Your editorial in the Nov/Dec 1990 issue entitled "`Rational Suicide' and the Dearth of Courageous Humanists" takes me to task for defending the notion of rational suicide. While I wouldn't expect devout Christians, who feel that all life is in the palm of God's hands, to agree with my position, I was dismayed by the ad hominem assertion that humanists cannot defend the notion that life is precious. Do you honestly believe that only Christians (and Presbyterians most of all) can love life?
While I certainly grant that the Christian notion of compassion has played a significant role in human development, so has the Buddhist notion of karuna, the Islamic notion of Shari'a, the Stoic notion of cosmopolis, and countless other beliefs which attempt to bring humans together in a state of harmony. Humanism and Christianity are both heirs to the traditions and creeds of other belief systems -- but the former, not having to maintain the fiction of divine inspiration, is better able to be forthright about its heritage.
Executive Editor, Free Inquiry
Mr. Madigan confuses a "defense" of the dignity of life with a "love" of live, but, obviously, one can sincerely love the Easter Bunny without being able to justify claims regarding the same. The Christian challenge to non-Christians, especially humanists in this case, is to justify non-Christian cliams regarding the "preciousness" or dignity of human life in terms consistent with the non-Christian worldview. In responding to this sort of question, the Easter Bunny-believer is on better grounds than the humanist; at least the belief in the Easter Bunny is consistent with the Easter Bunny-believer's commitment to a world containing well-dressed animals, but the "dignity of life" can only fit into an evolutionary framework by a mystical fiat. Mr. Madigan only aggravates his internal conflict by forthrightly announcing his indebtedness to a number or religious viewpoints, but he does so only by ignoring the implications of his own worldview.
Finally, Mr. Madigan's claim that "Humanism and Christianity are both heirs to the traditions and creeds of other belief systems" is true only if we assume the truth of humanism, but the humanist ought to at least first beat the Easter Bunny-believer before we adopt his assumption.
In "A New Perspective on the Problem of Evil" (March/April 1991), Doug Erlandson entertains and rejects several traditional theodicies (e.g., free will and greater good theodicies) and presents a Biblical perspective (viz., that God's purpose for allowing evil in this world is to most fully manifest His glory) as the only genuine solution to the problem of evil.
Why couldn't an anti-theist argue that Dr. Erlandson has not really resolved the Biblical problem of evil because his proposed solution is subject to the same criticism that he used to refute the "greater good" theodicies?
For example, why would it be unsound for the anti-theist to argue in the following manner: Dr. Erlandson argues (p. 15) that evil in the world is necessary for the full manifestation of God's glory. (If evil in the world is not necessary for the full manifestation of God's glory, then the anti-theist can can argue that on Dr. Erlandson's view, it was not necessary for God to allow evil to enter the world, and, therefore, Dr. Erlandson's theodicy fails.)
On the other hand, if evil is necessary for the full manifestation of God's glory, then, on Erlandson's principles, we should expect to find evil in the new creation.
Mr. Brooks raises an interesting objection. I would respond as follows: The presence of evil at some point is necessary if God is to fully manifest His grace (which is an aspect of His glory). This does not mean that evil must be present both in the present world and the new creation. Those who dwell in the new creation will still remember that they are sinners saved by grace prior to the final consummation. Their total understanding of God's glory will have been enhanced in a way impossible had God originally placed them in the new creation (or had ordained a world in which Adam and posterity never fell into sin).
The issue is very different, however, if we focus (as do the traditional theodicies) on characteristics God wishes to give to or develop in man. If they (e.g., free will, courage, etc.) are valuable at all, they are presumably valuable both in the present and the new creation. Otherwise, it is difficult to see why they would be of value to man in the first place.
The Scriptures instruct Christians in God's nature and ways. God's Truth is absolute, although among His people there can be differences in understanding and applying His Word. [Regarding David Hagopian's critiques of Operation Rescue in Vol. I, Nos. 3,4 of Antithesis,] Christians' differences in understanding and applying God's Word to the Operation Rescue movement have profound consequences for the young children who are taken away to death daily. Although the discussions will not help those slaughtered, Christians can debate whether or not the Biblical exhortation to rescue people applies only to governmental leaders vs. to each of God's people. Christians are expected to obey the Lord's commands to "seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless" (Is. 1:17).
Although their discussions will not defend preborn orphans from abortionists' attacks, they can debate whether God's people are required to intervene only when a government mandates the slaughter of others vs. when it merely condones it by allowing some to kill innocent ones. People can speculate why prophets like Jeremiah didn't rescue children about to be sacrificed to idols. Was it because he realized such attempts would have been futile and merely resulted in his own death vs. did he think it was wrong to interfere with someone's choice to sin, even when the choice was to kill another, helpless individual?
Although it makes no difference to the 27 million children who have already been exterminated, church members can debate whether God's Word requires them to exhaust all legal alternatives before choosing to disobey a trespass law to prevent killing. Even if all were to agree that such a requirement is implied in the Scriptures, what errorless prophet will announce when sufficient exhaustion has occurred? Christians can debate whether Esther exhausted all legal alternatives before she chose to rescue by trespassing, which she knew was "against the law" (Esth. 4:16). Since her trespass was immediately pardoned by the grace of her king, some can argue whether she actually disobeyed the law of men in order to obey God.
People can debate whether rescuers in Nazi Germany were right in continuing to act "against the law" of their land in order to save people from unjust death sentences. Since D-Day brought the possibility of a lawful end to the death camps, should they have stopped their illegal rescue work and simply waited for a change in government? Although the victims of the new "final solution" may never know that others had concern for them, people can debate whether Operation Rescue is wrong for using non-violent civil disobedience to keep innocent ones out of killing centers today, since there is the possibility of a future change in the law.
However, instead of debating viewpoints, there is an easier way to put peoples' opinions, conclusions, and convictions to the test. Let us assume you are among the oppressed group of people. You are to be killed because the government has allowed one of your immediate family members to choose to do so. You have done nothing deserving death. You are considered inconvenient and unwanted, and your existence is the only justification necessary for the legal termination of your life. On your appointed day of execution, if some people were to attempt to save your life by non-violently preventing entrance into the killing center, would you tell them not to interfere with the choice of your family member to kill you vs. bless them for their work? Would you condemn Christians trespassing to save your life as a poor witness for Christ vs. appreciate them as an example of self-sacrificial love? If your life were on the chopping block, would it affect your view of Operation Rescue?
M.G. Forrester, M.D.
If my life were on the "chopping block", I would not want God's people to think that my death -- no matter how unjust -- was to dictate their ethic, since a victim-focused ethic, at best, is a subjective ethic propelled by the vagaries of human emotion. Instead, I would pray that God would grant me the strength to implore His people to obey the absolute and objective standard of Holy Scripture, even if obeying Scripture required detailed analysis and even if, as a result, I would suffer my ultimate demise.
While it may be hard for some to see, the goal of the Biblical ethic is not to save life. It is to obey God, by doing His work, in His way, and in His time. May God graciously grant us zeal in accordance with knowledge so that we need not be ashamed as we rightly divide His Word of truth.
A victim-focused ethic or a God-focused ethic? You be the judge. My heartfelt prayer is that we would all fix our eyes on Christ who alone enable us to see things as God sees them. Only then will we live the way God wants us to live. Only then will we learn what it really means to obey God rather than man.