We begin a new series on Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. This passage has been transformative in the lives of many, and is both unique and challenging. In this episode I explore my own experience with this passage and why I think it's so important to study. **A wonderful resource and a classic you must read in regard to the SOTM is Dallas Willard's "The Divine Conspiracy." Willard excoriates modern Christianity and our easy believism and refusal to emphasize works, but he also does a great job doing what I failed to do in my consequentialism series until the Bonhoeffer episodes, which is to make clear that following Jesus leads us to right actions, it is not right actions of themselves which we are seeking. I would take exception with Willard on two parts, however. The first is that Willard seems to view some of the SOTM (especially the beatitudes) with a more eschatological lens. While he definitely emphasizes that the Kingdom is now, there are moments where I feel like he overspiritualizes it into two distinct kingdoms (the spiritual and the human/physical) rather than integrating the two kingdoms, though he certainly does this much less than most other Evangelicals. The second area I'd push back on is Willard's dismissal of the Beatitudes as prescriptive. While I do agree with him that at least some are not prescriptive in the sense that we should go out and seek them (e.g. seeking persecution and trying to get killed for your faith is not good), I think they are semi-prescriptive in an indicative sense. What I mean by that is I don't think we seek persecution, but I think that when we truly seek and follow Jesus, our lives are the type which will almost certainly bring some level of persecution. Most, if not all of the other beatitudes fall in that same vein. If we are humble we will likely be meek and poor in spirit. If we hold our resources with an open hand because we recognize they are God's and don't worry about tomorrow, we'll likely have a difficult life. And Jesus told us that the gospel will bring division in families. So we will be a people who have much opportunity to mourn. In that sense, I think the life which is prescriptive, if followed, tends to lead towards the Beatitudes, while some of those things are not meant to be sought in and of themselves. https://www.amazon.com/Divine-Conspiracy-first-Text-Only/dp/B004TJWC7M/ref=sr_1_2?crid=2TKRZIONHZRVE&dchild=1&keywords=the+divine+conspiracy+by+dallas+willard&qid=1587258908&s=audible&sprefix=the+divine+conspiracy%2Caudible%2C178&sr=1-2-catcorr
A short synopsis of some of the main ideas in our just war series.
We end our series on just war by looking at the application of the theory to specific wars in United States history.
We probe the coherence of just war theory one more time by asking some general questions about it.
We look at the final tenet of just war theory, the idea of "just peace."
We look at the sixth tenet of just war theory, the idea of "last resort."
We look at the fifth tenet of just war theory, the idea of "reasonable success."
We look at the fourth tenet of just war theory, the idea of "discrimination" or "civilian safety."
We look at the third tenet of just war theory, the idea of "right intention" or "proportionality."
We look at the second tenet of just war theory, the idea of "just authority."
This episode explores one of the first tenets of Just War Theory, the idea of "just cause." We explore the concept of just cause to uncover how it is idealistic, produces incompatibility with other ideas, and is inconsistently applied.
Since today is Independence Day in the United States, I thought it would be a good time to look at how we have gained and maintained our independence. We take a look at some very hard truths about the United States, and the human condition expressed in it, as it is in all empires throughout history.
Our original series explored the positive case for Christian nonviolence. In this series, we will take a look at the Just War Theory and see how it holds up to scrutiny. In our first episode of the series we'll lay out the general composition of this theory and discuss its formation in Christian thought.
We re-explore a topic discussed in episode 7 - if most Christians believe it's moral to condone the assassination attempt of Hitler, why don't we condone the killers of the New Holocaust, abortionists? Since this was one of the conundrums which lead me to the acceptance of pacifism in order to be morally and logically consistent, I think it's worth exploring again at the end of our abortion series.
This episode piggybacks off the previous one by digging into the structures of racism in abortion. We discuss the shifting demographics of abortion and how the very people decrying abortion and attempting to legislate directly against it tend to be the group which creates and fosters the environments most conducive to producing abortions.
I was disappointed, though not surprised, to discover that the anti-abortion position and movement in Evangelicalism (especially the white brand) has racial overtones. While our sullied past doesn't negate the logical case made against abortion in season three, I do think it is vital that we Evangelicals are honest about our history. Understanding the past helps lead us to repentance, honesty, integrity, authenticity, and restoration, whereas the ignoring of the past leads to hard heartedness and blindness of both past and current injustices. This episode ties in consequentialism, race, and politics - three topics which have been discussed at length throughout the three seasons so far.
This episode wraps up our case for abortion by surveying the landscape of both the Christian and secular positions, as well as bringing in the topics of our previous two seasons: nonviolence and consequentialism.
I take a look at one of the arguments the pro-abortion side often levies against the anti-abortion side. Ectopic pregnancies are viewed as an area where pro-lifers are inconsistent in their application of the logic. In this episode I take a look at what I believe a consistent anti-abortion logic entails.
Some would argue that you shouldn't even listen to me on the topic of abortion, as I am a man. Men not only have a vested interest in the abortion discussion, but also have the inability to understand from a woman's perspective. While such an argument undermines the possibility of using logic in arguments, I look at where the vested interests truly lie, and in how we recognize in other areas how diverse voices are vital for fighting injustice.
As Memorial Day approaches, we explore what it looks like for a pacifist to faithfully and truthfully live out a day which honors lives lost in war. We take some cues from Stanley Hauerwas and his article on the sacrifices of Christ, and we address some of the shallowness of a day which, rather than honoring the loss of human life, honors the loss of only particular lives. I will advocate that instead of tossing Memorial Day to the side, we think about what most are truly saying in their celebrations, and replacing that shallow expression with a full expression of the imago dei in all.
I take a look at Patrick Tomlinson's smug conundrum offered to the anti-abortion advocates. He asks what a pro-lifer would do if they had to choose between saving a toddler or 1,000 embryos in a fire. I take a look at how Tomlinson shoots himself in the foot with this consequentialist argument, as he undermines the possibility of he, himself, being able to do any good in the world. This episode wreaks of the consequentialism discussed in season 2. If you're unfamiliar with that, you should go back and listen to the season.
If you don't want strange and tentative, skip this episode. I take a second look at the issue from bodily autonomy by addressing a very strange case, that of Phillips vs. Irons. This is a prototype argument that is quite strange, and I acknowledge that it could be off the rails a bit. However, I think it's interesting and perhaps it will spark some good conversation and thoughts about how to further the discussion on the topic of abortion and bodily autonomy.
In my opinion, the strongest argument for abortion is the argument from bodily autonomy, also known as the Violinist Argument. I take a look at why this argument seems so strong on the surface, but why it breaks down under the weight of a number of large assumptions which crumble upon closer inspection. While I still think this argument is the strongest for abortion, it is by no means unassailable, and it is by no means solely an objective position.
Unfortunately, most Christian arguments for abortion are bad. Some arguments misuse or cherry-pick the Bible, some arguments are undermined by hypocrisy, and some arguments undermine the core idea Christians rely on - that humans have intrinsic value. We take a look at what I think are bad (or incomplete) Christian arguments and evidences against abortion.
If we know that abortion kills humans, and we know that to maintain intelligible human rights we must acknowledge intrinsic value, we must then answer the next question: are there any circumstances which warrant the taking of an intrinsically valuable human life? I look at reasons for killing which are commonly accepted in our society, then see how reasons for abortion compare to what is generally acceptable.
If it's clear that a fetus/embryo is a living human, we must then discuss how human value is housed. Is it something that is acquired (extrinsic), meaning it can then be lost or lessened, or is value intrinsic to all humans, following humans wherever they go and no matter what? We look at the major problems with adhering to value as extrinsic, which is what most pro-abortion advocates do. For any property you can hold in degrees means it can also be lost in degrees, implying human value is not static and comes on a shifting scale.
When discussing the issue of abortion, most anti and pro-abortion advocates miss the point completely. While anti-abortion Christians show pictures of dead fetuses and try to argue from the Bible, the other side claims to fight for justice for women and the poor. In doing so, both sides frequently miss the foundational question which must be asked before we begin deeper discussions.
In this episode I explore some personal experiences with racism and political idolatry inside the church. I discuss how the same pitfalls which made my community vulnerable to misassessing or pre-judging COVID-19 (and all the other issues discussed in season 2) are the same ones we see come up in regard to race issues and politics.
I saw a lot of disappointing responses from my community (Conservative Evangelicals) in regard to COVID-19. This episode covers my frustration with my community's skewing of truth based on our political filter. Make sure to check out the image gallery of examples.
Today, April 9, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's execution. In the previous episode we took a look at the historical evidence for Bonhoeffer's sustained pacifism, despite the common narrative that he was executed for an attempt to assassinate Hitler. In this episode, we dig into just a few pieces of the book, "Bonhoeffer the Assassin?" which I believe accentuate and complete our series on consequentialism.
This is the original, uncorrected episode. Since most of the corrections were minor, and I felt as though the original had more content and was less rushed, I thought I'd publish it along with the listed corrections from conferring with one of the authors of the book "Bonhoeffer the Assassin?" Dr. Nation's Critiques: 1. If Bonhoeffer did choose to assassinate Hitler, this is a serious issue for the nonviolent position if it represents a shift in ideology as opposed to a moral lapse in the moment. It is often portrayed that Bonhoeffer changed his theology, not that he hesitantly gave in or succumbed to temptation. 2. Jean Lassere and Andre Trocme were not connected to each other 3. Bonhoeffer's rationale for avoiding the military is not analogous to those like Desmond Doss who had a different rationale for service 4. The Abwehr was not scrutinized due to assassination attempts, because the attempts which occurred in the time frame before Bonhoeffer's arrest were not discovered. 5. Bonhoeffer almost certainly knew about the assassination attempts against Hitler, though no connection can be made for his support, participation, or encouragement of that. We only know of him leveraging his position to guarantee peace upon overthrow. 6. The Abwehr had about 12,000 members. A big thanks to Dr. Nation for his help, and so all who want to pursue his work further know, "I have published another essay on the book Ethics that says some things not said in our book in the same way. Also, I have written three lectures that expand on some of this, if you are interested. An early version of the one is available on youtube. I am presenting three new public lectures this semester. These six lectures will become my second book on Bonhoeffer."
As we approach April 9, 2020, we approach the 75th anniversary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's execution. If you know Bonhoeffer, you likely know him as the pacifist turned would-be-assassin. This episode explores the evidence for and against Bonhoeffer's participation in assassination attempts against Hitler, as well as Bonhoeffer's life and example.
We take a look at another case study of consequentialism in the Bible - the Apostle Peter. I argue that Peter was not at all a coward, but was rather a human with an agenda who became disillusioned when God's way didn't align with his own.
We recap the heart of the consequentialist ethic and look at how consequentialism impacts the issue of nonviolence.
By this point, inconsequentialism should seem to be the clearly correct position for Christians to hold. However, it may seem a bit overwhelming. What hope or joy is there in pursuing such a difficult ethic? The hearers of Christ's words in Matthew 5-7, as Jesus said "be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect," likely felt the same way. In this episode I look at how inconsequentialism provides us with more hope than its alternative. And as the nail in the coffin to consequentialism, I discuss how it is only on an inconsequentialist ethic that altruism as we know it can exist.
I discuss a number of ways in which I believe the consequentialist ethic plays out in the real world. One of the prime examples I discuss is why we not only see so many sex scandals inside the church, but why those scandals are so often able to exist for an extended period of time and involve a number of godly people who try to keep them under the rug. When we perceive that God's reputation as more important than repentance, accountability, and resolving injustice - then we have gone seriously wrong in our understanding of what it is that brings glory to God's name and upholds his reputation. But this is exactly what consequentialism does, as it causes people to rationalize terrible actions which they believe to be works for God.
The final claim often levied at inconsequentialists is that their position is passive. If you don't lie to save lives or if you abstain from voting because all candidates are compromised, then you fail to act in the world in any meaningful sense. Although we discussed this quite a bit in our first season, we'll address this concept again very briefly and look at how being faithful and seeking holiness is not disengaging from the world.
One accusation levied against inconsequentialism is that it fails to pursue the good. If we don't lie to save lives and if we won't kill an embryo to save a mother, then our allowance to save a life which is within our power is a failure to do good. This episode responds to that accusation.
While many view inconsequentialism as pharisaical, some attack it from the opposite angle and say that it produces impossible expectations. Who has any hope if perfect holiness is what is required of us? In this episode I look at the Christian's call in light of our Savior's work, discussing how grace is central in spurring us on towards becoming more and more conformed to the image of the perfect Christ. I also provide what I think is one of the most beautiful exchanges regarding this idea, as we look at an excerpt of the unbeliever, Trypho, discussing his perception of Christians in his dialogue with Justin Martyr.
Since inconsequentialism focuses on uncompromising holiness, one of the first accusations levied against it is that it is pharisaical. In this episode I explore what being pharisaical actually is. We discover that the heart of the law is often harder than pharisaical morality, that to be lovingly incarnate, holiness must be maintained, and we find that it is the consequentialist position which most embraces pharisaicalism in their willingness to sacrifice others, namely their enemies.
I finally come back to the issue which started this whole journey for me - the issue of voting for a morally compromised candidate and/or platform. Here I look at the Bible's expectations for personal character, character of leaders (including leaders in the church), and the expectations for political/national leaders. I also take a look at how Israel compares to the church in theocratic terms. It is a jam-packed episode and there was quite a bit I wasn't able to explain in full. Hopefully this is able to spark good discussion.
This episode looks at how our political idolatry has caused us to remove a vital moral option from our repertoire - abstention in voting. We explore how abstention compares to the biblical call of justice in our lives, as well as looking at how abstention can actually shape the social and political landscape.
Is it wrong to tell a little white lie in order to save an oppressed minority you're harboring in order to avoid genocide? Such a claim seems unreasonable and unlovingly rigid. In this episode we look at the ramifications of accepting lying as a moral option.
We return to the conundrum that started it all for me - the M.A.S.H. baby. We take a look at the morality of taking a life in order to save other lives.
We take all we've discussed in the previous eight episodes and begin to look at specific moral conundrums. We specifically begin with ectopic pregnancies, since for pro-life, conservative Christians, the morality of this issue is very settled and clear for most. That makes uncovering inconsistencies in the generally accepted morality here an easy entry point.
I take a look at how consequentialism affected the way I loved.
I take a look at the third area in which consequentialism impacted my life - in my generosity.
I continue to look at how consequentialism has affected my life by looking at how it shaped my view of forgiveness. I look at some issues consequentialists tend to have with forgiveness and how that compares to what the Bible says.
The next four episodes deal with how God has uncovered the problems of consequentialism in my own life. The first area I want to explore is how consequentialism undermined the grace I showed (or failed to show) others, and my own view of the grace I needed myself.