[Turing 2013] Christian Entry #6

This is the sixth entry in the Christian round of the 2013 Ideological Turing Test.  This year, atheists and Christians responded to questions about sex, death, and literature.  

 

Polyamory

Marriage, in its essence, is meant to be an image of God’s love for humanity. It is a foretaste of heaven, a way to help us better understand God’s immense love for us, His self-gift to us, and the life-giving nature of that love. The love between God and humanity is total and personal – God does not hold back any bit of Himself in loving us and He loves each of us as a unique individual, not just as part of a vague whole of “humanity.” Our love for Him, while imperfect here, will be total in heaven and will be directed at God in a distinctly personal manner.

In Genesis, we see how God created marriage to reflect the total self-gift that He desires in heaven. Because human beings are finite, we cannot love in the all-encompassing manner that God loves. He established the Sacrament of Marriage, so that by loving one other person completely, we could experience in a finite way His infinite love for us. Part of the nature of God’s love is that it is fruitful – the love that the Father and the Son have for each other eternally generates the Holy Spirit. In the same way, marriage is by its nature fruitful, the love of the husband and wife generating children.

God created marriage in the way – between one man and one woman – because of the totality of the love man and woman must have for each other as well as the fruitfulness of that love. A union of more than two people would not allow for the totality that is present between one man and one woman. A man cannot give himself completely to one woman if he is also giving himself physically, spiritually, and emotionally to another woman – and the same goes if you rearrange any of the gendered words. Without full self-gift, the marriage is not a true marriage.

This is, of course, all dealing with sacramental marriage. Civil marriage is a more difficult question to tackle because in many ways it is the realm of the government. However, from a religious standpoint, civil marriage performs two functions. First, to the extent that civil law reflects morality, it reflects what true (i.e. sacramental marriage) is. The extent of this role of civil law is the subject of robust debate among moral theologians. Second, civil marriage is fundamental to society because it provides the structure for the raising of children and the passing of property. Polyamory would complicate these systems.

Obviously, these views do depend upon a particular understand of God. It is possible to reach a philosophical understanding of love that would lead to similar, if not quite the same, conclusions. That would take much more that 1,000 words, however, and I would refer any curious philosophers to Karol Wotyła’s Love and Responsibility.

 

Euthanasia

It is never permissible (and thus never obligatory) to end a life — in the case of euthanasia, as posed here; the question of capital punishment might also answer the question as worded, but not in this context. Deliberately ending an innocent (i.e. not a true aggressor) human life is morally murder, which is always impermissible. Human life has an intrinsic value; while it is not the only or the ultimate value, it has an unquantifiable value. From a philosophical standpoint, this statement is axiomatic, but from a theological standpoint, it goes back to divine authority.

Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God; given their very being as gift from God; and redeemed by His Son at great price. For all of these reasons, human beings have intrinsic value. Any form of euthanasia is a form of murder.

There is a difference between euthanasia and not administering certain treatment to prolong life. In moral theology, the two are broken down based on the “moral object.” The “moral object” is used to define what is being done. It is identified by looking at the natural end of the physical action along with the moral quality of said action. A classic example to help clarify what is meant by moral object is sexual intercourse. The moral object of sexual intercourse between two persons married to each other is marital intercourse. The same physical act, between two persons married but not to each other, is adultery. The two instances have different moral objects, the former being sometimes permissible (I’m sure we can all think of moments when spouses should not be having sexual intercourse) latter being always morally impermissible.

In the case of euthanasia, as state above, the moral object is murder – the deliberate killing of an innocent person. The case of not administering life-prolonging treatment is much more tricky. The action itself (not giving medical treatment) is morally neutral, but the circumstances and intentions surrounding the act can change that. To start with the obvious, if the point of withholding the treatment is to cause death, then this act is murder and it is morally impermissible. However, sometimes the purpose of withholding treatment is more complicated.

The benefits of treatment – prolonging life – are weighed against the burdens of treatment – pain, financial burden, mental incapacity, etc. In this case, if the burdens, under careful consideration, outweigh the benefits, it can be morally permissible to stop the treatment. It is very important to note that never can “longer life” be considered as a burden of the treatment. It might seem contrary to Christian values to weigh benefits versus burdens, but this is actually in keeping with Christian moral theology. The key to keep in mind is that certain actions are intrinsically wrong, and no amount of proportionality can justify them. It is when weighing between two actions that not intrinsically wrong, with actors who have good motives that a level of proportionality can come into play. This sort of reasoning can determine when it is and is not permissible to withhold medical treatment.

 

You can vote on whether you think these answers were written by a Christian or an Atheist here.  Comments are open to discuss the substance of the post and for speculation about the true beliefs of the author, so please vote before looking at the comments.

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://www.catholicismforcutters.com/ Broken Whole

    What cinched it for me as “likely Chrisitan” was the reference to “Karol Wotyla’s Love and Responsibility” instead of referring to it as JPII’s “Love and Responsibility.” This involves not merely the trivia of knowing the former Pope’s birth name but also involves the forethought of realizing that non-religious folks would probably be put off by a recommendation to read a book by a Pope and thus the decision to sneak him in “under the radar” as it were. Not, of course, that an atheist couldn’t have pulled all this off—but it would be a sophisticated forgery if he or she did.

    • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

      I agree with the conclusion but not with the argument.

      So far we only have two popes with private non-magisterial books published during their papacy, but both did so under their civil names. And the first Polish edition was written before he was pope and then it’s totally normal to quote the name at the time (Compare: In thermodynamics there is a Joule-Thomson-effect, not a Joule-Kelvin-effect.) So that’s just the correct way to reference it. Also, the ruse wouldn’t work.

      I think the author just took the identity as obvious.

    • avalpert

      Hmm, that’s also how the book is listed on Amazon and on the book itself – so either everyone is trying to trick Atheists into reading it or this is just the proper way to refer to it.

    • http://www.catholicismforcutters.com/ Broken Whole

      I grant that, technically speaking, Karol Wotyla is the correct author’s title (just as Joseph Ratzinger would be for the previous pope’s books). That being said, I think that many folks would still refer to a book as being by Pope so-and-so since there’s likely to be more name recognition there—and generally (I’d think) you’d want name recognition if you’re recommending a book to someone.

    • Tim Andrews

      Isn’t Wojtyła the generally accepted English spelling?

  • Brendan Hodge

    I’m pretty much going on tone, but again, I’d say likely Christian.

  • Brutus

    I’ve never seen an explicitly half-consequentialist position before: Euthanasia is always wrong, because human life “has an unquantifiable value”. Witholding treatment which delays death weighs several burdens that seem easy to quantify against an allegedly unquantifiable value, and outputs a meaningful result.

    • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

      Nor have you here.

      Your problem comes from looking at life and its prolongation as interchangeable, i.e. at life as a sum of life-moments, which is already a consequentialist assumption.

      • Brutus

        Does “This course action will result in the patient suffering for a period of time and then dying; the alternative course of action will result in the patient suffering for a longer period of time and then dying” apply to withholding life-prolonging treatment but not to euthanasia?

        Is ’cause of death’ intrinsically important enough to be a primary moral motivation?

        • http://last-conformer.net/ Gilbert

          I guess you can ask the author for an authentic interpretation after the great reveal. I’m not interested in lawyering it out.

          But given that the author was writing from a given school, canonical and correct answers would be “it depends on what you mean by apply”, because it is logically true in both cases but morally relevant only in the first one and “the question presumes a category error”, because morality is about actions and not consequences.

          • Brutus

            >The benefits of treatment – prolonging life – are weighed against the
            burdens of treatment – pain, financial burden, mental incapacity, etc.

            That sound exactly like it is about the consequences.

  • Brandon B

    I think this entry is head and shoulders above the others in terms of have a well-structured argument. It’s also gives some theological nuggets that 1) I haven’t heard before and 2) make a bit of sense.

    I am looking forward to reading the atheist entries, because it would be nice to find an equally well-structured argument on the other side. I know I’m biased in favor of this argument, so I hope I can check how much that bias is affecting my judgment of the quality of the argumentation.

    • Brutus

      Either you or I am very biased about how well structured the argument is. I’m generally opposed to the premises, which seems likely to bias me.

      I notice several claims that are in the form of claims of fact but are non-falsifiable sentences (just about everything about what God did, feels, or wants). The entirety of the section on polyamory seems to reduce to claims about what God wants and the claim that it would be more complicated for civil marriage to accommodate poly groups. (Without even explicitly claiming that more complicated is bad.)

      The euthanasia arguement starts with a minor redefinition and claim that murder is always wrong but failing to save someone is sometimes ok. There’s a hole in the difference between “providing treatment that results in death” and “not providing treatment, resulting in death” that is large enough to run an IV line through.

      What causes you to believe that the argument is well-structured? Do you feel that clever ways of asserting God’s will constitute an argument?

      • Brandon B

        A good argument shows two things: true premises, and how its conclusion follows logically from those premises. I thought this entry did a good job of showing that its conclusions followed from its premises. It also tried to use more basic premises than the other Christian entries generally have. In zer polyamory discussion, the author spends more than half zer time talking about the nature of sex and marriage generally, and that felt appropriate to me. In the euthanasia discussion, the first two paragraphs are devoted to the value of life and a definition of murder, and the third introduces a concept that is probably new to most people. Again, this feels like valuable foundation work to me.

        Given the word limit on these entries, explaining more of your foundation means you can’t go through each step of your argument in as rigorous a manner. There are a few gaps in these arguments that I sort of passed over the first time I read it, but that probably would’ve been jarring if I disagreed with them. Given the choice between eliminating more of those gaps and giving a better foundation, I prefer an argument that gives a better foundation.

        • Brutus

          … If the conclusion follows trivially from the premises, but the premises themselves are controversial, shouldn’t one note all of the premisses and try to justify them? Failing to have “We should act the way God wants us to” as one of the premises makes the entire argument from what God wants invalid, but that premise is not to be found. (It’s also a premise with which I strongly disagree, and I have no idea how much that biases me)

          • Brandon B

            Yes, if the premises aren’t agreed upon, the argument can’t be persuasive. That means even more foundation work is necessary.

  • http://patheos.com/blogs/hallq/ Chris Hallquist

    Don’t have much to say about this, but for purposes of keeping score on accuracy of our voting later, I say “Christian.”

  • stanz2reason

    I’d vote atheist, and if he submitted one, I’d say its chris hallquist.

  • Jakeithus

    Late to the discussion, but I would say very likely Christian.

  • TGWWS

    Been reading and voting all along, but commenting on this one because
    it seems pretty obvious to me (contra some of the earlier comments)
    that this is a Christian … only because I’m 99% sure this person is a
    Catholic; and I’m 99% sure _of that_ because I’m one myself, and these
    precisely the sort of arguments my Catholic friends and I will make, and
    couched in the sort of language.
    Minor point on the pope’s
    name: because of the business about infallibility, it’s customary among
    catechised Catholics to use a pope’s … er, pre-papal (?) name when
    referring to things he’s written before he’s elected. They don’t get
    the same weight theologically, and the difference in name is supposed to
    gesture towards that. As far as the barred-L goes, it makes a
    pronunciation difference in Polish, a fact which might well prompt a
    sufficiently nerdy Catholic (like, again, me and most of my friends) to go for the un-Americanized spelling.

  • Melody

    This is the best entry I’ve read yet (I have been reading them in order of submission). He/she refers several times to moral theology, and I would guess he or she is in fact a moral theologian.

  • Pingback: Trackback


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X