Saturday, November 03, 2012

How should a Christian vote?

Steven Wedgeworth and Peter Escalante have an interesting post:

Since they normally spend their time dissecting the Escondido theology in reference to historical theology, it’s useful to see them descend from lofty historical abstractions to illustrate how their alternative plays out at the grubby concrete level.

They have a useful section on voting for the lesser of two evils. However, they also make some dubious statements along the way:

America has always had a bit of a problem with its own self-image. Frankly, it’s a bit self-centered. Sometimes Americans even think of themselves as a new Israel, an elect people who are politically the “apple of God’s eye.” Recent commentators have called this the problem of “Americanism.” This makes questions that ought to be earthly and prudential turn into religious and ultimate ones.

Chauvinism isn’t uniquely American. Most nationalities, especially for nations in the ascendant, are self-centered and regard their own country as the greatest. And American has been pretty restrained, considering the might at our disposal.

The Manichæan tone of American politics echoes in the parties’ ballot rallying: the citizen is never encouraged to carefully consider the general facts, let alone the details, but rather to “rock the vote” for the good cause and against the bad. Consider Obama’s messianism four years ago, even among certain Christians, and the anti-Obama apocalypticism of the so-called Christian Right. This kind of apocalypticism is nothing new.

I don’t know what they have in mind by their dismissive and derogatory reference to the “anti-Obama apocalypticism of the so-called Christian Right.” The trajectory which the Obama administration has put us on is catastrophic if we continue in that direction. Moreover, some permanent damage has already been done.

Of course, “apocalyptic” has become a conventional, hyperbolic characterization.

Voting has thus become a ritualized form of civil war, which will replay over and over every time the season arrives. In this, it is akin to the ever-repeated ritual altar call of American revivalism which promises much and effects very little, or to the sports cycles of American television. And just as the victory of one team over another is of little moment, so too is the victory of one party over another. But this is a terrible way for rational people to make careful decisions, and so we must bring voting back down to earth.

To the contrary, every election becomes an increasingly high-stakes gambit because one half of the country (the left) is hell-bent on dragging the other half of the country (the right) in a direction diametrically opposed to what the other half supports. Liberals want to use the force of gov’t to unilaterally rewrite the social contract without the consent of other major parties to the contract. They wish to secularize and socially reengineer the nation, using gov’t as the bludgeon to impose compliance.

Put another way, liberals wish to create a two-class society in which a permanent ruling class plays the role of official grown-ups who treat the political underclass as minors.  A totalitarian state.

In considering imperfect options, we must weigh many things very carefully. Is, for instance, Obama’s abortion policy so great an evil that it outweighs any other goods? Is Romney’s foreign policy so great an evil that it outweighs the possibility of his curtailing abortion?

I doubt Romney even has a consistent foreign policy. I don’t think he’ll be obsequious and groveling like Obama, but I expect his policy to be ad hoc.

But the Republicans support war doctrines contrary to Christian principle…

i) What are the authors alluding to? The Iraq War? The Afghanistan War? The Gulf War?

I don’t think our “war doctrines” have been contrary to Christian principle. Rather, I think one could better argue that our recent military engagements have been imprudent–overly-ambitious and overly-optimistic.

The Afghanistan war was just reprisal, but that turned into a nation-building boondoggle.

The Iraq war was, in theory, a preemptive war as well as a war of liberation. The preemptive aspect is, in principle, a logical extension of self-defense. It does, however, require an accurate risk-assessment, as well as realistic strategic objectives.

How much of a threat the Saddam regime actually posed will forever be the subject of interminable debate. What is less debatable is the prosecution of the war, which became another nation-building boondoggle.

In both wars, success became unobtainable even in principle because we were attempting to win “hearts and minds” rather than to defeat the enemy. But when you define success in those terms, you forfeit control. You cede control of the outcome to the cooperation of the natives. That was a fundamental misjudgment.

ii) In addition, Republicans don’t have a uniform doctrine of war. Different Republican politicians and pundits have different views of foreign policy.

I do think that after the Iraq/Afghanistan debacle, the GOP needs to fundamentally rethink foreign policy.

…and a form of crony corporatism that necessarily weakens the family and the common good…

I don’t know how the authors define “crony corporatism,” or what examples they have in mind.

…and much of their morally conservative discourse is demonstrably insincere or founded on principles unacceptable to orthodox Christians.

That’s largely true, but as a practical matter it would be exceedingly difficult, in the current political climate, given the nature of the “news” media, for a Christian candidate to even present a comprehensive position on domestic and foreign policy that’s founded on Christian principles.

The President is not a king or absolute dictator. His word is not, in fact, law. He is, instead the head of the executive branch of government. He directly controls the military and foreign policy – which also means human rights standards – and any future Supreme Court nominations. The President can also veto bills, choose not to enforce certain laws and policies, and provide a general cultural leadership. These are his negative or indirect qualities.

That’s true on paper. But, of course, Obama rules through executive orders, extralegal czars, executive agencies that unilaterally rewrite Congressional legislation, brazen disregard for the rule of law, &c.

The President may not be a de jure dictator, but he’s becoming a de facto dictator. 

Romney’s Pro-Growth Policies Mirror Reagan’s

Down below, Matthew Schultz said:

You over estimate the value of Romney's policies. He will likely be better than Obama, but not in a way that will create a very strong recovery. Even if Romney wins in an electoral landslide, the debt has not gone away and there are no easy answers to reforming our spending and social services programs. We will need a combination of tax increases and spending cuts to get out of our current situation, and that will be both slow in effectiveness and unpopular with the electorate.

I don’t think I’m overestimating the value of Romney’s policies. In the article, I pointed to a sharp contrast in the economy of the late 1970’s (under Carter) and the early 1980’s (under Reagan).

One of the more striking “sound bites” that came out of the first debate was Romney’s statement to the effect that the economy is growing more slowly this year than last year. And was growing more slowly last year than the year before. The most recent GDP number is growth at 1.7%. By contrast, GDP growth in 1983 was at 7% for the year.

The chart here shows the strength of the Reagan recovery in 1982 and 1983, compared with the level of growth during the Obama administration. This difference comes into sharper contrast when a comparison of Reagan’s policies is shown in contrast with Obama’s policies. It is noted that:

The Reaganites had it right: Rapid economic growth causes the deficit and debt to fall, not the other way around.

Without a sustained recovery in national output to 3% growth or more and without putting millions more Americans back to work, there is no politically feasible spending reduction or tax increase that could balance the budget even if Ron Paul ran Congress. Tax revenues have remained below 16% of GDP for the last four years because the economy is in a slow growth rut. The growth deficit, not the budget deficit, is the great issue of our time.

The authors write that “Reagan put pro-growth tax cuts and a rebuilt military ahead of his ambitions to balance the budget, and he was right. After his tax cuts fully kicked in on January 1, 1983, annual growth averaged some 4% over five years, while employment gains were swift and long-lasting. The deficit fell in half from a peak of 6% of GDP in 1983 to under 3% in 1989.”

Tax increases may seem like a solution to bring more money into the treasury, but in reality, they function as a drag on businesses, inhibiting investment, inhibiting hiring, and slowing down the whole economy (as Obama’s policies have done).

By contrast:

Consider what would happen if economic growth increased today to what it would be in a normal economic expansion—about twice what Mr. Obama has delivered. That return to prosperity would raise far more revenue for Uncle Sam than the panoply of Mr. Obama's planned estate, capital gains, dividend and income tax hikes.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that each increase of 1% in GDP means $2.78 trillion more in revenue over a decade. Nearly every problem known to man is more solvable with a larger economy—and what better gift to leave our heirs.

The chart nearby, from The Hoover Institute, shows what pro-growth policies will do to the national deficit. The U.S. is a still a large and prosperous nation, and a growing economy will outpace the debt burden. A reduced tax and regulatory burden on the small and medium-sized businesses that fuel the economy will enable increased business investment, increased hiring, and more rapid reduction of the debt-to-GDP ratio.

No, it’s not a slam-dunk. But we’ve seen it happen before. And that’s the path that Romney is promising to follow.

Michael Barone predicts ...

Michael Barone is one of the most astute and honest political commentators I’ve seen. He generally writes for conservative publications, but I believe he is well-respected across the political spectrum. Barone’s method seems to be unique among political commentators. He studies political life “on the ground” – that is, he’s very familiar with looking at voting patterns historically within states, down to the county and precinct level. He has the kind of knowledge that’s only available to someone who’s studied such things and has become familiar with them over time. When he speaks of “fundamentals”, he does so out of a wealth of personal knowledge and study.

Barone has gone out on a limb and made his final prediction, “fully aware that I'm likely to get some wrong”. Here is how he calls it:

Fundamentals usually prevail in American elections. That's bad news for Barack Obama.

… most voters oppose Obama's major policies and consider unsatisfactory the very sluggish economic recovery -- Friday's jobs report showed an unemployment uptick.

Also, both national and target state polls show that independents, voters who don't identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans, break for Romney.

That might not matter if Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 39 to 32 percent, as they did in the 2008 exit poll. But just about every indicator suggests that Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting -- and about their candidate -- than they were in 2008, and Democrats are less so.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Children are more interesting than fleas

Feminists often attack motherhood as a barrier to feminine fulfillment. And this is frequently cited to rationalize abortion.

Let’s take a comparison. Miriam Rothschild was one of the world’s leading entomologists. Not only did she rise to the top of her field, but did so in the field of science–and not a soft science like sociology. That’s a rare and remarkable distinction for any woman, much less one of her generation (b. 1906).

Yet she also took time out of her distinguished career to be a mother. Did that distraction impede her sense of self-fulfillment? She juggled the demands of science and motherhood. And she took delight in both:

I myself was mildly surprised to find my children more interesting than fleas, and I gladly abandoned field and laboratory experiments, and contrary to a prevalent view that systematics are dull, found them exceedingly interesting. Collaborating with a retired entomologist and the Natural History Museum draftsman we produced five volumes describing and cataloguing the Museum's unique but uncatalogued flea collection. This entailed the study of 10,000 sections of whole fleas - after the children had gone to bed. During this ten-year period I was exceedingly proud that we were never once late for nursery school!

There is no bottom of the hill

Empowering sexual predators

"Hate crime" legislation protecting "trans" is perfect camouflage for sexual predators:

I don't know how blue states can pry themselves free from this self-imposed dilemma. As long as they buy into the PC propaganda about socially constructed gender, then they're stuck with the utterly predictable consequences.

No Mary, No Jesus?

I’m going to briefly comment on this post:

One point of contention between Protestants and Catholics is Mary’s participation in the economy of salvation, but this holiday makes clear her special role as the mediatrix of all graces. I know, as a Protestant, that phrase grated against me hard, but I’ve come to see that her role is exactly as central as the Catholic Church claims it is, precisely because Christ took His sacred flesh from Mary’s own body.

That is to say, without the body of Mary, there would be no body of Christ. Given what science has told us about gestation and birth, we know that Christ’s body and Mary’s are forever intertwined. Mary’s body contained, and contains to this day, cells from the body of Christ, and vice versa just as every human mother and child share cells.

i) Needless to say, you can’t invoke scientific confirmation when you’re dealing with a sui generis event like the virginal conception, much less Catholic additions like the alleged in partu virginity of Mary. That’s unprecedented.

ii) I think it’s probably true that Jesus and Mary share DNA. I don’t have a problem with that claim.

iii) At the same time, that’s something which goes beyond what you can actually prove from Scripture. If the body of Jesus didn’t require male DNA from a father, then his body didn’t require female DNA from a mother. In principle, God was able to make the body of Jesus ex nihilo, like Adam. In principle, Mary could simply be a surrogate mother.

We don’t know for a fact that Jesus derived his body from Mary’s body. I think that’s probably the case. And I don’t find anything theologically objectionable about that. But I’m not sure I can give you a good reason for why I believe that’s likely.

There is no child without the mother, no mother without the child. It was her flesh that God took to make His own.

i) That’s not axiomatic. After all, we’d normally said no father, no child. So, at most, this is a special case in reference to Jesus.

ii) It’s historically true that without Mary, you wouldn’t have Jesus. However, to leave it at that is deceptive.

iii) We’re dealing with a contingent truth, not a necessary truth. The Incarnation didn’t require Mary to be the mother of Jesus. In principle, any woman could host the Incarnation. Mary is not inherently indispensable to redemption. Far from it. Given that God planned it that way, that’s a prerequisite for the Incarnation. But that’s a conditional necessity, not a metaphysical necessity.

Although there’s a sense in which Jesus was causally dependent on Mary, God wasn’t dependent on Mary.

iv) Moreover, the causal dependence of Jesus on Mary only operates at the level of his humanity. At the level of his divinity, Mary is causally dependent on Jesus for her existence.

v) Furthermore, notice whom Matt is cutting out of the picture. According to Scripture, the primary agent of the Incarnation isn’t Mary, but the Holy Spirit:

And the angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God (Lk 1:35).

Rather than having the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, why not have the feast day for the Holy Spirit, who actually caused the Incarnation?

Everything that comes to us through Christ comes through Mary physically if in no other way. And once we realize that the spiritual and the physical are inextricably connected, we can see that grace cannot come to us through Christ without Mary—and that is by God’s own design.

That argument either proves too much or too little. For that argument applies with equal force to Christ’s maternal grandparents, great-grandparents, &c., going all the way back to Adam and Eve.

She taught Him to sing the Psalms, the words He would chant as He suffered and died on the cross for you.

i) Perhaps she taught in the Psalms. I don’t have a problem with that.

ii) But we don’t know that. Maybe he learned the Psalms at the local synagogue.

iii) Moreover, although Jesus qua man learned the Psalter, Jesus qua God already knew the Psalter.

Feminist misogyny

I'm going to post my recent exchange at TGC blog:

steve hays
November 2, 2012 at 10:51 AM


"This is because the reality of pregnancy implies impaired mobility, health risks every step of the way..."

Other issues to one side, you're ignoring the medical benefits of pregnancy. For instance:

steve hays
November 2, 2012 at 10:33 AM


"Yeah, I'd say that's a pretty good description of rape."

Now you're deliberately obscuring the difference between the rapist and the baby. Although the rapist may be analogous to the alien body-snatcher, her baby is not.


Scott, have you ever addressed the rape exception argument? I just looked up the Judith Jarvis Thomson's 'violinist' argument and that argument seems valid in the case of rape.

    steve hays
    November 2, 2012 at 10:45 AM

    No, the violinist argument is not valid in case of rape. The baby is not analogous to a rapist. To suggest that is morally depraved.

steve hays
November 2, 2012 at 10:57 AM

It's a pity that JR is so unconcerned with how we behave towards helpless little babies.

steve hays
November 1, 2012 at 12:18 PM


"I don't understand how to rationally argue that preventing a (literal) handful of cells from becoming a child at some future time is 'killing a human being.'"

i) To begin with , prolifers typically argue that the fertilized egg is already a human being, not a potential human being.

ii) If you're going to a take a purely physicalist, reductionist view of human beings, then an adult man or woman is just a collection of cells.

"I'm pro-choice..."

Gee, who coulda guessed.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    I think you are mixing ideas here and perhaps the trouble you are having is that you are confused regarding what this discussion is even about. Besides, my reply was to Lou, so please don't take your grievence toward JR out on me, thanks.

    I'll answer with this: "Should we have a cannibal exception to murder?" Yes, if it means that we otherwise will never be able to ban any homicides at all.
        steve hays
        November 1, 2012 at 12:23 PM

        You made yourself party to JR's argument. So your statement is fair game.

        To say "yes" to the cannibal exception would mean you don't think we should outlaw cannibalistic homicide, given the extreme rarity of that phenomenon.

    October 31, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Negative. A Genetic Fallacy is "a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on something or someone's origin rather than its current meaning or context. This overlooks any difference to be found in the present situation, typically transferring the positive or negative esteem from the earlier context. The fallacy therefore fails to assess the claim on its merit."
    By definition, you have actually demonstrated the genetic fallacy by your assertion.
        steve hays
        November 1, 2012 at 12:25 PM

        To the contrary, you are making the baby's right to life contingent on its source of origin. So that's a type of genetic fallacy.
        steve hays
        November 1, 2012 at 12:28 PM


        "Therefore, we still need proof in the form of sufficient evidence or argument for the truth of the proposition that abortion in the case of rape is murder."

        You're disregarding the arguments which have already been provided. You have have no counterargument. So you respond with willful intransigence.

steve hays
November 1, 2012 at 5:03 PM


"steve, are deliberately being dishonest or just feigning illiteracy so as not answer the question?"

Since that's not an honest question, there's nothing to answer.

"steve, there have been no arguments made as to why abortion in the case of rape is legally considered murder - zero. zip. zilch, given that we both agree that the unborn baby is a human being."

That's your bait-n-switch tactic. The question at issue is not the legal status quo, not whether abortion in case of rape is legally considered murder, but whether it *ought* to be. And I've given numerous reasons why that ought to be the case.

BTW, it's not my responsibility to persuade you, any more than it was Jeremiah's responsibility to persuade stiff-necked Israel.

"Maybe we better bid each other fair adieu and move on?"

Given your losing streak, that would be understandable.

    October 31, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    No, actually, Jeremy is specifically arguing against people who claim Numbers 5 is an indication of "God's attitude toward fetuses - that they don't have the kind of moral status adults have."
    Which is irrelevant to the discussion we are having about exceptions. In an argument For Exceptions, the moral status of the the unborn is not in question. That's why I stated that it is not entirely relevant. It didn't shed any additional information on the topic, per se, nor did it apply to any of the arguments being made.
        steve hays
        November 1, 2012 at 12:31 PM

        Of course it's relevant. JR cited Num 5 to justify induced abortions in case of rape. You seconded his appeal. So did Lou. As Jeremy points out, that's a fallacious inference.

    October 31, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Hi Steve,

    Also, are you opposed to the morning after pill, which would prevent the pregnancy of a woman who was just raped?
        steve hays
        November 1, 2012 at 12:36 PM

        If the morning-after pill (actually, there's more than one) is an abortifacient, then I'd oppose it.

        Whether the morning-after pill(s) is an abortifacient is a medical question that I will leave to medical professionals with a relevant field of specialization to judge.

        Ethics doesn't determine the facts. Rather, ethics takes certain facts for granted (once they've been duly established), then evaluates their moral status.
        steve hays
        November 1, 2012 at 12:46 PM


        "But you still haven't made a formal argument for why you would legally call the rape exception 'murder' (malice aforethought)."

        i) Murder doesn't require malice aforethought. That's a technical condition of 1st degree murder.

        ii) Moreover, a murderer doesn't have to think the murder victim is human to be guilty of murder. Klansmen who lynch blacks might think blacks are subhuman. Nazis who exterminate Jews might think Jews are subhuman.

        In that sense, you might say they lack criminal intent, for they don't intend to kill "humans," yet they are still guilty of murder. For their view of blacks and Jews as subhuman is both culpable and objectively mistaken.

November 1, 2012 at 3:48 PM

Hi Steve -

You're not going to like this. You've tried to avoid this argument. But here it goes:

If the government breaks into your house and surgically attaches a new born baby to your organs and then states that since the baby will die if unattached, therefore, by law, you are now required to keep the baby alive and attached for nine months at great health and financial cost to you personally. To do otherwise will kill the baby and you will then be guilty of committing felony murder.

Is this really a legitimate use of civil law?
I say, no way, absolutely not. I can't imagine that you would ever agree to such a thing.

Remember: #1 - it's a baby.
And #2 - such a requirement is rationally absurd!!

steve hays
November 1, 2012 at 4:23 PM

Of course, that's just a variation on the Violinist hypothetical. Like Jarvis, you act as if a mother's baby is a perfect stranger who somehow became attached to her–like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

You disregard the fundamental fact that fathers and mothers have special parental responsibilities to their own children. The fact that you and other abortion proponents are chronically unable to appreciate that elementary and elemental obligation is morally deranged.

Moreover, basic parental duties are typically and rightly codified in law. Child neglect is a crime. So is child endangerment. Yet that pales compared to abortion.

A Christian Case For Miracles

Here's an index for my series of posts on miracles, based on Craig Keener's recent book on the subject:

A Landmark Study Of Miracles
How Many People Claim To Have Witnessed A Miracle?
Judging Competing Miracle Claims
Modern Miracle Reports With Evidence (Part 1)
Modern Miracle Reports With Evidence (Part 2)
The Healing Of Amputees
People Raised From The Dead In Modern Times
Miracles That Are Simultaneous Or Clustered In Some Other Way
Hostile Corroboration Of Modern Miracles
Psychosomatic Miracles?
Why Miracles Aren't More Documented
Misdiagnosis And Healing Miracles
Why God Would Perform Partial, Gradual, And Other Lesser Miracles
Miracles And My Father's Death
Asking For More Evidence For Miracles
The Character Of Miracle Witnesses
Miracles And Christian Exclusivism

Cheap talk about cherishing women

Full Disclosure: while Rachel does come from a somewhat fundamentalist Protestant background, this book will not be endorsed by the Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood crowd. Rachel is not one of the girls in that hood, or headcovering, or burka [sic].

It’s revealing that Ben Witherington compares evangelical complementarians to the Taliban. He plays on the odious connotations of a loaded word like “burqa.”

BW3 is, of course, a leading egalitarian. Since he likes to make comparisons, let’s compare BW3 to John Piper. Recently, Piper took a 9-month leave of absence to devote more time to his wife:

Has BW3 ever taken a lengthy leave of absence just to have more time with his wife? What about other egalitarians like Roger Olson? 

Of course, most men don’t have the luxury of taking an extended sabbatical or leave of absence. But BW3 is in a different situation than most men.

On the one hand, we have a workaholic egalitarian like BW3 who talks about valuing women; on the other hand we have a complementarian who actually demonstrates how much he values women. BW3 maintains a breakneck schedule of writing, teaching, interviews, and speaking tours. Where does his wife fit into that? Where did his late daughter fit into that?

Which example of cherishing women should we take more seriously?

Lutheran Justification Controversy

The King in His Beauty

A Brief History of the Romney Campaign

I was one of those who followed the Republican presidential primaries, and watched for signs of life among the string of “anti-Romney” candidates that rose and fell: Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum. But Romney had the ability to outlast each and every one of them, as each and every one of them showed some flaw that could not be overcome.

The Wall Street Journal today has provided a brief summary history of the Romney campaign over the last two years.

My objection to Romney was embodied in the phrase “if he’ll believe in Mormonism, what else will he believe in?”

But Romney has since delivered a very sound set of economic policy proposals that I think will do for our sluggish economy what the Reagan policies did in the 1980’s. Having lived through those years, I can tell you that the 1980’s were a whole lot better than the 1970’s. Reagan inherited a recession, and the economy then slipped into a “double-dip” recession, before pulling mightily out of the doldrums with a full year’s worth of 7% economic expansion.

One may or may not see “economic growth” as a moral benefit. Chief Justice Roberts showed us this year that the “we-need-a-Republican-president-because-of-the-Supreme-Court” argument is still tenuous as it was in the George H.W. Bush era.

But from a life-on-the-ground perspective, the economic challenges of raising a family look to be helped a great deal by Romney’s policy proposals, and that’s the perspective I bring to this moment. I would rather see a Republican president with sound economic policies than a Democratic president with policies that drag on the economy.

As they say:

Perhaps Mr. Romney's most appealing trait is his optimism: We have problems, a whole lot of them, but they are solvable. Americans have always believed that. Yet the sentiment seems unusual given the current President who won with large Democratic majorities but has spent four years blaming his predecessors for every ill as if they are intractable.

Mr. Romney has treated voters like adults and offered them a true choice about the future. He is promising change, and for once that abused term doesn't mean [change] for the worse.

Reformation Day Free Download: R.C. Sproul’s Luther and the Reformation

As of this morning, I was still able to download this lecture series [audio version] and study guide for free.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Piper on remarriage

Henry10/31/2012 9:02 AM

I'd be interested in some engagement with Piper's view:

…Piper's case is hard to argue with.

I don’t see the need to directly respond to his arguments. For one thing, Don Carson does a very thorough job of sorting and sifting the exegetical options on the exceptive clauses:

T. Longman & D. Garland, eds. The Expositor's Bible Commentary 9: Matthew and Mark (Zondervan; 2nd rev. ed., 2010), 464-74.

Likewise, there are fine treatments of 1 Cor 7:

D. Instone-Brewer, "1 Corinthians 7 in the Light of the Jewish Greek and Aramaic Marriage and Divorce Papyri":

 The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The First Letter to the Corinthians (Eerdmans, 2010) by Roy Ciampa & Brian Rosner.

Sand patterns

It’s a bit challenging to make sense of this belated comment, but I’ll try my best:

[brownmamba] To say this blog post is provocative is an understatement. I don't expect to get a reply but I just wanted to get my thoughts out there. I'm glad that you provided at least a very cursory account of your view on morality, which seems to be derived from St. Thomas Aquinas: "Divine command theory can be grounded in the created nature of things. Social obligations keyed to the specific nature God gave us".

Unfortunately, Aquinas had a bad habit of swiping all my best ideas without giving me credit.

 The question that immediately arises is "Why did God create nature the way He did ?". The problem is that there is no value independent of desires.

Well, that’s a big fat assertion. Why should we grant the contention that there is no value independent of desire? What does that even mean (assuming it means anything)?

For instance, duties can be opposed to desires. I may have an obligation to do something despite my aversion to doing it. A duty is a type of value. But I don’t know how the commenter is defining “value.”

Since this is the case…

Except that he hasn’t established that this is the case. He hasn’t offered a supporting argument for his contention. So he can’t very well build on that contention, as if that’s a given.

…there are no "objective reasons" for God creating nature one way or another.

Since a different nature is objectively different, that could well give God a differential reason for preferring one alternative over another. Different possible worlds contain different global narratives. So God could reasonably prefer one world story over another. 

Thus, it follows…

Except that it doesn’t follow–as I just explained.

…that any nature God created is ultimately arbitrary.

How does saying God could create nature one way or the other made nature ultimately arbitrary? Take a novelist. There’s more than one way he can tell a similar story. He can add a character or subtract a character. He can change a character by changing its experience. He can change how the story ends.

How is that arbitrary? All these differences can be good differences. Or some differences can be improvements. Some adjustments are better than others.

 This doesn't seem to lead to a world any more meaningful than one resulting from blind causes.

That’s vague. Why assume that a world resulting from blind causes is meaningful at all?

And certainly a world resulting from a higher intelligence can be meaningful (not to mention, more meaningful) than a world resulting from blind causes.

It’s like the difference between “accidental art” (an oxymoron) and a Da Vinci painting.

Likewise, you can have variations on the same basic painting. For instance, Da Vinci painted two different versions of the Virgin of the Rocks. Both versions are meaningful. And the variations are meaningful.

 Secondly, the imagery of a "doll-world" is quite powerful, yet it remains to be explained how a world created by God would be any less doll-like. I'm not certain what your on
Funeral for atheism

There’s a fundamental difference between a “doll” that’s designed by a higher intelligence, and a doll that’s the byproduct of a blind process. One doll exemplifies the intelligence of its maker, whereas the other doll is like fortuitous patterns in the sand.

Plantinga's point

Paul Helm's latest post is worth a read.

Now on YouTube: John Wycliffe

HT: Annoyed Pinoy via Facebook

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Count every vote! Every vote counts!

Polymath David Marshall has a timely update on a key voting bock:

However, this runs the risk of sampling bias. As both Michael Barone and Karl Rove have repeatedly pointed out, dogs reflect a very different demographic niche than cats. And that’s based on the further fact, documented long ago by Cornelius Van Til, that dogs and cats have radically divergent worldviews:

Nevertheless, Marshall’s polling data is still encouraging news for Romney. Dogs naturally tend to be blindly loyal Nanny statists. They have a plantation mentality. They live for scraps and handouts from their “master.” Unquestioning allegiance.

By contrast, cats tend to be natural libertarians. Independent. Hunt for their own food.

To be sure, we need to guard against hasty generalizations. On the one hand, some feline voters, like Persians, play into the stereotype of pampered pussies while some canine voters, like Shelties, are natural-born leaders.

So if even canine voters are breaking for Romney, we can expect most feline voters to cast their vote for Romney as well.

Needless to say, Ann Romney has cornered the market on the equine vote.

Coming to terms in the “two kingdoms” wars?

Shades of complementarianism


Jeremy Pierce

    I would advise complementarians to recognize that John Piper and Wayne Grudem are complementarians trying to find their way in applying complementarianism in a complex world and that what they say need not (and should not, despite most egalitarians’ criticisms) be taken as “what complementarians think”. Many complementarians disagree with some of their particular applications without disagreeing with complementarianism. And we need to remind critics that egalitarians say things much sillier and more damaging to the gospel and to the Bible than anything we can find in Piper or Grudem. Consider Evans’ book, for starters. But, that being said, I think the Piper-Grudem introduction to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is one of the weakest sections of that book. The actual engagement with the biblical texts is very well done. Some (but not all) of the other material is not so careful.

Where are the Arminians?

These are remarks which some evidently Arminian commenters left on the Mourdock thread over at Joe Carter and Justin Taylor’s blogs. I’ve postponed direct comment on these remarks until now.

October 29, 2012 at 10:39 AM

if you are a determinist (a la Piper who is part of TGC leadership) don't you have to say that God caused the rape. At least if he is to be logically consistent with his theology.

Ps - i agree with the article, just confused that i found here at TGC.

October 26, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Honest question. Why would a Calvinist find anything to disgree with in Mourdock’s statement? If God controls every particle of dust in the universe (as Piper has stated he believes), then why isn’t the rape of a woman what God intended to happen? It seems like a perfectly reasonable description of the Calvinist stance to me. It’s not just that God intended for good to come from an evil act, but that God ordainded that the evil act should take place. That’s what the media is reacting to. It seems that Calvinists are shying away or distancing themselves from the logical conclusions of their theology.

October 26, 2012 at 4:26 pm

That’s not really a good answer at all. So is Piper a “Hyper-Calvinist”? I would guess so because he believes in double predestination. If God controls all of our actions for His glory, then did He control the rapist for His glory too? Piper himself has said that it is perfectly good for God to kill women and children whenever He feels like it. He also stated that it’s good for God to order someone else to kill women and children. If that’s the case, then why isn’t it perfectly good for God to ordain a man to rape a woman or a father to rape his own daughter?

October 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I’m asking those who adhere to the idea that God ordains and controls everything to state why they have a problem with Mourdock’s statement. Al Mohler seems to think he spoke unwisely which allowed the media to run with a caricature of God. Does God ordain rape or not? Does God control every particle in the universe or not? If yes, then what’s the problem with Mourdock’s statement?

October 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm

BTW, I don’t feel the need to attack Calvinism. More learned men than me have done a far better job of dismantling it than I could ever hope to on this humble blog. Either you believe that God knows and ordains and controls all that is, was and ever will be or you do not. Al Mohler does so he should not express displeasure when someone like Mourdock speaks openly to the public about those beliefs. I’m all for speaking the truth about what you believe instead of controlling the flow of ideas in the public sphere.

Several issues:

i) AJG has things upside down. For the most part, Mohler and the TGC bloggers were defending Mourdock. At most, they were critical of his formulation. They offered constructive feedback.

ii) There are two different ways to defend someone’s statement: you could defend it on the speaker’s grounds, or you could defend in on your own grounds.

For instance, one way to defend Mourdock is to point out that he didn’t mean what his liberal critics imputed to him. They twisted his words to suggest something he didn’t say or intend to convey.

So that’s a question of what Mourdock had in mind. You can defend his statement by correcting malicious misinterpretations of his statement.

As far as I know, there’s no evidence that Mourdock is a Calvinist. He seems to be a generic evangelical. As such, it’s entirely possible that Mourdock would draw some distinctions  a Calvinist would not.

However, even if (ex hypothesi) Mourdock’s understanding of divine providence is inconsistent with Calvinism, that doesn’t make it inconsistent for a Calvinist to defend Mourdock’s statement. To begin with, a Calvinist could defend Mourdock’s statement on Mourdock’s terms. What understanding lay behind his statement? Correcting misrepresentations of Mourdock’s statement doesn’t require his defender to agree with Mourdock’s overall theodicy.

To take a comparison–some years ago it was revealed that Bill Bennett gambles. Liberal pundits immediately accused Bennett of hypocrisy.

However, there’s no reason to think he was guilty of hypocrisy. Bennett is a Roman Catholic. To my knowledge, gambling is not inherently sinful in Catholic moral theology.

Therefore, you could consistently defend Bennett against the charge of hypocrisy even if you personally disapprove of his gambling habit.

iii) Conversely, a Calvinist might defend Mourdock’s statement on Calvinist grounds. In that case, he might agree with this gist of Mourdock’s statement, but for somewhat different reasons.

For instance, both Mourdock and his Reformed defenders are prolifers. That’s the point of common ground. That’s the level at which they agree with him. They support his statement because they are prolife and he is prolife. He was defending the  unborn. By defending his statement, they are defending the unborn. That’s perfectly consistent.

iv) These are elementary distinctions. The fact that Arminian critics fail to draw these elementary distinctions is a reflection of their knee-jerk hostility to Calvinism and blind partisanship for Arminianism.

v) Which brings us to another issue: where are the Arminians in this controversy? Why do we have Reformed bloggers like Joe Carter, Albert Mohler, Justin Taylor who seize this opportunity to defend the unborn, but Arminian bloggers like Ben Witherington Scot McKnight, Roger Olson, and Brian Abasciano fall strangely silent?

Why do some Arminians always have time to attack Calvinism, even when Calvinists are defending a worthy cause (which has no direct bearing on Calvinism), but they don’t have time to defend the worthy cause on their own? Why can’t Arminians declare a temporary cease-fire in the perennial Arminian/Calvinist debates for just long enough to defend the unborn?

Why haven’t the Arminians I named treated the Mourdock controversy as an opportunity to defend the unborn? Why do they abandon the field to Mohler and TGC contributors?

vi) Mohler carefully parsed Mourdock’s statement, explaining what he agreed with and what he didn’t. The Arminian commenter is deliberately misstating what Mohler actually said. 

vii) Does God “cause” rape? That depends on how you define causation. For instance, the decree is just a plan. By itself, a plan doesn’t cause anything. It must be put into effect.

viii) However, what do we mean by saying something caused something else? Here’s how one philosopher put it:

“We think of a cause as something that makes a difference, and the difference it makes must be a difference from what would have happened without it. Had it been absent, its effects — some of them, at least, and usually all — would have been absent as well.”

On that definition, if God allows rape, God causes rape–for allowing it to happen makes a difference. You wouldn’t have the same outcome, absent divine allowance. That’s the differential factor.

On that definition, the God of Calvinism, Arminianism, Molinism, or open theism “causes” rape.

ix) The term “intention” is ambiguous. In ordinary usage, there’s an obvious sense in which God intends whatever he plans.

What’s more, if God knows what will happen down the line should he do something, then there’s a sense in which God intended the chain-reaction. It doesn’t a divine accident. It wasn’t an unforeseen contingency. Rather, it was a calculated result.

And that’s unavoidable on Arminian assumptions (i.e. belief in God’s simple foreknowledge and/or middle knowledge, coupled with God’s creative fiat).

x) On the other hand, “intention” is sometimes used in a more specialized sense. According to the double-effect principle, an agent doesn’t directly intend the unfortunate side-effect of his action. That’s a (conditionally) necessary, but incidental or secondary consequence of his principle aim.

Put another way, God doesn’t intend evil for evil’s sake. Rather, he intends evil to facilitate a higher good. 

xi) “Piper himself has said that it is perfectly good for God to kill women and children whenever He feels like it. He also stated that it’s good for God to order someone else to kill women and children.”

a) The commenter doesn’t give us a verbatim quote where Piper says that. I suspect Piper’s actual position is more qualified.

b) But it’s revealing that an Arminian commenter would attack Piper for saying “it’s good for God to order someone else to kill women and children.” After all, that’s exactly what we find in Scripture.

Increasingly, Arminians are indistinguishable from atheists. Raising the very same objections. That’s how open enemies of the faith like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens attack Christianity.

xii) As a Calvinist, I don’t distance myself or shy away from the logical conclusions of my theology. Indeed, I just confronted the objections head on.

However, there are times when you ought to express your support rather than voice your disagreement. If a Christian is doing the right thing, you shouldn’t use that as a pretext to tear him down so that you can ride your hobbyhorse.

And even if you’re somewhat critical, that can be constructive criticism, where you commend his efforts and suggest ways in which he can improve on his efforts.

For instance, I have serious disagreements with William Lane Craig, but when he gives a good answer to a question, I’m happy to plug his answer. I don’t use that as an excuse to cut him down.

When Justin Taylor, Joe Carter, or Albert Mohler are defending the unborn, it’s inappropriate for Arminians to dilute the effect of what they are doing by diverting this into yet another interminable debate over Calvinism. 

The Lutheran Mind

When I left Roman Catholicism, I was looking first of all for polemical tools that would describe the differences between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, but also for a church body where I could fellowship. I found both of these very readily in the Reformed world. For some reason, Lutheran materials seemed harder to find.

But Concordia Seminary in St. Louis has produced a large number of classes and lecture series through iTunes U. Here’s an introductory theology series called “The Lutheran Mind”, which I’m listening to right now.

This seems to me to be an appropriate way to introduce oneself to Lutheranism. Lutherans do seem to have a different “mind” from the Reformed. Over at Andrew Clover’s Lutheran and Reformed Discussion, I was very surprised to find some hostility to even some basic Reformed teachings, such as the Westminster Catechism Question 1: “Man's chief end is to glorify God, And to enjoy him forever.”

It seems as if Lutheran theology today relies very heavily on Luther’s “Theology of the Cross”, which really makes every person (believer or not) into either a “Theologian of the Cross” or a “Theologian of Glory”. At this point, I think some Lutherans might mistakenly tend to categorize the statement in WSC Question 1 as something that a “Theologian of Glory” might say.

At any rate, while Reformed theology is very well-ordered, “systematic”, perhaps even “scholastic”, Lutheran theology seems much more down-to-earth and practical. Luther’s Small Catechism is a series of instructions, for example, many of which begin with the phrase, “As the head of the family should teach it in a simple way to his household…”

Luther himself made this observation about his own writings:

by God’s grace a great many systematic books now exist, among which the Loci communes of Philip [Melanchthon] excel, with which a theologian and a bishop can be beautifully and abundantly prepared to be mighty in preaching the doctrine of piety, especially since the Holy Bible itself can now be had in nearly every language. But my books, as it happened, yes, as the lack of order in which the events transpired made it necessary, are accordingly crude and disordered chaos, which is now not easy to arrange even for me.

From John Dillenberger, “Martin Luther: Selections from his Writings”, New York, NY: Anchor Books, ©1962, “Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings, 1545”, pgs 3–4).

Still, several of Luther’s writings to this day are foundational, confessional documents for Lutherans, and they may be found in the Book of Concord.

Pope Leo X, Pastor Aeternus, (1516), Reaffirms Unam Sanctam

Most Protestants are familiar with the 1302 document by Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam. Within that document, we have a pope citing “the Blessed Dionysius”, a sixth-century writer whom he thought was Dionysius from Acts17:

For, according to the Blessed Dionysius, it is a law of the divinity that the lowest things reach the highest place by intermediaries. Then, according to the order of the universe, all things are not led back to order equally and immediately, but the lowest by the intermediary, and the inferior by the superior. Hence we must recognize the more clearly that spiritual power surpasses in dignity and in nobility any temporal power whatever, as spiritual things surpass the temporal.

Too, most Protestants are familiar with the concluding statement of that document:

Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Roman Catholic apologists I’ve seen have tried to minimize the force of those words, which fly in the face of “the Spirit of Vatican II”.

Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.

But here is Pope Leo X (who was pope from 1513-1521) reiterating that statement several hundred years later:

The pope alone has the power, right, and full authority, extending beyond that of all councils, to call, adjourn, and dissolve the councils. This is attested not only by the Holy Scriptures as well as the statements of the Holy Fathers and our predecessors on the throne at Rome, but even the councils themselves ….

It is necessary for the salvation of souls that all Christian believers be subject to the pope at Rome. The Holy Scriptures and the Holy Fathers testify to this, as does the bull of Pope Boniface VIII of blessed memory, which begins with the words “Unam Sanctam.” Therefore, with the approval of the holy council now in session, we renew and consider this very same bull to be valid. All this is done for the salvation of believing souls, for the strengthening of the supreme authority of the pope at Rome and of the Holy See, and for the unity and power of the church which has been entrusted to him”.

At the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517), Cited in Denis R. Janz, Ed., A Reformation Reader: Primary Texts with Introductions, Second Edition, Mineapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press ©2008, pg 14.

This was the prevailing attitude of the medieval papacy. The joke was on Leo, however. It was a notion with which a lot of people did not agree, and the flood was to begin not more than a year later.

Rape, Conception, and God: Why Mourdock Was Right

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trojan horse abortionists

My latest round of replies at Joe Carter and Justin Taylor's blogs:

steve hays
    October 29, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    Booth is artificially dichotomizing moral and legal obligations, as if moral obligations are never legal obligations.

    “If he dies of thirst because I failed to share my water with him…”

    It isn’t your water. The lifeboat is equipped with standard rations. They don’t belong to one passenger rather than another.

    Also, the law can require many things. The law can require doctors to report apparent child abuse or statutory rape.

    There are also Good Samaritan laws which require bystanders to render reasonable aid to injured, ill, endangered, or otherwise incapacitated individuals.

    Moreover, Muller’s argument is circular. The law is whatever law we choose to pass. You can’t say we shouldn’t pass a law because we don’t have a law that does that, for it’s precisely the absence of such a law which justifies enacting a law to deal with that situation.

    He then resorts to the incendiary rhetoric of “a Christian version of sharia law,” as if legally requiring parents not to murder their own children is equivalent to rule under the Taliban. That’s not a serious engagement of the issues. Rather, that’s a tacit admission that his position is indefensible, so he has to resort to scurrilous comparisons.
    steve hays
    October 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Booth Muller

    “I think Steve, however, is conflating moral and ethical obligation. That is, he continually seems to be arguing that because there is a moral obligation there is or ought to be a legal obligation. Nonsense.”

    That’s an ironic disjunction in the context of a guy who’s defending the rape exception for abortion. Why does he think rape is illegal in the first place? It begins with a moral obligation not to rape women (or men or children). We then codify that moral obligation into law. The legal obligation presupposes the moral obligation.

steve hays
    October 29, 2012 at 10:01 PM


    “Steve, a red herring argument is one that leads away from the topic being discussed, therefore, I don't think that when JR asked for a specific quote and prohibition from scripture against the rape exception, it falls into the category of red herring. In fact, he quoted a specific example in scripture where such a possiblility actually exists: Numbers Ch. 5: vs.16-22.”

    Explain how you think the passage in Numbers establishes or even suggests a rape exception for abortion.

    “Furthermore, the act of murder is legally defined as one with malice aforethought and does not include such things self-defense or justifiable homicide. What I think the argument is - is that in the case of rape, (unlike pregancy that results from consent) if the women decides to opt for something like the morning after pill (the only thing that I think I would even consider), the argument that such an action would be categoried as murder does not appear to be a strong one. I understand that you disagree with that. But the argument is not strong. Period.”

    Since the baby isn’t threatening her life, the self-defense/justifiable homicide argument is inapplicable.

    “I'm pro-life. I am a pro-life advocate.”

    What you give with one hand you snatch back with the other.

    “And I am a combat veteran. I willing signed up to give my life for my country, if need be. I answered that call and continue to.”

    And how, exactly, is that relevant to the issue at hand?

    “But I also work with with women in shelters who face the kinds of situations we are pontificating about here.”

    We have to take a position one way or the other. So either we, we’re “pontificating.”

    “I know I'm not coming at this issue from the same seat as most of you. That's fine. But would you please try to respect my position? Thank you very much for exercising mutual respect.”

    I respect respectable arguments for morally and intellectually respectable positions. I don’t respect slack arguments or emotional manipulation to leverage an evil policy.
    steve hays
    October 29, 2012 at 10:21 PM


    "And I am a combat veteran. I willingly signed up to give my life for my country, if need be. I answered that call and continue to. Willingly. Not forced by law."

    Of course, Joe Carter is an ex-Marine. So is Tony Perkins (president of the Family Research Council).

steve hays
October 29, 2012 at 11:07 PM


“Those were agreed upon examples of killing that is non-murder.”

So you’re attempting an argument from analogy. For that to work, you’d need to demonstrate that abortion in case of rape is relevantly analogous to self-defense/justifiable homicide. You can’t simply assert an analogy; you have to provide a supporting argument.

“I have not seen anyone here, Joe, Aaron, Justin or you prove that giving the woman the morning after pill right after the rape is legally considered murder. That's something that is absolutely missing from the discussion, I think.”

i) You may well be the first commenter on this thread to narrow the discussion down to the morning-after pill.

ii) Of course, if you think abortion is justifiable in case of rape, then, presumably, you wouldn’t limit that to the morning-after pill.

iii) If we classify the morning-after pill as an abortifacient, and we classify abortion as murder, then, yes, that would be equivalent to murder.

Of course, that could get us into a rather technical medical discussion.

iv) The question at hand is not the legal status quo, but what laws ought to be enacted or repealed.

Moreover, it would be sufficient to ban the morning-after pill.

“Numbers 5 is clearly a priest executed invocation of a miscarriage.”

Several problems:

i) This is a test for adultery, not rape.

ii) Some of the key Hebrew terms are obscure.

iii) Arguably, the ritual sterilizes a guilty wife rather than inducing a miscarriage. Cf. J. Currid, Numbers (EP 2009), 92-99.

steve hays
October 29, 2012 at 11:19 PM

In addition, even if, for the sake of argument, we grant your contention that Num 5 is describing an induced abortion (and I just cited evidence to the contrary), that hardly justifies the morning after pill. Your inference is fallacious:

As one Christian philosopher has pointed out:

The passage is clear that God is the agent, and it doesn't actually matter if God does it through either method or if the reader or hearer didn't see the distinction between the two methods. The point is that God is the agent, and they would have gotten that. This is a procedure given at God's command, and the result is something God is ultimately responsible for, with humans responsible only for doing as he commands.

That means it isn't a case of deciding on your own to kill someone or to have an abortion. It's more like the case of Jehu being commanded to take out the family of Ahab than David reasoning his way to the conclusion that Solomon will eventually have to kill Joab and explaining to him why. It's a case of following a direct command of God, with God ultimately responsible for the results, so it's more like cases where God administers justice directly than like cases where we have to reason through a case based on the relevant moral principles that apply to us as humans.

steve hays
October 29, 2012 at 11:30 PM

For a further discussion of Num 5:

    October 30, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    Still would like to see the legal and logical argument that proves that abortion in the case of rape is murder. I haven't seen you or others do that yet.
        steve hays
        October 30, 2012 at 11:09 AM

        Your question is confused. One doesn't need a special argument to show that abortion in case of rape is murder. Rather, if abortion in general is murder due to the status of the infant, then that principle applies to individual cases. How the child was conceived doesn't change the status of the child, per se. That's the genetic fallacy.
        steve hays
        October 30, 2012 at 11:57 AM

        It’s odd that abortion proponents seem to think the circumstances of conception taint the child in case of rape, but not in other cases. Except for rape, most folks don’t think how you were conceived is relevant to the child’s value.

        Traditionally, there was a social stigma attaching to illegitimacy or “bastard” children. This stigma was due in part to the fact that illegitimacy blurred the lines of inheritance, as well as a double standard regarding women who fooled around.

        Nowadays, however, many who defend the rape exception would never consider illegitimacy to be grounds for abortion. We don’t think a child conceived in the course of a premarital or extramarital liaison is less deserving of life. That despite the fact that we make think adultery is immoral. Yet that doesn’t transfer to the child.

        By the same token, you have children of prostitutes. That’s certainly a sordid way of coming into existence. Yet we don’t disvalue such children. Indeed, we’d regard that as bigotry.

        Likewise, infertile couples often resort to reproductive technologies. Yet we don’t think the fact that these children were conceived differently, through artificial means rather than the “old-fashioned method,” is relevant to their worth.

        And that’s despite the fact that some reproductive technologies are morally controversial. But even if you think the reproductive technique is ethically compromised, you don’t think that has any bearing on the status of the child, thus conceived. In all such cases, we accept the child on his own terms.

steve hays
October 30, 2012 at 12:07 PM


"Yes, and the rape exception only accounts for about 1/5000 situations. So, we should not make this the all or nothing line in the sand, like someone else has said."

What makes you think the relative frequency of an evil has any bearing on the moral character of an evil? It's quite rare to die at the hands of a cannibal (a la Jeffrey Dahmer). That's far more infrequent than 1/5000. Does that mean we shouldn't draw a line in the sand in the case of homicidal cannibalism? Should we not take a hard line against homicidal cannibalism? Should we have a cannibal exception to murder? Does the rarity of homicidal cannibalism make it less than an "all or nothing" issue?

What accounts for the profound moral confusion that you and JR exhibit?

steve hays
October 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM

One of the many problems with the abortion proponents on this thread is their failure to grasp the nature of mitigating circumstances. Say a kid is bullied at school everyday. Maybe he’s not physically hurt. But he’s constantly humiliated.

Suppose he gets so fed up that he goes on a shooting spree, killing any student or teacher in sight.

He’s committed murder. He’s guilty of murder. He should be convicted of murder.

However, the fact that he was provoked through incessant abuse is a mitigating factor. We can take that into account when it comes to meting out the appropriate punishment. The extenuating circumstances don’t change murder into something less than murder, but they can mitigate the degree of culpability.

If, say, abortion in case of rape was outlawed, if we classified abortion in case of rape as murder, that doesn’t mean the penalties would necessarily be the same. We can make allowance for the attenuating circumstances.

And, of course, laws to ban abortion are generally designed for their deterrent value rather than their retributive value. The point is to discourage abortion. So, for instance, the law can target the “abortion provider,” or a boyfriend who pressures a girl into having an abortion.

    steve hays
    October 30, 2012 at 3:37 pm


    “Since I asked a question I think it would apparent I was not sure what you were saying in the multiple post you have made. This particular sentence prompted me to ask the question: The legal obligation presupposes the moral obligation.”

    Notice that I was responding to Booth Muller on his own terms. That was a tacit presupposition of his argument.

    “Are you saying that since there is a moral obligation to protect the life of the unborn even in the case of rape that there should be also a legal obligation to do so?”

    I’m saying we have moral obligations to family members which properly translate into legal obligations.

    “…the politicizing it in a way that I think has been damaging to the church and it’s witness.”

    How is attempting to provide legal protections for the weak and defenseless damaging to the church and its witness?

    If there were a move to euthanize the handicapped, and Christians opposed that move by attempting to enact legal protections for the handicapped, would that damage the church and its witness?

    If anything, wouldn’t it be damaging to the church not to advocate for the most vulnerable members of our society?

    I don’t know what you mean by a “real solution.” Just as the law is no substitute for evangelism, evangelism is no substitute for the law.