From December 2 to 5, 2022, the 4th Spanish Bioethics Conference will be held in Madrid. The event is organized by evangelical Christians once a decade.
Pablo Martínez Vila, a well-known international psychiatrist, writer and speaker, is one of the keynote speakers at a congress-style gathering that will create space for reflection and discussion on all kinds of bioethical issues, including Artificial Intelligence, Abortion, Euthanasia and Creation Care.
Spanish news site digital protestant asked the doctor.
Question. What is the significance and transcendence of this conference?
Answer. As Christians, we are called to see the world and live in the world with the mind of Christ, what we call a Christian worldview. Having the mind of Christ enables us to discern the spirit of the times, what the apostle Paul calls the “pattern of this world.”
We must be aware of a subtle struggle in our Christian life: while the Holy Spirit works in us, the spirit of the times, the secular spirit, works on us from without; these are contradictory influences, which is why discerning the spirit of the times is not a luxury reserved for a few “thinking or intellectual Christians”, but a necessary exercise for any believer; it is an indispensable condition for developing the thought of Christ, that is to say for having a Christian vision of the world.
Bioethics is not primarily a theoretical issue to be considered in a university classroom, but a practical reality in everyday life. Even without noticing it, we are constantly faced with decisions that have to do with bioethics. In other words, it’s not just a debate of ideas, but – never better said – a matter of life and death. This is precisely the title of a book by lecturer John Wyatt. An excellent job that I recommend.
Q. This year the theme is “For the care of life and creation” , which involves a broader view of our world as Christians, including care for creation. How do you assess this aspect of the Conference?
A. This is a wise decision by the organizers as the Earth is getting sicker and sicker. You could say that the groans of creation are getting louder every day (Romans 8).
God gave humans the responsibility to manage the earth (the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28). In other words, we are the stewards of a house which is not ours, but which has been given to us in usufruct.
“Discerning the spirit of the age is not a luxury reserved for some ‘thinking or intellectual Christians’”
The care of God’s creation is an inseparable part of our stewardship as Christians. Nevertheless, we need a word of caution here: beware of an extreme that we are witnessing today, the worship of nature, environmentalism as a religion.
Christians enjoy nature, we care for nature, but we do not worship nature. Environmentalism cannot become an idol. Ecology cannot be a new form of religion.
Being a passionate advocate of environmentalism is admirable, it is necessary, but without losing sight of the order of values: Creation does not come before the Creator. We cannot fall into the sin of which the apostle Paul warns, “worshipping the created things, the creature, rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1)
Therefore, we agree 100% to be stewards of the Creation, but by no means worshippers turning environmentalism into a new form religion. Be careful because idolatry is very often a subtle intruder.
The last Bioethics Conference organised by evangelical Christians was held 11 years ago.
Q. What other issues have changed or what new topics or debates have been introduced from a Christian ethical perspective in recent years?
A. The essential problems of bioethics always revolve around the same issues, life and death, whether it is a question of people or of Creation. This will not change because bioethics means just that: the ethics of life.
What has indeed changed is the framework, the ideological environment in which we confront these questions. Compared to the first conference in 1988, the way we have to deal with these questions has changed. You could say that “the swimming pool” has not changed, but “the water in the swimming pool” has changed.
In which way? The West is on the way to ideological totalitarianism, a dictatorship of ideas subject to a secular religion ironically called “progressivism”. This religion is nothing but neo-materialism, a variant of the scientific materialism of the last two centuries.
The key point for us (in bioethics) is the conception that this religion has of Man: its anthropology is based on radical individualism and narcotic hedonism. She narcotizes more than one by offering them a paradise of happiness based on autonomy, self-realization and self-sufficiency.
“A narcotic paradise of happiness based on autonomy, self-realization and self-sufficiency is offered”
I find it striking that the father of scientific materialism – H. Spencer – ordered to write only one word on his tombstone: Infelicisimus, deeply unhappy. This epitaph was the summary of his life. Scientific materialism ultimately leads to deep misfortune.
A significant example of this deeply selfish anthropology in the current way of legislating: the right to die is defended at all costs – law on assisted suicide, law on euthanasia, etc. ; but on the other hand, the unborn child’s right to live is suppressed, the right to be born is eliminated.
In addition, this perversion of values is done by suppressing rights as basic as the right to information, reflection and freedom of expression (very questionable and reprehensible aspects of the new abortion law in Spain) .
This oppressive context, which restricts fundamental freedoms, is what has changed, and as believers we should be concerned about where this may lead us and where it may end.
Q. The main guest speaker is John Wyatt, what do you think he will bring to the debate on euthanasia and other ethical issues?
A. John Wyatt is both a humble person and a great thinker. We met 40 years ago through John Stott. Since then, we have maintained a good friendship.
He is highly qualified and has outstanding academic credentials. It masterfully combines deep thought with practical application. He is a down-to-earth thinker. This makes him a highly respected voice, not only in Christian circles but also in secular circles.
His contribution over the years has provided a remarkable Christian worldview of bioethics, an essential guide to thinking and living rightly on these issues. Listening to it will surely be very rewarding.
Q. You participate in several biblical reflections on human dignity. We don’t want to spoiler, but to what extent is this question questioned in our society?
A. Our society subtly but deliberately undermines human dignity. Something is seriously wrong in a world that cares deeply about the welfare of animals, protects them with laws and elevates them almost to the status of people, but at the same time allows and promotes the killing of human lives that are formed ( abortion).
Treating animals like people and people like animals is one of the most evil characteristics of our times.
“As our society turns away from God, it gradually erases this divine seal and assimilates man to the animal”
Why do I express myself in such serious terms? Human dignity comes from the image of God imprinted on the human being. What differentiates us from animals is that we are created in the image and likeness of God. Animals are the creation of God but they do not bear the image of God.
This unique divine seal is the source of the dignity and sanctity of human life, its sanctity, which prevents us from killing another person.
As our society turns away from God, it gradually erases this divine seal and assimilates man to the animal. It is a natural consequence of the materialistic concept of human beings, we are nothing more than a “naked ape” (Desmond Morris).
This tendency is reinforced today by Eastern religions, in particular Buddhism, which confers a sacred character on certain animals. This growing influence of Orientalism is subtle but very powerful. Its ultimate consequence is animal worship; animality is also on the way to becoming a new religion.
We must express ourselves as believers because it is also a question of bioethics. We take care of animals and are concerned to treat them well (this is what the Word of God teaches us), but we cannot assimilate them; human beings are sacred because they bear the image of God, animals are not.
Q. Do you have anything else to add?
A. Two words, “Come and see”, as Philippe said to Nathanael. I think it is important to attend this Conference to learn, to engage and to act.
Our bleeding world needs the Christian worldview of bioethics because it is a source of life and a quality of life. Jesus said: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). All of bioethics stems from this.
Posted in: Gospel focus – life and technology
– Psychiatrist Pablo Martínez: “Our society subtly but deliberately undermines human dignity”