This past week, Fox News reported on the circumstance of Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor and leader in Iran’s growing evangelical movement whom Iran’s Supreme Court has determined may be executed if he persists in refusing to renounce his Christian faith.
The news of Nadarkhani’s predicament served as a reminder to this reader of the serious stakes involved in identifying with Jesus Christ. Not all Christians are called to martyrdom – and my prayer is that Yousef would be released without further harm – but we are all called to assume the risk, and this because loyalty to God comes first and that loyalty entails fidelity to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is offensive to the unbelieving soul. Even as we endeavor to live our lives in a winsome way (1 Cor 10:32-33) – we ought not be surprised if ridicule, scorn, or even violence come our way as we proclaim the gospel message in both word and deed.
As I continue to reflect upon “The Scandal,” (see prior posts) I think often about the question of content for a Christian bioethic. Some professing Christians argue largely on pragmatic grounds for the public casting of Christian bioethics in a “publicly accessible” language (i.e. purely philosophical argument). A more robust bioethic – one replete with theological warrant – has its place, the thought goes, in discussions among those operating within a Christian worldview, but not in the broader debate where Christians encounter nonbelievers who are skeptical, if not overtly hostile, to the Faith.
So, a number of questions arise: Can we truly be faithful to the Christian mission when confining theological argumentation to intramural bioethical discourse? Can the “doing” of bioethics be rightly compartmentalized from the task of evangelization or the bearing of prophetic witness in a decadent culture? Is it truly unethical, as some maintain, for physicians to evangelize their patients?
And finally, as I think about our brother Yousef Nadarkhani, I find myself asking, “What cost am I willing to endure in my identification with Christ in the public square?” Christian martyrdom, or the prospect thereof, forces a confrontation with truth both for the believer and the unbeliever. It demands from all a consideration of ultimate value – specifically, is Jesus really worth dying for? To think in these terms may help us navigate the question of how best to formulate our “public” bioethics.