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Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Sanctity of Life: It's Value & God's Perspective

The words abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research don't appear in the Bible. But just like we can the rights to 'life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness' from the Bible, we see that God values all human life. From this, Christians see principles that direct their views on the sanctity of human life.

Men and women were created in the image of God (Gen 1:27); we are distinct from animals who cannot reason (Jude 1:10). His imbued image in men and women acts as is a metaphoric "crown of glory and honor", second only to God himself (Psalm 8:5-8).

Before our conception, our lives have a purpose; it is not our birth that gives us value it is God's pre-planned purpose for our lives (Jude 1:10; Ps 139:16, Gal 1:15).

God values pre-born babies and watches them develop (Ps 139:16), has created the development process (Ps 139:13), and is intimately involved during the pre-birthed stages (Psalm 119:73). The Bible uses very special words to describe God's active role in this process like "knit me together" (Ps 139:13), "your hands...formed me" (Ps 119:73), "clothed me with skin and flesh, and wove me together with bones and tendons" (Job 10:11). It is because of his value of human life at this stage that he is intimately involved in directing it.

When a pregnant woman is hit causing pre-mature labor, God considers it a crime punishable by a fine. If that baby dies, that person punished as though it were murder (Exodus 21:22-25). In fact, the Bible calls unborn babies "children" (Luke 1:41 & 44, 2:12 & 16, Exodus 21:22)

God values men and women, not because of their age or ability, but because it is his image that he imbues into them and because of his purposes for their lives.

God purposes for Caleb, Simeon, and Anna were not diminished by their old age but He fulfilled His purpose in them while they were elderly (Joshua 14:10-12; Luke 2:26; Luke 2:36-37). In no way does God diminish the value of people because of their age or capacity, instead it exalts age and all the physical changes that come with it(Prov. 20:29). Because age is not considered, the value of life does not diminish with age (Job 1:21).

In fact, the elderly are given the task of being an example of, and teaching, faithfulness to God (Job 12:12). Younger people are instructed to respect the elderly and honor the old (Lev 19:32).

The Bible says that we are not to direct our death (Deut 32:39) it is God who appoints for us a time to die (Heb 9:27). The Lord alone is responsible for taking and giving life (Job 1:21); all other actions are consider murder and thus forbidden (Exodus 20:12).

Murder is forbidden because the image of God is imbued into every person regardless of physical characteristics; therefore, the taking of life is met with the most serious consequences (Exodus 21:12; Gen 6:11). [While taking of life is always serious, Randy and Chet had an exchange about the Biblical justification for killing in self-defense; it is here Exodus 22:2] In fact, it is wrong to even curse at another person because they are made in God's image (James 3:9).

There are 2 examples of suicide or assisted suicides in the Bible both by men whose wickedness had overtaken them. Saul fell on his own sword; when that didn't kill him he asked another to finish him off, but the individual refused preferring his own death rather than killing another (1 Samuel 31). Abimelech is another example. After being hit in the head with a stone, he asked another person to kill him. While it doesn't make a judgment on the morality of his assisted suicide, it makes it clear that it was his wickedness that drove his actions (Judges 9).

The single most convincing argument for euthanasia is that suffering is alleviated. But, the Bible says that our conscious existence does not end at death instead it continues seamlessly into the next stage (2 Cor. 5:8). Therefore, up to moment of death we have not completed the work to be done in the body. Part of this work is to glorify God (1 Cor 6:-19:20). Another part of this work is found only in suffering. While many look at the suffering involved with a nearing death, God looks sufferring as the last, but valuable, lessons. Christians are told to value suffering and various trials because it refines our character. Because God is interested in the quality of our character, we should consider suffering in all its forms with joy and rejoicing. It is only through suffering that we attain the fullness of our humanity (Romans 5:3-4; James 1:2-4; Heb. 12:11). Suffering also builds a purifying, hopeful expectation for heaven.

Humans are unique because God created us and imbued his image into us. Because of this, only God has the just claim upon when life can be taken. The unexpected loss of life is tragic always; this is a topic for another day. The taking of life is forbidden on all terms, abortion and euthanasia, except God's.

Now we move into the realm of my perspective based upon these principles....

There are times when the life of a mother is at risk, few but real. At these times, I believe I am not qualified to make the decision about right and wrong because I don't see a clear picture in the Bible. However, it could be justified as a form of self-defense, but again those tough decisions are for others to judge. In the case of rape or incest, I do not see any justification for the termination of life; just because a pregnancy was not wished does not diminish the value of the new created life.

Based on what I see in the Bible, I don't believe that mental or physical handicaps, or long-term or short term disabilities diminish the value of life or the image of God within the person. In 2 Samuel 21, Mephibosheth had a permanent physical disability that rendered him useless to that society; but, instead of David taking his life it was exalted. In fact, though not to be thought of in utilitarian terms, handicap people contribute greatly to those who work with them.

I also make a distinction between active euthanasia (AE), and passive/reversible (PR) euthanasia, passive/irreversible (PI) euthanasia. AE, (the most commonly thought of form of euthanasia) is the putting the death through unnatural means and I consider murder. PR euthanasia would be withholding common medical assistance, such as intravenous food, oxygen, or antibiotic, for someone still living who would otherwise be healed or maintain life on his or her own. Withholding this food, water, or antibiotic is a form of murder. Lastly, PI might be sustaining a comatose person through a ventilator who would otherwise naturally die. While I don't suggest the Bible makes these distinctions, I view them as real and to be considered distinct.

Now your thoughts....

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RIGHTFAITH: Where everything favors the stewardship of patrimony. All content is believed to be correct but may be amended based upon new information. The content of this page may be republished with proper citation without the expressed consent of the author. This site is not, in any manner whatsoever, associated with the religious philosophism from the Indian penninsula. All comments or emails to the author become the property of the author and may be published or deleted without notice or reason provided. Copyrighted 2005.

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