Rev. Rodney Kleyn is pastor of Trinity Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.

What’s happening with Euthanasia in the Mother Land?

From Lifesitenews.com, under the title “Dutch Euthanasia Doctors May Now Kill Healthy Adults,” we learn the following.

The Royal Dutch Medical Association has concluded, after a three-year investigation, that Dutch doctors ought to be able to kill patients who are not ill but who are judged to be “suffering through living.”

The decision contradicts the Dutch Supreme Court that ruled in 2002 that patients may only request euthanasia if they have a “classifiable physical or mental condition,” and not if they are merely “tired of life.”

The law, however, does not require a medical condition, but only that a patient must be “suffering hopelessly and unbearably.” Pro-life activists have warned that such ambiguous language is an open door for new interpretations that would make the law a license to kill.

The new report says many Dutch doctors believe some cases of “suffering through living” could be judged “unbearable and hopeless.”

The argument is that it is too difficult for doctors to classify diseases, and so if the patient is sick … well, then it’s up to the doctor. Along with this, the doctor’s task is redefined. According to Jos Dijkuis, a medical doctor who led the study, “We see a doctor’s task is to reduce suffering, therefore we can’t exclude these cases in advance.”

Another argument for this policy, given by Mira deVries of the Association for Medical and Therapeutic Self-Determination, a pro-suicide group, is that the law exists to protect doctors from prosecution for homicide.

So, they are covered on both ends. The doctor can choose to kill. And the doctor is protected when he kills.

“Thou Shalt Not Kill” (Exodus 20:13).

We may have predicted something like this, but so sin goes.

What’s Happening to Religion in the U.K.?

Modern Reformation writer Shane Rosenthal lets us know the answer to this question in a recent article entitled “Losing Their Religion: Religious Decline in the U.K.” ( Jan/Feb, 2005). Religion and Christianity, he says, are being replaced by “horoscopes” and “spiritualist” movements.

The London Times recently reported that “the end is nigh for religion” in the United Kingdom. Carol Midgley’s front page story argued that within 30 years spirituality will eclipse Christianity in England. “More and more people,” she writes, “describe themselves as ‘spiritual,’ fewer as ‘religious’ and, as they do so, they are turning away from the Christian Church, with its rules and ‘self last’ philosophy, and looking inwards for the meaning of life.”

The article reports that twice as many people polled “believe in a ‘spirit force’ within than they do an Almighty God without,” and that two thirds of young adults in the U.K. (18 to 24-year-olds) have a stronger “belief in their horoscopes than in the Bible.” And while twenty years ago, 11% of the population regularly attended church, the figure now in England is a mere 7.9%. Conservative Christians from a number of theological traditions, according to the Times article, “are adamant that New Age spirituality is merely a new form of gnosticism which turns the proper order upsidedown by putting human beings in the place of God.” However, the data suggests this new trend toward spirituality may “prove more significant than the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.”

The article presents the demise of the village church in the town of Dent as a symbol of the new situation. Once the church was a vibrant part of the community, but “over the years apathy crept in and the congregation declined until it was down to one.” Finally, the church building was sold to a meditation group, which refurbished the property. Now, according to the Times, the place is flourishing. Elizabeth Forder, director of the new meditation centre, commented on the differences between Christianity and the new Spirituality: “I was brought up a Christian, but it held no real meaning for me. I would class myself as a universalist, believing that all religions offer the same end. At its simplest, meditation is giving the body and mind a very deep level of rest, freeing us to be ourselves.”

Following up on Elizabeth Forder’s words, “I was brought up a Christian, but it held no real meaning for me,” does our Christianity have meaning to us?

A Recent Ecumenical Conference in the USA

Modern Reformation also reports on an October 2004 conference on ecumenism at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. The conference focused on a Joint Declaration written by some 16 theologians, entitled “The Princeton Proposal for Christian Unity.”

The authors of this document gathered for an open forum discussion with notable Catholic and Protestant theologians, including Father Richard John Neuhaus (editor of First Things) and Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw.

Modern Reformation was able to interview both the Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians behind the document. From these interviews, it becomes very clear that Rome is not moving away from her positions of Trent, and that rather it is the Protestant churches and theologians that are going back to Rome.

When asked about the theology of Rome on justification, Carl Braaten, a Lutheran theologian, says, “If we still believed that Roman Catholics are teaching heretical doctrine on justification, there would be no Joint Declaration.” When he is asked about Trent and her anathemas, he replies, “There was no recantation on either side, but they concluded that the way the churches are thinking about justification today, those old condemnations no longer apply.”

So, Rome, in this man’s opinion, does not teach heresy on justification, and the way (Protestant) churches are thinking about justification today accords with Trent. A definite shift in thinking for a Protestant.

Were the Catholics so ready to move and come towards the Protestant position? Hardly, and hardly necessary. To begin, Father Neuhaus insists on the Pope as the head of any earthly church that may result from ecumenicity. He says,

If you ask, can one conceive of full communion among Christians that does not include the exercise of Petrine ministry clearly grounded in the NT, instituted by our Lord to be a center of strength and guidance for the brethren, then the answer to that is no, because that would be contrary to our Lord’s intention. Then if you ask, is there any other existing office in the world, present or past, that could exercise that Petrine ministry other than the bishop of Rome, then I think almost everybody would say no, there’s no other believable candidate. So, no, I think whatever you believe we envision will be one in which that ministry will be exercised by the bishop of Rome.

Then, when asked if Trent’s anathemas could or would ever be recanted, he responded,

There never will be a recantation of a council statement. See that’s a very Protestant way of thinking. You say, okay, how are we going to constitute our fellowship? On the basis of our agreements and disagreements? Catholics understand that it is not doctrinal identity but a continuity of persons and office in the apostolic community that binds us together, and particularly as that is ex pressed sacramentally in the eucharist…. You don’t go and say, okay, now we’re going to repudiate this part of our tradition, and change our anathemas and turn them around in the other direction. No, because that would be against the unity of the church.

The discussion with Reno, a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, especially shows that the shift is towards Rome. He is asked about the possibility of Rome working with Protestants who, following the Reformational teaching, still believe that justification is the article on which the church stands or falls. His response,

With those people, I just throw my hands up. They need to believe that the Catholic church rules out their position. They have to believe that. So, does that mean the church is infallible? Well, yes. At some level you have to see that even with the Biblical episode in which Peter does the wrong thing, it comes out right in the end. The teaching office of the church is not trustworthy propositionally, it is trustworthy spiritually. It will not do harm to your soul to let your life be formed by the church’s teaching.

It’s all the way home—to Rome. That is what Rome expects, and that is what Protestants are doing.