All Animals Are Equal:
(Part II)

General Bioethics — By on July 25, 2005 at 2:27 am

From a Christian perspective, the creation of human-primate chimeras raises a number of bioethical concerns. The most direct, of course, is the possibility of creating human-like awareness in primates that leads to unnecessary suffering. While under some circumstances experimentation on animals can be ethically justified, doing so in a way that would unduly increase their pain and discomfort would be a violation of our duties as stewards of God ‘



  • http://shortattnspan.knowinpart.org/ Kevin

    And why was it that the pigs got to rewrite the rules? Once the Master was driven away, the aminals had only themselves, and the most clever and cynical of the animals took control. Right and wrong became the functional equivalent of the will of those with the strength to impose it.
    Once God is rejected and morality is seen as a mere human invention, then all we really have is “might makes right”. If we’re just another animal, there’s no logical reason to expect anything but the law of the jungle. This is basic stuff, even if secularists reject the conclusion without showing why it doesn’t follow.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    I do believe that we were made in God’s image and that this makes us suited to live in fellowship with God and others like us.
    But surely ‘image of God’ is not conceptually simple. We must be able to say something about what it comes to, and why possession of it would make a being suited to live in fellowship with God.
    Is it rationality? Is it some emotional ability? Is it some combination of the two? Or perhaps here we should enter into a discussion of what is meant by ‘fellowship’ in the hopes that we can explain why humans alone (at least of those beings found on Earth) are suited for fellowship with God.
    The challenge that we will have to meet from Singer, Regan and others is this: whatever capacity we might suggest is that which explains what is meant by ‘image of God’, it is one almost certainly lacked by certain human beings. A man with advanced Alzheimer’s has little or no rational ability, certainly less than is enjoyed by many non-human animals. The same is true of any emotional ability one might name. It seems true as well that my dog is more capable of fellowship than is such a man.
    This is the conundrum that we must all face. Either explain what it is about humans that elevates them morally above all non-human species, or retreat from the claim that we are morally elevated merely in virtue of the fact that we are human. Talk of ‘image of God’ is not the end of the debate, even from the Christian point of view. It is but one very early gambit. It must be explained and defended if it is not to collapse.
    A last point about Singer interpretation. (I often find that people get him wrong on these issues.) Contra Joe, Singer does not reject the claim human beings have intrinsic worth or dignity (though he does shy away from language like ‘dignity’). Rather all that he rejects is that all human beings have a special dignity or worth not shared by any non-human animal. Moreover, he holds that in general a human life is of greater worth than the life of a non-human animal. (The title ‘All Animals are Equal’ is apt to mislead in this regard, and I always regretted that he chose it.) This is so b/c in general human beings have interests that are not shared by non-human animals. The most important of these is the class of interests that derive from, or depend upon, our self-consciousness.
    What distinguishes Singer is not what he says about humans in the normal range. He would be happy to agree that I’m more important than my dog. I am self-conscious. I plan for my future. I seek to realize certain goals that I conceive as goals for myself. My dog does not. Rather what distinguishes Singer is what he says about those humans that lie far outside the normal range. A man in the grips of advanced dementia matters less than does my dog, says Singer, for his interests have been so narrowly constricted that those of the dog will seem rich and varied in comparison.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Franklin,
    The challenge that we will have to meet from Singer, Regan and others is this: whatever capacity we might suggest is that which explains what is meant by ‘image of God’, it is one almost certainly lacked by certain human beings.
    That is true if we start with their premise that the imago dei is a

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    However is there no danger between declaring that the only difference between humans and animals is that humans are made in God’s image? How about the similarities between humans and other animals? Doesn’t that imply that the animals are made, to some degree, in God’s image as well?
    Joe’s argument has some nasty edges to it as well. If we say chimps are not ‘in God’s image’ then the scientists worrying about accidently creating a human like chimp must be silly! Suppose such concerns are dropped (yes Joe does caution against suffering but it is possible to go forward with such experiments but not cause suffering to the test subjects and out of this we get a chimp that is able to talk and Communicate with us. What happens when he pleads for his life and for freedom? Can we safely refer to Joe’s post that chimps, even ones genetically altered, are not made in God’s image and do as we please with him/it? BTW, it’s a bit hard to get into but the Sci-Fi Channel’s remake of Battlestar Galactica does an excellenct job exploring questions like these.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I’ll try not to get started singing the praises of the new Battlestar Galactica but I’ll also note that it depicts the human created robots as very sincere followers of a monotheistic God while the humans are either secularists or followers of polytheisism. It’s too soon to tell where the writers will go with this idea but it’s pretty interesting to watch…

  • Nick

    Joe:
    That is true if we start with their premise that the imago dei is a

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Nick,
    Your final sentence is correct, but doesn’t presenting the truth necessarily involve explanation?
    Absolutely. It is not that the imago dei doesn’t need to be explained, only that explanations likely won’t be sufficient. I should have clarified that point by adding that if they reject the basic premise “God exists” then no explanation for how we are created in God’s image would be acceptable.
    I’d note also that some ethologists like Frans de Waal argue that “survival of the fittest” is not the sum total of animal morality, so it is important for us to define imago dei in such a way that it clearly distinguishes humans from non-human primates.
    Good point. I suppose the best that we could say is that human’s conception of morality could not be higher than any other non-human primates.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    Joe,
    This is a purely logical point. I don’t know what substantive weight it carries. All that Singer says in the passage you’ve quoted is that there is no special human dignity possessed by all and only humans. This does not imply that humans have no intrinsic dignity. Rather all that it implies is that whatever dignity we humans all share is also shared by some non-human animals.
    As a matter of fact, Singer is one of the great defenders of the intrinsic worth of all sentient beings. That they can suffer and feel pleasure is what makes them matter from the moral point of view. You seem to wish to read Singer’s view as a kind of ethical deflationism, i.e. that humans and animals matter little or not at all. In fact he is an ethical inflationist. Sentient humans, he will say, even those with radically deficient rational and emotional capacities, have a kind of infinite moral value. Their desires, constricted though they are, matter no less than do the similar desires of normal humans. But he argues that on pain of inconsistency we must then admit that nonhuman sentient beings have just the same moral value. Their desires, insofar as they are similar to human desires, matter no less than do human desires.
    Here’s a slogan for Singer’s view: similar desires are due similar consideration from the moral point of view, no matter the species to which they belong.
    This doesn’t seem insane to me.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Franklin,
    Rather all that it implies is that whatever dignity we humans all share is also shared by some non-human animals.
    Perhaps I am reading Singer wrong but it is not just that humans all share a dignity that is denied non-human animals but that not all humans have the same dignity. He appears to be claiming that human dignity is not intrinsic but extrinsic.
    As a matter of fact, Singer is one of the great defenders of the intrinsic worth of all sentient beings.
    I don

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    Joe,
    You say: “A human being is intrinsically valuable because of the sort of thing it is and remains for as long as it exists.”
    Let me sharpen Singer’s point a bit in response to what you say.
    I take you to mean that merely in virtue of the fact that we are human, we are thus morally elevated over all non-human animals.
    The Singerian response is this:
    If mere difference in species membership can make for a difference in moral worth, we have no reason not to expect that other biological divisions will also be correlated with degree of moral worth.
    A biologial distinction exists between the sexes and the races.
    Thus if mere difference in species membership can make for a difference in moral worth, it seems that mere difference in race or in sex can too.
    But that is absurd. Mere difference in sex or race is not relevant to the determination of moral worth.
    The point can be put in a second way as well. Let us assume that we make contact with extra-terresterial intelligence. Except for obvious difference in body-plan, they are very much like us. They are at least as intelligent as us, and at least as emotionally able as us. Would it be defensible to say that they matter less than do we simply b/c they are not human? Of course not; that would be the worst kind of speciesism. So, then, again we must say that mere difference in biological kind does not imply difference in moral worth.
    This leads us inexorably to the conclusion that we can’t simply say that we matter as much as we do simply b/c we are human. We must say more. What is it about our humanity that makes us matter as do from the moral point of view? This needs explanation, and it seems that in this explanation we can refer only to properties/capacities/potentialities which can be shared by humans and non-humans.
    Singer has a view about what this (potentially) shared characteristic is. It is sentience.
    Kant has another view. For him it is rationality.
    I have a third. It is not the actual possession of the rational capacity alone but rather either the actual possession of it or the potential to either develop it or recover it. This by my lights is what is meant by ‘image of God’.
    Again I reiterate the the Christian cannot simply assert that all and only human beings are made in the image of God and thus are morally elevated over the rest of life. This needs explanation, and that explanation must make reference to characterstics that are potentially shared between us and non-humans. There is work for the Christian to do here.
    Indeed that should be obvious from inspection of ‘made in the image of God’. Surely this does not refer to body-plan. To what then does it refer? Some characterstic that is in God and was imparted to us in our creation. Is is then some shared characteristic. It is not mere species membersip for that is not something shared between God and us.

  • http://thebronxblogger.blogspot.com Matthew Goggins

    I agree with Franklin.
    Joe says,
    We should present them with the true, whether they can accept it is up to them.
    But it is not good enough to present the truth and allow it to speak for itself.
    If something is true, then one should be able to thoroughly respond to any and all rational objections. The truth, if it is indeed known, has to defensible against all comers as a integrated whole, in all its details, and in its implications as well.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Franklin,
    Rather all that it implies is that whatever dignity we humans all share is also shared by some non-human animals.
    Perhaps I am reading Singer wrong but it is not just that humans all share a dignity that is denied non-human animals but that not all humans have the same dignity. He appears to be claiming that human dignity is not intrinsic but extrinsic.
    As a matter of fact, Singer is one of the great defenders of the intrinsic worth of all sentient beings.
    I don

  • Elwood

    Franklin,
    Understanding better what “image of God” means is a good idea. Since an atheist rejects the existence of God, image of God doesn’t mean anything to them. There are then two fronts to work on, one is to convince them there is a God, the other is to try to explain things in terms that will mean something while they are in unbelief.
    However, I challenge your opinion that Singer is an ethical inflationist:
    “You seem to wish to read Singer’s view as a kind of ethical deflationism, i.e. that humans and animals matter little or not at all. In fact he is an ethical inflationist.”
    This is only true for certain individuals within species, not entire species. A dog with diminished capabilities would not have its worth increased by Singer, only healthy dogs. And some dogs more than others. And, most importantly, certain humans’ worth/rights would be diminished. Sure, utilitarianism is great for us humans who are healthy, reasonably intelligent, and don’t take up a lot of health-care resources. By virtue of utilitarianism, no non-human animal will ever attain greater rights than us. But very bad news for the weakest among us.
    Singer doesn’t raise all animals, he pushes some down below other animals, and raises some up even above certain humans, in the process pushing those humans down. The problem with utilitartianism isn’t the good it does for animals, but the harm it does to certain humans.
    I think you say much the same as I am saying at the end of your first post above.

  • Elwood

    Joe Carter:
    “The imago dei cannot be

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    Joe,
    About ‘intrinsic worth’:
    For Singer, a being matters from the moral point of view just if it is able to feel pain and pleasure. This ability is an intrinsic quality of those beings that possess it, and thus for Singer moral considerability depends upon the intrinsic nature of things.
    His view is a variety of moral individualism. The moral status of an entity depends wholly upon its intrinsic nature. He would deny that all human beings are equal in moral status, b/c for him it is not species membership but rather the presence of sentience that makes a being matter from the moral point of view and some humans are not sentient.
    You ask: “So if a rat has a similar desire to eat, as say a human infant, should we give that due similar consideration?”
    The desires should be given equal weight. But they are not all that should figure into our decision of whom to feed. The human infant will likely grow into an adult and will experience a range of pleasures not possible for a rat. Moreover, the human life span is in general much greater than that of a rat. Thus Singer’s consequentialism would almost certainly tell us to feed the human infant and not the rat. But again this is not b/c rat hunger is any less important, considered in itself, than is similar human infant hunger. Qua hunger, they are to be viewed similarily from the moral point of view. But a consequentialist bids us to take into consideration not this or that isolated desire but rather all desires whose satisfaction will be impacted by our decision.
    You said something about an inconsistency in Singer’s view on this matter. I’m not sure what you mean. What is that proposition that he both accepts and rejects? I’d guess that, even if such a thing were to be found, it could not be uncovered but a cursory glance at his views (and that’s all we’ve done here). He is simply a modern-day adherent of a venerable ethical theory, viz. consequentialistism, and I’d expect that the package he offers is, like Mill’s, Betham’s and the other great consequentialists, internally consistent. This of course does not mean that it’s true, of course. But consistence is a much easier mark to hit than truth.
    One last point:
    You say that we are morally elevated b/c of a certain relation that we bear to God. Do you mean to say that this relation obtains in independence of our intrinsic nature? If it does, then there could be beings of species other than Homo sapiens that yet equaled us rationally and emotionally that yet did not bear that same relation to God and thus were beneath us. But that’s morally repugnant, no better really that the most pernicious kinds of racism or sexism.
    You say as well that if our moral worth depends upon our intrinsic nature then that worth exists in independence of God. This seems like a non sequitur. No doubt we are made to know and to love God. But to be able to do such a thing, a being must rise to a certain level of intelligence and of rationality; and it is these on which moral worth supervenes. Put otherwise: that part of our intrinsic nature that makes us matter as we do is that very same part which makes us suited for fellowship with God.

  • http://philosophicalmidwifery.blogspot.com/ Franklin Mason

    Joe,
    About ‘intrinsic worth’:
    For Singer, a being matters from the moral point of view just if it is able to feel pain and pleasure. This ability is an intrinsic quality of those beings that possess it, and thus for Singer moral considerability depends upon the intrinsic nature of things.
    His view is a variety of moral individualism. The moral status of an entity depends wholly upon its intrinsic nature. He would deny that all human beings are equal in moral status, b/c for him it is not species membership but rather the presence of sentience that makes a being matter from the moral point of view and some humans are not sentient.
    You ask: “So if a rat has a similar desire to eat, as say a human infant, should we give that due similar consideration?”
    The desires should be given equal weight. But they are not all that should figure into our decision of whom to feed. The human infant will likely grow into an adult and will experience a range of pleasures not possible for a rat. Moreover, the human life span is in general much greater than that of a rat. Thus Singer’s consequentialism would almost certainly tell us to feed the human infant and not the rat. But again this is not b/c rat hunger is any less important, considered in itself, than is similar human infant hunger. Qua hunger, they are to be viewed similarily from the moral point of view. But a consequentialist bids us to take into consideration not this or that isolated desire but rather all desires whose satisfaction will be impacted by our decision.
    You said something about an inconsistency in Singer’s view on this matter. I’m not sure what you mean. What is that proposition that he both accepts and rejects? I’d guess that, even if such a thing were to be found, it could not be uncovered but a cursory glance at his views (and that’s all we’ve done here). He is simply a modern-day adherent of a venerable ethical theory, viz. consequentialistism, and I’d expect that the package he offers is, like Mill’s, Betham’s and the other great consequentialists, internally consistent. This of course does not mean that it’s true, of course. But consistence is a much easier mark to hit than truth.
    One last point:
    You say that we are morally elevated b/c of a certain relation that we bear to God. Do you mean to say that this relation obtains in independence of our intrinsic nature? If it does, then there could be beings of species other than Homo sapiens that yet equaled us rationally and emotionally that yet did not bear that same relation to God and thus were beneath us. But that’s morally repugnant, no better really that the most pernicious kinds of racism or sexism.
    You say as well that if our moral worth depends upon our intrinsic nature then that worth exists in independence of God. This seems like a non sequitur. No doubt we are made to know and to love God. But to be able to do such a thing, a being must rise to a certain level of intelligence and of rationality; and it is these on which moral worth supervenes. Put otherwise: that part of our intrinsic nature that makes us matter as we do is that very same part which makes us suited for fellowship with God.

  • http://www.choicemaker.net/ James Fletcher Baxter

    Consider:
    The missing element in every human ‘solution is an accurate
    definition of the creature. The way we define ‘human’
    determines our view of self, others, relationships, institutions,
    life, and future. Important? Only the Creator who made us in
    His own image (neither angel nor animal) is qualified to define us accurately. Choose
    wisely…there are results.
    Many problems in human experience are the result of false
    and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised in man-
    made religions and humanistic philosophies.
    Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe. The
    balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human reason
    cannot fully function in such a void, thus, the intellect
    can rise no higher than the criteria by which it perceives
    and measures values.
    Humanism makes man his own standard of measure. However,
    as with all measuring systems, a standard must be greater
    than the value measured. Based on preponderant ignorance
    and an egocentric carnal nature, humanism demotes reason
    to the simpleton task of excuse-making in behalf of the
    rule of appetites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.
    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
    worse. Humanism is an unworthy worship.
    The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with a
    functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the foot-
    dragging growth of human knowledge and behavior. Faith,
    initiated by the Creator and revealed and validated in His
    Word, the Bible, brings a transcendent standard to man the
    choice-maker. Other philosophies and religions are man-
    made, humanism, and thereby lack what only the Bible has:
    1.Transcendent Criteria and
    2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.
    The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival equip-
    ment for today and the future.
    Man is earth’s Choicemaker. He is by nature and
    nature’s God a creature of Choice – and of Criteria.
    His unique and definitive characteristic is, and of Right
    ought to be, the natural foundation of his environments,
    institutions, and respectful relations to his fellow-man.
    Thus, he is oriented to a Freedom whose roots are in
    the Order of the universe. selah

  • Cheesehead

    Matthew: “If something is true, then one should be able to thoroughly respond to any and all rational objections. The truth, if it is indeed known, has to defensible against all comers as a integrated whole, in all its details, and in its implications as well.”
    Your statement is correct, however I would like to add one important caveat: The inability of any particular person who holds to God’s truth (and all truth is God’s truth) to throughly and accurately defend all components and inplications of any particular truth or the whole of all truth does not negate the veracity of that truth. I would assert that one untruth our culture’s secularist bent tempts us toward is that man is the measure of all things and that a man or a group of men can ascertain with certainty all truth with no recourse to divine revelation or authority.
    The fact that I am an unworthy proponent of the truth that man is endowed with a special value above all of God’s other creatures does nothing to diminish the veracity of that proposition.
    In brief, humility a characteristic Christians are called upon to cultivate, and a quality which rationalism rejects.

  • Cheesehead

    Elwood: “I’m against the death-penalty in modern societies. Even a murderer still has the image of God.”
    Here is another case where we cannot arrive at the truth with recourse to divine revelation. Secularists have a field day pointing out the contradictions they perceive in Christians defending the dignity of all human life, opposing abortion, yet defending just war and capital punishment. All these things are derived from (perhaps imperfectly understood) divine revelation (i.e. Scripture).
    The best way I can see to harmonize capital punishment with human dignity is to view capital punishment as an affirmation of human dignity: it places a high value on the life of the victim and imputes absolute responsibility for the act on the killer, with no recourse to saying that he acted under outside influences (genes, upbringing, demonic possession) which excuse his rejection of the victim’s and his own dignity as made in the image of God.
    But whether I can successfully reconcile these propositions does not affect their truthfulness. I just means that, unlike God, I do not have infinite capacity to understand everything.

  • http://blogotional.blogspot.com/2005/07/chimeras-serious-look.html Blogotional

    Chimeras – A Serious Look

    People who argue for radical equality in any field disregard that such efforts do not raise up the lowly without also knocking down the high.

  • http://blogotional.blogspot.com/2005/07/chimeras-serious-look.html Blogotional

    Chimeras – A Serious Look

    People who argue for radical equality in any field disregard that such efforts do not raise up the lowly without also knocking down the high.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    Yes, I agree with Singer that if we accept his premise that dignity is based on characteristics (such as sentience) then we have to be consistent and apply it to all similar creatures. But we do not have to accept that premise any more than we have to accept the absurd conclusions that flow from it (i.e., that we can be held to a higher morality than non-human primates).
    This seems to imply that dignity does not necessarily apply to creatures with sentience. Does this mean cruelity to a genetically modified ‘human chimp’ or a visiting ET is less immoral than being cruel to a human being?
    But whether I can successfully reconcile these propositions does not affect their truthfulness. I just means that, unlike God, I do not have infinite capacity to understand everything.

    I’m reminded of the first Lord of the Rings books where Frodo regrets that Bilbo spared Gollum’s life. Gandalf chastises him that many deserve life, can he give it to them? If not then he shouldn’t be so eager to deal in death and judgement. While I’m marginally in favor of the death penalty I always found it a powerful argument. If there is no urgent need to kill someone (say to in self defense or defending another) it is probably best to make the error against inflicting death. Most of us are not consistent on that, though. I supported the court decisions in the Schiavo case as well as Tim McVeigh’s execution.

  • Elwood

    Cheesehead: “Here is another case where we cannot arrive at the truth with recourse to divine revelation. Secularists have a field day pointing out the contradictions they perceive in Christians defending the dignity of all human life, opposing abortion, yet defending just war and capital punishment. All these things are derived from (perhaps imperfectly understood) divine revelation (i.e. Scripture).”
    You meant to say withOUT recourse to divine revelation, correct? If so, I agree with you. I derive my position on capital punishment from Scripture as well. I would never attempt to reach a conclusion about the death penalty without recourse to Scripture. Clearly, it is in there and mandated in certain circumstances. What I don’t see is it being mandated in the same circumstances for all time. In the NT, you observe some of those practices being rolled back.
    Divine revelation is one thing, our ability to understand that revelation is another. I grant that some things revealed to us, even though it may be perfectly received and accepted by us, will not seem logical by human understanding. However, logic and reason are gifts of God that should still be utilized in our attempts at understanding what God is telling us.
    That we are created in the image of God is divine revelation. I think it’s appropriate to take that truth, which is accepted by all Christians, and apply it to an area that is not as well understood and where Christians have disagreements about what divine revelation is telling us (capital punishment).

  • http://jonrowe.blogspot.com Jon Rowe

    – Take, for example, the question of why humans have more intrinsic dignity than other animals. The

  • Larry Lord

    “The best way I can see to harmonize capital punishment with human dignity is to view capital punishment as an affirmation of human dignity: it places a high value on the life of the victim and imputes absolute responsibility for the act on the killer”
    –Alleged– killer, Cheesehead. Please don’t shame Wisconsin in my presence with lame arguments about how capital punishment affirms human dignity.

  • Larry Lord

    Elwood
    “Clearly, it is in there and mandated in certain circumstances. What I don’t see is it being mandated in the same circumstances for all time.”
    Please show the circumstances where death is mandated in scripture and also where scripture describes when exceptions are made for those circumstances.
    Killing humans is sort of a big deal for most of us. I assume your deity would have been very careful and clear about when and how humans should be killed when he allegedly “divinely revealed” his “feelings” to us.

  • Larry Lord

    Joe Carter
    “I think you are assuming too much by claiming that any answer must be based on a reference to characteristics. That basis implies that the worth could be independent of God.”
    When a chimp is taught to read the Bible and pray and clearly understands the resurrection and Ten Commandments and accepts Jesus as his savior, does the chimp’s intrinsic worth change?
    Or is the chimp still considered less worthy humans (sort of like a lot of Christians used to openly write about black people not too long ago)?

  • Cheesehead

    Larry Lord: “–Alleged– killer, Cheesehead.”
    You mean to say that there is never a case where the identity of the killer is not in doubt? Especially with the the tool of DNA evidence? And then you say I bring Wisconsin into disrepute?!?
    Elwood: I realize that sincere Christians line up on both sides of the capital punishment issue, but I have not seen what I consider a satisfactory anti-capital-punishment handling of Romans 13 talking of the ruler not bearing the sword in vain.

  • http://sheepcrib.blogspot.com/2005/07/kingdom-blogs-around-sphere-today-726.html The Sheep’s Crib

    KINGDOM BLOGS – Around the Sphere Today! (7/26)

    A periodic post of things I’ve read and like in the Kingdom part of the blogosphere …

  • Elwood

    Larry,
    I was thinking specifically of the contrast between Leviticus 20:10 ” If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife

  • Elwood

    Cheesehead,
    Romans 13 seems to be talking about more than just the things that would earn one the death penalty. “Bearing the sword” could simply mean having the power to punish. If it only meant applying the death penalty, then another metaphor might have been more apt. What was the most common form of execution during the writing of Romans 13? I don’t think it was even done with the sword. Crucifixtion was one form of execution, I’m sure there were others. But the most visible form of enforcement were those who would walk around with uniforms and swords. Just like today a policeman carries a gun, wears a badge, and a uniform. When we think of running afoul of the government, the image that comes to mind is a cop with a gun coming after us. But they don’t use that gun to kill the death row inmates. They use the electric chair or lethal inj. I don’t think “bearing the sword” can be narrowly applied only to the death penalty, although “raising the crosses” could be.
    He goes on to talk in Rom 13 about paying taxes. Did they have the death penalty in the Roman Empire for not paying your taxes?
    Vs. 3 says “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? ” Certainly we have more to fear from the gov. than just the death penalty. Fear of a speeding ticket will slow me down on the road. Fear of 10 years in prison will encourage other activities to be abandoned.
    As long as we’re off-topic, what are some other Biblical reasons in favor of the death penalty in modern societies? As I said in previous post, I’m motivated to study this more deeply.

  • Larry Lord

    Cheeshead
    “You mean to say that there is never a case where the identity of the killer is not in doubt? Especially with the the tool of DNA evidence?”
    DNA evidence does not remove doubt from a conviction. You have indeed shamed Wisconsin, home to many great molecular biologists and geneticists.

  • Larry Lord

    “We as Christians don’t advocate the death penalty for many things that the OT might seem to on first glance, so why many Christians still hold it as appropriate recompense for murder must be based on something other than just these OT passages.”
    Maybe it’s Jesus’ teaching that we should love and forgive our enemies, turn the other cheek etc.
    On second thought, I doubt it.
    Perhaps some preachers find the Old Testament and its teaching more compelling and useful for inciting fear in the members of their congregations. As human beings, those preachers share a tendency with many of us to seek revenge against those who do us wrong and find an outlet for our anger and hatred.
    You know, those tendencies that Jesus suggested we make every effort to rise above …

  • Cheesehead

    Elwood: While I don’t think “bearing the sword MUST refer to capital punishment, it certainly may in fact refer to capital punishment. This is the interpretation that is used to support capital punishment. I am unaware of any other NT teachings on capital punishment. As far as the OT teachings on capital punishment, I know plenty of people who try to put words into other people’s mouths to the effect that the Mosaic Law ought to be enacted in every detail into American law, but I do not know anyone who actually sincerely holds to that belief. For myself, I believe that the whole of the Mosaic Law was given to Israel; that Israel is not the church; and that the church neither inherits nor supersedes Israel. God’s covenant with Israel has not been revoked and will be fulfilled in God’s timing, but meanwhile the church was not addressed in the OT. Therefore we really only can go on what the NT prescribes as to our relations to the government. We as believers are called to obey the government whenever doing so will not directly contravene God’s commandments for us (e.g. worshipping a false deity). The NT is pretty much silent on what form or duties any Gentile government should have, and while Rom. 13 can be interpreted to mean that Christians ought to recognize the state’s authority to inflict capital punishment (my view), it certainly does not teach that the state MUST exercise capital punishment. Since we are in the world but not of it, we should work for the best living conditions we can for ourselves and those around us, but ultimately we are here only temporarily, and our eternal citizenship and home is in God’s Kingdom.
    RE: Taxes and death penalty in the Roman Empire.
    My understanding is that in the imperial provinces of Rome, tax collection franchises were awarded to people that Ceasar felt were loyal to him and trustworthy. Each tax collector was given a certain region and had to collect a prescribed amount in taxes. Anything he collected over this was his to keep. Methods of enforcement for paying taxes were more or less up to the individual tax collector, ergo the hatred the Jews felt for tax collectors.
    OT: While the Mosaic Law was given to Israel and is not binding upon the church, there are many wonderful principles in the Law which, if applied, bring great blessing. The dietary guidelines are quite healthful, for instance. And Deut. 24:7 is a revolutionary verse. My wife and I applied it for the first year we were married and we both think our marriage is much stronger because of it.
    Larry: Wow! I sure am sorry that I have shamed Wisconsin by stating my sincerely held beliefs. I’ll send an apology off to Gov. Doyle right away. Anyway, how do you know I live in Wisconsin? Does Wisconsin have a copyright on the word Cheesehead? Can I be a Michigan cheesemaker and still call myself Cheesehead? And after this will I still be allowed to wear my “I was a cheesehead before cheeseheads were cool” t-shirt. (Can’t tell you the number of people who have tried to convince me that cheeseheads never have been cool, but I know better.) :-)

  • Elwood

    Cheesehead,
    Thanks for your response… but, did you mean something other than Duet. 24:7? That deals with kidnapping. 24:5 deals with the first year of marriage, but were you really able to not work the first year of marriage? I’m curious, more info, please.
    I know there are differing views of Israel’s relation to the church. But doesn’t Romans 11, the grafting in of Gentiles, the cutting off of some Jews, the future re-grafting in of Israel seem to paint a picture of a connection between us? My understanding is not that the church was created totally new, separate from Israel on a totally different plane. The first Christians were Jews. Paul says we have the same root. I think I adhere to a much more direct relationship, but I agree that the Jews time/relationship with God is still unfinished based on 11:25.
    That being said, Jesus’ crucifixion did away with the need for much of the old law since so much was designed to point forward to Christ, but certainly not all. The Ten Commandments still apply, no?
    I don’t understand the distinction you make between what God says about punishment in OT vs. NT. Is it because in the OT, at times Israel was both civil and spiritual authority over her people, whereas today civil authority is different than church authority in America? My reason for treating them differently is because Jesus seems to teach a shift by not condemning the woman caught in adultery. (in addition to Peter’s vision in Acts 10.)
    C: “While the Mosaic Law was given to Israel and is not binding upon the church,”
    What do you mean specifically by the Mosaic Law? Do you mean everything but the 10 Commandments? Or is there a set of guidelines (dietary? what else?) that can be identified, singled out, set aside, and then we say everything else including the 10 Commandments DOES apply? Sorry for my ignorant questions, but this is one of those things that gets glossed over and I’m not really sure where different Christians are coming from in how they apply OT law to the Church.

  • Larry Lord

    Cheesehead
    “Anyway, how do you know I live in Wisconsin?”
    No one from any other state would ever call themselves a Cheesehead, even if they were a cheesehead.
    You might even be from Monroe. Either that or Kenosha.

  • Cheesehead

    Elwood: Thank you for considering what I have to say. Your questions are not ignorant, and I am pleased that we can discourse this way.
    You are right that I again made a typo by referencing Deut. 24:7 when I meant 24:5. I can only plead a crazy schedule at work (all three shifts worked this week and all seven days–lots of guys on vacation) dulling what I like to fancy as a rapier-sharp wit at all other times. :)
    Anyway, before we were married my wife and I read that passage (the one about marriage, not kidnapping), and counted the cost, and did it. She quit her job just before we married, and I stopped sailing on ore boats on the Great Lakes. (I had left cheesemaking thinking that if God was not going to bless me with a wife and children I would join the merchant marine and go see the world. Now that I have a family I’m back to making cheese.) We budgeted to live on $1,000 per month; not luxurious, but very adequate for us. During our year-long honeymoon we spent the first five weeks on a 25-foot sailboat touring the upper Great Lakes. That in itself was a wonderful experience: we could not get more than 25 feet away from each other, and had to learn to work together in order to even survive. Afterwards we spent time fixing up our modest little house, traveled about the country a bit to visit friends, and made a trip to England to spend time with my wife’s family.
    What we did right with our year-long honeymoon:
    1) We got rid of our TV for the year and had no internet. After the year was up we got internet access again, but have never brought back the TV. This forced us to talk to each other and didn’t give us an escape valve to avoid resolving things.
    2) We cultivated the discipline of daily prayer, worship and Scripture reading, and regular church attendance together.
    3) Setting aside $12,000 and not spending more than $1,000 in any given month helped us to harmonize our financial priorities. We have never once had a argument about money. (At the end of the year we had $480 left over.)
    What we would do differently if we had it to do over again:
    1) I got way to involved in fixing up the house. It was almost like a substitute TV for me.
    2) As a result we probably missed out on doing more bonding-type activities together. We should have done more low-budget camping trips, canoeing, hiking, etc.
    Now, on to the Israel/church discussion:
    I believe that nine of the ten commandments are reiterated in the NT, the exception being the commandment about keeping the Sabbath day holy. I think it is in Romans 14 (sorry, I’m on my lunch break at work and don’t have a copy of the Scriptures with me) where Paul specifically states that one man can observe certain days and another man can observe all days alike and both stand before God. However, the decalogue certainly does contain a moral frame of reference that applies universally to all mankind throughout all time.
    God’s covenant with Israel very specifically included a nation, a land, and a code to govern both civil and religious life. It was not and is not dependent upon Israel’s obedience for it to be ultimately fulfilled. (The first, but not only example of the unilateral nature of most elements of this covenant is when in Gen. 12(?)14(?) God told Abraham to cut some animals in half and lay them on the ground. He caused Abraham to fall into a trance and He passed through the animals, but not Abraham. This is how suzerainity treaties at that time were ratified–both parties passed through to signify that this is the fate that should befall them if they abrogated the treaty. God passed through, but Abraham did not; the Covenant was unilaterally binding upon God.)
    The Mosaic Law contained much information about the form of civil government for Israel under the Covenant. There were many capital offenses, for instance, and there were specific duties for prophets, priests, kings, and judges. We can learn priciples of good governance from these teachings, but they do not apply to us in the church or to America as a nation because we are not the receipients of the Covenant. The NT, where it touches on government at all, mostly just tells us to obey whatever the government commands if it is not a direct violation of God’s commands. Hence you can think of Romans 13 as justifying the state’s use of capital punishment or you can think that is not what is meant, but as Christians we cannot say that God commands the United States to do or not do anything regarding its governance. This is not to say that as Christians we should not participate in civic affairs as fully as we can, nor that we should check our faith at the door. It just means that we bring divine principles to the discussion, not divine blueprints or commands. Personally I think capital punishment for murder and treason is a good thing, and I think Scripture makes a specific allowance for the state to exercise it. I do not believe Scripture commands it for the US or any other state. I fully respect you or anyone else who does not share my interpretation of Romans 13, or who believes that just because Scripture allows the state to use capital punishment does not mean that it necessarily should.
    One last point about the early church being comprised almost entirely of Jews. That is correct, and I do not pretend to know exactly how those who were living under God’s Covenant with Israel who were then present and became part of the New Covenant fit in that transition. But Jeremiah talks about a New Covenant which God will make with people from every corner of the earth. For those who are inheriters of God’s Covenant with Abraham and who also know Messiah, all I can say with any confidence is that they are doubly blessed. (My wife fits into this category.)
    Sorry to ramble on so long. Let me know your thoughts.
    Blessings.

  • Cheesehead

    Larry: I will not dissemble: yes I was born and raised in Wisconsin, although not in Monroe or Kenosha. Four generations back my family is from Appleton. However, I come from a long line of cheeseheads stretching back to Europe and consider my cheesiness to be much more a function of my family background than my residence in Wisconsin. I have made cheese in five states and have always considered myself a cheesehead wherever I have been.
    Now tell us a little about yourself. I would guess you live in Dane, Sauk, Milwaukee, Racine, or Kenosha County. My guess is you work for the UW in a non-teaching capacity, or in public education or civil service. I think you are in your mid-50′s. How close did I come?

  • Elwood

    Cheesehead,
    What a coincidence, only you actually did it. In 2000 I unexpectedly had all commitments and responsibilities fulfilled. God had totally redirected my life and I had no immediate plans. I was single with no kids so I started considering my options. I’m from MN, right now live/work in St. Paul. I seriously thought about going up to Duluth and finding a job on a freighter. How many years did you do it? How was that experience? Feel free to e-mail me at prayforwill@yahoo.com since this is off-off topic.
    Thanks for your viewpoint on OT/NT stuff. One big diversion from my thinking though is that God often told those He made covenants with that there were blessings for keeping the covenant, but curses for breaking it. He does say, however, that even though we are unfaithful, He remains faithful. I’ll get some references later if requested. Gotta run for now.

  • Cheesehead

    Elwood: I’ll e-mail you later about the boat stuff–great life for a single guy who is disciplined enough to not end up sitting in a bar everytime the freighter is in port.
    RE: The Covenant with Israel. There are most certainly curses associated with Israel breaking the Covenant (remember that whole reading of the blessings and curses between the two mountains shortly after the conquest). But despite that, there are features of the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants which are unilaterally binding upon God, and He will be faithful to them. Romans 9-11 teaches that Israel has been set aside for a time, but God is still faithfully preserving the Jews, and that all Israel will finally be saved resulting in blessings to everyone in the world which we cannot even begin to imagine. That is a short and not very detailed version. Again I’m on my lunch break and don’t have a copy of the Scriptures with me.
    I don’t know how exactly how it will look when God restores Israel, but I think it is clear that God has a future for them.