Medical Ethics and the Sovereignty of God

Susann is a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A 1998 Scholarship Essay.

The issue of medical ethics in relation to the sovereignty of God is one that deserves much careful and deliberate consideration. Due to advanced medical knowledge and technology, questions concerning medical ethics have arisen that the Christian has never had to deal with before. How do we, as Christians, begin to find the answers to such difficult questions?

One must look to the Bible for guidance in such matters, and one sure comfort provided there is the assurance of God’s sovereignty and control in all situations. The sovereignty of God is defined as “the supreme authority of God.” God is not subject to any power or law which would be conceived as superior to or other than Himself (Dictionary of the Bible, p 146). This definition is based on Romans 9: 20-21: “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing framed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”

The Bible clearly makes it known that all things are in his control and controlled by him. Everything that happens is the work of God and this is manifested in His providence, as shown in the Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10, Question and Answer 27: “What dost thou mean by the providence of God? The almighty and everywhere present power of God; whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years; meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by his fatherly hand.” Question and Answer 28 provides further comfort: “What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by his providence doth still uphold all things? That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from his love; since all creatures are so in his hand, that without his will they cannot so much as move.”

By understanding God’s sovereignty and providence, we can better understand how the Christian must deal with situations involving medicine. One example is the recent and widely publicized debate on assisted suicide. The media has given much attention to the topic due to the work of Doctor Jack Kevorkian and that of the Oregon legislature which is currently debating the issue. Movements to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide are becoming more and prevalent. The danger of falling off of the “slippery slope” is a very real possibility in this time of advancement and constant change. What position should a Christian take on this issue? The Heidelberg Catechism makes it quite plain in Lord’s Day I that our bodies are not our own to deal with as we please and see fit, but are God’s and controlled by Him in His sovereignty and providence. We may not, therefore, make use of the modern means of medicine to take our own life or those of others when it seems convenient or sensible to do so. Lord’s Day I makes that very clear when it says: “What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ… and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head.”

Teachers in our Christian schools have a responsibility to teach this doctrine to their students. They must remind their students of the control God has over their lives and tell them of the comfort that this brings us. God’s sovereignty is an amazing comfort, and the assurance of it makes even the greatest trial bearable. Our young people and children need to hear this truth, and the classroom is one of the means that can be used to teach them.

Teachers can also bring into the classroom modern and concrete examples from current events in the medical community and beyond. Using these examples, students can be shown first hand of the sovereignty of God. In such ways students can begin to deal with the issues that they will face now and in the years to come, as the problem of medical ethics will not die, but will become more and more prevalent and complex due to the constant changing and evolving medical field.

Our sure comfort and guidance can be found in Romans 14:7-9:

For none of us liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.

Works Cited

Handy Dictionary of the Bible, edited by Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI.