Resources Q & A

Beginning of Life

QUESTION: When does life begin? I know that life begins at the time of conception. I say with the Psalmist, “Truly I was sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived.” But when does conception take place? Is it at the moment the egg is fertilized or is it when the fertilized egg implants in the womb? What did David mean when he said: “conceived”? Can I say with absolute certainty that life begins when the egg is first fertilized before it reaches the womb?

ANSWER: For decades, the term “conception” has undergone redefinition in our society. Volumes of medical literature had previously reflected the long-standing teaching that conception and fertilization were the same things.

Yet some years ago, some people sought to redefine conception as implantation of the embryo in the uterine lining. Rather than viewing conception as the point of fertilization they refer to conception as a “process” that begins at fertilization and ends at implantation. This new definition conveniently obscures the fact that some chemicals and devices designed as “birth control” actually prevent the developing life in the embryonic stage from implanting in the uterine lining.

Follow closely what is being done. The pro-life mantra has maintained “life begins at conception.” Until recently “conception” and “fertilization” were synonymous. By redefining “conception” as “implantation,” manufacturers and advocates of abortifacient forms of birth control (which prevent implantation of the developing child) claim no abortion occurs since “conception” (by their redefinition) does not occur.

Biblically, the Hebrew words convey the truth clearly. The Scriptural teaching in Psalm 51:5 uses a word for “conceived” that closely relates to the passion of the procreative act. The Hebrew word for conception does not permit us to think of life as beginning at a point later than fertilization.

Biologically, the only differences between maturing life at fertilization and at implantation are size and geography. That which grants “personhood” to the implanted embryo is present in the newly-created life at fertilization. That genetically-unique human being continues to mature throughout its life – whether before or after birth. From fertilization to birth, life matures. What changes is geography.

In summary, the Hebrew language intimately ties the word “conceive” with the passion of the procreative act. Biology confirms the unique genetic blueprint is already present and completely programmed for human growth when fertilization occurs. Therefore, Scripture supports “conception” to mean life is created and exists at fertilization.

It is more than coincidental those church bodies that reject the truth of the existence of life at fertilization also reject select portions of Scripture – including the denial of the Psalm 51:5 proof passage to explain the existence of life at fertilization.

Yes, you can say with absolute certainty that life begins at fertilization. To establish a new starting point for the beginning of life is utilitarian and obscures both theology and biology.

QUESTION: A friend of mine is unmarried and pregnant. She confided in me that she is considering an abortion. She gave me a long list of reasons why, but I didn’t know how to answer her. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER: You didn’t list her reasons, but I think I know most of them. She probably discussed her inability to raise a child at this point in her life; feels she is not financially ready to have a child; is concerned about her educational or vocational goals; doesn’t have the support of friends, family or the father; and concluded that abortion is the best option for her at this time in her life.

The problem with all these responses is that they focus only on her. There is no consideration as to God’s will or any thought about the baby’s well-being. Jeremiah wrote, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5). This passage provides the comfort of knowing that God has a special plan for each person, and we certainly don’t have the foresight or wisdom to choose anything better.

When you respond to your friend, be kind and comforting in your approach. She is struggling with this situation and is faced with a great amount of uncertainty and guilt. Assure her that delivering this baby is not such a terrible decision. She can parent the child or place that child with another family through adoption. She can receive support through government agencies, family members and friends. Her educational or vocational goals might be delayed, but they don’t have to be lost. In other words, help her realize that this pregnancy can continue without ruining her life. She can still make many important decisions regarding her future without facing the guilt of disobeying God in this situation.

QUESTION: A friend of mine had an abortion a few years ago and never seemed bothered by it. Now she is concerned because she may be getting married but is hesitant to tell her boyfriend about her past. Why is she changing her attitude about her decision?

ANSWER: Abortion providers tell women that abortion is safe and legal, is a good decision, and should not cause shame. Quite honestly, if they told the whole truth, few women would choose an abortion when faced with an unexpected pregnancy.

So, the short-term response after an abortion might be relief, but the long-term effects cause confusion, anger, and even depression. Your friend is just one of many women who now face the consequences of an abortion.

When dealing with your friend, consider these points:

  • Encourage her to face the truth – she killed her preborn child. This might sound harsh, but she needs to confess her sin to God and seek His forgiveness (1 John 1:9) before she can expect healing.
  • Give love and support as she goes through the grieving process. Now is the time to help her move forward.
  • Use God’s Word and Bible study to guide the healing process. CLR developed a wonderful resource titled Free to Flourish for post-abortive women.
  • Give her the necessary time to heal. Recovery from an abortion experience is not handled in a few short sessions.
  • Direct her to be honest with her boyfriend. A relationship needs trust and confidence to last. A hidden lie from the past can cause a struggle in a new marriage.

You might be surprised that your friend’s attitude has changed but recognize her effort to confront the mistakes of her past and her desire to move forward with a fresh start for the future. For additional resources, CLR’s website has materials to help educate you on this topic. We can also provide a list of Post-Abortion Syndrome counselors who specialize in using God’s Word to provide the true comfort of the Gospel throughout the healing process.

QUESTION: Does CLR counsel women who are in despair because they’ve had abortions in the past, or do you just work with women who are considering an abortion?

ANSWER: Your question deals with a special issue called Post-Abortion Syndrome (PAS) and is becoming more common among people who have experienced an abortion in their past. We also recognize that PAS is not limited to women but also includes many men who have seen their wives or girlfriends abort their baby. When we consider the millions of aborted babies, it is no wonder that many people struggle with PAS.

For this kind of counseling, however, we usually direct people to one of our local pregnancy counseling centers. Many of the local centers have specially-trained people who work with post-abortion syndrome. You can access a listing of our pregnancy counseling centers through our website and also locate those centers offering PAS counseling.

Post-abortion syndrome is a serious issue and needs to be addressed. The best way to deal with PAS is through a study of God’s Word. Christian Life Resources developed a special Bible Study titled Free to Flourish that helps a person work through their pain and find true healing through Jesus Christ.

QUESTION: Do you provide any help or support for women who have had abortions?

ANSWER: Proverbs 31:8 tells us, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves” so we defend the lives of the pre-born who are targeted by elements of our society. Yet we also care about the men and women who struggle with an unwanted pregnancy and those who made the decision to abort their baby.

It is clear that millions of women have had abortions and are dealing with the effects of their decision. We truly care for the mothers, and fathers, of those aborted babies. We also know that true healing is found in the Gospel. For these reasons, Christian Life Resources developed materials to help women and men through the healing process. Our Scripturally-based, post-abortion materials confront the sin of abortion, deal with the feelings of anger and guilt, and provide the comfort of the love of Christ.

Q: I’ve heard many different terms describing the positions of those who either oppose or favor abortion and euthanasia (pro-life, pro-choice, anti-abortion, death with dignity, etc.). What is CLR’s position on all of these terms?

A: The position of CLR is always rooted in Gods Word. This means we value human life because Jesus gave us absolute value through His death and resurrection (John 3:16). We believe that God alone holds authority over life and death (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6). We believe that man is responsible for the preservation and protection of human life (Genesis 9:5-6; Luke 10:27). We also believe that the right attitude is critical in making godly decisions (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

The terms you mentioned have certain connotations. We consider ourselves “pro-life” but that doesn’t mean we endorse bombing abortion clinics nor hurting or killing abortionists. Some abortion advocates call us “anti-abortion” because it connotes a damaging image for our opposition to a perceived freedom. Many people use the term “pro-choice” but seldom define the “choices” they promote. The latest story comes from right-to-die groups who say they want to reference “assisted suicide” in terms that are more palatable. They contend that “right to die” or “death with dignity” are neutral terms that more accurately portray their position.

Labels are continually used to identify various agencies and beliefs. CLR’s pro-life label is likely to endure for many years. Yet our real label is that we are Christian, and therefore we teach that all deeds and decisions should be made out of love for God and respect for our neighbor.

QUESTION: I know a WELS member who is actively supportive of abortion rights and am greatly concerned. What should I do?

ANSWER: You have reasons to be concerned and should address this issue with an attitude of Christian love and concern. Some WELS members may favor abortion rights, but most of them remain quiet about it. When you don’t know a person’s stance on an issue, it is hard to address it directly. Yet, when a person is outspoken about a belief, then it becomes a public matter and needs attention.

Matthew 18:15-17 gives us a clear direction for dealing with a brother who is unrepentant. Using that guide, it is best to talk to this person privately. Convey your concern about his or her position and explain the danger that is present when a person promotes the intentional killing of preborn children. Also take time to listen attentively to the reasons given for the person’s support of abortion rights and address each argument with God’s Word. If that does not work, then take one or two others with you and communicate the seriousness of your concerns. One of those other people might be his or her pastor.

Throughout the process, maintain a level of patience and Christian love for this person. Your goal is not to get this person to simply admit that abortion is wrong, but rather to encourage a stronger faith in Jesus Christ and a lifestyle consistent with that faith.

Question: Is there any hope of overturning Roe v. Wade?

Answer: Roe v. Wade was the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling which legalized abortion across the nation. Many feel we are nearing the necessary majority margin on the Supreme Court to reverse that decision. If that were to happen it would, once again, become a “states rights” issues – meaning that all 50 states and the U.S. territories would decide for themselves whether abortion should be legal in their states and, if so, to what degree. In other words, overturning Roe v. Wade does not abolish abortion. It simply turns the single national debate into 50-state debates.

The battle to protect unborn children is not a political or legislative one but a spiritual one. It is the spiritual instruction of a nation, person by person, in the supremacy of God. His authorship over life and the responsibility of all of us to protect and care for all lives. It is important to remember that outlawing abortion even in all 50 states, without changing heart is a hollow victory. Our prime concern is for the souls of mothers and their children in the abortion issue. A desire to abort is also sinful. It is the sinful actions and desires of people that can only be addressed by the clear proclamation of God full counsel fo Law and Gospel, Judgment and Deliverance in Jesus Christ. So, we strive for the political and legislative victories, but our work hardly stops there.

QUESTION: I’ve heard that teen pregnancy rates have increased. Is it time to teach our kids about birth control?

ANSWER: Teaching about birth control is not the solution. Abstinence is still the only sure way to avoid pregnancy, STDs, and the emotional pain of pre-marital intimacy. Even more importantly, abstinence education is consistent with clear Biblical principles.

Christian parents should not teach or promote “safe sinning” among our youth, even if worldly philosophies  claim it is the prudent option. Rather, we need to convey a clear message that is consistent with God’s Word and continually encourage our youth to pursue God-pleasing relationships in their dating years.

QUESTION: I’ve heard people say there are hundreds of thousands of embryos currently being kept in frozen storage in the United States. I can’t imagine such a large number. What will be done with all those little ones?

ANSWER: Most experts agree that approximately 600,000 embryos are currently kept in frozen storage in this country. Such a large number should greatly concern Christians. Most of these frozen embryos are “leftovers” from IVF procedures.

The future of those embryos is determined by their owners. There are five options that can legally be considered.

  • Destroy them
  • Donate them to science
  • Keep them frozen indefinitely
  • Thaw them and transfer them to the biological mother
  • Donate them to infertile couples for adoption

In the application of Christian ethics, the first two options are not acceptable because they involve the killing of those young children at about one week old. The third option is not much better because a final decision is simply being postponed.

The last two options are the only acceptable choices. Although the survival rate for those frozen embryos is fairly low (ranging from 35% to 65% depending on the definition of successful thawing), it is still a better option than intentionally terminating them.

As technology advances, society is faced with greater ethical challenges. In making our decisions, we dare never ignore the humanity of these embryos, and we must avoid the temptation of convincing ourselves that preborn children are commodities to be manipulated rather than blessings to be appreciated.

Christian Life Resources favors consideration of embryo-adoption. In this procedure a married couple accepts adoption of life prior to birth by consenting to the in-utero implantation of someone’s unwanted frozen embryo so that the child may completely develop, be born and raised as their own child.

Question: Many recent medical discoveries lead me to wonder if they are acceptable for Christians. Where do we draw the line in use of discovered technologies to enhance human life?

Answer: Many medical discoveries are ethically acceptable, but discoveries that violate Gods authority over life and death (1 Samuel 2:6) are not acceptable. Technology is rightly used when it helps us preserve and protect human life (Genesis 9:5-6, Luke 10). Your question specifically asks about enhancing life, and that becomes a more complicated issue. Enhancements such as pain relief are a very acceptable application of technology. Other enhancements might provide a more enjoyable or productive life, but must be weighed within the overall blessings that God has provided to you. To help guide your decision, consider these questions:

  • Does this technology acknowledge Gods authority over life and death?
  • Does the use of this technology help protect or preserve human life?
  • Is this enhancement primarily meant to glorify God?
  • Do I have the earthly blessings (money, time, health, etc.) to use this technology without distracting from my first responsibilities as a Christian?

The answers to these questions should help you draw the ethical line between acceptable and unacceptable technologies.

QUESTION: Is genetic testing of preborn children acceptable for Christians?

ANSWER: The answer to your question requires some clarification, because there are many variables that come into consideration. Some parents are concerned about a genetic disease that could be passed to their children. Some parents have fears over having a child with Down syndrome. In still other cases, parents want their child to be a certain gender or inherit other desired traits.

The ability to test and screen for so many characteristics is representative of the advances in medical technology, but such testing also represents a slippery slope toward eugenics.

There is nothing wrong when parents want a child who is healthy. There is nothing wrong in performing tests to see if the child is healthy. There is nothing wrong when parents want to know in advance that their child is going to be born with a disability.

The problems arise when parents are willing to kill those children that do not meet the perceived standards of “acceptability.” Once we cross the line by saying certain lives are not worth living, regardless of the reason, we then assume an authority over life that God does not give us.

QUESTION: What has become of the souls of the millions of babies that have died through miscarriage and abortion?

ANSWER: The fate of an unborn child’s soul is always in question. The reason for that is because God defines the criteria for salvation to be faith in His Son as the Savior. All Scriptural references relating to this matter speak about born children and adults. The Bible, however, is silent on the fate of an unborn child’s soul.

To fill this void some denominations talk of a pleasant type of “limbo” for the souls of miscarried and aborted children. It is not heaven, hell or purgatory but literally a pleasant “limbo.”

Other church bodies and well-meaning Christians have counseled the distressed mother who miscarried or aborted her child to now imagine seeing her child in the arms of Jesus. It is certainly a desirable thought although a search of Scripture does not back that notion as absolute fact.

Still others say that aborted children are in hell. Again, a study of Scripture does not back that statement up as undisputed fact.

The bottom line is this: Scripture is silent on the fate of an aborted or miscarried child. We do not know for certain that they are in heaven or in hell. Nor do we know for certain that they are not in heaven or in hell. Where, then, is the comfort? The comfort is letting God be God.

God reminds us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He also promises to work all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Even sinful acts are used by God to accomplish His will. God is perfect and has done what is perfectly right for an unborn child lost through miscarriage or abortion. The compassionate side of me wants to consider the baby in heaven. My heart of faith, however, tells me that in the absence of clear testimony, the one thing I can be sure of is that God makes no mistakes and He has done what is perfectly right for that baby.

For those who have had an abortion or caused a miscarriage by something they did, they can move forward in life with the assurance that through faith they have God’s forgiveness through Christ. This knowledge, however, still finds some struggling to shed the feelings of guilt and sham over the loss of their child’s life. We attempt to alleviate our shame and guilt by grasping for any indication that the damages from our sins are minimal. It is natural for everyone to do that. I counsel you, however, to seek closure on this matter – but not from the emotional comfort or pain of knowing or imagining the fate of your unborn child. Rather, lean on what you know is certain. God forgives, and He works things out perfectly. Trust in God’s forgiveness, learn from the mistakes of the past, and proceed confidently in life that all is well because God is in charge.

QUESTION: A friend of mine just had a miscarriage. She seems okay on the outside, but I know she is hurting. What can I do to help her?

ANSWER: Miscarriage is often overlooked as a painful event. You are very considerate and observant to recognize the loss and pain your friend is experiencing. The best thing you can do is show your concern for her by giving your time and attention. Don’t pressure her, but allow her the comfort level to talk about her pain. Be a good listener. Acknowledge the life that was lost. You will not be able to remove her pain, but you can help her through the grieving process.

QUESTION: Friends of ours have been married for a number of years and continue having miscarriages. Why doesn’t God bless them with children? I’m sure they would be excellent parents, and they are strong and faithful Christians.

ANSWER: Let’s handle the second part of this question first. The consequences of sin affect all of us regardless of our faith or character. God certainly knows the strengths and abilities of this couple and is working with them out of love. That should never be questioned. Although you cannot understand why they are still childless, trust that there is a reason and that God has not stopped loving them because of it.

For the first part of the question, have your friends talked with a doctor about the reasons for the miscarriages? Sometimes there are relatively simple procedures that can be followed which will remedy the situation. Also, remember that blessings are not granted to all people. We do not deserve blessings, but God gives them to us out of love and mercy. Our role, as Christians, is to serve and obey our heavenly Father regardless of the blessings that we do or do not receive.

As your friends suffer with this situation, be supportive and encouraging to them as they seek comfort or solutions.

QUESTION: A friend of mine faced an unwanted pregnancy but didn’t want to abort her baby. She didn’t know all of her options, and I’m not sure she made the right decision. Does CLR help with available options for these kinds of situations?

ANSWER: Yes, we do. CLR offers information on a variety of options, as well as help and positive alternatives that fit a woman’s specific needs. People who face an unwanted pregnancy are easily led to hasty decisions that might be regretted in the future, so we help them evaluate the situation and make decisions that are good for them and their babies.

God’s Word gives some clear direction that life exists at conception and is not meant to be intentionally terminated, even before birth (Psalm 51:5; 1 Samuel 2:6; Exodus 20:13; Psalm 139). The Bible also records situations in which people cared for those who were not their children. King David’s decision to care for Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9) is an excellent example. Applying these truths, we offer options such as New Beginnings – A Home for Mothers, information on pregnancy and birth, and unbiased material on adoption.

QUESTION: My 16-year old niece announced recently that she is pregnant. Her boyfriend and parents are unwilling to step in to help. She has come to me for advice. I don’t want to encourage her to abort the baby, but I just don’t see any alternatives.

ANSWER: You are right that abortion is not the option for her. It might seem like a “quick fix” to her situation, but many far-reaching effects cannot be ignored. If your niece is truly unable to parent her child, then the best option for her is to place the child for adoption.

Sadly, adoption is often considered by pregnant women as the least favored of three options – parenting, abortion, or adoption. Yet, the adoption decision can be the most loving and positive choice a mother can make. A mother who places her child for adoption avoids the grief and guilt of killing her baby through abortion and also offers the wonderful blessing of a baby to a great couple.

In the past, adoption was viewed as an abandonment of the child, and terms like “put up for adoption” or “give up for adoption” were routinely used. When talking to your niece, help her realize that the most loving choice is to give her baby the chance to live and grow in a loving home, and to realize that adoption is the most selfless and considerate choice she can make. I can promise you that her child and the adoptive family will be truly thankful that adoption was her final decision.

Family Topics

QUESTION: I have been married nearly 30 years. Over those years I have caught my husband buying porn magazines. I told him I don’t like it. I pay the bills and this past week I found a charge on our credit card for $81.46 for RachelleXXX through Paypal. I think it’s porn, though I am not sure what exactly he paid for. Jesus said if you lust after another woman you have committed adultery in your heart. Can I divorce my husband according to Mathew 5:32 “But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness,…”?

ANSWER: The more complete discussion on marriage from the ministry of Jesus occurs later in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 19:3-12). It is clear that God’s design for marriage is that it be a lifelong union. Before a couple considers breaking that lifelong union it is valuable to be reminded about the nature of marriage and those things which do break the union.

As is often written about, sung about and portrayed in books, TV shows and movies, marriage is rooted in “love.” What is often lost is the particular kind of “love” God asks for of a couple in marriage.

The Apostle Paul’s most extensive discussion of marriage love is found in Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul begins the wider discussion in Ephesians 5:1-2 by saying, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). This is an important starting point when understanding God’s intent for a marriage rooted in “love” for it is to be an imitation of His love for us.

The Bible uses two words for “love” — PHILEO and AGAPE. While the church talks most often about AGAPE love, most people have practical knowledge of PHILEO love. PHILEO love heavily emphasizes the emotion and affection components of love. It is that “warm feeling” of emotion that occurs when a couple finds a shared set of interests and an attraction. PHILEO is perhaps most recognized as part of the word “Philadelphia” which means “brotherly (ADELPHOS) love (PHILEO).”

When Scripture uses the term AGAPE the emphasis is less on affection and more on “commitment.” In John 3:16 we are told that “God so ‘loved’ the world.” The word used is AGAPE. In 1 John 4:10 we are told, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). Again, the word used for “love” is AGAPE.

And to further emphasize the role of “commitment” even above “affection” we are told “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Again, the word used for “love” is AGAPE.

To understand this “commitment-love” of God it is good for us to remember that our sins make us most incompatible with God (Exodus 33:20). The sinfulness in each of us makes us most “unlovable” to God by the world’s standards. Yet, despite God’s hatred for sin He remained “committed” to us so that while we were still sinners — most unlovable, unattractive and despicable to God — He sent His Son to die for us. It is a spirit of devotion and commitment that is to permeate all of our lives in our attitudes toward others (Philippians 2:1-11) and yes, in that Philippians reference, the word for “love” is AGAPE.

So when the Apostle Paul instructs husbands to “love their wives” and uses the word AGAPE and compares it with Christ’s love for the church, the emphasis is on commitment.

Because of this reality we pledge in marriage to remain faithful to each other in the best and worst of times. In the worst of times we may not always have that PHILEO type of love. Sometimes emotion and affection is at a low ebb or perhaps, as in the case of dementia as couples age, there is not the responsive affection that makes marriage fun. Rather, through those hard times we live by commitment.

That is why the two accepted grounds for divorce are adultery and desertion and not simply “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility.” Both adultery and desertion break the commitment of the one party to the other party in a marriage.

When Christ compared lusting after a woman with adultery (Matthew 5:27-28), it is important to look at the point he was making. For those who thought they could earn their salvation and God’s favor by their strict obedience to the law there is the harsh reality that many sins occur in the heart. Through nearly 30 years of marriage, has a heart problem with pornography been the only “heart” failing in the marriage? Have both of you always been submissive to each other in your hearts? Have there been times when in actions you went along but in “spirit” you didn’t? Have either of you even once looked lustfully at another person who is not the spouse? Those also would be violations, acts of adultery or desertion of the marriage commitment.

The point is that you begin with the intent of marriage — a lifelong union between a man and a woman — and your intent to preserve what God has established with your marriage.

Next, look at the soul of the spouse. If in humility you are more concerned about others than yourself (Philippians 2:3-4), does a divorce mean surrendering the husband to a soul-endangering activity of adultery? That doesn’t mean you must tolerate the adultery but rather you consider every action you take both as an act of respect for God’s establishment of marriage and also as an act of concern for the soul of the spouse.

Finally, consider the offense. You are absolutely correct that lusting is adultery and adultery is grounds for divorce. But as implied earlier, Jesus was not spelling out formulas for breaking lifelong relationships. He was illustrating that even if all sins of action can be held in check there are the unseen sins of the heart that condemn us. Adultery is one example but there are many others.

Have the two of you had a calm and Christ-centered (i.e., how would our actions glorify God — 1 Corinthians 10:31) discussion about this problem? Is it a sin that is acknowledged and for which there is sorrow? Is there a desire to correct this lifestyle or is the intent to justify it? Has it gone further than pornography? Have you sat down with your pastor or with a professionally-trained counselor to work through these problems so that the lifelong union of marriage might be preserved?

There is the reality in a world of sin that none of us are without sin (John 8:7; Romans 3:23). If we are looking for formulistic justification for divorce, and all of our hearts can be read, could our spouses find justification to divorce us?

If you approach your husband out of a genuine concern for his soul and with a genuine desire to preserve what “God has joined together” and speak with him about his sin, consider his reaction. Is he defensive and justifying of his sinfulness — unwilling to listen? If so, more than just the marriage is at stake, so is his soul. If he does not accept your counsel, the counsel of your pastor or others who seek to correct him of his error, then it is his adulterous actions which justify the divorce.

If, however, he accepts the counsel, realizes the problem, seeks forgiveness, and credibly takes steps to address what may be an addiction, then rejoice for the marriage is preserved, his soul basks in the forgiveness earned by Christ and the two of you can work both on the commitment and affection components of your marriage relationship.

QUESTION: I’ve heard that teen pregnancy rates have increased. Is it time to teach our kids about birth control?

ANSWER: Teaching about birth control is not the solution. Abstinence is still the only sure way to avoid pregnancy, STDs, and the emotional pain of pre-marital intimacy. Even more importantly, abstinence education is consistent with clear Biblical principles.

Christian parents should not teach or promote “safe sinning” among our youth, even if worldly philosophies claim it is the prudent option. Rather, we need to convey a clear message that is consistent with God’s Word and continually encourage our youth to pursue God-pleasing relationships in their dating years.

QUESTION: My two children are approaching their teen years. I want to talk with them about chastity, but I made some mistakes when I was their age. Am I being hypocritical if I tell them to wait until marriage to enjoy sexual intimacy?

ANSWER: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and some of those sins have violated God’s design for sexual purity. Those previous acts should not deter you from talking to your children about this important subject – but serve, instead, as an encouragement. Since you know the difficulty of living a chaste lifestyle, you also realize the importance of giving your children strong support. So, the simple answer is, “Yes, talk to your children without fear of being hypocritical.”

The more difficult question to ask is, “How much of my past do I share with my children?” That varies from one family to another and is based on the particular need and comfort level that you have with your pre-teens. In general, use the wisdom you gained from your past to help formulate your approach in communicating with your children. Share any experiences that truly benefit your teenagers, but don’t think that you need to provide full disclosure about every mistake you made. Remember that the first guideline for sanctified living is provided in God’s Word, so teach those truths with full confidence.

Here are a few points that should make these discussions more comfortable and effective:

  • Don’t feel you need to tell them everything in one setting. Discuss these issues over time and in many settings.
  • Share God’s Word, but don’t be preachy.
  • Base the level of your discussion on your child’s questions. The questions can reveal a lot about your child’s thoughts.
  • Rather than fear these discussions, use the opportunities to open the lines of communication.
  • Reassure your teens that these feelings are natural, but they must also be controlled.

QUESTION: Many of my daughter’s friends are wearing outfits that I feel are inappropriate. I am very disappointed that my daughter is now wearing some of the same styles. How can I address this with her so she understands the seriousness of her decisions?

ANSWER: You have raised a number of questions that are typical of pre-teen and teenage parents. Allow us to address these questions separately.

The first issue is peer pressure. There are many practical tips for parents and teens on our website – search under the topic, “Peer Pressure.”

The second issue is your determination that her outfits are not appropriate. That determination can mean a number of things depending on your personal standards. You did not specify the exact concern, but her clothing might be too revealing, they might reflect a Gothic style, they might be too baggy and loose, or they might be too tight. Regardless of the reason you feel they are inappropriate, it is important to discuss this situation with your daughter. Your question seems to indicate she was one of the last in her group to dress in this style. It is likely that she has had a good influence from you in the past. Use this situation to build your relationship even further in future decisions.

You are also encouraged to do a little Bible study with your daughter. You can start with 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 which reads, Everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. In your discussion, find out the real reasons she is making these decisions. Keep your comments focused on the clothing styles and your daughter’s choices, and stay away from condemning her friends. As she struggles in her maturing process she is confronted with the desire to fit in with her friends, as well as her desire to follow the principles that you have taught her. Use this situation to help your daughter make a decision that is truly mature and can be used as a positive example for future decisions that most certainly will be more difficult and impacting.

QUESTION: A number of students at my high school are “cutters.” Why do they do that?

ANSWER: “Cutting” has become a popular behavior among some of today’s youth, but few adults know much about it or understand it. “Cutting” is just one method of self-injury that is practiced today. Other methods include eating disorders, burning, beating, or alcohol/drug abuse.

A cutter often uses razor blades or a sharp knife to cut parts of the body in areas that are not readily noticed. Areas commonly cut are arms and thighs, but virtually all parts of the body, other than the face, could be cut. The cuts are deep enough to draw blood and often leave some scarring.

There are two reasons for most cutting: 1) A depressed or frustrated person might feel they have no control over their lives, or their pain. Cutters can control their own pain when they cut. 2) Cutting becomes addictive. The sense of relief or even euphoria leads to repeat cutting.

Unfortunately, cutting is becoming a fad in many middle and high schools. It is good to talk to your adolescent child about this behavior and watch for any signs of cutting. In particular, watch for those who wear long sleeves or pants even during hot weather.

In most cases, cutting is not meant as a method of suicide. Rather it is a way to deal with emotional pain. Cutting, therefore, should not be ignored. It is a sign that a person is calling out for help. If you realize someone is cutting, or practicing some other form of self-injury, encourage them to seek professional counseling.

QUESTION: My little girl was killed by a drunk driver a few months ago. I have continued suffering in the agony of the loss and can’t understand this whole situation. Why did a loving God allow my innocent little girl to die?

ANSWER: The question that haunts many grieving people is “Why?” Although every individual will word it a little differently, the same issues come to the surface. Why did God allow this to happen? Why do I have to live the rest of my life with this pain? Why didn’t God protect my daughter? Why didn’t the drunk kill himself rather than my little girl? Why didn’t my daughter have the opportunity to grow up and live a full life?

Before anything else, it is critical to remember that sin is the cause of all suffering and trouble. God created humans to be perfect, thereby avoiding pain and grief. Only through sin did the world face the cruel reality of sin and its consequences. For some reason, people tend to think that God will shield us from all suffering. The false conclusion then is that if we do suffer, it must be because God does not love us.

A better approach is to avoid the “why” questions? We don’t know or understand God’s every move. We simply know that God is both loving and just. Therefore, out of faith, we need to accept these events as consequences of a sinful world. We also gain confidence that our heavenly Father always does the right thing whether we understand it or not. The book of Hebrews states that “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Place your trust in Him, ask for comfort from your suffering, and move forward in your life of service to God. The devil’s interest is keeping you mired in the past and incapable of living your faith. Realize the source of your doubts and questions and put your full faith in Christ.

On a different note, seek support groups which are geared toward the kind of loss you have faced. After you have received encouragement and support, you will likely be able to also reach out and help others.

QUESTION: I am inquiring about information on IVF and embryo genetic testing. What is the Christian stance on both of these and how can I do IVF treatments and still uphold God’s Truth?

ANSWER: Scripture teaches that life exists already at conception (Psalm 51:5). Biologically speaking, once an egg is fertilized with sperm the only changes that occur are maturity and geography. From that point of fertilization, all you have are different stages of life. There is not some later stage where it becomes life.

In the IVF arena, doctors will talk about a pregnancy beginning at implantation of the developing embryo. That may be the case because of the major changes that occur upon implantation but the real changes already begin at fertilization. Pregnancy, or implantation, is simply one more step along the process.

It is a biological fact of life that if permitted to naturally develop, upon fertilization the embryo will always be human. It does not become human at a later stage. Admittedly, there are different stages of life as we visibly see in a distinction between children and parents, young and old. But again, those are simply stages of human life.

That all being said, our concern with IVF and embryo genetic testing is any process that treats human life in the embryonic stage as anything less than a human being. Often, the IVF arena involves “tossing out” developing embryos if they look to be of poorer quality than other embryos. Parents undergoing IVF procedures often face poor statistical chances of having a baby in their arms. The way statistics are promoted by IVF companies is atrocious. Some will tout incredible success rates when, in fact, they had twisted both the data and definitions of success.

Regardless of how statistics are formulated, the process of IVF has a greater than 50% chance of being fatal on the developing embryo. Most people I know, when considering the value we place on human life, would not gamble with those odds.

In and of itself we do not have a problem with embryo genetic testing except under two circumstances: 1) the testing process itself is dangerous to the developing human life; and/or 2) the results of the testing would mean the intentional ending of the developing life because of a possible malady. Usually, embryo genetic testing is more of a “search and destroy” mission in which often results in some human life is discarded for fear that it may have a disability of some sort.

Having said all of that, I love much of what science has brought us. Sadly, it is our inclination to take such blessings and convert them into instruments of sin. If embryo genetic testing meant providing a treatment to cure a condition, then I love it. But that is not how this plays out.

I have advised couples who seem unable to conceive that if adoption is problematic to consider what is sometimes called a snowflake baby which is an embryo adoption program. Go to: www.nightlight.org/snowflakes-embryo-adoption-donation

We can also put couples in touch with snowflake parents and services to help consider this option.

QUESTION: Is genetic testing of preborn children acceptable for Christians?

ANSWER: The answer to your question requires some clarification, because there are many variables that come into consideration. Some parents are concerned about a genetic disease that could be passed to their children. Some parents have fears over having a child with Down syndrome. In still other cases, parents want their child to be a certain gender or inherit other desired traits.

The ability to test and screen for so many characteristics is representative of the advances in medical technology, but such testing also represents a slippery slope toward eugenics.

There is nothing wrong when parents want a child who is healthy. There is nothing wrong in performing tests to see if the child is healthy. There is nothing wrong when parents want to know in advance that their child is going to be born with a disability.

The problems arise when parents are willing to kill those children that do not meet the perceived standards of “acceptability.” Once we cross the line by saying certain lives are not worth living, regardless of the reason, we then assume an authority over life that God does not give us.

QUESTION: I’ve heard people say there are hundreds of thousands of embryos currently being kept in frozen storage in the United States. I can’t imagine such a large number. What will be done with all those little ones?

ANSWER: Most experts agree that approximately 600,000 embryos are currently kept in frozen storage in this country. Such a large number should greatly concern Christians. Most of these frozen embryos are “leftovers” from IVF procedures.

The future of those embryos is determined by their owners. There are five options that can legally be considered.

  • Destroy them
  • Donate them to science
  • Keep them frozen indefinitely
  • Thaw them and transfer them to the biological mother
  • Donate them to infertile couples for adoption

In the application of Christian ethics, the first two options are not acceptable because they involve the killing of those young children at about one week old. The third option is not much better because a final decision is simply being postponed.

The last two options are the only acceptable choices. Although the survival rate for those frozen embryos is fairly low (ranging from 35% to 65% depending on the definition of successful thawing), it is still a better option than intentionally terminating them.

As technology advances, society is faced with greater ethical challenges. In making our decisions, we dare never ignore the humanity of these embryos, and we must avoid the temptation of convincing ourselves that preborn children are commodities to be manipulated rather than blessings to be appreciated.

Christian Life Resources favors consideration of embryo-adoption. In this procedure a married couple accepts adoption of life prior to birth by consenting to the in-utero implantation of someone’s unwanted frozen embryo so that the child may completely develop, be born and raised as their own child.

QUESTION: Friends of ours have been married for a number of years and continue having miscarriages. Why doesn’t God bless them with children? I’m sure they would be excellent parents, and they are strong and faithful Christians.

ANSWER: Let’s handle the second part of this question first. The consequences of sin affect all of us regardless of our faith or character. God certainly knows the strengths and abilities of this couple and is working with them out of love. That should never be questioned. Although you cannot understand why they are still childless, trust that there is a reason and that God has not stopped loving them because of it.

For the first part of the question, have your friends talked with a doctor about the reasons for the miscarriages? Sometimes there are relatively simple procedures that can be followed which will remedy the situation. Also, remember that blessings are not granted to all people. We do not deserve blessings, but God gives them to us out of love and mercy. Our role, as Christians, is to serve and obey our heavenly Father regardless of the blessings that we do or do not receive.

As your friends suffer with this situation, be supportive and encouraging to them as they seek comfort or solutions.

QUESTION: What has become of the souls of the millions of babies that have died through miscarriage and abortion?

ANSWER: The fate of an unborn child’s soul is always in question. The reason for that is because God defines the criteria for salvation to be faith in His Son as the Savior. All Scriptural references relating to this matter speak about born children and adults. The Bible, however, is silent on the fate of an unborn child’s soul.

To fill this void some denominations talk of a pleasant type of “limbo” for the souls of miscarried and aborted children. It is not heaven, hell or purgatory but literally a pleasant “limbo.”

Other church bodies and well-meaning Christians have counseled the distressed mother who miscarried or aborted her child to now imagine seeing her child in the arms of Jesus. It is certainly a desirable thought although a search of Scripture does not back that notion as absolute fact.

Still others say that aborted children are in hell. Again, a study of Scripture does not back that statement up as undisputed fact.

The bottom line is this: Scripture is silent on the fate of an aborted or miscarried child. We do not know for certain that they are in heaven or in hell. Nor do we know for certain that they are not in heaven or in hell. Where, then, is the comfort? The comfort is letting God be God.

God reminds us to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He also promises to work all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Even sinful acts are used by God to accomplish His will. God is perfect and has done what is perfectly right for an unborn child lost through miscarriage or abortion. The compassionate side of me wants to consider the baby in heaven. My heart of faith, however, tells me that in the absence of clear testimony, the one thing I can be sure of is that God makes no mistakes and He has done what is perfectly right for that baby.

For those who have had an abortion or caused a miscarriage by something they did, they can move forward in life with the assurance that through faith they have God’s forgiveness through Christ. This knowledge, however, still finds some struggling to shed the feelings of guilt and sham over the loss of their child’s life. We attempt to alleviate our shame and guilt by grasping for any indication that the damages from our sins are minimal. It is natural for everyone to do that. I counsel you, however, to seek closure on this matter – but not from the emotional comfort or pain of knowing or imagining the fate of your unborn child. Rather, lean on what you know is certain. God forgives, and He works things out perfectly. Trust in God’s forgiveness, learn from the mistakes of the past, and proceed confidently in life that all is well because God is in charge.

QUESTION: My 16-year old niece announced recently that she is pregnant. Her boyfriend and parents are unwilling to step in to help. She has come to me for advice. I don’t want to encourage her to abort the baby, but I just don’t see any alternatives.

ANSWER: You are right that abortion is not the option for her. It might seem like a “quick fix” to her situation, but many far-reaching effects cannot be ignored. If your niece is truly unable to parent her child, then the best option for her is to place the child for adoption.

Sadly, adoption is often considered by pregnant women as the least favored of three options – parenting, abortion, or adoption. Yet, the adoption decision can be the most loving and positive choice a mother can make. A mother who places her child for adoption avoids the grief and guilt of killing her baby through abortion and also offers the wonderful blessing of a baby to a great couple.

In the past, adoption was viewed as an abandonment of the child, and terms like “put up for adoption” or “give up for adoption” were routinely used. When talking to your niece, help her realize that the most loving choice is to give her baby the chance to live and grow in a loving home, and to realize that adoption is the most selfless and considerate choice she can make. I can promise you that her child and the adoptive family will be truly thankful that adoption was her final decision.

Medical Concerns

QUESTION: If medical technology gives us cures derived from taking lives, should Christians refuse that treatment even if it means possibly a shortening of our own life? If medical technology gives us cures derived from taking lives, should Christians refuse that treatment even if it means possibly a shortening of our own life?

ANSWER: Underlying your question is the suggestion that using such medical technology may imply tacit endorsement or acceptance of the sin used to develop the technology. That is a correlation often drawn by the secular public. My intent is to give you a different perspective.

We must begin with the harsh reality that we are all sinful (Romans 3:23). In fact, even after the Flood God observed that the natural inclinations of our heart are evil (Genesis 8:21). The Apostle Paul talks about a natural opposition to God that exists from such sinfulness (Romans 8:7). Even Christians struggle between living by the “new man” or the “old Adam” that is in us (Romans 7:18-24).

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that sin permeates everything we do. As a late seminary professor once said in class, “Even our sincerest of tears in prayer are tainted with sin.”

As a result, there is no creation of man that is not flavored by sin. Consider the purchase of an automobile. It is estimated that over 3,000 people are involved with the design and manufacture of an automobile. Is it reasonable to assume that during the course of construction any of those people sinned? Certainly!

And such construction involves something like 900 pieces of robotic equipment. Did any of those people who built the robotic equipment sin while creating them? Likely!

And then, with each purchase of a car, a sliver of the purchase price goes to pay for union dues and benefits. The autoworkers union has argued for abortion payment in insurance plans and advocated in favor of non-traditional marriages.

My point is that you can’t even buy a car without, in some twisted way, supporting something involving sin. Yet, we do not readily see the purchase of a car as an endorsement of any of the sinful activity that may have been behind the construction of the car.

This is just an illustration with cars. We can make similar arguments with home construction, retail stores, and paper routes. It is impossible for us to escape the tentacles of sin.

So, without a doubt, sin has infected medicine. We rejoice over successful open-heart surgery, yet do we really think no sin was involved with that technology? There was a lot of sin going on in the early years of medicine as anatomy schools competed for students and cadavers. Such schools that taught future doctors how the human body worked and made possible the skill for corrective heart surgery.

We know that in the development of some vaccines the cell lines of aborted children have been used. We know that some medical professionals have brought healing while also (upon later discovery) were skimming profits. We know that two medical institutions performing the exact same surgery will charge dramatically different rates. Profiteering is one of the greatest concerns in the field of medicine, and it has run many people into bankruptcy.

Yet, when a medical crisis comes our way we reach out to the medical community for help and healing. In doing so we are not endorsing the unethical practices that may have or continue to go on. Our goal is singular – to protect God’s gift of life.

We regularly refer to life as a blessing from God. As such we are stewards over life. We are called upon to care for it – not as our own – but as God’s possession entrusted to us (Psalm 31:15). We recognize his dominion over life and death (Deuteronomy 32:39). We are the caretakers of our lives and the lives entrusted to us of others (1 Timothy 5:8).

An argument can be made that by refusing a vaccine or rejecting a medical treatment would be a powerful statement against unethical practices. Because it is our requirement to “speak the truth” (Ephesians 4:15,) there may be times and opportunities to speak the truth “in love” by putting our foot down about unethical practices. How we do that presents us with many options.

On the flip side, we also are to care for life. How we do that has some options but perhaps not as many. So a tension is created. How far do I go to protect life while also making a statement against unethical practices?

When making a stand I personally have not fully grasped the logic of protesting something done in the past as opposed to protesting something being done or planned. What I mean is that I get, and support, protest against the use of embryos for experimentation, as an example. It is wrong because it is the taking of human life. If there is legislation proposed to liberalize such things I think we ought to be engaged in defeating that effort. That is protesting what is or is to come.

The problem with protesting what has happened is that it is not as universally appreciated. For example, what would my protest accomplish? I refuse to allow my child to be vaccinated, and I may raise the issue of the vaccine’s unethical roots, but to what end? My child remains exposed to the malady, catches it, transmits it to a pregnant woman who either miscarries or has a child with fetal defects. It is hard to argue for the efficacy of a past-tense protest in light of the present-tense realities.

This is the age of the Internet. Under a theme of “never again” we ought to proclaim far and wide that medicine “went off the rails” at one time – destroying unborn life for creating vaccines. We vow that it will “never again” happen. It does not require us to reject the vaccine unethically developed 50+ years ago. It does require us, however, to take steps that such experiments “never again” occur.

It is important that we be consistent in this. For example, I thoroughly object to slavery practices in the early history of our country. Yet, much of our infrastructure and treasured buildings (i.e., the White House) were built with slave labor. Do we reject using the White House? Do we reject touring historical buildings that were built on the backs of slave labor? Do we despise our DNA as inherited from ancestors who used slaves?

My point is that we vow “never again” to repeat the wrongs of slavery. In the same way, we learn from the past and bring those lessons forward.

Each individual must decide how he or she brings forward the lessons learned. So long as the manner in doing so does not conflict with Scripture — it is a matter of personal preference. I am not ready to say someone is wrong in rejecting a vaccine because of its unethical roots. I am also not going to say someone is wrong using that vaccine. It is clearer in cases whereby we are invited to do wrong and we then do wrong, or we are invited to stop a wrong and remain silent. On these matters Scripture is clear (Proverbs 31:8).

I know this is a long answer to a relatively-short question but this is a matter of “application” in that we can differ on how best to do God’s will. Personally, I advocate learning from history rather than protesting what cannot be changed (i.e., protesting a past wrong by refusing a present practice). Rather, if a practice today requires us to sin (i.e., in order to benefit, more embryos must be killed) then we refuse that treatment. Benefiting to the detriment of others is not permitted (Philippians 2:3-5).

At the same time we must recognize that refusing some treatments brings potential harm to ourselves and others, which runs contrary to our roles as stewards over life.

QUESTION: Why is it important to have a medical directive statement?

ANSWER: We recommend every adult sign a medical directive statement regardless of his or her current health situation or age.

The first benefit of such a statement is that it allows a person to provide direction for medical care in the event he or she is no longer able to make such decisions. Understandably, these directions must be somewhat general, because it is impossible to predict what malady will be faced.

The second benefit is that it allows a person to designate a health care agent to make decisions when the stated wishes of the document are too vague for the circumstance. If you do not have a statement a patient’s family often must guess about the kind of care the patient would want.

If family members disagree among themselves the situation becomes complicated, contentious and sometimes can only be settled by an ethics committee or through legal action.

QUESTION: I’m working on my medical directive, and my attorney asked me some questions about my end-of-life wishes. He said that, legally, I have total authority over my health care decisions. He used the term “patient autonomy.” How does that fit with my Christian belief that God is the final authority in life and death decisions?

ANSWER: Your attorney is correct in stating that you have the legal right to make your own medical decisions. You are also right in stating that God is the ultimate authority over life and death. The challenge for you is to apply your faith when making medical decisions. Your right to make medical decisions does not remove God’s ultimate authority over your life. Your role is to make decisions that are consistent with the directives of God’s Word. In other words, use your legal right to make life-sustaining decisions until there is evidence that God is bringing your life to a close. When it is clear that death is imminent, then accept His will and receive comfort care until death.

Question: I know CLR opposes embryonic stem cell research, but what if one embryo could be used to save hundreds of thousands of people?

Answer: The weight of this argument is in the numbers. This hypothetical argument states that only one life is sacrificed to save many others. The truth is that thousands, and perhaps millions, of embryos are needed to conduct the research, yet no successes are documented in treating humans with embryonic stem cells.

CLR is primarily opposed to embryonic stem cell research because it involves the intentional destruction of human life. The weight of the evidence makes one ask why such a procedure could be supported that destroys many lives and provides no evidence of saving even one.

Question: I’ve heard a lot of news stories about embryonic stem cells and how we don’t need them anymore. Is that really true? How should Christians respond to this news?

Answer: You are right that many stories have been published on this topic. Very simply, the greatest attribute of embryonic stem cells is that they are more capable of differentiating into virtually any type of cell. The greatest hurdle involves the harvesting process which usually leads to the killing of embryos. Some people justify the loss of human life for the “greater good” of treating serious diseases. CLR cannot endorse the intentional killing regardless of any perceived benefit.

The discovery that adult stem cells can now be reprogrammed to act similarly to embryonic stem cells comes as welcomed news. In short, this means embryonic stem cell research can be conducted without killing embryos. Because this method removes a major ethical problem, the Christian community can be more supportive of this research. In addition, we continually encourage further research with adult stem cells, because this type has already shown tremendous success and does not involve the loss of human lives.

Despite the hurdles yet to come, this development has been proven to be a far better alternative in embryonic stem cell research than previously used methods.

Question: I know there have been recent successes with adult stem cell research but why do you say we should eliminate all embryonic stem cell research just because it hasn’t been as effective? I’m reading articles that say embryonic stem cells hold more potential than adult stem cells so it seems logical to pursue both types of research.

Answer: CLR does not consider the lack of success as the reason to reject embryonic stem cell research. In fact, we don’t categorically reject all embryonic stem cell research. In our efforts to follow the guidelines in God’s Word we work to defend the lives of all people regardless of age, perceived quality, or status. Therefore we reject any procedure that intentionally destroys human life. Since the current process of harvesting embryonic stem cells involves the killing of embryos we must condemn the process.

Research groups continue to pursue methods of harvesting embryonic stem cells without destroying human lives. If effective harvesting methods are established that don’t involve the intentional killing of young lives, it is possible that CLR would endorse such research.

Question: I’ve heard people say they are opposed to human cloning, but they support somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). What is the difference?

Answer: In simple terms, there is no difference. Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is the process used to produce a clone. There is, however, more to this issue.

Many developments in the fields of cloning and stem cell research are hard to understand, and the confusing terms don’t help. Let’s start with some explanations of these words. Somatic cells make up most of the cells in your body but do not include the reproductive cells. The term “nuclear” refers to the nucleus of the cell that is being transferred. SCNT is accomplished by taking two cells – an egg cell from a female and a somatic cell from the person or animal to be cloned. The nucleus of the egg cell is removed and discarded. The nucleus from the somatic cell is then transferred to the egg cell. The egg cell and its new nucleus are fused together with the expectation it will grow. If cell division and growth is accomplished, the clone’s life has begun.

There is another aspect worth noting. Some people use these terms to differentiate between two types of cloning called reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning. Reproductive cloning results in the birth of a baby so it is sometimes referenced as “human cloning.” Therapeutic cloning is rightly called “clone and kill” because after the clone is created, it is allowed to live for only a few days until the embryonic stem cells can be harvested. When discussing therapeutic cloning, the benign term SCNT is used to avoid the imagery of baby clones being born in the process.

Regardless of terms or intent, cloning is currently a process that is very inefficient and leads to numerous deaths for a potential single “success.” Whether the cloning of animals should continue is debatable, but when talking about human cloning, we cannot justify the process in light of the Biblical principles that demand we protect human lives rather than intentionally destroying them (Exodus 20:13; Genesis 9:5,6).

(This question is specifically applicable to the topic of stem cell research because therapeutic cloning is a method that might produce the huge number of embryonic stem cells that are desired for future research.)

QUESTION: My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a number of years ago and is now inactive. He always said he was ready to die and go to heaven, but I wonder if I am prolonging his life and keeping him from his goal.

ANSWER: As Christians, all of us desire the joys of eternal life in heaven. The Apostle Paul wrote, I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Philippians 1:23,24). The Bible also tells us, The LORD brings death and make alive; He brings down to the grave and raises up (1 Samuel 2:6).

These passages, and many others, remind us that life in heaven is certainly more desirable, but God alone has the right to determine the timing. You should certainly rejoice in the faith of your father, but also realize that our eagerness to reach heaven does not allow anyone to assume authority from God.

Your first concern should be your father’s spiritual needs. Even if he cannot respond to you at times, never assume he can’t hear or understand you. Read the Bible to him, sing hymns and say prayers. These activities also strengthen your faith during these difficult times.

Regarding medical decisions, remember that God will take him at the right time. Your role is to provide care that has a reasonable expectation to accomplish its purpose and is meant to keep him comfortable. If a treatment becomes futile, you need not provide it any longer. When death is expected within a day or two, you can rejoice that his earthly life is ending and his eternal life is about to begin.

QUESTION: My mother is in a nursing home with advanced dementia. She is both inactive and unable to recognize us anymore. We visit her as often as we can but are starting to feel that our trips are not accomplishing very much. Should we continue to visit her, and if so, what should we do to make each visit a positive one?

ANSWER: It is good to remember that your mom requires both physical and spiritual care. Appropriate physical care can be directed by medical professionals who specialize in the kind of treatment that a loved one requires. Your primary role is to provide appropriate spiritual care. So, yes, keep visiting her and follow these suggested tips:

  • Despite impaired language skills, never assume your mom can’t hear or understand you even if a response is not evident
  • Read favorite Bible passages or stories to her
  • Sing some of her favorite songs to her; select a couple of them and repeat them often
  • Hold her hands and say prayers that would be familiar to her
  • Share the comfort of the Gospel by reminding her that Jesus is her Savior
  • Tell her about spiritual blessings you have experienced in your life
  • Tell her that God loves her and that you love her

Even though your encouragement may not be understood by your loved one, you are faithfully fulfilling God’s commands to demonstrate Christian care (Luke 10:27; 1 Timothy 5:8) and to serve as Christ’s witness (Acts 22:14,15; 2 Corinthians 4:13).

QUESTION: My husband and I have talked about caring for our parents when they are unable to care for themselves. We have offered that they stay with us in our home rather than move to an assisted living facility, but they seem unwilling. In fact, they don’t even want to talk about it. What can we do to address this topic and convince them that living with us is the best option?

ANSWER: Although aging parents and in-laws may realize their diminished mental and physical deficiencies, they often do not wish to admit it. They may be well aware of the challenges that confront them but still wish to avoid them. Don’t be surprised by your parents’ attempt to ignore or postpone any discussions regarding the perceived “worst-case scenarios.”

Parents can find it difficult to concede that they must now depend on their children and do not want to “become a burden” for them. Address that attitude by reassuring them your love for them outweighs any crisis that might arise. In fact, the Bible tells us to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Another point to consider is that your parents might not enjoy your lifestyle or location. If you remove them from familiar surroundings and good friends, your active schedule might conflict with their desire to live a more peaceful existence.

In spite of these hurdles, you need to address these key issues with patience and understanding. Look for opportunities to talk about future plans. An example is when a family friend suffers a health problem. Speak honestly and openly about your plans for them, but don’t pressure your parents into a decision or a schedule. Provide instead the assurance that, if needed, they will be given a place to stay, especially if one of them dies before the other. Although your parents may be unwilling to carry on a discussion, at least share your thoughts in a positive manner. Even if they don’t respond, you can be assured your offer is heard and the option can be pursued in the future.

QUESTION: My dad was recently diagnosed with ALS. We are all pretty devastated. He knows that his quality of life will diminish, and he will become totally reliant on us kids. The other night he asked, “Why is God doing this to me?” I didn’t know how to answer him. I guess I have the same question.

ANSWER: The simple answer is that God is not doing this. Bad things happen in our lives because of sin. The second and third chapters of Genesis remind us that God did not create us to be sinful. The sad consequence of human  sinfulness is suffering and ultimately physical death.

The better question that you should ask is, “How should we respond?” An excellent example is recorded for us in John 9, which tells the story of Jesus healing the man who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus for a logical explanation as to why this man was blind. Using their human reason, they concluded that either the man or his parents had sinned and blindness was the punishment. Jesus answered “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). According to Jesus, the focus is not on the physical ailment but rather on the response to the condition.

We can’t fully understand God’s plans, but we can do our best to glorify God in every situation. Your father’s illness will cause physical pain, but it might serve as an outlet for others to demonstrate their compassion. His condition might scare away some of his friends, but it could draw him closer to his Savior. His disease will lead some to say that his life is no longer worth living, but you and your family can provide a Christ-like example of unselfish love.

The next time someone asks, “Why would God do this?” you can respond, “So that my faith can be strengthened and His name glorified!”

QUESTION: Our elderly neighbors have lived next door to us for ten years. Last week the husband died, and his widow is rather lonely. What suggestions can you share to help her get through her grief?

ANSWER: Compassionate people see suffering and want to take it away. The truth is that you cannot remove her suffering, but you can help her through the grieving process.

God’s Word tells us that suffering is a part of living in a sinful world (Romans 8:22; Acts 14:22). We know that suffering can serve as a means to strengthen faith (Romans 5:3). We also know that suffering can be an outlet for a Christian to demonstrate faith (Luke 10:33).

Here are some tips to guide you in helping your neighbor:

  • Pray for her continually. Pray that she leans on her Savior for true comfort. Pray that you are able to help her when necessary. Pray that the Holy Spirit provides the spiritual strength to deal with each new challenge.
  • Offer to help her in specific ways. People commonly say, “If there is anything I can do, just ask.” The problem with that statement is that an additional burden is placed on the grieving spouse who is now required to ask for help. It is better to provide a specific offer such as mowing the grass for the summer, making a meal once a week, or assisting with household chores that require the lifting of heavy objects.
  • Be a willing and patient listener. At times, she may simply want a listening ear to recall a favorite memory. Feel free to share your own wonderful memories.
  • Don’t feel pressured to find the right words to comfort her. You won’t find words to remove her grief. Too many people avoid conversations for fear of not knowing what to say. That attitude leads the survivor to feel even greater loneliness.
  • Allow her to grieve in her own way. In spite of her grief, she will have days of happiness, and even after many months, she will still have days of sadness.
  • Record the date of her husband’s death, as well as other important milestones such as his birthday or their anniversary.Provide notes or cards on the anniversaries of those days. Write a simple note that says you remember him and are thinking of her.
  • Use the situation to offer a Christian witness. Let her know that you are praying for her. Share a favorite Bible passage of comfort. Knowing her spiritual background will help you customize your efforts.

QUESTION: I know CLR offers advice on many end-of-life issues. Do you have some general procedures that should be followed when making these difficult decisions?

ANSWER: Many end-of-life decisions are difficult and often very emotional. Our role at CLR is to provide appropriate applications of Biblical principles and to encourage people to use these issues to give a Christian witness.

Here are three basic questions that help guide your decision-making process:

    • 1. God alone has the right to initiate and terminate life (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6). Man has the responsibility to preserve and protect life (Genesis 9:5-6).

Will my decision try to assume authority from God?

    • 2. As a Christian steward, I am responsible for managing my blessings appropriately (1 Peter 4:10). This includes the provision of care for human life (Luke 10:30-37).

Will my decision use my earthly blessings to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)?

    • 3. According to God’s will all people will die. At those times, it is an act of faith to accept God’s decision and provide comfort care until the time of death (Psalm 31:15; Romans 14:8).

Does my decision demonstrate that I accept God’s will when death is imminent?

Wrestling with these questions begins the process of making God-pleasing decisions on end-of-life issues. As many have experienced, the clearest counsel from God may become hard to apply when one is faced with physical and/or emotional hardships. The above questions address the foundational elements that lead Christians to make decisions which truly place God’s will first.

QUESTION: My father had respiratory arrest. The doctors asked if my siblings and I wanted the doctors to put my dad on life support. My father is a very ill man. He already had cancer and suffers from extreme pain. Is it wrong to have my father on life support or should we allow my father to rest in peace? Please help me – we are fighting about this because I want my father to have peace and no more suffering in his life.

ANSWER: Caring for someone who is considered advanced in years and in poor health is a challenge. On the one hand, our love for that person compels us to do whatever we can to prevent his death. On the other hand, our love for a person wishes to alleviate pain.

There are Biblical principles that guide us in these matters.

  1. We are stewards or caretakers of God’s blessing of life.

Even though we can make all sorts of decisions about how we live life and care for life, it never truly is our life. Scripture tells us: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20) Every decision we make about caring for our own lives or for the life of another should be done from the perspective that we are caring for something owned by God. For example, when you own an old car and it begins to have problems, we often are quick to say it is done. One more breakdown and we are finished with the car…..

On the other hand, if you borrowed a friend’s old car and it breaks down you are more inclined to care for it because it is not your own – it belongs to your friend. While you possess it you are a caretaker for it.  You are watching over it and protecting it so that you can give it back in a condition that demonstrates you took care of it well.

You and your siblings are stewards over the life God gave to your father. The primary question you should be asking is, “How may we best honor God in the way we care for this blessing of our father’s life?” Remember, even such major decisions are all about God.  He is to be glorified in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).

  1. Life does indeed come to an end

Since Adam and Eve fell into sin there is a conclusion to every life called death. It is sinful to cause death or hurry it along (Exodus 20:13). At the same time, to irrationally fight to keep a life that God is calling would be wrong. We see this error often when a person’s love for another person is so great that it clouds judgment. Even when every indication is that there is no hope we sometimes are inclined to force care and treatment, even though it has no reasonable expectation that it works. The BIG difference, however, is that as Christians who know what Jesus did for our sins, we do not need to fear death. We are told: “’Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55–57)

If medical care is thrust upon a person who otherwise clearly would die that would be wrong. We do not need to fear death.

So the tension right now is between the first principle which calls for us to protect life and this second principle which calls for us to not fear death.

  1. There is purpose in suffering

It is a noble and good thing to alleviate suffering. In doing so we demonstrate our love for others. That is much of the point behind Matthew 25:34ff.

At the same time, Scripture clearly demonstrates that suffering also has purpose. For example, the man born blind occurred so that God could be glorified (John 9:1-3).

Sometimes suffering makes us more conscious of God (1 Peter 2:19).

Perhaps most applicable in this circumstance is that suffering may merely be an outlet for the faith of others. Read the story of the Good Samaritan (starting at Luke 10:30). What purpose was the suffering of the man lying in the ditch after being beaten? It was clear from the two men who walked by and the Samaritan who helped that the man’s suffering was to provide an opportunity for others to show their faith and love for others.

For example, sometimes the suffering of a patient with severe dementia might look like it is serving no purpose. In fact, it might be forcing others to reevaluate their own priorities in life. It might be forcing others to reconsider what it is in life that is of the greatest value and worthy of our time.

Even when your father is suffering, maybe God wants his suffering in order to accomplish a different purpose in his children or in others who talk to their children about him or see their love. You see, even in bad circumstances, God promises to create good from it (Romans 8:28).

Putting this all together

So how does this apply to your circumstance? First of all, I do not know how ill your father is. I do not know what options are at his disposal to alleviate his suffering. I do not know what is the expectation for him to continue living with different kinds of treatment. All of these factors make it difficult for me to provide certain guidance so please pardon and false presumptions that I may make.

I often advise people to consider the standard of “reasonable expectation.” Because it is our responsibility to care for the lives entrusted to us then we are to do that which is reasonably certain to provide care. Put another way, if putting your father on a ventilator helps him breathe, then it is reasonable to do so. Ventilator support is not curative. It will not heal dementia or cancer. So if he has trouble breathing, providing help with his breathing is a good thing.

If your father is old (80s or older) and in a weak condition, it is NOT reasonable to assume that if his heart stops that it can be started again and therefore I would advise not to put him on a resuscitation order (he would have a DNR order). If, however, he were in good shape and it looked reasonably certain he would continue to live after a resuscitation, then we would say to do so if his heart were to unexpectedly start.

No matter what the scenario, you are looking at doing what you believe is reasonably certain to work to preserve his life. Don’t confuse every treatment as if it will cure. Providing food and water will not cure cancer. Providing oxygen will not reverse dementia. Those things we do to provide comfort and sustenance.

Q: Is hospice good or bad? I’ve heard that it is actually a part of the euthanasia movement.

A: This topic has come up before and leads to a variety of emotions. To give a concise answer, hospice can serve a valuable role and is not necessarily connected to the euthanasia movement. There is, however, more to the issue.

Hospice care is meant to provide palliative, or comfort, care to patients who are terminally ill and expected to live less than six months. The primary intent of hospice care is to make patients comfortable by providing for their physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. In this regard, hospice can be a wonderful option for families.

We have heard from hospice care workers who give excellent reports of appropriate care while others tell us that their facilities promote a philosophy that is more in line with right-to-die groups. Any hospice that works to intentionally take a human life by either active or passive means is in violation of God’s commands (Exodus 20:13; 1 John 3:17-18).

So, the best conclusion to make is that, although hospice care is not part of any formal euthanasia movement, a word of caution is in order before placing a loved one into a hospice program. If the hospice shares your Christian values then it can be a positive choice. If the administration does not share your Christian values regarding life, seek a different hospice option.

Question: Many recent medical discoveries lead me to wonder if they are acceptable for Christians. Where do we draw the line in use of discovered technologies to enhance human life?

Answer: Many medical discoveries are ethically acceptable, but discoveries that violate Gods authority over life and death (1 Samuel 2:6) are not acceptable. Technology is rightly used when it helps us preserve and protect human life (Genesis 9:5-6, Luke 10). Your question specifically asks about enhancing life, and that becomes a more complicated issue. Enhancements such as pain relief are a very acceptable application of technology. Other enhancements might provide a more enjoyable or productive life, but must be weighed within the overall blessings that God has provided to you. To help guide your decision, consider these questions:

  • Does this technology acknowledge Gods authority over life and death?
  • Does the use of this technology help protect or preserve human life?
  • Is this enhancement primarily meant to glorify God?
  • Do I have the earthly blessings (money, time, health, etc.) to use this technology without distracting from my first responsibilities as a Christian?

The answers to these questions should help you draw the ethical line between acceptable and unacceptable technologies.

QUESTION: My mother has multiple sclerosis and has been given only a few years to live. Our family is concerned about Mom spending the last few years of her life suffering. What can we do?

ANSWER: The fear of pain affects many decisions in life. As a loving family, you certainly want to protect your mother from pain, and there is nothing wrong with keeping a loved one comfortable. Medical science has developed and refined pain medication to the point that patients should never have to unduly suffer. If your mother’s doctors are not able to control her pain at any point in her illness, seek another doctor or a pain specialist.

Also realize there are various kinds of pain that your mother could suffer. Physical pain is an obvious concern, but you also need to be aware of spiritual and emotional pain. I encourage you to spend time with your mother on a regular basis throughout her last years. Share God’s Word with her, even if you get to the point when she can’t give a response. Pray with her, sing songs to her, and read devotions to her. Physical pain can be controlled with medication, but loved ones need to provide for her spiritual needs as well.

You are wise in considering this issue now rather than waiting until the later stages of her illness. Make a plan and share it with your mother. Talk openly about the illness, its effects, and the challenges that are going to confront all of you. Addressing the situation up-front will not be easy, but it will help prepare all of you for her last days here on earth and prepare her for her pain-free eternity in heaven.

QUESTION: My husband has had Parkinson’s for 25 years, severe Alzheimer’s, and other issues. He has taken a severe setback with a recent hospitalization. He is presently very weak, minimally mobile, with very low function cognition. He is now in rehab, but hoping to return home. He is in very rough shape with no human hope of cure or improvement. I am the caregiver for him 24/7 when home. Do I give DNR order? Do I give “no feeding tube” order if that time comes?

ANSWER: First of all, both you and your husband have been through much. My prayer is for both strength and comfort as you face these challenges.

Generally, when addressing the matter of a DNR the first question I ask is “how old is the patient?” The expectation of surviving a resuscitation declines substantially after the age of 70. That fact is not a sole determinant for resuscitation, but it is an important factor.

Most importantly is the health of the patient and the reasonable expectation of whether or not a resuscitation effort would work. The procedure is very aggressive. Old age with its accompanying maladies (i.e., brittleness of the bones, frailty of health, etc.) could mean a painful and potentially futile resuscitation procedure. If other attending health conditions are poor it significantly reduces the potential of a success of a resuscitation procedure.

From the description you provide, it appears that in the event of a major organ failure it would NOT be reasonable to assume aggressive efforts to resuscitation would be successful. Because of the pain inflicted and high potential of doing more harm, I would not recommend a resuscitation procedure for him. In other words, I would place a DNR (do not resuscitation) order on him.

A decision regarding resuscitation is our effort to be a good steward of God’s blessing of life and to recognize his ultimate authority over life and death. A decision not to resuscitate represents our recognition that when a major organ failure occurs where an attempted resuscitation might occur, we feel all other indicators point to God calling him home. It is NOT a decision to end his life but rather an acknowledgment that based on all the things we know, there is not a reasonable expectation that an attempted resuscitation would be successful, but would only inflict more pain and suffering and perhaps even causing an earlier and more agonizing death.

What makes a feeding tube different than a DNR order is that a feeding tube generally does no harm. A resuscitation procedure could harm someone and agonize dying whereas a feeding tube is maintenance. It assures the body gets the needed nutrition while serving as an alternative to oral feeding which can, in the aging and infirm, possibly cause choking (aspiration) and a serious (potentially fatal) lung infection.

That being said, there is a time when even tube feeding should not be done any longer. That point is when the body refuses to process food or is unable to process food sufficiently. There are conflicting studies over whether this is the case in late-stage Alzheimer patients. My practical experience is that the most frequent time a decision is made not to tube-feed or to cease tube feeding is when a problem develops within the digestive system where an irreparable blockage may occur or for some other reason the stomach and colon stop functioning or malfunction in a way that continued feeding would agonize and possibly accelerate the dying process.

Sometimes there is a concern about whether a patient’s health could handle the procedure of installing a g-tube. While such a procedure is not “major” surgery, it is, nevertheless, some form of surgery and the concern often is whether the anesthesia becomes a problem. Those are issues to be weighed and, quite honestly, it becomes a judgment call. It is one thing to “insist” we do everything and “if they die, they die” but it is another thing to put this on the doctor who does the procedure. Generally speaking, no one wants to be the person causing death.

An alternative is a very pliable nasogastric tube (NG-tube) that is inserted through the nose and into the stomach. Some of the stiffer tubes are problematic but I cared for a woman more than 20 years ago with an NG-tube that was used for 3 years with no problems or agitation to the nose area. Staff, however, often is not excited about regularly changing the tube, but it did work.

Kind of a tricky way to find out whether it is possible to do this or not for your husband is to circumvent any bias the doctor has and ask these two questions:

  1. If we did not insert a feeding tube how long would he continue to live?
  2. If we inserted a feeding tube how long would he continue to live?

If the answer to question # 2 is longer than the answer to # 1, then it suggests placing a feeding tube (whether a G or NG-tube would need to be decided) is the route to go. Feeding tubes do not cure but sustain – as regular consumption of food does not cure but sustain. Because we have the means to continue providing such sustenance we do so if possible and not harming.

Again, my prayer for strength and comfort during this most difficult time.

QUESTION: Do you really consider “pulling the plug” to be euthanasia?

ANSWER: Deuteronomy 32:39 tells us that God alone has the right to begin or end life. Exodus 20:13 and Genesis 9:5-6 command that we preserve and protect human life. We do not have the right to terminate life prematurely. Conversely, we do not have the responsibility to prolong the dying process either. Out of faith, we care for loved ones who are sick, and we accept death when God calls them from this world.

Applying this to your question, “pulling the plug” is euthanasia if it is done to terminate a life in a person’s time frame rather than God’s. Withholding or withdrawing treatment or care is acceptable when that decision is made with full acceptance of God’s authority over life. In general, there are three examples when care could rightfully be withheld or withdrawn. They are: (1) the treatment is futile; (2) death is imminent; or (3) the treatment has accomplished its purpose.

The decision to “pull the plug’ is not an easy one, because it is filled with many emotions and struggles. The withholding or withdrawal of treatment must be done with the right motive and in situations where it does not lead to the direct termination of human life.

QUESTION: What is the God-pleasing attitude I should have as I approach the final days of my life or that of a loved one?

ANSWER: You have asked the right question when you ask about attitude. Even though God reveals his will in many specific ways in his Law, he also emphasizes the attitude in the heart. Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Similarly the writer to the Hebrews told his readers, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

St. Paul reveals what the attitude will be in the heart of a Christian as he lives his life, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:32) Everything we do in life from the greatest endeavors to the smallest daily activities are to have as their purpose the glory of the God who has created and redeemed us. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 19-20), St. Paul reminds his people. Christ lived, died and rose again that you might belong to him for time and eternity. Show to whom you belong by the way you live.

Does this mean that we can do anything we want to as long as we claim that we are attempting to glorify God? Certainly not! The Psalmist prays, “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. (Psalm 119:33-34) We glorify God by doing his will. The only way to know that will is to study what God has revealed to us in his Word. Our approach to Christian obedience is clear then. We seek to glorify and praise our Savior God according to the commands he has revealed in his Word.

Sometimes, however, God does not speak directly to all situations. For instance in different circumstances at the end of life he does not indicate whether we should be striving to preserve our lives or preparing for our deaths. Both are part of God’s revealed will, but a Christian is going to have to study both principles and apply them as best he can to the glory of God. No matter what specific action a Christian takes at the end of his life or the life of someone for whom he is responsible, his attitude should always be, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What are the God-given principles that should guide a Christian in end-of-life decisions?

ANSWER: Although there may be many factors involved in these complex situations, there are chiefly two principles that must always be kept in mind. They are hinted at already in the answer to Question #1.

The first principle is that human life is a sacred gift of God. Only God can create it, “he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25) He protects it, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6), and he devotes one of his commandments to that protection, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). God has redeemed all human life, “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) All human life, no matter what its condition or situation, whether it belongs to the newly conceived fetus in its mother’s womb, or to the severely impaired (mentally or physically), or to the person nearing the end of life, is a gracious life of God. We are to preserve it and care for it as best we can. Only God can begin human life, and only he has the right to take it away as he claims in His Word, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life.” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

The second principle is that God does put his right to end life into practice. He does call his people home. Moses proclaims, “You turn men back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men.’ ” (Psalm 90:3). To fight against the time God has determined as the end of your life would be to fight against his will. Jesus warns, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

There are other principles that also come into consideration in end-of-life situations. The principle of stewardship is one example. Although we are not going to put a price on human life, saying that if it costs a certain amount to preserve it, the price is too high. But we will recognize that God has given us a certain amount of financial resources and specific responsibilities to meet with those resources. The amount of those resources will sometimes influence the end-of-life decisions we make. We must remember, however, that decisions made out of greed are not decisions that glorify God.

QUESTION: How do I know which principle applies in any given situation?

ANSWER: The Christian always has the Psalmist’s confession on his lips, “my times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) This is a statement of his acceptance of the two principles mentioned in Question #2. He then studies the situation and asks the question, “What is the Lord doing here? Is my condition or that of the person for whom I am responsible terminal, i.e. it will cause my death at some future time? If the condition is terminal, is death imminent, i.e. death with come in a short time, several days at most, no matter what treatment or care is given?” Of course, the advise of doctors and other medical personnel, pastors, family members, friends and other trusted people will be sought to help make these determinations.

Knowing that no decisions we make are ever pure, all are tainted with selfishness and ignorance, the Christian will pray with the Psalmist, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.” (Psalm 19:12,13) With such an attitude, seeking to be free of sins corrupting effects and focused on glorifying the Lord of life, the child of God may proceed with his decision-making.

We should recognize that we will not all make the same decisions in what may appear to be similar circumstances. In chapter 14 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he advised the Jews in the congregation to continue refraining from eating meat sold in the marketplaces of the heathen because they were glorifying God by not eating what had been dedicated to idols. To the Gentiles, however, he said that they could continue eating such meat as long as they did not offend their Jewish brothers because they were glorifying the only God who gave them all their food, even that from the meat shops of idol-worshipers. He summarized his teaching by saying, “He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6) To put Paul’s words into the context of our discussion we could say of the Christian who wishes to glorify God according to the principles revealed in his Word, “He who continues medical treatment does so to the Lord who has entrusted him with the sacred gift of life, and he who refuses medical treatment does so to the Lord who is calling him out of this life to himself in heaven.” Or to again turn to St. Paul’s words, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What if I make the wrong decision?

ANSWER: As you can see from the discussion above, there really is no wrong decision that a Christian can make. He can make a decision for the wrong reason, for some sinful consideration, but when he seeks to glorify God according to God’s revealed truth, no decision will be wrong.

Several points should be noted, however. A Christian should not act against his own conscience. Such an action would not glorify God because the person thinks he might be breaking God’s Law. If a person thinks that he is killing what God wants preserved, he should not refuse medical treatment. If a person thinks that he is trying to lengthen what God wants ended, he should refuse to have treatment continued. St. Paul warns, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

We also ought to look at the Psalmist’s words again, “My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) These are more than a guide to direct the Christian’s actions. They also are a confession of confidence that the Lord’s will is going to be done. God does not lose control because we make one decision or another to glorify him. We will die only when our Lord sees fit to call us home, no sooner and no later. Remember Jesus’ comforting words, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

QUESTION: Must my life be unnecessarily extended by medical treatment?

ANSWER: The answer to this question must first of all include another question, “Why are we asking this?” If by the words “unnecessarily extended” we mean fighting against the inevitable, putting off death for a few hours or days by surgery or extraordinary techniques and equipment, then the answer must be “No!” However, if by these words we are asking why we cannot hurry up the dying process when we are sure to die anyway, then the answer must be “yes” because we are not extending, but maintaining. Our treatments are not unnecessary, but modern gifts of God to continue our lives.

The prayer of every Christian, no doubt, is that when the time comes, the Lord would grant him a swift death. We all would like to die suddenly in our sleep with little pain and no lingering illness. But God has not promised this to us. He may give us a period of suffering before dying. St. Paul says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Physical suffering before death may be among these hardships.

There are several reasons why God might will such suffering. One group of reasons benefit us. Suffering produces patience, a quiet waiting on the Lord to carry out his will in his time. St. Paul didn’t pray for a life of suffering, but if it came, he rejoiced in it because he knew how he would benefit spiritually. He says, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3) Furthermore, a slow journey toward death gives us more of a chance to prepare. Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) When death comes quickly, it is not so easy to number our days and prepare for the end. Another group of reasons allows us time to be of service to our neighbor. The way we die or the way our fellow Christians care for us when we die can serve as a strong witness of our faith to those around us. Think of the Roman soldier at the foot of Jesus’ cross. When he saw Jesus die, he exclaimed, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47) The man may have come to faith as a result of what he saw. We also may have the opportunity to pray for others. Jesus was very busy and heavily burdened in the final hours of his earthly life, but he still had time to assure his disciple Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31)

Finally, if we have a time of suffering or lingering before dying, God may be giving other Christians an opportunity to perform works of faith as they care for us. Faith needs to be exercised. Love wants a chance to work. The Lord has placed a spiritual life in our hearts and he provides times for that life to go into action. St. Paul tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Supplying our needs may be the works that God has prepared in advance for others to do.

QUESTION: Is death ever a better option for a Christian than continued living?

ANSWER: A Christian thinking of the eternal life he has in Christ might answer, “Yes.” But notice that the question does not speak of life, but death. Death is an unnatural end to life. It is present in our world because of sin. St. Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) For those people who die in their sins without faith in Christ there are only the words of Christ on Judgment Day, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). This is hardly a better option than life on earth no matter how hard it may be.

A Christian is not afraid to die because the risen Christ has conquered death. Now death is not easier to take, it is vanquished! Jesus assured his friend Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) The Christian’s death is a celebration of life. For that reason he will never hasten the end of this life to enter the next. The time for that is in the Lord’s hands.

QUESTION: What medical treatment may I in good conscience refuse?

ANSWER: We should never refuse any medical treatment for the purpose of hastening our death. The time of death is God’s to choose. Under most circumstances we should not refuse treatment for conditions easily and commonly treated like pneumonia, which if left untreated may kill us, for the purpose of hastening our death from a terminal condition like some forms of cancer. We also should not refuse food and water even when given artificially if the purpose is to hasten our death by malnutrition or dehydration so that we do not have to die naturally of some other condition over a period of months or even years.

Major surgery or other costly medical treatment of our modern age whose only purpose is to extend what God will take away very soon may in good conscience be refused. Limited resources may not make these treatments possible, and the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands does not make them necessary.

QUESTION: Are living wills of any benefit to a Christian?

ANSWER: Please understand that living wills are the creation of the American Euthanasia Society, now called the Society for the Right to Die. Their original purpose was not to give people the right to refuse treatment, a right they have always had, but to give them the right to decide to die when they saw fit, in other words, to commit suicide. These documents adopted by the legislatures of individual states focus on the right to die that may include the purposeful hastening of death by refusing even food and water. For such a purpose a Christian cannot use a living will.

Although living wills can be used by Christians to declare the limits to which medical treatment should be used in cases of imminent death, a far more useful document for confessing Christians is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – Christian Version, prepared by Christian Life Resources. Such a document weaves the Christian’s viewpoint into a document that indicates a person’s wishes at the end of his or her life that is pleasing to God. A copy of your state’s version can be downloaded from this website at no cost! Or you can place an order at the CLR Store. See the web page for current costs.

CONCLUSION: Our times are in the hands of our gracious Lord. He will care for us in every condition for our eternal good. But let the way we care for our lives and those of others be a strong witness to a world sinking into unbelief and wickedness that human life is a precious gift of God that he gives and takes. May our words and actions proclaim as patient Job once did, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

QUESTION: What is the God-pleasing attitude I should have as I approach the final days of my life or that of a loved one?

ANSWER: You have asked the right question when you ask about attitude. Even though God reveals his will in many specific ways in his Law, he also emphasizes the attitude in the heart. Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Similarly the writer to the Hebrews told his readers, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

St. Paul reveals what the attitude will be in the heart of a Christian as he lives his life, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:32) Everything we do in life from the greatest endeavors to the smallest daily activities are to have as their purpose the glory of the God who has created and redeemed us. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body,” (1 Corinthians 19-20) St. Paul reminds his people. Christ lived, died and rose again that you might belong to him for time and eternity. Show to whom you belong by the way you live.

Does this mean that we can do anything we want to as long as we claim that we are attempting to glorify God? Certainly not! The Psalmist prays, “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. (Psalm 119:33-34) We glorify God by doing his will. The only way to know that will is to study what God has revealed to us in his Word. Our approach to Christian obedience is clear then. We seek to glorify and praise our Savior God according to the commands he has revealed in his Word.

Sometimes, however, God does not speak directly to all situations. For instance in different circumstances at the end of life he does not indicate whether we should be striving to preserve our lives or preparing for our deaths. Both are part of God’s revealed will, but a Christian is going to have to study both principles and apply them as best he can to the glory of God. No matter what specific action a Christian takes at the end of his life or the life of someone for whom he is responsible, his attitude should always be, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What are the God-given principles that should guide a Christian in end-of-life decisions?

ANSWER: Although there may be many factors involved in these complex situations, there are chiefly two principles that must always be kept in mind. They are hinted at already in the answer to Question #1.

The first principle is that human life is a sacred gift of God. Only God can create it, “he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25) He protects it, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6), and he devotes one of his commandments to that protection, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) God has redeemed all human life, “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) All human life, no matter what its condition or situation, whether it belongs to the newly conceived fetus in its mother’s womb, or to the severely impaired (mentally or physically), or to the person nearing the end of life, is a gracious life of God. We are to preserve it and care for it as best we can. Only God can begin human life, and only he has the right to take it away as he claims in His Word, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

The second principle is that God does put his right to end life into practice. He does call his people home. Moses proclaims, “You turn men back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men.'” (Psalm 90:3) To fight against the time God has determined as the end of your life would be to fight against his will. Jesus warns, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

There are other principles that also come into consideration in end-of-life situations. The principle of stewardship is one example. Although we are not going to put a price on human life, saying that if it costs a certain amount to preserve it, the price is too high. But we will recognize that God has given us a certain amount of financial resources and specific responsibilities to meet with those resources. The amount of those resources will sometimes influence the end-of-life decisions we make. We must remember, however, that decisions made out of greed are not decisions that glorify God.

QUESTION: How do I know which principle applies in any given situation?

ANSWER: The Christian always has the Psalmist’s confession on his lips, “my times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) This is a statement of his acceptance of the two principles mentioned in Question #2. He then studies the situation and asks the question, “What is the Lord doing here? Is my condition or that of the person for whom I am responsible terminal, i.e. it will cause my death at some future time? If the condition is terminal, is death imminent, i.e. death with come in a short time, several days at most, no matter what treatment or care is given?” Of course, the advise of doctors and other medical personnel, pastors, family members, friends and other trusted people will be sought to help make these determinations.

Knowing that no decisions we make are ever pure, all are tainted with selfishness and ignorance, the Christian will pray with the Psalmist, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.” (Psalm 19:12-13) With such an attitude, seeking to be free of sins corrupting effects and focused on glorifying the Lord of life, the child of God may proceed with his decision-making.

We should recognize that we will not all make the same decisions in what may appear to be similar circumstances. In chapter 14 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he advised the Jews in the congregation to continue refraining from eating meat sold in the marketplaces of the heathen because they were glorifying God by not eating what had been dedicated to idols. To the Gentiles, however, he said that they could continue eating such meat as long as they did not offend their Jewish brothers because they were glorifying the only God who gave them all their food, even that from the meat shops of idol-worshipers. He summarized his teaching by saying, “He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6) To put Paul’s words into the context of our discussion we could say of the Christian who wishes to glorify God according to the principles revealed in his Word, “He who continues medical treatment does so to the Lord who has entrusted him with the sacred gift of life, and he who refuses medical treatment does so to the Lord who is calling him out of this life to himself in heaven.” Or to again turn to St. Paul’s words, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What if I make the wrong decision?

ANSWER: As you can see from the discussion above, there really is no wrong decision that a Christian can make. He can make a decision for the wrong reason, for some sinful consideration, but when he seeks to glorify God according to God’s revealed truth, no decision will be wrong.

Several points should be noted, however. A Christian should not act against his own conscience. Such an action would not glorify God because the person thinks he might be breaking God’s Law. If a person thinks that he is killing what God wants preserved, he should not refuse medical treatment. If a person thinks that he is trying to lengthen what God wants ended, he should refuse to have treatment continued. St. Paul warns, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

We also ought to look at the Psalmist’s words again, “My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) These are more than a guide to direct the Christian’s actions. They also are a confession of confidence that the Lord’s will is going to be done. God does not lose control because we make one decision or another to glorify him. We will die only when our Lord sees fit to call us home, no sooner and no later. Remember Jesus’ comforting words, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

QUESTION: Must my life be unnecessarily extended by medical treatment?

ANSWER: The answer to this question must first of all include another question, “Why are we asking this?” If by the words “unnecessarily extended” we mean fighting against the inevitable, putting off death for a few hours or days by surgery or extraordinary techniques and equipment, then the answer must be “No!” However, if by these words we are asking why we cannot hurry up the dying process when we are sure to die anyway, then the answer must be “yes” because we are not extending, but maintaining. Our treatments are not unnecessary, but modern gifts of God to continue our lives.

The prayer of every Christian, no doubt, is that when the time comes, the Lord would grant him a swift death. We all would like to die suddenly in our sleep with little pain and no lingering illness. But God has not promised this to us. He may give us a period of suffering before dying. St. Paul says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Physical suffering before death may be among these hardships.

There are several reasons why God might will such suffering. One group of reasons benefit us. Suffering produces patience, a quiet waiting on the Lord to carry out his will in his time. St. Paul didn’t pray for a life of suffering, but if it came, he rejoiced in it because he knew how he would benefit spiritually. He says, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3) Furthermore, a slow journey toward death gives us more of a chance to prepare. Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) When death comes quickly, it is not so easy to number our days and prepare for the end. Another group of reasons allows us time to be of service to our neighbor. The way we die or the way our fellow Christians care for us when we die can serve as a strong witness of our faith to those around us. Think of the Roman soldier at the foot of Jesus’ cross. When he saw Jesus die, he exclaimed, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47) The man may have come to faith as a result of what he saw. We also may have the opportunity to pray for others. Jesus was very busy and heavily burdened in the final hours of his earthly life, but he still had time to assure his disciple Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31)

Finally, if we have a time of suffering or lingering before dying, God may be giving other Christians an opportunity to perform works of faith as they care for us. Faith needs to be exercised. Love wants a chance to work. The Lord has placed a spiritual life in our hearts and he provides times for that life to go into action. St. Paul tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Supplying our needs may be the works that God has prepared in advance for others to do.

QUESTION: Is death ever a better option for a Christian than continued living?

ANSWER: A Christian thinking of the eternal life he has in Christ might answer, “Yes.” But notice that the question does not speak of life, but death. Death is an unnatural end to life. It is present in our world because of sin. St. Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) For those people who die in their sins without faith in Christ there are only the words of Christ on Judgment Day, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) This is hardly a better option than life on earth no matter how hard it may be.

A Christian is not afraid to die because the risen Christ has conquered death. Now death is not easier to take, it is vanquished! Jesus assured his friend Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) The Christian’s death is a celebration of life. For that reason he will never hasten the end of this life to enter the next. The time for that is in the Lord’s hands.

QUESTION: What medical treatment may I in good conscience refuse?

ANSWER: We should never refuse any medical treatment for the purpose of hastening our death. The time of death is God’s to choose. Under most circumstances we should not refuse treatment for conditions easily and commonly treated like pneumonia, which if left untreated may kill us, for the purpose of hastening our death from a terminal condition like some forms of cancer. We also should not refuse food and water even when given artificially if the purpose is to hasten our death by malnutrition or dehydration so that we do not have to die naturally of some other condition over a period of months or even years.

Major surgery or other costly medical treatment of our modern age whose only purpose is to extend what God will take away very soon may in good conscience be refused. Limited resources may not make these treatments possible, and the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands does not make them necessary.

QUESTION: Are living wills of any benefit to a Christian?

ANSWER: Please understand that living wills are the creation of the American Euthanasia Society, now called the Society for the Right to Die. Their original purpose was not to give people the right to refuse treatment, a right they have always had, but to give them the right to decide to die when they saw fit, in other words, to commit suicide. These documents adopted by the legislatures of individual states focus on the right to die that may include the purposeful hastening of death by refusing even food and water. For such a purpose a Christian cannot use a living will.

Although living wills can be used by Christians to declare the limits to which medical treatment should be used in cases of imminent death, a far more useful document for confessing Christians is a Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare – Christian Version, which is available from Christian Life Resources’ website (www.christianliferesources.com). Such a document gives a Christian the chance to declare in writing what God’s Word has taught him about his life and its care even in the face of death. It also serves as a good tool to use in making his beliefs known to his family, friends, pastor and doctor long before the need arrives to use it.

CONCLUSION: Our times are in the hands of our gracious Lord. He will care for us in every condition for our eternal good. But let the way we care for our lives and those of others be a strong witness to a world sinking into unbelief and wickedness that human life is a precious gift of God that he gives and takes. May our words and actions proclaim as patient Job once did, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

Ethical & Social Issues

QUESTION: I’ve heard about the eugenics movement, but I thought that essentially ended with the atrocities of the Nazi regime. Does the eugenics movement still exist today?

ANSWER: The eugenics movement is more comprehensive than most people realize. A review of the history of eugenics shows that the past eugenicists were void of compassion for individuals with a low value or quality of life. The pervading thought was that society would improve with the elimination of poor and disabled children. During the late 1800s and most of the 1900s, this was accomplished through selective breeding.

As morally bankrupt as this sounds, today’s eugenics movement is equally revolting – though more subtle. With recent technological advancements, doctors can screen for genetic disorders, perform prenatal testing, and use birth control and IVF to limit or control the births of children who are likely to have a less-than-desired quality of life. These modern techniques are equally defiant of God’s Word that tells us that children are a blessing from God (Genesis 33:5; Psalm 127:3) and that we should defend those who are weak (Matthew 25:35,36; Acts 20:35).

So, sad to say, the eugenics philosophy is still alive and thriving today even though the forms and methods have been refined.

QUESTION: Why are you so worked up about assisted suicide? If I don’t want to live when my quality of life is gone, why should you have the right to tell me I don’t have options?

ANSWER: Your question indicates some misconceptions on your part. First, we do not convey our own opinions, but rather we share the message of God’s Word and apply Biblical principles to life issues. We are “worked up” about assisted suicide because the Bible makes it clear that we do not have the authority to determine the time of a person’s death, nor the right to take a human life (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 32:39). Secondly, you certainly can exercise your options regarding your health care, even when you are terminally ill. Our ministry is designed to help you identify the option that is consistent with God’s Word and the best choice for your situation. Rather than fighting for the right to end your life, we would prefer to find positive alternatives that help you make your last days as peaceful and beneficial as possible.

Q: I’ve heard many different terms describing the positions of those who either oppose or favor abortion and euthanasia (pro-life, pro-choice, anti-abortion, death with dignity, etc.). What is CLR’s position on all of these terms?

A: The position of CLR is always rooted in Gods Word. This means we value human life because Jesus gave us absolute value through His death and resurrection (John 3:16). We believe that God alone holds authority over life and death (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6). We believe that man is responsible for the preservation and protection of human life (Genesis 9:5-6; Luke 10:27). We also believe that the right attitude is critical in making godly decisions (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 10:31).

The terms you mentioned have certain connotations. We consider ourselves “pro-life” but that doesn’t mean we endorse bombing abortion clinics nor hurting or killing abortionists. Some abortion advocates call us “anti-abortion” because it connotes a damaging image for our opposition to a perceived freedom. Many people use the term “pro-choice” but seldom define the “choices” they promote. The latest story comes from right-to-die groups who say they want to reference “assisted suicide” in terms that are more palatable. They contend that “right to die” or “death with dignity” are neutral terms that more accurately portray their position.

Labels are continually used to identify various agencies and beliefs. CLR’s pro-life label is likely to endure for many years. Yet our real label is that we are Christian, and therefore we teach that all deeds and decisions should be made out of love for God and respect for our neighbor.

QUESTION: Although I don’t live in Washington state, I’m concerned about the voter decision to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Are my concerns valid?

ANSWER: Most certainly you have reason to be  concerned, regardless of where you live. After Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act took effect in 1997, many other states considered similar laws. Fortunately, the movement didn’t gain much of a foothold. Over the years many legislative battles were fought, but Oregon stood alone as the only state to offer lethal medications to its citizens.

That all changed on November 4, 2008, when voters in the state of Washington passed Initiative 1000. The result is that two states now permit legalized physician assisted suicide. Making things worse, it seems that Washington’s decision opened the flood gates on this issue. For example, a judge in Montana ruled that the state constitution allows for assisted suicide. Although this decision will be reviewed by the State Supreme Court, there is serious concern that Montana might become the third state to allow legalized assisted suicide. Now a number of state legislatures are considering similar bills. Apparently the perception is that a second state to approve assisted suicide is equivalent
to a green light for others to follow.

So, most certainly you should be alert to this movement, because the right-to-die leaders do not plan to stop their efforts in promoting this deadly cause. I encourage you to pray for your political leaders, contact them to express your opposition to assisted suicide and stay informed on any developments
that occur in your state legislature.

QUESTION: I’ve heard that Christian Life Resources states a feeding tube should never be removed. Why is that?

ANSWER: Christian Life Resources does not state that feeding tubes should never be removed. We do state that it is critical that you ask questions and make decisions that glorify God rather than attempting to presume authority over life and death. This can lead to some difficult decisions regarding end-of-life care.

There is confusion in people’s minds over what a feeding tube can, and cannot, do. Remember that a feeding tube only provides nutrition and hydration. There is no curative medication or treatment provided through a feeding tube.

When a family is told to remove a feeding tube and let their loved one die, they are really being advised to withhold food and water. There are times when that is appropriate or necessary, but many other times this is actually advocating the starvation and dehydration of a loved one. A simple guideline to follow is this: you do not have the right to end life prematurely, nor do you have the responsibility to prolong the dying process.

Although no one wants to think of spending their last days hooked up to tubes and machines, a feeding tube is seldom used to prolong the dying process. Feeding tubes should not be grouped with extraordinary treatments or care. Christian Life Resources advises against any action that presumes authority over life and death that only God holds. We also suggest you seek the best comfort and care for loved ones as they live their last days on earth.

QUESTION: My husband has had Parkinson’s for 25 years, severe Alzheimer’s, and other issues. He has taken a severe setback with a recent hospitalization. He is presently very weak, minimally mobile, with very low function cognition. He is now in rehab, but hoping to return home. He is in very rough shape with no human hope of cure or improvement. I am the caregiver for him 24/7 when home. Do I give DNR order? Do I give “no feeding tube” order if that time comes?

ANSWER: First of all, both you and your husband have been through much. My prayer is for both strength and comfort as you face these challenges.

Generally, when addressing the matter of a DNR the first question I ask is “how old is the patient?” The expectation of surviving a resuscitation declines substantially after the age of 70. That fact is not a sole determinant for resuscitation, but it is an important factor.

Most importantly is the health of the patient and the reasonable expectation of whether or not a resuscitation effort would work. The procedure is very aggressive. Old age with its accompanying maladies (i.e., brittleness of the bones, frailty of health, etc.) could mean a painful and potentially futile resuscitation procedure. If other attending health conditions are poor it significantly reduces the potential of a success of a resuscitation procedure.

From the description you provide, it appears that in the event of a major organ failure it would NOT be reasonable to assume aggressive efforts to resuscitation would be successful. Because of the pain inflicted and high potential of doing more harm, I would not recommend a resuscitation procedure for him. In other words, I would place a DNR (do not resuscitation) order on him.

A decision regarding resuscitation is our effort to be a good steward of God’s blessing of life and to recognize his ultimate authority over life and death. A decision not to resuscitate represents our recognition that when a major organ failure occurs where an attempted resuscitation might occur, we feel all other indicators point to God calling him home. It is NOT a decision to end his life but rather an acknowledgment that based on all the things we know, there is not a reasonable expectation that an attempted resuscitation would be successful, but would only inflict more pain and suffering and perhaps even causing an earlier and more agonizing death.

What makes a feeding tube different than a DNR order is that a feeding tube generally does no harm. A resuscitation procedure could harm someone and agonize dying whereas a feeding tube is maintenance. It assures the body gets the needed nutrition while serving as an alternative to oral feeding which can, in the aging and infirm, possibly cause choking (aspiration) and a serious (potentially fatal) lung infection.

That being said, there is a time when even tube feeding should not be done any longer. That point is when the body refuses to process food or is unable to process food sufficiently. There are conflicting studies over whether this is the case in late-stage Alzheimer patients. My practical experience is that the most frequent time a decision is made not to tube-feed or to cease tube feeding is when a problem develops within the digestive system where an irreparable blockage may occur or for some other reason the stomach and colon stop functioning or malfunction in a way that continued feeding would agonize and possibly accelerate the dying process.

Sometimes there is a concern about whether a patient’s health could handle the procedure of installing a g-tube. While such a procedure is not “major” surgery, it is, nevertheless, some form of surgery and the concern often is whether the anesthesia becomes a problem. Those are issues to be weighed and, quite honestly, it becomes a judgment call. It is one thing to “insist” we do everything and “if they die, they die” but it is another thing to put this on the doctor who does the procedure. Generally speaking, no one wants to be the person causing death.

An alternative is a very pliable nasogastric tube (NG-tube) that is inserted through the nose and into the stomach. Some of the stiffer tubes are problematic but I cared for a woman more than 20 years ago with an NG-tube that was used for 3 years with no problems or agitation to the nose area. Staff, however, often is not excited about regularly changing the tube, but it did work.

Kind of a tricky way to find out whether it is possible to do this or not for your husband is to circumvent any bias the doctor has and ask these two questions:

  1. If we did not insert a feeding tube how long would he continue to live?
  2. If we inserted a feeding tube how long would he continue to live?

If the answer to question # 2 is longer than the answer to # 1, then it suggests placing a feeding tube (whether a G or NG-tube would need to be decided) is the route to go. Feeding tubes do not cure but sustain – as regular consumption of food does not cure but sustain. Because we have the means to continue providing such sustenance we do so if possible and not harming.

Again, my prayer for strength and comfort during this most difficult time.

QUESTION: Do you really consider “pulling the plug” to be euthanasia?

ANSWER: Deuteronomy 32:39 tells us that God alone has the right to begin or end life. Exodus 20:13 and Genesis 9:5-6 command that we preserve and protect human life. We do not have the right to terminate life prematurely. Conversely, we do not have the responsibility to prolong the dying process either. Out of faith, we care for loved ones who are sick, and we accept death when God calls them from this world.

Applying this to your question, “pulling the plug” is euthanasia if it is done to terminate a life in a person’s time frame rather than God’s. Withholding or withdrawing treatment or care is acceptable when that decision is made with full acceptance of God’s authority over life. In general, there are three examples when care could rightfully be withheld or withdrawn. They are: (1) the treatment is futile; (2) death is imminent; or (3) the treatment has accomplished its purpose.

The decision to “pull the plug’ is not an easy one, because it is filled with many emotions and struggles. The withholding or withdrawal of treatment must be done with the right motive and in situations where it does not lead to the direct termination of human life.

Question: What is terminal sedation? Is it the same as physician-assisted suicide?

Answer: Physician-assisted suicide is defined as a physicians act that is meant to intentionally end the life of a patient. Terminal sedation is practiced when a patient is drugged into unconsciousness and kept that way until death.

Although physician-assisted suicide is illegal in most parts of the world, terminal sedation is quietly allowed in most medical institutions. There seems to be an attitude that terminal sedation is acceptable because the practice does not immediately kill the patient, as is done with physician-assisted suicide. Terminal sedation allows the patient to die more naturally and gradually. Supporters of terminal sedation also note that death is accomplished with the use of legal pain medications that are simply given in larger doses.

In applying this issue with the Christian ethic, there are two considerations. Scripture teaches us that God alone has the authority over life and death (Deuteronomy 32:39). We also know that our responsibility is to proved care as we preserve and protect human life (Genesis 9:5-6; Luke 10). Euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, and terminal sedation are all meant to end a life prematurely, usually for the purpose of alleviating suffering. When these acts assume authority over life and death, they go beyond the responsibility God grants to man. The second issue deals with the provision of comfort and care for others. When a loved one is suffering, he or she needs to be kept as comfortable as possible. That means medication can rightly be administered for the purpose of relieving pain.

In conclusion, the use of pain medication is acceptable when the purpose is to alleviate pain and to keep the patient relatively comfortable. Once the intent goes beyond the suppression of pain and becomes an intentional termination of human life, then it is an act that presumes an authority over life and death that God does not give to mankind.

QUESTION: My dad was recently diagnosed with ALS. We are all pretty devastated. He knows that his quality of life will diminish, and he will become totally reliant on us kids. The other night he asked, “Why is God doing this to me?” I didn’t know how to answer him. I guess I have the same question.

ANSWER: The simple answer is that God is not doing this. Bad things happen in our lives because of sin. The second and third chapters of Genesis remind us that God did not create us to be sinful. The sad consequence of human  sinfulness is suffering and ultimately physical death.

The better question that you should ask is, “How should we respond?” An excellent example is recorded for us in John 9, which tells the story of Jesus healing the man who was born blind. The disciples asked Jesus for a logical explanation as to why this man was blind. Using their human reason, they concluded that either the man or his parents had sinned and blindness was the punishment. Jesus answered “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:3). According to Jesus, the focus is not on the physical ailment but rather on the response to the condition.

We can’t fully understand God’s plans, but we can do our best to glorify God in every situation. Your father’s illness will cause physical pain, but it might serve as an outlet for others to demonstrate their compassion. His condition might scare away some of his friends, but it could draw him closer to his Savior. His disease will lead some to say that his life is no longer worth living, but you and your family can provide a Christ-like example of unselfish love.

The next time someone asks, “Why would God do this?” you can respond, “So that my faith can be strengthened and His name glorified!”

QUESTION: My mother is in a nursing home with advanced dementia. She is both inactive and unable to recognize us anymore. We visit her as often as we can but are starting to feel that our trips are not accomplishing very much. Should we continue to visit her, and if so, what should we do to make each visit a positive one?

ANSWER: It is good to remember that your mom requires both physical and spiritual care. Appropriate physical care can be directed by medical professionals who specialize in the kind of treatment that a loved one requires. Your primary role is to provide appropriate spiritual care. So, yes, keep visiting her and follow these suggested tips:

  • Despite impaired language skills, never assume your mom can’t hear or understand you even if a response is not evident
  • Read favorite Bible passages or stories to her
  • Sing some of her favorite songs to her; select a couple of them and repeat them often
  • Hold her hands and say prayers that would be familiar to her
  • Share the comfort of the Gospel by reminding her that Jesus is her Savior
  • Tell her about spiritual blessings you have experienced in your life
  • Tell her that God loves her and that you love her

Even though your encouragement may not be understood by your loved one, you are faithfully fulfilling God’s commands to demonstrate Christian care (Luke 10:27; 1 Timothy 5:8) and to serve as Christ’s witness (Acts 22:14,15; 2 Corinthians 4:13).

QUESTION: My 93-year-old mother has been strong and healthy her entire life. I am afraid that she has a false confidence about going to heaven. She says that God must be happy with her, because He has given her a long and happy life. Should I be concerned about her salvation?

ANSWER: We should always be reminded that salvation is a free gift from God which we are unable to earn ourselves (Ephesians 2:8,9). Our sinful nature is constantly telling us that we don’t need God, and that we can earn salvation on our own. So, in that regard, you should be concerned about your mother’s salvation, just as you should be concerned about your own.

Since she is still strong and healthy, you should encourage your mother to use her blessings to glorify God. Paul wrote, “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24). Your mom has some unique opportunities to reflect God’s love by serving others, and you are in the position to encourage her on a regular basis.

Rather than evaluating the reason why God has given her such a long life, I urge her to use each day to glorify Him with the blessings that she has been given. Whether her remaining life is short or long, her purpose on earth is the same – to grow in faith, to live her faith, and to share her faith.

QUESTION: Our elderly neighbors have lived next door to us for ten years. Last week the husband died, and his widow is rather lonely. What suggestions can you share to help her get through her grief?

ANSWER: Compassionate people see suffering and want to take it away. The truth is that you cannot remove her suffering, but you can help her through the grieving process.

God’s Word tells us that suffering is a part of living in a sinful world (Romans 8:22; Acts 14:22). We know that suffering can serve as a means to strengthen faith (Romans 5:3). We also know that suffering can be an outlet for a Christian to demonstrate faith (Luke 10:33).

Here are some tips to guide you in helping your neighbor:

  • Pray for her continually. Pray that she leans on her Savior for true comfort. Pray that you are able to help her when necessary. Pray that the Holy Spirit provides the spiritual strength to deal with each new challenge.
  • Offer to help her in specific ways. People commonly say, “If there is anything I can do, just ask.” The problem with that statement is that an additional burden is placed on the grieving spouse who is now required to ask for help. It is better to provide a specific offer such as mowing the grass for the summer, making a meal once a week, or assisting with household chores that require the lifting of heavy objects.
  • Be a willing and patient listener. At times, she may simply want a listening ear to recall a favorite memory. Feel free to share your own wonderful memories.
  • Don’t feel pressured to find the right words to comfort her. You won’t find words to remove her grief. Too many people avoid conversations for fear of not knowing what to say. That attitude leads the survivor to feel even greater loneliness.
  • Allow her to grieve in her own way. In spite of her grief, she will have days of happiness, and even after many months, she will still have days of sadness.
  • Record the date of her husband’s death, as well as other important milestones such as his birthday or their anniversary.Provide notes or cards on the anniversaries of those days. Write a simple note that says you remember him and are thinking of her.
  • Use the situation to offer a Christian witness. Let her know that you are praying for her. Share a favorite Bible passage of comfort. Knowing her spiritual background will help you customize your efforts.

QUESTION: I know CLR offers advice on many end-of-life issues. Do you have some general procedures that should be followed when making these difficult decisions?

ANSWER: Many end-of-life decisions are difficult and often very emotional. Our role at CLR is to provide appropriate applications of Biblical principles and to encourage people to use these issues to give a Christian witness.

Here are three basic questions that help guide your decision-making process:

    • 1. God alone has the right to initiate and terminate life (Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6). Man has the responsibility to preserve and protect life (Genesis 9:5-6).

Will my decision try to assume authority from God?

    • 2. As a Christian steward, I am responsible for managing my blessings appropriately (1 Peter 4:10). This includes the provision of care for human life (Luke 10:30-37).

Will my decision use my earthly blessings to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31)?

    • 3. According to God’s will all people will die. At those times, it is an act of faith to accept God’s decision and provide comfort care until the time of death (Psalm 31:15; Romans 14:8).

Does my decision demonstrate that I accept God’s will when death is imminent?

Wrestling with these questions begins the process of making God-pleasing decisions on end-of-life issues. As many have experienced, the clearest counsel from God may become hard to apply when one is faced with physical and/or emotional hardships. The above questions address the foundational elements that lead Christians to make decisions which truly place God’s will first.

Q: Is hospice good or bad? I’ve heard that it is actually a part of the euthanasia movement.

A: This topic has come up before and leads to a variety of emotions. To give a concise answer, hospice can serve a valuable role and is not necessarily connected to the euthanasia movement. There is, however, more to the issue.

Hospice care is meant to provide palliative, or comfort, care to patients who are terminally ill and expected to live less than six months. The primary intent of hospice care is to make patients comfortable by providing for their physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs. In this regard, hospice can be a wonderful option for families.

We have heard from hospice care workers who give excellent reports of appropriate care while others tell us that their facilities promote a philosophy that is more in line with right-to-die groups. Any hospice that works to intentionally take a human life by either active or passive means is in violation of God’s commands (Exodus 20:13; 1 John 3:17-18).

So, the best conclusion to make is that, although hospice care is not part of any formal euthanasia movement, a word of caution is in order before placing a loved one into a hospice program. If the hospice shares your Christian values then it can be a positive choice. If the administration does not share your Christian values regarding life, seek a different hospice option.

Question: Many recent medical discoveries lead me to wonder if they are acceptable for Christians. Where do we draw the line in use of discovered technologies to enhance human life?

Answer: Many medical discoveries are ethically acceptable, but discoveries that violate Gods authority over life and death (1 Samuel 2:6) are not acceptable. Technology is rightly used when it helps us preserve and protect human life (Genesis 9:5-6, Luke 10). Your question specifically asks about enhancing life, and that becomes a more complicated issue. Enhancements such as pain relief are a very acceptable application of technology. Other enhancements might provide a more enjoyable or productive life, but must be weighed within the overall blessings that God has provided to you. To help guide your decision, consider these questions:

  • Does this technology acknowledge Gods authority over life and death?
  • Does the use of this technology help protect or preserve human life?
  • Is this enhancement primarily meant to glorify God?
  • Do I have the earthly blessings (money, time, health, etc.) to use this technology without distracting from my first responsibilities as a Christian?

The answers to these questions should help you draw the ethical line between acceptable and unacceptable technologies.

QUESTION: My mother has multiple sclerosis and has been given only a few years to live. Our family is concerned about Mom spending the last few years of her life suffering. What can we do?

ANSWER: The fear of pain affects many decisions in life. As a loving family, you certainly want to protect your mother from pain, and there is nothing wrong with keeping a loved one comfortable. Medical science has developed and refined pain medication to the point that patients should never have to unduly suffer. If your mother’s doctors are not able to control her pain at any point in her illness, seek another doctor or a pain specialist.

Also realize there are various kinds of pain that your mother could suffer. Physical pain is an obvious concern, but you also need to be aware of spiritual and emotional pain. I encourage you to spend time with your mother on a regular basis throughout her last years. Share God’s Word with her, even if you get to the point when she can’t give a response. Pray with her, sing songs to her, and read devotions to her. Physical pain can be controlled with medication, but loved ones need to provide for her spiritual needs as well.

You are wise in considering this issue now rather than waiting until the later stages of her illness. Make a plan and share it with your mother. Talk openly about the illness, its effects, and the challenges that are going to confront all of you. Addressing the situation up-front will not be easy, but it will help prepare all of you for her last days here on earth and prepare her for her pain-free eternity in heaven.

QUESTION: What is the God-pleasing attitude I should have as I approach the final days of my life or that of a loved one?

ANSWER: You have asked the right question when you ask about attitude. Even though God reveals his will in many specific ways in his Law, he also emphasizes the attitude in the heart. Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Similarly the writer to the Hebrews told his readers, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

St. Paul reveals what the attitude will be in the heart of a Christian as he lives his life, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:32) Everything we do in life from the greatest endeavors to the smallest daily activities are to have as their purpose the glory of the God who has created and redeemed us. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (I Corinthians 19-20), St. Paul reminds his people. Christ lived, died and rose again that you might belong to him for time and eternity. Show to whom you belong by the way you live.

Does this mean that we can do anything we want to as long as we claim that we are attempting to glorify God? Certainly not! The Psalmist prays, “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. (Psalm 119:33-34) We glorify God by doing his will. The only way to know that will is to study what God has revealed to us in his Word. Our approach to Christian obedience is clear then. We seek to glorify and praise our Savior God according to the commands he has revealed in his Word.

Sometimes, however, God does not speak directly to all situations. For instance in different circumstances at the end of life he does not indicate whether we should be striving to preserve our lives or preparing for our deaths. Both are part of God’s revealed will, but a Christian is going to have to study both principles and apply them as best he can to the glory of God. No matter what specific action a Christian takes at the end of his life or the life of someone for whom he is responsible, his attitude should always be, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What are the God-given principles that should guide a Christian in end-of-life decisions?

ANSWER: Although there may be many factors involved in these complex situations, there are chiefly two principles that must always be kept in mind. They are hinted at already in the answer to Question #1.

The first principle is that human life is a sacred gift of God. Only God can create it, “he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25) He protects it, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6), and he devotes one of his commandments to that protection, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). God has redeemed all human life, “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2) All human life, no matter what its condition or situation, whether it belongs to the newly conceived fetus in its mother’s womb, or to the severely impaired (mentally or physically), or to the person nearing the end of life, is a gracious life of God. We are to preserve it and care for it as best we can. Only God can begin human life, and only he has the right to take it away as he claims in His Word, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life.” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

The second principle is that God does put his right to end life into practice. He does call his people home. Moses proclaims, “You turn men back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men.’ ” (Psalm 90:3). To fight against the time God has determined as the end of your life would be to fight against his will. Jesus warns, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

There are other principles that also come into consideration in end-of-life situations. The principle of stewardship is one example. Although we are not going to put a price on human life, saying that if it costs a certain amount to preserve it, the price is too high. But we will recognize that God has given us a certain amount of financial resources and specific responsibilities to meet with those resources. The amount of those resources will sometimes influence the end-of-life decisions we make. We must remember, however, that decisions made out of greed are not decisions that glorify God.

QUESTION: How do I know which principle applies in any given situation?

ANSWER: The Christian always has the Psalmist’s confession on his lips, “my times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) This is a statement of his acceptance of the two principles mentioned in Question #2. He then studies the situation and asks the question, “What is the Lord doing here? Is my condition or that of the person for whom I am responsible terminal, i.e. it will cause my death at some future time? If the condition is terminal, is death imminent, i.e. death with come in a short time, several days at most, no matter what treatment or care is given?” Of course, the advise of doctors and other medical personnel, pastors, family members, friends and other trusted people will be sought to help make these determinations.

Knowing that no decisions we make are ever pure, all are tainted with selfishness and ignorance, the Christian will pray with the Psalmist, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.” (Psalm 19:12,13) With such an attitude, seeking to be free of sins corrupting effects and focused on glorifying the Lord of life, the child of God may proceed with his decision-making.

We should recognize that we will not all make the same decisions in what may appear to be similar circumstances. In chapter 14 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he advised the Jews in the congregation to continue refraining from eating meat sold in the marketplaces of the heathen because they were glorifying God by not eating what had been dedicated to idols. To the Gentiles, however, he said that they could continue eating such meat as long as they did not offend their Jewish brothers because they were glorifying the only God who gave them all their food, even that from the meat shops of idol-worshipers. He summarized his teaching by saying, “He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6) To put Paul’s words into the context of our discussion we could say of the Christian who wishes to glorify God according to the principles revealed in his Word, “He who continues medical treatment does so to the Lord who has entrusted him with the sacred gift of life, and he who refuses medical treatment does so to the Lord who is calling him out of this life to himself in heaven.” Or to again turn to St. Paul’s words, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What if I make the wrong decision?

ANSWER: As you can see from the discussion above, there really is no wrong decision that a Christian can make. He can make a decision for the wrong reason, for some sinful consideration, but when he seeks to glorify God according to God’s revealed truth, no decision will be wrong.

Several points should be noted, however. A Christian should not act against his own conscience. Such an action would not glorify God because the person thinks he might be breaking God’s Law. If a person thinks that he is killing what God wants preserved, he should not refuse medical treatment. If a person thinks that he is trying to lengthen what God wants ended, he should refuse to have treatment continued. St. Paul warns, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

We also ought to look at the Psalmist’s words again, “My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) These are more than a guide to direct the Christian’s actions. They also are a confession of confidence that the Lord’s will is going to be done. God does not lose control because we make one decision or another to glorify him. We will die only when our Lord sees fit to call us home, no sooner and no later. Remember Jesus’ comforting words, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

QUESTION: Must my life be unnecessarily extended by medical treatment?

ANSWER: The answer to this question must first of all include another question, “Why are we asking this?” If by the words “unnecessarily extended” we mean fighting against the inevitable, putting off death for a few hours or days by surgery or extraordinary techniques and equipment, then the answer must be “No!” However, if by these words we are asking why we cannot hurry up the dying process when we are sure to die anyway, then the answer must be “yes” because we are not extending, but maintaining. Our treatments are not unnecessary, but modern gifts of God to continue our lives.

The prayer of every Christian, no doubt, is that when the time comes, the Lord would grant him a swift death. We all would like to die suddenly in our sleep with little pain and no lingering illness. But God has not promised this to us. He may give us a period of suffering before dying. St. Paul says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Physical suffering before death may be among these hardships.

There are several reasons why God might will such suffering. One group of reasons benefit us. Suffering produces patience, a quiet waiting on the Lord to carry out his will in his time. St. Paul didn’t pray for a life of suffering, but if it came, he rejoiced in it because he knew how he would benefit spiritually. He says, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3) Furthermore, a slow journey toward death gives us more of a chance to prepare. Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) When death comes quickly, it is not so easy to number our days and prepare for the end. Another group of reasons allows us time to be of service to our neighbor. The way we die or the way our fellow Christians care for us when we die can serve as a strong witness of our faith to those around us. Think of the Roman soldier at the foot of Jesus’ cross. When he saw Jesus die, he exclaimed, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47) The man may have come to faith as a result of what he saw. We also may have the opportunity to pray for others. Jesus was very busy and heavily burdened in the final hours of his earthly life, but he still had time to assure his disciple Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31)

Finally, if we have a time of suffering or lingering before dying, God may be giving other Christians an opportunity to perform works of faith as they care for us. Faith needs to be exercised. Love wants a chance to work. The Lord has placed a spiritual life in our hearts and he provides times for that life to go into action. St. Paul tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). Supplying our needs may be the works that God has prepared in advance for others to do.

QUESTION: Is death ever a better option for a Christian than continued living?

ANSWER: A Christian thinking of the eternal life he has in Christ might answer, “Yes.” But notice that the question does not speak of life, but death. Death is an unnatural end to life. It is present in our world because of sin. St. Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) For those people who die in their sins without faith in Christ there are only the words of Christ on Judgment Day, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). This is hardly a better option than life on earth no matter how hard it may be.

A Christian is not afraid to die because the risen Christ has conquered death. Now death is not easier to take, it is vanquished! Jesus assured his friend Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) The Christian’s death is a celebration of life. For that reason he will never hasten the end of this life to enter the next. The time for that is in the Lord’s hands.

QUESTION: What medical treatment may I in good conscience refuse?

ANSWER: We should never refuse any medical treatment for the purpose of hastening our death. The time of death is God’s to choose. Under most circumstances we should not refuse treatment for conditions easily and commonly treated like pneumonia, which if left untreated may kill us, for the purpose of hastening our death from a terminal condition like some forms of cancer. We also should not refuse food and water even when given artificially if the purpose is to hasten our death by malnutrition or dehydration so that we do not have to die naturally of some other condition over a period of months or even years.

Major surgery or other costly medical treatment of our modern age whose only purpose is to extend what God will take away very soon may in good conscience be refused. Limited resources may not make these treatments possible, and the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands does not make them necessary.

QUESTION: Are living wills of any benefit to a Christian?

ANSWER: Please understand that living wills are the creation of the American Euthanasia Society, now called the Society for the Right to Die. Their original purpose was not to give people the right to refuse treatment, a right they have always had, but to give them the right to decide to die when they saw fit, in other words, to commit suicide. These documents adopted by the legislatures of individual states focus on the right to die that may include the purposeful hastening of death by refusing even food and water. For such a purpose a Christian cannot use a living will.

Although living wills can be used by Christians to declare the limits to which medical treatment should be used in cases of imminent death, a far more useful document for confessing Christians is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – Christian Version, prepared by Christian Life Resources. Such a document weaves the Christian’s viewpoint into a document that indicates a person’s wishes at the end of his or her life that is pleasing to God. A copy of your state’s version can be downloaded from this website at no cost! Or you can place an order at the CLR Store. See the web page for current costs.

CONCLUSION: Our times are in the hands of our gracious Lord. He will care for us in every condition for our eternal good. But let the way we care for our lives and those of others be a strong witness to a world sinking into unbelief and wickedness that human life is a precious gift of God that he gives and takes. May our words and actions proclaim as patient Job once did, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

QUESTION: What is the God-pleasing attitude I should have as I approach the final days of my life or that of a loved one?

ANSWER: You have asked the right question when you ask about attitude. Even though God reveals his will in many specific ways in his Law, he also emphasizes the attitude in the heart. Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15) Similarly the writer to the Hebrews told his readers, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)

St. Paul reveals what the attitude will be in the heart of a Christian as he lives his life, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:32) Everything we do in life from the greatest endeavors to the smallest daily activities are to have as their purpose the glory of the God who has created and redeemed us. “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body,” (1 Corinthians 19-20) St. Paul reminds his people. Christ lived, died and rose again that you might belong to him for time and eternity. Show to whom you belong by the way you live.

Does this mean that we can do anything we want to as long as we claim that we are attempting to glorify God? Certainly not! The Psalmist prays, “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. (Psalm 119:33-34) We glorify God by doing his will. The only way to know that will is to study what God has revealed to us in his Word. Our approach to Christian obedience is clear then. We seek to glorify and praise our Savior God according to the commands he has revealed in his Word.

Sometimes, however, God does not speak directly to all situations. For instance in different circumstances at the end of life he does not indicate whether we should be striving to preserve our lives or preparing for our deaths. Both are part of God’s revealed will, but a Christian is going to have to study both principles and apply them as best he can to the glory of God. No matter what specific action a Christian takes at the end of his life or the life of someone for whom he is responsible, his attitude should always be, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What are the God-given principles that should guide a Christian in end-of-life decisions?

ANSWER: Although there may be many factors involved in these complex situations, there are chiefly two principles that must always be kept in mind. They are hinted at already in the answer to Question #1.

The first principle is that human life is a sacred gift of God. Only God can create it, “he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:25) He protects it, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.” (Genesis 9:6), and he devotes one of his commandments to that protection, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) God has redeemed all human life, “[Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) All human life, no matter what its condition or situation, whether it belongs to the newly conceived fetus in its mother’s womb, or to the severely impaired (mentally or physically), or to the person nearing the end of life, is a gracious life of God. We are to preserve it and care for it as best we can. Only God can begin human life, and only he has the right to take it away as he claims in His Word, “See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

The second principle is that God does put his right to end life into practice. He does call his people home. Moses proclaims, “You turn men back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men.'” (Psalm 90:3) To fight against the time God has determined as the end of your life would be to fight against his will. Jesus warns, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27)

There are other principles that also come into consideration in end-of-life situations. The principle of stewardship is one example. Although we are not going to put a price on human life, saying that if it costs a certain amount to preserve it, the price is too high. But we will recognize that God has given us a certain amount of financial resources and specific responsibilities to meet with those resources. The amount of those resources will sometimes influence the end-of-life decisions we make. We must remember, however, that decisions made out of greed are not decisions that glorify God.

QUESTION: How do I know which principle applies in any given situation?

ANSWER: The Christian always has the Psalmist’s confession on his lips, “my times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) This is a statement of his acceptance of the two principles mentioned in Question #2. He then studies the situation and asks the question, “What is the Lord doing here? Is my condition or that of the person for whom I am responsible terminal, i.e. it will cause my death at some future time? If the condition is terminal, is death imminent, i.e. death with come in a short time, several days at most, no matter what treatment or care is given?” Of course, the advise of doctors and other medical personnel, pastors, family members, friends and other trusted people will be sought to help make these determinations.

Knowing that no decisions we make are ever pure, all are tainted with selfishness and ignorance, the Christian will pray with the Psalmist, “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.” (Psalm 19:12-13) With such an attitude, seeking to be free of sins corrupting effects and focused on glorifying the Lord of life, the child of God may proceed with his decision-making.

We should recognize that we will not all make the same decisions in what may appear to be similar circumstances. In chapter 14 of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans he advised the Jews in the congregation to continue refraining from eating meat sold in the marketplaces of the heathen because they were glorifying God by not eating what had been dedicated to idols. To the Gentiles, however, he said that they could continue eating such meat as long as they did not offend their Jewish brothers because they were glorifying the only God who gave them all their food, even that from the meat shops of idol-worshipers. He summarized his teaching by saying, “He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” (Romans 14:6) To put Paul’s words into the context of our discussion we could say of the Christian who wishes to glorify God according to the principles revealed in his Word, “He who continues medical treatment does so to the Lord who has entrusted him with the sacred gift of life, and he who refuses medical treatment does so to the Lord who is calling him out of this life to himself in heaven.” Or to again turn to St. Paul’s words, “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. (Romans 14:8)

QUESTION: What if I make the wrong decision?

ANSWER: As you can see from the discussion above, there really is no wrong decision that a Christian can make. He can make a decision for the wrong reason, for some sinful consideration, but when he seeks to glorify God according to God’s revealed truth, no decision will be wrong.

Several points should be noted, however. A Christian should not act against his own conscience. Such an action would not glorify God because the person thinks he might be breaking God’s Law. If a person thinks that he is killing what God wants preserved, he should not refuse medical treatment. If a person thinks that he is trying to lengthen what God wants ended, he should refuse to have treatment continued. St. Paul warns, “Everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14:23)

We also ought to look at the Psalmist’s words again, “My times are in your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) These are more than a guide to direct the Christian’s actions. They also are a confession of confidence that the Lord’s will is going to be done. God does not lose control because we make one decision or another to glorify him. We will die only when our Lord sees fit to call us home, no sooner and no later. Remember Jesus’ comforting words, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)

QUESTION: Must my life be unnecessarily extended by medical treatment?

ANSWER: The answer to this question must first of all include another question, “Why are we asking this?” If by the words “unnecessarily extended” we mean fighting against the inevitable, putting off death for a few hours or days by surgery or extraordinary techniques and equipment, then the answer must be “No!” However, if by these words we are asking why we cannot hurry up the dying process when we are sure to die anyway, then the answer must be “yes” because we are not extending, but maintaining. Our treatments are not unnecessary, but modern gifts of God to continue our lives.

The prayer of every Christian, no doubt, is that when the time comes, the Lord would grant him a swift death. We all would like to die suddenly in our sleep with little pain and no lingering illness. But God has not promised this to us. He may give us a period of suffering before dying. St. Paul says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) Physical suffering before death may be among these hardships.

There are several reasons why God might will such suffering. One group of reasons benefit us. Suffering produces patience, a quiet waiting on the Lord to carry out his will in his time. St. Paul didn’t pray for a life of suffering, but if it came, he rejoiced in it because he knew how he would benefit spiritually. He says, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.” (Romans 5:3) Furthermore, a slow journey toward death gives us more of a chance to prepare. Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) When death comes quickly, it is not so easy to number our days and prepare for the end. Another group of reasons allows us time to be of service to our neighbor. The way we die or the way our fellow Christians care for us when we die can serve as a strong witness of our faith to those around us. Think of the Roman soldier at the foot of Jesus’ cross. When he saw Jesus die, he exclaimed, “Surely this was a righteous man.” (Luke 23:47) The man may have come to faith as a result of what he saw. We also may have the opportunity to pray for others. Jesus was very busy and heavily burdened in the final hours of his earthly life, but he still had time to assure his disciple Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31)

Finally, if we have a time of suffering or lingering before dying, God may be giving other Christians an opportunity to perform works of faith as they care for us. Faith needs to be exercised. Love wants a chance to work. The Lord has placed a spiritual life in our hearts and he provides times for that life to go into action. St. Paul tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) Supplying our needs may be the works that God has prepared in advance for others to do.

QUESTION: Is death ever a better option for a Christian than continued living?

ANSWER: A Christian thinking of the eternal life he has in Christ might answer, “Yes.” But notice that the question does not speak of life, but death. Death is an unnatural end to life. It is present in our world because of sin. St. Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) For those people who die in their sins without faith in Christ there are only the words of Christ on Judgment Day, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into to eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41) This is hardly a better option than life on earth no matter how hard it may be.

A Christian is not afraid to die because the risen Christ has conquered death. Now death is not easier to take, it is vanquished! Jesus assured his friend Martha at the death of her brother Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26) The Christian’s death is a celebration of life. For that reason he will never hasten the end of this life to enter the next. The time for that is in the Lord’s hands.

QUESTION: What medical treatment may I in good conscience refuse?

ANSWER: We should never refuse any medical treatment for the purpose of hastening our death. The time of death is God’s to choose. Under most circumstances we should not refuse treatment for conditions easily and commonly treated like pneumonia, which if left untreated may kill us, for the purpose of hastening our death from a terminal condition like some forms of cancer. We also should not refuse food and water even when given artificially if the purpose is to hasten our death by malnutrition or dehydration so that we do not have to die naturally of some other condition over a period of months or even years.

Major surgery or other costly medical treatment of our modern age whose only purpose is to extend what God will take away very soon may in good conscience be refused. Limited resources may not make these treatments possible, and the knowledge that our times are in God’s hands does not make them necessary.

QUESTION: Are living wills of any benefit to a Christian?

ANSWER: Please understand that living wills are the creation of the American Euthanasia Society, now called the Society for the Right to Die. Their original purpose was not to give people the right to refuse treatment, a right they have always had, but to give them the right to decide to die when they saw fit, in other words, to commit suicide. These documents adopted by the legislatures of individual states focus on the right to die that may include the purposeful hastening of death by refusing even food and water. For such a purpose a Christian cannot use a living will.

Although living wills can be used by Christians to declare the limits to which medical treatment should be used in cases of imminent death, a far more useful document for confessing Christians is a Durable Power of Attorney for HealthCare – Christian Version, which is available from Christian Life Resources’ website (www.christianliferesources.com). Such a document gives a Christian the chance to declare in writing what God’s Word has taught him about his life and its care even in the face of death. It also serves as a good tool to use in making his beliefs known to his family, friends, pastor and doctor long before the need arrives to use it.

CONCLUSION: Our times are in the hands of our gracious Lord. He will care for us in every condition for our eternal good. But let the way we care for our lives and those of others be a strong witness to a world sinking into unbelief and wickedness that human life is a precious gift of God that he gives and takes. May our words and actions proclaim as patient Job once did, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

QUESTION: My two children are approaching their teen years. I want to talk with them about chastity, but I made some mistakes when I was their age. Am I being hypocritical if I tell them to wait until marriage to enjoy sexual intimacy?

ANSWER: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and some of those sins have violated God’s design for sexual purity. Those previous acts should not deter you from talking to your children about this important subject – but serve, instead, as an encouragement. Since you know the difficulty of living a chaste lifestyle, you also realize the importance of giving your children strong support. So, the simple answer is, “Yes, talk to your children without fear of being hypocritical.”

The more difficult question to ask is, “How much of my past do I share with my children?” That varies from one family to another and is based on the particular need and comfort level that you have with your pre-teens. In general, use the wisdom you gained from your past to help formulate your approach in communicating with your children. Share any experiences that truly benefit your teenagers, but don’t think that you need to provide full disclosure about every mistake you made. Remember that the first guideline for sanctified living is provided in God’s Word, so teach those truths with full confidence.

Here are a few points that should make these discussions more comfortable and effective:

  • Don’t feel you need to tell them everything in one setting. Discuss these issues over time and in many settings.
  • Share God’s Word, but don’t be preachy.
  • Base the level of your discussion on your child’s questions. The questions can reveal a lot about your child’s thoughts.
  • Rather than fear these discussions, use the opportunities to open the lines of communication.
  • Reassure your teens that these feelings are natural, but they must also be controlled.

QUESTION: I’ve heard that teen pregnancy rates have increased. Is it time to teach our kids about birth control?

ANSWER: Teaching about birth control is not the solution. Abstinence is still the only sure way to avoid pregnancy, STDs, and the emotional pain of pre-marital intimacy. Even more importantly, abstinence education is consistent with clear Biblical principles.

Christian parents should not teach or promote “safe sinning” among our youth, even if worldly philosophies  claim it is the prudent option. Rather, we need to convey a clear message that is consistent with God’s Word and continually encourage our youth to pursue God-pleasing relationships in their dating years.

QUESTION: What is God’s view of homosexuality? Hasn’t research shown that homosexuality is a genetic predisposition and that as people cannot choose to be a certain race or gender, so also they cannot choose their sexual predisposition?

ANSWER: God’s view on all things can only be derived from His Word. There are no new revelations or inspired prophets of our time to alter what His Word has revealed – even when it is not very politically correct or culturally popular.

God’s view is that the practice of homosexuality is sinful and contrary to His will. God’s Word speaks both directly to it and also by inference. Review of the following passages collectively (not in any particular order) demonstrates that point:

  • Genesis 19:4-8
  • Exodus 20:14
  • Leviticus 18:22; 20:13
  • Deuteronomy 23:17
  • Matthew 5:28
  • 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:9-18
  • Ephesians 5:3

It appears, however, you believe that because of a genetic predisposition there is no culpability for homosexuality. As a point of accuracy, it remains an unproven theory that there is a genetic link for homosexuality. For this discussion, the nature of homosexuality – whether it is a choice or it is a predisposition – is irrelevant. It is the act, not the orientation, that is sinful. In fact, there are a number of theories that other sins may be genetically linked (i.e., alcoholism, kleptomania, perversion, etc.).

Scripture does not deal with the biology of presumed genetic links. What Scripture does say, however, is that our nature is sinful. In a sense, one could argue that all of sin is genetically predisposed. Since Adam and Eve’s fall into sin every person’s mind is hostile to God (Genesis 6:5; Romans 3:10; 8:7). From God’s perspective it is a non-issue whether or not sins are genetically predisposed. Sins are sin, and even one of them can endanger the soul forever (James 2:10)!

Sins of homosexuality do not become “acceptable sins,” even if they are rooted in a genetic predisposition. Sins of homosexuality are also no worse sins than any of the other sins all of us commit. All sins are a violation of God’s Word. A willful practice of any sinning, absent of genuine remorse and repentance, endangers the soul eternally.

Because all sin endangers the soul eternally, our primary concern for those wrestling with any sin, including the sin of homosexuality, is for the soul. We would condemn acts of harshness and bullying against those wrestling with the sin of homosexuality or any sin. Rather, out of concern for the soul and love for the sinner, we seek to correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2). It was also for the sin of homosexuality that Christ died. Our actions in this matter should always reflect His love with a commitment to speak the truth clearly and handle the soul carefully.

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