#STRask: March 27, 2017

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Published on 03/27/2017

Alan is on a timer, and answers question about the death penalty, the Sabbath, utilitarianism, and why Jesus had to die.


Melinda : Hi there folks. This is Melinda the Enforcer. This is the STRask podcast, and I’m here this time with Alan Shlemon. Hi Alan.

Alan Shlemon: Hi.

Melinda : Do you like doing this podcast?

Alan Shlemon: It’s okay. Sometimes the questions are out from left field it feels like to me. You know, they’re questions that real people have so I feel like, man, we got to do our best to take a crack at ’em and see if we can make sense of ’em.

Melinda : Well you’ve actually debated like an entire audience on abortion, right, so...

Alan Shlemon: Right.

Melinda : One question at a time should be easy for you.

Alan Shlemon: Well, sure. The problem isn’t the amount of people asking questions, it’s the subject matter. Sometimes these questions are very varying subject matter, which makes it difficult and challenging to try and answer.

Melinda : But we don’t make you answer ones you don’t know the answer to, so...But really, it takes a lot of courage to debate an entire audience.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah.

Melinda :...on any topic, no matter how well you know it.

Alan Shlemon: Sure, sure. Well, the abortion topic is unique because it really feels like all the evidence, scientifically and philosophically, is on our side.

Melinda : Mm-hmm.

Alan Shlemon: I mean it’s really hard to find a substance of argument that makes a case against abortion that’s persuasive. I mean there are people that make cases, but at the end of the day, they all fall into one of three categories and if you understand what those three categories are, you can answer 100% of any challenge raised against the pro-life view.

Melinda : Good to know.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah.

Melinda : Couple things first. I’m at the tail end of cold. I have a cough today so excuse me if I cough, and excuse me if you can hear me sucking on my cough drop. I’m trying to get through this without coughing. Second thing is the reason Alan and Brett have been filling in is because Greg, our fearless leader, is getting some rehab right now. He’s got some compressed discs in his back and he’s been living with a lot of pain for a few years, and there’s a...

So there’s a treatment program he’s been going through to try to rehabilitate this disc and it takes six weeks. This is the third of six weeks, and so he posted that up on his Facebook today to ask for prayer and so we’re putting that out there, just asking that God uses this treatment to heal Greg and alleviate a significant, if not all, that pain.

Alan Shlemon: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I haven’t been a physical therapist for over a decade, and having experienced back pain myself, I know exactly what he’s experiencing and I know exactly how difficult it us for him to get through each day.

Melinda : Yeah, you can really see it on his face sometimes. Yeah, it’s painful to look at sometimes.

Alan Shlemon: No kidding.

Melinda : So we’d appreciate your prayer on that. And we appreciate Alan filling in for him. The STRask podcast, #STRask because that’s how you send us your question on Twitter using #STRask and then we retrieve those and pose them to our experts here, and they have four minutes or less to answer your questions. That’s not as much of a challenge for our speakers other than Greg, but it’s still pretty much of a challenge, four minutes.

Okay so let’s get going. First question comes from Chaz Bacchus: “Regarding euthanasia, how have those on death row given up their inalienable right to life as described in the preamble or have they?”

Alan Shlemon: Yeah so, that noise I hear I heard last time, too.

Melinda : I know sorry I’ll turn it off. It’s my ring app picking up motion at home.

Alan Shlemon: It’s okay. It’s funny that we started the STRask podcast last time and it happened again.

Melinda : Basically, it’s raining at home so it’s picking up that motion. See there’s my patio.

Alan Shlemon: Oh yeah, look at that.

Melinda : Go ahead.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah of course. This question makes me think, without of course having talked to the person, whether they’re to find an inconsistency in the idea that someone who’s on death row has somehow lost their right to life, and therefore we think it’s okay for us to kill them. Whereas a lot of Christians will often say well euthanasia’s wrong because they have a right to life and there’s apparently this inconsistency, I think, that they’re trying to claim that we have in our view.

But I think what’s important to understand in both the case of euthanasia and the case of a person on death row is the, I should say, moral culpability of the person who is in question as to whether they’re gonna be killed or not. In the case-

Melinda : Sorry, I would assume here in regards to euthanasia, the comparison they’re referring to involuntary euthanasia, so euthanizing somebody who has not given their consent to that.

Alan Shlemon: Right.

Melinda : Somebody who’s mentally disabled or in a coma or something like that.

Alan Shlemon: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah that would be my assumption as well.

Melinda : ’Cause in both cases, they would be involuntary.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right the person in death row is...

Melinda : is involuntary.

Alan Shlemon:...yeah, involuntary capital punishment. I don’t know of any voluntary capital punishment, but anyways. So I think the big difference between these two individuals in these two scenarios would be that in the case of a person who is potentially gonna be euthanized, they are not guilty of a crime that warrants a capital punishment. Or not that it’s capital punishment, but the fact that they’re gonna be killed.

In the case of a person on death row, they have already been found guilty of a crime they’ve committed against humanity, and so therefore they have been judged for that, and they are now on death row. I would argue it’s not a fair comparison to compare a person who is potentially gonna be killed through euthanasia with someone who’s going to be on death row.

It said something of the preamble of the...

Melinda : “Have they given up their inalienable right to life?”

Alan Shlemon: Yeah, well, I mean obviously the founding documents of the United States say that we have a right to life and that right is grounded in the creator, our creator, God, so I’m not sure...

Well, I supposed you could say, well, in the case of capital punishment, God has delegated authority to the governments to implement this form of justice.

Melinda : He’s given the sword to the state.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right. He’s given the sword to the state. Nice way to put it with alliteration. I like that. But in the case of euthanasia, no he hasn’t given us the right to just kill people who are disabled. In fact, those people are still made in God’s image as the question presumes.

Melinda : And sometimes people talk about, oh, the unbroken garment. The seamless garment argument. How can people who are pro-life in regards to the unborn be pro-capital punishment, so can you describe...

That’s kind of another comparison how we can’t take life there, but now we’re in favor of taking life in the other case.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right. Yeah, so with the case of the pro-life view, obviously we argue that it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings, and since abortion kills innocent human being, therefore we would argue abortion is immoral or wrong. And so that’s the logic of our view. People will say, “Well, but Alan, you’ll say you’re pro-life and in favor of defending life, but then you might be in favor of capital punishment, and how is this not inconsistent?”

Well I think the same problem arises in this case as it does in the case of the person asking the question for STRask, and that is, in the case of the unborn, they are innocent. That’s why I make the clarification in the premise it is wrong to kill innocent human beings. And in the case of a person who has committed a crime, they are not innocent. In fact, it’s the opposite. They are guilty; that’s why they’re being punished.

Melinda : Innocent is the key word in that premise. It’s not wrong to kill human beings necessarily, it’s wrong to kill innocent human beings.

Alan Shlemon: Right, right. That’s right.

Melinda : Okay, so those analogies don’t carry through.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right.

Melinda : Okay, next question comes from FixYourEyes1: “Are new covenant Christians required to obey the Sabbath, not specifically Sunday, but the Lord’s day? Do we have to obey the fourth commandment?”

Alan Shlemon: Well the fourth commandment is part of 613 commandments that are found in the Mosaic Law, and I would argue what I think scripture teaches is those 613 commands that are part of the Mosaic Law have been fulfilled by Christ in the new covenant. And so therefore, technically, they are no longer binding on the New Testament believer. In fact, interesting with regards to the fourth commandment, which is a part of the 10 commandments that we’re often familiar with and talked about. Of those 10 commandments, it’s actually only the keeping the Sabbath that is not restated in the New Testament, so all the other nine have expressions of those commandments restated in the New Testament.

But with the case of the Sabbath, it’s not. Now I know that Jesus talks about the Sabbath, but I would argue that up until the point of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the Pentecost, Jesus was still living under old covenant law. So that he talked about the Sabbath or that we affirmed it or upheld it would not be surprising because during his lifestyle, at least his lifetime pre-death and resurrection-

Melinda : His first lifetime.

Alan Shlemon: His first lifetime, yeah. The Mosaic Law was still in effect. That’s why he says, you know, this is the greatest law in the old testament. He made reference to I think it’s to the leper after he heals him. He says go and show yourself according to the way Moses commanded you. So in other words, he was assuming that the Mosaic Law was still binding and in effect at that point. However once he dies, rises again, and the Holy Spirit comes, this institutes a new covenant in his blood, and therefore, the Mosaic Law and it’s 613 commands are no longer binding.

And so therefore I’d say to this question, no, we are not required to observe the Sabbath. Now, is there any wisdom in following the general principle of taking a day to rest and to focus on God, no absolutely I wouldn’t deny that. As a requirement, where if you don’t observe it, you are sinning? I don’t think that’s taught scripture.

Melinda : Good. Next question from Some Apologetic’s Blog: “How can I respond to the claim that the basis for morality is utility, the promotion of the general welfare of humanity?”

Alan Shlemon: I think if someone asked me why not use utility as the basis for morality, I would just simply ask them a question, a simple one word question: why?

Why should we? Why should utility be the basis of morality? And I suspect, although I don’t know because I don’t know the exact details of this particular question, but I suspect they’re going to say well because that’s what, you know, is for the best general welfare of humanity. It allows for human flourishing, and I’d go back to them and say, but why does that matter? Who says?

And what I’m trying to get at is that this is simply an arbitrary value that some person is imposing that they are saying that all morality should be based on and that we should, you know, make rules and moral laws according to what promotes the general welfare of humanity, but again, this is a completely arbitrary thing and that could change in 10 years, five years, one year, which gets to the bigger point and that is, that unless you have something like God, the unchanging creator that has established a standard of morality that is objective...

Anything else that you try to base morality on, apart from the unchanging character of God, is going to be a relative and arbitrary distinction. Not a distinction, and arbitrary designation.

Melinda : Mm-hmm.

Alan Shlemon: I mean, yeah, it sounds good to us to say, “Yeah, whatever moral laws promote the general welfare of humanity,” sure that sounds good, but you can’t just base it on that because that could change. Maybe in 50 years, there’ll be an evolution in community values in certain cultures or in all cultures, and we may not think that’s necessarily the best thing anymore, and so they would change.

And that gets to our point that unless you ground morality in God, you do not have objective morality. You just have relativistic morality and you have arbitrary morality that can change with the whims of culture of individual consciousness.

Melinda : This particular utilitarian rule, the promotion of the general welfare of humanity, while it talks about...It assumes the value of humanity and that it should flourish, is the general welfare of humanity, and that wouldn’t necessarily cover all individuals. So the utility would be, if the price was a smaller number of humanity to help the rest of humanity, the welfare of the rest of humanity, those should be sacrificed.

Alan Shlemon: Sure.

Melinda : So there’s nothing in utilitarianism, and even talking about general welfare of humanity in this case, that actually protects every individual.

So you can’t, yeah, you can’t get actually those objective values that protect everybody.

Alan Shlemon: That’s right.

Melinda : From these arbitrary rules.

Alan Shlemon: Yeah utilitarianism would be a threat to the individuals.

Melinda : Right.

Alan Shlemon: I mean it can be. It doesn’t necessarily have to be.

Melinda : No, not always.

Alan Shlemon: But it can be if it’s the general welfare of humanity that’s in...

Melinda : There’s no objective rule.

Alan Shlemon: That’s the greatest good. Yeah.

Melinda : Right. Okay, let’s see here. Let me squeeze in one more. Nah, not that one. I’m gonna give you a really easy one, and a very general one.

Alan Shlemon: Oh good.

Melinda : Still, two minutes...Why did Jesus have to die for us?

Alan Shlemon: Why did Jesus have to die for us? Wow. Well, sure that’s I guess easy, but I guess so much could be said about this.

Melinda : Like you were standing in...

Alan Shlemon: An elevator?

Melinda :...the line. Yeah, give us the elevator version.

Alan Shlemon: Oh man. Why did Jesus have to die for us? Well, because either he dies or we die. I guess that’s my nutshell answer. In other words, God demands justice, and we have committed crimes against God, and so therefore we deserve to be punished.

So we have a choice. We can either be punished for the crimes that we’ve committed or we can accept a pardon from God. The way the pardon works, according to God though, is that Jesus will die and by doing so he will stand in our place and be punished on our behalf, and his righteousness will be credited it to us and our sin will go to him.

And so the reason why Jesus has to die is because if he doesn’t, then there’s no possible way that we can be pardoned and escape God’s justice. I guess he doesn’t have to die ’cause God doesn’t have to do this for us, but that’s of course why it’s called grace. It’s unmerited favor.

Melinda : Ding. We’re at the lobby. You may exit the elevator. Good job. Thanks Alan for doing this. We appreciate it.

Alan Shlemon: Sure.

Melinda : So this is STRask, #STRask podcast. We do two episodes a week. We post them on Mondays and Thursdays, and you can submit your questions to us on Twitter using #STRask. We appreciate all the questions. We work through the list every single week, you know we only get about seven to eight questions a week, so we’re working through the list, so be patient, keep listening, and we’ll probably eventually get to it.

Thanks Alan for filling in this week for Greg.

Alan Shlemon: You’re welcome.

Melinda : Thanks everyone for praying for Greg. We appreciate that, and I’m Melinda the Enforcer for Stand to Reason. Bye, bye.


  • Regarding euthanasia, how have those on death row given up their inalienable right to life as described in the preamble? Or have they?
  • Are “new covenant” Christians required to “observe the Sabbath” according to the fourth commandment? (Not specifically Sunday, but The Lord’s Day.)
  • How can I respond to the claim that the basis for morality is utility: the promotion of the general welfare of humanity?
  • Why did Jesus have to die?