Thursday, December 1, 2011

On the Two Lesbians Who Raised an Incredible Young Man

The video shared on the net and primarily through facebook about the fine, young man raised by two lesbians is being used to show that it is indeed possible for a person to be raised as a responsible, educated, and industrious citizen without the aid of a male/female parentage, the latter vision of which so often appears in the minds of people when the term "traditional marriage" is invoked as a cultural norm. After all, we must ask ourselves, is it not better, indeed--far better--for such a situation to occur than for one to be raised in an abusive, albeit "traditional home"? We should not dispute that it is not better. Of course it is better to be raised in an atmosphere of love, compassion, encouragement, et. al, as opposed to one of ridicule, neglect and abuse. What would the world be like if all children had such a life? The world would instantly change into a paradise full of grown-ups fulfilled in every sense with the self-esteem required in order to apply personal ambition and dreams, as well as the selflessness required in order to perpetuate this kind new world rolling with fields of love and compassion. Ah, blessed hope! To this end we are striving.
The young man appeals to the courts and to his fellow citizens to please vote in favor of gay marriage. "After all," we are told, "look at me: I'm a fine citizen and proof of what is necessary in order to make the world a better place. Imagine if I had been raised in a home where there was no love, or an abusive home. I could be a common criminal, but instead I am a fine, upstanding young man." We applaud this young man!
But wait. Let's put our emotions aside and think for a moment. Is something good because it produces a desired result? Let's think of a different scenario. Think of a parent who *does* abuse his child. The child is beaten upon the first instance of disobedience. The child is chided when mistakes are made in school. The child is given a stern look when "tomfoolery" is detected. The child then grows up to be a hard-working, industrious, educated, producer--a CEO of a big business. He provides jobs for 1000's of people. He gives to charity. Maybe his marriage suffers (or even fails) because he is unable to enjoy life because of his upbringing and his work ethic and his askance toward "tomfoolery" aka, "having a laugh." But all the same--he's a good guy. Now, would we argue that his abusive parents (or dad) was right in doing so? After all, look at what has been produced? That's ridiculous, you say. You are right--it is ridiculous to say his stern, mean father was good and right for doing what he did and *being* who he was.
"But wait," you say. You're are using a bad example, for our example is one of two, loving lesbians who raised an upstanding young man, whereas your example is one of a harsh, stern parentage (or, just the dad) which produced something similar." Correct again. But perhaps you will see my point in this: the outcome of something does not validate its origins, and this we call pragmatism. Pragmatism says, "If it works, it's good." In our case of the lesbian couple, we are told to vote "yes" for gay marriage because of a particular outcome, in this case, the outcome of a fine, upstanding young man. (Of course, we know nothing of this man's personal life, other than a 3-minute video, so we really know him not at all, but let us take it for granted that these 3 minutes are sufficient to the task at hand). Pragmatic theories of ethics are not desirable tests for social structures, however. For pragmatism proves nothing except that some things work. Many cultures have resorted to pragmatism in order to produce desired results: Stalinist Russia, the Nazis, pagans who sacrifice to idols, Southerners who owned slaves. So, just because something produces a desired result, does not mean it is, in and of itself, good and right. And, we should note that while we can be thankful that such a fine, young man has had his genesis and nurture from this lesbian couple, it does nothing to say for others who may have been raised in similar households who have not enjoyed such success. Does one, good example nullify any (possible) negative ones?
Please note: I am not comparing those who support gay marriage to the aforementioned groups who have committed atrocious crimes against humanity. These are only glaring examples of pragmatism.
If gay marriage is going to be argued as something that our society should affirm, proponents of it need to argue on better grounds than those of pragmatism, for as we have seen, pragmatic arguments are weak, and should not be accepted as solid criterion upon which to build a societal ethic.
Now, we may also note that the argument is
*two people who love each other should not be told they cannot marry.
But we need to ask ourselves why we should limit ourselves to *two* people in a marriage? And what rules should there be concerning age, or relation? The argument proposed by the proponents of gay marriage rests on "two people in love with each other." But surely this is insufficient. There is an intuitive, unmentioned assumption that the following rules apply:
1) no close relatives
2) no minors married to adults
3) no human/nonhuman unions
4) no minors married to minors
5) no more than *two* people per marriage.
But why, and on what grounds? If we must throw away the traditions that bind and oppress us and keep us from loving each other, then why must we obey rules 1-5? (Rules 1-5, by the way were codified millennia ago by Moses to his fellow Hebrew freedmen). What of the old woman who loves her faithful pet? What of the uncle who loves his niece? What of the cousins who love each other? We'll not go further and insult ourselves with gross illustrations. Ah, I've insulted you now. I should stop. But, please allow me to ask: why must we obey any rules at all? Why must rules 1-5 apply? After all, who is to say that it is wrong? And how would you respond to someone who says, "But we love each other?"
By now perhaps you are angry with me, for I have dared to make such statements and ask such questions. But I am only asking questions, and I am asking what I do trust is done so in humility and love. For now, however, the burden of proof is not upon the "traditionalist" but on those who would change the tradition of one man/one woman for marriage (with additional rules about age and relation). Yes, the burden of proof is on the proponents of gay marriage to provide grounds for their position, based not upon pragmatism, and also to answer questions 1-5, and especially number 5.

43 comments:

RHammer said...

Chris, this is very well written and so timely. I was not aware of the video you were referencing so I'm going to look it up. However, the topic in my diversity class tonight was on the dynamics of lesbian relationships and how to counsel them. Then we watched a talk show segment on transgendered children. It makes my brain hurt.

John David Walt said...

Very well argued. Point established.

BThomas said...

You make a strong point, Chris.
Could you cite more clearly your evidence for the Mosaic origins of rules 1-5? Also, does Moses speak against homosexuality?

sarah beth said...

great points. often times people don't want to take the time to think logically about these issues, because they think it's just about "love". Wouldn't true love from Christians be sharing the gospel to these lost souls?

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Ben,

My point is not to argue for the historicity of Moses, or of Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, which I know you hold in suspicion, if clear denial. The point rather is that rules 1-5 have been around for ages, and that those who propose gay marriage are using "borrowed capital" from ancient traditions held by various cultures rooted in the Deuteronomisitic code, while eschewing the parts of it they simply do not like.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

"If not clear denial." It should read in the previous comment.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Sarah Beth,

Yes, true love from Christians means sharing the gospel with all. And we must do so with gentleness and respect. The challenge before us is figuring out the role of law in society, while maintaining the love ethic. Society must have laws, and it must have love. The two are not opposed to one another. We must love all, and we must have just laws. The question those who propose gay marriage is, "Why should we consider it just for homosexual couples to marry, while maintaining rules 1-5?"

Anonymous said...

Great to see someone addressing the other side of the issue. Just because someone is a good speaker, does not make what they are saying correct. There are a lot more issues to legalizing gay marriage than what is addressed in the video.

David Millner said...

Chris, you've misunderstood this video. He's not espousing some affirmative, pragmatist morality; he's rebutting an argument that lesbian parents ought not adopt because their children will necessarily be harmed. It's his response to an argument that you aren't making: on the contrary, you are agreeing with him that the outcome of children doesn't warrant action against same-sex marriage.

You ask "Does one, good example nullify any (possible) negative ones?". One "good example" redeemed the whole world! When faced with a moral question, looking to an specific example can be quite powerful.

As for the five rules you give, I really don't think you intend to suggest that Christians are today bound by Mosaic law? And cousins are permitted to marry in many US states. And the definition of "minor" has changed significantly. And how are you not just arguing to ban interracial marriage (e.g., Deut 7:3)? And as for "no more than two people," a marriage of one man with many women was traditional, too.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Hi Dan,

I don't think I've misunderstood the video. Does not the young man make an appeal for same-sex marriage?

I would also disagree with your dismissal of the Mosaic law, and what was normative in Israel. Jesus affirms that "in the beginning, this was not so, for God created them male and female." (Matt. 19:4). Have you not read? Jesus asks.

Polygamy was permitted, but was against the law of God, and was never his intention from the beginning.

As far as dismissing the Mosaic law, such as some do, this too is unwarranted. They argue: since we are not under the law of Moses, we can mix garments together. Therefore sodomy is holy (when done in a loving, context of two, consenting adults.

Sodomy is never ok, and neither is lesbianism. This is the biblical view. Anyone reading the Bible can know this without having to resort to fanciful arguments.

Further, I'd like to add that this young man has indeed been taught a very harmful lie: that two women can be lovers under the smiling face of God. This is not so.

This does not mean I do not love homosexual people or their adopted children, or people who support gay marriage. I most certainly DO Love them. I merely affirm that such acts are sinful.

Sincerely,
Chris

Chris Van Allsburg said...

About cousins marrying, that's fine, because it's not my point. What about an uncle with his niece? Is that ok?

Further, because the age of minors varies in time and place is of no consequence to the strength of my argument, either. Would you affirm the right of a 65 year old man to marry a 9 year old girl?

I'm sure in both cases you would say no.

My point in rules number 1-5 is this: the homosexual community simply wants to come to the overriding rule of
*Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, under which certain rules apply (rules 1-5), and then they want to come along and say that this rule is unjust, unfair, and inept.

But I only want to ask why? Why is this rule so bad? Do not homosexual couples have civil unions in our nation? Why change the definition of marriage?

Further, proponents of gay marriage want to hold on to rules 1-5 while dismissing the original heading rule of marriage = union between 1 man and 1 woman. It makes no sense to me, and I cannot comprehend it.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Dan, I'd also like to note that Jesus' death for our sins was not a good example, but was rather an atoning sacrifice. So, comparing the death of Christ to human actions and their outcomes is a false comparison. Jesus wasn't trying to provide some outcome from his death that vindicated his death (as this young man uses his own life as an outcome to vindicate gay marriage); rather Jesus' vindication comes from God who raised him from the dead to prove his innocence, victory over the grave, the devil, and sin, and to prove his lordship and kingship over the whole world.

David "Dan" Millner said...

Thank you for your response, Chris. I very much appreciate your focus on love.

We agree that pragmatism is not a source of moral authority: video-guy's success does not justify his parents. Similarly, neither does the harm you've mentioned disqualify his parents from being such.

Just as looking to future outcomes is not a source of moral authority, looking to the sinful institutions of the past ("tradition") is no help either. Your example of Matthew 9 clarifies this: how can we be certain that your five laws don't fall into the same category as the rules about divorce? Think about Paul's position on circumcision, too.

Instead of looking to the past or the future, we look to the eternal, to God's Holy Spirit for moral guidance. You say that it "makes no sense to me," that you "cannot comprehend it," and neither can I. The wedding between Christ and His Church is a mystery -- is it a same-sex wedding?

erdman31.com said...

I agree with David. There is a general point of view that a gay or lesbian couple will produce a warped, distorted child. Hence they should be denied their basic civil right to marry, because if they can marry, then they can adopt children.

I'm not sure that your "slippery slope" argument is very convincing. To say that we should deny same-sex couples the civil right to marry because it might lead to people marrying animals? Really? Chris, that's simply not an argument against same-sex marriage. That's an argument against people marrying animals.

Now, if the burden of proof is on those who are for same-sex marriage, as your post says, then to me it seems even less convincing. Why, for example, would I have to make a case for a polygamy, in order to make a case for same-sex marriage? Those are two different issues. I'm fine with discussing both of them, but what does one have to do with the other? Let's deal with each case on its own merit or lack thereof.

My other question is this: how can you bind modern society to an ancient Hebraic law code that even Christians themselves pick and choose? Should we re-institute levirite marriage, for example?

And if you take the Hebraic law code as binding, in regard to homosexuality, then you really need to take a stand on the side of stoning "a man who lies with a man as a man lies with a woman," because that's the penalty in Numbers 20. If you want to keep the law, go all the way with it (as the Apostle Paul suggested!)! Keep the whole law, don't just deny civil rights.

I also think that your response on polygamy is unconvincing. Saying that "God never intended it that way" is a Chris opinion. The text itself suggests otherwise. The text itself incorporates the reality of polygamy with no word to the contrary. In fact, God is even cited as saying that he gave David his wives: "I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more." (2 Samuel 12) The Bible is all over the map on sexuality. Maybe this stuff isn't written in stone? Maybe that's why we are in the age of the Holy Spirit, where we can use discernment and community guidance?

I hope you realize, Chris, the ramification of denying people a basic civil right. What I mean is, this isn't an abstract theological issue that doesn't have tremendous implications for gay and lesbian people. Not only is it a civil rights issue, but it is also an issue of dividing the church and excluding brothers and sisters based on their sexual orientation, something that is a part of who they are.

Stacy said...

Holy Moses (pun intended)! Hi Chris. Been awhile since I visited your ever-evocative blog! Right in the middle of some good stuff as usual I see again too.
E31...sorry ...what are you talking about "age of the Holy Spirit"? Please define.
D. Milner: Christians are not 'bound' by Mosaic law; however, they are still defined by it...to suggest otherwise creates a catalytic chain-reaction of vice: ie - that it would be 'OK' to ...lie, steal, dishonor one's parents, kill, commit adultery, etc. ("hey! I'm not bound by the law anymore! why not?"). No, Christians still embrace Mosaic law; what is new is their motive for doing so.

Perhaps in thinking about whether the law is in effect today, it is helpful to use the metaphors "over" and "under". That is, Christians are no longer "under" the law in terms of the curse of the law (not being able to follow it perfectly and the penalty that goes with that); however they are "over" it in the sense of now being able to follow it (to whatever feeble extent they follow it) because of Christ. Since Christ Himself came not to abolish the law, but to fulfil it...and Christians have the Spirit of Christ residing in them....they therefore have the fulfilment of the law residing in them. The law still exists and is operation today...the fulfilment of it in Christians and...dare I say it...the penalty of it in non-Christians. Either way, the law is still in existence.

erdman31.com said...

Hi Stacy,

By an "age of the Spirit," I mean little more than what the Apostle Paul talks about in Galatians when he talks about living/walking by the spirit and manifesting the "fruits of the spirit." In general, I see a New Testament emphasis on living by the Spirit rather than by the law, a transition period seems to be clearly in view. What "living/walking by the Spirit" means, precisely, is left fairly open and undefined by the Apostle Paul.

I might as you a question. Do you hold to the whole law? For example, do you embrace levirite marriage (sex with the wife of a deceased brother for the purpose of keeping his line going)? Do you abstain from eating pig? Do you follow ALL of the prescribed guidelines for cleanliness outlined in the Mosaic law? Do you advocate that we forgive all debts every 7 years? Do you still believe that slavery is an acceptable practice, if it is followed using the same guidelines prescribed in the Torah?

God spoke to Peter in a vision saying that God had made certain things clean that were unclean. I imply from this that there was a significant breaking point from following the law. (Whether being "over" or "under," I don't see much of a difference. In either case, one is following the rules and regulations of the Mosaic law.)

It's fine if you want to follow the law, but it just seems fantastically inconsistent to pick and choose which laws to follow ("ceremonial" versus "legal" versus "moral"). The original law did not contain these distinctions. The law to the Hebrews was meant to be taken whole or not at all. My homosexual brothers and sisters seem to be unfairly targeted by people who themselves don't follow the whole law but would like to preserve the condemnation of certain sexual orientations.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

HI Jon,

No, I'm not using a slippery slope argument where I'm saying "If this, then that." Not at all. Perhaps I made it seem that way, but my question is one of justification of gay marriage to the exclusion of other types. I am asking this: If gay marriage (which is not marriage) is allowed, then to avoid hypocrisy, we MUST allow others to marry as well. It's only fair, and is superlatively congruent with the argument that proponents of gay marriage use as their grounds for it, to wit:

If two people love each other, they should be allowed to marry.

This is the argument, and I'm only extending it--the argument--to its logical conclusion.

So, I'm asking people to please tell me, on what grounds would we deny an uncle from marrying his niece?

Chris Van Allsburg said...

And I would disagree with the notion that "this is who they are." The Lord God may have created someone who either has a developed or an innate sense of same-sex attraction, but in no way does that justify sexually immoral behavior. For example, I have an innate desire, created by God, to procreate with women who are not my wife. Does that give me sanction to do so? No.

Jesus calls us to holiness, and for all of us, it means self-denial in one respect or another. For those who struggle with same-sex attraction, Jesus calls them to die to their passions, pick up the cross and follow him, and honor him with their bodies. He calls me to do the same.


I would also ask people to please understand that I have never said same-sex couple should be denied their civil rights to have civil unions. May they be prosperous and happy in such unions, but please don't call it marriage, because it just isn't a marriage.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

And I would disagree with the notion that "this is who they are." The Lord God may have created someone who either has a developed or an innate sense of same-sex attraction, but in no way does that justify sexually immoral behavior. For example, I have an innate desire, created by God, to procreate with women who are not my wife. Does that give me sanction to do so? No.

Jesus calls us to holiness, and for all of us, it means self-denial in one respect or another. For those who struggle with same-sex attraction, Jesus calls them to die to their passions, pick up the cross and follow him, and honor him with their bodies. He calls me to do the same.


I would also ask people to please understand that I have never said same-sex couple should be denied their civil rights to have civil unions. May they be prosperous and happy in such unions, but please don't call it marriage, because it just isn't a marriage.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

And perhaps the general view that a gay or lesbian couple will produce a warped child is true: the child has a warped view of what God says is holy matrimony, and a warped view of sexual ethics.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hi Chris,

Re: Slippery Slope Argument

I am asking this: If gay marriage (which is not marriage) is allowed, then to avoid hypocrisy, we MUST allow others to marry as well. It's only fair, and is superlatively congruent with the argument that proponents of gay marriage use as their grounds for it...

Thanks for your clarification. I think one can extend the argument out beyond our normal boundaries of "marriage." On balance, yes, I think two people who love each other should be allowed to marry and such unions should be recognized by the state. The state should not use any religious book as its ground for determining marriage, whether that book be the Christian New Testament, the Koran, or the Jewish scriptures. But, as I said before, each case needs to be examined. For example, incest can be dangerous to people and to society. Then there are cases of people who are underage and are not competent adults. In a general sense, however, I do not see a problem with allowing the theme ("If two people love each other, they should be allowed to marry") to be a starting point for the discussion on state-recognized marriages. I would extend it out to plural marriages as well, which as you know, were sanctioned and blessed in the Hebrew scriptures.

This goes to another point of yours, which is that you do not want to use the term "marriage" for gay and lesbian couples. I'm wondering why that is....it seems a bit random to me.

erdman31.com said...

Chris,

Re: the notion that "this is who they are."

Chris: The Lord God may have created someone who either has a developed or an innate sense of same-sex attraction, but in no way does that justify sexually immoral behavior. For example, I have an innate desire, created by God, to procreate with women who are not my wife. Does that give me sanction to do so? No.

I don't necessarily argue from the vantage point of "this is who I am" or "this is how I was born." I have certainly met people who were raised to be good, straight heterosexuals; but they only felt romantically and sexually attracted to their same gender. They have only known a strong desire for their same gender. There are also people I know I who are sexually or romantically attracted to both genders. Sexual and romantic desire can also change over the course of one's life.

So, that's a bit of a clarification of my position. Any comments I made about same-sex attraction had in mind the case of those who grow up feeling only a strong attraction to their same gender. In that case, it's like someone telling me, a very straight guy who likes monogamy, that I should have sex with multiple male partners because they found a holy book somewhere that says that God sanctions only same-gender sexuality with multiple partners. The position seems to me to be absurd for a nation claiming to be a democracy committed to equal human rights for all...then again, we've never granted equal human rights in our entire history of a nation. We're getting there though! As you know, on a purely biblical basis, the pro-slavery side had the better case in the past debates here in the U.S. over emancipation.

erdman31.com said...

Chris,

You said: And perhaps the general view that a gay or lesbian couple will produce a warped child is true: the child has a warped view of what God says is holy matrimony, and a warped view of sexual ethics.

That's your God, Chris, not my God. I'd be mighty careful in speaking for God. Only the Pope is allowed to do that, and you aren't even Roman Catholic, so you don't even allow for that!

=)

Question, for you: how is this an issue of sexual ethics? Like, how can you build an ethical argument against a gay couple in a loving monogamous relationship who surround children with love, care, and security? That seems like your biting off a bit more than you can chew, but I'll hear you out, if you have an ethical argument against it.

erdman31.com said...

Chris,

Sorry to be posting so many comments. But, you know, when a good discussion gets going....

I'd be interested in hearing your response to my question(s) posed to Stacy. I know these are issues you've thought a good deal about, so I'd be interested on your take.

I'll repost here:

Do you hold to the whole law? For example, do you embrace levirite marriage (sex with the wife of a deceased brother for the purpose of keeping his line going)? Do you abstain from eating pig? Do you follow ALL of the prescribed guidelines for cleanliness outlined in the Mosaic law? Do you advocate that we forgive all debts every 7 years? Do you still believe that slavery is an acceptable practice, if it is followed using the same guidelines prescribed in the Torah?

God spoke to Peter in a vision saying that God had made certain things clean that were unclean. I imply from this that there was a significant breaking point from following the law. (Whether being "over" or "under," I don't see much of a difference. In either case, one is following the rules and regulations of the Mosaic law.)

It's fine if you want to follow the law, but it just seems fantastically inconsistent to pick and choose which laws to follow ("ceremonial" versus "legal" versus "moral"). The original law did not contain these distinctions. The law to the Hebrews was meant to be taken whole or not at all. My homosexual brothers and sisters seem to be unfairly targeted by people who themselves don't follow the whole law but would like to preserve the condemnation of certain sexual orientations.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon,
As far as the Law of Moses is concerned, you are right in getting to the point of the Christian's relationship to the Law and how the sexual laws therein apply.

I'd answer in two ways.

1) The sexual regulations in the Levitical law code are not a necessary prescription in order for one to establish that sex between men is a sin. Jesus, in Matthew 19 refers all the way back to Genesis 1-2 where the Lord God made man and woman for the purpose of marriage and procreation. It is therefore against the creation ordinance--in addition to the Mosaic ordinance--to sodomize a man (I'm calling it what it is--sodomy).

2) While we aren't under the law as a system of salvation, we are indeed under the law in our obedience to God. To answer your question with a question: What is it that the Lord God promises to write on our hearts in the new covenant (Jer 31 cf Heb 8)? You know the answer.

And what does Paul say about the law in Romans? We uphold the law by faith in Jesus. Romans 8:4 "that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The requirements of the law, in this case, sexual purity and sexual ordinance keeping, are fulfilled in us, who live our lives with respect to the Spirit's call and command, and not on the basis of our sinful passions.

In the new covenant, it is indeed the Law of God written on our hearts.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon,

Your reference to Peter's vision of the clean and unclean animals in Acts misses the point. The point of this story is not the abrogation of God's law, but the breaking down of the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The breaking down of the law in this respect then, is that Gentiles are now adopted into God's family. But the righteous requirements of the law are to be fulfilled in us.

We're not "under the law" in this respect: we don't have to become Jews in order to be a part of God's family. Instead we are welcomed into God's family by faith in Jesus Christ. The Law was good, holy and righteous, remember? Psalm 119.


We should also note that there are two assumptions going on between you and I.

1st assumption is: under the new covenant, everything in the old is abrogated unless reinstated in the new covenant testimonies.

2nd assumption is: under the new covenant, everything in the old is still under effect, unless abrogated.

The 2nd assumption is the correct one, and it is the burden of proof of the one who holds to the first assumption (you) to provide evidence for 1.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon,

You said in the old testament scriptures, that polygamy was sanctioned and blessed. That's not exactly true. God permitted polygamy, but it was never his goal or desire for man. Again, Jesus refutes this in Matthew 19 by citing Genesis 1-2 as God's original intent.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon, you wrote,

"In that case, it's like someone telling me, a very straight guy who likes monogamy, that I should have sex with multiple male partners because they found a holy book somewhere that says that God sanctions only same-gender sexuality with multiple partners. The position seems to me to be absurd for a nation claiming to be a democracy committed to equal human rights for all..."

This argument is really poor, Jon. That's completely arbitrary. "Finding a holy book somewhere that says (such and such)"? Come on. That's like saying the Bible just dropped out of heaven or was found in a landfill somewhere and someone all the sudden gives it authority. Has God not acted in history? Did Jesus of Nazareth not die for our sins and rise from the dead? Your argument is completely ahistorical.


If you want freedom for all people, you would have to have anarchy, which would be equivalent to moral relativism, which is a contradiction "There's no moral code except that there is no moral code." Jon, you're better than this!

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon, you wrote,

"On balance, yes, I think two people who love each other should be allowed to marry and such unions should be recognized by the state. The state should not use any religious book as its ground for determining marriage, whether that book be the Christian New Testament, the Koran, or the Jewish scriptures."

First of all, I'm not saying the State should use the Bible as its ground for moral codes. We can use so-called natural law for that. Just look at sodomy from a natural standpoint: no genetic passing of the genes, no reproductive value, and very dangerous because it is a dirty, germ-ridden practice. Further it destroys anal tissue, as anal tissue is *not at all* designed to receive a penile insertion or moving thrust as happens in intercourse.

But I would even say this: Why shouldn't a state be allowed to do that? Don't states have their rights? If the people vote for it, then that should be the law. If people want to put a vote up that says, "Vote for prop A which says sodomy is illegal because the Bible says it's sin," then the State should have the right to put that up for vote. That's democracy, Jon. What you should say is that the FEDERAL government shouldn't get involved.

You also said,

"But, as I said before, each case needs to be examined. For example, incest can be dangerous to people and to society. Then there are cases of people who are underage and are not competent adults. In a general sense, however, I do not see a problem with allowing the theme ("If two people love each other, they should be allowed to marry") to be a starting point for the discussion on state-recognized marriages."

But here you are making your own starting point, and creating your own two laws that serve as preconditions to it: no incest, no underage sex/marriage. I agree with you that these things should not be. Incest IS dangerous, both mentally/spiritually and physically in terms of offspring. And children also, for the same reasons (except offspring, as children can't give birth). But don't you see why children should have sex? Isn't it true, that besides not being mentally or spiritually able to handle it, neither are they physically able? They would receive not only physical damage, but they cannot reproduce. That's the point--sex--for one aspect of of its being given to us as a gift from God, is for reproducing. That's not all sex is for, but that is one of the reasons why he gave it to us.

But more importantly, your starting point of "two people who love each other should be able to get married" isn't a starting point at all, because you still have to instill your own two laws a priori; also you have to establish what "love" is. Love cannot exist in a vacuum. Love can only be rooted in God's character which is revealed by his law. God's law is good, Jon. I hope you believe that.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

You stated: Your reference to Peter's vision of the clean and unclean animals in Acts misses the point. The point of this story is not the abrogation of God's law, but the breaking down of the distinction between Jews and Gentiles. The breaking down of the law in this respect then, is that Gentiles are now adopted into God's family. But the righteous requirements of the law are to be fulfilled in us.

But to be more specific, Peter's vision was about the clean v. unclean distinction. As far as I can tell, the breakdown of this distinction means the breakdown of the Mosaic law. Clean/unclean is the axial point around which the law turns. It is the sine qua non:

Leviticus 20: ....I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations. 25 “‘You must therefore make a distinction between clean and unclean animals and between unclean and clean birds. Do not defile yourselves by any animal or bird or anything that moves along the ground—those that I have set apart as unclean for you. 26 You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own...

Do you know any credible scholars who would disagree with that? That without the clean/unclean distinction, the law is no longer law?

Even if you are correct in saying that Peter's vision refers only to the Jew v. Gentile distinction, I fail to see how my point does not still apply. The whole point of clean v. unclean was to separate Jew from Gentile. (See above verses.) Once this distinction falls, whence the law? The NT doesn't really answer that definitively. That's what the early church had to wrestle with...which leads naturally into your next point...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hi Chris,

You said:

We should also note that there are two assumptions going on between you and I.

1st assumption is: under the new covenant, everything in the old is abrogated unless reinstated in the new covenant testimonies.

2nd assumption is: under the new covenant, everything in the old is still under effect, unless abrogated.

The 2nd assumption is the correct one, and it is the burden of proof of the one who holds to the first assumption (you) to provide evidence for 1.


#2 may represent well your assumption, but #1 does not really represent my assumption. First and foremost, I'm interested in the hermeneutic dialog of the early church. So rather than making sweeping assumptions as you have done above, I'd like to get involved with the messy work of interpretation that was happening in the early church. It may very well be that there were people in the early church who saw things in terms of the sweeping assumptions you've listed. Very likely there were. But I do not see the NT writers coming to anything particularly conclusive in this regard. It seems more spotty, even ad hoc.

An example of this would be helpful, I'm sure. In Acts 15, there is an intense controversy about circumcision of Gentiles. James finally stands up on Paul and Barnabas's side; but look at what he adds:

...we should write to them [Gentiles], telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

Great. Good. We've finally got it. The NT has told us which laws we should carry forward from the Mosaic Law. We just need to make sure for sure that we all abstain from food polluted by idols.

Wait. Really?

But doesn't Paul also write that an idol is nothing? That eating food sacrificed to idols is okay in itself, unless it makes a brother stumble?

The NT writers were sorting this stuff out, and I don't think it is at all definitive.

So, back to my assumptions. My assumption is that the law itself does not carry forward for a follower of Jesus Christ. A follower of Jesus Christ walks by the Spirit, not by the Law. That's my personal assumption, and I wouldn't burden anyone with law codes from the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law was clearly written for a particular people at a particular time, to separate them from the nations, to separate Jew from Gentile. That kind of separation [Jew from Gentile] is not the point of following Christ, which we would probably agree on.

A few questions for you, from this this discussion, come to my mind. First, why would you burden yourself or anyone else with following the Mosaic law? I mean by that to ask what practical or pragmatic difference does that make? Or is it just a matter of keeping the law so that an angry God doesn't get pissed off at us and damn us to hell?

Next, I believe I asked this question before, but I do not see that you answered it....if you did, my apologies....I was wondering if you think that we should put gays/lesbians/bisexuals/transvestites to death? That is, if you are a follower of the Mosaic law regarding homosexuality, then do you go the whole way and advocate capital punishment?

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

Re: Polygamy.

It may seem like a minor point, but I think it is worth following up on.

You said: You said in the old testament scriptures, that polygamy was sanctioned and blessed. That's not exactly true. God permitted polygamy, but it was never his goal or desire for man. Again, Jesus refutes this in Matthew 19 by citing Genesis 1-2 as God's original intent.

That wasn't precisely my point....I mean, it was a point, but not the main point....The biblical text itself incorporates the reality of polygamy with no word to the contrary. In fact, God is even cited as saying that he gave David his wives: "I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more." (2 Samuel 12) The biblical text weaves polygamy in with its narrative in what is at the very least an implicitely approving fashion, per 2 Samuel 12.

However, if you insist on holding the position that polygamy was wrong, just permitted and not condemened, then I don't think your position is any better, because then the question arises as to whether the law was in fact perfect and complete. If the law permitted murder and rape, with no word to the contrary, we would probably all agree that something important was missing within the law code structure. It would raise a very obvious question: why no prohibition? Why no commentary?

Similarly, if in fact polygamy was an abomination and detestable, the question arises as to why there would be implicit approval of polygamy. Why no word to the contrary? The fairly obvious conclusion to me is that polygamy was in fact not an abomination, not detestable, and did not (in the eyes of those who wrote the law) violate the holiness and sanctity of the people. They could live in holiness while engaging multiple sexual partners, as long as they were "married."

The point of course is this: the Bible is all over the map on sexuality. Remember that I raied the issue of Levirite marriage? How weird is that? It only made sense for their day and age....and even then, probably was still fairly awkward!

Maybe this stuff isn't written in stone? Maybe that's why we are in the age of the Holy Spirit. Looking to ancient Mosaic law to define sexuality just seems like the wrong way to me. Not only does it make no sense to me from my knowledge of Hebraic law code, it also doesn't jive with the NT emphasis on walking by the spirit.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

You said: But more importantly, your starting point of "two people who love each other should be able to get married" isn't a starting point at all, because you still have to instill your own two laws a priori; also you have to establish what "love" is. Love cannot exist in a vacuum. Love can only be rooted in God's character which is revealed by his law.

Remember that the Mosaic law also said "Love your neighbor as yourself." There were two parts, Chris: Love God. Love neighbor as yourself. So, this idea of loving others as a starting point is at the heart of the Mosaic law. I don't need to look at law to see this truth, however, because for me and I think for anyone it is self-evident. Still, if there is a perceived need to anchor one's love of neighbor in law, then it's there, written in the molten center of the law code.

Chris: Love cannot exist in a vacuum. Love can only be rooted in God's character which is revealed by his law. God's law is good, Jon. I hope you believe that.

I believe that the Mosaic law was good, for its time, for its people. It is clearly temporal, however, as we would both agree. Even if you selectively still apply certain elements of the Mosaic law code, you do not practice it in its entirety. Hence, you believe that at least parts of it were bound to a specific culture, an ancient culture.

Can love exist in a vacuum? Sure. Why not? It exist in a vacuum or outside of a vacuum. Love, in fact, is always and ever around us, because it is synonymous with "God." "God is love," as John the Revelator tells us. And, "in him we live and move and have our being." Love is the given of life, always accessible via the God from whom we can never escape - "Where can I go?" asks the Psalmist. Where can we go to escape from this God of love and wonder? Nowhere. Vacuum or no vacuum.

That is where I come from, and it really animates me, really means something significant to me. I'm a mystic and a contemplative at heart and, as I said, this to me is self-evident, although I do not always (if ever) really grasp its significance.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon,

I asked you what God has written on our hearts in the New Covenant.
What is your answer?

Chris Van Allsburg said...

1 John 4:8 "God is love" does not teach that Love is God, nor does it teach that God is /only/ love.

ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν.

You can see from the latter /hoti/ clause, that agape is an anarthrous predicate and means this is describing God's character. Similarly, John writes that God is light (1 Jn 1.5, and God is Spirit (Jn 4.24). Should we conclude that light is God? That's pantheism. Is pneuma God? That's pantheism, too, and worse, it suggests cosmic dualism.


God is love means that what God does is done out of love, and this fits exegetically with the command to love one another in this passage. "The one not loving knew not God, because the God is love" John says.


So, NO...love does not exist in a vacuum, and cannot exist apart from God. Love is an attribute of God, among his other attributes in the Johannine corpus such as light, truth, life. God's love is expressed in his saving acts, and in his giving of the law to Israel in the OT, and in punishing his Son for our sins and raising him up, along with the ascension, session and intercession of Christ for us in the NT.

But to say that one man can have sex with another man is good and holy because they "love" each other is emotionalism, and not rooted in the love of God, is not rooted in a loving act of God, is not rooted in a loving act reflecting God's character. It's a perversion of God's good gift of sex and procreation.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Hi Chris,

Thanks for mentioning that prior question. I don't mean to fail to address any of your querries, it's just that we have quite a bit going on here.

So, what is written on our hearts? The "new covenant." As Hebrews 8 makes clear, this is "not like the covenant I made with your ancestors." So even though the author is clearly speaking to Jewish people, even in that Jewish context, he's making a radial break from the Mosaic law. What is this "new covenant" (according to the Hebrews author)? I'm open to discussing this if you like. I'm not sure how this ties into our discussion, though. Clearly the author of Hebrews is not referring to the Mosaic law...

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

Why do you say I am making an emotionalism appeal? That seems like some form of debate tactic bordering on a type of ad hominen logical fallacy. It doesn't seem fair, frankly.

Love is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. Others in this thread have gone so far as to mock those of us who argue that love needs to be central to the theological discussion on homosexuality, implying that an appeal to love is trite. I suppose it further assumes that those who appeal to love are soft-minded and unintellectual. They are not "logical," as Sara Beth puts it: "often times people don't want to take the time to think logically about these issues, because they think it's just about 'love.'" You call it "emotionalism," which has that same tone of condescention. I'm not sure where that's coming from. Perhaps you should explain.

1 Cornithians 13 makes it clear that anything done without love or not done in the spirit of love is meaningless/pointless and empty of any malignant property. Do you view 1 Corinthians 13 as "emotionalism"? Is it trite and not logical? I'm confused as to where you and others in this thread are coming from. Please clarify.

Although we do not agree on what love is and God's relationship to love, I don't see how your theology of love takes anything away from my primary arguments in this post. In other words, even if my theology of love is incorrect and yours is correct, I don't see how that counts against my position on homosexual Christians and the hermeneutical points I've made here.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon,

Love, if not rooted in the concrete real, is nothing but emotionalism and is relative. I'm not making a personal attack on you at all.

1 Cor. 13: how about the rest of the context of the letter? If Christ is not raised, our faith is in vain, and we indeed have testified falsely about God.

Love needs to be rooted and grounded in something. It doesn't exist on its own. It's like atheist physicists who want to deny the evidence of the beginning of the universe and say that a "quantum vacuum" created the universe. Or, they appeal to a "multi-verse" theory. Where does the quantum vacuum come from? Where does the multi-verse creating machine come from?

In the same way, where does love come from? All good things come from God, and are rooted in him. Which God? Any god? No, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is where love is rooted.

Love that does not have its locus in the nature and character of God is sheer relativism, and can only be rooted in human experience. Hence, its nothing but relativistic, emotional appeals.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Hebrews 8

What is written on our hearts? "The new covenant," you say. Can you be more specific?

Well, more specifically, the Lord says,

"I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts." (v. 10)


But back to homosexuality:

The malakos and the arsenokoites will not inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor. 6:9

The love chapter, which is in the same letter, is a command given to those who have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (6:11).

The NT is clear in Romans 1 and 1 Tim. 1:10 that homosexual acts are sin.

Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris,

You say that your charge of "emotionalism" is nothing personal, but that's clearly not true. Charging an opponent with being guided by emotion, while you are the clear headed and logical defender of rational geology is an obvious move of condescension.

Further, I would ask you to read my comment again. My question had to do with the nature of your tone. Specifically, I continue to wonder what gives any Christian the right to mock other Christians who put love at the center of Christian theology. I don't understand why 1) that is not taken seriously by you and others and 2) this appeal to the supremacy of love is met with mockery and condescending dismissals of "emotionalism."

Perhaps this is the true root of our disagreements, eh?

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Jon,

I mean no disrespect when I speak of love needing to be rooted in the concrete real. It is just that love needs to be rooted in something. It surely is logical/rational to believe that if love, or any other concept is not rooted in something in the infinite, then it is only beholden by individual humans, and thus becomes relative. If it is relative, it is only in the heart and mind of man. Hence, it can only be rooted in how a one, particular person feels about what love is in a given situation.

Jesus defined love as self-sacrifice when he said, "Greater love has no one that this, in that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, IF you do what I command."

Love then, is rooted in the nature and character of God, and in his acts in redemptive history, culminating in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins.

In this narrative--the one, true narrative--love is rooted in acts of the Triune God.

Anything else is relative, and can only be rooted in the emotions.

If love, (or justice, beauty, and truth, for that matter) are not rooted in the absolute decree and will of God, then what do we have?

We have humans deciding for themselves what love is. Love may have its attempt to be rooted in reason, but reason also is relative outside of the sovereign will of the Almighty God, who creates, calls, and loves his creatures. Outside of this picture, both reason and love have no root, except in the individual human nature.

This is the classic response of the existentialists like Jean Paul Sartes, who knew in fact that if there was no infinite reference point, then all we have is relativism. If all we have is relativism, we have no reason, and all we have is how we feel at a given moment. That, we call, emotionalism.

I do hope you will see that I am trying to say here is from a logical, rational standpoint, and I am not at all trying to take any cheap shots at your person. I am sorry that I have come across this way, Jon. It is not intended.

Yours,
Chris

Jonathan Erdman said...

Okay, thanks for that clarification. For future reference, I would implore you to be more careful in your choice of words. It certainly has come across to me as condescending.

On to your argument....Let's follow out your argument against love as relative, groundless.

It is just that love needs to be rooted in something. It surely is logical/rational to believe that if love, or any other concept is not rooted in something in the infinite, then it is only beholden by individual humans, and thus becomes relative. If it is relative, it is only in the heart and mind of man. Hence, it can only be rooted in how a one, particular person feels about what love is in a given situation.

First point: If love lacks a grounding in God, then it doesn't follow to me that this at all implies that love is based on emotion. I know many secular atheists who take their ethics seriously without reference to God. They reason out their ethics, and while there may be emotion within them and as part of their compassion, the basis of their compassion is nonemotion, rational. So, without a God-grounding, I still see many good, serious-minded people acting ethically without what you call "emotionalism" or a certain form of sentimentality that wafts and wavers like a weed in the wind. Is this what you are arguing against? A sentimentality that one day might help the poor and the next day decide it isn't worth it? I'd have a problem with that as well, but I don't think this is the logical result of a God-less grounding. I see many secularists espousing rational ethics that they apply with consistency. You may say that they need a logical grounding in God, but my point I think would still stand: that they develop a consistent and careful ethic that is not "emotionalism" as you've termed it.

Second.

I'd object to completely de-emotionalizing compassion and Christian love. That would strike me as a dangerous compartmentalization that is rationalistic (and certainly nonbiblical, which is to say non-Jewish).

"Jesus wept," did he not? Was that not emotion? Was it not linked with compassion? Was Jesus not "deeply moved" at the death of his friend? I'm holistic, and I think that the biblical record sides with me on this one, on balance. And I think you side with me too! I know that you are not merely a brain in a vat! I know you better than that.

Emmanual Levinas, a 20th century Jewish philosopher of some repute talked about responding to the face of the other. There is something in our face, in our eyes, that bids us "do not murder."

Maybe God designed things to be more subjective and relative than you believe. Maybe God designed a world where the face of those who are poor triggers an emotion of compassion that stirs us to "love thy neighbor." What if the need of the poor and the eyes of the poor are more basic than the command "love thy neighbor"? I think that perhaps the command is only meant to lead us to the person.

Perhaps God designed it that way so that people who get hung up on the God question can still show compassion. That would be my guess.

But what about your own feelings of compassion? When you see people in pain, suffering, do you consult your Bible to see if it is okay with God if you help them? Or do you respond, naturally, with love to relieve their suffering? People of all sorts of religions and belief systems experience this same sensation: they see someone suffering and in a spirit of compassion they lend aid. They integrate their values (help the poor) with the subjective experience of empathy/sympathy in that action. But we don't need to even reference our ethics in most cases. That's my point. We just "feel" compassion and act on it. This, in my humble theological opinion, is the most basic element of compassion. More basic than God's commands. Perhaps more basic that God.

Chris Van Allsburg said...

Thanks, Jon.

Perhaps I need to rethink my point that groundless ethics and which amount to relativism are solely emotional in their locus.

I am aware that secular humanists appeal to reason, and even reason alone in their propounding propositions about the world and the way it works (origins), and should work (ethics).

However, when I think of the line that Sartre took, I see his point: if there is no god, then all we are left with is individual passion. We are left on a "line of existential despair" as it were.

Yes, humans of all stripes have reason, and they use it. But I'd say also that the fall into sin has effected that reason, so that we don't use it the right way.

But my point was that when two men who say the "love" each other and consummate a sexual relationship do so based upon that misconception of love, which is rooted, not in the character and nature of God, but in man. To say it is "emotionalism" is to say that such love is groundless and relative.


Is love really the cornerstone of the Christian faith? I don't think so. I know that Christ Himself is describe as the cornerstone, and that God is love and shows his love for us in Christ's sacrifice for our sins, as well as his life and ministry, and his current ministry to us in intercession and high priesthood.

Again, if love is not grounded in the absolute, then it's relative. If it's relative, then it is indeed rooted in our selves, selves of which are made up of emotion and reason, but emotion and reason perverted and twisted by sin. Only the ministry of the Holy Spirit working in us, as we strive with him to put to death the sin in us, can this be overcome.

Regarding homosexual males though, from the people I've met who are former homosexuals, they tell me that their decisions to practice homosexual acts were indeed, rooted in emotional pain. But when they met Jesus Christ, and grew in grace through the ministry of the Spirit and through the church (counseling, etc.), those emotional pangs were healed by Christ, and no longer was that pain sought to be relieved in homosexual activity.