The need for believers to base moral decision on biblical concepts

The article “I’m a Christian with Stage IV Cancer. I Want Death with Dignity.” by Corinne Johns-Treat on time.com that Neil Skjoldal discussed in his post on Monday illustrates a problem within the church that I have become very concerned about. I have written about this concern before in the context of what I hear from students at the Christian university where I teach, but I think it is a problem within the church as a whole. I am concerned that people who sincerely believe they are followers of Jesus and a part of his church make important decisions about how to live their lives based on underlying concepts that come from the secular culture around us and not based on biblical concepts.

In the article Johns-Treat says, “the more I learned about the safeguards and autonomy in the law, and the more I prayed about it, having seen people suffer so much at the very end of their lives, I came to believe in that it fit into my faith,” and “I think when you look at a personal experience, governing doctrines from a church don’t seem to matter nearly as much.” These two statements provide insight into the thought processes that have led the author to her conclusions. The problem is that these thought processes are grounded in the thinking of the secular culture that surrounds us and not in biblical concepts.

In the first statement she refers to the principle of autonomy which is the primary moral principle used to defend the moral permissibility of assisted suicide or medical aid in dying. From a biblical perspective we have reason to respect the autonomy of others because God does that in allowing us to make our own choice whether we follow him or not. However, if we do choose to be disciples of Jesus, we have chosen to submit ourselves to him and our decisions should be made based on submission to God’s revealed truth in scripture and not based on our own autonomy.

Implied in the first statement and stated more clearly in the second statement is the author’s underlying concept that moral decisions are based on our personal feelings and experience rather than on biblical truths. As long as a person feels that assisted suicide or aid in dying is not wrong then it is permissible and it is not necessary to base that decision on biblical concepts. When I think about why I would think it would be wrong for me to turn to assisted suicide if I had terminal cancer it is because of the concept of the sanctity of human life due to being made in the image of God and the idea that my life belongs to God and not to myself. We live in a society that says that our moral choices are based on how we feel, but by choosing to follow Jesus I have chosen to live based on God’s understanding of what is right and wrong rather than based on how I feel.

In his post Neil expresses a desire that people would see good palliative care as the better way to relieve suffering at the end of life rather than turning to assisted suicide. For those who are followers of Jesus there are biblical reasons based on the sanctity of human life and our submission to God as the Lord to whom we belong to choose palliative care over assisted suicide.

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Jon Holmlund
Jon Holmlund
3 years ago

phttp://www.nationalreview.com/corner/439182/rare-media-refusal-deploy-suicide-word-engineeringost of interest today:

Jon Holmlund
Jon Holmlund
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Holmlund
MJ
MJ
3 years ago

Biblical concepts? Please don’t insult the intelligence of people who actually read the Bible by claiming that there are clear-cut biblical principles for complex end of life decisions or a wide range of other bioethical dilemmas for that matter. Call them christian concepts if you like, but don’t call them biblical.