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Life and Death, Ethics and Freedom in this Time of Covid: The Scriptures and the Scriptures vs Amoral Science

Posted on July 31, 2020 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

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Life and Death, Ethics and Freedom in this Time of Covid:

The Scriptures and the Scriptures vs Amoral Science

 

Rev Gregory P. Schulz, DMin, PhD

Professor of Philosophy, Concordia University Wisconsin

 

 

 

Life and Death, According to the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures

1. The life of the human being does not end with biological, or irreversible brain death. Authoritative evidence for this is found throughout the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. These Scriptures provide an abundance of historical and vetted evidence of resurrections, culminating in the resurrection of Christ, the Messiah and Redeemer of humankind, from the dead following His crucifixion (see Job 19, then the four Gospels, Acts 17, and so on).

2. Note well, the reality of resurrection is (a) vetted medically: Saint Luke, author of the Gospel According to Saint Luke and of The Acts of the Apostles was a physician (Colossians 4:14); and (b) vetted by a plethora of eyewitness testimonies from Genesis 5 to the Revelation 22.

3. In addition, we have it on God’s own authority that these Scriptures, which provide thoroughly vetted evidence that human life continues after death (1-2) are indeed His very own words to humanity: “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

4. Accordingly, the Apostles’ Creed confesses the scriptural and historically factual reality of life after biological death. We Christians “believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting” for good reasons (1-3).

5. It follows from the reality that life continues after death (1-4) that the happiness that all of us human beings need and desire (ultimate, lifelong happiness has been the stated goal of ethics in the entire 2500-year history of Western thought) depends upon our opportunity in this life to prepare for life everlasting. Human beings need and desire the liberty to pursue unending happiness. For example, see Augustine’s philosophical conclusion that “there's no reason for a person to be practicing philosophy unless it's because he or she is working toward ultimate, beatific happiness” (City of God XIX).

6. Further, keep in mind that every human being can and will participate in the verification of life after biological death, personally and unavoidably, at the time of his own death. In God’s verbatim words to us all, “people are appointed to die once, and then to face judgment.” When people reject or ignore these Scriptures, there are consequences for this life and for life everlasting.

7. This means that our life before biological death is a window of opportunity to learn of and to trust utterly in Jesus, God and Human being in one person, who “has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice” (Hebrews 9:27&26, NET). In a word, the chapter of our life before biological death is a time of grace we have been given during which to prepare for the never-ending story of life everlasting.

 

Life and Death, According to the American Scriptures

8. The historical, Scriptural datum of life, which includes life after death (1-7) forms the view of life and death on which the United States was founded as a constitutional republic.

9. In ethical terms, what the Scriptures say about the infinite worth of regarding the moral weight of every human life is normative, meaning “morally decisive for every human being without exception, universally.” *

10. In ethical terms, then, what we may refer to as “the Scriptures of the United States of America,” namely, our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, derive their normative view of human life from the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. *

11. That is, the normative understanding that the life of every human being is sacrosanct because of what God has said and done for us all shows up in what we can think of as “the American Creed” that is articulated in the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” *

12. When people in our nation ignore or reject these Scriptures, there are consequences for this life, as every American should realize. This is an historical remark, not a religious perspective. [There are also consequences for the life to come, which is what Christ’s churches, pastors and religious teachers proclaim on the basis of the inalienable rights and the enumerated freedoms of the American Scriptures. At the same time, no one is ever to be forced to hear or learn what Christ’s churches have to offer the American Way life on the basis of the inalienable rights and the enumerated freedoms of the American Scriptures.]

 

Life and Death, According to the Natural Sciences **

13. The sciences – from physics to biology to anthropology – do not proceed according to the Scriptures, neither the biblical Scriptures nor the American Scriptures. Instead, the sciences proceed according to the canons of science and the scientific method in a non-normative and fundamentally amoral manner.

14. Science per se does not deal with human life as it is, either prior to death or with regard life everlasting (1-7). This is because scientific methodology relies upon a scientifically reductive, materialistic model of the human being. It proceeds via inductive reasoning based almost exclusively on a mechanistic view of Nature and a methodological ignorance of human nature as it is. Science today sees human beings essentially as biological machines, which is a reductive, materialistic and question-begging view of human life as it actually is. This is not a theological observation but a philosophical remark.

15. Thus, we the people, as the body-and-soul, everlasting beings that we are, are invisible to the scientific eye.

16. Further, God the Creator is invisible to modern science as it is practiced. This means that, in relation to the American Scriptures, science per se effectively presumes to impose a line item veto over and against the actual text, for example, the Declaration’s assertion of the self-evident truth that every human being without exception has been already and permanently been endowed by the Creator with nonnegotiable rights to life, and so on. God the Creator is the norm for these rights. He is the norm that makes human rights (not just for all Americans, but for all) unalienable. The text is the text.

17. Consequently, the sciences are not competent to grasp, much less to educate its practitioners and adherents, on how we ought to live morally, that is, normatively and ethically – not in this life, and not in the life to come (see 1-11 above). There is a literary way of putting it: “Try to remember that he is amoral. He is not interested in right and wrong as it applies to people; only in the true and false in science and knowledge” (Irving Stone).

18. In other words, the scientists speaking scientifically as scientists about what we should be doing and doing unto others in this time of the Covid virus – as well as those who rely predominantly or exclusively on scientific determinations for determining a moral response to what is happening – are making decisions and setting policies on the basis of a reduced, abstracted, merely biological and methodologically amoral misrepresentation of who and what human beings are.

19. Remember (12-16) that we the people – immortal beings endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights, such as the absolute rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness (1-11) have no place in the scientific worldview, except as biological entities.

 

Life and Death Consequences of Relying on Science in this Time of Covid

20. The naturalistic scientific worldview, I have been arguing, is amoral and therefore wholly inadequate for how to conduct our lives morally in this time of the Covid virus. In other words, science fails see the subject of ethics and moral deliberation, human being as the kind of being that we actually are.

21. Scientific data. What about using scientific data re Covid deaths to determine what it is right or wrong for us to do? Well, on the one hand, the scientific community is more skeptical about the reliability of its own data than are the scientific and healthcare officials we hear on tv, in the press, and from many governors and other elected officials. For example, note the extraordinary caveats about “the numbers” of Covid deaths are generated, in connection with the article “Estimation of Excess Deaths Associated With the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States, March to May 2020” online at the JAMA Network. “What are the scientific data re Covid deaths?” a very basic question, has not been answered. It is a question that may remain unanswerable existentially, that is, in real time and thus in real life as it is.

22. Alternative scientific data. On the other hand, there are largely unheard expert counterarguments, such as those laid out by Andrew Bostom, a practicing physician and researcher, in his July 2020 article challenging the contention that school children are either vectors or victims of the virus. Dr Bostom’s research and his studied observations from medical practice, historically and in the trenches right now, are available at https://mynorthwest.com/2019490/herman-media-covid-masks-work-schools/.

23. But note very well: Before the science, during the science, and after the science, there are the Scriptures – the American Scriptures and the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.

 

Life and Death, Reconsidered Ethically in this Time of Moral Crisis

24. To conclude, the decisions about what to do or not to do, to do unto ourselves or to do unto others – which are moral questions calling for ethical discussions – cannot be decided scientifically because of the nature of science as it is practiced today, which is inherently non-moral (13-19).

25. In other words, ethics lies beyond the reach and authority of the natural sciences. Ethics is something that the natural sciences do not have the scientific language to speak about; notwithstanding, the human need for ethical conversation and decision-making keeps showing up in our fully human form of life (Wittgenstein).

26. Based on (1-19), our questions of life and death at all times, and therefore during the time of Covid, ought to be addressed ethically, that is, according to what is normative, meaning what is “morally decisive for every human being without exception, universally” (9-11).

27. The ultimate source or foundation for ethical normativity is expressed in what I have called “the American Creed” in the Declaration, which stands as our common, core commitment to “the self-evident truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

28. The Declaration declares that God the Creator is the capital-N ethical Norm and then enumerates three of our unalienable rights: (a) the right of every human being to life [to the full, in this life and after death], (b) liberty [freedom from government tyranny], and (c) the pursuit of [long-lasting ethical] happiness.

29. The Constitution carries the American Creed and the enumerated, given-by-God and therefore unalienable human rights into practice by elucidating, as in the First Article, the guaranteed liberties or freedoms of religion and of right to peaceable assembly.

30. Note well: On the basis of the unsurpassable norm of God’s words, namely, the texts of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures, our American Scriptures have established inalienable human rights for the republic for which we stand, as well as the come-along freedoms of religion and free assembly. These natural rights are non-negotiable, as are the concomitant freedoms established in the Constitution.

31. These natural rights and freedoms, it is also worth noting, are presented in an unmediated way. That is, the Declaration and the Constitution do not filter these rights and freedoms through the authority of church councils and popes, or through Orthodox church fathers and ecclesiastical traditions. In the American Scriptures, the Norm is presented in democratic fashion, depending upon each citizen seeing for himself that the Creator is the Norm of it all. In this respect, religious education is vitally necessary, because creation and the Creator are knowable scripturally, not scientifically. Questions regarding the origin of the universe and the destiny of the universe are beyond the competence of the scientific method.

32. The linchpin issue of normativity is ensconced in the American Scriptures, in the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident. As Thomas Aquinas points out, a truth may be self-evident in two ways. It can be self-evident in itself, but unknown by us; or it can be self-evident both in itself and to us (Summa Theologiae Part One, Q2.3, Article 1). For the self-evident truth of absolutely everyone’s human-nature rights to be known and put into operation their self-evident truthfulness has to be taught, preached, discussed. Without our religious schools teaching it, and our Christian pastors preaching and teaching it, this self-evident truth cannot set us free.

33. Therefore, in this time of Covid crisis, it is not science that we should be looking to for the parameters within which to determine whether or not to allow religious congregations to assemble, whether or not pastors and deaconesses can visit the sick with Word and sacrament, whether or not to assemble in our religious schools to teach the full message of the Christ and His Scriptures from which the ethical and moral genius of our American way of life was formed.

34. Rather, it is the other way around. Science, being amoral and not normative (13-23), must give way to the authority of the American Scriptures, which are normative (8-12).

35. Ultimately, in a time of virus or plague or daily life, amoral science cannot save us morally. Salvation lies in the Scriptures – moral salvation in the American Scriptures; salvation for this life and the next from the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.

 

 

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For an introduction into the meaning of normativity in ethics, please see

 My narrated PowerPoint presentation, “Six Lutheran Thinkers on Ethics: Doing Our Duty to Whom?” at https/cuwaa.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=2d34cbbe-3c40-42c4-b10f-abf701589505.

 My forthcoming and copyrighted book, Christ the Life: Four Briefings on Biomedical Ethics and Suffering for the Thoughtful Lutheran Pastor, especially Briefing #1 of 4. Here is an excerpt.

Normativity = Moral Authority (vs Mere Legal Authority)

1. In military parlance, a superior officer has legal authority by virtue of his rank, but may or may not also have moral authority. His legal authority means that a subordinate must salute him and follow his legitimate orders, or face reprimand. By contrast, his moral authority is what inspires others to follow and obey him willingly even in the fog of war, by virtue of his proven trustworthiness and demonstrated character and wisdom.

2. Absent moral authority, an officer will be ineffective, authoritative, and is likely to become vindictive because of his total dependence on mere legal authority.

3. Now, ethics, traditionally identified as “the normative science” answering the continually recurring question, “How ought we live together as human beings?” has a similar makeup. Accordingly, ethics should exhibit both legal authority and moral authority.

4. In other words, ethics must exhibit theoretical normativity (being universal, objective, and intelligible, it must bring us to attention, so to speak), which is its legal or lawful aspect.

5. In addition, ethics should inspire personal normativity by virtue of the proven trustworthiness, character and wisdom of its source.

6. In ethics, theoretical normativity (4) convinces us intellectually.

7. In ethics, personal normativity (5) engages us, body, soul, and spirit (or, with our entire consciousness: volitionally, emotionally, and cognitively).

8. In these terms, Jesus the Messiah, being fully human and fully God in His unique Person, has both legal and moral authority. That is, His Word to us all is normative in both senses: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” (Matthew 28:17).

9. This, however, is not the case with radicalized autonomy as an ethical principle. Autonomy, as radicalized by Nietzsche and practiced by Physician Zero regarding PAS, relocates normativity into the mind of assertive individuals, which is not an ethics at all according to (3-4) and (6).

10. Thus, the bioethical principle of autonomy is not an ethics; but rather subverts ethics and replaces ethical normativity with willfulness, arbitrariness, and anarchy. In Nietzsche’s own words, autonomy sets the stage for the Übermenschen of the last century and our own.

11. Per my analysis, Nietzsche’s radicalized autonomy succeeds in medical practice, and social engineering in politics and education wherever the Death of God is assumed. To paraphrase Dostoyevsky, “If there is no God, no divine Christ as theoretical and personal Norm, everything is permitted ethically.”

 

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For further analysis of the impotence of science for moral and ethical decision making, and the peril of placing science over Christ and Scripture, please see

 1 Chronicles 21 about King David’s understanding of God and plagues, along with David’s psalms of lament in the Bible book of Psalms

 Leon Kass’s caution against looking to science instead of Christ crucified for salvation. Professor Kass’s “Glass Man Speech” is available at https/jmp.princeton.edu/events/keeping-life-human-three-lectures-biology-and-human-dignity. Be sure to listen to at least the first 10 minutes of his first lecture.

 My blog interview, Master Metaphor #9 - Wittgenstein’s Rule for When to Speak and When to Be Silent (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 7), with Pr Bryan Wolfmueller under the Columns tab at www.whatdoesthismean.org

 


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