Social Problems--Part D

Russell Maatman (
Thu, 12 Feb 1998 20:15:28 -0600

Here's the fourth part of my five-part series.

Social Problems and God's Plan of Redemption

CAPS show the context of each part.

(A) Introduction
(B) Marriage
(C) Racism
(E) The Beginning of the Human Race

D. The Right to Life

The "right to life" is the subject of intense modern debate. Does the
unborn child have an inherent right to be born? Does a deformed person have
a right to live? Do elderly persons who are very weak have a right to live?
Many people, including Christians, defend these rights. Their goals are
laudable. But often insufficient reasons are used in defense of these

1. Experience teaches us that we should defend these rights. Thus,
occasionally a child born several months early lives outside the womb.
Sometimes an adult either very feeble or in a coma and therefore thought to
be near death survives. Often persons severely deformed make positive
contributions to society.

2. Certain modern scientific tools show that the unborn child is a person.
For example, we now know that the parts of the human body are present very
early. We can now observe an unborn child move and exhibit emotion.

3. When we end a human life arbitrarily, we are on a slippery slope. Ending
the life of an unborn child leads to infanticide; denying feeble persons
medical services leads to euthanasia.

All these claims are legitimate. But they do not get at the heart of the
matter. Neither a person's potential nor the state of modern science ought
to be the determining factor in deciding on the right to life. The problem
here is the same as the problem with racism: it is wrong to apply tests
devised by human beings to prove in one case, that one race is "equal" to
another, and in the other case, to prove that one being--a pre-born child
or a very feeble person--is "equal" to a human being. The slippery slope
argument is different. Infanticide and euthanasia are already the results
of an incorrect attitude on the right to life, and so this argument is now
valid. But the argument could not always be shown to be valid; therefore,
its "validity" is time-dependent and cannot qualify as the fundamental
reason for holding to the right to life.

The fundamental reason for holding to the right to life is derived from the
biblical teaching on God's redemption of his image. All human beings are
the descendants of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:20), who first bore God's image.
Adam and Eve sinned, breaking this image. In God's work of redemption, he
restores this image in his people. God does sometimes instruct his people
to end certain human lives. But beyond that, we may not arbitrarily destroy
a person, who, after all, bears the broken image of God that God can
restore. Nor may we decide on grounds outside the Bible which beings are
persons. After all, God reminds us that his redeemable image is found in
unexpected places--in all nations or states of life (Col. 3:10-11) and in
the womb (Luke 1:44 and Rom. 9:10-13). God can restore his image in very
old persons, for example, those who can testify of his love (Luke 2:36-38).

The biblical argument is not sufficient for non-Christians. Yet it is
important for Christians to stand on firm ground, to base their belief in
the right to life for biblical reasons, not for weak or insufficient
reasons. A person who uses these weak reasons avoids linking God's plan of
redemption to the right to life. Several problems arise when weak reasons
are used to defend life.

Consider the consequences of pointing to viability outside the womb long
before full term or the observation that the pre-born child seems to be
"alive." Do we mean to imply that if there were no viability outside the
womb before full term that the pre-born child is not alive? Do we mean that
if we could not observe in the unborn child motion, emotion, and so forth,
then life does not exist before birth? Consider also the slippery slope
argument. Do we mean that if we could not call attention to the danger of a
slippery slope, it would be permissible to kill before birth or in feeble
old age?

Wise Christians will always have these problems in mind when they witness
to God's plan of redemption in their defense of life. Here, as elsewhere,
strategizing is necessary. But Christians ought not to lose sight of the
larger picture, that is, the relation of God's plan of redemption to all of

The fundamentally incorrect idea about abortion and disdain for all manner
of feeble persons is that any kind of carelessness concerning human life
rests on the assumption that the image of God is not present and that the
church waiting for its bridegroom has nothing to do with the womb or the
home for the very old and feeble. In other words, God's plan of redemption
is ignored.

Russell Maatman
Home: 401 5th Avenue
Sioux Center, IA 51250