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DNA: Who Owns the Book of Life?

by Tom Stewart
September 5, 2002

"Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect;
and in Thy Book all my members were written,
which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them"

(Psalm 139:16).

Have you ever heard someone complain that life or kids do not come with an instruction manual? Christians will often rightly object and retort that the Bible or Word of God provides individuals and parents, in particular, with all kinds of instructions, commands, warnings, and promises from the mouth of God Himself. "16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2Timothy 3:16-17). In fact, the Promises of God alone are Divinely Guaranteed to be sufficient to give merely mortal man a present taste of the Eternal Life that the Almighty is. "3 According as His Divine Power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 whereby are given unto us Exceeding Great and Precious Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2Peter 1:3-4). But, the humanists may respond that they were thinking of and referring to more of an Owner's Manual complete with specifications that detail the physical parameters, the consequent physical operating scope, and even the expected physical limitations of what they might call the human animal. "Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise?" (Psalm 94:8).

Human Genome Project

Interestingly, geneticists working with the U.S. Department of Energy Human Genome Project (HGP) in coordination with scientists in the United Kingdom, and worldwide, have already completed a rough draft of the human genome, which is the
"genetic blueprint for human beings," as announced by President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair from the White House on June 25th 2000. Celebrated as the new beginning to prevent, diagnose, treat, and cure disease through genetic medicine, the implications of the Human Genome Project will greatly affect issues concerning the biological cloning of humans, plants, and animals (e.g., the ethics of human research, the catastrophic effect of genetically altered animals escaping back into their natural habitats, etc.), gene patenting in the production of pharmaceuticals (exclusive ownership of genetic information), nuclear-biological-chemical (NBC) warfare, governmental decision-making about demographic populations (e.g., the abnormally high concentration of AIDS in Africa), and other risk factors in the public and private sectors (employability and insurability of identifiable risk groups). President Clinton assured that genetic discrimination would not be tolerated, e.g., his support for the bill, the Genetic Nondiscrimination in Health Insurance and Employment Act of 1999, and that the Human Genome Project "will continue its longstanding practice of making all of its sequencing data available to public and privately funded researchers worldwide at no cost," while reaffirming "his support for patenting genetic discoveries." Though man may discover and control the dissemination and use of the "genetic blueprint for human beings" or the Book of Life (as some enthusiastic scientists have christened it), the genetic code must belong to its Creator. "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy Book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:16).


There are 100 trillion cells in the human body. Inside the nucleus of a normal human cell, there are 46 chromosomes. Human chromosomes carry about 30,000 genes, which in turn, are composed of strands of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). There are six feet of DNA in each of our cells packed into a structure only 0.0004 inches across. All living things, single-celled bacteria, e.g., E. coli and anthrax, and submicroscopic viruses, e.g., the AIDS causing HIV retrovirus and the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, contain DNA. A DNA molecule is a double helix, which looks like a twisted ladder. Four chemical bases-- A (adenine), which is always paired with T (thymine), and C (cytosine), which is always paired with G (guanine)-- are found in the DNA. It is the sequencing of about three billion pairs of bases in the human genome-- a genome being an entire set of genes-- that contains all of the genetic information that determine such traits as sex, other heritable physical characteristics, and the disposition for particular diseases. 99.9% of that sequence is the same for every human being on Earth, but the small amount of difference is the difference to the more than six billion inhabitants of this planet for such things as their probability of dying of cancer, contracting diabetes, or facing the long goodbye of Alzheimer's disease, if the selfishness of crime, war, famine, the planet's overcrowding, and misuse of its natural resources have not already taken their toll upon them.
"3 When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; 4 what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?... 9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is Thy Name in all the Earth!" (Psalm 8:3-4, 9).

The Book of Life

The phrase
"Book of Life" (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19) occurs eight times in the New Testament; but there, it refers to Spiritual Life and not simply Physical Life. For a name to appear in the Book of Life means that the possessor has "Eternal Life, and this Life is in His Son" (1John 5:11). "And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the Book of Life" (Philippians 4:3). That same Book belongs to Jesus Christ, of whom John the Baptist called the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). "And all that dwell upon the Earth shall worship him [the Antichrist], whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). The obvious implication of the Book of Life to the Saints is to live forever in the presence of God in the "fulness of joy" (Psalm 16:11) as the fulfillment of everlasting existence, while humanists hope simply to find prolonged yet temporary solutions to their present existence. "A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself" (Proverbs 18:2). The deliverance of the humanist is limited to such things as to further read the as yet unsequenced regions of the human genome and to further refine the rough draft of the genetic database that all the code may be "proofed" to a higher degree of accuracy. "So shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been. But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions" (Obadiah 1:16, 17). The addition of "annotations" to the database of genetic information will unimaginably increase the already huge storehouse of knowledge decoded by geneticists. The database on the DNA is immense, but consider that it is documenting all of the DNA in the human body, which if it (the DNA) were placed end to end, it would reach to the Sun and back more than 600 times. Additionally, it would fill a stack of paperback books 200 feet high, or 200 500-page telephone directories. "Great is our LORD, and of great Power: His Understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5).

Psalm 139: An Abbreviated Commentary Considered in Light of the Human Genome Project

1 "O LORD, Thou hast searched me, and known me."
2 "Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off."
3 "Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways."
4 "For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, Thou knowest it altogether."

The Psalmist David speaks of the excellencies of God in light of His providential relations with those who trust Him. These verses point out that God is Omniscient. He knows all things. Unlike the best efforts of the geneticists, the Almighty has absolutely searched and known me. "I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 17:10). He knows my movements, my thoughts, my ways, and my words. "For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He pondereth all his goings" (Proverbs 5:21).

5 "Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me."
6 "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it."
7 "Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?"
8 "If I ascend up into Heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there."
9 "If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;"
10 "Even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me."
11 "If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me."
12 "Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee."

God is Omnipresent. He personally surrounds and encloses the Saints. I cannot go where He is not. Though God has authorized us to have dominion over the planet through science and research, that dominion must be governed and limited by our appreciation that understanding God is our highest privilege and pursuit. "23 Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise Lovingkindness, Judgment, and Righteousness, in the Earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD" (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Unlike the jailer, who incarcerates the condemned, God's omnipresence allies with the Faithful to guide and preserve, because we have chosen to trust Him. "5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

13 "For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb."
14 "I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well."
15 "My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the Earth."
16 "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy Book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them."

The Creator is the possessor and trier of our "hearts and reins [inner man]" (Psalm 7:9). He covers the fetus in the womb with the protective amniotic membranes and fluid. We are astonishingly and wonderfully made by our Loving Creator, and those who love and trust Him know it very well. "The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein" (Psalm 111:2). As if to emphasize man's earthiness or finiteness, we are told that the Creator formed us from the "lowest parts of the Earth" (139:15), e.g., we were formed from the "dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word golem is here translated as "my substance, yet being unperfect" (139:15), and means fetus or embryo. The inspired Psalmist proclaims God to be the owner of the Book of Life, containing all the components or "members" (139:15) of the human embryo or fetus, before "there was none of them" (139:15). In creation, ex nihilo (Latin, out of nothing) God spoke "and it was so" (Genesis 1:9, 11, 24), creating everything that scientists have only recently begun to discover.

17 "How precious also are Thy Thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!"
18 "If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with Thee."

Googolplex-- mathematically, 10 to the power of googol, or a 1 followed by 10 to the power of 100 zeros-- symbolizes a finite but difficult to imagine number or quantity. Just so, the Psalmist compares the numbering of the sand as less than the thoughts of the Almighty. "Great is our LORD, and of great Power: His Understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5). Though scientists have impressively discovered, sequenced, and annotated a great body of knowledge of the human genome, they have but scarcely begun to touch the threshold of God's understanding. "How much less man, that is a worm? and the son of man, which is a worm?" (Job 25:6).

19 "Surely Thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men."
20 "For they speak against Thee wickedly, and Thine enemies take Thy Name in vain."
21 "Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee?"
22 "I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies."

Unfortunately, much of what is done in the name of science, wickedly attempts to prove that a so-called process of natural selection (evolution), as "proved" by genetics, has been responsible for the human genome. "For the invisible things of Him from The Creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His Eternal Power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). The emptiness and vanity of such men amounts to hatred of the Almighty. The Second Commandment warns the humanistic scientist, who would elevate his compilation of the human genome database as more worthy of admiration than the Creator, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, or that is in the Earth beneath, or that is in the water under the Earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me" (Exodus 20:4-5). Rightly, those that love God would hate the character and works of such evil men with Perfect Hatred. "Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of Hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph" (Amos 5:15).

23 "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:"
24 "and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the Way Everlasting"

The only right response to the compilation and understanding of the human genome database is to humble ourselves in the presence of the Owner and Creator of both ourselves and the Book of Life that enumerates our "members" (139:16). When the Omniscient God-- which is Jesus Christ, Whose "Name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13)-- searches and tries us, He knows intimately and absolutely our hearts and thoughts. "12 For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a Discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:12-13). Those who have consciously confessed their treachery of not having trusted Jesus Christ as the solution for Life and Eternity, will receive the blessedness of being led "in the Way Everlasting" (139:24). "6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the LORD, so walk ye in Him: 7 rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. 8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9 For in Him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in Him, which is the Head of all principality and power" (Colossians 2:6-10).

It comes as no surprise that True Christians would acknowledge the LORD Jesus Christ to be the Rightful Owner of the Book of Life and its database of the DNA of the human genome.
"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable" (Psalm 145:3). Though there is a Spiritual Book of Life enumerating all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ to deliver them from their sins, there is also a Physical Book of Life detailing all of our physical substance. "Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy Book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:16). This is further testimony to the Saints to trust the Omniscient and Omnipresent God for all things pertaining "unto life and godliness" (2Peter 1:3), while it is a warning to the skeptical humanists that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God" (Hebrews 10:31), Who will judge them for their willing disbelief, i.e., "And whosoever was not found written in the [Spiritual] Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire" (Revelation 20:15). Deliverance from judgment only comes from a penitent change of heart. "22 Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver. 23 Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the Salvation of God" (Psalm 50:22-23).

We are witnessing the beginning of a new era of change in our perception of what is scientifically possible in managing the affairs of man through the continuing research on the human genome.
"22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken" (Genesis 3:22-23). But, if this newfound genetic knowledge is not God rewarding us for our righteousness, then He is giving mankind the rope to judge itself in a way hitherto unimagined. "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). May the Righteous approach this genetic research, praying for wisdom that the resulting knowledge will only be used in ways that would benefit man and honor God, i.e., possibly for forensics, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, industrial resources, etc. "17 But the Wisdom that is from Above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:17-18). But, if the research is used for selfish, devious, evil, or sinister purposes, may God use that also to accomplish His purposes in the judgment of the world and the Return of the LORD Jesus Christ to set up His Millennial Kingdom. "Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain" (Psalm 76:10).

Amen, and Amen.

Tom Stewart

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