There is much debate and confusion about euthanasia. Examples of actions which are not euthanasia are often used to argue for law change which is euthanasia. This would be bad law. This short |Note aims to clarify some of the terms and issues in the hope that we can prevent this from happening.
What is euthanasia? An act which of itself and by intention causes the death of another person in order to eliminate their suffering.
What is assisted suicide? This happens when a person commits suicide with assistance from others, often by self-administering a lethal substance that has been obtained with the cooperation of a third party.
Withholding or withdrawing treatment is not euthanasia When a treatment is judged to be medically futile, or when it is judged that the benefits of a particular treatment are outweighed by the burdens for a particular person, it is a question of accepting the inevitability of death and allowing the person to return to their dying.
The New Zealand Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights allows for any person to refuse services and to withdraw consent to services.
People have a right to be free of pain When a health professional administers medication with the sole intention of relieving a patient’s physical pain, that action is morally acceptable even if it foreseeably shortens the patient’s life. This is not an act of (slow) euthanasia as some claim.
Ethical and Theological Considerations
Supporters of euthanasia believe that decisions about end-of-life are essentially a matter of personal choice. Legalising such acts, it is argued, would simply provide those who wanted it with the choice about when and how to die and would not affect those who chose otherwise. This line of argument appeals to many but it fails to take into account the unintended consequences of a law change.
Acts of euthanasia and assisted suicide always involve others and affect others. They are never purely private matters. In addition, they have societal consequences; legalising euthanasia and assisted suicide will erode the general prohibition against killing in our society in a way that will over time lessen the respect for human life.
“Expanding one freedom often limits another. It does more than simply provide options … Expanding personal freedom to include assisted suicide undermines another right – to remain alive without having to justify one’s existence.”
– Mark Blocher, Author of ‘The Right to Die?’
In addition, the so-called ‘right to die’ could very quickly become a ‘duty to die’. People who feel neglected, undervalued and invisible will understandably see themselves as a burden and will want to do the ‘right thing’, especially with growing pressures on families involved in care as well as growing pressures on health care and aged care funding. Looked at like this, it is apparent that legalising euthanasia or assisted suicide will ultimately undermine real choices at the end of life.
“If euthanasia is legalised, premature death becomes a significant risk in a society which is already ambivalent about people who are perceived as having little or nothing to contribute while ‘swallowing up’ large amounts of health resources.”
– John Kleinsman
Overseas practices show that, once legalised, assisted suicide and euthanasia are inevitably made available to those who are suffering mental anguish, including persons with mental illness, even when they have not asked for it.
“Legalising euthanasia will create new pathways of abuse for the elderly and disabled.”
– John Kleinsman
People who oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide and those who support it both want to prevent intolerable suffering. Research shows that persistent requests for physician assisted suicide or euthanasia mostly arise from deep fears and concerns about not wanting to be a burden or from a sense of isolation rather than from a fear of pain.
Pope Francis has recently compared abandoning the elderly and disabled as being like a form of euthanasia. The call to discipleship demands of Christians an active commitment to holistic care for those who are suffering, elderly or disabled. Palliative care focuses on the needs of the whole person; physical, emotional, cultural, social and spiritual needs. True ‘death with dignity’ occurs when these needs are met and the person is loved and cared for and feels included.
“Once you open the door to assisted suicide and euthanasia it always becomes wider and wider and wider, and before you know it what starts as an option for a few becomes what’s expected for the many.”
– Alex Schadenberg, director of Euthanasia Prevention Coalition
Death Talk: The Case against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide by Margaret Somerville
In addition to bioethics, John has experience in the areas of disability support as well as the drug and alcohol rehabilitation sectors. He was previously a member of the Central Region Health Research Ethics committee and serves on a number of other ethics committees and advisory committees.
Evangelism does not seem to be widely practised in the church today. Perhaps this is because it’s not well understood. Perhaps poor teaching has left a residue of suspicion or even fear. This |Note explains what evangelism is, and challenges all of us to be involved.
The Christian gospel is a wonderful thing. Christ has come, sent from God, and shown us who God is with his life of sacrificial service. He died on a cross for our sins. He rose, overcoming death, and is Lord of all. He invites us to be a part of his great mission to renew this world. This good news about Jesus is to be shared by God’s people throughout the world. We call this evangelism; sharing the euangelion, the good news. All a person has to do in response to hearing this message is to believe that Jesus is saviour and Lord. When they do, they receive salvation as a gift, receive the Spirit, and are welcomed into God’s family to experience eternal life.
However, a person cannot know this extraordinary privilege unless someone tells them the good news so that they can respond. Consequently, one of our central purposes as a Christian to take up the challenge of sharing the message of Christ to others. Some Christians with a gift and call to share Christ do this as their vocation – these are the evangelists whose task it is to devote themselves to the ministry of sharing Christ, and to equip others for the task. All other Christians, as they go about their various vocational callings, are also called to take every opportunity to share Christ.
Verbally articulating the gospel is central to evangelism. This can happen in any situation, whether a formal gathering like a church service, or in a conversation at home, at work, or in a social situation. As we are called to give witness to Christ, so we must take the responsibility to be equipped – knowing the gospel and understanding how to go about it.
Evangelism cannot be limited to merely verbal communication. Sharing Christ is something we do with our whole lives. We are to embody the virtues of the gospel as we relate to others, whoever they may be; such things as holiness, kindness, goodness, patience, respect, gentleness, humility, and supremely, love. We are called to share Christ by continuing his ministry of compassionate service to others – caring for the poor and marginalized, healing, restoring, and being the friend of sinners.
Evangelism is about hospitality. Essential to evangelism is invitation. Jesus’ Great Banquet parable speaks of a God who invites the world to a great feast. A servant is sent out inviting all humanity to the feast. We are called to serve in this way, and invite people to join God in his great restoration project.
Evangelism is a team activity. Certainly, evangelism includes inviting people into a personal relationship with God. However, it is more. It is inviting people to be a part of a people, God’s family, the church. All humanity is invited – the gospel is a radical vision of people of every race, age, men and women, rich and poor, together as one. We become part of God’s vision of a world united in Christ.
Central to evangelism is the art of good conversation. Conversation is about sharing our lives with others not merely to convert them, but to genuinely know them and show them Christ’s love. We are to engage with others recognizing that they are made in the image of God and God created them for relationship with him. We are to make the most of every opportunity, and share Christ with wisdom and words that are full of grace and seasoned with salt.
We are assured by Jesus that as we share his gospel with others, he is present empowering the words, seeking to draw people to him. We cannot guarantee another person’s response. That is up to them. Our call is to be faithful to our call to share Jesus.
Evangelism then is a central task for all Christians. It is a supreme challenge, especially where Christianity is maligned and resisted. We may be persecuted. We may suffer. Yet, our reward is great. It is also a privilege to be honoured by the God of the universe to be called to be his ambassadors to the world. May we do it well.
by Kirsty Anderson, Elevate Christian Disability Trust
24% of people in NZ live with some form of disability. When you consider this number, there is little doubt that in most churches there are people who either have a disability themselves or have a family member with a disability.
What is disability?
Disability is a term used to cover a wide range of long-term impairments, physical limitations and restrictions. These impairments generally fit into the following categories:
blind and low vision
deaf and hard of hearing
Ways to look at disability
There are two main ‘models’ used commonly to view and frame disability. The medical model views disability as an abnormality, with diagnosis and treatment focussed on defects and dysfunction. The emphasis is to fix the abnormality or defect.
The social model views disability as the result of barriers (attitudinal, physical and organisational), not a person’s impairment. The emphasis is on removing barriers.
The various views and beliefs about disability within society have been shaped by history and by what society considers important. Who society recognizes and admires is an indicator of what is important and valued in that society. We see those who have accomplished much labelled successful, people whose actions or work contribute greatly to society are highly regarded, and those who are attractive or talented are admired.
From a biblical perspective, our value is because of who designed us and the price paid for us. We are all made in the image of God. All of us were ‘knit together’ and formed by God. Jesus’ death on a cross was the price paid for each of us, which includes people who experience disability. Our physical appearance, our intelligence, or what we have done, cannot lessen or add to our value.
Our society places great significance on independence and views those who rely on others, or need more support, as weak. In contrast, from a biblical perspective every person is dependent on God and this dependence is immense and endless. God also made us to be interdependent, to do life together and to support each other. We are called the Body of Christ and no one part of a body can function on its own. It can only function as a part of the whole body, each part dependent to varying degrees on the rest.
God looks at the heart. Our appearance and our level of intelligence are not important to Him. In Proverbs we are told to trust God and not lean on our own understanding. In 1 Corinthians we are told that knowledge will pass away.
What is it that we are focusing on? Is it the disability? Or do we focus on what is eternal?
Why is there disability?
There are no easy answers and around certain aspects there are differing views. In saying this, there are some key truths. Disability can result from illness, disease, genetics, accidents or injuries. There has been degeneration of the gene pool since sin entered the world, so our physical bodies are not as perfect as Adam and Eve’s. Sometimes, God allows people to have disability. Some people also assign responsibility to God for not only allowing but causing their disability.
Understand first and foremost that a person is a person; they may also happen to have a disability but this is not who they are.
Become aware of the beliefs and attitudes you have around disability.
Talk about the value of life – how our value was determined by Christ’s death and by being made in His image. As such, intelligence, appearance, independence and achievements do not determine our worth
Recognise that disability affects the physical body and not the spirit; therefore disability does not hinder a person having a relationship with God.
Consider the following passages: Exodus 4:10-12; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; Luke 14 and 1 Corinthians 12.
Christian faith is not a part-time activity. It is to be lived out 24-7-52. For many Christians this involves living out our faith at home, in our communities, and in our workplaces. But several myths about faith and work can prevent us from being effective witnesses in this area of life.
Kara Martin is Associate Dean of the Marketplace Institute at Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia.
When we met at Ridley one year ago I asked her if she could condense some of the most important messages she had learned that would help Christians be more effective witnesses in their workplaces.
Myths about Faith and Work
Faith is to be lived out 24-7-52. For many Christians this involves living out our faith at work. But several myths about faith and work can prevent us from being effective witnesses in this area of life.
Work is cursed
We all know that work is tough and hard and frustrating. It is tempting to think that the one good thing about heaven is that we won’t be able to work there! Around us, everyone wants to retire early so that they can stop working. However…
A careful reading of Genesis 3 shows that the process of working is cursed, not work itself. In fact, work is a good gift from God, and God himself is a worker who is still working (John 5:17)
Work may be frustrating, but it is not impossible, and God will often bless us through our work
God doesn’t care about my secular work
The focus of so many sermons and talks is on evangelism and worship. It feels like Gospel work is the only work that God values, and he only cares about the spiritual parts of our lives. However…
If you read Genesis 2 from verse 15, you will realise that the first work assignment from God was to till the earth (physical work), and the second assignment was to name the animals (creative/knowledge work).
God describes himself working through the prophets as a builder, gardener, singer, shepherd, potter and farmer.
God doesn’t just create the world, and leave it. He works to sustain his creation, and provide for his creatures, through all of us.
The only way I can be a Christian at work is to evangelise my workmates
Often there is pressure on us to use work as our opportunity to evangelise our colleagues. It sometimes feels that our pastor sees that as the only useful part about our job, aside from giving to the church. However…
Although proclaiming the Gospel is necessary, people often read our lives before they listen to our words.
There are many ways to express our faith in our work, and the most important way is to be excellent at our job. Peter in 1 Peter 2 encourages us to live such good lives that God might be praised.
In Colossians 3, Paul tells slaves to work whole-heartedly as if for Jesus. This suggests that our work can also be our way of serving God, of worshiping him.
If I am a serious Christian I should leave my job
We may have heard sermons about how God wants us to leave our jobs and go to the mission field or plant a church… Often it feels selfish to hold onto our jobs and ignore those calls. However…
Serious Christians should seek to serve God wherever they are placed. (See 1 Corinthians 7:17)
All of us need to continually ask God to prompt and guide us to the work he wants us to do, using the gifts and skills and passion and experience he has developed in us.
Truths about Faith and Work
Your work is good
God created work as a good gift for us. Working is actually part of human flourishing. Those denied work struggle in many ways.
We are all made in the image of a God who works.
We notice that God took pleasure in his work of creation, and we can take pleasure in our work also.
We need to separate work from employment, and learn not to value our work according to how much we are paid.
You can worship God through your work
In Genesis 2:15, humans are told to work the ground and keep the garden. The Hebrew words for “work” (avad) and “keep” (shamar) are later used in reference to worshipping God and keeping his commandments.
Work is one of the ways that we keep the Greatest Commandment: to love God and to love others.
You can work with Jesus to redeem the workplace
Evangelism is one aspect of redeeming the workplace.
We also do Jesus’ work of renewal when we are creative, we do good work, we act for justice, we build positive relationships or we right wrongs, or we stop evil.
Kara Martin Associate Dean, Marketplace Institute Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia
What is it, why does it matter and how to address it
Many Christians are unfamiliar with the concept of secularism. They have not had the opportunity to consider the threat it poses for our society – for our children, and for future generations.
This resource is designed to help readers understand what secularism is, recognise the ways it subtly shapes society, realise how it is contrary to God’s will, and discern how we should respond.
Secularism – What is it?
Online dictionaries define secularism as:
1. A system of social philosophy that rejects all forms of religious faith and worship 2. The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education
The UK National Secular Society describes it as a principle that involves two basic propositions:
1. The strict separation of the state from religious institutions 2. That people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law
Most descriptions boil down to the basic idea of keeping God out of everyday life.
This means keeping your beliefs (unless it happens to be atheism) out of the public square – which includes public debate, public policy, public institutions (e.g. government and schools), and public spaces (e.g. the workplace).
In other words… it may be OK to believe in God as long as you keep it to yourself and you keep it private. Although people like scientist Richard Dawkins would even argue against this.
There is a ‘softer version’ of secularism which allows for expression of God in public as long as no one religion is given preferential treatment. This is sometimes referred to as ‘inclusive secularism’.
Inclusive secularism could be seen as consistent with Christian faith which holds that God gives people free-will and choice and does not impose belief onto people.
But groups in New Zealand, such as the Rationalist-Humanist Society and the Secular Education Network, are active in pushing for ‘exclusive secularism’, where God and religious faith would be restricted to a ‘private’ activity.
Why does it matter?
There are two ways to look at this…
From God’s perspective,
Christian understanding is that God created everything – life, family, community, government. God is sovereign over everything, and His desire is that He would be honoured and every sphere of life would function in line with His will.
For spheres (e.g. government or education) to operate as if God is irrelevant or to relegate God to the margins or the private sphere, is not giving God the honour He deserves.
From society’s perspective,
if God is real and,
if God is the source of all justice and goodness and truth and meaning…
then it would be unwise to exclude God from the public sphere.
If God is treated as irrelevant it can only have negative consequences for a society that tries to live that way.
Such a society would eventually see injustice and inequality increase; goodness, respect, and compassion decrease, and standards of truth and morality undermined. It also leads to erosion of freedom of belief and conscience.
Those with eyes to see will observe some of these signs in New Zealand today.
How do we address secularism?
Recognise that ‘exclusive secularism’ is hostility to God and be prepared to engage.
Understand that ‘exclusive secularism’ is a belief system like any other, as are atheism, agnosticism, and rationalist-humanism. There is no more evidence for it being ‘true’ than for Christianity. Whereas there is good reason to argue it has much less.
Understand that public spheres that seek to suppress or exclude Christian or any other religious expression, are actually giving priority to atheism or beliefs that say God is not important in the public realm.This is the myth of ‘secular neutrality’ or the so-called ‘naked public square’ – a public square where beliefs supposedly have no place.
Highlight the unreasonableness of people who oppose any inclusion of Christian faith in public spaces when around half of the people in our country still describe themselves as Christian. Why shouldn’t schools teach the basic ideas of Christianity and the profound impact it has had, and continues to have, in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Recognise that ‘inclusive secularism’, which permits religious ideas and comments, is not a bad thing. It gives everyone freedom to share their real convictions, not just atheists and exclusive secularists.
Work together – connect to New Zealand Christian Network via the web. If you are able, consider supporting the work we do promoting Christian viewpoints in the public square.
Everyone has beliefs. A so-called ‘naked public square’ simply advantages some people’s beliefs (a minority) over others.
It is ironic that atheistic belief should be elevated in this way given that it has been consistently shown to produce more authoritarian regimes than almost any other (e.g. most communist dictatorships in the 20th century).
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We’re confused about marriage. We want ceremonies with vows “till death parts us”, yet every year half as many divorce as marry.
How do you picture “marriage”?
Weddings, like Hollywood productions, present the dream of perfect couples, it’s all about love and fulfilment. But that Hollywood self-fulfilment picture of marriage isn’t true.
Another picture of marriage
There’s another picture that surfaced last year in a blog post that went viral. Seth Adam Smith was unknown to most people until he wrote “Marriage isn’t for you”. He repeated advice his dad gave him, when he was having cold feet about marriage. The post was so popular the server crashed, and he featured on US TV news.
As the wedding approached Seth asked himself: “Was I making the right choice? Was Kim the right person to marry? Would she make me happy?” His dad’s response was sharp:
Core Bible teaching on marriage
The foundation for marriage is summed up at the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis 2.
“For this reason” refers back to the story in Genesis 2; of how God made a human being, planted a wonderful garden and put the human there to cultivate and care for it.
God also recognised that it is not good for man to be alone so He made a suitable helper for him. Let’s examine what that means:
a helper is not subordinate. In the Old Testament, almost always the strong “help” the weak. This speaks of our human need for each other.
suitable implies both “like” and “appropriate”
Animals didn’t fit the need… So God made a woman who really was: “bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh” – a helper who matches.
Marriage is a spiritual discipline
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter 5 deals extensively with marriage and specifically quotes Genesis chapter 2. He goes on to say:
This is a profound mystery – I am talking about Christ and the church.
Marriage echoes God’s love for us in Christ. In marriage we should love as God loves us. Marriage is a “spiritual discipline”.
Seth’s dad expressed deep truths about God’s intentions for marriage.
Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married.
That’s the Creator’s plan. Genesis 2 tells us that woman and man were “made for each other”, but Genesis 1, telling of the creation of humans, talks about the image of God.
So God created humanity in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Love and partnership between man and woman echoes the love within the Godhead. We are to love our wives or husbands as God loved us, but we are also to love and share as God does!
Talk of loving like God seems idealistic. Since Genesis 3, the world is broken by human sinfulness.
Living in a broken world: Marriages in the Bible
Think of Abraham and Sarah, they seem a perfect couple, but Sarah has Abraham sleep with a slave-girl (Gen 16:1-3), and then gets jealous (Gen 16:5). The only perfect marriages in Scripture are the ones we don’t see close enough to see the cracks.
Just as all humans are broken (sinful) and need to repent, all marriages need repentance and God’s grace – as does every other sphere of life.
Marriage can only work with forgiveness and grace – between spouses.
If you are thinking of marriage: Are you asking “Is marriage for you”, or are you ready to live for your future spouse and children?
If you are married: Are you behaving as if the marriage was “for you”? How can you change that?
If you prepare people for marriage: How do you help people understand what marriage really is, and to aim for the real thing?
Tim Bulkeley has been pastor (in England), missionary (in Congo) and taught Old Testament (for twenty years at Carey Baptist College) he and Barbara live between Tauranga and Rotorua and attend South City Baptist Church. They have four adult children and one granddaughter. Tim podcasts and has several websites including his latest project Reading the Bible Faithfully.