Edge Cases

One of the things I dislike most about the current abortion debate is the way it pushes people into “us and them” camps.  It’s as if there was no one in the middle contemplating the very real difficulties that any law based argument brings up.  Since I have taken a very “pro-life” stance on this question I seem to be on the receiving end of only one side of the argument.  It comes as a relief to hear the other side sometimes.

I have taken a firm stance on this issue because we are talking about changing a very significant aspect of our constitution: the spelled-out right to life of an unborn child.  Anything that I am about to say does not change my position on this: I believe that the best thing to do is to keep the 8th Amendment in the constitution for the many reasons I have articulated in other posts on this issue.

However laws cannot legislate for all aspects of life and, on their own, are a very poor basis for conducting civil society, even if, for no other reason than they are just writings and open to interpretation.

The bible has this to say about the letter of the law: “It kills” (2 Cor. 3:6).  There has to be a spirit behind the law, a spirit that informs how people interpret the law.  If there is no spirit there is no life in the law.

The way this works itself out in most civil society is in the people who interpret the law, i.e. the judges and the legal profession mainly but also anyone who has to work with the laws such as doctors and others in the medical profession.  As a Christian I could wish that the Holy Spirit informed more of the decisions of these people.

However, I am not a doctor nor do I work in the medical profession.  I have been in court many times as part of my expert witness work so I am more familiar with the workings of the legal profession.  But I am not a lawyer nor a legal judge.

I have noticed that my doctor friends have by and large stayed quiet on this issue.  They have had to face the reality of the circumstances of unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, the real flesh and blood behind the situations women find themselves in.  I think they are less inclined to be black and white about the issues as a result.

And there are some very difficult edge cases that black and white letter of the law approaches cannot legislate for.  For instance, if we say that life begins as soon as life is conceived then even the morning after pill should be banned.  What about IVF?  There are often several fertilised eggs which are not implanted in the womb.  They all have the potential for life.  Should we make every effort to ensure they are all brought to full term?

Then there are the difficult cases where the mother’s life isn’t necessarily in danger but her ongoing health is.

Finally, there is the fact that abortions are going to happen whether we legislate against them or not.  By making abortion illegal under many circumstances we increase the risk to those women who do decide to go ahead and have an abortion anyway.

In a way, saying we have clear answers to all these questions is also playing God.  You are welcome to your opinion, as am I, but in the end we had better be prepared to put our actions where are words are for those who face realities we may never have to.  It is easy for me to talk, I don’t have to judge in an “X” case or counsel a woman who may be seriously injured as a result of carrying a child full term.

God bless those working in the medical and legal professions.  May we have more of you who are led by the Holy Spirit.

But I’m still going to vote to keep the 8th Amendment.  For what it is worth, on balance, I think you should too.

Biblical Creativity Day 4: Sun, Moon and Stars

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,

It is the glory of kings to find it out.

Proverbs 25:2.

14 Then God said, “Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let them be signs to mark the seasons, days, and years. 15 Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth.” And that is what happened. 16 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

19 And evening passed and morning came, marking the fourth day.

Genesis 1:14-19

Of all the things mankind has done over the last few decades, the joy of finding out new things through space exploration and technology is, for me, something that gives us all a glimpse of the glory of God shining through the darkness of man’s moral decisions.

Since time immemorial the human race has stared at the stars looking for signs. One of the things the bible says about the Sun, Moon and stars that were created on the 4th day is that they would be used as signs.  We use them to determine years, months and days and set our clocks by them.

However when it comes to being signs in a broader sense there are two theories that I particularly like.

The first of these is more speculative and less verifiable than the second.  However I think it has enough support to justify a closer look by those who might be interested.  There are at least two books written by two different authors within a year of each other back in 1892/93 which go into the details.  The idea is that before Moses wrote the first five books of the bible, God had written the gospel in the stars and explained it to Adam who then passed it on to his descendants.

The first of these books is called: THE GOSPEL IN THE STARS by JOSEPH. A. SEISS (1892).  I haven’t read this one but I like the way it starts out.  The second book is called: The Witness of the Stars by E. W. Bullinger 1893 which I have read and found really interesting.  More recent commentators urge caution when following this line of reasoning.

The second, more easily verifiable, sign is the Bethlehem Star.  Click on the link and enjoy the science.  The reason it is easy to verify these days is because the stars and planets have always followed predictable paths through the sky.  This means you can use a computer program to predict where the stars were on any particular night any time in the past.  So when someone says that the Bethlehem Star was actually the placement of two planets (Venus and Jupiter) so close to each other in the sky that they looked like one star then you can get some off the shelf astronomy software and see for yourself.

Another fact about the stars that I really like is the deep space photos that the Hubble telescope took.  The Hubble telescope is the most powerful telescope we have ever placed in space where it can see far more than we can here below the earth’s atmosphere.  Astronomers controlling the telescope pointed it at an “empty” piece of the sky and left the shutter open.  What they saw is an astonishing amount of galaxies.  To say they weren’t expecting that is an understatement.

Like most things they have found out about space, there are usually more questions than answers opened up by discoveries like this.  For instance there is no sign of a “big bang” here.

Biblical Creativity: Light and Life

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1).

John the beloved disciple or follower of Jesus was a poet.  He inter-weaved the creation account throughout the opening verses of his gospel speaking of the two main principles of creation: Light & Life.  He wrote:

“In Him was life and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4,5).

According to John’s gospel, Jesus is for (or pro) life in the most fundamental way possible.  Like a pregnant woman He has life within Him.  Again, according to John, that life is intimately connected with light or understanding.  The life of Jesus gives understanding.

A few chapters later in the same gospel, Jesus ties together spiritual birth with physical life.  He says it is not enough just to be born as a human: “You must be born from above.”

The fundamental problems with our society stem from a lack of spiritual life.  The fact that so many otherwise seemingly sane people want to deny the rights of physical life to the most vulnerable members of our society can only be explained by this.  There is a darkness that comes over people’s minds when they refuse the light of Jesus’s words.

In Ireland many people have reacted vehemently against the hypocrisy of a religion which, on the one hand, promotes a pro-life campaign and, on the other, denies rights to women and covers up the abuse of children.  As a Christian with no denominational adherence I can fully understand that position.

However should we use that as a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Being for (or pro) life is a more fundamental issue than any religion.  It is tied in with the very nature of God Himself.