Recent high-profile examples of the combination of violence and technology, such as “happy-slapping,” bring into sharp focus the need for moral judgment in the marketplace. The social nature of violence and sin mean that “no government, economy, family, or society can survive if a critical mass of citizens do not exercise a particular level of self-government and restraint.”

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  • Martin from Central Europe

    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the Old Testament (OT) also part of the Bible? For in OT one can find dreadful atrocities, both caused or approved by God, acts of genocide and rape. How do Christian cope with OT? Because as I see it you can either reject OT wholly, or accept it as a whole. There is nothing between. Or is there?

  • http://blog.acton.org Jordan

    [i]Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the Old Testament (OT) also part of the Bible?[/i]

    Yes it is.

    [i]For in OT one can find dreadful atrocities, both caused or approved by God, acts of genocide and rape. How do Christian cope with OT?[/i]

    Christians accept both the OT and the NT as canonical.

    [i]Because as I see it you can either reject OT wholly, or accept it as a whole. There is nothing between. Or is there?[/i]

    The former error is called the [url=http://www.theologicalstudies.citymax.com/page/page/1573583.htm]“Marcionite heresy,”[/url] after the second-century leader Marcion. I’m inclined to say that of your two choices, Christians must accept the OT “as a whole,” but I’m not quite sure what that means. If it means that Christians accept all of the OT as divinely-inspired, down to the jot and tittle, not picking and choosing which parts to trust, then that is most certainly true. Of course, the same is true for the NT as well (which has parts of its own that some might find objectionable).

    Part of your confusion might stem from an idea of God (as depicted in the NT), as all love and no judgement, while God (as depicted in the OT) is all judgment and no love. Certainly some of the passages where God commands Israel to eradicate its enemies, for example, can be offensive to modern sensibilities and can be among the most difficult to interpret. But if we remember that the wages of sin is death and that God has always been and remains a just judge, then we must acknowledge his prerogative to exact punishment whenever and through whatever means he likes. And for a person who believes God as ultimately sovereign in all matters, the particular issues of violence in the OT are simply individual instances of the greater theological “problem of evil.”

    There are number of hermeneutical (interpretive) factors involved when reading the OT that complicate matters (such as the relation of the nation-state of Israel to the NT Christian church, the changes in political structures, the “new covenant” initiated by Jesus Christ, the relationship of the Law and Gospel, et al.), so that one cannot simply look at Leviticus 24:14, for example, and say that the U.S. government ought to institute capital punishment for blasphemy, for example.

    This doesn’t mean that Christians ignore Leviticus 24:14, or don’t believe in it, or that blasphemy is no longer a sin. It does mean that it is not relevant in the same way to us today as it was when originally written to the ancient Israelites. This verse may be an particular manifestation of positive law that expresses the natural or divine law, but is not an expression that is adequate in all times and all places.

    But again, these are complex hermeneutical issues that often must be dealt with individually. For more on the division of labor between the church and state instituted in the NT, read Paul in Romans 12 and 13. The violence of personal vengeance is now reserved through the ordained preserving power of the state in a way that it was not in the OT nation-state of Israel (see the “avenger of blood” and “cities of refuge” in Numbers 35:6-34).

  • chris

    Jordan,

    I thought this was a great article (as usual). I’d just add that the “happy slapping” phenomenon (which I had never heard of before reading your piece) may not necessarily reflect a shortcoming of the market, but rather a violation of its principles. Let’s assume that a person is getting “slapped” involuntarily–this would be a violation of his property rights to his body. If the legal system is working to support the market–i.e., protecting property and enforcing contracts–then this person would have recourse against this activity. Therefore, such violence would be minimized in societies that understand and protect property rights.

    The problem is that the legal system does a lot more than protect property. In fact, on today’s anniversary of Bastiat’s birth, it is good to remember that the law often threatens property rights institutions and, in the process, reduces their civilizing effects. This deviation from the law’s original purpose (exemplified in common law) is reflected in many ways across society, such as in the promotion of such fads as “happy-slapping”.

    Best,
    Chris Westley

  • mghamberger

    This article shows marvelous insight. It also identifies the source of and the cure for civic discord. That is, personal responsibility, not government fiat.

  • Tom Grey

    Fine article, identifying some important issues.

    I think you might be wrong about <i>"becoming increasingly immersed in violence"</i>

    The society is immersed in <b>virtual</b> violence — on TV, movies, games. This is NOT real violence. I suspect that the Happy Slapping is part of an attempt to "get real".

    And I think men, especially, have a genetic tendency towards needing some physical violence/effort outlet.

    The other issue that I’m very sure is important involves justice; more precisely unpunished injustice. When anybody who is law abiding sees somebody doing an injustice which is unpunished, the lack of punishment … lack of antibodies … allows the violent infection to spread.

  • http://revivalinme.blogspot.com Erlend

    I’ve heard about “happy slapping” and the instant thought I get is this: “As it was in the days of Lot…”

    God bless

  • Enrique Cardova

    It was said:
    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t the Old Testament (OT) also part of the Bible? For in OT one can find dreadful atrocities, both caused or approved by God, acts of genocide and rape. How do Christian cope with OT? Because as I see it you can either reject OT wholly, or accept it as a whole. There is nothing between. Or is there?
    —————-

    It isnt necessary to delve heavily into hermeneutical (interpretive) factors when answering queries such as this. The Biblical principle is clear- God is the Creator and He is sovereign, unpalatable as this may be for many to accept. If for example, He directed Israel to disposses the Caananites, He has and had every right to do so, and the reasons were specified- namely the vicious idolatry of those nations including child abuse and sacrifice. Archealogical digs at various Phonecian sites in the Levant for example confirm the torture and live sacrifice of children as a religious practice. It was an abomination. The Israelite conquest put a stop to it, just as the British conquest of India put a stop to such atrocities as the suttee, the burning alive of widows in "mourning", as well as the activities of the Thuggee- who kidnapped victims to sacrifice to their goddess Kali. Such things are conveniently forgotten by the proponents of "multiculturalism".

    And were they so-called atrocities (the rape claim is bogus) or simply normal practice in warfare for that day?
    As for assorted OT laws and rules, such as bans against port or mixed fabrics, the Christian embraces them for the MORAL PRINCIPLE they represent. Port is safe to eat now as a meat, however the MORAL PRINCIPLE of separating the clean from unclean still remains. Mixed fabrics are of little concern now, however the MORAL PRINCIPLE of separation- the unsuitable from the unsuitable still remains in force. How can said principles be applied- easy. Take the case of "gay" marriage. Such abominations should be opposed on preciselt those principles illustrated in the OT, not to mention specific rules- separate the morally unclean and unsuitable gay lifestyle from the virtue of mariage and family.

    In their haste to pounce on supposed "talking points", many forget about moral principle. But OT or no OT certain moral principles and values are to be defended and upheld, unfashionable as they may be. So should the OT be accepted as a whole? Absolutely. Bring it on baby!