Christian views on suicide

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There has been much debate over the Christian view on suicide, with early Christians believing that suicide is sinful and an act of blasphemy. However, in modern times Christian churches have denounced these views.

Bible[edit]

There are seven suicides in the Bible,[citation needed] most notably in Matthew 27:5, the suicide of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus, and that of Saul (1 Samuel 31:4). In Acts of the Apostles 16:28 Paul prevents the attempted suicide of a jailor. Jonah (Book of Jonah 4:8), Elijah (1 Kings 19:4) and Job (Book of Job 6:9) express suicidal feelings.

Some Christians state that one can not repent from suicide since one is not capable of praying and asking for forgiveness after death. However, this can also be seen as that when one commits suicide they are repenting because when dead one cannot choose to sin again, ultimately making suicide one sin that can only be committed once.

Early Christianity[edit]

The most notable pro-suicide group was the Donatists, who believed that by killing themselves they could attain martyrdom and go to heaven. They were eventually declared heretics. Most early theologians of the Catholic Church considered suicide as murder and thus a mortal sin in the absence of circumstances that could mitigate the sinfulness of the act.

In the fifth century, St. Augustine wrote the book The City of God, in it making Christianity's first overall condemnation of suicide. His biblical justification for this was the interpretation of the commandment, "thou shalt not kill", as he sees the omission of "thy neighbor", which is included in "thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor", to mean that the killing of oneself is not allowed either.[1] The rest of his reasons were from Plato's Phaedo.

In the sixth century, suicide became a secular crime and began to be viewed as sinful. In 1533, those who committed suicide while accused of a crime were denied a Christian Burial. In 1562, all suicides were punished in this way. In 1693, even attempted suicide became an ecclesiastical crime, which could be punished by excommunication, with civil consequences following. In the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas denounced suicide as an act against God and as a sin for which one could not repent. Civil and criminal laws were enacted to discourage suicide, and as well as degrading the body rather than permitting a normal burial. Property and possessions of the suicides and their families were confiscated.[2][3]

Modern Catholicism[edit]

According to the theology of the Catholic Church, death by suicide is considered a grave or serious sin. The chief Catholic Christian argument is that one's life is the property of God and a gift to the world, and to destroy that life is to wrongly assert dominion over what is God's and is a tragic loss of hope.

In points 2281 and 2325 of the Catechism it is stated:

2281 Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

2325 Suicide is seriously contrary to justice, hope, and charity. It is forbidden by the fifth commandment.

The 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church indicated that the person who committed suicide may not always be fully right in their mind; and thus not one-hundred-percent morally culpable: "Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide." The Catholic Church prays for those who have committed suicide, knowing that Christ shall judge the deceased fairly and justly. The Church also prays for the close relations of the deceased, that the loving and healing touch of God will comfort those torn apart by the impact of the suicide.

See also Declaration on Euthanasia; Mental illness

Protestantism[edit]

Some[citation needed] Conservative Protestants (Evangelicals, Charismatics and Pentecostals) have argued that because suicide involves self-murder, then anyone who commits it is sinning and is the same as if the person murdered another human being. While suicide is certainly treated in a negative way in the Bible, there however is no specific verse that explicitly states that suicide leads directly to Hell. Some Protestants[which?] argue that, because Jesus Christ took the punishment for the sins of mankind, and suicide is seen as a sin, the result would be that the person who commits suicide would not be culpable, and that all his sins (including the killing of himself) would be covered by Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). Protestants who believe in universal reconciliation believe that Christians who commit suicide are still granted Heaven. More liberal Protestant denominations also see assisted suicide as morally acceptable.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/suicide/#ChrPro Michael Cholbi in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Suicide, section 2.2 The Christian Prohibition
  2. ^ "Pips Project – THE STIGMA OF SUICIDE A History". 
  3. ^ "Ophelia's Burial".