The questions about death and terminal conditions are difficult subjects to discuss. For many people, faith explains such happenings, providing solace or guiding their decisions for healthcare. In the case of George, the diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) means that he has a limited time to live and that his health is highly likely to deteriorate with time. The burden of this disease will lead to him losing his autonomy and ability to complete everyday tasks without aid. However, as George dreads his future with the diagnosis, the Christian faith offers a path for living the last years in dignity by God’s teachings. The Christian worldview strongly opposes euthanasia and advises about living with such a condition as ALS, based on the sanctity of life and the invaluable role of suffering.
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Interpretation: Fallenness of the World
According to the Christian narrative, people live in the fallen world – their existence is filled with pain, suffering, and death. The fall led to people leaving the place where all negative experiences were non-existent, and there were also no sins. However, now sin and suffering are tied together, and sinful people have to go through pain and death as part of this connection (McTavish, 2016). Illness may lead to a person becoming scared, destitute, and self-absorbed in suffering, turning away from the faith. In contrast, it can also give one a stronger resolve to face the issue.
Thus, George may interpret his diagnosis as a natural part of such living, as people’s imperfect world is a consequence of the fall. In the same way, George can accept this suffering as a personal experience that shows the power God has over the universe – “the Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21 New International Version [NIV]). This is one of the pillars of Christian thought, and it may guide his acceptance of suffering as an intrinsic part of his human life.
Interpretation: Hope of Resurrection
While George may feel powerless and hopeless because of his diagnosis, he may also turn to Christianity to see suffering as a path to resurrection after death. On the one hand, all people will die as they live in a fallen world. One the other hand, they will be resurrected with their faith – “for as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22 NIV). The emphasis on resurrection can help George cope with the struggles that he will experience in his present life.
The man may interpret his illness as an obstacle that provides him with an opportunity to test his faith. Sharing the suffering of Christ and becoming like him, enduring the troubles of life may help him attain resurrection; it is an ideology from which George can draw strength (Lewis Hall, 2016; Mugg & Turner, 2017). The hope that overcoming one’s pain leads to a greater outcome is a source of strength to keep on living with the condition.
Value of Life
Human life is considered special and sacred in the Christian worldview. First of all, as God created all life, people should value the lives of all humans, including their own. The power of God to give and take away life is not questioned, and it is limited for humans whose interference disrespects the basic ideas of Christianity. Second, “God created mankind in his own image,” which means that each life is a great value to the world (Genesis 1:27 NIV). The dignity of life depends not on one’s status in society, but on their inherent source of creation. Furthermore, one can argue that all lives are equal, as they were created by God. From this idea, George may draw a conclusion that his ALS diagnosis does not lower his value as a person, and that his existence remains sacred in the eyes of the church and God. The ALS and his eventual loss of autonomy also do not change his position as a part of the world.
Values and Considerations: Euthanasia
As noted above, one of the core beliefs of Christianity is that all human lives are sacred. As God created all people, and He made them in His image, humans cannot end the lives of others. Such acts would be considered murder, going against God’s commandment “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13 NIV). For this reason, Christianity strongly opposes euthanasia and similar forms of killing, even if the person is making the decision to end their life (Faneye, 2019). Such acts are not seen as voluntary, and they go against God’s orders.
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Furthermore, people cannot turn to euthanasia because this would mean that they defy God’s power to give and take away life. Killing a person means ending their life before their time as planned by God, which implies that the people interfere with the course of existence and rewrite the fabric of life (De Villiers, 2016). As ALS does not diminish George’s value in the eyes of God, an act of euthanasia could be interpreted as an attempt to end an innocent and valued life, which goes against the core concepts of Christianity.
One possible challenging issue to resolve would be George’s lack of power over his own body as the symptoms progress. Here, one may see voluntary euthanasia as an act of kindness that could alleviate George’s suffering. Nonetheless, the Christian narrative shows that such compassion is not justified as it results in taking a life. Here, the question of what is genuinely moral is present, deliberating about the role of empathy versus perseverance.
Morally Justified Options
Acknowledging the concepts of Christianity outlined above, one may see that voluntary euthanasia is not an entirely morally justified choice for George. The focus on the sacred place of human life in the world implies that George should be encouraged to live his life to the fullest possible extent while he can. As such, he may seek symptom management and consult with health providers to find the most viable way to continue independent living. These options may slow down the progression of the disease and help George live a number of years spending time with family and friends.
Another solution is hiring or finding a caregiver who will assist George live a fulfilling life. He may make end-of-life decisions to prepare his family and ensure that they have a support network when he is gone. The Christian worldview values the lives of people with disability and illness and instructs their families to provide special care (Faneye, 2019). Therefore, palliative care is a permissible strategy for George to prefer. Nevertheless, an essential part of George’s approach to ALS is the acceptance that this condition is difficult, but it does not affect his ability to think and perceive the world and all its beauty.
It is difficult to say what I would do in the same situation as George. One cannot fully imagine what it is like to hear such a life-changing diagnosis. However, I believe that I would choose to live as long as I can, provided that my family and friends would support me. It is vital for a person with a diagnosis of ALS to have a network of people with whom one can socialize, and a number of individuals to rely on when one’s independence is decreasing. Moreover, access to healthcare and financial stability plays a role in the final decision, as not all people can afford a caretaker or disability aids. Nonetheless, my worldview is that many people live with disabilities at different ages, and their lives can be as full of happiness and love as any other person. As the Christian narrative shows, all lives are equally valuable and precious.
To summarize, the Christian worldview does not approve of voluntary euthanasia. This act is seen as impermissible and equitable to the murder of an innocent person. George may interpret his diagnosis from several angles, but the focus remains on the sanctity of human life. Pain and suffering may be justified in the religion, and George can empower himself to seek hope for resurrection. Morally justified options include palliative care and acceptance of his condition. Personally, I would try my best to accept the diagnosis of ALS and remind myself that this condition, just like any other disability, does not make me less valuable.
De Villiers, D. E. (2016). May Christians request medically assisted suicide and euthanasia? HTS Theological Studies, 72(4), 1-9.
Faneye, B. (2019). The euthanasia debate: Importance of spiritual care in end of life. Philosophy, 9(12), 713-724.
Lewis Hall, M. E. (2016). Suffering in God’s presence: The role of lament in transformation. Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, 9(2), 219-232.
McTavish, F. J. (2016). Suffering, death, and eternal life. The Linacre Quarterly, 83(2), 134-141.
Mugg, J., & Turner Jr, J. T. (2017). Why a bodily resurrection?: The bodily resurrection and the mind/body relation. Journal of Analytic Theology, 5(1), 121-144.