Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Lord is gracious and compassionate . . .

. . . so he kills babies? Apparently this is the line of thinking from some frontrunners within the (Episcopal) Church of England who believe that it is ethically permissible to allow severely ill or disabled newborns to die, as you can read here. (Also argued for is the consideration of financial cost of preserving the lives of desperately ill babies.)

Part of the statement by Bishop Tom Butler of Southwark includes "long premature" newborn babies. Guess what, Bishop: I was one such child. When my mother was pregnant with me in 1981, I had to be delivered by c-section eight weeks early due to Toxemia complications. As a result, I was only 2 pounds, 7 ounces and 15 inches at birth. Far from ideally healthy and at a time when few premature infants survived, I had to spend two months in an incubator. My skin was nearly translucent, and my heart even stopped beating once. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for choosing to trust "the Father of all compassion" (2 Cor. 1:3) to restore me to health and to provide the money needed to keep me in an incubator for two months. Thank you, caring Governor and Preserver, for miraculously keeping me alive and for providing the skilled doctors and nurses in the neonatal unit at the University of Michigan Women's Hospital.

Butler is quoted as saying, "There may be occasions where, for a Christian, compassion will override the 'rule' that life should be preserved." Who are we to say what "compassion" is? Are we to assume that the Church can import its own a priori definitions of love and compassion rather than seeking what God himself defines and commands in regard to them in his Word? I think of the blind man in John 9 whose life was not a biological mistake. Jesus insisted that his blindness happened "so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (v. 3).

Bishop Butler's submission also says that "The principle of humility asks that members of the medical profession restrain themselves from claiming greater powers to heal than they can deliver. It [also] asks that parents restrain themselves from demanding the impossible." While it's true that none of us inherently have a right to demand medical cures--all fruits of modern medicine and acts of healing are purely gracious gifts of God's kingdom breaking in upon an otherwise decayed and ill world--true humility does not give up hope. The humility of which Butler speaks is one that is full of pride, considering only man's desires for convenience and money and "compassion." It's a humility that trusts only in one's own less-than-guaranteed medical prowess. But true humility acknowledges our lack of control and power and instead turns us in faith to seek the merciful intervention of God Almighty, believing that he can indeed do the impossible (Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37).

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