Monday, March 14, 2005

Almost Persuaded - The Christian and the Evolving Ethics of the Times

Acts 26:22-29 (New King James Version)

“22Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come-- 23that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

Agrippa Parries Paul's Challenge

“24Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, "Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!"
25But he said, "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe."
28Then Agrippa said to Paul, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian."
29And Paul said, "I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

I read a chilling piece today on Evangelical Outpost about Princeton University ethicist Peter Singer. It came for me at a time when I’m really wresting with the notion of how to engage our culture.

I know that Joe Carter, the blog’s author, was trying to sound an alarm, and I believe he did that well. But Singer’s words, quoted by Joe, absolutely stunned me:

Q. “You have been quoted as saying: "Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all." Is that quote accurate?” A. “It is accurate, but can be misleading if read without an understanding of what I mean by the term “person” (which is discussed in Practical Ethics, from which that quotation is taken). I use the term "person" to refer to a being who is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future. As I have said in answer to the previous question, I think that it is generally a greater wrong to kill such a being than it is to kill a being that has no sense of existing over time. Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person, that is, a being who wants to go on living. That doesn’t mean that it is not almost always a terrible thing to do. It is, but that is because most infants are loved and cherished by their parents, and to kill an infant is usually to do a great wrong to its parents.”

"Sometimes, perhaps because the baby has a serious disability, parents think it better that their newborn infant should die. Many doctors will accept their wishes, to the extent of not giving the baby life-supporting medical treatment. That will often ensure that the baby dies. My view is different from this, only to the extent that if a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life-support – which can lead to the baby dying slowly from dehydration or from an infection - but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.”

“Defective infant.” “Not morally equivalent.” “Killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person.” My God in Heaven, what have we come to and when will this all end? The words attack and invade my bones with rottenness not unlike the rottenness felt by the prophet of old in his time of great travail.

But even more frightening was the commentary elicited by the post. There was one that sent chills up and down my spine. It was a commenter’s appeal to rational argument, to hard, cold, logic that seemed, to me, to voice a growing opinion in this country:

“Indeed it is interesting that people here who are eager to dismiss Singer for spouting 'counterintuitive drivel' are themselves ignoring any attempt to engage in a rational argument. The only attempt Joe makes to engage Singer's philosophy is to attack his definition of a person, which is a valid argument except he makes it clear he doesn't understand Singer's definition & has no interest in doing so.”

“At its base Joe's argument seems to be 'something is wrong if it violates my gut feelings'. If he thinks that is philosophy then he is a far greater danger to students than a thousand Singers. Gut feelings are only a basis for starting to construct an argument. And no, serious arguments cannot easily be constructed to 'support anything'. The fact that very few people on this list are able to construct serious arguments demonstrates this nicely.”

In other words, what Joe (and I) believes is a self-evident matter of right and wrong, of good and evil, is seen by some (I believe a growing number) as a pointless argument based solely on “gut feelings.”

I wonder as I sit here – how long will it be till Singer’s ideas are codified and subsidized by government fiat? How long will it be until life will truly become a matter of financial wherewithal? How long will it be till the rich, as the song goes, will live and the poor will die.

How do I, a Christian, engage my culture in areas like this that our so critical to humanity’s future? What can I say that will change the direction? If I appeal to the self-evident idea that this is not ground that civilized humanity wants to tread upon, I’m told that my “gut feelings” mean nothing. If I appeal to the past, to the legal and moral traditions that have been handed down to me, I’m told that ethics, like everything else in nature, is evolving. If I appeal to Holy Writ, I’m told that, while religion has its place, it is not welcome in this world of cold, hard logic.

What can I do or say to stop the headlong rush into this monumental valley of death?

I really admire Joe Carter for sounding the alarm, I really do. And I know that as a Christian I must do all that I can to preserve my culture. But as I sit here, in shock brought on by what I’ve read, I’m struggling. I can’t help but see the Apostle John’s admonition to those who read the book of Revelation in a new, modern light:

Revelation 22:11 (King James Version)

“11He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.”


James Fletcher Baxter said...

"Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament, cannot
invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist lacks
a predictive capability.

Without instinct or transcendent
criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with foresight
and vision for progression and survival. Lacking foresight,
man is blind to potential consequence and is unwittingly
committed to mediocrity, averages, and regression - and

Humanism is an unworthy worship."

-- from Earth's Choicemaker

Human logic is a process, not a value-source. As a process of reason it is no better than its criteria. Since man cannot invent criteria greater than himself his logic will be misleading and destructive.

"Feelings" have no intelligence -- they are akin to emotion and desire. Criteria? Useful only to the mind - not to glands.

To use the mind, reason, and 'logic' to justify the rule of the flesh is DUMB. Its condemnation deserves no time-wasting argument. Stupid.

It is an open confession of the bankruptcy of humanistic 'solutions.' REJECT DEVOLVING

Mr Minority said...

Am I surprized by what Peter Singer said, no, I am not surprized, revolted, but not surprized. The ability of secular humanists to develop ethics such as the reasoning behind the killing of a "defective" baby, reveals what man is without God. Without God, man is nothing but a base animal with the ability for higher reasoning and speech. God created us in his image, and with the ability to know right from wrong, good from evil, but when man relies upon himself and his own ethics, as humanist do, he overides that ability to justify his own decisions. Look at the horrors that man have done without God, the Holocaust, Joseph Mengle, Stalin and on and on. Without God as a guide, man self justifies his actions, and Singer is a prime example of that.

Mr Minority

Kyle Gosnell said...

Almost persuaded.
The World tries to persuade every day, on the most mundane things, that drives its collective of logical life views.
Doesn't matter if Ads, or a Doctor getting backup from the AMA, and a second opinion. What I mean, we are the sum total of all we have experienced, and are pressured by the collective of all the other selves, it's called a civilized society.
( I remember Solient Green too )
An altering of the basic way we see ourselves, has happened since the 60's (It's always there normally, but not in concentrate ) This means our pressure-ers have altered their stance, based of a multitude of many things, but one primarily met it's time in the 60's and super concentrated it, that being the one Baby Psych Doctor, who wrote a book, and that book was aimed at satisfying self above all, and made super good consumers as well, a super "Me First" 2 year old mentality trait, enforced on all levels of a persons development.

So now we come to the "Now" , and all logic in this country is a majority of self seekers, who think all others should be "Normal" like they are. They embrace logic that satisfies self first, that gleans admiration from peers who are like them.
It has happened under our noses, and we are to blame for not putting a stop to this horror, but were too busy making a living, so it's too late, as they are the mean of the population , not us. We are considered the fringe element, nearly insane, and the end product is, the inmates are running the hospital now. Life as we know it, will become more and more bizarre, count on it.
For Christians, it is a view that makes man the one in charge, and our Maker his servant, this view is what is wrong in organized religion now, do what you can to teach rightness.

It is in the prophecies, so there is some satisfaction there .
Be a good watcher, and stop what you can ( the majority of wrongness is unstoppable ). I am one who loves children, as I have four Grown children, as well as 10 Grandchildren, it hurts me in ways I cannot describe, to know they must live in this world now, and never to know ours.
Our only hope is the Lord, trust in him to set it right in the end.
The Orwellian future was a cakewalk compared to what we and our Children will see, I long for the old times, but understand, my perception was in a loving home, with loving parents, sadly it was happening even then.
The world logic strips the virginity of childhood, like a surgeons knife, cutting down to the moral base, and contaminating it, making it of no use, till some sort of self healing happens, or the festering of the worlds way destroys it.
I leave you with a sobering thought, try and adopt a baby that's not wanted, and the same organizations that want to euthanize them, screams you need big money, and their kind of morality, and the government allows it.
Sigh,,,,, we are the fringe element after all.

Kyle Gosnell

Derek said...

I wonder as I sit here – how long will it be till Singer’s ideas are codified and subsidized by government fiat?

If the time lag between the legalization of homosexual marriage in the Nordic countries and the current drive to follow suit here in the U.S. is any guide, my guess is about 15 to 20 years.

Jeremy Pierce said...

One of the reasons most philosophers don't like the kind of thing Joe said is that we know of examples when people have thought something to be obvious because of something seeming disgusting that we now think are morally disgusting to oppose. One of those would be racial intermarriage. I'm sure the average person 50 years ago thought that was morally disgusting and shameful, yet we find such attitudes themselves disgusting now. If you take Joe's criterion absolutely, that everything we find disgusting must be wrong, then you get bad results. Joe obviously doesn't mean it like that, but he needs to say more to show why he doesn't. I myself haven't seen him do that, and I also haven't seen his hero on this issue Leon Kass do so either.