Sanctity of Life

The Word of God teaches that each individual is known by God from before the foundation of the world. Since all life exists for God’s purposes and all human lives are equally sacred, it is our belief that human life is blessed of God and must be preserved and nurtured.

Statement On The Sanctity Of Life

Historical Context

At the 1981 General Council in Anaheim, California, the members of The Christian and Missionary Alliance adopted a Statement on Abortion. That Statement, representing the consensus of the denomination, affirmed the historic Christian conviction that life begins at conception. It expressed opposition to abortion-on-demand as a violation of human dignity and the moral law of God. An exception was made only when the life of the mother was threatened. The Statement on Abortion grounded opposition to abortion-on-demand upon the Bible 1.

The Word of God teaches that each individual is known by God from before the foundation of the world (Jeremiah 1:4–5, Psalm 139:13–17). Our Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent God has pronounced His blessing upon the life of a child, according to Psalm 127:3–5. Since all life exists for God’s purposes and all human lives are equally sacred, it is our belief that the life of the unborn child is blessed of God and must be preserved and nurtured. The Christian and Missionary Alliance, therefore, is opposed to induced abortion.

Since that time, debate in the United States about the value of human life has been unabated. The divide between those who hold human life to be sacred and those who value human life on the grounds of function or material and physical attributes has deepened. Consequently, additional threats to the dignity and inviolability of human life have arisen. Arguments about the intrinsic value of human life now encompass euthanasia and questions concerning both self-inflicted and assisted suicide. Certain Utilitarian philosophers have openly justified killing newborn children who are unwanted or disadvantaged. In the face of increasing secular materialism, militant atheism, and the moral relativism that accompanies these false views of human existence, it is now necessary for Christians who are committed to the authority of God’s Word and the truth of the gospel to reaffirm the sacredness and value of human life. This affirmation is based upon the clear testimony of Holy Scripture. Furthermore, it is consistent with two millennia of Christian witness 2.

Biblical Foundations

God’s Word reveals that He is Creator of all. The material universe did not come into being by itself. God spoke it into existence. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Therefore, all that exists has its origin in God’s creative act. He brought into being both plant and animal life. Lastly, God created human beings in His own image, thusdifferentiating humankind from the rest of the animal kingdom. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27). To humans alone God has given will, rationality, emotions, soul, and spirit by which men and women are able to maintain a personal relationship with their Creator. All human beings, regardless of race, gender, age, mental capacity or physical condition, born or unborn, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, young or old, reflect God’s image.

When God infused spiritual life into Adam, He imparted something infinitely greater than material existence. Holy Scripture affirms a dimension to human life that transcends chemical processes, and neurological functions. Nothing else in all of the material creation shares this spiritual dimension. Men and women were created with imperishable souls to fellowship with God throughout eternity. The value of human life is infinitely greater than the relative worth currently ascribed to it by a secular society. Human life has intrinsic value because of its worth to God. Contrary to widespread contemporary belief and materialistic views, men and women do not own themselves. Illusions of personal sovereignty, human autonomy, and unfettered choice outside the parameters of God’s law are false. They inevitably lead to bondage, purposelessness, and separation from the Creator.

The value of human life should have even greater significance for those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ. With reference to those in the Old Testament who entered into covenant relationship with Him, God said, Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession; for all the earth belongs to me. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation . . . (Exodus 19:5). That same promise is echoed in the New Covenant. Those who likewise have entered into a covenant relationship with God through faith in Christ are God’s particular possession: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). Do you not know, Scripture says, that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

Human life is sacred because ultimately it belongs to God. Human beings were created to reflect His glory. It is His by right of creation and, for those who have professed faith in Christ’s sacrificial death and Resurrection, by virtue of redemption. No greater value than this can be assigned to human existence. The incarnation of God’s own Son fully affirms the sacredness of human life. Jesus took upon Himself the form of a servant. He was born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). He willingly forfeited His life to redeem men and women from the consequences of sin and death. Thus, God has confirmed the sacredness of human life in both the birth and death of His Son.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance affirms the sanctity of human life upon these biblical foundations. Conclusions regarding abortion-on-demand, euthanasia, and suicide, whether self- inflicted or assisted, are made only after considering these revealed truths.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance affirms the unique and sacred personhood of every human, including the unborn, on the evidence of Scripture. God told Jeremiah, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart . . . (Jeremiah 1:5). King David wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth; Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:15–16). Upon such biblical grounds, we hold the intentional destruction of a human embryo for purposes of contraception, or for stem-cell research, whether by surgical abortion or use of drugs or devices intended to terminate unborn life or prevent its implantation and growth following conception, to be immoral. Abortion-on-demand must be opposed as a violation of human dignity and a moral evil precisely because it forcibly terminates the life of a human being fashioned in God’s image. Abortion may be an option only in the rarest instances, when it is impossible to save the life of both the mother and the unborn child.

End-of-Life Issues

Since human life is a sacred gift from God, the termination of life by euthanasia, suicide, or assisted suicide is morally and biblically unacceptable.

Euthanasia (”mercy killing”) is a deliberate act of killing somebody diagnosed with an incurable illness or injury. The decision to remove life support from a terminally ill patient is not generally understood as such an act. Euthanasia and removing life support are inherently different. The first is the deliberate act of ending life; the second is not artificially extending life. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome may be legitimate. Through advancements in medical technology, doctors are now able to extend the life of patients by artificial means. The fact that such contrived means are available does not create a moral imperative to extend life indefinitely. Family members are often required to make decisions whether to prolong the life of a loved one. These decisions are difficult ones to make. They require careful reflection upon Scripture as well as consultation with pastors, medical personnel, and on occasion, legal experts.

God asserts His sovereignty over all human life in Deuteronomy 32:39: See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life . . . . It is He who determines the length of our lives (Psalm 139:16). For everyone who trusts in the sacrificial death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, willingness to submit to God’s timing for death is accompanied by a joyful recognition that physical death is not the end of life. It is a transition from living on earth to living in glory. Being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6– 8).

Jesus’ command to love others and to care for those who are suffering does not allow followers of Christ to be unconcerned or cavalier about those who are experiencing suffering and misery. Compassion for those who suffer infirmity or illness compels believers to strive for the alleviation of their pain, as does the gospel itself. James instructs believers both to anoint and pray for those who are ill and to care for their physical need (James 5:14–15). However, in doingso, Christians are to acknowledge the spiritual dimension of human life, recognizing that God can and may use suffering for an ultimate spiritual benefit, and through that, for His own glory. As the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16–;18).

Application

By affirming the value and sacredness of human life, we, the members of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, assert that people do matter to God. Every human being, regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, physical abilities, mental competence, or any other condition of life, has been created in His image, reflects His glory, and is loved by Him. Because human life is sacred, we strive to be intentional agents of God’s love and compassion for those who find themselves in difficult, unwanted circumstances as well as those who suffer pain as a result of illness, injury, injustice, or oppression. We shall strive to alleviate these conditions wherever possible, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to share God’s invitation to find meaning and purpose in life through a personal relationship with Him by faith in Jesus Christ. We renew our commitment to proclaim the gospel to those who have not yet responded to Christ’s work and to discover the full meaning of the sanctity of life as we fellowship with all the redeemed in the praise and worship of God forever.

1 All references to the Word of God, Scriptures or the Bible in this document are as defined in the Statement of Faith of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, section 1.4.

2 See, e.g., Tertullian, De Anima, Apologia; John Chrysostom, Homily 24; Augustine, De Nube et Concupiscentia, Sermon 126; Barnabas, Letter.

(C&MA General Council, 1981)

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