Month: May 2015

Rhetoric 101: Emotions trump reason everytime

Article link here

Note the emphasis: The onus to protect your purity is on you. If someone steals your purity, you are a ruined bicycle with warped tires and a ripped seat. Your value has been stolen. Your parents’ dreams are ruined. You are used and cheap and valueless.

This is a horrible thing to tell anyone.

But hearing this story now, knowing that Duggar son Josh has apologized amid allegations that he molested several young girls as a minor, is especially sickening.

The quote above was taken from yet one more of the morally and logically inept writers at the Washington Post attacking the Duggar family. Ms. Alexendra Petri employs standard bait and switch tactics that represent one of the dangers of buying any modern blog writings wholesale (including mine).

There are two ideas listed in the above quote:

1) “The onus to protect your purity is on you.” This is going to be lumped in wholesale with the second idea so that the first idea is perjured by the “wrongness” of the next idea.

2) “You are used and cheap and valueless.This is a horrible thing to tell anyone.”

Get how they did that? By having some form of righteous indignation at the second idea, the first idea is impugned as well. So not only is it wrong to say your purity is your responsibility, it is wrong to describe pre-marital sex as personally destructive. To further this notion the author suggests that somehow these ideas are worsened because the Dugger kid molested some younger girls and his sisters as a 14 year old.

The excerpt the author cites from Michelle Duggar’s book does not use the words cheap and valueless, but it does imply the notion of used. The other terms are the added impression of Petri. It should go without saying that an honest writer should represent what was actually written and not add embellishment for the sake of emotional strength. However this is exactly the tactic Petri employs to try and make her invalid and tacitly untrue argument. Mrs. Duggar suggested that pre-,marital sex “uses” someone in the manner of a thief stealing a new bike and joyriding. The proper owner is deprived of enjoying the bike in its new condition. The bike’s value is diminished but it is neither “valueless” nor “useless.” That this is also Mrs. Duggar’s view is clear in the last sentence she used:

 “I’m sure you would still be grateful for the bike, and you would have fun riding it, but it won’t be in the condition your parents had hoped”

It is clear then that Petri’s statement is blatantly false. She is lying and whether or not she means to is unimportant. Her whole argument is an exercise in logical futility with emotional strength. We are meant to be incensed that anyone would suggest a fellow human being can be considered useless. This would be harmful to that person’s self-esteem and therefore must be a bad thing.

However since Petri cannot offer us any moral compass outside of her own, why should we care? She seems to think that a morally sound tactic includes fabricating additional emotional incendiary rhetorical devices in order to further her depraved social ideas. Therefore it is clear that her internal moral ideology cannot be trusted. Furthermore Petri could never explain how her notions of right and wrong are more than just arbitrary impositions on others. She has no moral compass other than her own hyper-inflated sense of moral injustice (which comes out against Christians but probably not against Lena Dunham, the Hollywood darling who molested her younger sibling and gleefully recounted it. to the world).

If one wants to level the charge of hypocrisy and awful depravity, that would seem a better target.


Tom Oord and why evolution is completely incompatible with Sovereign grace.

A few articles ago I made the statement that the theory of evolution contains propositions that are mutually exclusive to Christianity. I want to unpack that here. While I cannot give an exhaustive look at the all the propositions from all the proponents, let me examine a few that I think are somewhat universal. Christian propositions will be labeled with a “C” and Evolutionary ones with an “EV.” In order to be fair to Tom Oord, I will label the theological evolutionary position with “TEV.”

Proposition C1) The Bible is the inerrant word of God.

Proposition C2) God created all things.

Proposition EV1) God does not exist

Proposition EV2) All things came into being mechanistically

Proposition TEV1) Genesis is Allegorical

Proposition TEV2) God created all things with the eventual mechanics of Evolution.

There are multiple hidden propositions in the TEV position but I only need to identify one:

Hidden Proposition TEV1) Genesis is allegorical because (macro) evolution must be true.

Proposition C1 and TEV 1 cannot co-exist unless Genesis is interpreted allegorically. If Genesis is interpreted as having a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Cain and Abel, and a literal Moses, then the world it describes has man and the animals fully formed and functional from their first day of existence. The next question then must be, are there textual markers that suggest Genesis be taken allegorically. Is there a clear limit to the allegory and is it clearly started and ended? In other words, is only Genesis chapter one allegorical? What of chapter 8? What of Exodus and the rest of the books of the Pentateuch?

Genesis is not taken allegorically because the text itself suggests that reading. Now I suppose it could be argued that any story can be allegorical and since the opening Bible narrative reads like a story, it could also be allegorical. However if the Bible is similar to a Suzerainty treaty, which it appears to be in form, an allegorical rendering of the history of God and the creation of man would not make sense.

Genesis appears to be taken that way because Tom Oord and others of his ilk are accepting macroevolution as true a priori. They are insisting that science can somehow posit truth for an un-observable, un-repeatable event and that our understanding of Genesis needs to comport with their view.

Let that sink in for a moment. Science bases it’s truth claims upon the notion of repeatability. How can someone claiming to be a scientist claim true knowledge of a non-repeatable historical event? Oh sure a scientist can examine modern day events and try to extrapolate back with some theory, but they can never know with any degree of certainty what actually happened. It is epistemologically impossible. I repeat it is simply not possible.  I suppose I will be accused of not understanding the nuanced difference of extrapolating modern theory and making historical truth claims, but that is another can of worms.

If we consider the basis for the allegorical reading it is because readers suggest that the Genesis creation narrative doesn’t make sense anymore. Therefore the Genesis  story must be re-ordered to make sense in light of modern science. This presents a different problem. If someone is willing to re-interpret Genesis in light of evolutionary theory, why not the Gospels and Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection? To arbitrarily claim that science is authoritative in one area is to claim it in all, or be logically inconsistent. So when a scientist argues that human sexual disorders are natural, then we must re-interpret the Apostle Paul. We can’t accept one and reject the other.

Materialism and its account of evolution are completely incompatible with Christianity, the theory of humanity and God. I doubt any Atheist or humanist scholar would disagree with that statement.

Theological Evolution, in trying to compromise the the contradictory views, arbitrarily turns chapters into allegory so as to not feel ashamed of the crazy things the Bible teaches. It is a Gospel issue inasmuch as it is an authority issue. Either God is correct in his account or the faux-science of Tom Oord is.

Why can’t we all just get along?

Paul Opposes Peter (ESV)

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
The church, at least the churches I am witness to, often seem to fall into the same patterns of human error. The above scripture and context sheds light on many important truths. I do not consider myself a Bible scholar by any means, and therefore welcome reproof if I am in error, but let me tease out some basic truths here.
  • 1) (v11) Love opposes those who stand condemned. It is the duty of brothers to protect each other. Paul stepped in, not because he had a bone to pick, nor a grudge to avenge, nor because he desired Peter’s seat. Paul stepped in to save Peter, not overthrow him or cast him down in some misguided attempt to magnify himself.
  • 2. (v14) The crime was done in public by a leader, therefore the rebuke was also done in public, for the benefit of all. It is tempting to suggest that Paul should have went to Peter first in private. This would seem more loving would it not? Paul doesn’t mention such a prior occurrence but perhaps it went down. Since he doesn’t mention it, it is safe to conclude that either such an occurrence either didn’t happen, or it was so unsuccessful as to not even merit mentioning.
  • 3. (v13) The crime led others astray. The burden of leadership is that the leader’s mistakes are often compounded by the mistakes of those he leads astray. In this case Peter had, by influence alone, convinced others of the correctness of his error. Paul, a fellow leader, was acutely aware of the responsibility Peter bore for the sin he was leading an entire congregation to commit.
So from these basic observations in the text, I would like to draw some conclusions:
  1.  Leaders must hold themselves to higher standard and must swiftly and demonstrably be refuted when in error to prevent their errors from spreading.
  2.  A loving rebuke is virtually indistinguishable from an unloving one. If we did not have Paul’s motivations written down in hindsight, we would not be able to see any of his motivations. This would leave us free to assume what we would about his reasons for rebuke. Peter himself had no insight as to Paul’s motivations, only to the words that Paul spoke.
          I want to focus on the second conclusion and what it means for me (and you). It is not my responsibility to consider the source of reproof to determine their motivation. In other words, when someone reproves me, I need to listen to their words, judge them for any truth they might hold and repent regardless of that person’s motivations. Allow me to illustrate:
          Let us imagine that Peter, upon hearing Paul’s reproof, grew angry with Paul. What if, instead of repenting of this error, he leveled charges back at Paul assuming Paul wanted his position of power and influence. Now let us also assume that such an assumption was correct. Let’s assume Paul only wanted Peter’s job, and because of that desire is leveling charges that while true, are still hurtful sounding. The truth of the charges still stand despite Paul’s evil motivation! If Peter were to dismiss Paul’s charges then who would be most at fault here? Paul would be wrong due to his motivation, but Peter would be even more liable because, upon hearing the truth, he rejected it in favor of his own sinful view.
          I have heard supposedly “Christian” leaders use many excuses to simply reject truth once offered. Many times the truth was rejected because the leader leveled the charge of “unloving rebuke” or some variation of that idea at the person refuting their viewpoint. Such a charge cannot ever be made in full knowledge because, as I pointed out earlier, a loving rebuke is virtually indistinguishable from an unloving one. The only people who truly know if they are loving in their rebuke or not is the one doing the rebuking.
          If you are the target of rebuke, it is your duty to dismiss misgivings about the person who brought the rebuke and examine the charges with the scriptures to see if they are indeed correct. Human pride is the full-fledged enemy of such introspection. Notice what happened when the truth was revealed as you read farther. Peter’s response was not what many people would have. He repented of the sin he had found in his own motivation. He didn’t throw the baby out with the proverbial bathwater. If an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ is not above reproof, how much less an under-sheperd? Or laymen such as myself?

Columbia University and rape.

Warning: Some explicit sexual references.

So a friend posted the following link on Facebook and I responded to it there. My response didn’t go ever well which is not a shock so rather than make enemies there, I suppose I shall make anonymous enemies here instead. First the link:

The quick and dirty version: Boy befriends girl. Boy and girl have sex a couple times. Boy and girl have sex a third time. Girl accuses boy of rape and boy says it was consensual.

A couple of things to remember here: 1) the prior sexual encounters were consensual and the third started out being consensual. This means that until after the third encounter, the girl did not feel threatened by this boy. 2) The girl did not report the violation immediately and only did so after consulting with a friend who suggested that she was raped.

So the situation can break down a couple of ways:

1) The boy became aggressive during the third sexual encounter and forced the girl to go farther than she wanted against her will, which in this case is sodomy. The girl is claiming that she showed up looking for normal sex only and that the boy forcefully penetrated her in an uncomfortable place. Apparently NOT like the back of a Volkswagen. Since she never wanted that type of extreme and dare I say deviant form of sex, she considers his actions to be rape.

2) The boy claims that there was a consensual agreement for them to engage in sodomy. He claims that she went on a smear campaign against him after he started pulling away from the relationship as a way to punish him for not reciprocating her feelings.

Most low-brows get hung up here trying to determine which person is lying. Is the girl lying or is the boy lying? Let me say that wanting to know who is lying is completely irrelevant.

I will repeat that: Wanting to know which party is lying is completely irrelevant. The issue is much simpler and much less complex.

Teach and uphold abstinence.

In 2009 Columbia decided to allow the dorms to become co-ed in order to satisfy every strange sexual circumstance imaginable. To help manage the circumstances that have arisen from that policy they have a guide to “proper” unmarried sexual etiquette. You can follow the link here. You can check it out for yourself so I won’t rehash it. What you will not find is any form of prohibition against fornication, masturbation, viewing or participating in porn, sodomy, oral sex, etc. So you want to watch porn? Check. You want to engage in homosexual encounters? Check. You want to just have hetero “normal” sex? Check. It’s all ok as long as it feels ok.

Here then is a glaring societal moral norm issue. According to our society it is ok to have sex as long as everyone directly involved agrees. It is only not ok when one person disagrees during or after the act is completed.

So I am going to put myself in this young man’s shoes. I am friends with a girl and we are out drinking. We start making out and one thing leads to the next. We have protected sex and everything is great. She is asleep, I am asleep, the evening ended in fun for everyone. The next morning, she decides that I took her farther than she wanted to go and that she was drunker than she or I realized. She claims rape, my life is over. Whose fault is that? Hers or mine?

If anyone thinks that I am not at fault they are a liar, stupid, or both.

If anyone thinks she is not at fault is also a liar, stupid, or both.

If I go to a wild party, get drugged, pass out and get raped I still carry the burden of being stupid enough to make myself vulnerable to people whom I do not know. You catch that? If you go to a party, drink their alcohol, get drugged, and get raped, you put yourself in a bad circumstance. You carry at least some of the responsibility.

Some of you are probably foaming at the mouth by now. Consider a different scenario: I go to work in a factory with lots of heavy machinery. There are robots that can crush and electrocute me and I am reasonably certain that it is unsafe there. So instead of remaining dead sober so I can navigate through the circumstance safely I pop some prescription pain meds and proceed to get myself killed. Would we blame the machines? Yes the machines would be the direct cause of my death. Would I still be totally blameless? No. I put myself in a dangerous situation and then took unnecessary chances.

Nobody drugged this girl. Nobody drugged this boy. They were “friends” by their own definition. They both drugged themselves with alcohol. They both entered a dark and private room together and they both had sex not once, not twice, but three times. She cried rape and he cried foul. They are both at fault.

So let us walk through my earlier example, add my mindset and advice and see how the situation plays out.

I am friends with a girl and I like her and she likes me. She invites me out for a few drinks. I respectfully decline. Situation ends well.

We are at a party and we both have had a few drinks. She wants to make out but I respectfully decline. Situation ends well.

She is at a party with guys other than me because I don’t go to parties where people are drinking and hooking up. Situation ends well.

She doesn’t go to parties where people are drinking. Situation ends well.

Get the point yet?

So now Columbia is in a quandary. They cannot ever police a bedroom enough to know if lines are being crossed in there. They cannot station security guards at the bedpost to referee private sexual encounters. Imagine having a bouncer in every bedroom. The conversations would be interesting. Um excuse me sir, I believe she is a little drunker than she should be. We are going to have to ask you to leave sir, your sexual aggression is too much. Your date is tapping out sir, she doesn’t like this weird deviant sexual behavior you are trying and you are in danger of crossing the rape threshold.

Columbia can police its campus against outside predators or real rapists who catch women or men unawares and violate them by coercion. How can they protect against two people willingly entering a dark private space to engage in private behaviors? In the former case you have a clearly distinguishable line of predatory behavior. In the latter case, it is indistinguishable from a “normal” sexual encounter at the campus. There is only one way to stop the latter case from happening. Ban the “normal” sexual encounter. Re-introduce gender specific dorms and uphold the curfews for students.

Admittedly, such a prohibition would not stop all forms of sexual aggression because rebellious and morally stunted students will still have unmarried sex. Nor does it mean that rape cannot happen when a sexual encounter becomes aggressive. However, It greatly reduces the opportunity for such situations on campus and it reduces the University’s responsibility to attempt to protect parties from “normal” sexual situations becoming “out of control” sexual situations. In fact it is the only way for the University to limit its liability to third party aggravated sexual assault claims.

The typical response to this idea is that unmarried sex is morally good, it is only bad when it turns into rape.

I say prove it. Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath waiting for that logical proof to appear.

Explain to me how one comes to the conclusion that unmarried sex is morally permissible and I will show you how your morality is arbitrary and meaningless. This is the real problem anyway. People want to believe that what feels good actually is good. News flash… what feels good, can kill you, wreck your life, wreck your marriage, wreck other peoples lives, etc. That belief is unabashedly absurd and so are the fools who espouse it.

Best, Brightest, and most Philosophically Bankrupt?

Correction: Towards the end of the article I mention that Frederich Neitzche ended his own life. Upon further study, that is clearly a disputed claim and likely not to have been true.


Article Link Here

In an op-ed in the New York Times, columnist Frank Bruni identifies an emerging trend amongst teenagers in Palo Alto, California. The trend? Suicide.

Now it is difficult to identify which psychological factors each of these teenagers may face that pushes them over the edge, it is not difficult to identify the philosophy of such a community. It is not Christian.

But I suppose leaving it at that isn’t good enough. How do I know it is not Christian do you ask? Well in short, I don’t. Some of the families that are experiencing this pain may attend a Christian church, or at least a church that considers itself Christian. Since I do not know everything about every case in that area I will yet make a generalization based on the system that I do know is in place.

Are kids here getting to be kids? Does a brand of hovering, exactingly prescriptive parenting put them in unforgiving boxes and prevent them from finding their true selves and true grit?

“There’s something about childhood itself in Palo Alto and in communities like Palo Alto that undermines the mental health and wellness of our children,” Julie Lythcott-Haims told me.

1) It is hard to unpack everything in a statement like this. Are kids getting to be kids? Should they? It is assumed here that they should. That unspoken assumption has resonated down through the years. Let kids be kids. In the movie Uncle Buck, the leading character played by John Candy tells a principal “I don’t want to know a third grader who is serious about their education.” So this perception is that it is morally wrong to hold children to the same standard as an adult. This idea is not fleshed out, it is just assumed apropos.

2) I am not sure what an unforgiving box is but it doesn’t sound nice.

3) Does anyone ever find their true self or their true grit? What does that even mean? It sounds like psycho-babble for becoming an assimilated mindless drone of the state. I have a hunch that me finding my true self and true grit does not look at all appealing to the author of this article or Lythcott-Haims. I would imagine that for them, finding yourself means coming to terms with a dysfunctional sexual proclivity, or becoming a social activist for some other progressive agenda item.

4) Perhaps the something about childhood is the actual school curriculum?

By the third grade, the indoctrination of tolerance and evolutionary theory have eradicated any hope a child may have of having faith in the Almighty Creator. It is man who is the pinnacle of evolution and therefore man who is god, God is dead.

Children, especially logically astute ones, will grasp the consequences and logical implications and those conclusions end at the meaningless nature of existence. If there is no God, and there is nothing when you die, then why should you suffer at all? If death means oblivion then surely that is better than pain and stress? Frederich Neitzche understood the implications of his philosophy and he ended his own life. Is it any wonder that children raised under his philosophy are wont to do the same? How much more damaging is it to come home and hear mom and dad affirm the nonsense preached at school?

Children and teenagers are also the most emotionally fragile souls. Combine the emotional and irrational desire to end their pain with the fatalistic embrace of Post-Modernism and Humanism, and you have the perfect storm for suicidal tendencies. So if one were looking at a cause and effect, I would look no further than a curriculum that supports the fatalism ultimately implied by humanism and its theory of everything.

Hate the bride? You probably don’t know the groom.

Here’s the article Follow Link

So yet another complaint against the church purporting to show us why [post-modern] millennials are leaving the church en masse. As you read the article you may notice that certain thoughts come out. We want this, we don’t want that. We want genuine worship, but we don’t want exclusivity. We want integrity, we don’t want cool. We want, we want, we want…

As the article progresses, what begins as a harmless view of the preferred aesthetics of the millenials morphs into something else. You clearly can recognize some of the author’s own theological views as they start to color the piece. A child of post-modernism, Rachel Held Evans is heavily invested in ideas like inclusivism, tolerance, etc. Consider this quote:

Recent research from Barna Group and the Cornerstone Knowledge Network found that 67 percent of millennials prefer a “classic” church over a “trendy” one, and 77 percent would choose a “sanctuary” over an “auditorium.” While we have yet to warm to the word “traditional” (only 40 percent favor it over “modern”), millennials exhibit an increasing aversion to exclusive, closed-minded religious communities masquerading as the hip new places in town.

Notice the last sentence in her statement and ask, is her conclusion consistent with the data she just used? The “data” does not mention any measurement of “exclusive” or “close-minded.” That’s her insertion. If the words “close-minded” or “exclusive” are used in the research cited, I could not find them. Granted I read through the Barna Group findings somewhat quickly. Since this isn’t the only instance of her theology leaking out into the article perhaps it will be sufficient to show one more example. Consider her following words:

 When I left church at age 29, full of doubt and disillusionment, I wasn’t looking for a better-produced Christianity. I was looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity: I didn’t like how gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were being treated by my evangelical faith community.

Why mention the LGBT crowd at all? It seems that the context is forming up to be that people who stand firm in their rejection of the LGBT lifestyle as normative are close-minded and exclusive and that is a very very bad thing. In fact it is the one thing that can drive off these millenials whom you so desperately need to keep up your church attendance. The following is the most explicit conclusion she makes:

In other words, a church can have a sleek logo and Web site, but if it’s judgmental and exclusive, if it fails to show the love of Jesus to all, millennials will sniff it out. Our reasons for leaving have less to do with style and image and more to do with substantive questions about life, faith and community. We’re not as shallow as you might think.

If young people are looking for congregations that authentically practice the teachings of Jesus in an open and inclusive way, then the good news is the church already knows how to do that. The trick isn’t to make church cool; it’s to keep worship weird.

The words inclusive and exclusive leave no doubt as to the theological bent the author is coming from.

My search has led me to the Episcopal Church, where every week I find myself, at age 33, kneeling next to a gray-haired lady to my left and a gay couple to my right as I confess my sins and recite the Lord’s Prayer. No one’s trying to sell me anything. No one’s desperately trying to make the Gospel hip or relevant or cool. They’re just joining me in proclaiming the great mystery of the faith — that Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again — which, in spite of my persistent doubts and knee-jerk cynicism, I still believe most days.

One need not be an Episcopalian to practice sacramental Christianity.

Apparently one need not be repentant of one’s sins either. Is there nobody in this church who understands that communion cannot be had between practicing sinners and the redeemed? At this point I must conclude that the author who began to describe to us statistic based preferences of millenials is now trying to slip in her own ideas while claiming the authority of the prior data. In other words, she has found a soapbox to slip in her ideas and preach inclusiveness while feigning the benign matter of just informing us what millenials prefer aesthetically.

But I believe that the sacraments are most powerful when they are extended not simply to the religious and the privileged, but to the poor, the marginalized, the lonely and the left out. This is the inclusivity so many millennials long for in their churches, and it’s the inclusivity that eventually drew me to the Episcopal Church, whose big red doors are open to all — conservatives, liberals, rich, poor, gay, straight and even perpetual doubters like me.

This young lady would never be satisfied until she found a church made in her own image. She cannot love the God of the Orthodox church and the Bible because quite frankly she doesn’t know Him. The God she is describing above is of her own design, not that of Scripture. If she does not know God, she cannot love God. If she cannot know God, she cannot recognize his true church (or those who are in it). Her spirit cannot bear witness because it is ill-informed and lacking knowledge. Therefore her lack of love for the bride is only the symptom of the larger problem.

Therefore while I am encouraged that there is a return to traditional worship and sacramental Christianity, I fear that it is only due to aesthetics and not out of an honest search for the truth about God. It seems that the “hip” thing is to be “anti-hip” and that is just another fad that will pass away.

Heroic abortion at 8 months…

So the death culture has found yet another emotional case to try and peddle more death. You can read the usual nonsense they put out here.

The article basically follows the story of a “heroic” woman who sacrificed her terminally ill baby at eight months.

I turned to my husband and said, “Tell me what you think we should do.” He said, “Kate, you do not have to do this, but I think we should ask about the abortion.”

It was a gift. It felt like light and fresh air. I had been feeling so dark and so trapped, and when I realized we were together on this, I felt free. I knew what to do. It didn’t matter anymore that people were going to call me a murderer, or that I’d never heard of anyone doing this. It didn’t matter that we didn’t even know if it was legal. If I had my husband, I could do this.

I called my doctor as soon as I got home. While we were waiting for her to call back, I didn’t know if we had a safe and legal option. I remember thinking, “If we can’t get the abortion, I’m going to run away somewhere rural and I’m going to have this baby by myself and let her die without intervention.”

This is where it reads like a play right out of the political handbook. One of the slogans is “each mother has a right to a safe clinical abortion.”

Let’s be clear, this mother is no hero. Heroes sacrifice themselves to save others, they do not sacrifice others to save themselves. I know of a family who have sacrificed several thousand hours making a little boy with this same prognosis as happy as can be. Those people are heroes! This woman is a coward and what is worse, she is being a poster-child for other cowards.

Deconstructing 2: A Challenge to gun rights

I came across this article while perusing a fun philosophy blog. I was instantly intrigued by the article of Professor Jeff McMahan.

Before I deal with the substance of his article, first I must comment on his refreshing writing style. I think the points are clear and Prof. McMahan attempts to deal with a demanding topic in a short amount of time. Despite my disagreement with his conclusions, this was an enjoyable read. Unfortunately, I will have to chop up his beautiful article for time’s sake and for that I deeply apologize. If you are to give Professor McMahan any grace, please read his article in full as he wrote it before reading my deconstruction.

The claim about principle is that each person has a right of self-defense and that this right entails a further right not to be deprived of, or prevented from having, the most effective means of self-defense.

Allow me to summarize his view.  He suggests that the pro-gun argument hinges on the following argument: If it is true that all persons (as opposed to each) have a right to self-defense, then they ought to have the most effective means of self-defense. So if you are only allowed to bring a knife to a gun fight, your right to self-defense has been violated. He also suggests that we deprive prisoners of that right and therefore it is not a right at all, rather self-defense is a privilege. It is a privilege that we do not need if we have police (or guards in his analogy) to protect us.

Allow me to quickly digress and make a helpful distinction. A right is something you possess inherently while a privilege is something you are given. This line gets blurred so much and so often that the conversation gets muddied in the semantics.

So let us examine the premise: Is it true that all persons have a right to self-defense? Are there any persons who do not have that right? Furthermore where does the right originate? What principles can it be derived from and where do those principles originate?

1) Depending on your philosophy of history, rights may be considered a man-made construct and not some fundamental transcendent property of human existence. What do I mean by this? Let us consider a group of tribal warriors who determine that survival of the fittest means that a winnowing ceremony must occur where a stronger tribesman must kill a weaker. There is no moral right in this tribe for the weaker specimen to defend himself. The weaker tribesman has no right to self defense that he was born with. There is no right that “transcends” his existence. So in a modern philosophy we examine a belief such as materialism. If we are all basically atoms swirling in the cosmic ether, the concept of rights, morality, justice, etc are just lipstick on a pig. Most atheists, humanists, socialists, etc, ignore this basic tenant of their worldview and pretend that the construct is good in so far as it is good for them. I digress, if no person has the right to self-defense, as the preceding philosophy would suggest, then the issue is moot. We, meaning society, only use this construct as a form of ensuring social order. This is usually due to the simple fact that societies that have evolved to allow self-defense have been naturally selected to replace those who did not. However if a society that evolves and removes this right is naturally selected to supplant the prior, the right evaporates. I would argue that this does damage to the term right but that is a sidebar.

2) In a Christian worldview, self preservation is considered a right. This is due to the dignity and transcendent notion of the imago dei. If man is created in the image of God and derives his worth from that stamp, then man’s life has a transcendent value that cannot be co-opted. As you can probably see, if you have read the article, this presents a dilemma for escaping the teeth of the upcoming argument.

I will likely follow up with some points about the argument from statistics, but I primarily wish to deal with the Prison argument as it is the main point.

I think, however, that this is false.  Contemporary moral philosophers are noted, or perhaps notorious, for their use of hypothetical examples.  The example I have just sketched is hypothetical.  But it describes the conditions in an actual institution: prison.

I left out some of his preceding buildup. Here is the main argument in formal logic:

p1 – All men have the right to self defense

p2 A prisoner is a man

c1 A prisoner has the right to self defense

Let’s assume that the right to self-defense automatically requires the possible ownership of a gun. I don’t intend to quibble about that point. If a prisoner has the same God-given right as I have, then I should demand he not be deprived of that right. Otherwise I would be self-contradictory.

This is a tougher argument than many would realize. Especially when you look at the argument for where the right derives from. If the right is transcendent and based upon the imago dei, then it cannot be denied of any man, including a man in prison.

There are two solutions to this quandary. I will deal with one and suggest the other briefly.

This is a little complex so I will put it in a formal proof so we can see how it obtains (It will look wierd because I will be careful to keep the terms the same.)

p3) God is the only giver of rights

p4) The only giver of rights is the only taker of rights

c2) God is the only taker of rights

If God grants man rights by virtue of the imago dei, then God can also rescind those rights. This is no different from the right to freedom or even to the right to live. God grants the state the power of the sword to wield as an agent of justice and therefore transfers some of those responsibilities to the state. God revokes the right of murderers and false witnesses, adulterers, disrespectful children, and the like to live. Therefore it is not hard to surmise that he would revoke that person’s right to defend their person.

Therefore it is reasonable to suggest that a prisoner has effectively had the right of self-defense revoked by the agent who gave it to him in the first place.

The second solution argues more from the idea of using incarceration as a punitive measure at all. Is that a biblical notion?

Finally let’s assume that you are not a Christian and you are still pro-gun, how can you defend yourself against this argument?

Well replace God in P3 with “Societal Norms” and you have opened a new can of worms and the debate about which society is superior can resume unabated. In either scheme, the giver of rights can also take away those rights. This means that it is logically possible to argue that while all men have the right to self-defense not all men are entitled to keep it. The government can revoke the right to freedom in this scheme because that is what it means to be a prisoner. Why can it not revoke the right to self-defense (which technically it does when executing criminals)?

They might, for example, argue that convicted criminals have forfeited their right to the possession of a gun.  Yet no one can forfeit his right of self-defense against wrongful attack.  Consider a modification of the advocates’ own example.  Suppose a convicted criminal has a gun and will be wrongly killed by an aggressor unless he uses it in self-defense.  Someone who then takes his gun away, thereby ensuring that he is killed, seems to violate his right of self-defense.  That might not be true if the criminal would, after defending himself, use the gun to threaten innocent people.  Similarly, prisoners might forfeit their right to effective means of self-defense if they could also use those means to threaten innocent people outside of prison.  But it does not seem that they forfeit their right to effective means of defending themselves from wrongful attacks by other prisoners.

Now here is a problem with stretching the analogy too far. So we have prisoner A, who forfeited his right to self defense and now should have a right to expect the guards to provide his defense. He is about to be killed by prisoner B… Who also should be in the same prison with the same forfeited right. They don’t have guns. But let’s assume that Prisoner A had a gun. If I disable the gun prior to the attack by some means, it is suggested that I will be taking away his right to self-defense. However I have argued that he forfeited that right when he did whatever he was incarcerated for. Once he is in Prison, his right to self-defense, freedom, and in cases of death row his right to life was already forfeit. The guard is now responsible for preventing prisoner B from killing prisoner A and if they fail to do so then they fail.

Yet no one can forfeit his right of self-defense against wrongful attack.

If one cannot forfeit the right of self-defense, how is it they can forfeit the right of freedom in order to be in Prison in the first place? Unless one can show some categorical reason to say the right to freedom is different than the right to self-defense the example implodes upon its very first premise. Namely the premise that there can be such a thing as a prisoner in the first place.

Nobody on the pro-gun side is arguing that certain rights cannot be forfeit in cases of criminal wrongdoing because that would be nonsensical. There are clear cases where God-given rights are revoked for cause. The difference is that God given rights cannot be revoked by the State without just cause. Societal Norm given rights are not really rights at all (they are merely privileges) and can be discarded upon a whim by any tyrant strong enough to enforce his or her will. That is a different argument for a different day however.

Final thought: History alone can warn effectively that governments are not necessarily benevolent and their agents are merely a collection of fallible individuals. Just as it is falsely assumed that all of the guards are benevolent protectors. One only need watch the Shawshank Redemption to see a plausible abuse of power from the supposed benevolent protectors. If one were to succumb to Professor McMahan’s position, one might find that the example he posed will become much more real. People will be living in something much like a prison, as they do now in most communist regimes. So in that regard, it is a most apt analogy.