Rules, Virtue, and Crash-Barriers

AfterBelieveThe more I read N.T. Wright, the more I enjoy him. Consider this excerpt from After You Believe, taken out of the chapter titled “Three Virtues, Nine Varieties of Fruit, and One Body.”

Another illustration may help — and may show that this is not a matter of playing rules and virtue off against each other, but of seeing the former within the larger framework of the latter. When the local authorities build roads for cars to travel long distances — highways, motorways, call them what you will — they naturally intend that people should drive along these roads in full control of their cars. Ideally, nobody will ever stray from their side of the road into the path of traffic coming in the other direction. But because from time to time people have been known to lose concentration, to fall asleep at the wheel, to be distracted by a pet dog in the back seat, or whatever — and because sometimes a puncture or other mechanical failure may cause a car to behave erratically, no matter what the driver is doing — the wise highway builders construct a central barrier so that any car drifting toward the oncoming traffic will be stopped in its tracks. Better to bounce back among cars going the same direction than lurch into a head-on collision. Likewise, they build a “rumble strip” at the outer edge of the highway, short of any fence or ditch, which makes a loud noise if your wheels touch it, to keep drivers from running off the road. Those responsible for building roads are not saying, “There you are; there’s a nice crash-barrier. Bounce off that and you’ll be all right.” They’re saying, “You are supposed to drive down the road without touching the barriers. But if something goes wrong, you may need to know that the barrier is there.”

Mmm…love it.

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