BreakPoint: The Deadly Gospel of Nice

Love Means Telling the Truth about Suicide

Truly loving people can mean telling them things they don’t want to hear—like, “suicide is not something to celebrate.”

A few weeks ago, I quoted the Christian satire site, the Babylon Bee. As someone with the spiritual gift of sarcasm, I appreciate many of their headlines. This one, however, really hit the mark: “Progressive Christian Criticizes Jesus For Not Being Very Christlike.”

One can imagine certain believers these days uncomfortable with the Prince of Peace’s calling the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs.” Jesus’ honesty cuts against the popular modern ethic claiming to be all about love, but which is, in reality, a gospel devoted to being “nice.”

But nice isn’t the same thing as love. True love is concerned with the good of the beloved, and can never be divorced from the truth of how God created us and intends us to live. When we ignore that truth, we can “nice” people to death.

A disturbing example comes out of Ontario, where George and Shirley Brickenden recently threw a “bon voyage party” for their families, before committing suicide together by having their doctor administer lethal injections. LifeNews reports that no one tried to stop them. And more shocking still, the dean of Toronto’s St. James Anglican Cathedral not only attended and blessed the procedure but then said he’d be honored to give the couple an Anglican funeral.

Now this is what the gospel of nice, which is based on sentimentality and not love, looks like. It prioritizes short-term happiness over the true and the good. In this case, it leads to blessing self-murder rather than offering those hard but loving words, “This is wrong.”

Progressive churches have raised the gospel of nice to an art form. It’s the whole rationale behind blessing same-sex “marriages” and abortion clinics. Mark my words, we’ll soon see Canada’s Anglican church developing liturgy for physician-assisted suicide.

But the gospel of nice isn’t just a progressive heresy. Evangelicals often withhold truth in the name of love, as well. I think, for example, of the widespread acceptance of surrogacy and in vitro fertilization in evangelical churches. A recent Christianity Today cover story quoted couples who’ve conceived children using unethical methods as well as women who “feel called” to be surrogates as their form of Christian service.

But Christian and even non-Christian bioethicists have argued that surrogacy treats children like commodities that are manufactured by renting wombs. Most European countries ban surrogacy on the grounds that it leaves the poor vulnerable to exploitation.

As Matthew Lee Anderson and Jake Meador pointed out recently in “Mere Orthodoxy,” for too many evangelicals, heartfelt stories of personal experience trump ethical arguments and theological reasoning, a problem only made worse by the fact that many churches avoid biblical or theological training in areas like reproductive technologies altogether.

Anderson and Meador conclude that when you “Combine the emotive spirituality that animates middle-class evangelical piety” with “a profound sense of compassion for those who are hurting,” then surrogacy and in-vitro fertilization seem like not only something God allows, but something He wants.

If such experience replaces moral reasoning and even Scripture, and if making people feel loved is more important than telling them the truth, where does this end? Will we accommodate transgender ideologies rather than make the uncomfortable stand for God’s design for male and female? Will we hear of Christian surrogates carrying babies for gay couples?

The real Gospel, of course, offers joy beyond anything found in this world. But it does so by first telling us hard truths: that we can’t erase suffering through euthanasia or by renting wombs—and that what God created and redeemed us for isn’t always what makes us happy. That’s not nice. But it is true love.

 

The Deadly Gospel of Nice: Love Means Telling the Truth about Suicide

As John points out, there are many issues, like assisted suicide or surrogacy, where believers need to speak the truth in love and not necessarily in “nice.” Personal experience and sentimentality do not win out over sound theology and scriptural teaching.

Resources

Surrogacy and the Challenge of Fair Mindedness
  • Matthew Lee Anderson, Jake Meador | MereOrthodoxy.com | March 8, 2018
America’s Surrogacy Bump: Is Fertility a Blessing to Be Shared?
  • Kate Shellnut | Christianity Today | February 20, 2018
A Practical Guide to Culture
  • John Stonestreet, Brett Kunkle | David C. Cook | 2017

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Ramona Hegman Voight

    That’s a huge leap from the evil of physician assisted suicide to in vitro fertilization. That’s evil, too? Is then all medical intervention evil by that reasoning? Anything that assists at the beginning or possible end of life? No C-sections, no CPR?

    • Jordan Smith

      I agree that equating the two to the same level of evil is rather harsh, and potentially very hurtful to the hundreds, if not thousands, of good, loving, caring, Christian couples that have used IVF to conceive children.
      The parents I know who have used it had to look at the issue and decide if it was the moral choice, and telling them that it equates to a sin is harsh and cruel. Especially if it comes from those of us that God has blessed with children conceived in-vivo.
      If we follow this logic to its conclusion, all acts of medicine could be equated to “getting in God’s way”, which goes against the long tradition of Christians engaging in the practice of medicine.
      I agree that there is a risk of playing god at times (genetic engineering being a place for potential abuse), but is the miracle (and I use that word purposefully) of being able to conceive out of utero one of those? I find the case for that reasoning difficult to accept on moral and ethical grounds.

      • Scott

        “If we follow this logic to its conclusion, all acts of medicine could be equated to “getting in God’s way”, which goes against the long tradition of Christians engaging in the practice of medicine.”

        Jesus healed the sick… so there might be a conflict with your logic.

        • gladys1071

          Jesus did not use medicine to heal, he is God so he can heal just by thinking it or saying it or touching someone, very different from actually practicing medicine and using heroic measures or artificial machines to keep people alive.

          • Scott

            Again I think you missed my point. Jesus healed. It doesn’t matter how… He had divine power, we have to use other resources. Jesus wasn’t “getting in God’s way,” when he healed because healing the sick and afflicted isn’t contradicting God’s will.

            Sickness, sin, death… all this is from the destroyer, not God even though He allows it.

          • Andrea

            Scott, by your logic, medical assistance for conception would also be allowable since God also gave children to barren women in the Bible. If medical intervention to heal is okay because Jesus healed, wouldn’t medical intervention to conceive be okay because God helped infertile women conceive?

          • Scott

            Sure… life giving/saving treatment is morally supported in scripture. IVF has historically killed more lives than helped give though.

    • Robert Cremer

      In answer to your questions: Yes, No, No and No. You missed John’s answer in his 9th paragraph. To help, here it is again: “But Christian and even non-Christian bioethicists have argued that surrogacy treats children like commodities that are manufactured by renting wombs. Most European countries ban surrogacy on the grounds that it leaves the poor vulnerable to exploitation”.
      1. You have both Christian and Non-Christian Bioethicists saying it is wrong. They have thought and reasoned through the many issues. Their reasoning carries some weight of validity.
      2. Should children be treated as commodities?
      3. Should the poor females be subject to being abused as a surrogate? (Are puppy mills an abuse to the mother dog?)
      Then the 10th paragraph essentially says individual success stories are not a justification for supporting a national policy promoting anything.
      I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask people to think and reason through issues applying Biblical guidance in coming up to an answer.

  • Cheri Wilson

    Can you explain the thought behind in vitro fertilization being wrong? It’s not something I’ve really considered before.

    • Jason

      If you believe that life begins at conception, or that we were “fearfully and wonderfully made” in our mother’s womb, (Psalm 139:14-15, implying “personhood”), then it seems to be antithetical to the Biblical worldview to seek to fertilize a number of eggs through in vitro, implant one or two, then discard the rest if the pregnancy is successful. We know what it’s like to struggle with infertility, but there may be other options besides this. In our case, foster care and adoption!

      • Jordan Smith

        That is indeed a consideration, and most parents I know who have used IVF are giving each conceived life an equal chance (even though for one family that means 7 pregnancies)

      • GenXConservative

        The remaining embryos need not be discarded. “Snowflake adoption” has been around for quite some time.

      • Andrea

        So, it isn’t in vitro itself that is wrong, it’s how the embryos (I agree, they are people) are dealt with later that creates a problem? Why not focus on ethical, correct ways of mitigating that part of the process rather than saying the whole process is wrong?

        • Scott

          You raise a good point… I guess my question is why kill so many unborn prior to working that out?

    • Robert Cremer

      To be honest I had not thought about it before either. But to answer your question, read John’s 9th paragraph.

  • Timothy D Padgett

    While we appreciate your concern, there’s only so much room for explanation one can give in a 600 word article. Hopefully pieces like this will encourage people to start asking questions and searching for answers.

    Timothy D Padgett
    Managing Editor
    BreakPoint

    • Amy

      What does one paragraph really help? Provides no answers and there is a serious lack of resources for Christian couples dealing with infertility. Instead those statements just add salt to an already hurting open wound. If you want to educate people then provide more than just a blanket statement that in vitro and surrogacy are as bad as assisted suicide. It’s hard to find any information about infertility let alone from a reliable Christian source. Then add in the pressure you gots from everyone including the church to have kids. Which is not pleasant when you can’t. And sometimes adoption isn’t an option. My husband and I qualify for one adoption agency. I do not feel that we are a right candidate for foster care. Please take some time to clarify this article I would love for some answers. Also there is such a thing as snowflake adoption maybe take some time to discuss that. I’m not asking you to be nice but sometimes “LOVE” needs more of an explanation then a couple harsh sentences.

      • Amy

        Please ignore my horrible grammar, I used voice to text and should have checked it closer.

  • Andrea

    I honestly don’t understand why there is an objection to surrogacy. I don’t see it as “turning babies into commodities” any more than adoption does. Why would it be wrong for me to carry my niece or nephew in my womb if my sister can’t carry a baby? There are always ethical issues (in adoption, in surrogacy, in in vitro, etc.) that need to be addressed, but I can see no theological or Biblical basis for rejecting surrogacy outright.

    • gladys1071

      I don’t really have much of an opinion on the issue of IVF and surrogacy. I agree with you though, i don’t really such was the objection to surrogacy is? I don’t see any biblical prohibition on it. I think this should fall under Christian liberty, and for each person to decide for themselves between them and God on these two issues.

  • Andrea

    But it doesn’t have to. Those embryos can be (and are) adopted. Practices could be developed to only use a certain number of eggs in the process. If that is the only objection to it, then that can be dealt with and removed. If that is removed, what is wrong with it?

    • Scott

      “If that is removed, what is wrong with it?”

      Perhaps nothing… but there is a deeper ethical discussion to be had about all the possible pros and cons. Currently there are too many unborn child deaths associated with the practice of IVF.

      • gladys1071

        This should fall under freedom of conscience between God and the couple.

        Their is no absolute truth on this matter only opinions.

        Why would your friends need to repent?

  • Bill Knapp

    Yes the example you gave about the Anglican church in Toronto blessing an assisted suicide is disturbing .. our progressive society it seems sees “progress” with death lenses attached to fancy stylistic frames that “wow” them .. abortion, suicide .. the “progressive” church is following the “gods”, idols and desirs of our society .. good and “nice” feelings are more important than a bit of temporary suffering before death

    I have not run into people in churches getting surrogate mothers or people who have used “sperm banks” .. but I would agree with you that these practices are treating human life as products, consumer products .. very good topic for christians to wrestle with .. appreciate the references to articles etc on this subject ..

    I do some voluntary work (food bank once a week and other activities) .. I have noticed and discussed this with others – about 1/3 of the people really need the food baskets, 1/3 approx. of the food baskets does some good but food baskets not absolutely necessary for them, 1/3 of people who receive the baskets are “abusers” profiting from the system and “nice” people, “nice theology” .. the same goes for the other charity I am involved with from time to time …

    yes the Lord wants us to help the poor, the suffering, the infertile, etc and i do as I am able, but some people use the Lords words concerning the poor, suffering to “black mail” christians into loosing discernment and becoming only “nice” and “feely” .. The Lord also asked us to become wise as serpents and harmless as doves