Liberal Christians (e.g., Christians who affirm homosexuality and think it’s consistent with Scripture) approach the data of Scripture the way Young Earth Creationists approach the data of nature.
I saw the movie Little Boy last night with my nephew. I first saw the trailer to the movie a few weeks ago when I took my nephew to see Cinderella. It looked like it was going to be another Christian movie like Fireproof, Courageous, Facing the Giants, etc. I’ve never watched any of these movies because the acting usually looks like it’s going to be garbage (and I’ve heard from friends who have seen the movies that the acting is bad) and the story always looks shallow.
However when I saw the trailer I remembered Brian Godawa mentioning the film on his blog a while ago. I didn’t read Godawa’s entire blog piece, but I did read enough to see that he recommended it. In the trailer I saw that it had Kevin James and Michael Rapaport, who aren’t bad actors (aren’t necessarily great either). So I decided to give this movie a shot.
I was very surprised by the quality of this movie. It’s NOT a Christian movie in the vein of Fireproof, Courageous, etc. (at least not from what I’ve heard of these movies). In fact I wouldn’t even call it a Christian movie. I won’t bother explaining why since I think it’s probably best if you go into the movie not knowing what to expect. I’ve seen a lot of atheists and liberals going bonkers over this movie in message boards… They’ve said it’s conservative propaganda and Christian propaganda… It’s neither.
Plus the movie has Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. That’s right, the guy who played Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat.
You should go see this movie
A few months ago Kenneth Samples did a podcast on movies that thinking people should see. This movie should be added to that list, along with other movies I’ve mentioned on this blog:
Rundskop (this movie is for mature audiences only)
Mark Twain has a humorous portion in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn that illustrates a problem one frequently runs into in Plato’s dialogues. I’m not sure whether Twain is intentionally aping the sort of argument or not.
I told about Louis Sixteenth that got his head cut off in France long time ago; and about his little boy the dolphin, that would a been a king, but they took and shut him up in jail, and some say he died there.
“Po’ little chap.”
“But some says he got out and got away, and come to America.”
“Dat’s good! But he’ll be pooty lonesome–dey ain’ no kings here, is dey, Huck?”
“Den he cain’t git no situation. What he gwyne to do?”
“Well, I don’t know. Some of them gets on the police, and some of them learns people how to talk French.”
“Why, Huck, doan’ de French people talk de same way we does?”
“No, Jim; you couldn’t understand a word they said–not a single word.”
“Well, now, I be ding-busted! How do dat come?”
“I don’t know; but it’s so. I got some of their jabber out of a book. S’pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy–what would you think?”
“I wouldn’ think nuff’n; I’d take en bust him over de head–dat is, if he warn’t white. I wouldn’t ‘low no nigger to call me dat.”
“Shucks, it ain’t calling you anything. It’s only saying, do you know how to talk French?”
“Well, den, why couldn’t he say it?”
“Why, he is a-saying it. That’s a Frenchman’s way of saying it.”
“Well, it’s a blame ridicklous way, en I doan’ want to hear no mo’ ’bout it. Dey ain’ no sense in it.”
“Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?”
“No, a cat don’t.”
“Well, does a cow?”
“No, a cow don’t, nuther.”
“Does a cat talk like a cow, or a cow talk like a cat?”
“No, dey don’t.”
“It’s natural and right for ’em to talk different from each other, ain’t it?”
“And ain’t it natural and right for a cat and a cow to talk different from us?”
“Why, mos’ sholy it is.”
“Well, then, why ain’t it natural and right for a Frenchman to talk different from us? You answer me that.”
“Is a cat a man, Huck?”
“Well, den, dey ain’t no sense in a cat talkin’ like a man. Is a cow a man?–er is a cow a cat?”
“No, she ain’t either of them.”
“Well, den, she ain’t got no business to talk like either one er the yuther of ’em. Is a Frenchman a man?”
“Well, den! Dad blame it, why doan’ he talk like a man? You answer me dat!”
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:
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.
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 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.