I’m stepping away from the normal Bible posts for a minute or two. In a comment (which I fished out of my spam queue – either Akismet was being over-zealous or this is a proper spam comment which actually made sense!), Ikedi made the following comment:
I dont think you are doing the bible justice here at all, that Son Hagar had was called Ishmael. Sarah was barren, and Abraham didn’t pimp anybody. Sarah asked Abraham to sleep with the maid servant Hagar so she could have a child on behalf of Abraham and Sarah.
Today I believe what Sarah wanted Hagar to be is a surrogate mother….
In my response to Him (her?) I pointed out that the vast majority of this site is written facetiously, but what has actually happened is a blogger’s dream: someone asked a very pertinent question that prompted me to find out more! After all this time, I’m nearly a proper blogger!! Anyway, enough of that. I did a little digging and found some stuff out…
First a few ground rules: As the Bible (despite it’s roots) is a Christian document, I haven’t looked at the teachings of Islam or of Judaism or Hinduism or any other world religion that’s not Christian. Where I refer to the various Churches, I refer to the institution, not individual churches or churchgoers – I accept that no church (or religion) is entirely homogeneous and opinions will differ greatly within them. Also, as I only have one life to lead and my attention span is short, I am very certain that I have not touched upon every different version of Christianity. In fact, if I can’t find your version’s teaching on this quickly, I have assumed that you don’t have a particular view – feel free to update me in the comments.
We will start with the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has long had an interest in childbirth. They have particular rules for what they deem to be a “good” childbirth: within a marriage, following heterosexual sex. And that is it. However, they do approach the subject with some care and have a document commissioned by Pope John Paul II called the Donum Vitae which lays out the rules and regulations. It discusses other means of giving birth (artificial insemination and surrogacy) and while it discusses these subjects with thought and compassion, it lays out that sex should only be done for 2 reasons: to unify the relationship and to procreate (try to make a baby). You should not be doing it outside marriage, outside of a married man and woman and/or outside of a wish to make a baby; or at least, recognise that every time you have sex, there is the possibility that you may be making a baby. A shorter explanation can be found by following this link or this link. So, the Catholic Church understands, recognises and sympathises with the need to have a child, but does not condone surrogacy.
The Anglican Church (Church of England) has a slightly different stance. I am sure that everyone knows that the Anglican Church allows for contraception as a method of preventing births. In this they are more in line with the views of most people – accept that sex happens and accept that it is better to prevent an unwanted pregnancy than bring up a child in a home that may not want it. I have only been able to find one clear document regarding the issue of surrogacy – this could mean that a decision has been reached and there’s no need to discuss further – and it can be read via the Eubios Ethics Institute. You need to scroll down to Section 3. Although there appear to be dissenting opinions, the Anglican Church does not accept surrogate motherhood – like the Catholic Church, they feel that genetics are more important than simply wanting to be a mother (if anyone can ever be said to “simply want to be a mother”).
The Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Church of Scotland) has views that fall largely between the camps represented by the Catholics and the Anglicans. They accept IVF as long as the sperm and egg donated come from the married couple. However, they do not accept IVF where the egg or sperm is not from the married couple and they also do not accept surrogate motherhood. They view the husband and wife as irreplaceable and so any children must come from within the marriage.
I have to admit that I know little about the Lutheran Church, but I will give it a go… Reading the article at the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, and skipping to the conclusion, the Lutheran Church also appears to be against surrogate motherhood. Interestingly, this article, so far, is the only one I have seen that references the passage I spoke about in the original post. They approach this from a more Biblical perspective (or at least, are more open about doing this) and conclude that children should be conceived within a marriage only.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon Church) seems to be the first church I have come across not to openly condemn (if that’s not too strong a word) the practice of surrogacy. Their site does not seem to have any particular message, although this message does point out that children should be born within a marriage. My understanding from reading other sites is while the Mormon Church does not entirely disparage surrogacy – and will support people going through this – because of legal and emotional issues they would discourage it.
I think that there is a pattern here. I have stopped after these examples because it is clear that the Christian Church does not condone surrogacy at all. There are various reasons – ethical, moral, emotional and so on – but at root they teach that the Bible teaches that a married man and a married woman who are married to each other are the only people who can make a baby. There is some relaxation depending on where you worship, but at root they have the same teaching. This may come from the Bible which says that children are a gift from God – you are either blessed or you are not.
One thing in all of their favour is that they promote adoption for couples who cannot have children, which is a view I can go along with.
So, according to the modern Christian Church, what Abraham, Sarah and Hagar did was wrong.