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IVF: Why the Church Must Speak Up

By Tim Cantrell[1]
Sr. Pastor, Antioch Bible Church
October 2023


Infertility frames the whole story of the Bible and vexes countless couples with the burden of a barren womb, empty arms and an aching heart.[2]  Of all the severe tests of faith that God sent to our forefathers, childlessness has been one of the most common and most difficult – from Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, to Hannah, to the parents of Samson and of John the Baptist.  Yet in all these cases, God answered their anguished prayers with a child – all for His sovereign purposes in His redemption plan.

Nowhere in His Word has God promised a child to every married couple, though He promises His all-sufficient grace and abundant wisdom for every trial (2 Cor. 12:9-10; Jam. 1:5-8). Much wisdom is needed for Christian couples facing infertility and for churches in how to counsel them biblically.  Medical technology offers a wide array of proposed solutions which we must carefully understand, morally navigate, and sometimes reject in this modern minefield of a secularised, godless culture of death.

African countries have not been spared these humanistic ideas and murderous methods as the headlines testify[3], the court cases reveal[4], and the insurance companies cover.[5]  South Africa leads the way on the sub-continent, offering some 37 different IVF clinics countrywide.[6]

Why should the Christian Church speak out against in-vitro fertilisation?  We speak because God has spoken in His inerrant Word, which He has entrusted to His Church that we might be His “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).  For too long, being gospel-centred has become an excuse for being ethically indifferent, morally ambiguous, undiscerning and worldly.  If the Church will not be the “salt and light” Christ has called us to be in this dark and decaying society, as the conscience of the nation, then who will (Matt. 5:13-16)? [7]

If God’s people do not proclaim His holy Law, how can we call lost sinners to repent and be saved?  If God’s pillar of the Church will not hold high His absolute, unchanging standard, who will?  As R.C. Sproul wrote:

The commodification of children, the nonchalant manner in which [people] want to get rid of babies, and other issues raised by such cases send chills down one’s spine. Here we see the logical results of what happens when human beings have no fixed, objective standard of right and wrong.

 …Without clear, normative principles, we’re left rudderless in these situations. Our decisions apply principles in specific situations, but the situations cannot dictate the decisions. …Only the character of God as revealed in His law provides us with absolute norms for ethical issues.[8]

As Francis Schaeffer warned nearly 50 years ago:

…eventually every nation in every age must be judged by this test:  how did it treat people?  …we feel strongly that we stand today on the edge of a great abyss. …We seem to be in danger of forgetting our seemingly unlimited capacities for evil, once boundaries to certain behavior are removed.[9]

IVF was a method engineered in the 1970s, putting the sperm and egg in a Petri dish (“in vitro” = “in a glass”) to produce a fertilised embryo (a ‘test-tube baby’).  Here are two reasons I believe the Church must breaks its silence about the immorality of IVF.


(1) The Sanctity of Human Life

Our church’s doctrinal statement reads, “We believe that God created man in His own image, male and female, giving to human life an inherent sanctity from conception”.[10]  What even science now affirms has always been clear in Scripture, in both Old and New Testaments, that life begins at conception.  The unborn are God’s sacred image-bearers who may not be murdered but must be protected at all costs (Gen. 1-2; 25:22; Exod. 20:13; 21:22-25; Ps. 51:5; Ps. 139; Luke 1-2).  How we treat a human life shows how we treat the Creator Himself.

In 1978 when the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in England, the media announced that she let out, “a cry round the brave new world”, deliberately borrowing from Aldous Huxley’s book warning about the dehumanising dangers of technology.[11]

IVF technology raises a host of disturbing ethical questions about what is done to those precious little human embryos:  Even if the couple rightly insists that every embryo must be implanted, isn’t it assumed that there is still a high likelihood of some of the embryos perishing?[12]  Or will some embryos be frozen for later?[13]  How much later?  What if the couple then falls pregnant naturally, or one parent dies, or they get divorced, or a hundred other contingencies occur to prevent future implanting of those embryos?[14]

How sure are they that their ‘frozen children’ will not be used for Nazi-style stem-cell research and genetic engineering (embryo eugenics)?  Or adopted by a gay or lesbian couple?  Or marketed as ‘designer babies’, on sale to the highest bidder shopping for an embryo to suit all their consumer preferences, as in recent South African news?[15]

As Christian ethicist Norman Geisler states:

IVF means that we are knowingly causing the death of many tiny human beings in order to find one to develop. …The fact that many naturally fertilized ova spontaneously abort [miscarriages] is not relevant, for there is a significant moral difference between a natural death and a homicide.  So IVF is not a natural death; it is an artificially contrived and unnecessary death.[16]

Al Mohler writes:

This may be the most devastating moral reality of the IVF technology. …These  embryos are denied human dignity and are reduced to a frozen existence, awaiting either implantation, indefinite storage, or willful destruction. …IVF technologies destroy even as they claim to create, and the termination and disposal of human embryos is a reminder that the gruesome reality of the Third Reich is never far from us.

 A society that will destroy human life and discard unwanted frozen embryos has lost the vital sense of human dignity which is foundational to civilized society. A culture comfortable with the knowledge that fetuses are destroyed in the name of life can rationalize itself into arguments identifying some humans–born and unborn–as “life unworthy of life.” The abortion culture hangs over the IVF laboratory.

 …We must oppose the use of these technologies by those who would subvert the family, the marital covenant, and the Creator’s gift of sexual union and procreation. We must deny that what is technologically possible is therefore morally acceptable.[17]


(2) The Sanctity of Marriage

 For the Church, biblical language matters immensely: God says human life is “begotten”, not “made” (Gen. 5, etc.).  From the Garden (Gen. 1-2), our covenantal God has beautifully designed for procreation within the loving, exclusive bond of marriage, not through artificial, man-made devices or an intrusive third-party.

Christianity is not anti-science or anti-medicine.  Historically Christians have made some of the greatest medical and scientific advances and done the most to defend human dignity.  However, any technologies that undermine our Maker’s sacred institutions of marriage and family do far more harm than good.

Or as another Christian ethicist states:

There are serious costs to and from accepting technologies that separate the “one flesh” union of husband and wife. We think those costs are high enough that evangelical couples and pastors should say no to IVF. It’s past time to break evangelicalism’s silence about our complicity in the unethical circumstances that arise when sex and conception are divided.[18]

John Stonestreet writes:

…There are significant moral questions raised by artificial reproductive technologies such as IVF. For example, the destruction of human life that is, in most cases at least, part of the process; the fate of nearly one million frozen “excess” embryos; the moral consequences of separating reproduction from sex. To pretend that IVF and other reproductive technologies are morally neutral is to ignore obvious realities.

…Marriage, sex, and babies are a “package” deal as created by God and recognized throughout human history until just recently. The main idea of the sexual revolution has been to divorce sex, marriage and babies. …Christians must stop participating in any technology that creates excess embryos. Pastors need to know enough about IVF and be brave enough to counsel couples to make the right decision. …Christians must live counter-culturally when it comes to those factors that drive the use of IVF, such as delayed parenting and same-sex marriage. …God give us the kind of moral courage we need to live in this cultural moment.[19]



 Never is a child a right that we deserve; each son or daughter is a gracious gift of the Creator who opens and closes the womb (Isa. 66:9; Ps. 113; 127).  A dear sister in our church was converted through God using her infertility and almost succumbing to the IVF temptation to break her, exposing her failure to trust God and her need for a Saviour.  Another Christian sister writes:

As soon as you create new human beings with someone, you are their parent, whether you freeze those children and put them into storage, give them to researchers for experimentation, or enable them to be born. Please, I am begging you, do not contribute to this cavalier treatment of human beings—of your own children.

 …If you have already done something you regret that can’t be reversed, then I mourn with you. The church has failed you by not giving you the tools you needed to think through this.[20]

Here is the Feinbergs’ conclusion after the most thorough study of IVF I’ve found in any textbook on Christian ethics:

On the basis of the preceding discussion, we believe that there are enough moral questions associated with IVF to conclude that at the current state IVF technology is still morally wrong.[21]

South African pastor De Bruyn sums it up well:

The problem here is that for the sake of obtaining one fertilised zygote, many are sacrificed. This means that doctors/scientists are knowingly causing the deaths of multiple human beings to obtain one that survives. Until the technology improves to where human life is not wasted or taken, Christians should consider other options.[22]

As for people we know who were born through IVF, we fully welcome them as fellow image-bearers, regardless of how they were conceived.  All of us are the product of the Fall; and “where sin abounds, grace much more abounds” (Rom. 5:20).  Praise God that there is forgiveness full and free in Christ for all who know they have sinned in the past in their use of IVF but have truly repented of it.

Yet this is not a cheap grace, but a transforming grace that we might “go and sin no more” (Rom. 6; Jn. 8:11).  We rejoice in those few, brave couples willing to swim upstream against our IVF-obsessed society – like the one couple who testified, A little boy or girl created with our own genetic material is not morally worth the many inevitable deaths of his or her embryonic brothers and sisters.[23]

When heartbroken couples in our churches yearn for a child, we must learn to “weep with those who weep” and to “bear one another’s burdens” (Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2).  As pastors we must teach and model a biblically sound, full-orbed theology of suffering, trusting the wise and good purposes of our loving, sovereign, compassionate Lord who will sanctify our every affliction: “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7; cf. Rom. 5:3-5; 8:28-29; Jam. 1:3-4).

Our heavenly Father still delights to employ every childless Christian couple to play a vital role in His grand redemption story.  One day He will wipe every tear from our eyes and we will all feast joyfully at His table in a very full house (Rev. 21:4; Matt. 8:11; Lk. 14:23).




Appendix A – Insights on IVF from Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians:

To some degree in artificial insemination, and to a considerably greater degree in IVF, we make of our body an instrument to be used in the pursuit of our goals.  We do not simply give ourselves bodily in the act of love, but we instrumentalize the body and use it in order to produce a child.  In one sense, of course, this is an exercise of our freedom not unlike others in which we make use of objects and even other animals in the world to achieve our goals.  To do so is to exercise the dominion given humankind by the Creator.

 Caution is needed, however, when the “object” used is the living human body, the place of personal presence.  For in so instrumentalizing the body we are tempted to think of ourselves as only free spirit detached from the body.  The real “I” becomes that free and unconstrained will that now exercises dominion even over the body it uses.  What we risk here is a separation of person and body that demeans the body and makes of it a “thing”.

 It is not surprising, then, if we also come to think of the child who results from this process as a product – as made, not begotten. …In begetting we form another with whom we share a nature equal in being and dignity. …But if we make a child, we determine its meaning and use.  …IVF raises this issue in an obvious way by forcing us to contemplate the moral status of the embryo.  …We are increasingly able to “screen” that embryo before it is implanted, to determine whether it is free of certain defects. …to consider whether this particular product of conception is one we desire, one whose worthiness for life we wish to affirm.

 …We need not suppose that every couple setting foot on this path will come to think of their child as a product over which they must exercise quality control; but we deceive ourselves if we imagine that the routinized use of such techniques cannot and will not teach us to think about children in new and different ways.

 Thus, even if we refrain from claiming that assisted reproduction without third-party collaboration is wrong, we have good reason to fear some of the lessons it teaches us. …[Our world is] already a long way in medicine toward losing the sense that the living body is the person, toward separating person and body.  Assisted reproduction, however compelling and understandable its lure, leads us still further in that direction.  We need to resist its lure and recognize its temptations.

 …Without in any way undervaluing the presence of children, we should also be free of the idolatrous desire to have them at any cost – as our project rather than God’s gift. …A couple unable to have children can – and should – find other ways in which their union may, as a union, turn outward and be fruitful.  God blesses in many different ways, and the task he does not lay upon us may be replaced by other tasks less open to those who have children, and equally significant…. (pp. 19-20, 23-24).


Appendix B – On the Distinction Between Adoption & IVF, on Caring for Orphans vs. Creating Orphans:

…There’s a convincing case to be made that these practices [assisted reproductive technologies] amount to the exploitation of women, the creation of virtual orphans, the destruction of human lives, and commercial manufacture of children.

 … Adoption is the remedying of a sin or tragedy that’s already taken place. It’s redemptive in nature. It replaces and repairs what has been broken–it takes orphans already made and turns them into sons and daughters. And to that extent, it mimics the action of God, Himself, in salvation. Surrogacy (and IVF typically), on the other hand, is the equivalent of making orphans in order to adopt them. It creates brokenness to fulfill adult desires.[24]


Appendix C – An Alternative to IVF?

A recent alternative to IVF is GIFT (Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer). In this case ovum and sperm, after being mixed, are immediately transferred to the end of the fallopian tube, where conception takes place as normal. Many consider GIFT to be preferable to IVF. Technically, it is simpler and cheaper. Ethically, it precludes the production of ‘spare’ embryos for research. ([25]


Appendix D – Excerpt from Position Statement of Christian Medical & Dental Association on “Assisted Reproductive Technology”:

 …Before the 1970’s adoption was the common solution for couples facing infertility – a solution encouraged and lauded by society. …Paradoxically, the advent of IVF has increased the anguish for some infertile couples. Because these technologies are now available (to those who can afford them), couples must make choices about whether to undergo such assistance, how many cycles to attempt, etc. Such additional choices can cause turmoil – socially, financially, relationally, and morally.





[1] This was written on behalf of our church eldership, as a guideline for shepherding believers to think biblically about IVF so that they can make wise decisions for their household.

[2] As many can testify:





[7] Surveys show how calloused our society has become, with the vast majority of people having no moral reservations about IVF:


[9] pp. 281-282 in Whatever Happened to the Human Race, in Vol. 5 of The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer




[13] An estimated 1.4 million embryos are currently frozen in the USA alone!

[14] God’s Word warns us against “boasting in tomorrow” (Prov. 27:1; Jam. 4:13-17).  See here on the shocking number of abandoned and destroyed embryos in the millions:;;;


[16] p. 194 in Christian Ethics

[17] In his excellent two-part essay:;




[21] p. 428, Ethics for a Brave New World, 2nd Edition.  Note that Grudem’s otherwise superb textbook on ethics disagrees with Geisler and the Feinbergs and naively defends IVF with little consideration of the major ethical and worldview concerns.  See this lengthy rebuttal to Grudem:

[22] From his lecture notes for a Sunday School class on ethics at New Covenant Baptist Church, Johannesburg



[25]Available in South Africa:;

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