What Lies Ahead, by Nigel M. de S. Cameron

I am about to step down as CBC’s board chair, after serving in this role since its beginnings. We have done many things together, all aimed at helping Christians think through and engage the great questions of the 21st century. The churches are woefully unprepared for this task, and as a result believers rarely make the connections between the teaching they get on Sundays and the vast implications of new technologies for human dignity and human nature itself. That is why when Jennifer Lahl, who was then my student, asked my advice about a new center for bioethics I responded that the great need was to prepare the churches, so they in turn could prepare their members.

That’s why we started off as the Center for Bioethics and the Church. And it’s still where CBC’s chief focus lies. We changed the name to make the point that our interest lay in engaging the culture, and getting the churches to engage the culture. This was not some merely “churchy” project. The most powerful and largely untapped force in American culture lies in its huge network of churches. Yet most of them are only vaguely interested in the task of preparing their members for life in the 21st century. Pastors are well-meaning, but like the seminaries and bible schools many of them have attended their focus is largely internal: they teach the Bible and engage in the running of the “church” as an organization. They engage in evangelism, seeking to bring converts into the church. Yet they rarely ask the question: what are we preparing our converts for? What is the goal of the Christian life? Why do we have these buildings and staff and other resources? While there are many answers to such questions, at their center lies the key: to convert men and women and to educate and train them to serve God in the 21st century.

Why are our pastors and our seminaries and bible schools so dissociated form the world of today and tomorrow? The answer does not lie in the Bible. It does not lie in the teaching of the church. God made us to serve him in his world, and for some reason he has planted our feet in the 21st century after Jesus Christ. It is the world of cloning, genetic engineering (including making inheritable changes in human being), nanotechnology (manipulating matter at the tiniest scale), and cybernetics – which some people want to use to make us cyborgs, part-human and part-machine. Ever hear these things from your pastor or Sunday School teacher? If you have not, you need to take responsibility and put them on the agenda of your church – not as extras, details, special interest issues for a few. But as fundamental, center-ground issues for every believer to whom God has given a brain. Anything else is dereliction of duty.

That’s the key mission of CBC, and our resources and those of our partner groups (such as the Wilberforce Forum and the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity) are there to help you and your church make a difference for Jesus Christ in 2006.