9 comments on “Moral Dilemma Dialogue: The Dark Knight

  1. Great discussion gentlemen! I’ll just jump right in, if that’s ok.

    I think Gene’s got it right about Rahab specifically because James applauds her for it. But we really have to understand the significance of what she did and why it was a good thing to do (according to James). See, Rahab didn’t just lie. She was first faced with a moral dilemma: Does she lie (i.e. perpetrate a deception) and save the Israelite spies or does she tell the truth and send the spies to their likely death? By the way, I don’t think (as Logan attempted to show) that because Rahab was a Gentile that she was ignorant of the fact that lying under typical circumstances is wrong. I think anyone in any culture can know that it’s wrong because of the knowledge that they have of God within themselves (Romans 1).

    So, Rahab chose to be deceitful (lie) in order to save the spies’ lives because of her faith that the Israelites were of God. What conclusion, then, can we draw from this? There are situations where a greater moral good stands behind, so to speak, a typically immoral act. And, if one commits the typically immoral act with the greater good in mind, the typically immoral act has proper justification. This is why James can applaud Rahab for what she had done. He certainly doesn’t say, “She chose the greater moral good in spite of the lie… but it will be overlooked this one time.”
    So, if the principle I just described is true, then we should be able to find other Scriptural examples of particular deeds that are given license by God that would otherwise be immoral in certain circumstances. And this is exactly what we find. Look at the act of committing murder. In typical circumstances, it is a sin (Exodus 20:13). But God gives the Israelites license to murder people who commit other egregious sins (Exodus 21:12). Look at disobeying the government. In Acts 4, the apostles are told to disobey the authorities and preach the gospel even though Paul teaches that we should obey and be in subjection to governing authorities in Romans 13. And the same principle applies to deception. If it didn’t, then we’d have a very difficult time explaining what God tells Samuel to do in 1 Samuel 16.

    What’s important is having proper justification for the things that you do. That makes all the difference.
    Having said that, I don’t think Batman and Gordon had proper justification to lie about Dent. In considering this idea of justification, I think the question also must be asked: Who do you have to lie to in order for the greater good to be realized? In Rahab’s case, it was a corrupt king and his men. In Batman and Gordon’s case, it was the people of Gotham city. Those are two entirely different scenarios. I’m aware of the Dent Act (which certainly makes things complicated) but what I don’t see is the impossibility of fashioning another act in its place to ensure the same goal. Nor do I see why, if the act is that good, it can’t be passed regardless of what Dent did. They could have passed the act and thrown him in jail along with the other criminals. It would have been a lot more difficult. But would it have been utterly impossible? I think that has to be seriously weighed.

    As a matter of fact, had Batman and Gordon not lied to the people of Gotham, Bane would not have been given the impetus to free all the criminals in The Dark Knight Rises. Bane stands there reading Gordon’s letter on his megaphone and clutching his pearls as if the shock of the lie were enough to justify his own actions. They weren’t. But had Batman and Gordon not lied, Bane would not have been able to use that as leverage.

    I think that’s, ultimately, why the end of The Dark Knight was so good. It calls into question what good reasons one has for doing anything. Bruce Wayne wanted to become a symbol of justice in a Gotham City full of corrupt cops, lawyers, and judges in Batman Begins. So he conducts himself as Batman in a righteous, moral way (compared to the city’s authority figures). And then, ironically, he erects a symbol of righteousness (Dent) that, in reality, he knew had become wickedly corrupted. So he clearly forgot the principles by which he originally stood. I think he was seeking an expedient shortcut, not a principled or justified course of action.

    • Hey Nate! I’m glad we agree on the general point behind Rahab’s story. I hadn’t even thought of 1 Sam. 16, good one there.

      As far as the Dent act and Bane’s actions go, I didn’t really see them as legitimate considerations for this dilemma. First, I don’t think either Gordon or Batman had the Dent act in mind when they made their decision. They seemed solely concerned with the criminals currently awaiting prosecution. Secondly, you’re right that Bane was able to use that letter as leverage for freeing the prisoners in Dark Knight Rises. But let’s face it, he was going to do that regardless of the knowledge of their lie or a letter to read. So, I think that should be weighed separately from whether the lie was justified or not.

      Awesome point too on what Wayne wanted Batman to symbolize in Batman Begins vs. what he actually ends up symbolizing in Dark Knight. Thanks for the comments!

  2. I think in a scenario like the one Batman and Gordon were presented it’d be important for us to meditate a moment and discern how we should handle the situation. God has said not to lie, but I think the reason lying is wrong is b/c it hurts others. What about a lie that AVOIDS hurting others?
    Would there ever be any circumstances where God may actually be in favor of a lie?

    Say you have a very sensitive, big-hearted co-worker who buys you a Christmas gift and when you open the box it’s a repugnant shirt, or sweater – and she asks you if you like it?

    If you tell her you don’t like it, it will bring her to tears, etc. or you can lie and tell her you like it? Are you telling me that you think God would be more in-favor of telling the truth?

    Sure, you could search for a middle ground and reply with something like, “It’s unique!” or “I appreciate it!” but what if she is the kind who can pick up on when someone isn’t being straight, and you have to tell her you like it, or don’t. What then?

    Point being, I think God is against lying when it’s done for selfish reasons and motives, which is the large majority of the time; but I think there could be rare exceptions when unique situations arise.

    But if I was Batman, I would not have claimed to have killed those people. I would’ve pinned it on The Joker. lol. He was ultimately responsible, anyway.

    • Ahhh, a third option! Nice, Gary! Why didn’t they think of that??? He sort of created Two-Face, who killed all those people under the guise of chance.

      I don’t entirely disagree with your example on lying. That it’s only bad if it hurts others. Only problem I see is there is never any reason given in scripture for why not to lie (that I know of anyway). We have some examples where lying is justified, as I think I’ve proven with Rahab. Just need to be careful I guess with that reasoning. There are a lot of ways to convince yourself or others that you had to lie to avoid causing someone pain.

      Thanks for the comment, Gary!

  3. The problem with assuming lying is only wrong when it’s done for selfish reasons is God hasn’t given us that exception. The James passage said Rahab was justified by her works, sending out the spies by another way. It does NOT say she was justified by her lying. Assuming that we have the almighty wisdom to determine when it’s okay for us to disregard God’s commandment is playing God. The only scenario in which lying could be okay is when we have precedent showing that God’s people did and it was okay with God. I do not believe the scenario of Rahab applies in this instance because, again, she did not know God’s commandments. The inherent law of God as referred to in Romans 1 is referring to very broad ideas. People in general accept that it’s not okay to murder, to steal, or to cheat on your spouse. This doesn’t have to include lying, however. Different people have had different ideas on that. Even if it did apply, however, that doesn’t extend to Gordon and Batman’s situation. In Rahab’s situation (and that of the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1), it had to do with God’s people. It was protecting God’s messengers, and protecting God’s people. It had to do with God’s revealed plan for His people. In Gordon and Batman’s case, it was not about the revealed will of God. It was not about protecting God’s people. It was about the city’s criminals. That’s not to say it’s not good that they want to keep them locked up, but it’s a completely different animal. To lie in this case is to completely disregard God’s commands on the matter, not to mention a complete lack of trust in Him and the control that He has over the situation. It’s saying “God, I know you said you’ll handle it, but I think I have a better way.”

    • Logan, I think the lying is presumed and included in James’ praising of Rahab. Afterall, she cannot perform the work of sending out the spies without first lying about their location. So it doesn’t need to explicitly say she was justified by sending out the spies AND lying. All of it is included in the word “works”.

      I see what you’re saying with your second part there about how Gordon and Batman’s situation isn’t dealing with the revealed will of God. However, that position would hold that the same lie Rahab told to protect the lives of the spies would not also be justified if a German told it to protect the lives of Jews if the Nazi police paid them a visit in WW2. I know that’s an extreme case, but I think the circumstances are the same, therefore the lie is justified in each case.

      • The case of Batman and Gordon was not in protecting people from genocide. Your argument also presents a slippery slope. It indicates that we have the power to decide when lying is right or wrong. And if that’s applicable to lying, why isn’t it applicable to stealing? To divorce? To adultery? To murder? To homosexuality? Does that not make us gods by our own definitions? If God has not given us an exception to His law, we ought not create one.

  4. So, looking back on the position I adopted I can see an inherent flaw that I don’t like. If Batman takes the fall for Dent’s crimes, the criminals facing prosecution will still face justice. However, the victims of Dent’s crimes, and their families, will never see justice. Let’s face it, the cops aren’t going to catch Batman for these murders, and Dent will never be brought to answer for these crimes (at least in this world). So, the position I took leaves justice unfulfilled with respect to the victims of Dent’s actions.

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