24 n January / February 2014 n www.faith Today.ca
calling me to attempt, but at the same time I didn’t feel
I was up to. That has covered lots of things, and books,
and articles I suppose, things I have written where I felt
I had to tackle it, but I didn’t think I could bring it off.
FT: Euthanasia is something Canadians talk about and
debate more and more. There seems to be a growing sense
that people who consider themselves physically and even
mentally and spiritually weak have the right to choose
to end their own lives at a time of their choosing. You’ve
written a book that challenges readers to see times or
conditions of weakness as
a time to experience God’s
faithfulness. What are your
thoughts on euthanasia?
JP: I have a strong belief that euthanasia is a form of
self-indulgence that is not to be encouraged, that in fact
is ruled out by the biblical view of life as a valuable gift
of God to be preserved as long as in the providence of
God it can be.
When I say life, I don’t just mean the heartbeat and
all that goes with it. I’m talking about being a person
alive, and that makes me more flexible on some issues
where it isn’t euthanasia, but keeping a machine going so the heart keeps beating although the person is
gone – 999 times out of 1,000 the medical people can
be absolutely certain that the person is gone. That’s
one thing that God in His providence makes possible.
When you are that certain the person is gone, then
it seems to me the appropriate thing is to turn off the
machine and let the body follow the person.
But as for euthanasia, people wanting permission
publicly and with professional help to commit painless
suicide in order to escape what they regard as intolerable suffering, I have a very different view.
Life is good.
It’s a good thing to behold the light of the sun, and it
seems to me that as long as the person can stay with us as
a person relationally and in conversation and in personal
rapport if nothing else, then that person’s responsibility
before God is to cherish the life that God has given.
FT: What do we miss out on as humans when we choose
to exit life early because we are suffering and weak?
JP: The flight from pain and physical limitations of one sort
or another is always and everywhere spiritually unhealthy.
It’s a form of self-indulgence which cannot be justified
by those who believe in the wide providence of God.
I don’t think that the first thought ought to be [about]
what I might miss if I terminate my life at my own dis-
cretion. The first thought ought to be, “God has given
me my life. He’s given it to me for service in doxology,
praise, in service of others, in doing what you can for
them, in saying what you can to sustain them.”
The general truth that pain is regularly part of the
learning discipline of God is a truth that I hope my
book makes clear, and certainly which I wish to make
clear whenever my ministry calls on me to talk about it.
I put it that way because I don’t think I’m preoccupied with pain as a concern to write about. I’m really
not qualified to do that.
I think we are going through a very self-indulgent
phase in Western culture. Nobody enjoys pain, so people
naturally grab at freedom from pain in any shape or form
and are preoccupied in doing that. Quite apart from what
we know about the Bible, pain does actually strengthen
the self in the ordinary human self. You learn to live
with it, you learn to be patient with it. You learn to
love in spite of it.
FT: Can a Christian who
served the Lord their entire life still be filled with fear
and sadness near the point of dying? Can great fear coexist with the great hope you write about?
JP: Cautiously, I agree with that. My caution lies in the
fact that fear isn’t always a rational apprehension of
something rough that one knows about and knows is
coming. Like fear in the trenches, fear can also take the
form of shrinking back from the unknown.
In some cases the more you know about what was
previously unknown, the less you’re going to fear.
I think that has been the problem all through the 20th
century, that very many Christians in very many churches
– I include Evangelicals, indeed I highlight the evangelical
church in particular – all through the 20th century to the
present, have put a tremendous amount of emphasis on
the fact that once you are Christ’s it is joy, victory, triumph
over things you felt you could never cope with, the experience of near miracles, remarkable providences where
God shows His hand and makes it clear to you He’s on
your side. All of that comes out in our preaching and in
the books we write for each other to read.
In comparison, very little is said and thought about
the hope of glory, the vision of God and the communion
with Christ that await us all. Because believe it or not,
the Lord Jesus being God as well as man is able to make
himself present to any number of millions of people who
are His, and each of us will feel, I’m quite sure, that all
through eternity we will have His undivided attention.
I find that a wonderful thought to juggle with, quite
We simply haven’t talked through and therefore
looked forward as Christians to the glory that lies beyond this world.
When people have lived all their lives on a standard
evangelical diet and they know that leaving this world
is coming near, and they’ve never been taught how to
think and prepare for it, you can’t wonder that they are
afraid, simply because they don’t know.
The New Testament enables us to know in general
terms quite a bit about the sort of experience it’s going to
be, even though we can’t imagine the specifics. Just like
The flight from pain
and physical limitations
is spiritually unhealthy.