Begotten or Made?

A New Edition for the 21st Century

By Oliver O’Donovan, Introduction by Matthew Lee Anderson

Regrettably, our arrangement with the original publisher does not allow us to offer this title outside of North America. If you are outside North America, you can still order the book using one of the two links above.

About this book

A new edition of a prescient volume for the 21st century

How is it that we have so lost sight of the meaning of the human person that our very biological sex is seen as just another medical problem to be solved by technique? In a society that has rejected all moral norms, that refuses to honor God as Creator, what hope do we have of stemming the tide of scientific intervention into even the most sacred dimensions of our humanity? In this prescient volume, originally published in 1984, the eminent theological ethicist Oliver O’Donovan offers a penetrating analysis of our confusion over human nature and the proper boundaries of medical science.

O’Donovan exposes the assumptions that underlie new technologies that presume to “make” human life, and offers Christians the philosophical clarity they need to navigate the torrent of increasingly baffling ethical questions they face.

Today we need this wisdom more than ever, which is why the Davenant Institute is proud to be publishing this affordable new edition for the 21st century, complete with a new introduction by Matthew Lee Anderson and a retrospective by the author.

Paperback | XviII + 110 PAGES | 5×8 | PubliSHed december 13, 2022 | ISBN: 978-1-949716-14-6

If you are interested in a bulk order, we offer a 50% discount and $10 shipping for orders of 10+ books OR orders containing 5+ copies of a single book. We also offer a 60% discount and free shipping for orders with a gross retail value over $500. To place a bulk order, please contact [email protected].


“Given the public attention bioethics was then receiving, it is not surprising that Oliver O’Donovan was asked to address the ethics of human fertilization for the 1983 London Lecture Series on Contemporary Christianity. … Though O’Donovan’s only mention of C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man in his lectures is mildly critical, Begotten stands in the same tradition: these technologies, O’Donovan suggests, threaten to impact our self-understanding to such an extent that they would change ‛not merely the conditions of our human existence, but its essential characteristics.’ The form of human ‛reproduction’ as a begetting from the union of male and female is so central to humanity that cloning would herald the ‛power to exchange the humanity which God has given [us] for something else.’

The result of those lectures is the volume now before you—a book that can be regarded without hyperbole as among the finest and most important theological contributions to ethics in the twentieth century.”

To read more, download a free sample!



Introduction to the 2nd Edition
Matthew Lee Anderson

Preface to the 1st Edition
Oliver O’Donovan


Medicine and the Liberal Revolution


Sex by Artifice


Procreation by Donor


And Who is a Person?


In a Glass Darkly

Afterword to the 2nd Edition
Oliver O’Donovan

About the Authors

Oliver O’Donovan, born in 1945 in London, held teaching posts at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford and Wycliffe College Toronto before becoming Regius Professor of Moral & Pastoral Theology and Canon of Christ Church at the University of Oxford in 1982. He was Professor of Christian Ethics & Practical Theology at Edinburgh from 2006 to 2012. Ordained as a priest of the Church of England, he was an active participant in ecumenical dialogue and a past President of the Society for the Study of Christian Ethics. He has been a Fellow of the British Academy since 2000.

He is the author of a number of well-received works on faith and ethics, including On the Thirty-Nine Articles (Paternoster, 1986), The Desire of the Nations (Cambridge University Press, 1996), The Ways of Judgment (2005) and Begotten or Made? (Oxford University Press, 1984)

He is married to Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, and have two sons and four grandchildren.

Jointly he and his wife are the authors of a well-received collection of readings in the history of Christian political thought, From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought 100 – 1625 (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1999) and of a volume of essays, Bonds of Imperfection. Christian politics past and present (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2004). 

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Assistant Research Professor of Ethics and Theology at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion and the Associate Director of Baylor in Washington. He is an Associate Fellow at the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics, and Public Life at Oxford University, where he completed a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics. Academically, Anderson writes on a wide range of subjects, including pro- and anti-natalism, political theology, and bioethics. Anderson has an M.Phil. from the same university, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute. In 2005 he founded Mere Orthodoxy, a web-based magazine that provides both long- and short-form commentary on matters of religion, politics, and culture from a broadly conservative, evangelical standpoint. He is the author of two books, Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to Our Faith and The End of our Exploring. Anderson writes occasionally for Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. He was listed among Christianity Today’s ‘33 under 33’ list of younger evangelical leaders, and co-hosts Mere Fidelity, a podcast on faith, theology, and ethics. He lives in Waco, Texas, and in his spare time enjoys beating fourth-graders at basketball.

Praise for this work

“Though written decades ago, this little book by O’Donovan is a masterpiece and still one of the best reflections on what it means to be human in our modern world. It transformed my own thinking on key issues and deserves to be widely read by a new generation of theologians, philosophers, and pastors.”

Carl R. Trueman

Grove City College

“Oliver O’Donovan is a giant of our time. This is among his most important books, and it becomes more relevant and necessary every day. A prophetic classic!”

Matthew Levering

James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

“Forty years after it first appeared, Begotten or Made? may be more relevant than ever. Oliver O’Donovan displays the best of theological method in engaging contemporary moral, cultural, and political questions in thinking holistically about how technology can support or undermine human dignity and human flourishing, and how it can transform our thinking and living. The chapter on sexual identity and transgender ‘medicine’ is worth the price of the book alone.”

Ryan T. Anderson

President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement

“I recall my initial reading of the original edition of Oliver O’Donovan’s work forty years ago. I was startled—pleasantly so—by his retrieval of the creedal affirmation that God the Son is begotten, not made, and his brilliant application of it to the proper mode of human reproduction. As reproductive practices have progressively devolved from the time of the first appearance of this book, its newest edition is both a happy development and a tragic necessity. Most highly recommended!”

GregG R. Allison

Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Secretary, Evangelical Theological Society

“A profoundly important and illuminating book which remains as relevant to the ethics of technological medicine as when it was first published. Oliver O’Donovan provides a masterclass of Christian engagement with contemporary healthcare dilemmas. He combines penetrating theological wisdom, astute analysis of the liberal technological underpinnings of modern medical practice and practical application. Forty years on, the technological direction of travel is unchanged and O’Donovan’s theologically saturated wisdom is ever more relevant. Essential reading for all those concerned about the ethics of reproductive technology.”

John Wyatt

Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Pediatrics, Ethics & Perinatology at University College London; Senior Researcher at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge; author of Matters of Life and Death: Human Dilemmas in Light of the Christian Faith

“In re-reading O’Donovan’s Begotten or Made?, now almost forty years old, one is impressed by how lively and timely its confrontation and interrogation of technological society remains. What are we to make of this? Not simply that its author was ahead of his time – that would be a comforting thought. Nor that the book was uniquely attuned to the suffocating strictures and counterfeit theologies operative in what O’Donovan’s mentor George Grant called the ‘tightening circle’ of our modern technological civilization. It was, but not uniquely so. Rather, its enduring relevance bears witness to a failure: Christians have (still) not faced the right questions about technology. More than that – and herein lies the value of the book – we have not properly grappled with the fullness of our Christian confession. For it is not reactionary nostalgia that will confront a technological age. It is joyful confession, one born of a humble confidence in God’s communicated goods and purposes. Maybe yet we might learn to re-receive these gifts; if so, I believe this book can still help point the way.”

Ian Clausen

The Augustinian Institute, Villanova University


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