Monday, July 09, 2007

On Judging

"Judge lest ye be not judged".

That is one of the most misused statement of the Bible.

When traditional-minded Christians condemn the behaviour of individuals, left-learning people, wanting to play political "gotcha", like to use that phrase to score rhetorical (and therefore political) points.

That is not how Christians understand that phrase.

The point of the verse is not to eliminate all forms of judging behaviour and values.

The point is to stop people from condemning souls and consciences.

There is a subtle difference that escapes many left-leaning people, because to them, the person and the behaviour are one and the same.

That's one reason they do not understand that Christians condemn homosexual behaviour but not necessarily homosexual people. It's far too useful to believe that to condemn behaviour is to condemn people. The social left has gotten far too much mileage out of that belief to give it up.

When Jesus forgave the woman stoned in adultery, he did not approve of her sin. However, he never condemned the woman herself. Jesus was not about to say that her sin of adultery was okay. In fact, he said "go and SIN NO MORE".

The behaviour and the person are different in his eyes. He forgave the woman, did not count her as lost or irredeemable, but he never thought her adultery was okay.

Christians are called to excercise the same behaviour.

In order to correctly judge behaviour, we have to examine the guilt objectively and subjectively.

The objective aspect of behaviour involves whether or not the act itself violates the laws of morality. For instance, taking someone else's property without a sufficient reason is against the moral law. Someone who does that is objectively guilty of that behaviour.

But with any act, there is a subjective aspect: the agent's circumstances or mental state that, in some circumstances, exculpate the individual, or make him even more guilty.

Here are some factors that can exculpate an individual:

-- Age
-- Mental condition
-- Psychological state
-- Dire need
-- Ignorance
-- Compelling force


A person who steals may not be subjectively guilty of the act due to being forced to take the object. He might be clinically insane. He might have a badly formed conscience that makes him think it's okay to steal things.

An outside observer is in no place to say whether a person is subjectively guilty. They do not have access to all the facts.

However, one may have all the information necessary to condemn an act objectively.

So to recap:

A person may judge the objective guilt of an act.

He may not judge the state of soul, or the subjective degree of guilt of an act.

That is the Catholic notion of judging.

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