Archive for the ‘Ethics’ Category

Image via 499716-oh-so-i-m-a-judgmental-hypocrite-how-so-very-non-judgmentally-hypocritical-of-you

It is becoming nearly impossible for Christians to express an opposing viewpoint in the public square, thanks mostly to the redefinition of a very important word in our society: “tolerance”.

The original definition of tolerance had three important statements:

“1) Permitting or allowing
2) a conduct or point of view one disagrees with
3) while respecting the person in the process.” (1)

This whole process assumes disagreement over an idea. It is amusing, as well as frustrating, to be attacked personally with ad hominem attacks by people who are proclaiming tolerance.

The new definition of tolerance basically means:

1) accepting and embracing
2) a conduct or point of view which one can never disagree with,
3) while never respecting the person who transgresses point 1and 2.

It was Peter Kreeft who penned this little ditty:

“Be egalitarian regarding persons.
Be elitist regarding ideas.”

As a culture, the “spiritual not religious” crowd has turned this statement on its ear. From simple observation, one gets the idea that we are to be elitist towards persons, and egalitarian towards ideas.

I realize there have been Christians guilty of personal attacks against individuals, but in this author’s humble opinion, most Christians are only guilty of being elitist towards ideas. We are very aware of how painful it is to be labeled by the intellectually-lazy. It’s easy to hurl personal insults. It takes blood, sweat, and tears to do the homework necessary to engage someone honestly and civilly with an opposing view.

At the center of this redefinition is moral relativism. There is no objective moral truth. All points of view are equally valid, unless you disagree that all points of view are equally valid.

The other word that is hurled at Christians who believe in objective moral truth is “judgmental”. We are constantly being labeled judgmental, simply for the fact that we consider certain ethical and moral precepts to be binding on all people. Most of the time, these same precepts were considered normative less than a generation ago. Simply telling someone they’re wrong is enough to elicit outrage. Chastising someone for lack of self-control, either in their behavior or their language is equivalent to physical assault. We are “shoving religion down someone’s throat” for pointing out that said someone is morally responsible to God and man for their behavior. Cultural totalitarianism is setting us up for governmental totalitarianism.

The group most guilty of this “reverse intolerance” are the dabblers in religion. These are the “spiritual not religious”, who like to partake of superficial tidbits of the various religions of the world, without committing to any particular faith. They love to quote religious platitudes, but refuse to wrestle with the truth claims of the various religions. They post religious memes, but denigrate religious creeds. Their religion is “kindness”, but their attitude towards those with objective morals is anything but kind.

In light of this, I leave you with a few quotes that communicate my point in a much more eloquent manner.

“Judgment works both ways… If love means never making a judgment, shouldn’t that go both ways? It’s impossible to be neutral on important ethical issues.”
-Melinda Penner, Stand To Reason Blog

“A judicial action, a factual assessment, a hypocritical arrogance — all are judgments. Only the third is disqualified by Jesus. The first two are actually virtues in their proper settings and therefore commanded by Scripture. Those are the scriptural facts.”
-Gregory Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan For Discussing Your Christian Convictions

“Most of what passes for tolerance today is nothing more than intellectual cowardice, a fear of intelligent engagement. Those who brandish the word “intolerant” are unwilling to be challenged by other views or grapple with contrary opinions, or even to consider them. It’s easier to hurl an insult—”you intolerant bigot”—than to confront an idea and either refute it or be changed by it. In the modern era, “tolerance” has become intolerance.”
-Greg Koukl, “The Intolerance of Tolerance”, http://www.townhall.com

“It is better to be divided by Truth, than to be united in error. It is better to speak the Truth that hurts and then heals, than to speak a lie that will comfort and then kill. It is better to be hated for telling the Truth, than to be loved for telling a lie. It is better to stand alone with the Truth, than to be wrong with a multitude. Better to ultimately die with the Truth, than to live with a lie.”
-Adrian Rogers

“These days it’s not just that the line between right and wrong has been made unclear, today Christians are being asked by our culture today to erase the lines and move the fences, and if that were not bad enough, we are being asked to join in the celebration cry by those who have thrown off the restraints religion had imposed upon them. It is not just that they ask we accept, but they now demand of us to celebrate it too.”
-Ravi Zacharias

“It is fashionable these days to claim to be spiritual but not religious. And why not? The dictionary tells us that the word religion stems from two Latin roots re + ligare, the latter of which means to bind, to tie up. To be religious means to bind oneself to a particular body of beliefs of which one is not the author. It means to accept that one is personally bound to a way of life and faith to which one submits or, more scandalously, to which one has been committed by others, most notably by one’s parents or sponsors at baptism.

This binding character of religion is difficult for our contemporaries to make sense of, given the modern predilection for attaching personal obligations to the voluntary principle and the concomitant suspicion of all duties we have not freely assumed. We would prefer to go up to the spiritual smorgasbord, sampling a little of “the Quran, Black Elk, Lao-tse or Starhawk” without actually becoming a committed Muslim, Native Spiritist, Taoist or earth goddess worshipper. Many of us like to dabble in exotic spiritualities without having to identify with any one of them.”
-David T. Koyzis, “THE DABBLERS’ INTOLERANCE”

http://www.firstthings.com/index.php?permalink=blogs&blog=firstthoughts&year=2012&month=10&&entry_permalink=the-dabblers-intolerance

1. Koukl, Gregory. “Gregory Koukl – The Intolerance of Tolerance.” townhall.com. Townhall, 14 Dec. 2006. Web. 22 May 2014.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams

Advertisements

Please catch up with my posts in this series here.

When I was much younger, I made the following comment to my wife, in jest, of course, because young men are invincible, and think they’re immortal.

“If something happens to me, and I’m on a ventilator, don’t you give up on me…it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

It was a frivolous statement I should have never made. Recent events have made me realize how cruel a burden that statement was to place on a loved one. I am thankful my loved ones have not had to make that kind of decision. My hope is that as I work through this, I can come to a better plan than that.

What Is A Worldview?

We need to begin by backtracking a minute and make a clear definition of what exactly a worldview is.

“So what is a worldview? Essentially this: A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) that we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”1

A worldview is basically your philosophy of life or your conception of the world. It is the accumulation of your presuppositions and beliefs, and how you look at reality. 

“In the simplest terms, a worldview may be defined as how one sees life and the world at large. In this manner it can be compared to a pair of glasses. How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person’s “vision,” so to speak. The interpretive “lens” helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Sometimes the lens brings clarity, and other times it can distort reality.”2

A friend of mine gave me some really good tickets to the Alabama/UTC football game last year. My son and I were excited to go to Tuscaloosa and see the Crimson Tide in person. When I was leaving, I picked up what I thought were my glasses from the bathroom. I noticed that all the way to Tuscaloosa from here in North Georgia, I was having trouble seeing, and then I got a headache. My son was wondering what was wrong with me, when I couldn’t make out the names on the jerseys. Finally, I took of my glasses and looked…I had my daughters glasses on. When you’re half-blind, one set of frames that are similar look the same, but mine had bling-haha.

My point is that the philosophical “lens” you look through is either one you have considered, pondered over, and chosen for yourself (as I did my spectacles at Lenscrafters), or you’re wearing someone else’s “lenses”, or worse yet, you’re wearing worldview “glasses” that are made up of a hodgepodge of different “isms” that mix about as well as oil and water.

Seven Worldview Questions

Maybe you picked up a little “Christianism” in Sunday School. Then you added some good ol’ Pragmatism from American culture. Throw in some Romanticism, and mysticism, and you’ve got yourself one messed up set of worldview glasses. It’s no wonder you can’t make heads-or-tails out of basic worldview questions. James Sire lists seven basic questions all worldviews must answer. They are:

1  What is the nature of Ultimate Reality?- Is there a god? Is He Personal? Can I know Him?

2.  What is the nature of material reality?“Does matter exist? Is what we see an illusion? 

  • Is it created or uncreated?
  • Is it orderly or chaotic?
  • Is it subjective or objective?
  • Is it personal or impersonal?
  • Is it eternal or temporal?”3

3.  What is the nature of humanity?Is he merely a machine? Does he have immaterial parts? Is he a god? Is he a created being? 

4. What happens when you die? “Here are some of the answers that various worldviews give concerning life after death.

  • People cease to exist.
  • Individuals are transformed to a higher state.
  • People reincarnate into another life on earth.
  • People depart to a shadowy existence on “the other side.”
  • Individuals enter into the spiritual realm (heaven, hell, or other place) based on how life was lived on earth.
  • People enter directly into heaven.”4

5.  How do we know anything, or can we know anything at all? “These are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with the issue of knowledge.

  • Consciousness and rationality developed through a long process of evolution.
  • There is no “reason” that human beings are able to have knowledge. That is just the nature of our existence.
  • Knowledge is an illusion.
  • Humans are made in the image of God who, himself, has knowledge.”5

6.  What about ethics? Can anyone one really know right from wrong? Here are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with this issue.

  • Right and wrong are strictly products of human choice.
  • Right and wrong are determined by what feels good.
  • A sense of right and wrong was an evolutionary development as a survival mechanism for the species.
  • Right and wrong are learned by experience as we learn what pleases the gods.
  • We are made in the image of God whose character is good and who has revealed what is right.”6

7.  What is the meaning of human life and history?Some of the various worldviews deal with this by asserting:

  • There is no innate meaning to human history. Meaning is what humans make it to be.
  • Time is an illusion.
  • Meaning involves realizing the purpose of the gods.
  • Meaning results from discovering and fulfilling the purpose of God.”7

8. James Sire lists one more question that makes the point about a worldview being a matter of the heart, and not just an abstract exercise: “What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?”8

It’s very important that you understand your own worldview, and the worldviews of those around you, especially those who can affect your life significantly, such as your physicians, politicians, educators, etc.

As Christian we are told:

1 Peter 3:15

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

You can’t make a defense to questions you haven’t worked through yourself. If you’ve ever tried to have a serious conversation with someone, and discovered you have no common point of reference, you have crashed into the worldview wall. Some of the most frustrating people I have ever tried to dialogue with are militant atheistic naturalists, and postmodern Christian Emergents. This is a clash of worldviews. If you don’t think that it’s important to understand different worldviews, consider this:

1611194_10202046474975690_69437121_oIn the past few weeks, my family has had to deal with the life and death situation of a loved one. In dealing with one particular doctor at a step-down facility that was supposed to wean my loved off of a ventilator, it became abundantly clear that there was a clash of worldviews. Our philosophy was that she should be cared for, medicated, and sustained with a ventilator, and heroic measures of resuscitation would not be employed. The doctor at the facility did not think it necessary to continue treating our family member as a human being needing compassion, but treated her like an animal needing to be put-down.

WORLDVIEWS MATTER!

Seven Worldviews That Developed After The Disintegration Of Christian Theism As the Dominant Worldview

James Sire, in his book The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, lists the following worldviews that have developed as the Christian Theistic worldview has disintegrated in the last 3 centuries:

  1. Deism Advocating either an impersonal force or deity, or a personal god that created the cosmos, but who doesn’t interfere with the laws of nature. The miraculous is denied. Reason is basically deified.
  2. Naturalism- Anti-supernatural; all phenomena can be explained by natural  or scientific causes.
  3. Nihilism Traditional values are useless; existence is meaningless; no objective truth or morality. Proponents: Max Stirner, Friedrich Nietzsche, 
  4. Existentialism- focuses on the existence of the individual, and the responsibility of humans with freewill and self-determination. Proponents: Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre
  5. Eastern Mysticism
  6. New Age
  7. Islam

When dealing with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Objective Moral Truth, and the Sanctity of Life, especially when dealing with medical issues related to end-of-life care, understanding which worldview you are coming into conflict with as a Christian becomes something more than just an academic endeavor. Your loved one’s life may depend on your recognition of worldviews, and the questions you should be asking. As an exercise, just watch the news. Notice presuppositions, and how they relate to the seven worldview questions. It won’t take you terribly long to learn how to discern someone’s worldview. Asking the right questions, and listening to the answers could keep you from misinterpreting a medical professional. Trust me, it’s important.

“Despite the persistent boast that America is the most religious country in the Western world, the Christian worldview and Christian ethics are under attack by the dominant secular culture. The tactics employed by secularists vary from belittling religious belief in general to ridiculing Christian believers themselves.”10

1. Sire, James. “What Is a Worldview?” Christianity.com. Salem Web Network, 05 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.christianity.com/blogs/russell-moore/what-is-a-worldview-11627153.html&gt;.

2. Samples, Kenneth R. “Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview?” Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview? Reasons To Believe, 01 Jan. 2007. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.reasons.org/articles/what-in-the-world-is-a-worldview&gt;.

3. Sire, James W. The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1997. Print. Kindle edition.

4. Sire, ibid.

5. Sire, ibid.

6. Sire, ibid.

7. Sire, ibid.

8. Sire, ibid. Loc. 178

9. Sire, ibid.

10. Slick, Matt. “What Is a Christian World View and Why Do Christians Need One?” CARM. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://carm.org/what-christian-world-view-and-why-do-christians-need-one&gt;.

Note: Much help in my journey through the murky waters has been given by:

Blocher, Mark B. “Christian Worldview and Medical Ethics, Part 2.” Lifemattersww.org/. Center for Biblical Bioethics, 2004. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

My next post in this series will continue my family’s personal struggle with  bioethics in my critically ill loved one’s continuing saga.

simul justus et peccator,

Eric Adams

The Door, that no one is happy to be standing in front of.

The Door, that no one is happy to be standing in front of.

Know When To Fight

In my previous posts, I began a discussion, based on a personal dilemma being faced by my own family, dealing with end-of-life ethics. I intend to be more personal in this post. My hope is that as I work through this emotional and personal struggle, that we can come to some conclusions based on a Christian worldview, and perhaps prepare better for end-of-life scenarios, and prepare better to know when to fight for the life of a loved one. This journey is open-ended. I don’t know where my loved one’s journey will take her or us. We will learn as we go. Hopefully, someone may be helped through this.

My emotions are raw, and I’m feeling numb and exhausted. I am my brother-in-law’s wing-man, and even though he is the one feeling the full weight of this horrible situation, I am close enough to sense the powerlessness and confusion of it all. The endless hours; the feelings of hopelessness; the anger when the step-down facility thinks a DNR means “do not help the patient at all”; and having to be the grieving spouse, critical care nurse, respiratory therapist, clinical ethicist, nurse motivator, and hospital janitor, all at the same time. Lack of sleep, lack of peace, lack of human contact, lack of food, and lack of encouragement, takes its toll. You can’t concentrate when you try to work, and you can’t sleep when you have the opportunity, because your brain won’t stop working. In the step-down facility you’re there 24 hours a day. In the CCU, you’re making three trips a day.

My loved one has been ill more seriously and longer than any of us are probably aware. She’s struggled with weight-related issues, endometrial cancer, circulatory problems, and pulmonary issues. She was more than likely dealing with COPD, and some form of Pneumonia before she contracted the bug that broke the patient’s back.

Enter the flu. From listening to doctors and nurses, I know that most people who die from the flu, usually don’t actually die from the flu. The flu saps up all of the energy and immunity, leaving any pre-existing or opportunistic condition to run rampant, unimpeded. It’s the secondary illnesses that get you. That is what happened to my loved one. She contracted the flu, which sapped her already compromised immunity, which in turn allowed pneumonia and other infections to turn into a somatic forest fire..

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Critical Illness

I have gone back on Facebook and noted the posts from her husband as she began her unwanted journey.

Dec. 14, 2013- “At the Doc with _______. Temp of 103.1 this AM. Tylenol brought it down to 100.8. O2 was in the low 80’s (on 2lpm /nc now) and up to 88. Might mean a trip to the ER. No evidence of pneumonia though and negative for Flu.”

He got her in to see the doctor, who immediately sent her to Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga.

“So the DX is back on __________. Pneumonia and some other condition?? that has caused them to do CPK~MB’s 4 times now and put her on a Heparin drip. Prayers would be greatly appreciated.”

Dec. 16, form my wife’s wall: “I don’t ask for prayers on Facebook too much but would appreciate some for my sis in law ______. She is in Memorial right now with Influenza A, the nasty flu, pneumonia, and some other not so good things going on. I know ________ is worn out and would appreciate prayers as well.”

My B-inlaws wall: “Being transferred to the cardiac care unit. Waiting on a bed.”

Later the same day: “So it got worse. Being intubated r/t respiratory failure. Critical labs, high risk for more nastiness ahead. The dominoes keep falling. Going to be admitted to ICU. Kills me that she said “please just get me out of here” and “please don’t leave me” as they were pushing me out. Sometimes life sucks.”

And later: “Intubation successful. Next domino is renal function at 40%, but heart rate is down from 125 to 95 and she’s not having to fight to breathe. Now comes the next battle to cure the multi-bacterial infections. Blood cultures back tomorrow to get a better picture. IV Azithromax and Rocephin are useless as M&M’s at this point.”

Dec. 17, B-inlaws wall: “So first off, I am so grateful for everyone’s prayers._________ is still sedated and intubated. Docs had me agree today to a tracheotomy and vent when she is out of danger from infections. Say she is stable but critical. Having a little difficulty keeping heart rate down. Thought she was coming out of sedation, so the increased the Diprivan. Had been in the 140’s. Now in the one teens . Only let me see her 4 hrs a day. Won’t let me in when they arouse her to check her functioning hand grips, eye blinks, etc. ’cause they tell me she might have a bad time with it. Keep praying, and thank you all so much.”

From Dec. 18th:_______ is stable this morning. Very wet lung sounds. Labs are midline and infections still raging. They stopped the Diprivan so I could talk to her. She opened her eyes and was able to nod and shake her head for yes and no. She understood about what was happening. She wants to get better. She hurts all over, but pain can be a friend too. Having no feeling would be bad. The Doctors are about ready to do the trach and vent. She would be less sedated unless she had anxiety issues. I told her I was agreeing to the trach and vent and she nodded her head yes. God’s grace and faithfulness are beyond my comprehension. Her nurse this morning, Ariel, is going for his masters and specializes in ______’s type of multiple complications. He Is going to give her sedation vacations for the next times I’m in the room so we can spend time together. She was calm and handled it as well as could be expected. We are still deep in the woods with a long, long path to travel. Please continue your prayers, for her in general and then specifically that her lungs would clear and that her respiratory failure would resolve. Please know that I love you all and believe that your faithfulness in praying is what is getting us through this.”

Dec. 19: “So, the word of the day seems to be “uneventful”. From where we were, Uneventful is good. Tomorrow at 4 PM the trach goes in. The Doctor had to give me all the information and negative potentials because of informed consent. I know what they are, but it’s just like the Miranda law: if they don’t say it, it doesn’t count. What the people here in the waiting rooms need, myself included, is hope along with the facts. I’ve been talking to some folks who are alone, no other support here. One man in particular whose wife (67) was brought in Monday with a similar situation to ______’s. He kept saying “I don’t understand what they are telling me”. I did my best to simplify, not really caring so much if I was overstepping my bounds (we all know what a know-it-all reputation I have). Last night the man thanked me and said he understood what the doctor told him yesterday and understands what he can expect. SO, if God can use my bent toward being a know-it-all to give even one person peace, I feel He can forgive the occasional stuffiness. 
For my sweet ________,  I know she hears me, because her pulse changes. My sister__________saw evidence of that last night. So what us next? We wait and we keep praying. Thank you all so much again.”

Later on the 19: “They have reduced _________  propofol from 50 to 25 mcg/kg/min. She opened her eyes once and responded to my saying I was there. Her hands are gloved, but she is a strong woman. I told her to relax and tomorrow was going to be better. She swallowed twice and tried to visibly relax. This better go well. I don’t need more non-fun happening. Keep praying.And thank you all.”

Dec. 20: “Today is a big day. Tube out, trach in. The first visit of the day is always scary. Gonna be glad to have her off sedation when today is over. Not gonna think about anything but all the positives ahead. 6 minutes til I see her. Thanks for your continued prayers.”

Later on the 20th: “It’s after 6 and no word yet.________’s surgery could have started late. Trying to find something to do to keep from running up the walls. Have puzzle book, thanks to _____________, have you guys, my sister____________, and Eric Adams are keeping me company, and I have my faith. Maybe I should have learned to roller blade.”

And later:_________ is Out of surgery. Lungs collapse a bit, but airway establish. Dr Hunt says she looks much more comfortable. Don’t know if out of sedation at 8:30-9:30 visitation time. May have to wait until tomorrow. Thank you all so much and please keep praying for her continued healing.”

Dec. 21: “Citrobacter Amalonaticus is one if the little devils. It seems to be very nasty and decided when the flu hit it would join the party. Labs slowly returning to normal. Doc says she’s changing __________’s type of sedative so she be more awake. It’s a process and a long road. I appreciate you guys traveling it with us.”

After the tracheotomy, on the 21st: “Goodbye Propofol, hello Precedex. Lighter sedation. Was awake and acknowledged me. Very weak. Infection still raging insanely. Gonna have to figure out communication. She understands me, but I’m having to learn Greek. I did that once and it was tough. As __________ gets stronger things will become easier. For now I am happy for the few moments between the many minutes. Keep believing with me. God bless you all.”

Later on the same day: “Back with ________again. My mom and dad, _______ and _________, my sister ___________, and niece __________ are here with me. Labs still mostly good, but infections have caused temp to soar. 102.3 now but doc wants to see how high it will go without tmt; cutoff point of 102.5. Hello. Almost there. Bring on the Tylenol. Opened her eyes and acknowledged we are here. But so weak. I can’t even imagine. Please continue with us and lift my girl up in church tomorrow. Many thanks and God bless.”

Later, Dec. 21: “Okay. So call me bossy Betty. Told the nurse temp at 102.5 so we probably need to start the Tylenol. And elbow against the rail, on your next turn we can get that repositioned. And the BP readings were a little off but when you go back in you’ll see the cuff needs to be repositioned. Great. I’m becoming one of those family members. But I made sure to say thank you for all you are doing. Oh well. Love you guys.”

From my wall, on the 22nd: “______’s temp. Was down to 99.0 when I left. Her respiration was down to about 81 from 96 earlier in the week. They have reduced her sedation to .3 mg/hr. Her blood pressure was excellent. 

The best news of all is that she was responsive today, and even asked if they had done the tracheotomy. She also responded when the nurses told her about how many visitors she had. 

Another good sign- they had her ventilator set for 18 breaths per minute, but she was actually breathing 22 pet minute, which means she is attempting to breathe on her own, a very good sign. A good but exhausting day for both ______ and__________. — feeling confident.”

My B-inlaw on Dec. 22: “Going back to see___________ at 8:30. She has improved since last I posted. Vitals normalizing. Temp 98.8, albeit with cooling blanket and fans in place. Weaning off Precedex so will be on prn sedative tonight. She roused enough to ask the nurse if she was trached. Propofol and short-term memory aren’t buddies, so it’s gonna be a shock when she is awake enough to realize everything. Vent still 45% O2, but hoping with improvements we can slowly wean. Still way over 17 on WBC’s. Waiting on culture of picc line. Still deep in the woods, but we see one of those boy scout trail markers saying “It’s that way”. Much, much appreciation for your continued concern and prayer as we search for the clearing. You guys are great. God bless you and thank you for your belief and graciousness.”

Later the same day: “So now the good news. _________ was awake and alert. Had no idea what had happened or how long. Thought she had missed Christmas. When I told her about what all of you have done and the prayers thoughts, wishes and love you’ve sent, she beamed. You guys have made what started out as a scary day into something wonderful and I cannot express my gratitude. Gonna start Levophed to see if we can’t get the low Mean Arterial Pressure (in the 50’s) back to a safe level. God bless and good night.”

From my wife’s wall on the 25th: “Merry Christmas! Hope all my friends have a wonderful big happy Christmas! I am surrounded by my family, watching _________ work diligently to figure out my new phone, as I type this on my brand new Laptop, kids all exhausted from opening gifts and now chilling out! Fixing to head to _______ Hospital to see _______ and ________and spread some Christmas cheer!”

From my daughter’s wall on Christmas Day: “Spending time with __________  for Christmas! Hoping to brighten up her room a little with presents and notes and flowers:) “

My B-inlaw on the 30th: “As I sit at___________ Hospital with __________, I recall a time when _____ and _____________ served at our church in Ft Oglethorpe, Ga. One particular sermon spoke of pillars and caterpillars. The pillars helped support the church, the caterpillars just crawled in and out every week. The same is true in nursing. A burned out nurse is like the caterpillar, crawling in and out on routine, no passion, no urging of their call to help others heal. Pray that God will rejuvenate and rekindle the first love that nurses require to serve others; and pray that God will crop dust those in their care with the blood of Jesus to protect and heal until a fire of passion is rekindled in the hearts of those who, through overwork, understaffing, and stress have lost the love for their calling.”

You can follow the ups and downs of our current crisis. I am recording this on my blog so my family can have a single place to go to work back through this emotional roller coaster. Making sense of all of this is going to take a strong faith, an informed faith, and a reasonable faith. I will continue the more personal details a couple of posts from now.

Think First, Then Feel

For now, think about your family. Think about facing some very critical ethical issues. If you are a Christian, think about the grid you will use to prepare for a difficult moment, maybe a decision that will mean the end of someone’s life, and who will decide. How will you decide? How much will you depend on the medical community for that decision? How much will you depend on your Pastor, or fellow church members? How much will you depend on family and friends for advice? How much will you depend on a sound Biblical worldview rooted in Scripture, and the historic Christian faith? Does your worldview mater? Soes the worldview of the doctor, hospital, and government matter? We will probe these things together in future posts. I don’t have any easy answers. I don’t know that there are easy answers to these types of questions. We will approach them nonetheless. 

My next post will be more theological, but I wanted to record the ups and downs of my loved ones, so you know that these issues are not theoretical. I also want my family members to have a written record of our painful trek.

Thank you for your time.

simul iustus et peccator, 

 
Eric Adams 
Rossville, GA 
godsguy12@comcast.net 
christianreasons@gmail.com 

Pôr_do_sol_(4)a

Bioethics from a Christian Perspective

In my previous post, I wrote about my purpose for starting this series. Today, I want to begin to explore bio-ethics from a Christian perspective. 

Most discussions about any type of bio-ethics begins by covering autonomy. I’m no bioethicist, but I’ll do my best.

The way normal secular medical ethics proceeds is on the principles of:

  1. Autonomy,
  2. Beneficence,
  3. non-maleficence,
  4. and Justice

These aren’t magical formulas, as the current debates demonstrate. Not everyone agrees on each of these principles. It takes a unifying moral theory, or philosophy, or theological perspective to make the parts weave together into a coherent whole.

“In medical ethics, the principle of autonomy is viewed as essential to patients rights. Flowing from it are the right to informed consent, the right to self-determination, the right to refuse medical treatment, and so on. These rights are grounded in the principle that human beings deserve respect. Autonomy is crucial to the doctor-patient relationship.”1

That’s all fine and good, but, as the struggle to recognize the rights of the unborn show, deciding exactly who is a person is not that clear-cut to some.

Imago Dei

Of course, for Christians, that’s a no-brainer. After God’s creative acts in the Genesis creation accounts, man becomes the crowning jewel of creation. Although man has many attributes in common with animals, there is one thing that is unique about him. God breaks the pattern of creating things after their own kind.

Genesis 1:24-26

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. 25 God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Man is made in the image of God. The Latin phrase for that is Imago Dei. 

Man, like God, is a personal being. God Himself, as the Bible later reveals, is three persons all sharing one divine essence. Human persons are created beings, and in that regard (as in others) they are similar to and share characteristics with other created beings. But what is most important about human persons is their likeness to God. This likeness is so very special that it sets them apart from all the other creatures God made. Man is not made according to their kinds; he is made according to God’s “kind.” In other words, man is made as the image and likeness of God.’ 2 

From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343

Even though man and woman fell from their lofty position, and that Imago Dei was marred, it wasn’t entirely destroyed. Part of the Noahide Laws prohibit murder on the basis of the Imago Dei.

Genesis 9:6

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man.

Autonomy

Because he images God, man has the ability to be self-determined, or has autonomy. Autonomy literally means “self-law” in the Greek. It was the philosopher Immanuel Kant who coined the phrase “autonomy”, but it was a Biblical principle long before he came on the scene. 

“If morality is to be derived from freedom (autonomy), and if morality must be valid for all rational beings, it looks as if we must prove that the will of a rational being is necessarily free. From a practical point of view every rational agent must presuppose his will to be free. Freedom is a necessary presupposition of all action as well as all thinking.” 3

Autonomy is basic to Western society and thought. In fact, autonomy has become so enshrined in American thought that it frequently turns  into crass individualism. As Christians, we should always balance the rights of the individual with the responsibility of a vocation in community as spouse, parent, family, church, and citizen. None of us are autonomous beyond the natural boundaries of the physical and moral laws set by our Creator. 

“Autonomy is a function that arises only for a rational, moral agent capable of understanding that there are actions he or she is not free to choose.”4

It’s only as rational moral creatures that our autonomy is at best, limited. Unfortunately, there exists today a form of Liberalism that seeks to throw off all community restraint, in favor of a morally groundless, amorphous, vague concept of unprovable “rights”. Trust me, if a state can “give” you rights, it can take them away, as well.

There is tension between the autonomy of the patient, and the autonomy of the doctor. Learning where to draw the line is the difficult part.

Bioethics and the Ten Commandments

As creatures made in the image of God, humanity is to be treated with respect. Because of the Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation motifs found in the Christian worldview, Christians have the unique moral foundation to rationally discuss the meaning of “personhood” and “human dignity”. The Ten Commandments serves as an excellent grid to address morality in light of fallen humanity.

Exodus 20:1-17

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

20 Then God spoke all these words, saying,

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

13 “You shall not murder.

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

15 “You shall not steal.

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

Please don’t waste your time and mine complaining that this is Old Testament. Jesus reaffirmed each of these commandments Himself, even the Sabbath commandment, which we interpret as applying to Sunday, or some other day of rest.

Luther’s Three Uses of the Law

I appreciate the way the Lutherans view the Ten Commandments. The Second Table of the Law particularly interests me in dealing with ethical problems. It’s always helpful to remember the three uses of the Law as found in Martin Luther’s writings: 

  1. “A curb to keep society in order”
  2. “A mirror to show us our sin”
  3. “And a guide for Christian service to our neighbor”.
The Curb of the Law

I will be quoting from an interesting webpage entitled The Curb of the Law: A Voter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments. It looks at that first use of the Law in relation to voting, but its discussion fits in well with our discussion of bioethics.

We remember, first of all, that the Ten Commandments are given to protect God’s gifts. He created all things good. The Lord want for us good things. We see in the commandments both the gifts that God gives as well as His desire to protect them.”
Understanding the gifts that God gives clarity to the role of government: law and the rule of law serves to protect the gifts of God. And, those serving in government love their neighbor by protecting these same gifts and making and enforcing laws that do the same. “

The fourth commandment is the source of all human government. Before there was the state, and even before there was the church, there was the family: Adam and Eve. It is from the family, then, that authority comes.

In the Large Catechism, Martin Luther says, “For all authority flows and is propagated from the authority of parents.” (I.141) In this way we understand the commandment to honor our father and mother to include all the authorities in creation, including the government. On the other hand, this commandment puts all government in its proper place: serving and protecting families.”5

Authority Flows From the Family to Government, not Vice Versa

All authority flows from the family. This is especially important when confronted with doctors pressure you to do something you’re not ready to do. I have experienced this firsthand. The decision of life or death belongs in the hands of the family. Period. The governments place is to serve and protect families.

The fifth commandment sets government to protect the Lord’s gift of life.

I often hear people talking about quality of life. The Bible knows of no such thing. The Lord has not given to mankind the authority to judge if life is worth living. Life is life, no matter how good or bad it is. Let me be clear, discussions about the quality of life are idolatrous, it assumes that life is here for us to take, measure, judge and even end.

The right to life is the most fundamental human right. Our blatant disregard for human life will mark this as one of the darkest ages of human history. The blood of millions of babies will certainly reach the ears of our heavenly Father. The Lord’s church continues to pray for an end to this mindless slaughter, and to use every opportunity she is given to help save the lives of babies in the womb. Voting is one of those opportunities to love our neighbor, especially our unborn neighbors.”6

My exhausted brother-in-law waiting for a visit with his wife in the CCU

My exhausted brother-in-law waiting for a visit with his wife in the CCU

If you notice the conversations of knowledgeable Christians, they always bookend beginning-of-life ethics (abortion) with end-of-life ethics (euthanasia). It is a gut reaction based on our understanding of the Sanctity of Life, which flows from the Ten Commandments and the Imago Dei. 

All of this discussion may seem stale and academic, until you face the emotional turmoil of trying to make an ethical decision about someone’s life that is important to you. Chances are, you either have had to do this, you will have to do this, or someone will have to make the decision on your own life. Working through these issues will strengthen your faith, and give you godly guidance in a nightmare scenario. This is as real as it gets. With the life expectancy on the rise, and with new technologies pushing the boundaries of medical ethics, we had better do our homework.

*Just a note: I usually don’t have too many original thoughts, which is probably a good thing. This is no exception. Besides the footnotes, I would like to acknowledge the group Life Matters Worldwide, which is sponsored by Baptists For Life. You can visit their site here. Their material has been a godsend to me. Support them if you can.

  1. Mark B. Blocher, Christian Worldview and Medical Ethics: Part 3, Biblical Bioethics Advisor, Vol. 8, Issue 3, Fall 2004
  2. Ross, Mark. “Imago Dei.” Ligonier.org. Ligonier Ministries, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/imago-dei/&gt;.
  3. Kant, Immanuel, and Mary J. Gregor. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge UP, 1998. Print.
  4. Blocher, ibid.
  5. Wolfmueller, Rev. Bryan. “The Curb of the Law: A Voter’s Guide to the Ten Commandments.”NewVotersGuide. Hope Lutheran Church- Aurora, 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. .
  6. ibid.

1518549_10201259769042938_27193347_oAs I write this my family is deeply embroiled in a life or death situation with a loved one. The flu, a UTI, then pneumonia, congestive heart failure, ventilation, tracheotomy, and a DNR: a terrible chain of events has spiraled the health of someone we love downward to the brink of death. After an initial rally, she was sent to a step-up facility to get her weaned off of the ventilator. Because her husband had signed a DNR, the doctor in charge of her case at said facility simply wanted to pull her off of the ventilator and let her die. Because of a terrible error by the nurse on duty, she came out of sedation. Ordinarily that would have been tragic, since the terrible shape of her lungs full of pneumonia would have put her in distress. 

What could have been a tragic scene became a very touching and horribly painful conversation between a very ill wife, and a loving husband. I witnessed this conversation unobtrusively, as I slipped into the room, and never made my presence known. I feel guilty for intruding on such a touching and private moment, but I thank God I was a witness to such a moving exchange.

I will not go into the details, but suffice it to say that the husband told the wife of her grave situation. He asked her if she wanted to continue to be kept alive, or whether she was ready to be let go. She indicated she wanted to continue to fight for her life. The husband said he would, but that he would not let her suffer, and would make a hard decision if he had to. She cried. She could not speak, because of the tracheotomy. All she could do was respond to questions. He asked her what she would do if she knew he was suffering. She cried again.

Until that moment, the husband was considering making that hard decision. The doctors and staff were encouraging the removal of the ventilator, to let her pass. They had even removed the diuretic she was on, a clear path to death by congestive heart failure. Evidently in this facility, a signed DNR means “let’s accelerate her demise”. Thanks to a mistake by a nurse in allowing her Diprivan to run out, bringing her out of sedation, the weight of a horrible decision was lessened, the chance to say the things he needed to say, and another opportunity to encourage a loved one to trust in Christ alone, came about.

That’s as much detail as I intend to go into, other than to say that the DNR was rescinded, and she was moved to another hospital, to actually attempt to save her life. This story does not end here. It is still a very grave life or death situation. In the end, her life, as is ours, is in the hands of God.

I intend to start a thread on end-of-life ethics. I find I am thinking a lot about this topic, considering what I have just witnessed. I also find I am quite at a loss to clearly discuss this matter, which means I need to do some serious cogitating. I lack the necessary information to process this. This will serve as my journal of discovery into a subject none of us want to broach, but all must at some point, assuming the Lord doesn’t return first.

May we all grow in Grace as we struggle with issues that can only make us better Christians.

Christian theology, however, offers a unique take on suffering. Christ’s death and resurrection illustrate that suffering can be redemptive, that suffering can have meaning, and that suffering is not necessarily the worst possible thing that befalls human beings. This does not mean that we embrace suffering as an unequivocal good, that we are supposed to seek out suffering, or that there is no place in Christian thought for compassionate relief of suffering. But it does mean that we must avoid the temptation to believe that any activity that alleviates suffering is ethical and good. As Meilaender describes, “We must…always be of two minds about [suffering]. We should try to care for those who suffer, but we should not imagine that suffering can be eliminated from human life or that it can have no point or purpose…Nor should we suppose that suffering must be eliminated by any means that is available to us, for a good end does not justify any and all means…to make elimination of suffering our highest priority would be to conclude mistakenly that it can have no point or purpose in our lives. We should not act as if we believe that the negative, destructive powers of the universe are finally victorious.” 1

1. Dollar, Ellen P. “Christian Ethics 101: What Makes Ethics “Christian”?” Ellen Painter Dollar. Patheos, 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2014.

simul iustus et peccator, 

 
Eric Adams 
Rossville, GA 
godsguy12@comcast.net 
christianreasons@gmail.com 

At church last night, a question was asked about the moral implications of God’s ordering the destruction of the Canaanites by the Israelites in their entry into Canaan. This is a great question that probably most people have had at one time or the other. It would seem, on the face of things, that God was ordering genocide on an ethnic group, which is something appalling to most Americans. Our recent experience in Kosovo, and the Nazi Holocaust of WWII, strikes a moral cord in most of us. 

Here are the Biblical texts under scrutiny:

Deuteronomy 7:1-2

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

7 When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.

Deuteronomy 20:16-18

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God. (1.)

What are we to do with this dilemma?

William Lane Craig, a Christian Apologist and philosopher, was asked the same question. Here is how he responded: (2.)

“According to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), when God called forth his people out of slavery in Egypt and back to the land of their forefathers, he directed them to kill all the Canaanite clans who were living in the land (Deut. 7.1-2; 20.16-18).  The destruction was to be complete: every man, woman, and child was to be killed.  The book of Joshua tells the story of Israel’s carrying out God’s command in city after city throughout Canaan.

These stories offend our moral sensibilities.  Ironically, however, our moral sensibilities in the West have been largely, and for many people unconsciously, shaped by our Judaeo-Christian heritage, which has taught us the intrinsic value of human beings, the importance of dealing justly rather than capriciously, and the necessity of the punishment’s fitting the crime.  The Bible itself inculcates the values which these stories seem to violate.

Dr. Craig’s point here is that the very sense of disgust we feel about the killing of people, are the results of Christianity and the Bible on our collective subconsciousness here in the West. The very principles we use to judge these things comes from the values we learn from the Bible. Think about that for a moment.

The command to kill all the Canaanite people is jarring precisely because it seems so at odds with the portrait of Yahweh, Israel’s God, which is painted in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Contrary to the vituperative rhetoric of someone like Richard Dawkins, the God of the Hebrew Bible is a God of justice, long-suffering, and compassion.”

Here is the Dawkins quote Dr. Craig is referring to:  

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.(3)

God’s judgement is anything but capricious.  When the Lord announces His intention to judge Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins, Abraham boldly asks,

“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked!  Far be that from you!  Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18.25).

Like a Middle Eastern merchant haggling for a bargain, Abraham continually lowers his price, and each time God meets it without hesitation, assuring Abraham that if there are even ten righteous persons in the city, He will not destroy it for their sake.

So then what is Yahweh doing in commanding Israel’s armies to exterminate the Canaanite peoples?  It is precisely because we have come to expect Yahweh to act justly and with compassion that we find these stories so difficult to understand.  How can He command soldiers to slaughter children?…

“…I think that a good start at this problem is to enunciate our ethical theory that underlies our moral judgements.  According to the version of divine command ethics which I’ve defended, our moral duties are constituted by the commands of a holy and loving God.  Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself,  He has no moral duties to fulfill.  He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are.  For example, I have no right to take an innocent life.  For me to do so would be murder.  But God has no such prohibition.  He can give and take life as He chooses.  We all recognize this when we accuse some authority who presumes to take life as “playing God.”  Human authorities  arrogate to themselves rights which belong only to God.  God is under no obligation whatsoever to extend my life for another second.  If He wanted to strike me dead right now, that’s His prerogative.

What that implies is that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit.  How long they live and when they die is up to Him.

Here’s the Biblical reference:

Deuteronomy 32:39

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

39 “See now that I myself am He!
There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of my hand. (1)

“So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives.  The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them.  Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder?  No, it’s not.  Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder.  The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.”

They were doing what God told them to do.

“On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

All right; but isn’t such a command contrary to God’s nature?  Well, let’s look at the case more closely.  It is perhaps significant that the story of Yahweh’s destruction of Sodom–along with his solemn assurances to Abraham that were there as many as ten righteous persons in Sodom, the city would not have been destroyed–forms part of the background to the conquest of Canaan and Yahweh’s command to destroy the cities there.  The implication is that the Canaanites are not righteous people but have come under God’s judgement.

In fact, prior to Israel’s bondage in Egypt, God tells Abraham,

“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. . . . And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites [one of the Canaanite clans] is not yet complete” (Gen. 15. 13, 16).

Think of it!  God stays His judgement of the Canaanite clans 400 years because their wickedness had not reached the point of intolerability!  This is the long-suffering God we know in the Hebrew Scriptures.  He even allows his own chosen people to languish in slavery for four centuries before determining that the Canaanite peoples are ripe for judgement and calling His people forth from Egypt.

By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice.  The Canaanites are to be destroyed “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20.18).  God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel.”

Here’s another reference:

Ezekiel 18:4

New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son—both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. (1)

“But why take the lives of innocent children?  The terrible totality of the destruction was undoubtedly  related to the prohibition of assimilation to pagan nations on Israel’s part.  In commanding complete destruction of the Canaanites, the Lord says, “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons, or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods” (Deut 7.3-4).  This command is part and parcel of the whole fabric of complex Jewish ritual law distinguishing clean and unclean practices.  To the contemporary Western mind many of the regulations in Old Testament law seem absolutely bizarre and pointless:  not to mix linen with wool, not to use the same vessels for meat and for milk products, etc.  The overriding thrust of these regulations is to prohibit various kinds of mixing.  Clear lines of distinction are being drawn: this and not that.  These serve as daily, tangible reminders that Israel is a special people set apart for God Himself.

…By setting such strong, harsh dichotomies God taught Israel that any assimilation to pagan idolatry is intolerable.  It was His way of preserving Israel’s spiritual health and posterity.  God knew that if these Canaanite children were allowed to live, they would spell the undoing of Israel.  The killing of the Canaanite children not only served to prevent assimilation to Canaanite identity but also served as a shattering, tangible illustration of Israel’s being set exclusively apart for God.

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation.  We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites?  Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement.  Not the children, for they inherit eternal life.  So who is wronged?  Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves.  Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children?  The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

But then, again, we’re thinking of this from a Christianized, Western standpoint.  For people in the ancient world, life was already brutal.  Violence and war were a fact of life for people living in the ancient Near East.  Evidence of this fact is that the people who told these stories apparently thought nothing of what the Israeli soldiers were commanded to do (especially if these are founding legends of the nation).  No one was wringing his hands over the soldiers’ having to kill the Canaanites; those who did so were national heroes.

Moreover, my point above returns.  Nothing could so illustrate to the Israelis the seriousness of their calling as a people set apart for God alone.  Yahweh is not to be trifled with.  He means business, and if Israel apostasizes the same could happen to her. As C. S. Lewis puts it, “Aslan is not a tame lion.” 

via http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites

Another good discussion of this same ethical issue is covered by the Stand To Reason blog:

Is God a Moral Monster?

This new book by Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God, is a response to the critic’s challenges.  This is a common charge made by the “new atheists.”  Many Christians from a liberal theological perspective would tend to agree. And I suspect many evangelical Christians harbor concerns along the same lines that they never express.

Greg has said, “If you ask the hard question, you need to be willing to listen to the hard answer.”  This challenge to God’s moral character is an important one.  After all, His perfect moral character is in part what demands our worship and honor.  He is the ground for all morality.  These are key factors in the Christian worldview, so if God is a moral monster, there is serious reason to doubt Christianity is true.  It’s a hard question, and it deserves a hard answer.  But hard answers are rarely brief ones, and therein lies the obligation of the critic who poses the question:  to listen and carefully consider the answer given.

Paul Copan’s book gives a thorough answer to the general and many specific claims in this indictment of God’s character. He’s a jealous megalomaniac, child abuse and bullying misogyny, petty, condoning slavery, and massacre and ethnic cleansing.  One answer is to abandon the divine origin of the Old Testament, relegate it to mere human authorship that only reflects the cultural values of the ancient Israelites and ascribes these to their god.  That’s the easy answer.  Copan gives us the hard answer taking seriously the text’s claim for its divine origins as a self-revelation of the one, true God.

…For instance, was wiping out the Canaanites indiscriminate massacre of an entire society?  It’s certainly a harsh punishment that could appear to be unjust – until you consider the details of Canaanite society at the time.  Incest and human sacrifice were common religious practices.  It was a horribly violent culture.  The Old Testament tells us that God used the Israelites to carry out His judgment and punishment that seem more just when you factor in the Canaanite’s actions.  This was a horribly corrupt culture.

It wasn’t just xenophobic, because the very same Old Testament text tells us of God punishing Israel when they turned against Him.  Critics characterize this as petty jealousy on God’s part.  But if He is the true sovereign, as the Old Testament claims, and He made a conditional covenant (contract) with Israel (Mosaic Covenant), God’s reaction seems to be more reasonable when the conditions of the contract are broken.  Even in our own experience, we know there is appropriate and inappropriate jealousy.  A spouse has a right to be jealous if their partner shows attention to another that should be reserved for their loved one.  God has a unique claim on us as His creatures.  His jealousy is an appropriate response.

Copan also explains enlightening details about the Mosaic Covenant that illustrate God’s moral character.  It’s a legal document for the nation Israel. Other nations had their own.  The Mosaic Covenant reflects the historical character of these kinds of documents, but it also demonstrates tremendous improvement. Capitol punishment for some of the crimes in the Mosaic Law seem horribly harsh – until we realize that these were maximum sentences that could not be exceeded, not the actual punishments that were to be carried out.  The Mosaic Law limits how severely criminals could be punished, it doesn’t require these punishments.  It is also the only code of its time that applied equally to all citizens, not privileging a certain class with extra protections.  These are just a couple of examples of these important factors Copan brings out.”

via http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2011/02/is-god-a-moral-monster.html

The book by Copan is a hard read, but worth the effort. Check it out.

Finally, let’s look at one more article:

“…After crossing the Jordan River, we learn in the book of Joshua that the Israelites “utterly destroyed all that was in the city [of Jericho], both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword…. [T]hey burned the city and all that was in it with fire” (Joshua 6:21,24). They also “utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai” (Joshua 8:26), killing 12,000 men and women and hanging their king (8:25,29). In Makkedah and Libnah, the Israelites “let none remain” (Joshua 10:28,30). They struck Lachish “and all the people who were in it with the edge of the sword” (10:32). The Israelites then conquered Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, and Hazor (10:33-39; 11:1-1). “So all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took and struck with the edge of the sword. He utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded” (Joshua 11:12).

…God had the Israelites kill countless thousands, perhaps millions, of people throughout the land of Canaan. It was genocide in the sense that it was a plannedsystematic, limitedextermination of a number of nation states from a relatively small area in the Middle East (cf. “Genocide,” 2000; cf. also “Genocide,” 2012). But, it was not a war against a particular race (from the Greek genos) or ethnic group. Nor were the Israelites commanded to pursue and kill the Canaanite nations if they fled from Israel’s Promised Land. The Israelites were to drive out and dispossess the nations of their land (killing all who resisted the dispossession), but they were not instructed to annihilate a particular race or ethnic group from the face of the Earth.

Still, many find God’s commands to conquer and destroy the Canaanite nation states problematic. How could a loving God instruct one group of people to kill and conquer another group? America’s most well-known critic of Christianity in the late 1700s and early 1800s, Thomas Paine (one of only a handful of America’s Founding Fathers who did not claim to be a Christian), called the God of the Old Testament “the Mars of the Jews, the fighting God of Israel,” Who was “boisterous, contemptible, and vulgar” (Paine, 1807).

Punishing Evildoers is Not Unloving

…Similar to how merciful parents, principals, policemen, and judges can justly administer punishment to rule-breakers and evildoers, so too can the all-knowing, all-loving Creator of the Universe. Loving parents and principals have administered corporal punishment appropriately to children for years (cf. Proverbs 13:24). Merciful policemen, who are constantly saving he lives of the innocent, have the authority (both from God and the government—Romans 13:1-4) to kill a wicked person who is murdering others. Just judges have the authority to sentence a depraved child rapist to death. Loving-kindness and corporal or capital punishment are not antithetical. Prior to conquering Canaan, God commanded the Israelites, saying,

You shall not hate your brother in your heart…. You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself…. And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself (Leviticus 19:17-18,33-34; cf. Romans 13:9).

The faithful Jew was expected, as are Christians, to “not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:39) but rather “go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:41) and “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39). “Love,” after all, “is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10; cf. Matthew 22:36-40). Interestingly, however, the Israelite was commanded to punish (even kill) lawbreakers. Just five chapters after commanding the individual Israelite to “not take vengeance,” but “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), God twice said that murderers would receive the death penalty (Leviticus 24:21,17).

…The Canaanite nations were punished because of their extreme wickedness. God did not cast out the Canaanites for being a particular race or ethnic group. God did not send the Israelites into the land of Canaan to destroy a number of righteous nations. On the contrary, the Canaanite nations were horribly depraved. They practiced “abominable customs” (Leviticus 18:30) and did “detestable things” (Deuteronomy 18:9, NASB). They practiced idolatry, witchcraft, soothsaying, and sorcery. They attempted to cast spells upon people and call up the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).

Their “cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious” (Unger, 1954, p. 175). Their “deities…had no moral character whatever,” which “must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time,” including sensuous nudity, orgiastic nature-worship, snake worship, and even child sacrifice (Unger, p. 175; cf. Albright, 1940, p. 214). As Moses wrote, the inhabitants of Canaan would “burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:30). The Canaanite nations were anything but “innocent.” In truth, “[t]hese Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating and thoroughly justifying the divine command to destroy their devotees” (Unger, 1988). They were so nefarious that God said they defiled the land and the land could stomach them no longer—“the land vomited out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:25).

The Longsuffering of God

Unlike the foolish, impulsive, quick-tempered reactions of many men (Proverbs 14:29), the Lord is “slow to anger and great in mercy” (Psalm 145:8). He is “longsuffering…, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Immediately following a reminder to the Christians in Rome that the Old Testament was “written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” the apostle Paul referred to God as “the God of patience” (Romans 15:4-5). Throughout the Old Testament, the Bible writers portrayed God as longsuffering.

Though in Noah’s day, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” and “ever intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5), “the Divine longsuffering waited” (1 Peter 3:20). (It seems as though God delayed flooding Earth for 120 years as His Spirit’s message of righteousness was preached to a wicked world—Genesis 6:3; 2 Peter 2:5.) In the days of Abraham, God ultimately decided to spare the iniquitous city of Sodom, not if 50 righteous people were found living therein, but only 10 righteous individuals. (4)

via http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1630&utm_source=buffer&buffer_share=88168

This was a long post, I know, but the implications here are important. We must vigorously explain and defend the Just, long-suffering, and Righteous nature of God.

To recap, let’s remember a few points:

  1. The very question of the treatment of the Canaanites is the result of the ethics of a Judeo-Christian heritage.
  2. God doesn’t issue moral commands to Himself, but to us. Sometimes what He commands would be immoral if we did it on our own, without His command. The Israelites were doing what they were told.
  3. God is long-suffering, and didn’t judge the Canaanites arbitrarily.
  4. The Canaanites had earned the judgment of God, just as all of us have.
  5. Yahweh was establishing a covenant community smack in the middle of a degenerate culture. Clear lines of separation had to be established. That’s why He gave the moral, ceremonial, and civil commands that He did. The promised Messiah Jesus depended on a chosen people following a holy God.
  6. “Aslan is not a tame lion.”
  7. A “good” God punishes sin.
  8. What are the implications when we say someone is “playing God” when they kill someone?

We need to admit to ourselves, and to others, that these are hard questions, and we need to be prepared to give the hard answers. Wrestling with the ethics of the Old Testament, and the nature of God, is an effort worth the blood, sweat, and tears. Be ready to give an answer.

1.  “Bible Gateway.” Bible Gateway. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.biblegateway.com

2.  Craig, Wliliiam L. “Slaughter of the Canaanites.” ReasonableFaith.org. Reasonable Faith, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites&gt;.

3.  Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print. pg. 51

4.  “Apologetics Press.” Apologetics Press. Apologetics Press, n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2012. <http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&gt;.

simul iustus et peccator,

Eric Adams