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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Theology of Anthropology: The Bible on Life, Abortion, and Euthanasia

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....
The Independent Conservative takes a look at the "health to the mother" arguement here.
Higgaion asks, "Is the Bible anti-abortion?" He looks at a NYTimes article on the subject.

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Thoughtful Readers Speak:
Are you reading a different Exodus than I am? My Bible says that if a man hits a woman and causes an abortion, so long as the woman is not harmed, he only pays a fine. His death is only called for if the mother suffers harm as a result of her injury.

Your understanding of Exodus 21 seems deeply flawed and not at all according to what the Bible actually says.
 
Yeah. You're definately reading a different Bible than I am. My Bible proves that abortion is not a sin:

Formation of the body precedes ensoulment: Genesis 1

Causing an unwanted abortion is to be punished only by fine, rather than the death penalty proscribed for murders: Exodus 21

A recipe for a liquid abortifacent is provided for husbands and priests to administer to an unfaithful wife: Numbers 5

A pregnant prostitute is sentenced to death with no regard for the life of her fetuses: Genesis 38

God gives the monetary values of certain groups of people organized by age, with no mention of anyone below the age of one month: Leviticus 27

Infants are only to be regarded as persons for the purpose of census if they're one month old or older: Numbers 3

Moreover, your passages from Luke refer to the fetal Christ, who can hardly be taken as exemplory of the gestation of normal human beings. I simply don't see any indication, Biblically, that the god of the Bible wished to prohibit abortion - quite the opposite. And it would be indeed surprising for the Bible not to mention abortion, which was a common practice at the time.
 
Chet says: Formation of the body precedes ensoulment: Genesis 1

I'd say Adam's experience was a bit unique; before God gave humanity a soul--it didn't have one. This, of course, requires common sense.

Chet says: Causing an unwanted abortion is to be punished only by fine, rather than the death penalty proscribed for murders: Exodus 21

Exodus 21 actually says, "When men get in a fight, and hit a pregnant woman so that her children are born [prematurely], but there is no injury, the one who hit her must be fined as the woman's husband demands from him, and he must pay according to judicial assessment. 23 If there is an injury, then you must give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound."

Chet says, A recipe for a liquid abortifacent is provided for husbands and priests to administer to an unfaithful wife: Numbers 5

The Bible Actually says: ""When he makes her drink the water, if she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings a curse will enter her and cause bitter suffering; her belly will swell, and her thigh will shrivel. She will become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is pure, she will be unaffected and will be able to conceive children." The whole chapter is about how seriously God takes sexual purity. It does include things that require a bit of context to understand. But, clearly chet has misrepresented it.

Chet says, "A pregnant prostitute is sentenced to death with no regard for the life of her fetuses: Genesis 38"

The Bible does record a person saying, ""Bring her out!" Judah said. "Let her be burned [to death]!""

What Chet doesn't tell you is that a man named Judah said that in anger when discovering sexual immorality--not God. Furthermore, what chet doesn't tell you is the rest of the story--the person doesn't dies and neither do the babies. Look at it in context (sorry for the long quote): "24 About three months later Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law has been acting like a prostitute, and now she is pregnant."

"Bring her out!" Judah said. "Let her be burned [to death]!"

"25 As she was being brought out, she sent her father-in-law [this message]: "I am pregnant by the man to whom these items belong." And she added, "Examine them. Whose signet ring, cord, and staff are these?"

"26 Judah recognized [them] and said, "She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah." And he did not know her intimately again.

"27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twins in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth..." She was not killed nor were her babies.

Chet says, God gives the monetary values of certain groups of people organized by age, with no mention of anyone below the age of one month: Leviticus 27

What chet doesn't say is that children were not circumcized until one month old; this had special significance in the Jewish community but not result in a lack of value.

Chet says, "Infants are only to be regarded as persons for the purpose of census if they're one month old or older: Numbers 3 Again, this has nothing to do with their value, they simply were not counted because they were not "initiated" if you will as members of the Jewish community.

Chet said, "Moreover, your passages from Luke refer to the fetal Christ, who can hardly be taken as exemplory of the gestation of normal human beings."

The Bible actually is talking about John who was in the womb in this verseLuke 1:41 & 44. But uses the same word for child as describes Jesus outside of the womb 2:12 & 16, and the Hebrew equivalent of the term in Exodus 21:22.

Therefore, don't let Chet mislead you with his lies, intentional misrepresentations, or mistakes (whichevery they may be).
 
Exodus 21 actually says

...exactly what I said it says. If a woman is made to miscarry, but is not herself injured, the punishment is a fine.

Your interpetation simply doesn't make sense. There's no possibility that a fetus could survive a premature birth at the time the Bible was written, so why would the Jews need a law to cover a situation that would never arise?

Of course, the Jews themselves are probably best qualified to interpret their own laws; thus it should be highly suggestive that abortion has never been considered a sin under any Jewish tradition.

The Bible Actually says: ""When he makes her drink the water, if she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings a curse will enter her and cause bitter suffering; her belly will swell, and her thigh will shrivel.

Like I said, you're reading the wrong Bible. What the Bible actually says is this: "she will have barrenness and a miscarrying womb." "Thigh will shrivel" is a typically Hebrew idom for miscarriage and barrenness, much as "to know" someone sometimes means intercourse. This passage makes it abundantly clear that the will of God is that a child should not be born into an unhappy home.

What chet doesn't say is that children were not circumcized until one month old; this had special significance in the Jewish community but not result in a lack of value.

Indeed, they were not circumcized until the age of one month; because they were not recognized as persons until then, and a non-person could not bear God's covenant. Even in Jewish tradition to this day, infants who die before aging one month are not allowed to be mourned for, under Jewish law.

But uses the same word for child as describes Jesus outside of the womb 2:12 & 16, and the Hebrew equivalent of the term in Exodus 21:22.

In each case, referring to persons who would be allowed to be born and become children and adults.

God's knowledge about the future hardly constitutes an argument for the personhood of the fetus. God knows who you're going to be before you're even concieved, but that's never offered as an argument for personhood predating even conception. God knows which of my sperm will donate the information and generate what will become my child; that doesn't mean that that single sperm is anointed into personhood.

Therefore, don't let Chet mislead you with his lies, intentional misrepresentations, or mistakes (whichevery they may be).

The misrepresentation is yours, JR; you've consistently posted inaccurate citations from the Bible. The Bible does not say what you say it says, and the sin of misrepresentation is yours alone. The Bible is very clear that fetuses are not yet persons, and do not have souls at conception. Indeed this has been the traditional theology for over 3000 years. The idea that the Bible precludes abortion is no older than our parent's generation, and can hardly be described as a "traditional belief."
 
Do you realize this was in response to your question from a few days ago. So, you asked; I answered.

I stand behind my original analysis and my rebuttal.
 
Do you realize this was in response to your question from a few days ago. So, you asked; I answered.

I know. I appreciate your thoughts, and the time it took to write them.

Does that mean I don't get to disagree, or defend myself when I'm called a liar or worse?
 
oh, no. say much...as long as your kind.
 
I don't understand why anybody cares what the Bible has to say. Some guys wrote some stuff ~3,000-1,500 years ago and it's supposed to be the greatest thing ever. Not just that, it's supposed to be inspired by God. He had to have humans do it because God, being the ephemeral type, couldn't hold a pencil. He couldn't even be bothered to decide which bits went in the Bible, so he got a council of humans to do that for him too. The guy is SO LAZY he hasn't even bothered to send us an update in 2,000 years.
 
I'll try this again, first time blogging. JR, I don't know how you feel about this, but I am wondering if God requires differently from OT believers and NT believers. God's truth remains the same. But OT believers seem like cavemen in their faith, more externalized with sacrifices and rituals, etc. In the NT believers have the Holy Spirit to guide them from within with maybe more capacity (Doesn't the Bible reference in Jeremiah 31 or 32 that 'there will come a time when no man/woman will need to learn or be taught the law for it will reside within them.') This may be the reason that OT believers were mandated to go in and annihilate whole towns of people and their livestock while NT believers are instructed by Jesus that 'he/she who lives by the sword will die by the sword.' It seems like OT believers don't have the 'soul' or sensitivity and had to learn everything the hard way. Wonder what difference would mean to individual responsibility back then and now? Perhaps after Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, more IS required of believers now. Just a thought. Regards,
 
John Piper has written an excellent article (see link below) on the interpretation of Exodus 21:22-25 regarding the appropriate translation--miscarriage or premature birth.

http://www.desiringgod.org/library/topics/abortion/exodus21.html
 
I'm pretty sure your god doesn't like liars. Your translation is wrong.

There's nothing in the Bible which says abortion is wrong. Sorry!

Also, there's only about 50 million gods, how do you know yours is right? Because your god said so? That's circular reasoning.
 
I truly appreciate what you all have said, I find it delightful to sit back and read all your different thoughts. Euthanasia has always been something I believe in, my only concern is that I also believe we are all eternal beings. That being said, could the process of dying be of some gain to my eternal being. To me it is unknown, and seems unlikely however when my time comes if it be a painful death I think I would rather stick it out then risk diminishing my eternal experience.
 
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Euthanasia I think is a petition that I support, if a person is seriously ill and in suffer, if he want to stop the suffering he is in his right to ask for such a petition.
 
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