06 Jun 2014

Blending Duty to God With Utilitarianism?

Religious No Comments

I may not express my thoughts in this post very well, but I’ll try…

I used to think there was an enormous gulf between the utilitarianism (what might better be termed consequentialism) of Ludwig von Mises versus the moral code flowing from a Judeo-Christian worldview. But the more I read the Bible, the more I think I was mistaken.

For example, Job 28:28 says:

And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’”

Or check out Psalm 119: 97-104:

97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

Thus, just as Mises would tell the typical voter, “I’m not asking you to change your value system or your goals. I’m informing you that you are mistaken about how reality works,” by the same token I could give that advice to the non-believer.

The reason it’s a “good idea” to obey God’s laws (and yes I realize part of the problem here is to determine exactly what those are) is not simply a matter of definition. On the contrary, I think if people had more information and could see the long-term consequences of their actions, then they would realize why sinning (again, let’s put aside for a moment how to define that) is not in their interest.

As a final point, I don’t merely mean, “When you die, you go to eternal torment if you haven’t done what God said, and so your long-run utility is maximized while you’re alive if you obey Him.” No, I’m saying even in secular terms, following Jesus’ commands (loving your enemies, for example) is a better strategy for happiness, even though it’s initially counterintuitive–just like letting interest rates rise and cause a crash is initially counterintuitive to someone who hasn’t studied Austrian economics.

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