The Trashing of Human Life
Earlier this year Bob Ohlrich walked into his wife’s hospital room, put a pistol to her head, and fired a bullet into her brain. Was this life-ending deed morally wrong? Many would argue it was not. Mr. Ohlrich believed his wife was suffering from terminal cancer (or so he says). Though Phyllis Ohlrich had been operated on for colon cancer in 1998, a post-mortem autopsy revealed no trace of cancer at the time of her death.
This incident demonstrates, however, how very cheap life has become in these waning days of the twentieth century. The infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian, commonly known as “Jack the Dripper,” has assisted in more than forty suicides (some three-fourths of which were women). He is scheduled to go on trial one more time this spring for the well-publicized suicide he aided, which was filmed by the exploitive television program, 60 Minutes.
Though Kervokian has given the right-to-die movement an almost decomposing stench, the more-respectable advocates of physician-assisted suicide are by no means ready to give up the ghost in defense of the procedure. Lynn Vincent, a journalist for World magazine, has recently shown that huge nonprofit corporations are pouring millions of dollars into efforts which will promote various forms of euthanasia 1999, 23).
How does one determine whether suicide, personally implemented—or otherwise assisted—is a moral act or not? The answer actually is quite simple. If human life is merely a freak of nature—a biological accident—then man may dispose of it freely at will. If we are but a conglomeration of living cells, in the same way a roach is, then human life occupies no unique place in the environs of earth. In such a case, who has the right to say when it will or will not be sustained? No one.
But this is a philosophical position which most rational folks find intolerable. The problem with such a materialistic theory is this. The more scientists learn about the complexity of the living cell, the more they are driven to the conclusion that “life” could not have originated by chance. Even some atheists have struggled with this.
In his book, Communications with Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, the late Dr. Carl Sagan, a prominent atheist in the scientific community, acknowledged that the possibility of life’s spontaneous appearance on earth is on the order of one in ten to the two billionth power (that’s a one followed by two billion zeros) (1973, 46). These are astronomical odds. In other words, life did not just happen!
If, therefore, it is not reasonable to believe that life could have generated itself, how did it originate? The only logical conclusion is this: some superior life-force, exterior to earth’s environment, is responsible for life on this planet.
This is the very affirmation of the Holy Scriptures. Life is derived from the “living God.” Paul declared: “[God] himself gives to all life, and breath, and all things.” Again, “[I]n him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:25,28; cf. 1 Timothy 6:13). Centuries before Christ was born, Moses wrote: “Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
Inasmuch as man is not the author of life, he is not sovereign over that essence, with the right to determine when life should be terminated.
Seneca, the Greek Stoic, defended suicide on the ground that man is lord of his own being. Last year Oregon passed a physician-assisted suicide law. One of the chief proponents of that legislation, Barbara Coombs Lee, an attorney/nurse, argues for the validity of suicide on the ground of “personal autonomy.” But the Bible does not sanction the notion of human “autonomy.” The word “autonomy” means “self-law.” Man does not possess autonomy in moral matters. He is not the source of ethical law. Rather, he is subject to the law of God Almighty. Consider the following facts:
- God is the Creator of humankind (Genesis 1:26-27). The psalmist declared that it was the Lord who made us; not we ourselves (Psalm 100:3). Accordingly, we do not own ourselves.
- As our Maker, God has a right over his creation. Paul rhetorically asks: “Does not a potter have a right over the clay?” (Romans 9:21). The Creator has the right to instruct us regarding the value of human life.
- When, therefore, one presumes to take another’s life, without authority from God to so do, he usurps the role of deity; he thus functions as a rebel.
Tragically, American culture is drifting farther and farther from the moral precepts of the Scriptures. “Life” has become an expendable commodity. More than 1.5 million unborn babies are slaughtered each year in this country. Others are pushing the envelope even further. Sir Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, has argued that newborn babies who do not pass certain genetic tests should be eliminated. Joseph Fletcher, the prominent situation ethicist, contends that society is “morally obligated” to end the lives of those who are terminally ill. Dr. William Gaylin of Columbia University has suggested that the time may come when we will be forced to kill our elderly grandparents and/or eliminate some of our own children.
America is losing her moral soul! What horrors lie in store for your children and grandchildren?
The only way one can consistently argue for the sanctity of human life is to ground his case in the ultimate moral law which proceeds from the sovereign Creator of the universe. All other argument is merely subjective, and, in the final analysis, subject to the changing whims of a fickle humanity.
Every person who reveres the God of heaven must speak out for the sacredness of human life.
- Sagan, Carl, ed. 1973. Communications with Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Vincent, Lynn. 1999. World, February 20.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.