This is my Left2Right wanna-be post. Many evangelical Christians recently advocated various state measures that would have prolonged the life of Terri Schiavo. I doubt that they should have.
One thing about killing someone that makes it a very serious wrong is that it harms the victim. It harms the victim roughly because it denies her the rest of the life she would have enjoyed as that person. This harm-based account provides a pretty plausible reason to think killing someone is wrong when it is, though any good Christian would complain that it doesn’t account for everything about killing someone that makes it wrong. For example, the account doesn’t say anything about our unique status as bearers of God’s image. But they should agree that it’s the right account of what it is about killing someone that entitles us as a society to prohibit it.
Paul writes in Romans that the civil magistrate is to be "an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil." But what sort of evil? According to Martin Luther in his essay "On Temporal Authority" the best way of interpreting this mandate is to say that Paul is speaking "of external things, that they should be ordered and governed on earth" for without the civil authority "the world would be reduced to chaos." He continues:
For this reason God has ordained two governments: the spiritual, by which the Holy Spirit produces Christians and righteous people under Christ; and the temporal, which restrains the un-Christian and wicked so that — no thanks to them — they are obliged to keep still and to maintain an outward peace. Thus does St. Paul interpret the temporal sword in Romans 13, when he says it is not a terror to good conduct but to bad. And Peter says it is for the punishment of the wicked.
Luther concludes, "The temporal government has laws which extend no further than to life and property and external affairs on earth."
Luther thinks that legal interferences are justified in light of the divine mandate to the civil authorities when they’re made with an eye towards protecting from harm our life, property, and external affairs — our most central concerns and projects. On the assumption that hastening a patient’s death is what the patient wants and does not harm her, a state that prevents this would be going beyond its divinely ordained functions.