Euthanasia/assisted suicide

For some, what follows will but muddy the waters, but I'll offer it anyway.

I think we often go astray in our talk about legislating morality.
As one might expect, human government is primarily preoccupied with humanity. Thus, ideally, under the watchful eyes of government, people strive to live orderly lives in society, to be humane in how they treat one another, compassionate in relieving pain and eager to do good to fellow human beings. In other words, the focus is on people.

In the beginning, the Christian Scriptures would have us believe, man was not the centre of all, any more than the Earth was the centre of our universe. At the heart of all creation was the Creator. What he did, he did not do primarily for the benefit or comfort of his creatures but for his own glory. It was Augustine who said: "O Lord, thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee." Man was not an afterthought, but he was the star of only the sub-plot.

The universe and, indeed, all of time and space was decidedly theocentric, God-centred. For the Christian, one would hope, that has not changed, since for them the Scriptures, the point of reference, have not been abrogated. ["The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever." Is 40:8, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Matt 24:35, "For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." Pet 1:23.]

However, in our separation of church and state, we have shifted the focus back to where everything has become anthropocentric, man-centred. What we do, we do for what we conceive to be the benefit of man, not for the glory of God. The first does not necessarily lead to the second. And the sometimes ugly mess that we call civilization is the unhappy result.
We strive for happiness and satisfaction above all else, and both are fleeting commodities when made the central theme of life. It is only when, as the early Reformers realized "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever", [Westminster Shorter Catechism]. God and his glory come back into our primary focus that at least our individual world rights itself, and that "by-products" like happiness and satisfaction are really within reach.

Even noble-sounding aspirations like "mercy and compassion" have to be seen as indirect benefits of the life turned Godward. Otherwise they risk being tainted with self-interest.

The connection of all this preamble to the debate on euthanasia/assisted suicide, Mr. Little asks.

End-of-life decisions - either end - are God's and any human intervention must be made with God and his glory as primary points of reference. One example: at the loss of most of his family to disaster, a wise man confessed: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21.

So when we are pulling plugs and deadening pain and deciding who lives and who dies, we do well to ask, "and how does this decision square with what God would want or choose?" Does he want us to live in a no-pain situation? Be careful how you answer, because pain, as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Problem of Pain, page 91, can be "God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Both the subject and the agent involved in potential euthanasia/assisted suicide may have lessons to learn that only the discomfort of pain and the discipline of living on can teach.

Mac Wigfield