College and Career Class Discussion, Wednesday July 10, 2019
When thinking of bioethics (bios (life) and ethos (moral principles/philosophy)), a believer would do well to recognize what life is. It is impossible to properly establish ethics of life if we don’t know what life is. In John 14:6, we find it declared, by Christ, that He is Life . He is the source of life, not from a gatekeeper point of view, but that He Himself is the source, being Life itself. What makes something living wasn’t a spontaneous decision of that now-living thing, but was the choice of life’s Source to impart it. Colossians 1:15-16 records that by Christ were all things created and have their very consistency. In Genesis 2, we find that into Adam’s nostrils was breathed the breath of life and man became a living soul. God designed man to house the breath of life and in that capacity, man had no choice but to become a living being. The breath of God is very much a spiritual concept as breath is evidence of the presence of life. The scriptures are described as inspired (God-breathed) because they bear the evidence of the spiritual life of God. (2Timothy 3:16). Just as the scriptures bear the life presence of God, so too does man by being a living soul – a living being. Much in the Hebrew Bible, when using the word soul is referring to the body itself (i.e. Ezekiel 18 – the soul that sinneth, it shall die). This is the idea in Genesis. God created a living being, however, it wasn’t just the physical body/being that God was concerned with, but what that body/being would do.
In Genesis 1:26-27, we see that Adam is made in the image and in the likeness of God. When we think of the image of God, we can think of His shape or His form. But, there is more here. We aren’t just cast in a mold of God’s form (for He is a Spirit after all), but it is by the likeness of God we find the purpose of bearing His image. The likeness of God is the essence of His character. All of the attributes of God work to describe how God functions. This isn’t to say that we were given omnipresence, for example, but that God wrote on the heart of humanity the things that function after His likeness–goodness, love, mercy, righteousness, kindness, and so on. Man ultimately corrupted himself from these, but that doesn’t negate God’s purpose for creating him. Man was not simply created in the image of God, but in that capacity, man is to BEAR the image of God. The apostle Paul said that he bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Paul imaged the marks (being branded, as a slave). This was his mission. Likewise, mankind was created to bear the image of God – to be imagers of God through the expressions of His likeness.
Life is sacred to mankind not only because of Whom it comes from, but because of the special purpose mankind was given. Without that purpose, God has no reason to give mankind life. God didn’t create us simply to pacify an itch–we were created to be His imagers. If we understand this, then this should begin to shape our thinking when it comes to bioethics. Our moral philosophy as believers should be centered around life and the Giver of Life. We ought not approach decisions through the lens of materialistic termination, but from how can we make the best decisions possible that would promote and champion life. This sounds easy, but unfortunately, what we face in this world makes this very difficult. The advancement of medical technology further reaches into the world of ethical decisions that make our decisions more difficult to ‘cipher through. Even though we have guiding principles that reassure us to err on the side of life, we are often faced with dilemmas that seem to have no good result either way–regardless if the coin falls heads or tails, both outcomes aren’t desirable. (This is the should Spiderman save the dangling school bus off the bridge or save Mary Jane idea). This can be paralyzing to many people who perceive the confrontation and simply attempt to avoid it. Doing nothing is yet another decision one could make, but what are its impacts? Do you save the child who is falling from a building or do you save the one caught in the cross walk about to be hit by a car? Even deciding to do nothing results in a bad outcome (and arguably, doing nothing is the worst option in this example because you are guaranteeing that 2 people are injured, if not killed). We can craft many hypothetical scenarios that make our brains hurt trying to sort through them, but the reality is, there are some of these types of scenarios that become real life situations. What is a Christian to do?
God is the God of Life. Jesus Christ, in John 14:6, attests to this, as we’ve already stated. If our primary principle is to honor life as God has given it to us, then in the case of abortion, our “knee jerk response” should always be to champion life. We need to begin our argument not that life begins at conception, but by actually defining what life is. And, the only way to properly define what life is to define WHO life is. The fact that we are created to bear the image of God and to manifest His likeness is what gives life its value to us. It is very important to understand where life begins, but that is ultimately secondary to understanding why life is valuable (and worth protecting and propagating). If Life is nothing more than a biological anomaly as a product of random chance where non-life produced life, then at best, our view of life will be governed by the society and time we live. Unfortunately, each society reserves the right to change their subjective ethics and morality. What might be true about life for one generation might be the exact opposite for the next. However, if God is life and His life is what is the source of our life, then it doesn’t matter what society we live in, we have a consistent and justifiable reason to champion it.
In the United States (and perhaps world-wide), the vast majority of abortions are due to the mother no longer wishing to have the child and there are a host of reasons as to why (e.g. can’t afford it, doesn’t want someone else to know they were pregnant, spouse is demanding it, a way out of an unexpected pregnancy, interference with educational or career aspirations, etc). It is used as a means of after-the-fact birth control. Sadly, millions of children are sacrificed upon the alter of convenience each year by their mothers, whom they never knew. Late-term abortions, partial-birth abortions and even full-birth abortions are becoming more mainstream in the public’s discourse. It doesn’t mean that it has become national law (yet), but rest assured, as sinful humanity waxes worse and worse, they will devise greater degrees of wickedness, all the while professing themselves as wise. Early-term abortions slope towards late-term abortions, which slope towards partial-birth abortions which slope towards full-birth abortions. Each measure is a stepping stone of degenerate morality. What comes after full birth abortions? If full-birth abortions become legal, then what is to stop from aborting/murdering a child at the age of 2 or 3 simply because it isn’t “working out” for the mom? That may seem a conclusion reserved for those who wear tin-hats, but I encourage you to look around the world and see how some of these societies view children. Just because our banner is “United State of America” doesn’t immunize us from wickedness and especially in positions of policy-making.
The mainstream discourse seems to use the term ‘abortion’ very loosely in the sense that it uses cases of rape, incest and the mother’s health/life as the reasons to make an across-the-board policy on abortion. However, the facts do not bear that these instances are the majority of abortions, in fact, they are a super minority of abortion cases. For example, in the state of Florida, it is law that abortion reasons are recorded for every performed case. In 2018, 42% of 1% of the cases were due to incest, rape or the life of the mother being threatened–that’s a little over 4 cases in 1,000 cases. Yet, those are often proposed as the talking points for why abortion should be legalized universally. (http://ahca.myflorida.com/MCHQ/Central_Services/Training_Support/docs/TrimesterByReason_2018.pdf)
However, making policy based on statistical outliers is extremely problematic. But, regardless of the reason, as a Christian, is there ever a justifiable reason to abort a pregnancy? It is certainly not justifiable to abort a pregnancy for convenience’s sake. It is not justifiable to kill a baby because the mother was attacked (whether familial or otherwise). Again, life is to be championed and protected. But, in that vein, when the life of the mother is threatened by the pregnancy, what do we do? In this instance, we have two lives, but is there any implications between the husband and wife that would open the door for the husband to make a medical decision? Let’s first say that this decision is in the absence of any other alternative. If the baby is late term – have we exhausted options to deliver it prematurely and attempt to care for it? This is where reliance upon God is so important, but, reliance upon God isn’t a careless sitting around and waiting to see what happens. Reliance upon God is the resolve that His faithfulness is sufficient for you and in light of His faithfulness, you allow your faith in His faithfulness to bring forth actions of faith. In other words, reliance upon God isn’t complete passivity on our part. It is making decisions under the umbrella of His faithfulness, allowing His principles to guide us.
In the role of a husband, we find in Ephesians 5 that he is to execute his duties as “savior of the body” and protect his wife (as Christ is and does for the church). Christ made a decision of His life for ours. If I understand Ephesians 5 correctly (and I’m open to being corrected), but it would seem that the only time an abortion is a justifiable decision is for when a husband needs to protect the life of his wife (which we’ve established is an extremely rare instance). The decision being justifiable doesn’t mean it is easy or flippant in nature, but that it would align with the responsibilities of a husband. This also doesn’t mean that God is rendered incapable of intervention because of the husband’s decision. Recall that Abraham’s CHOICE to sacrifice Isaac didn’t thwart God from stopping it to provide the actual ram for the sacrifice. Our decisions do not weaken God. So, this in no means concludes that a husband’s decision can’t be overthrown by God’s intervention, should He choose to.
Ultimately, are we making decisions that honor life, as a general rule? Are we allowing the principles and faithfulness of God to guide our decision making? We are human and we are fallible. Difficult decisions shouldn’t paralyze us from being the stewards of life we have been made to be. Even when in our humanness we make a seemingly wrong choice, God is yet faithful and can work immense good from it. Rely upon His leadership in all things and take action where faith prompts you to take it.