On Scandal

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Order of Contents

Articles  2
Books  4
Simply Displeasing People is Not Scandal
Scandal in Relation to Angels

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Articles

1600’s

Huit, Ephraim – The Anatomy of Conscience, or, The Sum of Paul’s Regeneracy, wherein are handled the places of conscience, worship, and scandal, with diverse rules of Christian practice: very profitable for the Weak Christian  (London, 1626)  ToC

Baxter, Richard – A Christian Directory: a Sum of Practical Theology and Cases of Conscience  Buy  (1673), pt. 4, Christian Politics

Ch. 12, ‘Directions Against Scandal as Given’

“That to scandalize, is not merely to displease or grieve another: For many a man is displeased through his folly and vice, by that which tends to his good: and many a man is tempted (that is, scandalized) by that which pleases him…  The most censorious and humorous sort of men have got a notion, that what ever offends or displeases them is scandalous!  And they think that no man must do any thing which grieves or displeases them, lest he be guilty of scandal: And by this trick who ever can purchase impatiency and peevishness enough to be always displeased with the actions of others, shall rule the world.  But the truth is, the ordinary way of scandalizing these men is by pleasing them.

§. 4.  I will give you one instance of scandal in Scripture, which may help this sort of people better to understand it.  Gal. 2:10-16, Peter there gives true scandal to the Jews and Gentiles: He walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, but laid a stumbling block before the Jews and Gentiles: And this was not by displeasing the Jews, but by pleasing them…  Peter knew the contrary, but for fear of them of the circumcision, lest they should be offended at him as a sinner, he withdrew and separated himself.  This scandal tended to harden the Jews…  and to seduce the Gentiles into a conceit…  and Barnabas was carried away with the dissimulation…

We scandalize them [Baxter’s opponents] and others even by pleasing them, and by avoiding that which they falsely called scandalous.  And if we would not scandalize them, we must do that which is just, and not by our practice hide the sound doctrine which is contrary to their separating error.

And this [scandalizing] is done more seldom by committing open disgraceful sins and doing that which will make the doer evil spoken of: For by that means others are the more assisted against the temptation of imitating him:  But scandal is most commonly found in those actions, which are under least reproach among men, or which have the most plausible appearance of good in them, when they are evil! For these are apter to deceive and overthrow another.

§6.  3. And it is also apparent, that it is no sinful scandalizing to do a duty or necessary action which I have not power to forbear, though I know that another will be offended, or fall by it into sin.  If God have made it my duty, even at this time, I must not disobey Him and omit my duty because another will make it an occasion of his sin.  It must be either a sinful or an indifferent action that is scandal, or something that is in my own power to do or to forbear…

§ 7.  III.  …Those that are careless of the consequent of their actions, and contemn the souls of other men, and will go their own way, come of it what will, and say ‘Let other men look to themselves,’ are the commonest sort of scandalizers; and are as culpable as a servant that would leave hot water or fire when the children are like[ly] to fall into it; or that would leave straw or gunpowder near the fire, or would leave open the doors, though not of purpose to let in the thieves.

§8.  2. Scandal is that which tends to another’s fall, either directly or indirectly, immediately or remotely!  The former may easily be foreseen; but the latter requires a large foreseeing comparing understanding: Yet this kind of scandal also must be avoided; and wise-men that would not undo men’s souls while they think no harm, must look far before them and foresee what is like[ly] to be the consequent of their actions at the greatest distance and at many removes.

3.  Scandals also are Aptitudinal or Actual: Many things are apt to tempt and occasion the ruin of another which yet never attain so bad an end, because God disappoints them: But that is no thanks to them that give the scandal.” – p. 81

Ch. 13, ‘Directions Against Scandal-Taken, or an Aptness to Receive Hurt by the Words or Deeds of Others’

Sanderson, Robert – Case 4, ‘of Scandal’  in Nine Cases of Conscience Occasionally Determined  (London, 1678), pp. 75-81

Sanderson (1587-1663) was a reformed Anglican and casuist.

“In judging of cases of scandal, we are not so much to look at the event, what that is, or may be; as at the cause, [from] whence it comes; for sometimes there is given just cause of scandal, and yet no scandal follows, because it is not taken: sometimes scandal is taken, and yet no just cause given; and sometimes there is both cause of scandal given, and scandal thereat taken;

But no man is concerned in any scandal that happens to another by occasion of anything done by him, neither is [he] chargeable with it, farther than he is guilty of having given it.  If then we give scandal to others, and they take it not, we are to bear a share in the blame as well as they, and that a deeper share too (‘Vae homini’, ‘Woe to the man by whom the offence cometh,’ Mt. 8:7); but if they take offence when we give none, it is a thing we cannot help; therefore the whole blame must lie upon them.

4. The third way [in which a man may be guilty of giving scandal] is, when a man does something before another, which in itself is not evil, but indifferent, and so according to the Rule of Christian Liberty, lawful for him to do, or not to do, as he shall see cause (yea, and perhaps otherwise commodious and convenient for him to do), yet whereat he probably foresees the other will take scandal, and be occasioned thereby to do evil.

In such case, if the thing to be done, be not in some degree (at least prudentially) necessary for him to do, but that he might without great inconvenience and prejudice to himself and any third person, leave it undone, he is bound in charity and compassion to his brother’s soul (for whom Christ died) and for the avoiding of scandal to abridge himself in the exercise of his Christian Liberty for that time so far, as rather to suffer some inconvenience himself by the not doing of it than by doing of it to cause his brother to offend; the very case which is so often, and so largely, and so earnestly insisted upon by St. Paul, Rom. 14:13,21 and 15:1,3; 1 Cor. 8:7,13 and 9:12,22 and 10:23,33.  Here the rule is, Do nothing that may be reasonably forborne, whereat it is like[ly] scandal will be taken.

5.  The last way is, when a man does something before another which is not only lawful, but (according to the exigencies of present circumstances pro hic et nunc [for here and now]) very behoveful, and in some sort (prudentially) necessary for him to do, but foresees in the beholder a propension to make an ill use of it and to take encouragement thereby to commit sin; if there be not withal a great care had to prevent, as much as is possible, the scandal that might be taken thereat: for, Qui non prohibet peccare cum potest, jubet [He who does not prohibit sinning when able, enjoins it].

In such case the bare neglect of his brother, and not using his utmost endeavor to prevent the evil that might ensue, making him guilty, upon which consideration stands the equity of the [particular] judicial law given to the Jews, Ex. 21:33,34, which orders that in [the] case a man dig a pit or well for the use of his family, and (looking no farther than his own conveniency) put no cover on it, but leave it open, whereby it happens [that] his neighbor’s beast do fall therein and perish, the owner of the pit is to make it good, inasmuch as he was the occasioner of that loss unto his neighbor, which he might and ought to have prevented:

In this last case the thing is not (for the danger of the scandal) to be left undone, supposing it (as we now do) otherwise behoveful to be done; but the action is to be ordered and carried on by us, for the manner of doing, and in all respects and circumstances thereunto belonging, with so much clearness, tenderness, and moderation and wisdom, that so many as are willing to take notice of it may be satisfied that there was on our part a reason of just necessity that the thing should be done;” – p. 75, 78-80

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Books

1600’s

Henry, Jeanes – A Treatise Concerning a Christian’s Careful Abstinence from all Appearance of Evil, Gathered for the most part out of the Schoolmen & Casuists: wherein the questions and cases of conscience belonging unto the difficult matter of Scandal are briefly resolved  (Oxford, 1640)

Jeanes (1611-1662) was a conforming, Anglican, puritan clergyman.

Rutherford, Samuel – ‘An Introduction to Scandal’ & Appendix, ‘A Dispute Touching Scandal & Christian Liberty’  in The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), pp. 647-656 & Appendix, pp. 1-103

Durham, James – The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland, or, A Treatise Concerning Scandal, Divided into Four Parts…  (1659)  IA

Clarke, Samuel – Of Scandal, Together with a Consideration of the Nature of Christian Liberty & Things Indifferent.  Wherein these Weighty Questions are Fully Discussed: Whether things indifferent become necessary when commanded by authority?  Neg.  Whether scandalous things, being enjoined, may lawfully be done?  Neg.  Whether a restraint laid upon things indifferent, without a reasonable ground, be not an infringement of Christian liberty?  Aff.  Who is to be judge whether there be a reasonable ground or no in such cases?  How far forth we are bound in conscience to obey human laws?  (London, 1680)

Clarke (1626-1701) was an English puritan that was ejected at the Great Ejection of 1662.  After that he was a non-conformist and gathered a church which was originally presbyterian, though it later became Independent.  He was known for his annotations on the whole Bible.  His theology was of the Baxterian type.

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Simply Displeasing People is Not Scandal

Richard Baxter

A Christian Directory: a Sum of Practical Theology and Cases of Conscience  Buy  (1673), pt. 4, Christian Politics, Ch. 12, ‘Directions Against Scandal as Given’, pp. 80, 82-3

“2.  It [scandal] must be that which may occasion another’s fall: I say ‘occasion’.  For no man can forcibly cause another man to sin, but only occasion it, or tempt him to it, as a moral cause.

§ 3.  II. By this you may see: 1. That to scandalize is not merely to displease, or grieve another:  For many a man is displeased through his folly and vice by that which tends to his good: and many a man is tempted (that is, scandalized) by that which pleases him: When Christ says, ‘If thy right eye or hand offend (or scandalize thee) pluck it out,’ or ‘cut it off,’ etc., Mt. 5, He does not by ‘offending’ mean displeasing or grieving: For by so offending, it may profit us: But He plainly means, ‘if it draw thee to sin,’ or else He had never added that it is better to enter maimed into life than having two eyes or hands to be cast into Hell!  That is, in a word, ‘Thy damnation is a greater hurt than the loss of hand or eye, and therefore if there were no other way to avoid it, this would be a very cheap way.’  So pedem offendere in lapidem is to stumble upon a stone.

The most censorious and humorous sort of men, have got a notion, that what ever offends or displeases them is scandalous!  And they think that no man must do any thing which grieves or displeases them, lest he be guilty of scandal: And by this trick who ever can purchase impatiency and peevishness enough, to be always displeased with the actions of others, shall rule the world.  But the truth is, the ordinary way of scandalizing these men is by pleasing them.

§ 4.  I will give you one instance of scandal in Scripture which may help this sort of people better to understand it: Gal. 2:10-16; Peter there gives true scandal to the Jews and Gentiles: He walked not uprightly according to the truth of the Gospel, but laid a stumbling block before the Jews and Gentiles: And this was not by displeasing the Jews, but by pleasing them…

§ 19.  And that you may see that the scandal forbidden in the New Testament is always of this nature, let us take notice of the particular texts where the word is used: And first to scandalize is used actively in these following texts:  In Mt. 5, before cited, and in the other evangelists citing the same words, the sense is clear:  That the offending of a hand or eye, is not displeasing, nor seeking of ill report, but hindering our salvation by drawing us to sin.  So in Mt. 18:8 & Mk. 9:42-43, where the sense is the same.  In Mt. 17:27, ‘Lest we should offend them, etc.’ is not only, ‘Lest we displease them,’ but lest we give them occasion to dislike religion or think hardly of the Gospel, and so lay a stumbling block to the danger of their souls.  So Mt. 18:6 & Mk. 9, ‘Who so shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, etc.’ that is, not who shall displease them, but who so by threats, persecutions, cruelties, or any other means, shall go about to turn them from the faith of Christ or stop them in their way to Heaven, or hinder them in a holy life:

Though these two texts seem nearest to the denied sense, yet that is not indeed their meaning.  So in Jn. 6:6, ‘Does this offend you?’ that is, ‘Does this seem incredible to you, or hard to be believed or digested?  Does it stop your faith and make you distaste my doctrine?’  So 1 Cor. 8:13, ‘If meat scandalize my brother,’ our translators have turned it, ‘If meat make my brother to offend:’ So it was not displeasing him only, but tempting him to sin, which is the scandalizing here reproved.

§ 20.  View also the places where the word ‘scandal’ is used: Mt. 13:41, [in Greek,] ‘all scandals’, translated, ‘all things that offend,’ does not signify all that is displeasing, but all temptations to sin, and hindrances or stumbling blocks that would have stopped men in the way to Heaven.  So in Mt. 16:23 (a text as like as any to be near the denied sense, yet indeed), ‘Thou art a scandal to me,’ (translated an ‘offence’) does not only signify, ‘Thou displeasest me,’ but ‘Thou goest about to hinder me in my undertaken office, from suffering for the redemption of the world:’ It was an aptitudinal scandal, though not effectual [as Christ went through with his action].

So Mt. 18:7, ‘It must be that scandals come’ (translated ‘offences’), that is, that there be many stumbling blocks set before men in their way to Heaven: So Lk. 17:1 to the same sense, and Rom. 9:33, ‘I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and a rock of scandal (translated ‘of offence’): that is, such as will not only be displeasing, but an occasion of utter ruin to the unbelieving, persecuting Jews; according to that of Simeon, Lk. 2:34, ‘This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.’  Rom. 11:9, ‘Let their table be made a snare, a trap and a stumbling block:’  The Greek word [in Greek] does not signify a displeasure only, but an occasion of ruin.  So Rom. 14:13 expounds itself, ‘That no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way:’ The Greek word is ‘or a scandal.’  This is the just exposition of the word in its ordinary use in the New Testament.

So Rom. 16:17, ‘Mark them which cause divisions and scandals (translated ‘offences’); that is, which lay stumbling blocks in the way of Christians and would trouble them in it or turn them from it.  So 1 Cor. 1:23, ‘To the Jews a stumbling block, that is, ‘a scandal’, (as the Greek word is) as before expounded.  So Gal. 5:11, ‘The scandal of the cross,’ translated ‘the offence,’ does signify not the bare reproach, but the reproach as it is the trial and stumbling block of the world, that makes believing difficult.  So 1 Jn. 2:10, ‘There is no scandal in him,’ translated ‘no occasion of stumbling.’  These are all the places that I remember where the word is used.

§ 21.  The passive verb [in Greek], ‘to be scandalized’, is used often.  As Mt. 11:6, ‘Blessed is he that is not scandalized’ (translated ‘offended in Me’), that is, who is not distasted with my person and doctrine through carnal prejudices: and so kept in unbelief: There were many things in the person, life and doctrine of Christ which were unsuitable to carnal reason and expectation: These men thought to be hard and strange, and could not digest them, and so were hindered by them from believing: And this was beingoffended in Christ’. So in Mt. 13:57 & Mk. 6:3.  They were offended in or at Him: that is, took a dislike or distaste to Him for his words.  And Mt. 13:21, When persecution arises, by and by they are offended: that is, they stumble and fall away: And Mt. 15:12, ‘The Pharisees were offended’, or ‘scandalized’, that is, so offended as to be more in dislike of Christ.  And Mt. 24:10, ‘Then shall many be offended,’ or ‘scandalized’, that is, shall draw back and fall away from Christ.  And Mt. 26:31,33; Mk. 14:27,29, ‘All ye shall be offended because of Me, etc.  Though all men shall be offended (or ‘scandalized’), yet will I never be scandalized’, that is, brought to doubt of Christ or to forsake Him or deny Him, or be hindered from owning their relation to Him.

So Jn. 16:1, ‘These things have I spoken that ye should not be offended;’ that is, that when the time comes, the unexpected trouble may not so surprise you as to turn you from the faith or stagger you in your obedience or hope.  Rom. 14:21 does exactly expound it:  ‘It is good neither to eat flesh or drink wine, or anything whereby thy brother stumbles or is scandalized (or ‘offended’) or made weak:’  It is a making weak.  So 2 Cor. 11:29, ‘Who is offended,’ that is, ‘stumbled’, or ‘hindered’, or ‘ready to apostatize’: So much for the nature and sorts of scandal.

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Scandal in Relation to Angels

Samuel Rutherford

The Divine Right of Church Government…  (1646), Appendix, p. 91

“…for the truth is, even sins (if we speak accurately) are not scandalous actum secundo [according to the act following], in regard of our corruption: our sins may sad[den] the [righteous] angels, but they are not properly scandalous to [righteous] angels [because they do not tempt them to sin]…”

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