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Monday, January 16, 2012

Sanctity of Life Sunday

For some churches it was yesterday. For many, this coming Sunday is Sanctity of Life Sunday. Makes sense. In 1973 this was the date of the Roe v Wade ruling. Pastors all over the country will stand in their pulpits and tell their congregations to be pro-life. Life is valuable. Life is important. Killing babies, even in the womb, was bad. True.

But ... why? Well, for much of the world's pro-lifers it's because there is a general sense that human beings are valuable. Even among evolutionists who are quite sure that we're just a few evolutionary steps away from animals typically have the feeling that humans are valuable -- more so than animals. (Rationally defending that position may be tough, but ...) We Christians, however, have a more solid answer. Why are we "pro-life"? Because we believe that human beings are made in the image of God. We know that the original design was that way. "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" (Gen 1:26). It was on the basis of this fact that the death penalty was attached to murder. God told Noah, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Gen 9:6). Animals had value, but humans were of the ultimate value because we are in the image of God.

It occurred to me, then, in mulling this over that we are not, most accurately, "pro-life". Oh, we are pro-life, but not because we consider life so valuable. Oh, we consider life valuable, but in the end, it is not life that is most valuable, but God. We value life because we value God above all else. As the most valued of all, we then have value applied to those in His image. Thus, we defend human life not because human life in its final analysis is valuable, but because God is represented there.

I know. That will not be helpful in the fight to remove the legalization of murdering babies. But I am hoping that it might be helpful in your thinking as believers. We highly value the Bible, but not because it is valuable on its own. It's God's Word, and God is most valuable. We don't worship the Bible, then. We worship God. And we highly value life, but not because it is valuable on its own. It's God's image, and God is most valuable. We don't worship life, then. We worship God. Hopefully that "we worship God" thinking will become a trend.


Jeremy D. Troxler said...


I just submitted an article to my local paper for consideration to run as an opinion/editorial piece dealing with this very issue. I argued in the article that we feel that life is sacred, and that we all act as if it were true, with the question being why is this so. I then provided the answer, the verse in Genesis you included in your post. It is important for us as believers to keep God always in front of our thinking. When we are focused on His Holiness, His Righteousness, His Justice, His Mercy, all His nature, it makes it much more difficult for us to look to "our" own faculties of the resultant usage thereof for making determinations on such weighty issues. Thanks for the reminder.

Stan said...

It really struck me when I realized "We don't value life for life's sake, but for God's sake."

Anonymous said...

Let’s consider two cases of the taking of a human life. I’ll start out abstractly by referring to an “Agent A” and an “Agent B,” both of which are living organisms with nervous systems and brains.

* A 110-pound adult woman is jogging in the foothills of a mountain range in California. She is attacked and killed via exsanguination by Agent A, after Agent A spends forty-five seconds plotting the attack.

* A three-month old human fetus is surgically aborted by Agent B, after Agent B spends an hour dressing, scrubbing up, and preparing surgical instruments.

Stan, is it your contention that Agent A (which I am picturing as a mountain lion or something like that) is acting to fulfill God’s plan to bring about the death of the woman? Is this killing morally good, in your judgment?

Is it your contention that Agent B, which I am obviously picturing as a human surgeon, contravened the will of God, and did something morally bad, and is guilty of murder? Did God have a plan for the life of the unborn child, and was the plan thwarted by the doctor?

Roughly three years ago I heard a man on Christian radio say, “God loves humans infinitely more than He loves the animals.”

Do you agree with that? Would it be profitable for you to pray on that basis that from now on He prevent animal attacks (lions, bears, rhinos, crocodiles, whatever) from mauling humans, no matter how hungry the animal may be, or how threatened it may feel?

(I read your blog on how people who are dead in in trespasses and sins ask the wrong questions, and I anticipate you will say that yet again I am asking the wrong questions. Still, if you have a minute to give some reasonably simple, straightforward answers to my questions, I would appreciate it, as it would help me to understand your position.)

Stan said...

Yes! You're absolutely right! Wrong questions. :)

The "Agent A" whom you identified as a mountain lion is not capable of sinning, being without moral directions. Agent A, then, did not sin. Agent B, on the other hand, is a doctor (unless we have mountain lions who plan, dress, scrub, and prepare) who had the moral imperative not to kill humans. He is guilty of sin. You will notice, however, that this was not the question you asked.

I'm not at all sure how to explain to you the answers to your questions. You are using the term "morally good" as if it is clear in its meaning. Define it. What is "moral"? What is "good"? To whom? On what basis? And is it your position that something can be either "morally good" and, therefore, "in the will of God" (as Stan would define God) or "morally bad" and, therefore, contrary to the will of God (same caveat)? Is it further your position that God has merely one will? So much lack of clarity that I don't know how to answer in words that would mean something to you using words that mean something to me.

Easier question. Did the man on the radio get it right? Only if you allow for hyperbole. God's love is not "infinite". If he intended "God loves humans infinitely" anything in the sense that "it's a whole lot", then I'd say that God loves humans a lot more than He loves animals. "Infinite" is a poor choice of words if a literal use of the term is intended.

Note, then, the problem of the basis of the questions. Would it be profitable to pray that God would prevent animal attacks? Why? Because humans are so valuable to God? Assuming? Assuming that God can prevent animal attacks and has failed to do so up until now. Thank goodness Anonymous has figured this out so believers can pray and God can realize His oversight and get that straightened out. (Really?) You're asking questions (still) from the basis that God is held hostage by His creation and can't figure out how to fix it and really wants to. Poor God. Poor Man. We're all in trouble. Is that really how you think we view all this?

starflyer said...

I like how "Anonymous" says: "Still, if you have a minute to give some reasonably simple, straightforward answers to my questions, I would appreciate it, as it would help me to understand your position.")

He wants to understand your position...not seek truth.

Anonymous said...

Starflyer is correct in thinking my interest is in what philosophers call epistemology. But keep in mind that Stan might claim that his position IS truth.

Stan wrote, “Define it. What is ‘moral’? What is ‘good’? To whom? On what basis? And is it your position that something can be either ‘morally good’ and, therefore, ‘in the will of God’ (as Stan would define God) or ‘morally bad’ and, therefore, contrary to the will of God (same caveat)? Is it further your position that God has merely one will?”

My question about Agent A and Agent B was aimed at you, with whatever sense of morality your walk with the Lord has inspired in YOU. Do those two deaths fit YOUR standards of morally good or morally bad in any clean kind of way? Maybe you are saying that your sense of morality doesn’t matter one iota, and that by extension, no Christian’s sense of morality matters; only God’s matters. (I suspect we are talking past one another such that there is no real traction to be gotten on this issue, and I am willing to drop it.)

As to God having one will, all I can say is I have a simple mind (can I get an “Amen!” from Starflyer?), such that to me it would be cool to think that if a personal deity exists, He is a straight-shooter with just one will. We used to sing in church, “On Christ the solid rock I stand/All other ground is sinking sand.” That solidity speaks to one will, I would guess. You’re welcome to say that you understand Him well enough to know He has multiple wills

Anyway, I am much obliged that you have taken time to discuss things in depth.

Stan said...

Well, as I've written in the past, my moral structure is defined by whatever God does. God is good. So while it may be morally evil for the doctor to kill the baby (and I find it astounding that there is a question about that), there is another aspect in that God allowed it for God's purposes. It was immoral and it was good in God's plan. See? We've already lapsed into terms and concepts that don't correlate in your thinking. But we certainly have clear precedent in the Bible. Joseph's brothers tried to kill him, then sold him into slavery. Clearly evil. No one doubts it. No one. Eventually their act, however, put Joseph in the position to save many people including his own family. When asked about it later in life, he said, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." Two intentions. Theirs was evil, undeniably. God's was good ... undeniably. So there was no position that would allow "Well, it turned out for the best, so their actions were moral" or "Well, since God intended it, their actions were moral." No, their actions were immoral, and God intended it for good. Same thing with Judas Iscariot. God planned for Judas to betray Christ and Judas would be held accountable for that sin that he chose to commit.

You talk about being simple minded and figured God would have one will. You don't have one will. I don't have one will. Why should God? The Bible talks about His will in terms of what we should and shouldn't do. Is it God's will that I steal? No. He said, "Thou shalt not steal." But people do steal. And we have that kind of will. "This is what I want." Will we get it? Maybe; maybe not. That's one will. The Bible talks about Him "willing that all should come to repentance". Do all come to repentance? No. That's a "wish" kind of will. "It would be nice if ..." We have that, too. The Bible also states explicitly that God "works all things after the counsel of His will." Now if that is a true statement (and, of course, I believe it is), then there is a third type of will (theologians refer to it as His Decretive Will) in which God always accomplishes what He wills in this third type. Not simple. Not singular. Not deceptive. And not a product of "knowing Him well enough." I got all of that from reading my Bible.

Of course, in the final analysis I still haven't answered your question. That, again, is because you're operating from a different standard than I am, so trying to get it to make sense to you is difficult.