Saturday, June 04, 2016

Optical illusion

Where I used to live, I noticed an optical illusion. As I was walking, there was a clearing ahead of me with a spectacular mountain view. In the foreground were two hills. One partially obscured the mountain, although the mountain towered above it. One hill was directly in front of the mountain while the other was alongside the other hill. Looking through the dip between the two hills, you could see some foothills of the mountain in the background. The foothills were blanketed in snow. The hills in the foreground had no snow. Yet they appeared to be about three times higher than the snowy foothills in the background. Therein lies the paradox: how could the foothills have subfreezing temperatures when they appeared to be about two-thirds lower in elevation than the hills in the foreground, which were dry?

The explanation, of course, is that relative distance generates an optical illusion. In reality, the foothills in the background are far higher than the hills in the foreground. Probably above the tree line. 

Now I say all that to say this: unbelievers infer from certain passages that Scriptures asserts a flat earth and/or three-story universe. Inerrantists counter that this is a phenomenal description.

By the same token, young-earth and old-earth creationists debate how to construe geographical markers describing the extent of the flood. Old-earth creationists say that's phenomenal language.

There's nothing inaccurate about phenomenal descriptions. That depicts a scene from the sight-lines of an observer. And that's how it really looks from his vantage-point. 

Spacial descriptions always have some frame of reference. They implicitly have an indexical perspective, even when they are expressed in third-person terms.  

Likewise, the original audience for Gen 6-9 certainly had a difference sense of world geography than modern readers do. How they'd correlate those descriptions with their own sense of world geography doesn't correspond to a modern reader's default frame of reference. So we need to be on guard in that respect. 

The larger point is that we'd expect a historically accurate, eyewitness account to have phenomenal descriptions. That's not erroneous–just the opposite. It is, to be sure, a somewhat provincial viewpoint. Yet that's the nature of firsthand observation. 

But my example illustrates the how easy it would be to draw fallacious inferences from phenomenal descriptions. That's something we need to guard against.

Trump v. Hillary

As predicted, the Trump nomination has split the GOP, at least for this presidential election cycle. Here are two pundits presenting the pros and cons:

Ramesh Ponnuru 

Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he has never lied to the families of dead servicemen. He has not committed himself to appointing to the Supreme Court left-wing justices who would protect a right to abortion found nowhere in the Constitution. He is not promising to raise taxes, or endorsing President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty and pledging to expand it. And say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but she has never mocked someone’s disability, or tried to link a political rival to the JFK assassination, or encouraged political violence. She has not promised to launch a trade war. She has not said she would order troops to commit war crimes against innocent people. Trump vs. Clinton is a dismal set of election choices for Americans and especially for conservatives. So it is not surprising that conservatives are divided about what to do. Most are backing Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. Others — especially among conservative writers, activists, and think-tankers — say they will never vote for him. This minority is further divided: Some say that they will vote for the candidate of a third party (maybe the Libertarians, or a new party), and some even say they will vote for Clinton.

Trump supporters cannot believe that some conservatives would rather see Clinton in office than support the Republican nominee — and that they deny that their lack of support for him amounts to effective support for her, and all her prospective works. These supporters admit, many of them, that Trump has serious flaws. But their uncertainty about what he would do in any given situation translates into a certainty that he would do better than she. They allow that Trump’s promise to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court cannot be wholly trusted. Getting them confirmed would take a fight, and he has shown very little interest in the issues, from the protection of religious liberty to the restoration of democratic authority over abortion, that it would involve. But any Clinton nominees, they note, are guaranteed to be left-wing activists. 

Anti-Trump conservatives, on the other hand, argue that a President Trump would do more profound and long-lasting damage to conservatism than a President Clinton would. Her liberal initiatives would elicit nearly uniform opposition from Republicans; his would split them. He would make the Republican party less conservative while simultaneously discrediting conservatism with large portions of the public, possibly for many years. For many of Trump’s critics, though, these concerns are not the decisive ones. If they merely disagreed with him on trade and entitlement reform, they would still strongly favor him over Clinton. But they think his morals and personality make him not merely flawed but unfit for the presidency. He is cruel, impulsive, petty, and insecure; he admires dictators; he undermines standards against political violence and bigotry. 

Some conservatives who work in foreign policy have already declared a preference for Clinton. In part that is because Trump sometimes makes Buchananite noises. But even people who disagree with Pat Buchanan on foreign policy have to admit that he has given some serious attention to the topic, as has Clinton. Trump acts as though bluster is all a president needs.

Robert P. George

"With malice towards none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right." As usual, Lincoln's advice is wise.

Friends, we are in a terrible fix here. And it is putting some of us at each other's throats. it must not be permitted to do that. Donald Trump is dreadful. Hillary Clinton is horrible. One called for the killing of the innocent family members of terrorists. The other promises to protect the killing of unborn babies up to the point of birth. One shamefully denies that John McCain is a war hero. The other shamelessly lies to grieving families about the circumstances of their loved ones' murders in Benghazi. Neither of the two is fit to be president. Either would be a disaster.

Faced with this appalling choice, some good people find it obvious that Donald Trump, vile though he may be, is the lesser evil. Others find it no less obvious that Hillary Clinton, odious as she is, is the lesser evil. For some of us, it just isn't obvious which of these two scoundrels would do greater harm in the long run. 

Robert P. George I don't know what additional bad things I can say about Trump. I've denounced his character, his immoral policy proposals, his vulgarity and oafishness---even the immodesty of his (current) wife. I've warned my friends and allies not to be tainted by association with him. I've declined to meet him. The only thing remotely "positive" I can say about him is that Hillary Clinton, who may be his opponent if she can escape felony indictment, is even worse.

Robert P. George The conservatives, as usual, are showing greater integrity than the liberals. (That was one of the factors that drove me out of the camp of the latter and into the camp of the former.) They are telling the blunt truth about Trump. Liberals are depressingly nearly unanimous in ignoring or trying to obscure the at least equally ugly truth about Hillary Clinton. Anyone who has been seriously paying attention knows that Clinton is corrupt through and through. There is no truth in her. She is utterly unfit to be president. Her policies and appointments would be catastrophic for the weakest and most vulnerable. What's partly driving this train is that elites (who are mostly liberal) identify with her culturally the way many ordinary people identify culturally with Trump. So she seems somehow more "reasonable," even "qualified to be president." She's not and she isn't. Just look at her record. (Of course, none of this alters the fact that Trump is also horrible. I just think that everybody should face the facts of our predicament.)

Robert P. George I could not disagree with you more. I can't fathom why you see it that way (unless it is the cultural factors I mentioned--having grown up in West Virginia I do not feel the same cultural affinities). She is more personally corrupt even than Trump; more mendacious (which one would hardly have thought possible); they are both Ivy League products, for what that's worth; if she knows anything about the law then she is even a worse scoundrel than I imagined since she breaks it with impunity; as to her knowledge of the Constitution her ignorance of (or disrespect for) it rivals that of Barack Obama; and what dignity would a person who, for crass political reasons, lied to the relatives of Benghazi victims about the circumstances of their loved one's murders, bring to the Office of President? None. You are certainly right that Donald Trump is a horrible person and would be a dreadful president. He is profoundly unworthy of the office. But please look at the facts straight on. Hillary Clinton would be at least as bad, perhaps worse. Let's not try to make the choice before us less dismal than it is. It is truly appalling.

Robert P. George David Goldman, who is a pretty good candidate for the title of most brilliant person on Facebook, says of Hillary Clinton that the only way he could vote for her would be if Hitler or Goebbels were resurrected and were the only other candidate on the ballot. He says that if it were Goering he would have to think about it. It's hyperbole, of course, but it makes clear his perception of just how appalling Hillary Clinton is.

Robert P. George Michael, look, if you are determined to support Hillary Clinton, for whatever reason, fine. It's a free country. And you're right that Donald Trump is a dreadful person and would make a terrible president. But you shouldn't look for validation from those of us who perceive just how corrupt and dangerous Hillary Clinton is. And you should admit to yourself that your choice is a tragic one, because even on the most charitable reading of the PUBLIC record of her life she's awful.

Robert P. George You've got two choices, Michael. Either (1) Hillary is remarkably ignorant of the law (despite that Yale Law degree you put so much store by), or (2) Hillary is actually knowledgeable about the law and breaks it with impunity. You choose. Both are possible explanations of the data, and I'll give you either one.

Robert P. George Sorry to disappoint you then. I loathe Donald Trump. I've said every bad thing about him I can think of. I will have nothing to do with him. But I will not pretend that Hillary Clinton is anything other than what she is. And, as difficult as this is to imagine, she is, if anything, even worse than he is. God help us.

Robert P. George By the way, I wouldn't put too much stock in those fancy degrees and academic honors. I have boatloads of them. They tell you nothing about a person's character and precious little about their wisdom. My grandmother had an elementary school education. That's it. But she had more common sense and better judgment than most people I know (and I know lots of them) with Ivy League Ph.D.s. She also knew how to learn what she needed to know. People like that have an awful lot to offer.

Robert P. George I don't trust him as far as I can throw him (nor do I trust her) but he's got better positions on some issues than she has; he's likely to make better judicial and administrative appointments than she is (more because of his circumstances than his beliefs or commitments); for all his lying, he has (so far as I am aware) never told the public or grieving family members a lie as base as Hillary's lie about the Benghazi victims having allegedly been murdered by a mob enflamed by a movie (and I can give you a catalogue of other lies, too, if you like). And there's more, but I'm losing my grip on the point of this exercise. I repeat: Donald Trump is very bad. I will have nothing to do with him. I wish you would say the same thing about Hillary Clinton. But, look, examine your conscience and follow it. That's all any of us can do. Try to factor our everything but a concern for the truth.

Robert P. George Scott, I think that people like to be told that they're right. And many who are (for very good reasons!) uncomfortable with Trump, yet realize that Hillary is a bad person, feel more comfortable supporting her, despite her wickedness, because she is culturally more like them. Trump is vulgar and oafish. He is appealing to people whom a lot of elites regard as---let's be blunt about their attitudes---"white trash." And it annoys or at least puzzles them when someone who is outwardly so much like them as I am insists that it is not only Trump who is horrible, but Hillary too---perhaps even more horrible. Just compare the lying that the two candidates are equally guilty of. Trump lies flamboyantly and crassly ("McCain is not a war hero.") Hillary lies coolly and with a straight face ("We're going to get the film maker whose irresponsible actions led to these deaths.") To certain elites, Trump's lying just seems worse---precisely because it is crass and flamboyant. Sometimes they feel like they have to tell lies. But they don't lie like that! They lie the way Hillary does when they feel they have to lie or that a lie is justified or excusable. Somehow it doesn't seem as bad.

High School Boy Wins All-State Honors In Girls Track And Field

I consider this poetic justice. Fighting fire with fire. The system is currently stacked against men and boys anyway, so they might as well use transgenderism to their advantage. That's the best, and maybe only way, to destroy it:

Changing trains

I'd like to approach the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from a different perspective than is usually considered. When people denounce a past event, they frequently treat the incident and its immediate aftermath as a self-contained event. They act as though you could change that particular event, but leave pretty much everything else in place. 

Yet they themselves may be the byproduct of the very event they denounce. They write about the past from the standpoint of the present. They exist in the present. Yet the present is the product of the past. There's a certain paradox when we castigate a past event, for in some cases, by wishing it away, we'd be wishing ourselves away. Were it not for that event, we might not even be here to stand in judgment of that event. 

The nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had wide-ranging affects on subsequent history. Had that not happened, the future would have turned out very differently.

It's like taking a long train ride, where you must repeatedly switch trains to arrive at your distant destination. There are so many opportunities to miss connections. And if you miss one train, that throws your entire itinerary for a loop. 

If Hiroshima and Nagasaki hadn't been bombed, the railway tracks leading into the future would have gone in a different direction. Even if you could begin your journey from the same point, the original tracks would run out in the middle of nowhere. A deserted train station. The new future would bypass the old future. 

The new past wouldn't lead up to the old future, containing the critics of the reviled past event. The future in which they exist would be replaced by a different timeline with different descendants. 

Dropping the metaphor, consider how we come to be. If a couple have conjugal relations Monday night instead of Sunday night, and if they conceive, it will be a different person. Or if they have relations 5 minutes earlier or five minutes later, a different sperm may win the race to fertilize the ovum. Not to mention the chain of events that converge on a particular man meeting a particular women. And their parents. And their grandparents. So many opportunities to miss connections. So many opportunities to take a different train. Even small changes in the past can ramify into huge changes in the future. An unrecognizable future. 

Now, I'm not saying this to justify the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If that's justifiable, it will demand a different argument. What I'm saying is equally applicable to large-scale atrocities. So I'm not saying this to retroactively sanctify whatever happens.

But it's good to be mindful of how the invasive root system of historical causation means you can't weed out past evils without uprooting the entire garden. There are always tradeoffs. Winners and losers. 

If we hadn't bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that would be better for the victims. But altering the course of history would deprive others.

Friday, June 03, 2016

A moment in the sun

I'd like to consider the shooting of the gorilla (Harambe) from both a secular standpoint and a Christian standpoint.

1. I suspect most folks who wax indigent over shooting the gorilla to save the boy are Darwinian atheists. There may be some "progressive Christians" thrown in for good measure. 

From a secular standpoint, the reaction to shooting the gorilla is irrational. Animals are temporary organisms. Harambe was not immortal. He was going to die anyway. Just a matter of time. 

Animals naturally die. In the wild, many animals die a violent death: killed by predators. Many animals die young due to relentless predation. 

Although Harambe was a magnificent specimen, individual animals are utterly replaceable. One male, silverback gorilla serves the same function as another male, silverback gorilla. The players change, but the play remains the same. 

From an ecosystemic perspective, animals aren't more important than plants. There's a symbiosis between plants and animals, life and death, that sustains a balanced ecosystem. Animal death is necessary. 

Nature is utterly indifferent to the plight of animals. According to Darwinians, most species become extinct. 

Some atheists profess an Epicurean outlook on human death. As Mark Twain boastfully put it: “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

In consistency, they should view animal death the same way.

2. From a Christian perspective, animals are temporary creatures. There is no afterlife for animals. 

Perhaps God will resurrect Christian pets. I'm open to that possibility. But there's no reason to think God will resurrect animals generally. Indeed, there's not nearly enough room on planet earth to accommodate all the animals that ever lived and died. 

With the possible exception of Christian pets, when an animal dies, that's it. It's gone. It won't come back. End of story. Life goes on, but not for it. 

The animal kingdom is stark and sobering. Immortality is a rare gift. Among all God's creatures, only humans are promised biological immortality. Angels are the only other exception, and strictly speaking, they aren't alive (in the biological sense).

A few months ago I saw some coyotes frolicking in a meadow. Having their moment in the sun. That will pass. They will pass. In a few years, they will die–never to return.

A few days ago I sat down on a park bench. I noticed a little rabbit right beside me. Practically a baby. Unafraid of humans. It was busily feeding on the moist green grass.

Odds are, it won't survive until adulthood, and even if it does, it, too, will die. Mostly likely be killed by predators. 

The gift of immortality is one thing that sets us apart from animals. Sure, we die, but that's punitive. Although humans are mortal, we die once but live twice. We have immortal souls. And we will be resurrected. For some, that's a gift–for others, that's a curse.

God's foundling

I'll comment on this post, which is a follow-up to an impromptu debate I've been having on limited atonement:

If it doesn’t actually effect salvation for anyone in particular in and of itself, then what’s the deciding factor, and why?

i) From a 5-point perspective, that's not the right way to frame the issue. According to limited atonement, the atonement ensures or secures the salvation of those for whom it is made. It doesn't effect salvation in isolation to other factors. But it does entail the salvation of those for whom it was made. It's not that Christ's atonement works automatically, but it renders salvation certain for those on whose behalf it was made.

ii) In addition, this goes to the elementary question of what it means to say Christ died for people. That's a shorthand expression. In what sense did Christ die for them. What's the objective? The atonement is a means to what end? 

The 5-point position seems, to me—and I may be misrepresenting it, but this is how 5-pointers themselves often seem to present it—very mechanical. The atonement is like a machine that, once it’s turned on, auto-targets the elect and runs them through a redemption mill, while God just kinda sits back. The atonement itself does all the work of salvation, such that everything that happens afterward in the ordo salutis is just a formality—there is a genuine sense in which once the atonement happens, the elect are saved regardless of what occurs afterward. Even if they never learned about God, exercised faith, or walked in good works, they would be saved because their sins are covered at the cross. They are justified in God’s eyes before they ever exercise faith because Jesus has already paid for every one of their specific sins.

There are several problems with that characterization:

i) It's eerily similar to how confused freewill theists attack Calvinism. They say predestination is fatalistic. If you're elect, it doesn't matter what you do or don't to. Once the election machine is switched on, it autotargets you for salvation and runs you through the formalities, while God just kinda sits back. Election does all the work. Everything that happens in real time makes no difference to the outcome. You are saved regardless of regeneration, justification, sanctification, and perseverance, because you were saved from eternity. You were saved in God's eyes before you exercise faith. 

ii) In 5-point Calvinism, there's a Trinitarian division of labor in the economy of salvation. Those whom the Father elects the Son redeems and the Spirit renews. 

All the elements are coordinated. For instance, justification is contingent on faith, while faith is contingent on regeneration. The Father justifies on the basis of the Son's atonement, while the Spirit produces justifying faith. 

iii) Original sin has two basic components: 

a) Guilt or culpability

b) Moral corruption and spiritual inability.

(a) is objective while (b) is subjective. (a) involves a relation between God and the sinner while (b) involves the personal character of the sinner.

The plan of salvation is an antidote for both. For instance, justification and propitiation affect the objective status of the sinner, affect the relation between God and the sinner–while regeneration and sanctification affect the sinner himself. Justification is something God does for the sinner while regeneration is something God does to the sinner. 

iv) Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the "mechanical" metaphor, why should that have pejorative connotations? Do we fault an airplane because it got us safely and swiftly to our destination? Would it humanize airplanes if they suffered random mechanical failure, causing the plane to crash? When did efficiency become a bad thing?

I reject the Owenic view of limited atonement because I take faith itself to be the effectual means of justification.

What makes Bnonn suppose that limited atonement, or John Owen's version in particular, is opposed to justification by faith?

Now, I say “faith,” but what that means to 5-pointers seems to be somewhat different to what it means to me. 5-pointers, in my experience, have an impoverished view of faith where it is simply something like willing assent to the truth of the gospel. God then treats this as a sort of “token” for declaring us righteous.

That may be an accurate description of how Gordon Clark viewed it. And I believe that Bnonn was initially influenced by Vincent Cheung, although he's outgrown that. So perhaps that's his residual frame of reference.

In 5-point Calvinism, saving faith is an expression of something more fundamental: spiritual renewal. Faith has different functions. On one function, God has keyed justification to faith. But faith has a broader function, as a general outlook on life. A sense of absolute dependence on God. A basis for prayer. A source of hope. 

Once we are family, the question becomes: how can the Father justly treat us as righteous? That is where the atonement comes in. There has to be some way to cover our sins. And that is what Jesus provided on the cross. When we become Jesus’ brother, he becomes our family head. That means the Father looks to him as the one responsible for our conduct.

Well, to play along with the familial model, in the OT you have the metaphor of divine adoption. That involves divine initiative. Divine adoption is, itself, a spiritual blessing which is, in turn, a source of other spiritual blessings. 
There's a graphic illustration of this metaphor in Ezk 16, where Israel is like a newborn baby that was abandoned to die from exposure or predation. That's not in response to faith.  The foundling was in no position to either choose or refuse to be rescued. 

That’s how corporate, familial responsibility works—strange as it seems to our highly individualistic culture…rather than chunking it down into a weird conglomeration of individualism and federal headship, glued together by purely forensic categories.

But there's a basic tension in Bnonn's model, inasmuch as justification by faith is inherently individualistic. So he himself will have to combine corporate elements (e.g. federal headship) with individualistic elements (e.g. justification by faith).

So it’s not that unbelief is damnatory while other sins are not, as 5-pointers tend to wonder. Rather, when we refuse to swear allegiance to Yahweh and be adopted into his family, we naturally remain outside his family, and thus unrepresented by Jesus. In that case, we are damned for all our sins, including our refusal to swear allegiance, because there is no one else to take our stripes for us. We take them ourselves.

But that dodges the issue. Why would the atonement render every other sin forgivable, but leave unbelief the one unforgivable sin? Unbelief becomes the gateway sin to hell. 

Now, I’m not saying that justification doesn’t involve a forensic imputation. What I am saying is that “forensic imputation” is not a familial category; it is a legal one. If we insist on framing our thinking about how God declares us righteous in legal, pecuniary categories, when Scripture treats it as being a fundamentally familial event, then we are going to get a very skewed picture of the atonement, of faith, and of justification.

It's unclear what Bnonn means. Is he affirming or denying that justification is forensic? Or is he affirming that it's forensic, but not in a pecuniary sense of legality? There's a massive exegetical literature defending the forensic nature of Pauline justification. 

The Bible uses many different theological models and metaphors for salvation. It's reductionistic to make the "family" the fundamental principle. And it's confusing to blend categories. Arguably, Pauline justification is "purely forensic". 

Batteries included

Recently I got into an impromptu debate on limited atonement with a 4-point Calvinist. Here's my side of the exchange:

"I do not think this imputation happened at the cross! The very reason I can make this argument is because I see imputation in the Bible happening because of who our federal head is—and we become represented by Jesus when we exercise faith. That is why justification is by faith—it is the point at which imputation occurs…When I say that God must treat individuals in history according to whether their guilt has actually been imputed to Jesus in history, I am simply saying that God must treat individuals according to whether they have actually exercised faith. That is the historical point of imputation…I don't believe *anything* was imputed to Jesus at the cross. I believe he was treated as a sinner and suffered the wrath of God that is due to any and all sinful human beings. He did so with the intention of that atonement being imputed to his elect in due time (or, of course, to satisfy the imputation of the OT elect which had already occurred)."

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Scotus, Anselm, and Owen

Here's a potentially interesting objection to limited atonement:

Three theories of atonement are particularly used. The Acceptilation theory of Duns Scotus, which determines the meaning of the cross from the extrinsic acceptatio of God, is used to ascertain the value of Christ's work from the will or intention of God [e.g. John Owen, Francis Turretin]. The Satisfaction theory of Anselm is employed in asserting that Christ through his death merited "faith, repentance, and the Holy Spirit" for the elect" [e.g. Turretin, J. Heidegger]. The Penal Substitution of Luther is used to decry the "double jeopardy" of unlimited atonement, since the cross, having punished sin and therefore satisfied divine wrath, must save within itself and require no further punishment or satisfaction [e.g. Owen, Turretin, J. Heidegger].  
The difficulty in employing such divergent theories of the atonement can be best illustrated through the oft-repeated phrase that the death of Christ is "sufficient to save all men," but due to the intention of God is "efficient for the elect alone"–a phrase used by proponents of both limited and unlimited atonement. Initially Christ's work is interpreted here through the theory of Anselm, a theory which exults in the intrinsic "sufficiency" of his sacrifice and infinite dignity of his person, but then it is immediately overturned by the extrinsic consideration of the divine will, which according to Duns subjugates the "efficiency" and merit of Christ to the acceptation or ultimate intent of the Father. How can anything be inherently infinite in dignity and then be limited in value before God? Are Christ in his works and the Father in his will opposed? Stephen Strehle, "The Extent of the Atonement and the Synod of Dort." Westminster Theological Journal (1989), 1n1.

How should we assess this objection?

i) Strehle isn't making a case for the Amyraldian alternative. Indeed, he thinks that operates within the same flawed framework–as he explains later on. 

ii) Although he says these are "divergent" theories, he doesn't explain how the satisfaction theory and the penal substitutionary theory contradict each other. Even if these two theories developed independently of each other, they may be conceptually harmonious. 

iii) His specific example is how the acceptation theory allegedly contradicts the satisfaction theory.  

iv) I do think the language of "infinity" is ambiguous. 

v) On the face of it, it's easy to come up with counterexamples in which something that's intrinsically efficacious can be limited in application. Suppose you have an efficacious antidote for snakebite. Yet you are free to selectively administer the antidote to some patients to the exclusion of others. Suppose a member of the Medellín Cartel is envenomated by a Bushmaster. You could save his life by administering antivenon, but because he's responsible for torturing and murdering innocent people, you have no duty to save his life, so you administer a placebo instead. 

Perhaps Strehle would say that's not analogous to the kind of intrinsic/extrinsic distinction he's drawing. If so, his objection, as it stands, is too vague to demonstrate that these are divergent theories of the atonement. 

Deviant atonement

Even if unbelief is dealt with at the cross, according to unlimited atonement, faith is still required for the application of the atonement that has been accomplished. In this case, there is no double-payment objection to answer, because those who are damned have simply not exercised the faith requisite for redemption. Christ dies for their sin, all right–including their unbelief; but if they do not have the faith necessary to have the benefits of his death applied to them, then they suffer the just punishment for their sin regardless. Oliver Crisp, Deviant Calvinism (230). 

So Christ died to redeem unbelievers, who will still be damned because they are unbelievers! That's really ironic. Critics of 5-point Calvinism think it's a travesty of justice. Yet they resort to this Kafkaesque alternative. A divine Catch-22, as if God takes malicious delight in trapping them in this circular predicament. 

Denying Christ

I. 4-point Calvinists raise a stock objection to limited atonement: How can they be blameworthy for refusing to believe in Jesus if Jesus never died for them or made atonement for them? 

I. One way 5-point Calvinists respond is to note that disbelief in Jesus is not a necessary condition of condemnation. God can justly condemn you for your sins, quite apart from disbelief in Jesus.  

However, 4-point Calvinists may counter that while that's true, the NT says it's culpable to disbelieve in Jesus. For instance:

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (Jn 3:18). 
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him (Jn 3:36).

But if limited atonement is true, how can the reprobate be blameworthy for refusing to believe in something they were never party to? How can they be obliged to believe in Jesus if he is not their Redeemer? How can they believe in him unless redemption was made on their behalf? How can they reject something that was never for them in the first place? 

That's a fair question. But in my experience, 4-point Calvinists fail to study how the NT actually defines culpable disbelief in Jesus. They just take for granted that unlimited atonement must be a necessary condition. But is that how the NT frames the indictment? 

From my reading, the NT author who accentuates culpability for refusal to believe Jesus is John. This is a recurring theme in the Johannine writings. But from John's perspective, what does it mean to deny Christ or disbelieve in Jesus? John unpacks that concept in two overlapping categories:

1. Heretical Christology

According to John, one way of refusing to believe in Jesus is to deny certain truths about Jesus. For instance:

22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son (1 Jn 2:22). 
every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God (1 Jn 4:2-3). 
7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh (2 Jn 7). 
6 This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth (1 Jn 5:6).
11 And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son (1 Jn 5:11).

Refusal to believe in Jesus means refusing to credit certain theological propositions about Jesus regarding his person and mission. 

2. Testimony

To believe in Jesus is to believe in testimonial evidence about Jesus. To disbelieve in Jesus, or deny Jesus, is to disbelieve testimonial evidence about Jesus. In the Johannine writings, there are various lines of testimonial evidence that attest or bear witness to Jesus:

i) The Father's testimony to the Son

ii) The Spirit's testimony to the Son

iii) John the Baptist's testimony to the Jesus

iii) OT testimony to Jesus

iv) Miraculous testimony to Jesus

v) Apostolic testimony to Jesus 

For instance:

the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us (1 Jn 1:2). 
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). 
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning (Jn 15:26-27). 
the Father who sent me bears witness about me. (Jn 8:18). 
Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me (Jn 10:25). 
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him…29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God” (Jn 1:6-7,29-34). 
30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (Jn 5:30-46).

Notice that denying Jesus, whether that involves denying testimony about Jesus or theological propositions about Jesus, isn't defined in terms of denying an individual relationship between Jesus and the unbeliever. Rather, it involves denying general truths about the person of Jesus and his divine mission. Denying that Jesus is the Son of God. Denying the Incarnation. Denying that salvation is only available in Christ. 

II. A 4-point Calvinist might object that my quotes omit to mention the universal scope of the atonement in the Johannine corpus (e.g. Jn 1:29; 3:16; 4:42; 1 Jn 2:2; 4:14). Therefore, disbelief in Jesus would disavowal what Jesus has already done for the individual. 

But one basic problem with such a response is that the culpability argument which the 4-point Calvinist deploys is supposed to be independent of prooftexts for unlimited atonement. It's a common ground argument. It begins with something both 4-point and 5-point Calvinists affirm: refusal to believe in Jesus is blameworthy. It then tries to use that as a wedge to prove unlimited atonement. 

If 5-point Calvinists agreed with 4-point Calvinists on prooftexts for unlimited atonement, the culpability argument would be unnecessary. The rationale of the culpability argument is for 4-point Calvinists to start with something 5-point Calvinists concede–disbelief in Jesus is blameworthy–then use that to establish unlimited atonement. If, however, 4-point Calvinists must shore up the argument by appeal to prooftexts for unlimited atonement, then the culpability argument is a failure.  

But, of course, 5-point Calvinists reject that interpretation. They don't think prooftexts for unlimited atonement succeed. So that's no different than the Calvinist/Arminian debate. To quote two commentators:

Some argue that the term “world” here [Jn 3:16] simply has neutral connotations—the created human world. But the characteristic use of “the world” (ho kosmos) elsewhere in the narrative is with negative overtones—the world in its alienation from and hostility to its creator’s purposes. It makes better sense in a soteriological context to see the latter notion as in view. God loves that which has become hostile to God. The force is not, then, that the world is so vast that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it, but rather that the world has become so alienated from God that it takes an exceedingly great kind of love to love it at all. A. Lincoln, The Gospel According to St. John (Henrickson 2005), 154.
If here [1 Jn 2:2] it is a reference to the whole planet, consideration of the historical context in which John wrote makes a more likely interpretation to be the universal scope of Christ's sacrifice in the sense that no one's race, nationality, or any other trait will keep that person from receiving the full benefit of Christ's sacrifice if and when they come to faith. 
In the ancient world, the gods were parochial and had geographically limited jurisdictions. In the mountains, one sought the favor of the mountain gods; on the sea, of the sea gods. Ancient warfare was waged in the belief that the gods of the opposing nations were fighting as well, and the outcome would be determined by whose god was strongest. Against that kind of pagan mentality, John asserts the efficacy of Jesus Christ's sacrifice is valid everywhere, for people everywhere, that is "the whole world."  
But "world" in John's writings is often used to refer not to the planet or all its inhabitants, but to the system of fallen human culture, with its values, morals, and ethics as a whole. Lieu explains it as that which  is totally opposed to God and all the belongs to him. It is almost always associated with the side of darkness in the Johannine duality, and people are characterized in John's writings as being either "of God" or "of the world" (Jn 8:23; 15:19; 176,14,16; 18:36; 1 Jn 2:16; 4:5). Those who have been born of God are taken out of that spiritual sphere, though not out of the geographical place or physical population that is concurrent with it (Jn 13:1; 17:15: see "In Depth: The "world" in John's Letters" at 2:16).  
Rather than teaching universalism, John here instead announces the exclusivity of the Christian gospel. Since Christ's atonement is efficacious for the "whole world," there is no other form of atonement available to other peoples, cultures, and religions apart from Jesus Christ. K. Jobes, 1, 2, & 3 John (Zondervan 2014), 80.

III. In addition, 4-point Calvinists draw attention to the fact that according to the NT, apostates incur aggravated guilt (e.g. Heb 10:28-29; 2 Pet 2:20-21). But how can they be more culpable than unbelievers in general if they were excluded from the atonement all along? 

That's a fair question. I'd say a couple of things:

i) Keep in mind that 4-point Calvinists affirm limited election. So salvation was never available to them. In consistency, 4-point Calvinists need to explain how their objection is applicable to limited atonement, but inapplicable to limited election. 

ii) Often the Bible divvies up the human race between believers and unbelievers, but sometimes it subdivides the human race in a three-way classification. Take OT Jews. On the one hand, God did something for them that God didn't do for most pagans. On the other hand, God did something for some Jews that he didn't do for other Jews. God elected some Jews to salvation, but reprobated others. God regenerated some Jews, but hardened others. 

Yet even reprobate Jews enjoyed certain benefits and privileges denied the average pagan. The OT makes that clear. So there can be a third category between believers and unbelievers. You can have a subclass of nominal believers or apostates who benefit from their association with the people of God. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Going ape

I am going to try to clear up a few things that have been weighing on me about Harambe and the Cinci Zoo since I read the news this afternoon.
I have worked with Gorillas as a zookeeper while in my twenties (before children) and they are my favorite animal (out of dozens) that I have ever worked closely with. I am gonna go ahead and list a few facts, thoughts and opinions for those of you that aren't familiar with the species itself, or how a zoo operates in emergency situations.
Now Gorillas are considered 'gentle giants' at least when compared with their more aggressive cousins the chimpanzee, but a 400+ pound male in his prime is as strong as roughly 10 adult humans. What can you bench press? OK, now multiply that number by ten. An adult male silverback gorilla has one job, to protect his group. He does this by bluffing or intimidating anything that he feels threatened by.
Gorillas are considered a Class 1 mammal, the most dangerous class of mammals in the animal kingdom, again, merely due to their size and strength. They are grouped in with other apes, tigers, lions, bears, etc.
While working in an AZA accredited zoo with Apes, keepers DO NOT work in contact with them. Meaning they do NOT go in with these animals. There is always a welded mesh barrier between the animal and the humans.
In more recent decades, zoos have begun to redesign enclosures, removing all obvious caging and attempting to create a seamless view of the animals for the visitor to enjoy watching animals in a more natural looking habitat. *this is great until little children begin falling into exhibits* which of course can happen to anyone, especially in a crowded zoo-like setting.
I have watched this video over again, and with the silverback's posturing, and tight lips, it's pretty much the stuff of any keeper's nightmares, and I have had MANY while working with them. This job is not for the complacent. Gorillas are kind, curious, and sometimes silly, but they are also very large, very strong animals. I always brought my OCD to work with me. checking and rechecking locks to make sure the animals under my care and I remained separated before entering to clean.
I keep hearing that the Gorilla was trying to protect the boy. I do not find this to be true. Harambe reaches for the boys hands and arms, but only to position the child better for his own displaying purposes.
Males do very elaborate displays when highly agitated, slamming and dragging things about. Typically they would drag large branches, barrels and heavy weighted balls around to make as much noise as possible. Not in an effort to hurt anyone or anything (usually) but just to intimidate. It was clear to me that he was reacting to the screams coming from the gathering crowd.
Harambe was most likely not going to separate himself from that child without seriously hurting him first (again due to mere size and strength, not malicious intent) Why didn't they use treats? well, they attempted to call them off exhibit (which animals hate), the females in the group came in, but Harambe did not. What better treat for a captive animal than a real live kid!
They didn't use Tranquilizers for a few reasons, A. Harambe would've taken too long to become immobilized, and could have really injured the child in the process as the drugs used may not work quickly enough depending on the stress of the situation and the dose B. Harambe would've have drowned in the moat if immobilized in the water, and possibly fallen on the boy trapping him and drowning him as well.
Many zoos have the protocol to call on their expertly trained dart team in the event of an animal escape or in the event that a human is trapped with a dangerous animal. They will evaluate the scene as quickly and as safely as possible, and will make the most informed decision as how they will handle the animal.
I can't point fingers at anyone in this situation, but we need to really evaluate the safety of the animal enclosures from the visitor side. Not impeding that view is a tough one, but there should be no way that someone can find themselves inside of an animal's exhibit.
I know one thing for sure, those keepers lost a beautiful, and I mean gorgeous silverback and friend. I feel their loss with them this week. As educators and conservators of endangered species, all we can do is shine a light on the beauty and majesty of these animals in hopes to spark a love and a need to keep them from vanishing from our planet. Child killers, they are not. It's unfortunate for the conservation of the species, and the loss of revenue a beautiful zoo such as Cinci will lose. tragedy all around.

Shooting King Kong to save Fay Wray

The predictably hysterical reaction to shooting of a gorilla to protect a child raises a number of issues: 

i) We've had generations of Americans raised on evolution and environmentalism. They believe humans are just animals, like other animals. And they believe humans pose a threat to the ecosystem. In theory, they don't value human life above animal life. In fact, some of them demote human life in relation to animal life. Take the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

ii) Apropos (i), you have Darwinians who extrapolate from human rights to animal rights. After all, we're all just a bunch of animals. 

It would, however, be more logical to reverse the inference. If there's nothing special about humans, then there's nothing special about any animal. Given naturalistic evolution, there's no basis for human rights or animals rights (a point I've argued in many occasions, so I won't repeat myself here).

Mind you, even if evolution were true, you can still value your own species more highly than other species.

iii) Indeed, the outrage graphically illustrates the consequences of a secular outlook, where nothing has intrinsic value. A child is only valuable if enough humans value his life. If more humans value a gorilla's life, then, given a choice, they will sacrifice the child to protect the gorilla. 

Atheism is dangerous for everyone–not least for atheists. Secular ethics is inherently unstable. No one is safe. It all depends on who or what is valued at any given moment. An animal. A protected class. And that can change overnight. 

iv) Many people have pitifully limited conceptual resources for assessing ethical issues. They filter every issue though hypocrisy or fairness.

You have outraged people who complain that Harambe was "unfairly" or "unjustly" killed. Indeed, "murdered."

But sometimes, justice or fairness is irrelevant. Is it fair when a wolf pack runs down an elk? 

Is it fair that Michael Jordan is 6' 6". Would he be a basketball star if he were 5' 6"? 

Is it fair that some diabetics must have a foot amputated? No. But that may be medically necessary to save the life of the diabetic. 

Sometimes you have a duty to do things, not because it's fair, but because it's necessary. 

It would be immoral to risk the child’s safety to protect the gorilla. Wild animals can turn on a dime. The duty is to protect the child, not the animal. When in doubt, the child’s safety takes absolute precedence over the animal’s safety.

v) We have a developing culture divide where many young people operate with an antinatalist philosophy. They love dogs and cats instead of children. They consider children to be a nuisance. They resent children. They resent the elderly and developmentally disabled. Animal welfare becomes their alternative to true humanitarian concern. It makes them feel virtuous to be kind to animals as a substitute for charity towards babies, the elderly, and the developmentally disabled.


There are a number of things I could say about this story, and I may get around to that in another post, but for now I'd like to zero in on one point: many people have expressed outrage at "murdering" the gorilla to save the child's life. 

If I were world dictator, I'd round them up. Then, one-by-one, I'd arm them and put them in a large enclosure with a hyena or Gray wolf or Cape Hunting dog. Something along those lines. 

I'd televise the encounter: them v. it. Given a choice, would they use the gun to protect themselves, or would they let the animal tear them apart?

I suspect that in a kill-or-be-killed situation, most of these diehard animals lovers would instantly default to human exceptionalism when their own life was on the line. 

At-risk apostates

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

So easy, a caveman could do it

Nuclear pacifism

Unilateral nuclear disarmament is popular in elite Catholic circles. It's supported by the USCCB, as well as noted Catholic ethicists like John Finnis, Joseph Boyle,  Christopher Tollefsen, and Germain Grisez.  But there are several problems with nuclear pacifism:

i) It's too late to unlearn what we know. Once the technical knowhow is out there, you can't turn back the clock. You can't make people forget how to make nuclear weapons. You can't go back to a world without nuclear weapons. 

ii) If, moreover, people with the most conscience renounce nuclear weapons, then nuclear weapons will be left in the hands of people with the least conscience.

iii) It would lead to blackmail. A country that has ICBMs with nuclear warheads could dictate another country's domestic policy. It could credibly threaten to incinerate cities with impunity. There'd be no limit to the moral concessions it could extract from desperate populations.

iv) Nuclear weaponry poses a dilemma. There are no good alternatives. In a fallen world, we sometimes find ourselves backed into a corner. We face momentous hazards over which we have no ultimate control. So we must do the best we can in tough situations where the outcome is out of our hands. 

Having put us in this predicament, it's up to God, in his providence, to forestall a worse-case scenario, if he so desires. 

Dropping the bomb

I'm going to respond to two common objections to dropping the bomb on Japan.

1. Critics often say dropping the bombing was predicated on "consequentialism", viz. it would shorten the war, save lives on both sides. 

However, that objection is uninformed. Taking consequences into account as a part of moral deliberation is not equivalent to the ethical system of consequentialism. According to consequentialism:

Consequentialism, as its name suggests, is the view that normative properties depend only on consequences. 
Consequentialism is the view that morality is all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences…consequences are all that matters.

Taking consequences into consideration is not the same thing as consequentialist ethics. 

Likewise, some critics talk as though the end never justifies the means. But that's an overstatement. 

2. Truman and his war cabinet weren't ethicists, so it's quite possible that their stated justification for dropping the bomb was morally deficient. That doesn't entail that the action itself was wrong. People can think and do the right thing even if they lack the sophistication to make a philosophically solid case for their actions and beliefs. 

3. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it forfeited the right not to be attacked. It's actions made it morally liable to counterattack. So it's not just a question of consequences. There's a just cause in play.

4. What alternatives were there to not dropping the bomb?

i) We could refuse to retaliate after the Pearl Harbor attack. But only a pacifist would say that's the right response.

ii) We could try to starve the leadership into submission through a navel blockade. But that would result in mass starvation of noncombatants, as well as POWs. How can you oppose the bombing on the grounds that it violated the immunity of noncombatants if your alternative is starving millions of noncombatants?

iii) We could have chosen not to attack the main island, because the options were so onerous. However, we sustained casualties in Saipan, Leyte, the Philippines, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. So by that stage it was too late to give up. We were committed to finish the job. If we left Japan undefeated, our soldiers would have died in vain (not to mention the wounded). 

5. That leaves us with invasion, which would have resulted in massive casualties for American troops. 

Now, the immunity of noncombatants presupposes that killing noncombatants is worse than killing combatants. But is that a morally tenable generalization? 

Suppose you have a Marine and a Nazi scientist with the same rare blood type. Suppose both need a life-saving blood transfusion, but there's only enough donated blood on hand to transfuse one of them. Whose life should you save: the combatant (Marine) or the noncombatant (Nazi scientist)? If we are morally discriminating, there are cases in which the death of a combatant is worse than the death of a noncombatant. 

Assuming the Americans were fighting for a just case, desire to minimize death and injury to American soldiers is a morally legitimate consideration. Their combatant status doesn't automatically demote the value of their lives in relation to enemy noncombatants. Not to mention that the Japanese gov't was planning to mobilize armed civilian resistance in case of invasion. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Immunity of noncombatants

This is a follow-up to my previous post:

Although this post has special reference to nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the issue is more general. 

1. The basic objection to nuking Japan is that it violated the immunity of noncombatants. A mass attack on civilian population centers. 

2. As a rule of thumb, the immunity of noncombatants is a humanitarian principle. All other things being equal, I think we should avoid targeting civilians. 

My problem is that this principle is terribly crude. It fails to draw many morally salient distinctions.

3. The debate is typically framed in terms of not intentionally killing civilians. But, presumably, ethicists who advocate the immunity of noncombatants think it's wrong to intentionally harm civilians. Killing would just be a limiting case of inflicting harm. 

Moreover, it's disputable whether killing is the worst thing you can do to a human being. Suppose a human is horribly maimed. Or suppose they lose all their loved ones. Arguably, this can be just as harmful in a different way.

4. One thing which critics like Elizabeth Anscombe typically overlook is how the death of combatants can be harmful to noncombatants. A standard argument for nuking Japan is that invasion was the alternative, and that would have resulted in massive casualties for American soldiers. But if you think about it, that's not just harm to the soldier. His death harms his parents, siblings, wife, or fiancée. Not only does that inflict tremendous emotional harm on the surviving loved ones, but it may leave parents without a grown child to care for them if they become incapacitated in old age. Oftentimes, the death of a combatant indirectly and severely harms one or more noncombatants. 

Critics like Anscombe artificially compartmentalize the issue. But humans are related to other humans. Injury to one may injury several. 

5. Combatants are not all of a kind. The way critics like Anscombe lump combatants into one group lacks moral finesse. Some combatants fight for a just cause while others fight for an unjust cause. Some combatants are volunteers while others are conscripts. 

i) Volunteers fighting for a just cause

ii) Conscripts fighting for a just cause

iii) Conscripts fighting for an unjust cause

iv) Volunteers fighting for an unjust cause

It's unclear why the lives of civilians should always count for more than the lives of soldiers. Shouldn't that depend in part on whose side the soldier is on and whose side the civilian is on?

To take a comparison, a policeman is a combatant. He's armed. And he's authorized to use lethal force under certain circumstances.

Compare that to a child pornographer. Suppose he's unarmed. If it was a choice between saving the policeman's life and saving the pornographer's life, which takes precedence? 

There are situations where a soldier is risking his life in a noble cause. What he's doing is brave and honorable. What if the civilian is a degenerate? What makes the civilian's life sacrosanct compared to the soldier's life? If the soldier is virtuous while the civilian is vicious, whose life should we value more? 

6. Critics like Anscombe fixate on the right of civilians not to be killed by soldiers. But what about the right of soldiers not to be killed? Don't soldiers have a prima facie right to life? Morally speaking, what makes the life of a Nazi scientist sacrosanct but the life of a Marine expendable?

7. Critics like Anscombe belabor the distinction between causing harm and permitting harm. But morally speaking, that's often a false dichotomy. There are situations in which doing harm is sometimes obligatory. Conversely, there are situations in which allowing harm is sometimes culpable. 

Suppose we refused to defeat Japan because we couldn't do so without violating the immunity of noncombatants. That would permit Japan to remain an aggressive and oppressive military dictatorship. How is allowing Japan to periodically inflict massive harm on innocent victims (e.g. women, children, sick, elderly) morally preferable to our temporarily harming Japanese civilians for the benefit of posterity? What makes allowing malevolent harm ipso facto better than doing harm for benevolent reasons? 

8. I'd add that there's a tension between the traditional immunity of noncombatants and appeal to the "dignity of every human being" among contemporary Catholic ethicists like Germain Grisez and Christopher Tollefsen. 

9. My immediate point is not to say whether we should have nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I'm simply framing the issue from an ethical standpoint. Assessing the moral merits of the nuclear strike also depends on factual and counterfactual considerations. My objective is to question the moral superficiality of how objections to dropping the bomb are typically cast.