On Blood

A reader–who was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, became an atheist, and is now re-exploring the idea of God–sent me a question on blood transfusions. I was having difficulty summarizing it, so here it is in completion. 

To start off, I’d like to talk about the issue of blood– just to get it out of the way, since it’s impossible to think about JWs and not think about the blood transfusion thing. These are the texts on which the JWs base their reasoning: Genesis 9:4 “Only flesh with its soul – its blood – YOU must not eat.” Deuteronomy 12:22-27 “Only be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the ground like water… And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the LORD your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the LORD your God.” Leviticus 17:10 “And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people.” So this is the Mosaic Law, which some argue was abolished when Jesus died. But then we find similar commands in the New Testament: Acts 15:19, 20 “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. Acts 15:28, 29 “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials: that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 21:20 “But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” The usual response for all this is that it is not about transfusion, but about eating or drinking blood, so it shouldn’t apply to transfusion. Well, this doesn’t sit well with me at all. If the Bible flat out told you to “abstain from wine,” would it be ok if, instead of drinking it, you’d just infuse it directly into your veins? I don’t think so. They say this was a command mostly for sanitary reasons (Old Testament), or because drinking blood was a common pagan habit (New Testament), so it should be understood in the proper context. But if it was instead because the blood is sacred to God, because it is life/soul (Genesis), and the only acceptable thing to do with blood after it leaves the body is to pour it on the ground (to return it to God, so to speak — 2 Samuel 23:13-17), so I fail to see how taking it out of another body, storing it in bags and then injecting into your body does not violate the sanctity of blood/life/soul. The only line of argument that I find somewhat convincing is the doctrine of Pikuach Nefesh, which basically means that life is sacred and must be saved, in almost every case. This is mostly a Jewish principle, but Jesus said something in line with it: Matthew 12:11 “Who will be the man among YOU that has one sheep and, if this falls into a pit on the sabbath, will not get hold of it and lift it out? All considered, of how much more worth is a man than a sheep!” Mark 3:4-5 “Next he said to them: “Is it lawful on the sabbath to do a good deed or to do a bad deed, to save or to kill a soul?” But they kept silent. And after looking around upon them with indignation, being thoroughly grieved at the insensibility of their hearts, he said to the man: “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.” — see also Luke 6:7-10 So, these texts seem to corroborate the idea that human life is more precious to God than strict observance of certain laws. This makes sense to me. Since there is no direct order against transfusion, and the command in the New Testament referred mostly to pagan habits, I can imagine Jesus saying that saving a life is more important than abstaining from blood. Specially since he also said this: Matthew 15:11 “Not what enters into [his] mouth defiles a man; but it is what proceeds out of [his] mouth that defiles a man.” Mark 7:15 “There is nothing from outside a man that passes into him that can defile him; but the things that issue forth out of a man are the things that defile a man.” However, this does not exactly address the issue of sanctity of blood/life/soul, and I also feel it conflicts with Matthew 16:25: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” This passage tells me that it is more righteous to lose your earthly life doing the right thing than to put it above the right thing and risk losing eternal life. But it all comes down to whether abstaining from blood, including transfusions, is what God wants. What do you think?

I’ll be honest.

I think this is the wrong place to start. Not that it’s the wrong question for you to ask, just that it would be the wrong question for me to answer. I can’t answer your question by answering your question.

So let’s talk about blood.

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. —John 6:53-56 (KJV)

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? —1 Corinthians 10:16 (KJV)

In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. —1 Corinthians 11:25-30 (ESV)

As you can see, the blood to which I refer is Christ’s blood, which we are commanded to drink in the form of the communion wine. Now, there is an argument within Christianity as to whether Christ’s blood is actually present in the communion wine, or only symbolically present. I regard this as a very silly argument.

See, a symbol is only powerful when it is treated as the thing it represents. That is the point and nature of symbols. When the deployed soldier talks to a photograph of his wife, he talks to it as if it is really her. He pretends he is really speaking to her, even though he is speaking to a piece of colored paper. In the same way, even if the wine is nothing but wine, and is only a symbol of Christ’s blood, it must be treated as if it really were Christ’s blood, collected straight from His spear-pierced side.

This blood is referred to, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as “the blood of the covenant.” This term appears in Exodus in reference to the blood of animal sacrifices sprinkled on the people. Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 explicitly link these two concepts. Thus, the blood of animal sacrifices symbolize the blood of Christ, but yet cannot be treated as the communion wine. Why? Because to do so would be to blaspheme the blood of Christ, and destroy the symbolism. And symbols are important.

If man was allowed to consume the blood of animals, and thus gain life from it in the here and now, it would paint a blasphemous symbol, because it is only the blood of Christ–and not of rams and bulls–that can give true life. The same is true in the New Testament–it is the life of Christ, and not the life of mere animals, that must be living and present in the Christian.

Now, I do not deny that health and sanitation benefits also accrued because of this prohibition. Any hunter will tell you that meat that is not drained of blood spoils much faster. I’m simply stating that I view elucidating the plan of salvation as more central to God’s purpose than mere sanitation.

Some might view transfusions as a blasphemous symbol, a symbol of man giving life rather than God. To these I would point out that God allows us to reproduce, to bear children, to literally create life as a reflection of His life giving power. We are truly made in the image of God.

I know this: If I could give a gift of temporal life to my neighbor through my blood, in order that he might have another chance to accept the gift of eternal life through Christ’s blood, I would do it in an instant.

I don’t think that is blasphemous at all.

Anchoring society

My dad sent me this today.


The closing words were “if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.”

That may be true, but in the US we haven’t seen religion taken away. Rather, we have seen it watered down and weakened by the very people who profess it. Religion’s ability to affect behavior is dependent on its adherents seeing it as authoritative. It is Christians that have attacked the authority of Christianity and the Bible more than any atheists. If churches want to again be bastions of morality regarded as defenders of society against crime and anarchy, they must leave off the vapid theology of acceptance and tolerance towards sin, and once again preach that humanity is sinful, fallen, desperately wicked.

I’m not worried about a governmental crackdown against religion–history shows that the ashes of martyrs are the seeds of converts. I am worried about a continued apathy within the church, a continued aversion to condemning anything, even what God has condemned, a continued push to make “righteousness” synonymous with “existence.” The church is only able to anchor society when it is itself firmly anchored in God’s Word.

Three Fundamental Truths

There probably won’t be many posts here for a while. I am currently in the midst of several things that relate directly to what we discuss here, but I need to let them play out further before I discuss them. In the meantime though, I will leave you with three fundamental truths–fundamental truths that I hold as a guide while navigating these aforementioned situations, and that will serve you well in the situations you must navigate.

Truth #1: The Fundamental Truth about Humanity

The fundamental truth about humanity is that it is fallen. Sinful. Wicked. Utterly depraved. It’s who we are at our most basic level. In the words of J.C. Ryle:

There are many things on earth which a natural man cannot explain. The amazing inequality of conditions,-the poverty and distress,-the oppression and persecution,-the shakings and tumults,-the failures of statesmen and legislators, -the constant existence of uncured evils and abuses,-all these things are often puzzling to him. He sees but does not understand. But the Bible makes it all clear. The Bible can tell him that the whole world lieth in wickedness,-that the prince of the world, the devil, is everywhere,-and that it is vain to look for perfection in the present order of things. The Bible will tell him that neither laws nor education can ever change men’s hearts,-and that, just as no man will ever make a machine work well, unless he allows for friction,-so also no man will do much good in the world unless he always remembers that human nature is fallen, and that the world he works in is full of sin.

Truth #2: The Fundamental Truth about Men

As men, we are all sons of Adam. We are all prone to his failure. Just as Adam was not deceived, but consciously chose to harken to the voice of his wife over the voice of God, so each of us has a tendency to abdicate the leadership responsibilities given to us to please and placate women–even when we know that it would be wrong to do so.

Truth #3: The Fundamental Truth about Women

The truth about women is that they are all daughters of Eve. Like Eve, women are tempted to elevate their desires and listen to the beguiling words of those who would tell them their desires and emotions are a greater source of truth than God.

These truths are simple. They are short. And they may seem rather depressing. Take heart! These truths will allow you to exit the endless cycle of disappointments. Instead of looking for people who are not fallen, look for those who have acknowledged their problem and are being made righteous by the obedience of Christ. Don’t look for the man who does not have a tendency to abdicate his leadership responsibilities in favor of pleasing and placating women, but rather for the man who recognizes his sinful tendency and in the grace of Christ is learning to lead properly. Do not look for the woman who does not have a tendency to elevate her desires and emotions above the Word of God, but rather for the woman who recognizes her sinful tendency and in the grace of Christ is learning to bring every thought into captivity of obedience to Christ.

Why I believe the Bible: Because of evil

I believe the Bible because I believe in evil.

I’m not going to try to prove the existence of evil to you. The existence of evil is one of the fundamental and undeniable truths of the world. Reasonable men may disagree as to whether a certain act or person  is evil, but no reasonable man would claim that there is no such thing as evil. Some might disagree with that statement, pointing out that students of Nietzsche may claim there is no such thing as evil, but those students are obviously not reasonable. Nietzsche himself clearly acknowledged the reality of evil when he titled his book Beyond Good and Evil
–one cannot go beyond something that does not exist. If good and evil are pure fantasy, then there is nothing beyond them: there may be other fantasies with them, but there can be no fantasy that is more fantasy than something that is pure fantasy.

Thus, we have our starting point: Evil exists.

This very existence of evil begs further questions however: Why does evil exist? Can evil be overcome? If so, how come it still exists? And why is there disagreement as to what exactly is and is not evil? These questions are left conspicuously unanswered by many thought systems, including the most popular thought system of the West, progressivism.

Progressivism promises that evil can and shall be overcome, but fails to adequately explain how it arises. Progressivism holds that humanity is continually progressing–becoming wiser, stronger, better–and that all this human progress will inevitably trample evil underfoot through the power of enlightenment, education, science, and technological innovation. All that is needed to eliminate evil is more progressive laws prohibiting it, and more education about it. Yet no explanation is given for the rise of evil in the first place, nor is it questioned why the huge leaps in technology and education in the past few generations have not succeed in eliminating evil.

In stark contrast, the Bible lays out an explanation for not only where evil began, but how it became so entrenched in our world. While progressivism continues to promise that a little more progress, a little more enlightenment, a little more education, and evil will be eliminated, the Bible tells a far different story–one that meshes better with my personal observation. The Bible tells me that not only will evil persist despite advances in knowledge and technology, but that it will continue to become more prevalent. When I look around me and see evil gaining strength, it fits perfectly with the narrative of the Bible, but falsifies the narrative of progressivism.

I believe the Bible because it explains the existence of evil in a way that  other thought systems fail to do. But I also believe the Bible because I see evil in the lives of Christians.

I’m going to write that again, so you don’t have to go back and read it twice: I believe the Bible because I see evil in the lives of Christians. You would think that people who believe that certain actions are evil and sinful would refrain from those actions. Yet, every day, we can see Christians engaging in behaviors that they themselves will admit are sinful and evil. The only thought system that I find to adequately explain this phenomenon is the thought system of the Bible, which tells me that human beings are naturally sinful and fallen with a propensity to evil. While progressivism tells me that all that is necessary to keep a man from doing evil is to educate him that it is evil, the Bible tells me that the heart of man is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and that man does not have within himself the ability to avoid evil even when he has the desire to do so.

Thus I find myself in agreement with Chesterton, who wrote “The Church is justified, not because her children do not sin, but because they do.”

Christian author Vox Day also sees the existence of evil in the world as a confirmation of the Biblical account:

So choose this day, of all days, whom you will serve. If it seem to you that the world is good, a place of certain progress towards eventual human perfection, then serve those who are of the synagogue of Satan, the government, the elites, the world. Build your great global temple to Man, consecrate yourself as a human brick in the Pyramid of Progress.

But if instead you see the world as a place of evil, of corrupt men and fallen women, of darkness growing darker, of nihilism, of human liberty constrained where it is not twisted into libertinism, then the symbol of the child born in the manger will serve as a light against the darkness, a beacon of God’s Love and Man’s Hope. –Vox Day, “Merry Christmas

If you look around you and see a world hopelessly burdened with all manner of evil and depravity, know that you are seeing exactly what the Bible predicts. If you see a world of perfect harmony, where the thoughts of man’s heart are pure, rather than running continually to evil, know that you are seeing what progressivism predicts. My experience confirms the Biblical account. Which does yours confirm?