H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr.: The Orthodox Christian Bioethics Solution

St. Basil the Great

or Moral Pluralism and the Crisis of Secular Bioethics: Why Orthodox Christian Bioethics has the Solution, 24 pp.

by H. Tristam Engelhardt Jr.

Dr. Engelhardt addresses the challenge of moral pluralism to an Orthodox Christian consensus on bioethical dilemnas, which are briefly described in contrast to even western Christian approaches which import a legal framework from philosophical sources.

Knowledge of God and knowledge of how to proceed in the face of bioethical dilemnas is set in the framework of personal knowledge of God (in contrast to mere knowledge about Him) which proceeds from right worship, toward the goal of union with God- Theosis. The bioethical dilemna, for an Orthodox Christian, must be addressed from within the community of right worship and a life directed toward this ultimate goal, according to pastoral guidance rather than natural-law  legalism

He quotes St. Basil the Great, one of the three Holy Hierarchs, whose scriptural interpretations and teachings are foundational for Orthodox Christianity, on the proper use of medicine:

Whatever requires an undue amount of thought or trouble or involves a large expenditure of effort and causes our whole life to revolve, as it were, around solicitude for the flesh must be avoided by Christians. Consequently, we must take great care to employ this medical art, if it should be necessary, not as making it wholly accountable for our state of health or illness, but as redounding to the glory of God and as a parallel to the care given the soul.


Therefore, whether we follow the precepts of the medical art or decline to have recourse to them for any of the reasons mentioned above, we should hold to our objective of pleasing God and see to it that the soul‟s benefit is assured, fulfilling thus the Apostle‟s precept: Whether you eat or drink or whatsoever else you do, do all to the glory of God (I Cor 10:31)

Basil, St. (1962). Ascetical Works, trans. Sister Monica Wagner. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. Pp. 334, 336-37.

Be sure to read the essay for Dr. Enghardt’s use of these valuable patristic quotes for our modern context.


Image from http://solzemli.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/saint-basil-the-great-on-self-discipline/ 


1 Response to “H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr.: The Orthodox Christian Bioethics Solution”

  1. 1 John October 23, 2013 at 1:53 PM

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