Peter's Science and Religion Pages

Peter's Index Peter's Index  PreviousZoroastrianism Science and Religion IndexScience and Religion Index  NextEntropy

Science & Religion

Euthanasia and the right to kill

This was a previous student response that was prepared for discussion in a Tutorial on Euthanasia.

The student did give permission to present it here but I have forgotten his name.


Dear K,

Thank you for the views of Pankratz and Welsh that you presented in class.


They quote Gen 9:6 and use the "image of God" reference as pointing to the "intrinsic and immeasurable value" of human life.


However they then go on to use this to say that "God is sovereign over life and death: we have no jurisdiction in this area; therefore we have no mandate to end lives". This seems to contradict the whole point of Gen 9:6 which is that "whoever sheds man's blood BY MAN HIS BLOOD SHALL BE SHED". God does not strike the killer dead by some bolt of lightning, he has given the jurisdiction to mankind. Gen 9:6 clearly gives a mandate and responsibility for legalising ONE kind of death.


The commandment given at Sinai cannot mean "you shall not kill any human at any time", because when the Israelites crossed the Jordan under Joshua, their God given instructions are apparently for genocide of the Canaanites (or "ethnic cleansing" if you like). In addition to this, Saul lost his kingship expressly because he refused to kill Agag.

The commandment then seems to say "you shall not unlawfully kill".


Paul, in Romans #13 says that the state is God's minister and has the power of the sword ie execution. This is a mandate for people to be killed, hopefully for good reasons and not at a whim because Capital punishment is non-reversible. You can't say "oops, sorry!" and provide some kind of restitution.


We see both attempted suicide and assisted suicide when Saul dies on Mount Gilboa. There is an outpouring of grief but no condemnation of such activities. A clear statement here would have been useful for or against them since arguments from silence are suggestive but not strong.


Then there is the example of Jesus who knowingly went to his death. He could have called it off at any number of places and times but it is clear that he deliberately chose not only the timing of his death but also the method. You may object that he is God and has the right of life and death, but it was not as God that he died it was as a man that he might redeem mankind. Judas' subsequent suicide is spoken of almost approvingly.


In conclusion, humans do have a mandate from the Bible to kill other humans (otherwise you could have no Christian police or soldiers!) but only under guidelines, not indiscriminately. Since the basis of the article has been eroded by the biblical references above, I do not yet see a compelling biblical position for or against euthanasia.






Contact: Peter Eyland