Sunday, July 30, 2006

A Moral Reasoning P.S.

About Rahab--

Let's think about Corrie ten Boom, who gave sanctuary to Jews in her home during World War II. She was often asked by the authorities if she had Jews, and she said no. Ultimately, she was turned in and went to the concentration camps, where God worked many miracles for her (if you haven't read THE HIDING PLACE, you really must.)

Rahab, who lied about hiding the Israelite spies, is included in God's "hall of faith" in Hebrews 11. So, indirectly at least, God blessed her for her act.

When divine commands conflict, there are three ways we can try to resolve the conflict. First, deny the conflict. There are some folks (the "truthful Baptists," if you've read THE TRUTH TELLER), who would refuse to lie, period. They would appeal to God to work a miracle or accept his sovereign will, should the worst happen. The example of Rahab and the Egyptian midwives, however, would seem to suggest that God can bless folks who choose another approach.

Second, you can admit that conflicts do exist because we live in a fallen world. Sometimes we have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Corrie Ten Boom should lie to the Nazis because it is a lesser evil than surrendering innocent people to be killed. After lying, Corrie should have asked God's forgiveness for lying.

Third choice? Turn the argument on its head and recognize that a person has the obligation to do the greater good. Recognize that there is a hierarchy within God's laws. For example, God's command to preach the gospel is over his command to be in submission to the state. (Otherwise, we'd never preach in communist countries.) Jesus referred to the "weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23-24) and said that justice, mercy, and compassion are more important than the law of tithing, for instance.

(The above points and approach comes from MORAL CHOICES by Scott B. Rae, an excellent book. )

As for me, if I found myself in such a situation, I think I would pray and do as the Spirit led.

I've often wondered what I would have said were I at Columbine High School on that horriffic day. If asked if I believed in God, would I have been justified in lying and saying "No?" A lie might have saved my life . . . and did I owe truth to such an enemy? But those teenagers didn't have time to think, and those who answered "yes" and were killed--think about how God has used their testimony.

So . . . I think all three options above are viable, depending upon how the Spirit leads you at the moment of crisis. Sometimes God wants us to uplift truth and trust Him for the result. Sometimes he may want us to choose between the evils of our fallen world. And sometimes he may want us to choose the greater good. Perhaps we cannot know until we arrive at that moment of choice.

I am confident of this--our sovereign God will use whatever we do to work his will. Scripture is filled with people who chose A, B, and C, and God worked through all of them: Stephen, who died because of his fervent testimony, Rahab, the Egyptian midwives, even Peter, who denied Christ but then learned so much through his personal humiliation.

~~Angie

3 comments:

Accidental Poet said...

Where is the line between what you are describing here, and situational ethics?

Angela said...

Situational ethics is relativism--the ethical system in which right and wrong are not absolute, but relative to one's culture or one's own personal perferences. It's what people are practicing when they say, "It may be wrong for you, but don't force your values on me!"

I think what I described in this post--either adhering to virtue theory (Jesus wouldn't lie), choosing between two evils, or choosing the greater good, is not relativism because the above three choices DO point to definite, unchanging standards or right and wrong. The first case is obvious, the second acknowledges that lying is wrong, and the third acknowledges that saving a life is a higher priority in God's law than deceiving an enemy.

Relativism would say that lying is sometimes right, sometimes wrong, while all of the above three situations admit that lying is wrong. (I know it sounds like we're arguing semantics, but there is a real difference.) Relativism would say that it's okay for Islamic societies to suppress women's rights, but not Christian nations. Relativism says there are no absolutes, nothing is right or wrong because there is no inalienable standard.

I'm glad you asked the question. It's good for me to think these things through.

BTW, I thought of another biblical example: when Annias and Sapphira lied to Peter (and the Holy Spirit), the Spirit struck them dead. We DO owe truth to other believers.

Angie

VAIL said...

Wow, deep thoughts. Thanks for giving me much to think about. Made me picture a "grown up" book version of one of those childhood "choose your own adventure" books. A story where it shows the three different paths played out.