The Plot II--Why I Am NOT a Theologian

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Here's the problem.

If we take as a starting premise, a premise I accept and even embrace and to which I can propose no reasonable alternative, that one may not do evil that good may result, one might be forced to conclude that information derived from certain sources that help to define today's potential catastrophe should not have been obtained and should not be used.

Let's consider several examples:

(1) Information derived from listening in on conversations: So far as I can tell there is nothing MORALLY wrong with this, nor within the profession of spies ethically wrong with it. There may in some instances be problems with it legally, but legality and morality often don't coincide. So unless one can tell me otherwise, it would seem that information obtained this way is "clean."

(2) Information from a plant or a mole. This, it strikes me, is much more problematic. In order for a plant or mole to succeed he must mimic the surroundings. He must dissemble or lie in order to fit in. There may be things that the group does as a whole that are completely immoral that he must participate in in order to remain undercover. Information derived from dissembling (bearing false witness) would seem to be tainted under the "You must not do evil that good may result."

(3) Information obtained from a paid informant. Once again, we're at a place that I wonder about. If betrayal of one's friends and comrades is a sin (Dante certainly seems to think it is) then suborning such action is supporting such action and is, how is it phrased proximate material collusion? It would seem that information obtained by paying someone to rat out his friends is indeed "tainted."

All of that said, I don't know if any of it is true, and it is the reason that I've decided that I need to be just an interested spectator in the bloody arena of practical and applied theology. If I really stopped this long to analyze all of my actions of a day I would just have to admit complete paralysis and give up doing anything other than analyzing the potentials. Obviously theologians don't do this because they know of some "loophole" that gets them out of the eternally descending spiral (Uzumaki) of omphaloskepsis.

Oh, and before you start badgering me about saying that I think the actions and information acted on today were bad, please know that I don't. I just wanted to use this illustration to show how my brain gums up the works and why it is simply better for me to sit staring at Jesus than to try to figure out the mind of God on matters too lofty for me.

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I've said this before, and it never really gets me anywhere, but I'll say it again anyway. It seems to me important that, for the most part, the words that we have of Our Lord during His ministry on this earth were spoken to simple people, not to the scholars, lawyers, and philosophers of His day. Some of what He taught is so radical that people refuse to take it at face value, putting such complicated spin on it (in their desperate attempt to *escape* from the plain meaning of it) that, in the end, they've turned what was simple into that which is so complex as to be unintelligible without special training and fluency in a custom-made jargon that contrives to make neologisms out of commonplace words. Give me that old time religion.

A good illustration of this dilemma (doing evil that good may come from it) can be found in Rahab's story, in Joshua 2. Rahab, as you know, hid the spies and lied about it to the authorities and was responsible for the slaughter of Jericho's women and children, yet she was blessed by God for her deceit, or faith, however you want to look at it.

Dear Rob,

I don't know that I have ever disagreed with the kernel of what you have said, perhaps only the trappings. I do think there is a strong tendency to make things far more complicated than they need be. On the other hand, there are times when all of that effort and all of that thought pay off in the not-so-apparent solution of moral dilemma. And I know you are aware of that as well.

I think we concur when I say that the normal practice of day to day faithfulness can be encumbered by all of the extra trimmings that can be laden on by the theological set. Not that the work is not worthwhile, but that most situations don't require that degree of scrutiny and examination to be figured out.

So we struggle under a mouontain of interpretation to practice, "Whatsoever you do unto these, the least of my brethren, that you do unto me." And we needn't do so.



I wish it were that benign, but I don't think that it is. I think all of that philosophizing is necessary to totally obfuscate the Gospel message in order to make our conformation to the world compatible with our soi-disant Christianity. There is a kernel that you probably won't be able to swallow. But, nonetheless...turn on the TV and look at what Christians are up to.

Dear Rob,

You're right. Anything can be abused and misused. Too much water can kill a person, totally deplete the electrolytes. And yes, there is much theologizing that goes off the deep end. And post-modern theologizing even more so. But if we stay with the Church Fathers and the great thinkers of previous ages (and these were those for whom I was speaking before) there is a danger of getting lost in all the jots and tittles.

For the case you talk about, yes. There is a pernicious brand of theologizing which to turn Milton around seek to justify the ways of Man to God. We reshape and recreate in our own words and we look for the loopholes that let us do what we wish. I happen to think that Just War theory may well be one of these loopholes, just as I tend to think annulment gives the imprimatur to a previous loophole. So I do see what you mean when you write; however, I'm not ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I think much light has been shown by good theology--a great understanding of God and Christ is possible for some through the great works. However, for me it tends to be a trap--a tar-baby--I get in, I get stuck, and I essentially stop practicing in faith while I fret about what my faith is. I think that is also a danger in addition to the trend you point out.

In sum, I need to go back to the roots and sit with Mary at Jesus feet and not fret about the household as I tend to do.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 10, 2006 7:36 PM.

Two Posts on the Plot--I was the previous entry in this blog.

Ukiyo-e VI--Metaphysical Conceit Break is the next entry in this blog.

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