The Sanctity of Life

It’s not wrong to kill people if the killing is justified (this is a necessarily true statement).

Killing people in war is justified, killing people in self defense is justified… even killing people that deserve death is justified. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life principle is not obsolete.

When considering euthanasia a killing can be justified by mercy – the principle being do to others as you would have them do to you. In a situation where a person wants to die and a person kills them compassionately the killer has not wronged anyone.

Some appeal to the Sanctity of Life to oppose euthanasia but if the Sanctity of Life doctrine were true it would condemn the other justified killings mentioned above.

A holy cow - as seen at a restaurant in Goa.
Holy cow! Seen at a restaurant in Goa.

 

The Sanctity of Life doctrine is false – it’s a sacred cow that needs killing.

32 thoughts on “The Sanctity of Life”

  1. [W]hen circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible. … [W]e propose to call this practice ‘after-birth abortion’, rather than ‘infanticide,’ to emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus … rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.

  2. Wisdom 1:12-16 says…

    12 Seek not death in the error of your life, neither procure ye destruction by the works of your hands.

    13 For God made not death, neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living.

    14 For he created all things that they might be: and he made the nations of the earth for health: and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor kingdom of hell upon the earth.

    15 For justice is perpetual and immortal.

    16 But the wicked with works and words have called it to them: and esteeming it a friend have fallen away, and have made a covenant with it: because they are worthy to be of the part thereof.

  3. I didn’t want to debate the deuterocanonical books, but yes, I think they are valuable and helpful to round out our understanding of God and sound theology. They were valued in the Early Church especially because of their explicit Messianic references (which is one reason Jews later repudiated them). Athanasius, while putting them in a separate category to the other books, still quoted from them in his letters and sermons, and desired all Christians to read them. It is a shame they are not more widely read – a byproduct of the reformation. In fact it can be argued that many heresies have arisen because of the want of these books. There would be no Christian Science churches if they had read and respected Sirach 38 (aka Ecclesiasticus).

    Unfortunately many of the translations of these books are not great, and done by Protestants lacking in sufficient respect for them. (Even the text I reproduced here is from the Douay Rheims, because the ones online in more modern language were inadequate, and I couldn’t be bothered retyping my hard copy Orthodox Study Bible). Again, this is a shame, as it takes the “shine” off the books. And I think that because Protestant theology ignores them, it leads that theology down contrary paths that makes the books jarring to a Protestant reader, but entirely reinforcing to an Orthodox or Roman Catholic one.

    To get back to the specifics of the passage I quoted, it reinforces the value of life – that death is not something God made (a crucial point not taught by Protestants), that death is a tragedy that separates the soul from the body, and that it is a solace for no-one. The purpose of Christ is to conquer death, so to seek it, even for perceived “good” reasons, is to go against Christ.

  4. In fact it can be argued that many heresies have arisen because of the want of these books.

    No doubt it can be argued that many heresies have arisen because of these books.

    Problem? I think so, because we can’t seem to agree on our own canon.

  5. No doubt it can be argued that many heresies have arisen because of these books.

    The books were part of the Septuagint, which was the canon of books that Jesus and the Apostles used. They are entirely consistent with the rest of Scripture, or they would not form part of Scripture. Your definition of heresy is something that doesn’t conform to your own tradition, which I put to you dates only back to John Calvin – though in fact, even Protestant Bibles included these books until the 19th Century, so you are basing it on tradition less than 200 years old.

    These books were part of Judaism until the late 1st Century AD (when the Jews got pissed that Christians were quoting them and removed them from their canon) and they were undisputed as essential to Christianity for 1500 years (and used by 3/4 of all Christians to this day). There is no heresy in them.

  6. Blair
    If “justice is immortal” (or if justice is simply not obsolete) and justice allows for the death penalty (eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life) then the Sanctity of Life doctrine is false.

  7. Reed – I’m going to type out the OSB version, because you’ve highlighted what I suspect is a mistranslation:

    “Do not be zealous for death by the deceit of your life,
    Nor bring destruction upon yourself by the works of your hands.
    For God did not make death,
    Neither does He have pleasure over the destruction of the living.
    For He created all things that they might exist,
    And the generations of the world so they might be preserved;
    For there was no poison of death in them,
    Nor was the reign of Hades on the earth.
    For righteousness does not die.
    But the ungodly summoned death by their words and works;
    Although they thought death would be a friend, they were dissolved.
    For they made a covenant with death,
    Since they were deserving to share it in common.”

    I really should have just typed this out in the first place. It’s righteousness that is immortal. Death exists because of sin, and death is the penalty for sin, but God neither created it nor desires it for anyone. Capital punishment is an allowance God gave to the Israelites, not to bring about death, but to bring about the opposite – so that people would be deterred from sin and live. There is no such allowance given to us in the present to end the suffering of the living through bringing the curse of death upon them. Jesus healed those in pain and suffering, and brought the dead back to life – He didn’t kill them! There’s simply no correlation between the death penalty and euthanasia. One is for life, and the other absolutely for death.

    1. There’s simply no correlation between the death penalty and euthanasia.

      They are both justified killings.
      One is justified by justice – the other is justified by mercy.

    1. Blair – Discussions of right and wrong are discussions regarding God’s will. We are discussing God’s standards. You think something I said is false but I can’t tell what.

      What do you believe…
      Do you believe in the Sanctity of Life doctrine?
      Do you believe that killing in self defense is necessarily wrong?
      Do you believe that killing for justice is necessarily wrong?
      Do you believe that killing from compassion is necessarily wrong?

      1. I was referring to your personal opinion that euthanasia was justified. It is indeed your personal opinion, since not only does God not allow us to take life to alleviate suffering, but there is a clear command in deuterocanonical scripture not to take our own life, or presume to take life on the basis that death is preferable for the person concerned, or requested by them. That is my argument. Furthermore, I argue that even execution is not the will of God or desired by God, since His will is for us not to sin. It is clear that the Israelites were permitted to take the life of evildoers because it saved and deterred others. What does euthanasia save and deter? What sin does it absolve?

        Your argument is comically flawed to start off with, because you don’t state under what authority people should take life. Is it okay to execute people because God says so, or because of some intrinsic natural law or principle? You have yet to clarify. You’ve simply said “some killing is okay, therefore this other sort of killing is okay”. But there are massive ethical differences in what goes on in each case.

        You are asking me if I believe in “the Sanctity of Life”. That seems like too legalistic a concept for me. I’d prefer to say that God is Life, and He is the Lord of Life, and the God of the living, not the dead. The question of life and its continuation is in God’s hands, not mine.

        1. My argument was aimed at people that believe in the Sanctity of Life doctrine.

          You’ve simply said “some killing is okay, therefore this other sort of killing is okay”.

          One part of my argument was this:-
          If the Sanctity of Life doctrine were true then these examples of killings would not be okay.
          These examples of killings are okay.
          Therefore, the Sanctity of Life doctrine is false.

          If the Sanctity of Life doctrine isn’t your reason for opposing euthanasia then this argument is not effective for you.

          Thinking…

  8. … since not only does God not allow us to take life to alleviate suffering…

    When did God allow working on the Sabbath to alleviate suffering?
    Jesus argued that it wasn’t breaking the commandment because the commandment was made for man.
    I’m making the same argument Jesus did. 😉

    … but there is a clear command in deuterocanonical scripture not to take our own life

    Maybe… but… greater love has no man than to lay down his life for another.

  9. Mercy goes beyond justice. Mercy can never justify something that is evil. Murder is evil.
    Murder is more than that, it’s intrinsically evil. Killing people in war or self-defence is not murder, it’s Killing people in war or self-defence. Even killing people in war needs to be justified, as there have been many abuses in war which were not justified.

  10. … since not only does God not allow us to take life to alleviate suffering…

    When did God allow working on the Sabbath to alleviate suffering?

    So now your argument is that God is beholden, or inferior, to some higher principles which also give one licence to go against his will on all matters where those higher principles hold?! Your argument is that your own logic and ethics on matters is more important than those of God?

    1. So now your argument is that God is beholden, or inferior, to some higher principles which also give one licence to go against his will on all matters where those higher principles hold?

      No.

      Your argument is that your own logic and ethics on matters is more important than those of God?

      No.

      When did God allow working on the Sabbath to alleviate suffering?

      That wasn’t a rhetorical question – I think it was always allowed.
      I think to recognise this pre-Jesus you’d have to see God as a loving father and understand the spirit of the command – The same applies to the “don’t kill” command.

  11. Your argument is that your own logic and ethics on matters is more important than those of God?

    Whereas your argument, Blair, is that an injunction found in an apocryphal text is, in fact, the “logic and ethics of God.” I believe that Reed denies this. So there’s nothing wrong with Reed’s argument on its own terms.

  12. For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:

    And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

    It looks to me as if the canonicity question is an important one to get right. 😉

    1. I’m almost certain that John was talking about the book he had just dictated to Prochorus, and not a canon of books that was only “finalized” 1400 years later, when the doctrine of sola scriptura first appeared.

  13. I said killing someone, not something.
    You can’t treat people like dogs, you kill dogs who attack people, you imprison people who attack people, you don’t kill them.
    Unless you think the death penalty should apply to any violent crime at all?
    For dogs – it can.

    Justice is giving someone what they deserve, Mercy is giving someone more than they deserve.
    Taking someone’s life can never be merciful, as it is not giving it’s taking something away from them especially if they deserve life.

    So can killing a cat merciful?
    I don’t know. It’s an interesting question.

    Alleviating suffering isn’t always merciful is it?
    If you are a doctor and someone has paid you to alleviate their suffering, you owe it to them, and must do this in justice, it is not merciful. If they run out of money, but you still continue to do it, then that is mercy. If there’s nothing more you can do except kill them, and you do it, no that is not mercy, that’s murder.

    Do you also see suicide as morally acceptable rather than intrinsically evil?

    1 Samuel 2:6
    The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.

    Leviticus 24:17
    Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death.

    2Kings 18:32b
    Choose life and not death!

    1. Do you also see suicide as morally acceptable rather than intrinsically evil?

      It depends on the circumstances. Suicide as an act of anger or malice would be evil. Suicide as an of despair is just sad. But a heroic suicide like jumping on a grenade to save your friends is a great, loving and good act.

      Suicide when facing a painful death is more of a practical matter.

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