Top Five Books in Bioethics for the Christian Lay Reader

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I often am asked the question of what books would help an individual to quickly access the basic issues of bioethics. The books below are some of my top recommendations, particularly for those looking for Christian introductory material. Each of these books reflects an evangelical perspective or a viewpoint that is within the Judeo-Christian Hippocratic tradition.

Joni Eareckson Tada and Nigel Cameron. How to Be a Christian in a Brave New World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006). Two pioneers in defending the dignity of all human beings challenge the church to understand and care about the efforts to remake humanity through robotics, human harvesting, and designer babies. Who better than Joni Eareckson Tada to talk about using exotic technologies to heal human bodies? The volume weaves personal narratives throughout the bioethical discussions.

Chuck Colson and Nigel Cameron, eds. Human Dignity in the Biotech Century: A Christian Vision for Public Policy (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004). This collection gathers essays from top bioethics thinkers and activists. Pick among topics such as learning from our mistakes, new technology, genetics, and transhumanism. Get ready for the science fiction realities of the 21st century, and get involved!

John Kilner and C. Ben Mitchell. Does God Need our Help? Cloning, Assisted Suicide, and Other Challenges in Bioethics (Wheaton: Tyndale, 2003). Designed like a field guide, this handy book covers the bases in an easy-to- understand format. The authors present the major secular ethical frameworks, contrasting them with biblical perspectives. Finally, Kilner and Mitchell sort out the promising developments from the morally dubious.

Gilbert Meilaender. Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004). For the reader wanting to dig a bit deeper into the ethical questions, Meilaender—a former member of the President’s Council on Bioethics— lays out the theological framework. From prenatal screening and the distinction between procreation and reproduction on to organ donation and refusal of treatment, this volume elucidates and elaborates. A “must have” for pastors, teachers, lay leaders, and thoughtful Christians.

Robert George and Christopher Tollefsen. Embryo: A Defense of Human Life (Doubleday, 2008). If you have ever wanted to defend the value of a human embryo without using the Bible, this is the one for you. Making the complex simple, the authors offer a compelling case for the embryo from the perspective of systematic biology and ethical reasoning.

[1] Adapted from a piece entitled “My Top 5 Books on Life Ethics” that originally appeared in Christianity Today, November 2009, 68. Also available electronically at