Bring it on

So that’s my theology of War in the OT.

What have I missed? What have I got wrong?

Does anyone want to tell a more accurate or compelling narrative of the OT that comes up with different conclusions?

Bring it.

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32 thoughts on “Bring it on

  1. Hi Mike,

    My name’s John, we met at lunch yesterday. Having read some of your blog and thought a bit more about it, I wanted to respond to your thesis on war, not to attack or offend you, but hopefully to push you a bit more in your thinking.

    Firstly, I still think that your ethic is not teleological but deontological. You have essentially defined war as evil in and of itself because of what it is, not why it’s done. I assume you do this because you cannot conceive of war being the loving action, but I think that if you’re defending the oppressed, it’s actually the most loving option. Laying down your life for them is only effective if it saves them, standing in the way of a bullet may be laying down your life, but not necessarily for them.

    I’m still fairly shocked by what you said about allowing the evil of WWII because God is sovereign. It sounds like you’d rather let multitudes of defenceless people die because its more passive than fighting for them. Again, deontological ethics always chooses passivity when faced with evil options whereas teleological ethics chooses the lesser of two evils (Exodus 1:17-20).

    Finally I don’t think that you can sweep the problem under your perceived tension of God’s sovereignty and our responsibility, especially because I don’t think they should be perceived of as being in tension. You mentioned where Isaiah recounts how God sent the Assyrians to war with Israel and then condemned them for it, but not that he sends them to judge Israel and then he condemns them because of their attitude in doing it. Again, a deontological ethic (right/wrong based on the what) sees the two in tension but a teleological ethic (right/wrong based on the why) explains the two perfectly.

    Please feel free to push me back, I’m more than happy to keep the conversation going.

    In Christ
    John

    • Hi John, thanks for finding the blog and following up our conversation. I’m studying for exams (as are you :-)) so I’ll have to limit my replies for now, and not the points to get back to in three weeks. However, here are my short (perhaps trite) initial responses.

      1) I find that Christian ethics jumps to the “ogical” debate too quickly. The first question is not whether an ethical position is deontological or teleological, but whether it is biblical. That is the great strength of the methods presented by Michael Hill (How and Why of Love) and Andrew Cameron (Joined Up Life and 3rd year ethics), also Oliver O’Donovan (Resurrection and Moral Order). Basically, they look at the Bible, try to figure out how to think biblically about ethics, and then look at it and realise that it is a mix of the”ogicals”
      There are times where the Bible is very deontological. Sex outside of marriage is wrong, and I don’t care what your motives are.

      2) I’m sorry that you were shocked, but your summary was a not quite what I said. I said that Christians did not have to go over to WWII for God to be stopping the Germans. The Allies went into the war for their own polito-economic reasons, some of which were ethical (many were not). It is simply historically wrong to claim that they needed a Christian lobby to tell them to. It is also wrong to say that they would have lost if they did not have Christians in the forces. If every single Christian who campaigned for the war and went over to fight, instead went over to evangelise, what would have happened? I dunno, that’s the problem with using historical examples in this kind of argument. In the same way, we cannot say “If we didn’t go in this and this would have happened”. That’s a failure of our doctrine of Providence.

      3) I simply disagree, national politics and security is nothing but a function of God’s providence, and I think that my OT exegesis is bearing me out. The challenge for a biblical ethicist (including yourself) is to prove me wrong, or to demonstrate a biblical-theological story that is a more correct use of the whole OT story.

      That’s your real challenge, because (for an evangelical) if the best telling of the biblical theological narrative, and the best exegesis of the texts, demonstrates a position, then that’s the position we are stuck with, whether we like it or not. I personally find the idea of male headship disturbing, because that is my cultural up-bringing. But the best work I can do (and can read) on the whole text of the Bible leads me to conclude that this is how God wants gender roles to be worked out.

      Is this teleological, deontological, creation ethic, eschatological ethic, the ethic of the cross or any of the other hundreds of “ethics”?
      I dunno, but it is biblical.

    • Hi John, thanks for finding the blog and following up our conversation. I’m studying for exams (as are you :-)) so I’ll have to limit my replies for now, and not the points to get back to in three weeks. However, here are my short (perhaps trite) initial responses.

      1) I find that Christian ethics jumps to the “ogical” debate too quickly. The first question is not whether an ethical position is deontological or teleological, but whether it is biblical. That is the great strength of the methods presented by Michael Hill (How and Why of Love) and Andrew Cameron (Joined Up Life and 3rd year ethics), also Oliver O’Donovan (Resurrection and Moral Order). Basically, they look at the Bible, try to figure out how to think biblically about ethics, and then look at it and realise that it is a mix of the”ogicals”
      There are times where the Bible is very deontological. Sex outside of marriage is wrong, and I don’t care what your motives are.

      2) I’m sorry that you were shocked, but your summary was a not quite what I said. I said that Christians did not have to go over to WWII for God to be stopping the Germans. The Allies went into the war for their own polito-economic reasons, some of which were ethical (many were not). It is simply historically wrong to claim that they needed a Christian lobby to tell them to. It is also wrong to say that they would have lost if they did not have Christians in the forces. If every single Christian who campaigned for the war and went over to fight, instead went over to evangelise, what would have happened? I dunno, that’s the problem with using historical examples in this kind of argument. In the same way, we cannot say “If we didn’t go in this and this would have happened”. That’s a failure of our doctrine of Providence.

      3) I simply disagree, national politics and security is nothing but a function of God’s providence, and I think that my OT exegesis is bearing me out. The challenge for a biblical ethicist (including yourself) is to prove me wrong, or to demonstrate a biblical-theological story that is a more correct use of the whole OT story.

      That’s your real challenge, because (for an evangelical) if the best telling of the biblical theological narrative, and the best exegesis of the texts, demonstrates a position, then that’s the position we are stuck with, whether we like it or not. I personally find the idea of male headship disturbing, because that is my cultural up-bringing. But the best work I can do (and can read) on the whole text of the Bible leads me to conclude that this is how God wants gender roles to be worked out.

      Is this teleological, deontological, creation ethic, eschatological ethic, the ethic of the cross or any of the other hundreds of “ethics”?
      I dunno, but it is biblical.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for replying so quickly during exam time, I very much respect your zeal for the truth. Here are some responses to your replies.

    1) I am thoroughly convinced that the Bible’s ethic is teleological; when Joseph is sold into slavery his brothers are condemned because they intended harm while God is glorified because he intended it for good (Genesis 50:20). Similarly, the men that killed Jesus are described as wicked because of why they killed Jesus, whereas God is seen to be gracious and merciful because of his set purpose in handing Jesus over (Acts 2:23). Whenever an action could be right or wrong in and of itself, its motive is always the determining factor. I’m struggling to think of when sex outside marriage would be the loving thing to do, but if it could be then surely love would trump sexual morality. To say that something is deontologically wrong is exactly what the Pharisees did in substituting love for rules.

    2) I apologise for misrepresenting you, and I agree that if evangelism could have prevented the war that it would have been the loving thing to do. Without wanting to offend you, I think your view on evangelism in war is a little bit naive. Nazi Germany killed anyone and anything that stood in their way. God miraculously saves his people, but I don’t think we should depend on God doing miracles when we would like him to. There is a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time or peace (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

    3) If national politics and security were nothing but a function of God’s providence them I think your whole argument collapses. By emphasising God’s sovereignty at the expense of our responsibility you’re rendering all arguments for or against war null and void. The perspective of God’s sovereignty is easily seen in hindsight (which is probably why it’s coming out in your OT exegesis), but the perspective of human responsibility is emphasised again and again in the imperatives of the OT prophets and the NT epistles. If it’s nothing but a function of God’s providence then what is the point in praying for them?

    Thanks again for being willing to discuss this, I hope I haven’t damaged your exam study too much.

    John.

    P.S. Could you please delete my first comment from your ‘about me’ section? It was meant for this section ‘bring it on’. Also, you’re reply is posted above twice.

  3. Putting aside point 2 for a moment, because it is a red herring. The main issue is the claim that biblical ethics is ALWAYS teleological and IN NO WAY deontological.
    I agree that you have verses that could imply teleology, but you ignored my example of deontology by saying “I don’t know how it is teleological, but it must be”.
    Simply put, that argument can be used to ignore any command of the bible.
    How would you respond to the claim “I think that forcing non-marrieds to be celibate is more un-loving than allowing them to have sex, so my teleology allows me to ignore that biblical command”?
    (It’s not an un-common argument)

  4. Excellent, I feel like this is the heart of the issue. Unfortunately your example doesn’t demonstrate deontological or teleological ethics at the expense of the other because both ethics are in agreement, that is, deciding based upon the what or on the why lead you to the same decision. I’m not saying that I don’t know how it’s teleological (it’s teleological because it’s motivated by love), I’m saying that I don’t know how to pit them against each other in your example. In my two examples from the Bible, they are pitted against each other and the Bible champions teleological ethics at the expense of deontological ethics both times.

    Responding to the claim of ‘forcing’ celibacy, I would never force unbelievers to be celibate because the law doesn’t make sense without grace (we don’t obey in order to be saved, we obey because we’ve been saved – again teleological). For believers, I would argue that the most loving thing to do is to encourage them to flee from sexual immorality because of God has saved us (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Assuming that allowing sin to abound is loving has flawed assumptions of both sin and love.

  5. Your response to the Christian was what I was looking for. The word “forced” may have been misleading. Sorry.

    You said:

    “I would argue that the most loving thing to do is to encourage them to flee from sexual immorality because of God has saved us (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Assuming that allowing sin to abound is loving has flawed assumptions of both sin and love.”

    But now you have introduced a concept called “sexual immorality”.
    Who gets to define that concept?
    Why do we believe that sex outside of marraige is sexual immorality?

    You also stated that “letting sin abound” is less loving than, for example “expressing my love to my girlfriend”.
    On what basis can you say that?

  6. I think the concept of sexual immorality is defined by the authors of the NT that use it. We translate sexual immorality from the Greek word πορνεια which simply refers to sex outside of marriage. Sex outside of marriage is wrong because it’s neither what God created us for (Genesis 2:22-25) nor what he redeemed us for (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Our motivation for fleeing it is love for God and for others.

    I think I’d prefer to compare not letting sin abound with expressing lust to your girlfriend, my contention is still that it’s more loving to wait until you’re married. My basis is what the Bible says about sin; it separates us from God whom we were made to have a relationship with, and so we should not ‘let it abound’ or express it to a girlfriend.

    I feel like we’re moving off topic. As you stated above, the main issue is my claim that biblical ethics is ALWAYS teleological – “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31). With love being the ultimate τελος, I cannot see how Jesus’ ethic could be more teleological.

  7. I’m sorry that I am being a bit round about, but I am very much on point.

    The teleological ethic says that we must do what is most loving.
    But how do you measure what is most loving?
    What is a large amount of loving and what is a small amount?

    In the case of sexual ethics, the Bible tells us what is most loving.
    In part, by telling us what we were made for and what we are destined for. And, in part, by giving plain commands.

    Sex outside of marriage is ALWAYS unloving. No amount of “but in THIS situation it is more loving…” arguments apply.
    To say it in another way, God has said that sex outside of marriage is unloving. Full stop.

    Do we know why that is so? Can we mine the reasons underneath the command and thus understand when it applies and when it does not?
    Simply, no.

    Why? because of the noetic effects of sin.
    Sin has corrupted our loves. We love things that we should not love, and we do not love the things that we should
    So when mere humans try to “reason” out what is more loving, we will get it wrong. We will convince ourselves that an evil course of life is more loving than the one God planned out.
    This is true of Christians as much as non-Christians, because we are saved, but not fully purified.

    What means has God given us to teach us the true loves?
    The Holy Spirit and the Scriptures.
    The scriptures spend a lot of time telling us (in various ways) “no, you thought A was the right love, but really B is”
    Because of our sin, we cannot correctly compare A and B without the scriptures, so when the scriptures tell us something like that, we trust them.
    To question the scriptures (where they are clear) is to preference our sin-corrupted loves over Gods true loves.

    So, where God speaks, we just have to accept it.

    In the limited vocabulary that the ‘ologies’ give us, this is deontology.
    I prefer to call it “teleology with limited information and clear guidance from the only one with the information”

    Now it is true that the teleology is love.
    *But the Bible tells us what is loving and what is not*
    We don’t get to pick and choose.

  8. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16). Sex outside marriage is always wrong because it’s unloving, not regardless of whether it’s unloving or not. God gives us the reasons underneath the command; it’s because the Holy Spirit dwells in us, because we are not our own, because we were bought at a price, therefore honour God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). When the Corinthian’s deontological reason for sexual morality was nullified by their eschatology, Paul calls them to a teleological ethic (1 Corinthians 6:13); it’s not the what that’s the issue but the why.

    Obviously sin corrupts the heart, but I find your reasoning that ‘where God speaks, we just have to accept it’ very interesting. I wonder how much of the OT law you ‘just accept’ and how much you take the telos and apply it to your context. Martin Luther captured the point by saying ‘Love God and do what you want’, because if you really do love God, you’ll do what he wants. Jesus criticised the Pharisees for their deontological approach to the law and called them to a teleological ethic of love (Matthew 23:25-25). Paul renders the things that would otherwise be deontologically good as worthless without the telos of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Surely the Bible tells us what’s loving, but would you ever counsel someone to do something they thought was unloving, or would you use the Bible to show them what is really the loving thing to do?

  9. You said:
    “Surely the Bible tells us what’s loving, but would you ever counsel someone to do something they thought was unloving, or would you use the Bible to show them what is really the loving thing to do?”

    I would use the Bible to show them what is the loving thing to do.
    That is indeed what I am doing in my blog. The question is not deontology vs teleology, it is “what is the most loving action”

    You said:
    ” I wonder how much of the OT law you ‘just accept’ and how much you take the telos and apply it to your context.”

    Neither.
    Instead, I do my biblical theology, and trace the law and the theme throughout the whole Bible. That’s how you understand what the Bible is saying about a topic, whether it is the Temple, justification or ethics. Anyone who just grabs verses from one place (either OT or NT) without considering the Biblical arc is making a serious methodological error.
    Indeed, this is what I am doing. I have traced the theme of war through the whole OT, and am tracing it through the NT at the moment, and demonstrating how the WHOLE Bible tells a clear story about the place of war in God’s salvation plan.

    The crucial question:
    You said: “Sex outside marriage is always wrong because it’s unloving”
    I say “Killing someone is always wrong because it is unloving”
    You support your statement from the Bible
    I support my statement from the Bible.
    Why is my statement different to yours?

  10. Well said. Your method is surely sound. Please forgive my aggression, and thank you so much for your patience. I’m glad we can agree that our actions (whether sex or killing or anything) are good to the extent that they’re loving and evil to the extent that they’re unloving.

    My final point (and we may have to agree to disagree here) is that I think that it’s more unloving to allow the defenceless to be killed, than it is to protect them, even if it means killing in their self defence.

  11. I’ve very much enjoyed this conversation. I hope I did not come across as aggressive (I didn’t think you were – just passionate, which is good)

    The thing about your final point is that you need to defend it biblically. My whole point (and why I sound deontological, even to myself) is that we are too sinful to know what is the more loving action without clear biblical support.

    If our best biblical work shows us that God says a certain thing is always loving, then what choice do we have but to accept it?

  12. Another thought:
    Oliver O’Donovan (who supports just war, incidentally) argues that an individual person has infinite value. Because they are infinite, you cannot say that the lives of ten people are ten times more valuable than the life of one.
    He uses this to argue against torturing one suspect to save the lives of thousands
    But I think it is significant in just war arguments too.

  13. I don’t think O’Donovan’s math works. According to measurement theory (the branch of math that deals with infinity) there are degrees of infinite, for example, if the value of a single person is countably infinite then the value of their race would be uncountably infinite. Moreover, many people use the sanctity of human life to argue for the reverse; it’s because life is so valuable that murder should be capitally punished (Genesis 9:6), this logic often justifies killing in self defence and in the defence of others.

    Nevertheless, I still maintain that teleological ethics (the ethics of love) allows you to choose the lesser of two evils. Only deontological ethics (the ethics of legalism) forbids you to choose the lesser of two evils when the greater is more passive.

  14. I don’t think O’Donovan was engaging with countable and uncountable sets, but with the Imago Dei. Our value is not set mathematically, but in the eyes of God.

    For your second point, you have to prove – biblically – that engaging in a war (when the Bible tells you not to) is more loving than the effects of not engaging . How are you going to do that?
    When I say “biblically”, “philosophically” or “emotionally”. You have to demonstrate – using good biblical theological method – that the alternative to pacifism is worse.
    Because the default position is to believe what the bible says is the most loving course of action, regardless of whether it makes sense to us or not (cf 1 Cor 1:25)

  15. I thought O’Donovan was equating the set of one with the set of many because of their infiniteness, all I’m saying is that their infiniteness doesn’t make them equal. Burying an inequation is mathematical language doesn’t make it an equation.

    I’m pretty sure 1 Corinthians 1:25 is talking about the cross (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23), not blind acceptance, though I agree with you point that man cannot talk back to God (Romans 9:20).

    Where does the Bible tell us not to go to war? When I read all of the Bible’s calls to justice and see the injustice of one country invading another, pacifism just sounds like neglecting justice (Matthew 23:23).

  16. Well, my work is all about showing how the Bible tells us not to go to war.
    So far, I think the OT is pretty clear.

    As for the “justice” verses, they are all about how the individual acts to those near them, or how the society acts to the people within its borders.
    We have to work with the biblical definition of justice. We cannot make our own definition of justice (“I don’t think that xyz is justice”) and read it back into the biblical texts.

    There is never a command to go out and force another country to do justice.
    Israel was never given permission to start a war with anyone except the very limited group specified in Deuteronomy. Even though those other nations were extremely unjust, and habitually invaded other nations.
    Indeed, when those nations invaded, Israel was told not to resist them.

  17. I assume that by ‘very limited group specified in Deuteronomy’ you mean the seven nations larger and stronger than Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1), and that by ‘permission’ you mean command? But then what do you do with God’s command to destroy the Amalekites (not one of the seven nations) in 1 Samuel 15:3?

    More importantly, how come you want to so limit God’s call to justice? Should we turn a blind eye to injustice when it’s international?

  18. I do not mean only the “seven nations”, I mean the original inhabitants of the land. The precise list of who that includes shifts a little bit between the various re-tellings.
    But even so, the Amalekites were only fair game when God directed Israel to attack them.
    This just supports my argument; Israel are still never given licence to attack a nation because they felt like it – only when God gave a direct command.

    I’m not “limiting God’s call to justice”. I’m demonstrating what God’s call to justice is.
    If you think that God’s call to justice is different, then you need to prove it.

    We agree that God gets to say what is loving and what is not.
    We agree that the way to find this out is to work hard to understand the whole biblical theology as it is fulfilled in Jesus
    We agree that, when we do this kind of work, then we need to accept the conclusions whether we personally like them or not

    I have now demonstrated the OT part of a biblical theology that supports my position
    Summarised here: https://constantlyreforming.wordpress.com/ot-theology-of-war/

    If you disagree, you need to show me where I am wrong.

  19. I think God’s imperative to do justice is far wider. For example, in your theology of war in Isaiah, you’re taking a description of justice coming through the suffering servant and making it into a prescription for us. When you say ‘justice comes from a man who does not fight back’ you’re right in that he doesn’t have to fight back when injustice comes to him, but he does have to fight back for others when injustice comes to the them, otherwise he is by definition depriving the innocent of justice, which God forbids (Proverbs 18:5). When justice is done it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers (Proverbs 21:15). It sounds like you’re interpretation of our imperative to do justice goes out of its way not to bring terror to anyone.

    I’m afraid I don’t agree with the premise of your first statement of agreement, that is, apart from love itself, I don’t think that there are certain things that are always loving and others that are never loving. Your whole approach is just way too legalistic. We have many tools that can be used for good or for evil, but when the Bible recounts how someone used one for evil you put it in a box labelled evil without giving it a second thought.

    I agree that in the OT God sometimes commanded Israel to go to war, and other times commanded them to be at peace. My main disagreement is with your statement last week that Jesus has put us in a permanent command to be at peace. Given the inevitability of war (Mark 13:7) and our remaining in the world (John 17:15), God’s command to work wholeheartedly (Colossians 3:23) and the existence of believing soldiers (Mark 15:39), and especially God’s rebuke to those who neglect justice (Luke 11:42), I believe that love could actually drive a Christian to go to war.

  20. Exegetical responses:
    Proverbs 18:5: This is a description of legal judgement, not military invasion.
    Mark 13:7: Inevitable does not mean good. There are many things that are inevitable that are not good.
    John 17:15: Remaining in the world does not mean participating in everything that it does (1 Pet 2:11). Indeed, there are many calls to NOT participate in the evil of this world (most of 1 Cor, for instance)
    Mark 15:39: Evidence of a soldier being converted is not proof that his career is approved of. any people were converted from evil careers, from prostitutes to Saul.
    Colossians 3:23: “working wholeheartedly” does not mean “let us do evil so that good may result” (Rom 3:8). I am advocating working wholeheartedly. I am just not advocating breaking God’s clear commands in order to do so.
    As for Isaiah, where does it say that he has “to fight back for others when injustice comes to the them”? It doesn’t. He didn’t. He brought justice- all kinds of justice – by not fighting back and instead speaking God’s word. That’s the whole point of the Suffering Servant.

    Two questions for you:

    1) What is “justice”? how do you define it biblically?

    2) Would it be OK for me to have a extra-marital homosexual affair with the ruler of a land, or a powerful politician, if it would result in him doing more justice?

  21. This is the 1 Peter verse I was thinking about in our earlier conversation:
    1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

    I was getting it mixed up with
    Matthew 5:39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.

    But both make my point.

  22. Apart from our understanding of justice (and its scope in Proverbs), I don’t think your exegetical responses actually contradict my point. I’m just saying that given the realities, I think war is an option, I’m not making a moral assessment of those realties.

    I think the Bible describes justice as defending the defenceless, often exemplified by standing up for the oppressed, fatherless and widows. By definition, this includes fighting for others, and I think this what Isaiah is calling for (1:17; 11:4; 59:1-16). Biblical justice strikes terror in the hearts of evildoers (Proverbs 21:15), which is something I don’t think you’re prepared to do.

    I love your ethical dilemma, and I think it depends. If you knew with certainty that it would work and it was the only way to prevent a genocide, then I’d probably consider it the lesser of two evils. But that’s carrying a lot of assumptions that I don’t think either of us are comfortable with.

  23. Standing up for justice (Isa 1:17) is not the same as going to war. When we stand up for justice, we look to the Bible to see how to do it (back to that old theme again). The Bible praises justice, lauds it, calls for us to live it in every part of our lives.
    It just does not say that we are to wage wars for it.
    No amount of verses supporting “justice” as a general concept overrides the fact that the Bible limits the means that we have available to pursue it.

    So far, I think you have two main points:
    1) teleological ethics means we can chose when to ignore God’s commands if we think we will achieve a better result
    and/or
    2) the Bible does not really have a command against war

    My final paper is all about dealing with point 2, and there is no point arguing it until I am finished
    But really your main problem with me is that I sound to “deontological”, so point 1:

    Your hesitation over the assumptions in my ethical dilemma really says it all.
    Any claim to be able to ignore God’s commands for what you think is a better result assumes that
    1) your logic is free from sin, and you are able to rationally conclude what is the better result
    2) you have all the information
    3) you can see into the future

    Yes, the telos of our ethic is love.
    But God is the one with all the answers, not us.

  24. Wow, I had no idea that my view could be so grossly misrepresented. Teleological ethics does not mean that we can chose to ignore God’s commands, quite the opposite. It forces us to apply God’s commands without falling into Pharisaic legalism.

    With all due respect, I’m getting a little tired of arguing. You’re obviously not open the possibility that you’re wrong, and I don’t think that you’re listening to my arguments.

    Thanks again for helping me to think through biblical justice some more. All the best with your exams and your project.

    In Christ
    John

  25. I don’t know how to reply to that.
    I’m not “obviously not open the possibility that I’m wrong” and I am extremely saddened that you said that.

    I’ve been trying to talk with you in good faith, but I cannot pin down your position.
    When talking about sexual ethics, you agreed that some things are unloving whatever the situation
    But now you have pulled back from that statement.

    is it
    a) when God says something is unloving then we must never do it
    or
    b) when God says something is unloving we can chose whether or not to do it based on our perception of which is more loving

    You don’t have to answer if you want, but at least recognise that these are the only two options, and know which one you believe.

  26. But thank you for your good wishes in my exam and paper.
    I’ll pray for you as you study, and hope you learn lots and do well.
    I’m sure you will have fun in 3rd year ethics.

  27. On further thought, I just wanted to say that if you have been offended by how I have understood you, or have discussed this with you, then I am very sorry.
    I think that our modern culture’s love affair with war is deeply disturbing, and I get very passionate.
    But forum posts is probably not the best medium for the discussion.

    Good luck

  28. I’m very sorry to have saddened you so, that was not my intension. But (and I pray that this doesn’t rub salt on the wound) I don’t see any attempt at reforming because you know exactly what you’re talking about.

    I think that you haven’t been able to grasp my framework because you’ve been unwilling to step out of yours (which I’ve been arguing is profoundly deontological). Your perception of my sexual ethics and your ultimatum both assume that some things are always loving and others are always unloving and God tells us which is which. As I said above, I disagree and I think that that approach is way too legalistic. God doesn’t label things as always loving or always unloving, he calls us to love and shows us what that looks like in certain situations, but the moment we push those examples to something that is unloving we have fallen into the trap of the Pharisees; they did all the right things, but they lacked love.

    My concern is that instead of letting the Bible define it’s concept of justice (defending others), you’re doing isogesis by imposing your preconceived idea of justice (pacifism) onto the Bible. Again I think we’re just at the point where we have to agree to disagree.

  29. It’s not that I’m not listening to your argument. I used to hold it myself (you may recall me saying that when we met face to face). I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at both sides of it. But I did some serious reading and thinking, and now think it is wrong.

    Thank you for the re-teling of our differences, it was helpful. It helped me to find a better way of saying what I mean:

    The Bible does not just tell us _what_ justice is, but it tells us _how_ it is to be attained. This includes calling for some actions, and repugning others.

    In fact, what and how are not separate. If you use the wrong how, you will never achieve the correct what. So it is right to hear when God says that a certain action will is not loving, and will not achieve justice, regardless of what we think.

    When you have the time, I think you should do a biblical theology not just on what justice is, but how it is attained buy God’s people.

    Seriously, I think you might be surprised. I was 🙂

    That’s why I’m now a pacifist, when I previously was not.

    But until then, you are right, we are just going around in circles.

    Good luck with the exams.

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