Thursday, November 18, 2010

Torture in an age of terrorism Part 1 of 2

*Today will start a 5 part series of some ethical stances that will each contain 2 parts*

I. The Problem:
Although, not a new issue, before 9/11 not many Americans thought much about terrorism, including those within the church, but since that terrorist attack it has been an issue surrounding society with the “Global War on Terror”. It is read daily in the newspaper, seen in movies, and used as a reason to vote for a particular political candidate. Now, that terrorism is something people think of more often, the issue of using the means of torture on potential terrorists is another factor that people must ethically deal with.

Generally Christians are on two sides of torture. One group believes that in order to “love your neighbor as yourself” then it would never be permissible to use torture. The other group believes that it should be avoided if possible, but if there were a threat of a major terrorist attack then it would be an instance where it is permissible to use torture.

II. Relevant Sources of Authority
A. Relevant Scripture:
“And when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show them no mercy.” (Deuteronomy 7:2)

“Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50)

“But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13:4b)

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.” (Hebrews 11:35b)

B. Influential Quotes
“The absolute conviction that their cause is just…may encourage combatants to override the moral limits of war or to neglect other equally weighty moral considerations…” A.J. Coats, The Ethics of War (New York: Manchester University Press, 1997), 146.

“From my own study of Scripture I would say that to refuse to do what I can for those who are under the power of oppressors is nothing less than the failure of Christian love. It is to refuse to love my neighbor as myself.” Francis Schaeffer, Vladimir Butovsky, and James Hitchcock, Who is For Peace? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), 23.

“They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.”’ Augustine, City of God, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 2 of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Company, 1887), 15.

“The Exodus 21:24 instruction of ‘an eye for an eye’ is meant to be a limiting factor in the expression of retaliatory force. Only what is necessary and appropriate to a given scenario.” Mark Liederbach, Evaluating the “Caiaphas Ethic” of Charles Krauthammer (accessed November 2, 2010)

So the question remains, is it torture ever permissible? Part 2 will contain my position on the issue. Any thoughts?

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