How far have we come?

The Sanctity of Life and the Resurrection - Ninth and Final in a Series

In the first post of this blog series we asked: Is God offended if your body parts are parceled out to others after you die? …In this advanced biomedical age, why should we consider an old fashioned burial essential to Christian thought and practice? The goal was to show a relation between the resurrection and the sanctity of life, and to look at seven reasons from Scripture why a Christian should not share body parts nor be cremated.

Here is a recap of the posts:

Post 2 - The Bible teaches there is integration of body and soul
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 1 Thess 5:23
Even though we are subject to death, a man’s body with his spirit and soul are to be viewed as a unit. Whether alive or dead, we await the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

Post 3 - The unbreakable link between body and soul
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
- Job 19:25-27
Even after a time of apparent dissolution, each individual regains full functionality as mortality is “swallowed up of life.” (2 Cor 5:4) We shall be like him. (1 John 3:2) Made like him, like him we rise, Allelujah! (- Charles Wesley) David marveled about life in the womb, “in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.” (Ps 139:16), but think how much greater will be the resurrection from death!

Post 4 - How do you define death?
Thou shalt not kill - Exodus 20:13
Unless you agree with the new definition of death, then you understand that organ transplantation cannot succeed unless the person donating the organs is alive. It is not uncommon for the organ donor to be anesthetized. A Christian must decide whether he agrees with the current scientific definition of death or the old standard, that we die after breathing our last breath.

Post 5 - Altruism in perspective
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. - John 15:13
Does this apply to organ sharing? It is not altruistic to sign your drivers license considering you are agreeing to give away that which you perceive you would no longer need. And does it show Christian love to expect a doctor to end your life, causing him to break the sixth commandment?

Post 6 - You were bought with a price
For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. - 1 Cor 6:20
Christ died for the whole man. Believers receive the Holy Spirit as a pledge of the life to come. If the bodies of sanctified Christians are not raised, then the Spirit of God will lose a significant part of what He has taken possession of as his dwelling place. (- John Gill) Will we glorify God if we dishonor our bodies in life or in death?

Post 7 - Respect for the Dead
And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. - Mat 27:59-60
Respect for the dead. The body is the person, too. Also, cremation does not assist us to grieve nor picture to us the expectation of rapture when the trumpet sounds. (Mat 24:31; 1 Cor 15:52)

Post 8 - Taking the reigns
Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he. - Isa 41:4)
This verse helps to relate the concept that God, not man, is in control of all life and the timing of each one’s death. Many Scriptures warn us against taking the reigns from God’s hands.

Scripture, on the whole, supports burial of a body that is not devoid of vital organs. The disobedient are left for vultures to devour; their bones are not collected for burial. (Jer 9:22) Of course, this does not apply to those who die in life’s tragedies. “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” (Ps 50:5)

The doctrine of the resurrection has caused commotion and fired up debates across the centuries.

The uppity Sadducees who did not believe in the resurrection mocked the Lord with a hypothetical question about a woman who had been married to seven husbands, all brothers: Whose wife would she be in the resurrection? (Mat 22:28) In this exchange, Jesus explained there would be no marriage in the new life, and he identified his heavenly Father as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that is, the God of the living. (Mat 22:29-32) Those who are appointed to carry on the line of the faithful, who live in God’s covenant that encompasses his law and grace, are assured of resurrection life.

Preaching the doctrine of the resurrection was the cause of Paul’s arrest and imprisonment, leading to his death. His earnest commitment to this doctrine is detailed in 1 Corinthians 15, where we are instructed that we cannot claim to be Christians if we do not believe in the resurrection of Christ and of ourselves. In fact we are still in our sins unless we believe it. (1 Cor 15:17)

As we noted early in this series, for Christians in centuries gone by, the sanctity of life included the dead who would rise from their graves at the resurrection, and respectful burial was recognition of that hope.

Where are we today with this doctrine? Are we advancing in God’s ways or retreating from them?

Taking the reigns

The Sanctity of Life and the Resurrection - Eighth in a Series

Who owns the patent on the body: God or man? Who has the right to state how it may be used and how those who break the rules may be prosecuted?

Or, is it a dual ownership? After all, he has said, “Ye are gods.” (John 10:34) And we have the instruction to rule over nature (Gen 1:28). Could that not include inventing ways to maintain good health? If cloning and body donations facilitate this, why not promote them?

We humans enjoy pushing every limit, spinning webs and constructing devices for problem solving. We let our conscience be our guide when we ought to question our sense of propriety.

What is the right way to view and to treat humans? Will we be careful in our judgments, relating each ethical question to the sanctity of human life made in the image of God, striving for a consistent life ethic? Or, will the ground of our deductions be whether or not personal consent has been given?

This is a question for us, for Christians. We already know how the world will rule.

The above excerpt from the Flesh & Bone & The Protestant Conscience ebook brings into focus the controversy between utilitarian and Christian ethics. The Bible teaches that God is our Creator and has full rights over life. The world tells us that if we sign our driver’s license we can be in control of our organs and choose to share them with people in need.

Rational people of faith fear God and respect his sovereignty over all life. It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves. (Psalm 100:3) Yet there are many ways to extend or manipulate life and God in his permissive will does not step in to prevent these, and we sometimes wonder why.

If we choose to be organ donors, we know that we will be allowing others to be in control of the timing of our death. This will not trouble the person who accepts the new definition of death, “brain death.” (See Post 4) It may not seem consequential in that brain death is a tiny step away from true death. Or is it?

There are many stories of comatose patients who could hear the doctors discussing how to proceed since the patient was dead. An example is here. To avoid this dilemma, don’t sign your driver’s license and do state in your Advance Directive that you don’t wish to donate your organs. Be aware that there is a movement afoot to euthanize those in certain categories so that their organs can be harvested, and in some places in the world this can be done unless the person explicitly opts out of donating his organs.

There is a need for people to become activists in the right to life movement that warns against doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia; however many pro-lifers approve of organ sharing. The church approves, so why wouldn’t they? Same for IVF, life invented in petri dishes.

Would you agree that God is offended with people who take from his hands the natural process he established to end life when these means are odious? Or, for that matter, the natural process to begin life? Is there a difference between scientists who work to find cures for diseases or medicines for palliative care and those who find ways to extend life through organ sharing procedures?

In organ donation the world considers only whether the person has given permission as the ethical standard, but Christians ethics are rooted in God’s Word. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. (Ps 119:73)

Once it becomes ordinary to take the reigns over life from God's hands into our own, we feel the ground of morality slipping. Now the young adult who is in dark and endless depression can be euthanized and harvested; next the prisoners; then the children: Where will it end?

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on Amazon.com. It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.