Infanticide: A desperate need for the Church's message and ministry PDF Print E-mail

(Reprinted from Presbyterians Pro-Life NEWS, Winter 1999)

Infanticide is on the rise in the U.S.

It is difficult to pick up a newspaper and not find a new incident recounting the death of a newborn or infant or young child. Some of the deaths were the culmination of attempts to conceal pregnancies; some of them were attempts to silence a crying baby; some were acts of cruelty; some were acts of desperation. But all were acts which, beyond the judgments of law or human opinion, did immeasurable harm not only to the babies who lost their lives but also to those who took the lives of those innocent babes. Christians know that because it's what the Bible teaches. But even many Christians are not aware of how tenuous the barriers to killing the innocent are today.

Mainstream opposition to Christian moral standards

There are also those who are aware of the attachment of law to the Judeo-Christian biblical history, but overtly oppose those moral standards. Some of those people are prominent academics who repudiate the biblical teaching and call for a new ethical system.

James D. Watson, winner of the Nobel prize for discovering the structure of the DNA molecule, suggested that we change the legal definition of "person" to be applicable only to infants older than three days so that parents would have the opportunity to decide if the child should live or die.

Philosopher Millard Everett advised in his book The Ideals of Life (1954) that "no child should be admitted into the society of the living who would be certain to suffer any social handicap - - for example, any physical or mental defect that would prevent marriage or would make others tolerate his company only from a sense of mercy."

No one has been more explicit about the relationship between Christian faith and restraints on killing the innocent than Peter Singer, recently appointed to a permanent chair of bioethics at Princeton University. Singer wrote approvingly in the journal of Pediatrics (1983) that it had become "standard practice in many major public hospitals to refrain from providing necessary life-saving treatment to certain patients," including "severely defective newborns." Singer describes the new ethical formula for determining who lives and who dies as a "blow to the sanctity-of-life tradition" that comes from the "religious mumbo-jumbo" that "human beings are a special form of creation, made in the image of God, singled out from all other animals, and alone possessing an immortal soul."

Singer: Infants have little claim to life

In his book Practical Ethics (1993) Singer wrote that "no infant - - disabled or not - - has as strong a claim to life as beings capable of seeing themselves as distinct entities, existing over time." He reminds his readers that "our present absolute protection of the lives of infants is a distinctively Christian attitude rather than a universal ethical value." Singer comes to the logical conclusion of his own world view and recommends that

If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant's condition than is possible before birth.

Singer's conclusions oppose the will - - and the explicit commands - - of the Sovereign God, but his premise about the link to Christian faith is correct. That link is a clarion call to the Church to speak its message of truth about infanticide, and to offer its ministry of hope to those desperate enough to kill the innocent. Pastors and sessions can, and ought to, give voice to the biblical message of life in their own congregations and communities. They also can, and ought to, call the Church to speak its message on this matter to the world by appealing to the General Assembly through the overture process.

It would be not only a tragedy, but also a great sin, for the Church to remain silent while people follow the teachings of those like Peter Singer who occupy chairs of bioethics in our prestigious academic institutions.

His loved ones are very precious to him and he does not lightly let them die. Psalm 116:15



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