Thursday, July 21, 2016

Making vows and breaking vows

I notice some confusion on whether Cruz was wrong in backing out of his vow to support Trump. I'll make a few observations, not about Cruz's motivations (which I'm not privy to), but the general principle. 

In biblical ethics, vows (oaths, pledges, promises) aren't absolute. Consider Num 30:3-5, where a father can annul a minor's pledge.

There's also the distinction between lawful and unlawful vows. In the nature of the case, there can be no moral obligation to keep an immoral vow. Unethical duties are self-contradictory. 

As a rule, we shouldn't make promises we have no intention of keeping. But humans are shortsighted. We sometimes make a promise under one set of circumstances. We wouldn't make the same promise if the circumstances were different. So what happens when the situation changes between the time of the promise (vow, oath, pledge) and the time to make good on the promise?

Parents sometimes make promises to kids which they intend to keep at the time, but then unforeseen circumstances intervene to render the promise impractical. That's the nature of being a creature: you don't know or control the future. 

There's no moral obligation to keep a rash vow. It was a mistake to make a rash vow in the first place. To keep it compounds the initial mistake. Jephthah is the classic example. It was foolish for GOP candidates to issue the nominee a blank check.


  1. What about when Trump rescinded back in march:

    Doesn't that make the pledge void?


    “I am not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my father,” Cruz told the Texas delegation at a breakfast in Cleveland.

    He added: “That pledge [to endorse the eventual nominee] was not a blanket commitment that if you go and slander and attack Heidi, that I'm going to nonetheless come like a puppy dog and say thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father."

  3. I agree with the general principle. In the case of Cruz he should have made it clear to Trump, or maybe he did, that he wasn't going to keep his pledge and then run the risk of Trump removing him from the docket.

  4. In other words I don't see that the state of affairs drastically changed between the time of making the vow and the time of executing it. In this case I don't see a reversal into mild sabotage a just option. He should've made his intentions known upon forming them.

  5. From why I understand, Trump and his campaign had Cruz's speech before he gave it. In addition, Cruz would not commit to endorsing Trump when pressed before appearing at the Convention. In other words, Trump knew and Cruz didn't hide it.

  6. Replies
    1. I also surmise that the calculated risk of pulling Cruz at the eleventh hour would've been worse than letting him do as he did. I think it's all forgotten in one sense but it could hurt Cruz's future. More so maybe if Trump wins.

  7. Video of Cruz saying he won't be a servile puppy dog an support Trump who attacked his wife and father. Great response by Cruz: