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Where Must The Christian Stand On Abortion And Euthanasia?

by Ullas Nair

INTRODUCTION

Let me begin by stating that I will try my best to present this study in a forthright and sincere manner and from the beginning state that the life that we have does not belong to us but to God who gave it to us.

We have no right to terminate life at the conception state or because we are terminally ill and in pain. In the short time that I have, it would be impossible to treat the subject of abortion and euthanasia exhaustively and cover all the bases. I believe that since both subjects deal with the termination of life, the organisers of the lectureship have grouped them together, though it would have been easier to deal with them separately. But let us accept the fact that these issues are tough because they are emotional issues, but then again emotions cannot override God’s will.

THE FACTS

a. It is estimated that there are some 55 million abortions performed annually throughout the world. In the U.S. there are an estimated 1 to 2 million abortions a year. Brother Stephen Wiggins states that America kills more human lives each year than she has lost in 200 years of war. (Nov. 96 Spiritual Sword). Roe vs Wade case legalised abortion in 1973 in the U.S. I believe we are all familiar with the infamous Dr Kevorkian who has assisted many in ending their lives in America. In fact, he seems to be making a living by bringing death to others.

b. Here in Australia there are about 77,000 abortions performed each year as against 250,000 live births. Abortion is technically a crime everywhere except in the Northern Territory and South Australia. A crime but endemic, morally problematic but available on Medicare soon. There is going to be more debate and a ruling in the High Court in this area to bring clarity in the abortion issue.

c. In a poll taken in this country (Australia), 70% supported euthanasia as compassionate and sensible. In another survey, 8 in 10 support a law to permit euthanasia in Australia in 1995. 59% were strongly in favour, 22% were partly in favour of doctors helping terminally ill patients to end their lives, (82% of Queenslanders were in favour).

d. Holland has the notorious distinction of being the world leader on euthanasia since the 80s. In a study conducted it was found that 2,300 died as a result of doctors killing them on request. 400 died as a result of doctors providing them the means to kill themselves. It is estimated that 1,040 died as a result of doctors killing them without the patient’s knowledge or consent, (it would be wise if you were sick and in Holland to get out of that country). This example of Holland has shown that where voluntary euthanasia is permitted under strict conditions, it is quickly followed by involuntary euthanasia.

The Northern Territory’s controversial “Rights of the Terminally Ill Act” is the cause of the recent murmurings in Australia, Mr Bob Dent became the first person to use this avenue (assisted suicide) to end his life last year. Since then, at the time of this writing two others have terminated their life under this Act. The Pro Euthanasia lobby is saying that soon more deaths will follow with less interest from the public and media. Fortunately, the Federal Government has not endorsed the Northern Territory actions.

Latest in Australia - The Northern Territory’s historic right to die law has been outlawed after the 38-33 conscience vote passed Liberal backbencher Kevin Andrews’ private members’ Bill, which overturns the Northern Territory’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act. (25 March 97). Something tells me that we have not heard the last of this issue yet.

DEFINITIONS OF TERMS

Euthanasia is the act of deliberately ending the life of a patient at the request of the patient or at the request of close relatives. “Euthanatos” is the art and discipline of dying in peace and dignity, practice of painless death. Euthanasia is commonly known as “mercy killing”, comes from the Greek root word that translates as “good death” but more strictly translated as “easy death”. It is the action of hastening death of a person who is seriously or terminally ill or injured to bring relief to the individual.

Abortion - it means taking action to bring to a premature ending the process of fetal development, aborting or expelling the unborn from the womb and thus terminating the cycle of nature. To abort something means to stop something that has already begun. In military terms we say to abort a mission that has already begun or started. When we speak of abortion we mean to stop a life that has already begun to develop. Thus it is putting a stop to God’s plan for human life.

OTHER TERMS

Passive Euthanasia - is a refusal to use life sustaining medical equipment to prolong life where there is no (medically) prospect of recovery.

Active Euthanasia - is to take purposeful action to end a person’s life, in a sense it is an aided suicide.

Voluntary Euthanasia - Form of suicide where one may make a ‘living will’ which guarantees him a right to “die with dignity”.

Involuntary Euthanasia - Socially or politically motivated acts in causing the death of people considered worthless such as the very old, physically/mentally disabled persons. Such was the motive of Nazi Germany when they disposed of Jews and Gypsies from racist motivations. Selective breeding to decide who lives and who dies. The Nazis made sterilisation and later euthanasia part of their programme of getting rid of defective children and insane adults soon after Hitler came to power. It has been estimated that 300,000 people were sterilised and 30,000 killed in hospitals.

Natural and Induced Abortions - There are two kinds of abortion, natural and induced. Medical science cannot always tell us why some women abort (miscarriage) their pregnancies naturally. It could be natural causes such as disorders in the growth of the fetus or external interferences such as a fall or accident. It is the induced abortion that we will deal with in this presentation.

POSITION OF THE RELIGIOUS WORLD

Perhaps at this juncture it is good for us to very quickly see the position and stand of the religious world to the question of euthanasia.

The Roman Catholics - They condemn active euthanasia as murder, therefore, it is classified as mortal sin. That God has supreme dominion over his creatures and that there is a purpose for human suffering. In the NT the words “Thou shalt not kill” is reflected prominently in such passages as Mat. 5:21, 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9. Thus the RC base their opposition on this.

Protestants - It appears that there are a range of views, those in opposition cite the teachings of Jesus against killing and suicide. They also argue that men cannot play God and set the limits of human life. Others see euthanasia as an acceptable thing since suffering and pain are purposeless, demoralising and degrading. Also that human personality and dignity are of greater worth than life. Another argument advanced for euthanasia is the Lord’s statement that “Blessed are the merciful..” is as important as “Thou shall not kill”. This surely is reading too much into the Scriptures.

Jewish Stand - The Jews do not condone euthanasia. Many OT passages require the death penalty for anyone who interrupts or shortens life of another. We will look later at some specific examples. The Jews believe that the decision of whether a machine is simply prolonging death is up to the doctor, but if the removal of the machine is interrupting life then that decision does not belong to the doctor but to God.

Muslim Stand - Islam has definitive views on euthanasia. Their stand is somewhat similar to the Jewish (which is no surprise), “Take not life which Allah has made sacred otherwise than in the course of justice” - Quran 4:29. Muslim laws listed and specified the indications for taking life and they do not include mercy killing or make allowance for it. Human life per se is a value to be respected unconditionally, irrespective of other circumstances.

Buddhist/Hindu Views - The South East Asian population is predominantly comprising of Buddhist culture and a mixture of Chinese Taoism, with the exception of India which is a Hindu society. Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia are Muslim based societies with Philippines embracing mainly Roman Catholicism.

Each of these nations have portions of other religions. The Buddhist viewpoint on terminating life is based on their doctrine of Karma, fate and reincarnation of life. That there is no real use hanging on or prolonging life since it is going to be reincarnated. There is no heaven or hell since all living things continue to live and die until it reaches the eternal state of bliss, nirvana.

Hindus also are believers of reincarnation and would not be as strong to oppose euthanasia as others, though they do accept heaven and hell, but they accept fate (karma), “what has to happen will happen.”

No passage in the OT and the NT will allow the taking of purposeful action to end the life of the infirmed, aged, terminally ill or a fetus.

BACK TO THE SCRIPTURE

In 1 Sam. 31:1-6, King Saul was mortally wounded in the battle against the Philistines. He begged his armour bearer to take his life instead of dying slowly or being taken captive, suffering humiliation from his enemies. King Saul thus wanted a death with no indignity from his enemies. Later in 2 Sam. 1:1-10 an Amalekite from another nation passed by and King Saul again pleaded for assistance to end his suffering. This man assisted the King by taking his life, the response was “so I stood beside him and slew him because I was sure he could not live after he has fallen”, same response of our modern day Euthanist.

But God condemned it, David described it as “putting forth the hand to destroy” - 1 Sam. 1:14. Regardless of the motive, it was unacceptable to God, the sacredness of life and the importance of preserving it.

DEATH WITH DIGNITY

Today pro-euthanasia groups assert that patients are being denied a dignified death, therefore, legislation is needed to allow patients and doctors more “options” in life and death situations.

Pro-euthanasia advocates believe that doctors routinely use extraordinary measures, often against the wishes and will of the patients and families. This can, in their opinion, only serve to prolong the dying process. We note that there have been cases where people who were in near death situations such as comas have been cured.

Regarding abortion, the bible makes it very clear that the fetus is a person, a living soul at the time of conception.

The prophet Jeremiah said “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee and before thou comest forth from the womb I sanctified thee” - Jer. 1:5. God knew the prophet when he was still in the belly of his mother.

The prophet Isaiah stated that “...Jehovah has called me from the womb, from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name....And now saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant”, Isa. 49:1 & 5. Isaiah was a living person before his birth.

Job, who was undergoing a terrible test in his life said “Why died I not from the womb? Why did I not give up the spirit when my mother bore me.” It is certain that had the fetus died in the womb, it would have been a person - Job.

In the NT, John in his mother’s womb leapt for joy when Mary greeted Elizabeth (Lk. 1:44). The Bible does not distinguish between pre and post natal life. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb “brephos” is used interchangeably for both the unborn and born infants. According to Thayer’s Greek lexicon, this means an unborn child, embryo, fetus, new born child, an infant, a babe. Thus was the child in Mary’s womb not just a blob of tissue, because Elizabeth greeted Mary as the “mother of my Lord” - Lk. 1:43.

“The blood of life” - Deut. 12:23. The circulatory system of the embryo is complete four weeks after conception. Some claim that the body has no soul until after its first breath, with reference to the breath of Adam. First, Adam was formed full grown and there was no life before he began to breathe. But life exists for the fetus before it takes its first breath. The infant is supplied oxygen from the mother.

Thus there is life in the blood. Thus whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed (why) for in the image of God made him man (Gen. 9:6). Abortion sheds human blood so abortion is murder. “Jehovah hates.. hands that shed innocent blood.” Prov. 6:16-17.

The Bible also teaches that those who receive money to kill an innocent person are cursed - “Cursed be he that takes a bribe to slay an innocent person” - Deut. 27:25. To hire a doctor to kill an innocent soul is no less severe than hiring a hit man or gangster to kill another.

The Psalmist declares “For thou did form my inward parts, thou did cover me in my mother’s womb...” Ps. 139:13-16, that life begins at conception. Also look at Eccl. 11:5 - “As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how bones grow in the womb of her that is with child, even so thou knowest not the works of God who makes all” - Solomon in referring to the existence of life as having human qualities, that the fetus can grow and that it has life.

Another example that the unborn child is credited with the same protection as other living humans is found in the serious regard for human life in Ex. 21:22-23. Severe punishment was meted out for those who hurt the unborn child. Obviously the Bible regards the unborn fetus as a truly living human being.

We see also the condemnation of Ammon in Amos 1:13, “because they ripped up the woman with child”. From the passages discussed, we conclude that human life is of intrinsic value.

QUALITY OF LIFE / SANCTITY OF LIFE

Christians must always stand for the sanctity of life. The dignity of man is that he was created special by God. The life that we live is a gift from God. Man was made intellectually and morally and spiritually different from any other in creation. Man was made in the image of God, Gen. 1:26 & 27. This life we have is from God and only God can decide its termination at the time of His choosing.

Man has the ability to reason, so he is morally and ethically responsible for what he does or does not do (John 7:17). God is a spirit and man is not just physical but is a spirit being as well. That man is precious in His sight is seen in the fact that God has from the very beginning condemned the taking of another life.

The quality of life argument is a decision based on the assessment of a person’s ability, participation and worth in society. His good to society and his fellow man. But who is to decide the quality of life, there is no objective criteria, should the unborn babies with Downs Syndrome and other disorders be terminated because of the belief that they have a low quality of life? Where do we draw the line? We note that even during biblical times there were born people who were handicapped, blind and with other infirmities. Shall we also state that the insane, senile and those with dementia should be terminated because of the quality of life argument? Who can make the decisions for such people, they surely can’t - doctors? society?, there is so much of subjectivity in this stand.

The difference is that the quality of life group believe that human life has value only if it is good whereas a Christian believes that human life is good in itself because it has intrinsic and a defined value. The quality of life ethic rejects any essential difference between man and animals, thus value of life is solely in terms of its worth.

Thus euthanasia is a natural progression from the legislation of abortion on demand. After all, if one can justify the taking of unwanted or useless life inside the womb, then why not take the unwanted and useless life outside the womb.

SITUATIONAL OR EXTENUATING CIRCUMSTANCES FOR ABORTION

Though Christians are opposed to abortions, there may be some who believe that abortion can be permitted under some situations or extenuating circumstances.

Rape

Firstly that of rape or incest - What would our convictions be? Indeed this is a difficult case, is abortion permissible? I would like to quote from the imminent brother Wayne Jackson (Biblical Ethics and Modern Science). This passage was taken from the Nov. 1996 Spiritual Sword, I believe brother Jackson has expressed it skilfully.

But what of the ethics of terminating the life of the child who was conceived as the result of rape or incest? Some who opposed abortion as a general rule nonetheless allow it in cases such as these. The issue, however, is not how the pregnancy was initiated. Rape and incest are horrible - there is no question about that. The real issue has to do with whether we are dealing with a person within the womb. If so - and we absolutely affirm this to be the case - then the infant’s right to life must be respected. Would anyone argue that it is moral to kill a new born child simply because it was conceived through rape or incest? If not, why not? The baby was not responsible for the manner of its conception. Two wrongs do not make a right.

If we believe that we should abort in such situations, then we are in fact saying murder is also acceptable and right in some situations.

Mother’s Life Endangered

What about the mother’s life when endangered during pregnancy? Is it morally justifiable to take the life of the child? With the advances in modern science this is seldom a problem, however, such cases may occur. Again I will turn to brother Jackson’s excellent analysis -

Occasionally (though rarely), a circumstance will arise where a continued pregnancy would result in the death of the mother, or child - possibly even both. In such a case a decision has to be made as to which life will be saved. If an abortion is performed, this is not comparable to arbitrarily taking the life of a healthy child from a mother for convenience sake.

If one happens upon two persons who are struggling in the water beside a capsized boat and he can rescue only one of them, does the fact that he chooses one in preference to the other, mean that he has murdered the victim who drowns? The answer is too obvious to need comment. However, Dr C. Everett Koop, former Surgeon General once said that in 35 years of medical practice, he had never encountered a case where an abortion was necessary to save the mother’s life.

What Other Arguments?

Abortionists argue:

a. That the fetus is only a blob of tissue or blood, this we have already refuted.

b. That it is a woman’s right to do what she wants with her body. Who gave her this right? How can this be when it is anti bible, anti life and anti God.

The mother and the child are two, not one individual; they have their own separate blood systems, organs, different genes, etc.; the Bible considers the child to be a separate entity even though it still depends on the mother for its food and oxygen. Let us ask what of the rights of the child, who can’t defend itself? The mother’s rights do not override God’s rights and God’s laws.

Terminally Ill

For terminally ill people there is hospice care where they can spend their last days with proper care and counselling from trained individuals, with comfort from their families and friends. “Palliative care” is the medical term for alleviating pain while not actually curing the patient. This treatment can also shorten life though this is not the intention, but perhaps a side effect, therefore, in a sense permissible. Generally, proper doses of drugs or narcotics do relieve pain and do not shorten life.

Decisions to “pull the plug” or to “off the machine” are never easy for comatose patients. For comatose patients without any brain wave or a flat EEG, they should be removed from “life support systems.” These are cases where there is no hope for recovery and one is not obligated to maintain the “life supporting systems.” But in other situations a comatose person may recover, and we all perhaps know of such people, I personally do.

Some cite economic reasons to “pull the plug”, cost of treatment if you please, but this is a sad excuse. While we may not know what goes on in the hospital while patients are in the hands of specialist doctors, the all seeing and knowing eyes of God knows all. The burden of proof is on the hands of the doctors who advise on terminating life.

CONCLUSIONS

As I bring this presentation to a close, I realise that in this world there will be multitudes that will not accept the scriptural arguments against abortion and euthanasia. Let us remember that all men are amenable to the laws of God. God has a right to say all souls are mine by virtue of his creation. Human beings belong to God and they have no right to dispose of themselves or rid themselves of any life that they do not want.

Even Christians inside the Lord’s church and outside may see things differently. No passage in the OT or NT can be cited to support abortion or euthanasia. “Woe to them who call evil good and good evil..” - Isa. 5:20. We need to ask why does the person or persons want to abort the child, could it be because the child was conceived outside of marriage, immoral living? I believe this is the main contributor of the abortion figures. In fact a survey shows that 70% of all who had abortions are unwed mothers. Does the child have to pay for the sin / mistake with its life? We need to teach and encourage our young people to honour God’s principles of moral living. Parents play a God given part to bring up their children in responsible moral behaviour.

To sum up the cry for abortion, let us remember the following:

a. That the fetus is a human being with a soul.

b. God makes no distinction between a child in the womb or outside of it.

c. Life begins at conception.

d. Birth is not the creation of life but the fruition of life already begun.

e. Abortion is murder, God will deal with murderers. The taking of innocent life is condemned throughout the Bible.

To sum up euthanasia:

a. The rallying cry for euthanasia has its root in the humanistic mindset. That a person is of no value if he cannot enjoy a certain quality of life. Humanists deny the presence of a soul, deny God, deny heaven and hell. Are we one day going to make into law that all aged, sick and physically handicapped persons have no right to life?

b. No respect for the sanctity of life. Not respecting God as the life giver and taker. Death according to the Bible occurs when the spirit leaves the body (Eccl. 12:7). The sufferings that afflict a Christian are nothing compared with the joys of entering heaven. Job 3:10 - “...Shall we indeed accept good from God, shall we not accept adversity..” Is life only worth living if it is good and painless? The Bible notes that there is a purpose in suffering, it is part of God’s plan for man.

c. Euthanasia is self murder by another name. Those who assist a person to end their life are an accessory to that murder or murderers themselves. There is no dignity in dying as an escape from pain and suffering. For a Christian, there is dignity in dying though in pain, showing faith in God and looking forward to the peace with God.

d. There is no Bible justification for euthanasia. The Bible is a book of all ages, it changes not, it is the authority in all moral and ethical questions.

e. By submitting to euthanasia, we invariably degrade the power of God to cure, the power of effective prayers - James 5:13, 15 & 16 - “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray ... and the prayer of faith will save the sick ... effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” If our prayers do not materialise, do we condemn God? Or shall we not indeed accept God’s will for our lives.

f. All Christians and non Christians are amenable to the law of God. Those most eager to plunge into eternity are in reality most unprepared and unqualified to meet God, and judgement.

g. Christians should actively oppose such evils, Isaiah was directed by God “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet and declare unto my people their transgressions...” - Isa. 58:1. We should act within the civil laws of our country and let our stand be known. We should not be bombing abortion clinics or killing pro euthanasia advocates, two wrongs do not make a right. We can voice our stand through the proper channels, if our voice is not heard and accepted, there is still the voice of the Almighty who will judge mankind in the end.

h. The concept that death will bring an end to suffering is wrong. Earthly suffering and pain may be, but death will also bring man to the judgement seat of God. There is going to be more unimaginable pain and suffering in eternal hell or eternal joy with God. For those who choose to end their lives by euthanasia, let them think about this.

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