Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Back to normal?

I'm sorry to learn from Alex Schadenberg's blog that the summer fever of pro-euthanasia campaigners is raging unabated - http://alexschadenberg.blogspot.com/2010/08/assisted-suicide-lobby-leader-calls-for.html - referring to a story in today's Daily Telegraph about the doctor who proudly boasts of assisting nine people to commit suicide, Michael Irwin's latest idea: helping elderly people who are simply tired of living top themselves. For some reason he reckons it's rational. I reckon it devalues life and community.

I'm sorry, because it reminds me that we live in a confused and messy world. And I had been enjoying the summer! Well, I still am. But it's easy to be off your guard. As the old saying goes, 'All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing.'
Over the weekend we enjoyed a visit from our best (and only!) friends in Buxton, and we partied again! This time we were celebrating Sue's 50th a few days early. She used to teach with me in Oxford, and so four of her best friends from there joined us for lunch at The Fox in Denchworth, where the food was a cut above average and the host particularly accommodating (I just have to apologise to the two elderly diners by the door who were almost drowned out by our table's initial rowdiness!), and then back here for tea. It was a complete surprise for Sue - which explains the exuberance. Jess the dog always enjoys their family visiting because the children love playing with her - a welcome contrast from our rather staid normality. On Sunday, by the way, I preached for the second time since retiring.

I've now finished Timothy Keller's The Prodigal God and must say I recommend it. For one thing it's not long (132 pages all double-spaced!). For another I think he does what the subtitle says: "Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith". In the last chapter he defines salvation by four characteristics: experiential, material, individual and communal. There are some great quotes there, one of them from C S Lewis' The Four Loves which I read years ago. The context is the death of one his friends, Charles Williams, who along with fellow-writers Lewis and Tolkien comprised the Inklings. He's writing about friendship:
"In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles (Williams) is dead, I shall never again see Ronald's (Tolkien's) reaction to a specifically Charles joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him 'to myself' now that Charles is away, I  have less of Ronald.... In this Friendship exhibits a glorious 'nearness by resemblance' to heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each of us has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah's vision are crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy' to one another (Isaiah 6:3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall have."

Keller's comment on this ends, "Only if you are part of a community of believers seeking to resemble, serve, and love Jesus will you ever get to know him and grow into his likeness (p.127)". And perhaps it explains too why something like New Wine is more than the sum of its parts.

Going back to where I began, Lewis' comments demonstrate clearly why our death is not solely our business, as assisted suicide proponents maintain. Not only are others the poorer for our absence, but their experience of each other is impoverished. I suspect that may be a reality beyond the grasp of superficial self-styled rationalists.


  1. How likely do you think it is the world will come to accept euthanasia? It's unsettling to think about, but a future where the majority decide to meet death on their own terms, at a time of their choosing, seems conceivable given the drift of the culture. Many campaigners for assisted suicide seem to have a narrative that goes something like this: a century from now people will view present day attitudes towards "checking out" the way people today see the uneasiness about contraception prevalent not so many generations ago. To be sure, casting the opposition on the losing side of history is a stock technique of rhetoric, and I don't at all want to go along with the moral equivalence such a story might suggest. But unless there is a revival of religion, or else our humanity reasserts itself, I'm not sure I can rule out the possibility society will cross a fateful line.

  2. Neither am I, John, to be honest. But I do think it's still worth saying repeatedly that life IS a gift, not a possession. Maybe it feels a bit like King Knut's advisers thinking we can hold back the tide of 'liberal' ideology. But I just feel that ideology is more naïve than it would like to think. Did you read this remarkable story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-11103527 ? To answer your initial question, I don't think it likely the WORLD will come to accept euthanasia since a third of the world has some Christian allegiance now, and Islam is a potent force. It's just in the etiolated 'west' that we are losing 'religion'.