Saturday, 19 May 2012

Opposing Values of Truth and Preservation

There is always a tension between idealism and realism. We live in a sinful world and that means there are evil people and terrible atrocities occurring on a daily basis. How we deal with them though is a personal choice and I don't know that I have really made one myself. To be sure in my mind I am quite an idealist. I know that if I was in a bubble and someone were holding a gun up to me and the only way to stop them from killing me was to kill them I would take the bullet. But we don't live in bubbles. Everything we do has consequences for others. If I am killed what will happen to my family? What will happen to the ministry that I'm working in? Thats what people start thinking about in terms of realism.

People sometimes ask the question, if you went back in time and met Hitler as an infant, would you kill him knowing what he would do in the future? Just to avoid the nonsensical temporal loops you'd find yourself in phrasing it like that I'll ask it this way, "If you met an infant and the LORD told you this child would someday bring about the death of millions of people, what would you do?" I don't know that I have an answer to that question, nor do I think I can give one until I'm in situations where I must make a decision.

Dietrich Von Bonhoeffer struggled with this very thing. He eventually took the position that he would never kill a Christian, but those who were clearly evil he would fight against and even kill, people like Hitler. He was part of an underground movement fighting against the Nazis, but to do so he had to pretend to be one. That is where the ground gets very shaky for me. Is it ever appropriate or justifiable to lie in order to do good? I don't see any justification for it in scripture. People often talk about "white lies" as if there is no consequence to some lies. Then others will counter-argue that with things like "Well, when you use hyperboles you're not telling the truth, so it is lying, so if you're strictly against lying you are not allowed to use hyperboles." But thats not really lying either. How I define lying is the intentional misleading or misinforming of another person. When I use hyperboles I am not misleading or misinforming others because they understand the use of hyperboles. It is the same thing with sarcasm. Language is an incredibly complex thing that we use in a variety of ways. But when we give false information intentionally, that is lying and bearing false witness which is one of the ten commandments.

But if I was hiding Jews in my house during WW2 and soldiers came and inspected my home, what would I do? What would I do if they blatantly asked me if I was hiding any Jews? If I hold to my ideals of not bearing false witness, then I can not say no. But if I hold to my values of human life and preservation of all peoples, then one would assume I'd say no. They're mutually opposing one another in these situations and I don't know what I would do. I'd probably make a horrible person to hide people in such a situation unless simply keeping my mouth shut was a viable option. Then I'd do that. I'd keep my mouth shut.

If you're still reading this, then you probably get by now that I don't have this fully worked out even in my own mind and don't intend this to be any kind of prescription for the behavior of others. I hold to the statement that I don't know what I'd ultimately do until I find myself in such a situation.

For His Glorious Name,