The beginning and end of this discussion should be charity, sorrow, and grief. A young woman just a few years older than my oldest daughter is dead. Her husband, family, and those that loved her are grieving. Instead of trying to win an argument, perhaps that knowledge should drive our discussions ahead of our own personal opinions. May we write and speak as if each of them is reading and listening.
The Absolutes of Scripture
For most of us that are trying to follow Jesus, the Bible is our go-to and our safety. When an issue arises within culture we immediately ask, “What does the Bible say?” There are certainly hosts of times when the answer to that question deals sufficiently with the cultural issue at hand, so we apply the Bible to our lives accordingly. Is it sufficient to only allow others to tell us what they think the Bible says about certain issues? These often well-meaning individuals could not be more wrong in terms of “truths” they claim the Bible teaches. What do we do when the Bible does not speak definitively?
When Scripture Isn’t Obvious
I am thankful to have grown up in a context that valued the authority of Scripture. In large part because of that, I do too. However, much of the way Scripture was handled in my upbringing was like this… I approach the Bible with a list of issues in hand and I try to find a verse that seems to deal with said issue. This often lead(s) to poor exegesis and/or dangerous eisegesis. Instead of forcing a text to speak to something it simply does not, it gives us credibility to admit that Scripture is simply not obvious when it is not.
When Scripture Is Silent
Thankfully there is never a point at which we are left directionless. I often draw perspective on issues where the Scripture is silent from the whole of Scripture and its attitudinal propensity. I ask myself questions like, “Do my personal thoughts and feelings line up with principles found in Scripture?” “Do my thoughts and ideas about said topic find any conflict (variance) with principles found in Scripture?”
Death With Dignity
This is a difficult and two-pronged discussion. The first part, death is always certain and final. Few people would debate that. But that second word… dignity. What is dignity as it relates to death? Ask a dozen people and you may hear nearly that many answers. Is dignity a reasonable expectation when it is attached to death? In the United States alone around two and a half million people die every year. 100% of them are dead. I doubt that a significant portion of them (or their families, for that matter) would say that they died with dignity. Another blogger and I recently disagreed about her assertion that death is beautiful. And while I understand that there are instances where death is a relief to seemingly endless cycles of pain, it is its finality that decries any beauty it may have. The Scripture even speaks of death as the last enemy. I’m not sure it’s meant to be very dignified.
A Christian Response to Death With Dignity
Is it possible that Christians can come to different conclusions on this issue? Personally, I believe that because I don’t get to decide when I show up (birth), I don’t think it is my decision when I check out (death). Are there exceptions? Probably. Respect the difficulty surrounding other’s realities regarding end-of-life decisions. Be honest (intellectually and verbally) about what the Scripture does and does not say on the subject.