August 22, 2014

The Gospel and Down Syndrome

by Jordan Standridge

Earlier this week I was talking about college ministry with a friend over lunch at Chick-fil-a, when one of the workers interrupted to ask us if we wanted a refill.

Sort of startled at the interruption (I hadn’t noticed her approaching) I looked up and was surprised at what I saw. She clearly had Down Syndrome.  

We started talking to her, and she told us about her dreams of possibly going to college, described how determined she was to feed her love of study and school. I was blown away at her ability to converse, and how articulate she was.

And then it dawned on me; she might be smarter than I am.

We shared the gospel with her, and she told us that she is a Catholic. She quickly insisted that she wasn’t a nominal Catholic, but one that actually knows her stuff. And did most certainly know (parts of) her Bible. She had obviously been catechized.

At one point she responded to me: “but James says faith without works is dead! That’s why you need the Pope and you need sacraments in order to be saved!” Later she explained why baptism was necessary for salvation.

I told her that she was one of the most informed Catholics I had ever met–I mean, she was more catholic than many of the priests I’ve talked to!

Later that day I saw this on Twitter:

And then later:

After understandably receiving major backlash from many (including atheists), Dawkins elaborated on a website. He said that if he had over 140 characters he would have put it this way:

“Obviously the choice would be yours. For what it’s worth, my own choice would be to abort the Down fetus and, assuming you want a baby at all, try again. Given a free choice of having an early abortion or deliberately bringing a Down child into the world, I think the moral and sensible choice would be to abort. And, indeed, that is what the great majority of women, in America and especially in Europe, actually do. I personally would go further and say that, if your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare. I agree that that personal opinion is contentious and needs to be argued further, possibly to be withdrawn. In any case, you would probably be condemning yourself as a mother (or yourselves as a couple) to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child. Your child would probably have a short life expectancy but, if she did outlive you, you would have the worry of who would care for her after you are gone. No wonder most people choose abortion when offered the choice. Having said that, the choice would be entirely yours and I would never dream of trying to impose my views on you or anyone else.”

What Dawkins says is obviously horrible. One avid pro-abortion advocate wrote that while abortion should be legal for any reason, he “frowns” on those who would allow discrimination against a person with a mental handicap–as if a frowny face of moral disapproval somehow means anything in the face of this kind of twisted thinking.

The culture of death is not supposed to be that open about its evil, but Dawkins was. And he did receive a lot of criticism from atheists, despite the fact (or because of the fact) that he was simply being consistent with his atheistic world view. Given no moral absolutes, then why not kill? But for me I didn’t get caught up in the logic of the thing. Instead, my mind went to the lady who had served me at lunch.

I am so glad her mom didn’t kill her.

In a perfect world Down Syndrome would not exist, just like cancer, Lyme’s disease and even sin. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and we must trust The Lord with whichever trial God allows in our lives.

I don’t want to minimize the struggle that parents with children who have Down Syndrome go through. But I have known many families with someone with DS, and have never met any that wished they would have followed Dawkins’s evil advice.

But it is not enough to simply not kill babies with DS. Instead Christians should be faithful to evangelize them.

I’m not certain what heaven will be like in every regard, but I’m sure that there will be people there who had Down Syndrome on earth.

Please Pray for the salvation of the girl I met Chik-Fil-A. She now knows the gospel, and pray that the Lord would use it to open her eyes to the truth. And the next time you meet someone with Down Syndrome, give them a hug and tell them about Jesus–He is their savior too.

Jordan Standridge

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Jordan is a pastoral associate at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA, where he leads the college ministry. He is also the founder of The Foundry Bible Immersion. You can find his personal blog at surrender.us.
  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    Praying we see her at the banquet.

  • Johnny

    Praying for Dawkins, a man clearly by demons driven

  • Once the Down’s syndrome baby is born they have a RIGHT to free and equal access to education at taxpayer’s expense. However, up to that point we have a right to kill her just because she has Down’s syndrome. Doesn’t that present some kind of dichotomy?

  • Mary Rose Jensen

    Sometimes an imprecatory Psalm is appropriate. Psalm 59 seems to fit this situation. People with DS are slandered,and therefore murdered. Here’s a metrical paraphrase, which allows us to pray on behalf of those in danger: http://www.scoreexchange.com/scores/159551.html

  • c

    This also brings up the issue of sharing the gospel with the mentally disabled; to me, this is one of the most critical places where we have to rely on God’s sovereignty. Not only in the general sense of God’s sovereign choice in the salvation of souls, but His sovereignty in overcoming any possible human limitation to accomplish His purpose.

    Am I off base?

    • Not at all. One of the best treatments of this subject I have seen is by Rick McLean in the Evangelism book in his pastoral library series:

      http://www.amazon.com/Evangelism-Faithfully-MacArthur-Pastors-Library/dp/1418543187

      I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in evangelizing those with mental disabilities to read that chapter.

    • c

      Also, off-topic yet slightly related, what about those who are strong, professing, true believers, and develop problems later in life that lead to things like cursing God, profane lives, etc.

      I’m not talking in terms of falling away from the faith, I mean in terms of sometimes elderly people develop mental diseases that eat away their brains like Swiss cheese, and that changes peoples’ personalities and mental functions in ways they can’t control. They may not even be aware such change is going on. To me, the only answer is to trust that the Lord knows…

    • paperfences.wordpress.com

      This might add to the discussion: Why Does my Daughter Have Down Syndrome? http://paperfences.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/why-does-my-daughter-have-down-syndrome/

  • Corey Fleig

    What clear thinking people do is to take the logic of Dawkins and draw it to it’s own logical conclusion. If the goal is happiness and reduced suffering, then kill Ebola victims, people with untreatable cancer, patients in a coma, and on and on. At least Dawkins is talking his walk, while other atheists are self-contradictory.
    Praise God for this brilliant employee at Chik-Fil-A, although you actually can be a Christian and *not* like Chik-Fil-A!!!!

    • 4Commencefiring4

      You can? I think not, sir. I happen to have it on good authority that Paul ate there a lot, as did James and–rumor has it–Peter (on occasion). Judas, teetering on the edge already, only killed himself when he found he’d eaten the last of his fries and couldn’t convince Thomas to share any more of his.

      Now get thee to another Chik-Fil-A and try another entre, especially with the sauce. Then report back here.

      • Corey Fleig

        I love that response – thanks! I needed that!

  • Corey Fleig

    The Chik-Fil-A food, that is!

  • GarryW

    Jordan:

    What does this phrase ‘Special Needs” mean? Many say that when someone has “special needs” they have needs that most people don’t. When a child is born with “special needs”, or DS, it has an abnormality that causes it to have needs that others children do not. But anything made by God is not abnormal. It is only ‘abnormal’ based on our standards. How can it be abnormal when God makes it? God does not make mistakes or things that are abnormal. He makes everything exactly how it was intended to be made.

    It seems that God has created us all with “special needs”. We have no ability to reach God without the loving death on the cross of Jesus Christ. We do not love our neighbor without our “special need” being taken care of so we can love our neighbor. Our “special needs” are really just things that keep us from seeking God. We cannot seek Him with out Him first reaching out to us and putting in our hearts the desire to seek Him. He needs to regenerate our hearts. Ez. 36:26-27

    Because he has made us all with “special needs”, we need to begin to seek Him for all of our needs. He has not made any mistakes with us; we just have to realize that He is in control and can handle any “special need” we have.

    Great 2nd post. I have friends with a DS child. I cannot think of this family or their son who brings so much joy into their lives not being alive because of these parents selfishness. They realized that God was in control.

    • Jordan Standridge

      Hey Garry,
      I’m with you, I think the most helpful thing we can do in this life is to point people to think eternally about everything they do. I get easily distracted and caught up in an earthly mindset so I constantly need to remind myself about being eternal in my thinking.

  • tovlogos

    Very good topic, Jordan — Yes, of course we must live by the will of our Lord. Yes, our original parents voted the devil into operation by taking his advice instead of God’s; and the world continues to perpetuate the growing strength of evil; and humans have come to prefer the devil. God allows it like a patient Father.
    In Matthew 6:9, we are given the Our Father. Zodhiates tells me, the odd statement, “Do not lead us into temptation,” is not what God does per ce. The noun ‘peirasmos’ (3986), Temptation, as well as the verb ‘peirazo’ (3985), are made up of the basic ‘peira,’ Experience (as you undoubtedly know), have their obvious connection. So, God leads us through experience, where in a cursed world temptation is inevitable. However, God holds the hands of His children to prove to them that He never leaves us.
    Having said that, It is very difficult to stand strong in the face of temptation, without the indwelling Spirit. Often people fall in love with their children (as they should), especially the more needy and vulnerable.

    Yet, not everyone can bear the same tests — God knows who can do what. In His mercy He does not test us more than we can bear. Looking at the things Dawkins said shows his fear — the fear that accompanies people who do not have the assurance of an omnipotent God.

  • J Crane

    stephen hawking might disagree with the conclusions of richard dawkins.

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  • Gregory Lindsey

    So I’ve literally just finished reading Dr. Dawkins’ assertion that allowing a person with Down Syndrome to come into the world is “probably condemning yourself… to a lifetime of caring for an adult with the needs of a child,” when my 22-year-old son with Down Syndrome enters the room. Wearing a huge smile, he makes a beeline for me, takes my face in his hands, looks deeply into my eyes for several seconds, then gives me a giant love-filled hug! Who knew “condemning yourself” could feel so good?! Praise you, Heavenly Father — forever and ever — for the gift of our wonderful son!

    • Sandy Grammer

      Mr. Lindsey, the same thing just happened to me earlier today. I had just finished talking to my husband about the tweets, when my 21 year old Down Syndrome son came into the room. He walked over to me and said, “Hi, mom. Did you know you’re the best?”, smiling and hugging me before he headed over to play his game. Would that Dr. Dawkins and his proponents experience the unmitigated joy that we do. Yes, there are challenges. But some of the challenges I face with my other 6 children are bigger yet! My wonderful son loves Jesus and talks about spending eternity with Him all the time. He loves the church and serving her. He, also, is our gift from the Father of Lights. God bless your family, Mr. Lindsey.

      • Gregory Lindsey

        And your family too, Sandy! We are so incredibly blessed, aren’t we? Words fail to describe it! Let’s pray for Dr. Dawkins that, by God’s amazing grace, he may yet take up our own refrain: “I once was lost but now am found, WAS BLIND, but now I see!” Grace and peace!

  • Lyndon Unger

    Good thoughts Jordan. Good to see you on the Cripplegate more too!

    One of the best theologians I ever met had Downs Syndrome. She worked in my Bible College cafeteria, was always smiling, and always quoting scripture. Her parents did an amazing job with her: they taught her to read the Bible and do what it says.

    Even as Christians, we often don’t think of the imageo dei as including Downs Syndrome people (and other physically/mentally disabled people),,,which suggests our understanding of the imageo dei needs an overhaul.

  • Amen, brother. As I thought about this, I remembered the 2 teenagers in my very small church that are mentally handicapped. This post was a great reminder that those 2 people need the Gospel just as much as the most intelligent being. As we do with children, we think, “they won’t understand.” I was convicted and touched by a tweet by a young man & woman with DS and here’s how they responded to Dawkins: “if you apologize, we’ll forgive you.” If that lady and gentleman understands forgiveness, they can understand the Gospel.

  • DSMom

    As a mother of a 5-year-old little girl I would ask that Jordan not compare DS to diseases like cancer and Lyme’s disease. DS is not a disease. This kind of comparison ensures that a DS diagnosis prenatally, or for a new parent, is viewed in the wrong light. For me, our daughter’s DS diagnosis came with a fear that is unimaginable to someone who has not been through this. Reading a sentence like that, even in a mostly positive post, would’ve given a false impression. Raising a child with DS comes with a unique set of challenges, but the journey is no less rewarding and wonderful. In fact, I might argue it’s even more rewarding and joyful as we celebrate everything. We take nothing for granted. No mistake was made during my daughter’s creation. And if given the chance to have her extra 21st chromosome taken away, I would decline.
    “In a perfect world DS would not exist…” I disagree. I believe that the existence of those with DS in our world, helps us better understand Christ and his teachings. Seems to me that Jordan believes he may have taught this young woman something by sharing with her his views of Christianity. And is continuing to do her a favor by praying for her unsaved soul. But it read to me like she’s the one who did the teaching in this scenario.

  • Jon

    Great article Jordan – thankful for your insights! Praying for the dear girl at CFA. I found myself angry at Dawkins when I first read the tweets, but I realize that his greatest need is the same as the girl you met and shared with – Christ – and I ought not to expect any different from him. Praying for them both!

  • Amen.