Is lying in baseball a virtue?

“Part of baseball, like much of war, depends on deception and raises ethical questions.”

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Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:

So you can't call it sin to enter into an agreement whereby you borrow money and agree to pay it back with interest on a set timetable and do not fulfill your agreement? You don't see that as stealing, or lying, or anything?

That wasn't the scenario I posed nor a question I was asked. But since you ask here, of course it is sin if you enter into an agreement to borrow money and pay it back and you do not fulfill it.

That was exactly the scenario you posed. You wrote:

Someone who carries over a balance buying big screen TVs and eating out every night is different than someone who carries a balance because they are unemployed and buying groceries and gas. And both of those are different than someone who forgets to make a payment. Not all of it is sin, and none of it might be, but all of it involves a use of a card that is permissible so long as one is willing to pay the price for it.

That is a person entering into an agreement to borrow money that will be paid back with interest at a certain time. You describe someone who doesn't fulfill the agreement they made and yet equivocate that it's not always sin, perhaps never sin. It cannot be described as anything other than sin from a biblical perspective. Whether they deliberately intended to defraud the company from whom they borrowed, or they accidentally failed to fulfill their commitment, or they fully intended to meet the agreed terms when they made them but then found themselves facing unexpected circumstances so that they did not have anything with which to meet their commitment - in every scenario they are fully responsible for their failure to keep their promise. It is stealing to borrow from someone and then not pay them. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:
Of course this relativism. That's not even controversial. There's a reason why when you foul in a basketball game the other team gets two shots, but when you shoot a man in cold blood you get life in prison or the death penalty. Relative to each other, they are significantly different, and that is noted by differing penalties.

You are agreeing with me here - same kind, different degree. Same principle, same moral issue, but different degrees of punishment in line with the different degrees of violation. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:
The problem continues to be, Chip, that you are refusing to mount any sort of argument in support of your position. There is no foundation for this discussion to even take place. You want to pretend that a game with an accepted standard of playing is equivalent to an authority established by God. You actually have to make that argument.

Until you do that, there is likely no need to continue here. Honestly, Chip, I am at a loss here. I don't know how to proceed with no argument to respond to.

Of course I have raised a moral argument; that has been the basis of the whole conversation. Your refusal to accept my argument is different than my not having an argument. You are right one thing. We cannot have a meaningful discussion until you are willing to engage with the issues. The biblical principles of submitting to and obeying authority are clearly the point of the discussion. You seem to be arguing that God only expects us to obey some authorities at some times in our life, but that at other times it's ok to deliberately disobey authority if it is socially acceptable (because everyone is doing it and says it's ok) and if we are willing to accept the pre-defined consequences - especially if we find we can gain some personal advantage in doing so. That flies in the face of scripture. God acknowledges all sorts of authorities in our lives. He doesn't ever provide an example of any authority anywhere under any condition that we may ignore unless they stand in direct violation to Him. The argument you are making is tantamount to saying we have to obey the traffic cops on the road somewhere because they are official government employees, but we can ignore the mall cop directing traffic in the parking lot because they are private sector employees - at least if we are willing to allow them to ban us from the mall in the future. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:
Again, aren't you confusing categories. It is not morally wrong to use accepted strategy in a non-moral context to accomplish a particular end. Yes, I teach kids to obey the rules. And part of the rules allows for fouling someone, giving up two shots, with a chance to get the ball back. There is also a case in the rule book for intentional fouling when you don't get the ball back. Defiance of authority, or refusal to submit would be things like continuing to play after the whistle, arguing with officials, flagrant fouls intended to injure, grabbing a player's jersey and hoping not to get caught, etc. None of that is being talked about here.
Actually, you are making the same erroneous argument the pharisees made to Jesus. They argued Moses had given permission, they actually claimed a command, for divorce. Jesus said they misread the law. What Moses said is that because they were stubborn and wicked, they were going to do what they wanted to do anyway and justify it to themselves. All Moses said was what would happen when they went down this path that God did not want. Just because there are sections in the rules stating how an infraction will be handled, you cannot claim that it is intended to be a part of the authorized conduct of the game. The rules on fouls don't say it's ok to do that; they say just the opposite. The rules say you are NOT allowed to do this, but when you do break the rules, these will be the consequences. Now our discussion is centered around the question, "Is it morally acceptable for a Christian to deliberately break the rules and defy the authorities who established the rules of the game in order to gain a personal advantage, even if it is considered acceptable by others?"

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Larry's picture

Moderator

That was exactly the scenario you posed.

No. Go back and read the actual scenario, which you cut and pasted. The scenario I posed was someone who carries over a balance and pays the penalty (interest and perhaps late fees) for it, which or ma not be sin, depending on the context. It was not someone who defaults on a credit card balance, or borrows money and does not intend to pay. That is sin. Those are two different things. To default on a credit card balance is sin. Of course that might bring bankruptcy where a God-ordained authority declares your debt to be over, something that is written right into the contract, and which the creditor has agreed to accept as final. Is the person still required to pay back a debt declared over in bankruptcy? But that’s an actual ethical discussion, as opposed to this one. This is not an ethical discussion. It is a simple rulebook discussion (which is at the end here, if you just want to skip all the rest).

In my scenario, they are fulfilling their agreement, but they are doing it late. As a result, by missing the full payment on the due date, they gain some advantage in cash flow, but they pay a penalty in higher costs of repayment.

You are agreeing with me here - same kind, different degree. Same principle, same moral issue, but different degrees of punishment in line with the different degrees of violation.

No I am not agreeing with you here. Perhaps I am not clearly communicating, but fouling in a basketball is not the same moral issue that killing someone is. Fouling in a basketball game is a totally different kind of thing than killing someone. That’s why I said they are “significantly different.” The rulebook of basketball was not intended to be a moral guide to life in the created world. It is a practical guide as to how the game should be played. The Bible and the law of God is a moral guide to how life should be lived. Furthermore, the play being described here is addressed in the rulebook (again, see below). I wouldn’t think that would be controversial, but apparently it is. Perhaps we need to revisit the old perspective adjuster phrased as “It’s only a game.” It is helpful to gain some perspective in this.

Of course I have raised a moral argument; that has been the basis of the whole conversation. Your refusal to accept my argument is different than my not having an argument.

Making an assertion (which you have done) is different than making an argument (which I don’t think you have done). An argument is an assertion or proposition followed by evidence. I do not recall any argumentation or evidence attempting to persuade that a basketball rulebook or official is an authority established by God that precludes playing within the rules of the game as called in the game.

Furthermore, you fail to note that the actual authority in a game is the official. It is like the old baseball story about the pitcher who asked the umpire what a pitch was. He said, “It ain’t nothing til I call it.” That’s why you don’t stop playing until the whistle blows, and the rulebook (so far as I have heard), has never once blown a whistle. As I have said, to refuse to live under authority in a basketball game means not obeying the authority. It means not stopping when the whistle is blown, or arguing with the officials. And when the official doesn't call the game the way you think he or she should, you can't pull out the rulebook and say you are going to play by the rulebook anyway. To submit to authority, you play by the official's interpretation of the rules.

The biblical principles of submitting to and obeying authority are clearly the point of the discussion.

First, I am not arguing that it is okay to deliberately disobey authority, though I will do that now, as I imagine you will do. Second, don’t we agree that God recognizes differing authorities?

Let’s say that your child’s teacher tells him to do something when he gets home. And you think that what he was told to do by the teacher is wrong, or unwise, or impractical. For instance, the teacher tells your child to read 100 pages on Kierkegard or basketball rules. You believe your child should go to the funeral of a family friend and the dinner that follows, and he will get home so late there will be no time to read that much. It is practically impossible to do both. So you tell your child not to obey the teacher, but to obey you. Who does the child obey? You, right? He should deliberately disobey his teacher in order to obey you. Is that sin?

Or let's make it more relevant. Let's say your son is playing basketball and the coach tells him to foul, and you tell him not to. Is his coach an authority that he should deliberately disobey in order to obey you? You would say, Yes, right? Once you admit that, you have undermined your principle by admitting there are various levels of authority, and God does not expect our response to be the same to all of them.

Actually, you are making the same erroneous argument the pharisees made to Jesus. They argued Moses had given permission, they actually claimed a command, for divorce. Jesus said they misread the law.

Well, I am not sure bringing Pharisees into a discussion on basketball rules is helpful, but at least Greg no longer has to wonder whether anyone is claiming that the rules of basketball are equivalent to biblical law. But I have to say I am with Jesus here. You have misread the law, as I will remind us again below. You have, again, participated in moral equivocation that two things are the same when in fact they are substantively different.

So let’s go back to something I said a long time ago, and something that we probably unwisely let get put aside: the actual rulebook.

  • By rule, an intentional foul makes no attempt to get the ball (it's actually a longer definition, which can be looked up). By rule, such an act results in two shots and the ball back to the shooting team. Rarely is that actually done. And no one should do that. It is wrong to play the game that way. That's defiance of the rules.
  • By rule, you are allowed to attempt to get the ball from another player, even if that results in a foul, which is what we are talking about here. It is a legitimate attempt to get the ball, which is well within the rules of the game. In certain circumstances, you make that attempt with the added risk that there is a great likelihood that you will foul due to defensive intensity. One is not simply fouling to foul. You might actually get the ball without fouling. But the chances are not likely. When I coach soccer, I tell players, You go for the ball. If you foul, that's okay (sometimes). But no cheap shots. You don't play the man, you play the ball.

Would you say this latter category is wrong? If it is wrong to play defense with the possibility of fouling, then it is impossible to play the game. If, on the other hand, you say this is an acceptable way to play, then you agree with me (and the rulebook), since the rulebook allows for heavy defensive pressure, even if it increases the chances of a foul.

Personally, I think a lot of fouling at the end of a game makes for bad basketball. But it is not outside the rulebook if it is done inside the rules of playing the game, as the scenario described is.

Is this called too loosely? Yes, I think too many officials do not call this properly. There should be aa actual attempt to get the ball. But the officials are the authority and the way they apply the rules is the right one, for at least that game. Submission means abiding by it. And their authority (the NCAA, the NBA, or FIBA) has told them how to call it. So for them to call it a different way would be their resisting of their authority.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry, fouling cannot ever be done inside the rules of playing the game. Period. Sometimes people foul (break the rules) inadvertently in their zealous attempt to play the game. That's not what we are talking about in this thread. We are talking about the times when people deliberately foul (break the rules and play outside the given parameters of the game) in order to gain a personal advantage. If you can't understand the difference between those two events, then I don't understand how you can create any kind of moral code applicable to any situation. 

 

Here's the actual NBA rule book, which says, in part, under the definition of personal fouls, "Personal Foul: a player shall not hold, push, charge into, impede the progress of an opponent by extending a hand, forearm, leg or knee or by bending the body into a position that is not normal." It is not considered an acceptable part of the game by any ruling body to foul for any reason at any time. However, the ruling bodies recognize that foul will happen and explain what will transpire when a player does foul. Again, our discussion in this thread is whether it is morally justifiable for a Christian to deliberately choose to break the rules. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Larry's picture

Moderator

Chip, I don't know how to be more clear.

Fouling takes place inside the rules of the game when someone is playing defense. The more aggressive that defense is, the more likely it is you will foul. At the end of a game, increased defensive pressure means increased likelihood of fouling. Teams are most often willing to take that risk. It is a normal basketball play. Fouls happen. You agree with that, based on what you said above, I think. So let's take that off the table now.

The only thing that leaves is fouls that are outside the play of the game, and they are called intentional fouls in the rulebook. They are punished in the rules by two shots and the ball to the shooting team. Depending on the foul, they can also results in technicals, or ejections. They are fouls that take place outside the normal play of the game.

Inside the normal play of the game, it is not, by rule, an intentional foul. It is a personal foul. The rulebook does not address intent in personal fouls. There is no such thing as an "intentional, personal foul" by the rulebook. The only way you get that is by having an authority other than the rulebook and the game officials.

And if the officials are the authority in the game, it is whatever they call it, whether you like it or not. So if they don't call it intentional, it's not an intentional foul regardless of your personal feelings on the matter. And if they don't even call it a foul, it's not even a foul, regardless of your personal feelings on the matter. They are the authority, and living under authority means accepting what they call.

You cannot only appeal to the parts of the rulebook that are convenient for you. You don't have the authority to create a category of rules that don't exist in the rulebook. When you do that, you are saying that the authority is not the rulebook, it's actually you.

If you can't understand the difference between those two events, then I don't understand how you can create any kind of moral code applicable to any situation.

It's not hard. Those two events are both addressed in the rulebook by rules. Those rules have words, and those words have meaning. And the officials are the authority about what they mean in a game. One is called a personal foul; it takes place inside the rules of the normal play of the game. The other is called an intentional foul, and it takes place outside the normal play of the game.

Let me extend the illustration above a bit. Let's say that an official doesn't call the game properly, or at least the way you think he should. Are you able to grab the ball, walk to the free throw line, and shoot your free throws? Of course not, right? Because the authority of the game is the official, not the rulebook in that case. By submitting to the authority, you are accepting his calls, whether you agree with them or not.

In the end, Chip, you are creating tension where there is none. Players in any game should play by the rules, recognizing that at times, rules will be broken, penalties assessed, and the game will continue. The category of intentional foul that you keep invoking is also addressed in the rulebook. If the authority is the rulebook, as you keep saying, then your distinction falls apart, it seems.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:

Chip, I don't know how to be more clear.

Fouling takes place inside the rules of the game when someone is playing defense. The more aggressive that defense is, the more likely it is you will foul. At the end of a game, increased defensive pressure means increased likelihood of fouling. Teams are most often willing to take that risk. It is a normal basketball play. Fouls happen. You agree with that, based on what you said above, I think. So let's take that off the table now.

Larry, I have interacted with you enough to be confident you are not trying to be deliberately obtuse here. But that leaves me completely dumbfounded about how to get you see the difference in what we are saying. 

1. Fouls are never accepted within the rules. They are, by definition, violations of the rules as I showed by quoting a section of the official NBA rules earlier.

2. Sometimes fouls happen inadvertently as players zealously play the game. When the rules are broke, the rules provide the appropriate penalties to be enforced against the offending player/team.

3. Sometimes players/coaches/teams decide to deliberately break the rules because they decide the possible gains from the foul will outweigh the defined penalties. It is this third situation we are discussing in this thread. We are not talking about fouls that happen while players are trying very hard to play the game and accidentally go too far in their zeal. Even those fouls are not inside the rules of the game; they are a violation of the rules and are out of bounds which is why there is a penalty. But the moral element is raised when the decision is made to deliberately (as opposed to accidentally) step outside the defined rules of the game. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Larry's picture

Moderator

1. Fouls are never accepted within the rules. They are, by definition, violations of the rules as I showed by quoting a section of the official NBA rules earlier.

By inside the rules, I mean that they are considered part of the game, and the rules address them. It is not something the rules don't address.

2. Sometimes fouls happen inadvertently as players zealously play the game. When the rules are broke, the rules provide the appropriate penalties to be enforced against the offending player/team.

Yes.

3. Sometimes players/coaches/teams decide to deliberately break the rules because they decide the possible gains from the foul will outweigh the defined penalties. It is this third situation we are discussing in this thread. We are not talking about fouls that happen while players are trying very hard to play the game and accidentally go too far in their zeal.

Here's the problem: You have just created a category that the game doesn't have. The rulebook does not recognize this third category of a personal foul that is particularly egregious or immoral only because it is committed because the possible gains outweigh the risk of penalty. Virtually every foul is like that.

If the rulebook is the guide and authority for the game (even though it's actually not; the officials are), then this situation does not exist and you can't just create it out of thin air. There are personal fouls and there are intentional fouls. There is no consideration of the issue you raise in the rules and the reason is because it is an accepted part of the game that the rule writers have no intention of getting rid of (though they could, if they wished). A while back, there was a move to make it so that a team fouled in the last two minutes (or so, I don't remember the exact time) could have the option of either shooting free throws or taking the ball out of bounds. It was widely rejected because the people who play and coach the game wanted the thing you are complaining about to be a part of the game.

But the moral element is raised when the decision is made to deliberately (as opposed to accidentally) step outside the defined rules of the game.

You would have to demonstrate this is a moral element. You treat the rules like an absolute moral code when it is more like a set of conventions agreed upon before hand by those involved. Is it wrong to use the non-moral rules of the game to accomplish an end, when those who make the rules and enforce the rules intentionally leave open the possibility for it? I think the answer is no. The rules exist to govern this situation, and as in every game, you can take advantage of the rules to play.

But the fact remains that the fouls in question are the result of legitimate defensive play.

I will (try to) leave it at that and give you the last word, if you like.

Kevin Miller's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Larry wrote:

So you can't call it sin to enter into an agreement whereby you borrow money and agree to pay it back with interest on a set timetable and do not fulfill your agreement? You don't see that as stealing, or lying, or anything?

That wasn't the scenario I posed nor a question I was asked. But since you ask here, of course it is sin if you enter into an agreement to borrow money and pay it back and you do not fulfill it.

That was exactly the scenario you posed. You wrote:

Someone who carries over a balance buying big screen TVs and eating out every night is different than someone who carries a balance because they are unemployed and buying groceries and gas. And both of those are different than someone who forgets to make a payment. Not all of it is sin, and none of it might be, but all of it involves a use of a card that is permissible so long as one is willing to pay the price for it.

That is a person entering into an agreement to borrow money that will be paid back with interest at a certain time. You describe someone who doesn't fulfill the agreement they made and yet equivocate that it's not always sin, perhaps never sin. It cannot be described as anything other than sin from a biblical perspective. Whether they deliberately intended to defraud the company from whom they borrowed, or they accidentally failed to fulfill their commitment, or they fully intended to meet the agreed terms when they made them but then found themselves facing unexpected circumstances so that they did not have anything with which to meet their commitment - in every scenario they are fully responsible for their failure to keep their promise. It is stealing to borrow from someone and then not pay them. 

So is it your understanding that if I have a big car repair in the 28th of the month, and I take advantage of my mortgage company's 15 day grace period to pay the mortgage out of my next pay check, that I have actually sinned since I had agreed to pay on the 1st? Is that stealing?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ok Larry, I'm with you - it's time to just set this discussion aside. Even when we have disagreed most pointedly, you have been gracious in our conversation, and I have appreciated that. At this point I guess we can just leave the thread for others to review.

 

Kevin, the grace period is really more of a mercy period. It's a period when a penalty is due, but is withheld due to the good graces of the authority. You will have to decide how Proverbs 3:27 and other passages might fit. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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