From: George Murphy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu Feb 27 2003 - 10:09:34 EST
WWJD is a valid approach to Christian ethics - IF properly understood. It isn't
properly understood if thought to mean that we should do everything just the way Jesus
did (wear sandals &c) or if it becomes simply speculation about what he would do if
faced with situations he never was faced with (terminating life support for a terminal
There are several NT passages which call us to be conformed to the pattern of
Christ or to follow his example - Phil.2:5, I Pet.2:21 & Heb.12:3. Significantly, these
all have to do with the Passion of Christ. (I would also add Jn.13:15 & 34, though a
little more argument would be needed here.) I.e., what we are to be conformed to is the
pattern of self-giving love.
But there is a significant difference between Christ & us! The quick answer to
the question WWJD? is "He would die for us." Which is to say, he died for his enemies -
all of us (Rom.5:10). His self-giving love to the point of death was unique because,
among other things, it was for the salvation of all people without qualification.
Our situation is different, for we are not called to save the world. If I am
threatened with death by person A, conformation to the pattern of Christ may mean that I
don't resist. But if person B is threatened with death by person A and I have the means
to keep A from killing B, there is nothing salvific about my refusing to act. That is
not self-giving love but preserving my sense of moral purity at the expense of the life
of a relatively innocent person. OTOH it would not be an obvious contradiction to
Christ's example if I were to risk my life to disarm A even if that had to mean killing
him. & in no case should I have the illusion that I am providing ultimate salvation to
A, B or myself.
Now of course decisions about war & peace - & about Iraq in particular - are not
as clear-cut as in a hypothetical situation in which I see an armed thug threatening a
little old lady. But the basic idea remains: Abstaining from violence is not
necessarily the way in which we are best conformed to Christ. Decisions have to be made
about how serious a threat is, who is threatened, & what the likely consequences of
various courses of action may be. Those decisions cannot be made purely on the basis of
WWJD considerations, though such considerations should play a major role in the decision
process once the situation has been evaluated as clearly as possible.
& I would argue again that the best framework for evaluating the situation -
i.e., deciding "how serious a threat is, who is threatened, & what the likely
consequences of various courses of action may be" is something like the traditional just
war doctrine (JWD).
-- George L. Murphy email@example.com http://web.raex.com/~gmurphy/
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