Blog Change

15 Jan

I’m closing up  shop here and have started blogging anew here: remingtonscove.wordpress.com

Why? Just cuz. Felt like a new theme and wanted to try some new things.

Something fun

19 Dec

The Responsible Puppet has collected some humorous John Piper quotes, removed from some context. I decided to further remove some context and generate some memes. I didn’t do this for all of Jamsco’s quotes, so check them out yourself, just a few I thought were funny. Enjoy:

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Are Homosexual Desires Sinful? – Contra Desiring God

18 Dec

Preface -

Readers will notice an increased number of post on the topic of homosexuality. That’s not because I’m focusing on it more, but because the culture is focusing on it more. I’m simply responding to the issues that are being raised by other people. We don’t always get to choose our battles. And as Luther said (or so I’m told), if you defend Christianity at every point but at that point in which it is being attacked, you haven’t defended Christianity.

Recently I’ve noticed that the issue of homosexuality has occurred much more on the Stand To Reason podcast/radio show. In fact this topic probably comes up more now than any other topic. That’s not because the host, Greg Koukl, is raising the issue more, that’s because the people calling into the show are raising the issue more. And they are raising the issue more because they are being confronted with it more. As Mohler recently pointed out, it’s all well and good for someone to say we shouldn’t focus so much on a particular issue if they get to choose the issues! For most of us that’s not the case.

On to the issue – 

So today Tim Challies linked to an article on Desiring God addressing the issue of whether same-sex attraction is sinful. Nick Roen, the author of the article, concludes that it is not. 

Nick almost persuadeth me… almost. He makes some valid points and you should read the article yourself (here). I think the temptation-but-not-sin category is a valid one. I don’t find temptation vs. lust very helpful here. In fact I think it may be obfuscating unless by “lust” we simply mean any temptation that is sin. So we have two categories: non-sinful temptation and sinful temptation.

Consider a man who is driving down the road and is cut off by a little old lady who missed her turn. Immediately the desire to murder this lady arises in the man’s heart. We wouldn’t normally say that this man is “lusting” but we also wouldn’t normally say that this murderous desire is not sinful. So this man has sinful temptation, even if he doesn’t act on the desire and ends up getting over his murderous rage.

Now consider a man who is driving down the road and is cut off by a little old lady who missed her turn. Immediately an irritated, even angry, feeling directed towards this lady arises in the man’s heart. However he doesn’t act on the feeling and gets over it. I think we would be less inclined to see the man’s irritation or anger as sinful. We would say he was tempted, yet without sin.

Now consider a heterosexual man who is married and he sees a pretty girl walking down the street. He immediately feels a sense of attraction, but does not act on it. I think everyone recognizes this to be non-sinful temptation (if for no other reason than that it seems impractical to view such a mundane thing as sinful).

From this case of the heterosexual man we usually draw our reasoning to the homosexual man: if a heterosexual man can feel attracted to a woman that is not his wife and be without sin, why can’t a homosexual man be attracted a man without being guilty of sin?

I think some clarification can come from asking why the man in my first scenario who immediately feels an urge to murder the little old lady would most commonly be thought sinful. One might be tempted, no pun intended, to say that the reason why scenario 1 is sinful and scenario 2 is not sinful is because of the intensity of the feelings involved. This would translate to the heterosexual/homosexual scenarios too: only when the desire or feeling comes with a certain intensity or is harbored does it become sinful.

But I’m not sure that’s what’s really going on. I think, rather, that the rightness and wrongness involved has to do with feelings that are properly ordered. Or maybe put another way: feelings that are a property (in the Aristotelian sense) of the circumstance. In the case of a murderous desire I would not say that murderous desire is simply a stronger form of anger. Rather, it is of a different quality. Likewise, lust is not just the strong form of attraction: it is attraction-gone-wrong, for lack of a better term.

What this would mean is that it is natural to feel anger of someone’s careless driving. That isn’t a wrong feeling in any circumstances. However to feel murderous is never natural (in the sense of proper). Likewise, I would say that for a man to feel attracted to a pretty woman is proper. But to for a man to feel attracted to another man is not proper.

So I don’t think looking at heterosexual desires is very informative for telling us about the propriety of homosexual desires. And it seems clear that while some feelings are not sinful but can lead to sin, other feelings (e.g., murderous rage) are sinful in themselves even if they do not result in further sin. And those feelings which are clearly not sinful are also feelings which clearly arise naturally (all things being equal). On the other hand, homosexual desire or attraction is a disordered attraction and so I see no reason why it should be treated in the same way as those which are not disordered (a man’s attraction to a woman).

Furthermore, Nick’s argument rests on some assumptions that I don’t grant. For instance, he assumes an orientation is not sinful. Why should I think that? It seems obvious to me that humans are oriented toward rebellion against God and that this orientation is itself worthy of the judgment of God.

Nick assumes that there is one category: temptation. And that anything in this category is not sin. But it seems to me that are two categories: sinful temptation and non-sinful temptation.

Finally, Nick says Romans 1:26 is unclear, but it seems very clear to me. If the passions themselves are not dishonorable but only the act following the passions, why does Paul call them dishonorable passions and not passions which may lead to dishonor? Nick needs to provide a further argument showing why Rom. 1:26 is unclear.

Liberty of Conscience in Regards To Business and Same-Sex Unions

15 Dec

Most Evangelical Christians don’t believe that businesses should be forced to participate in activities that the owners/operators deem immoral. So Christians who run a bakery, for instance, shouldn’t be forced to provide services to a same-sex wedding.

So far the only response I’ve seen to this is along the lines of “Well how would you like it if someone refused service to you for being Christian?” It’s also pointed out that businesses used to refuse services to black people due to racism.

That’s not much of a response though. Really, this response is banking on the hope that we’ll act out of self-interest instead of principle and then from this self-interest-over-principle we’ll derive some principle that ends up working in the same-sex lobbyist’s favor. We are expected to say something like “Oh well I don’t want anyone to be capable of refusing me business on the basis of my race, religion, or sexual orientation.” And then were supposed to conclude with the principle that no one should be allowed to refuse another person business on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.

However, if the Christian is willing to say that business should be allowed to refuse to provide services to whoever it wishes for whatever reason it wishes then what? The alleged drawback of this position is that people could refuse to do business for reasons we deem immoral. So, for instance, some southern baker could refuse to bake goods for a black person. But what is the alternative which we currently have? People are forced to do business for reasons we deem immoral!

Now which is worse: to allow someone to operate immorally or to force someone to act immorally? Ceteris paribus in this situation it seems far better to allow persons to act according to conscience even if we happen to disagree with them than to force someone to violate their conscience. And aren’t liberals, to whom the same-sex lobby usually identifies, the ones constantly objecting to legislating morality? So one would expect them to be naturally inclined to the liberty of conscience model. If a baker refuses to provide me goods based on my religion I can easily find another baker who would provide me services. And whether or not this would have been true of black people 50 years ago, this is definitely the case for homosexuals today. Homosexuality has enough social support (indeed, it has more support than it’s opposition does) that it can find people willing to provide any service desired. If, on the other hand, people are forced to engage in business acts they deem immoral they may have very little choice and almost no mobility by which they could refuse without significant damage to themselves.

On Behalf of Koukl on the Description/Definition Distinction Again: In Response to Phil’s Follow Up

11 Dec

On Phil’s original post that I linked to below he has since added a follow up. Here is Phil’s follow up (in part) and my response:

Here is part of Greg’s relevant statement that Phil is responding to:

If the definition of marriage is established by nature, then we have no liberty to redefine it. In fact, marriage itself wouldn’t change at all even if we did. (Source)

After expressing some incredulity Phil says,

This exposes such a misunderstanding of both linguistics and law. In both domains, all words belong to the community and that community’s evolving understanding and attitudes about the words. Greg is somehow trying to convince us that we should reify nature to a status of authority over linguistic and legal conventions. This is absurd. You describe nature. There is nothing proscriptive that can emerge from an observation of nature.

I’m not sure how Phil thinks Greg is reifying nature to a status of authority. Greg doesn’t say that it is *nature* which provides a moral constraint. He says because of a fact of nature, we should behave in such and such a way. But it’s obvious that this doesn’t require him to see the “should” as being ontologically grounded in the fact. Take the atheist Sam Harris for instance. He argues that facts about life create our “moral landscape” but he isn’t arguing, I don’t think, that the facts are the ontological grounds for morality. Rather, Harris is presupposing some moral fact or authority (e.g., sentient life should flourish) and mapping it over the neurophysiological landscape (or whathaveyou).

And Greg should be happy with this limitation. The slavery found in most human cultures for centuries had people defining “human” so as to exclude from that category various races. Does what we find in nature determine what our definition of “human” is? Does nature stop us from redefining “human” to include all races? Remember the arguments of theists who claimed some races had no soul, or were predestined to be subservient? Should not Greg be extremely thankful that humanity did not take his argument…

Actually I think the slavery issue is more problematic for Phil’s position than Greg’s. Greg thinks our laws should reflect reality. So if we have laws about marriage, those laws should reflect what marriage actually is and not whatever the whim of the people decides. So, concerning slavery, Greg would say that laws about humanity should reflect the reality of what humanity is. And the problem with slavery laws was not that they sought to reflect the reality of human beings, but that slavery laws redefined “human” to be what was convenient for the whim of the people at the time.

Indeed if Phil thinks that the people should be allowed to redefine concepts as they please, what would be Phil’s principled objections to the definition of blacks as sub-human if he suddenly found himself in 1830’s Virginia?

Wouldn’t it have been silly to have stated this 300 years ago as if definitions naturally emerged from nature?

I think it would have probably been more readily accepted then than today, given that people were probably more open to teleological explanations and final causes.

“Marriage” is a word that does not emerge magically from nature.[...] “Marriage” is a word. Words are attached by a language community to whatever concept that language community decides is appropriate.

Phil is hung up on the word. Greg is talking about what the word refers to.

Where you have a copulating man and woman with the consequent of children, you do not have marriage.

Greg never said otherwise.

It is simply silly to suggest “nature” somehow locks in a definition of a word.

In the sense in which Phil is talking about, I agree. I’m sure Greg would too. The problem is that Phil can’t seem to distinguish between the signifier and the thing signified.

As the title of this post has stated, Greg has dishonestly appealed to nature in an attempt to position his notion of “marriage” off-limits to the rest of the language community and the legal system under which he resides. He is dishonest in this since he knows full well that he would have never considered doing the same for the term “human” when “nature” was once found operating quite efficiently with “human” limited to particular races. Shameful. If convention can redefine what it is to be “human”, it can most certainly redefine “marriage”.

Actually I think Greg would do the same in regard to human, and I think this argument about what humanity actually is (as opposed to how people choose to define it) is one of the best arguments against racism. On the other hand, I don’t see how Phil would be able to mount a critique of cultures who chose to define black people or, say, white people as sub-human.

Spanky, Spanky

10 Dec

george_spanky_mcfarland___choo-chooThis is in response to a comment I recently received on an old post.

Grace,

I agree with the point that spanking can be abusive. Let me add some other thoughts for balance though, and which you may disagree with.

I think the fact that [Rachel Slick] was apparently spanked so often probably was a big factor as well, because you “know” that created anger and resentment.

Assuming Rachel isn’t exaggerating about the circumstances and how often she was spanked, that’s possible.

I was spanked in a Christian home…

Since I don’t know the circumstances under which you were spanked, I can’t really assess your situation. But you clearly have a pretty negative view of it. If you were spanked too often, then I agree. Spanking can be abusive.

However, let’s keep in mind what the Bible says about physical discipline (or “spanking”):

  • Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
  • Proverbs 23:13, 14 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.
  • Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Now your negative remarks about spanking may be only directed to (1) the use of a hand instead of a rod to spank, (2) the location of the spanking, and (3) over-spanking, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the Bible pictures physical discipline (hitting with a rod–which I’ll just call spanking) in very positive light. Parents who don’t spank their children *hate* their children, according to Proverbs. Surely to hate your child is to abuse him or her. That means that *not* spanking your child can be abusive too!

Whether a child needs many spankings or few spankings will depend on the child, but Proverbs says that “folly is bound up in the heart of a child” and this indicates that the child which is naturally good (and therefore deserving of few spankings) is rare, to say the least. Now related to this you’ve said that the biblical model of spanking was performed

only if he was endangering his own life or the life of others (in other words, children were rarely physically punished).

Where is your evidence for that? The Bible text itself doesn’t indicate that spanking is a rare form of punishment reserved only for life-endangering events. Considering how often children are prone to folly, and that physical discipline is the means Proverbs mentions as driving a child away from folly, it seems most children will not be rarely spanked.

Now perhaps you think Pr. 23:13,14 means spanking is only for life endangering events. A few points in regard to such an interpretation: (1) Even if the occasion of life-endangering events is what Pr. 23:13,14 has in mind, it doesn’t say these are the only occasions for striking a child with a rod. Proverbs 22:15 indicates a broader use of the rod. (2) That reading of the text doesn’t fit in with the context of Proverbs as a whole. Proverbs consistently treats foolishness as leading to death and wisdom as leading to life, and it clearly doesn’t have in mind “life-endangering” events in the narrow scope you’re obviously talking about. For instance,

  • Proverbs 3:1,2 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
  • Proverbs 10:2 Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.
  • Proverbs 10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
  • Proverbs 11:19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.
  • Proverbs 12:28 In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.
  • Proverbs 16:22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.

To think that these proverbs are just talking about life-endagnering events, like spelunking without a safety line, because they mention death or life, is to misunderstand Proverbs. According to Scripture sin itself is “life-endagnering” in this sense, yet this is clearly not the sense in which you are using the term. The view of Proverbs, as the view of the Bible as a whole, is that foolishness and wickedness are a path to destruction. Thus, Proverbs 23:13,14 fits better with the consistent view of Proverbs as a whole if we understand it in this sense.

Now you indicated that as a child you thought the spanking you received was unnecessary and it was causing long-term harm. But given that folly is bound up in the heart of a child, I would expect them to not always see the justice in a parent’s discipline. Indeed, as adults, even as Christian adults, we often fail to see the justice in God’s discipline. And given the foolishness bound up in the heart of a child, I would also expect a child to exaggerate the harmful or negative effects of spanking. In another context on my blog a few months ago I pointed out the following observation by psychologist David Myers:

“In focusing on the negative event, we discount the importance of everything else that contributes to happiness and so overpredict our enduring misery. ‘Nothing that you focus on will make as much difference as you think,’ write researchers David Schkade and Daniel Kahneman (1998).

Moreover, say Wilson and Gilbert (2003), people neglect the speed and the power of their psychological immune system, which includes their strategies for rationalizing, discounting, forgiving, and limiting emotional trauma.” (Social Psychology, 11th ed.)

Even as adults, we are not very good at accurately weighing the consequences of negative or harmful events in our lives. Thus, whether discipline is just or unjust or how much this punishment will matter in the long-term scope of things will normally be out of the purview of a child to decide (save for clear cases of abuse).

To summarize, spanking can be abusive. Not spanking can be abusive. Spanking is tied to leading a child towards wisdom, not just saving a child from a life-endagering event. How often a child is spanked will depend upon the child, but given that children are naturally inclined towards folly we should expect spanking to not be a rare occurrence–at least at first. As discipline (broadly understood) continues we should expect spanking to occur less. But, again, that is person dependent. Some people, some children, are incorrigible. Children aren’t in the best position to decide when a spanking is deserved or not and how damaging the consequences of spanking will be.

Unreasonable Criticism: On Behalf of Greg Koukl’s Remarks on Marriage

8 Dec

Phil Stilwell has started a blog seeking to debunk arguments by Greg Koukl in his Stand to Reason radioshow/podcast. Now there are times when Mr. Koukl’s arguments need a debunking. Sometimes Greg gets it wrong. Usually when Greg starts talking about the issue of free will, Greg gets it wrong. (And for a debunking of Greg’s position on this issue see here: http://letthereaderbeware.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/the-calvinist-and-libertarianism-mashup/) But overall Greg Koukl is a great thinker. I’ve mentioned before that he is my favorite apologist.

I have no problem with anyone seeking to criticize Greg’s ideas, I’ve criticized his ideas more than once on my blog here. Unfortunately, I think Phil’s criticisms are entirely off base.

Here I’ll respond to Phil’s criticisms of Greg’s comments on same-sex marriage:

It takes merely a male and a female to make most species,

And we call the male and female the parents or mother and father of the offspring. That doesn’t do anything to undercut Greg’s point that marriage is an objective feature of reality.

many species of animals abandon their offspring before or soon after birth.

So what if they do? Greg wouldn’t deny that this is true and it doesn’t do anything to undercut Greg’s point.

Worse yet for Greg’s position is that we discover homosexuality in animals the world over.

Again, so what? All that means, for Greg, is that homosexuality is *discovered* and not *defined*. The fact that there are other objective features of reality that we discover, in addition to marriage, doesn’t undercut Greg’s claim that marriage is an objective feature of reality that we discover.

You can’t have it both ways.

But he hasn’t tried to have anything both ways, since Greg’s argument doesn’t depend upon homosexuality being “defined.”

You can’t invoke what exists selectively. If you are going to appeal to what we have discovered about human behavior, you’ll need to consistently apply all relevant discoveries to the issue.

The key word there is *relevant*. So, yeah, he is selectively pointing out that marriage is discovered, because that’s what’s relevant to his argument. The fact that we discover homosexuality isn’t *relevant* to Greg’s point. If you want to say that Greg has left out some other relevant discoveries you need to spell out *how* these discoveries are relevant to Greg’s case.

Are we to suppose this was merely an oversight on Greg’s part?

It wasn’t an oversight or, as you hint, something more nefarious. It was just prudence.

In his attempt to reify the pairing off of males and females into his narrow version of marriage

How is the observation that marriage is an objective feature of reality reification? In that case, are all the above things you listed (homosexuality, etc) reifications too?

he also conveniently ignores the many cultures in which polygamy was or has been dominant.

Polygamy is another thing we describe rather than define, so what?

Can this selective invoking of nature be anything less than mendacity?

Still just prudence…

This is “normal” ordinary for “sexual” unions, marriage unions being merely a subset of sexual unions…

I’m sure Greg would want to point out that marriage is the norm for sexual unions among the human species. What ostriches naturally do with their children is irrelevant to Greg’s point involving human parentage.

except that sexual unions (and the subset of marital unions) have no obligation to produce children.

Greg hasn’t said and I doubt he would ever say that sexual unions (or marital unions for that matter) have an obligation to produce children.

Greg is attempting to take a description based on what is observed, and unjustifiably reify that description to obligatory status.

No. I think you misunderstood Greg’s point. He isn’t saying marriage is described, therefore, marriage is obligatory. Greg has pointed to the naturalistic fallacy in the past. Greg hasn’t explicated or indicated that he intends anything obligatory in the description of marriage.

Marriage is a social construct. The term “marriage” has no inherent definition outside what a particular culture gives it. Ask the Muslims who may marry a girl at a young age, yet wait to consummate the marriage when the girl turns nine. Greg can go around poking in other cultures’ definition of marriage interjecting ad hoc qualifiers in an attempt to delineate “marriage” into something that matches what he hopes it to mean, but he does so irrationally. In other cultures, “marriage” has long included polygamy, child brides, and the like. There is nothing extra-biblical to support his own limited definition of marriage.

This is like the atheist attempt to prove morality is subjective (or a social construct) by pointing to moral disagreement. By the same logic, we can prove mathematics is subjective by pointing to discrepancies in solutions to 5th grade math tests.

Unfortunately you’re just getting hung up on the word “marriage” and confusing the word for the reality to which the word is applied. Of course different people may use the same term to describe a variety of different things.

The fact that other cultures or other people within the same culture use a word like “marriage” to describe different things doesn’t demonstrate that there isn’t a set of behaviors and attitudes virtually universal across cultures that male and female humans can and do engage in. You can call that set of behaviors and attitudes whatever you like: Fliffenheimer, if you like. Now if I start using the term fliffenheimer to describe basketball that doesn’t change the fact that the set of behaviors and attitudes you were describing with “fliffenheimer” and the set of behaviors and attitudes I’m now describing with “fliffenheimer” are two different things.

Likewise, I’m sure Greg understands “marriage” to be along the lines of what Girgis, Anderson, and George have described in their book “What is Marriage?” And if *that* is what Greg means by “marriage” then *that* is not the same thing as what a polygamist means by marriage or a homosexual means by marriage, if they apply those terms to their respective “unions.”

The ability to contribute your DNA to a zygote says nothing about the ability to nurture an actual child.

Greg isn’t talking about the ability to contribute your DNA to a zygote. He is talking about the set of behaviors and attitudes called “marriage.”

When mixed-race couples bore children in a time and place of prejudice, was it not a bit “troublesome” for those children? Suggesting that same-sex parents are “troublesome” for children in this age of anti-homosexual sentiment…

lol, I can’t believe people are still telling themselves that myth! This is an age of anti-homosexual sentiment? Walk down the street wearing a t-shirt that says “Gay is Okay” with a rainbow under it (as I’ve seen before) and then walk down the street wearing a t-shirt that says “Gay is NOT Okay” with 1 Cor. 6:9-11 pictured under it and see which t-shirt gets you more dirty looks and negative reactions.

The Human Rights Campaign, to which homosexuals are the largest advocacy group, recently said that 2013 was “The gayest year in gay history” referring to the shift in public opinion regarding homosexuality.

Of course there is some anti-homosexual sentiment. But, likewise, there is some anti-religious sentiment. For instance, Rupert Everret, a homosexual, received death threats for not supporting homosexual parenting. Mitt Romney recieved death threats after the presidential debate, Rep. Andy Gipson recieved death threats for not supporting gay marriage, etc.

According to the FBI (http://tinyurl.com/d3skbhe), there are slightly more hate-crimes against people for religious reasons than there are for sexual orientation reasons. So where is the data suggesting that religious unions are more troublesome for the children that they care for?

Selectively invoking particulars of nature to justify a religious position is shamefully dishonest.

You’ve failed to demonstrate that Greg’s position is relevantly selective and you’ve not even attempted to demonstrate that Greg’s position is religious.

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