I’m not qualified to write it–but somebody should. Here’s the idea (feel free to steal it because I just want this book to exist):
The concept of the book is that pastors today face a great variety of sanctity of life issues which really engage matters of medical ethics. I only pastored for 15 years, but I found myself frequently being a guide to families in making very hard medical treatment decisions. I was not remotely trained on these subjects in seminary–and for all the exegesis courses I took in Boston not one of them had much to do with the kind of medical technology and ethical scenarios I have encountered in my ministry.
Instead, scripture gives us a general “sacredness of life” theology, which leads to many implications and hard decisions. Most pastors are making this stuff up as they go along, because every “Reverend” feels like they have to be “Doctor” from time to time. I think by and large they are giving pretty good advice–but there’s a big gap in the popular ministry literature out there, and I think this book is very needed.
One dynamic that drives this need is that medical personnel are afraid of lawsuits and so they test for everything and look into so much but they don’t often take big risks in the things they suggest, especially when it comes to NOT doing something (which leaves them open for lawsuits). So I’ve found myself in the unprepared role of having to advise a wife to sign a DNR for her husband, or of having to talk through with a son what it might mean to intubate versus ventilate his mother. These are the complicated days we live in as pastors. Some pastors I’ve talked to have faced much such complicated matters than I even didn’t even know existed, much less would have felt competent to advise a family on. This is far beyond pastoral care these days–“Reverend Doctor” is a title each minister must wear from time to time.
On top of these “end of life” decisions, we are also dealing with “beginning of life” decisions more and more (life support for extremely premature babies, abortion, birth control matters) that I can’t find very practical wisdom on through the writings of John Wesley, Karl Barth, & Martin Luther. As much as they were seminary faves of mine, the don’t do much for me when it comes to these things. And the books of Habakkuk and Hebrews don’t really help me out much when it comes to making life-and-death decisions about a 2 pound preemie in an incubator. (Hey you–yeah, you… the guy who is now Googling through Habakkuk for a proof-text that proves me wrong–yeah, you… that guy: don’t do it. We all know how to Google, it’s not that impressive.)
So… somebody out there write this book. I’ll preorder 100 copies if you do.
How about you? Do you wish this book existed? Why? Or who do you think should write it?