27 August 2010

Ethics on the Road

Well, I'm on the road, and the hotel doesn't have free wireless - but thankfully I'm in the Pacific Time Zone and no one here in their right mind is up at this time so the "business" center is open and free (the joys of being a early riser two time zones west who collapsed from driving 6 hours yesterday, including through LA rush hour -- I will not complain about Enid traffic, I will not complain about Enid traffic, I will not complain about Enid traffic. Oklahoma drivers may be foolhardy, but at least they are few). I ended up in my flights and travels cracking open a few "ethics" books - and I think I do understand why my appeals to Christian love set off all those situational ethics alarms in peoples' minds. So, I thought I would posit a few statements, thoughts, etc. here for discussion and reflection.

1. Ethics is not morals. In saying this, I know that I am bucking whole generations of discussions on ethics and morality, but I think we must and ought make a distinction between morality and ethics for one simple reason.

You are a sinner, and thus you are NEVER in this life going to act morally.

Simple as that. If we let ethics become a discussion over what is "morally right" we will simply let ourselves fall back into the false, misleading dream of the law. If morality is the standard, every option is sin, for "the heart has not the pure desires the spirit of the law requires." Every act you make, every thought, every breath is intrinsicially sinful. You cannot escape it - not even through the ethical life. I think making a strong separation between questions of "morality" and how we attempt to slug through our sinful life in this fallen world helps to safegaurd us from being clanging gongs and noisy symbols, and partially because I think any attempt to divide "what is moral" from "what is love" not only ends up becoming a backdoor way of justifying the self (and showing self-love), but also belies the fact that in making that false dictomony you show that you know neither morality nor love.

(But hey! Didn't you just want to make a dichtomy between morals and ethics, and you define ehtics as showing love! Yes - but at least I'm not being a self-righteous prig about it. Actually, the point I'd be making in my distinction is that morality tends to be self-focused. . . am *I* doing right, am *I* a good person, rather than being focused on the neighbor, as biblical love must be. Also - morality ends up dealing with rules, with mores. I'm not interested in trying to create some moral system with rules for every occurance - just give me a guide I can try to apply simply and quickly so I can act, repent, and get on with life, praying that Christ return quickly.)

2. Speaking of Graded Absolutes is fine - but Love is the Highest Absolute. In making an appeal to love, I am not denying other moral or ethical absolutes - indeed, they exist. However, I do think that the easiest way to understand them is in view of love (in view of? Stinking Ohioan!). What do I mean by this? Consider the statement, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." This is not to say that we are not obligated to offer up our proper sacrifices... rather this, to show mercy and to offer up right sacrifices to God are both acts of love - both happen because one fears and loves God so that. . . . However, consider them in terms of love, and you will see that one of the grades has misapplied or broken love. If your so called and flawed love of God leads you to neglect mercy, the love of the neighbor, then you have wandered astray of love. Love is shown both in sacrifice and in mercy, but if your sacrificial love causes you to neglect mercy, is it really a sacrifical love anymore? The answer, in view of love, is no.

Again, this ties into my whole contention that when we consider our actions one of the first things we assume must be that we are doing something wrong, that we are doing something flawed. Which ties into the third. . .

3. While a Christian is to do nothing but show love, your view of love is flawed. Simple as that. What you think qualifies as love is going to be constantly off base, because you are sinful and your flesh will twist and turn outward facing, neigbhor focused love onto self love. Hence, when discussing love, it must never be what you think, feel, or "know" love is - but how love is defined in the Scriptures by God. Whenever we forget that we are sinful and that we are not perfected in love, we will just stray further and further off course.

4. To learn ethical behavior and how you ought to strive to live is to study and contemplate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is the whole point of passages like Phillipians 2, where we are to have among ourselves the mind of Christ - we are to strive to approach things in a Christ like way. This is the point of Ignatius of Antioch's admonition that we are to be subordinate to the bishop as he is subordinate to Christ -- that way we may seek in all things to constantly align ourselves with Christ. When you are constantly checking yourselve with what Christ has done (I'm not just saying pull our your WWJD braclet and think about what your hip Buddy Christ would do - I'm dealing with concrete historical, real, and salvific acts here) in His showing of love to you and to the world, you are moving closer and closer to the perfection that you will never obtain in this life. Point yourself to the Love of Infinite One who became Finite to save you.

Thoughts from the road entirely too early for the West Coast.


Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Rev. Brown,

You wrote: "I think I do understand why my appeals to Christian love set off all those situational ethics alarms in peoples' minds."

Your latest points do not turn off the alarms for me. You are still proposing a sort of virtue ethics.

I cannot figure out why you are so against the objective moral laws God has given us in his Word. God has given us the law, and Luther has given us many worthy explanations of it in his Catechisms.

You also are falling for the graded absolutism of the Reformed, imagining that somehow we are excused from following God's absolute Law if we follow the "highest absolute" of love. This leads to nothing but "fair seeming works", decided upon and judged righteous by our interpretation of what is "loving." Of course you realize our judgment is faulty on this, so you try to get yourself out of that difficulty by explaining that what must be followed is "how love is defined in the Scriptures by God."

But, once again, this is all dependent upon our discernment and insight into how this virtue of "love" is lived out on a case by case basis (situation ethics). Then you explain that "we are to strive to approach things in a Christ like way." After which, you have to somehow try to distance yourself from the WWJD crowd. Nevertheless, in the end this is simply a modified version of your earlier virtue ethics. We are still stuck evaluating our actions on a case by case basis according to our flawed understanding of a particular virtue: love.

"Abraham 'obeys God's command without arguing.' (LW 3:173) He simply cuts the throat of this baneful 'Why?' and tears it out of his heart by the roots. He takes reason captive and finds satisfaction in the one fact that he who gives the command is just, good, and wise; therefore, he cannot command anything but what is just, good, and wise, even if reason does not make any sense of it."
[Steinbronn, Worldviews, CPH 2007, p 128]

Saul, on the other hand, followed a version of your virtue ethics:

"Saul seems to be doing the right thing (1 Sam. 15) when he does not kill all the cattle of the Amalekites but keeps the choicer animals for worship. But because God had clearly given the command that all had to be killed, this deed provokes Him to extreme anger. Therefore the fair-seeming work is nothing but an abomination, because it was undertaken against the Word of God." [Luther's Works, vol. 2:355, as quoted in Steinbronn, Worldviews, CPH 2007, p 125]

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Situation(al) Ethics (New Morality). Approach to human behavior that claims to make love the starting point and dominant control for every facet of human existence; cites such Bible passages as Lv 19:18; Mt 22:37–39; Ro 13:8–10; Gl 5:14; Ja 2:8; 1 Jn 2:10. Does not try to eliminate laws but seeks flexibility in their application; holds a midway position bet. antinomianism and legalism. Based on presuppositions: (1) Persons are more important than things; (2) Love is the ultimate criterion for making ethical decisions; (3) What love demands in any specific instance depends on the situation; (4) Situation(al) ethics is in harmony with Scripture and great teachers of the ch.
The name and some proponents of situation(al) ethics have caused the term to be assoc. with sexual freedom, anarchy, relativism, and lawlessness.

[Lueker, E. L. (2000). Christian Cyclopedia]

Rev. Gifford A. Grobien said...

Whatever else might be said on this thread, it should be clearly noted that virtue ethics and situation ethics are not the same thing. Virtue ethics has a prominent place in the Christian moral tradition, and the modern resurgence of virtue ethics (led by MacIntyre and Hauerwas) was in large part a reaction to the poverty of situation ethics.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Sorry. I see my off-the-cuff comments seem to conflate the two. I thought Rev. Brown's theories contained elements of both, though I'm not as well acquainted with virtue ethics. What I see mostly in Rev. Brown's theories is situation ethics. In fact, the definition of situation ethics I quoted from the Christian Cyclopedia seems to match rather well.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Erich, (ought I add DDS in addressing you),

I can differentiate my position from the one you fear that I have very simply. Note - you say:

Saul, on the other hand, followed a version of your virtue ethics:

No. He did not follow my ethics. Period.

This ties in to point three above - Saul fell into a flawed, self-gratifying view of so-called love (if this is how he attempted to justify his actions - it's probably just greed. Luther is more gentle to Saul than I probably would be).

It is not that I do not love the clear, direct statements we have in scripture - I worry about how they are applied. Sometimes the application of God's Word is clear... but what of those things where there is no specific Word of God speaking to the issue at hand.

For example, is it proper for a Christian to have life insurance? Depending on when you look at the issue, even within the Missouri Synod, one can find differing answers... some that say life insurance is a grave sin and insult to God, denying His providential care, and the other that says it is a fine way of providing for one's loved ones.

There is no verse that says, "Thou shall not have life insurance" or "Thou shall have insurance upon thy life, that it may be well with thy survivors."

Now, my thoughts the would be that is is something a Christian is free to do, and in determining whether he ought to freely act in this manner, he should think in terms of how best to show love. Easiest, simplest way to approach this.

Again, thinking in terms of Love does not deny that there are specific commands given in God's law -- I just think that when there is not a specific, clear command, consider love.

For example - women's ordination. There is a command prohibiting it. I must submit and not ordain women. Period. Women voters? Eh, Scripture is silent (on the whole issue of voters) - I don't care what you do, but show love in how you do it.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

“’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

There's Jesus and His stinking virtue ethics. . . Sheesh! Doesn't He know what liberal 20th Century thinkers are going to do with this! We need lists, Jesus!

Or maybe not.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

To quote your post, Rev. Brown:

"While a Christian is to do nothing but show love, your view of love is flawed. Simple as that. What you think qualifies as love is going to be constantly off base, because you are sinful and your flesh will twist and turn outward facing, neighbor focused love onto self love. Hence, when discussing love, it must never be what you think, feel, or "know" love is - but how love is defined in the Scriptures by God."

Love is defined in Scripture by God's lists, first and foremost of which is the Ten Commandments. The fact that the second table of the Law can be summarized by the golden rule doesn't mean that the golden rule is the only rule we need. The Ten Commandments themselves also summarize much of God's Law that is expounded upon elsewhere in God's Word.

This you admit when you wrote above:

"Again, thinking in terms of Love does not deny that there are specific commands given in God's law -- I just think that when there is not a specific, clear command, consider love."

This is where the problem in your theory comes in. You employ Barth's "Strong Divine Command Theory Ethic," and therefore you deny a huge amount of what Christians have always seen as binding in God's Word. For instance, you write:

"For example - women's ordination. There is a command prohibiting it. I must submit and not ordain women. Period. Women voters? Eh, Scripture is silent (on the whole issue of voters) - I don't care what you do, but show love in how you do it."

Scripture is NOT silent on the issue of voters. Women are not to have authority over men in the church. Voter's assemblies very often exert authority over men.

Orthodox Lutherans always followed the sedes doctrinae method. The reductionist method you employ demands passages specifically mentioning the topic.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


On women voters, I'd ask in what way do Voters exercise authority in the Church?

Authority in the Church is the Office of the Keys - the preaching of the Word, administering the Sacraments - the things given to the Pastor to do. When Christ says that He has authority, He then authorizes the Apostles to do their Apostolic office. What the Voters tend to are not mattes of authority. When Paul demands that women remain silent in the Church, this is in terms of the preaching office... not administering business.

Voters are a modern, Americanized concept born of rationalistic ideas of equality. While I would argue that we are free to organize our congregations along these lines, to apply the apple of Scripture to the orange of our polity is an abuse, confounding the two kingdoms. Property administration and salaries are a matter of the kingdom of the left, bound to the laws of the state. Authority in the Church is a matter of the Kingdom of the Right. It is not the catholic faith to apply this text to voters because voters are not part of the catholic faith.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

While you certainly won't find any verses in the Bible mentioning voter's assemblies by name, there are countless ways voters exert authority in the church. In his theses on women suffrage, Douglas Judisch explains that "...any vote which determines or is capable of determining a certain course of action is, by nature, an exercise of authority; suffrage in any group implies the exercise of authority unless the vote granted to a person is purely advisory. A woman exercises authority over men every time that her vote contributes to the passage or defeat of some measure on which some men voted the opposite way. A woman likewise exercises authority over men every time that her vote contributes to the passage or defeat of a measure which requires action to be carried out by men who act as the executive personnel of the group in question. A congregational assembly in almost every measure adopted prescribes some course of action to be taken by the pastor, male teachers, or officers of the congregation (e.g., holding a certain number of services each week, purchasing equipment, etc.), so that a woman, by voting in the assembly, continually exercises authority over men." [CONCORDIA THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY, July, 1977 CTQ, Vol 41, Number 3]

Rev. Brown, your narrow view of 1 Timothy 2:12-15 would see the order of creation and the curse of the fall only applicable to the place of women in the divine service. This is a perfect example of your reductionist view of Scripture. In contrast, an excellent examination of the sedes doctrinae on this question can be found in this essay by Rev. Rolf Preus.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Erich, you write:
Rev. Brown, your narrow view of 1 Timothy 2:12-15 would see the order of creation and the curse of the fall only applicable to the place of women in the divine service.

Actually, that's not it. This isn't about a narrow view, but a question of "what is meant by authority." I love Dr. Judisch, but he's wrong here in describing what authority is. The phrase "in the Church" denotes that we are dealing with Kingdom of the Right issues in Timothy. The examples he raises in that quote all deal with kingdom of the left sort of issues, and women can have a left-hand authority over men according to the Scriptures.

For example, in Proverbs 31 we see the wise woman of the Lord being commended for buying fields, making and selling garments - physical, tangible economic decisions that have an impact upon the family - including her husband. Is she then violating the order of creation? Does Proverbs direct her to violate the order of creation? As Scripture does not contradict Scripture, the answer must be no.

Rather, in Proverbs we see this - the woman does the work of ordering the house, freeing her husband to go and sit in the gate and do what... and teach and discuss the Word of the Lord. Likewise - let the affairs of the left be handled by whomever in a peaceful way (if there were a specific polity or structure, the Scriptures would have included a section on by-laws), and let those entrusted with the true Authority of the Church, the overseeing of the Word and Sacraments, be free to tend to their duties.

Authority is not making someone else do what *I* want... for none of us have that sort of authority - our Lord says we are not to lord over one another like the gentiles. Anyone who strives for that sort of control in the Church is in err, man or woman.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Yes, what is narrow is your view of what authority 1 Timothy 2:12 is talking about.

BTW, the Proverbs 31 woman is the Church.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


The phrase "in the Church" narrows what sort of authority is being discussed - and I would assert that "in the Church" does not refer to the physical local of the Church, but rather in terms of Spiritual, Pastoral matters. That comes from the text.

And while I will agree that Proverbs 31 does refer to the Church, are you going to deny a literal sense to this chapter? In the ancient world (both Jew and Greek alike) women did have quite a bit of financial responsibility for the family -- this was not viewed as her exercising authority over her husband, but rather fulfilling her duty as wife.

History and grammar both show that to apply this Timothy passage to any mere vote is an abuse of the text.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Why do I feel like I'm arguing with a fundamentalist?

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

We are more alike than we know, for I thought the same thing (sheesh, this turning the Scriptures into a rule book, am I talking to an okie here? Am I going to hear about the Bible as guide to staving off scurvy next?)

But you ought not feel like you are arguing with a fundamentalist. When you argue with a fundamentalist, you are probably right. In this case, you are wrong =o) Completely different from when you argue with a fundamentalist. =o)

But in all seriousness, I think is one where in Modern America we tend to be quite off. We are raised to think of authority as force - authority lets us make other people do what we wish them to do. That's not a Scriptural depiction of authority. Authority is the ability to execute and office - and all offices fundamentally involve service. When we jump to authority as force, we belie our American baggage.

This is why it is good to have a king. Sure, a king has authority, but his authority is to be that of service, not self-serving domineering. We forget this and jump to authority being iron-fisted control - but after all, how can we understand God-given authority when we as a nation rebelled against our God-given king? No good comes of revolution, and the wreckage from it infests our theology. Lord have mercy upon us!

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I was thinking more along the lines of the fundamentalist tendency toward personal and innovative interpretations of Scripture, ignoring the way our fathers in the faith have consistently interpreted them, and the doctrine and practice drawn from them and handed down to us.

Note that Paul is careful to link this teaching to what is recorded in Genesis concerning woman, showing that this arrangement is a permanent one, and not subject to cultural norms. Prior to the women's liberation movements of the last century, any act which set aside woman's subjection to man was seen as being in direct violation of the will of God expressed in creation and subsequent to the fall. There are, of course, places and times where woman may rightly speak and teach, even publicly, but NEVER in any case where she would thereby exercise dominion over a man.

Methinks thou doth protest too much regarding the nature of authority. This is simply a matter of the order established by God. Lording one's authority over others is sinful, yes. But you cannot deny that human will is definitely at work in authority, often contradicting the will of those in subjection, and not always in a sinful sense.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I reject the modernist insertion of democratic ideals and standards into our understanding of the Scriptures. I agree that what Paul states is indeed a permanent thing - a woman is not to exercise authority in the Church... so what is this authority in the Church, and why do you keep jumping from it to the civil realm?

This is my critique. You end up doing bait and switch with the Scriptures. Paul does not make this a "dominion" argument. He uses authority - therefore we have to focus first and foremost on authority. That's where it needs to be - and the voters are not the authority in the Church. Therefore, this passage is not speaking directly to suffrage.

Now, is voting an exercise of dominion... I'm not sold on that. Voting is the exercise of a civil duty, not precisely a matter of dominating another... I mean, if any voting is an act of dominion, then men have no reason to vote and try to assert their dominion over other men. Seriously, if a woman voting is her exercising dominion over you, by what right do you exercise dominion against your neighbor?

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

"Therefore, this passage is not speaking directly to suffrage."

And there is your strong divine command theory ethic in action.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

And the fact that you throw a label on a position should make me say, "Ack! I have been called a name that is apparently bad. . . I must abandon my position"?

We aren't third graders. Don't simply call names. Your last arguments have been that I am sound like a fundamentalist (although your description describes more liberal protestantism rather than fundamentalism) and that I am. . . Barthian? I don't care about the labels you toss on me.

Show me why, on the basis of Scripture or the Confessions that I am wrong in what I say. I don't think it is bad to wish to see a Divine Command. Show me in the Scriptures where what you say, how you approach the topic IS the biblical approach instead of simply assuming it on the basis of what someone else says.

I'm a historian - I'm always going to trust primary sources above secondary, and Scripture is our primary source.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Oh, and please do answer my question. If we are going to define voting as exercising authority over another, by what right or mandate do you exercise this authority over your neighbor?

Note - this isn't Barthian... I'm not saying that since voting isn't condemned it must be good. See, I'm not utterly SDC. Rather this - I think you are misapplying (or at least applying inconsistently) the passages where Scripture speaks about authority and dominion to questions of democracy.

Answer! Give information! Add to the discussion! =o)

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

"Third grader" is quite a label itself, Rev. Brown, as is "name-caller" and "label-tosser." I take offense at such condescending characterizations.

The terms I have employed above are not "name calling." These are not pejoratives, but rather specific terms for methods of approaching scripture. I have explained what I have meant by these, and so they are not just labels. Perhaps "fundamentalist" wasn't quite as accurate as "strong divine command theory ethic", but you employ the methods these terms were intended to refer to above, and I have simply used these terms as shorthand and have tried to explain what I mean by them as well as possible.

As you said yourself just above:

"I don't think it is bad to wish to see a Divine Command. Show me in the Scriptures where what you say..."

You don't seem to understand. I concede that I cannot show you what you demand. It is not productive to argue with you on the subject of women suffrage (and many other subjects) because we simply do not work from the same first principles of Scriptural interpretation. We approach Scripture with different methods. That is what I am trying to point out, but you keep trying to make this discussion about women suffrage.

What should have become clear to you (as it has to me) is that the main problem I have with your "ethics" is not as much your ethical theories per se as it is the method of interpreting Scripture you include in them. It is "Barthian," and can also can be described as a "Strong Divine Command Theory Ethic."

Those are not meant as pejorative labels, but rather descriptive terms explaining what it is that I take exception to in your methods. If you still don't understand what I mean by those terms after all our discussions, just ask. However, please spare me the condescending characterizations.

If you do understand what I mean, I think this discussion is at an end.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Thank you for your clarity. I appreciate it. I did not know you were simply trying to demonstrate that you and I approach things differently -- I figured that was obvious. I was concerned (and still am) with which is better - so when you summed my arguments with labels that I would not take for myself, I assumed a perjorative usage. I was wrong in this. Also, I apologize for my harsh characterization of your technique.

I would note, however, that you explained more in your last statement than simply applying a label would. Moreover, is the purpose of this whole conservation to simply describe me, or to come to an understanding of the truth? While I appreciate now that you were simply trying to show that we approach Scripture differently - that's nice and all, but which is better? That's my concern.

Now, why is your approach to Scripture better and more faithful? Here is my critique.

I see flaws with your approach in how it fails to deal with concrete, specific questions. Can you, with your approach, properly apply Scripture to a modern situation?

You responded strongly asserting that I was wrong when I used women voters as an example of something that was neither forbidden nor commanded (which is how this discussion came up). The problem I see is that your application of Scripture to this issue works in such a way that the mere act of voting is an assertion of authority. Where then do any of us in the Scriptures have the freedom to exercise that authority over anyone else?

(As a note, this is where I would say that I don't fit a full bore Strong Divine Command fellow. I am all for applying, but let's be careful and consistent in our application. For example, one who would say, "Abortion isn't expressly forbidden in Scripture, therefore it must be permissible" could be said to be following a SDC. My critique would be that we know that we are not to murder, and Scripture speaks in terms of the of the unborn as persons - so they would naturally be included in people not to be murdered. It is only a non-biblical definition of a fetus as mere tissue that would let one side step commands in Scripture about murder, and that description of the unborn isn't Scriptural. Hence, I do take exception to Strong Divine Command idea that is thus used.)

As such, I think you are inserting a concept of authority and dominion that is shaped by American political ideals and not in line with how the Scriptures speak. Rather than having the Scriptures applied to the current beast (voters), modern baggage is thrust upon the Scriptures and then shuffled back onto the situation.

Many things in Scripture speak to how voters meetings should be run, because the Scriptures speak to how we are to behave, which includes voters meetings. Let there be kindness. Speak Gently. Defend the blessings that others have received. You can apply the whole second table to it. So it is not that I view Scripture as inconsequential to how such a meeting is conducted, but rather assert that it isn't speaking directly to it, and as such, to simply toss out a passage and say, "This prohibits this action" is wrong and an abuse of Scripture.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

So why is this discussion as a whole important to me? You have conceded that you cannot provide what I demand. Yet you claim that your position is truth. Then something has to give - either I have an invalid and unreasonable demand that you shouldn't need to fulfill, or you make false claims about God's Law.

Either way, this impacts how we speak. If the demand that we base our doctrine on the clear Word of Scripture is unreasonable - then we have some major problems. If we are making false claims about what God instructs us, or at least claims that we cannot back up with our own theological basis of Sola Scriptura, then we are opening ourselves up to being shredded.

+ + + + + + + +

There is a difference in how we approach the Scriptures. I would assert it this way. God describes how humans are to behave in His Law. It is a picture, as it were. When we apply that picture to our lives, a situation in question, how is it done.

Some want to find a specific point, verse, or seat that describes in no uncertain terms what must be done. I'd rather say - whatever you do, strive to look like the image depicted in the Scriptures.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

"...to simply toss out a passage and say, 'This prohibits this action' is wrong and an abuse of Scripture."

I agree! I do not believe one simple verse can be used to address the entire question of women suffrage we are arguing as an example case. That would be the employment of a "Strong Divine Command Theory Ethic."

The orthodox Lutheran use of Scripture is more holistic. You ask me to show how to properly apply this method. I have already pointed you to the essay by Rev. Rolf Preus, which is a perfect example of using Scripture appropriately rather than zeroing in on each verse and saying "I don't see this issue addressed there."

I will let his essay stand as my answer to your request. I really don't have any original ideas of my own. I simply stand on the shoulders of giants. Rev. Preus uses Scripture the same way I see orthodox Lutherans using it all the way back to Chemnitz and Luther.

The problems come in when we try to reinvent the wheel, which is what I see you doing with your novel theories of ethics.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

While I hadn't read this particular essay by Rev. Preus, I was fortunate enough to hear him present on it in person at the vocation symposia a few years back down in Norman.

This is ironic, because much of my own thoughts on the matter were clarified on this - particularly his discussion of the authority of teachers not being a "Church" authority, but the authority from the home.

But note specifically what he does. He points out carefully the distinction between authority in the Church and without. The lack of distinction there leads to the strange discussions that he recounts in the WELS and ELS.

Even when he does speak, at the very end, to the idea of women's sufferage, he says, "A better case would be made, I believe, by pointing out that the domain of a woman is in the home and that it is not proper for men and women to be thrust together in situations where this woman and that man are required to interact with one another without the protection provided by the intervening institutions of marriage and family. To put it simply: It is unnatural. This woman is with that man. They belong together. God made them one flesh. And he made her the mistress of the home."

I think that is very good. It is not "this is forbidden and evil" but rather "is this profitable". I don't think that women's sufferage is somehow superior, and I think arguments that demand it are wrong. But even then, his argument is not that it is gross sin, but lacks propriety. Or in other words -- he argues that it is not loving to women. I can agree with that. To demand women's sufferage most certainly violates love.

Personally, If we had to have voters, I'd prefer 1 house, one vote. That way those women who are unattached have representation and are not forgotten, and also the husband who recognizes that his wife with her specific talents can discern political wrangling better than he is also free to designate her. I can say this because I would consider voting to derive from the family, and let the father have authority in his family as is good and proper.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

“[A Christian] should be guided in all works by this thought and contemplate this one thing alone, that he may serve and benefit others in all that he does, considering nothing except the need and the advantage of his neighbor.” (Luther’s Works, Volume 31, pgs 365)

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

There's that wax nose again that Luther's frequent use of hyperbolic rhetoric made him so prone to.


"Let this suffice concerning works in general and at the same time concerning the works which a Christian does for himself. Lastly, we shall also speak of the things which he does toward his neighbor. A man does not live for himself alone in tiffs mortal body to work for it alone, but he lives also for all men on earth; rather, he lives only for others and not for himself. To this end he brings his body into subjection that he may the more sincerely and freely serve others, as Paul says in Rom. 14[:7–8], 'None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord.' He cannot ever in this life be idle and without works toward his neighbors, for he will necessarily speak, deal with, and exchange views with men, as Christ also, being made in the likeness of men [Phil. 2:7], was found in form as a man and conversed with men, as Baruch 3[:38] says.

"Man, however, needs none of these things for his righteousness and salvation.
Therefore he should be guided in all his works by this thought and contemplate this one thing alone, that he may serve and benefit others in all that he does, considering nothing except the need and the advantage of his neighbor. Accordingly the Apostle commands us to work with our hands so that we may give to the needy, although he might have said that we should work to support ourselves. He says, however, 'that he may be able to give to those in need' [Eph. 4:28]. This is what makes caring for the body a Christian work, that through its health and comfort we may be able to work, to acquire, and lay by funds with which to aid those who are in need, that in this way the strong member may serve the weaker, and we may be sons of God, each eating for and working for the other, bearing one another’s burdens and so fulfilling the law of Christ [Gal. 6:2]. This is a truly Christian life. Here faith is truly active through love [Gal. 5:6], that is, it finds expression in works of the freest service, cheerfully and lovingly done, with which a man willingly serves another without hope of reward; and for himself he is satisfied with the fullness and wealth of his faith.

"Accordingly Paul, after teaching the Philippians how rich they were made through faith in Christ, in which they obtained all things, thereafter teaches them, saying, 'So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others' [Phil. 2:1–4]. Here we see clearly that the Apostle has prescribed this rule for the life of Christians, namely, that we should devote all our works to the welfare of others, since each has such abundant riches in his faith that all his other works and his whole life are a surplus with which he can by voluntary benevolence serve and do good to his neighbor."

Luther is simply saying that we should always consider the beneficiary of our work to be our neighbor, not ourselves. We do not work for ourselves. God will provide all we need for ourselves through the work of others. Luther is certainly not saying that we should not at the same time be mindful of other ethical factors.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Luther says basically the same thing in his exposition on Psalm 127:

"Here then we see how Solomon, in this one little verse [Ps. 127:1], has solved in short order the greatest of all problems among the children of men, about which so many books have been written, so many proverbs and approaches devised, namely, how to feed our poor stomachs. Solomon rejects them all in a body, wraps the whole matter up in faith, and says: You labor in vain when you labor for the purpose of sustaining yourself and building your own house. Indeed, you make for yourself a lot of worry, and trouble. At the same time by such arrogance and wicked unbelief you kindle God’s wrath, so that you only become all the poorer and are mined completely because you undertook to do what is his alone to do. And if with such unbelief you should succeed anyway in attaining wealth in all things, it would only bring greater ruin to you soul eternally when God lets you go blindly on in your unbelief.

"If you want to earn your livelihood honorably, quietly, and well, and rightly maintain your household, give heed:
Take up some occupation that will keep you busy in order that you can eat your bread in the sweat of your face [Gen. 3:19]. Then do not worry, about how you will be sustained and how such labor will build and maintain your house. Place everything in God’s keeping; let him do the worrying and the building. Entrust these things to him; he will lay before you richly and well the things which your labor is to find and bring to you. If he does not put them there, you will labor in vain and find nothing."

Or, if you prefer the way Paul Speratus penned it:

"Works serve our neighbor and supply
the proof that faith is living."