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An Exercise in Picking & Choosing What to Read AND Believe

This post and this post have engendered some spirited discussion between a poster named Clare Flourish, a Christian who defends the homosexual lifestyle as a God-given gift, and me, who follows what the Bible says on the matter.

Clare’s follow up post is a veritable case study on how to read into things what you want to be there, instead of what is actually there.  She does that to both my words and the words of the Bible.  I suppose if she’s lax with Scripture reading, I should expect no better given that Scripture contains the words of God himself while I am just a man with no special revelation.

[Cory] wants to save me from that Hell to which all unrepentant gay people will inevitably go after death. I want to save him from hell now, from the idea that humanity is naturally wicked. [1]

Really?  That’s interesting.  If you read my comment, I said this:

Finally, gay people are no more damned than any of us, for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But we are also urged to live in a manner worthy of the calling to which we are called, which gay people who are living in homosexual relationships are NOT.

Does that mean you’re going to hell? Well, I wouldn’t say that. Probably not. It means that you have a sin in your life and that must be dealt with. It doesn’t mean God loves you less; he did, after all, call you to be a Christian.

You will have to deal with this in your own time and in your own way. I see you’ve given this issue a lot of thought, and I applaud that. However, I think you’ve come to the wrong conclusions and I’m not afraid to say that you have. Just as you are not afraid to say that I’ve come to the wrong conclusions. (emphasis added) [2]

So I’m not trying to save Clare from any hell, future or otherwise.  What I’m trying to do is be her Christian brother and point her away from sin that is impeding her relationship with the Lord.  I don’t think she’s going to hell and I can’t save her from a place she’s not going.  I think she has a sin that needs to be eliminated.

As to the idea that humanity is naturally wicked, well that’s pretty much the unanimous teaching of Scripture and of history.  I’ve already covered that elsewhere, so I’m not going to dive into it now. Read the rest of this entry

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But, You Really DO Hate Gay People!

As I figured I would be, I’ve been called out on this post.  A blogger named Jessica Sideways insists that I really do hate gay people and seek to deny them rights.

The whole post in which she does this is, frankly, a waste of the bits and bytes used to store it on her server.  Those could have been used for something far more worthwhile, like a nice virus or maybe another iteration of a Socially Awkward Penguin meme.

Before I respond, an open note to Jessica:  I have a feeling I know how this back-and-forth is going to go.  Therefore, this post only will be in a Minimal Sarcasm Zone.  Only truly inane points you make will be subject to scathing, ironic humor.  If you choose to respond and show the same remedial grasp of philosophical issues I’ve already seen, you will be subject to sarcasm that will make you think of J.P. Holding as a nice guy.

You’ve been warned, now class is in session. Read the rest of this entry

Hanging on to Faith, But Not Liking It

Rachel Held Evans appears to be toying with the notion of dropping the label of “Christian” altogether as she writes with tortured keystrokes:

I am hanging by the tips of sweaty fingers on this ledge of faith, wondering if letting go will bring freedom or death. I’ve hung on before—through the science wars, the gender wars, the Christmas wars, the culture wars—but I’m just so tired of fighting, so tired of feeling out of place. (source)

What’s the cause of this?

The Chik-fil-A controversy.

Rachel, like most in the liberal Christianity camp, rejects the notion that homosexuality is a sin.  She even says it is a “right” that we conservatives aim to deny:

I too believe marriage is a civil right in this country, and I too get frustrated when Christians appeal to their faith  to withhold this right from their neighbors. (source)

Rachel is clearly agonizing over her fellow Christians with the issue of homosexual marriage.  She not only wants to stop praying, but she thinks it might be better for some to be separated from grace:

Suddenly, my religion is alien to me—small, petty, reactive.  My faith has lost its bearings. I don’t feel like praying anymore, not even for the mom who begged me to pray for her gay son who vowed yesterday never to return to church again.

Can I blame him?  Perhaps it is better if he stays away. (source)

I want to seize just a moment on one statement, which I think is the key to Rachel’s problem: “My faith has lost its bearings.”

Yes, it has.  Now let’s examine why that’s the case.

Nick Peters argues, in part, that homosexuality isn’t part of special revelation (the Bible), but a part of general revelation:

. . . [I]n Leviticus 18 and 20, the verses following the list of sins tells us that it is for committing these sins that other nations are being cast out. Other nations were never punished for not following the dietary restrictions or wearing mixed fabrics. Those were practices that set Israel apart from the other nations as a sign they were in covenant with God. The other nations were commanded by Israel to live moral lives, but they were never commanded to follow Jewish practices. Jews could be condemned for trading with other nations on the Sabbath, but the other nations were not condemned for working on the Sabbath.

Note also that this places homosexuality in the category of general revelation. Other nations were cast out because of doing things that we can say that they should have known better. It would not make sense for God to punish a people when they could not have known that they were doing anything wrong. Since this is in general revelation then, you don’t need the Bible. (source)

So that means if you never pick up a Bible, you should still understand that homosexuality violates the natural order of things  (see Dave Armstrong and Jennifer Fulwiler for more on this “natural order” argument).  If you don’t see a violation of the natural order, then we have a bigger problem.

Why?

In committing any sin, you are essentially suppressing the truth of God through unrighteousness (Rom 1:18).  And acting on such evil inclinations without a second thought is a judgment from God:

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:26-32)

Rachel gives approval to those who practice homosexuality, campaigning for their right to legally marry.

Well, no wonder her faith has lost its ground!

She has suppressed the natural law through unrighteous support of sin.  Therefore, God is giving her over to these desires — and her faith is slipping because she feels the distance.

There are only two ways to end her cycles of uncertainty.  She can let go of the cliff, and therefore fall into the abyss.  Or, she can recommit to understanding God in his glory, on his terms (even the decrees she doesn’t like), thus hauling herself back onto the safety of the ledge.

Either option will settle her mind, but only one leads to life.  And it’s easier to let go rather than muster the strength to climb back up (Mt 7:13-14).

Misguided Questions About Marriage

The Facebook page Liberal Logic 101 posted the meme at the right as a satirical point about how loose definitions sometimes become in the liberal camp.

For the record, I don’t know either person and I have no idea why they matter to this picture (beyond an educated guess).  Neither looks the race claimed, but I’m guessing each claims that race.

The idea, of course, is that the liberal has a loose sense of boundaries within a category.  Marriage and race both mean something, and the liberal (says the meme’s creator) is distorting these meanings.  One commenter summed it up nicely for the liberals who missed the point in the comments:

I think the point is that they are taking a set definition and turning it on its head. A dog is not a cat no matter how much you may want it to be. Words have definitions. You can create new words to describe things, but you cant change current definitions or they become meaningless. Imagine cops trying to find a criminal described as black when he is clearly caucasion [sic].

But, there’s a further problem with the mindset of the liberal as it pertains to marriage belied by the following questions, asked by a particular commenter:

Does the definition of marriage define the relationship between you and your spouse? How will it change your marriage if gays marry? Will you divorce your spouse if gays marry? Are you guided by hatred or by love?

A question of my own: What word appears in every single question?

Answer: Some form of “you.”

Yes, the focus for the commenter is how this affects you.

But marriage isn’t defined by how its redefinition would affect any specific individual.  Marriage is marriage, nothing more or less.  There is an ontology to “marriage;” it is the joining of a man and a woman so the two become one.  Each gender needs the complimentary characteristics of the other to be whole.

The commenter’s rhetorical questions were meant to show the conservative that he has nothing to fear by letting gays marry each other, for it won’t affect him an iota.  But this is the wrong way to think.

Marriage is a divine institution, ordained by God.  It isn’t our social construction to be played with as times change.  It is to be conformed to God’s expectations — not society’s.

Just like race has a clear and unarguable meaning (not something we can define as we please), so does marriage.  We cannot take anything that is ordered in a sense by its ontology and turn it into something that pleases us.  No matter how you try to define the words, a marriage will join the genders into one.  It cannot join members of the same sex.

Freedom of Speech

As far back as high school, I often lamented that some folks read the First Amendment to say “Freedom of speech until you offend me, then I’ll sue your sorry butt.”

I wasn’t concerned with a Christian audience that might abhor profanity, so when I said it back in high school and college, I didn’t use the term “butt.”

The point still stands, and I see it more clearly than I ever did at 17.  There is a tide of public opinion now that values tolerance and diversity, except for some people.  “Tolerance” isn’t selective by nature, but secularists tolerate views selectively.

Recently, a Christian in the UK was demoted for expressing his opinion that gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry.  He did so on his own time, and on his personal Facebook page which is only open to his friends.

Now, legally speaking, regardless of privacy settings, there is no expectation of privacy on Facebook or Twitter.  I know this and I’m not going to argue otherwise.  But the comment on this story from Natalie sums up exactly what is wrong with the secular viewpoint:

No one limits the rights for private worship, promotion of christian beliefs in the private sphere. However, internet, blogs, facebook and twitter are all public domains. As a public servant, a representative of an actively secular institution- secular by the law of the land, no one should not publicly publish promotion of religious opinions and values in the public arena. No one ought to utilise public assets or services to promote religious views. This is a great aspect of freedom in western democracies and ought to be defended down to the smallest detail. The public servants were correct to chastise Christians for promoting their faith using public assets and in public spaces.

So, basically, once you can read it, it shouldn’t be allowed.  Like I’ve always said, “You have freedom of speech until it offends me.”

While I agree that the Internet and everything on it is public, this man is still entitled to his opinion and should be able to express it in a public forum, as Natalie may express hers.  Regardless of agreement.

I will argue with atheists.  I will challenge their points, views, biblical exegesis, and conclusions.  But I will never say that they don’t have the right to express their views in a public forum.  That’s precisely why the forum is public — so that differing opinions may be hashed out, challenged, and thought through.  Public means open to all.

Not being allowed to express religious opinions isn’t “freedom of speech” by any definition I can find.  It’s totalitarian oppression.  I know that my religious opinion has no value in secular mindsets.  But, I ignore opinions of no value.  Secularists don’t return the favor — they try to suppress my opinion.  Why?  That doesn’t make any sense.

Natalie’s promoting the evil she allegedly repudiates, though I doubt she sees it that way.  That’s actually the saddest part to all of this.  Christians have as much right to the Internet as atheists.  We just haven’t been as smart about using it.

More on Traditional Marriage: Classic Francis Beckwith

When the mayor of San Francisco was passing out marriage licenses for gay couples in defiance of state law in 2004, philosopher Francis Beckwith suggested a better way to handle it than the legal remedy which was sought:

I believe, however, that given present circumstances that the best strategy is to take the mayor at his word and employ “street theatre” in a provocative way in order to force the other side to defend their marital nihilism in all its glory. Here’s the plan: Have about 50 folks go to San Francisco city hall and request marriage licenses, but not for gay marriages, rather, for other sorts of “unions” that are also forbidden by the state: three bisexuals from two genders, one person who wants to marry himself (and have him accuse the mayor of “numberism,” the prejudice that marriage must include more than one person), two married couples who want a temporary “wife-swap lease,” a couple consisting of two brothers, two sisters, or a brother and a sister, an adult mother and son, and a man who wants to add a second wife and a first husband in order to have a “marital ensemble,” etc., etc. Let’s see if the mayor will give these people “marriage” licenses. If not, why not? If not, then the jig is up and the mayor actually has to explain the grounds on which he will not give licenses to these folks. But what could those grounds be? That it would break the law? That marriage has a nature, a purpose, that is not the result of social construction or state fiat? If so, then what is it and why? (source)

Beckwith goes on that article to state that marriage isn’t a social construction, but an institution with precise meaning and confers a specific benefit to society.

. . . [O]nce marriage is defined merely as a contract between consenting adults rather than as an institution grounded in our natures as men and women, recognized and honored by the wider community, then marriage simply does not exist. According to the mayor of San Francisco, marriage is not something we enter; it is something we create or undo by our willfulness. It is not part of the order and nature of things that we honor and preserve by subjecting ourselves to its moral grandeur; rather, it is like the colors of traffic signals, diplomatic immunity, or the dollar amount of parking fines, arbitrary rules created by governments in order to facilitate safe travel, economic transactions, international relations, state funding, and/or public peace.

Marriage is a covenantal institution recognizing that men and women need each other to survive and flourish.  We’re two sides of the same coin.  If men can marry men, and women can marry women, why not the other institutions that Beckwith suggests, above?  No, marriage has a meaning and a purpose grounded in something greater than just state law.  It is grounded in our own nature, which must have both genders present to see its fulfillment.  Which means that folks like myself who, according to detractors, “deny” gays the “right” to marry are not denying them anything–they never had this “right” in the first place.  You can’t deny a man something that isn’t his to begin with.

Comment Round-up! (part 1)

I’ve decided to respond to all comments from the user styled “Doc” in this post because I’ve taken so long to get to answering them that my 30 day window is drastically narrow.  With this, Doc has another 30 days to reply (should he choose to do that).

First up, my post on fallacious arguments for homosexuality, here’s Doc’s reply to my previous comment:

“Since we’re on this topic, let me ask you a question that I promised myself I would ask the next idiot that said homosexuality is okay because animals do it: ”

I didn’t say that. I asked you if “done in nature” is your definition of “natural.” If it is, then “It’s unnatural” doesn’t hold up, since it is done in nature. Of course, like a typical theist, you twist that into, “If animals do X, it’s okay for humans to do X,” because you’re a theist, and logic is hard.

So, no answer forthcoming.

“There’s no broad definition of natural that’s going to work for everything.

No, you can’t run away from your own charge. You say homosexuality is wrong because it’s unnatural. In order to make this claim, you must define what you mean by unnatural.

It’s true, though: there isn’t a broad definition that’s going to work for everything.  As I apply below, common sense is going to have to apply.  Unfortunately, I gave an answer that a utilitarian would be proud of, and I think that school of thought is totally bogus.  Which means that we’re going to have to refine things a bit. Read the rest of this entry

Fallacious Argument Against Homosexuality

Author of Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire, Jennifer Wright Knust has written an article on CNN’s Belief Blog that uses a really fallacious argument against the sin of homosexuality.  Several fallacious arguments, actually.

Okay, every argument she presents is fallacious, but I’m not going to get into that right now because I’m going to be reviewing her book in its entirety very shortly.  I need a break from atheism, so I thought I’d briefly turn to liberal Christianity.

The argument I wish to highlight is:

“I love gay people, but the Bible forces me to condemn them” is a poor excuse that attempts to avoid accountability by wrapping a very particular and narrow interpretation of a few biblical passages in a cloak of divinely inspired respectability.

You may as well say “I love murderers, but the Bible forces me to condemn them.”  “I love liars, but the Bible forces me to condemn them.”  “I love rapists, but the Bible forces me to condemn them.”  The Bible doesn’t force you to condemn anyone; the fact that what they are doing is against God and nature is why you condemn them.  Not every single human behavior is (or should be) acceptable.

No, the Bible has specific reasons for condemning homosexuality.  (Bookmark that article; I’ll be referring to it throughout my review of Dr. Knust’s book.)

The hole?  The argument assumes that homosexuality is natural, perhaps even desirable.  But, history tells us that is not the case.  Few (if any) cultures accepted homosexuality.  Some turned a blind eye (the Greeks and the Romans, for example, “trained” young men by letting an older man “adopt” him and do sexual things to him), but it wasn’t just “normal” in any but the most depraved societies.  Marriage has always been between the sexes, a man to a woman (or sometimes man to women or woman to men).

If Dr. Knust wants homosexuality to be okay, she has to prove that it is.  Her argument is just another reason why Christians can’t have a meaningful debate about homosexuality.  We’re just backwards bigots, don’t you know?

Comment Section Facepalm

Reading the comment section of this post from the Catholic Champion blog, the only appropriate response is a resounding facepalm.

The main problem I had with the post is how misleading it is.  The headline implies that more Protestant denominations are caving on homosexuality (a sin, to be sure).  The linked article shows the opposite: the United Methodist Church is not caving on homosexuality; but a large number of former bishops are pressuring it to do so.  The article is applauding the denomination for being one of the few mainline Protestant denominations for standing on biblical ground when it comes to this sin.

That aside, I come to an interesting comment from a user called scotju.  It was in reply to the following comment from Neil Parille:

I don’t think this is a very good argument against protestantism. The protestant reformers (and in this case Wesley) opposed homosexuality. So I don’t find it any more significant than some catholic priest or bishop dissenting from church teaching.

And the catholic church has become pretty liberal on some issues. The current pope doesn’t believe the opening chapters of Genesis are historical and one member of the PBC compared Gen. 1-11 to Little Red Riding Hood.

Personally, I don’t like using the arguments of specific personages because then scotju is free to make this (facepalm-worthy) reply: Read the rest of this entry

A Question for John W. Loftus

Positively shocking. Loftus cough out a dumb argument? Unheard of.

Referring to this article, where scientists have discovered a gene that predisposes people to promiscuity, Loftus says:

While it isn’t a forgone conclusion that people with this gene will cheat on their mates, the presence of that gene makes such a temptation harder to overcome. Imagine that, some people (half of us) have a harder time overcoming such a temptation and yet God supposedly judges us all equally. That doesn’t seem fair now does it? I wonder if the incarnate Jesus gave himself that gene since he was “tempted in every way, just as we are.” (Hebrews 4:15) 😉 (source)

This argument (if you can call it that) is absurd.

This actually helps my position on homosexuality. I’ve argued that it is probably inborn, but by virtue of being inborn doesn’t automatically make it desirable. Nor should anything become socially acceptable based entirely on the fact that it is inborn.

Infidelity is a negative trait. So are addictive patterns of behavior, like alcoholoism. As is rage. So are many genetic illnesses like Alzheimer’s, certain cancers, emphysema, and heart disease. All of these things are hardwired into genetics, and no one is trying to argue for society to unconditionally accept people subject to those things on the basis of a genetic predisposition.

Things that are inborn, however, are undeniably part of the self. And what does Jesus call us to do when we become his followers? Deny ourselves (Lk 9:23).

And, turning to Paul’s writings, we see that sin itself is inborn: it is nature as well as action. Otherwise, the whole concept of the Christian becoming a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) is meaningless drivel.

Loftus cranks out lots of posts, and most of them are mindless soundbite arguments. This is the dude who complained at Victor Reppert’s blog (in the comments here) that soundbites were all that comments allowed. Yet, when faced with the unlimited canvas of a blog post, he again argues by soundbite.

Perhaps that’s all he has?

It would seem since one of the arguments that he keeps harping on is that we can’t trust our brains to make sense of the world, since we approach everything with bias and defend that which we prefer to be true.

Which leaves us with a big question for Mr. Loftus:

Why should anyone believe that you offer the truth? You also approach with bias and defend that which you prefer to be true–being that you’re a human and accuse all humans of doing this. You admit it: “I have never claimed that atheists are more rational than believers” (source).