The Infallibility of Experts (!?) and Euthanasia (Machen)

The following paragraph is from a radio address that J. G. Machen gave in 1937.  It is highly relevant even in 2017:

“…We have seen in the newspapers recently a good deal of discussion about ‘mercy-killing’ or ‘euthanasia’. Certain physicians say very frankly that they think hopeless invalids, who never by any chance can be of use either to themselves or to anyone else, ought to be put painlessly out of the way.  Are they right?

Well, I dare say a fairly plausible case might be made out for them on the basis of utilitarian ethics.

I am not quite sure – let me say in passing – that even on that basis it is a good cause.  This is a very dangerous business – this business of letting experts determine exactly what people ‘never will be missed.’  For my part, I do not believe in the infallibility of the experts, and I think the tyranny of experts is the worst and most dangerous tyranny that ever was devised.

But, you see, that does not touch the real point.  The real point is that the the modern advocates of euthanasia are arguing the thing out on an entirely different basis from the basis on which the Christian argues it. They are arguing the question on the basis of what is useful – what produces happiness and avoids pain for the human race. The Christian argues it on the basis of a definite divine command. “Thou shalt not kill” settles the matter for the Christian. From the Christian point of view the physician who engages in a mercy-killing is just a murderer. It may also turn out that his mercy-killing is not really merciful in the long run. But that is not the point. The real point is that be it never so merciful, it is murder, and murder is sin.”

“No Christian can hold that morality is just the accumulated self-interest of the race, and that sin is merely conduct opposed to such self-interest.”

J. G. Machen, The Christian View of Man, p. 176-177.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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Abolishing Abortion: A Review

Last week I gave a few quotes from this book by Frank Pavone, Abolishing Abortion (here).  Today I want to give a brief review of the book for those interested in pro-life resources.

First, as I mentioned last week, it is clearly written from a Roman Catholic position.  So from the get-go, I knew I would disagree with the Romish theology in it (including the papacy, doctrine of the church, the nature of sin, etc.).  After reading it, I found out it has big sections of Roman Catholic teaching/emphasis in it; because of that I hesitate to recommend the book (I must note that Pavone wasn’t trying to “covert” anyone to Rome, thankfully).

Second, concerning the main topic of the book – abortion – Pavone does make some excellent points and arguments.  He notes that abortion is like a “bone” stuck in the throat of American people: we can’t swallow it down, nor can we get rid of it.  It has to be dealt with.  He also talks about freedom, human rights, and some aspects of what it means to be truly pro-life.  Pavone knows enough American law and legislation to even discuss non-profit tax exempt laws and how the constitution is pro-life.  Again, you can see some of the quotes I posted here.

Here are the chapters of the book: 1) In the public square, 2) the Roe v. Wade debate, 3) repenting, 4) the spiritual imperative, 5) freedom of speech, 6) freedom of the pulpit, 7) on being [wrongly] passive, 8) being actively pro-life, 9) abortion and pain, 10) mother and child, 11) love.  Though the chapters didn’t seem to have a certain order, there is quite a bit of helpful information in almost every chapter.

In a word, this is a good book on abortion but it’s usefulness is hindered by a strong Roman Catholic bent.  If you want to get it, I’d recommend skipping over the doctrinal parts and reading the other parts.  Abortion is a reality that Christians have to deal with, pray about, and work towards abolishing it.  This book is one that will help take a step in the direction of saving human lives.

Frank Pavone, Abolishing Abortion (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015).

NOTE: I received this book from BookLook bloggers, and was not compelled to write a positive review.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Gladiator Games, Abortion, and the Early Church (Athenagoras)

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols.   -              Edited By: Alexander Roberts      Just over a week ago I highlighted a section from Athenagoras (an early Christian apologist from the end of the 2nd century AD) in which he defended Christian morality since many were accusing Christians of immorality.  Specifically, Athenagoras said Christian sexual ethics were much better than those of non-Christians, since Christians upheld purity in marriage and avoided homosexuality.  You can read the article here.

In the same context, Athenagoras also explained how Christians detested all sorts of cruelty, abuse, and bloodshed.   Apparently some had accused Christians of being murderers and cannibals because of the Lord’s Supper (eating/drinking the body/blood of Jesus), so Athenagoras refuted the accusation as completely untrue.  The truth is, he said, that Christians are against brutality and murder:

“[Which Roman citizen] does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you?  But we [Christians], deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles.  How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death?

In other words, since Christians renounced things like the brutal gladiator games, how can someone accuse them of being murderers?  [As a convicting side note, although Christians aren’t murders today, we typically no longer “abjure” watching the spectacles of brutality and death like our Christian forefathers did.]  Athenagoras goes on:

“And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder?  For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very foetus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of God’s care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it.”

Athenagoras is arguing that since Christians were against abortion and exposing a child (letting it die soon after birth), how can one accuse them of murder?  Christians in the early church believed a fetus in the womb and newborn children were created by God and under his care, so they would never kill them.  The were against murder, not for it (think of the 6th commandment)!

In a brilliant way, Athenagoras turns the tables on the accusers: Christians are not the ones who are murderers, since they detest gladiator games, brutality, abortion, and the exposing of children.  The non-Christians do those things, but not Christians – therefore no one can accuse Christians of being immoral murderers.

The entire apology by Athenagoras is worth reading: A Plea for the Christians.  The above quotes were taken from paragraph/chapter 35.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Abortion, Murder, and the Early Church

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols.   -              Edited By: Alexander Roberts      In the ancient Roman Empire human life was generally not highly valued.  Some Greco-Roman religions involved child sacrifice, shedding of blood, and other inhumane acts.  Roman citizens typically didn’t speak out against the brutal killing methods displayed in the arenas – in fact, people flocked to see humans mercilessly slay each other or be torn apart and eaten by ferocious animals.  Some people even practiced different forms of abortion; for example “exposing” was aborting an infant by letting him die in some “off-the-beaten path” place.

Tertullian (d. 22o AD) discussed this inhumanity as he defended the Christian faith in his treatise called Apology.  One thing he mentioned was the fact that there were rumors of Christians acting inhumanely (i.e. killing and eating children).   If this was true, he argued, why does the Roman Empire punish Christians for doing things that are acceptable in broader society?  However, it was not true, and Tertullian noted that it was terribly unjust, unfair, and even contrary to Roman law to punish Christians with no concrete evidence of these rumored crimes.

The truth, Tertullian said, is that Christians value human life far more than others in society.   All murder is forbidden in the Christian religion:

“In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance.  To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth.  That is a man which is going to be one; you have the fruit already in its seed” (ch. IX).

Later, Tertullian explained how Christians love one another, their neighbors, and even their enemies.  (And as we saw a few days ago, Christians even pray for and honor Caesar.)  The rumors are false, he said; Christians are good for society in that they value human life far more than others around them.  Rather than do harm, Christians do good.  Therefore, Tertullian asserted, the Roman Empire should neither punish Christians or outlaw Christianity.

Tertullian, Apology, found in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3.

rev shane lems
hammond, WI
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)