Today listening to Stonestreet talk about Consequentialism I was having one of those Matrix-type moments where I feel like I'm some weird science fiction movie.
Consequentialism is the idea that the overall result or consequence of your actions determines its validity. You can do something questionable or dubious if the overall result is positive.
He was talking about birth control and Margaret Sanger. I didn't really agree with him. I haven't read the article he's talking about but I also know that while Sanger was certainly a lost and misled woman she's not quite what she's portrayed to be by most in the Christian political community. They've made her into something beyond what she really was. Abortion is a great evil and sin but that doesn't mean that telling lies and exaggerating the historical record is permissible. But that's another topic. Ironically Stonestreet was accusing the author of Consequentialism and yet I would argue their perversions of history or yet another example of the same thing!
But it wasn't the abortion issue that bothered me. It was the whole discussion and the way he framed the issue of Consequentialism. I literally had to stop work and just listening.... not a little stunned.
Why was this so surprising?
Because this of course the very guiding principle of his entire school of thought. This is the foundational idea that drives their understanding of the Culture War. When I hear the term Consequentialism I usually think of people like Colson and his disciples.
They are culture warriors. When presented with the ethics and doctrines of the New Testament the response is almost always universal... well, that doesn't work.
A great deal of ink has been spilled by those on the Evangelical Left as well as the Christian Anarchist and Anabaptist communities attacking the idea of Consequentialism. It's always in context of their critique of the Christian Right.
The Colson crowd believes it necessary to conquer every sphere of culture. When there are inherent problems with being consistent with the New Testament and operating within these 'spheres' and submitting to their outlooks and goals, the response is almost always... well, we can't abandon those spheres. We have to do the best we can. We have to try and construct a Christian way of operating within that sphere.
In other words we have to speculate and develop some kind of theology to accommodate it.
To win the overall culture war we might have to compromise on minor points. This is Consequentialism. The greater good or goal trumps the individual details.
It is Consequentialism to suggest that a Christian might be bound to behave one way on Sunday but on Monday morning they can put on a uniform, pin on a badge or put on a robe and now behave in a way that is not consistent with Christian ethics. They're off the hook because their fulfilling an office and a Christian fulfilling that office is a greater good than a pagan doing it.
Again the irony is they accuse Two Kingdom adherents of being Sunday-only Christians. We're saying we have to be Christians 24/7 and therefore in many cases we cannot integrate with culture. There are many cultural roles and aspects we have to simply reject.
They are in fact being Sunday-only Christians. The rest of the week you're off the hook. Your office may demand that you shoot people, retaliate, threaten, lie, mislead or worse and that's okay because the job requires it and society (as a whole) needs this office fulfilled.
And the supreme example of Consequentialism... and Stonestreet is right, it's basically the end justifies the means or arguing that we have to do evil so that good may come...
The supreme example is utilized by BreakPoint on at least a weekly basis. Their paradigm (it would seem) is none other than the ultimate Consequentialist Dietrich Bonhoeffer who basically argued (and this is echoed by BreakPoint) that we can plot murder so that good may come of it. We can kill in order to save lives.
This is a denial of Providence, the Sovereignty of God and a complete rejection of New Testament ethics. This is the polar opposite of what Christ taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
For Stonestreet to speak critically of Consequentialism... wow, that was either done in unbelievable ignorance or he's really got some chutzpah.
Ethics is complicated and there are some tough binds but this is nowhere on the scope in their thinking or discussion.