Russell and Duenes

Genesis 1-2, Suicide, Obamacare, Dr. Kevorkian and Such

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I intend to write a detailed post on Genesis 1-2 here shortly, but I want it to be thoughtful and not something off the top of my head. But here’s an initial thought. It seems that there are two major themes in the first two chapters of Genesis: 1) God as Creator and Sustainer of everything, and 2) Mankind as the pinnacle and sum of creation. In other words, the entire Bible message of the Bible starts with the foundation of God as Creator and Sustainer. As such, all allegiance and honor is due him. As Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are you, O Lord our God, to receive glory, honor, and power, for you created all things and by your will they exist and are created.” Mankind, created to “image-forth” the glory and refulgence of God, takes his place as the high peak of creation. As Psalm 8 says, “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings, and have crowned him with glory and honor.” The earth and sky in particular – so says John Sailhamer, were made for human beings. That’s also what the narrative clearly conveys (More on that in my subsequent post). So whether one takes a “literal” approach to the text or a figurative one, it surely won’t do to take a figurative view and thus say that all we need to know is that God created and the rest of the text is just poetry that has no connection to reality. That’s not figurative. That’s turning Genesis 1-2 into a wax nose to be sculpted and shaped into anything whatever. I’m honestly open to a non-literal view, but I need to see how such a view is driven by the text itself and that it bears some relation to reality. I’m not open to a so-called figurative view that makes the text a nice poem that bears no relation to reality except to tell us that God created everything. Further, if one wants to take a non-literal view, then why depart from such a view when it comes to mankind being created in God’s image? In other words, if the entire text is essentially poetry that bears no relation to scientific reality, then why all of a sudden should we think mankind is literally created in God’s image? Why not stay consistent and just say that mankind is a mammal evolved to a higher order? This seems to me to be a selective literalism. More to come.

Whenever the topic of suicide comes up in my classes there is always at least one student who believes that suicide is a type of unforgivable sin. The argument usually goes thus: If you commit suicide you’ve definitely turned your back on God and have no chance to repent. A corollary that I believe is often implied is that if we say one can commit suicide and still go to heaven then we are giving a green light to suicide. In fact, it might be good to commit since we’d be departing and going to heaven. My response runs along the following lines. First, killing oneself out of despair is never a good thing. Life is a good that God has given to us as a gift, not to be rejected. Second, the reasons a person might commit suicide are complex and varied. As I’ve been saying with depression, we do not have anything like expertise on human emotions and what causes ultimate despair. Thus I would not want to take a simplistic view of precisely why any individual might commit suicide. Third, I cannot find a Scriptural basis for saying that suicide is unforgivable. If the point is made that the person is unable to repent, I would say that virtually all Christians will die with un-confessed sin. All Christians have sins right this moment of which we are not aware and of which we have not repented. If we were to die right now, would we be condemned because we did not repent of any particular sin? Finally, I don’t think we prevent people from committing suicide by threatening them with hell. We ought to warn people of hell whether they are suicidal or not. And we ought to give people all of God’s reasons for why it’s best to continue living. These reasons are many. We should also inject our own personal feeling that we ourselves desire to see life continue. I don’t commend suicide to anyone. I think it is sin, and a grievous sin at that. But I’m not convinced it, of itself, sends a person to hell.

We’ve been hearing all sorts of nonsense this week about how repealing Obamacare would, as the White House falsely claimed, “explode the deficit.” This falsehood is in addition to all the other ones we heard during the healthcare debate; such as when Mr. Obama told us that if we liked our current healthcare, we would be able to keep it under his plan; when they told us that under Obamacare, insurance premiums would go down; when they claimed that Obamacare would actually save us billions of dollars in the long run and would be “deficit neutral,” when they said that we need a government option so as to have “more competition” in healthcare. First of all, there has never, ever, ever been a massive government entitlement program that has saved taxpayers any money at all. They always grow at a far larger rate than the government pols tell us, and of course, they know they’re misrepresenting things when they tell us otherwise. They also know they’re telling a major whopper now when they feign outrage at Republicans for wanting to “renege” on their pledge to shrink government by repealing Obamacare. What we’re actually seeing is that health insurance prices are going up, as we all knew they would. We are seeing the Obama Administration essentially giving kickbacks to their buddies by exempting them from having to shoulder Obamacare’s heavier financial burdens. The endgame to all of this falsehood and stealth is that private insurance companies will become insolvent, driven out of business by government “competition,” and then we will all see the “wisdom” and inevitable necessity of a single-payer nationalized healthcare system (which they will also distort and tell us that it’s really private and not nationalized). They are hoping the American people won’t notice all of this, and once done, will gush with obsequious gratitude for our wonderful ruling class. After all, there are some things the people simply ought not to know, they being doltish and “clinging to their guns and religion” and all. No, better to leave things to “the anointed,” as Thomas Sowell refers to them. They know better than us credulous citizens.

My wife and I watched You Don’t Know Jack last night, an HBO biopic of Jack Kevorkian, starring Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon, and John Goodman. Unsurprisingly, it paints Jack Kevorkian as a heroic, visionary, wise, if not a little eccentric, and courageous man standing up for human reason, compassion, and self-determination against the Medieval forces of religious zealotry and dogma (Of course, Kevorkian has no “dogma.” If you’re a liberal, it’s vision and courage; if you’re a Christian, traditionalist or conservative, it’s dogma). I expected all this. Still, it was well-acted and had the good effect of provoking discussion about euthanasia with my wife. It also turned my thoughts back to the issue of the “right to die” becoming a de facto duty to die. What do I mean? The right to die movement portrays this killing as an exercise in freedom and human self-determination. It’s an act of mercy, we’re told. It’s about choice; each individual’s choice to determine whether he or she wants to suffer and by what means he or she wants to die. But life is never as simple as that, particularly when talking about deep moral and spiritual issues like this one. As with abortion, many who are supposedly “exercising their choice” will admit that “I had no choice.” Our choices are conditioned by the perceptions, influences, opinions, definitions and desires of others. I quote liberally from Nigel Cameron,

The story has often been rehearsed. Suffice it to point out the difficulty, familiar in every family in which there is an elderly or chronic sick dependent relative, of ascertaining what his or her wishes really are; the near impossibility of convincing elderly relatives, in particular, that they are other than the ‘burden’ they perceive themselves to be. If elderly relatives are actually seen in such a light, the wish of the younger generation that their elders take up the euthanasia option must surely prove irresistable. Since those who are possible candidates for euthanasia are mostly to be found in such circumstances, it can hardly be claimed that this objection represents no more than a minor practical difficulty. Whatever legal and other hurdles are attached to euthanasia, in legistlation or informal practice, their success in withstanding family pressures, real and imagined, may be doubted. What price, then, patient autonomy?…Indeed, we could go further. Even assuming a free choice for euthanasia, if the legitimacy of an expressed wish to die is to be assessed by some set of criteria (‘a life not worth living’, to distinguish it from a simple wish to suicide), whose are these criteria? They are, necessarily, not the criteria of the patient, but the criteria of others. They represent yet another element in the euthanasia power-play, for they offer society’s judgment on the value of the life of the patient. The wish may be expressed by the patient, but it is judged by others, who determine whether the wish is that of one whose life is ‘worth living’ or ‘not.’ Even if it is possible for the wish to be freely formulated and expressed, the power to judge its validity lies elsewhere. Others determine that there are lives ‘not worth living’, and that this is one of them. (The New Medicine:Life and Death After Hippocrates, 142-143).

This is the reality at the root of euthansia that rarely gets considered. Sinfully prideful human desires for radical, individual autonomy lead to moral and spiritual death. Further, such radical human autonomy is an illusion. It simply does not exist. In theory it sounds good, but the universe has been constructed by God, and in His universe, there is no human autonomy. Are there hard decisions in this arena? Indeed! But individuals do not make decisions in a vacuum, and as we trod further down the path of assisted suicide, we inevitably become certain kinds of people. I don’t think we will like the people we become. I have no interest in becoming a person like Jack Kevorkian. I wouldn’t wish it on my enemies. His life was not ennobling or enlarging, but rather shriveled and small. As this film so clearly implied, to propagate euthanasia, one must despise the teachings of Jesus, and in particular His teaching that we are all created in God’s image, bearing the glory of God simply in the fact that we exist. That’s what it means to be human. We do not become or cease to be human, we are not “special,” nor is human life “sacred,” as Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times wrote, because we possess “the autonomy and dignity inherent in our individuality — in making hard decisions for ourselves and determining our own destinies.” When we agree with Kevorkian and Kristof, we have declared our independence from Christ, and we inexorably widen the circle, even if unwittingly, of those who may be said to have “a life not worth living.”

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

January 8, 2011 at 9:05 pm

One Response

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  1. D-

    I think we’re in disagreement about the interpretation of figurative literature. Just because something is figurative, does not mean it can “be sculpted and shaped into anything whatever”, or that it “bears no relation to reality”.

    You used figurative language in your post, after all! Your “wax nose” metaphor- is it meaningless and devoid of reality? Or, is it a way to express a meaning in more concise, memorable way than a literal approach would be able to do?

    How about the 23rd Psalm? Does God really protect you with a staff? Do you take that literally? If not, does it bear no relation to reality?

    Figurative literature conveys meaning in a different way, but it is by no means inferior to literal prose.

    -Bates

    Bates

    January 12, 2011 at 9:50 am


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