excluded and, I suppose, certain impulses made inoperative. But does the exclusion of such direct physical contact and of such impulses change the essence of the act? Should we conclude that that which is certainly sinful when physical contact occurs, is sinless and legitimate when physical contact does not occur, though the effect may be the same? In other words, Does the sin of adultery consist in mere physical contact?
It should, of course, be granted that the physical contact here referred to is by no means an innocent act and that such an act transgresses the seventh commandment. No one ever commits this sin with impunity, though contraceptive means are used. Nevertheless, it should be understood that the essence of the sin of extramarital relationship is that the man and the woman become “one flesh.” That union, though physically possible outside of marriage, is permissible only in marriage. Thus human life is lifted high above that of the brute. This was indicated when God instituted marriage in Paradise: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). In his wonderful grace God has maintained this ordinance of creation, man’s sin notwithstanding, so that Jesus appeals to it in Matthew 19:5. Moreover, this union actually occurs with adultery and harlotry, as Paul asserts in I Corinthians 6: 15, 16: “Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ? shall I then take away the members of Christ, and make them members of a harlot? God forbid. Or know ye not that he that is joined to a harlot is one body? for, The twain, saith he, shall become one flesh.” Now such a union, such becoming “one flesh,” occurs most certainly with artificial insemination. In fact such a union and such becoming “one flesh” is the one and only purpose of artificial insemination.
God’s Covenant of Grace
The facts stated above should be sufficient to enable us to realize that artificial insemination is reprehensible. However, in addition the covenant of God’s grace must be considered. It too comes to us with its demands and prohibitions. Of course, all agree that the covenant has no biological basis. It is Dot continued from generation to generation because of mere blood relationship. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were absolutely wrong when they sought to claim covenant blessings upon the ground that they were the physical seed and descendants of Abraham. Nevertheless, the fact should not be neglected that God in his sovereign grace and in agreement with his own laws of nature and of providence has seen fit to realize his decree of election and, therefore, of his covenant, along the lines of generations. God certainly does employ blood relationship, though happily not exclusively, for the realization of his decree of election. The fourth commandment already indicates that, as well as a host of other Scriptures. This should not surprise anyone. Blood relationship and the organic unity of the race are of God. “He made of one every nation of men…” (Acts 17:26). Creation, providence and redemption are all of the same God and Father. No wonder he employs the first and second for the realization of the third—redemption.
This covenant relationship to God claims not only the believer’s soul, but also his body with all its organs and functions. Says Paul in I Corinthians 6:13–20, “But the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body…Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? God forbid…Flee fornication…Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you?” In II Corinthians 6 the apostle argues along the same line and asks the rhetorical question, “…what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever?” For such reasons he also insists that marriage shall occur “only in the Lord” (I Corinthians 7:39).
Considering things such as these, it should surprise no one that God holds parents responsible for their “seed.” Death is demanded for him who gives (in sacrifice) his “seed” to Molech (Leviticus 18:21; 20:1–5). Ezra condemns the Jews who allowed so-called mixed marriages, “so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the peoples of the lands” (9:2). The sexual act of believers is, therefore, to be refined and sublimated by living in and according to the covenant of God. Artificial insemination, therefore, violates the believer’s covenant relation to God. This holds for the woman as a donee as well as for the man as a donor. A woman may not receive from any other man than her husband. She may not receive though the other man should be a believer, how much less if he be an unbeliever and, therefore, outside of the covenant. The same holds for the man. He may not give to any other woman than his wife. He may not give though the other woman should be a believer, how much less if she be an unbeliever and, therefore, outside the covenant. Besides, the child born to the donee by the method of artificial insemination is the donor’s as much as the donee’s. God certainly also holds the donor responsible for the training of his child. Of course, with artificial insemination, in which the donor’s identity is supposed to be kept concealed from the donee, and possibly also the donee’s from the donor, he places himself in the highly sinful position which prevents him from assuming the divinely assigned responsibility of training his child. No one, and least of all a Christian, may place himself in such a position.
Moreover, though there are testimonies to the contrary, I feel that the use of artificial insemination may have very serious repercussions. I know that conditions are stipulated by attending physicians, such as that both wife and husband must agree to seek recourse to this artificial method, and also that the donor should be selected with care. Yet, all these precautions notwithstanding, these artificial and sinful methods are likely eventually to disrupt, or at least interfere with, the relation between husband and wife and destroy the family. No one can sin with impunity.
Suppose for a moment that at first both husband and wife find their natural craving for parenthood satisfied in the birth of a child artificially begotten, does that guarantee their continued satisfaction even if the child should show some obnoxious traits of character as he develops? Again, suppose that the wife is satisfied, since the child is her very own as much as it could ever be biologically, what about the husband? Will he feel himself neglected, and is there not a danger that he may develop serious mental complexes? May his sterility, which the wife was apparently not able to accept in love, not produce a sense of inferiority in him? I am not stating that artificial insemination is bound to have such deplorable result in all cases, but the danger with some types of personalities should not be ruled out, even though both parties agree to resort to the artificial method.
As I write these things I certainly would not create the impression that I have no sympathy with childless couples. There are, I think, many childless “parents,” childless “mothers” and “fathers.” For good reasons, but possibly not known to them, God has kept the blessing of parenthood from them. Indeed, they may use all the legitimate means which God places at their disposal to overcome this deficiency in their married life, including adoption. However, artificial insemination is not the means indicated by God.