Boomer Remover Chart

#BoomerRemover

#BoomerRemover Trending on Twitter

I was somewhat amused to discover that there was a hashtag trending on Twitter over the past weekend #BoomerRemover. As such, it appears to be a way for millennials to express their gallows humor at seeing the older generation pass away. It is significant that hashtags are a convenient stand in for ethical reasoning.Boomer Remover Chart

As we ponder the issue of ethics in a time of illness, we need to have a starting point for our reasoning. I would suggest that the Bible is a  solid place to begin.  As I put it in another blog entry, I begin from a place that says, God has spoken, and so my ethics have to be shaped by the divine Word.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we find the following:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin,                  and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— (Chapter 5, verse 12)

The Presence of Sin

Sin is pervasive among the human race. We find sin in ourselves, in our children, in our parents, in our friends, and so on to the whole population of earth. No one is exempt from this terrible reality. Because that is so, Paul reminds us that death comes as a result.

Today, I am adhering to the directives of the nation and state in which I  reside to shelter in place. That is, to socially distance myself from others for the next several weeks. Why? Because there is a contagion in the world which is doing great harm, even causing death, to people who are my age.

The corona virus has brought on a significant amount of reflection on ethics in a time of illness. What is the right thing to do these days? What is the wrong thing to do? How do we know? Should we simply look at this virus as a“#boomerremover”?  (Referring to what we in the United States call the baby boomer generation which is now 55 to 75 years of age. See this article from India. ) Is this “Mother Nature’s” way of clearing out a bunch of people from the population of the earth?  So we should just let the virus run its course? Questions, and more questions simply pile up. The answers are actually very few and look very different as those answers arise from differing age groups.

My Experience

In my lifetime, I have held the hands of many dying people. Encouraged their families. Shared in the sorrow at the time of death. When these deaths came about because of an illness that had invaded the person’s body, the senseless nature of disease became more and more apparent. I noticed that when a person dies, the illness in that specific body dies with it. So, one has a contagion that gets into a person’s system.  This then proceeds to kill the very system that is keeping the contagion itself alive. Or, perhaps more readily seen, when a cancer begins to ravage a person’s body, it is simply going to consume that host until it dies. But, there is no way for the cancer to reproduce itself in another body. Its only host is doomed to die due to the malignant activity of the rogue cells in the cancerous tumor.

Illness, it seems to me, is a reminder that death is the inevitable result of our life here on earth. Being sick forces us to see our mortality. Illness introduces us to the frailty of these bodies of ours. Ethics, the study of what is right and wrong, needs to soberly understand that sin is the source of this death we die.

However, Let Us Not Forget

But, and this is very important, for the Christian, for the follower of Jesus Christ, death is something qualitatively different. Jesus told us that he has gone to prepare a place for us. And that he would come to take us to our “forever home” so that we could be where he is. Paul says, for the Jesus follower to live is Christ and to die is gain. Paul reminds us that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have an eternal dwelling from God in heaven, not made with human hands. We are used to seeing our lives as lived with a beginning and an end. Actually we live from our beginning, through death, and then into life everlasting with God.  That changes how we see illness, and how we confront the disease that is sweeping across the earth in these times.

Ethics in a Time of Illness

Ethics in a time of Illness

First, I am not a physician and make no claim to understand the complexitDigital reproduction of a Coronavirusies of diseases. But I am a guy who has walked with hundreds of people in their illnesses, sometimes even unto their deaths. The issue of ethics in the time of illness is not a simple study of a few verses from the Scriptures and then living happily ever after.

In the past few weeks, the whole world has been watching the spread of a novel virus which is causing death in a small percentage of those who contract it. As a Christ follower I need to ask myself what I am to think of this outbreak of a new illness as it travels around the world. The fact is that new illnesses scare us. We fear the contagion. We dread the outcome if we or a loved one might become ill. We imagine all sorts of grim situations as our amygdala pump out the hormones of fear.

What Is Illness?

In this situation perhaps it is good to ask ourselves what we think of illness itself. How do we react when someone becomes ill? For most illnesses we wish the person well and do not think again about the situation. The fact remains that whenever a person develops an illness, something happens in their lives (see the article here). Each illness gives us a moment to lie still and know that the Lord is God.

Anger at God?!

For some the thought of God being Lord is helpful, but for many of us that thought is more like a fact which will focus our anger.  Some years ago, I learned a (perhaps overly simplistic) definition of anger. Anger is an emotion which takes hold of us whenever we sense that we are in danger of losing or are actually losing someone or something important to us. In the time of illness, we turn our anger on God since it is God’s fault that the illness is taking place.  Maybe even death will happen, and that is for sure God’s fault.

Jesus Christ is Lord

In pondering the philosophical, ethical, concerns about illness, we tend to forget our foundations and our faith. Our foundation rests on God’s infallible Word which tells us that all things are held together in Jesus Christ. There is nothing which is outside the majestic control of Jesus. He is the one on whom all creation depends for its existence. Illness, too, is under his command. I must hurry on to say that God is not the one who creates illness – the presence of illness is a reminder that we chose death rather than life. Now we look for the redemption of all creation in Christ.

The current coronavirus concern is another reminder that in every situation we are to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. As the church has, for generations, done before, we are called to do now. That is to follow Jesus as he leads us to find those that are sick and to care about and for them. That is a sign of the Kingdom that we wish to have come in all its fullness.

We will need to discuss this further, but for today, that is my thought.  Any responses?

 

Joseph and Mary on the road to Bethlehem

A Gift From God

A Gift From God

This is the time of year that is high with excitement. It is special as no other season is. And it’s because our attention is once again drawn to the Great Story of a gift from God. The baby in the manger, his virgin mother, the angels announcing the good news of great joy for all people. We buy gifts for those we love as an echo of the greatest of all gifts.  We echo the gift of the Savior God gave to us. And once again, we sing the carols that we have come to cherish over the years The songs remind us of what the celebration is all about: Joy to the world the Lord is come! Love came down at Christmas. (See also here.A manger scene

Just because this season is so special, it is also a time we lovingly anticipate being with family and friends. These, too, are a gift from God. What CS Lewis reminded us about concerning friends, applies even more so to family members:

A Quote from C.S. Lewis

“…for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking,  no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to his disciples, “You have not chosen me but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. It  is  the instruImage result for friends in christment by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others. They are no greater than the beauties of a thousand other men; by Friendship God opens our eyes to them. They are, like all beauties, derived from Him through the Friendship itself, so that it is his instrument for creating as well as revealing. At this feast it is He who has spread the board and it is He who has chosen the guests. It is He, we may dare to hope, who sometimes does, and always should, preside.  Let us not reckon without our Host.

Therefore ….

This is the central truth behind the celebration. The love we share with others is not merely the consequence of God’s love for us. Rather, the love we give and receive IS the love of God shown to us through them and to them through us. This season, celebrate a gift from God.

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas,

Roy Clouser

 

 

Death Experiences Confirm Faith

Do Near Death Experiences Confirm Faith about the After Life?

Separation of Church and State

Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 Letter About Separation of Church and State

The expression “separation of church and state” does not appear in any of the founding documents of the US. It comes, instead, from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to an association of Baptists in Danbury, Conn. Baptists had a history of being persecuted in countries with an official religion, and wrote to the newly elected President Jefferson with concerns that their state had no specific statutes protecting their religious liberty.

In reply, Jefferson quotes the first amendment to the effect that “Congress shall make no law” to establish an official religion or to prohibit “the free exercise thereof…” Jefferson then expresses his understanding of that amendment to mean there should be “a wall of separation between church and state.”

Kuyper’s “Sphere Sovereignty.”

In an earlier blog, I gave a brief introduction to Abraham Kuyper’s idea of “sphere sovereignty.” (See also the blog here.) This was based on the way scripture recognizes different authorities in life. This recognition is, in Kuyper’s thinking, a hint as to how to come up with a general theory about the relations between the different forms of authority that naturally arise in human society.

The scriptures speak with approval of the authority of parents in a family, of the clergy in the church, of the owners of a business, the officials in government, and even of teachers in a school. Extrapolating from these examples, Kuyper proposes recognizing other natural authorities such as arise, for example, in medical practice, charity work, artistic organizations, political parties, and unions.

From the sphere sovereignty point of view, it isn’t only state and church that have different spheres of authority. Rather, there are multiple types of it throughout human social life all of which need legal protection from encroachment by other authorities.

These Are Not the Same

At first blush, then, it appears that Jefferson has anticipated by a century the Christian theory of sphere sovereignty with his idea of a “wall of separation” or the idea of the separation of church and state. A closer look, however, shows they are not quite the same ideas. For one thing, Kuyper never spoke about walling off any social sphere from any other. That, he believed, is impossible.

The church exercises its proper authority when it governs the preaching of the gospel, the administration of the sacraments, and regulates church membership. The government exercises its proper authority when it makes and enforces a public legal order. This means for sure that the church doesn’t make or enforce public law, and the government doesn’t set theological standards or make requirements for church membership. But can these two institutions of society actually be completely walled off from one another?

Spheres Influence One Another

Scientific ideas influence art, and artistic trends influence how people understand their history. So, too, the moral teachings of the church cannot fail to  have an impact on what people believe should be included or not in public law. This includes, but is not limited to, how public law must go about protecting people’s right to freedom of religion. (See, for example, the 4th myth in the Washington Post article Five Myths About the Constitution.)

This is a clever image showing a separation of church and state
Separation of Church and State

If this sounds like a tidy prescription, it isn’t. In practice, it can be a messy business to sort out precisely where and how one authority limits another. Consider, for example, the ways Federal law has sought to prevent workplace discrimination. The law, by unintended consequence, ends up endangering a religious institution’s right to hire only employees who are devotees of that religion. That wrinkle got ironed out, but spin-offs of it remain to be sorted out. (See this article.)

Don’t Take It Too Literally

John F Kennedy wanted an absolute separation of Church and state
JFK Quote

My point here is that – famous as it is – the expression separation of church and state may not be taken too literally or it will be in danger of bringing itself into disrepute. There is a proper separation (of distinct) of authorities, to be sure. And that includes all types of authorities, not just the church and the government. But any “wall” between them is porous, not airtight. That is why the sphere sovereignty idea is not a panacea. It does not guarantee we will never draw the boundaries between different authorities correctly. But we are still better off tackling political/legal issues from within that idea than we would be without it. We will still come closer to what is just than if we begin without recognizing that there are a number of legitimate authorities to be done justice to.   

To Sum Up

In sum, this means we must continue to do the hard work of thinking through each specific issue to see where we, as Christians, should stand. There is no short-cut of proclaiming an impenetrable wall between any two of them. Instead, this “thinking through” must be multi-sided. Just as there are many spheres of social life (not only the state, church, and family), there are equally many sides to every major issue of life. And all sides must receive their due, just as all must be protected by the law.

Roy Clouser