Category Archives: Ethics

Some Initial Thoughts on Charles Camosy’s Book on Abortion

Reading Charles Camosy’s book: “Beyond Abortion Wars: A way forward for a new generation.” Chapter one is statistically interesting. And I like it. Chapter 2 which I’m almost finished reading isn’t as appealing. Some old arguments there. Kneeft used them WAY back in the day. Talking 80’s. Basing arguments on natural law theory and a proper definition of “potential.” Ultimately, it seems as if Camosy’s is attempting to speak to a secular audience so he uses natural law arguments (self-evident rationalization?) over “religious”/philosophical arguments. My problem with this is that you HAVE TO come back to the question of personhood which is a religiously/philosophically based question. You can’t escape this. I really don’t do well with attempting to answer these kinds of questions without reference to religious/philosophical assumptions at their base level.

Let me give an example. Camosy wants to say that attempts to locate personhood is a grey area. The reason for this is similar to that time between day and night. We call that “dusk” but it isn’t fully day nor fully night. Neither is it less than day nor less than night. So which is it? For Camosy, personhood is murky water. However, on religious grounds,  going back as far as the Old Testament, according to some scholars, personhood begins at embodiment. And that’s it. We don’t have to go any farther back than that. We don’t have to ask about personhood with regard or reference to this “in-between” stage. Wherever you see HUMAN embodiment you see a person. You have a psychosomatic whole.

According to J.P.Moreland, in his book, “Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis of Ethics,”the soul or spirit can live without the body, but the body cannot live without the soul. This is called “substance dualism.” Personally, I don’t have any problems with this as it regards this question of personhood and the further ramifications for the abortion question (however, let’s keep in mind this is but a portion of the religious argument). The point being the concept of “psychosomatic whole”–this side of the coin of things. Not talking about whether we have to accept all the ramifications of substance dualism, but merely whether the body can exist on its own. So the question becomes, “When does embodiment occur?” That’s all we need to know. And when is that? The earliest point is conception according to these religious philosophers. If this is the case, then Camosy might want to ask if conception is a “moment” or a “process?” Is there a time/point the fertilized egg is in process of being embodied or is it a moment in time? It seems to me though, that whether it is a moment or a process, one cannot have embodiment until said event has occurred but said event (embodiment) begins at conception.

Non-Inclusion On a Personal Level

On the way to visiting my buddy Paul Joseph in Brantford this past weekend, I was thinking of this issue of inclusion again. We talked about it while we did some running around to get some errands done while I was there.

There is a website called “Love Without Agenda” run by Jimmy Spencer Jr.
“Love Without Agenda” is inclusionary in their core set of values, and one of the team members, in his bio, speaks of it in a way one speaks of Jesus or the Gospel. Here is what he says:

“JACOB WENTZEL / DEVELOPMENT WRITING & FORMATION My name Jacob Wentzel and I am a 25-year old native of the Chicago area who now resides in Bucktown. Since graduating from Loyola University Chicago with bachelor’s degrees in English and French literature in 2012,1 have been working at an office job, acquiring a masters of liberal arts at the University of Chicago, and pulsing, patiently, to become part of something significant, here and now, for the welfare of humanity. At the core of our initiative is the message of unconditional inclusion and equality within the human experience, which has also become the core belief of my personal philosophy From the start, I was raised to get along with all types of people, and was even particularly attracted to the misfits who were excluded by the mainstream. Then, about 12 years ago, when Spencer became my youth pastor, I found out what happens when the message of inclusion is applied to the place from which is should most radiate, but which more often practices exclusion: the Christian Church. As Spencer took his message of inclusion beyond the Church and as his initiative evolved over the years, I did whatever I could to help, including editing articles and essays in exchange for chorizo burritos. Meanwhile, I also ingested the message of inclusion through my pursuit of the liberal arts, which taught me the beauty and truth of a polyphonic community in which no voice is excluded or even hushed. As one who is constantly reflecting upon my immediate community and looking to solve its problems, I am eager to combat the evil of exclusion and to give a voice to all walks of life.”

I’m going to chalk some of Wentzel’s enthusiasm to age (he seems to have a world/global vision for he speaks about the “welfare of humanity” and combatting exclusion for all walks of life) but you can see how much inclusion means to Wentzel. It’s as if it isn’t even questioned. He LOVES inclusion. It’s almost as if he is having an orgasm. It’s as if this is what he lives for. THIS IS THE GOSPEL!

It’s understandable that some would think this way as they believe that Jesus was all about the marginalized. But let’s face it. Jesus had some that were closest to him while excluding others. And ALL of us don’t include EVERYONE in our close circle and we do it for several reasons. Some because of differences of opinion, some because of culture, sex, age, interests, etc. As a matter of fact, it is physically and humanly impossible to include everyone in our lives. And it isn’t “sinful” to not do so for the reasons given.

The modern Christian belief is that in the consummation of the ages we will all be loving everybody in Christ. There will be no hate. Everyone will be included. Perfect love will abound. How we come to that point is another post but for now, let’s simply accept that that will be the case. So, in the mean time, in the “all-ready-not-yet that we now live in, we are supposed to work toward that vision. In other words, we are supposed to be loving towards others NOW, based upon a future eschatology.

But let’s think of many of those reasons mentioned above as to why we don’t include others. And let’s think of this on a very personal relational level between the sexes. Say a person, wants to date someone but that other person doesn’t find them attractive for various reasons. Let’s just go with looks as the surface reason. Question: The person who rejects someone on that basis–is their negativity toward said person sin? I mean, it certainly doesn’t fall within the eschatological vision of where we love everyone. Most of us would say it isn’t sin even though it is VERY exclusionary. They simply are not attracted to the other person on a physical level and it is that lack of attraction (negativity) that is my main concern here. There could be other reasons. Economic. One person is poor while the other is not. That makes cause for lack of attraction. Negativity again. Is it not sin to exclude for those reasons? Is not that lack of attraction sin? Again, on a personal level, not many of us would say it is sin. We just accept that this is the way the world works. That this is the way of the world. And that we simply want to get on with our lives and live our lives from day to day.

If we are all ONE at some future point then I would suspect that whatever negativity that one has for excluding someone on a personal relational level ie., why they can’t be lovers, or included in their inner circle would not be the case at that point. ALL of that should be erased. Yet we accept that “negativity” now for personal reasons but not for thinking generally about Christian love and ethics for and towards all humankind as is the case in Wentzel’s spiel (to be exclusionary is the epitome of evil!).

The whole inclusionary vision, based as it is on what I think is a over-realized eschatology doesn’t work in the real world–the here and now. It doesn’t work between groups and it certainly doesn’t work on the personal level.

Maybe it is the case that the so-called “negativity” is not negative. Maybe that is the way we are wired and so we might want to tweak what we mean by inclusion and Christian love a little. That is, when we think of inclusion, maybe it should be viewed as all peoples, ethnicities, races, groups, etc, are simply included in the beatific vision. Either way, right now, it IS the case that we discriminate and don’t included on MANY levels.

Inclusiveness On Steroids

The whole inclusiveness ideology that many Christians tout today is based on a particular understanding of God’s love and Jesus’ mission in the world (Christ came to save everybody)–the whole, “he came to seek out the marginalized and we’re supposed to love everybody” thingy.

In saying this, many Christians don’t really have a problem with how their faith (and this particular theo/politico outlook) would play out with regard to public justice or individual justice. Essentially, for them, government was and is doing a good and just thing to end discrimination, ie., school integration and civil rights legislation, acceptance of LGBT folk, etc.

Interestingly, the whole top down approach to rid society of discrimination has not only been a failure historically but it really doesn’t make philosophical sense because it ignores that the attempt to eradicate “racism” (ie., attitudes) is much like the attempt to eradicate stupidity as well as it ends up creating a homogenized and uniformed society. That is, it “flattens” society. (James Kalb, “Against Inclusiveness”).

But there’s something else as well. Inclusiveness ignores human nature and how relationships work. What I mean is that you can’t like or “love” (in that sentimental sense) EVERYBODY. Does love (in this sentimental way) mean, for example, that a pastor will get along with everyone in his flock who is under his care? How exactly would a pastor “love” everyone in his congragation? Would he get along with EVERYBODY?Would he not have differences with parishoners? Would he not find some relationships like sandpaper–gritty that go against the grain? Does this not ignore how relationships work in real life situations? For example, most of these same inclusive Christians would have no problem with a couple who divorce for they realize the situation–that that couple are ultimately not reflecting the Triune love of the Godhead in their relationship. In other words, there is a less than perfect love there. As a matter of fact the best that a couple might be able to do is to reflect that love by not talk to each other and in this way seek out as much peace as POSSIBLE. In other words “as possible” means there is less than perfect love there. But maybe it has nothing to do with “less than perfect love.” Let’s say, said couple have different interests and are not compatible on other levels? Does it have to be a question that there is LESS THAN perfect love? Or does this not reflect the normality of the way that relationships work and are INTENDED to work?

So, if this happens on a personal level, why MUST we push the idea of inclusiveness on such a grand public scale? If the idea of a divorced Christian couple as not “inclusive” (of each other) is OK, why do we not allow for this on a societal/sociological scale? Let’s face it. People choose to hang with and befriend certain other people for various reasons. People clash with personalities. People don’t always feel comfortable in other groups. So what would be problematic with a pastor who chooses not to associate with certain people in his congregation ie., trust, personality issues, cultural differences, etc? Granted, some of this “lack of reconciliation” is due to sinful tendencies and impulses but some if not most of it isn’t. And it would certainly be hard to differentiate between the various reasons, as if there are hard and fast boundaries.

One may say, “Well we should TRY to be loving (which means inclusive) because ultimately in the new age to come we will be love each other.” This is inclusiveness from the other end of the spectrum–the eschatological end. But why must “loving” in this instance mean getting along, making-friends-with, everybody? Why can’t loving mean simply serving–without the sentimentalism? Why couldn’t a pastor serve those in his congregation by helping them connect with others whom are like minded (you know, birds of a feather flock together idea?) or connect them with those who can be loving in the way that these folk need to be loved? Would that not be loving even though the pastor doesn’t have the interior resources to love in that way? It seems to me that inclusiveness in the Christian community is an inclusiveness on steroids that does damage to the way relationships work and are intended to work.

Distinctions, Distinctives, Differences, Differentiation And Inclusion

I want to expand on my last post a bit.

It may be argued by some that we should be accepting and inclusive of the marginalized as this is what Jesus would do. Here’s my issue with that but let me first tell you what I’m NOT saying.

First, I’m NOT saying that folk should go out of their way to abuse, oppress or hate on others. If the child on the playground is being picked on, then one should personally come to their defense if it is prudent to do so. In some situations it might be better to wait for the teacher or the “authority”– the person in charge to come to the rescue. This may be an instance of the “greater good” argument that is spoken of in open theistic circles. So some circumstances call for wise action before actually doing ANYTHING which is to say that great harm could come to those while they/you are waiting for assistance. In some instances, it may call for getting rid of all protocol or what you should do in order to be of assistance to those who are helpless or oppressed or marginalized. However, in situations which are political (governmental), shedding the rules is for the most part not the wisest thing to do and so, one must work from within the political system to achieve certain objectives and goals. It’s simply the nature of the game.

Having said that, let me tell you what I AM saying. I am saying that not everyone is called to the same thing. Many progressives flip between “Church” and “church” effortlessly and without much thought which ends up, in my mind, confusing matters. What I mean is this. Should the “CHURCH” (capital C ie., universal Church, Bride of Christ) help the poor, relieve the oppressed and seek out the marginalized? Yes. Should the “church” (small c) help the poor, relieve the oppressed and seek out the oppressed? Not necessarily. What I mean by this has everything to do with what I said yesterday about relationships coming together naturally and what I’m going to say now: GIFTING.

Let me give an example of this. When I was growing up, my church started a food bank and clothing center across the street from where our church building was located. What happened was some people felt God laying it upon their heart to start such a ministry. In so doing, they wanted to have the blessing and assistance of the church leaders and the church as a whole. Well, my pastor (who has since passed away) was one of the coolest guys around. He was open to all kinds of things and “sending forth” the “labourers.” And for many years that “ministry” thrived.

But here’s the thing. Not everyone “felt called” to this particular ministry. As a matter of fact, not one pastor on the team was involved in that particular food and clothing ministry other than blessing it and giving any needed assistance to it through church funding, etc. And why were they and many others in the church NOT involved? Because it WASN’T THEIR THING. They didn’t feel called to it. They felt called to other areas of ministry such as worship leading, youth, cleaning, visitation (of the elderly and the sick in retirement homes), preaching, etc. You know why you do something that others don’t do and why others do something you don’t? Because of gifting. Everyone has different personality traits which are conducive to one thing and not another.

Now, can we HONESTLY say that though the pastors weren’t PERSONALLY involved in that food bank and clothing ministry that they REALLY weren’t involved? Can we honestly say that because only a few folk from the church were involved that the church (as a whole/other parishoners) WEREN’T involved? No. There was indirect support.

Well, let’s bring this up a level. So often today, there is this flipping between usages of Church (capital C) and church (small c). So when we speak of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage there are some churches that are not as accepting as other more progressive type churches (speaking mostly of evangelical churches here). They have rules and policies and faith statements for how they deal with this issue. So what is the problem with churches not accepting or being as inclusive in the way you (a progressive) would want? There are plenty of Christians who are “cut out” for that. Like those in that food and clothing ministry. There are plenty of CHURCHES cut out for that. Not all churches NEED to be inclusive. Why? Because all churches, like all Christians are different. What sets this church apart from that church are particular emphases of belief and rules, etc. Some churches are more accepting and inclusive than others and they have their reasons for being so.

Now, you may ask how this gels with the picture in Revelation where all peoples and all nations are before the throne. You may ask, “How would can you shoot for that sort of inclusiveness when you speak of so much distinctions, distinctives, differentiation, differences and people who are supposed to “naturally” get along or naturally “find themselves.” Well, that is the problem. Because the question assumes “inclusiveness on steroids.” Most everyone sees that eschatological picture and assumes that we are all going to love each other in the great by and by. Well, as a evangelical universalist, ultimately we will. Some will get to the other side and are not totally purged of ill feelings towards others. God will make them heaven ready. But aside from that, won’t those distinctions and distinctives and differences remain? Why assume that the Church universal is going to be some huge melting pot in THAT sense? Why not assume that this is simply stating that all will be there and that we will worship God in our OWN UNIQUE WAYS? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we will not ultimately love each other “naturally” because we will eventually get to that point. But that should not entail that we will not prefer to worship and celebrate Christ in our own unique ways we feel most comfortable with.

So to make this clear this relates to the issue of same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage how? Well, there are distinct churches that are more inclusive than others. Gay folk can find inclusion there. They more than likely won’t find inclusion in a more conservative congregation. God has inclusive churches and non-inclusive churches just as God has non-inclusive Christians and inclusive Christians who are more than willing to accept and affirm gay folk in ways that non-inclusive churches won’t. I say, let each serve God in the way they see fit as well as according to their strengths and giftings.

Does Remarriage Equal Continuous Adultery? The Connection With Same-Sex Marriage

Unless you have been living under a rock this past week, some interesting developments have occurred in the US–the one I speak of here is namely the issue of same sex marriage. All states in the Union had bans against same sex marriage lifted.

While I was at the gym yesterday my buddy Dwayne Polk got ahold of me on facebook messenger and wanted to know my thoughts on this Piper article that he posted which you can see here.

Essentially, the argument is that Piper believes that once you divorce and remarry then you are committing adultery. But then he believes that God sanctifies those relationships. So this is the first argument to prove another argument for same sex marriage.

That is, the second argument is that if once you remarry you are in adultery you are in CONTINUAL adultery and God allows for that, then what is problematic with allowing for gay marriage.

At this point, Dwayne says that if that is the case (which he believes it is) then those who don’t allow for same sex marriage but allow for heterosexual remarriage are hypocrites.

Here’s the point I made to my Dwayne.

First off, my interests lie with religion and politics/culture and how they mix. I’m also interested in Christian ethics. Yes, I’m interested in theology and I’ve come to hold to much of the same theology that Dwayne holds to but I’m more interested in the religion/politics question. I’m also a universalist, and I hold to open theism. So you really can’t put me in a “conservative camp” on some score sheet saying, “He’s a conservative.” When it comes to politics I don’t hold to conservative values on some issues and may seem more to the left with others to my conservative friends. This has to do with my believing in the Reform teaching of sphere sovereignty. For me, Abraham Kuyper’s overall schema makes the most sense and is part of the reason why I think there is a lot of confusion in the evangelical community over religion and politics ie., same-sex marriage, etc (yes, that comes straight from Jim Skillen’s book, “A Scattered Voice.”)

I said that to say this. As you may very well know there is a diversity of voices in the evangelical community. My interest lies in how we can get along or co-exist with each other (though getting along is nice it’s not priority in my book. Two can co-exist and not go out of their way to be nice). Being as that is the case, there have been differences of opinion on divorce and remarriage. And if THAT is the case, then there are some who don’t hold to Piper’s view (which incidentally was raised by Greg Boyd on the Open theism boards years ago and by William Heth in the “Four Views” book on divorce and remarriage (which by the way, I’m told by one biblical scholar, Heth has had a change of mind and no longer holds to that view).

Thus, if one holds to the view that scripture allows for divorce AND remarriage, then Piper’s, Boyds and Heth’s view fail. But for the same sex marriage view that uses the argument that one is in continuous adultery it specifically fails (Boyd and Polk). And thus, those who say you CAN remarry are NOT acting hypocritically. They only way you could say that someone is being hypocritical is because from WITHIN the remarriage=adultery view the logic holds.

So, does remarriage=divorce and along with it the argument that we should allow for same-sex marriage? My response is no. And why is that? Because, as I said, in the evangelical community there is more than one view on divorce and remarriage and Piper’s and Boyd’s and Heth’s are only ONE out of the four mentioned in the book (and let’s remember, that if we were to take into consideration the Catholic and Orthodox positions which are in some respects radically different than evangelical views, then we would still have disagreement with Piper’s, Boyd’s and Heth’s).

But why do I disagree with the Piper/Boyd view and disagree with the charge of hypocrisy? Because, I follow Craig Keener on this who is no fly by nighter scholar and would disagree with the remarriage as adultery view which you can read and listen to here and here. For Keener, when Jesus said that when you divorce and marry another you commit adultery he was using hyperbole and thus remarriage doesn’t mean continual adultery. Let me know what you think.

Capital Punishment and the Christian Faith

So Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is sentenced to death for the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and for killing a police officer. After reading, “Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call For Reckoning” I’m convinced that there is no real tension between the Christian faith and the death penalty. Having a little discussion on facebook with one of my friends, Keith Pavilschek I made mention of what Gilbert Meilaender said:

“Evidently Christian sensibilities about forgiveness do not actually require forgiveness, since something called “punishment” is still permitted.”

Apparently some Christians (and yes, I’ve seen them in the media) believe that forgiveness requires no death penalty. But for some reason, it would require punishment. Hmmmm…thinking there is a contradiction there when forgiveness is your bottomline. Keith pointed out that,

“if the death penalty is ‘state sanctioned murder’ as some abolitionists insist, is imprisonment ‘state sanctioned kidnapping’?

and I pointed out

“And how about the ’emotional abuse’ one ‘suffers’ when one is stuck in a prison for the rest of their days”

On Racism

My buddy Tom Belt wrote an interesting piece on racism that you can view here.

I do have a couple of things to say about this though.

A. Dwayne and Tom see systemic racism to be a failure to truly love someone because of self-perception. I really don’t know if I would identify this as the “systemic” portion of racism. Of course, one could say the same thing about blacks against whites. One could also say the same thing about sexism. The list could go on and on. Not trying to say this is not true. As a matter of fact I do see this as a pretty plausible explanation. But an explanation that seems to have to fit into a wider view of justice.
B. Some Christians are fond of saying that Christian morality should not be forced on to others. Something like, “You can’t force non-Christians to love” through law. So, if this is a Christian understanding of racism, I would like to know how this could ever be reflected in law. Should such a view be encoded in law? COULD it be reflected in law? Sure, a non-Christian may not be able to love the way they should if the Spirit was guiding them, but I tend to think that the Spirit is still at work in unbelievers as well as I tend to think that if a view such as this was encoded in law, it may be able to be done without the Christian trappings. In other words, how could we all perceive ourselves as “one?” Forget law. Just put it in policing policies.
C. I do think that this explanation is helpful with regard to responding to the question that was actually proposed to me on Facebook: “Do you think the police want to kill others?”

I don’t think these question are irrelevant. I think the questions Tom raises is one side of the coin while my thoughts are the other side. Theirs is theoritical. Mine is trying to see this as an outworking in law and policing policy. I’ve been guided by a saying that goes something like this:

“Justice fulfills what love cannot.” You can start out with love–looking at what the problem is or what you think the problem is. You can come up with solutions, ie., deal with the self-perception issue, ., ie, we’re all one. But it also needs to have a practical outworking–justice.