Monday, June 15, 2015

A Little Knowledge Is a Dangerous Thing: Reflections on an Anti-Christian Meme

I saw a meme on Facebook today which attacked the stand some Christian bakers have taken in response to being imposed on to provide a cake for a so-called “gay wedding.”

Ignorance of Christian Teaching

The main thrust of this meme was to try to make a reductio ad absurdum attack seeking to argue that since we don’t hold a gun seller responsible for the crime the gun may be used for, the baker of a cake is not responsible for the use to celebrate a “same sex marriage.” Such an argument demonstrates the truth of the old saying that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing."

First we need to recognize that to have a good act, there are three parts:

  1. The action itself must be good.
  2. The intention of the act must be good.
  3. The circumstances of the act must be good.

It’s like a tripod—remove one of the legs and the whole thing collapses. So, if I feed the hungry, but do so by murdering and robbing the rich, the action is bad. Or if I feed the hungry with the intention of trying to impress a woman so she will go to bed with me, that is a bad intention. Or if I act to feed the hungry with good intention, but I serve crab salad and everybody is allergic to seafood, the circumstances make the act bad. Now, if one of these three parts is bad and I knowingly do them knowing they are bad, then I have knowingly done wrong. But if one of these three parts is bad and I am unaware, through no fault of my own, that the part is bad, wrong is still done, but I am not to blame for doing the wrong.

Now, let’s look at the gun seller. The action of a lawful transaction is good. But if intend to sell the firearm with the intent that wrong may be done with it, it becomes an evil act. Or, if the person who wants to buy the gun intends to use the weapon to commit murder, then the circumstance is wrong and it becomes an evil act. So, if I know (or have good reason to suspect) that the firearm I am selling is going to be used to commit an evil act, I have an obligation to refuse to sell the gun. If I go ahead with the selling of the gun, I am guilty of wrongdoing. So, to answer the creator of the meme, if the Christian gun store owner knows the gun he sells is going to be used in a murder, then yes, he has participated in the murder.

So, let’s look at the Christian baker who is asked to make a cake for a “same sex wedding.” The action, selling a cake, is not wrong in and of itself. But the circumstance of selling the cake is that it is going to be used for a purpose that the baker believes is morally wrong. It doesn’t matter if my intention is to recognize “same sex marriage” or not. If I know that the circumstances of the act are wrong, I cannot do the act.

Now, this does not mean (as some have alleged) that I am morally obliged to refuse all service to a person with a same sex attraction. If two men go into a restaurant together and order a meal, the fact that they are in a same sex relationship has no bearing on the morality of serving them a meal. This is why we see Christian bakers saying they would provide other services besides a wedding cake (for example a birthday party, etc.). They are not being inconsistent here. They are making a distinction between loving their neighbor who is doing morally wrong and helping the person in doing the moral wrong.

Now if the anti-Christians who create memes like this would actually learn what Christians believe and why, they might have realized there is no contradiction.

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