January 30, 2008

Judging the human person

"Judge not, that you may not be judged." We all know the saying. In today's world, the idea that one of us can presume to be so much better than the others that we should think that we can tell them what is wrong with them is so wrong and evil an idea that we should be ashamed that it even crossed our minds. Who are we to say that our brother human has done something wrong, we who are so bigotted and priggish to assume that we are better than them and sinless. Look to the plank in your own eye, scum, and think twice before you judge someone again.

How many times have I heard that (or the equivalent) when I begin to open my mouth about morals or ethics (yes, I don't get very far past opening my mouth...). The fact of the matter is that this whole idea is misguided.

Firstly, I'd like to point out the obvious contradiction (I made it obvious...) first, we are told that everyone is equal and therefore we can't make judgements. Yet we are told we are bigotted scum for mentioning that someone's action might be wrong. Can't have it both ways.

Now, for real theological stuff. I can say that xyz criminal did something very wrong, without at all saying that xyz criminal is a bad person. Because the *action* can be spoken of in the abstract, i.e. stealing, the Church can say the xyz criminal's action, in the abstract, was wrong. However, as the Church does not have the ability to see into the human heart as does God, she is unable to speak on the moral culpability of xyz criminal Yet this does not deter her from speaking of the action in the abstract, the most direct method being "XYZ criminal's action was morally wrong."

So are we judging people in this action? Are we making a judgement about thousands of women when we say that abortion is morally wrong? No! And therefore, the claim that we can't know the subjective state of mind that these poor women are in is completely irrelevant to the argument of abortion's moral quality. This is central to moral theology - the action and the person's culpability are, though not entirely seperate, not in the same field. I can talk of the one and not the other. Therefore, I don't see why I should be called a bigot as often as I am.


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Blogger Theocentrica said...

Didn't good old Victor Hugo deal with this in the first two hundred pages or so in Les Miserables? About how the government was branding Jean Valjean's character as a person instead of just denouncing his crime? *disappears to re-read*

January 30, 2008 12:33 PM  
Blogger Immortal Philosopher said...

I believe he did. Of course, I much prefer purely logical proofs, but I could have definitely pulled a quote from there.

January 30, 2008 1:31 PM  
Blogger Cuitlamiztli Carter said...

1 Corinthians 5 is all about dealing with brothers who are in sin. As a result, Christians are called to judge others.

Christ warned in the seventh chapter of Matthew: "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

The key here is that everyone will stand on the judgment they offer others. But immediately after that, when Christ tells us to make the plank in our eye our foremost concern, He then tells us to make the speck in our brother's eye our concern once we see clearly.

"You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Clearly, Christ never intended for believers to shirk from correcting others in the fear. He simply wanted His followers to first purify themselves so they could be a mechanism of change for others. 1 Corinthians 5 makes it clear that Christians have a responsibility to correct other believers - if first they themselves are pursuing self-correction through the Church and Scripture.

As for judging non-believers, Paul says "What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?" However, he also condemns the sin of non-believers left and right elsewhere. Obviously, Christians are called to recognize sin wherever it occurs, and are never to call righteous what is sinful, but it seems we're only called to actively verbalize judgment when prepared to help other believers move past the sin.

But in matters of grace, such as holy days and things of that nature, Christians are not supposed to judge the conscience of others (which is good, because I celebrate only Passover these days).

February 01, 2008 12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, I'm pretty sure that Jesus was just telling us not to be hypocrits, especially when judging others...

February 04, 2008 11:13 AM  

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