Philosophical Quarterbacking

I’ve begun re-reading Bonhoeffer’s Life Together recently.  Having recently read several books on an actual Christian community (Taize), I wanted to revisit Life Together to see if my views on it have mellowed and become more charitable with the passing of time.  My initial comments can be found here and here.  These are comments articulated when memories of our own experiment in life together during seminary were comparatively fresh.  I also read the book shortly after my first parish experience ended, under less-than-ideal circumstances.

But taking a completely different tangent, the context of Bonhoeffer’s writings made this article on the ethical question of would you go back in time to kill Hitler before he came to power, or prevent his birth catch my eye.  It was interesting first of all to see the pretty significant split of responses to the question of whether someone would be willing to go back in time to bump off Hitler in his crib.  Considering the numbers that leap to mind when considering Hitler’s actions – 6 million Jews slaughtered – I figured more people would be jumping for the nearest time machine.  I’d like to think that the numbers reflect more considered thinking on the topic, but that’s just silly, most likely.

The article does a good job of laying out the argument as to why offing Hitler is not the relatively painless exchange it seems to be.  One dead baby vs. millions of dead people.  In light of yesterday’s topic, numerics make this look like a good swap, but reality is rarely that neat and tidy, even hypothetically.  There are far more elements at play than we can ever completely comprehend, and the frightening reality is that as terrible as this reality sometimes is, I believe that God is at work within it so that it is better than some of the possible other realities we might create for ourselves.

One of my favorite short stories is Ray Bradbury’s (of course) A Sound of Thunder.  It deals with the intricacies of fooling with the past even accidentally.  He reminds us that even accidentally assuming the power of God can lead to damning consequences.  Food for thought on an otherwise innocuous Tuesday.

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