Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why and How Jesus Would Vote - Part 2

From Barbara Walter-Skinner's Why and How Jesus Would Vote (see here for the beginning of the discussion).

Point 2:
As the author of life, God is committed to protecting the lives even of those who have for any reason taken the lives of others. Candidates should be evaluated by their commitment not to protecting life as it is unborn, but to protecting even the lives of criminals who are incarcerated in states that support the death penalty for heinous crimes. God values all life that he alone has created.

Frankly I'm appalled that Dr. Walter-Skinner believes that Jesus would be indifferent to the lives of the innocent unborn and is committed to protect the lives of those guilty of murder.  All you have to do is perform a word search on the phrase "innocent blood" in the Bible and you will find ample evidence of God's horror for those responsible for the wilfull death of innocents (see Jeremiah 19 for a particularly graphic instance of this).

As for the administering of the death penalty, in Deuteronomy 19:11-13, God makes it quite clear that to not punish some crimes with death is culpable leniency and that such a failure makes us guilty of the crime as well.  If Dr. Walters-Skinner claims that Jesus' death overrides this principle, she still has to deal with NT passages, such as in the deaths of Annanias and Saphira (Acts 5), Romans 13 (where Caesar is given the sword for a reason), 1 Corinthians 11:30 (where people die because of their eating the body and blood of Christ in an unworthy manner) and especially in Revelation, where vast quantities of blood are shed by God in judgment.  While God may mercifully spare a murderer (as he did King David), this sets no precident requiring murders may never be executed.

Given the uniform testimony of Scripture in this regard, the views of Dr. Walters-Skinner in this regard are inexplicable.  What she should say is
As the author of life, God is committed to protecting the lives the innocent, and candidates should be evaluated by their commitment to protecting the unborn.  On the other hand, the state may (and perhaps even should) require that those who have wilfully taken the lives of the innocent be punished by having their own lives taken in return.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why and How Jesus Would Vote - Part 1

Barbara Williams-Skinner, in her article Why and How Would Jesus Vote: Creating a New Framework for Evangelical Voters, published in the Spring 2008 edition of Fuller Theological Seminary's Theology News and Notes, identifies five basic guidelines that she suggests "might be taken into account by evangelicals seeking to manifest as close [sic] as possible the the entirety of sacred Scripture through their civil engagements." These five points are very revealing of a particular perspective on Scripture and culture, points which I'd like to engage with from a different perspective. As I am able, I plan to post once for each point, giving her position as well as a response.

Point 1:
The day of voters electing candidates simply because they oppose abortion or vow protection of the unborn for nine months while in the womb, yet refuse to provide heathcare, quality education, housing, safe streets, a fair justice system, and a livable environment once the child is born, is hopefully over. Candidates should be evaluated based on their commitment to a government that values all of life---from the womb to the grave.
My response:

Per Cardinal Egan of New York (from Hugh Hewitt):
We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.
Given that Jesus would insist that a candidate oppose abortion, it is not the only issue on which we may decide who to elect to office. We should certainly take into account the candidate's effectiveness in dealing with other social issues. However, it is not necessarily the responsibility of the federal government to deal with all of the issues listed above. Safe streets are largely the responsibility of the local government, as are quality schools. The experiences of Canada and England indicate that socializing healthcare may well make it less accessible to those who now can easily obtain it. So while the candidates we elect should be concerned about these issues, they may sometimes best demonstrate that concern by doing nothing directly about them and leaving the resolution of the issue to those best equipped to do the work well.

Friday, August 15, 2008

To judge or not to judge.

I'm having a conversation with B. Snyder on Episcopal Cafe about if and when a Christian is permitted to judge another Christian. Since I'm unable to post there right now, I'm posting my response to his (or her) posting of August 13, 2008 at 10:56 PM below in the hopes that he (or she) will be able to get here to see it...

B. Snyder...
There are times when the plain sense of one passage of Scripture contradicts the plain sense of another passage. An obvious example of this is Proverbs 26:4-5. When that happens, you can either decide that one passage is wrong, or, if you honor the authority of all of Scripture, try to look a little deeper to find out how the two passages are to be understood in a way that does justice to them both. For example, I conclude from the Proverbs 26 passage I just mentioned that there is no safe way to deal with a fool, for whether one answers him or not, you cannot avoid getting into trouble. The contradiction of the plain sense of the two verses is a way of highlighting the quandary we find ourselves in in this case.

One has to do the same thing with Jesus' warnings not to judge and the statements he and others make in Scripture urging us to judge. You can either assume that one of them is wrong (as you seem to assume Paul is) or you can try to honor both of them by looking a little deeper into them. If you assume Paul is wrong in 1 Cor 5, you also (it would seem), have to assume that a number of other "judgmental" passages in the NT are wrong as well, e.g. Gal 1:6-9, Romans 3:10-18, 2 Peter 2, 1 John 4:8. Since I'm unwilling to assume that any of the authors were in error in writing what they did, I assume that the judging Jesus forbids is not the judging that Paul, Peter or John are doing. In particular, I conclude that Jesus is talking to people with planks in their eyes who are making judgments against people who only have dust specks in their eyes. The planks may be spiritual pride, hypocrisy or any of a number of other very toxic sins, while the dust specks are probably things that may not be sins at all (e.g. styles of clothing or music). In any case, the person with the plank needs to realize that he will be examined by God as closely as he is examining his neighbor, and he may not like the results.

But when we have dealt with the planks in our own eyes (like Jesus says we should), we may be able to deal with the dust specks (or planks) in the eyes of others. This is what Paul is doing in 1 Cor 5, and what I'm claiming that we need to do more often than we are.

You have concluded that my primary target here is "the way the Church treats homosexual persons," and argued that the same approach that I use to justify judging can be used to justify homosexual behavior. You are welcome to try this, but I don't think it will work. For one thing, there are no passages in Scripture whose plain sense is "sex between two men or two women is ok." So you don't have anything that contradicts the passages in both the OT and NT whose plain sense is that such sexual behavior is wrong, and thus no justification for looking for a deeper meaning than the plain sense of these passages.

Absent any internal contraction of this sort in the plain sense of Scripture, you seem ready to resort to love or reason or to override the plain sense of Scripture. But it is neither loving nor rational to encourage people to do what Scripture forbids, regardless of how much they want to do it. If God says through Paul
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21)
then it is the height of irresponsibility to encourage people to go on with a little drunkenness, or bit of sorcery or some occasional sexual immorality on the assumption that their faith or other good works will override these sins and that God will forgive it all in the end. The truly loving and rational act is to warn people to stay away at all costs from these behaviors, because the pleasure that comes from them cannot possibly compensate for the loss of the kingdom of God. And if it takes ejecting some people from the church (and I do not restrict this group to the those who are sexually immoral) to make clear to them their peril (as Paul recommended in 1 Cor 5), then that is what love and reason should urge us to do. Though we can't say for sure, 2 Cor 2:5-8 appears to indicate that this strategy worked in Paul's case.