Down the Slope of Euthanasia
I wonder whether our lawmakers and judges can see that it will be the most vulnerable in society – those lonely and with little support – who will face the greatest pressure with these expanding euthanasia laws? A Christian looks to God, even on the most painful and humiliating of days. Hasn’t He proven that He is greater than our burdens?
Evil has a way of begetting evil and gaining momentum (Prov.11:27). Once the door for euthanasia was opened, ‘bracket creep’ was inevitable.
In 2017, the director of a Dutch facility that specialises in euthanasia said: “If there was any taboo, it has gone. There is a generation coming up, the postwar generation, which is now coming to the life stage in which they will die, and this generation has a far clearer and expressed opinion about how to shape their own life end. I expect far more growth in the years to come.”
Every state in Australia now has voluntary assisted dying (VAD) laws and there are reports that next month (May 2023) a Federal Court judge will rule on allowing telehealth consultations between a doctor and patient about VAD.
In addition, Marshall Perron, former chief minister of the Northern Territory, is pushing for the ACT to allow people with non-terminal conditions and under-18s to access VAD.
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The Providential Love of God: Reflections on Psalm 107By Joshua Schendel — 12 months ago
The more immediate point drawn from Psalm 107 is this: The LORD’s love is a providential love by which he directs the affairs of humanity. He will not allow the human bent toward self-destruction to have its final way, and so in his love he directs men and women back towards him—even if by way of the purgatorial path.
Psalm 107 is a song celebrating the steadfast love of the LORD: “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” This love is experienced by God’s people after a particular historical pattern; one that deserves some reflection if for no other reason than the corrective it provides to the banal triumphalism that pervades so much of American evangelical celebration of the love of God in song.
Psalm 107 forms the final part of what was originally read as a kind of three-part epic, rehearsing the Israelite history from Exodus through Exile. The phrase in verse 3—“[whom he has] gathered in from the lands”—notably answers the previous psalm 106:47: “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations…,” indicating that the two are supposed to be read sequentially. Psalm 106, similarly, follows on from Psalm 105. After rehearsing the salvation of the LORD in the exodus event, 105:44 declares that God gave them the lands of the nations, “that they might keep his statutes.” Psalm 106 opens menacingly: “Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people… Both we and our fathers have sinned.” (vv. 5-6).
Together, then, these three psalms form a trilogy, describing the Jews’ liberation from Egypt and entrance into their promised land (Ps. 105); the Jews’ rebellion and exile from their land (Ps. 106); and God’s covenant love and rescue of his people from exile (Ps. 107). This trilogy provides the Christian a wonderful place to mentally camp-out, as it were, and contemplate the history of God’s salvific work amongst his people; for it is our history as well.
The Sovereign Love of God
In order to set the backdrop against which the love of God comes to the fore, the majority of Psalm 107 (vv. 4-32) is taken up with the various ways the exiled people experienced their exile.
“Some wandered in deserts wastes, finding no city to dwell in” (v. 4) These wanderers, precisely because of their wandering, were unable to meet their basic needs. Cities emerged in large part in response to the harshness and unpredictability of the wilds. There were places where people gathered together and worked together to stave off the wilds, the dangers, the deprivations of the wilderness. To make it on one’s own as a wanderer, a pioneer, was most difficult, and most simply could not.
These wanderers had no city, no community. They suffered the deprivation of those basic necessities of life to such a degree that they were ready to give up, to let death make its final mark on their sinewy bodies. “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And he delivered them from the distress” (v. 6).
The Lord’s delivery led them to a city, a refuge, a place of safety and abundance. They had longed in their souls, and God had satisfied them. “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (v. 9). And so, “let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love” (v. 8). Hospitably, God gathers in the wanderers and nourishes their desperate souls.
“Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons…” (v. 10). These prisoners were not unjustly condemned. They had rebelled against God, they had “spurned the counsel of the Most High” (v. 11). For this reason they were punished with prison camps. They were made to work hard labor, the psalm says; their hearts were bowed low (v. 12).
Their rebellion against God was an indication that they had elevated themselves in pride. The Lord justly brings the proud low.
Working through the Covenant of WorksBy Grant Van Leuven — 1 year ago
Those who object to Adam meriting in Eden seem to neglect the distinction of his living continually before the Fall as righteous and good and thus enjoying further living communion with God.
In the first article of this series on covenant theology, we saw that “covenant” is, exegetically, essentially an “agreement.” Isaiah 28:15, 18 practically demonstrates this by twice using the words interchangeably as poetic synonyms. We also noted that some take strong exception to such an understanding of “covenant.” Much of the impetus of that concern seems to be what receives even more angst: the concept of the “Covenant of Works” and Adam meriting life with God in the Garden, of which the Confession next speaks.
WCF 7:2: The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works,(b) wherein life was promised to Adam, and in him to his posterity,(c) upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.(d)
The Threat of Death Implied the Promise of Life in Eden
Again, some particularly express disdain for this section of the WCF because they think it makes man an equal partner with God, and they especially reject the idea that man could have ever merited anything from the Lord based upon his behavior. But we do see the elements of a covenant of works in the Garden with righteous Adam before the Fall: parties, stipulations, wages of reward for obedience (continuing in life as they knew it) or disobedience (death, see Romans 6:23). In pre-Fall Paradise, God imposes the covenant and is the sovereign party to it, and He justly chooses to reward obedience with life. Spear affirms life’s conditions in the Garden: “The Covenant of Works expresses the terms upon which God established a relationship with Adam immediately after his creation.” The fact that there is only an explicit prohibition with the promise of punishment does not negate the implied opposite of the reward of life for obedience.
The guidance of the Westminster Larger Catechism (WLC) Q&A 99:4 on interpreting the 10 Commandments is helpful to remember in this discussion: “ … where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included” (emphasis added). J. Gresham Machen explains:
“It is true, the Bible does not describe the covenant in just exactly that way. It does not describe it in positive terms but only in negative terms, and it does not describe it in general terms but only by the presentation of a concrete example of the kind of conduct on the part of man that would deprive man of the benefits of the covenant … But although the covenant is directly put only in a negative form, the positive implications are perfectly clear. When God established death as the penalty of disobedience, that plainly meant that if man did not disobey he would have life. Underlying the establishment of the penalty there is clearly a promise … The Bible seems rather clearly to teach that death, even physical death, was the penalty of sin, and that life, even physical life, would have been the result of obedience.”
Adam agreed as a willing party of the covenant by virtue of his obedience; otherwise, it makes no sense to say he disobeyed and fell from life and original righteousness. Adam was obedient to God’s terms of life in Paradise, a covenant. One is faithful to a relationship by virtue of its mutual terms of agreement (written or oral, explicit or understood). Adam’s reward was promised life “upon condition of perfect and personal obedience”, says the Confession. He had to obey and thus maintain his original righteousness (given to him no doubt) to stay in the garden.
Adam Was a Good, Moral Being Living God’s Law Righteously Before the Fall
Those who object to Adam meriting in Eden seem to neglect the distinction of his living continually before the Fall as righteous and good and thus enjoying further living communion with God. Machen points out:
“Man as created … was like God not only in that he was a person but also in that he was good … How utterly the plainly intended parallel between the new creation and the first creation [in Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24 with Gen. 1:27] would break down if the image of God were to be interpreted in entirely different senses in the two cases—as involving righteousness and holiness in the case of the new creation and as involving the mere gift of personal freedom without moral quality in the case of the first creation! … So moral likeness is certainly not excluded when the first book of the Bible tells us that God created man in His own image … Man was created in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.”
Old Testament Sacraments, Pt. 2: The Tree of Life in the New CovenantBy Nathan Johnson — 2 months ago
While partaking of the Tree of Knowledge caused irreparable division between man and man (Gen. 3:16) and man and God, the Lord’s Supper proclaims with certainty that a new Tree, Christ our Tree of Life, will unite us together and unite us with God at last. And we will no longer hunger or thirst, for we may take and eat of him forever.
In our previous post, we explored how the Tree of Life functioned as the sacrament of the Covenant of Works. It was a sign and seal of that covenant’s promises of the life and presence of God in Eden, God’s kingdom and temple.
We should note that, even though Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden, the Tree of Life was not destroyed–indeed, Adam and Eve are expelled in order to stop them from eating from the Tree of Life. This suggests that one day the tree may be accessed again, once the promised “seed of the woman” had arrived to crush the “seed of the serpent” (Gen. 3:15).
The tree reappears later in the Old Testament. In the tabernacle and temple, it is signified in the golden candlestick (shaped with branches like a tree), whose light illuminated the twelve loaves that represented the twelve tribes of Israel (Ex. 25:31-35; Lev 24: 1-9, et al). The two cherubim above the mercy seat recall the two cherubim that guard the way to the Tree of Life (Num. 7:89). By being deprived of the sacrament of the Covenant of Works but reminded of it in the Tabernacle and Temple, Israel was made to long for the fulfillment of the Covenant of Works by the “seed of the woman,” the restoration of the true temple of God, and eternal access to a new Tree of Life. It signified the day when a new priest-king would arise and restore access to God’s presence, a holy of holies accessible without the fear of death. Within this context, the work of Christ comes into focus.
Christ as the Tree of Life
Because the eternal life offered to Adam and Eve upon condition of obedience is of the same substance as the eternal life offered to us through Christ (union and communion with God for eternity), many theologians in the early church and Reformation recognized that the tree was a type of Christ in several senses. The Tree of Life was specifically understood as a symbol of wisdom (cf. Ps. 1; Prov. 3:18, 11:30, 13:12, 15:4), fulfilled in Christ who is himself the very wisdom of God (cf. Prov. 8; Col. 2:3).
The Tree of Life has also been long understood as a sign of the cross: as Gregory of Nazianzus argues, “Christ is brought up to the tree and nailed to it—yet by the tree of life he restores us. Yes, he saves even a thief crucified with him; he wraps all the visible world in darkness.” Calling Christ the true Tree of Life, Augustine states that “man was dismissed into the labors of this life so that he might at some point stretch forth his hand to the Tree of Life and live forever. The stretching forth of the hand clearly signifies the cross by which eternal life is recovered.” Having fulfilled the Covenant of Works as the second Adam, Christ enables mankind once again to enjoy God’s presence and partake of the Tree of Life—His own body and blood—by which mankind can attain eternal life. Christ is thus the Way back into Eden, the true Wisdom of God, and the eternal Life offered to those who enter (Jn. 14:6). 
Eschatological Significance of the Tree of Life
Although there is much in the Gospels and Epistles which suggests that the benefits once offered through the Tree of Life in the Covenant of Works are enjoyed presently through Christ in the Covenant of Grace, we must note that explicit use of the image of the Tree of Life in the New Testament seems to be reserved for the Book of Revelation. It therefore seems to have a particular eschatological significance.
While Christ as the second Adam has given his people access to a renewed relationship with God in which we can partake of all his benefits, mankind still feels the curse of Adam and the burden of exile still weighs down the souls of men.