Do our genetic makeup and hereditary background predetermine our longevity and health, regardless of how we live our lives? If so, isn’t this a contemporary version of John Calvin’s doctrine of predestination? Calvin said, among other things, that some individuals are set apart by God to be saved, while others are predestined to suffer. Although the concept is uncommon today, has it resurfaced in the name of genetics?
This is the intriguing idea put forth by my colleague, Leroy Gatlin of Oklahoma. You can read his insightful post here: “A secular doctrine of predestination?” Thanks Leroy!
A Secular Doctrine of Predestination?
While watching the evening news over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed several reports about a recent health study that makes a rather provocative claim: It’s not having a healthy lifestyle, but simply having “good genes” that’s the key to enjoying a longer life!
I was intrigued, so I checked it out.
The study is in this month’s Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It’s called “Lifestyle Factors of People with Exceptional Longevity.” And one of its findings is that those born with specific genetic traits (so-called “longevity genes”) tend to live longer than those born without them.
The more I considered this underlying claim — that some are born with good fortune, while others aren’t so lucky — the more I was reminded of another teaching that once held sway: John Calvin’s doctrine of predestination.
Calvin said, among other things, that some individuals are predestined by God to be saved, while others are predestined to suffer. Thankfully, this “horrible decree” (a label he rightly affixed to his own tenet) has yielded to more enlightened views about life, God’s grace, and salvation.
Still, over the years I’ve been getting the feeling that there’s somewhat of a resurgence going on with the concept of predestination. This time, though, it’s based on genetics, instead of theology. And it leads to some fundamental questions: Are life, health, and longevity to be defined by genetic makeup? Is there now a secular doctrine of predestination?
For me, Christian Science offers much more meaningful insight into life and its possibilities. It’s based on a spiritual view of existence, and on man’s unbreakable relationship to God. I’ve found these statements in the Bible, among others, to be compelling: “God created man in His own image” (Genesis 1:27) and “in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Despite all of the talk these days about DNA, heredity, and so forth, Christian Science has brought to my attention that there’s a lot more to life and longevity than simply genes. Personal responsibility, lifestyle choices, and having a spiritual outlook are the real substance of living. And in the bigger picture, no one has an inherent advantage over another, and no one is predestined to fail.
“In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” (Jeremiah 31:29)