‘Why I want the right to die’ in Scotland

I was greatly shocked when my wife shared this article with me this afternoon.  Al Jazeera published this article on their website.  I encourage you to read it here.  Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Margo MacDonald has launched a fresh attempt to give terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die – which in my mind is outrageous and grossly immoral, cruel and careless.  It totally degrades the intrinsic value of human life as given by God the Almighty, who is our Creator (Genesis 1:27) and the Creator of heavens and earth!  This “End of Life Assistance” Bill sets out that anyone over the age of 16 could request assistance to die if that person was diagnosed as terminally ill and that he/she finds life unbearable.  Ms. MacDonald tried to get this bill passed in December 2010 but it was defeated.  According to the Huffington Post (UK), “A series of scrutiny sessions were held at the Scottish Parliament, taking in evidence from doctors in countries where forms of assisted suicide are permitted.”

I find Ms. MacDonald’s arguments flawed and unconvincing – but that’s not all that disturbs me.  The bill that she is pushing is in direct violation of the Sixth Commandment:  “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  This bill seeks to give man the legal freedom to take one’s life or that of another with impunity.

Here are some quotes from the article:

Assisted Suicide (“Mercy Killing”) – currently banned by law in Scotland & the UK:

In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, it is currently a crime to help someone end his or her own life. A doctor who injects a patient with lethal drugs in order to kill them could be prosecuted for culpable homicide or even murder.

Margo MacDonald wants that legal ban repealed:

“If it came to the worst and I was faced with a very bitter and protracted end, I should have the right to ask for help to end my life earlier than nature intended,” Macdonald told Al Jazeera.

She added: “I would like the insurance policy of knowing that if it gets near, and I would like to shorten it, I would not be putting my family at risk. It is not about pain, it is about making sure you are still yourself.”

Margo wants autonomy not dignity – She has a warped view of “dignity” according to what she says here:

She told Al Jazeera that the same debate is going on all over the world and if her bill is passed: “Scotland would be seen as a place where humanity, above all, and individual autonomy is respected. This legislation is really about the right of a person to see their life through and keep their dignity to the very end.”

Some church leaders are fighting against this:

When this issue was last debated, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, told a special Mass for Healthcare workers: “Laws need to be objective in their statement of principle. It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so.”

Peter Kearney, Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, told Al Jazeera: “Nothing has changed. Deliberate killing, even when assisting someone who is in a state of despair, is always wrong.”

Many doctors are concerned:

Many doctors are also concerned that legalizing assisted suicide could lead to frail or elderly people being coerced into taking their lives.

My Thoughts:

I hope that this bill is defeated once again in the Scottish Parliament.  I also hope and pray that Christians in Scotland and around the world will continue to speak out against this and similar violations of God’s law and order for His people.  From a human stand-point, Ms. MacDonald seems “unstoppable.”  She probably thinks so.  She is quoted as saying:

Since the defeat of my original proposal in December 2010, the volume of correspondence I’ve received on the matter, coupled with the continuing public interest, stimulated in part by some high-profile statements in favour of the general principle of assisted suicide, indicates to me a consistent level of support for individuals suffering a terminal illness or condition, for whom life becomes intolerable, to have the legal right to request help to end their life before nature decrees.

But those of us who believe in the Sovereign LORD who rules over the universe, know that the LORD is ultimately in control and that He has the power to stop this and all ills that have plagued Scotland and the world (see Proverbs 21:1).

Why Am I So Concerned for Scotland?

Just for the same reasons that I would be concerned if this was happening in any other country primarily because it goes against the will – it goes against the Law of God clearly stated in Scripture.  That’s the main reason why this disturbs me.  But there is more:

As one who has not in the least sense benefited from what the Lord has done through Scotland over the years, I cringe when I read this kind of stuff about Scotland or coming out of Scotland.  I feel a special affinity to Scotland for various reasons.  Let me mention three:

1.  The first missionary to bring the gospel to my home country (Malawi) was Scottish.  His name was Dr. David Livingstone.  Malawi is replete with monuments in honor of Dr. Livingstone and his work there – not the least of which is Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital which was named after Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland where Dr. Livingstone was born.  I had the privilege of visiting Blantyre (Scotland) a few years ago and saw the house in which Dr. Livingstone was born and raised.  This house is now the home of the David Livingstone Center.

2.  As a Presbyterian and Reformed Christian and church minister, I owe a lot of that to what the Lord has done through Scottish men like John KnoxSamuel RutherfordRobert Murray McCheyne, Professor John Murray, from centuries gone by (just to name a few) – but also from contemporary theologians and preachers like Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Alistair Begg, etc.

3.  I am now a gospel minister with a denomination that is rooted in Scotland, the Associated Presbyterians Church (APC) – and I feel for so many of my dear brothers and sisters in Scotland as I consider all the challenges and the spiritual battles that they face in their pursuit of Christ, His will and purposes.  I am concerned and this moves me to pray more fervently for the work of the gospel across Scotland and the UK.

Let’s Pray for Scotland, the UK and the World

Prayer is ultimately the answer – and our sure hope.  “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Please join me in praying that God’s will may triumph over evil and that Scotland may be turned back to the Lord.  He has done it before, He can do it again.  Even though it seems like a dark cloud is hanging over Scotland and much of the western world, the LORD God can change that.  May the Light of Christ once again shine in Scotland even from the “farthest” corners of the world (like Malawi and such places where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is now flourishing).  Perhaps it’s time to send missionaries back to Scotland!  Our God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can ever ask or imagine according to His power which is at work in us (see Ephesians 3:20-21).

Only One Gospel

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9 ESV).”

In the verses quoted above, the Apostle Paul lays down a very important doctrine regarding the Christian faith and gospel.  He does this to press upon the Galatians a proper sense of guilt in rejecting the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  More specifically, he sharply rebukes them for not embracing the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone (see Galatians 2:15-16, 21; 3:10-14).  The Galatians had fallen prey to the Judaizers who were going around teaching that a false gospel based on good works which totally discounted the grace of God through Jesus Christ.  But as a good pastor, Paul does this with great care and tenderness.  He had only one goal in mind as expressed by himself in Galatians 4:19 where he passionately writes, “my little children, for whom I am in anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”  That was Paul’s goal!  And he teaches us a very important lesson.  As Matthew Henry puts it, “In reproving others, we should be faithful, and yet endeavour to restore them in the spirit of meekness.”  We all need to pay attention to that, especially pastors like me.  We need to make sure that in rebuking and correcting people, we are not stepping over their heads and leaving so many casualties behind us unnecessarily.  We must proclaim Christ and Him alone, “admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28).  We must therefore speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  But reproving we must especially on matters that have to do with the faithful teaching and communication of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In my Open Letter to the North American Churches, published in the Modern Reformation magazine I wrote, “The pure and unadulterated gospel of God’s grace is a nonnegotiable priority for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ” (March/April 2011, Vol. 20, No. 2, Pages 31-35, emphasis added).  The Apostle Paul sought to drive this truth home to the believers in Galatia without any equivocation, fear or compromise.  He was overwhelmingly fearless and sharply confrontational when it came to gospel matters demonstrated by the fact that he “opposed Peter to his face” for his compromise and hypocrisy with respect to this gospel (Galatians 2:11-14).  He suffered no one (even Peter, a fellow apostle) to tamper with the life saving truth of God’s free and justifying grace based on the merits of Jesus Christ alone.  In all of his life and ministry, Paul consistently maintained and taught the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone (see Romans 1:17; 3:21-22; 9:30-33; 10:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9).

Paul was of course only echoing the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures taught (see Genesis 15:16; Habakkuk 2:4, etc).  Nowhere else do we see the unity and the apex of redemptive revelation more clearly than in the doctrine of justification by faith!   The Old Testament saints were saved by the same gospel as the saints in the New Testament era.  And that gospel is the gospel of God’s grace through His Son Jesus Christ!  Although Abraham and all the other saints lived before the coming of Christ into this world, they believed in the promise of the Messiah which God had made to them beginning with Genesis 3:15, Exodus and Leviticus, all the way to Isaiah 53 and thereafter.  All of the Old Testament sacrifices and rituals, as well as the Law and the prophets pointed to Christ as He Himself makes plain in Luke 24:25-27, 44-48.

There are two important aspects to this gospel which every Christ must know and seek to understand:  1). Christ’s active obedience, and 2). Christ’s passive obedience.  The former has to do with Christ’s perfect righteousness.  The latter has to do with His sacrificial, substitutionary/atoning death on the cross of Calvary.  Both of these were offered to the LORD God by Christ on behalf of His people.  In other words, this gospel necessitates a divine exchange between God and sinners through Christ.  Christ’s perfect record of righteousness, His faithful law-keeping before God, is imputed (transferred) to sinners and the imperfect record of sinners (their unrighteousness before God) is imputed to Him.  The Apostle Paul distils this for us when he writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake, He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf in order that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  This is what the Prophet Isaiah prophesied 500-700 years before Christ came when he wrote, “All we like sheep astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).

He was despised and rejected by men; a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as One from Whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.  Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our transgressions;  He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:3-5

Although this Man was righteous and sinless in every way, He “was numbered among with the transgressors; yet He bore the sins of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).  And thereby, Christ fulfilled His office as the Great High Priest for God’s people (Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:1-10).  This is the gospel that Paul was unwilling to give up.  For this gospel he was willing to die and in this gospel lay his boast (Galatians 6:14).  Let us then see to it that we heed Paul’s warning to the Galatians.  He stresses his point by repeating it in these short verses, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).

Any other “gospel” which does not point sinners to the merits of Christ’s righteousness and His atoning death on the cross of Calvary on their behalf must be passionately repudiated and clearly exposed without fear or compromise.  It is of the devil!  It is no gospel at all!  Any “gospel” that tells sinners that they can be saved and reconciled to God by being good or doing good is lethal and must be rejected without question and vehemently opposed.  Furthermore, anyone who preaches that kind of “gospel” must be “accursed” according to the Word of God.

And while we declare that to reject the moral law as a rule of life, tends to dishonour Christ, and destroy true religion, we must also declare, that all dependence for justification on good works, whether real or supposed, is as fatal to those who persist in it.  While we are zealous for good works, let us be careful not to put them in the place of Christ’s righteousness, and not to advance anything which may betray others into so dreadful a delusion (see Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)

I can’t say it any better than that.  On the one hand, that leaves me flat on my face confessing my sins especially my self-righteous tendencies.  And I hear myself singing with Augustus M. Toplady:

Rock of ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee;
Let the water and the blood
From thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress;
Helpless look to thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

On the other hand, that puts a spring in my step and I find myself leaping and shouting with Philip P. Bliss:

Man of Sorrows! What a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Indeed it is right for all who are in Christ to shout and sing:  HALLELUJAH!  WHAT A SAVIOR!