Winsomely Weird Wednesdays

“Bioethics”

October 23, 2019

Welcome & Dismiss Kids to Kids Club

Songs – #291 “Be Still, My Soul” & #336 “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Testimonies – What is something from Amos that God has used in your heart and life?

Teaching

Recap

Are you willing to be weird for Jesus?

Can you do it in a way that is winsome? That doesn’t unnecessarily turn off people to Jesus? 1 Peter 2:12 – “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable.”

We saw that the world is living from SELF (I am my own authority) and for SELF (what’s in it for me?). We, on the other hand, by God’s grace in Christ, have been freed from SELF to live under God’s authority and for God’s glory.

Last week we saw that when it comes to drugs and alcohol, the world mainly asks, “How does it make me feel?” But we ask a series of questions like: Is it legal? Is it necessary? Is it good? Is it healthy? Is it addictive? Is it intoxicating? Is it an idol? And is it wise? Were there any further thoughts on that??

One way I was thinking about all of this recently was that I want us to not look up to the world – “Oh… they’re sooo cool. I wish I could be like them.” But I also don’t want us to look down on the world – “I can’t believe they do that…” I want us to look on those in the world as fellow humans with love and empathy…

Intro

That applies to tonight’s topic too. We’re looking at how we are to be winsomely weird when it comes to bioethical issues, mostly questions revolving around beginning of life and end of life, but also what lengths we will go to in order to increase quality of life. I want to think of it first as patients and parents and regular people. And then think of it from the perspective of health-care providers.

And before that I want to start by reading this quote from the beginning of this book [Gilbert Meilaender, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013 [1996]), 1]:

How we understand… the [bioethical] situations we encounter… will depend on background beliefs that we bring to moral reflection – beliefs about the meaning of human life, the significance of suffering and dying, and the ultimate context in which to understand our being and doing. Our views on such matters are shaped by reasoned argument and reflection less often than we like to imagine. Our background beliefs are commonly held at a kind of prearticulate level. We take them in with the air we breathe, drink them in from the surrounding culture. It is, therefore, useful sometimes to call to mind simply and straightforwardly certain basic elements in a Christian vision of the world – to remind ourselves of how contrary to the assumptions of our culture that vision may be.

The World’s Assumptions vs. The Christian Vision

So what are the key assumptions that the world brings to bioethical debates? What is the air we breathe? What do we need to be aware of drinking in from the surrounding culture? I’m sure there is much more than this, but I thought of six big ones:

1.) Independence and self-fulfillment are chief values.

2.) Personhood and worth comes from capabilities and productivity.

3.) This life is all there is or everyone is guaranteed an afterlife.

4.) God isn’t there or doesn’t care.

5.) Suffering is to be avoided at all costs.

6.) Science can (eventually) solve everything.

Independence and self-fulfillment are chief values of the world. We are taught to be strong and see ourselves as autonomous. No one tells me what to do. I don’t need someone else. And I certainly can’t be obligated to do something that I don’t want to do. I don’t care what they say, this is my life. We’ve been through some of this before, but we need to see how pervasive this mindset is and how ingrained it is into us.

The Christian vision, on the other hand, holds up community and caring for others as chief values. From the beginning we see that “it is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18). Humans are social creatures, interrelated and interdependent on each other, and all utterly dependent on God (cf. 1Cor. 11:11-12). Sin isolates us and turns us in on ourselves. But God’s work of redemption brings us together and makes us need each other and consider how our actions affect others. We don’t lose our individuality, but we are individuals bound in relationship.

And Christians are to be known for their love, compassion, and care for one another. Like our Savior, we sacrifice for others instead of using others for our own gain. We have experienced grace and so we give grace. Which gets into the next one…

The world sees personhood and worth as coming from capabilities and productivity. You are what you do. Value is achieved. The world fawns over the famous, the smart, the strong, the beautiful, the important and looks past the small, the slow, the weak, the ugly, and those who don’t or won’t contribute much. In the world there is no real place for mercy, just merit.

Christians, however, know that dignity is inherent to embodied human existence and value doesn’t come from what you do. In creation God bestows value on every human being, no matter rich or poor, young or old. And in redemption we see that “it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16; NASB). The gospel tells us that our identity does not come from our works but from Christ’s work for us. In Christianity valued is received, not achieved. And so Jesus touched the children and the lepers and Christianity defined pure religion as visiting “orphans and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27).

The early church was the island of misfit toys. And in Roman society there was a practice where unwanted or deformed babies could be ‘exposed’ – set out to die on a trash heap. Christians went and collected those discarded babies and cared for them, not because of what the babies would do for them, but because all of life is precious. That’s winsomely weird to the world.

Third, the world sees this life as all there is or says that everyone is guaranteed a good afterlife. Have you ever heard He’s not suffering any more or she’s in a better place? These unsubstantiated sayings are thrown around flippantly.

But as Christians we live with eternity always in mind. We know that every person we meet is immortal. They will be raised either to everlasting punishment or to everlasting life (i.e. Jn. 5:28-29). There is something worse than death and that is hell; and there is something better than a fulfilled life here on earth, and that is heaven. And so this short life is not made the measure of all decision-making.

Fourth, the world says that God isn’t there or he doesn’t really care. The world has a nihilistic worldview. This is it and what you make of it is what counts. It’s a cold hard place; you’ve got to make your own meaning of it. And what you are dealt is a fluke of nature.

But the Bible tells us that there is a good and sovereign God who is superintending everything. There is a Divine Author. We are not writing the story of our lives. We are not a product of chance in a meaningless void. Nothing is an accident.

And so that means that (#5) suffering can have a purpose. Suffering itself is not good and we don’t seek it out, but a good and sovereign God can work good from it. He brought the greatest good out of the greatest suffering at the Cross. And so with a Savior who sympathizes and the promise of a loving heavenly Father, we can endure suffering with trust in him.

The world on the other hand says that suffering is to be avoided at all costs. Since we’re not in the caring hands of an all-good, all-wise, all-powerful God, all we can do is whatever we can to eliminate our suffering. The world doesn’t see a potential redemptive purpose to suffering.

Finally, the world has faith that Science can (eventually) solve everything. It is hubris, a high view of humanity apart from God. But we know that there are mysteries beyond us and we are content to trust God and not try to be God. Science in its place is good; we’re not anti-Science. But we’re anti-Science-instead-of-God.

Abortion

So with all that in mind, let’s talk about some specific topics. Of course, we are not going to be able to come up with a definitive answer for every imaginable scenario, but hopefully get you thinking about how to be winsomely weird when it comes to these issues.

Abortion. The Bible clearly prohibits murder. And it also talks a lot about life in the womb (i.e. Ps. 139:13; Jer. 1:5; Lk. 1:44). We now know from science that this happens when a father’s sperm and mother’s egg unite. Look at a baby… Would it be okay to kill him today? How about yesterday? How about the day before? How about at birth? How about the day before that? The day before that?…. The day before that….?….

Not all, but a significant number of abortions occur because pregnancy clashes with the chief values of independence and self-fulfillment. And we rationalize it because we deem the fetus a non-person because it can’t think or do something that adds value. But instead we are to see these as the weakest members of our human community that call for our care and protection.

In Vitro Fertilization

What about IVF?…

Euthanasia

There was an opinion piece in the New York Times this last weekend by Lyndsay Werking-Yip. The title was, “I Had a Late-Term Abortion. I Am Not a Monster.” A non-Christian friend sent it to me and asked me what I thought. Here’s a segment:

My husband and I chose to end our child’s life. Many imagine this as an impossible decision to make, one that would take hours of deliberation. I will be honest with you. You may not want to hear this, but the decision was obvious to us. Our child would not be given a life of pain and suffering…. I do not regret the decision we made. Within 15 minutes of the diagnosis [of severe brain malformation], we knew what we had to do: We would become baby killers…. I want people to know: I ended my child’s life. At 23 weeks and six days into my pregnancy, I had a ‘late term’ abortion. When people ask, ‘How could you?’ I reply that allowing her to live would have been a fate worse than death. Her diagnosis was not fatal, not incompatible with the bare mechanics of a living body. But it was incompatible with a fulfilling life. And that makes all the difference to me

What do you think? Isn’t this a much more beautiful picture? https://erlc.com/resource-library/event-messages/testimony-choosing-life

Today on NPR I heard the story of Marieke Vervoort, who died by physician assisted suicide yesterday… https://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/50145393

For Providers…

What issues are you facing? Are you willing to be so weird that you lose your medical license?

What’s Next?

What do you want to do next? Entertainment; Gender, Sexuality, & Family; Fitness; Work, Money, & Possessions…

Prayer – Get in groups the following groups: (1) doctors or doctors in training, (2) other medical professionals and those in training, (3) those in non-medical fields who have been to a hospital/doctor’s office in the last 10 months, (4) those in non-medical fields who have not been to a hospital/doctor’s office in the last 10 months…

Repent of ways that you have bought into the world’s lies about the meaning of life and pray for courage to stand with God’s truth…

Pray that IBC would be a loving place of interdependence where all of life is valued and members are cared for…

Pray for opportunities to speak of the hope of the gospel in bioethical conversations…