Near the end of life it is common be told not to worry about feeding and even to stop feeding, suggesting it will only prolong their life. Although I do not advocate feeding near the end of life in all circumstances, I propose stopping feeding because feeding will prolong life is not in keeping with a Christian world view. Why do I say this?
Length of life, according to the Bible, is determined by God. The Lord God gives us life, sustains life and takes away life. In the beginning God created everything. Psalm 139 tells us God formed us in our mother’s womb, and had our days written down even before we were formed. Job, in one of his prayers to God (Job 13-14), recognized God has determined our days, even the number of them. Hannah, the mother of Samuel in her prayer to God, in 1 Samuel 2, also saw this, saying that the Lord takes life, makes alive, brings us to the grave and up again. The prophet Isaiah, in chapter 42, says God created the heavens and the earth and gives breath to the people on it. These passages indicate God has our days planned, even the day of our death. Is this really so? The fact that many prophesies in the Bible have historically come true, support God being in control. As does the record that Jesus knew what people were thinking, as well as the outcome of their actions, (like His knowing Peter would deny Him three times before the rooster crowed). God knows everything, our days, even the day of our death.
An odd connection? Why connect the desire to live forever with actively ending life? Consider the follow passage from a book titled, The View From A Hearse: A Christian View of Death, by Joseph Bayly.
One of my early memories is of being led into my grandmother’s room in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to give her a final kiss. She was dying, I had been told, “so be quiet and behave.” That scene impresses me today with its Old Testament quality. Grandma, an imposing person, was conscious, slightly raised on a bolster, her white hair braided and carefully arranged on the quilt she had made as a young woman. The bed, a fourposter, was the one in which she had slept for fifty years, in which her four children had been conceived and born. The wide-boarded floor creaked its familiar creak, the kerosene lamp flickered on the massive bureau, a bouquet of sweet peas from Grandma’s garden made the room faintly fragrant. The old lady was surrounded by her children and grandchildren. In a few hours she died.
Forty years later my children were with their grandfather when he had his last heart attack. We gave him oxygen, called the doctor, and then the ambulance came. The men put Grandpa on a stretcher, carried him out of the house, and that was the last his grandchildren saw of him. Children are excluded from most hospitals. In the intensive care unit of the hospital, my wife and I were with him until the visiting hours were over. The mechanics of survival—tubes, needles, oxygen system, electronic pacemaker—were in him and on him and around him. Grandpa died alone, at night, after visiting hours. His grandsons had no chance to give him a final kiss, to feel the pressure of his hand on their heads.
In this generation death has moved out of the home to the hospital, doctors and nurses have replaced the family, a dying father has become a terminal patient. If the end seems imminent and the family members are present, they are usually hustled out of the room. Why? To shield them from death’s shock, to give medical personnel a free hand if any extreme measures are necessary, perhaps to avoid a traumatic experience for other patients if a surviving relative should go to pieces.
Worldview and Ethical Issues from a Biblical Perspective