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Christian Life and Doctrine

  May 2004, No5

Hello [first name], here is this months newsletter with items selected especially for you.

THE BIBLE


WHAT IS YOUR VIEW OF THE BIBLE

A survey of 1,496 people aged 16+ living in England, Scotland and Wales were asked how they perceived the Bible. This cross-section pf the population was asked to read three different statements about the nature of the Bible.
The respondents were then asked to tell the interviewer which of the statements came closest to describing their own feelings about the Bible. They were told they could also answer 'Don't Know/Not Sure'. The statement placed before those interviewed were:

1. The Bible is the actual word of God and so is to be taken literally, word by word.
2. The Bible is the inspired work of God but not everything in it should be taken literally, word by word.
3. The Bible is an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral perceptions recorded by men.
4. Don't know/not sure.

Which statement would describe your feelings about the Bible? Compare your view of the Bible with the response of those polled:

1. Literal Word of God       14%
2. Inspired Word of God    46%
3. Ancient book of fables   28%
4. Don't know/not sure     12%

(Source: Survey on Television and Religion in Great Britain by 'Insight Social Research Ltd.', quoted in God watching, a survey of religious belief in Britain published by the Independent Broadcasting Association [IBA].)

THIS MONTH'S INTERESTING AND SOMETIMES AMUSING SMALL STORY


Frederick the Great visited a jail, with all the prisoners lined up, he started asking each one by one how they got to be in prison, the first said ' I am innocent sir it wasn't my fault.' The second prisoner said something similar, the third, fourth, fifth...all said that they were innocent, when deep in the line up one prisoner said 'your highness I am guilty and deserve to be in jail.' Immediately Frederick ordered that he be released as one guilty mustn't be locked up with so many 'innocent'.

One of the two thieves recognized his guilt and our Lord forgave him and accepted him in paradise, Jesus Christ calls humans to repentance and to accept him as their saviour. Now today is a day when one can be saved.

IN MY OPINION


Euthanasia

These are some of the newspaper headlines that prompted me to consider the implications of recent decisions about life support. If it means only the continuance of supplying food and water, should life-support be withdrawn from hospital patients in some cases?

The first two headlines above referred to the case of Janet Johnstone, a patient at Law Hospital in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Mrs Johnstone's family and her doctors had applied for legal permission to induce death by dehydration which was expected to take about two weeks.

This patient was not on a life-support machine. She had been in a coma for four years and although she sometimes opened her eyes and groaned, doctors said she never felt anything.

When I read that, my first reaction was, 'How do they know?' Permission was granted by the Court of Session in Scotland and the provision of food and water was stopped on the 16 May 1996. Janet Johnstone died on 31 May 1996. Chris Docker of the Scottish Voluntary Euthanasia Society commented, 'What a relief for her relatives.'

The third headline above referred to the case of Sarah Mapes, a patient at southampton General Hospital. Her boyfriend was taking legal advice after claiming doctors ignored his wishes that Sarah and her unborn baby should be allowed to die before the baby could be delivered. Sarah was on a lifesupport machine for four weeks and the baby was delivered by caesarean section. Sarah died four days later, but the baby survived.

The baby's father had lived with Sarah for 18 months, but because they were not married, his wish for mother and child to die was ignored by doctors. The father had said he wanted Sarah and the unborn baby to be allowed to die naturally, 'with dignity'. Sarah's parents disagreed. They said, 'we thought that if we couldn't keep our daughter alive, we must do everything possible for our grandchild.'

For me, these two cases highlight a very vulnerable condition that some human beings are in, where thier lives are considered by others no to be worth saving. In the first case, doctors had expressed their opinion that Janet Johnstone had no hope of recovery. Janet Johnstone's opportunity to prove their fallibility was subsequently removed.

In the second case, the baby boy is alive today because his father had not married the mother. Otherwise his existence would have been blotted out by Sthephen Davies' legal right to enforce his view that the child should die. (This is not to suggest that it was preferable not to be married.) The point is, should anyone have the power to deny reasonable life-support to anyone else?

Doctors' opinions on the chances of survival of patients have been known to be wrong. With regard to patients in comas, there are documented recoveries after many years. In my view, Christians are commited to saving lives. I think we should speak up for people who cannot do so for themselves (Proverbs 31:8). To do nothing is like '...passing by on the other side' (Luke 10:32). It is not showing love to your neighbour (Luke 10:36-37). Someone who is in a critical condition should be given help to survive, not to put down like an animal (Matthew 25:43-46).

We should feed the hungry, not starve them to death. Jesus set the example of not snuffing out a smoking flax or breaking a bruised reed (Matthew 12:20). Where there is life, there is hope. We should not accept a doctor's opinion that any case is hopeless (Matthew 9:28, Genesis 18:14).

If we are in a position to save a life using modern technology, not to do so is sinful (1 Corinthians 12:28, James 4:17, Mark 3:4). King David recognised that terminating the life of someone even close to death is wrong (2 Samuel 1:9-10, 15-16).

I commend the Roman Catholic Church for their offer to care for Janet Johnstone in one of their hospices until she either recovered or died normally. The offer was rejected. Father Tom Connely said : '...the sanctity of human life is absolute and anything that endangers that life is wrong. To remove feeding is endangering a person's life and would obviously cause her death.'

-Eddie Cairns,
Glasgow, Scotland

THE BIBLE

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

QUESTION: The apostle John wrote in 3 John 2 that he wanted the Church members to prosper. Does this mean all Christians should be wealthy?

ANSWER: An important rule of Bible study is to look at a scripture in context within its chapter or even within its whole book. Many books of the New Testament are letters. 'Epistel' means 'letter'. 3 John is a personal letter from the apostle John to a man named Gaius (verse 1). It is not formally addressed to the Church as a whole but to an individual ---- although, of course, there is a lot we can learn from John's letter to Gaius even today.

Verse 2 reads : 'Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers' (New King James Version). The New International Version translates this verse: 'Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.'

According to the Tyndale New Testament Commentary, this opening was part of the everyday language of letter writing during the first century AD. In short, the apostle was writing a common courtesy to his friend. We can find parallels in modern letter writing. One friend might write to another: 'I hope everything is going well with you.'

This verse should not be viewed as a universal promise of wealth which God applies to all his people. This scripture does not guarantee that all Christians will be rich or that they wll never suffer from sickness or disease.

Other scriptures in the New Testament show that God does not discriminate against the poor. 'Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom' (James 2:5).

RELIGION

Does Prayer Help?

'Be not forgetful of prayer. Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education.'

---- Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov


'More things are wrought by prayer that this world dreams of.'

---- Alfred, Lord Tennyson


'I believe myself in the efficacy of prayer. But even on the prayer. But even on the purely natural and psychological level, I felt convinced that, if people pray for a thing, it help to put heart into it, and to identify their individual purposes with that enterprise as a whole...At the deep level at which prayer operates, there is no contradiction between the natural and the divine.'

---- Lord Hailsham, The Door Wherein I went



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