He uses it as an illustration.
But it is a powerful one. When the apostle Paul says ‘if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?’ he is speaking in the context of the messages given by the church (1 Corinthians 14.8).
There are contradictory messages on some of the most important issues we can imagine coming from those looked upon as Christian leaders in our country at present. The Church of England has said no to same sex marriages in church. But simultaneously Archbishop Welby has opened Church schools to be taught by the gay activist group Stonewall. Then the ex-Archbishop, Lord Carey, has performed a truly acrobatic volte face on the subject of assisted suicide. I picked up my Saturday newspaper in mid-July to find the headlines reporting his incredible moral gymnastics. Having once been against it, now he is for it. Meanwhile, the present Archbishop confirmed the Church’s opposition to Lord Falconer’s Bill promoting assisted suicide. Mixed-message-tastic?
The arguments against assisted suicide have often been rehearsed. The Bible never allows the taking of human life apart from in the context of an act of a legal earthly government as an expression of the wrath of God for wrongdoing (Romans 13.4, Genesis 9.6). This means there is no place for either deliberate abortion or euthanasia. Lord Carey defends his about turn by referring to developments in medical technology. But actually nothing has changed. As far back as 1973 a report to the Third World Congress on Medical Law said that the majority of deaths in the present day can be made peaceful whatever the nature and character of the preceding illness. Modern medicine can almost always overcome pain without shortening life.1 In a recent conversation with me a retired senior pathologist confirmed this.
What about those who are not in pain but who feel their lives have become pointless? The problems here are: first; the assessment of pointlessness will be invariably in secular terms, and second; why limit the pointless idea to people with medical conditions? Why not assist everyone who at some time decides their life has no value to die? Dr Harold Shipman would rub his hands with glee.
Where’s the gospel?
But beyond this, what is Lord Carey saying about the gospel? If a person is cogent enough to decide that their life ought to be ended, they are cogent enough to understand the gospel, which says without personal faith in Christ they go to a lost eternity. Their life here may be perceived to have become unbearable, but what about the unbearable nature of God’s eternal judgement? That doesn’t seem to figure in Lord Carey’s calculations. It’s like ‘tacit atheism’.
The real reason for the mixed messages from these senior figures is that they try to satisfy a godless society which has inevitably redefined all moral issues in therapy terms (Ephesians 4.17-19). Categories such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ have become what ‘feels’ good and what ‘feels’ bad to us rather than what is good or is bad in the sight of God. In 2006, Lord Carey warned that if assisting someone to end their life was allowed it would soon be ‘treated as casually as abortion.’ He was right then. He is wrong now.
Christians are being confused. And these leaders’ contradictory trumpet calls, adrift from Scripture, are in danger of becoming mere ‘noises off.’ Meanwhile we are in a ferocious spiritual battle for the soul of Britain and its future.
1. See Francis Schaeffer & Everett Koop, in Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 5, p.336