Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Civil resistance

i) As a complementarian, I disagree with Keener's overall position, although I do agree with him that wives are under no obligation to endure domestic violence (or husbands, for that matter).

ii) Some well-meaning Christians robotically obey biblical commands and prohibitions, but as we learn from the Sabbath controversies between Jesus and his opponents, we have a duty to consider the purpose of biblical injunctions. Paradoxically, you can disobey God by unthinking obedience to biblical injunctions. To be truly obedient we must take the rationale into account. Sometimes higher obligations supersede lower obligations.

iii) A case in point is how Catholic apologists quote 2 Thes 2:15 out of context. Of course if Paul gave me a private tutorial, I'd be obligated to uphold it. But that hardly means Paul is retroactively endorsing later ecclesiastical legends that fly under the banner of dominical or apostolic "tradition". 

iv) If 1 Peter's instructions about submission are absolute, that contradicts Acts 5:29. They can't both be absolute. 

When Peter calls on slaves to submit even to harsh treatment (2:18), even beatings (2:20), is he endorsing slavery? Is he at least suggesting that we should embrace harsh treatment even when we can avoid it?

For the sake of honoring the Lord (2:12-13), Peter urges compliance when possible with “every human institution” (2:13). This exhortation not endorse all these human institutions, such as slavery (2:18-25), monarchy (2:13, 18), or wives calling their husbands “lord” (3:6), as universal and eternal. It is not claiming that all these human institutions are permanent divine institutions. It is just calling on those in these settings to make the best of their circumstances.

Unless they earned enough money on the side to buy their freedom, slaves did not have much say concerning their slave status. Slaveholders often did eventually free slaves (though sometimes to preclude having to support them in their old age). A minority of slaves in the Roman empire achieved status and even wealth—even as slaves. But the legal authority to emancipate slaves lay solely with the slaveholders. Peter thus provides advice for how to bear up under a difficult situation that his addressees could not control, not how to address a situation that they could not control. This is the same approach taken by many ancient moral teachers, such as Stoic philosophers, who focused on what is in our power to control, rather than on what is not.

Is it ethical to flee abuse? Scripture provides numerous examples. David fled from Saul, and Jesus’s family fled to Egypt to escape Herod. Even in cases of persecution for the name of Christ, Jesus allows fleeing (Matt 10:23), and his disciples normally did so when possible (Acts 14:6).

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