Archive for January, 2014

In my last post in this series, I was documenting the early life of Hannah Whitall Smith. I will continue with this today.

Speaking of the lack of theological training, and the dependence on “unction”, instead of study prep. for sermons:

For not only was there to be no especial training for the ministry, but it was not thought right to make preparation for any particular service or meeting. “Friends” were supposed to go to their meetings with their minds a blank, ready to receive any message that the Holy Spirit might see fit to impart. None of them could tell before hand whether the inspiration would or would not come to them; and the promise was clear that, should it come, it would be given them in that same hour [ala MT 10:8-10] what they should speak. All preparation for preaching therefore was felt to be a disloyalty to the Holy Spirit, and was called “creaturely activity”, meaning hat it was the creature in the individual, and not the Spirit of God, that had taken control. And no such preaching was ever felt to have that “unction of the Spirit” which was the Quaker test of all ministry.” [1]

1. Smith, Hannah Whitall. “Quaker “Truth” and Quaker “Ministry”” The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It. New York: Garland Pub., 1985. N. pag. Print. Kindle file.

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Please catch up with my posts in this series here.

When I was much younger, I made the following comment to my wife, in jest, of course, because young men are invincible, and think they’re immortal.

“If something happens to me, and I’m on a ventilator, don’t you give up on me…it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

It was a frivolous statement I should have never made. Recent events have made me realize how cruel a burden that statement was to place on a loved one. I am thankful my loved ones have not had to make that kind of decision. My hope is that as I work through this, I can come to a better plan than that.

What Is A Worldview?

We need to begin by backtracking a minute and make a clear definition of what exactly a worldview is.

“So what is a worldview? Essentially this: A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”1

A worldview is basically your philosophy of life or your conception of the world. It is the accumulation of your presuppositions and beliefs, and how you look at reality. 

“In the simplest terms, a worldview may be defined as how one sees life and the world at large. In this manner it can be compared to a pair of glasses. How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person’s “vision,” so to speak. The interpretive “lens” helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Sometimes the lens brings clarity, and other times it can distort reality.”2

A friend of mine gave me some really good tickets to the Alabama/UTC football game last year. My son and I were excited to go to Tuscaloosa and see the Crimson Tide in person. When I was leaving, I picked up what I thought were my glasses from the bathroom. I noticed that all the way to Tuscaloosa from here in North Georgia, I was having trouble seeing, and then I got a headache. My son was wondering what was wrong with me, when I couldn’t make out the names on the jerseys. Finally, I took of my glasses and looked…I had my daughters glasses on. When you’re half-blind, one set of frames that are similar look the same, but mine had bling-haha.

My point is that the philosophical “lens” you look through is either one you have considered, pondered over, and chosen for yourself (as I did my spectacles at Lenscrafters), or you’re wearing someone else’s “lenses”, or worse yet, you’re wearing worldview “glasses” that are made up of a hodgepodge of different “isms” that mix about as well as oil and water.

Seven Worldview Questions

Maybe you picked up a little “Christianism” in Sunday School. Then you added some good ol’ Pragmatism from American culture. Throw in some Romanticism, and mysticism, and you’ve got yourself one messed up set of worldview glasses. It’s no wonder you can’t make heads-or-tails out of basic worldview questions. James Sire lists seven basic questions all worldviews must answer. They are:

1  What is the nature of Ultimate Reality?- Is there a god? Is He Personal? Can I know Him?

2.  What is the nature of material reality?“Does matter exist? Is what we see an illusion? 

  • Is it created or uncreated?
  • Is it orderly or chaotic?
  • Is it subjective or objective?
  • Is it personal or impersonal?
  • Is it eternal or temporal?”3

3.  What is the nature of humanity?Is he merely a machine? Does he have immaterial parts? Is he a god? Is he a created being? 

4. What happens when you die? “Here are some of the answers that various worldviews give concerning life after death.

  • People cease to exist.
  • Individuals are transformed to a higher state.
  • People reincarnate into another life on earth.
  • People depart to a shadowy existence on “the other side.”
  • Individuals enter into the spiritual realm (heaven, hell, or other place) based on how life was lived on earth.
  • People enter directly into heaven.”4

5.  How do we know anything, or can we know anything at all? “These are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with the issue of knowledge.

  • Consciousness and rationality developed through a long process of evolution.
  • There is no “reason” that human beings are able to have knowledge. That is just the nature of our existence.
  • Knowledge is an illusion.
  • Humans are made in the image of God who, himself, has knowledge.”5

6.  What about ethics? Can anyone one really know right from wrong? Here are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with this issue.

  • Right and wrong are strictly products of human choice.
  • Right and wrong are determined by what feels good.
  • A sense of right and wrong was an evolutionary development as a survival mechanism for the species.
  • Right and wrong are learned by experience as we learn what pleases the gods.
  • We are made in the image of God whose character is good and who has revealed what is right.”6

7.  What is the meaning of human life and history?Some of the various worldviews deal with this by asserting:

  • There is no innate meaning to human history. Meaning is what humans make it to be.
  • Time is an illusion.
  • Meaning involves realizing the purpose of the gods.
  • Meaning results from discovering and fulfilling the purpose of God.”7

8. James Sire lists one more question that makes the point about a worldview being a matter of the heart, and not just an abstract exercise: “What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?”8

It’s very important that you understand your own worldview, and the worldviews of those around you, especially those who can affect your life significantly, such as your physicians, politicians, educators, etc.

As Christian we are told:

1 Peter 3:15

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

You can’t make a defense to questions you haven’t worked through yourself. If you’ve ever tried to have a serious conversation with someone, and discovered you have no common point of reference, you have crashed into the worldview wall. Some of the most frustrating people I have ever tried to dialogue with are militant atheistic naturalists, and postmodern Christian Emergents. This is a clash of worldviews. If you don’t think that it’s important to understand different worldviews, consider this:

1611194_10202046474975690_69437121_oIn the past few weeks, my family has had to deal with the life and death situation of a loved one. In dealing with one particular doctor at a step-down facility that was supposed to wean my loved off of a ventilator, it became abundantly clear that there was a clash of worldviews. Our philosophy was that she should be cared for, medicated, and sustained with a ventilator, and heroic measures of resuscitation would not be employed. The doctor at the facility did not think it necessary to continue treating our family member as a human being needing compassion, but treated her like an animal needing to be put-down.

WORLDVIEWS MATTER!

Seven Worldviews That Developed After The Disintegration Of Christian Theism As the Dominant Worldview

James Sire, in his book The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, lists the following worldviews that have developed as the Christian Theistic worldview has disintegrated in the last 3 centuries:

  1. Deism Advocating either an impersonal force or deity, or a personal god that created the cosmos, but who doesn’t interfere with the laws of nature. The miraculous is denied. Reason is basically deified.
  2. Naturalism- Anti-supernatural; all phenomena can be explained by natural  or scientific causes.
  3. Nihilism Traditional values are useless; existence is meaningless; no objective truth or morality. Proponents: Max Stirner, Friedrich Nietzsche, 
  4. Existentialism- focuses on the existence of the individual, and the responsibility of humans with freewill and self-determination. Proponents: Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre
  5. Eastern Mysticism
  6. New Age
  7. Islam

When dealing with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Objective Moral Truth, and the Sanctity of Life, especially when dealing with medical issues related to end-of-life care, understanding which worldview you are coming into conflict with as a Christian becomes something more than just an academic endeavor. Your loved one’s life may depend on your recognition of worldviews, and the questions you should be asking. As an exercise, just watch the news. Notice presuppositions, and how they relate to the seven worldview questions. It won’t take you terribly long to learn how to discern someone’s worldview. Asking the right questions, and listening to the answers could keep you from misinterpreting a medical professional. Trust me, it’s important.

“Despite the persistent boast that America is the most religious country in the Western world, the Christian worldview and Christian ethics are under attack by the dominant secular culture. The tactics employed by secularists vary from belittling religious belief in general to ridiculing Christian believers themselves.”10

1. Sire, James. “What Is a Worldview?” Christianity.com. Salem Web Network, 05 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.christianity.com/blogs/russell-moore/what-is-a-worldview-11627153.html&gt;.

2. Samples, Kenneth R. “Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview?” Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview? Reasons To Believe, 01 Jan. 2007. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.reasons.org/articles/what-in-the-world-is-a-worldview&gt;.

3. Sire, James W. The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1997. Print. Kindle edition.

4. Sire, ibid.

5. Sire, ibid.

6. Sire, ibid.

7. Sire, ibid.

8. Sire, ibid. Loc. 178

9. Sire, ibid.

10. Slick, Matt. “What Is a Christian World View and Why Do Christians Need One?” CARM. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://carm.org/what-christian-world-view-and-why-do-christians-need-one&gt;.

Note: Much help in my journey through the murky waters has been given by:

Blocher, Mark B. “Christian Worldview and Medical Ethics, Part 2.” Lifemattersww.org/. Center for Biblical Bioethics, 2004. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

My next post in this series will continue my family’s personal struggle with  bioethics in my critically ill loved one’s continuing saga.

simul justus et peccator,

Eric Adams

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“The Cosmological Argument takes the reality of the cosmos to entail the existence of a something that created it. This is the case since the cosmos had a beginning. There must be something that produced and triggered that beginning—the first cause. Theologians posit this agent as God”.

— Mike Robinson, from The Cosmological Argument: Some Fresh Insights

The Door, that no one is happy to be standing in front of.

The Door, that no one is happy to be standing in front of.

Know When To Fight

In my previous posts, I began a discussion, based on a personal dilemma being faced by my own family, dealing with end-of-life ethics. I intend to be more personal in this post. My hope is that as I work through this emotional and personal struggle, that we can come to some conclusions based on a Christian worldview, and perhaps prepare better for end-of-life scenarios, and prepare better to know when to fight for the life of a loved one. This journey is open-ended. I don’t know where my loved one’s journey will take her or us. We will learn as we go. Hopefully, someone may be helped through this.

My emotions are raw, and I’m feeling numb and exhausted. I am my brother-in-law’s wing-man, and even though he is the one feeling the full weight of this horrible situation, I am close enough to sense the powerlessness and confusion of it all. The endless hours; the feelings of hopelessness; the anger when the step-down facility thinks a DNR means “do not help the patient at all”; and having to be the grieving spouse, critical care nurse, respiratory therapist, clinical ethicist, nurse motivator, and hospital janitor, all at the same time. Lack of sleep, lack of peace, lack of human contact, lack of food, and lack of encouragement, takes its toll. You can’t concentrate when you try to work, and you can’t sleep when you have the opportunity, because your brain won’t stop working. In the step-down facility you’re there 24 hours a day. In the CCU, you’re making three trips a day.

My loved one has been ill more seriously and longer than any of us are probably aware. She’s struggled with weight-related issues, endometrial cancer, circulatory problems, and pulmonary issues. She was more than likely dealing with COPD, and some form of Pneumonia before she contracted the bug that broke the patient’s back.

Enter the flu. From listening to doctors and nurses, I know that most people who die from the flu, usually don’t actually die from the flu. The flu saps up all of the energy and immunity, leaving any pre-existing or opportunistic condition to run rampant, unimpeded. It’s the secondary illnesses that get you. That is what happened to my loved one. She contracted the flu, which sapped her already compromised immunity, which in turn allowed pneumonia and other infections to turn into a somatic forest fire..

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Critical Illness

I have gone back on Facebook and noted the posts from her husband as she began her unwanted journey.

Dec. 14, 2013- “At the Doc with _______. Temp of 103.1 this AM. Tylenol brought it down to 100.8. O2 was in the low 80’s (on 2lpm /nc now) and up to 88. Might mean a trip to the ER. No evidence of pneumonia though and negative for Flu.”

He got her in to see the doctor, who immediately sent her to Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga.

“So the DX is back on __________. Pneumonia and some other condition?? that has caused them to do CPK~MB’s 4 times now and put her on a Heparin drip. Prayers would be greatly appreciated.”

Dec. 16, form my wife’s wall: “I don’t ask for prayers on Facebook too much but would appreciate some for my sis in law ______. She is in Memorial right now with Influenza A, the nasty flu, pneumonia, and some other not so good things going on. I know ________ is worn out and would appreciate prayers as well.”

My B-inlaws wall: “Being transferred to the cardiac care unit. Waiting on a bed.”

Later the same day: “So it got worse. Being intubated r/t respiratory failure. Critical labs, high risk for more nastiness ahead. The dominoes keep falling. Going to be admitted to ICU. Kills me that she said “please just get me out of here” and “please don’t leave me” as they were pushing me out. Sometimes life sucks.”

And later: “Intubation successful. Next domino is renal function at 40%, but heart rate is down from 125 to 95 and she’s not having to fight to breathe. Now comes the next battle to cure the multi-bacterial infections. Blood cultures back tomorrow to get a better picture. IV Azithromax and Rocephin are useless as M&M’s at this point.”

Dec. 17, B-inlaws wall: “So first off, I am so grateful for everyone’s prayers._________ is still sedated and intubated. Docs had me agree today to a tracheotomy and vent when she is out of danger from infections. Say she is stable but critical. Having a little difficulty keeping heart rate down. Thought she was coming out of sedation, so the increased the Diprivan. Had been in the 140’s. Now in the one teens . Only let me see her 4 hrs a day. Won’t let me in when they arouse her to check her functioning hand grips, eye blinks, etc. ’cause they tell me she might have a bad time with it. Keep praying, and thank you all so much.”

From Dec. 18th:_______ is stable this morning. Very wet lung sounds. Labs are midline and infections still raging. They stopped the Diprivan so I could talk to her. She opened her eyes and was able to nod and shake her head for yes and no. She understood about what was happening. She wants to get better. She hurts all over, but pain can be a friend too. Having no feeling would be bad. The Doctors are about ready to do the trach and vent. She would be less sedated unless she had anxiety issues. I told her I was agreeing to the trach and vent and she nodded her head yes. God’s grace and faithfulness are beyond my comprehension. Her nurse this morning, Ariel, is going for his masters and specializes in ______’s type of multiple complications. He Is going to give her sedation vacations for the next times I’m in the room so we can spend time together. She was calm and handled it as well as could be expected. We are still deep in the woods with a long, long path to travel. Please continue your prayers, for her in general and then specifically that her lungs would clear and that her respiratory failure would resolve. Please know that I love you all and believe that your faithfulness in praying is what is getting us through this.”

Dec. 19: “So, the word of the day seems to be “uneventful”. From where we were, Uneventful is good. Tomorrow at 4 PM the trach goes in. The Doctor had to give me all the information and negative potentials because of informed consent. I know what they are, but it’s just like the Miranda law: if they don’t say it, it doesn’t count. What the people here in the waiting rooms need, myself included, is hope along with the facts. I’ve been talking to some folks who are alone, no other support here. One man in particular whose wife (67) was brought in Monday with a similar situation to ______’s. He kept saying “I don’t understand what they are telling me”. I did my best to simplify, not really caring so much if I was overstepping my bounds (we all know what a know-it-all reputation I have). Last night the man thanked me and said he understood what the doctor told him yesterday and understands what he can expect. SO, if God can use my bent toward being a know-it-all to give even one person peace, I feel He can forgive the occasional stuffiness. 
For my sweet ________,  I know she hears me, because her pulse changes. My sister__________saw evidence of that last night. So what us next? We wait and we keep praying. Thank you all so much again.”

Later on the 19: “They have reduced _________  propofol from 50 to 25 mcg/kg/min. She opened her eyes once and responded to my saying I was there. Her hands are gloved, but she is a strong woman. I told her to relax and tomorrow was going to be better. She swallowed twice and tried to visibly relax. This better go well. I don’t need more non-fun happening. Keep praying.And thank you all.”

Dec. 20: “Today is a big day. Tube out, trach in. The first visit of the day is always scary. Gonna be glad to have her off sedation when today is over. Not gonna think about anything but all the positives ahead. 6 minutes til I see her. Thanks for your continued prayers.”

Later on the 20th: “It’s after 6 and no word yet.________’s surgery could have started late. Trying to find something to do to keep from running up the walls. Have puzzle book, thanks to _____________, have you guys, my sister____________, and Eric Adams are keeping me company, and I have my faith. Maybe I should have learned to roller blade.”

And later:_________ is Out of surgery. Lungs collapse a bit, but airway establish. Dr Hunt says she looks much more comfortable. Don’t know if out of sedation at 8:30-9:30 visitation time. May have to wait until tomorrow. Thank you all so much and please keep praying for her continued healing.”

Dec. 21: “Citrobacter Amalonaticus is one if the little devils. It seems to be very nasty and decided when the flu hit it would join the party. Labs slowly returning to normal. Doc says she’s changing __________’s type of sedative so she be more awake. It’s a process and a long road. I appreciate you guys traveling it with us.”

After the tracheotomy, on the 21st: “Goodbye Propofol, hello Precedex. Lighter sedation. Was awake and acknowledged me. Very weak. Infection still raging insanely. Gonna have to figure out communication. She understands me, but I’m having to learn Greek. I did that once and it was tough. As __________ gets stronger things will become easier. For now I am happy for the few moments between the many minutes. Keep believing with me. God bless you all.”

Later on the same day: “Back with ________again. My mom and dad, _______ and _________, my sister ___________, and niece __________ are here with me. Labs still mostly good, but infections have caused temp to soar. 102.3 now but doc wants to see how high it will go without tmt; cutoff point of 102.5. Hello. Almost there. Bring on the Tylenol. Opened her eyes and acknowledged we are here. But so weak. I can’t even imagine. Please continue with us and lift my girl up in church tomorrow. Many thanks and God bless.”

Later, Dec. 21: “Okay. So call me bossy Betty. Told the nurse temp at 102.5 so we probably need to start the Tylenol. And elbow against the rail, on your next turn we can get that repositioned. And the BP readings were a little off but when you go back in you’ll see the cuff needs to be repositioned. Great. I’m becoming one of those family members. But I made sure to say thank you for all you are doing. Oh well. Love you guys.”

From my wall, on the 22nd: “______’s temp. Was down to 99.0 when I left. Her respiration was down to about 81 from 96 earlier in the week. They have reduced her sedation to .3 mg/hr. Her blood pressure was excellent. 

The best news of all is that she was responsive today, and even asked if they had done the tracheotomy. She also responded when the nurses told her about how many visitors she had. 

Another good sign- they had her ventilator set for 18 breaths per minute, but she was actually breathing 22 pet minute, which means she is attempting to breathe on her own, a very good sign. A good but exhausting day for both ______ and__________. — feeling confident.”

My B-inlaw on Dec. 22: “Going back to see___________ at 8:30. She has improved since last I posted. Vitals normalizing. Temp 98.8, albeit with cooling blanket and fans in place. Weaning off Precedex so will be on prn sedative tonight. She roused enough to ask the nurse if she was trached. Propofol and short-term memory aren’t buddies, so it’s gonna be a shock when she is awake enough to realize everything. Vent still 45% O2, but hoping with improvements we can slowly wean. Still way over 17 on WBC’s. Waiting on culture of picc line. Still deep in the woods, but we see one of those boy scout trail markers saying “It’s that way”. Much, much appreciation for your continued concern and prayer as we search for the clearing. You guys are great. God bless you and thank you for your belief and graciousness.”

Later the same day: “So now the good news. _________ was awake and alert. Had no idea what had happened or how long. Thought she had missed Christmas. When I told her about what all of you have done and the prayers thoughts, wishes and love you’ve sent, she beamed. You guys have made what started out as a scary day into something wonderful and I cannot express my gratitude. Gonna start Levophed to see if we can’t get the low Mean Arterial Pressure (in the 50’s) back to a safe level. God bless and good night.”

From my wife’s wall on the 25th: “Merry Christmas! Hope all my friends have a wonderful big happy Christmas! I am surrounded by my family, watching _________ work diligently to figure out my new phone, as I type this on my brand new Laptop, kids all exhausted from opening gifts and now chilling out! Fixing to head to _______ Hospital to see _______ and ________and spread some Christmas cheer!”

From my daughter’s wall on Christmas Day: “Spending time with __________  for Christmas! Hoping to brighten up her room a little with presents and notes and flowers:) “

My B-inlaw on the 30th: “As I sit at___________ Hospital with __________, I recall a time when _____ and _____________ served at our church in Ft Oglethorpe, Ga. One particular sermon spoke of pillars and caterpillars. The pillars helped support the church, the caterpillars just crawled in and out every week. The same is true in nursing. A burned out nurse is like the caterpillar, crawling in and out on routine, no passion, no urging of their call to help others heal. Pray that God will rejuvenate and rekindle the first love that nurses require to serve others; and pray that God will crop dust those in their care with the blood of Jesus to protect and heal until a fire of passion is rekindled in the hearts of those who, through overwork, understaffing, and stress have lost the love for their calling.”

You can follow the ups and downs of our current crisis. I am recording this on my blog so my family can have a single place to go to work back through this emotional roller coaster. Making sense of all of this is going to take a strong faith, an informed faith, and a reasonable faith. I will continue the more personal details a couple of posts from now.

Think First, Then Feel

For now, think about your family. Think about facing some very critical ethical issues. If you are a Christian, think about the grid you will use to prepare for a difficult moment, maybe a decision that will mean the end of someone’s life, and who will decide. How will you decide? How much will you depend on the medical community for that decision? How much will you depend on your Pastor, or fellow church members? How much will you depend on family and friends for advice? How much will you depend on a sound Biblical worldview rooted in Scripture, and the historic Christian faith? Does your worldview mater? Soes the worldview of the doctor, hospital, and government matter? We will probe these things together in future posts. I don’t have any easy answers. I don’t know that there are easy answers to these types of questions. We will approach them nonetheless. 

My next post will be more theological, but I wanted to record the ups and downs of my loved ones, so you know that these issues are not theoretical. I also want my family members to have a written record of our painful trek.

Thank you for your time.

simul iustus et peccator, 

 
Eric Adams 
Rossville, GA 
godsguy12@comcast.net 
christianreasons@gmail.com 

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“As a Christian, you’re a target for others who hold ideas and beliefs different from you. And because you can’t have an expert beside you all the time, it’s going to be up to you to try and defend what you believe in many situations. Whether you want to be or not, you’ve been drafted in to a war — a war of ideas! The Apostle Paul tells us the very same thing when he writes to the church at Corinth:

“We use God’s power that can destroy fortresses. We destroy arguments and every bit of pride that keeps anyone from knowing God.” (1 Cor. 10:5 CEV)”

— Lenny Esposito

via Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Whether you want to be or not, you are drafted into the war of ideas.

 

simul iustus et peccator, 

 
Eric Adams 
Rossville, GA 
godsguy12@comcast.net 
christianreasons@gmail.com 

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Bioethics from a Christian Perspective

In my previous post, I wrote about my purpose for starting this series. Today, I want to begin to explore bio-ethics from a Christian perspective. 

Most discussions about any type of bio-ethics begins by covering autonomy. I’m no bioethicist, but I’ll do my best.

The way normal secular medical ethics proceeds is on the principles of:

  1. Autonomy,
  2. Beneficence,
  3. non-maleficence,
  4. and Justice

These aren’t magical formulas, as the current debates demonstrate. Not everyone agrees on each of these principles. It takes a unifying moral theory, or philosophy, or theological perspective to make the parts weave together into a coherent whole.

“In medical ethics, the principle of autonomy is viewed as essential to patients rights. Flowing from it are the right to informed consent, the right to self-determination, the right to refuse medical treatment, and so on. These rights are grounded in the principle that human beings deserve respect. Autonomy is crucial to the doctor-patient relationship.”1

That’s all fine and good, but, as the struggle to recognize the rights of the unborn show, deciding exactly who is a person is not that clear-cut to some.

Imago Dei

Of course, for Christians, that’s a no-brainer. After God’s creative acts in the Genesis creation accounts, man becomes the crowning jewel of creation. Although man has many attributes in common with animals, there is one thing that is unique about him. God breaks the pattern of creating things after their own kind.

Genesis 1:24-26

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Man is made in the image of God. The Latin phrase for that is Imago Dei. 

Man, like God, is a personal being. God Himself, as the Bible later reveals, is three persons all sharing one divine essence. Human persons are created beings, and in that regard (as in others) they are similar to and share characteristics with other created beings. But what is most important about human persons is their likeness to God. This likeness is so very special that it sets them apart from all the other creatures God made. Man is not made according to their kinds; he is made according to God’s “kind.” In other words, man is made as the image and likeness of God.’ 2 

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343

Even though man and woman fell from their lofty position, and that Imago Dei was marred, it wasn’t entirely destroyed. Part of the Noahide Laws prohibit murder on the basis of the Imago Dei.

Genesis 9:6

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man.

Autonomy

Because he images God, man has the ability to be self-determined, or has autonomy. Autonomy literally means “self-law” in the Greek. It was the philosopher Immanuel Kant who coined the phrase “autonomy”, but it was a Biblical principle long before he came on the scene. 

“If morality is to be derived from freedom (autonomy), and if morality must be valid for all rational beings, it looks as if we must prove that the will of a rational being is necessarily free. From a practical point of view every rational agent must presuppose his will to be free. Freedom is a necessary presupposition of all action as well as all thinking.” 3

Autonomy is basic to Western society and thought. In fact, autonomy has become so enshrined in American thought that it frequently turns  into crass individualism. As Christians, we should always balance the rights of the individual with the responsibility of a vocation in community as spouse, parent, family, church, and citizen. None of us are autonomous beyond the natural boundaries of the physical and moral laws set by our Creator. 

“Autonomy is a function that arises only for a rational, moral agent capable of understanding that there are actions he or she is not free to choose.”4

It’s only as rational moral creatures that our autonomy is at best, limited. Unfortunately, there exists today a form of Liberalism that seeks to throw off all community restraint, in favor of a morally groundless, amorphous, vague concept of unprovable “rights”. Trust me, if a state can “give” you rights, it can take them away, as well.

There is tension between the autonomy of the patient, and the autonomy of the doctor. Learning where to draw the line is the difficult part.

Bioethics and the Ten Commandments

As creatures made in the image of God, humanity is to be treated with respect. Because of the Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation motifs found in the Christian worldview, Christians have the unique moral foundation to rationally discuss the meaning of “personhood” and “human dignity”. The Ten Commandments serves as an excellent grid to address morality in light of fallen humanity.

Exodus 20:1-17

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

20 Then God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Please don’t waste your time and mine complaining that this is Old Testament. Jesus reaffirmed each of these commandments Himself, even the Sabbath commandment, which we interpret as applying to Sunday, or some other day of rest.

Luther’s Three Uses of the Law

I appreciate the way the Lutherans view the Ten Commandments. The Second Table of the Law particularly interests me in dealing with ethical problems. It’s always helpful to remember the three uses of the Law as found in Martin Luther’s writings: 

  1. “A curb to keep society in order”
  2. “A mirror to show us our sin”
  3. “And a guide for Christian service to our neighbor”.
The Curb of the Law

I will be quoting from an interesting webpage entitled The Curb of the Law: A Voter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments. It looks at that first use of the Law in relation to voting, but its discussion fits in well with our discussion of bioethics.

We remember, first of all, that the Ten Commandments are given to protect God’s gifts. He created all things good. The Lord want for us good things. We see in the commandments both the gifts that God gives as well as His desire to protect them.”
Understanding the gifts that God gives clarity to the role of government: law and the rule of law serves to protect the gifts of God. And, those serving in government love their neighbor by protecting these same gifts and making and enforcing laws that do the same. “

The fourth commandment is the source of all human government. Before there was the state, and even before there was the church, there was the family: Adam and Eve. It is from the family, then, that authority comes.

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther says, “For all authority flows and is propagated from the authority of parents.” (I.141) In this way we understand the commandment to honor our father and mother to include all the authorities in creation, including the government. On the other hand, this commandment puts all government in its proper place: serving and protecting families.”5

Authority Flows From the Family to Government, not Vice Versa

All authority flows from the family. This is especially important when confronted with doctors pressure you to do something you’re not ready to do. I have experienced this firsthand. The decision of life or death belongs in the hands of the family. Period. The governments place is to serve and protect families.

The fifth commandment sets government to protect the Lord’s gift of life.

I often hear people talking about quality of life. The Bible knows of no such thing. The Lord has not given to mankind the authority to judge if life is worth living. Life is life, no matter how good or bad it is. Let me be clear, discussions about the quality of life are idolatrous, it assumes that life is here for us to take, measure, judge and even end.

The right to life is the most fundamental human right. Our blatant disregard for human life will mark this as one of the darkest ages of human history. The blood of millions of babies will certainly reach the ears of our heavenly Father. The Lord’s church continues to pray for an end to this mindless slaughter, and to use every opportunity she is given to help save the lives of babies in the womb. Voting is one of those opportunities to love our neighbor, especially our unborn neighbors.”6

My exhausted brother-in-law waiting for a visit with his wife in the CCU

My exhausted brother-in-law waiting for a visit with his wife in the CCU

If you notice the conversations of knowledgeable Christians, they always bookend beginning-of-life ethics (abortion) with end-of-life ethics (euthanasia). It is a gut reaction based on our understanding of the Sanctity of Life, which flows from the Ten Commandments and the Imago Dei. 

All of this discussion may seem stale and academic, until you face the emotional turmoil of trying to make an ethical decision about someone’s life that is important to you. Chances are, you either have had to do this, you will have to do this, or someone will have to make the decision on your own life. Working through these issues will strengthen your faith, and give you godly guidance in a nightmare scenario. This is as real as it gets. With the life expectancy on the rise, and with new technologies pushing the boundaries of medical ethics, we had better do our homework.

*Just a note: I usually don’t have too many original thoughts, which is probably a good thing. This is no exception. Besides the footnotes, I would like to acknowledge the group Life Matters Worldwide, which is sponsored by Baptists For Life. You can visit their site here. Their material has been a godsend to me. Support them if you can.

  1. Mark B. Blocher, Christian Worldview and Medical Ethics: Part 3, Biblical Bioethics Advisor, Vol. 8, Issue 3, Fall 2004
  2. Ross, Mark. “Imago Dei.” Ligonier.org. Ligonier Ministries, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/imago-dei/&gt;.
  3. Kant, Immanuel, and Mary J. Gregor. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.
  4. Blocher, ibid.
  5. Wolfmueller, Rev. Bryan. “The Curb of the Law: A Voter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments.”NewVotersGuide. Hope Lutheran Church- Aurora, 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. .
  6. ibid.

A great post!

The Reformed Reader

(This is a repost from three years ago – January 2010.)

Below are some words by Herman Bavinck (d. 1921) on the law/gospel distinction.  No doubt Ursinus, Boston, Turretin, and Watson would put their stamp of approval on this.  [Note: right before this section Bavinck criticizes the Papacy for making the gospel into a second law and “erasing” the “Pauline antithesis of law and gospel” (even the modern RC catechism uses similar language – cf. Part III, ch. III, Art. 1).]

“While, on the one hand, the Reformers held on to the unity of the covenant of grace in its two dispensations against the Anabaptists, on the other hand they also perceived the sharp contrast between law and gospel and thereby again restored the peculiar character of the Christian religion as a religion of grace.  Although in a broad sense the terms ‘law’ and ‘gospel’ can indeed be used to…

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