PODCAST

Matters of Life and Death

Premier Unbelievable?

In each episode of Matters of Life and Death, brought to you by Premier Unbelievable?, John Wyatt and his son Tim discuss issues in healthcare, ethics, technology, science, faith and more. John is a doctor, professor of ethics, and writer and speaker, while Tim is a religion and social affairs journalist. We talk about how Christians can better engage with a particular question of life, death or something else in between. For more resources to help you explore faith and the big questions, visit: http://www.premierunbelievable.com If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John’s website: http://www.johnwyatt.com

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Prenatal screening 2: The prohibition on soothsaying, transcending genetic determinism, a client-technician relationship and Heidi Crowter’s joyful self-advocacy
3d ago
Prenatal screening 2: The prohibition on soothsaying, transcending genetic determinism, a client-technician relationship and Heidi Crowter’s joyful self-advocacy
Could it be that some knowledge – including whether your unborn child has a serious genetic condition – is actually not helpful, and even harmful to us? In this episode we dig further into the complex ethics of prenatal screening and explore what the Christian tradition makes of seeking to understand the future, and the different arguments for and against aborting children we know will be disabled. If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John’s website: more resources to help you explore faith and the big questions, visit:
Prenatal screening 2: The prohibition on soothsaying, transcending genetic determinism, a client-technician relationship and Heidi Crowter’s joyful self-advocacy
3d ago
Prenatal screening 2: The prohibition on soothsaying, transcending genetic determinism, a client-technician relationship and Heidi Crowter’s joyful self-advocacy
Could it be that some knowledge – including whether your unborn child has a serious genetic condition – is actually not helpful, and even harmful to us? In this episode we dig further into the complex ethics of prenatal screening and explore what the Christian tradition makes of seeking to understand the future, and the different arguments for and against aborting children we know will be disabled. If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John’s website: more resources to help you explore faith and the big questions, visit:
Prenatal screening 1: Peering into the unknown, less than 1/150, blood tests over the internet, and disability doublethink
Jun 15 2022
Prenatal screening 1: Peering into the unknown, less than 1/150, blood tests over the internet, and disability doublethink
Pregnant women today are offered a battery of tests and screening for their unborn child, looking for an ever-increasing range of conditions and risks. But is the onward march of technology in this sphere always an unmitigated good thing? With abortion for a disability legal in the UK up to term, women are being given terrible choices previous generations never faced: give birth to a child who probably has a life-limiting or even fatal condition, or end the pregnancy early. What ethical challenges does this knowledge, whether gained via the official NHS programmes or a growing number of DIY tests available online, pose? If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John’s website: more resources to help you explore faith and the big questions, visit:
Old people 2: Aging congregations, transcendence at the Arsenal, understanding life backwards, and honouring prayer warriors
Jun 8 2022
Old people 2: Aging congregations, transcendence at the Arsenal, understanding life backwards, and honouring prayer warriors
Demographic trends reveal clearly the next century will be one increasingly dominated by older people. If God is giving us a lot more folk in their later years, what are they for in church life? Has the modern church, terrified of decline, alienated its faithful, older congregants in a desperate attempt to lure back the young? And what wisdom and service do older Christians have to offer their churches? If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website:  of Life and Death is part of Premier Unbelievable. Find out more at www.premierunbelievable.com
Old people 1: The demographic transition, Reverend Thomas Malthus, Hasidic Jewish outliers, and the grey vote
Jun 1 2022
Old people 1: The demographic transition, Reverend Thomas Malthus, Hasidic Jewish outliers, and the grey vote
The world’s population is rapidly becoming older and older, with many developed nations seeing unprecedented proportions of their citizens in retirement age. Why is this taking place, and does this presage an era of economic stagnation or a utopia of stability? How have fears over demography shifted as fertility rates plummet across the world, and how can we avoid pitting the young against the ever more powerful old in bitter intergenerational conflict? If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website:  of Life and Death is part of Premier Unbelievable. Find out more at www.premierunbelievable.com
Robot rights 2: Rejecting self-definition, the citadel of human uniqueness, rehashing ‘God of the gaps’, and evangelising at androids
May 25 2022
Robot rights 2: Rejecting self-definition, the citadel of human uniqueness, rehashing ‘God of the gaps’, and evangelising at androids
In the second part of our conversation on robot rights, we explore three Christian responses to calls for robot personhood, spanning the spectrum of hostility to optimism about the development. What Biblical truths and doctrines can we turn to as we wrestle with what is a fundamentally brand new dilemma? And how would our theology and practice as believers change should conscious, intelligent, autonomous robots come to live among us? You can find plenty of resources on the question of personhood and robotics on John’s website: www.johnwyatt.com John co-edited a multi-author book last year called The Robot Will See You Now which brought together Christian thinkers and writers to consider how the rise of robotics and AI might affect everything from the arts to healthcare. You can find out more and order a copy here:
Robot rights 1: Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws, fauxbots, whimpering miniature dinosaurs, and inherent or conferred personhood
May 18 2022
Robot rights 1: Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws, fauxbots, whimpering miniature dinosaurs, and inherent or conferred personhood
If and when autonomous and intelligent robots come into existence, should they be granted rights, or even personhood? A growing number of technologists argue governments must lay out what status conscious and rational machines would have before they actually have been invented. But how can we decide what is and isn’t a person, and what rights and responsibilities such a thing should have? And how could this philosophical and technical debate affect our Christian beliefs on human uniqueness? You can find plenty of resources on the question of personhood and robotics on John’s website: www.johnwyatt.com John co-edited a multi-author book last year called The Robot Will See You Now which brought together Christian thinkers and writers to consider how the rise of robotics and AI might affect everything from the arts to healthcare. You can find out more and order a copy here:
Pregnancy crisis 2: Paternalistic gynaecologists, holding truth with grace, ambiguity in the ultrasound clinic, and refusing the culture war
May 11 2022
Pregnancy crisis 2: Paternalistic gynaecologists, holding truth with grace, ambiguity in the ultrasound clinic, and refusing the culture war
Abortion is a flashpoint issue in both the church and wider culture, with the very language you choose used as a cudgel for either side. So how can Christians talk about it and respond to it in a way which cools tensions rather than inflames them? How has the church’s thinking on abortion and pregnancy changed over the many decades John has been involved in healthcare? And can a pro-life believer offer truly non-directive counselling to a pregnant woman considering termination, or work with integrity in a hospital which carries out abortions? (This episode was recorded before the news broke about the draft Supreme Court ruling in the United States which would revoke Roe v Wade and the constitutional right to an abortion.) A good place to get help if you or someone you know is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy (or if you'd like to find your local pregnancy crisis centre in the UK) is can find more information and resources on abortion and the beginning of life on John's website: www.johnwyatt.com
Pregnancy crisis 1: A constructive Christian response, heads versus hearts, feeling like a ‘bad feminist’, and the three options
May 4 2022
Pregnancy crisis 1: A constructive Christian response, heads versus hearts, feeling like a ‘bad feminist’, and the three options
Rates of unplanned pregnancies rose significantly during the coronavirus lockdowns. What kind of support is out there for women (and men) facing this situation, and how can the church try and plug the gaps? In this episode we speak with Sophie Guthrie-Kummer, who runs a charity in London which has offered pregnancy crisis counselling (among other services) for two decades, to hear what this work looks like and how Choices juggles the theological and social hot potatoes of pregnancy and abortion.  You can find more information and resources on abortion and the beginning of life on John's website: www.johnwyatt.com  A good place to get help if you or someone you know is experiencing an unplanned pregnancy (or if you'd like to find your local pregnancy crisis centre in the UK) is   You can find out more about Choices here:
John Stott 2: Christians in the public square, an untried ideal, talking and living like Jesus, and the challenge of evangelical hagiography
Apr 27 2022
John Stott 2: Christians in the public square, an untried ideal, talking and living like Jesus, and the challenge of evangelical hagiography
This is part two of our re-broadcast of last year’s John Stott episode, to mark what would have been his centenary. Is Stott’s vision of lay Christians persuading for Christ in the public square a naïve fantasy in the 21st century? And should we be more cautious before lionising evangelical titans like Stott in this age of scandal and disappointment? (Originally broadcast in April 2021). Resources from John's website from the Stott centenary: Talk and discussion: Quick to listen – lessons from John Stott on grace under fire Interview and talk: The John Stott Centenary – Equipping the people of God for ministry Interview: The life and legacy of John Stott
John Stott 1: Double listening, a conservative radical, redefining ‘the ministry’ and salt as preservative
Apr 20 2022
John Stott 1: Double listening, a conservative radical, redefining ‘the ministry’ and salt as preservative
This month marks 101 years since the late John Stott was born, and his centenary last year prompted a flurry of events to mark the centenary of this highly influential vicar, Bible teacher and evangelical leader. ‘Uncle John’, as he was affectionately known, also had a huge impact on John's life and career and so we dialled in back then to reflect on not just the legacy of Stott’s many decades of ministry, but also to consider whether his vision for how Christians can engage well in the public square was still relevant and meaningful now, more than 60 years after he began making the case. Has society long since moved on, or are there still things to learn and challenges to heed from Stott? (This episode was first broadcast in April 2021) Other resources on John's website from the John Stott centenary: Talk and discussion: Quick to listen – lessons from John Stott on grace under fire Interview and talk: The John Stott Centenary – Equipping the people of God for ministry Interview: The life and legacy of John Stott
Palliative care 2: Resisting assisted dying, the ‘superskill’ of listening, DNAR discussions, and euthanasia-free-zones
Apr 13 2022
Palliative care 2: Resisting assisted dying, the ‘superskill’ of listening, DNAR discussions, and euthanasia-free-zones
In Britain as in many countries there is a growing campaign to legalise assisted suicide and to make doctors prescribe on request lethal drugs to terminally ill patients. In the second part of our interview with Sarah Foot, a Christian palliative care doctor, Sarah explains why her colleagues are overwhelmingly opposed to this, the ignorance which lies behind many of the arguments for changing the law, and the implications for palliative care should assisted dying be imposed upon it. John's resources page for material on euthanasia and the end of life:   An article he wrote about the Assisted Dying Bill introduced to the UK parliament last year:   Our episode about assisted dying from 2021:
Palliative care 1: Dogs and Guinness on the wards, ‘living until you die’, deathbed prayers, and complicated grief
Apr 6 2022
Palliative care 1: Dogs and Guinness on the wards, ‘living until you die’, deathbed prayers, and complicated grief
Over the past 60 years a new field of medicine has emerged – palliative care. In this episode we interview Sarah Foot, a Christian palliative care doctor, who explains how she treats the physical, mental, social and even spiritual needs of those who are dying, the Christian foundations of the discipline, and what impact her profession has on her.   If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website:
Climate anxiety 2: Listening to the Global South, alienation from creation, throwing pebbles into God’s river, and rediscovering lament
Mar 28 2022
Climate anxiety 2: Listening to the Global South, alienation from creation, throwing pebbles into God’s river, and rediscovering lament
Following on from our discussion last week on the rise of climate fatalism, we discuss what an authentically Christian response to our environmental crisis would look like. How can we steer a middle path between complacency and despair? Does our different theology of the future change how we act on climate change? And, what can we learn from our evangelical forbears about how to live well in the face of potential climate catastrophe?   Excerpts from CS Lewis's essay Living in an Atomic Age Christian Aid's climate change projects A Rocha's Eco Church scheme The Christian Climate Alliance's principles and values for Christian climate activism 'The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis' - 1967 essay by Lynn White If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website:
Climate anxiety 1: ’Delay means death’, media apathy, Extinction Rebellion, and fatalism among the young
Mar 22 2022
Climate anxiety 1: ’Delay means death’, media apathy, Extinction Rebellion, and fatalism among the young
The latest report from the UN's climate scientists was both incredibly downbeat about climate change and almost entirely ignored by a media fixated on Ukraine. In this episode we consider the communication and changing narratives around climate change, why an unscientific hyper-fatalism has set in with many activists, and what impact this might be having on younger generations terrified humanity itself is going extinct.    'We're heading Straight for a Demi-Apocalypse' - Emma Marris in The Atlantic  Climate anxiety in children - study in The Lancet Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability - IPCC report If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website:
Human enhancement 2: Techno-optimism returns, the yuck factor, cultivating our bodies, and the divinisation of humanity
Mar 15 2022
Human enhancement 2: Techno-optimism returns, the yuck factor, cultivating our bodies, and the divinisation of humanity
In this episode we pick up our conversation from last week about transhumanism and how technology might redefine what it means to be human. We consider what place technology has in today's social narrative and whether it makes sense as Christians to automatically resist efforts to use cutting-edge science to reshape ourselves. Is the human body to be regarded as a Lego kit or a flawed masterpiece of art? How do we discern the Creator's original intention for our bodies in a world where they, like everything else, have been broken by the Fall? And how might it change our ethics in this area if we focused our attention on the resurrected Jesus as the firstfruits of a new kind of humanity? If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website:
Human enhancement 1: Calico, the dragon tyrant, transhumanism, and monkeys playing Pong
Mar 9 2022
Human enhancement 1: Calico, the dragon tyrant, transhumanism, and monkeys playing Pong
Billions of dollars are currently being spent by a suite of private firms, mostly in Silicon Valley, pursuing radical research to enhance human capacities. These companies want to put off, or even defeat, aging, upload our minds to computers and give humans new abilities. Is this simply the next frontier for science and something to be welcomed, or should Christians hesitate to endorse research which appears to target our very created selves? What is the difference between using technology to tackle cancer versus tackling the aging process itself? And what is driving tech billionaires to spend their fortunes in this way? If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website:
Relaunch: How we started, baby boomers and millennials, the pandemic as catalyst, and the signal to noise ratio
Mar 2 2022
Relaunch: How we started, baby boomers and millennials, the pandemic as catalyst, and the signal to noise ratio
To mark our arrival on the Premier network, we recap how Matters of Life and Death began and what we hope our intergenerational conversations might achieve. We then reflect on how the pandemic and its acceleration of digital technology has shaped so many of the issues we discuss, before briefly exploring three stories we will cover in future episodes (human enhancement, climate change nihilism, and end of life care). If you're new to the show, please do also scroll down the podcast feed to find the last two years of episodes we've already produced to have a listen. If you want to go deeper into some of the topics we discuss, find more resources to read, listen to and watch at John's website: based listeners can support this podcast financially. Head to based listeners can support this podcast financially. Head to
Coronavirus: The Omicron variant, mandatory vaccination, pandemic solidarity, and memories of authoritarianism
Dec 17 2021
Coronavirus: The Omicron variant, mandatory vaccination, pandemic solidarity, and memories of authoritarianism
The Omicron variant has in a few short weeks almost taken over the pandemic. This highly transmissible version of covid is raising afresh complicated ethical questions about vaccine distribution and international solidarity between nations. How can we ascertain what is the common good during global crises affecting different countries in different ways? Does Christianity lend any intellectual backing to those who demand the state refrain from telling them how to live during a pandemic? And how might the differing legacies of authoritarian regimes in Europe and the dissenting pilgrims who founded America be playing a part in contemporary vaccine politics?   Note: This episode was recorded earlier in December so sadly the wildly explosive growth of Omicron since has meant some of the data and news we mention in passing is now quite out of date!   Also, at the end we have a special announcement about the future of Matters of Life and Death. Thanks for listening, and see you all in 2022.   See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Reproductive technologies: the ’Google baby’, Oliver O’Donovan, 14-day-old embryos, and techno-optimism
Dec 9 2021
Reproductive technologies: the ’Google baby’, Oliver O’Donovan, 14-day-old embryos, and techno-optimism
This week we are resuming our conversation about infertility which begun in our previous episode. If you haven’t yet listened to that discussion, which focused on IVF, we’d recommend pausing this and going back to it as we will build on some of the ideas we explored last time. Today, we moved on to consider new ethical issues among other reproductive technologies. This is an area of medicine and science which is developing fast, sometimes faster than ethicists and regulators can keep up. What would it mean if we were able to genetically screen embryos to choose the most desirable traits before pregnancy? Is surrogacy, a growing alternative to IVF, a good option for couples or could it unintentionally become exploitative? And more broadly, should we as Christians be concerned by this rush to find technological solutions to our human frailties? See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.
Infertility and IVF: Hidden wounds, premature quintuplets, embryo donation and the procreative-unitive bond
Nov 10 2021
Infertility and IVF: Hidden wounds, premature quintuplets, embryo donation and the procreative-unitive bond
Today we are delving into a complex and sensitive topic – infertility and IVF. The statistics suggest about one in seven couples will be unable to conceive without some kind of medical intervention, and the most popular form of reproductive treatment is in vitro fertilisation – IVF. Partly because infertility is such a painful time for many of those experiencing it, we don’t talk about it much. The same is also true of IVF, even though today in some places the procedure now accounts for as many as five per cent of all births. In this episode we wanted to consider how infertility interacts with both church culture and broader society, for good or ill, and then examine the complicated ethical questions raised by IVF treatment. Some links which may be helpful for Christians who are experiencing infertility: Saltwater and Honey - a collection of voices sharing their stories about infertility, miscarriage, childlessness and faith, plus lots of resources The Rhythm of Hope - an annual retreat and community for Christian couples Waiting for Children - a course which many churches around the UK run, including HTB who are running it online John's book Matters of Life and Death also has several chapters exploring infertility and reproductive technology. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.