032. Moral Philosophy, Jesus, and Politics (Dr. Nick Miller)

Welcome back to Advent Next a theological podcast curated for curious faith discussions. This week we are continuing our conversation with our guest Dr. Nicholas Miller professor of Church History at Andrews University. Last week we ended our discussion talking about the history of the separation of church and state, and development of moral philosophy so be sure to check out last week’s discussion if you haven’t since it serves as the foundation for this week’s episode. Today we are exploring some modern applications of moral philosophy and what faith in the public sphere looks like on the practical level. We’ll have some recommended readings for you at the end of this episode so be sure to listen to the end if you want resources with more information. We want to thank the Adventist Learning Community for making this program possible. If you’re not already following us on Facebook, Instagram or Youtube, be sure to find us at the handle Advent Next. I’m your host Kendra Arsenault and this is Advent Next.

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Miller Master Episode 2

[00:00:00] Nick Miller: [00:00:00] But I also see the problem on the right wing, which claims to be Christian, and they have, should have an understanding of both the fallenness of human nature, but the equality of human nature. And there what I see is a division of people into a inside trusted group, and then the other, the outside group. And the inside trusted group, which is like us, white Americans, especially that are rich and owned businesses. Well, we should be free and deregulated and, and any constraints on us removed because we’re good people. We’re Americans. We would never do wrong, right? You can trust our military and our corporations, and we overlook the fact that we all have fallen human natures and we’re going to misuse that power.

[00:00:41] So there’s this inside trusted group that’s to trusted, but then the other is the outsiders, whether it be the immigrants or the Mexicans or the Muslims, we can’t trust them. And we won’t even extend them fundamental human right, because we view them as fundamentally different, lesser, not fully made in the image of [00:01:00] God.

[00:01:01] Kendra Arsenault: [00:01:01] Welcome back to Advent Next, a theological podcast curated for curious faith discussions. This week we are continuing our conversation with Dr. Nicholas Miller, professor of church history at Andrews University. Last week, we ended our discussion talking about the history of the separation of church and state and the development of moral philosophy.

[00:01:21] So be sure to check out last week’s discussion if you haven’t, since it serves as the foundation for this week’s episode. Today, we are exploring some modern applications of moral philosophy and what faith in the public sphere looks like on a practical level. We’ll have some recommended readings for you at the end of the episode, so be sure to listen to the end if you want resources for more information. We want to thank the Adventist learning community for making this program possible.

[00:01:46] If you’re not already following us on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, be sure to find us at the handle Advent Next. I’m your host Kendra Arsenault, and this is Advent Next.

[00:01:59] As you’re talking, I’m [00:02:00] thinking maybe the audience or, you know, when they think about moral philosophy and Christianity, like the first thing that they think about is human sexuality and they, they tend to think about how are we going to, you know, that Christian, what does Christianity have to say about that?

[00:02:15] I feel like that’s the hot topic. That’s the big issue of the day. But putting that aside, what are some, you know, places within the common square that the morality of Christianity could really be seen as, as you know, being groundbreaking or are actually doing, real good to the community at large.

[00:02:34] Nick Miller: [00:02:34] And maybe we should define some of our terms here a little bit because you use moral philosophy and then you use Christian philosophy. And, I actually think that Christian philosophy should draw on moral philosophy. But some people think Christian philosophy, you would get it from the Bible.

[00:02:51] And then we take our biblical views of morality and bring them to society. And I guess I want to emphasize again. Moral [00:03:00] philosophy; Ellen white actually says that moral philosophy is one of the three things that our students should especially study in school. She says they should study moral philosophy, the Bible and physical education.

[00:03:12] And Adventists know what the Bible is, of course. And they know, they think they know what physical education is, but who’s had a class in moral philosophy? Not, not many of us. And most Adventists reading this fairly quickly, say moral philosophy, the Bible, oh, she means morality is taught in the Bible, but actually she doesn’t.

[00:03:30] In 19th century, moral philosophy was a term of art that meant morality as understood and arrived at through a source, through the examination of general revelation. In other words, not scripture, and it wasn’t meant to be contrary to scripture, but it would supplement scripture and complement scripture.

[00:03:48] And so it was, a field of thinking about right and wrong. Yeah. And so natural law is a phrase that some of [00:04:00] your, our hearers may have heard before. And we usually connect it with the Catholic church for some reason, because it existed before the Catholic church and there was a very strong teaching of the natural law and the Protestant world for many hundreds of years.

[00:04:15] Natural law is part of what I would call moral philosophy. It’s the notion that there are larger laws of right and wrong above the human laws that we write in our legislative books. And lot of people are resistant to the notion of natural law, precisely for what you earlier alluded to with. They think it has to do with outlawing certain sexual practices, and it’s just used as a kind of tool of modern Puritans to impose their sexual views. But it really is actually a very critical idea that has played a central role in the 20th century. Just to illustrate, you may have heard of the Nuremberg trials.

[00:04:55] Kendra Arsenault: [00:04:55] Yeah.

[00:04:56] Nick Miller: [00:04:56] Bringing Nazi leaders to account for the [00:05:00] mass killings and genocide of the, of the Jews and other peoples in World War II. Well, the problem with the nerve that the Nuremberg prosecutors were facing. Was that everything that Germany did, the German leaders, was actually legal…

[00:05:14] Kendra Arsenault: [00:05:14] In their country.

[00:05:15] Nick Miller: [00:05:15] In their country under, and what other laws apply to Germany then the laws that the German parliament and legislature create, right?

[00:05:23] And so how can you try someone for actions they’ve taken that were entirely lawful. They were following orders that were given by people who were carrying out the lawfully enacted laws of the land. So it’s a, it’s kind of a conundrum. How can you prosecute them for that? And so the prosecutors had to rely, even though it was growing into disfavor at that point, among the intelligentsia.

[00:05:51] Of notions of a higher laws and of justice that went against the universal understandings of [00:06:00] humanity. And they may not have used the word natural law, but that’s essentially exactly what it is, right? That there’s something in our human nature that says, when we see a innocence being killed for no reason that we can say that’s wrong, whether it’s illegal under some statute or not.

[00:06:19] And so, any, any movement to bring reformation. So not just the Nuremberg trials, but the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King Jr letter from the Birmingham jail: he appeals to natural law as the justification for the civil disobedience. It takes place, right? A human law that is contrary to a higher law to a divine law is no law at all.

[00:06:43] And therefore we are appropriate in resisting it. So this idea of natural law is much broader than just particular sexual practices. And in fact, the whole civil rights movement, even the, even the LGBT community, which makes human rights arguments. [00:07:00] It was really doing it on the basis of what? Of this underlying conceptions of natural law, which,

[00:07:08] Kendra Arsenault: [00:07:08] Of humanity and kind of the basic rights that are enacted for every living being.

[00:07:12] Nick Miller: [00:07:12] Based on universal principles of justice and fairness and equality. That’s right.

[00:07:17] Kendra Arsenault: [00:07:17] That’s so interesting. And I, when you’re talking to this, I’m thinking of, a slide I’d seen,  last semester on, I think it was to the faith and science council, and they were giving a talk on kind of the Christian relationship with the ecosystem and ecology and how it, there’s this graph where the more you know, the more Bible believing you are, the less you believe in, like, conserving the planet or something like global warming,

[00:07:44] Nick Miller: [00:07:44] Stewardship. Environmentalism.

[00:07:45] Kendra Arsenault: [00:07:45] Right. But it’s interesting because it should be kind of,

[00:07:48] Nick Miller: [00:07:48] The other way around, right?

[00:07:50] Kendra Arsenault: [00:07:50] And you know, but when you see, like in the media, and especially when you see the right wing media that’s, that’s particularly more kind of Christian voice, or they [00:08:00] kind of really brand themselves as the Christian voice, really downplaying things that in the moral philosophy realm should be something that a Christian would consider, like global warming or human rights on immigration or, different things that seem to fall into the moral philosophy realm.

[00:08:19] Nick Miller: [00:08:19] So, yeah, that’s that, that’s a good observation and it’s going to force us to look a little more closely at what moral philosophy actually is and what natural law is. And when, especially when people say natural law, they think, you know, you go out to nature and you see the way animals are acting and that’s you know, that would be a pretty bad law. Cause animals do lots of really bad things.

[00:08:44] Kendra Arsenault: [00:08:44] Like, they eat their children or,

[00:08:46] Nick Miller: [00:08:46] Cannibalism and incest and all those things can be found in nature. But it’s not, that’s not the argument. The argument is, is that the way nature is designed is that it reveals certain ends and purposes [00:09:00] that there’s a teleology to it. That a good example is the eye, right? The eye is created not to listen, but to see, and all its features are designed to that end. And then the whole organism itself, exists to, well, if you look at the lower animals to procreate and to flourish and they inhabit their niches and habitats, and some of them keep down the pests or they keep down the weeds or, right, there’s a functioning that happens.

[00:09:38] And if you look at the human, you can begin to see the ends and purposes of a human right to enjoy life, asociate so, in society, companionship is very important. The exercise of creativity, there are all these ends to being a human that people realize are important [00:10:00] to human flourishing. And in looking at those things, you can say that to arbitrarily step in and prevent certain humans from flourishing in that way is wrong. Right? It becomes a moral question that we should be guided by, and so the ultimate location, if you will, of the natural law isn’t out in nature as it is in human nature. As we can look at ourselves and we see those things that make for a flourishing life, and we see the intuitions we have about moral issues, about torturing babies, for instance, right?

[00:10:38] We all kind of know that that’s wrong. We should care for them and take care of them. And that, that from this study of human nature, the intuitions we have about the equality of humanity, that these things are also supported by reason and other beliefs. But that, that the study of human nature was a main [00:11:00] place that the ancients and the reformers all the way up to the 19th and 20th century thought was a very important thing to understand, to understand right and wrong.

[00:11:11] But in the 20th century. We’ve moved away from seeing human nature as anything essential or given or static. We view it very much as malleable and changing and who’s to say what it will be tomorrow versus what it was yesterday. And this is a particularly modern philosophical conceit, I would argue, that has some real problems to it. Because, well, we’ve talked about gender issues and human nature. The Bible talks about men and woman being in the image of God being somehow fundamental to human nature, right? There’s something important about the feminine, important about the masculine, and you don’t have to believe the Bible to believe that because if you don’t [00:12:00] have a man and a woman, you don’t have a continuation of the human race, right?

[00:12:03] There’s something fundamental about human nature in its sexual differentiation, gender differentiation, that isn’t the same as say something like race, right? We view race as as somehow important and it differentiates us, but race is a historical accident. A development that you know, the first humans were all of the same race, and then they developed over time and it didn’t make them more or less human. It just differentiated them externally in superficial ways that we need to learn, not to treat with great difference.

[00:12:37] Right. But gender was there at the beginning. It was fundamental, but modern philosophers and scientists seem to want to treat gender like it’s . Race, right. And that, and if you believe in the theory of evolution, there’s a certain logic to it.

[00:12:55] There was a time when whatever humanity was before it was human, didn’t [00:13:00] have gender, and then it evolved into two genders. And maybe we’re going to three genders or five genders. But that’s hard for a Christian to accept. And it’s also hard for someone who takes biology seriously to accept.

[00:13:12] Kendra Arsenault: [00:13:12] I think, and I want you to continue with your thought, and just to kind of interject on that point, I think kind of the apprehension behind, okay, let’s not talk about gender is because the way that sometimes, the differentiation of gender leads to inequality. So looking for ways to say, okay, this is different.

[00:13:31] Thereby we’re going to, you know, make sure that they don’t have access to certain privileges, rather than you know, seeing them as fundamentally equal.

[00:13:41] Nick Miller: [00:13:41] As fundamentally equal. The problem with that is that if you don’t differentiate gender, it can lead to even greater inequality. And so an example I would give is, you know, most men are physically stronger than most women.

[00:13:55] They’re more aggressive than most women. It’s not you know, [00:14:00] there’s an overlap, right? Some women are more aggressive than many men, but as a general rule, that’s the case. So, when we say we’re going to treat them just the same, which means well, coed dorms in public universities, coed units in the military, give them equal access to the same spaces, mix in some alcohol because they’re adults.

[00:14:27] And lots of things go wrong and they don’t go wrong equally. In other words, there’s a higher level of assaults in the last few years in public universities and in the military, and it’s not a higher level of assaults, equally spread among men and women. Right? It’s 90 to 95% of the time its’s the women being assaulted by the men.

[00:14:55] So in ignoring gender differences and pretending they don’t [00:15:00] exist, we’re actually doing a disservice to those, the differences that do exist in genders, and we actually hurting people and harming people through it. And so under the law, we have this, this very important principle that equal treatment doesn’t mean treating everything the same.

[00:15:20] It means treating similarly situated things the same. And if things are not similarly situated, then to treat them equally may in fact involve treating them a little bit differently. A kind of funny example is if you go to sports stadiums and you see men’s and women’s restrooms, and it seems like they have the same number of bathrooms in each side, and so that’s equal, but if you look at the lines right.

[00:15:49] The lines are out the door for the women. So if we were really going to treat them equally, we would put twice as many restroom stalls and the women’s side so that they had equal access to [00:16:00] them, not just an equal number to them.

[00:16:02] Kendra Arsenault: [00:16:02] I’d be for that.

[00:16:04] Nick Miller: [00:16:04] I’d suspect you might.

[00:16:05] Kendra Arsenault: [00:16:05] Yeah. No, I think that that’s a really great point.

[00:16:08] Nick Miller: [00:16:08] So we want equal opportunity, don’t we?

[00:16:10] Kendra Arsenault: [00:16:10] Right.

[00:16:11] Nick Miller: [00:16:11] But to insist on equal outcome. And this is, the scientists of the social, sociologists have observed that in countries that create more and more equal opportunity, there’s actually a greater and greater differentiation as women are free to choose the professions they’re really interested in, and men are free to choose those they’re interested in.

[00:16:37] So in the Scandinavian countries where there’s an incredible push for gender sameness, I’d even say. Nursing, it has a higher proportion of women than they do in America. And technology and computer programmers are, you know, very highly filled with men. So we need to care [00:17:00] about equality of opportunity and women who want to be computer programmers should be able to, and vice versa.

[00:17:07] But we don’t want to insist on the quality of outcome when there may in fact be genuine gender differences in interest and preference. And also in terms of I’m not in favor of equalizing the draft, for instance, sending all our men and women or young ladies and boys off to fight. Right? I think you lose something important in your society when you take mothers away from children.

[00:17:34] In the, in the same way that fathers sometimes have to be removed from children when they go off to war.

[00:17:39] Kendra Arsenault: [00:17:39] So basically what you’re saying is like when you look at, not looking for equality of outcome, for example, there need to be 50 male nurses and 50 female nurses when, if you allowed them to choose freely, there might just be 25.

[00:17:53] Nick Miller: [00:17:53] 70 30. 75 25.

[00:17:55] Kendra Arsenault: [00:17:55] Right.

[00:17:56] Nick Miller: [00:17:56] And this discussion is actually I think important for [00:18:00] our church. You and I are in favor of women in ministry and we need more women in ministry, and I’m not even talking about the ordination issue. I’m just talking about women in ministry, which our pioneers were in favor of, and Ellen White said there needed to be more women in ministry.

[00:18:17] And yet I don’t think that we should say that means we need to push for a day where it’s 50 50. Right. Ministry position is a leadership position, and it seems like, many women in fact, like to have male leaders, ministers, but I do think that they also would want a woman to talk to who was a leader as well.

[00:18:41] But if you look at churches that have stayed biblically conservative and have ordained women ministers, a historically African American churches have done it for a hundred years and contrary to what many conservatives say, it doesn’t automatically lead to ordaining LGBT persons, right? These are. [00:19:00] Black churches that are very strong position on, on sexuality.

[00:19:05] They have ordained women leaders, have had them for a hundred years, but in those churches, only about three or 4% of them have ordained women pastors. And I think some of it could have to do with prejudice and that it would be nicer to see a higher number. Maybe if you’d get up to 10% or 10 or 15% would be great.

[00:19:24] Yeah. But I don’t think you also need to say the perfect world is going to have 50 50. I think it’s an unrealistic expectation given the gender preferences.

[00:19:35] Kendra Arsenault: [00:19:35] That if you just kind of let it, you know, let people choose their professions on their own, you’d already see kind of this differentiation happening amongst themselves. We don’t necessarily have to regulate it.

[00:19:45] Nick Miller: [00:19:45] So that you can see there could be a left wing tyranny, right? Sometimes on the right wing, we’re not allowing equality of opportunity, and that’s tyrannical, but on the left wing, if we insist on the quality of outcome, you’re going to have to impose [00:20:00] quotas and force people to accept and take jobs they don’t want and right. So there’s, we’re interested in freedom so that the true underlying traits can be expressed.

[00:20:10] Kendra Arsenault: [00:20:10] I hope that, I mean, I feel like what you’re saying is coming across very clearly to me, I hope that our listeners are also understanding the nuances of what’s being said as far as you know, that true equal opportunity doesn’t always necessarily mean there’s going to be an equal outcome.

[00:20:29] And then that actually is a kind of an exhibition of true freedom. We allowed,

[00:20:34] Nick Miller: [00:20:34] True freedom and of the genuine importance of the duality of human nature, right? Women are important. Men are important, and both need to be, they need to have their various traits and characteristics expressed. And if they were all expressed in the same way, then they would be duplicates of each other.

[00:20:54] And that’s not what God made.

[00:20:55] Kendra Arsenault: [00:20:55] Right. I guess my next question would be, and I, one of my [00:21:00] questions was going to be, you know, do you think moral philosophy and our lack of participation in that really is affecting our ability to outreach? But you pretty much mentioned that. I guess the question would be, how picayune should we be in our kind of, cause it’s hard for a Christian to bring, you know, to say, I’m going to look at this as totally moral philosophy, but they’re coming from a Christian biblical framework.

[00:21:21] Things like, that might be human rights issues are things that I think people can say, no, we can, we’re against, you know, sex trafficking. We’re against, you know, people, doing violence unto others, but things that become smaller in my opinion, like the use of marijuana or other types of things that were legislating in the public square.

[00:21:44] Or it’s maybe sometimes we just shift our focus, maybe like. You know, maybe we should be more concerned with, you know regulation on big corporations and what they’re doing to the environment rather than maybe some smaller, I wouldn’t say less [00:22:00] consequential issues. Like, how does somebody know. What are the battles to get into and which ones are ones that they should probably,

[00:22:10] Nick Miller: [00:22:10] Well,

[00:22:10] Kendra Arsenault: [00:22:10] Leave for another day.

[00:22:10] Nick Miller: [00:22:10] You know, that’s a good question, isn’t it? It’s hard to answer that in the abstract, but those two issues that you talked about could actually be put together, right? Marijuana and big corporations seeking to make money.

[00:22:21] Well. There’s not a lot of big corporations involved in marijuana right now, and that’s because it’s actually still illegal at the federal level. And so big corporations that are operating multi-state, and it’s hard to do banking, actually, in the marijuana industry because banks are regulated federally.

[00:22:41] And so there’s a lot of cash transactions, even for legal marijuana, which becomes cumbersome and hard to handle in large quantities. But you know, we’re talking about natural law being based on human nature. And injuries to human nature are [00:23:00] significant under the natural law, right?  And this was the justification on alcohol issues, right?

[00:23:08] It’s, we’re looking at the ends of humanity: are people flourishing or not flourishing,

[00:23:12]Kendra Arsenault: [00:23:12] Right.

[00:23:13] Nick Miller: [00:23:13] And you could say, you can point to a concert pianist playing a beautiful Mozart piece on the piano. And you can point to a drunk in a gutter covered with his own vomit. And if you have a purely subjective sense of what ends are, you can say, well, both of them are following their bliss and they are both flourishing as humans.

[00:23:38] But is that really true? Right. And, I think that going back to Aristotle, no, not just the Bible, but the notion of happiness isn’t as the, as our, you know, the declaration of independence, the pursuit of happiness under the modern conception of it. The drunk in the gutter covered with his vomit and the concert pianist playing the beautiful [00:24:00] music.

[00:24:00] Well as long as they’re both equally happy, they’re both equally successful human beings. And this is a suggestion that actually moral philosophy tells you to say no. Look more closely at human nature. Look at what flourishing is. And, we do have to be careful here in terms of paternalism. The government saying what’s good for us?

[00:24:25] And yet, and yet we, the government runs schools. It instructs young people, and I would believe that the school should be able to say, this is more about human flourishing, the pianist with a wonderful classical music than the drunk in the gutter. And I would want the school to be able to say, this is not a morally positive approach to your life and this, or some variation.

[00:24:50] We don’t care if you play the piano or paint pictures or, you know, but, but something that has to do with human nature flourishing. And I think that that [00:25:00] isn’t a inherently religious standard. Right. I think those are standards that human beings of all religious persuasions can come to some agreement on.

[00:25:10] Kendra Arsenault: [00:25:10] Right. And I wonder how much, you know, should we just be using persuasion on certain issues rather than legislation. Cause you know, when it comes to something like going back to the marijuana law, I think there’s a lot larger underlying factors that are affecting human flourishing: poverty, overwork, economic situations where you have something like, you know, whether it’s alcohol or marijuana or cigarettes or caffeine, or things that people are using to kind of self-medicate their own situation when maybe the underlying problem is just, just poverty, or just not you know, being overworked, being stressed, not having access to some resources,

[00:25:53] Nick Miller: [00:25:53] Or maybe it’s both. Right? I mean, and this is the catch 22. I talked about the corporations in marijuana. I didn’t kind of [00:26:00] finish the thought, and that was, what about the tobacco companies? And you could say, well, people need to have freedom to choose, but the reality was kids were getting hooked on smoking at 12 13 14 developing a habit, which was very difficult to break and control, and the big corporations were milking people for millions and billions of dollars and shortening their lives by tens of years and bringing them all sorts of diseases.

[00:26:29] Is that really freedom right on either side of that equation and that the freedom that you’re talking about is actually often freedom for very wealthy and powerful institutions to use their power and resources to trap poor people in cycles of addiction and abuse that contribute to their poverty, right?

[00:26:56] I mean, there’s, and marijuana, look, I’m not an [00:27:00] expert on marijuana, but I’ve read enough about it to know that it certainly doesn’t have a positive effect on people’s ambitions. Right. And getting out and doing things. And I think that, at least when we’re talking about young people, those under 18, I think we can all agree that coercion needs to happen in those instances.

[00:27:22] We have laws against alcohol use in those instances. And if alcohol wasn’t legal today and it was being brought on the market, the FDA would never allow it to be approved. It’s far too destructive. It’s merely convention and tradition that allows us to put up with the deaths of many times more people per year from alcohol use then died in the twin trade, you know, twin trade towers in 2001 that allows us just to accept it. You know, moral philosophy requires a lot of [00:28:00] education. And there’s often the questions of pragmatism. How far can you push things and how far can you help people without them feeling that they’re losing their freedoms or being infringed?

[00:28:13] But I think that that, that the far greater risk is allowing corporations to use their muscle and economic might to persuade, to influence, to hook young kids, whether it be on vaping or marijuana or cigarettes, and then lead them into a life where there’s been an addiction put into place and a dependence that leads the spiral of poverty, or at least prevents them in part from getting out of it.

[00:28:43] Kendra Arsenault: [00:28:43] I really like that perspective. And I think, you know, there’s a beautiful place for like idealism and like what things should ideally be. And unfortunately, I feel like in the, in the pragmatism of it, I feel like in the end, you know, poor people still pay the price [00:29:00] because they’re the ones who are criminalized and put into prison and, but the big corporations don’t necessarily see those same things.

[00:29:07] So, you know, where we’re juggling the moral philosophy. How much do we have to consider pragmatism versus kind of the ideal version of what we think it should be?

[00:29:17] Nick Miller: [00:29:17] So there’s a very important part of the natural law tradition that talks about prudential considerations. And this is in Thomas Aquinas, and I’m sure the earlier than that, that you have an ideal set of laws that you’d like to reach.

[00:29:33] But an ideal set of behaviors, but you might actually cause more harm than good by trying to enforce them. Because the law is a very blunt mechanism. You can’t be in everyone’s rooms and houses all the time, and you would lose far more freedoms  by doing that. And so, you know, there’s a calculus in terms of what laws [00:30:00] can practically be enforced. I’m not leading a, an expedition to try to, even though I think our pioneers were right about temperance reform and alcohol, we’re just not at a place in our country where putting a lot of effort into that would probably move the dial or the needle as much as you would need to have any impact.

[00:30:19] Actually, sometimes I’ve wondered, I mean, there are places like counties and villages that have gone dry or cities. And there was an article in Liberty magazine a few years ago by Jennifer Jill Swerzer. Shout out to her, Adventist artist and counselor. And it was in Alaska, and they had all sorts of social problems and beatings and criminal records and drug addiction, and they decided to go dry.

[00:30:47] Well, not sell any alcohol in town limits. And it was sort of an isolated place. So it was hard to kind of, you know, go to the next town to the next County and bring it in. And there was quite a dramatic turnaround in the town in terms of [00:31:00] social issues and people going to school and people taking care of kids and, and the criminal activity dropping.

[00:31:08] So, you know, I’ve thought, well, here we are in Berrien Springs. Maybe I should get some Andrew’s kids and we could make it a dry town,

[00:31:16] Kendra Arsenault: [00:31:16] Village.

[00:31:17] Nick Miller: [00:31:17] Dry village. That’s right. But I think you focus on those things where there seems to be an opportunity to change.

[00:31:25] Kendra Arsenault: [00:31:25] That’s good

[00:31:25] Nick Miller: [00:31:25] Things for the better.

[00:31:26] Kendra Arsenault: [00:31:26] What would you like to leave our audience here today? Anything that comes to mind that’s really kind of pressing on your heart as of late.

[00:31:36] Nick Miller: [00:31:36] Well, maybe I’ll reflect back to the book that, I was reading, in the opening and T Wright’s book about Paul and about Paul, the Jew who believed that being safe wasn’t just about being saved for heaven.

[00:31:54] But it was also very much about being saved for this world and that the kingdom of God wasn’t simply in the future, [00:32:00] but it had begun here amongst those who believed in Christ. And as I look at the trajectory of my life, it’s taken me years, maybe decades to see the importance of my role as a Christian…

[00:32:15] In the public square and in public issues, not imposing the special revelation truths of, you know, the Sabbath and prayer and faith, but in, but in speaking out and standing for principles of justice and fairness and right, whether that be, and it’s not a left or a right issue, it’s both. You know?

[00:32:34] And maybe I can end by summarizing. You know, the left wing often gets wrong. Basic human nature issues, gender and sexuality issues. I think they’re very confused on it. I think it’s leading to terrible public policy in public schools and the military, and we’re going to be paying the price for it for a long time.

[00:32:52] But I also see the problem on the right wing, which claims to be Christian and they have a, should have an understanding of both the fallenness of human nature, but the [00:33:00] equality of human nature and there what I see is a division of people into a inside trusted group. And then the other, the outside group. And the inside trusted group, which is like us, white Americans especially, that are rich and own businesses.

[00:33:15] Well, we should be free and deregulated and any constraints on us removed because we’re good people. We’re Americans. We would never do wrong, right? You can trust our military and our corporations. And we overlook the fact that we all have fallen human natures and we’re going to misuse that power in corporations.

[00:33:33] The collapse of 2008 was in good part because of that. So there’s this inside trusted group that’s too trusted, but then the others, the outsiders, whether it be the immigrants or the Mexicans or the Muslims, or the… no, their bad and dangerous and Mexican immigrants are, you know, criminals and rapists, or the Muslims should be excluded from the country, militant Muslims and we can’t trust them and we won’t even [00:34:00] extend them fundamental human rights of due process. We still have people in Guantanamo jail. Here we are, you know, 19 years after 2000 and one, and we still hold them without hearing or trial and why do we do it?

[00:34:17] We would never hold white Westerners in a jail like that because we view them as fundamentally different, lesser, not fully made in the image of God. So both groups, both the left and the right, suffer from this malaise, from this blindness about the teachings of human nature that are given to us both in God’s written word, but I think also in his book of nature and that we need to take more seriously and that we have to grapple with philosophy and put a proper understanding of human nature back into the center of it.

[00:34:52] Kendra Arsenault: [00:34:52] So for those who are wanting to learn more about this topic, what are some books that you can direct them to read?

[00:34:59] Nick Miller: [00:34:59] Well, you could [00:35:00] get my book, the reformation and the remnant, which Pacific press sells, and it sort of puts some of these ideas into the theological history and context of the Adventist church. There’s another very brilliant author on all of this, of course, is CS Lewis.

[00:35:17] Who’s the Christian thinker who wrote mere Christianity, which is a good place to start for his thoughts about Christianity and the moral philosophical foundations of a belief in a God and a belief in Christ and the Bible. And then also his book, which is a little more philosophical, the abolition of man.

[00:35:39] Which talks specifically about these concepts of human nature that I’ve been referring to, and he really diagnosis, I mean, it’s written 75 years ago at this point, but Europe was a bit ahead of the curve from where America was in the rise of postmodernism. And really what he’s writing just resonates so strongly today with both the [00:36:00] problems on the right and the left.

[00:36:01] He saw it in the communists and the socialists, which he might say are the democratic left wing side and the fascists of his day. And we are developing those two extremes. And his diagnosis is very important. If I was to speak of a more modern author, Jordan Peterson is not a Christian, per se, but he is, reads the Bible very seriously, and he’s a very brilliant psychologist sociologist from Canada. Has a book called 12 rules, 12 rules for living, I think. And I think he gets at some of the problems and the malaise that we face.

[00:36:37] So he’s kind of a voice supporting my point that this is about moral philosophy, not just about scriptural insight. Like my book is about. Christian theology and CS Lewis writes as a Christian theologian, but Jordan Peterson writes as kind of a secular philosopher who’s now grown very sympathetic to Christianity and even the Bible and the teachings of Christ, but he’s seeing these things.

[00:36:56] And it supports my point that it’s about moral philosophy, that [00:37:00] smart people who look at nature and use reason should be able to see these same truths.

[00:37:05] Kendra Arsenault: [00:37:05] What about, and I haven’t read this. One of the speakers who were here, just politics?

[00:37:09] Nick Miller: [00:37:09] So if you’re looking for another Christian book, Ron Cider, does a great book about the politics of the Bible and Jesus called just politics. Cider is a Mennonite. I use his book in my class. I think he’s the closest to a biblical perspective of what the Bible says about the way we should approach economics and social issues. I find a lot of resonance between what he writes and what Ellen white writes in patriarchs and prophets.

[00:37:37] He has a whole couple of chapters on treating the poor and the economy of ancient Israel. The Jubilees and the gleanings and the offerings for the poor. And the fair treatment of immigrants, all things which are very relevant today, at least the principles of them. And a lot of people want to discount that. That was under a theocracy. And Ellen white says, if these principles were in place today, [00:38:00] it would make governments much fairer and the gap between rich and poor would decline.

[00:38:07] Kendra Arsenault: [00:38:07] We’re so glad you joined us this week. As we continue our discussion with Dr. Nicholas Miller on the intersectionality of faith and politics, we hope this program was informative, but more importantly that it gave you tools to begin to critically think about your relationship with politics as a Christian.

[00:38:23] Our recommended reading for last week was Dr Miller’s book, The reformation and the remnant. Another recommendation for this week is Ron Cider’s book, just politics. We want to thank the Adventist learning community for making this program possible as well as our guest Dr. Nicholas Miller. If you’re not already following us on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram, be sure to do so at the handle at Advent Next. Thanks so much for listening in and see you next week.



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