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Monday, June 01, 2009
As mentioned before, abortionist Dr. Tiller was killed this weekend in his church. I also happened to watch the film "Valkyrie" this weekend, which got me thinking about the parallels between assassinating Hitler and killing Tiller. Assuming one isn't an absolute pacifist, for Christians, what makes the former morally acceptable but the latter decried as evil? Or are they both wrong or both good? After all, if you saw a small child about to be killed by a man, wouldn't it be a very moral thing to kill him (or at least violently resist him)?

Greg Koukl has an excellent discussion of this very question here. Basically, he argues that killing Hitler would have likely saved many thousands of lives, whereas killing a lone abortionist may save very few (and hurt the overall objective of saving the lives of the unborn).
Imagine for just a minute commandos in the Second World War impersonating Nazi officers, dropped behind Nazi lines to infiltrate concentration camps. Their mission? Destroy the gas chambers. Now mingling incognito with the rest of the camp cadre, they have many opportunities to kill other soldiers, even officers. Even the Commandant. But do you kill the individual executioner or do you go after the gas chamber? In this case, it seems that killing the individual would be wrong even though he was truly murderous, because it would keep the commandos from fulfilling their larger mission. And their failure would mean more lives lost in the long run. The short term gain would be no victory because the machinery of destruction would still be in place. Do you see that?

What this illustration shows is that there is no necessary contradiction in the view that abortion is a holocaust, yet the killing of individual abortionists is properly condemned. In fact, it is precisely because we hold to the innocent humanity of the unborn that we insist on an approach to this solution that is directed at the machinery of the killing--the laws, the economics and the deep human need that makes the alternative appealing. That's our focus.
[UPDATE: Doug Wilson has posted some good thoughts on this matter:
Sure, we condemn the murder of Tiller now, like good citizens, but we will only do so unless and until the targeted murder of such individuals is determined by the Supreme Court to be a consitutional right we didn't know we had. Turns out they found it in a recently discovered penumbra somewhere. Once they say it is okay, we will all immediately shut up about it, right?

Well, no, because the Supreme Court doesn't have the authority to declare murder okay, and only ghastly human beings like Tiller think they do. When such men take the Supremes up on their invitation to any slaughter that has been given the legal okay, they are helping to create a society in which lawlessness reigns. They cooperate with those who frame mischief with a law. But once this lawlessness has taken root, the bright boys running everything start to discover that lawlessness has certain shortcomings as a social theory.

One last comment. The fact that Tiller was a member of Reformation Lutheran pretty much sums up everything that is wrong with our nation. But even this highlights another interesting feature. If the suspect Roeder in fact is the guilty party, and is a member of a conservative church somewhere, the chances are pretty good that he will be excommunicated (as Paul Hill was) for his bloody ways. The chances that someone like Tiller would be excommunicated from a liberal church for his bloodlust are chances approaching zero.


Steve Martin said...

Very tough questions. I take no delight in the killing of anyone.

It pains me to know that millions of innocent babies are aborted each year.

Some might say that not only should Tiller have been stopped (killed) but that also those that made it possible for him to do his dirtywork ought be stopped also. Judges and lawmakers.

What about the citizens that voted for those judges and lawmakers?

Sometimes these things can get carried too far.

D.J. Williams said...

The thing that I find a bit troubling about Koukl's argument (and several others I've read in the past couple days) is that it's purely utilitarian. That seems a bit inadaquate to me.

The question that you pose is a good one (what's the difference between Hitler and Tiller?). However, I find Wilson's response (such a killing is murder and is inherently wrong, period) better than Koukl's, and so if Koukl can only come up with utilitarian differences, then wouldn't we have to conclude that the same action would be equally wrong, even if we're talking about an evil like Hitler? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.

Darius said...

First of all, DJ, this guy says similar things regarding Koukl's argument:

And the more I've thought about it, the more I'm not sure what I think about Koukl's view. So I'll just throw some thoughts out and maybe we can dialogue a bit and that will spur me to making up my mind...

First, we have to clarify if we're talking about what is good before God or good for a society. In other words, is vigilante justice possibly sanctioned from time to time by God while it is not good for the rule of law and health of a society? I'm willing to leave open that possibility... God could call a man to bring His judgment on another person or people group and the man might not be sinning to do so, but he should be willing to face the consequences of his actions in this world and no society should ever allow for vigilantes.

That said, murder committed purely as justice is wrong, ALWAYS. It is not for an individual man to kill someone for their wrongdoing. God will judge. Murder as protection of innocent lives, on the other hand, can be quite moral.

Motives are important. So for those who wanted to kill Hitler to save their own skin or to (re)gain political power had bad and unbiblical motives. Similarly, killing Tiller as purely a means to exact judgment on him would be wrong. But killing either of those lunatics to save lives could be right and moral, which gets into Koukl's argument.

If there is a reasonable expectation that killing someone will save innocent life, I'm not sure I have a problem with that. Assassinating Hitler would have likely saved lives, but killing one or two prison guards would have done nothing. Enemy love would have been more useful in the latter case. With Tiller, it's possible that his death will save lives (since few doctors have enough of a broken moral compass to do what he did), but I would have to have more information about his practice to know if he is expendable or not to the existence of the clinic. On the flip side, it does seem quite possible that some lives could be lost (due to political ramifications) because of Tiller's death.

Justice should not be in view here, only the saving of lives.

Maybe I'm wrong... what do you think?

Darius said...

Doug Wilson has another good post on this issue here:

Darius said...

Still more on this issue over at Justin Taylor's blog:

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The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
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The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
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