Podcast: Equality

Mere FidelityOur first podcast of 2018 is on the entirely uncontroversial subject of equality as a Christian value. One of our listeners requested that we devote a show to the topic and, being the reckless fools that we are, we agreed to do so. The result is a conversation in which not a few hostages are thrown to fortune.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Ethics, Philosophy, Podcasts, Politics, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Podcast: Equality

  1. Geoff says:

    Thank you Alastair. From your initial and sufficent contribution there seems to be a contemporary strained exprapolation to equality.
    Someone, (Derek?) started to move into discussions of fairness with difference and distinction. In the history of the English Legal System includes the development of church initiated Equity to counter the development of iniquitous legal practices and legal fictions, from which the law relating to Equity and Trusts arose as did the distinction between the vesting of legal interest to be held on behalf of others with a financial, equitable interest, in land law and the “equity of redemption” in mortages, where the legal estate is vested in the mortgagor, but the mortgagee has an equitable right to redeem the mortgage to enable the legal estate vested in them. There developed a series of Equitable maxims, such as “He who comes to equity, must come with clean hands”; “justice delayed is just denied” and others.
    Role of maxims

    Maxims of equity are not a rigid set of rules, but are, rather, general principles which can be deviated from in specific cases.[2] Snell’s Equity, an English treatise, takes the view that the “Maxims do not cover the whole ground, and moreover they overlap, one maxim contains by implication what belongs to another. Indeed it would not be difficult to reduce all under two: ‘Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy‘ and ‘Equity acts on the person‘”.[3]

    List of Maxims

    1 Equity sees that as done what ought to be done
    2 Equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy
    3 Equity delights in equality
    4 One who seeks equity must do equity
    5 Equity aids the vigilant, not those who slumber on their rights
    6 Equity imputes an intent to fulfill an obligation
    7 Equity acts in personam or persons
    8 Equity abhors a forfeiture
    9 Equity does not require an idle gesture
    10 He who comes into equity must come with clean hands
    11 Equity delights to do justice and not by halves
    12 Equity will take jurisdiction to avoid a multiplicity of suits
    13 Equity follows the law
    14 Equity will not aid a volunteer
    15 Where equities are equal, the law will prevail
    16 Between equal equities the first in order of time shall prevail
    17 Equity will not complete an imperfect gift
    18 Equity will not allow a statute to be used as a cloak for fraud
    19 Equity will not allow a trust to fail for want of a trustee
    20 Equity regards the beneficiary as the true owner

    Today equality has supplanted equity and most interestingly: ‘Equity Came Not To Destroy The Law But To Fulfil It’

    Section 25 of the Judicature Act 1873 provided that if there was any conflict between these principles, then equity was to prevail. However, this did not fuse the principles of common law and equity, which still remain as separate bodies of rules.
    “The two streams have met and still run in the same channel, but their waters do not mix” (Maitland).
    Just a thought or two.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Geoff. The slippery character of the term ‘equality’ really is such a large part of the problem here, very much functioning as a ‘motte-and-bailey doctrine’. This is disappointing, as there are some important things that we need to speak about in this area.

      • Leader2100 says:

        I’d prefer if we’d simply speak about what is Biblical and not couch the truth with nuanced terms out of fear that someone is going to pull a motte and bailey move. That’s a bigger problem for Christianity, because as long as we deny the creational basis for the equal value and worth of every human being, we’re feeding the narrative that Christianity leads to oppressive hierarchies — and we’re forsaking the legitimate basis for human justice.
        I think both Derek and Matt tried to help you out though, which was very much appreciated.

        Hard to listen to this because the whole discussion was conceived as a Gal. 3:28 issue. I guess in egalitarian parlance, that’s the go to place. To the extent that you addressed the fallacy that equal value = sameness of function, I suppose it was successful. However, I would have rather focused on the Genesis accounts (Chs. 1, 2, & 9) and worked out the basis of God’s justice collectively and individually based on the imago Dei. Peace…

      • Derek suggested the Galatians 3:28 starting point. My preference was to focus on Genesis. However, even in Genesis, the image of God is not an egalitarian concept. Rather, the image of God is a concept that attaches itself to some persons more than to others. That is inconvenient for us in a society where equality is a shibboleth that people want us to affirm, but the biblical accent is not on equality in the first place. While we can argue for God’s equal regard for different people, the equality of our essential human nature, and our equality before God’s judgment seat, the biblical emphasis is often placed elsewhere.

        Without presenting oppressive hierarchies, the Christian faith does present us with a vision of an ordered humanity that is greater than the sum of its parts. This is very different from contemporary egalitarian visions, but is very important in Scripture.

  2. Geoff says:

    Thanks for the link and the accompanying chuckle, Alastair.
    The so called interview of Peterson by Newman above, had frequent flying fallacies that have many air miles today. Here is one: Newman, “So what you’re actually saying is , I’m a lobster.” Well, she did try to boil the pot she was in by playing to the gallery of the likely TV demographic.
    Heat, from friction, seems to generate and recycle fallacies. Unless there is a common understanding of terms, as a starting point – and, today, description seems to replace definition- there will be a to-ing and fro-ing of the motte and bailey sort and the strong man/weak man, straw man. Good cop, bad cop – which used to be a real life interview technique in police cells.
    Activists will argue for a position, from a position, using any technique to persuade, to flatten, as equality flattens, without persuing the logic to ultimate conclusions. The ethic of equality, has many jumping off jetties into lifeboats of pragmaticism, as the tide ebbs and flows against it.

  3. Andrew says:

    Near the end, someone (Derek?) commented that Gal 3:28 described unity despite differences due to salvation history (Jew/Gentile), created nature (male/female) and sinful practice (master/slave).

    The last characterisation seems derived more from modern bias than Scripture. Nowhere in Scripture is the master/slave relationship portrayed as inherently sinful. Scripture certainly condemns exploiting power relationships, and strongly condemns those who unjustly enslave others. But the primary negative descriptions of slavery come not from slavery per-se but from slavery to evil or unjust masters. In Romans, Paul describes changing from being a slave to sin to a slave to righteousness. He doesn’t become absolutely unbound, but is unbound from an evil master and binds to a good one.

    Likewise, Paul doesn’t (broadly speaking) urge Christian masters to work toward manumission of their slaves, but to model their authority on God. Scripture sees the “how” of slavery as far more critical than its presence or absence (and the same could be said of other authority relationships).

    Moderns like to think that all authority derives from the voluntarily submission of those under authority for the common good. This isn’t a biblical principle. It isn’t even a realistic secular principle – if you think authority as practiced in modern society is uncoerced and derives from below, offer to give up your voting rights in exchange for not paying taxes or opting out of other legal obligations and see what sort of response you get. Conformity to social authority might be soft coercion, but it is nonetheless coerced, and our freedom is limited to what the state and other authorities choose to give us (and feel they can get away with). This doesn’t make it evil.

    • Geoff says:

      Peter J Williams, Principal, Tyndale House, gave a series of talks at the Keswick Convention 2017, one of which was slavery in scripture and including a trace of the use of the word in translations and increase of the use of the word after the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade.
      There were hand out notes, which I could post if I were at home not in the English wetlands of the Lakes.
      Servant was the word mainly used, and it was used in the context of God owns all of us, so it was always to be a sub-ownership under and accountable to God. Not inherently oppressive.
      As part of a law degree employment law and vicarious liability in the law of Torts, was considered as the law of Master and Servant. A master/employer was/is vicariously liable for the acts of a Servant in the course of their work, unless they were “on a frolic of their own.”. A marvellous phrase.

    • Yes, slavery is far less straightforwardly presented as a sinful reality in Scripture than modern people would like to believe. People often presume that slavery must take the form of the sort of racial chattel slavery that occurred in the Americas. However, although slavery could often be incredibly brutal, in many societies it wasn’t racial, built upon man-stealing, permanent, or founded upon the same degree of alienation as existed in American slavery (although some degree of alienation is an unavoidable feature of slavery). Slavery was often a means of ensuring that the improvident weren’t utterly destroyed, punishing criminals, and dealing with prisoners of war. Slavery was never a good thing in itself, but it was often better than the alternatives.

      But the end of a podcast is not the time to raise such a thorny discussion.

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