Friday, November 29, 2013

Judge Not?

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.  (Matt 7:1-5)

There are two things, moreover, in which we ought to beware of rash judgment; when it is uncertain with what intention any thing is done; or when it is uncertain what sort of a person he is going to be, who at preset is manifestly either good or bad. If, therefore, any one, for example, complaining of his stomach, would not fast, and you, not believing this, were to attribute it to the vice of gluttony, you would judge rashly. Likewise, if you were to come to know the gluttony and drunkenness as being manifest, and were so to administer reproof as if the man could never be amended and changed, you would nevertheless judge rashly.

--St. Augustine, Our Lord's Sermon on the Mount #61.

One line of attack against the moral teaching of the Church is the use of Christ's statememt on not judging others.  The general argument is along the lines of:

1) Jesus said not to judge.
2) But by saying homosexuality (or another sin) is wrong, you're judging.
3) So you're going against what Jesus said by saying homosexuality is wrong.

The problem is, using that line of reasoning, you couldn't condemn Nazis or rapists or murderers either. That's absurd of course, so it demonstrates that the argument is flawed.

Moreover, Jesus also said, "Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." (John 20:23). Obviously one cannot forgive and retain sins without judging. Therefore Jesus cannot be interpreted in the sense of being unable to say an act is morally wrong.

What we have here is the fallacy of equivocation -- the using a word with a different meaning than intended.  An example of this would be:

1) Nothing is better than a diamond.
2) A cheap rhinestone is better than nothing.
3) Therefore a cheap rhinestone is better than a diamond.

The Equivocation is in the word "nothing."  In the major premise, it is used to mean the diamond has no rival to exceed it in value.  In the minor premise it is used to mean it is better to possess something than not to possess anything at all.  The result is a false conclusion.

The concept of judgment also has multiple meanings:

▪the ability to make considered decisions or form sensible opinions.
▪an opinion or conclusion.
▪a decision of a law court or judge.

Now it is reasonable to assume Jesus is not condemning making considered decisions or sensible decisions.  Nor, when considering John 20:23, can we think Jesus was denying the authority to decide questions of law.

However we can jump to unreasonable conclusions about the motives or ultimate destiny of a person who sins.  We can't know that a murderer is irredeemable and doomed to Hell.  We don't know that the suicide deliberately acted with full knowledge and free consent and is thus damned.  We don't know if a person died unrepentant. We don't know if a person who is holy now will perservere or not.

Ultimately what we don't know is the role of grace granted by God to others and what the ultimate choices of free will result in at the end.

So I can't say Barack Obama or Nancy Pelosi are doomed to damnation because of the evil they did... not because we can't know that things are evil, but because we can't know whether or not they will repent. Our obligation is to pray for them, not write them off.

If we couldn't judge whether acts were wrong we would never be able to obey Christ when He said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

This is why the Church can speak of sin and the danger to the soul and not disobey Christ.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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