Chapel: Shlemon’s talk is a matter of life and death
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
The Stand to Reason website says the organization’s mission is to train Christians “to think more clearly about their faith and to make an even-handed, incisive, yet gracious defense for classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square.”
One of those classical values is the sanctity of life, and Alan Shlemon of Stand to Reason laid out a passionate defense of the Christian worldview on the subject when he spoke to Chapel on Monday morning at Grand Canyon University Arena.
Shlemon kicked off GCU’s Bioethics Conference by warning that the world is moving away from believing that life has intrinsic value and instead is advocating the idea that it merely has instrumental value – it’s valuable only if it’s useful.
To demonstrate his point, he cited three examples, including the way the “Elephant Man,” Joseph Merrick, was treated because of his disfigured body, and the refusal of a Los Angeles hospital to care for a premature baby because it was born at 19 weeks instead of 20.
“These real-life examples all address the same question: What does it mean to be human?” Shlemon said. “And every single one of them is answering it in exactly the same way – it means absolutely nothing.
“We are witnessing a dramatic shift in thinking in our society. It is a shift in the way we see human beings. It is the death of humanists. We are witnessing the death of the idea that human beings are special in some significant way and that they are valuable and that we should care for them. And it’s happening because our society has bought into a different idea of how to value human beings.”
Shlemon based his argument on Genesis 1:27 (“So God created man in His own image …”) and pointed out that virtues such as truth, love, mercy and friendship all have intrinsic value – in other words, they are valuable in and of themselves. So why would human beings be any different?
“Our value is not based on what we can do or what we can become but rather on who we are now, and that is an image bearer of God,” he said. “And notice being made in God’s image is not a degreed property. You don’t have more of the image of God or less of the image of God. You either have the image of God or you don’t.”
The foundation for society for the last 2,000 years has been based on this belief, Shlemon noted, and the legal system is built around it as well. He told the audience that there is no single quality that every person possesses – except one: “Every single person in this room and in the world is made in the image of God.”
The flip side is instrumental value.
“Something has instrumental value if it is a means to another end,” Shlemon said. “In other words, it’s not valuable in and of itself. It’s only valuable if it can get you something else that has value.”
That evokes what Shlemon considers a very dangerous question: What is a person’s quality of life?
Unlike being made in God’s image, quality of life is indeed a degreed property, and that concept is what led to the atrocities of Nazi Germany, which included killing more than 200,000 disabled people, and the euthanasia practices of Jack Kevorkian.
Shlemon said that when he worked in a hospital that treated people with physical disabilities, several of them asked him whether he could put them in touch with Kevorkian.
“In a culture that treats human beings with instrumental value, the strong will prevail and the weak will become discarded,” Shlemon said.
Shlemon had particular scorn for Peter Singer, a bioethicist from Princeton University who advocates abortion and even killing infants for up to four weeks after birth. Shlemon cited this quote from Singer:
“When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed. The loss of a happy life for the first infant is outweighed by the gain of a happier life for the second. Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him.”
Shlemon said that in Iceland, pregnancies of infants with Down syndrome are being aborted, and in the Netherlands, disabled newborns are being euthanized. He was outraged to hear the head of the Netherlands facility say that the decision took “courage.”
“Courage? Courage?” Shlemon said. “I’m sorry, but killing a disabled newborn infant is not courageous. This is cowardice.”
Advancements in technology are great, Shlemon said, “but with any new technology, you have to realize that there will be opportunities for human beings to be exploited.”
He urged students going into science to uphold intrinsic values but said it’s the duty of all Christians to fight for life.
“It’s the Christian worldview that makes sense out of reality,” he said. “It makes sense of this idea that all human beings are equal.”
● For the complete Chapel replay, click here.
● Next Monday’s Chapel speaker will be Greg Boyle of Homeboy Industries.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].