As Answers in Genesis conducts ministry all over the world, it is often critical to maintain an awareness of important occurrences in other cultures in an effort to comprehend how best to present the message of biblical authority and the gospel of Jesus Christ with clarity and relevance. This week we set our focus on the European nation of Belgium.
In September 2014, a Belgian prison inmate convicted of rape and murder was informed that his request for medically assisted suicide would be granted, with a date set for him to receive a lethal injection on January 11, 2015. The inmate, Frank Van Den Bleeken, has been in prison for nearly 30 years and, according to reports, sought euthanasia because there is an alleged “lack of therapy” provided in the state of Belgium for his “condition.” One source states, “He argued he had no prospect of release since he could not overcome his violent sexual impulses, and wanted to die in order to end his mental anguish.”* Days prior to Van Den Bleeken’s scheduled lethal injection, medical professionals working alongside Belgium’s Justice Ministry overturned the decision to allow the inmate to be euthanized. According to Belgium’s Justice Ministry, medical confidentiality does not permit the disclosure of the reason(s) for the doctors’ decision.
It’s important to note that capital punishment is the government’s responsibility (Romans 13), not an individual citizen’s. And although the ethical and legal issues pertaining to this situation are highly complex, there are two areas specifically deserving of comment.
First, the fact that euthanasia was even considered as a viable “solution” for Van Den Bleeken’s state of affairs displays a flagrant disregard for biblical ethics and a de facto rejection of human value. Belgium first legalized euthanasia in 1999 for medical patients with terminal illnesses and has since broken new ground for the legalization of euthanasia for those suffering unbearable mental pain. In 2014, Belgium was the first country to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age. This liberal perspective on a human’s so-called “right to death” stands in sharp contrast with Scripture, which in the historical record of Genesis speaks of man being made in the image of God, and of human life therefore being immeasurably precious (Genesis 1:26–27, 9:6; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9). Accordingly, to take human life in any context not expressly permitted by Scripture—and even for someone to take his own life—is to deface the divine image. Sadly, Belgium is setting a trend that is beginning to be followed in some European countries, as well as in certain US states and in the Canadian province of Quebec. As a result, it is becoming increasingly necessary for Christians to stand firmly on biblical truth in affirming the preciousness of all human life.
Second, and perhaps even more important though, the circumstances surrounding Van Den Bleeken’s case reveal man’s tremendous need for the gospel. As noted above, Van Den Bleeken’s request to be euthanized came as a result of his despondency that no therapy could be provided to “cure” him of his violent impulses. However, the fact is that what Van Den Bleeken really needs is not therapy but rather reconciliation with his Creator through Jesus Christ and the power of the gospel. He did not need reparation. He needed transformation. Sin is not merely a matter of outward behavior, but a condition of the heart (Jeremiah 17:9); it cannot be corrected simply through therapeutic efforts. What is needed is a changed heart (cf. Ezekiel 36:26–27)! What is truly incredible is that Christians have been entrusted with the only true solution for mankind’s greatest problem (sin)—the gospel of Jesus Christ! This reality should spur us on to action in sharing the biblical message of salvation with others!
Here in Answers International we want to boldly communicate this two-fold truth: man’s great dignity and worth as a being made in the image of God, and man’s great need as a result of sin. Genesis 1–11 (which is central to our focus) is foundational to both of these truths. We live in a world that continually doubts the authenticity and reliability of the history in Genesis. AiG Worldwide exists to help answer the skeptical questions of our time and defend the reliability and authority of the Bible starting in Genesis. As we defend and proclaim the authority of the book of Genesis, we are more able to use opportunities, even in discussions about euthanasia, to point people to the gospel of Christ. It is only in Jesus that the image of God is perfected (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4), and in Him that man’s need incurred by sin is dealt with (1 Peter 2:24, 3:18). The answers for questions about euthanasia are based in the history of human origins found in Genesis. As we defend this history we can point all people of all nations to the one true answer for all human problems—Jesus Christ. Please remember to pray for us as we confront the world with the authority of Scripture that declares the only way of salvation for all people through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
* “Doctors Block Belgian Murderer’s Euthanasia,” Reuters, January 6, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/ 2015/01/06/us-belgium-euthanasia-prisoner-idUSKBN0KF1HA20150106.