Euthanasia is a topic that is not likely to go away any time soon. Our friend or colleague, normally keen to avoid thinking about their own death, may now be talking about their right to end their life at some point. So how can we move a conversation about assisted suicide to the gospel? Tony Payne has some practical (and humorous) advice in an article first published in The Briefing in 1995.
You’ve invited the neighbours over for dinner. Dessert has been successfully concluded, and the kids have retired to their bedroom where they are conducting experiments in paint durability under various impact scenarios. The coffee orders are being taken. As it so often does, the conversation is meandering down loosely connected paths and byways, and your dreams of perhaps talking about the gospel (or even something vaguely Christian) seem to be fading faster than the paint in the kids’ bedroom.
Then all of a sudden your neighbour passes from a heated discussion of Paul Keating’s pig farm to the euthanasia debate. You are struck with inspiration. Euthanasia! Here’s your chance to talk about life and death issues. Surely you could score a few points for the gospel here.
But how? With the advice of I’d like an argument, please ringing in your ears, you want to tread carefully.
You don’t want to wade straight in with the utilitarian argument, for example, partly because you can’t quite remember what ‘utilitarian’ means. (Reminder: a utilitarian argument focuses on the consequences of a particular action; it is about whether it will produce, in the end, good effects or bad effects.) The utilitarian argument on euthanasia is a telling one, but even if you succeeded in establishing the point you wouldn’t be very much closer to the gospel. The best you could expect is a grudging admission that your proposal might cause less overall harm to society than his proposal. No, perhaps you ought to avoid the utilitarian argument on utilitarian grounds.
Read the full article online (1123 words).