Interview with Dr. E. David Cook, Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics

The post-modern society introduced subjectivity, individualism and independence for the contemporary individual. While some believe these characteristics benefit the greater community, evangelical scholars argue that this post-modern view is harmful to both the traditional value system of society and the belief system of the Christian faith.

Dr. E. David Cook, a distinguished scholar and expert in Christian Ethics, took some time to speak to the Christian Post about the trend of ethics in today's society as well as his current works in the field of ethics.

How would you describe the trend of ethics in the U.S.?

The trend is toward much greater individualism. They're more isolated and more self-centered, partly because of the break down of the community. I think Americans are failing to appreciate and uphold the traditional values, which have made America great.

Your latest published writing was on transplantation and resource allocation. Could you elaborate on this topic?

Transplantation is putting parts from animals into human beings. For example, they're taking islets of pigs and putting them into human beings suffering from diabetes so that instead of having to take insulin, they themselves can produce insulin.

The ultimate being of Xenotransplantation is to take things like kidneys and livers from pigs and put them in human beings. This raises major questions of allocation resources. Every health care system in the world is breaking down, so how can these limited health care resources be allocated?

Prescription drugs are a clear example of this break down in the United States. The increased demand for drugs and the costs of research and development are raising the costs of drugs. So the government and states are looking for different ways of supplying the drugs that are needed for more reasonable costs. That is the resource allocation question.

The book you are working on right now is on contraception. What is your viewpoint on contraception?

I am writing the book, first of all, because there are many evangelical Christians who don't even think that it's a moral topic that raises ethical issues. I want to make sure that it will have affect on those Christians.

Secondly, we have to recognize that modern scientific technology changes and moves forward some of the new kinds of contraceptives, such as the morning after pill. Some of these pills that are available cause the expelling of a fertilized egg.

If you believe that human life begins at the moment of fertilization, these pills would lead to an abortion.

So I'm concerned for Christians, and I want them to understand these techniques, understand how and why they operate, and understand what issues they have to reflect upon before using these new contraceptives.

In regards to the newly elected pope, what is likely to be his stance on ethics, including
contraceptives?

I think he's going to be traditionalist. He's going to be opposed to what are called the artificial contraceptives. He is going to be a part of what the previous pope called the culture of life. So he'll be opposed to contraception, abortion, euthanasia, and war.

What was your reaction to the election?

I was not surprised. It seems that previous pope had self selected the cardinals that would select someone who stood in his traditions. And the man who was most likely to stand in his traditions was the newly elected pope.

You give advice and guidance to British Government as well as archbishops. What kind of advice would you like to give to Prime Minister Tony Blair?

I think I would encourage him first of all to help the society, particularly the schools, to develop a stronger and more robust moral education. I think we are not doing a really good job preparing our young people to face the many moral challenges that there are in our society today.

Secondly, I want to encourage him to inform the public better about the different moral choices, and let the public know why the government makes the decisions they do.

Thirdly, I want to encourage him to be more explicit, whatever the moral basis for deciding on policy, one or another. Is it just pragmatism? Is just happiness? Or is it actually some moral view?

What we saw in the American presidential election is that there is a large number of voters who are concerned about moral issues. The Democratic party is just waking up to the importance of those people than in Britain. I think, likewise, many of the Republican party is concerned about moral issues. But the difficulty is us in the U.K., the politicians have little personal morality when deciding on policies.

You also lecture and preach internationally in a wide variety of denominations. Which issues were as equally important across the lines?

I think every nation is very concerned about health care and about the moral questions on the beginning of life. They are particularly sensitive about the genetic issues and the end of life issues.

They're also concerned greatly about the allocation of resources. How to be fair and just in distributing health care among those who are needy. So wherever you are in the world, you're concerned about those kinds of issues.

Also sexual expressions. What are appropriate and what are inappropriate ways of expressing our sexuality as human beings. They're concerned about sexual relations outside of marriage.

They're concerned about homosexual relationships and sexual behavior, not just of the young people, but also of the older people.

I wish I could say that believers are concerned about issues of peace and justice as they are about sexual morality and medical morality. I feel that if you look at the world as a whole, there are few Christians committed to justice and peace and that is sad. Because the Bible is deeply committed to God's rules revealed both in nature and in God's word to human kind.

You're currently serving at Wheaton College as Arthur F. Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning. What does this role entail?

I try to help the students and faculty integrate Christian faith with the academic discipline. We're producing a movement called "Not Just Science." It shows how Christian faith informs and is stressed in that practice of science. It's not just about doing science, but actually about about helping people integrate their faith and learning.

We're also concerned about the generation of young people who will be tomorrow's leaders and teachers. Every congregation is largely filled with people who want to hear God's word but they also want to hear how to live out God's word.

Have you always been a Christian? Could you tell us about your experience?

I became a Christian when I was a child of seven. I had a very genuine experience of being born again at one point. My parents were not Christians I was taken by my neighbors to Sunday school. Over the weeks I had the Gospel preached and I remember distinctly a preacher speaking at a Sunday School, saying you must be born again. I realized then that I had to surrender my life to Christ. As a child and child-likely, I did that.

As I physically, mentally, and intellectually matured, my faith has grown with that.

Dr. E. David Cook, originally from the U.K., is the Arthur F. Holmes Professor of Faith and Learning for the Philosophy Department at Wheaton College. He is also Visiting Professor of Christian Ethics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

While a student of Mental Philosophy at Edinburgh University, Cook was invited to Arizona State University where he received a B.A. in Philosophy. He received Masters degrees from Edinburgh and Oxford University and completed his PhD. At New College in Edinburgh.

His teaching career began in St. John's theological college, Nottingham with courses in philosophy, theology and Christian ethics. In 1979, he went on to Oxford University where he was named and remains a Fellow of Green College and serves as clinical ethicist at John Radcliffe Hospital. There he created a new theology degree and taught a wide variety of ethics courses in various faculties.

Cook is also a distinguished author who has written articles and books in the field of ethics, including The Moral Maze, Blind Alley Beliefs, Medical Ethics Today: Its Practice and Philosophy, and Christianity Confronts. He has appeared in numerous radio and television broadcasts produced by the BBC, Radio Oxford, and others during which he presented the Christian perspective on such issues as euthanasia, medical ethics, genetics, AIDS, homosexuality, and pornography.

In the coming year he will be teaching contemporary moral problems and more specialized, newly designed courses on "The Christian Mind" and "Current Moral Issues-Bioethics, Environment and Business."