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Graded Absolutism



該思拉著(Norman L. Geisler孔祥烱譯



Total ethical relativism is not an option for an evangelical. God’s character is unchanging, and his law reflects his character (see chapter 1). Of the options within ethical absolutism, evangelicals must choose between unqualified absolutism (see chapter 5), conflicting absolutism (see chapter 6), or graded absolutism (see chapter 7). Our previous analysis, however, has indicated serious problems with the first two of these views. There remains one alternative to discuss: graded absolutism.


The Historical Roots of Graded Absolutism


Of the three forms of absolutism held by evangelicals, unqualified absolutism is associated with the Anabaptist tradition, conflicting absolutism with the Lutheran tradition, and graded absolutism with the Reformed tradition. Before we examine the basic premises of graded absolutism, a brief look at some of its roots is in order.


Augustine of Hippo

(一)希坡城的奧古斯丁(Augustine of Hippo

Like most Reformed traditions, the roots of graded absolutism can be traced to Augustine of Hippo (d. 430). Although he defends the unqualified absolutist position on the issue of lying (see chapter 5), at times Augustine’s answers to conflicting situations are similar to those of graded absolutism. For example, both views hold that there is a hierarchy of virtue, that moral duties sometimes conflict, and that we are not culpable for obeying the higher duty.


Like graded absolutists, Augustine believes there is a hierarchy of sins, some being worse than others. Since Augustine’s ethic is centered in love, he sees an ordered priority in the things we are to love. God is certainly to be loved more than humans, and humans more than things. Thus, there is a pyramid of value with God on the top, persons in the middle, and things on the bottom.


Augustine also believes that moral duties sometimes come into conflict. Even in his advocacy for never telling a lie (see chapter 5), Augustine recognizes the class of different duties, which is one of the central premises of graded absolutism. Likewise, he sees moral conflicts in other life-and-death situations. Even though he views suicide as morally wrong, Augustine nevertheless justifies Samson’s suicide: “However, there are some exceptions made by the Divine Authority to its own law, that men may not be put to death. These exceptions are of two kinds, being justified either by a general law, or by a special commission granted for a time to some individual.” In this latter category Augustine places Abraham, Jephthah, and Samson, all of whom he believes were given a divine command to kill that overrode the general moral law against intentionally killing another human being.


In harmony with graded absolutists, Augustine believes that it is the greater good, not the lesser evil, to follow the higher moral duty in conflicting situations. For example, Abraham and Samson are commended for their willingness to kill at God’s command. When two moral duties clash, the believer is exempt from the lower duty by virtue of obedience to the higher. In this sense, Augustine is a precursor to the graded absolutist.


Charles Hodge

(二)何治(Charles Hodge

In his Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge (d. 1878) defends a form of graded absolutism, as is illustrated by his discussion of uttering intentional falsehoods. In spite of the fact that Hodge holds that truth is absolute, being based on God’s very nature, he still believes that it sometimes is right to intentionally falsify. He believes that “truth is at all times sacred, because it is one of the essential attributes of God, so that whatever militates against or is hostile to truth is in opposition to the very nature of God.” However, there are occasions when one is justified in intentionally deceiving another: An “intention to deceive, therefore, is an element in the idea of falsehood. But even this is not always culpable.” Hodge uses both the Hebrew midwives (Exod. 1) and Samuel (1 Sam. 16) as examples of justifiable deception. (The latter is a divinely appointed falsehood.)


Hodge also believes “it is lawful not only to conceal intended movements from an enemy, but also to mislead him as to your intentions.” He reasons that “there may be any combination of circumstances under which a [hu]man is not bound to speak the truth, [and] those to whom the declaration or signification is made have no right to expect ... [one] to do so.” For example, “if a mother sees a murderer in pursuit of her child, she has a perfect right to mislead him by any means in her power, because the general obligation to speak the truth is merged or lost, for the time being, in the higher obligation,” According to Hodge, “the principle that a higher obligation absolves from a lower stands firm.”


Hodge believes this kind of graded absolutism is a “dictate even of the natural conscience.” For example, “it is evidently right to inflict pain in order to save a life. It is right to subject travellers to quarantine ... to save a city from pestilence.” Indeed, he believes that “the principle itself is clearly inculcated by our Lord when He said, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice;’ and when he taught that it was right to violate the Sabbath in order to save the life of an ox, or even to prevent its suffering.” Furthermore, Hodge contends that when one subordinates a lower moral duty to the higher, he has not sinned. He rejects the position that “it is ever right to do a wrong.” However, he believes that it is right to intentionally deceive in order to save a life. And even though Hodge does not wish to call this a “lie,” a term he reserves for an unjustified intentional deception, he does believe it is morally right to intentionally falsify in these circumstances. It is right because there is “no right for expectation” and “no obligation to speak the truth” in those cases where there is a greater duty.


Sřren Kierkegaard


(三)祈克果(Sřren Kierkegaard


Sřren Kierkegaard’s “teleological suspension of the ethical” in his book Fear and Trembling also serves as a forerunner of graded absolutism. For in it he speaks of Abraham facing the dilemma of God saying through the law “Thou shalt not kill,” and yet God commanded him to kill his son Isaac. In this case, Kierkegaard (d. 1855) held that Abraham was supposed to transcend his lower duty by his higher religious obligation of obeying God. The only difference was that Abraham did not see this as a higher moral obligation but as a religious one that went beyond the ethical (by temporally suspending one’s duty to it) while he fulfilled his transcendent duty to God by faith. This difference noted, Kierkegaard’s main point is the same: obeying the higher duty does not negate the lower duty. It is still there and still binding (thus causing the tension). Further, a person facing this transcendent duty is only to temporarily suspend one’s duty to the universal ethical command not to kill an innocent person. As soon as the conflict with the higher duty is resolved (by obeying the higher duty), one immediately falls back on the universal rule against murder.


W. David Ross

(四)羅斯(W. David Ross

In his book The Right and the Good, David Ross (d. 1971) also embraces a kind of graded absolutism. Ross lists seven prima facie obligations, which he does not claim are all-inclusive: fidelity, reparation, gratitude, nonmalfeasance, justice, beneficence, and self-improvement. In the case of ethical dilemmas, these duties may conflict with one another, but there can never be a true ethical dilemma. There is always a higher obligation, which means a deontological (not a utilitarian) sense. It is one’s absolute obligation to follow this over lower duties. One does not decide which is higher in the utilitarian sense of which will bring the greatest good in the long run. In short, Ross was not a consequentialist (see chapter 4 above). He believed in a kind of graded absolutism.


The Essential Elements of Graded Absolutism


Hodge’s analysis sets forth the essential elements of a graded absolutism or ethical hierarchicalism. There are three essential premises in the biblical argument for graded absolutism, and each is based on relevant Scripture.


There Are Higher and Lower Moral Laws


Not all moral laws are of equal weight. Jesus spoke of the “weightier” matters of the law (Matt. 23:23 RSV) and of the “least” (5:19) and the “greatest” commandment (22:36). He told Pilate that Judas had committed the “greater sin” (John 19:11). Despite a rather widespread evangelical distaste for a hierarchy of sins (and virtues), the Bible does speak of the “greatest” virtue (1 Cor. 13:13) and even of “greater” acts of a given virtue (John 15:13).

並非所有道德律例都是同等重。耶穌講過律法中「較重」的問題(太23:23,也講過「最小」(太5:19)和「最大」(太22:36)誡命他告訴彼拉多,猶大犯了「更重罪」(約19:11)。儘管很多福音派基督徒不喜歡談到罪孽(美德的等級聖經卻談到「最大」的美德(林前13:13甚至談到一種美德「更大」的行動(約15:13 )。

The common myth that all sins are equal is often based on erroneous interpretations of James 2:10, which does not speak of the equality of all sins but rather of the unity of the law: “Whoever ... fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (RSV). It does not say that the transgressor is equally guilty of all, nor that all infractions bring equal guilt (cf. 3:1). However, it is true that any violation of the law brings some guilt.


Others have wrongly supposed that simply because Jesus said that one can lust and even murder “in his heart” (Matt. 5:28), this means it is equally evil to imagine a sin as it is to do it. In the same sermon, Jesus rejected this view, indicating there are at least three levels of sins with corresponding judgments (5:22). Indeed, the whole concept of degrees of punishment in hell (5:22; Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:12) and graded levels of reward in heaven (1 Cor. 3:11-15) indicates that sins come in degrees. The fact that some Christians’ sins call for excommunication (1 Cor. 5) and others for death (1 Cor. 11:30) also supports the general biblical pattern that all sins are not equal in weight. There actually is one sin so great as to be unforgivable (Mark 3:29).


Perhaps the clearest indication of higher and lower moral laws comes in Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question about the “greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:34-40). Jesus clearly affirms that the “first and greatest” is above the “second;” that loving God is of supreme importance, and then below that comes loving one’s neighbor. This same point is reaffirmed when our Lord says, “[Whoever] loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37 RSV). Numerous other scriptural passages may be cited to support this same point (see Prov. 6:16-18; Matt. 5:22; 1 Tim. 1:15; James 2:13; 1 John 5:16). The popular belief is wrong; all sins are not created equal, for there are clearly higher and lower moral laws.


It is significant that both other Christian options admit the truth of this same point. The conflicting absolutist speaks of the lesser evil, plainly implying that not all evils are equal. Likewise, the unqualified absolutist admits that moral laws are higher than civil or ceremonial laws commanded by God, and that many laws are binding only if all things are equal, which they sometimes are not. The real question, then, is this: Are the moral laws hierarchically graded?


The answer is affirmative for several reasons. First, all ethical obligations are moral laws, and Christians do have an ethical obligation to obey civil laws (see Rom. 13:1-6; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). It is not simply a civil duty to obey civil laws, since such obedience is enjoined by the moral Lawgiver (God) “for conscience’ sake” (Rom. 13:5 NASB). Second, even the commands to obey government or perform ceremonial duties are divine commands and, as such, involve a moral duty. By its very nature, a divine command is one that we ought to obey; it is an ethical responsibility. Otherwise it would be a merely declarative or descriptive statement, not an imperative. Third, the distinctions between civil, ceremonial, and moral laws are not rigid. The law of God is unified and interpenetrating, so that there are moral implications to civil and ceremonial commands. Whatever God commands his children to do—whether to love their neighbors or offer sacrifices—demands moral obedience. Finally, some of the conflicts in commands are clearly between two commands that are both moral in nature, which is true even for those who distinguish between moral and civil or ceremonial laws (Gen. 22; Exod. 1; Matt. 22). We conclude, then, that there are graded levels of moral commands in Scripture.

答案是肯定的,因為有下列原因。[1] 所有道德義務都道德律,基督徒有道德義務去遵守民事法律(見羅13:1-63:1;彼前2:13-14遵守民事法律不單是一種公民義務,而且道德立法者()也吩咐基督徒要「因為良心」去服從(羅13:5)。[2] 即使服從政府的命令或實行禮儀的責任是神聖的命令,它是一種道德責任就其本質而言,神聖命令我們應該服從的,它是一種道德義務否則這將純粹是一個聲明或描述的語句而不是一個命令[3] 民事法律、禮儀律例道德律之間的區別不是僵硬的律例統一的和互相貫通的,所以民事法律禮儀律例都牽涉到道德無論命令祂的兒女做什麼,例如愛他們或獻祭,神都要求道德性的服從。[4] 一些命令間的衝突是明確在兩個道德性命令之間即使區分民事法律、禮儀律例道德律衝突仍然在道德性命令之間(創22;出122章)。我們必須總結,聖經中之道德命令有等級。

There Are Unavoidable Moral Conflicts




Some personally unavoidable moral conflicts exist in which an individual cannot obey both commands. The arguments in support of this observation come from many sources—both inside and outside the Bible. Several of them will suffice to establish this point.


First, the story of Abraham and Isaac (Gen. 22) contains a real moral conflict. “Thou shall not kill” is a divine moral command (Exod. 20:13 KJV), and yet God commanded Abraham to kill his son Isaac. That Abraham intended to kill Isaac is clear from the context (and from Heb. 11:19, which informs us that Abraham believed God could raise Isaac from the dead). Further, the fact that Abraham was not required to go through with the act does not eliminate the reality of the moral conflict, since the intention to perform an act with moral implications is itself a morally responsible act (cf. Matt. 5:28). Neither will it suffice to say that this is a specially approved divine exception, because the “exception” (or exemption) must be made in view of some higher moral law; this is precisely the point that graded absolutism wishes to make. Furthermore, the very fact that an “exception” (or exemption) is called for indicates that the two laws are in genuine conflict.

[1] 亞伯拉罕和以撒故事(創22章)包含一個真正的道德衝突「不可殺人」是一個神聖的道德命令(出20:13),但神卻命令亞伯拉罕殺死他的兒子以撒。從聖經上下文看亞伯拉罕殺以撒的用意是明確的(見來11:19這裏告訴我們,亞伯拉罕信神能使以撒從死裏復活此外,雖然亞伯拉罕最後無須殺人,但這並不能消除道德衝突的實在因為打算進行的行為牽連道德本身就是一種道德上的責任行為(比較太5:28)。說這是一個神聖的例外亦不足夠因為「例外」或「豁免」的出現就表示有一個更高的道德律這一點正支持了等級絕對主義。再者,要以「例外」或「豁免」來解釋就表明兩個道德律是真正地衝突。

Second, the story of Samson contains a conflict of two divine commands. Samson committed what appears to be a divinely approved suicide (Judg. 16:28-30) despite the moral prohibition against killing a human being, including oneself. The commands were divine and moral—“You shall not kill” (Exod. 20:13 RSV) and “Take your life” (inferred from the fact that God answered Samson’s prayer )—yet when there was a real conflict between commands, God apparently approved of Samson disregarding one in order to obey the other.

[2] 參孫的故事包含兩個神聖命令的衝突。雖然道德禁止殺人,包括自己,但參孫似乎執行了一個神聖批准自殺(士16:28-30)。「不可殺人」(出20:13)和「取你自己的生命」(根據神應允參孫的祈禱而來推斷這兩個命令都是神聖和道德的然而,當兩個命令之間真正有衝突,神似乎批准參孫漠視一個命令去服從另一個命令

Third, there are several biblical illustrations in which individuals had to choose between lying and not helping to save a life (that is, not showing mercy). The Hebrew midwives (Exod. 1) and Rahab (Josh. 2; Heb. 11:31; James 2:25) will suffice as examples. Regardless of whether they were right or wrong in lying, the point here is that the conflict was genuine and both obligations were moral ones. It is not sufficient to claim silence as a “third alternative,” because even silence can lead to murder when deception is necessary to ward off an assassin. This is often the case, and it is unmistakably the case if the assassin says of the victim, “Either speak up or I will kill him.” Nor will it do to claim that there is no real conflict in these cases on the grounds that in telling the truth, the midwives would not be murdering the babies (Pharaoh would). For in the very act of telling the truth, the midwives would be unmerciful. To avoid what they believed to be the lesser sin of commission (lying), they would be engaging in a greater sin of omission (not showing mercy).

[3] 在幾個聖經例證中,那些人必須在說謊和不救人一命(即不憐憫)中選擇其一希伯來的收生婆(出1章)和喇合(書2章;來11:31;雅2:25)足以作為例子不管他們說謊是對的抑或的,這裡顯示衝突真的,兩種義務都道德性的。主張以沉默作為「第三種選擇」不夠的因為當必須用欺騙手段去阻止刺客時即使沉默也能導致謀殺這是常見的,尤其是當刺客對受害者說:「你如不說話我就會殺了他」如果主張真正衝突不存在,辯說收生婆說真話也沒有謀殺嬰兒,這仍不合理,因為法老王會殺他們。因此,收生婆說真話行動就是缺乏憐憫;若為了避免作他們認為是較小罪(說謊)他們就會作了較大疏忽罪(不憐憫

Fourth, there is a real moral conflict in the cross, one so great that many have considered the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement to be essentially immoral. The two moral principles are that innocent persons should not be punished for sins they did not commit (Ezek. 18:20), but Christ was punished for our sins (Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18). Some have tried to solve the problem by suggesting that Christ submitted to this punishment voluntarily, and hence the moral responsibility for the conflict disappears. But this is like saying that it was not immoral for Jim Jones to order the Jonestown suicide because his followers did it willingly! Other attempted explanations make God’s actions in relation to the cross entirely arbitrary, with no necessary basis in his unchanging moral character. But this reduces God to an unworthy being and takes away the need for the cross. If God could save humankind apart from the cross, then Christ’s death becomes unnecessary (Rom. 3:21-23).

[4] 十字架上有一個真正的道德衝突,這衝突大得使許多人認為代替贖罪的信仰基本上是不道德的這兩個道德原則就是無辜的人不應該為他們沒有犯的罪受到懲罰(結18:20但基督卻為我們的罪而受到懲罰(賽53;林後5:21彼前2:243:18)。有些人試圖解決問題建議基督自願他受到懲罰因此,衝突的道德責任就不存在但是,這就好像說鍾士占(Jim Jones)在鍾士城下令他的追隨者自殺亞非不道德,因為他們是自願自殺!其他試圖解釋說神對十字架的行動是完全任意的,祂沒有必要有不變的道德性格但是,這降低至一個不值得敬佩的神,而十字架也變成不必要的;如果能夠在十字架之外拯救人類,那麼基督的死就成為不必要(羅3:21-23)。

Fifth, in Scripture are numerous cases in which there is a real conflict between obeying God’s command to submit to civil government and keeping one’s duty to some other higher moral law. For example, the Hebrew midwives disregarded Pharaoh’s command to kill all male infants (Exod. 1); the Jewish captives disregarded Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the golden image of himself (Dan. 3); Daniel disregarded Darius’s command to pray only to the king (Dan. 6). In each case there was plainly no other alternative; those involved had to follow one or the other of the two commandments. Even unqualified absolutists admit the unavoidability of the conflict, since they reduce one command (the civil one) to a lower level. This maneuver, however, does not take away from the fact that both (higher and lower directives) are commands of God, with moral implications, and that the situations were personally unavoidable. That is, there was no prior sin on the part of those in the dilemmas that precipitated them. In all these cases, it was because they were moral, godly people that they found themselves in the dilemmas.

[5] 在聖經中在很多情形有真正的衝突,一方面是服從的命令去順從政府,另一方面是持守人的責任服從更高的道德律例如,希伯來收生婆漠視法老王殺死所有男嬰的命令(出1章)被俘虜猶太人漠視尼布甲尼撒王敬拜自己金像的命令(但3章)以理漠視大利烏王只向國王祈禱命令(但6章)。在每一個情況下明顯地沒有其他選擇,當事人只能跟隨兩條誡命之一即使無條件絕對主義者亦承認衝突是不可避免的,因為他們將其中一條命令(民事命令)貶降至低一層。但調動並沒有否定兩個(較高較低的命令神的命令,都與道德有關,而且都是個人不可避免的;也就是說,當事人陷入困境中之前沒有罪在所有這些情況中,他們在困境中因為他們是道德的虔誠的人

There are many other biblical examples of genuine, unavoidable moral conflicts, but the foregoing examples suffice. Even one clear case of an unavoidable conflict is enough to prove the point. Let us move, then, to the next premise.


No Guilt Is Imputed for the Unavoidable


God does not hold the individual responsible for personally unavoidable moral conflicts, providing that one keeps the higher law. There are a number of ways of seeing the truth of this point. First, reason dictates that a just God will not hold a person responsible for doing what is actually impossible. And it is actually impossible to avoid the unavoidable. It is impossible to take two opposite courses of action at the same time.

一個人在不可避免的道德衝突中,若遵守了更高的法律,神就沒有堅持他負責有幾個方法可以使我們看到這一點。[1] 根據理性分析一個人如果沒有完成不可能的事,神不會要他負責。要避免不可避免的事不可能的在同一時間內採取兩種相反的行動不可能的

Second, persons are not morally culpable if they fail to keep an obligation they could not possibly keep without breaking a higher obligation. This is evident to all, even to those who hold opposing ethical views. Clearly a person is not blameworthy for breaking a promise to meet his wife for dinner at six o’clock if he has been delayed by helping to save a life. Likewise, who would blame a man for refusing to return a gun to an angry neighbor who wants to kill his wife? In each case, the praiseworthy and exemplary conduct of keeping the higher obligation absolves one of any responsibility to the lower duty.

[2] 如果一個人要違反一個較高的義務才能夠遵守一個較低義務,那麼他不遵守這個義務亦在道德上無可責這是很明顯的,連持相反倫理觀的人也會同意。顯然,一個人若因救人一命而延誤,結果違背了他會在六點鐘妻子吃晚飯的承諾,他也不應被責備同樣,若鄰居想要殺死他的妻子,則拒絕歸還槍械給鄰居也不應被責備在這些情況下,遵守較高的義務值得稱讚的模範行為,它免除對較低義務任何責任

Third, the Bible includes many examples of persons who were praised by God for following their highest duty in situations of conflict. God commended Abraham for his willingness to sacrifice (kill) his son Isaac for God (Gen. 22; Heb. 11). Likewise, Daniel (Dan. 6) and the three Hebrew youths (Dan. 3) received divine approval for their disobedience of human government. The Hebrew midwives were blessed by God for their disobedience to the king’s command (Exod. 1). David and his men—who entered “the house of God,” asked the priest for bread, and “ate the consecrated bread” —were declared guiltless by Christ (1 Sam. 21:3-5; Matt. 12:3-4). In each case there was no divine condemnation for the moral law they did not keep; instead, there was evident divine approval. The same is true of other, similar cases in which moral commands to obey parents (Luke 2:41-49) or God-ordained authorities are concerned (e.g., Exod. 12; Acts 4-5; Rev. 13).

[3] 聖經包含了許多例子,在有衝突的情況下,跟隨最高義務的人受的稱讚。神讚揚亞伯拉罕,因他願意為了神犧牲(殺死)他的兒子以撒(創22;來11章)同樣地,但以理(但6章)和三個希伯來青少年(但3章)因不順服政府而獲神讚賞希伯來的收生婆因不服從國王的命令而獲神祝福(出1章)大衛和跟從他的人進入了「神的殿」向祭司要食物,並「吃了陳設餅」,但基督卻宣佈他們無罪(撒上21:3-512:3-4在每一種情況下,他們沒有遵守道德律,卻沒有神聖的譴責,反而有神聖的批准。在其他類似的情況下亦相同,像服從父母道德命令(路2:41-49)或服從神委派的權力(例如,出124-513章)。

Graded Absolutism Is the Right View


Therefore, in real, unavoidable moral conflicts, God does not hold a person guilty for not keeping a lower moral law so long as one keeps the higher law. God exempts one from his duty to keep the lower law since he could not keep it without breaking a higher law. This exemption functions something like an ethical right-of-way law. In many states, the law declares that when two cars simultaneously reach an intersection without signals or signs, the car on the left must yield the right of way to the car on the right. Common sense dictates that both cars cannot go through the intersection at the same time; one car must yield. Similarly, when a person enters an ethical intersection where two laws come into unavoidable conflict, it is evident that one law must yield to the other.


An Elaboration of Graded Absolutism


The most obvious and basic of all divisions or levels of duty is between the command to love God and the command to love one’s neighbor. The former always takes precedence over the latter.


Love for God over Love for Humankind


Jesus explicitly declares the commandment to love God to be the “first and greatest.” Further, he teaches (Matt. 22:36-38) that one’s love for God should be so much more than one’s love for parents that the love for the latter would look like “hate” by contrast (Luke 14:26). One implication of this is that if parents teach a child to hate God, the child must disobey the parents in order to obey God. This is true despite the fact that the Bible enjoins children to be obedient to parents in all things (Col. 3:20). The parallel passage in Ephesians (6:1) adds “in the Lord” and thus envisions a hierarchy that places filial duty on a lower level, under the duty to love and obey God.


Obey God over Government


God ordained human government and commands the Christian to “submit” to and “obey” those in authority, even if they are evil rulers (Rom. 13:1- 2; Titus 3:1). Peter goes so far as to say we should submit to “every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2:13 KJV). The attempt of some to differentiate between submission and obedience—and thus claim that Christians need only to submit to but not to obey government—fails for several reasons. First, it is plainly opposed to the spirit of the passages that enjoin Christians to follow the laws of their land. Second, the passage in 1 Peter demands submission to “every ordinance,” not merely to the consequences of disobeying an ordinance. And submission to a law is obedience. Third, the word submission as used in the New Testament implies obedience. It was, for example, what slaves were to do toward their masters (Col. 3:22). Finally, the words submission and obedience are used in parallel in Titus (3:1); thus Christians are told “to obey” governmental authorities.

神制定人的政府也命令的基督徒「順服」「從命」於掌權者即使他們是邪惡的統治者(羅13:1- 23:1彼得甚至說我們應該「為主的緣故要順服人的一切制度」(彼前2:13一些人企圖區分「順服」「從命」聲稱我們單單需要「順服」但一定需要「從命」但這嘗試有幾個失敗理由[1] 這嘗試顯然是違反這幾段聖經的精神,就是吩咐基督徒要服從國家法律。[2] 彼得前書一段要求順服每一條條例不單只說及不服從條例的後果順服法律就是從命[3] 順服」這個詞用在新約內意味著服從,它形容奴隸們如何對待他們的主人(西3:22)。[4] 順服從命」兩個詞在提多書(3:1是同義的,因此基督徒被吩咐去「服從」政府的權力。

It is clear that God commands Christians to obey government. Hence, when disobedience to government is approved by God, it is clearly in view of a higher moral law. Several biblical instances illustrate this point. First, worship of God is higher than any command of government (Dan. 3). Second, no governmental law against private prayer should be obeyed (Dan. 6). Further, if a government commands a believer not to preach the gospel (Acts 4-5), or if it decrees participation in idolatry (Dan. 3) or even the murder of innocent victims (Exod. 1), it should not be obeyed. In each case the moral obligation to pray, worship God, preach the gospel, and so forth is a higher duty than the one to obey government.

神明顯地命令基督徒服從政府。因此,當批准人不服從政府的時候,是明顯地有更高的道德法則聖經中的幾個實例說明了這一點。[1] 崇拜高於任何政府(但3章)。[2] 禁止私人祈禱政府命令不應服從(但6章)。[3] 如果政府命令信徒不傳福音(徒4-5章),或者下令參與偶像崇拜(但3章)或者謀殺無辜受害者(出1章),則不應該服從。在每一種情況下,包括禱告、敬拜神、傳福音等等道德義務,都比服從政府的責任更高

Mercy over Veracity


There is no question that the Bible commands Christians to not “give false testimony” (Exod. 20:16). We are also told to “put off falsehood and speak truthfully to ... [our] neighbor” (Eph. 4:25). Indeed, deception and lying are repeatedly condemned in Scripture (see Prov. 12:22; 19:5). On the other hand, the Bible indicates that there are occasions when intentionally falsifying (lying) is justifiable. Rahab intentionally deceived to save the lives of Israel’s spies and was immortalized in the spiritual hall of fame (Heb. 11). Nowhere does the Bible condemn Rahab for this deception; second, her falsehood was an integral part of the act of mercy she showed in saving the spies’ lives; third, the Bible says, “Rahab ... shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent” (Josh. 6:17). But the real concealment was accomplished by deceiving the authorities at her door. God blessed her because of the deception, not in spite of it. Hence, her “lie” was an integral part of her faith, for which God commended her (Heb. 11:31; James 2:25).

毫無疑問,聖經命令基督徒不要「作虛假證供」(出20:16我們也要「棄絕謊言,各人與鄰舍說實話」(弗4:25)。事實上,聖經多次重覆譴責欺騙和謊言(見箴12:2219:5)。另一方面,聖經表明在某些情況下故意偽造(說謊)是無可非議的。喇合故意瞞騙來拯救以色列的生命,她成為屬靈偉人堂一份子被永遠紀念(來11章)。[1] 聖經沒有任何一個地方譴責喇合瞞騙行動;[2] 她拯救探子生命的謊言是憐憫的行為一個不可分割的一部分;[3] 聖經說:「只有妓女喇合可以存活因為她隱藏了我們所打發的使者。」(書6:17)但真正的隱藏行動是透過她在家門口瞞騙政府。神祝福因為她瞞騙,並非儘管她作瞞騙因此,她的「謊言」她的信心不可分割的一部分,而神為此讚揚她(來11:31;雅2:25)。

In the story of the Hebrew midwives we have an even clearer case of divinely approved lying to save a life. For Scripture says, “God dealt well with the midwives; and ... he gave them families” (Exod. 1:20-21 RSV). Nowhere in the text does God ever say they were blessed only for their mercy and in spite of their lie. Indeed, the lie was part of the mercy shown. For mercy sometimes supersedes justice (James 2:13).


It should not be surprising that mercy is considered to be higher than truth. Common sense dictates that Corrie ten Boom’s acts of mercy to the Jews, which involved lying to the Nazis, were not evil but good. Indeed, those who say that one should not lie to save a life are inconsistent, for they leave their lights on when they are away from home. This is an intentional deception to save their property. Why not do the same to save a life? Is not a life worth more than a lamp? Are not persons more valuable than property? Why lie to save jewels but refuse to lie to save Jews?

憐憫被認為是高於真話這是不足為奇的。常識表明般瑪(Corrie ten Boom)憐憫猶太人的行為(其中涉及瞞騙納粹份子)的而不是惡的行為事實上,認為不應該說謊去拯救生命不一致的因為當他們遠離房子卻仍開著燈,就是用一種有意的欺騙手段來保護他們的財產為什麼不能做相同的事去拯救生命呢?人命價值不是超過一盞燈嗎?人不是比財產更有價值嗎?為什麼以欺騙去保全珠寶,卻拒絕說謊去拯救猶太人呢?

There are other biblical examples of graded absolutism, but these will suffice to illustrate that there are “weightier matters” of the law and greater and lesser commands of God. It is the Christian’s obligation in every morally conflicting situation to search Scripture for an answer. One who does not know what to do in certain situations should heed Jesus’ words: “You are mistaken, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29 NEB).


Objections to Graded Absolutism


Like all other views, graded absolutism is subject to evaluation, both positive and negative. A number of objections have been raised against this kind of graded absolutism, and a brief discussion of each is now in order.


How Does Graded Absolutism Differ from Situationism?


First, Joseph Fletcher’s situationism (see chapter 3) does not hold that there are any absolutes with substantive content; graded absolutism does. According to graded absolutism, the universal commands of Scripture such as the prohibitions against blasphemy, idolatry, adultery, murder, lying, and so forth are absolute, and these are binding on all people at all times and all places. Second, graded absolutism holds that there are more absolutes than one. Fletcher believes in one and only one absolute, and that absolute is formal and empty. Third, Fletcher believes that the situation determines what one should do in a given case; graded absolutism holds that situational factors only help one to discover what God has determined that we should do. The situation does not fill an empty absolute with content and thereby determine what one should do. Rather, the situational factors merely help one discover which command of God is applicable to that particular case.

[1] 弗萊查(Joseph Fletcher)的處境主義不認為有任何帶實質性內容的絕對規範,但等級絕對主義卻接受有絕對規範。根據等級絕對主義,聖經中普遍的命令,如禁止褻瀆、拜偶像、姦淫、謀殺、說謊等等都是絕對的,而這些對所有人在所有時間及所有地方都具有約束力。[2] 等級絕對主義認為有不止一個的絕對規範;而弗萊查則認為,只有一個絕對規範,而絕對規範是形式的和沒有內容的。[3] 弗萊查認為,在每個情況下處境決定了一個人要如何作。等級絕對主義則認為處境因素只能幫助人去發現神我們怎樣;處境並不會為空的絕對規範填補內容,從而確定人應該怎樣;相反地,處境因素只不過幫助人發現哪一個的命令適用於該具體情況

Do Graded Absolutism and Situationism Agree in Practice?


This question suggests that the two views differ only in theory but not in practice. This criticism, however, is unfounded. First, even if the two views agreed on given courses of action, nevertheless the reasons for that accord would be quite different. Hence, the similarities are only accidental and not essential. Fletcher concludes that something is right or wrong because the “existential particularities” of the situation determine it. Graded absolutism, on the other hand, concludes that something is right or wrong because God has declared it so. Second, there are numerous and significant differences in conclusion between situationism and graded absolutism. For example, in contrast to Fletcher, graded absolutism does not approve of mate-swapping, adultery to get out of prison, blasphemy, abortion of unwanted babies, harlotry to teach maturity, premarital intercourse, or a host of other sins. In belief, whether in principle or practice, any relation to situationism is purely coincidental. Indeed, the same accidental similarities could be drawn between most other views and situationism.

這個問題好像認為,兩種觀點在理論上可能不同,但在實踐中卻相同;但是,這個批評是沒有根據的。[1] 即使這兩種觀點在某種情形下有相同行動,但原因卻完全不同;因此,相似之處是偶然的,而不是基本的。弗萊查的結論是,行動對或錯是取決於處境的「存在特殊性」。另一方面,等級絕對主義卻認為行動對或錯基於神的宣告[2] 處境主義和等級絕對主義的結論有很多顯著差異;例如,有別於弗萊查,等級絕對主義不贊成交換配偶、以通姦來逃離囚禁、褻瀆、棄嬰的墮胎、以娼妓來教導成熟、婚前性行為、或其他很多不同罪;在信仰上,無論在原則上或實踐上任何與處境主義關係全都純屬巧合。事實上,同樣的意外相似性也在處境主義和其他觀點之間出現。[譯者註:上述實際例子在書中另一章論述。]

Is Graded Absolutism a Form of Subjectivism?


Doesn’t each person have to decide for oneself what is the greatest good? And doesn’t this amount to subjectivism? In response, two things should be recognized. First, if someone makes up one’s own hierarchy of values based on one’s own subjective choices, then this is subjectivism. But this is emphatically not what Christian graded absolutism holds. Second, in graded absolutism, Christians do not decide for themselves what the ethical priorities are. God establishes the pyramid of values in accordance with his own nature. These are recorded in Scripture, and hence they are no more subjective than anything else revealed in Scripture (see chapter 8). The priority of values is objective and determined by God; the only subjective factor is our understanding and acceptance of God’s values. But this is a limitation shared by the other Christian views as well.


每個人是否要自己決定什麼是最大的善?這不等於主觀主義嗎?有兩件點可以對這問題作為回應[1] 主觀主義就是個人根據主觀選擇決定自己對各種價值的等級排列這絕對不是基督教等級絕對主義觀點[2] 在等級絕對主義中,基督徒不能自己決定什麼是道德的先決神按照自己的本性建立了價值的金字塔;這些都記錄在聖經內,因此它們並不比聖經內任何事項更主觀價值的先決客觀的是由神決定的,唯一的主觀因素我們對神的價值觀的理解和接受;但這個限制其他基督徒共有的。


In What Sense Is Graded Absolutism an Absolutism?


If obedience to lower commands is sometimes unnecessary, then in what sense is it proper to call this view an absolutism? In response to this question, two things should be observed. To begin with, there are three ways in which graded absolutism involves absolutes. First, it is absolute in its source. All norms are based in the absoluteness of God. God does not change, and principles based on his nature are likewise unchanging. Furthermore, each particular command is absolute in its sphere. Each moral law is absolute as such. It is only when there is a conflict between two of them that appeal must be made to the higher in order to resolve the conflict. Finally, it is absolute in its order of priority. The very gradation of values by which the conflicts are resolved is absolute. For example, it is absolutely established by God that in an unavoidable conflict between God and parent, one must put God first.

如果有時可以不服從較低的命令,那麼在何種意義上可以形容這個觀點為絕對主義呢?有兩點可以回答這個問題[1] 等級絕對主義的規範在三方面絕對的。[a] 規範的來源絕對的所有規範都基於神的絕對性,神是不改變的,基於祂的本原則同樣不改變[b] 每一個個別命令在其領域中是絕對的;每個道德律都是絕對的。唯獨當兩個道德律發生衝突時,則要上訴至較高的規範來解決衝突[c] 規範的優先次序絕對的。解決衝突時價值觀的排列是絕對的;例如,神的絕對命令是,當不可避免的衝突涉及神和父母之間時必須把神放在第一

Second, there surely is a sense in which graded absolutism is not an unqualified absolutism (see chapter 5). Graded absolutism may be called qualified absolutism or contextual absolutism, as some do call it. However, it is still proper to designate it as a form of absolutism because it does maintain, in contrast to situationism, that moral laws are absolute in their source, in their sphere as such, and in their order of priority.

[2] 無疑地,等級絕對主義和「無條件絕對主義」不同;等級絕對主義可以被稱為「有條件絕對主義」場合絕對主義」。但是,形容它為絕對主義仍正確的因為它保持規範來源的絕對性在其領域內的絕對性,和優先次序的絕對性,跟處境主義不同

If God Is One, How Can There Be Many Moral Laws?


If God is one in essence, then how can there be many moral laws based on his nature? The response is quite simple: God is one in nature, but he has many moral attributes. Each absolute moral law is traceable to one of God’s unchangeable moral attributes. Each of these is absolute insofar as it reflects his nature, but there are many of them. Just as the many radii of a circle are based in and spring out of the one center, even so God’s many moral characteristics are rooted in his one essence. For example, God is unchanging love, and he is also immutably holy. Love and holiness are two different moral attributes, but they are both true of God’s one essence. Just as a rock has many attributes (like round, solid, and gray) but yet is one, so also God is one with many attributes.


Is There a Hierarchy within God?


If there is a gradation of moral principles that are based on God’s moral nature, then is there a hierarchy within God? By way of response, two things can be observed. First, there is no hierarchy within God’s essence. God is absolutely one in essence, and any form of hierarchy implies two or more things. So whatever ordering of values there may be would have to be within his attributes, not his essence. For example, mercy as an attribute of God could take priority over justice when two moral principles based on them come into an unavoidable conflict (James 2:13).

如果道德原則的等級排列是基於神的道德本性那麼本身內有沒有等級結構呢?有兩點可作回應[1] 的本質內沒有等級。神在本質上是絕對的,任何形式的等級暗示著有兩個或以上的事物;所以,任何價值排列必定在的屬性之內而不是的本質例如,當兩個基於神的屬性道德原則發生不可避免的衝突時,神憐憫屬性可以優先於公義的屬性(雅2:13

Second, it is not necessary to graded absolutism that there be a hierarchy in God’s attributes. The hierarchy may be only in God’s laws based on those attributes. Thus the priority may be not on the basis of the values but on their expression in moral laws. So the real hierarchy may be not in God’s attributes but in the application of his attributes to his creatures. For example, light is one, yet when it passes through a prism, it is manifest in a whole array of colors from higher to lower wavelengths. In like manner, all the many moral attributes are one in God, but as they pass through the prism of the finite world, they diffuse into many laws, ranging from higher to lower. In any case, graded absolutism does not need the hierarchy to be in God but simply to be revealed by God and reflect the attributes of God.

[2] 等級絕對主義沒有必要建基於神的屬性有等級;等級可能只存在於屬性所帶來的神的法律中。因此,優先權可能不基於價值,而是基於道德律的表達;所以,真正的等級可能不在神的屬性中,而在由祂的屬性帶來於祂的受造物中的應用例如,光只有一種當它通過一個棱鏡,它就顯現為一整列有高低頻度的顏色。同樣地,所有各種道德屬性在神裏面都是一個但是當它們穿過這有限世界棱鏡它們就擴散為許多有高低等級法律。無論如何,等級絕對主義不需要神裏面有分等級只需要由神所啟也反映的屬性。

Did Jesus Face Real Moral Conflicts?


The Bible teaches that Jesus was tempted in all points as we are and that he is our complete moral example. Certainly there would be something lacking in the basis for Christian ethics if the model of our morality did not face the most difficult kinds of situations that we his followers face. Yes, Jesus faced real moral conflicts without ever sinning (Heb. 4:15). Specific examples in Jesus’ life are the moral conflicts between obedience toward parents and God (Luke 2), Sabbath regulations and healing (Mark 2), and government and God (Matt. 22). But the greatest conflict Christ faced—the conflict of the cross—is often overlooked. Here he was squeezed between the demands of justice for the innocent (himself) and mercy for humankind (the guilty). He chose mercy for the many over justice for the one. This conflict was without question the greatest ever faced by any human being, and it dramatizes the supremacy of mercy over justice in unavoidable moral conflicts.


Do We Create Our Own Moral Conflicts?


Are not our moral dilemmas of our own making, and therefore shouldn’t we be held responsible for them rather than being exempted from them by some “greater good”? Two things should be pointed out in response. First, it is true that we do sometimes create our own conflicts, and in those cases we are guilty. If we make our moral bed, then we must lie in it. Many moral conflicts can be avoided, and when they are not, we are responsible for the resulting dilemma.

我們所遇到的道德困境不就是我們自己造成的嗎?因此我們豈不應對它們負責,而不應利用「較大善」為藉口而獲豁免嗎?有兩點可作回應。[1] 不錯我們有時會創造我們自己的衝突,在這種情況下,我們是有罪。如果我們整理自己道德的床,當然應該躺上去許多道德衝突是可以避免的,當它們不可避免時我們就要對所造成的困境負責

Second, while some moral conflicts are avoidable, it is a mistake to suppose that all of them are a result of prior personal sins. Sometimes it is actually one’s virtue that precipitates a moral conflict. This was true of the Hebrew midwives (Exod. I), the three Hebrew youths (Dan. 3), and Daniel (Dan. 6). On other occasions it is neither one’s sin nor righteousness that occasions the moral conflict. For example, an abortion to save a mother’s life or a crisis caused by too many people in a lifeboat is not usually the result of the prior sins of the individuals involved. It is to these kinds of personally unavoidable conflicts that graded absolutism is addressed. And both Scripture and human experience provide significant and numerous examples of these real but unavoidable conflicts.

[2] 雖然一些道德衝突是可以避免的,但是,設想所有衝突都是前的個人罪惡所造成是錯的。有時,道德衝突實際上是一個人的美德的結果希伯來收生婆(出1章)、三個希伯來青少年(但3章)和但以理(但6章)就是這類例子。在其他場合,道德衝突的出現不是因為一個人的罪惡或美德例如,墮胎挽救母親的生命或過多人在同一只救生艇上所造成危機這些通常不是個人罪惡所造成。等級絕對主義正是為了這些個人道德衝突所設聖經和人類的經驗都為這些真實的而不可避免的衝突提供了很多重要的實例

How Can a Lesser Evil Ever Be the Good Thing to Do?


Is not graded absolutism nothing more than pronouncing evil good, which the prophet forbade (Isa. 5:20)? This question confuses graded absolutism with conflicting absolutism. The latter believes that the right thing to do in unavoidable moral conflicts is a lesser evil, but graded absolutism believes we should do the greater good. The graded absolutist does not proclaim that the evil is a good thing to do, but rather that the highest obligation in the conflict is the good thing to do. For example, in falsifying to save a life, it is not the falsehood that is good (a lie as such is always wrong), but it is the act of mercy to save a life that is good—despite the fact that intentional falsification was necessary to accomplish this good. In other words, it is unfortunately true that what is called “evil” sometimes accompanies the performance of good acts. In these cases God does not consider a person culpable for the concomitant regrettable act in view of the performance of the greater good.


In this respect, graded absolutism is similar to the principle of double effect, which states that when two results—a good result and an evil result—emerge from one act, the individual is held responsible only for the intended good result and not the evil result that necessarily resulted from the good intention. For example, a doctor who amputates to save a life is not morally culpable for maiming but is to be morally praised for saving a life.


Is Graded Absolutism Really Utilitarianism?


Isn’t doing the greatest good what utilitarianism holds? How does graded absolutism differ from it? There is a basic difference between graded absolutism and utilitarianism. First, utilitarianism is a teleological (end-centered) ethic, but graded absolutism is a deontological (duty-centered) ethic (see chapter 1). When graded absolutists speak of “greater good,” they do not mean greater results but the higher rule. They are not referring to a higher end but a higher norm. Furthermore, the basis for their action is not future consequences (the long run) but present commands (the short run). Yet any ethic is obliged to consider the possible results of actions, but this does not make them utilitarian (see chapter 4). But graded absolutism, in contrast to utilitarianism, holds that following the moral rules that God has established will bring about the best results. It does not believe that human calculation of the best results will determine what the best rules should be. We keep the rules and leave the long-range consequences to God. Third, graded absolutism has many absolute norms; utilitarianism has no absolute terms.

作最大的善行不是功利主義的主張嗎?等級絕對主義和它有何不同呢?等級絕對主義功利主義實際上有基本的區別[1] 功利主義是一種目的論(以結果為中心)倫理,但等級絕對主義卻一種義務論(以義務為中心)倫理當等級絕對主義者講及「較大的善行」時他們不是指較大的後果,而是指較高的規則;他們不是指較高結果,而是指較高的規範。[2] 等級絕對主義者行動的基礎並非未來的後果(從長期看),而是目前的命令(短期內)然而,任何倫理有義務考慮行動可能帶來的結果,但是這並不能說他們就是功利主義。跟功利主義不同的,等級絕對主義認為跟隨神所確立的道德準則會帶來最好的結果但它不相信用人類對最好結果的計算來決定什麼是最好的規則我們遵守規則,將長期後果保留給神。[3] 等級絕對主義有很多絕對規範功利主義卻沒有絕對的觀念。

How Do Exemptions Differ from Exceptions?


Graded absolutism does not believe there are any exceptions to absolute laws, only exemptions (see chapter 1). But is not this merely a semantic difference rather than a real one? No, the difference is more than verbal. First, an exception would violate the universality and absoluteness of a moral law, whereas an exemption does not. If there is an exception, then the law is not absolute and hence does not reflect the nature of God but at best describes only what is generally the right course of action. Absolute norms, on the contrary, are based on God’s unchanging nature and have no exceptions. If they did, it would be much like saying that God is truthful or loving only at certain times but not at other times.

等級絕對主義不相信絕對的道德律有任何例外,但卻有豁免。但是這是否只是一種語義差異,而實際卻沒有差異呢?不是的,差異不單是名稱上的。[1] 一個例外可破壞道德律的普遍性和絕對性但豁免卻沒有違反如果有例外那麼法律不是絕對的,結果是它不反映神的本,最多只能是大置上正確的行動相反地,絕對規範基於神不變的沒有例外如果它們有例外,就好像說神是誠實的或愛人的,但只在某些時間這樣而不在其他時間。

Second, an exception means that lying as such is sometimes right. Not so with an exemption. Lying as such is always wrong; it is only the lifesaving activity for which the falsehood may be a necessary concomitant that is good, not the lie as such. Third, in an exception, the general rule is not binding on that particular case, and so there is no real conflict. However, when there is an exemption from following a universal law, the law is still binding; this is what makes the conflict real. For instance, the law of filial piety is still binding on the child who refuses to obey the parents’ command to worship an idol; that is precisely what makes the conflict so real.

[2] 例外意思就是說謊有時是對的但豁免卻不一樣。說謊一定錯的救人生命的行動是的,謊話只不過是跟隨這行動所必須的,故說謊在當時仍不的。[3] 在例外情況中,一般規則沒有約束力所以真正的衝突不存在然而,在豁免情況中,雖然沒有遵循普遍法律,但法律仍然有約束力衝突真確的;例如,孩子雖然拒絕服從父母命令他去崇拜偶像,但孝順的法律仍然有約束力這正使衝突如此真確

Finally, an exemption only eliminates the individual’s culpability in not performing the demands of that lower law; it in no way changes either the basis or the nature of the law as an absolute in its domain. An exception, on the other hand, would prove that the law is not absolute. The difference between an exemption and an exception can be illustrated as follows. Whoever kills another human being in self-defense is exempt from guilt (Exod. 22:2). Yet there is no exception made to the law, which requires us to always treat another person—even a would-be murderer—as a human with God-given value. There is never a moment when the murderer ceases to be human. If there were, then there would be a legitimate exception to the law of demanding respect for humans. However, despite the fact that a would-be murderer is always human and that the law to treat that person as human still stands, the potential victim is exempt from the moral consequences of disobeying this law in view of the overriding value of defending one’s own innocent life.

[4] 當一個人不履行較低法律的要求,豁免單單排除了行動可責備性,但卻絕對沒有改變法律的基礎或性質,它在其領域中仍絕對的另一方面,例外卻証明法律不是絕對的豁免例外的區別可以用下面例子說明一個人若自衛而殺人,他的罪責就獲豁免(出22:2)。但這裏並沒有法律的例外法律要求我們對待別人,要以他為一個有賦予價值的人類,甚至是一個將殺人的謀殺者然而,儘管一個將殺人的謀殺者仍一個人,而對待他為一個人法律仍然有效但潛在的受害者卻可獲豁免,不需為違反這法律的道德後果負責,因為有一個更高的價值,就是保衛自己無辜的生命。

How Can Conflicts Be Real Yet Resolvable?


This question wrongly assumes that a conflict is not real if it is resolvable. But this overlooks several things. First, if this were so, then any conflict that is ultimately resolved would turn out to be only apparent or illusory. But surely no biblical theist would seriously hold that the conflict between good and evil is not real simply because it will be resolved in the eschaton (end). Nor does the fact that one triumphs over temptation make the sin’s allurement unreal, for this would make Christ’s temptation unreal.

這個問題錯誤地假設,以為可以被解決的衝突就不是真實的衝突但是,這說法忽略了下列幾點。[1] 如果這說法是對的話,那麼任何最終能解決衝突都會變成了表面的虛幻的。但明顯地沒有一個相信聖經的人會認真地認為善與惡之間的衝突不是真實的,因為它將會在世界終局時被解決;也不能說一個人勝過引誘就表示罪惡的誘惑並不真實,否則基督的試探便真實的。

Second, to claim that a conflict is not real because it is resolvable is justification by stipulation. It is simply a decree by definition. If we stipulate that whatever is resolved is not a real conflict, then this question seems pointless. Moral conflict can be real and unavoidable and yet be capable of a final resolution, with the lower norm yielding to the higher norm.

[2] 斷言能被解決的衝突不是真實的衝突,這是以強硬堅持為合理,它只是一個法令式的定義如果我們堅持說,能被解決的問題不是真實的衝突,那麼討論也是無意義的。道德衝突可以是真實的不可避免的,但仍能獲最終解決,就是較低的規範向較高的規範讓步。

Third, the conflict is real because it is unavoidable, but it is not irresolvable, because in such a case we are exempt from obedience to the lower command. The conflict is real because neither law “backed down”: both continued to be binding even though one was more binding than the other. Thus God’s absolute nature does not change simply because finite and fallible humans find themselves in unavoidable moral conflicts. But in moral conflicts God’s justice provides a way out of the dilemma, since the conflict was not of our making.

[3] 衝突是真實的,因為它是不可避免的,但不是不能解決的,因為在這樣的情況下,我們被豁免服從較低命令。衝突是真實的,因為兩個法律都沒有退縮:兩個法律繼續具有約束力,雖然一個比另一個更具約束力因此,雖然有限的和有錯誤的人類陷在不可避免的道德衝突中,神的絕對本性仍然不會改變但在道德衝突中,神的公義提供了一個擺脫困境的出路因為衝突不是我們造出來的。

How Can a Moral Law Be Absolute Yet Not Obeyed?


It seems contradictory to claim that a moral principle is absolute when it can sometimes be broken. For what has exceptions is not universal, and what is broken is not absolute.


In response to this criticism, several things can be said in defense of graded absolutism. First, the lower command is not really broken when the higher command is followed. Just as a magnet does not break the law of gravity in attracting a nail, killing in self-defense does not violate the law of respect and preservation of human beings. The overriding duty to keep the higher law simply renders it unnecessary for us to perform the demands of the lesser command.

有幾點可以對這一批評作反應,藉此維護等級絕對主義。[1] 跟隨較高的命令並不等於較低的命令被違反就像一塊磁石吸引釘子時沒有違反地心吸力,為自衛殺人沒有違反尊重和保護人類的法律壓倒性的責任是遵守更高的法律,它使我們無須執行較低命令的要求

Second, as was already noted, there are no exceptions to absolute moral laws, only exemptions from obeying them in view of higher laws. So a law’s universality is not contradicted by an exemption.

[2] 上面已經指出,絕對的道德法律沒有例外,只有豁免因較高的法律而不須服從較低的法律因此,豁免沒有抗辯法律的普遍性

Third, the command remains absolute even when it is not followed, for its absoluteness is based in the nature of God, which does not change. The nature of truth does not change when humans tell justifiable falsehoods in order to save innocent lives. If the real conflict is between truthfulness and mercifulness, both of which are grounded in God’s nature, then there is no conflict between these in the nature of God. God is one, and all his attributes are harmonious. The real conflict is that on some occasions a human being cannot perform both. In these cases God withholds culpability from the human who shows mercy to the innocent rather than telling the truth to the guilty. But this in no way means that both commands are not binding at all times: God never ceases to manifest absolutely what is absolutely right. However, in unavoidable clashes, God does not demand obedience to lower laws, nor amid such clashes does God charge humans with personal culpability for failing to obey a lower law.

[3] 即使命令沒有獲得遵守它仍是絕對的,因為它的絕對性基於不改變的本當人說合理謊言去挽救無辜的生命時真理的本質仍沒有改變如果真正的衝突發生在誠實憐憫之間,因兩者都是基於神的,故此神的性沒有衝突;神是一位,祂所有屬性都是和諧的。真正的衝突是,在一些場合中人不能同時執行兩者在這種情況下,神不將罪責加給人,因人對無辜者顯出憐憫而不向有罪者說真話這並不表示兩個命令沒有在所有時間都有約束力,神從來沒有停止絕對地表明什麼是絕對正確的。但是,在不可避免的衝突中,神並沒有要求服從較低的法律神也沒有在這樣的衝突中,責備人未能遵守較低的法律而要個人負責

How Can Lying Flow from the Nature of God as Truth?


If all moral laws are rooted in God, then how can lying ever be right, since God is absolute truth? Quite simply, the answer to this is that lying as such does not flow from God’s nature. A lie can never be justified by an appeal to him who is truth. However, though lying as such is never justified, lying to save a life is. But “lying to save a life” is really an act of mercy, and love is an attribute of God (1 John 4:16). Cutting off a human leg as such is not right either; it is called mutilation. But cutting off a leg to save a life is right: it is called amputation. Second, God is both loving and true. So even though lying to save a life cannot be based in God as true, it still can be based in God as merciful. Lifesaving is an act of love, even if deception is necessary to accomplish it. Graded absolutism holds that when truth and mercy conflict, the necessary act of mercy (in this case, lying) finds its basis in God’s nature as love. Hence, justifiable lies are based not in God’s truthfulness but in his love.

如果所有道德律植根於神,而絕對真理,又如何能以說謊為對的呢?[1] 答案很簡單,說謊並非源於神的本性謊言永不能訴諸於真理的神;不過,雖然說謊永不會合理的,為了挽救一個生命說謊卻合理的但是,「為了挽救生命說謊」實際上一個憐憫的行為,而愛是神屬性(約壹4:16)。切斷一個人的腿是不對的,它稱為斷肢;但為了挽救一個生命而切斷腿的,它稱為切肢手術[2] 是愛和真實的因此,雖然以說謊挽救一個生命不能基於真理的神,它仍然可以基於憐憫的神;挽救生命一種愛的行為即使它需要用瞞騙去完成。等級絕對主義認為當誠實憐憫衝突時憐憫的行為(在這裏說謊)必要的,它基於神的本性,就是愛。因此,合理的謊言不是基於神真實性,卻是基於祂的愛。

Doesn’t Graded Absolutism Deny Total Depravity?


This objection assumes that sin is unavoidable for fallen human beings. Hence, unavoidable moral dilemmas are merely an extension of our depraved condition. But for several reasons, this is a misunderstanding of depravity.


First, total depravity does not mean that sin is unavoidable. This would contradict 1 Corinthians 10:13, which states that in every temptation there is always a “way of escape” (RSV). Depravity means that it is inevitable that fallen humans will sin but not that it is necessary that they sin.

[1] 全然墮落並不表示罪是不可避免的;否則這就否認了哥林多前書10:13,這節說在每一個試探中,必定有「一條出路」。墮落意思是已墮落的人類不可避免會犯罪,但不表示犯罪必要的

Second, sin may be unavoidable by fallen humans on their own, but all sin is avoidable by God’s grace. That is, what we ought to do, we can do, by God’s grace.

[2] 已墮落的可能以自己的力量避免犯罪但靠著神的恩典犯罪可以避免的意思是,我們應該做的事,我們可以靠著的恩典做得到

Third, to insist that sin is inescapable is to negate human responsibility. God is rational and moral, but it is neither rational nor moral to blame someone for doing something they could not avoid.

[3] 堅持說罪不可避免的,就是否定人類的責任;神是理性的和道德的怪責別人做一些他們無法避免的事,是不理性不道德的。

Fourth, responsibility implies the ability to respond. And culpability implies avoidability. Depravity does not make sin unavoidable. If it did, then depravity would destroy humans’ ability to sin and would destroy God’s ability to hold humans accountable for their sin.

[4] 責任意味著有反應能力罪責則意味著可避免性。墮落並不等於罪惡無可避免的如果這樣墮落就毀滅了人類避免犯罪能力,那樣,它也毀滅了神要人類向罪惡負責能力

Does Graded Absolutism Involve a Contradiction?


It is charged that graded absolutism involves a contradiction because it holds that two opposing courses of action should be done at the same time. But the law of noncontradiction says it is impossible to do opposites at the same time.


First, this is a misstatement of the law of noncontradiction. To be contradictory, the two opposing commands would have to be binding at the same time and in the same sense. But according to graded absolutism, the commands are not binding in the same sense: one is binding in a higher sense.

[1] 這樣說明無矛盾定律是一個錯誤。要出現矛盾兩個對立的命令必須在同一時間內同一意義內有約束力但根據等級絕對主義,命令並沒有在同一意義內有約束力:兩者之一在較高意義內有約束力

Second, this criticism is a misunderstanding of graded absolutism. It does not hold that one can do opposites at the same time and in the same sense, but only that one ought to do both as such. God certainly knows that we cannot actually do opposites, so he exempts us from doing the lower duty, even though we ought to do it. It thus is still binding on us even when we cannot do it because of our higher obligation. But since it is binding only in a lower sense, our obligation is to follow the greater duty.

[2] 這種批評是對等級絕對主義誤解。這主義沒有認為一個人可以在同一時間內和同一意義內做兩個對立的行動,而是認為在理論需兩個都做神當然知道,我們實際上不能做兩個對立的行動所以祂豁免我們做較低的責任,即使這也我們應該做;雖然我們因為較高的義務而不能去做它對我們仍然具有約束力;但因為它是在較低意義上有約束力我們的義務就是遵循較高的責任

Does Graded Absolutism Undermine the Truthfulness of Scripture?


According to graded absolutism, it is sometimes justifiable to lie to save a life for a greater good. The redemption of human beings is a greater good. From this it would appear to follow that God could lie in Scripture in order to get people saved.


First, moral conflicts arise only in a finite/fallen world, but God is not part of such a world. The Bible says, “It is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18; cf. Titus 1:2). So God could not lie even if he wanted to, and he does not want to do so. Also, his “word is truth” (John 17:17), and there is no error in truth. What is more, a lie is contrary to fact, and it is impossible for God to act contrary to fact. For in his omniscience, God knows what the facts are, and he can’t speak contrary to what he knows. Thus, God cannot lie or utter falsehood. Finally, if the Bible could contain divinely expressed falsehoods (for a good end), it would undermine assurance in anything God said. But God assures us that his Word is trustworthy (2 Tim. 2:13; 3:16-17). In fact, we would have no way to know that it is false, since we have no higher standard than God’s revelation by which we could test it for falsehood. In his revelation, God adapts to human finitude, but he never accommodates to human error. In summation, graded absolutism does not undermine the truthfulness of Scripture.

[1] 道德衝突僅僅發生在一個有限的墮落的世界,但不屬於這個世界聖經說:「神決不能(沒有可能)說謊。」(來6:18;比對多1:2)所以,即使神想說謊也不能,祂也不想這樣做。[2] 的「道就是真理」(約17:17),而真理不會有錯誤。再者,謊言與事實相反,神的行為不可能與事實相反;因為無所不知,知道什麼是事實,而不會與知道相反,故此神不能說謊[3] 如果聖經包含神發出謊言(就算為了好的結果就使任何保証有疑問;但神向我們保証,祂的話語是值得信賴(提後2:133:16-17事實上,我們也沒有辦法知道它是假的,因為對於神的啟示我們沒有更高的標準可以測試它是否謬誤。在的啟示中,對人類的有限性作適應從未容納人為錯誤。總而言之,等級絕對主義不會破壞聖經的真確性。

The Values of Graded Absolutism


There are a number of values of graded absolutism. Each value emerges from the foregoing discussion.


It Avoids Relativism


In contrast to antinomianism, situationism, and generalism (see chaps. 2-4), graded absolutism avoids the pitfalls of relativism. It stands firmly on moral principles based in the absolute, unchanging character of God. These moral principles are absolute in their source, absolute in their sphere, and absolute in their order of priority. They are objective, propositional, and substantive in content. God’s moral laws are specific and known in advance of the situation. Furthermore, there are no exceptions to them as such; they apply to all people in all places and all times.


It Successfully Answers Moral Conflicts


Another value of graded absolutism, in contrast to unqualified and conflicting absolutism, is that it gives a realistic and successful answer to the problem of moral conflicts. It neither closes its eyes to their reality nor blames an individual because of their unavoidability. It looks squarely at the total moral circumstance and acts responsibly, without forsaking the absolute nature of moral principles. It avoids both legalism and antinomianism. It acts courageously but not recklessly.


It Makes Sense of the Cross


Apart from graded absolutism, it is difficult to make moral sense of the cross. From the standpoint of non-conflicting absolutism, the cross is a moral injustice, for on the cross “the just” was punished “for the unjust” (1 Pet. 3:18 NASB; 2 Cor. 5:21). There is no moral justification for this unless there are higher and lower moral laws. In this way, mercy can take precedence over justice. The one (Christ) can suffer for the many that they may be saved (Rom. 5:6-18). But if mercy and love are not higher moral values than justice (James 2:13), then what God did to Christ, when it pleased him to “bruise” his son (cf. Isa. 53:5 RSV), was a great injustice. But God cannot be unjust. Therefore, the cross makes sense only if the demands of justice are satisfied but subordinated to the desires of mercy. Yet God can’t lie for a higher good since a lie is contrary to fact, which is impossible. Nonetheless, God can show love over mercy since it is not contrary to fact. It would actually be contrary to God’s just nature not to punish sin. This is precisely why the cross is necessary, so that God’s justice can be satisfied and his mercy released.


Summary and Conclusion


Graded absolutism is distinct from antinomianism, situationism, and generalism (chaps. 2–4) in that it believes in moral absolutes. Moral laws are absolute in their source; absolute in their own sphere, where there is no conflict; and absolute in their order of priority when there is a conflict. In contrast to non-conflicting absolutism, graded absolutism believes that there are real moral conflicts. But in distinction from conflicting absolutism, it holds that in these circumstances one is not culpable for subordinating the lower duty to the higher duty.


The essential principles of graded absolutism are these: There are many moral principles rooted in the absolute moral character of God. There are higher and lower moral duties—for example, love for God is a greater duty than love for people. These moral laws sometimes come into unavoidable moral conflict. In such conflicts we are obligated to follow the higher moral law. When we follow the higher moral law, we are not held responsible for breaking the lower law.






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SOURCE: Norman L. Geisler (2010): Christian ethics: contemporary issues and options (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), 97-115 (chapter 7).



The Historical Roots of Graded Absolutism.. 1

A)等級絕對主義的歷史根源... 1

Augustine of Hippo. 2

(一)希坡城的奧古斯丁(Augustine of Hippo... 2

Charles Hodge. 3

(二)何治(Charles Hodge... 3

Sřren Kierkegaard. 5

(三)祈克果(Sřren Kierkegaard... 5

W. David Ross. 6

(四)羅斯(W. David Ross... 6

The Essential Elements of Graded Absolutism.. 7

B)等級絕對主義的要素... 7

There Are Higher and Lower Moral Laws. 7

(一)道德律例有高低... 7

There Are Unavoidable Moral Conflicts. 10

(二)道德的衝突不可避免... 10

No Guilt Is Imputed for the Unavoidable. 13

(三)在不可避免的情形下沒有罪咎... 13

Graded Absolutism Is the Right View.. 15

(四)等級絕對主義是正確的觀點... 15

An Elaboration of Graded Absolutism.. 15

C)等級絕對主義的闡釋... 15

Love for God over Love for Humankind. 16

(一)愛重於愛人... 16

Obey God over Government 16

(二)服從神重於服從政府... 16

Mercy over Veracity. 17

(三)憐憫重於誠實... 17

Objections to Graded Absolutism.. 19

D)對等級絕對主義的反論... 19

How Does Graded Absolutism Differ from Situationism?. 19

(一)等級絕對主義如何跟處境主義不同?... 19

Do Graded Absolutism and Situationism Agree in Practice?. 20

(二)等級絕對主義與處境主義在實踐上相同嗎?... 20

Is Graded Absolutism a Form of Subjectivism?. 21

(三)等級絕對主義是否為主觀主義一種?... 21

In What Sense Is Graded Absolutism an Absolutism?. 22

(四)等級絕對主義在什麼意義上絕對主義?... 22

If God Is One, How Can There Be Many Moral Laws?. 23

(五)如果上帝只有一個,怎可能有許多道德律例?... 23

Is There a Hierarchy within God?. 23

(六)在神之內是否有等級結構?... 23

Did Jesus Face Real Moral Conflicts?. 24

(七)耶穌是否曾面對真正的道德衝突?... 24

Do We Create Our Own Moral Conflicts?. 25

(八)我們有否創造了自己的道德衝突?... 25

How Can a Lesser Evil Ever Be the Good Thing to Do?. 26

(九)兩種罪行中較輕的一種怎會是好事呢?... 26

Is Graded Absolutism Really Utilitarianism?. 27

(十)等級絕對主義是否為一種功利主義?... 27

How Do Exemptions Differ from Exceptions?. 28

(十一)豁免如何不同於例外?... 28

How Can Conflicts Be Real Yet Resolvable?. 29

(十二)真正的衝突怎可能獲得分解?... 29

How Can a Moral Law Be Absolute Yet Not Obeyed?. 31

(十三)道德律怎可能是絕對的亦是准許不服從的呢... 31

How Can Lying Flow from the Nature of God as Truth?. 32

(十四)說謊違反神的本性,怎可能成為真理呢?... 32

Doesn’t Graded Absolutism Deny Total Depravity?. 33

(十五)等級絕對主義豈不是否認人的完全墮落?... 33

Does Graded Absolutism Involve a Contradiction?. 34

(十六)等級絕對主義是否涉及矛盾?... 34

Does Graded Absolutism Undermine the Truthfulness of Scripture?. 35

(十七)等級絕對主義是否削弱了聖經的真確性?... 35

The Values of Graded Absolutism.. 36

E)等級絕對主義的益處... 36

It Avoids Relativism.. 36

(一)它避免了相對主義... 36

It Successfully Answers Moral Conflicts. 37

(二)它成功地回答道德上衝突... 37

It Makes Sense of the Cross. 37

(三)它使十字架成為合理... 37

Summary and Conclusion. 38

F)總結和結論... 38