Thursday, October 25, 2012

Divorce, Part 2

TFan has offered a 2-part response to my discussion of divorce vis-à-vis domestic violence:

I’ve already responded to part 1. Now I’ll respond to part 2.

Just to review, in discussing the possibility that domestic violence might be grounds for divorce, one argument I used was an a minore ad maius argument.

An a minore ad maius argument is a special type of a fortiori argument, which is, in turn, a special type of argument from (or by) analogy.

There are two types of a fortiori arguments:

a minore ad maius (lesser-to-greater)

a maiore ad minus (greater-to-lesser)

Arguments from analogy are very common in ethics, law, and science. And they are common in Scripture.

For instance, the Mosaic law contains a great number of case laws. A Jewish judge was often required to reason by analogy from a case law to a comparable situation.

In his various responses to me, TF has stated what he considered to be conditions for a valid a fortiori argument. For instance:

But slavery isn't a greater degree of the same kinds of obligations as marriage, so I assume Steve wouldn't use that defense. Both apples and oranges are fruit, but that doesn't really address the objection.

The objection could be briefly expressed this way: the argument you are using requires comparing two things that lie at different points on a single spectrum, with the second thing on the same side but farther from the dividing line that divides the spectrum; however, you haven't established either that the two things are on the same spectrum or that the second thing is farther away from the dividing line that divides the spectrum.

Now let’s compare his criteria to the following statement:

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many (Rom 5:15).

That’s a classic a minore ad maius argument. If x, then how much more y.

Notice, though, that sin and grace differ in kind. They don’t occupy the same spectrum. Paul’s a fortiori argument involves a negative comparison. So TFan’s criteria would invalidate Paul’s argument.

In his latest reply, TFan begins by saying:

But it seems that Steve's major argument for his position is this one:

    c) There is also an argument from analogy. A battered slave could be manumitted (Exod 21:26-27). A fortiori, a battered wife can divorce her husband. What’s true in the lesser case of a slave is true in the greater case of a wife, for a wife has greater rights than a slave.

This argument is invalid.  Just because something leads to the release of slavery does not imply that it leads to the release of a marriage.

i) Of course, that’s a caricature of my actual argument. I never said or suggested that just because something leads to the release of slavery, this entails that also it leads to the release of a marriage. So TFan is misrepresenting the actual argument.

ii) In addition, this wasn’t my “major argument.” It’s one of several. I don’t think one is more important than another. It’s more of a cumulative case argument.

A Hebrew slave was released from bondage upon reaching a seventh year of service.  But no serious person would suggest that a Hebrew spouse was released from marriage upon reaching a seventh year.  Thus, the fact that something led to the release of a slave does not imply that the something should lead to the release of a spouse.

Likewise, it's worth noting that the provisions that warrant a divorce (adultery/fornication and actual desertion by an unbelieving spouse) are not things that warrant the release of a slave.  Indeed, it is absurd to suppose that if a slave's master commits adultery, the slave is free to leave.  Likewise, in the law Hebrews were not commanded to let unbelieving slaves go free if they wished to go free.  Furthermore, while death of a spouse liberate the other from the marriage, the death of a master does not liberate a slave.

Here TFan tries to invalidate my argument by coming up with disanalogies. And, indeed, one way of trying to invalidate an argument from analogy is to bring up counteranalogies. However, that only works if the counteranalogies are relevant.

Take the following comparison:

15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Lk 13:15-16).

That’s an a minore ad maius argument. Jesus is reasoning from the lesser case of thirsty livestock to the greater case of a handicapped Jewess. If we show that much concern for livestock, shouldn’t we show at least as much (indeed, far more) concern for a disabled woman–indeed, a woman who’s a member of the covenant community?

(See Lk 14:1-6 for a similar a fortiori argument.)

Now imagine if TFan were to take the same dismissive approach to this argument that he does to mine:

The inference from the ox to the woman is invalid! For instance, the law says “If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death” (Exod 21:29).

But if you compare a woman to an ox, then if a husband knows his wife is accustomed to assaulting people, but doesn’t keep her under lock-and-key, and she kills somebody, then the husband should be executed. For the woman is to the ox as the husband is to the owner. Jesus’ argument is absurd!

Likewise, the law says “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” (Exod 22:1).

But if you compare a woman to an ox, then if a man steals (i.e. commits adultery with) another man’s wife, then the adulterer shall repay the cuckolded husband by giving him five wives. No serious person can accept Jesus’ reasoning!

Using TFan’s tactics, it would be easy to make a mockery of our Lord’s a fortiori argument. But the dissimilarities are incidental to Jesus’ argument.

i) Now let’s compare Jesus’ argument with my argument.

If it’s permissible or even obligatory to water an ox on the Sabbath, then how much better should we treat a handicapped Jewess?

If it’s obligatory for a master to release a slave whom he’s wounded (even if it’s a minor, albeit irreparable injury, like a broken tooth), then how much greater is the obligation of a wife-beater to release his battered wife?

ii) Keep in mind, too, that a wife and a slave have far more in common than an ox and a woman. Using TFan’s spectral argument, a wife and a slave are closer to each on the spectrum than an ox and a woman.

iii) Take another argument from analogy. If a sundial is a timepiece, and a digital watch is a timepiece, then if I can tell the time by my digital watch, I can also tell the time by a sundial.

Is that valid? Well, in one respect a sundial and a digital watch are the same kind of thing. They both are timepieces. At that level of abstraction, they are the same kind of thing.

Yet in most ways they are very unalike. The basis of the analogy is functional or teleological. Both devices were designed to do the same thing, although one is more accurate than another.

Same thing if you compared an abacus to an electronic calculator. Are they the same kind of thing? Same in what respect? In most ways they differ in kind.

iv) One problem is that TF doesn’t seem to appreciate the difference between deductive and inductive logic. Arguments from analogy can either be inductive or deductive. In the case of inductive arguments, the conclusion doesn’t follow by strict implication. We’re dealing with probabilities. But that doesn’t mean you can discount an a fortiori argument out of hand simply because it won’t yield a necessary conclusion. That’s to misunderstand the nature of analogical arguments in this respect.

Thus, there is no good reason to suppose that this argument from analogy is valid.  The two things are non-analogous precisely on the point that the analogy aims to press.

That’s just an assertion.

There are also further problems with this argument.  First, the use of the "rights" framework is anachronistic.  The Scriptures don't speak of "rights" and specifically in this instance the release of the slave was retributive justice against the master, not a "right" of the slave.

This is another case of TFan rehashing an objection I already dealt with. He’s needs to stop arguing in bad faith. If he raises an objection, and I engage his objection, he ought to take that into account the next time around.

It’s easy to recast my argument without reference to “rights.” Indeed, I’ve shown him how that’s done.

Second, it is not clear that a wife had "greater rights" than every slave in Hebrew law.  In this case, for example, if we call what the slave has a "right," the law does not provide for similar or greater rights for wives.

Steve tried to argue that wives did have greater rights because they had higher social status.  But actually, social status is something of a fluid concept.  For example, in second temple Judaism, the temple apparently included a "court of the women," between the court of the Gentiles and the court of the men.  Thus, at least in the temple, a male Hebrew slave would have higher social status - he could get closer to the symbol of the presence of God than she could.  Of course, I recognize that in other aspects the social status of a wife was higher - in the home, the slaves would be expected to generally obey the wife.

One problem is that TFan’s argument is a moving target. He will deny something. When I present counterevidence, he sometimes makes a grudging admission. So his argument keeps evolving. If you compare what he’s saying now with what he said before, you’ll notice new concessions.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you have to keep retrofitting your original argument, then there comes a point when you should ask yourself if your original argument was shortsighted and ill-conceived. If the reasons you end up with aren’t the reasons you began with, then it seems as if you start with your belief, then look for supporting evidence, rather than starting with the evidence. Shouldn’t evidence lead belief, rather than the other way around?

Moreover, higher social status is not convertible into greater "rights."  Whether one characterizes the mechanisms of Hebrew law in terms of "rights," "legal protections," "privileges," or "prerogatives," there was not some kind of general pattern of providing those with higher social status greater rights, protections, privileges, etc.  Indeed, the law called for a general principle of equality despite social status differences [Lev 19:15; Deut 1:17].

i) That confuses equal justice with other kinds of equality. Unequal justice is unjust. Everyone is entitled to equal justice under the law. But not all forms of inequity are unjust. Does TFan really not understand that basic distinction?

ii) Equality…all things being equal. For instance, the rich and powerful were generally in a better position to protect themselves than widows and orphans. In that respect, widows and orphans needed special protection.

But here we’re discussing the issue of domestic violence. Both rich wives and poor wives can be battered wives. Being uppercrust doesn’t automatically shield a woman from domestic violence. That’s a different type of vulnerability than poverty. (Likewise, a rich woman can shoot her husband. His wealth doesn’t shield him from that hazard.)

There's another problem with Steve's analogy, which we could call the "two dimensional" problem.

Let's remember that TFan originally used the spatial metaphor of a spectrum to evaluate a fortiori arguments. Well, that’s a 2D metaphor. A linear continuum in which two things can be ranged along the same continuum, either closer or farther apart.

So if there’s a “two dimensional” problem, that’s a problem, not with my a fortiori argument, but with TFan’s original criteria for assessing a fortiori arguments. He’s now revising his criteria.

Let's suppose that married women were of higher social rank than male slaves.  That's one dimension.  At the same time, though, marriage is a more binding bond than slavery.  "They twain shall be one flesh" is a bond that is greater than the highest degree of binding in slavery, the ear bored slave who wishes to serve his master perpetually (Exodus 21:6).

How is that a more “binding bond”? In both cases, the party in question makes a lifelong commitment. A legally binding commitment for life, barring dissolution by the actions of the other party.

No doubt marriage is a deeper bond, but not a more binding bond.

Husbands have a duty to sacrifice themselves for their wives in a way that no master is called upon to act toward a slave.  That's another dimension.

But that plays into my argument. A husband has higher duties to a wife than to a slave. So what if he’s derelict in his duty? What’s the remedy?

So, even if wives have greater rights than male slaves, the bonds of marriage are stronger.

Stronger in what sense? Legally stronger? I don’t see the basis for that claim.

Emotionally stronger? I’d hope so. Does a husband have stronger obligations to a wife than a slave? Yes. But how does that undermine my argument?

And the problems don't stop there.  It is not mere battery of a slave that gives the slave freedom.  The slave gets freedom in the case of significant permanent physical injury.  Specifically, the slave gets his freedom for the loss of an eye or a tooth (Exod 21:26-27).

But Steve's move in his argument is from permanent physical injury to mere battery.  That's a move from greater injury to lesser injury.  Even if permanent physical injury could justify breaking the marriage bond, Steve would still need to find some justification for something less than permanent physical injury breaking the marriage bond.

Well, that’s a bait-n-switch. The a minore ad maius argument doesn’t operate at the level of the injury, but the level of the obligation to the injured party.

There's an even more fundamental framing problem with Steve's argument.  Why focus on a wife?  If a wife has high social status, surely in Hebrew law a husband has even higher social status.  And surely a free husband would have higher social status than a female slave.

But, of course, a "battered husband" isn't nearly sympathetic enough for Steve's argument.  Moreover, if "social status" were a determiner of degree of divorce rights, Steve's argument would imply that men in general should have more divorce rights than women, and that rich men should have more divorce rights than poor men.  But one cannot imagine Steve seriously advocating such an absurd position.  Therefore, Steve's argument should be rejected, to avoid the reduction to absurdity.

i) I focused on the wife because I was responding to a YouTube clip of something Piper said which went viral on the Internet. I think Piper’s response was inadequate, and damaging to the complementarian cause.

I also pointed out that the question was unfair to the degree that it skewed the issue by its one-sidedness. Has TFan forgotten that already?

ii) In addition, TFan is attacking my position from an essentially egalitarian perspective. He acts as if it’s inconsistent or hypocritical of me to focus on battered wives rather than battered husbands.

But as a complementarian, I don’t think men and women should be treated alike in every respect, for men and women are unalike in some important respects.

Take a woman slapping a man in the face. There’s a long tradition of women doing that. You have that in classic Hollywood films, where a movie star like Joan Crawford slaps the leading man. He’s expected to stand there and take it, whereas he’d never take it from another man, precisely because he’s a man and she’s a woman. Back then, Hollywood films were more chivalric.

If a woman slaps a man, that doesn’t harm him. Rather, that dishonors him. It’s a symbolic gesture.

By contrast, if a man hits a woman, he can do real damage. Do I really need to explain that to TFan?

iii) Now, it is possible for a wife to inflict grave physical harm on her spouse. But that generally involves more than using her bare hands. Take the infamous case of Lorena Bobbitt. So, no, I don’t think a husband should put up with serious physical abuse from his wife–unless he provoked it (if it’s retaliation for his own abuse, that’s a different matter.)

Let's take for granted that "domestic violence is a travesty of what marriage represents," as to the two aspects identified.  Let's even assume that it is the "antithesis of how marriage is supposed to function."

It’s striking that TFan merely grants that for the sake of argument, as if those are questionable assumptions.

However, even if those statements are true, they fall short of justifying "domestic violence" as a ground of divorce.  These would just be legitimate complaints about sin, or arguments that this sin is severe ("travesty" has that connotation).  So, this is the weakest of Steve's three arguments.  He doesn't even include a step in the argument that leads to a conclusion in the form of "and thus divorce is justified based on domestic violence."

i) I said at the outset that I wasn’t presenting a full-blown argument for domestic violence as a legitimate ground for divorce. Remember the context. I was responding to Piper’s answer. And I was outlining arguments to the contrary.

ii) But notice how TFan minimizes and trivializes domestic violence by saying “These would just be legitimate complaints about sin.”

Really? If a husband hospitalizes his wife, she “just has a legitimate complaint about sin”?

“Steve's second argument also has problems.  One problem is the idea that marriage is a covenant.  While it is popular these days to speak of marriage covenants or "covenantal marriage," these are not Biblical descriptions of the marriage between a man and a woman.   Nevertheless, Malachi and Jeremiah both intermix covenantal language with the description of marriage.”

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument that Scripture doesn’t formally classify marriage as a covenant. Still, TFan is committing the word-concept fallacy. In Scripture, marriage has contractual elements. It’s the terms of marriage that make it covenantal or contractual, not the label.

Steve's argument refers to the "terms of the covenant."  That would be fine if Steve could point us to terms of the covenant that support his position.  The problem is that there aren't any such terms of the covenant for Steve to point to.

In a sense any violation of any of the duties is "breaking the covenant."

That oversimplifies the issue. Generally speaking, nonperformance can nullify a contract. If you don’t do what you agreed to do, if you fail to uphold your end of the bargain, then the other party is no longer bound to what he agreed to do, for his agreement was predicated on reciprocity.

If, say, someone agrees to paint your house on condition of a deposit upfront, with the balance due after the job is done, and you don’t make the deposit, then your nonperformance nullifies the agreement. He doesn’t have to paint your house.

On the other hand, the terms of a contract can be drawn up to specify fines or damages in case of nonperformance. In that event, nonperformance doesn’t nullify the contract. Rather, nonperformance (by one designated party) triggers one or more penalties. The contract is still in force to sanction the noncompliant party.

Both the OT and the NT spell out a number of marital duties for husband and wife. What if one spouse has no intention of discharging his or her marital duties? Is there still a viable contract?

The muddy sheets is not severe enough but "domestic violence" is severe enough.

Why does TFan keep putting domestic violence in scare quotes? Does he think that’s not a real phenomenon?

But why does Steve get to decide what is severe enough?

Well, that’s a peevish way of putting it. But if we take Biblical ethics seriously, that means we must extrapolate from sample cases or Scriptural principles to analogous situations. That’s Protestant casuistry (e.g. Williams Ames). That’s what pastors have to do. Likewise, entire denominations must formulate policies on topical social issues.

Indeed, Jesus' way of describing the grounds of divorce is exclusive, not illustrative.  Jesus doesn't say "unless it be for something like adultery" but rather limits it to sexual sin ("except it be for adultery").

Which, if you press the language, would exclude the Pauline Privilege. Yet, in his latest response to me, TFan accepts that. So TFan makes allowance for another exception despite the very wording of the dominical statement he quotes. If desertion is grounds for divorce, then that doesn’t limit the grounds for divorce to sexual sin. Once again, TFan has tied himself in knots.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff. I get the impression that the two of you could crank out a new 300± page Zondervan counterpoint book in three days: Spousal Abuse and Divorce—Two Views.