A response to Christian and religious perspectives, published by the Voluntary Euthanasia Society New Zealand
The first three paragraphs of their web post are copied below, each time followed by a response to their arguments.
‘God gives and he takes away’
Some Christians and Muslims argue that God gives us our life and hence we have no right to authorise anyone to hasten our death. This concept needs to be considered in the context of our normal lives where we have the autonomy to make many health decisions which causes our life to be either lengthened or shortened e.g. we may refuse medical treatment, or we may choose to undergo many treatments in the hope of prolonging our life. In general, Christians believe that God has given us free will which is part of being in His image. So we have extensive autonomy for life’s decisions, but when we wish to hasten our dying to limit our suffering, some tell us we are not allowed to do that – ‘God would prefer you to suffer rather than get help to end your life. God would prefer you to lose all your dignity rather than being able to say farewell to your loved ones while still conscious’. We are dying anyway, but to enable a peaceful death is against God’s will? Is it? This does not seem compatible with our loving God, and sorrows will be no more when we depart this life to be with God.
The author argues that euthanasia and assisted suicide (‘assisted dying’) is compatible with Christianity. His arguments are based on poor logic and misrepresent what the Bible teaches. (Interesting that he doesn’t include a single scriptural reference to support his claims…)
He argues that euthanasia is acceptable, because we already make decisions that hasten or prolong our lives, such as refusing or undergoing medical treatments. If a person dies after refusing treatment, the person dies from a natural cause – their underlying medical condition. The person dies at a time when their body is unable to sustain life. It may be soon after stopping treatment or even years later. Euthanasia involves ending someone else’s life deliberately using a lethal drug. A person who has been euthanased dies at a time when their body is still able to sustain life. It’s an unnatural death.
- He claims that God has given us free will and autonomy for life’s decisions. Yes, this is true, but free will is not a license to do whatever we like without consequences. The fact that people engage in certain behaviour doesn’t mean it’s in harmony with God’s values and biblical principles. The fact that something is allowed by human laws doesn’t mean it’s allowed by God’s laws. Actions can be sinful and laws can be ungodly.
- He argues that a loving God wouldn’t want us to suffer and lose our dignity. God’s priority is not our temporary earthly comfort, but that we are conformed to Jesus’ character and display the fruit of the Holy Spirit. These qualities include patience and perseverance – the opposite of ending one’s own life prematurely. When God allows suffering, He does that for a higher purpose and He gives us the strength and grace to bear it.
- He argues that a loving God would rather let us die by assisted suicide than let us suffer. Where does he get this idea from? The two biblical characters who requested euthanasia were both called “wicked”. It’s simply outrageous to claim that God would rather allow us to sin rather than suffer. The opposite is true. He would rather want us to be holy (righteous, obey His commandments) than seek our own comfort. Jesus called us to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). Yes, God is love and we are called to love others because He loves us (1 John 4:7-21). However, God’s definition of love doesn’t include breaking the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:8-10).
He says euthanasia is OK, because “we are dying anyway”. By that reasoning, murder and cannibalism are OK also. Yes, everyone will die anyway, but that doesn’t mean people should be allowed to deliberately end other people’s lives.
He argues that a peaceful death is not against God’s will. It isn’t, but the end doesn’t justify the means. The Bible doesn’t condone the killing of an innocent human being, regardless of the method used.
He argues that euthanasia is acceptable, because “sorrow will be no more when we depart this life to be with God”. That reference is from Revelation 21. The “no more sorrow” and “being with God” promise is not for everyone but for “His people” (v 3)and “those who overcome” (v 7). It’s not promised to the cowardly, the unbelieving, to murderers and idolaters, etc. (v 8). Could putting one’s own comfort above God’s commandments be a form of cowardice and idolatry? Is failure to trust God to give us the strength we need amid suffering not a form of unbelief? Assisted suicide and euthanasia are included in God’s definition of murder.
We don’t earn salvation by what we do and don’t do, but in God’s eyes our faith and our actions are closely linked. Grace doesn’t give us a license to sin. God takes deliberate and unrepentant sin very seriously. Why take that risk by ending one’s life in a way that disrespects Him as Lord and breaks His commandments?
Sacrifice may be good for you
Some Christians may argue that pain and suffering are good for your character and this is quite a pervasive concept in Christian thought. There is no doubt that the Bible supports suffering for the sake of the spreading of the gospel, and the suffering of Jesus is seen as necessary for our salvation. Suffering can also bring out good qualities in people. However, it is difficult to find a place where God or biblical writers say that futile suffering and pain is to be desired as one approaches death. Furthermore some argue that those caring for the suffering grow spiritually –but again it is difficult to accept that my suffering should happen to ennoble those watching me suffer.
He argues that “it is difficult to find a place where God or biblical writers say that futile suffering and pain is to be desired as one approaches death.”
Isn’t it arrogant and distrustful to dismiss something as “futile” when we know “that in all things God works everything for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28)? God sees the big picture and higher purpose, even when we don’t understand.
Transition from life to death
It can be argued that Christians who regard death as a transition from life to another better state should be less worried about ‘hanging on to life at all costs’ than others.
We don’t have to “hang on to life at all costs” by for example, keep people alive artificially for an unreasonable amount of time. However, there is a vast ethical difference between “hanging on to one’s own life” and intentionally ending the life of another person.
Do religious people support Physician-Assisted Dying (PAD)?
The author concludes by arguing that the majority of Christians support the legalisation of euthanasia and assisted suicide, based on opinion poll results. Opinion poll results depend very much on the way questions are asked. Euphemisms such as “assisted dying” can be understood to include such things as pain relief and switching off life support.
Even if it was confirmed that most Christians are in favour of euthanasia and assisted suicide, such a fact would not make euthanasia and assisted suicide compatible with what the Bible teaches.
Not everyone who calls themselves Christians will be given eternal life. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus was clearly addressing Christians, since only Christians would call Him “Lord”. He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive our demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, your evildoers!’”
The word “evildoers” in Matthew 7:23 is also translated as “lawbreakers”, “workers of lawlessness” and “disregarding My commands”.
Frankly, it’s not enough for people to call themselves Christians. God cares about how people live, about whether people respect His comamnds – including the commandment to not kill
“A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone” (James 2:24), which means that mental assent (belief) is not enough if it isn’t also lived. True faith produces good works, in harmony with what the Bible teaches.
The benchmark for what is acceptable behaviour is not found in the opinion of any humans, whether they call themselves Christians or not, and whether they are in positions of authority or not.
Everyone will stand before the judgement seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) based on God’s definitions of what is good and what is evil. Public opinion will be irrelevant.
“Woe to those who calls good evil and evil good…” (Isaiah 5:20.