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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