The Law and Life (3)
“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” Deuteronomy 30.19, 20
Muddled about life
In 2011 the citizens of the State of Mississippi were asked to confirm the Biblical perspective on the beginning of life in a constitutional amendment.
Opponents of the amendment offered campaign ads, featuring parents of children conceived through in vitro fertilization, who argued that the right of parents to have and love children conceived by this means would have been outlawed under the proposed change. They were, of course, correct, since in vitro fertilization inevitably involves the destruction of many embryos to implant one.
Other arguments against the amendment posed ethical and legal questions that advocates apparently had not anticipated and were not prepared to address. Consequently, the proposed constitutional change was soundly defeated, leaving the question respecting the origins of life and personhood in the hand of individuals, whose decisions about so important a matter are typically based on expediency and convenience.
Meanwhile, “end of life” technologies and practices became established in various parts of the world, including in this country, allowing “death with dignity” as an option. States which have proposed such practices have had little trouble making them policy.
The idea is becoming increasingly acceptable that life is something which can be given—in vitro fertilization—or taken—abortion, “death with dignity”—if sufficiently compelling reasons can be found. Public policy is already at work in many states to ensure the right to give or take life by these means.
In other words, humans are coming to believe we are the lords of life; and defining the terms of life is thus becoming an uncertain proposition. This can lead to inhuman policies and dire consequences.
We do not know whether the writers of Scripture could foresee a time when it would be possible to conceive human life in ways other than the way God Himself designed. God could, of course, but it seems unlikely the writers of Scripture did.
At the same time, the Scriptures are clear that human beings may take the life of another human being only under the strictest of conditions. Wasting lives in a petri dish or test tube is not one of those conditions, nor is “quality of life”—a highly arbitrary and subjective notion.
We recall that God lamented the fact that fallen and sinful human beings would pursue whatever their minds could imagine if it were to their advantage (cf. Gen. 11.6). But just because people can imagine something and create a technology to achieve it does not mean that such a proposal or practice should be allowed. Human imagination, left unchecked, can lead to terrible consequences for human life, as the last century can testify. As Francis Schaeffer once put it, “If the fetus gets in the way, ditch it. If the old person gets in the way, ditch it. If you get in the way…”
Christians must serve as the moral conscience of a society which has cut itself adrift from the solid moorings of God’s unchanging Law. Otherwise, indeed, people will undertake to do whatever they can imagine, whatever they consider as being to their advantage. “Designer babies”—and the concomitant destruction of those that don’t fit the design—are already a matter of discussion. End of life practices are already in place. How else will human beings assert themselves in the presumption that they, not God, are the lords of life?
A moral check
The Christian’s approach to affecting the moral climate must be prayerful, informed, exemplary, servant-like, missional, prophetic, gracious, compassionate, and resolute. It must be grounded at all times in the teaching of God’s Word, beginning with His Law, as the foundation for love and justice (Matt. 22.34-40).
So, while these various technologies for the creation or termination of human life may satisfy some, this does not outweigh the fact of the countless thrown-away lives these technologies also produce, and the continued cheapening of life itself. God, not people, is the Lord of life, and we shall only know life as He intends as we hew to His Word in understanding and pursuing it.
From the perspective of Biblical Law, practices that flout the will of God for human life should not be matters of public policy. It may be that scientists and practitioners will be able, at some point in the future, greatly to improve the life-efficiency of these technologies, but even this is not sufficient reason to grant them the endorsement and protection of public policy.
Do these practices contribute to justice and neighbor-love and the creation of good and just society? I do not believe they do. Rather, they contribute primarily to the commercializing and cheapening of human life. And they are a thin entering wedge for human beings to assume lordship over all lives for whatever reasons or ends they can persuade the public to endorse.
Life issues such as these continue to force their way into the public square. Christians should be discussing and debating these issues right now, and thankfully, many are. The Church may be the last bastion for preserving human life against the ravages of abortion and specious claims of “quality”.
1. How have science and technology encouraged the view that human beings are the lords of life?
2. Why is it dangerous to tolerate the view that human beings can decide when life begins and when it might end?
3. Do you think the Christians you know think much about the issues raised here? How might you help them to become more involved in this aspect of public policy?
Next steps—Demonstration: Determine to oppose all policies or views that support the idea that people are the lords of life. What are some ways you could assert the Biblical view, that God alone is the Lord of life?
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.