Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Amalekites and abolitionists

God said that Saul turned his back from following Him, and that he had not performed His commandments. What does this tell us about God’s expectations for obedience in our fight against injustice? Does God honor obeying some of His commandments?

This is supposed to be an argument from analogy. However, Reasnor never develops the alleged analogy. 

i) For starters, he never quotes the command. Here's what it says: 

Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey (1 Sam 15:3).

ii) For his argument from analogy to work, Reasnor needs to show how prolifers are disobeying a divine command (or commands) in way that's comparable to Saul. Yet Reasnor never fills in the gaps.
iii) To begin with, AHA typically accuses prolifers, not of failing to do what God commands, but doing what God forbids. They allege that incremental tactics are morally impermissible. So Reasnor needs to translate the command into a prohibition.
iv) He also needs to show how that's comparable to incremental tactics. Saul was given a very precise command. No loopholes. It was intentionally exceptionless. 
But how does Reasnor justify universalizing that principle? On what basis does he extrapolate from this particular command to to the claim that all divine commands are universal? That all divine commands are exceptionless? For instance, here's a divine command: 

“Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once” (Mt 21:2).

Is every Christian supposed to obey that command?
v) What Biblical prohibition forbids a Christian from mitigating evil? What Biblical prohibition says that if Christians can't pass a law to save every baby, they are forbidden to pass a law to save as many babies as they can (for the time being)? What Biblical command says that's morally impermissible? 
Where is there a prohibition, whose specificity is comparable to 1 Sam 15:3, that's on the same topic as incremental legislation to limit evil–when that's the most Christians can do at that particular time and place? 
Why doesn't Reasnor quote a Biblical command or prohibition that's truly parallel to prolife tactics? Because there isn't any! 
So we're treated instead to loose illustrations involving Moses, Josiah, and Saul. But his illustrations presume rather than demonstrate a relevant parallel. 
vi) Reasnor says:

Did Moses take what he could get? The political reality was that Pharaoh was an autocrat with all temporal power. Moses most certainly did not have the votes.

But he also talks about "Laws supported and written by immediatists…"

Yet the legislative process is inherently cooperative. It requires the cooperation of enough like-minded lawmakers to pass a mutually agreeable bill.  

1 comment:

  1. To help me understand the argument…

    Premise: there is no explicit command in Scripture that requires us to prevent pagans from murdering their own children.

    Is Reasnor's argument that Scripture actually does require us to prevent pagans from murdering their own children, and therefor to work towards any half-measure is a moral failing? Or is it that working towards a half-measure in the short term inculpates us in a way that simply keeping aloof from the issue would not?

    In any case, there seems to be a fundamental issue with his Kingdom theology, in that he is taking legal / prophetic commands for those within the people of God and condemning Christians when their they fail to convince their community to keep those commands.

    References to Saul/Samuel and to Moses are interesting. These are prophetic warriors with explicitly called to execute a specific judgement upon specific pagans and rescue God's people in the process. Is Reasnor wishing to take up the same mantle?

    Finally, can we discern Reasnor's heart in this? Is he weeping over abortion and, frustrated that it seems that only half-measures are possible, is lashing out in anger? Is he troubled that if half-measures pass we will never get any further? What is his motivation for mis-handled Scriptural rhetoric, and how can that be spoken to in a winsome manner?