Monday, July 22, 2013

Slick’s Apostasy: Various Angles of the Issue

I heard about this first via Alpha & Omega Ministries: Yesterday on the Dividing Line.  I have not yet heard what Dr. White had to say about it, but other people have chimed in in written format, which I can access more easily.

Analysis from the redoubtable Steve Hays: Triablogue: Born to fail.
Another from Glenn Peoples (HT: Jason Engwer): How to exploit a family falling out for the sake of ideology.
Personally, in my reflections on the whole matter I was thinking more about the specifics of the stated reason for abandoning Christianity.  Without daring to put myself in the company of those commentators I will post those thoughts below, FWIW and as a possible indication of what others might be thinking

This changed one day during a conversation with my friend Alex. I had a habit of bouncing theological questions off him, and one particular day, I asked him this: If God was absolutely moral, because morality was absolute, and if the nature of “right” and “wrong” surpassed space, time, and existence, and if it was as much a fundamental property of reality as math, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?

Four thoughts:

1) She was trained by Matt Slick.  Slick is cool, his ministry has stood the test of time, and he is probably one reason that I am a Calvinist today.  However, frankly his work has always been half-baked and over-reaching in some instances, and I fear that when it came to meta-ethics he may have trained his daughter poorly on account of possibly his own not having a solid grasp of certain issues.

2) Do the words “consequentialism” and “context” mean anything to either of the Slicks?  (Of course, I know that at least one of those matters to one of them.)  Or when did the Scriptures ever indicate that virtue ethics, or deontology, or divine command theory were the only possible correct paradigms by which to make sense of God’s law and God’s nature as revealed in the Scriptures?

Yes, Christians are sophisticated enough to reject divine command theory for reasons which are reflected in Euthyphro’s Dilemma.  Yet the Scriptures apparently never rule out consequentialism in toto and never rule out what we might call (gasp) situational ethics of a sort, and the whole of biblical ethics is best understood in considering both virtue ethics and these other ethical paradigms.

When and where is it appropriate in this country to walk around buck naked?  In a classroom at school?  No.  In worship services at church?  No.  At home?  Sure.

When and where is it appropriate to drive on the right side of the road?  In the U.S.?  Yes, but even then not if the driver is drunk and doing 100 mph on a crowded freeway.  In the U.K.?  No, unless suddenly it is good to cause needless head-on collisions with other vehicles.

Are circmstances or possible consequences relevant in the examples listed immediately above?  Yes, and that is exactly why there are exceptions to rules such as those to which we just alluded.

And is the range of permissible moral options dependent on the situation?  Yes, it is.  That is precisely how sex within the bond of marriage is permissible while your spouse’s cheating on you is not, or why harsh punishments are appropriate only for offenders who are culpable of the worst crimes, to cite two examples.

3) At some point the elder Slick may have got tripped up on issues of postmodern ethics or moral TAGs and passed a muddled, incomprehensible message down to his daughter--either that or the younger Slick just failed to grasp what she was being taught.  Similar language or similar terms appear in discussions of each, and this probably was a source of conflation or confusion at some point.

In any case, God is just (even essentially or transcendently so); in translation this means that God’s actions are just, for this is what the word “just” ultimately points to in terms of meaning and function.  Meanwhile, the words “just” and “moral” are more or less synonymous (though I  prefer “just” over the younger Slick’s “moral”), and those words ultimately mean either in accord with some ethical principle or in accord with what is good; and despite that the word “good” has many meanings--all of them dependent on what the metric or standard of measurement is--and despite anyone’s and everyone’s being capable of finding evil things to be favorable--i.e. “good”--or of prescribing evil conduct as though it were something just, God’s actions are just.

God has issued a body of ethical prescriptions and proscriptions of human behavior; each of these commandments are in accordance with both themselves and objective goodness: by definition, they are just.

Moreover, these commandments are “absolute” in the sense--and this is what people mean when they speak of moral rules which are “absolute”--that they are just regardless of whether Smith over here says, “Adultery?  Meh, that’s okay with me; there’s nothing wrong with it” or whether a society over there on the other side of the planet says, “Why not bow down before Baal?  Who else gives us rain for our crops or puts food on our table?”  That is the sense in which they are absolute.

However, this is not to be confused with the issues of divine command theory vs. rival meta-ethical theories.  There aren’t too many Christians who claim that if God suddenly decided one day to proscribe the consumption of turkey dinners then it would be evil to be turkey dinners in virtue of the proscription itself.  No, the claim would more or less be that if a divine proscription of turkey dinners came down the pike tomorrow then: a) it would be because the proscription did not have a favorable timing before then; and b) the proscription is done for a reason which is objectively good; c) rebellion against the Creator is not in accordance with what is objectively good; and d) guess what: God’s nature happens to be one of objective goodness, all such that it was never possible that an intuitively bad thing such as idolatry or sadistic torture or babies would have been prescribed at some point.

“...Why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?” she asks.  Answer: if you can find an instance of such things, then stop to reconsider the matter and to ask yourself whether such things promoted the well-being of someone or something at one point in the past but later outlived their ability to do so.  Why is it a sin to issue orders to a someone of the rank of Sergeant First Class in one year whereas ten years later it is not a sin to do so?  Hmm, could it be that someone there in the Army got promoted such that legal and moral privileges which formerly were not theirs later rightly became theirs?  This is one example off the top of my head; you should be capable of doing the same.

4) How old is Rachael Slick again?  Oh yeah, that makes sense.

1 comment:

Kwame E. said...

And Blogger has returned to its evil ways of causing formatting issues and trouble. *tsk*