For the Health of the Nation: The Sanctity of Human Life (Part 5 of 9)
In 2004 the National Association of Evangelicals released the groundbreaking document For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility. This historic document outlines seven different areas of concern for Evangelicals engaged in politics. In an effort to make Christians more aware of this work we are taking nine weeks to highlight the importance of this document. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here.
In this weeks discussion of For the Health of the Nation (FTHOTN) we turn our attention to what is probably the most important civic issue for Evangelicals. Protecting the value of life has been a hallmark of the Church for two thousand years, and its importance doesn’t appear to be waning. In his excellent work, The Rise of Christianity, historian Rodney Stark notes that valuing life was instrumental in the growth of the early Church. Refusing to practice abortion, caring for the sick, taking in unwanted children, and a host of other activities, created a culture that has valued life throughout the centuries. True, Christians are not always consistent in our selection of what lives to value, but nevertheless, protecting vulnerable life is of the utmost importance for Believers. Developments in recent decades have only served to heighten the urgency of this task for Evangelicals in particular, and the Body of Christ as a whole.
The National Association of Evangelicals begins their discussion of this issue by recognizing the importance of the doctrine of the image of God. By saying that God created all human beings in His image, they argue that each life is left with the imprint of divine dignity. Abortion, euthanasia, and unethical human experimentation are thereby seen as violations of this God-given dignity. A sense of urgency is added to their words by their recognition that the afore mentioned issues are gaining legal and cultural protections, thereby heightening the importance of the Church’s response to these travesties.
The remainder of this section of FTHOTN focuses on the numerous ethical dilemmas that face our culture due to the incredible advances in science and technology. Many of these leaps in knowledge have brought only good for society, but a few (human cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, and the potential for discrimination based on genetic information in particular) have placed our nation at a moral crossroads. The authors urge those Evangelicals with specialized skills in these areas to help the Church and the government think through these topics carefully. And finally, the document calls on the government to err on the side of caution whenever difficult ethical questions such as these arise.
Before we close this issue, however, a few minor points need to be emphasized. First, the abortion issue in particular is one in which the cause of life has made incredible gains in recent years. We have previously written on this topic and it may well be worth your time (read the article here). Second, Evangelicals have often fallen into the trap of caring more for the unborn than for those who are suffering in other stages of life. While much of this criticism has been grossly exaggerated, it has been true to some extent, and we as a Church must do better. Finally, it is easy to be discouraged when issues such as protecting the dignity of life can seem so daunting. But let us not lose heart. God is the author of life and He is the one who chose us to bear His image, and that should bring us a great deal of peace.