Category Archives: Ethics

What does beauty have to do with goodness and truth?


It is generally thought that Plato introduced the world to transcendentals of goodness, beauty, and truth. His Symposium provides a peek into how Plato understood their order. He says, “The true order of going is to use the beauties of the earth as steps along which to mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty [beauty]: from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions [goodness]  until he arrives at the idea of absolute beauty [truth]”. Generally people understand the importance of goodness and truth to society, but many do not regard beauty as carrying the same significance as the former two. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, but the marginalization of beauty’s role in the world becomes even more apparent in religious conversations. In the Christian faith, goodness and truth reign supreme. However, is that a proper way to order the three transcendentals? The Christian faith seems to order them reverse of Plato’s order and therefore suggest truth, goodness, and beauty. Now they might not overtly claim this to be true, but their orthopraxy produces a picture of what they value most. In suggesting truth and goodness over beauty, they may actually undercut the two they value most. For without a recognition and valuing of beauty, goodness and truth can be lost. Beauty is an attribute of God that we see through his revelation to us. Hans Urs von Balthasar suggests the significance of losing beauty as he states,

“In a world without beauty – even if people cannot dispense with the word and constantly have it on the tips of their tongues in order to abuse it – in a world which is perhaps not wholly without beauty, but which can no longer see it or reckon with it: in such a world the good also loses its attractiveness, a self evidence of why it must be carried out” [Glory of the Lord, I:19].

Goodness and truth demand the presence of beauty. C.S. proposed in Surprised by Joy that beauty is the finger that points us to goodness and truth. When good flourishes so does beauty.

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Filed under Aesthetics, Ethics, Philosophy

People of Second Chance.


Good Summary of outside observations, when one helps those most in need: “Of course, the harsh contrast between our culture and the “scandalous” grace POTSC promotes often “results in uncomfortable confrontations with ways of thinking, assumptions about people groups, and even deeply-held personal beliefs. This may put people on edge, since radical grace can be painful in the face of a society that often encourages victimhood, revenge, and apathy,”

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Filed under Community, Ethics, Spirituality

Cross-Cultural Servanthood, Part 1: An Introduction


Keri Williams provides reflections and a summary of Duane Elmer’s book, Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility.

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Filed under Community, Ethics, Spirituality, Theology, Uncategorized

For the Least of These: Adoption


Here is a link to a very reflective article on a blog called, “For the love of one.” The article should make all of us stop and reflect on what we are really doing in this life. In the middle of a society of self-absorption, adoption of children from at-risk countries stands as a vanguard for thinking Christianly about how we commit our resources. Their story brings a fresh reading to Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-40,

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Here is a way you can help them in their journey: Give1Save1

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Filed under Community, Current Church Trends, Ethics, Spirituality, Theology

Plato’s Gyges and Military Drones


By Calips (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Much like the power of the ring in Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Ring of Gyges allows the possessor to become invisible. Plato considers whether a person would make moral decisions if he knew no one would see him. The N.Y. Times article, The Moral Hazard of Drones, picks up Plato’s theme out of his Republic book two and applies it to the U.S. drone war in the middle east.

Terrorists, whatever the moral value of their deeds, may be found and punished; as humans they are subject to retribution, whether it be corporal or legal. They may lose or sacrifice their lives. They may, in fact, be killed in the middle of the night by a drone. Because remote controlled machines cannot suffer these consequences, and the humans who operate them do so at a great distance, the myth of Gyges is more a parable of modern counterterrorism than it is about terrorism.

Scott Shane’s article, The Moral Case for Drones, was mentioned in the above article which provides a positive view of the use of the drone in war. Here he suggests,

“[T]he drone war has prompted an intense focus on civilian casualties, which in a YouTube world have become harder to hide. He argues that technological change is producing a growing intolerance for the routine slaughter of earlier wars.

“Look at the firebombing of Dresden, and compare what we’re doing today,” Mr. Crumpton said. “The public’s expectations have been raised dramatically around the world, and that’s good news.”

If it is accurate to attribute the Plato’s analogy of Gyges to drones, here is what Plato’s Glaucon says about a just and an unjust man having this power,

[360b] If now there should be two such rings, and the just man should put on one and the unjust the other, no one could be found, it would seem, of such adamantine temper as to persevere in justice and endure to refrain his hands from the possessions of others and not touch them, though he might with impunity take what he wished even from the marketplace, [360c] and enter into houses and lie with whom he pleased, and slay and loose from bonds whomsoever he would, and in all other things conduct himself among mankind as the equal of a god. And in so acting he would do no differently from the other man, but both would pursue the same course. And yet this is a great proof, one might argue, that no one is just of his own will but only from constraint, in the belief that justice is not his personal good, inasmuch as every man, when he supposes himself to have the power to do wrong, does wrong. (Republic book 2.360b,c)

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Filed under Ethics, Government Issues

Population Management in China


More and more we hear rumblings about the appropriate number of children for a family to be environmentally conscious. Even last week while traveling, a young man was sporting a green shirt that proposed no more than two kids for the sake of the rest of the world. Where does this thinking lead? First, just as one can possess false humility one can also possess a false sense of service or sacrifice. A false sense of service or sacrifice can be motivated by many things. The narrative goes like this: “I will give up this for the betterment of the world…” but now it doesn’t stop with individual choices it finishes with “and you should too.” This many times is a false sense of sacrifice because those wanting another to give up something (children, etc.) never desired it for themselves. This brings us back to the green shirt guy- did he desire more children than one or perhaps two? If he did not, then what is he sacrificing for the cause? Why shouldn’t he forego bringing a baby into the world and instead adopt one of the many at risk babies born throughout the world? He didn’t choose this as he was walking a two year old around the pool that looked very much like him. However, there is a second problem with this thinking. Ultimately it will result in the state deciding for us. We can see the end-game of this type of thinking clearly playing out in China. Even fines (sound failure: think healthcare) can’t satisfy those who are in China’s bureaucracy. The New York Times provided a vivid picture what results from this type of thinking:

Ms. Pan, a resident of Daji, said Ma Yuyao, the head of the township’s family planning commission, “scores points for promotion” by keeping the population down. Many parents ready to pay the fine of $7,200 for a third child are still coerced or forced into having abortions to make sure targets are met, Ms. Pan said. (Daji is a rural area, and couples there are apparently allowed two children without penalty.)

This decision is best left with families, some will make wise decisions and some will not, but the solution is not a community or government voice.

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Filed under Ethics, Philosophy

Moral choices do not have to be vacuous


I have been reading Russell Shaw’s book, Why We Need Confession, intermittently over the summer. As a Catholic theologian, he is making the argument for a return to confession, which according to him has been broadly abandoned by many in the Catholic church. It could be argued that it has also been abandoned by many in the protestant church as well. However, in this small book, he highlights some concepts about moral truth that may be helpful to recall. He specifically addresses situations when people exercise options that are against moral truth [I would call norms] because they see no other option available (i.e. “I didn’t have a choice”). He states,

First, there is a great deal of moral truth that, at least in principle, we are capable of knowing on our own, without the help of the Church. In general, this body of moral truth corresponds to the content of natural law.

Second, although we can know this body of moral truth on our own, very often we do not. Confusion, lack of time, our sinful inclinations, and other factors account for that failure.

Third, apart from revelation, we cannot expect to know a number of important truths pertaining to morality.

And, finally, the functioning of the Church as a teacher of moral truth is absolutely necessary with regard to the truths we can’t know apart from revelation and likewise necessary as a practical matter with regard to many truths of the natural moral law that we could—but generally don’t—arrive at on our own.[1]

We all have choices even in situations where they seem absent. I believe Shaw makes a great point in reminding us that the church exists to bring clarity to those very situations. The Scriptures repeatedly illustrate the value of wisdom and its location. Proverbs 2:6-13 indicates that wisdom originates with God, that “discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you,” and “wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse” (vss 11-12). Those who are trusting in Christ rest in his wisdom, who is the “wisdom of God.” When we rest in him we are wise (I Corinthians 1:26-30). The church, when acting on Christ’s behalf, can clarify moral choices. We have to be humble enough to inquire.

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[1] Russell B. Shaw, Why We Need Confession, (Huntington, Ind: Our Sunday Visitor Pub. Division, 1986), 60.

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Filed under Community, Ethics