Monday, August 22, 2005

On Jesus and judging

I'm always angered when someone tries to dismiss my moral point-of-view by saying, "You shouldn't judge." Making claims about the world is normal and necessary. When I claim that something is true, it should be treated as the truth claim that it is - either true or false. A person can argue one way or the other. It takes a kind of relativistic approach to dismiss a moral assertion as meaningless - although, ironically, the "you shouldn't judge" moral assertion can then be dismissed as well. Such a claim is self-refuting; "you shouldn't judge" is itself a judgment. Simply put, one cannot condemn "judging" without being a hypocrite.

Christians often point to Matthew 7 to criticize judging, but they misuse the passage in a way that condemns judgments altogether. Greg Koukl at STR writes about Jesus and judging. The Bible, he says, clearly marks the importance of speaking the truth. And Christianity, of course, is based upon judgments.

Often, the "do not judge" response is meant to imply some kind of hypocrisy (of course, a person himself is completely independent of the truth/falsity of his claim). This can be legitimate: As Koukl writes, "Jesus did not condemn all judgments, only hypocritical ones - arrogant condemnations characterized by disdain and condescension."

Indeed, it's hard to even consider this type of judgment - which is more like an insult - an actual moral assessment to begin with; it's more of a moral infringement.

But as far as real moral assessments (which are biblically commanded, not condemned): We must protect our ability to speak the truth from the attacks of incoherent, hypocritical critics - that is, moral relativists unable to live by their own rules.

In sum: I believe that an objective moral code exists. Moral relativists do not. Yet moral relativists believe I'm doing something that is objectively, morally wrong. Say what?

I'm never afraid to point this out.

Update: In J. Budziszewski style, here's a short sample conversation between two people:
Person 1: You shouldn’t judge people like that.

Person 2: By “judge,” do you mean “present a moral assessment”?

Person 1: Whatever. You shouldn’t do it.

Person 2: Why not?

Person 1: You’re not that person. You’re not in a position to criticize him. We’re all sinners.

Person 2: First of all, I’m criticizing his behavior, not him as a person. I’m not saying my behavior is any better. And I’m making an objective truth claim about the world, not a subjective one. I may be right or wrong, but my claim is what it is. You don’t have to agree with me.

Person 1: Well, you still shouldn’t judge like that.

Person 2: Then why are you judging me? You just said that we “shouldn’t judge”!

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