Friday, March 23, 2012

After-Birth Abortions

I recently read a disturbing article in the UK Telegraph. You can find the link below.

This article is from a couple of medical ethicists associated with Oxford University. Their premise is that since newborn babies are “morally irrelevant” that ending their lives is no different than aborting these babies while they are in utero. 

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.” Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.”

 “We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

Now I understand the need to debate beliefs to determine what society believes but this seems to be seems to be similar to arguments used by the discredited German ethicists during the 1930s and 40s. Revisiting flawed and failed policies of the past seems to be a recipe for repeated failure in the present or the future.

Unfortunately, some well meaning people have threatened to kill the authors of the article. While this might sound ironically appealing to some, it lowers our moral position down to a similar level that they are on. We who claim to love life are willing to take a life because someone disagrees with our belief system. People who are only discussing an opinion, people who have not acted out their suggestion are threatened with death. Hummm sound suspiciously like conquerors who demand of the defeated “convert or die.” Very high moral ground to stand on, isn’t it?

So as a follower of Jesus what should our reaction to this discussion be?

First, Jesus is interested in children as seen in Matthew 19:14 where He says “Let the little children come to me.” The fact that he encourages the littlest ones to join him says that they matter to Him and to God the Father.

Second, God through the Psalmist tells us that God is intimately involved in the creation of a person while in the womb.

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV)
When one looks at a DNA helix one can see how the writer with poetic license could say that we are knit together. And remember this was written 1000s of years prior to mankind discovering DNA!

God knows all and has recorded not only our past but also our present and future in His book. Prewritten prior to our creation. This would indicate that not only does God care about people who are persons (according the journal article) but that he cares about us and knows our potential long before we are “viable humans!”

So glad I was not only fearfully but also wonderfully made…exactly the way God intended!

Pastor Val

Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting Even Pt 4 (Giving When the Going Gets Tough)

My final post on Getting Even is based on Matthew 5:42

42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Matthew 5:38-42 (NIV)
This admonishment of Jesus seems to be best understood two ways: first we are commanded to live open-handedly and second we are commanded to be willing to give or lend to those who persecute us but to treat it as a gift.

Yeah I admit I’m not real crazy about that second one either – but more on that in a bit!

If Matthew’s fourth example deals with the request of the beggar, then the called-for openhandedness is in line with the long Jewish tradition of almsgiving. There is no precise definition for this kind of behavior that is called for, but, as with the other examples, it involves responding appropriately to an initiative taken by another.

Here there is a request apparently from a person of poor means or the second tier from the bottom when a loan is requested. In this instance it is no longer a matter of response to mistreatment, or even to forced conduct, but a straightforward request for help. This teaching seems to relate to the Pentateuch’s teaching on generous living.

7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.
8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.
Deuteronomy 15:7-8 (NIV)
Jesus calls his followers to give to those who ask and not turn away from those who would borrow. He presumes that the needs are genuine and commands us not to ignore them, but he does not specifically mandate how best we can help. As Augustine stated in his comments on this passage “give to everyone that asks,” and notgive everything to him that asks.
Now if you are like me you are wondering, “Does this mean we are to give to every freeloader and panhandler who comes our way?” I do not think so. If we practiced this we would not be good stewards of God’s funds. People could abuse our generosity and we could even end up bankrupt. Jesus is not recommending that his followers give to every open hand, though, of course, he calls us all to deep generosity.

What then does he mean? This is where we seem to come to the second meaning I suggested at the beginning of this blog. Jesus means that the righteous are to give to those who are attempting to hurt them through borrowing. Luke refers to this kind of persecution when he says,

35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back
Luke 6:35

To understand this second possible meaning I think that Jesus’ advise is for a specific situation in which the persecutor is demanding a loan with no intention to repay. Jesus never says how many times one is to loan to his persecutors. Nor does he mention the restraint that love will impose on one’s generosity. As Alexander Maclaren (a British pastor of renown in the 19th and early 20th century) wisely said:

If turning the cheek would make the assaulter more angry, or if yielding the cloak would make the legal robber more greedy, or going the second mile would but make the press gang more severe and exacting, resistance becomes a form of love and duty for the sake of the wrongdoer.
Jesus’ advice is not a set of mechanical rules, but rather principles for addressing personal wrongs that come to those who follow him. In the matter of loaning, the Lord wants his followers to reject being tightfisted, and penny-pinching. Instead of saying, “This is mine and I’ll never share it!” why not say, “Lord how should I respond to this request, this need?” Will honoring this request bring you glory or advance your Kingdom?

I have to say that some of Jesus’ teachings are hard to live out. I always find it interesting that many Bible literalists struggle with teaching and living out Jesus clear literal teachings. It is something that I struggle with as well. And yet if we are going to be fully devoted followers of Jesus – we must live out our lives in obedience to His commands and not our predisposed interpretations of His teachings.

Still trying to pry my hand open

Pastor Val