Ethics and evangelical Calvinism are two things I really haven’t brought together here on the blog, so let me attempt to remedy that.
There is so much of concern going on in the world right now, of ethical import, it is going to be hard to narrow down on one issue; but let me try to do that. What has really been on my heart as of late, along with so many of you I am sure, is what has been going on in Iraq (and Syria) with ISIS and its persecution and slaughter of Christians and other minority groups. I have seen some of the most inhumane and immoral images coming out of this crisis that I have ever scene in my life. Such as the beheading of a young Christian man (live), the execution of four young boys, the blood letting from the neck of a bound and naked women, the mass slaughter of men (again execution style), and the list goes on and on; and my heart is in absolute turmoil!
There are various ways into considering ethical angles on this rabid scenario, but let me focus on one. I have heard many, whether they be news reporters, or personal contacts reflecting on the why and how question. People, when confronted with the type of evil we are being faced with as we look at the actions of ISIS can get overwhelmed. But I think the answer to these questions, like why and how can ISIS be so demonically evil, is provided for (of course) in Scripture. The Apostle Paul answers these questions in his correspondence with the Ephesians when he writes about people’s hearts that are severed from the light of Christ:
This I say, therefore, and testify in The Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind. 18. having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19. who, being passed feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. Ephesians 4:17-19
We could stop right here, and say ‘okay there’s the answer.’ But I would like to press a bit deeper, and this is where the anthropology of evangelical Calvinism will come in. As many of you know, we as evangelical Calvinists believe that the ground of humanity is found in the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ. As a result what we see happening in Iraq and among the ISIS fighters becomes even more perplexing. It is perplexing, because if the ground of all humanity is indeed present in the humanity of Jesus Christ for us then we could legitimately wonder at how in the world anyone could act in the way that ISIS is acting. But, as we just read along with the apostle Paul we understand that humanity’s heart is dark and beyond feeling without a subjective participation in the humanity of Jesus Christ. And so what we see happening in Iraq among the ISIS fighters, and their brutality can be attributed to the fact that what they are doing is acting against their humanity. In other words, they are living in the world of being past feeling, as the apostle Paul has intimated.
In conclusion, even the ISIS fighters still have humanity even if they are acting against it through their actions toward other people with whom they share a shared humanity objectively grounded in the humanity of Jesus Christ who is the very image of God. But I think the important thing to remember is that Jesus Christ is the point, the all-encompassing reality from which all of humanity finds its value. Without him as the center news reporters and whoever else would not have the capacity to make moral judgments about ISIS when they themselves live with just as dark of a heart as ISIS people (even if they are not currently acting upon that, at least not in the way that ISIS is).
This is how this whole reflection comes back to an anthropology that evangelical Calvinism endorses. In case you have missed what I am getting at, the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ is what has funded my whole reflection.