by Stefana Totorcea
At the 13th edition of the International Seminar on Medicine and Theology held in Bistrita, we had the privilege of an exclusive dialogue with Corinna Delkeskamp-Hayes, Director of European Programs, International Studies in Philosophy and Medicine, Freigericht, Germany, and Editor of the Christian Bioethics magazine. She delivered a compelling and challenging presentation on the idea that Christian bioethicists talking about values only reiterate Adam’s fall from grace by refusing to obey the divine will. She explained how this has led to the fact that Christians in the West support euthanasia for children.
She also explained to us why we should repent for… proclaiming values as Christians. She warned us, just as Herman Tristram Engelhardt Jr had (through a paper presented at the same event) that, even though values have the same name, they can be filled with different meanings by those promoting them. It is exactly the case of “human dignity”, which has been used to justify killing through the newly promoted euthanasia laws recently adopted in Western countries.
Rep: Can you please explain once more in plain terms for our readers why euthanasia is related to the satanic temptation of Adam?
Let me say something which, unfortunately, I could not bring up into discussion. Dr. Necula presented here the position of the Orthodox Church on stem cells. I liked the position, but I was very unhappy about the use of human dignity. Because, if you use the term “human dignity” in order to explain why we should not kill human embryos, then you invest a philosophical concept that is like a vessel which can be filled with different meanings.
Rep: “Human dignity” may mean different things to different people…
Absolutely! And, for example, if you use the term “human dignity” in order to protect human life, then you have no way of keeping yourself from idolizing biological life, from getting into the heresy of vitalism, from approving of the medical heroism that goes beyond the scope of what medicine is about.
Now, we, as Orthodox Christians, have the wonderful source of St Basil of Cesareea in his Answer 55 in the Long Rules: Among us, what shouldn’t Christians do with medicine? And St Basil makes it very clear that medicine is a gift of God – nothing about similia similibusand all that – but that it is misapplied or it is used for idolizing biological life. When medicine is used to just keep somebody with his whole mind and heart busy just staying alive and has no longer the capacity to pray and to orient rightly to God, medicine is misapplied.
So that is the danger of this concept of human dignity. And just as dr. Necula quoted the position of the Romanian Orthodox Church that embryos should not be killed as appealing to the dignity of children… Now the Groeningen protocol rests on justifications which appeal to the dignity of children.
So this is a very dangerous term and I really wish that the Romanian Orthodox Church would simply say: “God forbids killing the innocent”.
Now, on the satanic thing. If we, as Christians, use terms like “values”, like “human dignity”, like “freedom” and so on, and isolate these out of the context of what God commanded, then we do exactly what Eve and then Adam were seduced into doing. Namely, no good and evil – independently of God.
God had said: “Don’t eat from that tree!” The good was defined by what God said and He was obeyed.
Rep: We are tempted to make the judgement by ourselves and replace Him…
Right! We are tempted to not define what is good in terms of what God commands, but rather listen to the serpent who says: “You can do it and He just doesn’t want it. And you will not die”. So this is the satanic seduction. So Christians should be very careful always to put everything into their relationship as creature to Creator, invited into His love, but the pass into that love starts with obedience.
Rep: What about autonomy? We are worshiping it!
Exactly! I thought yesterday night of a beautiful picture. In the restaurant there was the service man who emptied a bottle of wine into a big decanter. You know the bottle had a thin neck, while the decanter had a thicker one. So there was room while the red wine was going in, for the air might get out. So the decanter was the receptacle for the divine love of the wine, opening up. How do you open up? By making yourself receptive to the law of God. Then the love can come in, driving out the purely evil and human things and it can fill us and then we can say we love.
Rep: What to do with the secular society today? It becomes more difficult to practise this Christianity!
The first and most important thing is that we, as Christians, do not succumb to the secular value talk. Because, if we do that, we are no longer able to orient ourselves in such a way that we can become a light to the others. First, we must be a receptive to God and only then we can start inviting them , teaching them, baptizing them. So I can start by focusing on a very particular problem that the Christianities that we have in Western Europe have adjusted so much to the ethos of Europe that they are no longer able to be that light. The churches go empty.
Rep: Isn’t reason being replaced with a very subjective reasoning? What about reason as a concept proposed by the Enlightenment?
The Enlightenment continued nothing but the scholastic turn of Western theology because at that time reason was supposed to go in parallel with faith. The important turn in the 12thand 13th century of Western theology was to move theology from the monastery, where people learned to pray and talk with God, to the university, where people learned to talk about God. And, with the reception of Aristotle which came, there was this idea that you could kind of have parallel truths of faith and reason. And there was this illusion, that came from blessed Augustin-of-problematic-memory, who thought that the fall had affected human will entirely, but not the human reason. The Church always knew that it was the other way around. The will is weakened but it can turn and it needs support. But reason is nothing but a whore of the passions. So reason can make itself subservient to anything.
Now the Enlightenment was then inspired by a strong anti-Christian and anti-Church sentiment and thought it could just by relying on reason establish moral philosophy and moral principles. It failed absolutely – first of all because philosophers have never agreed about morality. Never – and that goes from Antiquity. And secondly, the idea that you could both be compelling and universal and have content that was a dream which Kant was still dreaming, but what he didn’t notice was that the content which he put into his seemingly rational morality was a content he had internalized from Christianity, it was into his guts. So he thought masturbation was wrong on rational grounds. He never could prove that because he never could prove what the relevance of the body is…
I’m sorry, I’m going into many directions… What I want to say is that the reason of the Enlightenment is nothing but a continuation of the rationalization of theology in the West. And it turned out and has today been generally accepted that reason is impotent.
You have many versions of reasons and many moralities and smart people just know it doesn’t work.
Rep: It seems that if you don’t have that perspective of the Holy Fathers of the Church you cannot understand the problem of reason.
No. That is certainly true. Though I must say that people like Richard Rorty, who has no Christian perspective, is smart enough to understand that reason will not be able to grow a morality without petitio principii, I mean assuming things without saying which is really arguing in a circle or having an infinite regress, as Engelhardt always says. So reason is impotent.
Now, in the secular world, reason is still appealed to by many people, but it is nothing but a fraud. It is politics it is what’s established and enforced in a particular…
Rep: It is what this reason is grounded on that’s important. What beliefs reason is grounded on…
Exactly! You need premises. You need premises. Reason doesn’t spit out premises and moral content out of itself, it doesn’t… Even if Kant thought so, but he was wrong.
Rep: It’s very challenging, but rewarding to shake off what we tink we have learned. Thank you so much!
If you can help the orthodox thinkers to be very careful about these secular values you can do that with your media, you’ll do a great service. Because they all come to Europe – to Germany, to everywhere – to hear these heterodox Christians talking that way and they think: “If we are to be academically respectable, we have to do that!”
Rep: This type of value discourse is floating in the air, it’s very hard to get it out of people’s minds…
And it kills! If I meet Dr. Necula, I’ll tell her that she should repent! The value talk kills Christianity!