Saturday 28 March 2009

Sex and consent

Chef Peter Bacon of the United Kingdom has recently been acquitted of the charge he raped a lawyer. The outcome of the trial raises some interesting questions. Bacon's name was not suppressed at the time of accusation. So even though he has not been found guilty of a crime, he does not retain anonymity. He may therefore possibly be judged by many who reject the court's verdict. Interestingly the plaintiff has name suppression despite the outcome implying she falsely accused Bacon.
In addition, he questioned why his alleged ‘victim’ received automatic lifelong anonymity, while he was named as an accused rapist.

In a statement read by his solicitor, he said: ‘This case seriously calls into question the lack of anonymity for people like Peter who have been wrongfully accused of rape, and who are ultimately acquitted.’
Having a claim not upheld in court does not necessarily imply lying, it may be the case that one's claim is true but not criminal, or one's claim lacks evidence to attribute guilt. These possibilities seem less applicable in this case as the activity is not disputed, rather the motive.

Personally I think that all cases should have name suppression until a verdict is reached. Innocent defendants should retain anonymity indefinitely. This may be impossible in cases of public figures. I also think that video and audio streams from courts should probably not be allowed, nor reporting on cases prior to a verdict. Though these are topics for another time.

What I want to discuss is the issue of consent as it relates to sexual behaviour. Bacon and the lawyer agreed that sex took place, the lawyer on the testimony of Bacon as she herself denies recollection of the event.
The woman’s claims that she could remember nothing of her alleged rape also raised questions about why the Crown Prosecution Service decided to continue with the case, at an estimated cost of £90,000 to the taxpayer.

A jury of seven women and four men took just 45 minutes to find Mr Bacon not guilty, after hearing three days of evidence.

They had heard his accuser, a 45-year-old woman, claim that she must have been raped because she was too drunk to have consented to sex.

The woman, a lawyer who described herself in court as a ‘recreational binge drinker’, said she found Mr Bacon lying in her bed one morning with no memory of what had happened.
Her claim of rape is based on her claim of inability to consent. There appears to be legal precedent for this in UK law.
She immediately accused the university student of taking advantage of her, shouting that the law had been changed because of ‘f*****s like you’.

In 2007 the Appeal Court ruled that a woman who is drunk may not be capable of giving her consent to sex, even if she is still conscious.

But juries are still asked to make their own decisions about whether they believe a woman was sober enough to consent, and whether a man could ‘reasonably believe’ that she had consented.
Consent is a complex topic. The issue is not helped by ambiguous use of the term "rape." The use of the term "statutory rape" is most unfortunate; as if the inappropriate petting of 2 teenagers is morally equivalent to abuse by a stranger breaking into one's home.

There are several possibilities I see for consent; listed below with examples.
  1. Ability to consent and consent given
    • Within a marriage
  2. Consent refused
    • An unknown aggressor
  3. Consent unable to be given
    • When someone is unconscious or severely intoxicated with alcohol or drugs
  4. Consent given but unreliable
    • A person significantly under the influence of alcohol or drugs
    • A person who is incapable of understanding consent
      • Intellectual impairment
      • Severe dementia
  5. Consent given but illegal
    • People are below a legally defined age
    • In jurisdictions where sex outside of marriage is illegal
There is minimal issue with item 1. One could ask whether or not marriage allows for someone to refuse consent under usual circumstances (1 Corinthians 7:1-7). Even if refusal is not generally allowed that does not confer a right on the aggrieved party to enforce otherwise.

Item 2 is acknowledged as rape within Western government. Ancient cultures may have thought otherwise at times. A distinction would have been made as to whether the woman was betrothed/ married or a virgin. In ancient Israel for a man to have sex with an otherwise married woman was condemned regardless of consent (Deuteronomy 22).

Items 3 and 4 depend on the actions leading up to such a state. In a similar UK case where conviction was overturned on appeal one of the judges said that
sex amounts to rape if the woman is incapable of giving consent.

But he added: ‘Where the complainant has voluntarily consumed even substantial quantities of alcohol, but nevertheless remains capable of choosing whether or not to have intercourse, and in drink agrees to do so, this would not be rape.’
Intention always needs to be assessed. One cannot compare situations is isolation from their relevant history. If a person voluntarily consumes alcohol to such a state where their judgment is impaired, the prior choice to consume alcohol or drugs is such that a person retains responsibility for their actions, even foolish ones they would be less likely to make when sober. One cannot choose to partake in activities with known consequences and refuse culpability for such consequences. One cannot choose to chemically alter one's state of mind and deny culpability for actions taken during such states.

This contrasts with people who are drugged without their knowledge. Because the altered state of mind that one struggles to control is due to the action of another, culpability is partially and possibly completely removed from the drugged person. This situation is somewhat similar morally to when people are unable to understand consent by their intrinsic nature, though there may be caveats.

The last situation should not be considered an issue of consent and should not be labelled rape or statutory rape. By conflating this with item 2 one minimises the seriousness of the usual understanding of rape. The government may still wish to have such laws and I will not argue here for or against such laws. But the crime is best labelled something like "illegal sexual activity" and prosecuted under separate laws.

Questions were also raised as to why Brown was prosecuted. It was defended by the prosecution.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman defended the decision to take the case to court.

She said: ‘The Crown Prosecution Service takes allegations of rape very seriously and after receiving a file relating to Peter Bacon from Kent Constabulary, two CPS rape specialists carefully reviewed the evidence.

‘They decided that there was sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and therefore decided that Peter Bacon should be charged with rape.

‘The ability of the complainant to consent was clearly an issue in this case.
Rape is a serious crime. However rape allegation is not rape. Rape allegations are serious if they are true, and serious if they are false; but in the case of false allegations it is a serious crime against the defendant. One should take it seriously, but with a view to all parties.

There is another very important issue here that has not been addressed but needs to be by those who would call such behaviour rape. I don't agree that voluntarily entering a mind altering state removes responsibility, but if we concede this point we are left with the possibility that both people may be in a situation where they are unable to make good judgments.

What of the case when both people are intoxicated? The person who may otherwise decline sex is deemed unable to give consent, but the person who desires sex may be deemed unable to assess consent. If someone is intoxicated enough that they consent to sex but their consent is invalid and they are not culpable for their decisions in such a state of mind, then why is the intoxicated person who accepts such consents culpable? Surely if her blood alcohol level means she is not responsible for her "yes," then his blood alcohol level means he is not responsible for his "okay."
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (Proverbs 20 NIV)

Thursday 26 March 2009

Bible statistics

See updated post here.

Number of books, chapters, verses and words in the Bible. These are based on the English Standard Version (ESV) 2007 version, main text. I haven't been able to find the ESV summary data on the internet. The ESV exists in database form in various places so the information should be easy to calculate, I just don't have the facilities. Word count was done in Open Office. I will repost this if I get the verse data.

Footnotes, chapter and verse numbers, book names are excluded. Psalm titles are included. I realise the chapters and verses are an artificial construct.

Chapters were inserted into the Bible circa 1228 by Stephen Langton.

The Old Testament was possibly divided into verses by Isaac Nathan circa 1448 and the New Testament by Robert Stephanus in 1551.

Book Chapters Verses Words
Old Testament
Genesis 50
Exodus 40
Leviticus 27
Numbers 36
Deuteronomy 34
Joshua 24
Judges 21
Ruth 4
1 Samuel 31
2 Samuel 24
1 Kings 22
2 Kings 25
1 Chronicles 29
2 Chronicles 36
Ezra 10
Nehemiah 13
Esther 10
Job 42
Psalms 150
Proverbs 31
Ecclesiastes 12
Song of Solomon 8
Isaiah 66
Jeremiah 52
Lamentations 5
Ezekiel 48
Daniel 12
Hosea 14
Joel 3
Amos 9
Obadiah 1
Jonah 4
Micah 7
Nahum 3
Habakkuk 3
Zephaniah 3
Haggai 2
Zechariah 14
Malachi 4
OT Total 929
New Testament
Matthew 28
Mark 16
Luke 24
John 21
Acts 28
Romans 16
1 Corinthians 16
2 Corinthians 13
Galatians 6
Ephesians 6
Philippians 4
Colossians 4
1 Thessalonians 5
2 Thessalonians 3
1 Timothy 6
2 Timothy 4
Titus 3
Philemon 1
Hebrews 13
James 5
1 Peter 5
2 Peter 3
1 John 5
2 John 1
3 John 1
Jude 1
Revelation 22
NT Total 260
Grand total 1189

This information may be more useful for the Hebrew and Greek text though there would still be disagreement over which texttype or critical text to use.

Greek New Testament ~138000 words.

If I have my calculations correct the number of words in the ESV Bible is 765432 if the book titles are excluded, and 765517 words if they are included.

Saturday 21 March 2009

In defence of the death penalty

There is disagreement within Christendom over whether the death penalty is compatible with Christian theology. I am not fully certain as to which camp is correct, though I favour the conclusions below.

Here I wish to give a defence in favour of capital punishment. I will restrict my discussion to the case of murder. I will not cover pragmatic opposition such as miscarriage of justice and the fear of innocents being put to death. While these are important issues, they are issues of administration. My concern is whether execution is fundamentally an appropriate punishment.

There is Scripture in support of the death penalty in certain situations. Therefore I do not think the question is whether or not capital punishment is intrinsically wrong, God ordained it several times. The question is whether not putting people to death is preferable for reasons based on Jesus' deeper revelation of the intentions of God.

The first mention of the death penalty follows the Flood.
But you* shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your* lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.
"Whoever sheds the blood of man,/
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image...." (Genesis 9)
As mentioned previously this verse is significant in its reasoning. Men have the implanted imago Dei. We must not remove this. Only God has the right to destroy life because it is his image that is being erased.

When God gives the Law to Moses we see similar commands. The 6th commandment is, "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5). Others translate this as, "You shall not kill." Neither "murder" nor "kill" is fully conveys the Hebrew ratsach (רָצַח). "Kill" is too generic. "Murder" implies immoral intention, though the word can be applied to sanctioned and accidental killing. The NET Bible notes state,
The verb רָצַח (ratsakh) refers to the premeditated or accidental taking of the life of another human being; it includes any unauthorized killing (it is used for the punishment of a murderer, but that would not be included in the prohibition).
Compare Deuteronomy 19:
This is the provision for the manslayer (ratsach), who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills (nakah) his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past—
This prohibition clearly does not apply to those carrying out capital punishment for murder. This is seen in the specific commands given to the state and those acting for the state. The above example from Genesis specifies that the offender is to be put to death; that is, there is a command to kill in the pursuit of justice. The Mosaic Law also makes similar provision:
Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill (harag) him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die. (Exodus 21)

But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you. (Deuteronomy 19)
The command to put someone to death is specific. It holds even if there is a general command not to kill men. Deuteronomy expands this commenting that the murderer killed an innocent man. The prohibition of killing or murdering does not apply to the murderer as he is not innocent.

So we see clear commands both in the time of Noah and of Moses that men are prohibited from killing people and the punishment for such crime is to forfeit one's life. The reason for such is:
  • that the victim is innocent;
  • that such behaviour offends God's holiness (note the words: "take him from my altar"); and
  • that God's image in man is destroyed without God's permission.
I do not see statements from Jesus that would lead us to reconsider the above arguments. Jesus spoke to hatred. He informs us that hatred and murder come from same source within us. We cannot claim to obey the commandment not to murder if we hate. Despising men in our hearts is breaking this law. This does not necessarily imply that the degree to which we sin when hating our brother is the same as if we murdered him. Not all sins are equal. But it does state that before God non-murderers who hate have still offended God. They have still broken the essence of the 6th commandment. They are still in need of judgment by God for this.

Jesus also emphasised the need for us to forgive. Whether we are to forgive those who do not request or desire it is debated by Christians. There are examples of those who forgave unrepentant men including Jesus and Stephen. We are definitely commanded to forgive those who ask us (Matthew 18). I do not seek to resolve this question here. But even assuming the murderer is repentant and requests forgiveness, should this affect punishment?

While forgiveness is important to our own spiritual health, and forgiveness removes any right of redress when extended to a repentant man; I am not certain that this is relevant to government punishment. It would be difficult for them to let such murderer free immediately as although he has acknowledged his wrong, he may struggle to behave righteously. He may hate his anger but his struggle to control it may put the lives of others at risk in the future. So for the safety of the community he, at minimum, probably needs to be in prison.

Further, Jesus' commands seem to be predominantly aimed at the individual. The problem with the world is us and it is us that need to change. Individuals repent and enter the kingdom of God, not governments. Granted, men in government can belong to the kingdom of God and thus govern righteously, but it is still individuals who are redeemed. We are eternal, cultural structures are not. But although the state may be temporary, it still the governing authority in the current dispensation. And I do not see how the teachings for individuals change God's intention for the state.

Paul makes an interesting comment in the era of grace.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13)
The sword may be representative of the threat of punishment, however if the threat does not go heeded then the punishment occurs. And sword here is a metonymy for execution. Paul affirms the appropriateness of state having the power of execution. If the state is allowed to execute at all then this will apply to the most appropriate crimes. Murder being the most appropriate, save, perhaps, treason.

The earliest teachings tell us that the death penalty is to be enacted. Ezekiel suggests that refusal to execute those deserving of death is unacceptable,
You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies. (Ezekiel 13)
Since Jesus we know that capital punishment for murderers is still at least permissible. However could a judge appropriately override this punishment? Say a righteous judge who was not open to corruption, a murderer who has repented, the victim's next of kin forgiving and not desiring revenge. Perhaps the murderer has accepted Christ and the judge is Christian; both aware that Christ's death had atoned for his heinous sin.

I guess a situation like this could allow for an exemption. And because Christ takes the curse there is no curse on the land from the bloodguilt.

This assumes a (Christian) theocracy, or a general tacit approval by the governed (in a democracy) or the king (in a monarchy) of the truth of Christianity. This may describe the current situation in Rwanda. I do have difficulty applying this to all governments. It also opens up the possibility that men will claim religion to escape punishment and thus, potentially, lead to the perversion of justice.

In conclusion there is strong evidence that the death penalty for murder is an appropriate punishment, it is probably the best punishment and it may even be commanded by God. Therefore governments who disallow it are answerable to God for this. There may be situations in which men may be exempt from this punishment however this should be applied with caution. In situations where exemption is permissible, if exemption is still not granted the state is probably not sinning in its refusal.

Sunday 15 March 2009

International disaster

This month David Wilkerson gave a message that he believes is from God,
An earth-shattering calamity is about to happen. It is going to be so frightening, we are all going to tremble—even the godliest among us.

...There will be riots and fires in cities worldwide. There will be looting—including Times Square, New York City. What we are experiencing now is not a recession, not even a depression. We are under God’s wrath.
What are we to make of such comments? I don't know much about Wilkenson. I have read his book The Cross and the Switchblade which demonstrated God working in the lives of gangsters. His commitment and theology may be quite solid. And I personally have no issue with Pentecostal theology.

My difficulty is not so much with Wilkenson, nor even this type of warning, rather that these prophecies seem too common and yet their fulfilment is not always apparent. I have heard rumours of earthquakes hitting California; of earthquakes occuring in New Zealand. Sometimes within timeframes that have expired. I am not aware of any prophecy concerning the Asian tsunami in 2004, though I believe there were several interpretations after the fact.

What makes things more difficult is that if large numbers of people prophesy a variety of events then, by chance, some are likely to occur. This depends somewhat on the specificity of the prediction and the ability or inability of man to bring it about. So we are left with the situation that a person probably needs to give multiple words from God that subsequently come true for us to recognise them as a prophet (in one sense of the word). Further, such a person must teach in sync with Scripture (Deut 13:1-5).

There is also the issue of God relenting when we repent. Jeremiah claims it is prophecy of peace and prosperity that is determined by fulfilment, not necessarily that of calamity (Jer 18:7-10; 28:9).

Interestingly Wilkenson's comments concerning this warning are limited to suggesting people have a month of food on hand and encouraging them to trust in God. He mentions on his blog that some may sense to stay in a safe place, whereas others may feel called to go elsewhere to serve. He also suggests how people should respond to these kinds of warnings. His advice seems reasonable,
We are to listen carefully to the warnings of the watchmen but are not to become obsessed with their warnings.

We are to be alerted and warned by prophetic messages, and we're to heed every one that's revealed and confirmed in Scripture. We're to gather all the knowledge we can about the coming storm, so we can prepare our hearts for whatever destruction it brings. But we are not to let fear or anxiety consume our thinking, dominate our minds, take hold of our hearts!

Thursday 12 March 2009

Health care adherence and responsibility

A recent study published in PLoS Medicine confirms what has previously been thought by those working in African health field. Adherence to antiretroviral (Anti-HIV) medication in Africa is high (> 90%) and higher than the West. After several hundred interviews the reasons were documented. Summarising the responses,
[Medication] adherence through a number of deliberate strategies aimed at prioritizing adherence: borrowing and “begging” transport funds, making “impossible choices” to allocate resources in favor of treatment, and “doing without.” Prioritization of adherence is accomplished through resources and help made available by treatment partners, other family members and friends, and health care providers. Helpers expect adherence and make their expectations known, creating a responsibility on the part of patients to adhere. Patients adhere to promote good will on the part of helpers, thereby ensuring help will be available when future needs arise.
I am not certain how robust this study was, nor whether other factors (age, religion, sex, income, etc.) were adequately addressed, but it is interesting that the high adherence was due to perceived responsibility of action.
Relationships confer responsibility in addition to providing resources. Recipients of help must recognize what they receive and reciprocate. To ignore these responsibilities is to risk resentment on the part of helpers.
It is their sense of duty within the domain of immediate family, supporters and community. There is no disconnect created by involving the government as an intermediary. When others help directly there is a sense of reciprocality. Not necessarily that one has to do the exactly the same as others, rather that one should do his duty in response to others.

I believe that when antiretrovirals have been scarce or expensive, the choice to medicate one patient funded by other patients who were not receiving treatment meant that the survivor would likely care for the non-survivors' kin. So an expectation is on the treated person to comply so that he will indeed survive.

Interestingly another article in the same edition compared health outcomes in children for user pays medicine and free health care. There was no difference in rate of illness. The authors wrote,
This lack of any effect of being randomised to free health care on health outcomes is unexpected, since there has always been an assumption that increased access as a result of free health care improves health.
Though the free care group used significantly more services!

People are capable of caring for themselves (if they have the resources). They are able to be responsible for their care and respond to reasonable community expectations.

Government intervention is mostly unnecessary—at least in illness; however it is likely the attribute of self care and responsibility extends beyond health behaviour.

(Not to mention the government cash savings by leaving the funding private. And, as usual, private investment is more efficient: in this case same outcome for probable lower cost—I am using attendance as a proxy for cost.)

Friday 6 March 2009

Obeying the Law thru faith

I was listening to a talk recently about understanding the Law. He discussed many of the issues such as type and antitype, old covenant and new covenant and gave a helpful distinction between covenant and dispensational theology. What struck me however was a helpful comment about sacrifice.

Post crucifixion we live under grace. It is not our obedience to the Law that saves us, rather our trust in Christ. Actually it is not our trust that saves us, rather we trust in Christ's salvation that he obtained thru death.

Now Paul says that not only can the Law not save us, it was never intended to.
Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. (Galatians 3)
Much has been written about law and grace. What I specifically want to address is faith for those under the Law. Paul makes it quite clear that men are and always have been saved via faith. We have faith in Christ now. The ancients had faith in God then. Habakkuk mentions the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2) and Paul reminds us that Abraham was justifed prior to the Law (Romans 4). I have no difficulty agreeing with what Paul is claiming, what I found difficult to marry is his claim about the Law being unable to save, and commands in the Torah suggesting otherwise.
"For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?' But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. (Deuternomy 30)
Paul mentions there was nothing wrong with the Law. It wasn't unable to save us, obeying the Law could save but it is sin that is in us that prevents us obeying the Law. And the curses and cautions in the Law allude to God's knowledge that the Israelites would fail. Nevertheless, there seems to be the suggestion in passages such as Deuteronomy 30 and others that the Israelites were able to obey the Law and live by it.

The insight given by the recent talk was the issue of sacrifice. It was offering sacrifices which was the activity of faith by which the people under the Law were saved.

I think that all men at all times are saved by faith. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Queen Sheba, the Ninevites, and all the Israelites who trusted in God. So how does this work under the Law?

The term "Law" has multiple uses. It applies to the Torah as a whole: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. It also applies to the specific commands contained within the last 4 books that God gave at Sinai and during the following 40 years. These laws are often divided into moral, civil, and ceremonial. Included in this, or in addition to them, are the laws surrounding sacrifice. What to offer, why to offer, and how to prepare sacrifices and participate in them.

One can consider the Law here as a set of rules, and the sacrifice as the mechanism of forgiveness for breaking the rules. We have a set of rules that God knows the Israelites cannot keep (due to sin, not due to the Law) and a mechanism for which forgiveness can be obtained.

For these ancient Hebrews it was not obedience to the rules that saved them, it was faith in the sacrifice that saved them.

This is the key point.

They had to trust God that the sacrifice that he had specified would somehow remove their offence. We understand now that the particular sacrifices in themselves did not take away their sins (Hebrews 10), rather they just were the type pointing to the true sacrifice of Christ. Whatever clarity, or lack thereof, they had at that time concerning the animal sacrifices is less important than the faith they had in the God who had appointed the sacrifices; the God who told them that this was the path of redemption.

Israelites prior to Christ knew that all men were sinners.
Enter not into judgment with your servant,/
for no one living is righteous before you. (Psalm 143)
"If they sin against you— for there is no one who does not sin..." (1 Kings 8)
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;/
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?/
We have all become like one who is unclean,/
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment./
We all fade like a leaf,/
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64)
The Law was never given to save people and it was never suggested that they could fully obey it, even at the time it was given by Moses. It was understood at the time of Moses that people cannot obey the Law, that is why the sacrifices were mandated at the same time the Law was given.

Sunday 1 March 2009

Random quote

To expect to learn anything about important theological problems from Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett is like expecting to learn about medieval history from someone who had only read Robin Hood.

Rodney Stark


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