A Grab Bag of Observations About Torture

And because this is a grab bag, we will just rummage through it for now. Maybe later we can unpack it. If you would like to read more, a couple of good articles from opposing corners can be found here and here.

That said, here are some thoughts of my very own.

1. You can be morally serious without being morally grounded. The fact that you feel the pressure and the weight of the responsibility you have to protect American lives does not mean you have an ethical system able to bear the weight that situations like this will place on you. Morally serious is not the same thing as moral. Relativists can be anguished, and frequently are.

2. Consequentialism is not a biblical ethical system. There are times when it seems to turn up a no-brainer answer to your question — if we could prevent a nuclear bomb from going off in Baltimore by slapping Khalid Sheikh Muhammed a couple of times, why wouldn’t you do that? That seems reasonable. But without an ultimate anchor, the little dingy of secular smart people can drift a long way out to sea. Now suppose you can prevent the Baltimore nuke by having a dark ops team rape KSM’s mother, sisters, and daughters. Suppose the threat of that prospect would break him sooner than waterboarding would? At some point, pretty soon in the process, you will need more ethical light than horrendous consequences of not doing “something” can ever give you.

When Mary Counted His Fingers

“The absolute Truth, the one who fills all things (Eph. 1:23) condescended to a place where He would have to fill his diapers. This — to the refined and philosophical mind — was outrageous, impudent, and even blasphemous . . . The ultimate Truth suckled at His mother’s breast, had ten fingers and ten toes, which His mother counted, and He then grew a bit older and went to Nazareth High. The universal became a particular, and did so without ceasing to be a universal. The universal Truth has a hometown, and a mom, and is a scandal to the Greeks. He is also a scandal to the Kantians and the postmodernists, and all for the same reason” (God Rest Ye Merry, pp. 68-69).

Let Them Cheat

“Conservative activists who are surprised or indignant at the gross lop-sidedness of the whole system are being foolish because they are expecting the devil to be a gentleman. They are expecting him to fight clean, and to avoid every form of fighting dirty. What makes us think he might do that? . . . The only thing that is missing in this farce is our ability to see how funny it is — and how much God doesn’t care that they are cheating. In a battle of accusations and counter-accusations, they will always have the advantage. Let them have it. Devils make better accusers, always, and we are not in this to create right-wing devils. No, we have a better game to play than that” (Rules for Reformers, p. 21).

Native Humor

“If humor is natural to the preacher, then it should be used in preaching, but one must never ‘import’ jokes just to make the congregation laugh” (Wiersbe, Preaching and Teaching With Imagination, 275).

Decent and Orderly

“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)

The Basket Case Chronicles #174

If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:37–40).

Paul has set down the standards of decorum in worship. These standards apply as much to the spiritually gifted as to anyone else. In fact, here Paul makes clear that they apply especially to the spiritually gifted. If a man is a prophet or otherwise quite spiritual, he might be tempted to think that these celestial impulses of his trump the apostolic parameters. If a man thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, then let him prove it by obeying the words that the Spirit inspired. It is no good at all when men claim to be driven by the wind of the Spirit as they sail into direct disobedience of the Spirit. Letting the Spirit quench us is not quench the Spirit.

If someone is still disposed to argue the point, Paul simply relegates him to his ignorance. Paul finishes the thought by saying that prophesy should be earnestly sought, and that tongues ought not to be forbidden. It is worth mentioning again that while tongues are legal tender, counterfeit tongues—being counterfeit—are not legal tender. To refuse to accept a counterfeit bill is not a denial of legal tender laws, but rather a support of them. To deny yamayama tongues is not the same thing as forbidding to speak with tongues.

The basic principle is then stated again. A Christian worship service ought to be decent and orderly. God is to be worshiped with reverence and godly awe.

The Yarn in the Public Sweater

Our presenting issue currently is same-sex mirage, but the central issues involved in that extend into everything. What is the proper role of civil government, and who does the civil government answer to?

I have been meaning to address the temptations presented by libertarianism for a while, and here is the occasion for it. But before beginning the critique, I want to say something else I have argued before. I am writing as a theocratic libertarian, but libertarianism by itself, pure and simple, is not a Christian political theory. This is an excellent reason for Christians not to adopt it. At the center, it is a civic form of unbelief.

So that which is a distinctively Christian political theory (i.e. a theocratic approach) resembles libertarianism in a number of striking ways. In practice, under consistent Christian rule, quite a few libertarian proposals would in fact be adopted, and a Christian society would leave you alone in ways that many libertarians have wished to be left alone. The horrendous tax burden would be an example of that. So would responses to the surveillance state. So would detestation of torture — and current indications are that I will be writing about that someday soon.

But marriage and divorce law would not be an example of anything like a libertarian approach.

In other words, a consistent Christian political theory is not libertarian, but it will in fact be accused by statists (including those Christians compromised by the idolatries of statism) of being libertarian. Just as a preacher who preaches free grace will never be antinomian, so a Christian political theorist will never be an anarchist or a libertarian. But it is equally true that any preacher worth his salt who preaches free grace will be accused of antinomianism (Rom. 6:1). It is the same kind of thing here.