A Thought Experiment

Pulse Shooting

Imagine you hear of a neo-Nazi rally. At this rally hate speech is directed at Jews and African Americans. People are encouraged to not patronize African-American businesses. Parents are encouraged to make sure their children do not interact with people of color. Employers are encouraged to not hire or fire African-Americans or Hispanics. Marrying a person of color is an abomination. After the speeches, in private, men discuss ways to “limit” the flow of immigrants, hurt black businesses and families, and get racist men into political office.  Many of the men have been active agents in arson, vandalism, as well as petty violence against people of color. Some of them run web sites which promote hatred of African Americans. These men have pictures of Hitler on their basement walls. As the night winds down, a fire breaks out in the back of the rally hall. In the ensuing confusion 35 men are trampled or burned to death, as well as dozens of women. Was that the judgment of God?

Or you hear of two co-workers, a man and woman. Both are married with a couple of children and considered pillars in their community and churches. Behind the backs of their spouses they are having an affair. These affairs usually take place on business trips. But occasionally they steal away in the afternoon and get a hotel room on the other side of town. During one of these afternoon excursions, they are shot in their hotel room by a drug dealer and his girlfriend who wanted the man’s Lexus. They are found by the hotel manager later that day. Was that the judgment of God?

Or three  male pedophiles are driving late one night to pick up a young girl who has been kidnapped and sold on the black market. They have already done this numerous times. They take the children, use them and the resell them once they are done, usually to someone overseas. They have been on police radar for a while, but nothing concrete has been gotten on them. As they are driving, a semi-truck driver falls asleep and hits them head on killing the pedophiles instantly. Was that the judgment of God? Continue reading

Suicide: Prolonging Life?

Hand in Hospital

I have written three blog posts on suicide. In the first, I looked at what the catechisms said on suicide. In the second, I explored some of the basic principles concerning suicide.In the third, I answered some difficult questions about suicide. In this post I want to look how Christians should approach the prolonging of life using treatment and medicine.

If you look at the post on catechisms you will see that they teach we should do whatever we can to prolong our lives. Thomas Watson calls it indirect suicide when we do not take our own life explicitly, but we do knowingly create circumstances where we die. The Roman Catholic Catechism because it modern addresses this matter more carefully than the older catechisms. Is the refusal to take medicine or treatments to prolong our lives the equivalent of suicide? Are Christians obligated to do whatever they can to live as long as they can? If we say, “no” to the previous question aren’t we drifting towards the place where doctors will be letting patients die unnecessarily instead of saving them?

What I am Not Talking About?
I am not talking about taking a drug to end your life because you are in pain, have been paralyzed, or have experienced some traumatic event. That is suicide and is never justified. Doctors and family members should not help their loved ones die. Any treatment given that is intended to kill the patient is murder. We should not kill ourselves nor should others help us kill ourselves. This also means that just because a patient wants to stop treatment does not mean the doctor must agree to the request. If stopping the treatment is the equivalent of suicide the doctor should not agree to it no matter what the patient wants.

But what about when we reach a point where all you are doing is putting off the inevitable? What happens when death is certain? Who gets to decide whether to “pull the plug” or not? When should we allow nature to run its course and when should we intervene? The question in this  post is, given the ability of modern medicine to prolong life almost indefinitely in some cases, how do we decide to stop treatment? First, though let’s look at some factors that have complicated this issue. Continue reading

Suicide: Hard Questions

Rainy Day

I remember a lot from my childhood most of it good. But not all of it. I grew up in rural Mississippi on a gravel road in a single wide trailer. I must have been between 8 and 10 when I went outside one morning and found police at the trailer across the road. The day was wet, dreary, and chilly. I remember the troopers with their wide brimmed hats and gray uniforms standing at the driveway talking in low voices. I remember my mother bringing out hot cocoa to them. The kids were told to stay back from the road. We watched from our postage stamp front porch as folks came and went. My boyish curiosity wondered what happened. Why all the fuss?  Later my dad told me the 20 something son of the woman across the street had killed himself with a shotgun. I did not know the young man. I had seen him coming and going. But I was kid and he was an adult. Despite my youth, I had questions when I found out he had done that.  Some were wrong, driven by morbid curiosity. But others were legitimate, such as why would someone do that? Are they condemned forever if they do? Is it an act of selfishness or selflessness? I had another friend growing up whose parents had both killed themselves. He was shuffled between the two grand parents. Suicide is a terrible thing, much like divorce,  it leaves an inevitable trail of destruction, pain, and questions.

I am continuing a series of posts on suicide. In the first, I looked at what the catechisms taught. In the second, I explained the basic principle that God gives and takes life. Suicide does not fit God’s divinely appointed reasons for taking a life. In this post, I want to answer some possible questions about suicide. If you have others put them in the comments. Remember suicide is the intentional taking of one’s life.

But what about dying in war? If I go into battle isn’t that a type of suicide? No. Why? Because your death is not intentional, though it may be inevitable. Every soldier should do whatever he can to preserve his life while still working to finish his mission.  Soldiers die. But they do not usually kill themselves. And their death is not by their own hand. Suicide is the taking of one’s own life. Death in war does not fit that category.

But what about a soldier who throws himself on a grenade? Or someone who pushes a child out from in front of a moving car? Or a fireman who rushes into a burning building? Isn’t that a type of suicide? Well again, no. Because the intent is not to take one’s life. The intent is to rescue the life of someone else. If I die in the process of saving someone else that is not suicide. The goal of the two acts are different. When a fireman runs into a burning building he is not trying to kill himself even if he knows that the action may result in his death.

Is suicide a sign that someone has deserted the faith or can someone commit that sin and still be a Christian? Christians can commit any sin. Christians have stolen, lied, committed adultery and sodomy, abandoned wives, children, husbands, etc. So yes a  Christian can commit suicide. What makes our appraisal of the person who committed suicide so difficult is the finality of it. If a man commits adultery our evaluation of his eternal fate would be determined by what happens afterward. Does he repent? Does he turn? Or does he continue down the path of ruin. Even if a man struggles with a sin for most of his life we could still evaluate whether or not there is growth and repentance. With suicide, unless the attempt fails, this is impossible. Is suicide a rejection of God? It certainly can be and often is. But that is not always the case.

Is suicide forgivable? This question and the one above are connected. The Roman Catholics have a theology which allows sins to be forgiven after death. At first glance this appears to be an attractive option, especially in the case of suicide. However it is unbiblical and pastorally dangerous, providing a false comfort, not a real one. A lie, no matter how attractive, is not helpful. For Protestants there have been a variety of answers to this question. Some Protestants have taught that suicide cannot be forgiven. Those who commit suicide are damned forever. In many ways this makes sense.  It is a final act of despair, which would appear to be a rejection of who God is. Plus if there is no forgiveness after death, how can someone commit suicide and be forgiven? Can a person ask God’s forgiveness prior to the act? Does someone’s trust in Christ cover that sin even if it is never confessed? Or does the taking of one’s life indicate a failure to trust in Christ? These are hard questions with no easy answers.

My understanding is that suicide can be forgiven just as murder can be. As a Christian I have willfully committed sinful acts. If I had died before confessing those sins would I have been damned to Hell? Not necessarily so, but it is a dangerous place to be, sitting on intentional unconfessed sin. If I was talking to a Christian (or anyone) considering suicide I would encourage them to not go through with the act. If they said, “God will forgive me.” I would say, “To sin against the light and presume on God’s grace is dangerous.” (I had a friend who went through a dark time. They said the one thing that kept them from killing themselves was they were not sure if they would go to heaven. That was wise thinking.) If someone carried through with it I would have grave concerns about their relationship with God just as I would if a man committed adultery after the same type of conversation. But if I was talking to someone left behind after a Christian they knew committed suicide I would emphasize a different truth. I would tell them that whether or not their loved one is forgiven is ultimately a matter between that person and God. They cannot discern their final fate. They are out of reach now. All those left behind can do is rest in God’s character and kindness, which is good and merciful.

In my next blog post I will address the hard question of whether the refusal to take medicine or treatment to prolong life is equivalent to suicide.

Suicide: The Basic Principle


Gravestones 2

A couple of weeks ago I followed a conversation about suicide on Facebook. This got me thinking about suicide. The first thing I did was look at the major catechisms and what they said. You can find the fruit of that in this blog post.   In this short post, I give the basic principle concerning suicide. There is a lot of emotion associated with suicide. My intent is not to open wounds for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. My heart breaks for the darkness that act can bring. Still our emotions do not dictate truth. The key question is not how do we feel, but what does the Bible teach?

The Basic Principle
God is the one who has the right to give and take life. Therefore the killing of someone, including self, without God’s consent is unjust and is murder.  What are legitimate reasons for the taking of life? I will not defend these or get into all the possible exceptions. But the Bible teaches that we can take a life (1) to defend ourselves or another against an attack and  (2) that duly appointed governmental authorities, following a fair and just trial, can take a life where the law allows. I realize these are necessarily brief. But the point is that suicide does not  fit either of these God appointed exceptions even if we give them the broadest definition.

Therefore the intentional killing of one’s self is murder and is a sin. There are no Biblical principles to contradict this and numerous ones to support it. It has been the almost universal teaching of the church from the beginning. Murder is the unjust taking of a life. Suicide, including euthanasia, fits in that category. Helping someone kill themselves is helping someone commit murder and should be treated as such.

This does not make every suicide equal in its gravity. For example, a man being tortured in a prison camp who takes his own life is in a different category than a man who lost his money in the stock market or a young girl who kills herself because her boyfriend left her.  The Roman Catholic Catechism says, “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.”  This is helpful, but in our age where someone commenting on  your hair could be construed as a “grave psychological disturbance” it can create too big a loophole. Still it is good to remember that not all suicides are equal in gravity just as not all murders are equal in sinfulness. Nonetheless, suicide is murder.

In my next post I will look at some difficult questions about suicide.


2016.Episode 10~The Baptism of the Dead

BaptismOne of the more difficult passages in Scripture is I Corinthians 15:29 where Paul talks about the baptism of/for/over the dead. In this podcast I discuss the possible interpretative options.