Medical advances have created a multitude of complex ethical questions with which many in the evangelical community struggle. But, according to the December Evangelical Leaders Survey, evangelical leaders remain firm in their commitment to “let God be God” when it comes to their life’s end. When faced with severe pain in a terminal illness, 94 percent said they would not consent to the termination of their lives.
“This reiterates what we already know about evangelicals: They want to honor life from womb to tomb,” said Leith Anderson, President of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE). “As Billy Graham said recently in a Christianity Today interview, ‘God has a reason for keeping us here (even if we don’t always understand it), and we need to recover the Bible’s understanding of life and longevity as gifts from God.’”
“What surprised me about the survey was the flood of additional comments we received on how to handle extreme measures to prolong life,” Anderson said.
Though not required to expound on their yes or no answer, 63 percent included additional comments, 59 percent of which mentioned extraordinary medical interventions to extend life. Of those who remarked on extreme measures, 85 percent said they would not want extreme measures used to prolong their lives. The other comments on extreme medical interventions were neutral. Many noted the value in developing living wills.
The leaders’ comments reflect previous NAE Board resolutions, such as Physician Assisted Suicide 1997 in which the NAE stated, “We believe there is a profound moral distinction between allowing a person to die, on the one hand; and killing on the other.” And in 1994, “…we believe that medical treatment that serves only to prolong the dying process has little value.”
Ron Boehme, Director of Youth with a Mission U.S. Renewal, said, “God is the author of life and death, and amazing advances in medicine may complicate that decision, but not alter its basic principle.”
Anderson said, “In reading the comments, I was struck by how real and close these issues seem to be on the minds of our leaders. Some candidly included potential wavering if actually faced with extreme pain.”
One respondent said, “While I am saying ‘no’ now, I am thinking I would need to be in that situation to be able to find out whether I would.”
The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.