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?
Guest Post by Tom Scanlon
So we understand each other, atheism itself didn’t cost me my marriage. That would be ridiculous. But the methodology I used to embrace atheism did cost me my marriage!
As a Christian, I believed in the Resurrection. But I realized that the Resurrection left no evidence, except for numerous stories from eyewitnesses. We all know that eyewitness testimony is extremely unreliable. I can’t rely on eyewitness testimony, even the staggering number of people that claimed to see Jesus after his death (Paul said it was north of 500), because you just can’t rely on eyewitnesses! It’s too subjective.
Realizing the subjectivity of eyewitness accounts, and realizing that there was nothing I could forensically touch or taste that would lead me to the truth, I have to side with the fact that never have I seen a body three-days dead get up and walk. It should take more than inherently unreliable eyewitness testimony for anyone to believe that.
Eyewitness testimony is bad!
So, to be consistent, I started applying that to my everyday life. When Laura, my wife, told me that it was raining outside, unless she was drenched when she walked in the door, I’d go check for myself. She’s an eyewitness, after all. She could be biased towards rain that day since the weatherman had predicted it, and thus be mistaken. She could have just wanted it to rain and believed she saw rain. Or, she could be lying to me to further an unseen agenda.
Either way, the only way to ascertain the truth would be to see it with my own eyes. If Laura announced dinner was ready, I wouldn’t believe her until I smelled the food or saw it on the table. If she told me a story about her past, I would try to empirically verify it, either from her old yearbooks or by looking at her scrapbooks. Not her journals (that’s still eyewitness testimony); only pictures would do!
I started doing that at work, too. I never believed what I was told, only what I could see with my own eyes. There were lots of whispers, and no one wanted to work with me. But I continued to verify every story someone told me, regardless of how mundane. If I couldn’t forensically verify it, I didn’t believe it.
When Laura, or someone acting on her behalf, told me that she was staying late at work or visiting my in-laws, I never believed that outright. If Laura were having an affair, that is exactly the sort of thing they’d tell me to keep it a secret. So I always drove by her office or my in-laws on the way home to see if her car was there.
Laura started to get this crazy idea that I didn’t trust her. “Honey,” I’d reassure her, “it’s not you. I trust you. I just don’t trust any eyewitness testimony. Period. Unless I can get forensic evidence to back it up, then I just won’t accept it on someone’s word!”
I thought she’d understand, but she filed for divorce only six months after I started this. She also filed for an order of protection. Since I was constantly driving by her alleged whereabouts, she got this crazy idea that I was stalking her.
What ticked me off most is that she had no forensic evidence to back up her claim: no tire tracks, no paint chips from my car, nor any surveillance tapes showing my car checking up on her. Nothing like that. Just three eyewitnesses. The judge accepted the eyewitness testimony and granted the order! Can you believe that? How insulting. Not to mention a bit ironic.
I’m convinced that for a Christian to get a TV show, he must be a heretic. I have yet to find a single orthodox televangelist. So Father Alberto Cutie, apostate Catholic priest, will be in good company:
- Joyce Meyer seems to be the closest to orthodoxy, but I still cringe at much of what she says.
- Creflo Dollar, to his credit, at least keeps to the text and expounds each verse, keeping the context in mind and following the argument–even if his conclusions don’t fit with traditional Christian interpretations of the same verses.
- TD Jakes takes a serious scattershot approach, picking one Bible verse here and another one there–all way out of context, of course–to conform to a predefined argument that really isn’t supported by the plenary teaching of Scripture.
- Paula White has no roots in traditional Christianity. I watched a program where she purported to be telling a story from the Bible, but she actually changed the story quite a bit to better suit her point–which was giving to her ministry guarantees that God will make you a rich entrepreneur.
- Pat Robertson speaks for himself and I need to add little commentary to show how he’s co-opted Christianity for his own benefit.
- Jim Bakker and Peter Popoff, despite having been proven frauds, still have TV shows.
Cutie now has a talk show on Fox News. It isn’t often I agree with self-proclaimed “Catholic Champion” Matthew Bellisario, but this statement encapsulates the situation very well:
. . . Cutie, an ordained Catholic priest decided it was more important to break his vows that he made to God and His Church rather than do as he promised. He ran off with a women and apostatized from the Church and then joined the heretical Protestant Episcopal group, while still claiming to be a priest as if nothing has happened. It seems that he thinks that he can just jump ship over to a dysfunctional, deficient group outside the Church with no consequences. (source)
Bellisario is right. Disagreement with the doctrine of a church isn’t a reason to just jump ship. This is a rampant problem in Protestantism: “I don’t like my church’s music. The organ guy is always out of tune. Down the street, they have more modern worship music with electric guitars and a rock-climbing wall in the children’s area. Let’s go there.”
But Cutie’s reason for leaving the Catholic Church has nothing to do with rock-climbing walls or electric guitar used in the music set yet is just as self-serving: he wanted to get married. I can sympathize with sexual temptation. That also happens to be my weak point. But, if you claim to love the Catholic Church (as Cutie does repeatedly), and the Catholic Church is what you have believed in and relied on for your salvation from forever ago, then why abandon that Church so easily, especially for the ultra-liberal Episcopal Church?
But the Episcopal Church makes perfect sense for Cutie. There is no accountability for sin there. This church literally permits everything: women clerics, openly gay clerics, homosexual marriage–name your heresy, and the Episcopal Church probably embraces and encourages it!
Cutie will be able to glory in his shame (Phil 3:9; perhaps reminiscent of Hab 2:15-17, especially appropriate given that verse speaks of punishment to those who lead others astray, which Cutie is clearly able to do with a talk show vehicle). He will never be called to repentance, and never be called back to an authentic relationship with Christ. There is no such thing as sin in the Episcopal Church, so he’ll be welcome to live in sin as long as he’s there, and the congregants won’t see anything wrong with it. Cutie isn’t so much looking for a new church as he is an excuse to do what he wants instead of living the life God has planned for him.
On a recent Dividing Line podcast, James White reviewed a Christian’s reply to an atheist from the Unbelievable radio program. The Christian told the atheist to earnestly pray to Jesus something to the effect of, “Jesus, I don’t believe in you, but I know that you’ll do something to change my mind.” He then told the atheist that Jesus would provide all the evidence needed to believe.
That may be the crappiest presentation of the gospel ever heard.
James White was, of course, outraged. But should he really be surprised that someone would speak this way of the gospel?
Commitment to Christ in the New Testament is repeatedly likened to marriage. Marriage isn’t viewed the same way now as it once was. The colloquialism “starter marriage,” a marriage that ends within five years before the couple has children, is now common parlance thanks to a book of the same name.
Given that marriage is a lifelong commitment, it should be entered with that in mind. It should entail a total change–or at least the willingness to change–in personality, behavior, and attitudes. It should be a willingness for both parties to leave themselves behind for the betterment of both. In other words, the two should become one flesh. But that isn’t how people enter marriage. They get married for a variety of weak reasons. They get married because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do. They get married because they want an extra income to move out of mom and dad’s house. They get married because they’ve been dating so long that it’s easier than breaking up.
Many atheists argue that marriage should only be viewed as a contract, demeaning its origin as a divine covenant. And why shouldn’t they feel that way? Look at all the celebrity divorces and cheating scandals. Adultery used to be viewed a serious issue, maybe even a crime in some jurisdictions; now it’s regarded a mere trivia. It’s socially acceptable to be divorced, and adultery isn’t a crime anymore.
The book I referenced earlier, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony, concluded that the divorce of a starter marriage is actually a good thing. Which leads back to the question I just asked: Why shouldn’t a secularist argue that marriage has only the level and enforcability of a man-made contract?
Now let’s connect this discussion to the issue raised at the beginning of this post. Since marriage is marginalized, and marriage is the metaphor for embracing Jesus, why is that pragmatic approach to the gospel a surprise to James White? White, after all, has been blogging about attacks on traditional marriage for as long as I’ve been reading his blog. Culture has adopted a pragmatic approach to marriage, so why wouldn’t the gospel be next?
The issue is, as White correctly states on The Dividing Line, is that becoming a Christian requires a complete and utter surrender of self to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20). If we can’t submit ourselves to a person that we can see and touch, there is no hope for us to submit to someone that we can’t see or touch.
A new believer named Ronni needed some relationship advice, so she did the only logical thing and turned to Pat Robertson.
Robertson is giving a biblical answer for a change. He’s referring to 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
It’s not a blanket prohibition on “hanging out” with unbelievers. How are we supposed to evangelize if we’re not permitted to hang out with unbelievers? The idea of a “yoke” is a rabbinical term referring to various interpretations of the Hebrew bible. A rabbi was said to teach and follow a specific “yoke.” It’s similar in terms to a Christian denomination of today, but not exactly. For example, a rabbi who came up with a new yoke (rather than teaching an existing one) had to have his new yoke blessed by the laying on of hands by two other rabbis.
What “unevenly yoked” means is that a person shouldn’t have a very different set of beliefs than their spouse.
My wife is an Arminian, and I’m a Calvinist. I’ve heard that that doesn’t work very well. But that hasn’t been my experience so far. Calvinists and Arminians agree on the basic premise that faith in Christ alone is what is necessary for salvation, and that is exactly what my wife and I plan on teaching our kids. The difference between Calvinism and Arminianism is in how the person arrives at saving faith–through God’s action alone (Calvinism) or by God’s response to a free will decision (Armininism).
The real problem for Ronni in the video is that her fiancee is an atheist. It probably isn’t impossible for such a marriage to work, but my concern would be for any future children that the couple would have. How does one decide what religion the children will be raised to believe?
Ronni’s fiancee, as an atheist, probably believes that the Bible is a collection of myths rather than historical facts. He also likely denies the Resurrection (perhaps even the historical person of Jesus). Ronni, as a Christian, is going to want to teach her children about the existence of God and Jesus, that the Bible is a reliable history book, and that Jesus died on the cross and rose again on the third day to defeat sin and death.
I don’t know many atheists who would want their children to be taught such “nonsense.” In that scenario, mom teaches one thing, then dad undermines it behind mom’s back. The kids are going to be confused.
An additional problem presents itself. The church, as a whole, fails in apologetic instruction. I doubt much that Ronni has any way to counter the arguments that her fiancee will expose the kids to: contradictions in the Bible, Jesus never existed, there is no evidence for God, evolution removes the need for God, and other atheist talking points. The kids, in this scenario, are far more likely to be atheists since the atheist is able to present and defend his reasons for being so, while the Christian is left with “You just have to have faith.”
Unless the fiancee is going to agree to not interfere with the religious upbringing of the children, and if he is going to agree to be supportive of Ronni’s Christian faith, then this might be fine. But I don’t know many atheists who are willing to do such a thing. At least, the impression I get from the commenters on this site.
So, what say you, atheists? Am I wrong? Could you be supportive of your spouse if your spouse was religious and wanted to bring the kids up in that religion?
Last year, I was surprised to find that God is Imaginary added three proofs as a bonus. I was able to write answers for all of them in about a day.
As I had suspected, it was very easy to update those bonus sections. Since I had written only about a year ago, they reflect my current theological understandings more than many of the other proofs. They had no comments from skeptic readers that were worth addressing, so they required very little rewriting.
They are now up for your perusal, with comments enabled at the bottom:
Many conservative Christians do not adhere to these verses [Lev 19:18 and Mt 22:39]. If they did then gays would have the same rights as heterosexuals to lawfully join in union. It is because of American Christians hatred of homosexuality that gays cannot legally bond in most states. Some Christian parents have been known to disown their children who happen to be homosexual. (source)
Mark (proprietor of Proud Atheists) has demonstrated the reason that Christians can’t have a meaningful debate with social liberals over homosexuality. We consider, with good reason, homosexuality to be a grave sin. However, calling it that causes the other side to immediately label us “homophobes,” “bigots,” or other nice names.
It is because we love our neighbors that we try to communicate that homosexuality is a sin. If we didn’t care about our neighbor’s eternal fate, then we’d just shut up and allow homosexual marriage to take place.
Mark is doing serious violence to the definition of love by making his initial claim. He’s saying that if we loved our neighbors, then we’d leave them be to express their individuality. But that’s absolutely absurd.
If my neighbor asserted his individuality by playing with matches and lighter fluid and I didn’t stop him, one could hardly make a case for me being “loving.” If another neighbor asserted his individuality by keeping 14 year old girls for sex slaves before killing them, I would hardly be called “loving” if I allowed him to continue unabated. If another neighbor decided that gambling and drinking were more important than his wife and kids, I would not be considered “loving” if I didn’t try to reason with him and show him that he’s losing his family and ruining his future.
The radio station K-Love once ran a spot where several criminals who had committed crimes of increasing severity appeared before a judge. Each time, the judge said to the offender that he was forgiven, and he could go free to sin no more–never once punishing him. The end of the spot asked, “Do you consider this judge loving?”
Of course not. We might describe that judge as apathetic, but not loving. Same as my behavior in the three hypothetical examples above.
Returning to the homosexuality example, since we consider it to be a grave sin, we would be apathetic if we allowed people to walk in it unabated. It would be no different than if we failed to denounce murder. Where we are failing to communicate is that society doesn’t think that there is anything wrong with homosexuality.
Rather than listen to what we’re trying to communicate about homosexuality, however, we are simply labeled bigots or homophobes. Emotionally loaded terms. There is no meaningful debate after that.
Daniel just did the exact same thing over at Unreasonable Faith: he’s not considering that homosexuality is a sin, or that Christians should speak against it like any other sin. He’s just calling the pastor a bigot. No argument. Just name calling.
In a previous post, I criticized Mark of Proud Atheists for this post. Mark listed 14 things that he simply does not adhere to, given his naturalistic worldview. In all cases, I’ve been finding that Mark misunderstands or mischaracterizes Christianity. Today, we continue exposing his errors on points eight through 14, and offer some concluding thoughts. Read the rest of this entry
Mark from Proud Atheists does it again! He manages to prove his general and willful ignorance of religion even while attempting to mock it. His latest diatribe is a thoughtful post titled “Dear Christians, ‘I Simply Do Not . . . .‘” It’s a fascinating line of crap from start to finish. Let’s see what we can make of it: Read the rest of this entry
Shocking. CedarCreek, a Toledo-area megachurch, is trying to be relevant. They are planning two meetings about sex from God’s point of view, the first titled “Sex: It’s Bigger Than You Think” on April 25 and “From Messing Up to Making Up” on May 2. As per CedarCreek’s usual M.O., there is an aggressive advertising campaign and a website.
While I think that it is refreshing that many churches are starting to eliminate the taboos once placed on talking about sex, not everyone seems to agree:
But the Rev. Andrew Edwards, pastor of Northwest Baptist Church in Toledo, said church is not the place to talk about sex. He voiced strong opposition to CedarCreek’s campaign, saying that discussing sex with teens would make them more likely to engage in it because it would “stir up their emotions.”
The pastor criticized CedarCreek for “letting the world dictate what they do instead of the Bible.”
“What they’re using is the sensual, not the spiritual,” Mr. Edwards said. “I oppose what they do. I don’t think what they’re doing is going to help. They’re just using it to market to teenagers.” (source)
Often, the world charges that the church simply isn’t relevant on sex anymore. To the world, monogamy is cruel, premarital sex is a “right,” and those who would preach abstinence prior to marriage are evil. Adultery is just another fact of life, and the sooner that the church accepts that, the better.
We’re evil for expecting people to exercise a little self-control? It can’t be about that, can it? God shouldn’t actually expect us to keep it in our pants unless we’re in a committed, loving, relationship sealed with the sacrament of marriage, should he? I mean, that’s just cruel. And then, once married, he actually expects us to honor those marriage vows?
No wonder Richard Dawkins described God famously in The God Delusion with all of those lovely adjectives strung together on page 31. It’s just plain evil to give us a beautiful gift and then expect us to actually obey rules with it. We should be able to have sex wherever, whenever, and with whomever we please, regardless if we’re married, single, divorced, underage, or related to the person after whom we lust.
Self-control is for the birds. After all, we’re just animals that have evolved higher intelligence. Animals don’t have all those restrictions; they have sex with any partner that will have them! We’re no different than any animal, so why should we obey all of these rules when it comes to sex, the most fun that anyone can have, ever?
Sorry, Mr. Edwards, but obviously I disagree. It is precisely because the world has the view of sex that I just satirized is why the church should educate people about it. People should understand that sex is a beautiful thing, when exercised properly. But few people are willing to practice the appropriate self-control, and even fewer understand the proper use of sex.
And that is where the church comes in.
Ignoring this problem will not make it go away.