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Friday, April 01, 2005

Is Life Valuable?

Robert, over at Libertopia posted a challenging question to the premise of the pro-life community: Is Life Valuable? He then used some Biblical passages to present the possibility that it may not be. I have included much of his commentary in my response.

Robert Writes:

Assuming that rank and file pro-lifers sincerely hold such views to be self-evident, I would like to challenge the basic premise: that life is valuable in and of it’self and ought to be protected without question. Moreover, the intrinsic value of life supercedes even the one that owns said life. Such would also apply to the life support system for an unborn fetus, namely its mother.

Agreed. That is how I view it.

In that I have a working knowledge of the Bible, I will attempt to use scripture to counter the foundational claims of those for whom life is an end in and of itself.

I had never seen this before, and was quite intrigued.

There are 66 total “books” in the Christian Bible-39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament. This is a comprehensive volume to be sure, so I’ll not recite every relevant passage. Thank goodness. I will however, select one potent bit from each section.

I would have to assume that any passage not cited but known is built upon the same assumptions and postulates as these. On we go!

First, from the older, which is well known for God’s dispensing of punishment for iniquity. But there’s the unique account of Job, about whom God declared “that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). Such a claim has not been attributed to Mrs. Schiavo, saintly though she may have been. Back to Job. The aforementioned conversation purportedly takes place between God and Satan, no less. Even a cursory reading of his trials reveals that God “sacrificed” his children, his servants, his cattle and indeed all of his possessions. To add insult to injury, his wife and his closest friends heaped criticism upon him, as though he had somehow earned such treatment. Oh, and there were those painful “boils” that afflicted his skin. The end of the tale shows that “life” was subordinate to the larger plan of the creator of it.

Right away I have an issue with this postulate. First, Robert leaves out a critical statement by God himself - (Job 2:6) "And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life." That kind of undercuts the idea, doesn't it? Job's life was so valuable, that Satan was allowed to destroy everything that Job owned and afflict his body, but not to kill Job.

Of course, Robert would (rightly so) bring us back to the point he mentioned - others were killed. Job's family and employees were killed, for, as Robert honestly puts it, "the larger plan of the creator".

The problem with this premise, that "life [is] subordinate to the larger pan of the creator" is that we are assuming that the actions of man are the moral equivalent of the actions of God. Just because God allows death to occur does not make it a just action for a man to take, hence the commandment to not murder. God can kill does not mean that man can kill.

Now a portion from the newer testament. Paul, the Apostle that is reputed to have penned 2/3 of the New Testament, wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth, concerning the importance of terrestrial existence: “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:6-8).

The question to the house is: why do “Christians” maintain that mortal life is the most valuable aspect of existence, when the Bible clearly teaches the opposite?

I was hoping for more in this section, because it is theologically plentiful, but we'll address what we have. Robert's point here seems to be, "since mortal life is not what is most important, why do pro-lifers say it is?"

This section of St. Paul's letter was an explanation - an explanation why they were not to quit when afflicted, because they have a greater reward to come. Christians agree with Robert that mortal life is not the "most valuable aspect of existence", because the eternal spiritual salvation is. I'm not sure that it is 'opposite' of that, but what has to be clear to the reader is that this maxim only applies to those who are headed for eternal salvation. Those who are not saved are to fear death, indeed.

I would present that life is important (in this aspect) for one of two simple reasons: 1) If a person's life ends before they are saved, they go to hell. Hence, we should keep people alive as long as we are able until that is certain. 2) Those who are saved are to be at the work of getting others saved, which requires them to be alive. Hence, we should keep saved people alive as long as we can.

Some will point to Levitical Law in general and the 6th Commandment (murder not) in particular. To this I say that the failure to act (provide sustenance) cannot be reasonably construed as an action. There is no such commandment that demands the force feeding of one that is incapable of swallowing. Note that while “feeding tubes” and respirators were nonexistent in ancient times, God’s power to resurrect was…according to Biblical accounts.

I doubt Robert believes it is not murder to starve a child to death. That is exactly, "failure to act (provide sustenance)". There is also no commandment to do thousands of good things and neutral things. The fallacy of the Argument of Silence, is never a true premise.

I'm not sure how technology and God's power to resurrect fit into what is assumed by Christians to be a moral precept. Moral precepts involve the actions of men and are timeless.

The open secret really, is about abortion. Those opposed to euthanasia invariably say that it is a byproduct of Roe vs. Wade. If one were to remove the emotional component and look at the facts dispassionately, perhaps there would be less tension. Many cite the innocent nature of the “unborn” as a justification to ban all abortion. Again, the Bible contains an example of God’s dealings with innocents. [He] made a distinction between Hebrew children and the first born of Egypt on the night of Passover. Untold thousands of kids were slaughtered by the “death angel” that passed over Moses’ people (Exodus 11). Whatever Pharaoh may have been guilty of, the children had no part of it. The fact is that
God’s plan took precedence over “human life”.

This is the same argument as above - that God killed, so man can do the same. The same response as above applies.

Personally, I'm not sure that "the innocent nature of the unborn" has anything to do with it. I would never use that, myself.

In glaring contrast, pro-lifers by-and-large support the “death penalty” for those that are considered “guilty”. Quite simply, the justification for such a position flows from Levitical Law. “…you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exodus 21:23-24). Fairly straight forward huh?...not exactly. With the death and resurrection of Christ, came a paradigm shift. The New Testament reveals that Christ fulfilled the requirements of the Law. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’)” (Galatians 3:13). Therefore, the law is of no effect for Christians.

My personal support for the death penalty has nothing to do with the Bible. I had a post on it some time ago, as well as the post two below this one. Essentially, my argument is from a human justice perspective. If prison sucked as bad as it does in Maricopa County, AZ, I'd oppose the death penalty.

Robert ends his Bible-based section here. Stop by and read the rest. A last line:

This may well offend the moral sensibilities of some, but I would suggest that [they] bear in mind that not everyone excepts a universal code of morality.

One's belief or acceptance of a law does not change the existence of that law. Hence, I must do what I can within my purview to ensure the laws are kept - even if that means making someone keep them who doesn't like them - no matter where they come from.


  • Hammer,
    about this...

    "Hence, I must do what I can within my purview to ensure the laws are kept - even if that means making someone keep them who doesn't like them - no matter where they come from."

    Although I think I understand what you mean...I don't believe it is possible to make any one keep any of the laws that are most important. If we could do that, we ourselves could essentially "force" someone to go...huh...north or south, shall we say :). We may influence, we may beseech...we may even threaten them with prison and death...may even kill them...but we'll never be the ones who decide who goes where.
    Then we just have to deal with secular laws. And however desirous of an orderly society we might be, we MUST not allow a situation where law puts a person to death. Anyone who could have stopped what happened to Teri...and didn't...will have to face the consequences for themselves---for they surely knew better. I know your stand on capital know I disagree. Although I would prefer a prison less luxurious than the ones we have now...given the option between a penthouse in New York for the murders to a death sentence, I would still oppose the death penalty.
    This was a GREAT post...WISH I hadn't used so many Hammer posts already I'll have to wait until Sunday to snatch this one.

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 4/01/2005 03:11:00 PM  

  • Hammer,
    I really appreciate your thoughtful analysis. So, I’ll try to respond in kind.

    Just because God allows death to occur does not make it a just action for a man to take, hence the commandment to not murder. God can kill does not mean that man can kill.

    Agreed…in a sense. I wasn’t justifying murder by humans because God takes life, but rather pointing out that “life” (from God’s perspective) is expendable and therefore less valuable than His larger plan. Murder differs from “killing” in that the former denies the natural right of consent to the individual. (Again, both are means to God’s ends).

    I would present that life is important (in this aspect) for one of two simple reasons: 1) If a person's life ends before they are saved, they go to hell. Hence, we should keep people alive as long as we are able until that is certain. 2) Those who are saved are to be at the work of getting others saved, which requires them to be alive. Hence, we should keep saved people alive as long as we can.

    You are not alone here, in that many/most Christians hold this view. However, this is erroneous in two respects:
    1.The entirety of scripture teaches that God’s plan of salvation is not universally offered. The Old Testament clearly draws a distinction between the Jew and Gentile. The former were “chosen”, while the latter were emphatically rejected…solely on the basis of God’s sovereign choice. From the New Testament, I will point out two immutable examples: A-Jesus openly precluded the Pharisees’ salvation, based upon foreknowledge (John 10:25-30) B-Paul explicitly demonstrates the “election” of God in the whole of the 9th chapter of Romans, in which he reveals that “spiritual Israel” (according to the promise to Abraham) are distinct from “fleshly Israel”. In this way, some Jews are rejected while some Gentiles are chosen. [this is a bit of “inside baseball”, but is essential to my point]
    2.In light of #1, any attempt to actively seek converts is futile. By that I mean that believers are to be “salt and light”, while the Holy Spirit transforms or regenerates those marked for salvation (Romans 9:23). Additionally, the Bible in no way advocates coercive civil laws intended to curtail personal sin (victimless crime), in the interest of priming one’s spiritual pump so that one might be saved.

    Essentially, my argument is from a human justice perspective.

    Fair enough, but all the same one dies; so killing is advocated for one reason or another.

    One's belief or acceptance of a law does not change the existence of that law.

    On this we agree. The thrust of my post was to persuade/prevent any and all laws that are rooted in a narrow moral perspective from being codified. The rule-of-law ought to be as general as possible, without respect for particular subsets of the populous.

    Also, I've been a "born again" Christian since 1993 and I'm continually growing and learning...although my positions are seen a heretical by some. I would only appeal to the facts as justification for my theology.

    By Blogger Robert, at 4/01/2005 07:00:00 PM  

  • Hammer,

    I'm sure you've noticed how this argument is going...trying to shift the focus from the fact that Teri Schiavo had no choice in this matter...trying to frame the whole discussion as if providing Teri food and water were somehow infringing upon their rights...trying to coax us into qualifying life because they know when we do, there is room for negotiation... and the irony of some proclaiming they're for the authority of the state when, in fact, those very states have laws that prevent them from doing what they want to do---knowing full well that if it were the state trying to provide Teri food and water, they'd have been screeching for federal intervention. They'll wiggle with you as long as you want to wiggle...burrowing into endless discussions about the sex of Angels---all the while what they want to happening.
    What was the term someone used? A den of vipers?

    By Blogger David Hunley, at 4/02/2005 12:22:00 PM  

  • David-
    The truth is, we can't force anything. I can still choose to be killed than follow an order from a man with a gun, so it is true that I can't "make" anyone do anything.

    In a world where few claim to believe and fewer actually do, I don't seek to establish religious law - I seek to establish an order that allows the maximum freedom to choose what is right. I think that our Constitution, as the framers seemed to intend, does this. I do not think the country stands where they would have wanted.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 4/02/2005 10:36:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 4/02/2005 10:48:00 PM  

  • Robert-
    Until a man can be 100% sure that his actions are what God wants, we can never be justified in killing. As best I can tell, that happens only in defense of others and ourselves, and includes combat. I don't deny that the loss of a life outside of these parameters meets God's ends - I simply deny that we can know what God's ends are, and must seek to preserve the gift of life he gives us.

    On the next point, a careful exposition of the Old Testament will reveal that Gentiles could convert to Judaism. Christianity is equally inclusive or exclusive - anyone can become a Christian now, or a Jew then. Thus, your argument of salvation being non-universal seems faulty.

    The inside baseball is this - the theology of 'election' continues to be contentious within the Christian community. As foreknowledge does not insinuate predestination, Christ's words quoted here similarly do not proclaim that God chooses and we do not.

    Point #2 - You're right that this ties into point #1. It leads in the direction I was trying to force David over at Contrarian Views into, but he wouldn't go there.

    I agree that my service to Christ in no way affects the salvation of others. However, I am constrained by His love to do His service. My opinon on predestination is this: Whether we are predestined or not, we can't tell - it seems like our decision to us. Therefore, we must live life as if it is our decision.

    Does that make sense?

    I like how you appeal to the facts. "Working out" our own salvation was not heresy, the last time I checked.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 4/02/2005 10:55:00 PM  

  • Hammer, you’re the consummate gentleman. It’s true that the predestination v. free will debate will likely continue to go on until Christ himself settles the dispute. As a matter of fact, I seem to be at odds with most, if not all of the major denominations (including Calvin…I’ve studied his writing fairly extensively). I guess I’m stubborn, but I just can’t accept that which I’m not convinced is true.

    I wonder if you’ve heard it said that Romans 9 is “unknowable”. IMO, the various and sundry doctrinal positions exist as if [that] chapter did not. My positions is that main stream theology is contradictory because is fails to consider God’s sovereignty. I'd love to hear your take on the specifics.

    By Blogger Robert, at 4/03/2005 12:56:00 AM  

  • Robert,
    I'm on the road, so I'll try to go into more doctrinal detail later.

    I normally avoid this topic like the plague, because it is so easily misunderstood and misapplied.

    Consider the following:

    If God chooses, not me, then the justification for any act in my life becomes, "God chooses, not me, so I'm not really choosing to do this act. In fact, He must approve of it!" Also, those who are convinced that they are 'chosen' have a real danger and tendency to become conceited, because they must be 'special'.

    If everything is up to me, then I can gain and lose my salvation at any time - perhaps even repeatedly. Hence, I can never be sure of my eternal resting place, because I don't know if I'll make a mistake (ok, deliberately sin) and lose my salvation, before I get the chance to 'choose' it back again.

    I lean toward God's sovereignity, for two reasons. First, He is God, and I am not! Second, the more control I have, the less certainty remains. I also recognize that if God chooses, not me, that I did nothing to deserve it, and seek to do everything I can to thank Him for choosing me. How do I thank Him? By being a willing and active tool for reaching the lost.

    The greatest witness for the need for evangelism?

    Rom 10:13-16 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

    How God uses witnesses is up to Him. What is clearly my command is to BE one.

    I'm pretty sure that this is line with Southern Baptist Theology. Rev. Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says similar stuff.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 4/07/2005 12:05:00 AM  

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