The Sanctity of Life and the Resurrection - Second in a Series
What do we mean by Sanctity of Life and can the concept be related to a dead person?
For Christians, the phrase means that human life made in the image of God deserves protection from conception to natural death. Perhaps that statement ought to be qualified in this way: “For pro-life Christians.” Some say Christians can be pro-choice, and that is only one of many arguments in today’s Church.
The phrase is also a political and legislative term used by pro-lifers, religious or not, to encourage respect for life.
In general the concept does not extend to the human after death, but it is applicable to end-of-life matters, forbidding euthanasia, assisted suicide and neglect of elderly and coma patients.
However, fairly recently the conceptual framework was enlarged to include aborted fetuses. The “baby body parts” scandal that erupted when David Delaiden exposed Planned Parenthood’s routine of selling baby parts and aborting babies in specific ways to facilitate harvesting of organs, sparked Congressional investigations. Why?
The combination of the voiceless child, the revising of the abortion procedure to neatly sever particularly valuable organs for research purposes, and the profit motive, stunned the public. We cried out for respect for these innocent victims. They deserved the protection of the law, even though dead (not to mention that the aborted woman was endangered further by revising the procedure to prevent damage to the baby body parts).
It is unclear how all these pieces of the controversy logically adhere. The end of the age is confusion itself. But in any case, in the USA it is not legal to sell organs, and the concept of the Sanctity of Life tenuously was extended to lifeless humans in the second decade of the 21st century, though probably some would argue that the legal rights were for the live fetus, not the dead one.
In the not very distant past, the Sanctity of Life did include the dead person without question or controversy. Christians accepted that at death the soul was received into heaven and the body should rest undisturbed awaiting the Day of Resurrection, because even in death the Christian’s body is united with Christ.
Question 86 of the The Westminster Larger Catechism asks: What is the communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death? The answer is:
The communion in glory with Christ which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls.
Not everyone who may read this blog would consider any church confession or catechism relevant to their faith in Jesus Christ, but most probably would acknowledge the historic influence of such documents on the church as very significant.
Those who penned the Westminster Confession were the brightest minds of that day. (If any would want to read more about them or their work, see here.) Their grasp of Scripture was magnificent and they stated that only Scripture could explain Scripture.
They understood that the resurrection of our bodies was essential to Christ’s full work as our Redeemer. (1 Thess 5:23) We wait for our adoption as God’s sons and daughters which will occur at the Resurrection when our bodies are reunited with our souls. (Rom 8:23) These would be some Scriptures that reveal that a belief in eternal life assumes Sanctity of Life for the individual person, dead or alive, because the Scripture teaches there is an integration of body and soul that death cannot break.
So, the first Scriptural reason why belief in the doctrine of the Resurrection means a Christian should not share body parts and should be buried, not cremated, is that there is an integration of the human body and soul. This may be inferred from numerous passages and we hope to look at more of these in the next post.