For the Good of Society
By Rev. Gary K. Briden, Sr.,
President Southern Methodist College
THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE. Issue 1. Spring 2011. Volume 29.
Posted Aug., 2011

Not long ago I read a Doctor's comments in which it was said that "… we are going to have to accept that sometimes health care is futile when a person is so sick that the likelihood of survival is VERY LOW…" and"… to spend the resources on such an individual when the same resources would otherwise help many others that are more likely to survive would NOT BE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF SOCIETY as a whole."

My questions are: How sick is too sick? How old is too old? How disabled is too disabled? How fallible is the one making the judgment that the chance of survival is very low? How short a time of "survival" is too short to have the best medical treatment? Who makes these decisions?

All of these questions are asked in many places about the disabled, the terminally ill, and the elderly. These questions are well within the realm of responsibility of a theologian or a leader in the area of ethics.

In some states and in some countries, the answers to these questions justify euthanasia and Doctor assisted suicide. They may also justify withholding treatment and surgeries.

To help us answer these questions, let us look at the God gives in His Word?

What does God's Word say about life? Genesis 1: 26,27,28; 2: 4-7,18,19,21-23; Psalm 8:3-6; Matthew 22:29,30; Luke 20: 34-36; I Corinthians 6:3, and Hebrews 13: 1,2 all convey the idea that life is sacred, special, and a unique creation of God. As such human life is valued by Him and is to be protected by those involved with medicine, society, and government. Genesis 1:27 says: "So God created man in His own image, … male and female created He them." Genesis 2:7 says:"…God…breathed…the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Man is a spiritual being as well as a physical one and one that reflects the image of God. Human life is so special that God came Himself to provide for our spiritual life and salvation. He came Himself as God the Son. That act alone should show us the value of each human life. That value of a human life and soul is behind the commandment "Thou shall not kill" or in other words "thou shall not commit murder". The worth and value of human life is the principle behind trying to ease suffering and save life through medical practice. Psalm 8 says that God has made human beings "a little lower than the angels…and…to have dominion over the works of thy hands…sheep and oxen…and the beasts of the field". In other words, God's Word seems to indicate that human like is valuable and cannot be measured in dollars or cents. Human life's value is reflected in government's role to protect the innocent and punish the violent and law breakers who bring harm to others. (Romans 13:1-6; I Timothy 2: 2; I Peter 2: 13, 14) These truths, then, would have us be concerned with easing suffering, saving life through medicines, procedures and surgeries where possible. Appropriate treatment should always based on what is good for the patient, what the expressed wishes of the patient or his or her family are. Ethics would dictate that all options, risks, possible outcomes, and dangers of treatment or withholding of treatment be given to the patient or his or her family members or medical proxies for decisions to be made by them - for the good of the patient, not the good of society. What may seem like a poor quality of life or very little time to some may be precious to others- especially the patient or his or her family. Sometimes, the time left is just what is needed to mend fences and settle problems that can have a positive effect on those left behind after someone's death. Those kinds of results cannot be measured in dollars or cents.

Decisions about medical treatment are sometimes hard to make- but in all cases they should be made with the best interests of the patient in mind and by the patient (or their family or proxy) not by others in the hospital or insurance industries, or government.

What does God's Word say about human life in the womb?

Jeremiah 1: 4-5, Luke 1: 39-44; and Psalm 139: 13-17 shed much light on this question. Consider God's conversation with Jeremiah. In it, God stated that he had been forming and preparing Jeremiah's personality for his future work and calling from the time he was in his mother's womb and definitely before his birth. Jeremiah's life was valuable and viable from conception in God's eyes.

Consider Psalm 139: 13-17 in which God's Word shows a God active in the preparation of and showing value of a human being formed in their mother's womb. Verse 16 is a clear reference to a person's DNA which is present at conception and which begins developing from that point on. Life is life and it begins to be human and is valuable at the moment of its creation at conception. From that point on, all life is development. The child in the womb begins development at that point and continues to adulthood. It is totally dependent on its mother from conception through infancy, toddlerhood, preschool, the rest of childhood, and into its teen years. From the teen years on the child becomes less and less dependent on its parents. If taking a child's life in the womb for any reason is ok because it is not "viable" or able to exist on its own, is there another point in this young life before it reaches maturity that its life can be taken? Once the door is opened to cheapen human life in the womb, it is cheapened at other stages of development as well. Once human life is cheapened in the womb, it is also cheapened in its old age or by its disability or handicap. God, on the other hand, values and seeks to protect human life at all ages and stages. So should we.

Consider Luke 1: 39-44 in which we see a child of about 6 months after conception and still in his mother's womb recognize and leap for joy the presence of the Son of God just days or weeks after His conception by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb. How much clearer a picture must we seek in order to see the value and sacredness of human life in the womb. What more do we believers need to cause us to work against abortion on demand, protect human life in the womb, and do everything in our power to see that every unborn baby is given the opportunity to have its life protected.

Understanding these truths and principles will help us prevent governments like Hitler's and others from embarking on all forms of genocide, from rationing health care for financial reasons (whether by private or government entities), from legalizing abortion on demand, euthanasia, and assisted suicide. Understanding these truths will help us as families, churches, a society, and government care for the disabled and those who cannot care for themselves.

As believers we should do everything we can to help those who cannot afford to give birth or rear their babies to be able to do so and provide adoptive homes for those who cannot keep their newborns or rear them. We should do everything we can, in light of Biblical teaching, to change our laws to reflect the value of all life and to protect the life of the unborn in the womb, the elderly, and the disabled. Caring for and protecting life is the proper function of families, the church, society, and government. It is the proper function of every human being entrusted by God with life.

As we disciple those we point to Christ for salvation, we need to teach the above truths and help them embrace them into their hearts and lives just as we helm them understand all other truths from God's Word.