Straining Gnats and Siding with Pharaoh Over the Midwives

midwives-1024x563I’d like to quickly conduct a little experiment in our responses as moral readers. Bear with me as I set the stage, though, as this is going somewhere.

Exodus opens with the story of the oppression of God’s people in Egypt. Years after Joseph lead Jacob’s sons into the land to escape the famine, they grew prosperous and multiplied–so much so that the Egyptians began to fear them. So one of the later Pharaohs actually enslaved the populace in order to subjugate and suppress them. In the end, though, the oppression only caused them to expand further. So Pharaoh took it into his head to handle the population crisis in another fashion:

Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live. So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. (Exodus 1:15-21 ESV)

So there you have it. Pharaoh’s plan was a limited genocide, but it was initially thwarted by the efforts of two Hebrew midwives, Shiprah and Puah–named slaves against a nameless king.

Here’s my question: who’s the hero of the story? Or, rather, who’s the villain? What’s your instinctive answer? In your gut, who provokes your anger? Who do you judge to be of dubious character? Who is being wronged here? Well, obviously, everyone would agree that the Hebrews, in general, were.

But what about the Pharaoh? Are you kind of tempted to see him as a victim? I mean, didn’t the midwives lie to him? Didn’t they deceive him? Weren’t they unethical in the way they misled him about their intention to follow his commands? They actively spread falsehoods about the heartiness of Hebrew women in the birthing process. That’s not just a little fib, now is it? And on top of that, you have to consider that for Pharaoh, slave labor was great for infrastructure. And it’s not like it was the only thing he did, or he was enslaving them just to enslave people.  No, I mean, it probably allowed him to provide grain and other services to the general populace and advance Egyptian society as a whole, right? Beyond that, he was entirely within his legal rights as the Pharaoh. His word was the law of the land.

But none of that really changes the way you read the story, does it? The lying Ziphrah and Puah are clearly the heroes–so much so that God blesses them for their actions. Their mild deception was in the service of life, in the service of justice, of protecting the defenseless and so the God of Israel honors them.

I bring all this up in light of the recent videos surrounding Planned Parenthood’s (PP) alleged sale of “fetal tissue”–the hearts, eyes, livers, and lungs of the unborn and aborted–to medical research facilities. These undercover videos show PP officials discussing these sales with representatives of a dummy corporation set up by the investigative organization looking to expose the practice. The videos range from simple conversations of “less crunchy” techniques of procuring tissue (over lunch), to hearing practitioners admitting that at times infants make it out of the womb intact and are still used to harvest tissue, to hearing one doctor in the middle of a procedure exclaim, “it’s another boy!” It’s truly horrifying stuff that even has presidential candidate Hilary Clinton saying the videos are disturbing.

Of course, the reactions are mixed. Die-hard Planned Parenthood advocates look to defend it as misrepresentation of an entirely legal practice*, pro-lifers are incensed calling to defund the organization**, but in the middle of all of these predictable reactions, though, there is this third group that puzzles me most: the Christian/Evangelical purist. I’ve seen it a number of times now, but you get this middling response where someone will say, “Guys, I don’t like abortion either, but we really shouldn’t have to lie about stuff like these fanatics. We’re Christians, guys. I mean, lying to Planned Parenthood representatives is kind of low.”

And here’s where I just want to say, if your first instinct when you watch or read about these videos is to think, “Geez, are you telling me they lied to get the footage of these people sorting through these fetal parts, or discussing prices non-chalantly over lunch? Woof. That’s a bridge too far”, then you’re reading the story wrong.

I don’t know what’s motivating it in various cases. Maybe it’s a desire for some progressives to not be identified with those pro-lifers. If that’s the case, then maybe your identity as a not-your-parents-kind-of-Evangelical is just a little too important to you. Or, maybe it is a genuine discomfort with the act of lying. If that’s the case, then I’d urge you to consider the fact that Scripture does give different moral weight to issues in the Law.

When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees’ hardness of heart, he denounced them as blind guides:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! (Matthew 23:23-24)

He launches into them for being so particular about smaller matters–which are fine to care about–but in their case it was at the coast of missing the broader issues of the justice of the Law. Let me put it this way: watching these videos and being more uncomfortable with the investigators and quick to denounce them than PP is like watching a police video of a man being beaten mercilessly by an out-of-line officer and asking, “Well, did he jay-walk or not?”

Be careful that you’re not swallowing moral camels in your attempt to strain the gnats.

And finally, for those of you nodding you head vigorously to all this on the more conservative side–watch your own heart on other issues where gnat-straining becomes a temptation. None of us–and I definitely include myself in this–is above this danger. Pray for humility toward your brothers and sisters. But most of all, in this time, pray for justice and clarity for the American people so that we may come one day closer to the day when the phrase “it’s another boy” is only uttered in the delivery room, not the Planned Parenthood office.

Soli Deo Gloria

*Accepting money for the tissues to cover cost does appear to be an entirely legal practice. That said, killing fetus/babies who are born intact, as the fourth video seems to admit, or possibly performing partial birth abortions, and so forth, is not. That, at least, merits investigation. Beyond that, there is serious evidence pointing to possible profit on the part of many PP affiliates that, again, at least merits investigation.

**I know that the organization does other services that can be helpful for certain communities, so I do think there needs to be conversations about replacing its infrastructures, or simply repurposing the organization. Christians need to be–and I think many are–prepared to not only expose evil but be part of the loving solution to the systemic and social structures that make it seem tragically necessary to so many poor souls.

23 thoughts on “Straining Gnats and Siding with Pharaoh Over the Midwives

  1. Hi Derek,
    Yes, I was nodding my head as I read your piece…but I remain hesitant about trying to differentiate between ‘small’ lies (‘white’ lies) and big lies, and ‘small’ sins and big sins, because I am mindful of the fact that Jesus also said this:
    ‘He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also with much, and he that is unjust with little is also unjust with much.’ Luke 16:10
    I have watched the PP videos and I think that the attitudes and behaviour of the PP staff are profane, but I wonder if the pro-lifers who filmed them spoke honestly with the PP staff before publishing the videos – if they honoured the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:15+. I am not sure whether or not these words of Jesus apply to the PP context because I don’t know whether or not the PP staff are ‘brothers’. I suppose it could also be said that the PP staff have not sinned against the pro-lifers personally, though in a way I think that they have, because I think that what they are doing is a sin against humanity. I am still reflecting on this and praying.

  2. Excellent analogy. In response to the concern raised above by quinnjones2, I think it is important to recognize that there is a motif that runs through Scripture with regard to the “sanctified lie.” The midwives are, of course, one example. Other examples of lies/deception are the spies sent to Jericho, Rahab, David’s feigned insanity, Jesus’ words about being as shrewd as serpents, and God himself who sends lying spirits and strong delusions, and who shows himself “pure to the pure,” but “devious” to the “shrewd” (Ps 18:26). I don’t think we should be too concerned about deceiving a deceptive organization.

    • I was interested in your comment, jshepherd53, and I have heard these points made before. However ‘I don’t think we should be too concerned about deceiving a deceptive organization’ suggests that it is Ok to return evil for evil, yet St. Paul said: ‘Recompense to no one evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.’ Romans 12:17.
      Just last Sunday I raised the question with some friends at church of what Jesus meant when he told us to be wily as serpents. So far no one thinks that Jesus was suggesting that deceptiveness might be OK in some circumstances, but the conversation is ongoing.
      I remain concerned about the points I raised in my earlier post and I continue to reflect and pray.
      (I suspect that I might be a lone or minority voice on this page – I can see that Derek’s post has a good following on Twitter.)

      • ‘…a lone or minority voice…’ with regard to deception, that is. As I wrote in my first comment here, I think that the behaviour and attitudes of the PP staff in the videos are profane.

      • It is possible to hide your intentions without lying. Consider the actions of Samuel when he went to anoint David (I Sam. 16). He was afraid that Saul would find out, so God told him to take a heifer with him and tell Saul that he was going to make a sacrifice unto the Lord. This allowed Samuel to keep the real purpose of his mission hidden without lying about it.

        The Planned Parenthood expose could have been accomplished in a similar way. Those meeting with the PP reps could have established an actual company with a business license, a set of bylaws, a board of directors, etc. This company could have had an actual mission statement expressing a desire to purchase fetal organs. The operatives could then be sent to Planned Parenthood to speak with them about purchasing fetal organs for this company. They could then make their videos and return to the board of directors whom they would advise not to do business with Planned Parenthood. The board of directors could then vote to dissolve the company. This would allow the investigation to be hidden without requiring the investigators to lie.

        I do not criticize the Planned Parenthood investigation on this point, because I simply do not have enough information to determine if a lie was committed, and even if I did, the use of a lie to obtain the videos would not negate the truth that is revealed within the videos. This is similar to the way that God praised the actions of the midwives in Exodus. The Bible never says that God blessed the midwives because they lied to the Egyptians. It simply states that God dealt well with the midwives. Those who use this passage to excuse “sanctified lying” must assume that God actually appreciated the use of this lie, and they ignore the possibility that God disapproved of the lie but still dealt well with the midwives because of the overall result of their actions. There may have been a way to accomplish the same result without lying, but God is merciful in overlooking our imperfections. Which of us is morally perfect in anything that we have done? But God is willing to forgive these errors and bless us for the intent even in spite of our failure to fulfill it perfectly.

        However, I am strongly opposed to using lies in order to accomplish something good because that practice is specifically condemned in Romans 3:7-8. In that passage, the Bible proclaims that those who use the phrase “Let us do evil, that good may come” receive a just damnation. Once you start down the path of allowing the end to justify the means, you lead both yourself and those with you into a huge moral morass. It is still possible to do good things and accomplish much for the Lord with this philosophy, but it will always tend to corrode away the foundation of biblical morality.

      • I’m sorry but the entire scenario for the expose you just set up is farcical and actually still a form of lying. Setting up a company with the express intention of buying fetal organs which you don’t actually want to buy is basically what they did. Unless you want them to simultaneously actually want to buy the organs and actually not want to buy them. Which is just silly.

      • Hi Bill,
        I was interested in your comment. I will reply briefly for now because I have a full programme today. Yes, God forgives all who truly repent and he is a transforming God ( Romans 8:28) I have had another thought – in addition to my concern about the will to deceive on the part of the investigators, I am also concerned about their capacity to maintain their pretence so convincingly in the presence of PP staff. It was a sustained pretence. If the investigators are prepared to take on the chin any legal consequences they may have to face for this, they may win my respect. (I wondered if gaining entry under false pretences might be regarded in law as trespass , but I don’t actually know.)

      • Hi Bill,
        I was interested in your comment. I will comment briefly because I have a full programme today. Yes, God forgives all who truly repent and He is a transforming God (Romans 8:28). I’ve had one more thought – in addition to my concern about the intention of the investigators to deceive, I am also concerned about their capacity to maintain their pretence in the presence of the PP staff – it was a sustained pretence. I suspect that many truth-lovers would have been unable to maintain such a sustained pretence. If the investigators are willing to take on the chin any legal consequences that may ensue from their sting, I may have some respect for them. (I wondered if gaining access under false pretences might be regarded in law as trespassing, but I don’t actually know).

      • Hi quinnjones2. I’ll incorporate in this reply responses to Bill Fortenberry as well. And, by the way, you can just call me Jerry.

        I certainly appreciate the points you have both made. But I do want to reinforce what I think is a valid conclusion to draw from the various biblical examples of persons who engaged in some degree of deception, and, rather than being reprimanded by God, were rewarded and commended by God instead. I go through some of these examples with my Old Testament classes and then throw out to my students, only somewhat flippantly, the line, “It’s okay to lie to wicked people.” I then go on to explain that these are all examples of where it is possible to tell a lie in the service of a greater truth.

        Interestingly, in Genesis 3:4-5, we have the exact opposite situation. Satan makes four statements in that passage, all of them technically true, as the rest of the narrative makes plain, and yet they actually constitute truths told in the service of a greater lie.

        So, I do think it is not only possible, but even commendable, when dealing with wicked people, to tell a lie in the service of the truth. And this is not about choosing the lesser of two evils. To tell a lie, in dire situations like these, is not sinful; it is the righteous thing to do. The people who hid Jews in their home during the Nazi regime, did the right thing by not telling the truth to the soldiers who came to their homes looking for hidden runaway Jews. The wrong thing would have been to reply, “Oh, they’re upstairs in the attic.”

        Finally, just two notes about some passages that have been mentioned. First, in Romans 3:7-8, Paul is referring to a specific situation, that of those who were trying to pervert Paul’s teaching into an absurd formulation, “let us do evil, so that God’s grace to us may shine all the greater.” It is not dealing with how to respond to evil. And in the Romans 12:17, I think we should be careful about bringing that passage into the discussion. Paul is not talking there about combatting evil, per se. Rather he is talking about recompense, repayment, and revenge. One can fight against evil without having these accompanying attitudes and the desire for personal revenge.

      • Actually, Derek, I can see several ways to create and use such a company without lying. It’s just a matter of carefully constructing the scenario. For example, the investigators could avoid ever saying “we want to buy parts of dead babies” but instead say things like “our company is interested in procuring unwanted human tissue for research purposes.” Instead of saying “we want to pay Planned Parenthood to provide us with dead babies,” they could say “We want to see if a partnership with Planned Parenthood would be beneficial.” With enough advanced preparation, just about any undercover investigation can be conducted without actually lying to the ones being investigated.

        I think that the mistake that most people make in these kinds of analyses is that they confuse lying with the practice of withholding the truth. The Bible very strongly prohibits lying, but there is no command anywhere in Scripture which requires us to always tell everyone everything that we know to be true about a given situation. In fact, we are expressly told that it is the fool who utters all he knows (Prov 29:11).

        Nonetheless, even if you are correct in concluding that the Planned Parenthood investigators could not have accomplished their investigation without lying, that does not mean that lying can be justified. All that would mean is that they sinned in the process of conducting their investigation. In order to demonstrate that lying in particular situations is not a sin, you need to provide a passage of Scripture which specifically states that there are exceptions to the commands against lying. For example, Exodus 22:2 provides a specific exception to the prohibition against killing. Can you point to a specific exception to the prohibition against lying?

  3. The fact that I see people in the comments blatantly go “Well, lying is still wrong. Find a better way.” Is proof we need this article. Yeah, maybe it’s wrong. But seriously, so what? I get if you don’t want to take part in it, but you enjoy the fruits of others lying to defeat evil all the time. The police have sting operations. Misinformation is given to our enemies in military operations. But how often do we stand against that? Never. We don’t get to live in a perfect world where doing the “Christian” thing always works. If we were more concerned with doing the right thing, we probably never would have gotten in this mess. So much of modern Christianity is trying to be “above” the ways of the world. Holiness isn’t achieved through your deeds or lack of misdeeds, its achieved by an intimate relationship with God. And I’m absolutely certain there are 10,000 other things God is concerned with in your behavior rather than if you lied trying to expose the truth, in the hopes that people will see the evil behind what they’re doing.

    All I’m saying is there are more important things to be concerned with than sawdust somebody else’s eye.

    • Hi Jerry,
      Thank you for your comment. (I am Christine, by the way!)
      I am still trying to beat the clock today, so I will reply briefly for now.
      Firstly, I’d like to have those PP folk’s guts for garters – a very uncharitable thought, I know.
      Secondly, I accept fully your comment about people harbouring Jews in WW2 – one of my reasons for choosing German as my specialism was that when I was in my teens I rather liked the idea of being a spy in the event of a fourth Reich! However I am also mindful of people such as Corrie Ten Boom who willingly took the consequences when they were found out. I know that the investigators who filmed the PP videos were not ‘found out’ but just published the videos themselves, but I would be more convinced about their motivations if they were willing to take the legal consequences ( if any) of their actions. Maybe they are willing to go to the wire for it. Time will tell. I also have on my mind ‘Give no opportunity to the devil’ and the investigators really have given pro-choice advocates an opportunity to divert attention away from the appalling truth about PP and to encourage others to focus more on the duplicity of the investigators.
      Thank you again,
      Christine

      • Re: my comment about WW2, I think I had better mention that I was born in 1944 and that I was in Kiel in 1961, when the Berlin Wall was erected and people were escaping from the DDR , and some hid in boats and jumped into the Kiel canal – a time of great consternation and I learnt German fast!

  4. The definitions of the thorough Pacifist and the definitions of the Just-Use (of force or what have you) folks do not necessarily reduce to semantics which contradict one another. The sacredness of your life, of every life, fuels both as we unpack definitions. The underground rescue of our own African American slaves was, to be fair, deceitful, just as the employment of force to stop the SS’s machine was, to be fair, though justified, not that which we term beautiful, not that which we term the lovely. In fact, whether or not we call it justified, we all call it “That which we want less of, not more of”.

    And there it is.

    What is the lovely? What is the beautiful?

    The thorough Pacifist and the thorough Just-Use folks converge as we unpack far enough back in our (Christian) ontology.

    In the OT we find all the problems of the fractured reality in a world in which living children were laid atop altars of fires and, literally, sacrificed alive to this or that god. In that arena, the Living God Who is love – after generations – renders a stop to it vis-à-vis Israel and force and what have you. No one looks at what Israel and those nations “did” (fight, war, etc.) and, full of warm fuzzy feelings, terms such as lovely, as beautiful such that if only there could be “more of such loveliness, such beauty” in the world, OH the joy!

    Nonsense.

    Neither the Pacifist nor the Just-Use folks land “there”.

    Was WWII “lovely, beautiful“? Not in the least. Was it moral to fight fire (the SS’s war machine) with another machine of similar means? What of helping slaves escape? Well, whether we answer Yes or No, there *is* a question which must follow our answer (whatever it is) and that is this: Do we want more of it? Was it the lovely? Does it qualify as the beautiful?

    Christ tells us that God simultaneously *hates* divorce and yet regulates *actual* divorces vis-à-vis Moses/Law. Any ontological frame which refuses to define the reality of our fractured world by *that* curious set of definitions just will get it wrong in the end.

    Life is sacred, life is dear to Him, life is that which God addresses as “My Beloved”.

    Full stop.

    That which fundamentally offends life’s preciousness finds itself in a precarious place as it houses no coherent claim to the right to being tolerated given the ontology of God and Man housed in the Christian paradigm. In the OT it was children atop altars of fire. In the 1800’s it was our African American slaves. In the 1940’s it was the SS machine. Today it is child sex-trafficking and many other X’s. The means employed to disenfranchise said constructs were not that which the Christian paradigm ultimately defines as the lovely, or the beautiful. In fact, Scripture expressly defines two contours of this “ontic-singularity”, namely, the Just-Use nuance, and, right there with it, the promise of the Day when there will be no more of such. And that no more is defined as the lovely.

    As Christians it seems we have to do the hard work of defining our terms. Is Just-Use “lovely”? Scripture affirms it is *not*. Is Just-Use “present in a fragmented world such as ours”? Scripture seems to affirm such. But such seems only to be found when there is an immediacy of the fundamental / unavoidable offense against life’s sacredness.

    Should “evil” be the stuff of “Privation” then War, even if Just, is, on such terms, “Good-Minus-Some-Thing”. That one reason (there are many more) why Christ tells us that Law never can save Mankind – never can do the work that is needed. Another way of coherently defending that, of landing *there*, is this: The Promise is of a Day when the Good is Whole and, therefore, there will be no more War (or what have you).

    To affirm Just-Use is *not* to affirm this or that means as “Good”, as “Lovely”.

    Not in the least.

    Love houses the ultimate ethic, that is why ultimate reality – being God – lands the Christian, and no one else, in that peculiar location in which, God being love, we find this: There is Man-In-God, God-In-Man, and, that being The Lovely, there is, then, the coherent and seamless ontology of “That-Minus-Some-Thing”. Welcome to our fractured world. In the Christian paradigm, and nowhere else, we find the metaphysical wherewithal for the Thorough Pacifist “semantics” and the Thorough Just-Use “semantics” to categorically and ultimately converge, more distally (or proximally depending on one’s approach) inside of our Final Felicity, inside of The Good, inside of The Lovely, there in the ceaseless reciprocity of the immutable love of the Triune God.

  5. I think it is important to focus on and flush out the scenario in 1 Sam. 16: 1,2 some more brought up by Bill Fortenberry. Regardless of how we interpret the other instances in Scripture where a person lies and is rewarded by the Lord, (the midwives, David, Rahab, etc…) in this passage God Himself tells Samuel to tell Saul only part of the truth, and to purposefully withhold part of the truth (the fact that he was going to anoint David as king) in order to deceive Saul. The Lord of heaven and earth I think has a right to clarify the morals he has set forth for us in the ten commandments.
    The Decalogue is not merely something God practically decided would be helpful for orderly life down on earth, but is a representation of His character and is something that cannot be changed. Thus if I am to choose between the old human adage “tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth” and 1 Sam. 16 where God specifically told Samuel to tell only part of the truth to save his life, I don’t know about you, but I am going to go with God on this one every time. It is quite a sticky point and I don’t claim to have a black and white answer for every unique situation in this fallen world, but there does in Scripture seem to be the principle that evil men do not deserve to know the whole truth, and that God’s people may with good conscience only tell them part of the truth in an effort to purposefully deceive them and preserve life.
    In the case of those who purposely deceived Planned Parenthood workers, I think this principle finds appropriate application. Surely these videos were produced in an effort to preserve life, and if after hearing the bloodcurdling hardened manner of the ‘healthcare’ (or death-care) workers you wish to argue they are not evil, I would look for something strange in your cornflakes. Just some ramblings, but thanks for the excellent post.

  6. God’s work through, and with, sinners is that which is impossible to be “otherwise”. There are no non-sinners for God to work with, or through, and so on.

    God’s work in and by and through us, sinners, isn’t His affirmation of said sins. Employing God’s proximity to our sin as a means of insight as to the condition of said sins is a sloppy way to define our ontology, whether of man in his painful privation or of any other X.

    None of the examples listed so far from scripture amount to God either commanding a man to lie or affirming His Favor of the lie. Samuel 16, David’s pretense, the handmaids, and so too with the rest don’t come close unless there’s a high degree of liberty taken. Others can just as easily take liberty of that sort in some rather different directions.

    As alluded to earlier, it’s easy enough to get to the (proper, genuine, real) “Justified use of X” via Scripture without resorting to such peculiar, and ultimately costly, methods.

    Ascribing our own limited psychology, given its means, to God’s Psychology, Given His Means, at such a high cost may be valid, only, the examples listed so far don’t seem to warrant it.

    Conflating God’s varying restraints upon hell’s angels, upon principalities, upon powers, for the topic at hand is an equally sloppy method of defining our ontology, our terms. If it will not be a Truth / a Holy Spirit, then it will be an untruth / an unholy spirit as there’s no such thing as Man in a vacuum, though, that is a radically different topic/vector than the one under review.

    Should we seek to define the True, the Lovely, then we must look on Him, on the Christian’s Triune God and define reality from the Necessary downward toward the contingent, rather than in the reverse.

    • ‘There are no non-sinners for God to work with’ – true. I now find myself focussing more on repentance and forgiveness than on wondering whether or not some lies are authorized and sanctioned by God.

  7. Derek makes a valid point when he draws “different levels of priority” between “A vs. B” in the Law, in Moses, and so on. Christ Himself did so as well. Healing on the Sabbath *is* working on the Sabbath. It breaks one of the Big-Ten. Christ states it this way: “So what?” Straining at gnats. Laws are here not as ends in themselves, but, rather, as a part of (not the whole of) a means to carry us towards God’s final ends for Man, towards those uncanny “final causes”, all of which will, ultimately, replace Law / leave Law behind. Again, we must remember what Man “is” inside of his painful privation, and, then, we must remember what Law “is” and “isn’t” regarding said privation. The reason Moses/Law is “less weighty” than matters pertaining to valuing people is because the latter precedes the former and because the latter outlasts the former, and Christ, Who comes to invert our upside-down world, knows exactly what He is doing/saying when He assigns “less” and “more” weightiness to the contours there. People matter more than rules. Or, rules are meant to serve, buttress, the beloved, rather than the other way around, or, life’s sacredness matters more than rules. Even more emphatic, as we dive into Trinity and take a look around we begin to discover that, in fact, love factually is reality’s Hard Stop. In fact, in the Christian paradigm (and nowhere else) it is the case that (vis-à-vis Trinity) we realize that “Personhood/Person/Love” actually, factually, metaphysically, both precedes laws and rules and also outlasts/outdistances laws and rules. Christ wasn’t mistaken. The “Justified-Use” semantics appear to be sound, valid, in the Christian paradigm, only, as alluded to earlier, we have to be careful in defining our terms, and, we cannot end up in a place where “Any-And-Every-X” finds some convoluted path to this or that justified use “if only we can say we are doing it to stop evil”. All the more is that the case if said convoluted path isn’t really anything more than some degree of sloppy liberty built atop a few verses at the expense of twenty other verses (and so on). That convoluted line, and the incoherent epistemic landing zone of “pretty much any X can end up as *somehow* justified” (Etc.) both pay (eventually) the costly (and unjustified) price of jettisoning large swaths of Scripture’s very expensive ontological real estate. C.S. Lewis reminds us, “But probably this will not, for most of us, happen in a day; poetry replaces grammar, gospel replaces law, longing transforms obedience, as gradually as the tide lifts a grounded ship.”

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