At the End of Life
A doctor in Southampton hopes to undertake a large-scale trial to investigate what happens when patients have a “near-death experience”. A pilot project at the city’s general hospital has suggested that some kind of unusual experience occurs in a small proportion of patients who have survived a cardiac arrest. Clinically, they were brain dead – they weren’t breathing, they had no heartbeat and there appeared to be no brain activity. The experiences which have been reported ranged from walking down a tunnel towards a bright light to seeing spinning gargoyles. Indeed an opinion poll in which 1000 people were interviewed has found that one in ten claimed to have had an “out-of-body experience”.
None of those involved in the Southampton survey was particularly religious or had a history of psychiatric problems. And there appeared to be no likelihood that the drugs administered during resuscitation could have caused the unusual events. Dr Sam Parnia, who conducted the survey, concludes, “This may therefore imply that the mind is a separate entity to the brain”. This statement is a welcome contradiction of the crass materialism of many scientists who will not allow that human beings are anything more than the sum total of all the atoms of which their bodies are composed. Of course, in the light of Scripture, we must say not only that man has a mind, but that man has a soul. It is highly questionable, however, if we should take seriously the more general claims of “out-of-body experiences”; the human imagination has great power, especially if the person involved is under the influence of a drug.
The BBC website quoted a man described as a confirmed atheist: “I don’t think this research is going to be any proof of life after death”. No doubt he is right but, in rejecting the Scriptures, he is rejecting – at his peril – the only source of knowledge about life after death. It seems safe to say that when these “near-death experiences” take place, the soul is still in the body, however close actual death may be. Once the tie between body and soul has been broken, there is no possibility of a successful resuscitation. Some have relied on such “near-death experiences” or “out-of-body experiences” as providing information about life after death. This is not the case, any more than a nightmare can be relied on to provide reliable information about anything. Let us go to the Bible to learn what God would have us know about eternity. It is sad that so many people today are more likely to be influenced by the uncontrolled wanderings of the mind of someone who is very seriously ill than by the sober teachings of the Word of God.
Dr Parnia added, “We know very little about the dying process scientifically and, therefore, how can we make decisions about euthanasia scientifically when we don’t know about the science behind it?” A valid point. But more fundamental objections to euthanasia rest on the fact that it is contrary to God’s Word, contrary in particular to the Sixth Commandment. No human being has the right to take away the life of another (war and capital punishment being exceptions).
In this connection it was encouraging that five Law Lords unanimously dismissed an appeal by Diane Pretty against a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions. He had refused to give an undertaking not to prosecute Mrs Pretty’s husband if he helped to put an end to her life. She is very seriously disabled through motor neurone disease and one feels deeply sorry for all who are in such a condition. But, however sympathetic one might feel, it cannot be right that anyone should have the authority to bring the life of another to an end, even with the person’s consent. Apart from anything else, the Lord, who has directed us in the matter, knows how liable to abuse such authority would be.
Much has been said by advocates of euthanasia of the right to die with dignity. But death is the result of sin and it is very questionable if any death can be described as dignified. However, we are assured that “blessed are the dead which die in the Lord”. And believers can safely commit the time and circumstances of their departure into the hand of One whom they know is a good God. Let all others heed the call: “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon”.
A Blasphemous Play
When the city fathers chose Glasgow’s original motto: “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of His Word and the praising of His name”, their desire must surely have been that God would be honoured within the bounds of their city and that the gospel would have free course and be glorified among them. “How is the gold become dim!” Now, presumably with the knowledge and full approval of the civic body responsible for licensing the premises, the Theatre Royal is staging a play which is blasphemous in the extreme. Its very title, Messiah: Scenes from a Crucifixion, indicates the nature of its contents and, from Press reports, the manner in which the Lord Jesus Christ is caricatured seems to set a new standard in sacrilegious profanity.
If the false prophet Mahomet was being portrayed in a similar manner, we are sure that the “powers that be” would promptly intervene and stop the production even before it would reach the stage. They would know full well that the Moslem community would raise an outcry against it and be prepared to take direct action against those who would take upon themselves to speak evil of their “prophet” or ridicule the Koran. But in this Glasgow theatre this production is condoned by those in authority and there does not seem to be a whimper of protest on the part of what is nominally a Christian community when the character and finished work of the blessed Saviour are traduced. How patently Satanic this latest attack is, and what a burden of guilt lies on the actors and producers responsible!
What can we expect when one of the leading members of the theatrical fraternity, Sir Ian McKellen, was recently reported as again confessing that he was guilty of what he called an “anti-social habit”, by which was meant that his regular practice was to vandalise copies of the Gideon Bible in hotel rooms? “So what I do,” he boasted, “when I come to a hotel – and I shall do it this evening when I go back – is to open up the Gideon Bible, turn to Leviticus 18:22 and remove it.” The rest of the quotation from this man, who declares his sin as Sodom, is so profane that we refrain from finishing it here. All who dishonour Christ, and continue to do so, will at last discover that it is to Him that vengeance and recompense belong and that “their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste”.
Legislation on Incitement to Religious Hatred
At the time of writing, the Anti-Terrorism Bill is being debated in the House of Lords. Some of its sections have been rejected by the Lords but not, so far, the section which makes it an offence to incite to religious hatred. Let us hope and pray that it too will be rejected.
It is wrong to hate people because of their religion, however much we may disagree with them. Believers are directed to increase and abound in love toward all men, as well as toward one another (1 Thess 3:12). This involves showing those following other religions that they have a false faith, and seeking to bring them to know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent”.
But this is the kind of thing which, we fear, may yet fall foul of the provisions of the Bill. If it is implemented, it may, despite assertions to the contrary by government ministers, be used to prohibit debate in public on religious matters, and criminalise what has always been legitimate in our democratic society – the right to argue publicly, honestly and courteously, against religious views which are contrary to our own.
The Christian Church is obliged, on the one hand, to witness to its faith and, on the other, to contend for it. It must therefore not only promulgate the uniqueness of Christianity but also expose and oppose what is contrary to it, and that includes various teachings of Romanism, Islam, and other false religions. This measure has the potential to criminalise Christians for doing what they are obliged to do and to restrict our religious freedom. May God, who rules over all, prevent it becoming law.
Marriage rejected by half the population
The recently-published National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles confirms what, alas, is increasingly obvious – that infidelity is rife in the UK. It shows also that certain sexually transmitted diseases have doubled since 1995, and that a record number of new HIV cases (3616) were diagnosed last year. The most serious finding is that half the population no longer believes that people should get married before having children. Four out of ten babies, we are told, are now born out of wedlock and, if present trends continue, by 2021 a third of all couples living together will be unmarried.
Who can estimate the misery in society which will result from such sinful conduct? As one press article says: “People who cohabit behave very differently from people who marry. They are more violent, more unfaithful, less happy. . . . Marriage provides a far more stable environment for children. Since the job of the state is to minimise social harm, it makes sense to offer people incentives to make it up the aisle, however unfashionable that may be.”
The National Survey underlines the deplorable fact that this is a wicked and adulterous generation. The Government is under an urgent obligation to do much more to preserve and promote traditional marriage, but the nation also is under an urgent obligation to take heed to the Scripture teaching that marriage is the life-long voluntary union of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others. We have great reason to cry to God that, in mercy, He would not deal with us according to our sins but bring us back in repentance to Himself – and other nations also.