Book Plunge: Death and Donation

What do I think of Scott Henderson’s book published by Pickwick Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

For most of us, it’s a no-brainer. You go to get a license or register to vote or something like that and you’re asked if you want to be an organ donor. Why not? After all, once you die, you’re not really going to need them. Might as well help someone out here? Scott Henderson certainly agrees with that, but at the same time, has a caution about the matter.

This caution is relevant to those of us who are Christians because we want to be consistently pro-life. We would not want an innocent baby put to death to harvest its organs. What about someone who is possibly dying? Could it be that death is being pronounced too early just so we can get to the organs?

It’s quite interesting that once when I was reading this, I took my wife to see the sleep doctor about some tests to see if she has sleep apnea. The doctor saw the image and asked about what I was reading. I told her and gave her some of the main thesis and she immediately replied that brain death is the time that someone is said to be definitively dead.

The problem for that is that’s the very claim that Henderson goes on to question. Is brain death a settled matter? Could this be a question that needs a little bit more looking into?

Henderson looks at the history of organ transplants, focusing mainly on 1968. From there, he goes on to present what happened with the history and problems, such as how sometimes when organs have been in the process of being gathered, there is actually some resistance on the part of some patients. In this section, he mainly relies on medical scholarship.

People like myself will be much more interested in questions of dualism that he raises. This is where we get into if a person has a soul or not and what constitutes being a person. Henderson has said that he thinks that the organ donation issue is one where we are not consistently pro-life and we know the artificial category of being a human but not being a person has been used as a weapon against the pro-life community.

Many people who are involved in pro-life apologetics will especially appreciate this section and I found it timely as I have been going through an advanced copy of Nancy Pearcey’s Love Thy Body on Kindle at the same time and she is making much of the problematic dualism we have, not arguing against the body/soul idea, but a radical disjunction between the two.

Henderson is not opposed to organ donation, as I know through personal conversation, but he is saying we want to make sure the person is truly dead first. Perhaps it is time to re-open this discussion. We want to make sure life is the best for all. Killing a patient early in one area can very easily lead to doing the same in other areas. There’s no need to risk it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Seeing Through Christianity Part 5.

Does Zuersher present a good argument against the Afterdeath? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In the sixth chapter, Zuersher argues against the afterlife. I prefer to call it the afterdeath because after all, one is still alive in the “afterlife.” At any rate, let’s go and examine what he says to see if any of it is convincing.

At the start, he tells us that the true heart of Christianity, like most religions, is that humans are terrified of death. It would be nice to know how he backs this claim. Does he think some Jews who already had a religion were still terrified of death and decided to make a second one on top of that? These people didn’t live in fear of death if anything. We do. They saw death around them every day.

If Zuersher provides no data, then we have nothing to refute. In fact, we could just as well make our own baseless assertion. “The basis of atheism, as we all know, is to avoid having to serve a holy God.” Do I think that’s a ridiculous argument to use? Yes. This is the kind of argument Zuersher gives us.

He tells us that Christians hold to a two-part existence with the body and a magical soul thing. He also says only humans have this soul. I’m not sure where he gets that because many of us if not most of us with a dualist perspective hold that many of the higher animals that are relational to us have souls as well. Again, no one is cited on this whatsoever.

It also doesn’t work to just say something is magical. It’s like atheists live in this world so often where the word magic is magical and if you use it, you automatically refute the notion of whatever it is you’re talking about. Has Zuersher looked at the philosophical arguments of dualists? Has he examined the evidence of such events as near-death experiences?

He also holds to a rather literalist view of the resurrection saying that if an atom belonged to multiple people in a lifetime, who gets it in the end? This assumes that God has to use the exact same atoms. Why think that? This was something the early church wrestled with, but we don’t so much today. We just figure God is able to recreate the body.

He asks why not issue a new body? He tells us it is because of Jesus. Of course, our resurrection is to be like that of Jesus, but the new refers to quality. There is continuation, and I’d say the soul is the basis of this, but there are similarities as well. 2 Cor. talks about us being a new creation. The newness is in quality. We don’t become a Christian and then God literally kills us and makes us a new creation.

After this, Zuersher does attempt to argue against souls by pointing to consciousness. He says that the problem is that if you damage the brain, then the functions of the mind are damaged. It never occurs to him apparently that dualists do have their response to this. Mainly, it’s that the body is the instrument the soul works through and if the body is damaged, the instrumentality of it by the soul is as well. If a body loses two arms, the soul is not able to magically to reach out and grab something because the tools it would use don’t work as well. Similarly with the mind and the brain.

I leave much more of this to those who have studied in this area. Books like Machuga’s In Defense of the Soul or Habermas and Morleand’s Beyond Death (also called Immortality) are also recommended. As we can expect, Zuersher has just done armchair philosophy without really looking at the issues and yet still thinks he’s knowledgeable enough to write on them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters