Questions for a Christian Analysis of Civil Disobedience

What is civil disobedience?

Civil disobedience is the intentional breach of legal duty. It is breaking the law. Those who engage in such disobedience lack the legal right to do so, i.e., their behavior is illegal, not legal. However, this sort of disobedience is to be distinguished from mere defiance, rebellion, or criminality. It is disobedience on the grounds of some claimed moral justification or duty.

One expression of civil disobedience is [a] the refusal to comply with and obey a law based on conscience — it is thought that to obey the law is to do evil, thus justifying (or even demanding) disobedience. The perceived evil may be “sin of commission” (being commanded to do wrong) or “sin of omission” (being commanded to refrain from good).

Continue reading


Question: Is Just War Theory Impossible in Practice?

Question: If just war theory acknowledges that not all military action is justifiable or acceptable, then how does this get worked out practically for individual Christians involved in military service.

It would be (at worst) naive and (at best) presumptuous to assume that one’s nation and military will, without exception, engage in actions and ventures that are deemed allowable according to the strict criteria of just war theory. Inevitably, some things (more likely: most all things) will not meet just war theory’s rigorous criteria.

If this is the case, then how can the just warrior participate in military service if it will potentially (likely; assuredly?) mean becoming complicit in unjust military action? Can you conscientiously object to certain actions, missions, wars, and tactics and not others, i.e., only the ones that you deem “just”?

How does this get worked out? Or is just war theory just an ideal, and we admit we are willing to do unjust things, or at least become complicit in them, because “It’s better than the alternative”? (Honest question)

People often point out the perceived practical problems with pacifism; but the difficulties — as far as I see them — seem to be of equal opportunity.

What’s Wrong with Swearing Oaths? (Matthew 5:33-37; James 5:12)

Why is swearing a roadblock to honesty? What is the problem with swearing oaths (Mt 5:33-37; Js 5:12)?

Oaths divide speech into two camps — honest speech, and less honest speech.

It is not that the oath is in itself wrong, but that it divides speech into two levels. Some statements are sworn to and thus must be true, while others are just normal speech and may not be. … Oaths are dangerous, for they make some speech more honest than other speech. (Peter Davids)

As such, to use an oath (or to swear) is to admit that you are someone who is normally dishonest, someone who can’t be trusted. It is an admission that, outside of using oaths, you are a less than trustworthy person, that your commitment to truth is suspect and needs to be buttressed and strengthened. Oaths are only needed because your speech is unreliable.

Swearing (i.e., oath-taking) is really a pathetic confession of our own dishonesty. Why do we find it necessary to introduce our promises by some tremendous formula? … The only reason is that we know our simple word is not likely to be trusted. (John Stott)

Oaths seems to imply that some speech is more lax and less serious with regards to honesty. The use of oaths implicitly downgrades the expectations for honesty elsewhere. But we are a people who believe that all speech is binding — we are held accountable for the integrity all of our speech, not just sworn speech.

Thus, as people who are called to absolute honesty, swearing and oaths should have no place among Christians. Our commitment to truth should be so consistent and dependable that there is no need for us to buttress our speech with swearing or taking oaths. Our plain speech is good enough. It’s trustworthy as it is.

Goodreads Review of Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views by H. Wayne House

Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian ViewsDivorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views by H. Wayne House
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good, substantive discussions (minus Richards, see below).

Laney provides a great survey of the texts, although I wish he had engaged the main “issues” more.

Heth is on point. Superb scholarly work here. (Note: Heth later changed his view, so lots of respect for this guy given his willingness to go where he thinks the text leads despite the sacrifice involved — his previously scholarly stand, e.g., his contribution here.)

Edgar is a juggernaut of destruction, ripping other authors and arguments to shreds. He’s good; but his tone is unfortunate. He also succumbs to building lots of straw man and frequently overstates his case. (Laney and Heth rightly take note of this.)

Richards… Oh, Richards. I don’t know how his piece made it past the editor. How did this guy get invited to contribute to this project? He only cites two sources… two endnotes! (compare that to Heth’s 106 endnotes). Seriously. Horrible exegesis. Loads of eisegesis.

He basically argues (and this is no exaggeration) that all divorce and remarriage is wrong, but people can do it anyway and we shouldn’t judge since that’d be legalistic. … Antinomianism would be a better title for his position!

Besides Richard’s though, lots of good stuff here.

(The following evaluation of each author’s contribution is not necessarily reflective of whether I agree or disagree with their position, but is based on the quality of their contribution, regardless of whether I agree with them.)

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible: A Fresh Look at What Scripture Teaches by Jay E. Adams

Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible: A Fresh Look at What Scripture TeachesMarriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible: A Fresh Look at What Scripture Teaches by Jay E. Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Content — good.

Tone — could be improved at points, particularly when dealing with those with whine he disagrees (typical Jay Adams).

Sometimes a little simplistic in its handling of things.

Sometimes the opposite: stances were so, “If this, then that… If this, than that… If this, then…” (etc.) that things felt several levels removed from the text itself, and one began to feel suspicious of their legitimacy.

But, all in all, an impressive little treatment — cuts through a complex issue with a lot of clarity (even if being in danger of a little over-simplicity at times).

View all my reviews