CCL: Christian Classical Liberalist

September 1, 2009

• Response to “What’s wrong with imposing your beliefs onto others?”

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Matt Flannagan has written a post titled “Contra Mundum: What’s wrong with imposing your beliefs onto others?”. With all due respect to Matt, I think that he is making an error in trying to remove revelation (given by God) from the argument, as shown here:

If it is wrong to impose one’s beliefs onto others then it follows that one is required to refrain from such impositions; further, any attempt to impose moral beliefs should be prevented. However, this claim is itself a moral belief and as we’ve just established, it is being imposed on others. Therefore the claim is self-defeating, those who defend it are attempting to impose a moral belief about not-imposing moral beliefs onto others.

A belief system must have a fixed reference point, otherwise it becomes a relativistic logical failure.

Matt concludes with

If the principles expounded are correct and accurately reflect justice then there is nothing wrong with imposing them onto others, even if they are religious beliefs.

I believe that this position is biblically indefensible when universally applied (as in this case), because in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13a Paul says

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (NIV, emphasis added)

Matt also says

As for the counter examples, consider acts such as rape, assault or infanticide. I personally believe each of these practices is wrong for me to engage in. Further, I think it is wrong for others to do these things. In fact, I even support the commission of these acts being considered a crime punishable by the state. I am sure most would agree with me. However, if it were wrong to impose moral beliefs onto others then our position on rape, assault or infanticide would be unacceptable. We would have to leave others free to choose whether they wished to rape, assault or kill children – to do otherwise would be to impose our moral beliefs onto others.

Again, revelation has been left out of this argument. Rape, assault, and infanticide are all a violation of personal rights (i.e. a physical attack). God protects our personal rights (Ex 21:12-31), and therefore intervention by individuals and punishment by the state in justifiable (Rom 13:1-7). Similarly, God protects our property rights (Ex 22:1-15).

Conclusion

God has not appointed me as the Personal Morals Police so, for example, I will not attempt to impose my morals upon homosexuals who engage in consensual relationships, because it is no business of mine to judge those who are outside the church (if those homosexuals claim to be a part of the church the scenario changes). However, if an immoral act violates the personal or property rights of an individual (i.e. force is used/mutual consent is lacking) then I have a clear mandate for action: this is given by God and that action will have the appearance of imposing my beliefs upon others, when in fact I am enforcing God’s absolute moral code (e.g. murder is wrong).

The non-aggression axiom sums up the biblical position nicely: It is illicit to initiate or threaten invasive violence against a man or his legitimately owned property.

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July 31, 2009

• Cutting costs: God doesn’t want us to waste our lives

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On my other blog is a post titled Site Plug: Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag (Or, How To Avoid Wasting Your Life), where I describe how wasting money is wasting your life because spending money is spending time. E.g., a person earning $20/hour who ignores the house-brand cheese and spends an extra $2 on big-name cheese has wasted the eleven minutes of their life that it took to earn those two after-tax dollars¹.

It is important to avoid legalism – buying big-name cheese/giving eleven minutes of your life to the cheese company is not a moral issue – but God does tell us to use our time wisely²:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:15-16 NASB)

Also, we can use our time/money for things that have eternal value or things that have temporary (earthly) value. When we use our time/money to do things that have eternal value, i.e. they glorify God and further his kingdom, we will be rewarded:

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.

If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Cor 3:11-15 NASB)

Would you rather have the big-name cheese or use the money to glorify God and have a reward in heaven? This is a matter of wisdom, not morals, so the choice is yours.

What do you think about the points that I have raised here?

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1. I’ve used this as an example because the two types of cheese taste the same and almost certainly are the same thing in different wrappers. Then there’s sugar, rice, and so on.

2. In the Bible “wisdom” doesn’t mean “brain power”, it means “good moral character/godly character” and is the opposite of foolishness.

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July 10, 2009

• Build a rail around your roof

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On my other blog I wrote about the Nanny State fining property owners who allowed people to sit on their roof and watch car races. According to the news item

The infringement notice cited a clause of the Building Act that refers to using or permitting the “use of a building for a use for which it is not safe”.

Let’s have a look at what the Bible says about this sort of thing. Unlike modern Socialist/Marxist nanny states God didn’t make any laws that prevented people sitting on their roof and watching a camel race, but Deuteronomy 22:8 says

When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you will not bring bloodguilt on your house if anyone falls from it. (NASB)

Source http://www.bible-architecture.info/Housing.htmHouses in ancient Israel usually had a flat roof, and often an external staircase would lead up to it. People would sleep on the roof when it was hot as well as going there at other times, and sometimes people would die after rolling off the roof when asleep (this brings a whole new meaning to the biblical phrase “fallen asleep”, which refers to the death of a person :) e.g. Matt 27:51-53).

If someone fell from your roof and died you carried the bloodguilt¹ arising from that, so God said that people should build a parapet or rail in order to avoid bloodguilt². These days most people are indoctrinated by the state and believe that someone who does not provide every safety measure is criminally liable when someone dies from a fall or whatever. I believe that God’s view is different, and if someone fell from a roof without a rail and died the property owner carried bloodguilt but had not committed a crime. Why so?

  1. Deut 21:1-9 shows that bloodguilt was separate from criminal guilt, or at least could be separate from criminal guilt.
  2. Someone who went onto a roof that did not have a rail did so of their own free will and chose to take the risk. Therefore if he fell was he ultimately responsible for his injury or death, and no crime had been committed.

The critical point is this: there was no crime of “failing to build a rail around a roof”. Instead each property owner had a choice of (a) not building a rail and risking bloodguilt or (b) building a rail and avoiding bloodguilt. It’s all about each person taking responsibility for their own actions and wearing the consequences of those actions (cf Ex 21:33-34).

How would a modern Socialist/Marxist nanny-state government handle this situation if it was ruling ancient Israel? It would say “People are falling off roofs and it is our job to stop this injustice, therefore we will make a law that requires railings of a specified height and strength. We will violate property rights by entering every property against the will of the owner in order to inspect the railings, because the end justifies the means. We will punish those who do not build a railing because they are endangering others and it is our job to prevent harm and maintain social order”.

Can you see the difference? God addresses a selfish interest (avoiding bloodguilt) and everyone gets a safety benefit as a result. Socialist/Marxist nanny states ride roughshod over personal and property rights in order to get a safety benefit for everyone, whilst also turning a bunch of people into criminals.

Conclusion

If the Israelites had wanted to sit on their roof and watch the Dromedarian Derby camel race there would have been nothing to stop them, because the Bible is essentially libertarian. There would not have been any agents of the state patrolling the streets during the race to see who was sitting on a roof, fining those people, and then justifying it by saying “Our role is the health and safety of people”. God did not create a nanny state that said to people “This is dangerous, therefore you may not do it”. Instead, God’s message in the Bible is “You can do whatever you like provided that you do not harm the person or property of someone else or violate my moral code”.

We have a wonderful God who actually allows people to sit on their own roof and make choices about what risks they will take.

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1. My reference books are very vague about the meaning of bloodguilt. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “Ezek 18:13 seems to indicate that the phrase does not necessarily signify bloodshed, but any grievous sin, which if it remains, will block God’s favour to his land and people” . Make of that what you will. Deut 21:1-9 is perhaps more enlightening.

2. Note the self interest here: property owners built the railings in order to protect themselves, and other people benefited from the self interest of the property owners: in modern times insurance costs can regulate behaviour as fear of bloodguilt did in biblical times, without involving the state.

With biblical capitalism everyone benefits from self interest and there is no need for a Socialist/Marxist state to maintain social order and protect people from the supposedly predatory capitalists. E.g., the self interest of a trader who wants to keep his customers coming back (not to mention his fear of being beaten up if he’s found to have false weights) will cause him to use honest weights in his scales and his customers benefit from this. Self interest regulates behaviour to the benefit of others.

scales with weights_cr 30pc

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July 4, 2009

• A Response To “Why Doesn’t the Bible Address X”?

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Bethyada has written a guest post on MandM looking at why the Bible does not specifically address the issues that the sceptics demand that it addresses:

A not infrequent complaint raised by theism sceptics is that the Bible does not address many issues the sceptics think it should address

I am broadly in agreement with what Bethyada says but I’d like to add my ha’pennethworth.

First, three comments regarding these sceptics:

  1. their arrogance in demanding that an author specifically address their concerns is breathtaking.
  2. it is very rare to hear such criticisms of holy books other than the Bible, from which I conclude that this is a feeble antitheistic technique rather than a genuine search for truth.
  3. they have rejected the abundant evidence of the existence of God that is all around them, and as a result they have become “futile in their speculations” (Rom 1:18-32, Eph 4:17-19). Would you trust the reasoning of such a mind? In my humble opinion that would be as daft as asking a two year old if it’s safe to cross the road.

So, why doesn’t the Bible address X? I have three responses to this:

  1. God very specifically addresses that which is important to him (e.g. he forbids murder), but he leaves a bunch of grey areas in which it it possible to have a variety of beliefs and still be a christian. E.g. the bible is not specific about the eschatological time line (the order of events at the end of this present world, leading up to and following the return of Jesus), so there are a variety of beliefs about this. Unless your eschatological beliefs deny the deity of Jesus or involve some other apostasy you’ll still get into the Kingdom of God.
  2. some things only become clear when God renews a christian’s mind (e.g. Rom 12:2). Thus a sceptic may think that the Bible does not address X, but that sceptic has an unregenerated mind that is futile in its speculations so may be incapable of seeing that the Bible does in fact address X.
  3. God has not left us a deficient manual for godly living, instead he has left us one that contains everything we need for life and godliness:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Pet 1:3 NIV)

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 NASB)

A pagan’s failure to see Y in the Bible does not indicate the absence of Y.

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June 1, 2009

• Man Sues Church After Being “Slain in the Spirit” And Injured

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According to Charismamag Matthew Lincoln is suing Lakewind Church for US$2.5m, claiming that he was injured there after being slain in the spirit. Lincoln says that the church had a duty to ensure that someone caught him when he fell and failed to do so, therefore the church is responsible for the injuries that he received when his head hit the floor. Lincoln’s wife is suing for US$75,000 for “loss of consortium, loss of services and companionship of her husband”. Is that legalese for “I’m not getting any nooky now”?

cartoon slain in the holy spiritSo, what is “being slain in the spirit”? Basically, the pentecostals and charismatics believe that the Holy Spirit causes someone to fall down. Although God is capable of acting in this way, my personal belief – and observation – is that is what is seen in churches today is not from God and is entirely man-made. I cannot give a scriptural defence for this position because, as far as I know, the Bible does not specifically address it. However, the overall Biblical pattern is that those who came into direct contact with God and/or angels retained conscious control of their bodies, although they certainly did feel fear and probably felt weak at the knees!

Today we’ll look at two aspects of Lincoln’s law suit:

  1. The merits of the case
  2. The manner in which Lincoln has made his complaint

1:: The merits of the case

Looking the Chraisamag article, Lincoln had been going to Lakewind for a long time and someone had always caught him when he was slain in the spirit, but this did not happen on this occasion. Therefore he alleges that the pastors did not properly supervise the “catchers” and that the church board did not fulfil their duty. The implications of a court ruling supporting these allegations are horrifying: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to discuss the Risk Management Plan for Visitations of the Holy Spirit”. Let’s now look at an analogy applicable to Lincoln’s situation.

Imagine that you have a daily walk which includes crossing a bridge over a deep gorge; you have been walking this route for many years and can reasonably expect that the bridge will be there when you get to the gorge. However, the owner of the bridge has been neglecting the maintenance of the bridge and one night it collapses into the gorge. The next morning you’re strolling along as usual and daydreaming as is your habit. Then suddenly you step into thin air and wake from your daydream to find yourself at the bottom of the gorge and severely injured; your daydream is now a daymare. Has the owner of the bridge failed in his duty of care towards the users of the bridge? Certainly he has. Are you responsible for your injuries? Certainly you are. Why so? Because you failed to use your God-given faculties and thus didn’t notice that the bridge was no longer there.

On the other hand, if you had a contractual relationship with the bridge owner and the contract said “the bridge owner shall maintain the bridge so that I the undersigned can always safely walk over it whilst daydreaming and not observing my surroundings” then the bridge owner would be entirely responsible for your injuries because he was in breach of contract.

I believe the following:

  1. Lincoln had a reasonable expectation of being caught, but no further inference can be made from this.
  2. Lincoln did not have a contractual relationship with the church which required that he be caught and therefore the church is not culpable.
  3. Lincoln was in control of his bodily actions and therefore was responsible for ensuring that someone was going to catch him. He failed to do so and therefore he is entirely responsible for his injuries.
  4. Lincoln is attempting to impose a contractual relationship upon the church post facto via litigation.
  5. Even if the church is responsible for Lincoln’s injuries – a notion that I reject – the church has not directly injured his wife, and therefore her claim is contrary to scripture because the personal injury laws of the Bible only require that compensation be made to the injured party, not to his wife, daughter, cat, and camel as well (e.g. Exodus 21).

Consider this: if I am wrong and the Holy Spirit was controlling Lincoln in such a way that he was not capable of ensuring that someone would catch him, why would the Spirit allow harm to come to Lincoln during what is supposedly a blessing from the Spirit?

2:: The manner in which Lincoln has made his complaint

Paul said to the christians in Corinth:

If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. (1 Cor 6:1-8 NIV)

Lincoln has gone against the word of God by taking a matter between christians to a civil court, and even if he had a good case for compensation he should have forgone that compensation rather than going to a civil court. If Lincoln wanted to pursue this case he should have approached Lakewind Church in the first instance, then sought out a christian arbitrator if his approach was unsuccessful. If Lakewind Church was not willing to abide by the ruling of an arbitrator then Lincoln should have ceased all proceedings.

In my humble opinion Paul clearly believes that suing a fellow christian before unbelievers is bringing the Church and the name of God into disrepute: if you doubt that, try and imagine what the reaction would be if you told this story to a pagan friend. Lincoln has also bought shame and defeat upon himself by taking this case to a civil court.

Post a comment and share your thoughts on this situation.

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