Christian Ethics - Lesson 17

Infanticide and Euthanasia

You will gain knowledge about infanticide and euthanasia. The lesson discusses the increase in infanticide due to the growing disrespect for unborn human life and instances where doctors have killed newborn babies. The lesson also poses the question of what Christians should do in the case of children born with life-threatening handicaps and offers some suggestions, such as using these cases as an opportunity to discuss bioethics with congregations and not supporting intentional action to terminate or shorten the natural life of a human being.

Ronald Nash
Christian Ethics
Lesson 17
Watching Now
Infanticide and Euthanasia

Contemporary Moral Issues

Part 3

II. Infanticide

A. Massive increase in infanticide

B. Specific cases - What should we do?

C. Suggestions

1. Opportunity for discussion

2. No right to terminate life

3. The end does not justify the means.

4. Quality of life issue

a. Subjective analyses

b. Medical advancements

5. Do not rush to judgment.


III. Euthanasia

A. Heroic measures

B. Commission vs. omission

C. Consequences vs. obligation

D. Personal perspective

  • Gain insights into philosophical ethics and Christian responses, and the Christian role in society regarding the state, justice, economics, and education.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Nash introduces you to the concept of hedonism, which is an example of a consequentialist ethic. He reviews non-hedonistic consequentialist philosophies, psychological hedonism, and ethical hedonism.
  • This lesson introduces you to the theory of deontological ethics and Emmanuel Conte. You will learn that the deontological ethic judges morality by examining the nature of actions and the will of agents rather than goals achieved.
  • In this lesson you will learn about the system of ethics that focuses on virtue and introduces the Four Cardinal Virtues, which are temperance, wisdom, justice, and courage, and emphasizes the importance of being the right kind of person who possesses the traits of character, and C.S. Lewis's book "Christianity" provides an informative treatment of the Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Theological Virtues.
  • You will gain insight into C.S. Lewis's views on Christian ethics and the morality analogy he presents, where morality is like a fleet of ships that must fulfill three conditions to succeed: every ship must run properly, the relations between ships must be proper and orderly, and the fleet must head to the right destination.
  • You will learn about the importance of distinguishing between society and the state. Society is a voluntary organization of people, while the state is the group of people who claim a monopoly on the use of coercive force within a geographic boundary. By understanding this difference, you can prevent the government from interfering with your voluntary associations.
  • You will gain an understanding of how the professor's theory of the state in Social Justice in the Christian Church aligns with the New Testament. He explains that the state is a God-ordained institution to check against sin, and he is a moderate anti-statist who recognizes the need for government but also the inherent evil in any concentration of human power. The New Testament recognizes constraints upon governmental power, and Revelation 13 is an example of how the state can symbolize anti-Christian government. The lesson also discusses the concept of justice and how it is often invoked without a clear understanding, suggesting that Christians should study ancient Greece for a better comprehension of the term.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the evangelical civil war that happened 20 years ago, learn about its early stages recorded by Clark Penick, understand the harmful effects of left-wing evangelicalism, and see how many evangelicals on the left became enamored with their own self-virtue in what they thought was a crusade to help the poor.
  • By studying this lesson, you will gain insight into the major differences between capitalism, socialism, and interventionism. You will learn that interventionism is often responsible for economic crises that are attributed to capitalism. You will also learn about the overlapping and continuum nature of economic systems and the gray area where an economic system may be viewed as socialism or interventionism.
  • This lesson discusses the decline of old liberation theology and how some of its proponents are now advocating for capitalism and democracy as being what the poor of the third world need, and presents shocking quotations from individuals characterized as evangelical, such as Jose Marquez Bonino, who promotes Marxism and praises tyrants like Castro and Mao Tse tung, as well as material about the three major kinds of Marxism that have existed in the world.
  • This lesson will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of interventionism and its role in the Great Depression, including the fact that blaming capitalism for the depression is based on four myths, and that interventionism actually deepens recessions by disguising the information produced by a market economy.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the crisis facing American education, as highlighted by Alan Blum's book The Closing of the American Heart and the author's complementary book. The focus is on the importance of values, standards, and morality in education, and the need to reopen the American heart to reopen the American mind. The lesson introduces the three kinds of illiteracy currently affecting Americans at every level of the educational process, with a particular emphasis on functional illiteracy, which refers to the inability to read, write, or use numbers well enough to get along in society.
  • In this lesson, you will learn about the incompetency of public school teachers in America, caused by academically weak students being attracted to the profession, lack of content courses in their college curriculum, unimpressive and radical left-winged professional educationists, and the National Education Association being an enemy of America's young people, with four essential steps to improve education, including getting a clear focus on the educational role of the family, increasing local control of education, changing the curriculum to prepare students for life after school, and changing teacher education programs.
  • Gain knowledge of the difference between the biblical ethic and other philosophical systems. Though it may seem simple, it is an underlying system that can lead to complex issues. The divinely revealed scriptures are the starting point for moral reflection, but not a ready-made answer. Some New Testament commandments are archaic or obsolete, and many modern moral problems are not discussed in the Bible.
  • You will gain insight into the pro-life stance and be equipped to inform others. Christians need not be timid about talking about these issues.
  • This lesson explores the arguments and counterarguments surrounding abortion, arguing for caution and conservatism in ending any life, emphasizing the need to balance the right of the mother with the rights of the infant, and briefly touching on the issue of rape and how it complicates the matter.
  • As you go through the lesson, you will learn about infanticide and euthanasia, and how the disrespect for unborn human life has led to an increase in cases of infanticide, along with some suggestions for what Christians should do in the case of children born with life-threatening handicaps.
  • In this lesson, you will explore the five major passages of Scripture related to homosexuality, including different interpretations of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and concludes that the Bible clearly condemns homosexual activity.
  • This lesson explores the topic of capital punishment in the context of Christian beliefs, arguing for consistency and emphasizing the need to view Old Testament laws in the context of specific situations that are no longer applicable.
  • This lesson discusses the three approaches to war and peace and distinguishes between principled pacifists and hypocritical, unprincipled pacifists, who are members of the political left and denounce American military actions but support violent revolutionary organizations.
  • You will gain an understanding of the growing issue of divorce and remarriage within the church, the responsibilities of Christian leaders in addressing it, and the need for Christians to think through what the Scripture teaches on these matters and formulate principles that will guide their thinking and conduct.
  • This lesson provides insight into how responsible Christians can make ethical decisions about birth control, considering the importance of intention, distinguishing between ethically acceptable and unacceptable forms of birth control, and emphasizing the importance of wise and careful means in achieving family planning goals.

Theoretical and theological basis for Christians  living an ethical life.

Dr. Ronald Nash

Christian Ethics


Infanticide and Euthanasia

Lesson Transcript


[00:00:03] Let's talk about infanticide and euthanasia. First of all, infanticide. Nobody in this room, nobody in this room supports the putting to death of a born of of a human infant after birth. The evidence to support is provided in John Davis's book, however, of one of the of the massive increase in infanticide that has accompanied the growing disrespect for unborn human life. We have case after case of doctors conspiring with nurses, conspiring with parents of physically and mentally handicapped children that has resulted in these children being deprived of food, water and the other forms of aid that they need to survive. There are instances on record of doctors strangling, killing, newborn newborn babies. Now, we don't support that. That's not at issue. The more troubling cases and these are the cases that will affect you in your ministry or May and I hope not, but may affect you in your own private family lives. What happens in the case. A badly deformed or seriously handicapped children who are born with life threatening handicaps. And to take a good example, the case of a child with Down's syndrome who was born with an intestinal blockage who must have surgery if that child is to survive. A growing number of parents in the West have simply made the decision not to allow that surgery and that consigns that infant to death. What do we do as Christians when we're either in the position of either in in our position as spiritual counselors or in our position as parents, friends, relatives? What do we do when a child is born with spinal bifida? What do we do in the case of children born with Down's Syndrome? What What does one do in the case of this child born in Florida with only a brain stem? Now, let me offer some suggestions here.


[00:03:20] Suggestion number one. On those cases, when a vexing medical case like this child in Florida comes to national attention. If you're a pastor, consider using that as an opportunity to draw your congregations attention to some of the serious issues involved in bioethics. Consider using that tragic instance from real life as an opportunity to discuss the issues that are involved with your congregation. Now, keep in mind what the family, what the parents wanted to do with that baby. Obviously, the baby was going to die, no question about it. What the parents wanted to do was hasten the death of that child by turning that infant over to doctors who would then take out its vital organs, who would then use those vital organs as a way of providing help to other infants in serious trouble. It looks the media can make that look like a very easy case. It is not an easy case. What we have to decide on that case is that no human being has the right to end to terminate another human life. God will decide when that child dies. To use that dying infant as a source of organs for other human beings is to kill that child. It's to commit an act of murder. The attempt on the part of the family and the physicians to argue that that child was already brain dead because, of course, the child had no brain other than the brain stem was disingenuous. The principle that that I think must be applied in that case is this We as Christians cannot support any intentional action to terminate or shorten the natural life of a human being. To do what the doctors want it to do in that case would be tantamount to an act of murder.


[00:05:49] At the beginning of this course, we talked about utilitarianism and we noticed the immoral consequences of utilitarian moral behavior. The end does not justify the means. The fact that good would come from the killing of that baby would not provide a moral justification for hastening the death of that child. As we look at this whole complex of issues, as it also relates to euthanasia, a lot of people are drawing attention to the alleged difference between the sanctity of life and the quality of life. Until recently, the medical profession and the vast majority of people who were involved in making those decisions acted on the basis of the sanctity of human life. Human life is sacred. It is not. Human beings are not to be used as a supply of of organs. But now what we're hearing are people who are saying, but if the quality of life that is open to this individual doesn't meet certain standards, then we are not only justified in ignoring this trial, but, as I say, by withholding food and nourishment and water from it, we are even justified in killing it. Davis gives you quotations from philosophers, and I'm embarrassed that these quotations come from people in my profession who say we will give a newborn baby a certain amount of time, maybe one week, maybe two weeks, in order to provide certification that this baby will have a quality of life that we deem satisfactory. But if the prognosis is that that individual's quality of life will not be satisfactory as far as our standards go, we think within a week or two after birth it is perfectly permissible and it ought to be legal to terminate that life. In other words, to kill a kid. Now, various definitions of quality of life have been given.


[00:08:22] Some definitions identify various IQ as an IQ below 20. Kill it, an IQ below 40, kill it. There's something very chilling about people who can talk this matter of factly about killing a human being. Now, Davis does a good job of pointing out how subjective these analyzes of the quality of life turn out to be. Once we put once we subject the survivability of a human being to a sliding scale of human worth based upon individual estimates of of intelligence and mental function, we're in serious trouble. In the case of children born with Down syndrome date, and frankly, I was surprised when Davis says there are only 5000 Down's children born a year in the United States. I would have guessed the figure was much higher. But Davis says now that we have been able to identify this problem before birth, once we recognize how valuable early treatment with Down's children can be, these children have much more of a future than was ever the case before. George Will, the nationally syndicated columnist, has a has a child afflicted with Down's syndrome, and he reports about the testings that came to his family as a result of this handicapped child, but also the joy that comes from having a child like this. Davis also reports about the remarkable advances in surgical techniques that can help kids born with spinal bifida. There are operations that are now available. And remember, this does not affect the intelligence of these kids. These kids can be horribly crippled physically, and yet they can be bright. They can be happy children. They can have they can have a quality of emotional, intellectual life. That is that is that that is the equal of of any non handicapped child. Some of them may even have in their future the ability to walk with some assistance.


[00:10:55] So with all of these advances in medical technology, let's not rush to judgment under the pressure and the agony and the stress that parents face in the few hours and few days after the birth of a handicapped child. Davis Davis counsels don't make a. Snap judgment about the future of that child. Under that kind of pressure, talk to. Talk to other people. Talk to physicians. If the liberals get away with their quality of life argument, these are the infants. That is an argument that says society has a right to kill children whose forecasted quality of life falls below our standards. Then the same argument puts at risk any elderly person whose quality of life falls below their standards as well. What we face from these people on the left is the possibility of a society that executes not only children, but adults who fall below their expected standards. Now, with with elderly people living longer than ever before, and with advances in medical technology, meaning making it possible to prolong the lives of elderly people inordinately, anyone in the kind of counseling role that many of you will fill may face agonizing decisions as families come to you seeking counsel and advice about what to do about a father or a grandfather who is terminally ill, who may be on life support machines, who may be sustainable, whose life may be sustainable through some heroic measure or other. And people are going to ask what you what should be done. Now, I'm going to use I'm going to use a risky phrase here. All right. Once again, every situation is different. It is impossible to lay out more than one or two general principles that that will apply in some cases. It's impossible to identify a principle that will help in every case.


[00:13:42] One thing you interject into this decision process is this. And please realize I'm using the phrase in a different sense. What are we talking about here? Are we talking about an elderly person who can have one or two months of additional life where they are conscious and capable of good experiences? Or are we talking about an artificial prolongation of life where they must be constantly sedated? They must be constantly kept unconscious to spare them from the pain that they would have that they would otherwise have? What quality of life are we? Are we talking about consciousness versus unconsciousness? Are we talking about pain? Are we talking about happiness? If if you're simply thinking about prolonging life. And there it seems to me the principle, the principle that's operative is is anti biblical and anti-Christian. It's a principle that would appeal to people for whom there is no hope after life. There is no hope after death. I mean, once people realize that death for this individual, assuming this person is a Christian, means entrance into the presence of the Lord, artificially prolonging life through some heroic measure or or something that has no positive benefit just doesn't make sense. Once again, the uselessness versus the useful mass of the treatment must be considered. Once again, the distinction between commission and omission. Do we undertake a positive action that shortens life that is evil? Do we undertake a positive action that will uselessly prolong life? That doesn't make sense. So what? What we seek here is a trade off. And you may not be comfortable with what I'm going to say next, but what we seek here is a trade off between consequences and obligation. What are our obligations to this human being and what are the consequences that will flow from this from whatever decision we make? Again, I would suggest it wouldn't hurt for you to put yourself.


[00:16:41] In other words, act like this. Say, if I were your grandfather or if I were your father, I wouldn't want you to do that. But you must realize where I'm coming from. My relationship to the Lord may be different than your father's relationship. Certainly, if there is an opportunity for additional moments of consciousness and reflection, where there is an opportunity to present the claims of the Gospel to this person, then that is certainly a consideration that ought to ought to tilt the scale towards whatever these measures are. But if it's just a matter of prolonging the inevitable for a person who is either in a coma or must be constantly sedated to keep them from from the pain. Let's not do that. So we should be enemies of euthanasia. We should be enemies of this. This. This mad rush towards killing the dying before their time has come. But we should not be advocates of useless, heroic measures.