Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why Does God Regard Blood as so Important?

Early in mankind's history, right after the global flood, when God first granted humans the right to eat animal flesh, He immediately made clear His view on the matter of handling blood. He commanded Noah and his family: "Every moving animal that is alive may serve as food for you. As in the case of green vegetation, I do give it all to you. Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat."—Genesis 9:3

Later, God's law concerning blood was so important to Him that if an Israelite showed disregard for life as represented by the blood, it was viewed as a most serious wrong. The person deliberately disregarding this law about blood was to be "cut off," executed. (Leviticus 7:26, 27) "This strict injunction not only applied to the Israelites, but even to the strangers residing among them. The penalty assigned to its transgression was the being ‘cut off from the people,’ by which the punishment of death appears to be intended (comp. Heb. x, 28), although it is difficult to ascertain whether it was inflicted by the sword or by stoning." -M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopaedia (1882, Vol. I, p. 834)

But why does God regard blood as so important? In the Bible, the soul is said to be in the blood because blood is so intimately involved in the life processes: "For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I myself have put it upon the altar for you to make atonement for your souls, because it is the blood that makes atonement by the soul in it." (Lev. 17:11)

God said: "The soul of every sort of flesh is its blood." (Lev. 17:14)

God said: "Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." (Gen. 9:4) RSV; Moffatt

The above scriptures do not simply outline a diet restriction. By reasonably examining the above scriptures, it is apparent that God Himself attached a highly important moral principle to blood. God is our Creator and Life-giver. Since He obviously regards life and blood as sacred, He commanded that we view it that way too. By pouring out all the blood that reasonably could be drained out, Noah and his descendants would manifest their regard for the fact that life was from and depended upon the Creator.

God clarified that the same principle would not just apply to animal blood, but to human blood as well...with even stronger force. God said: "Besides that, your blood of your souls shall I ask back. . . . Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man." (Genesis 9:5, 6) If animal blood (representing animal life) was of sacred significance to God, obviously human blood had a sacred significance of even greater value.

"Thus the two prohibitions belong together. They are the most elementary demands of humanity in the literal sense of the word. . . . The permission to eat meat, but without its blood, and the prohibition against shedding human blood indicate the place of man within the world of the living . . . In summary: the reason for the prohibition of blood is of a moral character. . . . Later Judaism regarded this passage as establishing fundamental ethics for every human being." -Genesis (1974), by B. Jacob, edited by E. I. and W. Jacob, p. 64

Andrew Fuller, viewed as "perhaps the most eminent and influential of Baptist theologians," wrote:

"This, being forbidden to Noah, appears also to have been forbidden to all mankind; nor ought this prohibition to be treated as belonging to the ceremonies of the Jewish dispensation. It was not only enjoined before that dispensation existed, but was enforced upon the Gentile Christians by the decrees of the apostles, Acts XV. 20. . . . Blood is the life, and God seems to claim it as sacred to himself." - The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller (1836), p. 751.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blood as Medicine And The Role of Your Conscience

The applications of the medical handling of blood or blood-derived products has produced questions such as:

"What about accepting small fractions extracted from a primary component of blood, such as serums containing antibodies to fight a disease or to counteract snake venom since some have concluded that such minute fractions are, in effect, no longer blood?"


"What about a Christian's own blood being handled in the course of a surgical procedure, medical test, or current therapy?"

The Jews surely must have faced similar uncertainties with the eating of meat. The Bible is clear that a person obedient to God would not eat unbled meat. Still, questions might have arisen: When an Israelite killed a sheep, how quickly did he have to drain its blood? Did he have to slit the animal’s throat for drainage? Was it necessary to hang the sheep by its hind legs? For how long? What would he do with a large cow? Even after drainage, some blood might remain in the meat. Could he eat such meat? Who would decide? God offered basic guidance on slaughtering clean animals and draining their blood, but he did not go beyond that.—John 8:32.

So how should a Christian who wishes to "abstain from blood" decide the personal medical handling of their blood and/or whether to accept blood-derived medications?

If a Christian who is sincere in abiding by God's moral principle to blood is uncertain about whether to accept certain procedures related to blood-derived medicine or handling, he should learn what God’s Word says and strive to mold his conscience by it. That will equip him to decide in line with God’s guidance rather than asking someone else to make a decision for him. (Psalm 25:4, 5) He would also carefully consider as much accurate information as possible concerning the procedure(s) in question.

Conscience is the inherent ability to weigh and decide matters, often moral issues. (Romans 2:14, 15) But just because something may be a matter of conscience doesn't mean that it is inconsequential. It can be very serious. If your compromise on this issue would trouble your Bible-trained conscience, ignoring it could not only damage your conscience, but also your relationship with God. That relationship is the only one that can lead to everlasting life, based on the saving power of Jesus’ shed blood. Another reason why it is serious is that it can affect others whose conscience may differ. Take for example, Paul’s advice about meat that might have been presented to an idol and was later sold in a market. A Christian ought to be concerned about not ‘wounding consciences that are weak.’ If he stumbles others, he could ‘ruin his brother for whose sake Christ died’ and be sinning against Christ. So personal decisions on this matter should be taken very seriously.—1 Corinthians 8:8, 11-13; 10:25-31

Is Refusal of Blood a Form of Suicide?

Jehovah's Witnesses closely follow the advances made in the field of bloodless medicine and surgery as is evidenced by a complete examination of the links on this site's right-hand sidebar. There are endless examples and much documentation of their utilization of this. Would they really be so eager to find quality, medical alternatives to blood transfusions for themselves and their children whom they deeply love if their refusal of blood was tantamount to a form of suicide or a "right to die"?

Christians who truly follow God's command to "abstain from blood" do not decline all therapies. They reject just one therapy, which even many experts admit come with dangers.

"In general, refusing medical care is not tantamount to ‘suicide.’ Jehovah’s Witnesses seek medical attention but refuse only one facet of medical care. Refusal of medical care or parts thereof is not a ‘crime’ committed on oneself by an overt act of the individual to destroy, as is suicide." - The American Surgeon, July 1968, p. 542.

Addressing a medical conference, Dr. David Pent of Arizona observed concerning Christians who follow the decree to "abstain from blood":

"Jehovah's Witnesses feel that, should they die because of their refusal to receive a blood transfusion, they are dying for their beliefs in much the same way that the early religious martyrs did centuries ago. If this is passive medical suicide, there are several physicians in the audience right now who are smoking cigarettes, and that probably constitutes just as passive a suicide." -American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, June 1, 1968, p. 395

Should the preservation of life come before any and all principles?

"Human dignity is enhanced by permitting the individual to determine for himself what beliefs are worth dying for. Through the ages, a multitude of noble causes, religious and secular, have been regarded as worthy of self-sacrifice. Certainly, most governments and societies, our own included, do not consider the sanctity of life to be the supreme value." - Rutgers Law Review, Vol. XXVI, 1973, p. 244, Norman L. Cantor, Associate Professor at Rutgers Law School