RE: Traditional Xtianity teaches

From: Adrian Teo (
Date: Wed Oct 23 2002 - 03:02:55 EDT

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    -----Original Message-----
    From: John W Burgeson []
    Sent: Tue 10/22/2002 11:29 AM
    To: Adrian Teo
    Subject: Re: Traditional Xtianity teaches

            Burgy: I think the shoe belongs on the other foot, to show
    situational ethics is necessarily an evil. Of course situational
    ethics can (and often is) misused. And I have no interest in
    defending Fletcher's book.

            AT: I don't recall ever writing that situational ethics is a
    necessary evil. However, I did imply that I disagree with it.
    Situational ethics is an unworkable system because it is malleable
    enough to lead to different conclusions for different people. Given
    that people are most likely to choose conclusions that work to their
    personal best interest, ethics is then reduced to personal

            Burgy: All such scenarios are devised to illustrate a point
    -- nothing more. Did the second one actually happen in real life? Did
    a householder ever lie to the gestapo to save a life?

            AT: Don't know the answer to the second question, but I
    vaguely remember that Betsy Ten Boom was put in a similar situation
    and did not lie. She told the truth about hiding Jews under her
    coffee table and the Gestapo did not believe her and left.

            Burgy: As for your last sentence, I did not say that either
    decision in the railway car case was "immoral," only that sometimes a
    decision between two terrible outcomes must be chosen. So we do not
    disagree here.

            AT: Yes, perhaps we do agree after all, but let's be clear
    that this is not an application of consequentialism, even though
    consequences are considered. The difference is that the intent and
    the object of action of the agent are also considered in order to
    reach the decision.

            AT:"Yes, I have, and they are all very touching and painful
    stories. But in order to think objectively about ethics, one has to
    rise above the emotions and seek truth. In several of the
    testimonies, the termination of life was chosen over the threat to
    the mothers' fertility. These clearly reveal the underlying mindset,
    which is that of this culture in America as well. How many women (and
    their doctors) would choose to end their OWN life rather than lose
    their fertility? Why then, is it more justifiable to end another
    person's life for the sake of preserving fertility? I think these
    testimonies reveal the depth of the confusion in this culture over
    the making of ethical decisions. Consequentialism has taken over as
    the dominant voice of ethics. Can you imagine the apostles and
    martyrs saying, "Better that I not confess my faith now and be
    killed, so that I can live on and witness to many more people."
    That's the "beauty" of consequentialism - one can use it to justify
      about anything. "

            Burgy: Well, first of all a lot of early Xtians did just
    that, and on the same general basis of reasoning.

            AT: Well, I don't know if we can say that a lot of Christians
    did that, but what we can say with certainty is that the ones we
    remember and respect most were the ones who confessed their faith and
    chose death, not the ones who engaged in consequential reasoning.

            Burgy: Secondly, you speak above that "termination of life
    was chosen over the threat to the mothers' fertility." I just reread
    the six (actually seven) testimonies. In every case, the fetus was
    going to, if born, suffer greatly and die quickly. Some had no brain
    at all; one had a brain growing outside the skull. The seventh
    testimony, by the husband of the sixth lady, Claudia Crown, said "The
    procedure under assault in H.R. I833/S.939 protected my wife's health
    and possibly saved her life. It allowed my son's suffering to end. It
    allowed us to look forward to a growing family. It was the safest
    medical procedure available to us." Similar statements are all over
    the testimonies. Yes, it is consequentialist ethics. And the
    decisions are tough ones. And putting the government police presence
    into any one of those six situations, which the bill would have done,
    is a moral wrong.

            AT: Where we disagree, I think is that I do not see in
    Scriptures a teaching of avoiding suffering at the cost of life. In
    fact, I see in Scripture a promise and an embracing of suffering. And
    I see in Scripture an inestimable value placed on life.

            Burgy: Thirdly, thanks for at least reading those
    testimonies. What they say to me is that late term abortion laws are
    morally wrong; what they say to you is that late term abortion laws
    ought not consider "emotional" issues but only the unborn fetus. I
    see also that you prefer to construct your personal ethics solely on
    deontological grounds and never on consequentialist or character
    (virtue) grounds. Am I correct in this?

            If so, we can agree that our ethical reasoning is simply
    different and close the discussion. But you appear to claim more --
    that consequentialist grounds for an ethical decision are invalid. I
    don't know as that position can be maintained in all situations.

            AT: To me ethics is not a matter of personal preference. It
    is grounded in both theology (flows from God) and philosophy (the
    necessity of absolutes). I would call myself a Thomist in this sense,
    who is guided by natural law. In the Thomistic framework, there are
    three basic components in any ethical decision: intent, object, and
    consequence. All three must be right for the decision to be ethical.
    If any part is wrong, then the decision is unethical. As applied to
    the abortion cases, the object (the act itself) is wrong because it
    involves the taking of human life, regardless of the intent and the
    consequence (although these two may serving as mitigating factors).
    The intent may be correct in the sense that these mothers did not
    choose to kill their unborn. From a natural law perspective, there
    are certain acts that are intrinsically evil, never justifiable.
    These include the killing of innocent lives, rape, torture, and sex
    outside of marriage, for example. These are the m!
    oral absolutes. They cannot be explained away by circumstance. So, it
    is not that I never consider consequences, it is that I consider them
    together with intent and object.



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