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Is Suicide Ever Right?

17 Jun

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” The suicide recently, of a friend has spurred the revisiting of an older post. On the heels of California becoming the fifth state to legalize a “right to die” for patients, the events of this trying week beg the question: Is suicide ever the right thing to do?
Before I move into a bit of conversation, I would like us to make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, spouses, families, and friends. We must state our love in words and in actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point. The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddled with chemical imbalances, at times. We are frail and all of us one breath from the end of life here on earth. We also live in a world that would swallow us up, as a vortex vanquishes its volume. The pressures are great on us all.
For me, there is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted by internal and external forces to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose, and that is our fault as Americans. There is also no mistaking the fact that there are other factors that can cause people to “feel” hopeless, and convince themselves there is only one way to deal with this hopelessness. These feelings are real. These feelings are heightened beyond reality, sometimes. They are feelings, nonetheless. I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into depression and destructive thoughts.
With that last query in mind, I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause irrational thoughts and bizarre behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or PTSDs–and even child sexual abuse. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously by loved ones and friends. A person living with “harmed and fractured insides” sometimes believes that such harm is a norm and that what we would call “additional harm” may be viewed as that person’s “additional norm.” When this happens, something is wrong inside the person. Add to this some form of chemical or substance abuse, and the brain is all cross-circuited, and emotions are imbalanced. The brain both affects and is affected by biology and chemistry. Emotions and the brain are inseparable, especially so for girls and women.
As a Christian man, I can assure you that praying for people is the right thing to do. Miracles do occur. I have seen some. But God gives us common sense also, and sometimes prayer has to be coupled with professional assistance and treatment. Asking a person to simply pray their way out of depression, or for healing from a fractured youth is one thing. Walking through these issues has to be accomplished by the person first admitting there is a problem. This is where there is often a hang up.
As quickly as we go to the doctor for a physical disease, the same should be done for something problematic emotionally and mentally. However, getting the right help with the right worldview is critical. I am no physician, and certainly I am not a psychotherapist. But I am a man of common sense and signs of trouble are perceptible if we take the time to see them and act accordingly. They are easily missed, and even more easily dismissed–until it is too late. Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for additional conversational purposes.
First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such? Love to know your thoughts.
Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is certain death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide? Can it ever be heroic for a person to take his or her own life, albeit for a higher cause–even if it means pain in the present? I have heard people say, “They would be better off without me, in the long run.” Some people actually think they are choosing a higher path, in their own minds. That is the issue. They see this negative as a positive. In a disabled mental or emotional state, one’s mind can confuse purposeful actions.
Therefore, third, is it possible for a person to be in such a confused state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? The converse of this is whether suicide is a cheap and selfish way out of problems a person sees not end to, and it is ultimately purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic. I have always said, if those who kill themselves by their own choice, could float above the room in which their family and friends gather, and see the devastation and grief their actions leave behind in the people they claim to love, they might very well wish to un-choose their actions. Yes, this is only speculation. But, we struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction.
If we trace the family history, sometimes is seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. But this is not always the case for the first person in the family to carry out the act. But now there is a precedent and a bridge crossed for others to more easily justify the action for themselves. I have heard people say, “I have suicidal thoughts because my mom and grandfather committed suicide.”
Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on. I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might can fit as factors. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not. We must understand that death is not a part of life, like a nap from which we awaken later. Death is the cessation of physical life. Taking one’s life with the hope that there is an eternal life, lessens the value of this temple we are given–the very house of the Holy Spirit and new creations, at that! This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I have my beliefs and these are strong beliefs–but I simply do not know. This is where my faith comes in.
I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and the eternal state of created souls. Certainly we cannot practice anything we want at any time, and think our lives are in line with the Almighty. What is more, we cannot expect those in their right minds, who rake their lives, to be accountable. Inasmuch as a small child’s brain is not fully developed to be accountable for his or her actions, I also believe there are probably some adults whose brains, hearts, and minds are so injured that they are not accountable for their actions, either. My only dilemma is whether or not all suicides fit this accountability factor. Again, that’s up to the Almighty.
In summation, here are six questions to consider:
(1) How is killing another the same, or different from killing self? Is killing still killing?
(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?
(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot repent and ask for forgiveness, after the fact?
(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?
(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?
(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or does not keep one from heaven?
Thanks for reading and thanks, in advance, for your comments. Please keep them respectful.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

24 Mar


With each new historical account that is published about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the result is yet another attempt at discrediting history.  In a sense, every skeptical generation’s “fresh look” at these events this may suffice as unintended evidence of historical reliability and documentation accuracy throughout the years.  It is either reliability or, as skeptics maintain, the grandest collusion and hoax ever perpetuated upon mankind.  However, what are the chances of such collusion stretching across at least twenty centuries?  That said, whether doubt by skeptics or reaffirmation by advocates, when it comes to addressing the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ, there is truly nothing new under the sun.  I shall elaborate.

An example of this is the two-thousand years of discussion and supposed refutation of the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Despite a new generation of scholars, or recent attempts to gain personal notoriety, it all comes down to denials of the historicity of the event. In fact, there are only so many ways to deny history. Yet, skeptics continue and with each attempt, another debunking occurs. With each new attempt to invalidate the resurrection, we must “be ready to give to every man an answer for the reason of the hope that lies within . . .” (1 Peter 3:15)

But what is at stake in all of this? It is simple, really. The moment the resurrection is falsified, the entire Christian faith collapses. Christianity is founded on Jesus, and is validated in His life, death, and resurrection. Simply put. Show Jesus to be a liar and it’s over. Demonstrate that someone other than the biblical Jesus lived and died, or that history is incorrect, and all of Christianity and truth come tumbling down.

Dr. Bruce Chilton, in a 2013 cable television interview with John McLaughlin was addressing his book Mary Magdalene, but stated the following: The body of Jesus is still here on the earth and that he only resurrected in a spiritual sense, much like an angelic form.” Chilton also argues that disciples later formed the argument that Jesus’s body rose from the dead. This is nothing new, as the reader with see.

Dr. Murray Harris (1990), in his book From Grave To Glory, says something very close to this. He maintains that the body that entered the tomb was not the literal body that exited the tomb. So, in both Chilton’s and Harris’s cases, there is little explanation as to what happened to Jesus’s literal body if it did not exit the tomb literally.

Religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not believe Jesus was God, and therefore, His resurrection is an event with which He had little to do. Again, they maintain Jesus was resurrected as a spirit, and the body vaporized in the process. The Mormons also believe in something similar. Both believe Jesus is not God, as orthodoxy would maintain via the canons. Chilton believes Jesus was God in the flesh, but not “God enough” to raise Himself from the dead in His literal body.

Dr. Norman Geisler sees this entire Battle for the Resurrection as satanic. He writes: “Satan’s strategy does not change. He begins by casting doubt on God’s Word . . . Then, if Satan is successful in casting doubt on God’s Word, he will find new ways to ‘spiritualize’ away it’s literal truth. That is, if he cannot get people to doubt that the Bible is God’s Word, he will get them to question how it is to be interpreted. The first strategy worked with the theological liberals. The second strategy is aimed at evangelicals.” (p. 21)

Whether derived from satanic deception, the human mind, or both, the challenges remain. “Did Jesus Christ rise from the dead in the body in which he died?” If He did not, how then could a resurrection be proclaimed?

I am approaching the topic of “The Resurrection” from seven aspects, which include: (1) The Foundation of the Christian Faith, (2) The Early Church, (3) Defense at Corinth, (4) Questioning Our Existence, (5) If Jesus Rose, (6) Attacks upon Christianity that Focus on the Resurrection, and (7) Considerations and Implications.


The foundation for the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This doctrine is verified by even the most ardent of adversaries. In fact, all antagonists have done the church a favor over the years by stating quite clearly the beliefs of the early church. They then proceed to assault these beliefs. Arianism is just one example.

The church councils over the years, including Nicaea and Constantinople met to codify the Church’s beliefs and stand against heresy. A few great reads on these topics, should the reader desire further information, include: The History of the Christian Church (Philip Schaaf); Heresies Exposed (Louis Talbot); Evidence that Demands a Verdict, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict, The Resurrection (all by Josh McDowell), In Defense of the Resurrection (Norman Geisler), The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (Aldred Edersheim), and Testimony of the Evangelists (Simon Greenleaf).

The historicity of the view of Jesus’s literal, bodily resurrection is the capstone Christian event. Throughout the ages, the resurrection has been a major unifying doctrine of all Christendom. Without the Resurrection, there is no uniqueness to Christ and Christianity.


An event such as the Resurrection is sure to elicit skepticism, even among supporters, whether in the early church or in today’s pews. As humans, we struggle with assurance and security issues, particularly when we are not certain that history and scholarship are on our side. However, much of the doubt occurs today because of laziness in scholarship on the part of the average Christian, and a malaise toward truth, especially when cultural and personal beliefs get in the way.

Despite being just a few years removed from the literal event, some the early church believers struggled with the event. There is similarity today in this struggle. The more immorality and unchecked sin found in the church, the less the adherence to doctrinal truth.  Slippage of truth muddies all truth, especially if the slippage occurs with a foundational truth, such as the Resurrection, or deity of Jesus, for example. This is where the Church at Corinth struggled. They allowed culture and acceptable behaviors of culture to dictate doctrinal positions. There is nothing new here.

Whether accepting divorce as a norm, homosexual marriage are part of God’s plan, or any other sinful practice, once the church acquiesces to cultural practices doctrinal slippage is right behind. This plagued the early church at Corinth and it plagues us today.  Sinful practices that are corrected means the church is active in dealing with its ills.  Practices unchecked and tolerated lead to abounding errors.

Observe the Apostle Paul’s words to the Church, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)


Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) The apostle rested his entire argument on the bodily resurrection of Jesus. In fact, either Jesus did rise, making it the most glorious event in the history of the world, or he did not rise, and we are all deceived. Such a deception would prove Jesus a liar, and therefore not God. So, we see Paul rested his entire case for the faith on the Resurrection. As a Jew, and former persecutor of the followers of Jesus, this was monumental.


Some serious considerations emerge from discussions on the Resurrection. Namely, (1) Where have we come from? (2) Why are we here? (3) What is our destiny? (Paul Little, Know What and Why You Believe series)

If Jesus is God, and proved this through His Life, death, and Resurrection, then He is trustworthy. When He validates the Scriptures, we must listen. For in them, we learn more about ourselves and our purposes for existence. Without the Resurrection, we can have little-to-no-trust in all other things attributed to Jesus. With the Resurrection, there is truth about our existence, both here and after death.


If Jesus rose from the dead, then we can be certain that God exists. We can also be certain that He cares about us as people, individually and personally, and that the expansive universe has meaning and purpose. Therefore, we can trust God that what He says about life and death are true, making our current experience in this world just as important as those who have gone before us. Since death is a universal experience, none of us will escape this world alive. This is exactly the point of the Resurrection. Only God could escape the plight that plagues all humans.

But Who raised Jesus? The Bible is clear that the following is true:

(1) God the Father raised Jesus. Observe John 5:21, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.” Also observe Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33-34, 37. (NASB)

(2) The Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. We see this in Romans 8:11. “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (NASB)

(3) The Son raised Himself from the dead. We see this in Romans 1:4, “Who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord . . . and John 10:17-18, The Son Himself lays down His life and takes it up again.” (NASB)

It is clear that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from the dead. Still, asks the doubter, “Who raised Jesus from the dead?” The only complete answer is that God did. It is apparent that the trinity was involved in the Resurrection. Romans 10:9-10 demonstrates this truth: “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” (NIV)


There are just three reasons for all attacks upon the Resurrection. First, the event is attacked because it is foundational and center to the Faith. If the foundation goes, then so too goes all upon which it is built. Second, the event is attacked so as to make every effort to discredit the Savior. If the event did not happen, then we do not have a Savior. Third, if the Bible is incorrect and contains the record of a false messiah, and inaccurate accounts of the Resurrection, then it is open to being challenged on all other moral fronts. Every culture has dealt with these considerations and implications, as they pertain to the Christian faith.


Here are three things to consider when answering the question “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”

1. First, we must consider the historical fact of the Christian Church worldwide. The church has a historical beginning and emergence. It is true that other religions have historical beginnings. However, no other religion is based on such a profound event as the Resurrection.

The history of the Church traces to AD 32, in Palestine. The Book of Acts chronicles stories about entire communities that were affected by the message of the Resurrection. Unlike other religions, there was no secret message given behind closed doors, or through curtains, or theology derived from one man’s words and writings. The message of the Resurrection was wide open, spread openly, and tested by communities and scholars of the day. The same is true for today.

Believers in Jesus were first called Christians at Antioch. In Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul’s preaching persuaded some of the Jews and Greeks, as well as women, to believe in Jesus and the Resurrection message. Unlike religions of the day, and some even today, women were included in the Faith from the very beginning. The message of the Resurrection turned the world upside down. We read this in Acts 17:6, “When they did not find them, they began dragging Jason and some brethren before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These men who have upset the world have come here also’ . . .”

Throughout the ages, believers referred to the Resurrection as the basis for their teaching, preaching, living, and eventually dying. Evidence of the latter is Acts 6:11-14, where Stephen is the first record martyr in the Bible. One must question whether a person is willing to both live for a lie, and die for the same lie.

The Bereans were noble people, in that they studied and did their own research before they believed in Jesus and His resurrection. We see this in Acts 17:11, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

2. Second, the fact that Sunday is the day of worship for Christians means that shifting the worship calendar from the Sabbath, the 7th day of the week, to Sunday, the 1st day of the week was enormous. Acts 20:7 provides evidence that believers gathered together to commemorate the Resurrection event “on the first day of the week.” This is quite remarkable, in that many numbered in the first believers were Jews.

3. Third, there is the fact of the recorded New Testament. There are vast numbers of independent testimonies to the historicity of the resurrection. From Josephus to the modern historians, the records are clear. The New Testament includes eyewitnesses in John, Peter, and Matthew. Saul of Tarsus has an encounter with the risen Jesus, and accepted the resurrection without question (Acts 9:1, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:8). Thomas believed in the Resurrection after touching the literal, physical body of the risen Savior. His proclamation of “My Lord, and my God,” stands as a believer’s skepticism turned affirmation (John 20:28).

There is no evidence to indicate that the Resurrection did not occur. There are several theories propagated as attempts to explain away the event, but no evidence exists to the contrary. In fact, the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances are events discussed by believers and non-believers alike. The fact remains, that Jesus is not in a tomb. There is no body and no one can claim that there is a body. I will revisit this point in a later section.

All other deceased religious and political leaders of the past remain dead and in their graves and tombs. The challenge remains today as it has always remained. Prove that Jesus did not rise from dead as He said, and the entire Christian faith collapses as a house of cards.


First, the earliest explanation of the empty tomb was the claim that the disciples came and stole the body of Jesus. This is recorded in Matthew 28:11-15. The Jewish religious leaders gave out money to the soldiers and told them to claim that the disciples came at night while they were asleep, and stole the body. This can be discounted by the fact that any Roman soldier asleep on duty was sure to face punishment, and even death.

Each of the disciples of Jesus faced torture and, all but the Apostle John, were martyred for believing in Jesus, His deity and His resurrection. We must consider whether people are willing and able to die for lies, or whether they die for beliefs which they “think” to be true. There is a stark difference for believing in something they believe to be true and dying for it, versus believing in something they know to be false, yet dying for it. There is also a major difference is dying for something true, regardless our beliefs. The disciples died knowing and believing, actually having contact with the resurrected Truth, Himself.

If Jesus truly remained dead, and His disciples had stolen His corpse, then how does one explain the appearances of Jesus alive? The record indicates He appeared to many, after His resurrection. Here are some examples of His appearances.
~Mary Magdalene (John 20:11-18)
~Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5)
~The Eleven (minus Thomas) (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25)
~Thomas (John 20:19-20; 24-31)
~Seven Disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21: 1-23)
~James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
~Group of Women (Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:10)
~Cleopas (Luke 24:13-35)
~The Eleven (John 20:26-29)
~Disciples; Large Gathering mountain in Galilee (Matthew 28:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:6)
~Ascension (Luke 24:49-53; Acts 1:3-11)

There is an interesting statement in Gospel of Matthew, which historians have somehow left alone. There is a reference that the tombs were opened and many dead appeared directly after the death and resurrection of Jesus. This was no small event interpreted by a small sect of faithful believers. His death and resurrection had profound effects upon the world.

Observe Matthew 28:50-53: “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom, and the earth shook, and the rocks were split, and the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.”

He did not die so that subsequent cultures worldwide could invalidate His teachings on marriage, relationships, love, or to somehow allow non-Christian validation to beliefs and practices contrary to what He and the Apostles taught on, pertaining to the same. Jesus certainly did not resurrect to bring fresh, new cultural perspectives based on sexual attraction and orientations. He conquered sin, with which all of us have to contend, and all of us “used to practice.” It is timely that the Supreme Court is hearing a case on California’s same-sex marriage law. Where is Christ in all of this? This remains to be seen.

Second, there is the hypothesis that the authorities of the day moved the body from the tomb. This is an argument that is easily refuted. Why would Roman guards be necessary if the authorities intended to remove the body? Why then pay the soldiers to say the disciples stole the body, if the authorities were the culprits? The telltale signs are these, (1) No Jewish or Roman authorities stepped forward to refute the Resurrection, and no one produced the body of Jesus to stem the tide of the spread of Christianity throughout the years.

The religious leaders were so angry that they did all they could to stop the message from spreading, even later arresting and beating Peter and John (Acts 4). But, it was too late. However, imagine for a moment that the authorities actually had the body of Jesus. Who in their right minds would believe the body would not have been produced, so as to allow Christianity to flourish?

Third, another popular theory is that because of distress and darkness, those who arrived first at the tomb were confused and actually arrived at the wrong tomb. Critics, conclude, “No wonder the tomb was empty, it was the wrong tomb!” Again, this theory is weak. If the first visitors, who were women, went to the wrong, then it would have been easy to later produce the body from the right tomb.

This theory is quite offensive to women, by implying they were in such a poor emotional state that had no sense of direction in the early morning hours. Furthermore, how likely is it that after burying a loved one that all of His friends would arrive at the wrong place of burial? Since the tomb was a borrowed burial place, we must also assume that the owner, Joseph of Arimathea, would have easily identified his own private property. After all, Jesus was not buried in a public cemetery.

Fourth, the silliest—yet one of the theories that garners a lot of attention still today—addresses Jesus’s death and resurrection through what is called the “Swoon Theory.” This theory proposes that Jesus did not actually die in the first place. He was simply reported as dead, and appeared as such from the torture and exhaustion.. The theory also proposes that with the coolness of the tomb, and with rest and recovery, Jesus revived and everyone thought Him to be resurrected.

Would Jesus have survived His wounds? Would he have survived approximately 75 pounds of spice wrappings? If so, He would have had to extricate Himself from these wrappings and heavy grave-clothes, rise from his stone slab, muster the strength to push lift a stone from its moorings with hands pierced with spikes, and roll it away from the tomb entrance. He then would have had to overcome Roman guards, and walk miles on feet pierced with a spike. Furthermore, to do all of this, we must assume that the Roman soldier who pierced his heart with his sword, actually missed, and Jesus’s heart, or surrounding tissue regenerated somehow within three days. The bottom line is this: Jesus would have had to lie to His disciples about His death, if He was merely swooning and recovered. Thus, the world’s greatest hoax would then have been perpetuated.

One last point remains, with little attention from history. If this theory is correct, then Jesus died sometime later in history. Where then, does His body lie? Regardless the theory, it all comes down to one thing: Where is the body of Jesus? The answer given at the empty tomb still resonates today. In Luke 24:1-8, we read:

“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.”

Here are some advocates of the swoon theory, throughout history.

1. 1780: German Karl Friedrich Bahrdt claimed Jesus deliberately feigned his death, using drugs provided by the physician Luke, to appear as a spiritual messiah and cause Israel to abandon the idea of a political messiah. Later, Jesus was then resuscitated by Joseph of Arimathea, in whose tomb He was placed. Jesus was assumed to have Essene connections with Joseph and together they plotted the conspiracy.

2. 1800, Karl Venturini proposed that a group of supporters dressed in white, who were part of an underground “secret society” but heard groaning from inside the tomb, where Jesus had regained consciousness in the cool, damp air. They then frightened away the guards and rescued him.

3. 1802: Heinrich Paulus, wrote that he believed that Jesus had fallen into a temporary coma and somehow revived without help in the tomb.

4. 1920: Ernest Brougham Docker speculates about the theory in If Jesus Did Not Die on the Cross.

5. 1965: Hugh J. Schonfield addresses the possibility of the theory in The Passover Plot.

6. 1982. Holy Blood, Holy Grail, speculated that Pontius Pilate was bribed to allow Jesus to be taken down from the cross before he was dead.

7. In 1992, Barbara Thiering explored the swoon theory in-depth in her book Jesus and the Riddle of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

8. 1994: Holger Kersten addresses the theory in Jesus lived in India.

9. 2006, Baigent published The Jesus Papers, a book that describes how Jesus may have survived the crucifixion.

In closing, we hearken back to the words of Geisler: “The bodily resurrection of Christ is an indispensable foundation of the Christian faith. No deviation on this doctrine should be tolerated within the ranks of orthodox Christianity.” (In Defense of the Resurrection, p. 28)

empty tomb (2)

Is Suicide Unpardonable?

6 Apr

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” Of course, the suicide of Pastor Rick Warren’s son, Matthew, age 27, has spurred this post. Is suicide ever justified?

I am saddened about the death of Matthew Warren, and I am dedicated to praying for the family. I hope you are also.

Furthermore, let us make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, and making certain to state our love in words and by actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point.

The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddle with chemical imbalances, at time. We also live in a world that clamors for our lives. There is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose.

I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into suicidal thoughts. I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause destructive thoughts and irrational behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or clinical depression. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously. There is the reality that the brain is affected by biology and chemistry, and emotions and the brain are connected.

When these connections line up and negative emotions emerge from angry moods and language of destruction, we all must listen. However, what happens when we are all blindsided by irrational acts?

Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for conversational purposes.

First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such?

Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is sure death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide?

Third, is it possible for a person to be in such a state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? Alternatively, is suicide a cheap way out of problems, purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic?
We struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction. Yet, if we trace the family history, it seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on.

I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might fit as reasons. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not.

This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and eternality.

Additional issues for concern:

(1) How is killing others the same, or different from killing self?

(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?

(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot ask for forgiveness after the fact?

(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?

(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?

(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or allows one into heaven?

I do not pretend to know everything, and I am neither a medical doctor nor a psychiatrist. Nevertheless, I have opinions. I shared some of mine. Now, I would like to know yours!

Doubters, Dreamers, People of Faith

4 Jan

Dreamers think of the “wonders and excitement of the opportunity, yet rarely act.”

Doubters begin to mount a list of “Why I can’t,” quickly dashing the notion of things most often quite probable.

People of Faith weigh dreams and doubt, sometimes over-analyze, make a decision, and then thank God for the direction.

When situations arise that present those marvelous and unique opportunities in life, we have to take personal inventory.  We must consider whether we are stuck in the “I just can’t” mode.  We must also consider whether our past choices and disappointments speak too loudly for us to even consider a choice by faith?  Consider that we only go around once in this lifetime and it begs the question, “How many opportunities do I have left to seize those moments?  I am curious about the reader.  So, let me ask you:  What is YOUR first response to new opportunities that come your way?  And what is your ultimate response to the same opportunities?

I would like to go on record as saying we should never make decisions based in fear, or doubt.  Neither should decisions be made by faith only, without using the God-given reason and common-sense, with which we were born.  But there are those unconventional moments, when the world is screaming “No, don’t!”  Those moments aside for a bit, here are a few things I remind myself about decision-making:

  • Making a decision by faith is not accomplished by a strong feeling
  • Stepping out in faith is seldom blind
  • There are promptings, assurances, confirmations, and definite affirmations for us to take another step, then another, and so on.


Never in my life has God said, “Go ahead jump off that cliff unprepared, and I’ll bail you out.”  He has bailed me out of some dumb decisions I have made, but He never encouraged me to make a dumb decision.  He has led to some unconventional decisions and, in retrospect, I see clearly the reasons why.  Jumping off a cliff with a parachute is a bold move, but it is also a move that incorporates the common sense with which God graced us.

The difference between dumb choice and unconventional opportunity is found in the overall purpose and outcomes.  Usually, the former is about the individual and long-term insight is lacking.  Whereas, with unconventional opportunities, the focus in the purpose, but the medium through which the accomplish the purpose might take some special kind of action.  Personally, I have been at the junctures of both.

When it comes to the really big decisions in life, the life or career-changing decisions, I have found that direction and leading had been underway in my life, long before the big decisions occurred.  The decision is just the mechanism to move things along–the “yes button” that, when pushed, sets God’s will and our will in alignment.  I do make state lightly that I believe God is an integral part of the decisions–both prior, in the midst of, and afterwards.


God allows us to choose, and He is often gracious to allow us second and third opportunities if we make mistakes, “or jump the gun,” as it were.  He knows us well.  Yet, there comes a time when a window of opportunity closes.  It is at those times I ask myself whether I missed the opportunity, did something wrong to forfeit the opportunity, or whether it was simply not meant for me.  Here is where I take consolation in considering God has at least three answers to prayers:  “No, Yes, and Not Now!”

Have you ever sought God’s direction and came to the conclusion that He replied “No,” or “Not now!”  I have been there before.


We Baby Boomers feel way too young to be sedentary and irrelevant.  We are just a bit old enough to think about retirement, but we still have lots of zest and vigor left to both work and play.  Yet, many of us have thought about those big life-altering dreams–the “WHAT-IFS!”  I wanted to play professional soccer in the worst way.  I asked God what He wanted for my life and then a knee injury took away the drive for professional sports, at least for a time.  My focus and passion became education after that.


Dare I say, many of us are stuck in the ruts of life’s routines and comforts.  Another issue is the economy, where most of us are settling for what we already have, versus the unknown and what we would give up.  So where does this leave us?  Where does the conclusion, already drawn in our minds, place us in the grander scheme of our lives?  We wouldn’t want to hurt our families just for a selfish dream, would we?

For some of us we are left with unfulfilled lifelong dreams and goals.  Some of these have been voided do to unexpected health and family concerns.  For others, it is just too late to start over.  Still, others, are fearful of branching out, and find all sorts of excuses to stay put.  Those of us in the latter camp make me wonder “What are you waiting for?”  Easier said than done, I understand.


There is some truth that we are becoming more like our parents everyday.  The really disappointing part is that they have regrets about life and so will we, it seems.  Maybe regrets are simply a realistic part of life.  Could it be that we humans dream things into reality in our thoughts, and are disappointed that our thoughts weren’t as powerful as we “imagined” them to be?  I think there is some truth to this.


A few of us seem to escape ourselves and reach that pinnacle of life’s experiences by choosing faith.  Examples of these kinds of persons are found in the Bible.  Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and other Old Testament saints–including Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego seemed to walk by faith.

Our children have their futures ahead of them.  They look to us for guidance.  Where is it that “we” look?  And what do they see in us when they peer in our direction?  I am still working out these issues, and I am probably not alone.  Bit I am moving more toward faith than apathy.

When it is all said and done, I think most of our dreams are youthful and unrealistic desires–some even bordering on the lusty things of life, hence material and fleshly objects.  We all grow up and our dreams and goals change.  They also shift from “self” to “others,” which is definitely not a bad thing at all.  After all, love does change throughout the years, even if priorities do change.  Somehow, the word “vicarious” takes on entirely new dimensions and different meanings with the passage of time.


Instead of thinking, “If I had it to do all over again, I would do this or that,”  I have a novel idea.  Why not band together and state, “While I am still able, I will choose to do this, or that.”  Rather than live by “if statements,” let us make realistic plans and goals and strive for them.  Goals do not have to be life-changing.  They can be just as fun if they are routine-changing.

So, Boomers, what are we waiting for?  It has been said about our generation that we have given this nation a lot for which to be thankful.  It has also be said about us that we stumbled along in life, at times, seemingly aimless, self-absorbed, and fearful of getting old.

We have been accused of plowing through relationships, burying ourselves in work, and after the kids are raised we ask “What’s left for me?”  Honestly, what I have found is that it is quite difficult to stumble through life if we are spending time on our knees seeking direction.

Care to join me?  It might be time for that “Yes” answer from above!

Psychology and Jury Decisions

9 Jul

Here we are, just having come off the media-blitzed Anthony Trial.  Somewhere between 80-90% of Americans polled, believed Casey Anthony murdered her toddler, Caylee.  Yet, after just a mere 11 hours of deliberations, the jury of her “peers” returned a verdict of “not guilty” to first-degree-murder, and a host of other charges, etc.  They did convict her, however, of several charges of lying to law enforcement.  Lies are cover-ups–unless one is a liar by nature–which then means a person has nothing to hide if lies become one’s “truth-to-live-by.”

Much of the nation that watched with interest were shocked at the Anthony jury-verdict.  Some of us were not shocked, and predicted the outcome.  I am in the camp of the latter, thank you very much.  However, I am not pleased.  Like many, I am torn between the disconnect between justice and legality.  This is especially prevalent in the criminal “justice” system whenever a person walks because of improper prosecution, or well-paid lawyers who know psychology.


Aside from the evidence that lacked a clear connection in the Anthony case–the kind needed to actually convict a young woman in Florida of killing her child–there was a lot more taking place in the courtroom than the average person may know.

First, only two women in the history of Florida criminal justice system have been convicted of murder and sentenced to death.  These two women were hardened serial killers, and the evidence of multiple murders was against them.  There was no such “level” of evidence against Casey Anthony, which is why I predicted acquittal.

Second, psychology was present in the courtroom, as a replacement for DNA and other evidence.  This stratagem was skillfully used by the defense team, and born out of research of juries of the past–the Orenthal James Simpson case being one of these.  Jury consultants were brought in and with them, so too was psychology.

Third, there was strategy.  Consider the following strategy.  Defense attorney Baez admitted his client was a liar right at the beginning of his opening statement.  This is much more than a lawyer’s admission of his client’s nature.  Baez seized the psyches of the jurors.  Baez also claimed Anthony was sexually abused by her father, and that Caylee died of an accidental drowning.  See the picture?  “LIAR + ABUSE = ACCIDENT.”  Was there evidence for any of this?  Hardly.  Was there supposed to be evidence for this?  Not really.  Why then did Baez use extraneous things in his opening in a very important capital murder trial?  The answer is in the “psychology” of it all.


The truth is that law-firms usually employ jury experts, so that they can understand the make up of a jury, based on their written surveys, voir dire, and body language.  The make-up of a jury is way beyond the qualification of an assembly of “peers.”  Lawyers are sometimes not the best judges of people, so they need help in that area.  Group dynamics have a psychological dynamic of their own.  Lawyers attempt to assemble juries which they consider subjective enough, and sympathetic enough to their arguments.  Jury selection and jury assembling is not random.  As a result, the qualification of “peerdom” for a defendant is quite inapplicable.  I say this with the larger cases in mind; the more impacting the case in the media, the more attention will be paid to psychology.  How peer-oriented is that?  Unfortunately, the average person is not privy to such counsel.  This is also a huge inequity in our system of justice.  The italicized phrase being somewhat of a legal conundrum–at least–a moral oxymoron at most!

Trial lawyer consultant, Jonathan Lytle Ph.D., writes the following in the Orange County (CA) Bar Association’s Lawyer Journal:

A familiar refrain from trial consultants is that attorneys should give the strongest possible opening statement.  Consultants grant so much weight to these first words partially based on intuition and anecdotal evidence, but also because actual scientific research supports them as a powerful tool.  An opening statement allows the attorney to provide the framework through which jurors view a case and process evidence.  Information that fits into the established framework is easily remembered.  Information that does not synch is discarded or distorted by jurors.  Research has demonstrated that jurors make their decisions early in a trial.  So, the faster an attorney can ge the jury on their side, the better.  (Lytle, July 2011, Orange County Lawyer, p. 28)


In other words, first impressions, whether fictional, false, or flamboyant are the psychological pictures from which a jury will begin processing what is to come.  This suggested picture is an attempt to create in a juror’s mind what psychologists refer to as “schemata,” a type of framework into which additional bits of information can be placed.

Juries are known to make up their minds early in a trial and then discard what does not fit into their framework, or schemata.  This is called “predecisional distortion.”  Lawyers are encouraged to take advantage of this distortion in alignment with the order of evidence presentation.  The presentation of strongest points of opening and argument, aligned with strongest evidence creates the best-case for juries making up their minds prior to deliberation.

Every day in courts around this nation, attorneys use this reality to paint the prosecutorial, colorful canvas of conviction, or create doubt.  Inasmuch as one understand colors objectively, shades exist and there are layers of paint unseen on all canvases.  The same is true in the courtroom.

In the Anthony case, did not Baez create an unbelievable opening argument?  Did not the jury, throughout the trial, discard the outrageous claims and hold what they considered relevant?  The discards and irrelevancies are indicative that the jury had made up its mind rather quickly in the trial.  Their schemata had been established, due in large part to Baez’s opening statement.  Allow me to expand my point.  Experts, like Lytle, maintain that lawyers should “not leave the good stuff until the end” (p. 29).  Obviously, Baez and team took advantage of this advice.  It is pure psychology.

All things considered, Americans are upset that Baez did not prove the story of what he said happened to Caylee.  Any time a child’s murder is at the center of a trial, it does something serious to the psyche of a nation.  But the truth of the matter is:  BAEZ DID NOT HAVE TO PROVE ANYTHING!  He knew full well, that in order to get the jury to arrive at “reasonable doubt,” all he had to do was use psychology of distortion and distraction to arrive at juror predecision.

Sure, like most Americans, I wish our system was more aggressive toward the accused–especially now that our culture has definitely become more dangerous and criminal.  But it is what it is.  We cannot expect perfection from a highly imperfect system that protects up-front, both the innocent and the evil.  What most of us resent is the acquittal of the evil.


Here are a few of the psychological ploys used by Baez.  First, everyone understands how important first-impressions are in all of all lives.  Lawyers, like the rest of us, never have a second-chance to make a first-impression.  First-impressions are what are what the average person relies on the most, in forming opinions.  Baez’s persona and words made a distinct first-impression.

Second, the creation of a story that is unbelievable utilizes what all psychology-experts call the “big-lie that is more believable than small lies strung together.”  Surround a “fish-story” with witnesses that cannot tell the truth, contradict each other, and create doubt of any veracity and consistency, is confusing to the human brain.  If a jury does not know what to believe, then such inconsistency creates doubt.  This is the way it is in the real-world.  Consider a child’s paramour.  If his or her life, recent actions and words are confusing to the parents, then we would probably going to doubt that such a relationship has any future.  Couple this doubt with possible in-laws that are devious by nature, and I don’t think for a moment that the average person would give a blessing to such a marital, or familial connection.  I know I would not.

Third, the human brain cannot operate in a vacuum.  It needs to categorize and come to  conclusions.  The average person does not have the mental toughness to remain in a vacuum for weeks.  Brains work to sift and decide.  As a result, “objectivity” of a jury is truly a notion beyond reality.  Long trials do next-to-nothing in arriving at truth, or to change a jury’s corporate mind.  The longer the trial went on, the more extraneous the information, the more disconnected the testimony, and the more it bolstered predecision on the part of the jury.


Humans take sides early on, then look for reasons to bolster their beliefs.  This happens in politics.  It happens in sports.  This also happens in marriages.  The average person is simply falling into the “comfort zone.”  We do it quickly and we do it comfortably.  Our brain needs closure.  Is this not why open-endings in movies, and in books, etc., really cause our emotions discomfort?  This is simply who we are, whether teenagers, or adults.  Our brains classify, sift, and decide.  When we allow a lawyer to determine the schemata into which evidence is placed, there is a distinct psychological advantage to the lawyer.  Baez used this to his advantage.


The use of psychology can also backfire.  Relying on public sympathies and idealism to reach a death penalty is all right for media attention.  But these same sympathies enter the courtroom with a jury that views a conviction as death sentence for a mid-20s, fresh-faced, weeping liar.  When the prosecution went for the capital-crime home run, their idealism got in the way.  Make no mistake about it. I believe someone killed the toddler.  I believe Casey had a hand in it, or did it herself.  But my belief is not evidence.  My belief is not objective.  My belief is subjective.  It is a fallacy to think that jurors make up their minds as objective humans.  This is not how life is lived.  The same thing can be argued about a relationship.  Allow me to explain.

If a person thinks another person is perfect, how long can that admission hold up before the humanity of the idolized becomes all too obvious.  Overlooking the imperfect means there is a boas, or subjectivity in the way of reality.  Furthermore, trying to prove perfection based on real-life circumstances is not a good strategy.  One would have to be deluded to believe another human is perfect, when the circumstances showed otherwise.  Being imperfect by circumstances does not mean a person is a murderer.


The prosecution used an “idealism” principle and it backfired.  The defense merely stated that to believe in the prosecution’s case would be to believe in something that did not exist, amidst the circumstances.  The Baez and team painted an unbelievable scenario of its own, essentially creating possibility to bolster predecision and bias.  Knowing that proof was not needed to back up its defense, Baez simply allowed jurors to believe early on that an accident was the possible cause of Caylee’s death.  He used psychology on them and allowed them to believe they were making up their own minds.  Realistically, can a jury possibly convict a woman to death if an accident killed the infant?  Bingo.  Case over.

The accident theory has already been put out as to why Juror #4 voted to acquit Anthony of the murder charges.  Baez used psychology to persuade the jury early on.  it obviously worked in on juror #4, and others, according to her.  That’s all it took to create reasonable doubt.  He bolstered the case for the defense by bringing in witnesses who tossed contradiction around like it was candy at Halloween.  Doubt plus doubt does not equal truth.  Unfortunately, either does it equate to justice for a dead toddler.  Nevertheless, once that was established, the trial was over.  The jury had made up its mind.  In the words of Lytle, “Asking the right questions will plant ideas in the jurors’ minds and begin to frame the case according to your position.”  (p. 29)  Lytle is quite astute.  Baez knew exactly what strategy to employ.


In closing, a few curious points warrant further investigative research on my part:

  1. What parts do political underpinnings of jurors, prosecutors, and defense attorneys play in the psychology of jury selection and ultimately jurors’ decision-making processes?
  2. Is it possible that the vast number of defense attorneys are Democrats, whereas it is the opposite, politically, for prosecutors?
  3. How much do lawyers rely on the “psychology of thought in connection to political sympathy” as an unspoken, underlying factor for jury selection?  How much does this affect jury decision-making?  [Is there any thing closer to the truth in politics than the axiom “Republicans and Democrats do not think alike and do not see the world through the same eyes.”]

Anger Misses Out

17 May

Has our human anger kept us from the very blessings of God?

A quick thought for the reader’s consideration: Is our anger the very thing we choose, thereby missing out on God’s hand of blessing in our lives?

I was having this conversation the other day with my students about why it is that man takes most of the credit for discoveries and inventions, while God gets the blame for “acts of destruction.” It’s just not fair that God gets blamed for all the evil and bad things that happen in the world, while man takes all the credit for the good things. It is a cheap shot to blame a higher power, especially when that is the only time His presence is acknowledged.

Critics allow their anger to get in the way of that which is good in this world. God often emerges from the conquest of evil. But oo often we cannot get beyond the pain of the evil. Critics claim that mankind cannot be the blame for something that God allowed and could have easily stepped into the dimension of time to solve. But critics cannot have it both ways. Either God is present in time when good occurs, or He is not present in time when evil occurs.

Human anger is imperfect and misses out on things that are good.

So I am just here wondering how many of us are carrying around internal anger and missing out on the good that awaits our relinquishing of the negative and self-oriented emotion.

Mixed Messages

12 May

Sometimes we use excuses as a means of sidestepping responsibility for actions, or words.  Blaming others is part of human nature for many.  We see this in our politicians blaming predecessors.  We see this in our children.  It appears in the media, and it is certainly found in the workplace.  Taking responsibility for things that we say and do just seems like something passe.  Today we are told that words and actions do not have to line up.  In fact, words are justification for ill-behavior and it is quite annoying.

Take, for example, the sign that was tacked to a tree near a Catholic convent:  “No trespassing!  Violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law–Sisters of Mercy.”  We call that a mixed message.  I cannot help but wonder how often we come across the same way, because of our words and actions.  I am sure it is pretty close to daily.

Nothing irks me more than the practice of hypocrisy, which is most likely why one political party bothers me so much.  Momentary, political expediency and vilification of anyone different is the practice.  Character assassinations and double standards are hypocritical and send mixed messages.  I think the height of this “mixed-message-syndrome” is found in the recent killing of Osama bin Laden.  Allow me to explain.

On the one hand, the president is against any technique that causes a terrorist to give up information to save lives.  Information given up through touch interrogation techniques yielded a booty of intelligence that lead to bin Laden.  Obama defines such techniques as torture.

I am sure the president would allow torture of a terrorist if his wife’s, or daughters’ lives were in jeopardy.  But all of that aside.  How can a person be so against a technique–torturous or not–and then be in favor of assassinating a terrorist and others in a raid?  We don’t torture, we just kill?  I call that a definite mixed message.

Politics aside, we struggle daily with the sending of mixed messages.  The root of this struggle is found in two areas of our human nature.  First, we value “self” over others and seek to hide things deleterious to our reputation.  We see this “saving our hides” attempt in the Garden of Eden story in Genesis.

Second, with power comes the ability to make certain of outcomes in one’s favor.  So, our words can be overridden by actions.  Both are hypocrisy at their core.  We find each of these problematic–both in our own lives and in the lives of people to whom we entrust power.

As an educator, I work in the trenches daily.  I am entrusted with power over many lives.  The moment I say one thing and do not follow-up with actions that align with my words, my students are quick to call me out on it–and rightly so!

I get quite frustrated with the media that does not hold our president accountable to his words and actions.  I wish I could get the same pass by those who hear and see me, but I can’t.  My power is limited and it is shared.

Power is addicting.  The more it is used, if combined with lessened public accountability, one begins to think he or she is actually right over time.  Therein lies to deception that comes with hypocrisy.  Promises are made and broken, and are not reported.    Controversies arise and are quelled.  Events are spun to sound like “truth.”  No wonder power can be so intoxicating.

The lasting truth about mixed messages and hypocrisy can be summed in double-mindedness.  It is quite clear that those of us who practice double-mindedness in words and deeds are “unstable in all our ways.”  (James 1:8)

Have you ever wondered why our chief executive says one thing, does another, confuses all of us with rhetoric, etc.?  Remember all the promises he made during his campaign just to get elected?  The truth is that he is unstable, due to shifting ideologies.  In other words, the anchor in his nature dangles just above the ocean floor.  There is no greater mixed message than what emerges from a messenger that believes dangling, unfixed anchors are actually evidence of positive change.

Power is best used when it is shared.  Power used to obtain more power is glorification of self.  “Do as I do, not as I say,” is a hypocrite’s mantra.

Know what I mean?

Death Technology

7 Feb

Anyone who knows me well understands my interest in some of the deeper and more controversial cultural issues emerging from daily living.  This piece is no exception. 

I can be sort of an iconoclast, at times.  I wish to open a discussion on something just a bit different here.  I hope to cause us, the Baby-Boomers, to reflect on what is known today as “Death technology.” 

In the article, I will be introducing broader concerns with respect to (1) Physician-assisted suicide (or aid in dying vs. active suicide), (2) Death technology in culture, and (3) mercy-killing, or euthanasia.  It might present challenging reading for some, but hopefully not.

In Ludwig Wittgenstein’s last journal entry into his Notebooks 1914-1916, the author questioned the nature of the relationship assumed between suicide and morality.  He wrote:

“If suicide is allowed, then everything is allowed.  If anything is not allowed, then suicide is not allowed.  This throws a light on the nature of ethics for suicide, so to speak, the elementary sin.  And when one investigates it, it is like investigating mercury vapour in order to comprehend the nature of vapours.  Or is even suicide in itself neither good nor evil?”

Here are some working definitions for the article:

~Physician-assisted suicide (or more popularly called ‘physician-assisted aid in dying.’) is defined by me as “the making available of the medical means by which a person may choose to end his or her own life.”  [This is what the Germans called “Bilanz-Selbstmord”]

~Death Technology, a technological medium specifically created for, or used primarily as a means to end the life of a human, or animal.

~Active suicide can be defined as “death by one’s own hand.”

~Euthanasia is defined as “mercy killing,” or death by the “hand of another.”

Assisted suicide (generally euthanasia) has a lengthy history.  People of ages past were given hemlock to drink, or weapons to end their own lives.  Today, we can see this “type” of practice within the ranks of terrorists’ actions.  However, a major difference is that terrorists also seek to take the lives of others, which is suicide-homicide (murder) by definition, along with their own.  Some people are no longer intent on taking their own lives, especially for political purposes.

The subject of suicide has appeared in literature throughout the ages.  Sophocles, Shakespeare, and a number of other prolific people of history “have depicted suicide not as a major philosophical problem, but simply as one of the realities of human existence.” (Weir, Death in Literature, p. 27)

It was Homer (ca. 8th century) who referred to “Thanatos, the Greek god of death, as the brother of Sleep.” (Bardis, History of Thanatology, p. 25)

The stoics had a fascination with suicide.  They admired the willingness of one who would take his own life.  They deemed it “an aspect of Stoic courage.” (Tillich, in Dyck, To Live and Die, p. 101)

Plato addressed the topic of ending one’s life, in the “Phaedo,” when he wrote:  “There is a doctrine whispered in secret that man is a prisoner who has no right to open the door and run away; and this is a great mystery which I do not quite understand.” (Plato, “Phaedo,” The Oxford Book of Death, p. 88)

Aristotle was in favor of a variation of euthanasia.  He argued for “compulsory euthanasia for all deformed children.” (Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, p. 90)  In addition, ancient Greek and Roman societies allowed for euthanasia suicide for the aged (p. 90).

In the Jewish Talmud, the Jews maintain their belief in a “tehiat hametim” (a resurrection of the dead).  To the Jews, death is a gate to the word to come (olam haba).  However, euthanasia was rejected by Talmudic teaching, even for the terminally ill.  Even the ill were considered “complete living persons” (Shabat 151a).  Furthermore, the practice of suicide came under strict condemnation.  The Old Testament was clear, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

Robert Weir discusses the view of the western monotheistic religious traditions:  “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam . . . have considered suicide wrong because of the general beliefs, as argued by Augustine and Aquinas among others, that human life is a gift from God and that self-destruction in an inappropriate way of exercising stewardship of that gift.” (Weir, Death in Literature, p. 226)

It gives me pause that Weir is unaware of the radical jihadist faction in Islam.  Suicide-homicide bombers are told that what await them for their actions is 70 mansions, with 70 beds per mansion, and each bed adorned with 70 virgins.  First, where are all the virgins coming from?  Second, if a bomber is a female, what does she get?  Last, this ridiculous belief is nowhere found in the Koran, or general teachings of Islam.  This would be equivalent to a Christian faction telling people that to take his life in the bombing of an abortion clinic would mean instant “this or that” in heaven.  Taking lives to gain eternal life . . . duh!  I say, line up all the skankiest, disease-infested prostitutes of history and let them adorn their beds and mansions.  Sorry. 

History records that immediately upon the formation of Christian societies, “suicide was formally forbidden in them.  In AD 452, the Council of Arles declared suicide a crime” (Durkheim, Suicide:  A Study in Sociology, p. 327).  Most interesting is the fact that a person committing such a crime might be prosecuted and punished.  Anyway . . .

This all leads me back to the issue of technology used in ending human life.  It is one thing for a culture to allow, encourage, or even promote the taking of one’s life.   But we live in a wider society that celebrates youth, seeks to promote longevity, while at the same time elevates the ending of our lives as a valid choice. 

I am at a loss over this.  If this is such a good thing to incorporate into our culture, why is it I have never heard parents counsel their children from the early years, on how to end their lives should they choose to do so, alter in life.  Wouldn’t THAT be good parenting? 

The very fact that medical advancements seek to prolong life, heal people, and keep them alive, should teach us something about the ethic we have in this nation.  It is most contrary to those advocating death by choice, or by help.

What does it say about a society that speaks of the value of life and death in the same breath?  What does it say about people who argue that the ultimate choice is the ending of the very life of the chooser? 

What will future generations conclude when they read that so and so valued economics, and inheritances over life?  Just curious.  I have heard this latter argument a lot, lately. 

Suffice to say, since 1973 we have witnessed a rise in death technologies.  Abortifacients, various abortion procedures, such as saline, D & C, partial birth abortion (PBA), embryo destruction for harvesting of stem cells, and other life-ending procedures–and these are even before birth.  It gets worse after we are born and we age.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian stated that he wanted “physician-assisted aid in dying” added to states’ laws.  Reminds me of the late crooner, Frank Sinatra:  “I stood tall, and took the blows, and did it my way.”  Imagine EVERYONE doing it their way?

Dying has been glamorized as the most autonomous, dignified act a person can commit.  Culture deifies and glorifies those icons who are forever “young” in our memories.  Think about it.  Elvis and Marilyn Monroe in their late seventies, or eighties?  How sexy is that?  And isn’t this the issue?  The sexualization of death?  There are people even tempting death by “sexual practice” of asphyxiation at the point of orgasm. 

If a culture based on Judeo-Christian principles seeks to protect life at all levels, why then is this same culture allowed to remove these protections?  Who has been asleep at the wheel? 

The way I see it is that death is going to greet us all sooner or later.  We have some options, yes.  But are they all valid options for people of faith?  Here they are:

1.  Allow death to catch us as it will (I kind of like surprises anyway).

2.  Hasten death because we somehow think we have lost control of our own choices.

3.  Ask a physician to act contrary to his calling and give us something so that our conscience is not bothered by considering the taking of our own lives.

There is a fourth option, and for this option I turn to one of my favorite comedy teams, Abbott and Costello.  When asked how he wanted to die, Lou Costello replied, “Old Age!”  Not such a bad idea, in my mind.

Hey Abbott!

Christian Ethics and Choices

30 Oct

The following survey questions were written with the Christian in mind, and are part of my larger lesson on “Christian Ethics and Choices.”  A fully informed choice is the responsibility of us all.  Ignorance can lead us into all sorts of choices that, at first, seem the only way to decide an issue.  However, the choice measured by “truth,” is the most informed choice.  But do we desire such choices?  Therein exists accountability morally, as well as spiritually and physically.  In a culture that seeks quick decisions and easy answers, I do not believe we always take the necessary time to find the best answers for our choices.  The question is out there . . . What is God’s role in our choices?

As Christians, we are called to live by different standards than those who are not believers.  Society glorifies individual “choice,” and the believer is called to glorify God.  There is serious biblical tension in trying to accomplish both. 

If truth is unchanging, and not subjective to relative changes in culture, then it is lasting beyond each generation, and serves as a measure for all generations.  There are “truths” that each of us live by.  But what are the ultimate principles that are unaffected by belief, or practice?  This remains to be seen.  Welcome to my lesson . . . [smiling].

Feel free to respond to any or all of the 13 questions that follow,  and let me know what you think.  I am not collecting data from this survey.  That is reserved for in-person activity.  Your answers are strictly for blog dialogue.


_____  1.  Life has value because society has added to its value.

_____  2.  It is morally wrong for a Christian to believe in abortion.

_____  3.  Human life begins at conception.

_____  4.  Being human implies personhood.

_____  5.  Human beings are eternal beings.

_____  6.  Abortion is always sin.

_____  7.  Personhood begins at conception.

_____  8.  There was a time when the Son was not God.

_____  9.  A Christian should have a choice over how he or she dies.

_____ 10.  If a Christian commits suicide he or she will still go to heaven.

_____ 11.  Physician-assisted aid in dying is sometimes the right thing to do.

_____ 12.  God has a plan for our lives and deaths.

_____ 13.  Abortion is murder.

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