Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Vital Signs at UNMC: "The Case for the Sanctity of Life"

On Monday I had the honor of addressing an audience of 25-30 medical students on "The Case for the Sanctity of Life." The event was just one of several ministry events that are sponsored by a Christian student group at UNMC but these hour-long "ethics luncheons" are open to anyone on campus.

In my introductory remarks, I had explained the difference between the debates over the reality of human life in the womb and the value of that life. The first debate is, except for Neanderthals and numskulls, already over. The basic findings of embryology, the development of ultrasound technology, and the startling revelations of DNA research have made the question, "But is it really a baby" sound awfully dumb. So the battle now swirls about the second question; namely, "So what?"

As a Christian, I find the answer to that crucial second question in the Holy Scriptures. Life matters because man is created by God, for God and in the express image of God. That's the basis for the sanctity of life ethic. I told the audience, "This is my foundation. For those of you who are Christians, my remarks here will be a reminder to you of our common philosophical convictions. And you may even learn a few things along the way. For those of you who are not Christians, I'd invite you to listen in too. At the very least, you will better understand why it is that Christians have such passion on this issue and why we make it a moral priority. You'll be better able to appreciate why, even after 40 years of legalized abortion in America, abortion and related life issues remain our nation's most intense and sustained controversy."

I went on to mention a few specific Bible references relevant to the sanctity of life but took most of my initial time to describe the most compelling evidence of all -- the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. I took them through a timeline of Luke Chapter 1 which tells of the Annunciation to Mary ("The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and you will conceive" -- pay attention to the future tense used there) and the visit to Elizabeth's home in which John (in utero) leaps in his mother's womb and Elizabeth proclaims the present pregnancy of Mary. So, sometime after the angel's announcement to Mary and sometime prior to her entering Elizabeth's home, the Holy Spirit did overshadow the virgin Mary. The conception of Jesus was conceived.

It was the true Emmanuel ("God with us") moment.

How long a time was that? Well, the passage describes Mary as leaving immediately for "the hill country" which is Jerusalem. From Nazareth (68 walking miles away), that's a 5 to 8 day trip. That means that when the preborn John the Baptist "leapt for joy" and Elizabeth is moved by the Holy Spirit to rejoice in the appearance of the One she calls "my Lord," the tiny body of Jesus may not have even attached to the uterine wall! How important a revelation is this that the sanctity of human life needs to be applied rigorously to the very beginning of the human person's existence.

I concluded by reviewing some of the ways that Vital Signs Ministries (and Christians in general) try to live out this ethic. From CPC work to sidewalk counseling, from political advocacy to peaceful protest, from championing adoption to championing sexual purity, from education to prayer, from opposing experimentation on human embryos to mercy ministries for the elderly and needy -- it is the biblical ethics taught by the order of creation, the Law of Moses, the royal law of Jesus, and the Incarnation itself that bid Christians engage in these good works in Christ's Name.

And then I opened it up for questions. Capital punishment, civil disobedience, end of life issues, quality of life, human exceptionalism, partial birth abortion, contraception...we covered a lot of ground. But the audience was respectful and well engaged. Even when they found some of my answers controversial (and a lot of them were -- big surprise) or when the answers were entirely new to their experience or different from what they believed, the students were open and positive. Afterward, several came up to talk and a few took my cards for further contact. The organizers were enthusiastic about how things went and I certainly had a wonderful time seeing firsthand their good work there on the UNMC campus. I'd like to thank the CFC team for inviting me along.