We’ve all got babies to kill

September 27, 2014 § 145 Comments

I could be wrong, but in my understanding Augustine and Aquinas were primarily concerned with whether the Israelite conquest of Canaan was justifiable at all: with jus ad bellum. After all, on its face it was a war of conquest, and wars of conquest are morally wrong.

Just conduct during war, jus in bello, is clearly – and is formally recognized by the Church as – an entirely distinct subject.

At least one Church Father though has directly addressed accounts of killing infants in the Old Testament and how they are to be interpreted. Here is Origen on the “dashing of babies” in Psalm 137:

And in this way also the just give up to destruction all their vices, so that they do not spare even the children, that is, the early beginnings and promptings of evil. In this sense we understand the language of Psalm 137 … For, “the little ones of Babylon” (which signifies confusion) are those troublesome sinful thoughts that arise in the soul, and one who subdues them by striking, as it were, their heads against the firm and solid strength of reason and truth, is the person who “dashes the little ones against the stones”; and he is therefore truly blessed. – Origen, Contra Celsum, translated by Frederick Crombie, vol. 4, The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to AD 325, edited by Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 1989)

So according to Origen, Old Testament accounts of killing infants refer metaphorically to destroying heresy and vice in ourselves in its infancy; and the weapons of destruction are reason and truth.

In that sense, we should all be dashing the heads of infants against the rocks.

(UPDATE: Made a minor tweak to my post-citation commentary)

§ 145 Responses to We’ve all got babies to kill

  • Hoopty Freud says:

    You really are an idiot. We knew that. What’s surprising is that Origen was an idiot as well.

    If that passage could be a metaphor for something unrelated, it could be a metaphor for anything unrelated — unless there was a known convention at the time of referring to bad thoughts as Babylonian babies. It’s more plausible as approval of abortion.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    And in that sense, we should all be dashing the heads of infants against the rocks.

    Ha! What about the children!?

    Such disregard for the common modern desire to make one’s statements immune to vicious and easily refuted misinterpretation is as refreshing as a Spring-rain-scented, Irish-themed bath soap!

    So according to Origen, Old Testament accounts of killing infants refer metaphorically to destroying heresy and vice in ourselves in its infancy.

    “Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
    ‘Tear it down,’ they cried,
    ‘tear it down to its foundations!’

    Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.

    Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.”

    Does such a metaphorical interpretation’s truth necessarily preclude a less-metaphorical interpretation, though? Polyvalent meaning is a thing, after all. I had been placing the “interpretive variance” position above the “God’s supreme authority” position because the former requires fewer debatable premises (I’ll not start numbering them here). I’m simply giving the better theoretical explanation for seemingly inconsistent facts priority over the merely good, without rejecting the merely good outright. I don’t think I’ve come to understand your argument, just yet.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    You really are an idiot. We knew that. What’s surprising is that Origen was an idiot as well.

    What a fat crap face… Because I say so… And insults are legitimate first means of communication… Because I say so…

    If that passage could be a metaphor for something unrelated, it could be a metaphor for anything unrelated — unless there was a known convention at the time of referring to bad thoughts as Babylonian babies. It’s more plausible as approval of abortion.

    I wonder if he’d have an answer to these questions you posed after assuming idiocy. I see Origen here and can’t help but think of the same interpretive style in John of the Cross’s writing, for my part. Continuous tradition might just be a fact worthy of considering while forming conclusions.

  • Chad says:

    Thanks for sharing this Zippy. It offers good perspective that, whatever an individuals thoughts on what the other thread discusses, to claim that all of the Bible must be interpreted in one manner or another is to fall into error. Some are written to be read as a history, some as an allegorical lesson, and some as a very metaphorical way to contemplate, wrestle with, and come to terms with over time. Some in multiple ways.

    For anyone that thinks this Psalm, in particular, is meant to be literal, how do you explain the Daughter of Babylon as a literal figure?

    I found reading this and then reading chapters 17-19 of Revelations to be rewarding and chilling. Let us strike down the children of the Daughter of Babylon that they might not grow to wreck havoc, sin, and chaos upon the world. Let us strike down heresy and apostasy, let us do so with love and lead souls away from the coming Whore of Babylon so that they might take up the cross to pursue our Lord.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    Word, brother.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    You really are an idiot. We knew that. What’s surprising is that Origen was an idiot as well.

    Well well. Childish insults rather than coherent criticism. I’m dissapointed but not surprised.

    If that passage could be a metaphor for something unrelated, it could be a metaphor for anything unrelated

    If you had read and understood this post and this post, then you’d understand that there exists only one correct interpretation – metaphorical or not – and that only the Church can infallibly determine what that interpretation is. However, we can safely rule out it meaning that it’s sometimes okay to murder the innocent, like you suggest here…

    It’s more plausible as approval of abortion.

    …because the Church has already infallibly declared that that’s never morally permissible, and God cannot contradict Himself, which includes the things He says through an infallible statement from the pope.

  • jf12 says:

    The Psalmist is singing while wailing about the feelings of himself and other Jews, and undoubtedly correctly describing the feelings of the foreign soldiers (not Jews) who would soon be dashing in Babylon. It did literally happen as prophesied here, although those foreign soldiers were not commanded by God to do so.

    Polyvalent. Literal, and metaphorical.

  • jamesd127 says:

    If you don’t literally and not at all metaphorically kill the enemy’s infants, you will wind up killing your own.

    And the Hebrews did wind up killing their own.

    Human sacrifice cults have never been eradicated by sweet reason, but by means that were genocidal or close to it.

    A human sacrifice cult combines coercion and persuasion as closely has possible. People see canaanite ruling elite burning their children alive, are persuaded that Moloch is the real god. And if unpersuaded, at risk of joining those children.

  • William Luse says:

    Zippy,

    Just so you know – as with prostitutes and tax collectors – many idiots will enter the kingdom of heaven before the rest of us.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    If you don’t literally and not at all metaphorically kill the enemy’s infants, you will wind up killing your own.

    …or you can do good and avoid evil at all times, and refuse to slaughter any children at all, whether they be yours or your enemy’s.

    And the Hebrews did wind up killing their own.

    “People X performed evil action Y, and were motivated by failing to perform evil action Z,” is not an argument that Z is justifiable.

    (In case it was unclear, X is the Hebrews, Y is slaughtering your own children, and Z is slaughtering your enemies’ children.)

    Human sacrifice cults have never been eradicated by sweet reason, but by means that were genocidal or close to it.

    And every instance of said genocide was a case of performing evil that good may come of it. If you’d like to see how that doesn’t follow, this very blog has many a good article on consequentialism.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    Polyvalent

    Many true and correct interpretations are possible as long as one of them is that real babies are murdered by real men with God’s real approval. That’s the important thing.

  • Here is the quotation from Aquinas that was never given:

    God is Lord of death and life, for by His decree both the sinful and the righteous die. Hence he who at God’s command kills an innocent man does not sin, as neither does God Whose behest he executes: indeed his obedience to God’s commands is a proof that he fears Him.

    I don’t think this works because it doesn’t address the simple fact that it’s not possible to be totally certain it is God talking to us. And if you’re wrong, you’ve just killed an infant.

    When something is wrong for us every single time no matter what EXCEPT when God is telling us to do it that doesn’t help us, because that would mean that we would need to be sure that God is suspending what would normally be the moral law – and that is impossible.

  • The OT seems clear. The relevant passages have a real historical sense as well as allegorical and moral meanings.

    Pretty sure if God commanded wars of conquest and the slaughter of enemy children then our understanding of natural law needs to be adjusted accordingly. Malcolm is right IMO. Those commands couldn’t have been suspensions of the moral law.

    Perhaps such activities are restricted under Christianity because God’s mercy has been revealed in Christ and more abundant graces are given to convert hearts. Extreme measures such as wars of conquest and genocides may have been broadly sanctioned by divine judgment in the past, but are now less needed.

    The human sacrifice cults of Central America were not overthrown by persuasive means alone. Force was necessary.

    “People X performed evil action Y, and were motivated by failing to perform evil action Z”, is not James’s argument. His point can be better understood by reading the following from his blog:

    “The practice of sacrificing one’s infant children to Moloch by casting them into the flames in front of the congregation demonstrated one’s faith – and having done such a terrible thing (perhaps to advance one’s career in the state apparatus) difficult to doubt the belief system that made it a good thing.

    “Thus, burning children alive was an effective means of making people into Canaanites. The Canaanite memetic system reproduced, while Canaanites did not, just as progressivism reproduces, while progressives do not.” (http://blog.jim.com/culture/memes-and-reproduction)

    Basically, his argument is if a people isn’t willing to ruthlessly eliminate a human sacrifice cult, even to the point of destroying its offspring, that people will end up sacrificing its own children, because they will end up being converted to the cult.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    “It’s more plausible as approval of abortion.”

    So stupid, not even sure its worth responding to.

    Also, does not the Psalmists perspective come into play here? I seem to remember Judah angrily declaring that the pregnant Tamar be burned alive… because he was in a rage… and then it didn’t actually happen… and he recanted.
    And yet I often hear this as an example of God endorsing abortion somehow. Do people think Judah was God? Sometimes I think other people are reading a totally different book.

  • Basically, his argument is if a people isn’t willing to ruthlessly eliminate a human sacrifice cult, even to the point of destroying its offspring, that people will end up sacrificing its own children, because they will end up being converted to the cult.

    In other words: In order to avoid slaughtering our own children, which we’re not actually doing but might do in the future, we should kill OTHER people’s children and just get it out of the way,

  • vishmehr24 says:

    JustSomeGuy,
    ” there exists only one correct interpretation – metaphorical or not – and that only the Church can infallibly determine what that interpretation”

    From CCC
    115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.

    116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.” 83

    117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.

    (1) The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism. 84

    (2) The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”. 85

  • vishmehr24 says:

    I would recommend Robert Alter’s translation of Samuel 1 and 2 from the Masoretic text-“the David Story”.
    One needs to appreciate the stylistic conventions of ancient Hebrew fables. “Thus says the Lord” is conventional opening of a prophetic message, having precisely the status of a shamanic utterance.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Americans are perhaps uniquely handicapped in understanding OT by their in-bones individualism. But OT is tribal and communistic –it is always “Amalek struck Israel”, “Judah argued with Israel”

    Communistic means total identification of an individual with his nation. And their is also “sins of the fathers to be visited upon the children to the third and the fourth generation”.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @Vishmehr24:

    Forgive me, I was unclear.

    By “one correct interpretation” I meant “all valid meaning which can be drawn from the passage in question”. That one correct interpretation could – for example – include both literal and allegorical meanings with entirely different moral lessons. However, it is metaphysically impossible for said lessons to contradict one another.

    My point was that even God observes the law of non-contradiction (it would be mistaken to say He is ‘bound’ by it, however), and moral principles don’t change. If you’re in a situation in which it would appear at first glance that God is commanding you to violate a moral dogma, the only possibility is that you’ve misunderstood the situation.

    Benjamin was suggesting that directly contradictory moral teachings can be legitimately drawn from sacred scripture, which is a load of bull excrement.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    JustSomeGuy,
    My apologies too for a certain hastiness.

    However, I would not stress on the “one correct interpretation” which is known and defined only by the Church. People discover and more than that, people “realize” the rich meaning of the Scripture in their spiritual life all the time. And it is a bit positivistic that it is the Church that claims to define “one correct interpretation” After all, the Church is herself continuously engaged in discovering more and more meanings in the Scriptures

  • Zippy says:

    Andrew Matthews:

    The relevant passages have a real historical sense …

    Sure, but as I understand it other parts of Scripture, taken literally, deny that the Ban took place.

    vishmehr24 and JSG:
    You both emphasize important things. Scripture has an endless depth of spiritual riches; at the same time, no true and correct interpretation will contradict any other true and correct interpretation, because that would mean that one of them must be untrue and (because of inerrancy) incorrect.

    I would point something else out, in addition. Some folks will acknowledge that interpretations other than a ‘literal’ one are possible, but insist that a ‘literal’ one is always true and correct. This is impossible though, for two reasons.

    One is that ‘literal’ refers (perhaps ironically) to a tendency in interpretation not a strict process: there is no positive demarcation between ‘literal’ interpretation and ‘symbolic’ interpretation. All language is inherently symbolic, and taking literal interpretation too, um, literally, results in language eating itself.

    The second is that if the ‘literal tendency’ is applied strongly to all Bible passages, the Bible contradicts itself.

    So people who think that a ‘maximally literal sense’ for every passage always exists and is correct must concomitantly believe that the Bible contradicts itself, and is thus untrue. That is why Richard Dawkins is a literalist.

    vishmehr24:

    “Thus says the Lord” is conventional opening of a prophetic message, having precisely the status of a shamanic utterance.

    The notion that it is a formality akin to “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States” is something that many people are simply unwilling or unable to consider. Because in their view, God can do anything whatsoever that He wills — except that He must do exactly what they say and expect when it comes to pedagogy. The one thing Allah is not permitted to do is teach with a voice other than their own — or in manner they do not expect, or of which they do not approve.

  • Zippy says:

    Malcolm:

    I don’t think this works because it doesn’t address the simple fact that it’s not possible to be totally certain it is God talking to us.

    Yes, and what “he” is telling us to do is a factor in that certainty. So whatever one may think of the ‘voluntarist problem’, no voluntarist ‘solution’ has any practical human relevance whatsoever. The very fact that “he” is commanding something against the natural law is what makes me certain it isn’t God.

    Personally I think the idea of voluntarism is malformed from the beginning, because it requires us to treat God and the Good as categorically distinct. ‘Solutions’ to malformed problems aren’t even wrong, because the problems themselves are nonsense.

    As an aside, I’m not important enough for people to still be citing me posthumously. But if they were, I would hope that they didn’t turn something I said once into a monomania. People sometimes forget that Aquinas was both learning from and reacting against Averroes and the Mohammedans. Everyone needs to be interpreted in context.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “God can do anything whatsoever that He wills — except that He must do exactly what they say and expect when it comes to pedagogy. The one thing [God] is not permitted to do is teach with a voice other than their own — or in manner they do not expect, or of which they do not approve.”

    Projection, much? Who is it here that is literally disapproving of what is said to be what God literally said? And who is it, based on that disapproval, reasons “That wasn’t God that said that”?

  • Yeah, I guess Aquinas’s theory was that if God orders it, then it’s not natural law, but for the reasons we’ve both said that doesn’t really help, because you still need to be sure the voice telling you to do this is God and not a liar or the devil.

    The position may not technically be “wrong”, but it is practically useless.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    While I would disagree with this rejection of Aquinas in theory, I would agree with it in practice.

    In theory, natural law is nothing more than the moral demands of one’s nature. A man truly acting on behalf of the Divine Nature would be acting on the authority of that higher Nature – he would be outside natural law. We all seem too quick to reject the possibility of God giving commands which are contrary to SOP and undeniably from Him. An argument from “God cannot” cannot stand unless there is some violation of the principle of noncontradiction. An argument from the assumption that man cannot unambiguously receive such a command begs the question. It presumes normal means of communication which we can all agree are insufficient. I would argue Aquinas still stands. I would love to see an argument to the contrary.

    In practice, how could a third party know that this one was acting on behalf of God unless it were just as unambiguously revealed to him? Even if this third party were the judge in the inevitable courtroom, the unambiguous divine communication he received in a dream or vision would be inadmissible evidence. Man must judge man according to the law.

    Many of you seem quite sure that Aquinas is wrong, but I can’t find an argument to that effect in the bunch. If it comes down to an argument from authority, there can be no victory. St. Thomas among philosophers and theologians is as Hal Jordan among Green Lanterns. Should I have to take all of them combined on their collective word alone against him alone, they would lose (whether he was reading Averroes or otherwise – Aquinas is immune to evil influence unless proven to the contrary – that an idea was found in an Islamic source is not evidence of its falsehood).

  • jf12 says:

    @malcolm re: “it is practically useless”

    Yes, for the specifically exceptional non-lesson of killing babies extendingto other babies. But in a more general sense, the idea that you could define yourself to be holier than God is the worst possible sin. Moreover, as the Bible makes clear in the specific examples discussed, including Saul with the Amalekites, and Abraham with Isaac, obeying God because of His authority is more important than you making sure He makes sense to you and conforms to your doctrine.

    Re: killing non-babies. Is it current moral for soliders to kill all males and take all the females for extra concubines? If not, why aren’t we also discussing that? Isn’t that “practically useless” in the exact same way?

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0:

    An argument from the assumption that man cannot unambiguously receive such a command begs the question.

    Acknowledging our epistemic limits isn’t begging the question. And it isn’t that Aquinas is wrong: it is that whether he is right or wrong is moot.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    Hmm… Maybe. God’s ability and desire to overcome those limits seems like a relevant factor in this discussion and in salvation history and certainly isn’t something to be dismissed, though.

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0:
    We could experience what we thought was Heaven or Hell, and later come to find out that we were deceived. It shouldn’t surprise Christians that ultimately the only assurance we have is faith – trust in God.

  • CJ says:

    St. Thomas among philosophers and theologians is as Hal Jordan among Green Lanterns. Should I have to take all of them combined on their collective word alone against him alone, they would lose

    I understand what you mean, but this is one of the worst pop culture references you could’ve used to make your point. Jordan murdered most of the other GL’s to gain the power to turn back time and correct a great tragedy. Consequentialism 101.

    Furthermore, “Aquinas Says” doesn’t end the debate. He also disbelieved in the Immaculate Conception. I’m not Catholic, but I do know that when a saint’s writings contradict what the church teaches infallibly, the saint loses.

  • Zippy says:

    Mark Citadel:

    Sometimes I think other people are reading a totally different book.

    I often have the same experience, and wonder if many people, when staring into the Scriptures, simply see themselves staring back.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    We all seem too quick to reject the possibility of God giving commands which are contrary to SOP and undeniably from Him. An argument from “God cannot” cannot stand unless there is some violation of the principle of noncontradiction.

    “Thou shalt not murder” and “Thou shalt slaughter thy enemies’ children” coming from the same God would violate the law of non-contradiction.

  • I note a couple of things:

    1) Aquinas never actually said anything about infant-killing in the Canaanite conquests

    2) I was very careful, as was Zippy, to acknowledge that it is possible Aquinas was perfectly correct; I’m really not sure. It’s just that this does not matter.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    Jordan murdered most of the other GL’s to gain the power to turn back time and correct a great tragedy.

    Which, by the standard of measure of green lanterns, is awesome, consequentialism aside. Furthermore, this extends to the Aquinas-versus-every-other-theologian comparison. My analogy is airtight, as always.

    Furthermore, “Aquinas Says” doesn’t end the debate.

    If we’re doing an argument from authority debate and citing theologians (magisterium citation is cheating – difference in kind), I’m saying it does.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    “Thou shalt not murder” and “Thou shalt slaughter thy enemies’ children” coming from the same God would violate the law of non-contradiction.

    I disagree. “Thou shalt not murder” applies to normative conditions and sets a limit to human authority with regard to the taking of life. “Thou shalt slaughter thy enemies’ children,” as you say, was a deviation from that norm employing God’s, rather than man’s, authority (assuming, for the sake of this argument, it happened). The law of noncontradiction does not apply.

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0:

    (magisterium citation is cheating – difference in kind)

    Evangelium Vitae:

    Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium. 51

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    We could experience what we thought was Heaven or Hell, and later come to find out that we were deceived. It shouldn’t surprise Christians that ultimately the only assurance we have is faith – trust in God.

    I think a key distinction to be made is the difference in revealed theology which exists now and the time of the alleged Caananite massacre command. Closed revelation has a marked effect on how one approaches divine communication. Prophetic revelation was the norm. Also, ancient Jewish theology, to my limited understanding, didn’t have so fleshed out an awareness of lying devils masquerading as divine messengers. Even by the much later time when there were false prophets, it was the real prophets who were the means by which they were refuted. If we’re going to consider epistemology, I say we go full bore.

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0.:

    Closed revelation has a marked effect on how one approaches divine communication.

    The doctrine though is closed public revelation. Authentic private revelation is tolerated, frequently officially approved, and sometimes outright celebrated (e.g. Fatima). Nobody is required to believe in particular private revelations, but the authenticity of some of them is pretty much a given.

  • Benjamin2.0 says:

    Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.

    Natural law doesn’t work. For this argument, in the case of divine command, it’s superseded, c.f. Thomas Aquinas, etc. I’m afraid we’re circling.

  • Zippy says:

    Benjamin2.0:

    What part of “always” did you not understand?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    “Thou shalt not murder” applies to normative conditions

    Negative moral precepts (meaning “thou shalt not” as opposed to “thou shalt”) are universal. They apply everywhere all the time in all situations. Believing anything else makes you a moral relativist. It means you believe that there is no such thing as intrinsic evil, as any action can become moral in the right circumstances. If you’re not a moral relativist, you can’t possibly actually believe what you wrote above. If you are a moral relativist, I can’t help you in a com-box sized block of text.

    sets a limit to human authority

    Yes, I suppose that’s correct. An exercise of divine authority (like the Sixth Commandment) brings with it an inherent restriction on human authority. That doesn’t make it not divine authority, however.

    was a deviation from that norm employing God’s, rather than man’s, authority

    Except the Sixth Commandment is God’s authority, not man’s, and He doesn’t give contradictory commands like “Don’t murder ever” and “Murder these particular particular people now”.

    The law of noncontradiction does not apply.

    The law of non-contradiction is one of the fundamental rules regarding all reality. If you’re saying there’s a situation in which logic doesn’t apply, then I can’t help you. All I can do is throw logic at you, after all.

    Let me put this into classical logic terms.

    The Sixth Commandment would be an E statement: “No murders are justifiable”.

    Our supposed command to slaughter babies would be an I statement: “Some murders are justifiable”.

    If you knew the square of opposition you’d know that these statements are contradictory. It is logically impossible for an E and an I statement with the same subject and predicate terms to both be true.

  • Zippy says:

    JSG:

    Negative moral precepts (meaning “thou shalt not” as opposed to “thou shalt”) are universal. They apply everywhere all the time in all situations.

    To confirm the thought, here is that pesky Magisterium again, in Veritatis Splendour this time:

    The negative precepts of the natural law are universally valid. They oblige each and every individual, always and in every circumstance.

  • Wait, who here started an argument from authority debate? I brought up Aquinas specifically to point out that his opinion on the matter of the killing of innocents wasn’t a commentary on the Canaante wars and wasn’t relevant even if correct.

    As it turns out, the Church teaches that Aquinas was not correct on the matter anyway. Evangelium Vitae should definitively settle the issue for Catholics.

  • Zippy says:

    Malcolm:
    Folks give me Hell for reading the Fathers and Doctors of the Church in the light of the Magisterium rather frequently. Hard to say why, really.

  • Svar says:

    I do not believe that God would tell anyone to do anything that goes against Natural Law because Natural Law is the law of nature at the beginning of Creation not after Original Sin so it reflects both the Supranatural Law and the laws of nature before Original Sin.

  • Svar says:

    @ JSG

    Murder is never justifiable under any circumstances because if it was it would not be called murder but killing.

    Killing is a morally neutral term; murder is not.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Killing is a morally neutral term; murder is not.

    That’s why I used it.

    The original Hebrew word used in the Sixth Commandment was retzach, which more accurately translates to ‘murder’ than to ‘kill’. For example, self-defense and just war were not retzach.

    However, all taking of innocent life was. Babies below the age of reason cannot be anything other than innocent, and it is therefore always and everywhere retzach to kill them.

  • jf12 says:

    “Kill every male”

    Many times. Every time, not all were actual combatants.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    JustSomeGuy,

    The Church defines dogma and that to settle controversies in important matters. To my best knowledge, the Church does not dogmatize on the literal interpretation of OT passages. However, the Church tends to use metaphorical interpretations of OT passages to illustrate doctrines.

    There is a lively debate, even among Catholics, on the meanings, literal or otherwise, of OT passages. Were there really some “one true interpretation” defined by the Church, such a debate could not exist.

  • jf12 says:

    I agree it’s logically impossible that God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac. Hence, logic is wrong. Q.E.D.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    Perhaps “murder” is a term applicable to events within a particular community. That is, a civil matter, not applicable to the wartime frenzy and not applicable to enemy civilians.

    Allies dropping bombs indiscriminately on German and Japanese cities, not caring how many babies they killed, did they murder and if they did, who incurred the guilt? The airmen, the leaders or the entire nation?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @Vishmehr24:

    Just because the Church is the only thing that can infallibly interpret a passage of scripture doesn’t mean that it has done so for every single passage.

    And murder is to take the life of an innocent with knowledge beyond a reasonable doubt and consent of the will. Assuming that a bomber knows beyond a reasonable doubt that his explosions are killing innocents, he is guilty of murder.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Oh, and guilt would lay upon both the person(s) who gave the order and the person(s) who followed it. The one who gave the order would incur guilt upon giving it, and the one who carried it out would incur guilt upon carrying it out.

  • Svar says:

    @ JSG

    In the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I believe that the bombers were not to blame for killing innocent (mostly Catholic) Japanese citizens. The U.S. leadership was most definitely guilty however.

  • Svar says:

    I don’t know what to think about the Old Testament. At times it sounds more like Pro-Jewish nationalist propaganda than a religious text. There are some things I can not accept about it including killing non-combatant men and boys(by this I mean those that can not even physically or mentally take part in combat like babies, little boys, old men, the mentally impaired and the sick), taking women for concubines, divorcing wives, polygamy, and genital mutilation via circumcision.

    Most things in the OT besides the earlier chapters like Genesis I can’t fathom being a part of the Christian tradition. A lot of it it deeply offensive to Natural Law in the way that the old pagans like the Greeks, Romans and even the Norse didn’t even do.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    In the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I believe that the bombers were not to blame for killing innocent (mostly Catholic) Japanese citizens. The U.S. leadership was most definitely guilty however.

    Materially, at least, we can know they were. They knowingly killed innocent non-combats. That’s murder. Being given an order to do so doesn’t help them either. If you’re given an order to do something evil, you have a moral obligation to disobey.

    Culpability may have been mitigated by flawed ideology (e.g. “I’m just following orders”), but I’m not really concerned with reduction of culpability, since it’s impossible to know how culpable someone is for a sin unless you can read minds.

    Moral obligations exist even when you’re unaware of them (that unawareness can mitigate culpability, however). Just because the 9/11 bombers didn’t realize that they were morally obligated to not massacre civilians doesn’t mean said obligation didn’t exist. It didn’t make it not murder either. However, it’s possible that their flawed ideology reduced or even eliminated culpability.

    In both cases they knew what they were doing and chose to go through with it. They committed murder. How culpable they are for it is for God to know.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    JSG,
    There is a Catholic concept of “double effect” by which the situation of allied bombing is analyzed in a more complex manner.

    To bomb an enemy city in a focused manner, ie. to target some armaments factory or shipyards, when you foresee that some innocents will be killed, but you do not INTEND to kill innocents, is not murder.

    Thus, it is not murder just to “knowingly kill innocent non-combats.”
    There must be a positive intention to kill innocents.

  • Why are we even responding to jf12 at this point? He’s making lovely arguments against the voices in his head, but certainly not against anything anybody is actually saying.

  • vishmehr,

    That makes mincemeat of double effect though. Then it’s totally moral in a war to blow up a hospital as long as you know weapons are stored in the building. That’s not how it works.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @Vishmehr24:

    I’m well aware of double-effect, and there’s two things wrong with your invoking it here.

    First is that the first criteria of the principle of double-effect is that the principle of double-effect only applies when an act is not intrinsically immoral. Murder is intrinsically immoral.

    Second is that you seem to have a case of dissapearing intentions.

    I see this a lot, where intention and motivation are confused. It’s actually quite simple; intention is what you’re going to do and motivation is why you’re going to do it.

    Say that our bomber – with full knowledge – drops his bomb on both a legitimate wartime target and an innocent non-combatant. His intention includes a lot of things.

    His intention is to raise the immediate area’s air temperarure.

    His intention is to scorch and churn the affected earth.

    His intention is to reduce the oxygen content of the air.

    His intention is to destroy the legitimate target.

    His intention was to kill the innocent non-combatant.

    He may have been motivated by destroying the legitimate target alone. It doesn’t change the fact that he intended all of theses things. All of theses things are what he did, destroying the legitimate target is why he did it.

    He may have been sad that he had to intend the death of the innocent. He may have wished he didn’t have to intend the death of the innocent. It doesn’t change the fact that he was intending it.

    Motivation is basically the little slice of the intention of an act that is your reason for performing said act. The reason why intention and motivation are so often equivocated is because it allows people to justify intrinsically evil things by picking out a non-intrinsically evil piece of the intention and claiming it is the whole intention.

    Saying, “When I dropped the bomb I didn’t intend to kill the innocent, but to destroy the target,” is just as ridiculous as saying “When I swung my sledgehemmer, I didn’t intend to cave in that man’s face, but to kill the fly on his nose.”

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “His intention was to kill the innocent non-combatant.”
    And how do you know that?

  • vishmehr,

    Because he knew the bomb was destroying a city, knew innocents were there, and was dropping the bomb. That means his intent was, among others, to reluctantly kill innocent non-combatants. The only way for that not to be his intent would be if he was genuinely ignorant that innocent non-combatants even lived there.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Now, I’m probably going to regret responding to the king of straw men, but then again I’m a glutton for punishment.

    “Kill every male”

    Many times. Every time, not all were actual combatants.

    How may times have we been over this?

    1) When the kings/judges/other various Jewish leaders said “thus sayeth the Lord” (or any similar phrase), it didn’t actually mean the Lord explicitly gave that command. That was just the sort of thing they traditionally prefaced their proclaimations with.

    2) The kings/judges/other various Jewish leaders were not infallible. They were capable of – and did on more than a few occasions – giving intrinsically evil orders.

    I agree it’s logically impossible that God commanded Abraham to kill Isaac. Hence, logic is wrong. Q.E.D.

    Couple things here.

    God did not actually mean for Abraham to kill Isaac. It is – in fact – metaphysically impossible for God to mean the deliberate murder of an innocent. It would’ve been sinful for any of us humans to try and teach a lesson in this manner, as we are inside time and couldn’t guaruntee that the sacrifice wouldn’t actually take place. God doesn’t have that limitation.

    God also wasn’t lying when He gave that command – if you’ve studied logic at all you know that imperatives have no truth value. He never said “It is good to sacrifice your children.” He simply gave a command and made no comment on the morality of carrying it out. At least, not until Isaac was actually on the altar, at which point He made it abundantly clear that it is – in fact – bad to sacrifice your children.

    A good contrast would be the Ten Commandments. They would have no truth value in and of themselves if they hadn’t come along with “It’s good to obey these.”

  • JSG,

    The thing is, the Canaanite wars and how they worked under just war theory was the subject of much spilled ink. I’m open to the general idea that God can grant legitimate authority to his people to act out the death penalty on those past the age of reason. This is something that could theoretically actually be a moral act. Killing infants is in another class entirely.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    “His intention was to kill the innocent non-combatant.”
    And how do you know that?

    Because you cannot knowingly do something and then claim you didn’t intend to do it.

    Say that a city is rigged to explode, and the mechanism is connected to the life of an infant.

    Can I shoot that infant in the head and then claim that I didn’t intend to shoot that infant in the head, but to keep the city from exploding?

    Method of killing doesn’t matter; bullet or bomb. If you know that your action will kill an innocent, you cannot perform said action without intending the death of said innocent.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    malcolm,
    “the bomb was destroying a city”
    this is specifically NOT my case. I have written “focused bombing of an armament factory or shipyard”
    JSG,
    Fanciful as ever.
    When I want to make tea, it is not my intention to heat the air.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    JSG,
    It might be useful, sometimes, to read and cite, other sources than Zippy.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I’m open to the general idea that God can grant legitimate authority to his people to act out the death penalty on those past the age of reason.

    I’m inclined to think that that probably wasn’t the case, but it’s certainly possible and I have no way to deductively prove it one way or the other.

    Just keep in mind that any just use of the death penalty is (like any use of violence) based on self-defense doctrine. You can only use the amount of force necessary to end the threat.

    For example, in first world countries with reliable prisons with low escape rates, the death penalty should rarely (if ever) be used.

    In a third world country with shoddy prisons with high escape rates, it may actually be necessary to kill that serial rapist in order to end the threat he poses.

    I’m not familiar with how reliable the Jews were at holding prisoners, but if God ever actually gave such a command then it could only have been given to end a legitimate threat.

  • Svar says:

    @ JSG

    I am making the assumption that the bombers didn’t know the exact nature of the area they were bombing. Bombing a military target to dust is morally fine in a war setting. I am assuming that the bombers did not know about either the exact nature of the areas targeted nor the weapon they were handling.

    But yes, “just taking orders” does not free one from moral culpability.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    this is specifically NOT my case. I have written “focused bombing of an armament factory or shipyard”

    The exact location doesn’t matter. If there is even a single innocent present and the bomber knows it, he cannot drop that bomb without intending murder.

    When I want to make tea, it is not my intention to heat the air.

    Yes you do.

    You cannot know that your action will heat the air, perform that action, and the claim you didn’t mean to heat the air.

    Your intention includes the entirety of the action you mean to perform. Your motivation may be chamomille goodness, but your intention includes the entire act.

    Another way to think about it is that intention is objective, while motivation is subjective. You cannot alter your intention at will, but you can alter your motivation at will.

    Intention by G.E.M. Anscombe is an excellent read if you want to understand the subject better.

    It might be useful, sometimes, to read and cite, other sources than Zippy.

    So… do you actually have a problem with any argument I’ve made or are you just trolling?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    @Svar:

    Yes, if you had surety beyond a reasonable doubt (in wartime, simply the fact that you’re targeting a military installation alone would often be enough to meet that criteria) that there were no innocents present, but were mistaken, you’d still be in the clear.

    However, bombings like Hiroshima and Nagasaki or Dresden are not such cases. They were deliberate bombings of civilian popoulations.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Here, let me put the intention argument in syllogisitic terms.

    P1: If I perform an action with full knowledge, I intend that action.
    P2: I have full knowledge of the action I am performing.
    C: I intend the action I am performing.

    Basically, you’re responsible for your actions. You can’t do something and then claim you didn’t intend to do it, or that you only intended part of it.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    “If there is even a single innocent present and the bomber knows it, he cannot drop that bomb without intending murder.”
    Is there ANY authority for this assertion ( save Zippy, possibly)?

    It is getting rather like Humpty Dumpty here, idiosyncratic personal redefinitions. Intentions exists in the mind of the subject and only there
    This is what the word “intention” means.
    From Webster 1913 dictionary
    Intention
    1. A stretching or bending of the mind toward of the mind toward an object; closeness of application; fixedness of attention; earnestness.

    Intention is when the mind, with great earnestness, and of choice, fixes its view on any idea. Locke.

    2. A determination to act in a certain way or to do a certain thing; purpose; design; as, an intention to go to New York.

    Hell is paved with good intentions. Johnson.

    3. The object toward which the thoughts are directed; end; aim.

    In [chronical distempers], the principal intention is to restore the tone of the solid parts. Arbuthnot.

    4. The state of being strained. See Intension. [Obs.]

    5. (Logic) Any mental apprehension of an object.

  • Dystopia Max says:

    Human sacrifice on the altar of ideology is the type of audacious wrong that works best on a “go big or go home” level, right up until your women have no more children and the men lose reason and faith.

    In the face of that recognition, NOT killing the kids along with the parents in the genocide is something only a Batman villain would do.

    It does not take into account:

    1. Practical limits on resources (Is the Catholic faith now going to promote the Protestant Prosperity Gospel and say: ‘Take care of all hostile aliens everywhere and immediately and you will be rich beyond measure!)

    2. Very real psychological and emotional scars of the event in question (why should you seriously expect that those whose fathers and brothers are going to be well-disposed toward your community, and that your community will be well-disposed toward them?)

    3. Repeat offenders:

    ” This is what the LORD Almighty says: `I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. 3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'” (I Sam 15.2f)

    The situation is thus:

    1. The Amalekites are a predatory, raiding, and nomadic group; and are descendants of Esau (and hence, distant cousins to Israel).
    2. They would have been aware of the promise of the Land TO Israel, from the early promises to Esau’s twin Jacob.
    3. They did NOT live in Canaan (but in the lower, desert part of the Negev–a region south of where Judah will eventually settle), and would NOT have been threatened by Israel–had they believed the promises of God.
    4. As soon as Israel escapes Egypt–before they can even ‘catch their breath’–the Amalekites make a long journey south(!) and attack Israel.
    5. Their first targets were the helpless:

    Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. 18 When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. 19 When the LORD your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget! (Deut 25.17-19).

    Before the attack on Amalek is initiated by Israel, the innocent are told to ‘move away’ from them: Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. 6 Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites. (I Sam 15.5f). This action would have also served to give the people of Amalek plenty of notice (i.e., time to ‘move away’ themselves), and the impending attack by Saul–especially with the troop counts reported!–would hardly have been a surprise. Some of them would likely have fled–we KNOW all of them were not killed, since they ‘lived to fight/raid again’ in David’s time (I Sam 27,30) and even in Hezekiah’s time (200-300 years later!, 1 Chr 4.43).”

    Keepers of abstract principles who do not take human events into how those principles are kept shall always be confounded in the end. And Israel most certainly was not exempt from the rule of justified genocide of pridefully criminal and collectively disobedient tribes, unless you’ve completely forgotten to read the last four chapters of the book of Judges.

  • Zippy says:

    It isn’t that difficult. Whatever behavior is chosen is necessarily intended, in Anscombe’s sense. In the language of the Magisterium (see Veritatis Splendour, cited many times here — it is rather precious that Vishmehr24 chides JFG for citing “only” my posts, many of which themselves cite the Magisterium) the behavior chosen is the object of the act.

    Good luck arguing at your final judgement that you knowingly killed innocents with a bomb, but gosh, you didn’t intend it even though you deliberately chose to do it.

  • Zippy says:

    Dystopia Max:
    The important thing is that real men get to kill real babies with Allah’s real approval.

  • Mike T says:

    I don’t think this works because it doesn’t address the simple fact that it’s not possible to be totally certain it is God talking to us.

    As I said at W4 early on, the mode of revelation to Abraham and Moses appears to be different in that instead of relying on the Holy Spirit, the Father himself actually spoke to Abraham and Moses. For all we know, there is something in that communication that acts in our minds the same way (only perfectly) that an extremely advanced hash function works on verifying data integrity (Zippy should understand the analogy). On this point: we don’t know since no one alive has likely ever heard the Father, not the Holy Spirit, talking to them in direct language.

  • Zippy says:

    Did I miss where someone argued that the Ban in the Old Testament was unintended? That it was an unintended effect of some sort?

    If not, then the whole discussion of intention and double-effect is off topic.

  • Mike T says:

    What do you mean by the Ban? (I hesitate to use Google since ‘Old Testament Ban’ is likely to hone in on the ritual law…)

  • On this point: we don’t know since no one alive has likely ever heard the Father, not the Holy Spirit, talking to them in direct language.

    I don’t buy it. Lots of people really, really think that the voices in their head are totally and absolutely correct. You can’t know.

  • Zippy says:

    The Ban refers to the practice in OT times of putting every man, woman, and child of the enemy to the sword. The subject of these posts, IOW, as pertains to the conquest of Canaan.

    As I understand it (though again I disclaim special expertise), this was a regular practice among the pagans (much like the situation with Abraham and Isaac — this is what the “gods” were expected to expect).

  • vishmehr,

    So you oppose the atomic bomb?

  • From Webster 1913 dictionary
    Intention

    Wow, you’re right Zippy. When you start to look you see positivism everywhere.

  • Zippy says:

    Malcolm and Mike T:

    In the case of approved private revelations (e.g. Fatima, Lourdes), one of the ways they “pass muster” is moral and doctrinal orthodoxy. Adherence to natural law and sound doctrine is God’s “public key”: it is one of the strongest proofs we have that the revelation is authentic. Or perhaps more accurately, failure to pass the test of doctrinal and moral orthodoxy is proof of inauthenticity.

  • My intention when I raped somebody was merely to orgasm. I didn’t intend to rape them.

  • Mike T says:

    Well, to my knowledge, the only communication Christians have had with God is through the Holy Spirit. If the Father communicated, we cannot assume it would be the same experience. The Old Testament implies some important differences between what Moses and Abraham experienced and what we experience.

    I maintain that for all we know, if the Father actually spoke to us the mere utterance itself would trigger certain knowledge irrespective of content. That is, the Father’s voice is effectively something we are hard-wired to instinctively know and respond to in the same way cryptographically verified commands are provable, only on a perfect level.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    The protocol is in the Book of Divine Cryptography. It comes right after Esther.

  • Mike T,

    I’m sure many people in the insane asylum, possibly Muhammad as well, believed the same thing.

  • Zippy says:

    Svar:

    I am making the assumption that the bombers didn’t know the exact nature of the area they were bombing.

    At Nagasaki the actual target was the cathedral spire, because it made such a good landmark.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy re: “Or perhaps more accurately, failure to pass the test of doctrinal and moral orthodoxy is proof of inauthenticity.”

    This is an excellent point with which I could not agree more. “Try the spirits whether they are of God.” And hence I get to reject whatever I think is failing …

    Right? Is there a magisterial pronouncement that “It was just Moses flapping his 120 year old gumsthere in Deuteronomy.”? Where is it written? Is it in green? Black and white and red would be confusing, since it would make magisterial writings on par with Sripture …

    Right?

  • jf12 says:

    re: “Furthermore, “Aquinas Says” doesn’t end the debate.”

    Ha! I can’t believe I missed this knocking opportunity. Furthermore, evidently Scripture saying “God Said” doesn’t end the debate …

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    since it would make magisterial writings on par with Sripture …

    Sacred Tradition, the Magisterium, and Scripture are on equal footing; or more accurately, are inseparable facets of the expression of revealed truth.

  • jf12 says:

    I think I’m most in agreement with Benjamin2.0 e.g. “Natural law doesn’t [literally always] work. For this argument, in the case of divine command, it’s superseded [exceptionally].” Anything else is positivism e.g. “Somebody else said “always”, and I’m going strictly by the literal subpart of that definition in one dictionary.”

  • jf12 says:

    Writing in green ink for the parts that pretty much everyone eveywhere always follows. Yellow ink for the more tentative waffling. Murky smudgy gray elsewhere.

    What color is “Moses was just making irrelevant noises with his colon.”?

  • jf12 says:

    @Svar re: “A lot of it is deeply offensive”

    The NewTestament says this of itself, too.

  • Zippy says:

    To say that natural law doesn’t always apply – that it doesn’t apply when God makes exceptions to it – is to misunderstand what natural law is. To say that God makes exceptions to natural law is to say that God contradicts Himself. Even worse, it is to say that God is untrustworthy.

  • jf12 says:

    re: “You can only use the amount of force necessary to end the threat.” now and forever, amen.

    It cannot matter to the fact of the existence of a supporting argument that you do not LIKE the existence of that supporting argument. God could have had His reasons, whether you like it or not.

  • jf12 says:

    Nobody can be raised from the dead! It’s literally impossible!

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:
    I know it is upsetting to have so many people objecting to putting infants to the sword, and failing to get distracted by your red herrings and other shenanigans. I’m not a doctor, but perhaps a pharmacological intervention might help you get a grip.

  • jf12 says:

    @Zippy ,remember I’m the one here who said he wouldn’t lift his sword against babies, even in a commanded Crusade for example. The only one here, so far.

  • Scott W. says:

    I wouldn’t put a baby to the sword in a commanded Crusade either, so there’s two. Doesn’t do a lick of damage to the critique of literal insanity.

  • CJ says:

    I was wondering whether anyone would post that link to Christian Think Tank supplied by Dystopia Max. Miller takes at face value that God gave the command to kill ’em all, and argues that it was the best of a host of bad options. The Israelites would’ve been corrupted by the adults and didn’t have resources to take in all the kids. Putting them to the sword was more merciful than letting them wander in the desert to starve, since God doesn’t do the manna thing for just anybody.

    I read that years and years ago and remember thinking that down that road lay approval of euthanasia, aborting disabled kids, and other killings of life unworthy of life.

  • jf12 says:

    *Slightly* more stringently, I would also politely decline God’s invitation to join a Crusade against Canaanite babies. “I have married a wife. So, too bad. And besides I have to keep going to my piece of ground and checking on all my oxen which keep falling into all the ditches I made.”

  • CJ says:

    Ha! I can’t believe I missed this knocking opportunity. Furthermore, evidently Scripture saying “God Said” doesn’t end the debate …

    “And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus says the LORD, With these shall you push the Syrians, until you have consumed them.” I Kings 22:11

    It says “Thus says the Lord” so that must’ve been what the Lord said, right?

  • Scott W. says:

    But the whole point of this is that people are arguing that it’s ok to kill babies is because God commanded, not that He merely invited people to do it if it’s not too inconvenient.

  • jf12 says:

    Re: literal contradiction. When someone says “I know in the Bible it says “thou shalt” “as the Lord thy God hath commanded thee” but I say “thou shalt not” “because the Lord thy God hath commanded thee not to”.”, that is literally contra-dicting the Bible.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    Re: literal contradiction. When someone says …

    What I immediately noticed about your comment is that while you pretend to be making a point about interpreting what commenters and the bible literally say, instead of quoting what they literally say you engage in paraphrase.

  • …remember I’m the one here who said he wouldn’t lift his sword against babies, even in a commanded Crusade for example. The only one here, so far.

    Okay, now you’re just a parody of yourself.

  • Something else I’ve noticed here: Another idea seems to be floating around that if you eliminate all of the moral options, only the immoral options remain (“Do you really expect the Israelites to adopt them?”).

    Yes, if you disqualify all of the moral solutions from the start, it does indeed leave only immoral options left. No disagreement.

  • Zippy says:

    Malcolm:

    Yes, if you disqualify all of the moral solutions from the start, it does indeed leave only immoral options left. No disagreement.

    There are always morally good options, without exception. Here is the Magisterium on that specific point:

    On the other hand, the fact that only the negative commandments oblige always and under all circumstances does not mean that in the moral life prohibitions are more important than the obligation to do good indicated by the positive commandments. The reason is this: the commandment of love of God and neighbour does not have in its dynamic any higher limit, but it does have a lower limit, beneath which the commandment is broken. Furthermore, what must be done in any given situation depends on the circumstances, not all of which can be foreseen; on the other hand there are kinds of behaviour which can never, in any situation, be a proper response — a response which is in conformity with the dignity of the person. Finally, it is always possible that man, as the result of coercion or other circumstances, can be hindered from doing certain good actions; but he can never be hindered from not doing certain actions, especially if he is prepared to die rather than to do evil.

  • Ian says:

    Zippy,

    You should have cited Evangelium Vitae a lot earlier in this whole debate!

    To play devil’s advocate, since a text always requires interpretation, what’s to stop someone from interpreting Evangelium Vitae to somehow be consistent with God commanding men to kill infants? Couldn’t someone say that all Catholic infallibility requires is that any infallible statement has ‘at least one true and correct interpretation’, not that the most literal interpretation is necessarily the correct one?

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    Couldn’t someone say that all Catholic infallibility requires is that any infallible statement has ‘at least one true and correct interpretation’, not that the most literal interpretation is necessarily the correct one?

    Sure.

    Whether it is ‘infallible’ or not is somewhat beside the point, although the way EV expresses the doctrine certainly seems to meet the criteria. “Not infallible” doesn’t mean “nothing to see here, move along”.

    I’ve noted in the past that there is less to the doctrine of infallibility than meets the eye: its main function is that it makes clear that most statements by the magisterium on doctrine are not infallible, and that no exercise of juridical authority is infallible. Dogma (particular expressed formulae of doctrine) is in a sense much more fragile than doctrine. People yearn for the infallible because they yearn for God, of course, and for a feeling of security; but reality doesn’t reconstruct itself in response to our yearnings, and God isn’t constrained by our lists of demands about how we insist that He must go about teaching us.

    So yes, the statement from EV itself is just an isolated statement, and has to be understood in the light of Sacred Tradition, etc. Someone who really wants to argue with it, for whatever reason, will find a way to argue with it – as you saw a commenter do above, even after acknowledging that Magisterial teaching trumps the theological opinions of saints.

    One of the counter-criticisms[1] that sola scriptura protestants level is that Sacred Tradition and the Magisterium, as a living and accretive ‘addition’ to Scripture, don’t actually ‘solve’ the problem of interpretation. Everything still has to be interpreted and understood, and our process for doing so is fallible in all sorts of ways for all sorts of reasons. This is perfectly true.

    The ‘problem of interpretation’ – really the problem of apprehending the truth in the fullest sense possible at all – isn’t something that can be ‘solved’ pedagogically or mechanically. We are teachable, but horses led to water do not always drink. The triune sources of meaning available to Catholics, as well as the Sacraments, the living Church, and praxis more generally, are a much more robust and sure pedagogy than a man alone with a bible that he conjures out of the wells of History and recasts as a de-novo creation. But infallibility in the speaker doesn’t imply infallibility in the listener.

    [1] Note that this counter-criticism, as basically a tu quoque, does not magically make sola scriptura rational on its own terms. But this is why you won’t see me arguing that having a Magisterium completely solves the problem of private judgement: it helps, but it cannot even in principle eliminate the fact that comprehension of meaning requires a movement of the intellect on the part the person doing the comprehending.

  • Zippy says:

    tl;dr shorter version:

    The weak link in any system of pedagogy-believer is virtually always the believer. No matter how strong or infallible the ‘pedagogy component’ is, the apprehension of meaning by the believer cannot be infallible because the believer himself is not infallible.

    Fortunately, knowledge isn’t what saves us.

  • Scott W. says:

    But this is why you won’t see me arguing that having a Magisterium completely solves the problem of private judgement: it helps, but it cannot even in principle eliminate the fact that comprehension of meaning requires a movement of the intellect on the part the person doing the comprehending.

    An infallible something must eventually meet a fallible something. 🙂

  • Ian says:

    Zippy, thanks for the comprehensive response. That’s the conclusion I had reached myself as well.

  • Silly Interloper says:

    Okay, now you’re just a parody of yourself.

    Yeah. It’s just about impossible to take jf12 seriously at all after that comment.

  • jf12 says:

    The teaching of the Magisterium regarding special exceptionalism ‘splainng what we would otherwise consider to be evil slaughter is this:
    “Furthermore, there are on record instances of carnage executed by the special command of God.”

    “Instances” plural, btw.

  • Hrodgar says:

    And again, the relevant section of the Roman Catechism (commissioned by the Council of Trent, if I recall aright) addresses killing in war in general, not killing babies.

    “Killing In A Just War

    In like manner, the soldier is guiltless who, actuated not by motives of ambition or cruelty, but by a pure desire of serving the interests of his country, takes away the life of an enemy in a just war.

    Furthermore, there are on record instances of carnage executed by the special command of God. The sons of Levi, who put to death so many thousands in one day, were guilty of no sin; when the slaughter had ceased, they were addressed by Moses in these words: You have consecrated your hands this day to the Lord. ”
    http://www.cin.org/users/james/ebooks/master/trent/tcomm05.htm

    This kind of equivocation has already been tried many times over. Just because you find a source that nobody’s cited yet doesn’t mean it hasn’t already been said.

  • jf12 says:

    The fact those who commited such slaughter “were guilty of no sin” because they were obeying “the special command of God”, neededtobe taught because natural-law considerations would lead us to conclude otherwise, logically.

  • jf12 says:

    What imminent physical danger did naked dancing peoples pose?

  • Zippy says:

    If we are going to pit various Magisterial statements against each other, now that we’ve graduated from dueling Church Fathers to dueling magisteria, the formal declaration in EV outranks any catechism as much as a king outranks a vassal several levels down in the hierarchy.

    Beyond that, the Catechism of Trent itself describes its purpose as helping pastors preach their homilies “should they not be very familiar with the more abstruse questions of theology.” So it obviously isn’t intended, on its own terms, to be the final word on any subject — let alone this one.

  • jf12 says:

    So this Catechism, commissioned by and sanctioned by and *promulgated* for centuries by the Pope(s) presiding over the bishops in his capacity of leader of pastors, specifically to instruct and enforce doctrine from his seat of rule in Rome, doesn’t count as Magisterial to you because you don’t like part of it? How very Protestant of you.

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    …doesn’t count as Magisterial to you…

    Where did I say that, precisely? I’m pretty sure you didn’t grasp the meaning of my last comment at all.

  • jf12 says:

    Was that a yes or a no?

    Do you or do you not agree with this Catechism that the Catholic teaching is that God can and did in plural special instances command carnage and slaughter with swords against unwarring people?

  • Zippy says:

    jf12:

    Demonstrate that you are actually listening to what is being said to you. Or don’t. But if you don’t, then stop trolling.

  • Zippy says:

    Regarding the magisterial authority of catechisms, here is Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict on the authority of the JPII Catechism, in his book Introduction to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

    The individual doctrines which the Catechism presents receive no other weight than that which they already possess.

    So, what other weight does the proposition already possess, and from where, precisely?

    Catechisms are intended to be (generally reliable, though certainly fallible) teaching summaries of previously established doctrines of varying authority, as well as expositions of various juridical matters, to a popular audience. It is a manifest straw man to treat Church documents as something entirely other than what the Church intends by them.

  • Mike T says:

    It’s somewhat eye-opening that the topic of killing babies is more comment-provoking to your readers than sexual politics.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    It’s somewhat eye-opening that the topic of killing babies is more comment-provoking to your readers than sexual politics.

    Yeah. Eye-opening. Multiple true and correct interpretations are possible, as long as one of them is that real men got to kill real babies with real divine approval.

  • I think it’s a reactionary thing. So many people nowadays have gone out of their way to avoid controversial parts of the Bible entirely that for the Christian right whenever a controversial phrase pops up they don’t just try to explain it, they try to OWN it. It’s a way of saying “We’re Christians and we’re not ashamed”.

    I think that’s why you see people now going OUT of their way to try and believe God ordered baby-killing – it’s linked in their heads that denying this point is akin to admitting they’re ashamed of the Bible. It’s a topic that drives strong emotions for that reason.

  • Mike T says:

    Yeah. Eye-opening. Multiple true and correct interpretations are possible, as long as one of them is that real men got to kill real babies with real divine approval.

    I’m not sure what that last part has to do with my observation that so far, you seem to get more comments on threads about killing babies than your posts on game and stuff like that.

  • Scott W. says:

    I’m not sure what that last part has to do with my observation that so far, you seem to get more comments on threads about killing babies than your posts on game and stuff like that.

    I think on the recent entries it was more of a case of a couple of people filiblustering. (typo intended).

  • Mike T says:

    Perhaps. I just find it interesting that killing babies seems to be more interesting to a number of commenters than sex. Priorities.

  • CJ says:

    Being as charitable as I can be, I don’t think it’s about manly men being able to kill so much as demonstrating “I’m willing to put my human scruples aside to follow God wherever He leads, unlike you squishy types who’ll look for an excuse to disobey if you get squeamish.” Basically, a kind of twisted holier than thou argument.

  • Zippy says:

    Perhaps even more charitably it is just too much of a ‘red pill’ to read the Old Testament alongside Church Fathers like Origen and Augustine. Here is Augustine on apparent divine approval of lying in the Old Testament:

    Neither do they confess that they are awed by those citations from the Old Testament which are alleged as examples of lies: for there, every incident may possibly be taken figuratively, although it really did take place: and when a thing is either done or said figuratively, it is no lie. For every utterance is to be referred to that which it utters. But when any thing is either done or said figuratively, it utters that which it signifies to those for whose understanding it was put forth. Whence we may believe in regard of those persons of the prophetical times who are set forth as authoritative, that in all that is written of them they acted and spoke prophetically; and no less, that there is a prophetical meaning in all those incidents of their lives which by the same prophetic Spirit have been accounted worthy of being recorded in writing. As to the midwives, indeed, they cannot say that these women did through the prophetic Spirit, with purpose of signifying a future truth, tell Pharaoh one thing instead of another, (albeit that Spirit did signify something, without their knowing what was doing in their persons:) but, they say that these women were according to their degree approved and rewarded of God. For if a person who is used to tell lies for harm’s sake comes to tell them for the sake of doing good, that person has made great progress. But it is one thing that is set forth as laudable in itself, another that in comparison with a worse is preferred. It is one sort of gratulation that we express when a man is in sound health, another when a sick man is getting better. In the Scripture, even Sodom is said to be justified in comparison with the crimes of the people Israel. And to this rule they apply all the instances of lying which are produced from the Old Books, and are found not reprehended, or cannot be reprehended: either they are approved on the score of a progress towards improvement and hope of better things, or in virtue of some hidden signification they are not altogether lies.

    But if no authority for lying can be alleged, neither from the ancient Books, be it because that is not a lie which is received to have been done or said in a figurative sense, or be it because good men are not challenged to imitate that which in bad men, beginning to amend, is praised in comparison with the worse; …

    I suppose Augustine was also an idiot, along with myself and Origen.

    Augustine’s De Mendacio in general is a great repudiation, from a great saint, of all those consequentialists who insist that sometimes we must do evil in order that good may come of it or, even more perniciously, that evil ceases to be evil in the face of important priorities or when we are under the delusion that God is commanding it.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    … you seem to get more comments on threads about killing babies than your posts on game and stuff like that.

    That is probably just an impression, since I haven’t posted on Game in a while. According to WordPress, the post with the most comments is this one on Game. In fact the top four posts in terms of number of comments are on that general subject.

  • Zippy says:

    More Augustine, talking about the literalist Richard Dawkinses of his day, the Manicheans:

    If, then, you have any human feeling—if you have any regard for your own welfare—you should rather examine with diligence and piety the meaning of these passages of Scripture. You should examine, unhappy beings that you are; for we condemn with no less severity and copiousness any faith which attributes to God what is unbecoming Him, and in those by whom these passages are literally understood we correct the mistake of ignorance, and look upon persistence in it as absurd.

    (Emphasis mine).

  • Aethelfrith says:

    I think the reason for the high number of Game replies (other than the ahem “subject material) is because it summons Alte to make seven consecutive replies about how the men she knows are perfect and that she is a beautiful snowflake.

  • Aethelfrith says:

    Those who use the Bible itself to condemn Christians (and proof-texters in general, anti-Christian and Christian) should be ignored outright.

    “Oh great. Another ‘shrimp-is-an-abomination’ guy. Yawn.”

    The Mass/Divine Liturgy is a better expositor of the Faith than any haphazard self-assembled Scriptural study plan, but I still can’t get over the Roman’s centuries-long insistence on Latin Only for Everyone Everywhere. Sure, the sacraments have effect even if they aren’t understood, but if the people only go to Church 1.) because those people give us goodies for political alliances or 2.) the colonists will eradicate us if we don’t, then we’re back to square one.

    See: the evaporation of the Faith in Latin America.

  • Zippy says:

    Aethelfrith:

    Those who use the Bible itself to condemn Christians (and proof-texters in general, anti-Christian and Christian) should be ignored outright.

    Generally speaking yes, but when Christians are doing it it may be worthwhile showing where they have gone wrong.

    Theological voluntarism has a long pedigree. Mohammed received his ‘revelation’ around 600AD, and I am sure he was not the first monotheist to see God as pure Will, and therefore define the Good to be wholly arbitrary — just whatever Allah wills, which could be arbitrarily anything at all.

    I think theological voluntarists are confused about the difference between divine capacity and divine nature, and therefore believe that conceding that the latter is Good undermines omnipotence with respect to the former.

    I don’t know why this is, because the difference is quite obvious even in ourselves, as little Imago Dei. I have the capacity to go on a random killing spree, but it isn’t in my nature to do so: people who know me can be confident that I would never do that (unless something ‘broke’ my nature, which cannot happen to God). How much more must this be the case in divine terms?

    Theological voluntarism isn’t the result of trusting in God’s absolute Goodness. It is a manifestation of not trusting Him.

  • CJ,

    A more clear and concise way of getting across what I was trying to say. I agree.

  • Peter Blood says:

    Why, let us bring all the Big Things together and talk about Rahab the whore (who’s gonna man up and marry her?), who lied to save Israelite spies (lying to save people) in the middle of a slaughter (killing babies) at Jericho. Joshua 6:17: “And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.”

  • Zippy says:

    Peter Blood:
    Augustine does talk about Rahab in his essay on lying, linked upthread.

  • Peter Blood says:

    By the way, one of Jesus’s ancestors manned up and married Rahab.

  • anon says:

    Men of God, doing what God tells them:

    “We sold Yazidi women and children as sex slaves because it’s God’s law says ISIS: Terror group says Sharia allows them to enslave ‘pagans’ ”

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2790131/Islamic-State-magazine-says-group-enslaved-Yazidis.html#ixzz3G34A5TH6

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