Tag Archives: ethics

Pragmatism: Where It Breaks Down [and Why You Should Care]

Pragmatist argue that it’s necessary to check our religious beliefs at the door when we debate issues. Unfortunately, that can’t work. Part of a series on truth.

Richard Rorty, the leading American philosophical pragmatist–who I wrote about in The Problem with Your Personal Testimony post–argues that when you come to the public square to debate issues like divorce, abortion or civil marriage, you should leave your religion at home.

That’s pragmatism.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with that approach.

The problem exists in the nature of religion. Religion, at its core, is a set of beliefs about the hard questions of life.

Hard questions like what is really real? What is a human being? Why is it possible to know anything at all? How do we know what is right and what is wrong?

What Pragmatism Looks Like in the Public Square

Let’s pretend for a moment that the issue on the table is population control via contraception, abortion and infanticide.

Someone who believes [based upon their religious view] that a person becomes a human at inception would see abortion and infanticide as legislated manslaughter–no matter its practical impact on society or economics.

Yet, a person who doesn’t hold that belief–say, like utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer–might argue that abortion and limited infanticide is a reasonable mechanism to control population and decrease economic strain on the health system.

As you can see, the question becomes, “Who throws out their belief?” Both arguments emerge from their answers to hard questions of life.

Where I’m Going with This

But my point here is not to argue the merits of one case over the other.

My point is simply that it’s impractical to remove one’s religious view from the public square–even if they are controversial and faith based.

In fact, to say “Please, leave your religious views at home” is in itself controversial and faith based.

It smacks of anti-religion. And exclusivity.

It’s equivalent to saying “My views are privileged above yours.” In other words, my beliefs hold sway over yours…

And my beliefs are exclusive to truth.

What Comes Next

So, in the end, it’s not a matter of practicality or exclusivity when we debate issues in the public because we’ve seen that the pragmatic argument is equally indicted as making an exclusive claim to truth…

And we’ve also seen that you can’t determine what’s practical until you determine which world view you hold.

So, in the end, it’s not a matter of who’s views are religious or not. It’s a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong.

And it’s best to decide that with evidence.

With that in mind, tomorrow we’ll explore why it makes sense to embrace Christianity’s exclusive claim to truth.

New Testament Slavery: A User-Friendly Guide

Why you shouldn’t be troubled by the New Testament’s failure to challenge the first century institution of slavery.

Modern readers are often troubled by the New Testament’s failure to criticize the first century institution of slavery.

This concern is often born of the idea that first century slavery is like pre-Civil War American slavery.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

First Century Slavery v. 18th Century: Major Differences

Even though first century slavery was widespread (half of Rome’s approximately  [warning: PDF]), slaves were often highly educated, permitted to own land and could expect emancipation.

Furthermore, slaves and masters were often of the . In other words, they were indistinguishable from each other.

Seneca records that a proposal was put forth to have slaves wear distinctive clothing. The proposal was shot down when someone pointed out that slaves would then see how numerous they were. []

Finally, because slaves supported the personal economy of masters, masters invested in their slaves. Owners often provided medical care and sufficient housing and food for their slaves and family.

This explains why slaves often chose to remain with their masters. A free man couldn’t take those things for granted [ Between Slavery and Freedom, M. I. Finley].

Treatment of Slaves

Naturally, the ideal slave owner was a benevolent patriarch who ruled justly and fairly.  he treated his slaves fairly, going as far as sending one to a friend’s villa on the French Riviera to recuperate from an illness.

Yet, since the treatment of slaves depended on the character of the master, mistreatment was rampant. Emperor Claudius passed laws that limited and forbid masters to punish or kill their slaves.

How to Become a First Century Slave

There were five main ways a person could become a slave during Jesus’ life.

1. Debt. People who couldn’t pay their debts offered themselves as slaves.

2. Retribution. A thief who couldn’t repay what he stole could be sold as a slave.

3. Parents. As a last resort, a  into slavery to pay off a debt.

4. Birth. Children born to slave parents became property of the masters. These children were known as “house born slaves.”

5. Conquest. A person could become a slaved when their nation was conquered by another nation.

Three Ways a Slave Could Buy His Freedom

What’s unique about the first century institution of slavery versus the 18th–especially in the Jewish context–is that a slave could eventually go free. That freedom came in three fundamental ways:

1. After six years, a slave was to be released. For nothing. 

2. In the , all slaves were released, no matter how long they’d been slaves.

3. Finally, slaves could buy their freedom–or someone could buy it for them.

Naturally, . As I mentioned above, there was great incentive for a slave to stay with his master.

Why Paul Didn’t Condemn Slavery

Slavery was such an essential, fundamental part of first century society–much like our current minimum-wage labor–that it was difficult for anyone embedded in the culture to call for the actual abolition of the institution. Instead, more emphasis was put on its reformation.

In that context, rather than call for an out-right rebellion, . But he also urged masters to treat their slaves with compassion.

There’s no doubt about it: Slaves in New Testament times stood at the bottom of the social scale.

Yet, the thrust of the New Testament is a new standing–neither free nor slave–but . In other words, slaves are no longer second class citizens, but brothers and sisters in Christ.

Therefore, even though there isn’t a direct call to abolish slavery in the New Testament, the implication of the gospel–especially it’s ethic of love–stands in opposition to slavery.

Final Thoughts

In the end, Paul was more concerned about people apart from Christ–people who were slaves to sin. He understood: Change a person’s heart and you change the way they treat slaves.

And the beauty of the gospel is that  from the bondage of sin.

All Christians–especially ministers–are servants of Christ. Bondservants. Rather, slaves. Slaves do not manage their lives. Neither do Christians. We acknowledge that the Savior has power over us. And so joyfully embrace this institution of slavery.

The Blissfully Plastic Moral Base of Humanism

“What does the meaningless, value-absent creed of humanism have to offer? It might surprise you. Part of a series on truth.

One of the reasons I’m enormously disenchanted with humanism is due to it’s inevitable, blissful slide into subjectivity.

I mean blissful in two senses:

1. It changes without much fuss or notice.

2. And it changes on man’s will.

What a Humanist Can Say

Recently I heard someone assert that he has the same morals as another person, although he was an atheist and the other was a Christian.

I don’t dispute that can be true. In fact, you don’t need to believe in God to be moral.

However, what a humanist can’t say is that they have an objective standard for their morality. Let me explain.

What a Humanist Can’t Say

Humanists can’t claim objectivity, because you can manufacture all the morals you want, but at the end of the day you have no mechanism to declare why we should choose one over the other.

If we are nothing more than naked apes who will decompose in the ground…why not lie, cheat and steal till your heart is content? Why not murder, gang rape and pillage just like apes, sharks and baboons?

Naturally, we won’t slip into that behavior overnight. But over time, yes.

An Honest Humanist

That’s because a humanist’s moral base is built on what’s appropriate for our culture or situation, which, as we all know, can change.

Sometimes drastically.

The Puritans departed England to reject religious oppression and bring to America core objective moral standards. And as any one who is breathing can attest…we’ve shed much of their vision on family, sex, possessions and government.

Why is that? The lawless, content-less creed of humanism is prevailing.

One reason I like Peter Singer is because he’s honest. He understands materialism cannot support morals. Or even the rights to morals.

See, any true materialist would say that we are nothing more than chemicals firing. And if that’s the case, then my parents love for me is really not “love” any more than two dragonflies “making love” or a  soda machine “obeying” me cause I put money in the slot.

In the end, what’s important or not important comes down to power. Like  said, “Truth is the majority vote of that nation that could lick all others.”

What I Mean by “Plastic”

A humanist has no real boundary for what he should do. He is left with only what he can do. That’s why  young lawyers that a pliable sense of morals is necessary to successfully practice law.

What this means is that anything a humanist suggests is subjective to change.

That’s what I mean by “plastic.” Morals can be melted down and moved. They shift with our decadence. And our decadence always follows one path: please the self versus please the Creator.

Too often, humanists want to throw off the moral base for moral duty and accountability by claiming we are nothing but machines…yet in the same breath declare themselves aware enough to be worthy of respect, honor and love.

What they need to demonstrate is why we should accept their claim and not someone elses.

An Alternative to Humanism

What does Christianity have to offer in place of humanism? A 2,000 year old book founded on the timeless wisdom of an infinite, holy and unchanging God.

And like Tullian Tchividjian wrote in , “Trying to follow God’s lead without God’s light guarantees a life of stumbling.”

The questions is: Why stumble when it’s unnecessary?

Atheist Confesses Heavy Price to Pay for Not Believing in God

UMass professor of philosophy Dr. Louise Antony confesses two distinct drawbacks to being an atheist.

During her closing statement at a 2008 academic debate on the , Dr. Louise Antony made a startling admission:

She said there’s a heavy price or two to pay for being an atheist.

Heavy Price One

First, Antony said that an atheist has no confidence that goodness will win out in the end.

The theist has a story with a happy ending. The atheist, on the other hand, no such hope.

In fact, Dr. Antony said there’s no reason at all to believe that the world just won’t destroy itself. That evil won’t win out.

Heavy Price Two

The second price Antony said the atheist has to pay is that there is no redemption.

She said if you’ve done something terribly wrong, something you deeply regret…that you know is awful…there is no mechanism to erase that. Nothing can remove that stain.

You can apologize and ask for forgiveness…but you carry that guilt with you until the day you die.

The Advantages of Being a Christian

Naturally, this doesn’t prove that atheism is false. What it does suggest, however, is that you better have a very compelling reason to abandon belief in God.

One of the advantages of being a Christian is the blessings of having a clear conscience. How wonderful it is to wake up in the middle of the night with a peaceful, clear conscience…and not one tormented by guilt and shame.

The other advantage is knowing that even though Christ was crucified he rose from the dead and demonstrated in one final flourish that, indeed, he was God, that Satan was defeated and that good will triumph in the end.

The atheist, unfortunately, even in his darkest moment, has no such comfort.