Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Pacifist's Response

This is my response to this post and the comments that ensued.

I am a Hauerwas 'ilk' as douglas puts it. I'm a "anti-realist' pacifist as you put it. Frankly, I had a lot of stuff to work out before I committed to my conviction. I researched scripture, read ethics, studied history, and most importantly prayed. I wrote my final exegetical paper in NT Studies this semester on Matthew 5:38-48.

I believe that Christ did in fact call his FOLLOWERS to lives of nonviolence - he was not commanding everyone to such a life (he never did so with any of his teachings; he only gave instructions to those who wanted them) . And furthermore, I believe he demonstrated a life of nonviolence. I realize by death on a cross that he was atoning for our sins, but that doesn't invalidate the madates he gave on the Mount of Olives. I do agree with you that pacifists should do a better job of explaining their conclusions from scripture. I don't think that most however are skillful exegetcists. Most people think that it's some kind of a political thing, or even an emotional thing... but the pacifism I hold, I firmly believe in in scripture. It took me nearly 20 pages to write my exegesis on this passage... and I cut it short. But I have done the work and research (Greek and all)... and I DO believe that Christians are commanded to live lives holding to principles of nonviolence, if for no other reason than because it's what Jesus commanded.

Also, I must beg the question as to why I am labeled a nonrealist. I recognize that the Matthean community, and Jesus, were contextualizing everything within an eschatalogial framework. However, despite the reason that the Coming Good Age has not yet arrived, the Kingdom of God is at hand. So, why would it be unreal to obey the mandates of Christ. The only reason I could understand that we are 'nonrealists' is if you take us in the context of today's society and judge us from that viewpoint. However, Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world. Therefore, we cannot judge ourselves and our actions in this regard, i.e., according to this temporary earthly standards. Futhermore, as Paul writes in Philipians: our citizenship is in Heaven. Throughout the NT, Christians are expected to hold to behavior that is not condusive to life in this world.

For example, in the book of Revelation, Christians were facing imminent persecution if they did participate in emperor worship (Rev. 13). But what does John say, "Well, it's not REALISTIC to hold to first commandment faithfulness, because if you do, you'll be killed"??? NO! He says that Christians are to nonviolently resist emperor worship, even unto death (Rev. 13.10). John didn't allow debate as to whether following the commands of God was REALISTIC or not. He simply said follow them.

But yes, I agree that proper exegesis is necessary when defending the pacifist conviction, and more pacifists should do so. But I must also ask why it's necessary to defend my "anti-realist" pacifist tendencies. It's like asking someone to defend their notion that Christians should love one another. Well, I offer the same two reasons 1) Commanded to do so by Christ, and 2) Demonstrated by Christ. I think the Early Church's pacifist tendencies were the CORRECT interpretation with regard to the issue of nonviolence, and it's just about come full circle, now the pacifists are the ones that must prove their conviction... ironic?, I'd say so.

19 comments:

Viola said...

Interesting Blog :)

Jeremy said...

Cruz

I think you may have misunderstood exactly what I was trying to do in this post.

First, we have to ask Why should Christians practice nonviolence? The answer will probably be something like, "We, as Christians, practice nonviolence becasue it is the way of Christ." And that's great. We should be faithful to the way of Christ. However, the imperative "Christians should be faithful to the way of Christ" begs the question. Why should we be faithful to Christ. What is it about Jesus that compels us toward emulating his beliefs and practices? It is in attempting answer this question that Hauerwas, Murphy, McClendon, etc. fail to give an adequate answer. It is my contention that we follow the way of Christ becuase it is true, period.

It is here that I believe you misunderstood my comments about anti-realism. It seems as though you interpreted anti-realism as synonymous with anti-realistic. In other words, the bulk of my putative problem with the afore mentioned scholars is one of the pragmatic value of Christian nonviolence; that a realist position would argue that nonviolence is not a realistic/workable/feasible position given our location in a fallen world awaiting redemption. If this is what I was arguing, I think your comments would be apt. However, it is not at all what I was trying to communicate.

My position that we should be nonviolent because it is true cuts through the pragmatic issue. Truth is not always realistic in the above sense. It is true that cross-bearing, nonviolent Christians fulfilling a prophetic role to the rebellious powers will most certainly be silenced (so thank God for the resurrection!). However, since it is the case (putatively) that Christians should be nonviolent, the immediate consequences of that nonviolence do not enter the equation, only the witness to the gospel and the redemptive aspects of sacrificial love of nonviolence/nonresistence should be considered. This is because nonviolence is an aspect of the missionary activity of spreading the TRUTH of the gospel. (I will probably have to go back and qualify some of this later, but for now it seems adequate.)

Let me explain what I mean by anti-realist. First, I need to explain my concept of truth. There are several competing theories for what comprises truth, but the only one with any merit is the correspondence theory of truth. Correspondence holds that the truth value of a proposition is determined by how the proposition corresponds to the state of affairs it describes. Thus the proposition p is true if it is the case that p, and false if it is not the case that p. Let me make a bit of a caveat. It is important to understand the concept of a proposition. Propositions are usually in the form "S is P" where S is a subject and P is a predicate (e.g., The apple is red). Now, propositions are distinct from sentences. Propositions are commonly described as the meaning of a given indicative sentence. This is important because it means that propositions can be communicated through diferent sentences as long as the meanings are equal. For insatnce take the sentence The sky is blue. It's meaning, or proposition, is namely that the sky is blue. In Spanish we would say El cielo es azul. However, despite the difference in language, the proposition is exactly the same. So now we can say that a proposition p is true if it is the case that p, and p is false if it is not the case that p. (E.g., let p=the sky is blue. P is true if and only if the sky is in fact the color that we all in English call blue, but false if the sky happened to be what we all agree in English is green.) In summation, correspondence holds that truth is a relation between a proposition an some state of affairs.

Hopefully it is clear that there are a two things that the correspondence theory of truth shows us. First, it pressupposes that there are states of affairs to which propositions can be related. In other words, it presupposes that there is a world "out there" independent of human thought; reality would exist even if there were never any humans to think about it. This idea is called metaphysical realism--reality is not dependent on human consciousness or language.

Second, if we know at least one proposition that is true, or iff we know that at least one proposition is false (that it fails to correspond to the state of affairs it deacribes), then we are in a position to know something about objective reality (reality that exists independently of humans). (I say at least one proposition, because a proposition's being true is not predicated upon a being knowing that the proposition is true. This entails that there are a host of true propositions that humans may never come to know are true. We need only a handful for my argument to work). If one maintains that there is an objective reality (metaphyisical realism) that we can know, this position is called epistemological realism.

Anti-realists (or nonrealists) deny either that there is an objective reality--the metaphysical anti-realists--or that if there is an objective reality, humans cannot know anything about that reality--the epistemological anti-realists. Either position entials a breakdown of human knowledge of objective truth. Metaphysical anti-realism denies that there can be any relation between a proposition and reality, for there is no reality to which the proposition can be related. On the other hand, epistemological anti-realism says that propositions may be objectively true (or false), but humans are in no position to discern the relation between a proposition and reality. Given metaphysical anti-realism, there can be no truth; given epistemological anti-realism, we can know no truth.

I'll give a quick argument against both species of anti-realism. First, metaphysical anti-realism makes an objective claim about a reality that supposedly does not exist. This is a logical contradiction that renders the position self-defeating. Second, epistemological anti-realism claims that it is known that humans cannot have any knowledge of objective reality. This is a knowledge claim about objective reality. Therefore it is a logical contraditiction, and thus self-defeating as well.

With all of the previous comments providing our context, let's look at Hauerwas, Murphy, McClendon, Yoder, etc. I would point you toward a book entitled Theology Without Foundations. It is a festschrift dedicated to McClendon with chapters by Murphy, Stassen, Hauerwas, Yoder, and others. This work is thoroughly anti-realist (at the very least epistemological anti-realism). Since some of the biggest advocates of nonviolence in the contemporary discussion have contributed to this work, all advocating some form of anti-realism, I think it is reasonable to assume that there is then a link between their epistemology and their pacifism (at least I would hope they have an explanation for how their knowing and doing link up).

Considering their position, we can go back to my original comments. Since these scholars reject the idea of human knowledge of objective truth, their argument for Christian nonviolence CANNOT BE THAT IT IS TRUE! The best they can do is simply assert that it is the way of Jesus, but then who cares? If there is no normativity attached to the way of Jesus, i.e., if His way cannot be shown to be true, then there is absolutely no force behind their position.

On top of that, there can be no ajudication between moral systems of any kind. Without some appeal to objective reality, one cannot rationally say that the Nazi's were worse than Mother Teresa. I would point you to C.S. Lewis's comments in Book 1 of Mere Christianity for more on this idea.

Finally, their starting point, anti-realism (of any variety) is self-defeating. Their entire theology stems from an absurdity, a psuedo-premise. What good can come from this?

The better way is to accept both metaphysical and epistemological realism, the correspondence view of truth, and argue for Christian doctrine (i.e., nonviolence, but also the whole body of Christian doctrine) on the basis of that doctrine being true. This is the only way to get normativity; the only way to say, "Christians ought to be nonviolent because Christ modeled nonviolence, and what Christ taught/practiced was true; we are nonviolent because the moral proposition, 'One ought to be nonviolent,' is true."

I hope this helps clear up what I was trying to do. I appreciate your comments very much, and pray blessings and good theology on your youth ministry.

Jeremy said...

Cruz

I think you may have misunderstood exactly what I was trying to do in this post.

First, we have to ask Why should Christians practice nonviolence? The answer will probably be something like, "We, as Christians, practice nonviolence becasue it is the way of Christ." And that's great. We should be faithful to the way of Christ. However, the imperative "Christians should be faithful to the way of Christ" begs the question. Why should we be faithful to Christ. What is it about Jesus that compels us toward emulating his beliefs and practices? It is in attempting answer this question that Hauerwas, Murphy, McClendon, etc. fail to give an adequate answer. It is my contention that we follow the way of Christ becuase it is true, period.

It is here that I believe you misunderstood my comments about anti-realism. It seems as though you interpreted anti-realism as synonymous with anti-realistic. In other words, the bulk of my putative problem with the afore mentioned scholars is one of the pragmatic value of Christian nonviolence; that a realist position would argue that nonviolence is not a realistic/workable/feasible position given our location in a fallen world awaiting redemption. If this is what I was arguing, I think your comments would be apt. However, it is not at all what I was trying to communicate.

My position that we should be nonviolent because it is true cuts through the pragmatic issue. Truth is not always realistic in the above sense. It is true that cross-bearing, nonviolent Christians fulfilling a prophetic role to the rebellious powers will most certainly be silenced (so thank God for the resurrection!). However, since it is the case (putatively) that Christians should be nonviolent, the immediate consequences of that nonviolence do not enter the equation, only the witness to the gospel and the redemptive aspects of sacrificial love of nonviolence/nonresistence should be considered. This is because nonviolence is an aspect of the missionary activity of spreading the TRUTH of the gospel. (I will probably have to go back and qualify some of this later, but for now it seems adequate.)

Let me explain what I mean by anti-realist. First, I need to explain my concept of truth. There are several competing theories for what comprises truth, but the only one with any merit is the correspondence theory of truth. Correspondence holds that the truth value of a proposition is determined by how the proposition corresponds to the state of affairs it describes. Thus the proposition p is true if it is the case that p, and false if it is not the case that p. Let me make a bit of a caveat. It is important to understand the concept of a proposition. Propositions are usually in the form "S is P" where S is a subject and P is a predicate (e.g., The apple is red). Now, propositions are distinct from sentences. Propositions are commonly described as the meaning of a given indicative sentence. This is important because it means that propositions can be communicated through diferent sentences as long as the meanings are equal. For insatnce take the sentence The sky is blue. It's meaning, or proposition, is namely that the sky is blue. In Spanish we would say El cielo es azul. However, despite the difference in language, the proposition is exactly the same. So now we can say that a proposition p is true if it is the case that p, and p is false if it is not the case that p. (E.g., let p=the sky is blue. P is true if and only if the sky is in fact the color that we all in English call blue, but false if the sky happened to be what we all agree in English is green.) In summation, correspondence holds that truth is a relation between a proposition an some state of affairs.

Hopefully it is clear that there are a two things that the correspondence theory of truth shows us. First, it pressupposes that there are states of affairs to which propositions can be related. In other words, it presupposes that there is a world "out there" independent of human thought; reality would exist even if there were never any humans to think about it. This idea is called metaphysical realism--reality is not dependent on human consciousness or language.

Second, if we know at least one proposition that is true, or iff we know that at least one proposition is false (that it fails to correspond to the state of affairs it deacribes), then we are in a position to know something about objective reality (reality that exists independently of humans). (I say at least one proposition, because a proposition's being true is not predicated upon a being knowing that the proposition is true. This entails that there are a host of true propositions that humans may never come to know are true. We need only a handful for my argument to work). If one maintains that there is an objective reality (metaphyisical realism) that we can know, this position is called epistemological realism.

Anti-realists (or nonrealists) deny either that there is an objective reality--the metaphysical anti-realists--or that if there is an objective reality, humans cannot know anything about that reality--the epistemological anti-realists. Either position entials a breakdown of human knowledge of objective truth. Metaphysical anti-realism denies that there can be any relation between a proposition and reality, for there is no reality to which the proposition can be related. On the other hand, epistemological anti-realism says that propositions may be objectively true (or false), but humans are in no position to discern the relation between a proposition and reality. Given metaphysical anti-realism, there can be no truth; given epistemological anti-realism, we can know no truth.

I'll give a quick argument against both species of anti-realism. First, metaphysical anti-realism makes an objective claim about a reality that supposedly does not exist. This is a logical contradiction that renders the position self-defeating. Second, epistemological anti-realism claims that it is known that humans cannot have any knowledge of objective reality. This is a knowledge claim about objective reality. Therefore it is a logical contraditiction, and thus self-defeating as well.

With all of the previous comments providing our context, let's look at Hauerwas, Murphy, McClendon, Yoder, etc. I would point you toward a book entitled Theology Without Foundations. It is a festschrift dedicated to McClendon with chapters by Murphy, Stassen, Hauerwas, Yoder, and others. This work is thoroughly anti-realist (at the very least epistemological anti-realism). Since some of the biggest advocates of nonviolence in the contemporary discussion have contributed to this work, all advocating some form of anti-realism, I think it is reasonable to assume that there is then a link between their epistemology and their pacifism (at least I would hope they have an explanation for how their knowing and doing link up).

Considering their position, we can go back to my original comments. Since these scholars reject the idea of human knowledge of objective truth, their argument for Christian nonviolence CANNOT BE THAT IT IS TRUE! The best they can do is simply assert that it is the way of Jesus, but then who cares? If there is no normativity attached to the way of Jesus, i.e., if His way cannot be shown to be true, then there is absolutely no force behind their position.

On top of that, there can be no ajudication between moral systems of any kind. Without some appeal to objective reality, one cannot rationally say that the Nazi's were worse than Mother Teresa. I would point you to C.S. Lewis's comments in Book 1 of Mere Christianity for more on this idea.

Finally, their starting point, anti-realism (of any variety) is self-defeating. Their entire theology stems from an absurdity, a psuedo-premise. What good can come from this?

The better way is to accept both metaphysical and epistemological realism, the correspondence view of truth, and argue for Christian doctrine (i.e., nonviolence, but also the whole body of Christian doctrine) on the basis of that doctrine being true. This is the only way to get normativity; the only way to say, "Christians ought to be nonviolent because Christ modeled nonviolence, and what Christ taught/practiced was true; we are nonviolent because the moral proposition, 'One ought to be nonviolent,' is true."

I hope this helps clear up what I was trying to do. I appreciate your comments very much, and pray blessings and good theology on your youth ministry.

Jeremy said...

Sorry; I didn't mean to post the same thing twice. I had a problem with my browser.

cruz-control said...

Jeremy,

First, thanks for responding to my comment.

You begin with "Why should [Christians] be faithful to [the way of] Christ. What is it about Jesus that compels us toward emulating his beliefs and practices?" I think this is a question that Christians ignore also, and just don't do a good job of explaining why. It is becoming more prevelant in our post-modern culture to question truth and what is labeled truth. But that's another topic. I think it is by definition that if we call ourselves, 'little Christs' or Christians that we are accepting positions as he disciples (latin: students). And as disciples we are not only obligated, but we desire to follow the teachings of our Rabbi. I don't think that we can even label ourselves Christians if we don't accept Jesus as our Rabbi. However, I see the question coming, "Why accept the teachings of Jesus in the first place, the label of Christian notwithstanding?" I think, as I said earlier, Christians don't do a good job of explaining this, and our actions certainly don't do a good job demonstrating this. My response is Christ loved. And it is that love, experience first-hand, that allows Christians to accept the diety of Christ and it is that love that makes us want to reciprocate to God. We want to obey his commands because we love Christ, because he loved us. Ånd I think that's just a natural human tendency. Jesus acknowledges this in Mat 5:46. It is the relationship of love between Christians and their ABBA that answers this question. And it should be told and demonstrated to nonChristians who wonder why someone should follow this man called Jesus of Nazareth.

But if it is from this personal relationship with Christ that Christians base their obiedinece to the way of Christ, why would it necessary (for those like Hauerwas) to defend it before other Christians. What other reason would one have to obey Christ? As I posted earlier, his commands aren't meant to be judged for pracitcality in this world, they simply to be obeyed. So why would one choose to obey Christ without having a personal/one-on-one loving relationship that would encourage obedience?- there seems to be no adequate reason for me. It is this relationship that compels us toward emulating his beliefs and practice.

Unfortunately, what has occured for past several centuries in Christianity is that it has always been acceptable to ask questions - to a point. After that final question, people are no longer permitted to ask any more, dig any deeper. However, this puts Christianity as a disadvantage. Society has been asking the 'forbidden' questions for longer that the Church has been willing to contend with. It has only been recently that Christians themselves are beginning to ask the questions that were only allowed to the asked in secular circles.

However, I must also posit that in accepting postions as students of Christ, we are also obligated to follow his teachings (this is outside the emotional attachment that caused us to accept disciplehsip in the first place).

But just to play 'devils-advocate': how about: we should be faithful to Christ because Christ is God (the realization of which would require a need for first hand experience anyway, right? And why can't faithfullness to Christ be the end-in-itself, which we strive for, and need no justification for? True there is a whole host of reasons why we should be faithful to Christ (the least of which is reward in Heaven). Or why can't faithfullness to God because he is God be the end which we strive for - without having to give another reason why? I won't try to answer these, because I'm not even sure they have legitimacy as ends-in-themselves, but I figure I'll pose them to hear what you think.

I'm just thinking through the question, because these are all questions I have/still ask(ed) myself. I'm just not sure why it's necessary for Hauerwas to justify why we should be faithful to Christ, as opposted to any Christian regardless of whether they're a pacifist or not. I think the difference regarding whether one is a pacifist or not is one of interpretation and obedience to that interpretation. Most Christians claim to follow the teachings of Christ, the issue is just to what extent one will carry out his convictions. If Hauerwas must answer the question of why he should be faithful to Christ, the question must be required of all, regardless of whether the individual has pacifist tendencies or not. In other words, why would certain people (pacifists) have to give an "adequate answer"?

With regard to the anti-realism, you talk about using truth because it is truth to cut through the pragmatic issue. My question: how you do address this with a postmodern audience, wherein many believe that their is no absolute truth? (My questions here are positted from true sincerity. I enjoy dialogue.) But really, how do you think it's best to handle your contention regarding an audience that rejects Absolute Truth. You definition of truth is great and I completely agree with you, including the metaphysical reality; however, the correspondance theory does include presuppositions - so how do you address those who do not hold to the same presupositions (namely, those who say reality exists because we make it exist)? {These questions give ME a headache!} Like you said (but in my own words), w/o metaphysical realism, the idea of objective truth must be thrown out the window. But I still don't see how Hauerwas (or I) can be labeled anti-realists. Neither metaphysical anti-realism nor epistemological anti-realism seems to me suffice as descriptions. I can understand more of the epistemological anti-realism label, but I still am not sure this adequates captures Hauerwas's theology, as Hauerwas does not throw Truth completely out the window. I assume this is why you say that He doesn't give an adequate response for nonviolence. But I don't see how a line can be drawn between an objecttive reality we can't know (epistemological anti-realism) and pacifism. I've read tons of Hauerwas and He considers Christ to be Truth. And of course, he holds that we can know Christ, and I would say goes so far as to say that the Church, then becomes truth. It does seem to be that he denies metaphysical reality; it actually, from my readings seems that he advocates a position of believing in a metaphysical reality. (I will check out Theology Without Foundations). I recommend Richard B. Hays's Moral Vision of the NT; I actually think he justifies the 'Hauerwasian-Pacifist' position better than Hauerwas himself. I can see how the label of epistemological anti-realism can possibly be used to describe Hauerwas, but I don't think it's a very adequate or appropriate term, considering the rest of his theology (including pacifism). Therefore your charge must still be answered.

I have offered some answers as to why Christians should follow the teachings of Christ (here: nonviolence), outside the realm of the reason: 'Truth.' But I'm not sure all the theologians and philosophers in the world could ever pin down a right answer. Let me know what you think.

I GREATLY ENJOY the informed discussion. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this post and the ensuing commnets, you've made me use my brain and think... and for that I'm greatly appreciative. I've added a link to you from my blog. I look forward reading what you have so say!

Thanks again :-)
jon

Jeremy said...

Jon

Just to let you know, I read your comment, and will respond. However, I've actually been in Denver the past few days for a wedding (which is this afternoon). I will be driving back to Dallas tomorrow. That said, I doubt if I'll have time over the next few days to respond in the way that I need/want to. Please bear with me.

By the way, thanks for placing a link to my blog on yours. I think you are actually a blessing from the Lord. Wed. night I was very frustrated over my blog; nobody reads it unless I solicit responses from people. That's not very much fun, honestly. I was thinking of either posting a rant, or, more radically, just shutting the whole thing down. Then you, whom I've never met, responded. I'm encouraged, so thanks a lot.

cruz-control said...

It's all good, take your time responding; I like and enjoy clarity above all in discussions - it makes us think and grow, which is a God-given ability. (Sorry if I didn't follow my own preference on clarity in my last post, my brain hasn't seemed to be very organized the past few days.) But it's all good, respond when you can :-)

I have a few friends that are already excited about reading your blog and jumping in on some of the discussions. DON'T SHUT IT DOWN!!!! Let's discuss and grow together,

jon

Jeremy said...

Okay, as promised, I replied to your comments. However, it was quite lengthy. I decided to post my response as an entirely new post on my blog,so you'll have to go there to read it. Trust me, you didn't want me to post the whole thing here. Part of my decision to respond in a new blog is because I wanted it to be up front on my page--I want other people to get involved too. I figured if I just posted a comment on an old post, nobody would see it. It strikes me that people seeing what we post is the whole point of this little exercise.

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