Kilner, John F., Paige C. Cunningham, and W. David Hager, editors, The Reproductive Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the families. Eerdmans, 2000.

A critical look at the real issue of infertility, examining all the newest reproductive technologies from a Christian perspective.
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Book Review by Andrew Hoffman, M.Div., M.A.

Putting the Egg Back Together Again

It is a story as old as Humpty Dumpty. That which was meant to be whole has been broken into many pieces. Over the past decades modern technology and shifts in the moral climate have combined to fragment human sexuality into myriad disconnected parts. Marriage, procreation, love, pleasure and many other parts of human sexuality have become isolated entities, unnaturally separated from one another. Today it is possible to have sex without making babies, to make babies without having sex, to have a baby without ever being pregnant, to be pregnant without having a baby, to father a child without ever meeting the mother, and on and on. Like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, we stand over the broken pieces of our Humpty Dumpty sexuality wondering if we can put them back together again.

We can. We must. That is the overarching message of The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality, Reproductive Technologies, and the Family. This compilation of essays edited by John F. Kilner, Paige Cunningham, and W. David Hager is the fruit of the 1998 Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity conference entitled “Reproduction Ethics.” Together, the essays remind us of the beauty and wonder of the original design for human sexuality and procreation, and help us to see how we can begin to fit the increasingly fragmented pieces of this design back together again.

Those looking for a tidy little reference work with alphabetical headings will find this book frustrating. Specific issues pop up throughout the various essays, each receiving numerous treatments from several angles. What dictates the flow is a more organic progression from real life experiences, to foundational issues, to specific technologies, to difficult cases, ending with suggested avenues for response. The wonderful result is an impressive work whose argument grows in strength from beginning to end, as the isolated issues are gathered up, analyzed and repositioned within God’s original procreative design. It is a bird’s eye view of the present and of the possible future but with enough technical detail to keep the discussion grounded in reality. Thankfully for the lay bio-ethicists – and that should include all of us – the technical bits are accessible enough that they won’t need to be skipped. If you want to get the full impact of this book, I recommend reading it straight through, from beginning to end.

Among the best contributions are those from Gilbert Meilaender on the motivations of would-be parents, Nigel Cameron on the separation of sex and reproduction, John Kilner on cloning, and Joe S. McIlhaney Jr. on the history and future of sex in America. Glaringly absent in the “mock trial” of an abortive surrogate (out of which spring several of the essays) is a voice from an opposing viewpoint. We miss such a voice as its presence would have made for an even more engaging and informative read.

No doubt some of our contemporaries, in a na?e embrace of the amoral, fragmented, technicized sexuality of our era, will find this volume too negative. Others of a much more skeptical bent will say that human sexuality has been broken beyond repair and all hopes to put it back together again are mere pipe dreams. But this volume shows a third way: for those unwilling to yield to pessimism and who guard a passion merely for doing what is right, this book is a must read.

Andrew Hoffman is Associate Pastor of the Evangelical Free Church of Oakland, CA and a fellow of the Center for Bioethics and Culture.