Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Strawman Dialogues: Burning the bridge too far

A: I'd sooner die than let the government, or some pack of terrorists, impugn on my civil liberties!
B: Really?
A: Yes.
B: An example, please.
A: Well, you know I'm Christian.
B: Yep.
A: Let's say a government came into power that threatened to imprison, or even execute, practicing Christians.
B: Alright.
A: Well, even if I had to go underground to practice my faith, I'd do it.
B: Bold, bold.
A: And if they caught me and threatened to kill me for continuing, I'd gladly walk to the gallows!
B: Noble stuff. A little old fashioned - not sure anyone uses gallows anymore, but still.
A: Thank you.
B: So, what would it take to get you to kill them?
A: I.. what?
B: Well, you just told me you'd die for your freedom. Will you kill for it as well?
A: That.. doesn't seem very Christ-like.
B: You don't believe in self-defense? Just war?
A: Yes, but still.
B: Here, let me help you out. If someone came to my house, intending to pull me out of it to cart me off somewhere to execute me for being Christian, I'd blow his head off.
A: That's...
B: Hell, he could just want to throw me in prison for that, and I'd do it.
A: I... that sounds wrong.
B: Why? You're no pacifist. You think World War II was just, yeah?
A: Yes, but...
B: But being willing to die for your rights sounds a whole lot better than being able to kill for them, eh?
A: ...
B: Everyone loves a martyr. No surprise it's easy to say we'd be one.
A: It makes you sound like a scary zealot to say you'd kill people.
B: And that matters why?
A: I don't want people to think I'm a scary zealot.
B: And if ever it should happen that a group gets power and forces you out of your faith, and the consensus is that only scary zealots give up their lives for their rights or their beliefs?
A: You know, it's things like this that gives Christians a bad reputation.
B: And Christianity is founded on the willingness of good people to do what's right, even if the world thinks they're crazy lunatics for doing it.

55 comments:

BenYachov said...

Refusing to respond to violence done to one's person with even just self-defense in the face of an unjust persecutor is extremely noble.

Turning the other cheek is the highest act of submission to divine providence.

However like vows of celibacy it is not mandated for everyone in all situations. Nor is forcing others to be passive in the face of unjust aggression noble or just.

Crude said...

Refusing to respond to violence done to one's person with even just self-defense in the face of an unjust persecutor is extremely noble.

Without qualification? Really?

Do I get nobility points for letting other people get slaughtered too, rather than defend them with violence?

However like vows of celibacy it is not mandated for everyone in all situations. Nor is forcing others to be passive in the face of unjust aggression noble or just.

How about conditioning them to be passive, and to regard cowardice as a virtue?

Irish Thomist said...

@Crude

I first thought maybe you were 'A' but am I right that in fact you are B here?

GoldRush Apple said...

Eh, I don't think I'm the person to comment on this since I do hope, one day, to join the military.

Crude said...

Irish,

I first thought maybe you were 'A' but am I right that in fact you are B here?

I'm rarely any of these guys - they're strawmen. But I can sympathize with both. I can sympathize with A's apprehension and worries of image, and B's cynicism and understanding of what's being said, and what's not being said, and where the problem lies as a result.

Graham Esposito said...

This, to me, is the most complicated of all the areas of Christian ethics. I just don't have any answers that make me comfortable.

What is NOT complicated to me is how people seem totally comfortable calling themselves pacifists from a distance. I'm usually awed by people who have willingly marched themselves straight into the flames out of defiance in the face of evil, love of enemies and obedience to God. That takes faith, resolve and balls of steel. The perfect example of what I cannot stand was when the US was mulling military options earlier on in the Syrian war. In spite of any reasonable reason to not intervene in the slaughter, the one I most commonly heard was "I don't think we should intervene with force because I'm for peace and non-violence."

WHO'S PEACE?! That's a pretty GREAT answer while sitting on your fucking couch, while your friends and family don't twitch out their last seconds choking on nerve gas. Either come up with an actual answer that DOES something, or go be a human shield at a field clinic in Aleppo.

DungeonHamster said...

I've got nothing in principle against war or violence. I do have something against rebellion and sedition.

If the guys at the door are gangster or terrorist or a lynch mob or whatever, sure, fight 'em off. If the guys at the door are legitimate agents of the prince/powers/gov't/etc., I think the examples of the saints pretty clearly indicate that our options are run, hide, or accept martyrdom. The Theban legion comes to mind, not to mention the response of Pope Gregory XVI to the Polish Rebellion of 1830, or St. Paul's instruction to submit to the same authorities that would later behead him.

Crude said...

If the guys at the door are gangster or terrorist or a lynch mob or whatever, sure, fight 'em off. If the guys at the door are legitimate agents of the prince/powers/gov't/etc., I think the examples of the saints pretty clearly indicate that our options are run, hide, or accept martyrdom.

'Legitimate' leaves open a hole so big, an army can march through it. The examples of the saints go both ways - and the very idea of a just war indicates what options exist.

Even if reasonable caveats are granted, it indicates a possibility most people have trouble copping to. This goes beyond Christianity.

DungeonHamster said...

Just because words can be twisted by the dishonest doesn't make them false. The fact that "legitimate" might allow sophists to excuse any violence does not mean it's wrong. It might be wrong, but if so, that isn't why. Besides, you and I both know that folks looking for an excuse are going to come up with some sort of cover, however thin, whatever words we use. In fact, I would go further. Even though it can sometimes be a difficult line to find and an awful lot of people seem to be toeing around it these days, doesn't mean it's not real; it just means that ignorance is more likely to be a mitigating factor in the case of error.

As far as the example of the saints going both ways, I'll admit I can't think of any off the top of my head which might indicate rebellion would be licit. Granted, I'm fairly new to Catholicism and most of such saints as I'm familiar with are either fairly late or very early. Best example I can think of off the top of my head to support what seems to be B's position would be the Maccabees, but even if they are in fact in rebellion against a lawful ruler (which is not a question I have examined), that their example would in this matter be applicable to Christians faced with a similar situation is not immediately apparent to me. The examples of such as St. Louis of France, St. Lawrence of Brindisi, the aforementioned legion, etc. pretty solidly indicate that pacifism is not everywhere or for everyone a good policy. Though I do think it is worth noting that while the Levites earned their priesthood with the sword, Christian priests have for many centuries been forbidden it and always discouraged from it (Lawrence of Brindisi went before the army, but did not himself take up a sword) and off the top of by head I am aware of no priest or bishop but Turpin who made regular use of it, which is one of the reasons that I am skeptical of the Maccabees' example being capable of excusing rebellion, even if it is determined that they were in fact in rebellion.

All that said, I'll freely grant that it is a mistake to deny something for the sake of reputation, and accept and acknowledge that Christians taking their religion seriously are, as would seem to be indicated by 1Cor2, frequently going to look crazy. Also that advocating pacifism everywhere for everybody at all times is obviously a mistake. Even if pacifism is indeed nobler, so too is celibacy nobler than marriage, but no one with any sense says no one should marry.

Crude said...

The fact that "legitimate" might allow sophists to excuse any violence does not mean it's wrong.

I think the bigger point here is that 'legitimate' indicates a standard which a ruler can fail to meet. Between that and the Catholic Just War tradition, we're right back to the justification of what I said, and the idea that peace and passive martyrdom is to be the default choice just doesn't hold.

DungeonHamster said...

An illegitimate ruler is only still a ruler at all if he is the legitimate ruler of someplace. Kind of like civil "remarriage" or homosexual "marriage" actually isn't, though one or both parties may still be legitimately married to someone else. So perhaps I should not have used the word. A better choice might have been duly appointed, or perhaps I simply should have dropped "legitimate agents of" from before "the prince."

More to the point, though, the idea that peace or martyrdom are the default choice really does hold. The whole point of Just War teaching is that war is permissible under certain specific conditions. If those conditions fail to be met, then we should default to not-war, which is peace. What doesn't hold is only that peace or martyrdom is always and everywhere the best choice (though of course to a rightly ordered mind martyrdom would necessarily be highly prized, actively pursuing it, rather than accepting it as a bonus when fulfilling one's charge, would seem on the face of it to be selfish, and possibly suicidal; it is one thing to set death at no account, and quite another to go out of your way for it). But war is exceptional by it's very nature. In his bio of Robert Browning, Chesterton said, "A man may pass three hours out of every five in a state of bad health, and yet re­gard, as [Robert Louis] Steven­son re­garded, the three hours as ex­cep­tional and the two as nor­mal." War is a bit like that. The healthy attitude to take to it is precisely to regard it as exceptional, even when it is actually more common than peace. Even the greatest War, in which everyone is fighting, is, compared to Eternity, the exception, and we are advised time and again to keep our eyes on the prize.

Crude said...

An illegitimate ruler is only still a ruler at all if he is the legitimate ruler of someplace.

That doesn't make much sense. More that an illegitimate ruler is still only a ruler at all if he's got enough power to enforce his will. He doesn't have to be a 'legitimate ruler' of anything.

More to the point, though, the idea that peace or martyrdom are the default choice really does hold. The whole point of Just War teaching is that war is permissible under certain specific conditions.

I think it's pretty clear it's not the default choice in the scenarios I'm talking about. Obviously I'm not calling for a state of perpetual warfare. I mean, I rolled into this with straight up examples of 'executing / imprisoning people for practicing Christianity'. I'm using extreme examples to start this off.

And the healthy attitude towards war may be to regard it as exceptional, but literally unthinkable is just as unhealthy, in our world.

DungeonHamster said...

Situation: "If someone came to my house, intending to pull me out of it to cart me off somewhere to execute me for being Christian. . ."

Response: Rom13:2 "Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." Futhermore, we have 1Pet4:13 "But if you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that when his glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy."

It seems to me clear that it is the default (default, meaning that if other conditions are not met, this is what we default to) choice in the scenario you're talking about, at least for a Christian. Especially given that I specified in my first comment that I would object to armed resistance precisely in the event that it would constitute "resist[ing] the authorities." I might myself choose not to resist even in the event that it would not; I don't know. I do know that the "foolishness of God is wiser than men" (1Cor1:25), and that we are repeatedly enjoined not to resist the authorities.

DungeonHamster said...

It also seems to me (though if I am wrong it would not be the first time I have misread the situation) in the face of the examples of the saints, the writings of a well-respected apologist, and several scriptural references, you have implied that I find licitly dealing out violence and death unthinkable, which impression I have done my best to avoid creating by means of numerous repetitions that pacifism is NOT always the best solution and that I had no principled objection to violence as such providing only that one was not resisting the authorities, and the only counterpoints I have seen (again, perhaps I am missing something) are a still unsubstantiated assertion that the examples of the saints cut both ways, an obviously false assertion that Just War teaching means the default choice is violence, and an assertion that it is pretty clear that not resisting is not the default choice. Now I may just be unusually obtuse, but it isn't clear to me.

Now I'll confess to a tendency to rambling that makes me sometimes less than clear. I will also confess to on occasion misunderstanding my opponent's position, and arguing against something they are not in fact proposing. And furthermore I have often seen argument and disagreement where there was in fact none.

So, in an attempt to avoid all miscommunication, I will attempt set out my position on the matter altogether, as clearly as I may (which admittedly may not be very).

1)Violence and killing are not intrinsically wrong.

2)Violence and killing are wrong unless certain conditions are first met. This is the meat of Just War theory. These conditions include doing less harm than not using violence or killing in the particular circumstances of the event.

3)To not mount armed resistance against persecutors is probably not always the best choice.

4)To not mount armed resistance against persecutors is never a sin, unless you are thereby failing some other obligation (Charles Martel had an obligation to resist Moorish invaders). This obligation may apply at the familial or paternal level in some, or even many or most, circumstances, provided that they are not resisting the authorities.

5)To resist the authorities is a sin. The examples of the saints and martyrs seem to indicate that stealth and flight do not count as resistance for this purpose.

6)The crown of martyrdom is, by virtue of being a perfect way to be united to the sufferings of Christ, to be highly prized. The testimony of the Scriptures and the fathers all agree on this.

7)Given that martyrdom is to be highly prized, I would like to think that I would not, by the grace of God, resist any persecution, unless it was clear that resisting would better discharge my obligations.

8)Regardless of what I would personally hope to do, I would only surely call wrong resistance to persecution if that persecution came from those authorities which God has appointed. I know of no instance where such resistance is praised by the Scriptures or the fathers or in the lives of the saints or the traditions of the Church.

9)The situation under discussion is the one mentioned at the top of this rather long comment that I'll finish in a second here, with, for most of this conversation, as indicated by my first comment, the additional feature of the folks doing the carting being the authorities we are commanded not to resist. In this case, armed resistance is contrary to Scripture. Even in the event that said carters are not those authorities, resistance is only licit if certain conditions are met (off the top of my head and at a minimum, that resistance could be reasonably judged likely to be less harmful than non-resistance). Since conditions have to be met for resistance to be licit, non-resistance would be the default.

Sorry about the wall o' text. Hopefully it helps clarify things. Anyway, it's getting late where I am and I've a busy day tomorrow; I may or may not check down here again before Saturday, so no need to rush a reply.

G'night.

Crude said...

It seems to me clear that it is the default (default, meaning that if other conditions are not met, this is what we default to) choice in the scenario you're talking about, at least for a Christian.

And I think it's clear that we don't, especially as Catholics. If we're going to interpret those Bible passages that way, then we should be condemning any member of a hidden Church in any country - including communities in the Bible itself! - because they were joined by believers who were defying the law. They could have, and apparently should have, handed themselves over to authorities immediately for execution. Children as well, because the law does not discriminate there.

After all, Rulers hold no terror for those who do wrong. Ergo, by the reading you're giving, the dead in Mao's China, Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany all had it coming.

1 Peter is irrelevant here. Too vague to be useful.

you have implied that I find licitly dealing out violence and death unthinkable,

I have done no such thing. I am laying out examples where it would be entirely licit, even encouraged, to deal violence. You seem to be questioning this, and maintaining a biblical defense I do not find compelling whatsoever. Likewise, 'submission to the authorities' is not a Christian teaching. 'Legitimate' authorities, is. Paul regarded Rome as legitimate. Not all authorities, everywhere.

The situation under discussion is the one mentioned at the top of this rather long comment that I'll finish in a second here, with, for most of this conversation, as indicated by my first comment, the additional feature of the folks doing the carting being the authorities we are commanded not to resist.

You are trying to argue that if Adolf Hitler is appointed by Christ as legitimate ruler, then NOT helping throw the Jews in the oven is a sin, if he so commands it. Feel free to argue that. But -I- become interested in determining the legitimacy of Hitler's authority.

Shall we use the biblical examples of such? We'll be left with straight up theocracies and, perhaps, the divine right of kings. We get little other guideline - and 'democratically elected' absolutely is not it.

That is precisely what you need here to at all talk about 'default attitude', because your 'default' makes the assumption of a legitimate authority - which is no default at all. You're not going to find an applicable case using nothing but the Bible. If you look to Church teaching and history, you're going to get an abundance of examples that back my case over yours. Unto the present day, no less.

malcolmthecynic said...

Would you kill to defend your family?

If the answer to that question is yes, but the answer is no if you're asked whether or not you'd kill to defend your faith, you need to reassess your priorities.


Does that comment shock you? It shouldn't. Jesus is very clear about this - faith, then family. If you'd kill to protect your family but not your faith, there's a problem with your worldview.

I'm not saying that making a paradigm shift like that is easy, but it is, ultimately, necessary.

DungeonHamster said...

Been awhile. Sorry if I'm practicing thread necromancy here, but saw a link back here from Malcolm's blog and figured I should probably check and see what you had said most recently. Had posted something on Saturday, but apparently it got lost in the ether. At any rate, I'll try and give a rough reprise of it, to the best of my memory.

For starters, it would be nice if you read what I wrote. I said above that "the examples of the saints and martyrs seem to indicate that stealth and flight do not count as resistance for this purpose." So the hidden church bit fails to undermine any position I actually hold.

Regarding default: perhaps it would be better for me to limit myself to my original assertion, which was not that martyrdom was THE default, but that it "holds" as A useful default, default being something that will vary depending on how you define your terms and phrase your conditions. For instance, the condition for Just War that the war do more good than harm could be phrased the other way, that justly abstaining from war requires that abstention to more good than harm; something similar could presumably be done for other conditions as well. Presumably a model could be used in which fighting was the default which would result in moral behavior as reliably as one in which the non-resistance as defined above was. But perhaps you are defining default differently than that which results when all the if->then statements fail or when all conditions above the baseline are unmet? If so, please explain.

I don't see how you get from "Rulers hold no terror for those who do right" to "the ruler kills no one unjustly." Was the death of Polycarp just? Was Paul's? And were they in terror? Was not St. Hadrian of Nicomedia, patron of arms dealers, soldiers, and prison guards, converted by the very joy of those appointed to be executed? No earthly ruler could inspire terror in a mind wholly given over to God; the degree to which they inspire terror in us is only the degree to which we are still unduly attached to this world and unwilling or unable to trust in God.

For my immediate purpose, all 1Pet4 needed to do was indicate we were to rejoice when sharing in Christ's sufferings. It does that with admirable clarity.

DungeonHamster said...

Regarding your implication that I found licitly dealing out death and violence unthinkable, I apologize and retract. I was under the impression that the last sentence of your 19FEB 6:37PM comment was aimed at me, when it apparently was not. Sorry about that.

Legitimate: "not spurious or unjustified; genuine." In other words, legitimate is not actually necessary, since legitimate authorities are true authorities, and those which are not legitimate are not actual authorities. Besides which, when I specified legitimate in my first comment at 19FEB 4:33PM, you objected to its use. Please make up your mind.

I fail again to see how you get from "not resist" to "actively assist." Perhaps there is something I am missing.

And of course, the question of what authorities are legitimate is a very good one. None of that changes what is owed to those that are.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to your reading of Scripture, sure, theocracies have problems, more or fewer, depending on how exactly it's defined (some would define the reign of Solomon as a theocracy, and that seems to have worked reasonably well, for instance). So do democracies. The "divine right of kings," at least as it seems to me to be currently understood, also seems to me, based on an admittedly cursory look into it, to have mostly come at about the same time as the post-Reformation rise of Nationalism, and not to be present in Scripture in any great degree. But perhaps I'm missing something here, too.

As to whether a case for anything relevant may be made using only the Bible, that may or may not be so. It is irrelevant. No one here has attempted to do anything of the kind. I have drawn on Scripture, yes, but I have relied at least as heavily on the examples of the saints and martyrs, which are largely extra-scriptural (even Paul's martyrdom is not described in Scripture).

Now, again, I am fairly new to Catholicism. I was only confirmed into the Church about 10 mos. ago, and only really began any serious study of the the saints and tradition and history of the Church shortly before that. Even in that, it has been mixed with a variety of other pursuits, and been in such time as I have available. It is, I freely admit, entirely possible that I am misinterpreting the examples of Sts. George, Sebastian, Hadrian, Maurice, Polycarp, Ignatius, Paul, Diego Kagayama Hayato, and Philip de la Casas, or that Pope Gregory XVI's instruction to the Polish rebels was not in fact in line with Tradition or Scripture. To repeatedly assert, however, that you have available "an abundance of examples" to support your position while providing precisely zero earns you nothing. If you have them, please share.

malcolmthecynic said...

Here's a question: The first crusade were fought to protect the Orthodox Church from Muslim attacks. Were they moral?

malcolmthecynic said...

Yeesh, that was bad grammar.

DungeonHamster said...

Re: Malcolm

I don't know of any reason they wouldn't be. I realize I've been wall-of-texting the crap out of this post. Sorry about that; it generally takes me more time to write less than more. But if you'll refer to my first comment at 19FEB 4:33PM, you'll see that my objection was to rebellion and sedition. The Crusaders were not rebelling against the Saracens. My objections to taking fighting as a default as opposed to martyrdom came afterwards, and even those are not to fighting per se, or even fighting persecutors per se, so much as to the idea that armed resistance should be our first choice in the face of persecution, which I stand by.

DungeonHamster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luke said...

What would the world look like if Christians only died for their faith, but never killed for it? I think it’s a worthwhile thought experiment. It plays on whether evil can actually be destroyed, or whether God only ever designed the laws of reality to allow it to be redeemed.

(I also said this on Malcom's blog, but the audience here is different.)

Crude said...

For starters, it would be nice if you read what I wrote. I said above that "the examples of the saints and martyrs seem to indicate that stealth and flight do not count as resistance for this purpose." So the hidden church bit fails to undermine any position I actually hold.

And I'll simply make reference to the saints and martyrs who were actively engaged in out and out warfare.

No earthly ruler could inspire terror in a mind wholly given over to God; the degree to which they inspire terror in us is only the degree to which we are still unduly attached to this world and unwilling or unable to trust in God.

First, who's talking about terror? I'm not suggesting people be terrified when they kill people who are violently subjugating them. On the contrary, I suppose they can be entirely trusting in God at the same time.

Second, are you going to therefore say that Just War theory was concocted by terrified men who didn't trust God enough, and that if they were -really- holy they'd be utter pacifists?

I don't see how you get from "Rulers hold no terror for those who do right" to "the ruler kills no one unjustly."

And I don't see how you get from "Saint Paul considered the Roman government legitimate" to "therefore all governments are legitimate".

Was the death of Polycarp just? Was Paul's? And were they in terror? Was not St. Hadrian of Nicomedia, patron of arms dealers, soldiers, and prison guards, converted by the very joy of those appointed to be executed?

How about the death of Louis IX, who lived a life of fighting the crusades, and died during the second crusade? Or James of the Marches, who preached in encouragement of the Crusades and was an inquisitor?

If we're arguing by saints, I'm going to have quite a selection at the ready who were lionized by their willingness to fight, and yes, even kill. That's going to be all I need to get my point through here.

No one here has attempted to do anything of the kind. I have drawn on Scripture, yes, but I have relied at least as heavily on the examples of the saints and martyrs, which are largely extra-scriptural (even Paul's martyrdom is not described in Scripture).

And I have, once again, both Just War theory and examples of full-blown Crusader saints to call on in pointing at the example of a holy and sanctified use of violence.

To repeatedly assert, however, that you have available "an abundance of examples" to support your position while providing precisely zero earns you nothing. If you have them, please share.

No, I've already given the example of Just War theory itself. I've given the example of the Crusades. Now, I'm adding on the examples of Sts. Louis IX, James of the Marches, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux - examples I could continue adding to.

Understand the difficulty you're having here. I'm entirely able to accept situational martyrdom at times, while at the same time accepting situational violence being done in defense of others, and against illegitimate authorities. For the position you're trying to get off the ground - you can't accept any of this. The person who uses violence against a rapist, or a murderer, is - to read what you've said - somehow morally deficient, because if they really trusted in God 'wholly', they'd just roll over.

Crude said...

The Crusaders were not rebelling against the Saracens.

You're going to say now that the areas conquered by the muslims in the time leading up to the crusades were yet more just governments that all good Christians in the newly conquered territories should have submitted to? Really?

Crude said...

What would the world look like if Christians only died for their faith, but never killed for it? I think it’s a worthwhile thought experiment.

What if Christians never used violence to stop rapists, but only asked them in very loud - but not overly aggressive - tones to please stop raping?

Luke said...

@Crude:

> What if Christians never used violence to stop rapists, but only asked them in very loud - but not overly aggressive - tones to please stop raping?

Well, Paul had something to say:

>> Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1-5)

So did Peter:

>> Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13–17)

So, for example, if the law commands civilians to take action against rapists, then Christians would seem obliged to take action against rapists. If the law leaves open what civilians are to do, then it seems that the matter is up to the Christian's conscience.

The underlying idea to these passages seems to be lawfulness, which may also include an aspect of transparency, whereby acts of justice are made public and can be properly analyzed by people of excellent character and wisdom.

Given my answer so far, it seems like there might be still more to discuss? Again, I'm very curious about the idea that you can destroy evil—that seems to be in play in certain models of violence. My question is whether God would possibly have designed reality to work this way. For example, Noah's Flood didn't actually work: see the use of רַע, ra`:

>> Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Gen 6:5)

WORLD WIDE FLOOD: DESTROY, DESTROY, DESTROY, PURGE, CLEAN

>> The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. (Gen 8:21)

Crude said...

Well, Paul had something to say

That's nice. Any evidence Paul was talking about the French Revolutionaries, or Stalin?

Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot: Non-controversially appointed by God? What if they deny being servants of God, or being appointed by God?

So did Peter:

So, the SS and the Stasi were sent by God to punish those who do evil?

So, for example, if the law commands civilians to take action against rapists, then Christians would seem obliged to take action against rapists.

How about when the law says that slaves are property and there's no law against having sex with your property?

Given my answer so far, it seems like there might be still more to discuss?

I'll say there's more to discuss.

Again, I'm very curious about the idea that you can destroy evil—that seems to be in play in certain models of violence

Who said we can utterly and totally destroy evil with violence, or if that's even the bar we have to jump? Is there any evidence - Biblical or otherwise - that we can martyr it away?

WORLD WIDE FLOOD: DESTROY, DESTROY, DESTROY, PURGE, CLEAN

Instead, here's some rulers and some laws we'll be using to tell us which people we should kill for everyone's sake. Here's some license to rebel against unjust rulers - you can tell who they are when they're disobedient to God. Remember to be loyal to the authorities, aka the ones who walk around doing good. Now the illegitimate authorities? They have no power over you.

Crude said...

From the CCC:

2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not.”

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:

If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful. . . . Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.


Luke said...

@Crude:

> That's nice. Any evidence Paul was talking about the French Revolutionaries, or Stalin?
>
> Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot: Non-controversially appointed by God? What if they deny being servants of God, or being appointed by God?

What strikes me about this situation is how much sin and failure by Christians had accumulated by the time Hitler started carrying out the Holocaust. I pick on Christians not to place the blame exclusively, but to ask where the evidence is that they were acting against what I am about to say.

If we look at the terrible predictions at Milgram experiment § Results, we see that the foundation that Deut 5 and 1 Sam 8 would have set was virtually gone. This can be extrapolated back from 1961 → 1942, and used to see that we did not want to believe that Hilter was mass-murdering innocents. We did not want to believe that Enlightened Man was committing such atrocities. And so, we were less likely to believe the rumors. After all, the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the extremely bloody Thirty Years' War, was supposed to stop such bloodshed. The sovereignty of nations would be the insurance of humanity.

Furthermore, we can look at how Germany was treated after WWI, and how the model was not forgiveness, but JUSTICE. They must PAY for their crimes! To the full! To every last penny. This wasn't very Christian now, was it? I mean, I get stuff like 1 Tim 1:8–11, but does that really trump mercy (Ja 2:12–13)?

So what strikes me as being the case is that perhaps there was very little "Christianity" causally connected to these events. Maybe what that means is that we have to start back from OT morality and move our way towards the Pax Romana, which is when Jesus chose to come and live his life as he did, asking us to emulate him. Suppose this is the case. Then what it looks forward to, it seems, is a way of living where ultimately, Christians do not kill others under any circumstance.

Does this make any sense?

> Is there any evidence - Biblical or otherwise - that we can martyr it away?

Isn't that what Jesus did, by example (in addition to ontologically)? I am reminded of Paul's words:

>> The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16–17)

Can we suffer with Christ while killing people? That doesn't make sense to me.

Luke said...

@Crude:

> >> [CCC: 2264] ... Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. ...

I'm confused; how does this mesh with the following?

>> Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24–26)

Now, the next verse is not lost on me:

>> For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)

However, we also have:

>> Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

So, I'm just wondering how Mt 16:24–26 functions in this context. It has to mean something, so if it doesn't mean that CCC: 2264 is wrong, what does it mean? I've actually not thought as deeply about that verse as I am, until now!

Crude said...

What strikes me about this situation is how much sin and failure by Christians had accumulated by the time Hitler started carrying out the Holocaust. I pick on Christians not to place the blame exclusively, but to ask where the evidence is that they were acting against what I am about to say.

So are you going to take the exact same line about the Jews? And if atheists end up getting starved to death by the millions, I suppose you'd also say 'Well, look at how much sin and failure was accumulated..'?

If we look at the terrible predictions at Milgram experiment § Results,

I asked questions. Where are my answers?

Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot: Non-controversially appointed by God? What if they deny being servants of God, or being appointed by God?

So, the SS and the Stasi were sent by God to punish those who do evil?

How about when the law says that slaves are property and there's no law against having sex with your property?

Furthermore, we can look at how Germany was treated after WWI, and how the model was not forgiveness, but JUSTICE.

It was vengeance. They wanted Germany wiped out for all time. This was no big secret.

Isn't that what Jesus did, by example (in addition to ontologically)? I am reminded of Paul's words:

No, it's not, as the recent spate of beheadings indicate.

I'm confused; how does this mesh with the following?

'Don't lust after money, power and earthly things. This is not a religion that makes you rich and powerful.'

Now, the next verse is not lost on me:

'Everything you do will be accounted for.'

However, we also have:

'Vengeance for vengeance's sake is wrong. This is not the same thing as self-defense of self or others.'

I've answered your questions. Shall you answer mine?

Luke said...

@Crude:

> Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Pol Pot: Non-controversially appointed by God? What if they deny being servants of God, or being appointed by God?

I don't know; I have not dug into the matter sufficiently well to take a position. Although, I am led to believe that Paul penned his words while Nero was emperor, and that Nero was quite nasty to Christians. Is this correct? If so, it seems that should be important when considering such matters. Anyhow, I'd appreciate resources you have on this matter—I know they exist (when to consider a civil authority illegitimate).

> So, the SS and the Stasi were sent by God to punish those who do evil?

Evil as defined by society, not as defined by God. Whether they were sent by God (I'm atomizing your question)? I guess that depends on whether you're an Arminian or a Calvinist. :-p

> How about when the law says that slaves are property and there's no law against having sex with your property?

It strikes me that a big lesson of the OT is that if you attempt to crush those people, it won't work. After all, the Israelites were supposed to wipe out the Canaanites, but instead they were copying them in short time.

> Who said we can utterly and totally destroy evil with violence, or if that's even the bar we have to jump?

Well, if you cannot totally destroy evil with violence, I wonder whether what we should think about attempting to partially destroy evil with violence. The focus is on the word 'destroy': does it actually work that way? 2 Cor 10:3–6 would indicate: perhaps not.

> Is there any evidence - Biblical or otherwise - that we can martyr it away?

Jesus martyred something away. Precisely what has resulted in much spilt ink. I'd be happy to spill some more; I find this a very interesting matter, and very important. How does one deal with evil? Many do seem to prefer the "crush" approach, and yet that's not what Jesus did. Or rather, his version of "crush" is very different from ours, analogous to the upside-down topsy-turvy of Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20.

> Instead, here's some rulers and some laws we'll be using to tell us which people we should kill for everyone's sake. Here's some license to rebel against unjust rulers - you can tell who they are when they're disobedient to God. Remember to be loyal to the authorities, aka the ones who walk around doing good. Now the illegitimate authorities? They have no power over you.

What has me concerned about this is that Jesus had the chance to lead an insurrection, but instead chastised the disciple who chopped off an ear—repairing that ear, by the way—and then letting himself be martyred. Jesus gave no model that would possibly map to this, and neither did any writer of the NT. (If you disagree, please produce citations.)

Now, Jesus also didn't tell us how to deal with social media in so many words, so I'm open to that sort of argument. I'd like to see it be made though, instead of attempting to imagine it up, myself.

Crude said...

I don't know; I have not dug into the matter sufficiently well to take a position. Although, I am led to believe that Paul penned his words while Nero was emperor, and that Nero was quite nasty to Christians. Is this correct? If so, it seems that should be important when considering such matters.

So, you're treating it as a live possibility that God Himself punished the jews with the Holocaust for their past sins? And they were punished by Hitler, the legitimate and therefore God-appointed ruler, whom Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a condemnable sinner for trying to help kill?

Evil as defined by society, not as defined by God. Whether they were sent by God (I'm atomizing your question)? I guess that depends on whether you're an Arminian or a Calvinist.

I'm asking you.

It strikes me that a big lesson of the OT is that if you attempt to crush those people, it won't work.

Pretty sure I know which side won the civil war. Christ said we'll always have the poor with us - does that mean we give up giving to the poor?

Well, if you cannot totally destroy evil with violence, I wonder whether what we should think about attempting to partially destroy evil with violence.

We obviously can. And if the inability to /completely/ destroy something means, by some weird logic, that we are not even able to /partially/ destroy it, then so much for almsgiving. And if the response is 'But God allows for, even commands, the giving of alms', then apparently God commands and allows for doing things that don't result in a complete (or even partial!) victory anyway.

Jesus martyred something away.

Yep. We still have beheadings, so apparently the idea of 'We can martyr ourselves and end evil!' doesn't draw any support from that. Not even God managed it. In fact, judging by prophecy, God's got some very big plans insofar as purging evil goes.

What has me concerned about this is that Jesus had the chance to lead an insurrection,

Jesus was offering Himself up as a rather unique sacrifice. We're called to model ourselves after Him in some ways, but we obviously differ in some important ways. Those 21 beheaded martyrs accomplished something, but they didn't accomplish what Christ's sacrifice did, and they'd say as much.

DungeonHamster said...

Nothing in condemning rebellion requires me to condemn all war; given that I have favorably referenced St. Lawrence of Brindisi, St. Louis of France, and Charles Martel, I would think that to be clear. Neither did I say that all governments were legitimate; in fact I went to far as to say that illegitimate authorities were no true authorities at all, and thus could be safely (at least from a moral perspective) ignored. You continue to coyly refrain from giving any examples to support your position; I will assume you have none. The first reference to the Crusades was not by you, but by Malcolm, unless you are the same person blogging under different names, which I doubt. You have made it clear, despite your prior protestation to the contrary, that you are imputing to me against all my protestations the view that all violence is wrong, one which I have specifically and repeatedly denied. The existence of Just War theory also does not undermine anything I have claimed, since I have never claimed war is always unjustified. Taken altogether, it is abundantly clear that you do not, in fact, "understand the difficulty" I am having, as you have repeatedly failed either to read or, if you have read, to understand what I have said. Given that you continually attribute to me views I do not hold, it is apparent that further discussion by me on this thread is worse than useless, and further attempts at clarification will lead only to more confusion. Any further attention I give this thread will likely only waste my time and yours.
God be by you, sir. Perhaps we may have a more useful conversation on some other thread.

Luke said...

@Crude:

> So, you're treating it as a live possibility that God Himself punished the jews with the Holocaust for their past sins? And they were punished by Hitler, the legitimate and therefore God-appointed ruler, whom Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a condemnable sinner for trying to help kill?

No, because by the same logic, Nero would be God punishing Christians for following Jesus. Surely Paul didn't mean that? I mean, unless you want to do something interesting with:

>> As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36)

> I'm asking you.

I lean in the Arminian direction, so I see God as ensuring only that only redeemable evil be permitted to happen. Why would God then inspire Paul and Peter to talk about obeying the authorities? Well, bloody revolutions tend to be failures. Did we really need a fourth Servile War? Sociologist Peter Berger has some very interesting comments to say about what happens with revolutions, I think in Facing Up to Modernity. I recently bought the book, but it's on the slow boat from China (Amazon third party seller).

What I see in the passages by Peter and Paul I quoted is a trust in the law, as a route toward 'better'. However, one must deal with failures in justice, and there I think Christians are supposed to step in and do the Romans 8:16–17 thing. At least, that's my working hypothesis. One reason I am participating in this discussion is to test it, iron against iron.

> Pretty sure I know which side won the civil war. Christ said we'll always have the poor with us - does that mean we give up giving to the poor?

Slavery was indeed abolished, but was the spirit behind it abolished? Joshua A. Berman says some really neat stuff on this matter in Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought. Basically, the unique thing about the OT, in comparison to extant jurisprudence, is that the Bible doesn't separate into the "tribute producers" and "tribute imposers". At least, it pushes radically away from this paradigm. And yet, when I look at the US, I see this paradigm in existence. And so, the evil changed physical form, but maybe it's still very much with us. I could also rant about how we don't even need slavery to split up families: they do it voluntarily, now! The rats have been trained well.

Luke said...

@Crude, cont.:

> We obviously can. And if the inability to /completely/ destroy something means, by some weird logic, that we are not even able to /partially/ destroy it, then so much for almsgiving. And if the response is 'But God allows for, even commands, the giving of alms', then apparently God commands and allows for doing things that don't result in a complete (or even partial!) victory anyway.

Can one simultaneously destroy evil (by killing people—this restriction is important) and live out 2 Cor 5:11–21? Or do we decide who's worth saving, and who's worth killing?

> Yep. We still have beheadings, so apparently the idea of 'We can martyr ourselves and end evil!' doesn't draw any support from that. Not even God managed it. In fact, judging by prophecy, God's got some very big plans insofar as purging evil goes.

You don't think Jesus partially succeeded? If you do, then I would ask you to apply your "/partially/" to this situation. I'm curious what might pop out.

> Jesus was offering Himself up as a rather unique sacrifice. We're called to model ourselves after Him in some ways, but we obviously differ in some important ways. Those 21 beheaded martyrs accomplished something, but they didn't accomplish what Christ's sacrifice did, and they'd say as much.

I agree that we don't add to Jesus' finished work. One way I model this is that Jesus repaired our relationship with God, and we are to repair our relationship with men, nature, and ourselves. I'm not sure how good of a model this is, but it seems worth further exploration from the little exploring I've done. Crucially, it puts forth the idea that perhaps suffering evil is a strategy that should be continued.

Crude said...

You continue to coyly refrain from giving any examples to support your position; I will assume you have none.

I have given plenty of examples to support my position, and I now include the Catechism of the Catholic Church itself in that defense.

You have made it clear, despite your prior protestation to the contrary, that you are imputing to me against all my protestations the view that all violence is wrong, one which I have specifically and repeatedly denied.

What I am criticizing is the view, not that all violence is wrong, but that a refusal to engage in violence is always superior - at least morally - to any decision to engage in violence.

Here is a claim you made: "No earthly ruler could inspire terror in a mind wholly given over to God; the degree to which they inspire terror in us is only the degree to which we are still unduly attached to this world and unwilling or unable to trust in God."

I haven't been speaking about terror. I have been speaking about justifiably using lethal force in defense of ourselves, of others, against a hypothetically brutally oppressive government. You connected violence and revolt with not just terror, but an attachment to the world and an inability or unwillingness to trust in God. I dispute this.

The first reference to the Crusades was not by you, but by Malcolm, unless you are the same person blogging under different names, which I doubt.

I'm sure not Malcolm.

Any further attention I give this thread will likely only waste my time and yours.

As you will.

Luke said...

@Crude:

> What I am criticizing is the view, not that all violence is wrong, but that a refusal to engage in violence is always superior - at least morally - to any decision to engage in violence.

While this is not my conversation, I will state for the record that I think it was probably the best course of action to (a) firebomb Germany and Japan; (b) atom-bomb Japan. I state this sadly, and argue that the reason for this is that we regressed morally, and need to re-learn the moral trajectory in the Bible and move from OT morality to NT morality. I'm not sure there's another way to fully become that "new creation". There might be, but I haven't been exposed to real-life examples of it.

Likewise, I surmise that we ought to use violence to fight ISIS, given that it was our violence which unleashed ISIS. This is of course a tentative hypothesis, given my inability to actually test, and given my lack of scholarship on the history of thought and action bearing on this matter.

Crude said...

No, because by the same logic, Nero would be God punishing Christians for following Jesus. Surely Paul didn't mean that?

Why not? Maybe Nero was punishing the Christians for their people's past sins, which you apparently are willing to entertain with Stalin and otherwise.

Why would God then inspire Paul and Peter to talk about obeying the authorities? Well, bloody revolutions tend to be failures

Since when does God measure right action in terms of political victory? And Paul and Peter spoke about obeying legitimate rulers. You're still treating it as a live possibility that both Hitler and Hitler's orders were legitimate in the full-blown 'God Granted' sense, such that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a sinner for trying to assassinate Hitler.

What I see in the passages by Peter and Paul I quoted is a trust in the law, as a route toward 'better'.

I'm pretty sure Jesus spoke about the spirit of the law versus the letter.

And so, the evil changed physical form, but maybe it's still very much with us. I could also rant about how we don't even need slavery to split up families: they do it voluntarily, now! The rats have been trained well.

Their training was assisted by people who considered it vastly more important to attack and criticize every perceived failing of the people trying to repair a decaying culture, and who viewed the people training the rats as unfortunately misguided but well-meaning souls upon whom we should spill mercy and friendship. Invite them into your churches! Give them positions in your university! They mean well!

Can one simultaneously destroy evil (by killing people—this restriction is important) and live out 2 Cor 5:11–21?

Pretty easily, it would seem, especially since I'm not talking about purging the wicked sinners from the world, but self defense against the violently unjust.

You don't think Jesus partially succeeded?

If partial success counts, then violence is situationally successful after all.

Luke said...

@Crude:

> Why not? Maybe Nero was punishing the Christians for their people's past sins, which you apparently are willing to entertain with Stalin and otherwise.

And yet, this seems at odds with Jesus' blood being enough. This apparent contradiction needs serious attention.

> Since when does God measure right action in terms of political victory?

I claim there is a strand of consequentialism, along with virtue ethics, along with divine command theory, in the OT. The trick is that one can fake consequences, for a time. A great example would be "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." Ultimately though, the truth is made known—the consequences are made known. See, for example, 1 Cor 3:10–15 and 2 Pe 3:8–12.

> And Paul and Peter spoke about obeying legitimate rulers. You're still treating it as a live possibility that both Hitler and Hitler's orders were legitimate in the full-blown 'God Granted' sense, such that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a sinner for trying to assassinate Hitler.

Again, what of Nero being emperor while Paul penned that letter? You don't seem to be fully dealing with the fact that Nero was the emperor.

> I'm pretty sure Jesus spoke about the spirit of the law versus the letter.

Yes, because if you try to obey the letter of the law only, you will fail. Rom 9:30–10:13 is a glorious treatment of this, especially 10:2–4. The trick is that by obeying the spirit, you also obey the letter. But if you obey the letter only, you won't even do that. I think it's a medieval proverb or something that "Love is always increasing or decreasing[, but never staying the same]." Well, either you are drawing ever closer to the spirit of the law (to Jesus, who is the telos of the nomos for dikaiosynē for those who pisteuō), or you are drifting away, Heb 4-style (or Deut 29:16–28-style).

> Their training was assisted by people who considered it vastly more important to attack and criticize every perceived failing of the people trying to repair a decaying culture, and who viewed the people training the rats as unfortunately misguided but well-meaning souls upon whom we should spill mercy and friendship. Invite them into your churches! Give them positions in your university! They mean well!

Sounds like a whole 'nother topic, for a whole 'nother post. Ping me if you make it. :-)

> Pretty easily, it would seem, especially since I'm not talking about purging the wicked sinners from the world, but self defense against the violently unjust.

Was the atom-bombing of Japan "self defense against the violently unjust"?

> If partial success counts, then violence is situationally successful after all.

So yay or nay, on Jesus' martyr strategy?

Crude said...

And yet, this seems at odds with Jesus' blood being enough. This apparent contradiction needs serious attention.

Then so much for the claim that maybe the Christians under Stalin had it coming and God was punishing them through His legitimate rulers with their legitimate orders.

Again, what of Nero being emperor while Paul penned that letter? You don't seem to be fully dealing with the fact that Nero was the emperor.

I'm dealing with it and asking you questions, but you're going all over the place. If you tell me Nero was the Emperor and therefore Nero was ordained by God and his laws and actions were holy, well, then that's evidence Hitler was too. Maybe Nero de-legitimized himself. It's not like Paul was saying 'Nero commands a lot of totally immoral things - but those are okay, accept them! God put Him in power! So his laws are legit!' It wouldn't be the first time a ruler went from legitimate to illegitimate in their lifetime, even in the bible.

Was the atom-bombing of Japan "self defense against the violently unjust"?

No, it was incinerating large swaths of people, civilians included, to make a point, which I'm not exactly on board with.

So yay or nay, on Jesus' martyr strategy?

It's not Jesus' martyr strategy, since Christ wasn't trying to bring about an end to all suffering or even all evil with that act. Care to quote Revelation and see how that's going to be handled once and for all? Shall we be taking /that/ to be our guide?

Luke said...

@Crude:

> Then so much for the claim that maybe the Christians under Stalin had it coming and God was punishing them through His legitimate rulers with their legitimate orders.

But I never asserted this. What do you think I said, which implies it? What I pointed out is that probably Paul said to be subject to Nero. I never asserted that Nero murdered only those Christians who "deserved" it. This conversation continues after the next quote block.

> I'm dealing with it and asking you questions, but you're going all over the place.

Apologies, but I'm fairly new to detailed thought on these matters. :-/

> It's not like Paul was saying 'Nero commands a lot of totally immoral things - but those are okay, accept them! God put Him in power! So his laws are legit!' It wouldn't be the first time a ruler went from legitimate to illegitimate in their lifetime, even in the bible.

That's the difficulty. Was Paul saying to obey Nero, even up to being executed by him? That seems like a distinct possibility.

One point of friction, I think, is the idea that what the authority says is truly what is good vs. evil, rather than some approximation. I would argue that any human's model of good vs. evil is only ever an approximation, and thus we ought always be practicing Rom 12:1–2. There are plenty of ways to subversively resist evil. The whole Bible is an example of that, what with Genesis 1–3 in contrast to Enûma Eliš, the empire criticism that Paul likely engaged in, etc. Even the way masters and slaves were to treat each other seems designed to equalize their characters and regard for each other, such that the very need for the institution of slavery would evaporate. After all, how else can one practice Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20?

> No, it was incinerating large swaths of people, civilians included, to make a point, which I'm not exactly on board with.

It is curious that I might be on board with it. After all, fewer total civilians probably died as a result, and Japan didn't get occupied by the USSR, which was thought to be a significant possibility if the US invaded the mainland. Perhaps this is my consequentialism showing, even though I claim that one can merge consequentialism, virtue ethics, and divine command theory? BTW, This MoralApologetics.com blog post Supposes that DCT, NL, and VT are not necessarily in tension. I'm reminded of Hawking and Mlodinow's model-dependent realism, and how one seems to need multiple theories of atonement to really capture what the Bible says on the matter.

> Care to quote Revelation and see how that's going to be handled once and for all? Shall we be taking /that/ to be our guide?

I've yet to really dig into it. I am reminded of 2 Thess 2:1–12, especially v8. What does it mean for Jesus to kill "with he breath of his mouth"? That seems strangely nonviolent in an important way. It's as if the lawless one will be a cloud that merely gets dispersed or something. But hey, I haven't deeply studied that passage. For now, it fascinates me.

Crude said...

But I never asserted this. What do you think I said, which implies it? What I pointed out is that probably Paul said to be subject to Nero.

"What strikes me about this situation is how much sin and failure by Christians had accumulated by the time Hitler started carrying out the Holocaust."

That's the difficulty. Was Paul saying to obey Nero, even up to being executed by him? That seems like a distinct possibility.

Not really, given the context of Paul's quote. Unless you want to argue Nero was doing good, even with flat out torturing and killing of Christians. Legitimate rulers and God-guided laws only go so far.

There are plenty of ways to subversively resist evil. The whole Bible is an example of that, what with Genesis 1–3 in contrast to Enûma Eliš, the empire criticism that Paul likely engaged in, etc.

It's also filled with plenty of examples of doing so overtly.

I've yet to really dig into it. I am reminded of 2 Thess 2:1–12, especially v8. What does it mean for Jesus to kill "with he breath of his mouth"? That seems strangely nonviolent in an important way.

I'm pretty sure 'nonviolent' is out the window when we're talking about killing. Where are the sinners being cast again, for that matter?

Luke said...

@Crude:

> > But I never asserted this. What do you think I said, which implies it? What I pointed out is that probably Paul said to be subject to Nero.

> What strikes me about this situation is how much sin and failure by Christians had accumulated by the time Hitler started carrying out the Holocaust.

A ⇏ B

> > That's the difficulty. Was Paul saying to obey Nero, even up to being executed by him? That seems like a distinct possibility.

> Not really, given the context of Paul's quote. Unless you want to argue Nero was doing good, even with flat out torturing and killing of Christians. Legitimate rulers and God-guided laws only go so far.

Jesus offered himself up to injustice. Why could his followers not also be asked to offer themselves up to injustice? You keep assuming that God would never ask us to submit to evil people, and yet Jesus did precisely that. In the process, he showed the evil for what it is in an absolutely stunning fashion.

> > There are plenty of ways to subversively resist evil. The whole Bible is an example of that, what with Genesis 1–3 in contrast to Enûma Eliš, the empire criticism that Paul likely engaged in, etc.

> It's also filled with plenty of examples of doing so overtly.

Agreed, but largely in the OT, or in Revelation, with hotly disputed interpretations of the latter (see: "apocalyptic literature"). One must grapple with how Jesus switched things up in the precise, lived example, which he gave us to emulate.

> > I've yet to really dig into it. I am reminded of 2 Thess 2:1–12, especially v8. What does it mean for Jesus to kill "with he breath of his mouth"? That seems strangely nonviolent in an important way.

> I'm pretty sure 'nonviolent' is out the window when we're talking about killing. Where are the sinners being cast again, for that matter?

Nevertheless, Jesus is spoken of as doing his killing with words. A sword which comes out his mouth? Hmm, let's look at an infrared movie of a person shouting. How precisely those words will manifest in reality and separate the wheat from the chaff, I don't know. But it might be very different from assassinating US citizens on foreign soil (with a missile?) when they were hardly an "immanent threat" to the United States (for example).

Crude said...

Jesus offered himself up to injustice.

Since when? Jesus offered himself up as an act of mercy. The sentence was unjust, but then Pilate wasn't sentencing Christ to what he thought. Nor, for that matter, were the pharisees.

Why could his followers not also be asked to offer themselves up to injustice? You keep assuming that God would never ask us to submit to evil people, and yet Jesus did precisely that.

What evil people? Pilate? The Pharisees? What he made clear was that none of them really had a choice in the matter, and didn't even have authority. They were taking part in something they couldn't comprehend. And Christ was doing this for a specific, unique sacrifice.

Jesus' trial and sentence was legally unjust, but His sacrifice gets into another matter. That sacrifice is singular.

But, roll your thought the other way. You say that God may well be legitimately demanding that Christians eagerly and happily sacrifice themselves to the 'legitimate authorities' who wish to kill them, without any resistance. I say that's absurd, but let's run with it. There's a simple possibility that opens up: God also demands the exact same of non-Christians. Even if it's carried out at the hands of 'legitimately governing' Christians.

That's the part everyone forgets. Christ's commands aren't 'for Christians'. They're for everyone. And if we're going to entertain the absurdity that Christ demands submission in the face of a government that somehow remains 'legitimate' even when it's tormenting and killing people, even for fun, then the same command holds for everyone else. So we're right back to 'Dietrich Bonhoeffer was terrible for trying to kill Hitler, and jews who rebelled were sinners.'

Agreed, but largely in the OT, or in Revelation, with hotly disputed interpretations of the latter (see: "apocalyptic literature"). One must grapple with how Jesus switched things up in the precise, lived example, which he gave us to emulate.

Christ made a sacrifice that we could not emulate. That was the point of it. We never really had much instruction on what to do if someone is beating us to death.

As for 'hotly disputed', what isn't? I don't think it's reasonable to dispute half of what's being disputed here.

Nevertheless, Jesus is spoken of as doing his killing with words.

Or his breath. Maybe it's a way of talking about poison gas. But he's still killing them. Are we also going to question the whole 'thrown into hell' part?

Luke said...

@Crude:

> > Jesus offered himself up to injustice.

> Since when? Jesus offered himself up as an act of mercy. The sentence was unjust, but then Pilate wasn't sentencing Christ to what he thought. Nor, for that matter, were the pharisees.

I see no contradiction between the Pharisees and Romans believing that they were meting out justice, and God using their evil hearts to accomplish his purposes, a la Romans 9:21–24, with the proviso that vessels (skeuos) which are dishonorable/​common (atimia) can be cleansed and become honorable (timē):

Rom 9
>> 21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one skeuos for timē and another for atimia?
>> 22 What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience skeuos of wrath prepared for destruction?
>> 23 And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon skeuos of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

2 Ti 2
>> 20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver skeuos, but also skeuos of wood and of earthenware, and some to timē and some to atimia.
>> 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a skeuos for timē, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

Pilate is truly guilty for not listening to his wife's warnings (from her dreams), and I am inclined to reject that he was predestined to be precisely the person to condemn Jesus to death. Instead, I say that the amount of evil at the time guaranteed that there would be someone to fill Pilate's shoes.

> > Why could his followers not also be asked to offer themselves up to injustice? You keep assuming that God would never ask us to submit to evil people, and yet Jesus did precisely that.

> What evil people? Pilate? The Pharisees? What he made clear was that none of them really had a choice in the matter, and didn't even have authority. They were taking part in something they couldn't comprehend. And Christ was doing this for a specific, unique sacrifice.

> Jesus' trial and sentence was legally unjust, but His sacrifice gets into another matter. That sacrifice is singular.

You don't like my interpretation; alright. Please explain the following verse:

>> As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36)

In my view, where we are called to also suffer injustice and evil be killed for it, this verse makes perfect sense. Would you be willing to offer a counter-interpretation?

Luke said...

@Crude, cont.:

> But, roll your thought the other way. You say that God may well be legitimately demanding that Christians eagerly and happily sacrifice themselves to the 'legitimate authorities' who wish to kill them, without any resistance. I say that's absurd, but let's run with it.

I'm not sure that Paul "eagerly and happily" offered himself up for execution. What he did do was influence many people of power on the way to his death. He made very strategic use of his Roman citizenship, his shipwrecks, and his time in Rome. Had he preferred to save his own skin, it isn't clear that he would have had the influence for Christ that he did! I just don't see how your "eagerly and happily" fits in, here. It seems almost like a rhetorical flourish, which trivializes passages such as 2 Cor 4:7–18.

> There's a simple possibility that opens up: God also demands the exact same of non-Christians. Even if it's carried out at the hands of 'legitimately governing' Christians.

> That's the part everyone forgets. Christ's commands aren't 'for Christians'. They're for everyone. And if we're going to entertain the absurdity that Christ demands submission in the face of a government that somehow remains 'legitimate' even when it's tormenting and killing people, even for fun, then the same command holds for everyone else. So we're right back to 'Dietrich Bonhoeffer was terrible for trying to kill Hitler, and jews who rebelled were sinners.'

From my point of view, you raise good points, but in rushing to them, you've trampled roughshod over my attempts to deal seriously with the biblical texts we have. Would you consider slowing down a bit? Also, I will point out that I have actually addressed this matter of Hitler:

> While this is not my conversation, I will state for the record that I think it was probably the best course of action to (a) firebomb Germany and Japan; (b) atom-bomb Japan. I state this sadly, and argue that the reason for this is that we regressed morally, and need to re-learn the moral trajectory in the Bible and move from OT morality to NT morality. I'm not sure there's another way to fully become that "new creation". There might be, but I haven't been exposed to real-life examples of it.

> Likewise, I surmise that we ought to use violence to fight ISIS, given that it was our violence which unleashed ISIS. This is of course a tentative hypothesis, given my inability to actually test, and given my lack of scholarship on the history of thought and action bearing on this matter.

Luke said...

@Crude, cont.:

> Christ made a sacrifice that we could not emulate. That was the point of it. We never really had much instruction on what to do if someone is beating us to death.

Then what do you make of Rom 8:16–17? How do you ensure that you aren't nullifying those verses? I'd like to see you explain what they mean, since you appear to be saying that they don't mean what I surmised.

I shall also point out that I said this:

> I agree that we don't add to Jesus' finished work. One way I model this is that Jesus repaired our relationship with God, and we are to repair our relationship with men, nature, and ourselves. I'm not sure how good of a model this is, but it seems worth further exploration from the little exploring I've done. Crucially, it puts forth the idea that perhaps suffering evil is a strategy that should be continued.

This allows us to emulate Jesus' sacrifice in one way, but not in another. Would you explain why this interpretation couldn't possibly be valid? You seem to have dismissed it out-of-hand.

> > Nevertheless, Jesus is spoken of as doing his killing with words.

> Or his breath. Maybe it's a way of talking about poison gas. But he's still killing them. Are we also going to question the whole 'thrown into hell' part?

What? No, I hold to what I would hope is the plain meaning of Rev 21:6–8. Instead, I point to this:

>> “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16–17)

I say that if Jesus didn't do any condemning when he gave us the example to emulate, then we ought to be careful to also avoid condemning. Of course, there is discussion to be had about what he meant by "condemn". I suspect it would be an interesting discussion, especially if one distinguishes between the judgment which condemns and the judgment which does not (my thoughts on judgment).

Crude said...

I see no contradiction between the Pharisees and Romans believing that they were meting out justice, and God using their evil hearts to accomplish his purposes,

They certainly didn't think they were doing what Christ was using them to do.

In my view, where we are called to also suffer injustice and evil be killed for it, this verse makes perfect sense. Would you be willing to offer a counter-interpretation?

That nowhere in that interpretation is the requirement of 'Don't fight back!' suggested whatsoever? You can fight back AND be slaughtered.

Had he preferred to save his own skin, it isn't clear that he would have had the influence for Christ that he did!

I'm not advocating 'saving your own skin'. That would involve going into hiding, another common Christian practice. One I recall wasn't exactly condemned either.

From my point of view, you raise good points, but in rushing to them, you've trampled roughshod over my attempts to deal seriously with the biblical texts we have. Would you consider slowing down a bit?

No, I wouldn't. Because I think I just made one hell of a hard point to deal with.

Also, I will point out that I have actually addressed this matter of Hitler:

No, you didn't. That's one 'legitimate government' against, presumably, another. I'm talking individuals like Bonhoeffer.

Then what do you make of Rom 8:16–17? How do you ensure that you aren't nullifying those verses?

Enduring suffering to share in glory? Does that mean we can command Christ's authority over others as well?

This allows us to emulate Jesus' sacrifice in one way, but not in another. Would you explain why this interpretation couldn't possibly be valid? You seem to have dismissed it out-of-hand.

Because no one's seriously suggesting that we need to sacrifice ourselves to redeem humanity?

I say that if Jesus didn't do any condemning when he gave us the example to emulate, then we ought to be careful to also avoid condemning.

Jesus condemned plenty. Ever tell a woman to go forth and sin no more, ie, stop committing sexual sin? Tell me that's not condemnation. 'Not condemn the world' doesn't mean 'not point out people's flaws and shortcomings, or even react against them'. It took short-changing the Church on a property deal to warrant a death-blow for a couple.

Luke said...

@Ron:

> They certainly didn't think they were doing what Christ was using them to do.

Have you ever read chapter 1 of Tolkein's The Silmarillion? It has a character who thinks he's doing evil, but the God-character turns it to good. I bet this is precisely what God does with all evil. C.S. Lewis may have some stuff on this, too.

> That nowhere in that interpretation is the requirement of 'Don't fight back!' suggested whatsoever? You can fight back AND be slaughtered.

Yep, but to the extent that you fight back, you aren't emulating Jesus' example. And so the question becomes: how do we know (i) in what ways we are to emulate Jesus; (ii) in what ways we are to not emulate Jesus. Do you have a good idea of a nice solid line of demarcation which can be drawn between (i) and (ii)?

> I'm not advocating 'saving your own skin'. That would involve going into hiding, another common Christian practice. One I recall wasn't exactly condemned either.

Saving your own skin can be done without "going into hiding". Paul didn't have to appeal to Caesar such that he got sent to Rome. He was a very smart cookie; I bet he knew exactly what he was doing with that appeal.

> No, I wouldn't. Because I think I just made one hell of a hard point to deal with.

From my point of view, you're basically saying: "Fuck your interpretation; I don't have to respect it. Eph 5:21 couldn't possibly apply, here." I'm afraid that isn't too much of an exaggeration, from my perspective. Now, if you want me to work with your interpretation a while longer, I'm happy to do that. I would like you to say whether you plan on giving my interpretation a serious shot, though.

> No, you didn't. That's one 'legitimate government' against, presumably, another. I'm talking individuals like Bonhoeffer.

Then I shall point to the fact that I'm new at thinking intricately about these matters, as I've already indicated. I can't deal with everything you want me to deal with all at once. (Just FYI.) Is dealing with Bonhoeffer absolutely necessary, at this juncture in the conversation?

> Enduring suffering to share in glory? Does that mean we can command Christ's authority over others as well?

Huh? I don't understand how this is you making sense of those verses. It seems more like a rhetorical deflection of some sort.

> Because no one's seriously suggesting that we need to sacrifice ourselves to redeem humanity?

Then how do you deal with Romans 8:36? You're being very cagey. Sheep, qua sheep, do not fight back.

> Jesus condemned plenty.

Then how do you make sense of John 3:17ff? After all, I did make a distinction between condemnatory and non-condemnatory judgment. You seem to have glossed over it?

Luke said...

Whoops, @Ron should have been @Crude. I also talk a lot to @Ron, but elsewhere.

Crude said...

Yep, but to the extent that you fight back, you aren't emulating Jesus' example.

Sure you are. In fact, given how Jesus acted with the money-lenders in the temple, sometimes emulating Jesus' example means attacking people with a whip and smashing up their belongings to scare the hell out of them.

Do you have a good idea of a nice solid line of demarcation which can be drawn between (i) and (ii)?

I've been arguing as much throughout this conversation.

Saving your own skin can be done without "going into hiding".

Doesn't matter. Going into hiding *is* saving one's own skin. At the same time, attacking someone who threatens you is not necessarily saving your own skin. It can well be suicidal. Nor have I advocated simply attacking those who threaten you, but also those who threaten others.

From my point of view, you're basically saying: "Fuck your interpretation; I don't have to respect it. Eph 5:21 couldn't possibly apply, here."

From my point of view, you're saying 'Shit. No, I can't answer that one. I'll tell Christians they should let themselves be killed, I can get away with that. Saying Jews should march into gas chambers and atheists should just knuckle under and pray in muslim theocracies? That's more awkward.'

Paul makes it clear that the moral commands are for everyone, not just Christians. If you want to say 'No! No, Paul and Jesus only gave commands to Christians! Everyone else is off the hook!' then yes, fuck your interpretation. There's little going for it.

So, should the Jews have marched into the gas chambers? Or were they justified in - what did you call it - 'saving their own skins'?

Then I shall point to the fact that I'm new at thinking intricately about these matters, as I've already indicated. I can't deal with everything you want me to deal with all at once. (Just FYI.) Is dealing with Bonhoeffer absolutely necessary, at this juncture in the conversation?

For a guy who's new to all this, you sure have some tremendously strong opinions that you insist on pushing. You've fired gotcha after gotcha at me with the Bible quotes that I've answered. When it comes to my questions, however, hey now let me just let you ignore the tough ones? Seriously?

Huh? I don't understand how this is you making sense of those verses.

It's two parts, Luke. We share in his suffering and we share in his glory. We're not just sharing in His suffering, but also His glory. You're fine with us sharing in His suffering, interpreting that to mean having a duty to get ourselves killed if that's the law. Now, how about His glory?

Then how do you make sense of John 3:17ff?

As I said: because Christ came to save the world. But saving the world is utterly compatible with condemning people, even to hell. People make choices. Do you think the woman would avoid all condemnation if she went 'Fuck that, I'm just sinning more'? Why did Jesus -tell- her not to sin anymore? Do you think 'avoiding condemnation that Christ would deliver' played a role?

Luke said...

@Crude:

> > From my point of view, you're basically saying: "Fuck your interpretation; I don't have to respect it. Eph 5:21 couldn't possibly apply, here."

> From my point of view, you're saying 'Shit. No, I can't answer that one. I'll tell Christians they should let themselves be killed, I can get away with that. Saying Jews should march into gas chambers and atheists should just knuckle under and pray in muslim theocracies? That's more awkward.'

Ok. So, how about I run with your interpretation for a bit, and then you give mine a legit chance? Would that work? Or do you actually never intend to give mine a chance? I'd rather know up-front.

> Paul makes it clear that the moral commands are for everyone, not just Christians. If you want to say 'No! No, Paul and Jesus only gave commands to Christians! Everyone else is off the hook!' then yes, fuck your interpretation. There's little going for it.

Ok? The OT tells us how if the Holy Spirit ain't in you, decay is happening. The solution is Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–32. So it strikes me that while everyone is expected to follow the law, that having the Holy Spirit within, having the laws of God written on your heart, is really important in this arena. Perhaps you could comment on this apparent pattern I am describing in the OT?

> So, should the Jews have marched into the gas chambers? Or were they justified in - what did you call it - 'saving their own skins'?

The Jews are not professed followers of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are not called to put others' lives above their own. Non-followers of Jesus are allowed to insist on perfect justice; followers of Jesus are called to show mercy and grace instead of perfect justice. (I'm pretty sure this doesn't mean no justice to the unrepentant.)

> > Then I shall point to the fact that I'm new at thinking intricately about these matters, as I've already indicated. I can't deal with everything you want me to deal with all at once. (Just FYI.) Is dealing with Bonhoeffer absolutely necessary, at this juncture in the conversation?

> For a guy who's new to all this, you sure have some tremendously strong opinions that you insist on pushing. You've fired gotcha after gotcha at me with the Bible quotes that I've answered. When it comes to my questions, however, hey now let me just let you ignore the tough ones? Seriously?

Will you accept that I'm not a "gotcha" kind of guy? See, whenever I advance some position from scripture, I try to let apparently contradictory passages quickly rise in my mind. I try to respect the anomalies.

Again, I asked you whether we must deal with Bonhoeffer at this instant. You can merely say "yes". Apparently though, you needed to get some snark in, as well. Okay, I can play ball with that. So shall we continue?

———

Getting on a plane soon, might have to respond to the rest tomorrow. FYI, always re-raise questions I didn't answer to your satisfaction. These conversations get huge, and points can slip through the cracks. Not everything is due to evil on the other person's part (it took me a while to learn this lesson).

Crude said...

Ok. So, how about I run with your interpretation for a bit, and then you give mine a legit chance?

What does 'give it a legit chance' even mean? This entire conversation has been you firing shot after shot at me, a torrent of 'but how do you square that with THIS?' The difference is that I answered your questions. I ask you mine, and apparently the very act of answering them is utterly distasteful, and you require some intellectual bribe to do so. Along the lines of, 'Okay, if you answer my questions I won't say that I've evaluated your claim and found it wanting.'

Ok? The OT tells us how if the Holy Spirit ain't in you, decay is happening.

Okay, so the decay is happening in every Jew, Atheist and non-Christian the planet over. The only place it isn't happening is in Christians.

Wait, hold on. Pretty sure we talked about this before - you go mum on this one.

As for your quotes - they don't get anywhere near what you're saying. Nowhere does Jesus say, 'Let he is without sin cast the first stone. Ha, unless you're a buddhist. You're off the hook!' I forget the part which goes, 'Go forth, and sin no more. Not you, atheists! Fuck that girl's husband! It's not a sin, I only have expectations of Christians!'

The Jews are not professed followers of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are not called to put others' lives above their own.

Funny, I don't recall Paul saying 'The requirements of the law are written on their hearts. Not the gentiles, though! Fuck THOSE guys.'

See, Luke, you overlooked something important. Christ's laws are for everyone. Now, only Christians may /believe/ that. But Christ is not laying down distinct and separate laws for non-Christians. Christ didn't say, 'Now the guy who lies, cheats, steals and commits adultery isn't really sinning so long as he denies me.'

But it's goddamn -weird- that you are willing to play the game of 'Christians should just die when people want to kill them. The ones in ISIS' territory should just turn themselves in and die. Try to smile why they do it too!' but if this gets applied to anyone else, you balk.

Will you accept that I'm not a "gotcha" kind of guy?

No, I won't. In fact, I think you're a 'throw absolutely everything you can out, bible quote after bible quote that you present as problematic, to stun them' kind of guy. You tried - it didn't work. But my questions, those you blow past and don't want to even consider. I press on that point, and first you want assurance that I'll treat all your claims as reasonable possibilities.

Frankly, I'm tired of this shit. I was tired of it when we got into it the last time, and I'm tired of it now. In fact, now I remember how the conversation went last time: you talk about how Christians are called to meet absolutely fucking absurd, made-up-by-Luke standards because they're the only ones who the Holy Spirit is operating in and thus are important to the world. But ask if that makes non-Christians morally depraved or unimportant, and you go mum. You lose your words, you try to change the subject. Because, and this comes across clearly - you want to bash Christians and criticize their shortcomings at every opportunity, but non-Christians get a perpetual free pass. Point out this discrepancy, suggest it's mighty fucking suspicious, and in comes the 'That is hurtful' schtick.

Sell it somewhere else.