I have recently come to the conclusion that rationality is no longer enough to form a basis for political and other social debate. When man removed God and theology from his calculations for decision-making on political action, it was assumed that rationality would be the new liberator for proper decision-making. Today with the amount of spin that exists and the level of subjective thinking, rationality has lost its own place as well and emotions seem to be the new political god. Soon of course, emotions will wear thin too, and be replaced with god knows what. Something that can be a scapegoat for man’s ultimate aim; to give vent to his ego and subjective opinions and, ultimately, to do as he likes. There is no good or bad ultimately, because everybody can choose to do as one likes; choice is another new god that allows us to give vent to our subjective ethical reasoning.
I will continue using rationality again and again as the basis for any political or other decision, because rationality is the ethical basis of natural law. We can distinguish what is right and what is wrong through our reason alone. However, one should understand that there are other value judgements that are based on revelation as well. Revelation is what God has shown us to be his plan and tool for deciding what is right or wrong. We cannot arrive at it with reason alone. It is not good because God wants it, but God wants it because it is good Therefore in the future I will also start to state my judgements on value issues based on revelation because by quoting my personal values people will also have to accept the whole background for my final ethical positions. Francis Schaeffer the theologian says that one cannot claim to be Christian and at the same time practise existentialist behaviour, unless one also follows the ethical dictates established by divine revelation. Kierkgaard states that we can be existentialist and Christian. Schaeffer qualifies this sharply to not contravening or keeping in line with the ethical dictates of revelation and I tend to agree with him.
In the past weeks and months I have stated and clearly shown scientifically why I believe that life starts at fertilisation from the scientific rational perspective and therefore life ought to be protected and safeguarded from that stage onwards. Any human being in whatever stage of development ought to be protected from intentional harm and prima facie has a right to life. I must confess that I have stopped there but this is obviously not enough to convince the hedonistic and subjective government that we currently have, and also many members, maybe the majority, of society who wish to subjectively follow their own dictates on this matter.
I have not yet expressed my own complete value judgement on the matter. As a Catholic who takes part in political discourse and decision-making, I am obliged to follow the ethical dictates of revelation both in the Old Testament and in the New, as well as other sources such as the teachings of the Church. Moses and the 10 Commandments make it clear that killing human beings is an ethical watershed as does Christ and the teaching of the New Testament fathers make clear that we cannot destroy innocent human life because it goes against the law of love, true agape love that is, which formulates the basis of the New Testament. One cannot be a Christian and voluntary kill other innocent human beings even if this means that we have hard choices to make about our daily lives. Even if this means we are discarded socially as a marginal minority. All this hogwash of some politicians or other individuals stating that they are Christian and wanting to help others but are in favour of killing or freezing human embryos is pure hogwash. It is subjective relative ethical thinking and behaviour at its best, aimed at satisfying a poorly informed, maybe invincibly ignorant conscience at best or more likely satisfying a particular voter base or one’s political masters and the money, power or political patronage he or she would be gracing one with.
For the Christian however, there is another reason to oppose the killing of an innocent member of the human species, a reason many do not often consider. It is because one member of our species sits in the Godhead. We often speak of the Trinity as a mystery which it verily is. The Trinity of three persons in one God, three totally different persons but who constitute one nature, one essence, one soul, one God maybe by perfect unity of will. The second person of this Trinity, Jesus Christ, is no less a mystery. He is a human being, a member of the species of man. This also is a mystery, the mystery of Jesus Christ. Man, is a substance constituted by his rational essence (nature, soul) and his material constitution composing a human living substance an individualised person. Man is a substance that is created as an image of God but an imperfect image at that as he only contains some of God’s attributes. This human being, this man Jesus Christ however who, having a human nature and rational essence, has had this human essence superimposed on and assumed by the essence or nature of the Word, the second person of the Trinity, the perfect image of God. Christ has both the essence or soul of a man and the essence or soul of God. He has two natures with the human one being the lesser one subsumed by the greater nature, that of God. This is a difficult concept to understand and it is in fact a mystery which the real Christian must accept as revealed but cannot ever comprehend. It is more so a mystery because although Christ has two natures, one of God and one of man, he constitutes just one person and the person is a divine one at that. I like to think of this as man the essence being an imperfect image of God, being completed and assumed by the essence which is the perfect image of God, the Word! Ultimately one can never understand this but the fact remains that a human being of a divine nature sits in the Trinity, means that human beings have a special place in the order of creation and therefore every human being in whatever stage of development has to be respected at least by those of us who say we are Christian. Christ had a divine nature as an embryo in utero and ex utero; he was a divine person in utero and ex utero.
Therefore, besides my scientific judgement as a doctor of medicine, you now have my value judgement as a Christian as well. Human life should be protected from the beginning of its existence to its natural end. This is true for scientific rational and revealed ethical reasons. In the present debate, one cannot state that one is a Christian and ignore these facts otherwise one is being an existentialist who ignores revealed sources. In short, one is not being a Christian at all.
Dr Asciak is Senior Lecturer II in Applied Science at MCAST.