Ethics


One of the distinguishing marks of the new atheists is that they not only think religion is false, but that it is dangerous and immoral too.  Even God himself is not above their judgment.  They regularly chide the God of the Bible as being a moral monster!  They accuse Him of being pro-genocide, anti-women, pro-rape, pro-slavery, etc.  Rather than the paradigm of moral goodness, God is an evil despot that is to be shunned.  You know it’s a bad day when even God is evil!

Is what they say true?  Is God – particularly as He is portrayed in the OT – morally evil?  Many Christians are sympathetic to this charge because they themselves struggle to understand God’s actions and commands, particularly as revealed in the OT.  Thankfully there have been some well-written responses to the problem of “theistic evil” written in recent years to dispel this negative portrait of God.  

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Sam Storms has written an insightful analysis of the idea that we can or should “forgive God.”  While a few snippets cannot do it justice, the heart of his argument is as follows: 

First of all, let me say that I understand where this sort of question comes from. I understand how people quite often are confused by what God does or doesn’t do. … But my struggle is with the language of “forgiving God.” For one thing, I don’t find it ever used in Scripture. That alone ought to give us pause before we incorporate such language into our Christian vocabulary or allow it to shape our theology or our understanding of spiritual formation.

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I have a theory about racism.  While I know racism is real, I think a lot of what passes for racism is actually a misdiagnosis of ethnocentrism (the idea that one’s culture is superior to others).

Each culture has its own unique worldview, values, and practices.  Humans tend to be suspicious of worldviews/values/practices that differ from their own.  In some cases, we can even despise all or some aspect of certain cultures (often for illegitimate reasons such as “I had an experience in which a person of X race did me wrong, therefore I don’t like people of X race”).  Many times, the skin color of the people in the culture we despise differs from our own as well.  But is the color of their skin the cause of the animosity?  No, I don’t think so.  The person from culture A with skin color B despises people from culture X with skin color Y, not because he hates skin color Y, but because skin color Y serves to identify the people who belong to the culture who thinks/acts in ways he despises.  In other words, race is incidental to the animosity, not the source.

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Hitler was responsible for killing approximately 11 million people as part of his Final Solution (of which the Holocaust was a part).  He is railed against as one of the most evil men in the history of the world, and rightly so.  Anyone with any moral sense would agree that the world would have been a much better place had Hitler never been born.  What if you had the ability to make that sentiment a reality?

Imagine for a moment that you discovered a way to travel through time, making it possible for you to ensure either that Hitler never be born, or that if born, he would not live long enough to rise to political power.  Under what circumstances do you think it would be morally justified to kill to prevent the Final Solution (and for those who can’t get past the emotional problem of what it would be like to personally pull the trigger, assume that you could send someone else to perform the deed)?:

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One way to avoid self-righteousness when your brother falls is to keep in mind that each of us is capable of the worst evil, because we are all equally fallen. That’s why Paul said, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal 6:1) and “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12).  See also 1 Cor 9:27.

Switzerland wants to de-criminalize adult, consensual incest.  What do you think of this move?  Do you think incest should be de-criminalized?  All of it, or just certain forms (e.g. de-criminalizing incest between siblings, but keeping father-daughter incest illegal)?  

For Christian readers of this blog who may disagree with it, I would like to know how you reconcile your opposition to incest with examples of incest in the Old Testament.

I want to raise an ethical issue for your consideration and input: copying and/or downloading music/movies.  Is this a form of theft, or is it morally acceptable?  This has become a widespread practice in the culture at large, as well as by Christians.

I am thinking of the following scenarios:

  1. Your friend purchased a CD you’ve been wanting to listen to.  S/he lets you borrow it, and you subsequently download the tracks to your computer and burn them onto a CD to keep for yourself.  Is this theft?
  2. Your friend illegally downloaded a CD you’ve been wanting to listen to.  S/he tells you s/he’ll let you borrow it.  Should you do so?
  3. Your friend bought a new Bible study program for his computer.  You would like to have it too, but don’t have the money to buy it yourself.  Your friend is willing to let you install his copy on your computer.  Should you?
  4. A man on the street is selling bootleg DVDs.  Is it morally acceptable to buy them?
  5. You download movies from the internet for free, and store them on your computer indefinitely, or burn it to a DVD that you keep in your permanent DVD library.  Is this theft?
  6. You download movies from the internet for free, but delete them (or destroy the disk) after you have watched them.  Is this theft?

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