Monthly Archives: February 2012

Prop 8, Komen and the Catholics – When do we participate in Civil Disobedience? Check out Talking Truth

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Talking Truth with Pastor Mark D. DeMoss, Pastor Shane Pennington and Deanna Huff

Civil Disobedience

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Mark sent this insight regarding the civil disobedience led by Dr. Martin Luther King.  Below is an exerpt from his letter written from a Birmingham jail on the subject of just law vs. unjust law.

YOU express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. To use the words of Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, segregation substitutes an “I – it” relationship for the “I – thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. So segregation is not only politically, economically, and sociologically unsound, but it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Isn’t segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, an expression of his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? So I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court because it is morally right, and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances because they are morally wrong.

Let us turn to a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a majority inflicts on a minority that is not binding on itself. This is difference made legal. On the other hand, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow, and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. An unjust law is a code inflicted upon a minority which that minority had no part in enacting or creating because it did not have the unhampered right to vote. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up the segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout the state of Alabama all types of conniving methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties without a single Negro registered to vote, despite the fact that the Negroes constitute a majority of the population. Can any law set up in such a state be considered democratically structured?

My Opponent Hijacked Science!

Do you ever find it difficult to have a conversation with an atheist?  Do you sometimes feel backed into a corner and unable to successfully argue your position?  Don’t feel alone.  This happens frequently in discussions and many times we’re trapped because we allow our opponent to “hijack” terms and definitions.

For example, in a recent discussion, an atheist friend of mine attempted to “hijack” science.  As I explained how the evidence we see in creation confirms the Bible, he responded, “creationist say that, but scientists know through evolutionary biology that this is not true.”  In another part of the discussion he claimed “the Bible says this, but Science says…?  “Why are creationists against science?”

What just happened?  In two short sentences, the opponent has pitted creationists (Christians) against scientists, and the Bible against science!  Conversations like this usually go on to define scientists as intelligent and Christians as irrational.  And finally, science is defined as the source of truth and the Bible as interesting stories with some good moral guidelines.  How frustrating is this?

There are a number of logical fallacies that may occur in this type of discussion.  For example, the fallacy of equivocation, when someone shifts from one meaning of a word to another within an argument; science can have several definitions.  Or, a complex question, where the arguer asks a loaded question.  In Discerning Truth, Dr. Jason Lisle gives the classic example of a loaded question: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”  Either a yes or a no answer would seem to imply that the person did in the past beat his wife, which may not be the case.  The question is “complex” because it should be divided into two questions: 1. Did you ever beat your wife? 2. If so, have you now stopped doing this?[i] Likewise, “why are creationists against science?” is a complex question.  The real question is, “are creationists against science?” and the answer, of course, is no.

When you find yourself in these conversations, make sure to ask questions and define terms.  Scientists with a Christian worldview look at the same evidence as scientists with a naturalistic worldview.  Our worldview and presuppositions lead us to different conclusions.

[i] Lisle, Jason (2010-07-01). Discerning Truth (Kindle Locations 307-311). Master Books. Kindle Edition