Category Archives: Ethics

Character Requires Moral Absolutes

MTV, a former music video channel, recently posted a video of “White Guy Resolutions 2017”. Condescension, racism, sexism, virtue signalling, and the rest of the garbage it contained aside, there was a single line which struck me as being written with so little self-awareness that I can’t help but think the writers and actors spoke the words without having them enter their minds.

“Be better!” is spoken several times throughout the video. This is ironic, because the people speaking it are presumably moral relativists. That seems to be the rigidly enforced moral framework of the “progressive” left. But how can one “be better” in a morally relativistic system?

The cultivation of character is a lifelong process. A man or woman must spend time fighting urges to do evil and lazily avoiding what is good. But if morality is relative and we should just “be ourselves”, as the progressive left is fond of telling those who have objectively disordered attractions to the same sex (for instance), then there can be no cultivation of character. Everyone has already arrived at moral perfection; everyone is already good just the way that they are.

Moral relativity is unlivable, so it makes sense that MTV’s paid actors would say “be better!” in reference to those things they think are actual moral evils. What’s fascinating is that these same people never question their lists of vices or apply their own criticisms inward. But maybe that’s asking too much. Who would MTV hire if not hypocrites?

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Drinking to the Glory of God

From a relatively obscure ministry website comes this article on alcohol. Or, more appropriately, on the evils of drinking it:

I write because I am terribly concerned with the approach to alcohol by my generation of pastors, and more, the approach to alcohol by the next generation of pastors. There appears to be a growing trend of young pastors embracing the use of alcohol.

It’s worth pointing out that we already have a case of fallacious equivocation. The author of the article uses the terms “alcohol abuse” and “use of alcohol” synonymous, which is then used as evidence for total abstinence of alcohol.

During a meeting at the Southern Baptist Convention there was a question asked of Al Mohler concerning the use of alcohol. He masterfully answered the question, informing everyone in the room that in order to be a part of the faculty or a student at Southern one must agree to abstain from alcohol. But during that same meeting a pastor many younger pastors admire quipped that he enjoyed a beer occasionally. Smiles all around.

What is left out is what else Mohler said, amounting to an admission that drinking alcohol is not inherently sinful and can be done in an appropriate way. We eventually get a bit of honesty, but what we discover is concerning:

I know all the arguments: having one drink is not a sin, having a drink will not send you to Hell, Jesus drank wine, the disciples drank wine, on and on it goes. I have heard them all. But I am convinced if one does a study of the Bible from beginning to end, he will find an overwhelmingly negative view of the use of alcohol.

The fact that Jesus turned water to wine, that Jesus drank wine, that Jesus passed a cup of wine at the Last Supper, that Paul recommended wine to Timothy, and that the Old Testament is filled with drinking and merriment are arguments the author already knows. Presumably, he’s also dismissed them, although he gives no reason to motivate this.

Consider Proverb 23:29 -31: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. So do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper.”

We return to the fallacious equivocation, but not for the last time. Here, verses are cited from Scripture that condemn drinking in excess, and then these verse are applied to drinking in any quantity. But that’s poor exegesis. The purpose of these verses is to warn against excess, lingering “too long over wine”. If it applied to any alcohol in any quantity, you’d think Jesus Himself would have avoided it instead of creating and consuming it.

I know those verses to be true. Until I was 14 years old I had an alcoholic father. Though a very intelligent and talented person my father chose to drink alcohol. I have few memories of him when he was not intoxicated. I have lots of memories of him intoxicated.

This is a tragic situation, and it may be closer to the author’s conviction than any Scriptural, logical, or historical reason. Again, however, he commits his fallacy. A man who drinks alcohol is not an alcoholic. An alcoholic, like a drug addict, is someone who abuses the substance; just as a glutton is not a person who eats food, but a person who abuses his appetites.

The author goes on to cite a lot of statistics that result alcoholism or drunk driving, but they do not contribute to the overall case for abstinence of alcohol any more than statistics on obesity contribute to an overall case for abstinence of food.

When does drunkenness start? Drunkenness is sinful. Someone says “,I wasn’t drunk, I was a little buzzed.” Well, wouldn’t we have to say when someone’s state is altered it is drunkenness? If one never drinks alcohol, he never has to worry about becoming drunk or when being drunken starts.

Not drinking alcohol certainly implies not getting drunk, but not getting drunk does not imply not drinking alcohol. That is to say, there is a large margin where one can drink alcohol and not be drunk. Alcohol produces a relaxing and calming effect pretty quickly when consumed, but no one would argue that this is “drunkenness” any more than consuming a meal is gluttony. This parallel is important, because it demonstrates a key attribute about God and His Creation – many good things can become bad things when abused, but are not inherently bad as a result. Food, drink, exercise, and sleep are all excellent in the right amounts, but awful when abused to excess.

The Bible condemns gluttony and sloth in the same way it condemns drunkenness, but the author does not therefore conclude that one should abstain food and sleep in order to avoid worrying about where the line is.

Is it worth it? If drinking escalates and drinking alcohol costs your ministry, is it worth it? If your child sees you drinking and grows up with the view it is “OK to have a beer,” but he or she goes on to be an alcoholic, is it worth it? If your child drinks at the legal age but has just a hair too much, but just enough to cause an accident and it kills him or her, is your occasional beer worth it? If one of your congregants sees you or hears of you having a beer and is turned off from the Gospel or begins drinking assuming if you do it, it must be ok and it leads him or her to alcoholism, is it worth it?

What if taking pain killers causes a person to abuse drugs? Are occasional pain killers worth it? What if driving when just a hair too tired causes an accident?  Is occasional night driving worth it?

The fact is, alcoholism is an awful, terrible thing. But alcoholism is not defined as “drinking alcohol”.

The last example just seems silly. If a Christian sees another Christian drinking a beer and is thus turned off from the Gospel, they aren’t a Christian in the first place. I have a hard time even imagining a non-Christian being pushed away from the Gospel by seeing a Christian drink a beer, but I’ve actually witnessed some being attracted to the Gospel by seeing Christians drink reasonably.

Should we be ingesting anything God says bites like a serpent and stings like a viper?

God said drunkenness bites like a serpent and stings like a viper, not alcohol. The context was drunkenness, “lingering too long over wine”. The Bible condemns drunkenness. It does not condemn alcohol.

You would think if God had meant this to apply to alcohol itself, then God taking on human nature would have refrained from drinking it, let alone creating it for his friends.

Is Jesus not enough? So many say, “I have a drink to help me relax; I need a drink to help me relax.” What happened to presenting our requests to God and allowing the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus? Now that is relaxing!

I suspect the author does things to relax that are not limited to prayer. Does he sit down after doing a lot of hard, manual labor? Does he watch a little TV or read a book after a stressful week?

Why not present his request to God and allow God’s peace to guard his heart and mind instead?

If you are not drinking for an altered state, why drink alcohol? There is not a beer on earth (or any other alcoholic beverage for that matter) that tastes better than sweet tea or your favorite soda.

The author, abstaining from all alcohol, is probably not the best suited to tell others about the taste of alcohol. Scotch, bourbon, rum, whiskey, myriad beers and wines all taste incredible, and while I have never been intoxicated (which the Bible condemns), I’ve enjoyed small amounts of each of these.

Again, I do not write this to judge or criticize any pastor or believer. I write from experience and I write from concern. I encourage you to avoid the use and promotion of alcohol and I am convinced you will never regret not drinking alcohol. In fact I have never met anyone who said I wish I had drunk more. But I have met plenty who said they wished they had never tasted the stuff. You will never regret not drinking alcohol, but if you do drink alcohol, it is almost a certainty; you will have regrets about it.

I’ve met people who have wished they could try some of the more exotic and expensive alcoholic beverages, and I’ve met very few who have regretted drinking alcohol. Most drink in reasonable amounts and do not get drunk.

I think a different, more reasonable policy is in order.

Instead of avoiding great food, avoid gluttony. Instead of avoiding sleep and rest, avoid sloth. Instead of avoiding sex with your spouse, avoid sex with anyone else. Instead of avoiding exercise, avoid obsession with fitness. Instead of avoiding entertainment, avoid being consumed with it. Instead of avoiding conflict, avoid unnecessary conflict. Instead of avoiding medicine, avoid drug addiction.

Instead of avoiding alcohol, avoid alcoholism. Drinking alcohol can be done to the glory of God. Jesus, God Himself in human flesh, not only drank the stuff, but He created it in the first place and created it miraculously again from water. God’s disciples drank it, and their disciples and churches drank it, passing a cup of wine during communion for millennia.

Finally, avoid the fallacy of equivocation. It leads to long and otherwise unnecessary rebuttals.

 

The Insanity of Gender Theory

Think fast.

A person with short, combed hair, and no makeup walks up to you wearing a suit. What gender is this person.

The person’s sex cannot be in doubt. There are two sexes; it is in the nature of sexual reproduction to have two sexes. One is male, and the other is female.

No, my question is to which gender a person is. The answer is that it is impossible to tell, given the fact that the term, when not used in linguistics, is for all practical purposes the greatest example of intellectual fuzziness and ambiguity available.

The person could identify as a man and be a biological male. The person could identify as a female and be a biological male and wear male clothes and act like a male. In fact, a man could simply be living a normal and say “I identify as a woman” without changing in a single way, and it would fall within the category of transgendered.

One would suspect that it would be difficult to build a punitive framework around this concept for anyone who did not find purchase in it. After all, how can someone be penalized for not fully understanding something that, by its own nature, cannot be understood? But one would be wrong. Utterly wrong.

Not only are there penalties for those who do not adhere to a philosophy grounded on ambiguous nothingness, the penalties themselves are severe. Social ostracism, losing a job, and dealing with financial penalties are not uncommon. Simply not being enthusiastic enough about the anti-philosophy of Gender Theory is sufficient in many cases.

Large companies across the United States are, in order to cater to the sexual radicals that make up the bulk of the cultural elite, increasingly enforcing the proclamations of Gender Theorists on anyone and everyone. Within a year of the first efforts to allow biological men into the biological women’s restroom (and mind you, the restrooms are divided by biological sex and not gender, else there would be urinals in both or neither), there are now boycotts of entire states who do not comply with the newly enhanced Gender Theory proclamation that requires it be permitted.

The United States is treading some familiar territory to those who lived in the fascist pits of despair popularized in the 20th century. Freedom of speech and conscience are not only limited, but are limited precisely where they ought to be most free: in the expression of true statements. “Men are men and cannot conceivably feel like women” is anathema. Despite the fact that no human being can ever feel like another in total, because we are ourselves and not someone else, it is taken for granted that a man can know what a woman feels like so thoroughly that he himself becomes one. In a sane society, this might be seen as a severe mental illness, but in an insane society, it is normalized just as one would expect. In order for a civilization to go insane, it must normalize insanity and institutionalize sanity.

Jesus on Divorce

ancient-jewish-wedding-customsFrom Matthew 19

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

The authentically Christian view of marriage and divorce is despised as much by those who claim to follow Christ as those who do not. Consistent Biblical mandates about the headship of the husband are transformed into the husband submitting to the whims of his wife. Consistent Biblical mandates about the submission of wives to their husbands is seen as oppressive even in Christian circles. Even when the concept is accepted, there is a substitution for the extra-Biblical construct of “mutual submission”. If mutual submission, why not mutual leadership? The two are the same, and both are clunky ways of saying “Democracy”. Is that really how Jesus relates to His church?

As badly as Christians misrepresent Christian teaching about marriage, the Christian teaching and treatment of divorce is even worse. Jesus declares that divorce is never right, and remarriage after divorce except for sexual immorality is adultery. Somehow, modern Christians have got it into their heads that divorce is right in myriad circumstances. Emotional abuse and unhappiness are frequently used as excuses for divorce, despite the fact that both of those entirely subjective measures are not mentioned once in all of Scripture as a cause for divorce.

Modern Christians often have no problem with divorce and are blind to the overwhelming moral qualities of it. The rest might have a problem with something, but it isn’t divorce itself. Often, and despite not being treated as leaders in their home, husbands are blamed for the negative behavior of their wives – including divorce if it occurs. Instead of blaming the person who initiates a divorce (which is usually the wife), Christian leaders blame the husband for not doing enough. This contradicts Christ, who gives no circumstance that ever justifies divorce, and Paul, who always describes the roles of husband and wife as unconditional.

If Christians want to learn to follow God’s Will, they could certainly do worse than following his clear moral teaching on marriage and divorce. As it stands, it’s a bit of an embarrassment to be surrounded by Christian leniency toward divorce when one of the chief complaints that non-Christians have about Christianity is the hypocrisy of it’s adherents.

Don’t Judge Me

It's always wrong to judge decisions that other people make, right?

It’s always wrong to judge decisions that other people make, right?

No one says “don’t judge me” when they are proud of something they’ve done. It is never used to express modesty. You don’t hear anyone say “don’t judge me for giving all of my money to the poor”.

The phrase is used exclusively when someone feels guilty about having done something that is obviously wrong. It is almost always used in a situation where sound judgment, spoken in good faith, would be the best possible thing to ask for.

Christians of all people should know better than the use the phrase, but as in many things, many of the people who claim to be Christ’s followers resemble the world around them more than their Lord. The Bible does not unilaterally condemn judgment. The oft cited verses (Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37) that say “do not judge, or you too will be judged” are never cited in full context. Christ qualifies the statement by telling His disciples that they ought to make sure that they apply the same standard to themselves that they apply to others. He says at another time (John 7:24) to “judge with righteous judgment”.

Without the ability to judge the actions of other people, we wouldn’t be able to have a legal system. It would be impossible to enforce laws. You wouldn’t be able to avoid a known serial killer because to even call him a serial killer is an act of judgment. You wouldn’t be able to lock your doors at night lest you judge the sort of people who might try to enter your home.

Whenever you are tempted to say “don’t judge me”, it would be wiser to instead stop doing the act you don’t want judged. Chances are, if it’s worth doing, you wouldn’t be asking for people to overlook it.

Instant-Gratification Morality

If you were to ask the average person today what constitutes a moral view of the world, and if you happened upon a person who did not have a thoroughly relativistic outlook on things, the most common answer you would hear is that something is immoral when it hurts another person. By this they mean to say hurts another person directly, against their consent.

In this model of morality, the idea of consent is vested with all sorts of powers that it ought not to be because it is not powerful enough. It would be like building a house on one of its corners instead of on the foundation. Consent is simply not capable of supporting an entire moral framework.

Putting too much onto consent is one problem with this moral outlook so popular today, but it is hardly the only problem. Modern man is obsessed with instant gratification. It should not surprise us that when a culture that demands to get what it wants the moment the demand is made that ethics would be trivialized to match. In times past when men spent time thinking through moral issues instead of responding with their unfiltered and immediate emotional reaction, it was taken as self-evident that morality extended beyond direct harm. It may not be direct harm, say, to allow two people of the same sex to pretend to be married and then adopt children; though this is certainly up for debate. Considerable harm is done, however, to the child, who is deprived at least one of their real parents.