Genetics is the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity. It seeks to understand how physical traits and characteristics are passed down from parents to offspring. With advances in science and technology, our understanding of genetics has grown tremendously in recent years. Things like DNA testing, genetic engineering, and genome sequencing have given us new insight into how genetics impacts our lives.
But what does the Bible have to say about genetics? While the Bible was written long before the field of genetics was established, it still contains principles and truths that are relevant to the topic. In this blog post, we will explore key passages in Scripture that relate to genetics and heredity. We will look at what the Bible says about how traits are passed down, the origin of genetic defects, the ethics of genetic engineering, and more.
- God designed DNA and genes with order and purpose
- Sin corrupted God’s perfect design and introduced genetic defects
- Children inherit traits and tendencies from parents
- God values human life in all its forms
- Genetic engineering requires wisdom and raises ethical issues
- God is able to heal and restore broken genes
God Designed DNA and Genes with Order and Purpose
The Bible reveals that God intentionally designed human DNA and genes with order and purpose. Psalm 139:13-16 says:
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. (NKJV)
This passage indicates that God personally designed and “skillfully wrought” each person at the genetic level while they were still in their mother’s womb. The psalmist marvels that though his body was “yet unformed,” God saw his “substance” – seemingly a reference to DNA. God oversight of DNA is also implied in Acts 17:26, which says God determined the genetic boundaries of each nation.
This suggests that human genetics operate based on an orderly system originally established by God. Modern genetics confirms this, revealing a complex but coherent operating system encoded in DNA and genes that regulates human development and function. Far from being random mutations, our genetic code follows set patterns that govern how traits and characteristics are passed on. The orderliness of this system points to an intelligent Designer who instituted laws of genetics that would carry out His purposes.
Sin Corrupted God’s Perfect Design and Introduced Genetic Defects
Though God originally designed human genetics to be perfect, the entrance of sin into the world corrupted and damaged that design. This introduced genetic defects and diseases into the human race.
Several biblical passages reference this, such as Psalm 51:5 which says, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” This indicates that David was aware that sin’s effects reached back to the genetic level, altering human DNA even at conception. Romans 5:12 explains that when sin entered the world through Adam, death also entered. Physical death is often linked to genetic decay and deformity.
Specific cases of genetic disease and disability recorded in the Bible also demonstrate how sin corrupted God’s ideal genetic design. For example, Genesis 19 records the birth of Moab and Ben-Ammi through incest between Lot and his daughters. Incest often results in genetic abnormalities. Genesis 30 notes the birth of children with genetic issues like blindness and infertility due to manipulations in Jacob’s breeding practices. Although genetic defects enter the human line through natural processes, Scripture ultimately roots these problems in the entrance of sin, which brought disorder and imperfection into God’s good design.
Children Inherit Traits and Tendencies from Parents
In addition to introducing defects, the Bible notes how sin affected genetics by passing on sinful tendencies from generation to generation. Exodus 20:5 declares that God “visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” While children are not guilty of their parents’ sins, they do inherit genetic traits and inclinations toward certain sins through their ancestry.
This concept of “generational sin” is not a fatalistic curse. Ezekiel 18:2 makes it clear sons are not punished for the father’s iniquity. But just as children inherit eye color and other neutral traits genetically, they can inherit particular sin tendencies through ancestral lines. This explains why Genesis 8:21 says man’s heart is evil from “youth” – sinful genetic factors influence behavior from birth. This theme reappears when God promises to use genetics to bless the righteous instead of cursing them for generations (Exodus 34:6-7). As science progressed, ancestral genetic forces gained further attention in Job 10:8-12. Overall, Scripture affirms that both positive and negative traits are inherited through generations.
God Values Human Life in All its Forms
A biblical view of genetics also emphasizes the value of human life in all its forms, including those with disabilities. Passages celebrating life “in the womb” (Psalm 139:13, Luke 1:41-44) remind us that the genetically impaired deserve love. Leviticus 19:14 prohibits cursing the deaf or putting a stumbling block before the blind. This sensitivity toward genetic conditions appears again in Exodus 4:11 when God asks “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord?” Although allowing disability, God still asserts the value of those lives.
This value stems from the doctrines of creation and the image of God. Because God specially created humans and made them in His image (Genesis 1:26-28), all human life has dignity. That dignity is not lost when the fall introduces genetic flaws. Instead, Jesus dignifies and hallows all life by personally healing the sick and disabled. Heaffirms that the value of a life is not determined by genes or ability.
Genetic Engineering Requires Wisdom and Raises Ethical Issues
As genetic science provides increased ability to detect, manipulate, and potentially alter genes, ethical questions arise. For instance, is it right to terminate a pregnancy if a defect is discovered? Should we use gene editing to enhance human traits? Biblically, genetic engineering requires great wisdom.
Scripture teaches that God has ultimate authority over life and death. Choosing who receives life should be approached with humility and care. With power comes responsibility. Genetic manipulation could repeat Adam’s mistake of striving for moral autonomy apart from God (Genesis 3:5). Instead, we should develop genetic technologies with service and compassion in mind following Christ’s model.
Additionally, personal application of genetic technology should consider that man looks outward, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Believers make choices based on honoring God, not chasing physical perfection. Overall, the Bible’s principles help provide an ethical framework as genetic science advances, so that human dignity can be upheld.
God is Able to Heal and Restore Broken Genes
A final theme is that God has power to heal and restore genetic conditions under the curse. As the one who designed DNA, He has authority over it. Christ’s miracles often resulted in genetic healing and restoration – the blind seeing, the lame walking, lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing. This demonstrates God’s sovereignty over the physical realm. Scripture promises that just as our genes were affected by the fall, in Christ they will be redeemed and perfected. Philippians 3:20-21 assures that Christ “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” By His Spirit, God can fix what sin has broken in our genetic code.
Genetics is a complex subject full of promise and peril. As science unlocks the human genome, new opportunities and questions arise. The principles in Scripture provide wisdom as we seek knowledge of how God fashioned life and traits in our DNA. Our genes reflect both the ordered design of God as well as the corruption of sin. We have a responsibility to develop genetic technology in line with biblical values that honor the sanctity of life and proper use of power. Additionally, we can rest in God’s sovereignty, knowing he designed our DNA and is able to heal and restore genetic conditions for his glory. While a full theology of genetics requires deeper study, we have seen several key themes emerge from Scripture that are relevant for believers today.