Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
– Psalm 139:16
What is Euthanasia?
Euthanasia is the word we give to measures taken to end a life either by stopping treatment (passive) or by direct acts causing death (active). Passive euthanasia is legal and is less controversial – this is usually simply making the decision not to keep someone ‘artificially alive’, like turning off a life-support machine. Active euthanasia is much different and is what this blog seeks to address. It is the direct action, usually of a medical professional, to end a life prematurely, normally because the patient has requested it.
A New Bill
In January 2015, a bill that would legalise some forms of euthanasia in the UK failed. Not because of a lack of interest or support, but because Parliament ran out of time. Now, the Assisted Dying (No 2) Bill is being debated in the House of Commons, having its second reading this Friday, 11th September 2015.
The Opposition Response
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, along with other faith leaders, has written and spoken out against the bill, and you can read the Archbishop’s letter here. He makes three main, excellent points, in short:
- We would cross a legal and ethical boundary that would attack the very heart of our criminal and human rights system; the intrinsic value of human beings.
- We would be placing an incredible number of elderly people at risk. Age UK claims that around 500,000 elderly people are abused in the UK each year. Welby says, “It is impossible to ensure that they and other vulnerable people would not be placed under pressure to end their lives prematurely in ways that proposed safeguards cannot hope to detect.”
- We would lose a cornerstone of our societal values if this bill were to succeed: that being the commitment to serve, care for and support the vulnerable among us, especially those who are sick and dying.
What About The Church?
The Archbishop makes excellent points to a secular audience, which should also have great sway over the opinions of believers of all faiths up and down the country. But what does the God of The Bible say? What are bible-believing, evangelical Christians to believe and do in response to this bill and this cultural shift?
God is God and We Are Not
First of all, we must acknowledge that if we believe in a God who has revealed Himself through His Word in the Holy Bible, we must also acknowledge that what He says goes. He is Creator and we are creature. He is Lord, we are servants. He is King, we are subjects. He is Saviour, we are the saved.
We cannot and must not pick and choose what we want to believe in God’s Word. Where God’s Word is clear – and in this issue it is crystal – we must take a clear stand. Where God’s Word is harder to understand, we must work harder to understand it.
Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” This is perhaps no more literally represented in our day than in the issues and consequences surrounding the sanctity of human life in euthanasia.
So What Does God Actually Say?
- God ordains our days and is the author of life. He chooses when life begins and ends (Job 1:21), and He has seen our lives and ordained our days right until our last (Psalm 139:16). God is in charge of both life and death (Deuteronomy 32:39)
- Euthanasia is not a choice made on godly love. The love that comes from God “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Euthanasia gives up, ends hope and does not protect.
- God wants us to “rescue those being led away to death”. We are to do everything in our power to live according to the knowledge we have about God being the author of life. We cannot be passive spectators on issues like this (Proverbs 24:11-12).
- Physical health and comfort are not our only (and certainly not our primary) goals in life. We can be outwardly ‘wasting away’, yet be experiencing great joy and growth in our spirits if we know The Lord (2 Corinthians 4:16).
- Our physical bodies do not ultimately belong to us, but to The Lord. Christian or not, God has paid to have you as His own. Accepting that or not does nothing to change the fact that God has done it. Therefore, we should not presume to do with our bodies whatever we want (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
- Pain is not our ultimate enemy. In fact, pain and suffering is promised to us in the scriptures. It is a tool God uses to ultimately bring us joy and wholeness (1 Peter 4:12-13).
- Death is not the end. For those who do not know The Lord, death is not an escape from suffering. After this life, there is judgement, and so as Christians, we should do whatever we possibly can to prevent people needlessly entering a lost eternity (Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 3:9).
- You shall not murder. As I said before, the Bible is crystal clear on this issue, and no more so than in the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:13).
Why Is This So Important?
If obeying God, just because He is God isn’t enough of a reason. We have to consider the slippery slope. This bill being passed would represent a wedge opening the door that could and almost certainly would lead to (among other things):
- Forced euthanasia – people who cannot make the decision for themselves, and so are killed by doctors and lawyers and family members perhaps because of the cost to the state.
- Broader euthanasia – currently this bill just seeks to permit euthanasia for a relatively small group. But once you’ve rubbed out the line, how do you know where to draw it again? It’s just for the elderly at the moment – what would stop someone in the future pushing the door open further and allowing depressed teenagers to seek assisted dying?
- Societal euthanasia – killing the elderly is the first step to killing our society. As Archbishop Welby so clearly articulated in his letter (see above), this would see the end of a society that cares, loves, shows compassion and supports those who need it most.
Finally, A Parable
In July 2013, my wife and I travelled to Berlin for a holiday. We visited the Topographie Des Terrors (the holocaust museum and memorial on the site of the old SS Headquarters). On the walls were propaganda from the nazi regime and I wanted to include one for you:
The “60,000” is the cost to the state for caring for the disabled person in the picture. The nazis called this man a “life unworthy of life”.
Sounds scarily familiar. In this context, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously wrote,
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
So, act now, speak now, pray now, write to your MP now but whatever you do, don’t do nothing.
Photo via The Guardian