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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label homosexuality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label homosexuality. Show all posts

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why Did the Culture Shift on Same-Sex Marriage? (video)


The Pew Research Center reports "in 2001, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin. Since then, support for same-sex marriage has steadily grown. Today, a majority of Americans (57%) support same-sex marriage, compared with 39% who oppose it."1

What changed?

In this video, Lenny looks at the rise of the homosexual rights movement. He traces the coordinated effort to de-vilify homosexuality by masking it in popular media and how the Church didn't offer any good arguments against the push by activists. He also tells why it isn't too late to reclaim the high ground in the same-sex marriage debate. This video is the first in a three part series on building the case against same-sex marriage.


References

1.Pew Research. "Changing Attitudes on Gay Marriage." Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project. Pew Research Center, 07 June 2015. Web. 14 June 2015. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/06/08/graphics-slideshow-changing-attitudes-on-gay-marriage/.
Images courtesy Håkan Dahlström and licensed via the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Two Key Questions to Ask in the Same-Sex Marriage Debate (video)



The debate over same-sex marriage—what it is and if it should be legal—reached all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.While many different opinions and arguments have been made against the idea of defining marriage to include homosexual couples , there are two questions that focus on the crux of marriage: "Why is marriage only for two people?" and "What about the children? Do they have rights that are being violated?"

 In this video, Lenny expands on why these tow questions are the key in helping more people understand just what we can lose if we as a society open the door to same-sex unions.


Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Today's Snake Oil Includes a Scalpel: The Damaging Treatment of Transgenderism


The Internet lit up yesterday when Vanity Fair unveiled photos of Bruce Jenner in his transitioned state as a woman. Immediately, cheers went up for Jenner, displayed as a 1940s Hollywood siren who now wishes to be called Caitlyn. An article on the American Civil Liberties Union site exhorted others to use Jenner's new name declaring:
It is important that people do actually call her Caitlyn.

Words matter and erasing the identity of trans people by calling them by their birth names and birth-assigned sex is an act of hatred — one that is inextricable from the brutal violence that so many trans people, particularly trans women of color, encounter just for existing in the world.

How we talk about trans people sets the tone for the world in which trans people live.

And because young trans people are dying by suicide and trans women of color are being murdered at alarming rates, those of us forming public narratives about trans celebrities have an obligation to tell those stories with care.1
I agree with the article that words matter and that lives matter. We should care about all people's lives and the difficult struggles they face. But it's because their lives are in danger that I will say the ACLU and the homosexual lobby are wrong to be pushing sexual reassignment surgery for people who feel uncomfortable with their body's sex. It's a dangerous falsehood that many times proves deadly to the patients that should have been helped.

Fifty Years of Results

The history of the modern transgender movement began about seventy years ago with three men: sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, endocrinologist Harry Benjamin, and psychologist John Money.2 Kinsey's sexual deviancies, who famously said "there are only three kinds of sexual abnormalities: abstinence, celibacy and delayed marriage" are well known. 3 Kinsey referred Barry, a 23 year old male with gender dysphoria to Benjamin in 1948, and though no U.S. hospitals would do the surgery, Benjamin encouraged Barry to have three operations performed in Germany.4 However, Benjamin never heard from his patient again, so we don't know how the surgery affected Barry long-term.5

Dr. John Money was a member of Benjamin's research team, and in 1967 he sought to change a two-year-old boy whose genitals had been damaged by a botched circumcision into a girl, reassuring the parents that the child would grow up never knowing the difference. But as the Los Angeles Times reported, "the gender conversion was far from successful. Money's experiment was a disaster for Reimer that created psychological scars he ultimately could not overcome." David Reimer committed suicide at the age of 38.6 Yet that gap proved to be enough time for Money to advance his agenda that sex is fluid and changeable, and to legitimize transsexual surgery in the minds of many around the country.

Responding to these initial success reports, the prestigious Johns Hopkins University formed a clinic to facilitate transitioning patients to their desired sex with John Money as a co-founder. Dr. Paul McHugh, the director of psychiatry and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center sought to find evidential support for this treatment and began studying patients both in pre and post-operative stages of treatment. His study revealed two things: First, 70% - 80% of children who report transgender feelings spontaneously lost those feelings when they were left alone. That means the vast majority of patients left to themselves would identify as their biological sex. It's the counseling and initial treatments that make these patients continue to believe they're the wrong sex.

Secondly, McHugh found that post-surgery, the patients' mental health issues did not go away. He said, "Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as 'satisfied' by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a 'satisfied' but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs."7

Suicides of Post-Operative Transsexuals Incredibly High

McHugh notes that a very recent (2011) study pout of Sweden followed 324 patients for a period of up to thirty years after they underwent sex-reassignment surgery. Unlike Benjamin and Money's reports, this study has strong evidence for the efficacy of SRS. McHugh Reports:
The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.8
In 2010, National Center for Transgender Equality produced a survey reporting that a staggering 41% of those who identify as transgendered have attempted to commit suicide. 9 A study of 425 patients who were currently in treatment receiving hormone therapies found "the number of deaths in male-to-female transsexuals was five times the number expected, due to increased numbers of suicide and death of unknown cause."10

Dr. Charles Ihlenfeld was a partner to Harry Benjamin and worked with him for six years. But when Ihlenfeld discovered the findings of McHugh, he too announced that most patients suffering from Gender dysphoria shouldn't begin transitioning. "There is too much unhappiness among people who have had the surgery…Too many end in suicide" he said.11

Why is Culture Buying the Snake Oil?

Today, there is really no excuse to continue the charade that SMS is a proper treatment for gender dysphoria. We know the story of Mike Penner, the LA Times sports reporter who became Christine Daniels only to switch back and ultimately take his own life. It was a very visible public display of what the transgender lobby doesn't want to admit: your body's sex is not the source of the patient's problems.

There are people who feel that some part of their body is foreign to them. They are officially diagnosed as having Body Integration Identity Disorder. Those people seek to amputate the limb or whatever part they feel alien to. However, I know of no doctor or mental health professional who would amputate a healthy limb simply because of the belief of the patient that it doesn't belong there. Yet, that is exactly what our media and the transgender lobby is pushing for with Jenner and others. Chase Strangio and the ACLU don't care about saving lives, they care about advancing their agenda! Transsexualism is snake oil with a fifty year track record of failure that ends with many patients committing suicide. We need to focus on that cause, not on surgeries that amputate healthy organs.

In the words of Dr. McHugh:
At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. "Sex change" is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.12
Let's not let the media circus over Jenner distort the fact that this is a dangerous road and we shouldn't be enabling him and others by cheering him on.

References

1. Strangio, Chase. "Call Her Caitlyn But Then Let's Move on to the Issues Affecting the Trans Community." American Civil Liberties Union. American Civil Liberties Union, 1 June 2015. Web. 02 June 2015. https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/call-her-caitlyn-then-lets-move-issues-affecting-trans-community.
2. Heyer, Walt. ""Sex Change" Surgery: What Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer, and You Should Know." Public Discourse. The Witherspoon Institute, 27 Apr. 2015. Web. 02 June 2015. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/04/14905/.
3. Crain, Caleb. " Alfred Kinsey: Liberator or Pervert?." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Oct. 2004. Web. 02 June 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/03/movies/03crai.html.
4. Schaefer, Leah Cahan, and Connie Christine Wheeler. "Harry Benjamin's First Ten Cases (1938-1953): A Clinical Historical Note." Archives of Sexual Behavior 24.1 (1995): 73-93. Print.
5. Schaefer, 1995.
6. Woo, Elaine. "David Reimer, 38; After Botched Surgery, He Was Raised as a Girl in Gender Experiment." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2004. Web. 02 June 2015. http://articles.latimes.com/2004/may/13/local/me-reimer13.
7. McHugh, Paul. "Transgender Surgery Isn't the Solution." Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 12 June 2014. Web. 02 June 2015. http://www.wsj.com/articles/paul-mchugh-transgender-surgery-isnt-the-solution-1402615120.
8. McHugh, 2014.
9. Moskowitz, Clara. "Transgender Americans Face High Suicide Risk." Msnbc.com. NBCNews.com, 19 Nov. 2010. Web. 02 June 2015. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40279043/ns/health-health_care/.
10. Asscheman, H., L.j.g. Gooren, and P.l.e. Eklund. "Mortality and Morbidity in Transsexual Patients with Cross-gender Hormone Treatment." Metabolism 38.9 (1989): 869-73. Web.
11. Heyer, 2015.
12. McHugh, 2014.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Can Governments Define Marriage? (video)



The issue of what marriage is who should be allowed to marry is making headlines around the world. With the homosexual lobby pushing for states to recognize same-sex marriage, it becomes more important than ever to understand just what marriage means and who has control over its definition.

In this video, Lenny explains that marriage stems not from any law or court decision, but from the same source as human equality: natural law. Thus marriage, like human equality, cannot be redefined.



Image courtesy Fibonacci Blue [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, May 29, 2015

Answering a Unique Objection to Natural Marriage Laws



Last month, I taught a class on how to engage the culture when discussing the issue of marriage, rights and homosexuality. One of the class attendees asked how she should respond to the argument she had heard from her professor in a university gender studies class. She said the professor, who identified herself as a lesbian, offered several arguments for allowing homosexual marriage, but there was one particular argument she hadn't heard before. She said, "One of the arguments was about hermaphrodites. Given that the intersexed were assigned a sex by their parents or doctor, they didn't get to choose. Because they are not strictly male or female, shouldn't they have the opportunity to marry whomever they want, regardless of the assigned sexed placed upon them growing up?"

I have to admit, I had never heard of such a tenuous argument either. However, this professor is not alone in thinking this way. The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA), a support group for those who are considered intersexed, offers a similar challenge on its web site:
People who are proponents of prohibitions against "same sex" marriage think it is easy to figure out who is "same sex" and who is "opposite sex." Not so…

Lots of people with intersex that we know are legally married. What will happen to them if we end up with simplistic notions of sex?

And lots of people with intersex we know can't get legally married, because some doctor decided for them which sex they would count as forever more. Why should a doctor get to decide who you can grow up to marry?1
While this situation seems pretty strange, it does require a response. First, we should comment on what constitutes an intersexed person. Most of the time, the label of intersexed is given to a person who is genetically male or female (XX or XY) but has ambiguous genitalia. These individuals comprise about .018% of the population, according to Leonard Sax. 2 This is an incredibly small portion of the population to base an argument for disregarding the concept of natural marriage that has been the foundation of human society for millennia. Even if we assume the ISNA's broader estimate, which counts those with chromosomal abnormalities, intersexed people comprise 1.7% of the total population.

Should Laws that Cannot Apply to All Apply At All?

The real objection offered by both the ISNA and the professor is that since the laws defining marriage would be considered unfair to those who are diagnosed as intersexed, they should not apply at all. Does that make sense? In my answer, I offered a counter-example. I pointed to a relatively common traffic law: if an emergency vehicle approaches with both a red light displayed and a siren sounding, drivers are required to pull to the curb. However, in my state, deaf people can legally obtain their driver's license, too. So, a deaf person could be ticketed for not obeying this law, even though it is physically impossible for them to hear the siren. Therefore, should such a law be repealed? Of course not! If the right curb rule was repealed, it would do much more harm than good; obstructing emergency vehicles and endangering drivers and emergency respondents.

A recent study estimates that between .9% to 2.2% of the population suffers from a significant hearing impairment. Does it make sense to change the traffic laws since they make no sense for this segment of society or would it make more sense to keep the law and review any citations individually? Legislation has always taken the latter approach. Similarly, it makes no sense to wipe out all the marriage laws with the advantages they offer society and the protections they provide children simply because they don't make sense to an even narrower portion of the population. The argument smacks to me of desperation.

References

1. "What Do Intersex and the Same-sex Marriage Debate Have to Do with Each Other?" Intersex Society of North America. Intersex Society of North America, 2004. Web. 29 May 2015. http://www.isna.org/faq/marriage.
2. Sax, Leonard. "How Common Is Intersex? A Response to Anne Fausto‐Sterling." Journal of Sex Research 39.3 (2002): 174-78. Web.
Image courtesy Scott Davidson. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Flipped: Same-Sex Couple Demands Christians NOT Provide Wedding Service


The reports are almost predictable by now: a same-sex couple walks into some kind of business that caters to wedding clientele but is owned by a Christian. The couple asks for services and if the business refuses on moral grounds, they are threatened with protests, lawsuits, or worse. The scenario has played out effectively for several years in the U.S, and has become so effective that activists will even troll for the storyline.1


Such tactics aren't limited to the United States. In Northern Ireland, the Christian-owned Asher's Baking Company was sued because they wouldn't bake a cake sporting pro-homosexual propaganda for a political event.2 The judge sided with the homosexual group and fined the bakery.

However, there's a story out of Canada that flips the whole narrative on its head. In northeast Canada, a lesbian couple were distraught that Today's Jewellers wanted to continue creating  the custom-designed wedding rings they had ordered even though the Christian owners do not believe in homosexual marriage. The couple had worked with one of the store's jewelers, ordering their rings and even placing a deposit, but after finding out the owners were vocal supporters of natural marriage, they said "the bands seem tainted."3

When Non-Discrimination is Somehow Discrimination

CBCNews reported the story of same-sex couple Nicole White and Pam Renouf, who walked into the Mount Pearl, NL jewelry store after searching nearby St. John's for wedding rings. Today's Jewellers was recommended to them because they craft custom designs. The store not only served them, but served them so well that White and Renouf recommended them to their friends. White said "They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple."

The whole thing came unhinged when one of the couple's friends visited the store himself and saw a sign on the wall that read, "The Sanctity of Marriage is Under Attack." He sent a picture of the sign to White and Renouf, who then wanted their money back. White stated:
It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on the rings, and they're displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman. …

I have no issues with them believing in what they believe in. I think everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But I don't think they should put their personal beliefs inside their business.

Arguing the Bakers' Case for Them

This story illustrates what Christians have been saying throughout the whole debate on serving homosexual unions; it has nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with forcing others to accept a single point of view. According to the article:
White said the rings were meant to be a symbol of love, but now the bands seem tainted.

"I think every time I look at that ring, I'll probably think of what we just went through," White said.4
If custom made rings are compromised because of the views of the ringmaker, then how is the baker or photographer not also tainted because of the product which they are being forced to create? There's a reason why wedding photographers can take pictures of your wedding that you paid for yet still hold the copyright to the images themselves. You cannot reproduce those images unless the photographer gives you his or her permission because the photos are more than a product on a shelf; they contain they reflect the personality and the creativity of the artist.5 The other point is clear as well. Serving same-sex couples even if one doesn't agree with them is not enough. You cannot even hold to a contrary opinion.

One good thing from this story is it may show a way for other Christian-owned businesses to diffuse future "gotcha" attacks by activists who want to shut them down because of their beliefs. At The Federalist, Bruce Takawani recently posted his ideas on how Christian businesses can protect themselves from lawsuits by branding your business using scripture and scripture passages, plastering them on all your flyers, your delivery van, and even on company t-shirts. Given the reaction by White and Renouf above, such a suggestion just may work.

References

1. Soave, Robby. "Was Memories Pizza a Victim of Irresponsible Journalism? Yes." Reason.com. Reason Foundation., 02 Apr. 2015. Web. 20 May 2015. http://reason.com/blog/2015/04/02/was-memories-pizza-a-victim-of-irrespons.
2. McDonald, Henry. "Northern Ireland Bakers Guilty of Discrimination over Gay Marriage Cake." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 19 May 2015. Web. 20 May 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/19/northern-ireland-ashers-baking-company-guilty-discrimination-gay-marriage-cake.
3. News, CBC. "Jewelry Store Sign Prompts Same-sex Couple to Ask for Refund." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 17 May 2015. Web. 20 May 2015. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/jewelry-store-sign-prompts-same-sex-couple-to-ask-for-refund-1.3077192.
4 CBCnews, 17 May, 2015.
5. Streissguth, Tom. "Who Owns the Copyright on Wedding Pictures?" LegalZoom: Legal Info. LegalZoom.com, Inc., n.d. Web. 20 May 2015. http://info.legalzoom.com/owns-copyright-wedding-pictures-20832.html.
Image source: https://scontent-lax1-1.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/11230238_10155496136245034_5838615754670842879_n.jpg?oh=2978135687d836001211531e1df368ac&oe=56048063
Image courtesy Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany CC BY 2.0.

Monday, May 18, 2015

What Isn't Being Talked about in the Pew Study



The recent Pew Study showing the decline of Christians within the population of the U.S. has generated headlines across the country. Entitled "America's Changing Religious Landscape," the report reaffirms what had been known for years, young people are losing their faith at a faster rate than ever before.1 The reports cites a nearly 8% decrease in people who identify as Christians. It also notes "The percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated—describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or 'nothing in particular'—has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.)" 2 That's a significant increase, and the movement away from all faiths, including Christianity is most prevalent in young people, aged 18-35. The fact is alarming, and I have both written about it and interviewed experts on the trend, including offering suggestions on how to stem the tide.

Jehovah's Witnesses Rely on Christians to Survive

Yet, other facts emerge from the study to which we should also pay attention. One is the attraction and retention rates of other faiths. For example, the study shows that 65% of those who identify now as Jehovah's Witnesses were raised outside that tradition. That means two out of three Jehovah's Witnesses are converted to that faith. And a full 50% of those who are now JW came from either Protestantism or Catholicism.3

Because Jehovah's Witnesses hold to a strong belief in God's existence and the Bible being God's word, this sift is important to note. It isn't simply secularism or atheism that is drawing away people who were raised Christian, it is the search for definitive truth that is attractive, too. Imagine if Christians were so educated in theology that the heresies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society would be completely unattractive to them. The organization would be crippled.




The Watchtower relies on converting Christians to survive; if that well were to dry up, the organization could not continue. Because the JWs have not increased in adherents, its new converts—those that make up two thirds of the sect—are replacing those who have walked away from the Watchtower. They can't retain their followers, yet they are still attracting new adherents. Churches need to do a better job here.

The LGBT in Your Pew

Important insights on the religious beliefs of those who identify as homosexual or bisexual also should be noted. While the Pew survey shows that 4 out of 10 people who identify as unaffiliated, 48% identify as Christians. Even more importantly, a full 13% of those who stated they were either gay or bisexual identified themselves as not merely Christian but Evangelical Christian!4 So, how many churches have any type of ministry to these people? How many self-described LGBT have anyone they know that they can talk with about their struggles? How is the church lovingly evangelizing the person in the pew who is wrestling with their feelings?

These are just two of the interesting insights that paint a bigger picture of how crucial a new kind of evangelism and apologetics will become for the church. As kingdom-builders, we need to make sure we are not ignoring them. Apologetics and theology classes can keep Christians from believing the Watchtower's errors or the atheist's assertions. Offering ministry to those struggling with all kinds of sexual purity issues will play a more important role as the church faces an increasingly salacious society. Both can have the added benefit of stemming the loss of Millennials, who increasingly see the church as out of touch or irrelevant to today's problems. Let's not dwell on the one issue to the exclusion of others.

References

1. "America's Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow." Rep. Pew Research Center, Washington D.C., 15 May 2015. Web. http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.
2. Pew Research Center, 3.
3. Pew Research Center, 43-44.
4. Pew Research Center, 87.
Image courtesy Achim Hering (Own work) CC BY 3.0

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Christianity May Be Right, Even If We Don't Like It

Frank Bruni was the New York Times restaurant critic early in his career. Such a job has the particular advantage of focusing on one's preferences as defining. If a person disagrees with his assessment of a dish, it is easy to dismiss him or her as someone uncultured, a person with an unrefined palette or without enough sophistication to expand his or her tastes. The critic can speak about those things that are subjective, yet they seek to do so authoritatively.



Perhaps Bruni lapsed back into that mindset when he wrote his op-ed piece for the Times last Friday. There, he made the claim that "homosexuality and Christianity don't have to be in conflict in any church anywhere."1 Where would Bruni get an idea like that? The Bible very clearly teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman and homosexual acts are not just wrong but contrary to nature.2

Making an Icky Face at Christianity

The problem is that Bruni seems to view these biblical commands like a child would view a plate of Brussel sprouts: something he would never order given the choice. He writes, "Our debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn't cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they've jettisoned other aspects of their faith's history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity."3 Note his choice of words here. He describes Christian beliefs on human sexuality as "prejudices," things Christians "needn't cling to" and commands to be "jettisoned." Bruni sees the command for sexual purity as something not pleasing to his palette, and just like the child, he makes an icky face at it and says Christians should do the same.

Of course he's completely wrong here.

Any parent who has lived through a similar situation with their children will know that it is important for kids to eat their vegetables. While rich white sauces, fine wines and tiramisu are great, a diet focused on those things is going to severely shorten your life. Of course Bruni tries to muster his argument by offering a couple of Christians who agree with him, but this is as convincing as the child who points to his friend, claiming "Jimmy's parents don't make him eat these things!"

 Truth Requires Us to Eat Our Vegetables

It is quickly evident that for Bruni, he would rather have Christians order a la carte. But Christianity isn't offered that way. Christianity makes claims about the truth, about the way the world really works. If one is a faithful Christian, it means that he has recognized God as the authority in his life. God knows what's best for us and we follow his commands because we love him enough to be obedient. Does that mean we must follow command that we wouldn't normally choose left to ourselves? Of course. But, just because we don't like it doesn't make it untrue. Mom is ultimately right that eating your vegetables is going to make you healthier because that's how our bodies work. The CDC has also shown that men who have sex with men are at an astronomically high risk for a slew of life-threatening diseases. In his piece, Bruni appeals to "the advances of science and knowledge."4 Yet, it seems here that the science of the CDC argue to the opposite conclusion.

Bruni then complains that Christians view homosexuals as sinners. But Christians view themselves as sinners, just as they view all of humanity as sinners. What follows from that? He misses the point that religious belief has an interconnecting set of truth claims. If you assent to the fact that God exists, then you are forced to assent to the idea that he knows more than we do. If we believe that Jesus died for our salvation, then it will naturally follow that we will seek to be obedient to his teachings.

While there may be some Christians who, like Jimmy, feel that Brussel sprouts are not for them, they either have misunderstood God's command or they're simply acting like defiant children. Either way, religious freedom requires that those who are faithfully trying to live out their beliefs in a consistent manner must be allowed to clean their plates as it were. To extend the analogy, Bruni seems to demand that all restaurants remove from their menus anything that offends him or face being closed down by the government.  Just how reasonable is that?

References

1. Bruni, Frank. "Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana." The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 Apr. 2015. Web. 06 Apr. 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html.
2. In Matthew 19:6-7, Jesus quoted Genesis 2:24 and affirmed that marriage is the joining of the bodies ("flesh") f man and woman. This joining is the act of intercourse which will ultimately produce offspring that is literally the one flesh derived from the genes of both parents. There are several places that condemn homosexual relations, the most clear being Paul's writing in Romans 1:26-27.
3. Bruni, 2015.
4. Bruni, 2015. photo credit: resist via photopin (license)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

C.S. Lewis on "Being Born That Way"

Much is made to day of the way people define themselves, their gender, or their sexual orientation because of their feelings. They feel they are a person trapped in the wrong body or they feel an attraction to the same sex. I don't doubt that these feelings are real; it is only the person himself that can confirm or deny such predispositions. However, just because one has a predisposition doesn't mean that the predisposition is correct or that it should be pursued.


In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis makes the same point. In speaking of the desires and mental pulls we face (Lewis uses the word "Instinct" with a capital I), he makes a great point that no person follows every desire that strikes him. That would lead to barbarism. We weigh our desires, using reason, logic, and our moral compass to guide us.

This is why while the kleptomaniac may have an overwhelming urge to steal, we don't respond by saying, “Oh, you were born that way!” and throw open the department store doors to let them have their fill. We know that stealing is wrong and we as a society tell the kleptomaniac that while his feelings are real and he may even have been born that way, he needs to seek help for his improper desire. Lewis writes:
Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey ‘people’. People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence? To listen to that instinct speaking in its own cause and deciding it in its own favour would be rather simple-minded. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest. By the very act of listening to one rather than to others we have already prejudged the case. If we did not bring to the examination of our instincts a knowledge of their comparative dignity we could never learn it from them. And that knowledge cannot itself be instinctive: the judge cannot be one of the parties judged; or, if he is, the decision is worthless and there is no ground for placing the preservation of the species above self-preservation or sexual appetite.1
Lewis is right. College men are coming under immense scrutiny right now if they act upon their sexual appetites. The whole “Yes means yes” law implies that a person can overcome strong natural urges to engage in sexual activity. Yet we are told by some of the same advocates that abstinence programs will never work and those with a predisposition to homosexuality should express themselves because of what they feel. How is that consistent?

References

1. Lewis, C. S. "The Abolition of Man." The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 2002. 710. Print.
Image courtesy Noel Hildalgo and licensed by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Two More Arguments Against Homosexual Marriage

Many pundits are stating that 2015 will be the year the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)  will take up the question of homosexual marriage. With conflicting rulings from different federal courts of appeal, it seems more than likely. But SCOTUS doesn't have to rely on religious beliefs alone to understand why allowing homosexual marriage is a dangerous precedent for a society to set. Once can look at the behavior and the political issues that the concept of marriage involves to argue that protecting natural marriage is more beneficial to the citizens of the state than redefining marriage to any and all comers.


The Behavioral Question

I've previously written on biological and medical arguments against homosexual marriage that I believe are incredibly strong and demonstrate how natural marriage is more than just a way to share a life with someone you love. Yet people argue that individuals have the right to define marriage as they see fit. They share the opinion of Chip Arndt and Reichen Lehmkuhl, the self-proclaimed "married" homosexual couple who won CBS' game show The Amazing Race. Arndt noted the Oxford dictionary definition of marriage encompasses only a man and a woman. He then commented, "What's happening today, which has always happened through any revolution of culture, is that people redefine words. And we're basically saying-
Reichen: It's time to redefine.
Chip: It's time to redefine it."1

I've said before that heterosexual marriage is necessary to survival of a culture and how the concept of marriage as we now understand it is incompatible with same sex unions. What many don't realize is many in the homosexual community who do want to redefine marriage intend to change the concept well beyond the boundaries of which sexes are involved.

Even today, looking at homosexual couples who identify themselves as monogamous or committed, one finds a modification of those concepts. In the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, scientists studying homosexual relationships noted "Gay monogamous relationships are rarely faithful. 'Monogamous' seems to imply some primary emotional commitment, while causal sex continues on the side."2

Another study of homosexual partnerships was conducted by German "Sexologist" and homosexual Dr. Martin Dannecker. In 1991, Dannecker studied 900 homosexuals in 1991 living in what they defined as "steady relationships". However, Dannecker found that 83% of those males had numerous sexual encounters outside their partnerships over a one-year period. Dannecker then concluded that the "clear differences in the manner of sexual gratification" between single and non-single gay men were the reverse of what he expected. Of the homosexual men in steady relationships, he wrote, " the average number of homosexual contacts per person was 115 in the past year." In Contrast, single gay men had only 45 sexual contacts.3

Such a radical departure from the concept of two people entering into a lifetime commitment is both shocking and dangerous. Promiscuity is understood as a high-risk behavior carrying dire consequences, not the least of which are health related. In fact, an upscale homosexual men's magazine, Genre, surveyed 1037 readers in October of 1996. Here are some of the results: "One of the single largest groups in the gay community still experiencing an increase of HIV are supposedly monogamous couples." 52% have had sex in a public park. 45% have participated in three-way sex. 42% have had sex with more than 100 different partners and 16% claim between 40 to 100 partners.4

Of course there are those who want to do away with the concept of marriage being a union between two individuals altogether. In a Los Angeles Times article,  the head of the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Paula Ettelbrick, was interviewed and asked about her views on the same-sex marriage controversy. Ettelbrick, who is also a law professor, "recommends legalizing a wide variety of marriage alternatives, including polyamory, or group wedlock. An example could include a lesbian couple living with a sperm-donor father, or a network of men and women who share sexual relations."5 The article goes on to discuss how one of her goals, in Ettelbrick's words, is to "push the parameters of sex, sexuality and family, and in the process transform the very fabric of society."6 Such changes to the concept of marriage do nothing to alleviate the high-risk behavior in which homosexuals engage and, according to Dannecker's study, may actually enflame such behaviors.

The Political Question

Ultimately, it becomes important to understand why marriage is encouraged within the laws of the United States. As I've written before, the marriage relationship is seen as so necessary that "every human societ[y] has had to promote it actively".7  This means that the welfare of the society depends on the active encouragement of monogamous heterosexual unions. When understood this way, one can make a case that the U.S. constitution requires the definition of marriage to remain as it now stands.

First, we must understand that homosexuals are not being denied equal rights to marry whomever they want. The restrictions regarding marriage are enforced equally to both the heterosexual and homosexual population. For example, neither homosexuals nor heterosexuals can marry a sibling. In the same way, no one can marry someone of the same sex - that proscription applies to all citizens equally and is therefore not discriminatory.

So, why does the government restrict marriage at all? The opening paragraph of the U.S. Constitution is known as the Preamble, and it sets forth the overarching principles of what the document is designed to accomplish. It reads "We, the People of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice and ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this constitution of the United States of America."8

Note that the writers explicitly state its purpose is to promote the general welfare for the people of the United States and their posterity. But I've demonstrated that homosexual marriage is in conflict with this. It wouldn't promote the general welfare of the society - it would hinder that process! Therefore, it does not make sense to say homosexual marriage is a constitutional freedom. How can we usurp this foundational intent of the framers that's explicitly stated in the constitution itself with something that is nowhere mentioned as a right?

Philosopher Francis Beckwith, in his article "Wedding Bell Blues; Understanding the Same-Sex Marriage Debate" sums it up thusly, "Since marriage is an intrinsic good, just as justice is an intrinsic good, a culture that does not nourish, encourage, and protect traditional marriage will do so at its own peril, just as it would imperil itself if it no longer understood justice as an intrinsic good. … Republican (small "r") government results from good citizens civilized by the institutions of family, honest work, and good religion. If, to quote Aristotle, statecraft is soulcraft, then the end of the state should be to produce good citizens and therefore provide a privileged and protected position for these institutions. The state, consequently, should treat traditional marriage as privileged and protected in contrast to other alternatives."9

Beckwith states that the purpose of government really defines its role regarding marriage. If the state is interested in making good citizens and promoting the good, then marriage must be protected as a heterosexual union. He continues "On the other hand, a state that treats all alternative lifestyles as equal does not believe that statecraft is soulcraft and is therefore not particularly interested in producing good citizens qualified to engage in republican government. Such a state denies there is any such thing as the good, the true, or the beautiful."10  The founding fathers have demonstrated that the government of the United States was formed for a higher purpose, that qualities such as establishing justice, promoting the welfare of the people and ensuring that their posterity also enjoyed those assurances. Since homosexual marriage endangers society in real ways and is antithetical to those ends it cannot be considered constitutionally protected. It does, in fact, undermine the intent of the constitution itself.

References:

1.Advocate.com Editors. "Married and Millionaires-amazing!" Advocate.com. Here Media, Inc., 21 Aug. 2003. Web. 09 Jan. 2015. http://www.advocate.com/news/2003/08/22/married-and-millionaires%E2%80%94amazing-0?page=0%2C1.
2. Connell, RW. Crawford, J., Dowsett, GW., Kippax, S., Sinnott, V., Rodden, P., Berg, R., Baxter, D., Waston, L., "Danger and context: unsafe anal sexual practice among homosexual and bisexual men in the AIDS crisis" Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology (1990 ) 26: pp.187-208.
3. Wittmeier, Carmen. "Now They Know The Other Half." Alberta Report 7 June 1999: 27. Print.
4. "Sex Survey Results," Genre (October 1996), quoted in "Survey Finds 40 percent of Gay Men Have Had More Than 40 Sex Partners," Lambda Report, January 1998, 20. Print.
5. Rivenburg, Roy "Divided over Gay Marriage" Los Angeles Times 12 March 2004. E1. Print.
6. Ibid.
7. Young, Katherine K. and Paul Nathanson "Marriage a la mode: Answering the Advocates of Gay Marriage"
http://www.marriageinstitute.ca/images/mmmode.pdf Sept. 29, 2003
8. The United States Constitution
9. Beckwith, Francis J. "Wedding Bell Blues: Understanding the Same-Sex Marriage Debate - Christian Research Institute." Equip.org. Christian Research Institute, 22 Apr. 2009. Web. 09 Jan. 2015. http://www.equip.org/article/wedding-bell-blues-understanding-the-same-sex-marriage-debate/.
10. Ibid.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Missing Piece in the Hillsong Controversy

There's been a huge uproar in the last week over comments made by Brian Houston, who is the senior pastor of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia. Hillsong is best known for its worship albums that have sold millions of copies and contain songs sung weekly in evangelical churches across the world. The Sydney church boasts over 20,000 members1, but there are eleven offshoot churches that have opened in major cities around the world, including New York and Los Angeles in the U.S.2



During a press conference3 prior to a Hillsong Conference in New York City, Houston refused to provide a yes or no answer as to whether he would allow the ministers in Hillsong churches to officiate same-sex weddings. He said:

I mean we go to you — you know — the one big hot topic maybe for churches is now with homosexual marriage uh legalized and uh — you know — and churches for generations, they- they hold a set of beliefs around what they believe the Word of God- the bible says. And all of a sudden in many circles the church can look like a pariah because, to many people it's so irrelevant now on that subject. So staying relevant, it's actually a big challenge…

Um- homosexual marriages legal in your city and uh- and will be in probably in most Western world countries within a short time. So the world's changing and we want to stay relevant as a church. So that's a mixing thing. You think, "How can we stay- ho-how can we not become a pariah".

So that's the world we live in. In the weight we live with is the reality that in churches like ours and virtually in any other church, there are young people who have serious questions about their sexuality. And uh- who may be spea- you know — hypothetically — speak to a youth leader. A youth pastor. And says -uh, "I think — you know- I'm gay".

And maybe they feel a sense of rejection there. Or maybe even their own Christian parents can't handle it and uh- exclude them at the time when they are the most vulnerable in their life. So you can have in churches not- not just our church — churches, young people who are literally uh depressed. Maybe even suicidal. And sadly often times grow up to hate the church because they feel like the church rejected them.4

The New York Times reported that "Mr. Houston said he did not think it would be constructive to delineate a public position on same-sex marriage" and quoted him as saying , "we feel at this point, that it is an ongoing conversation, that the real issues in people's lives are too important for us just to reduce it down to a yes or no answer in a media outlet. So we're on the journey with it."5

Evangelicals Reacting to the Wrong Mistake

Because Houston and his New York City pastor Carl Lenz both refused to say whether homosexuality is right or wrong, the evangelical world was in an uproar. I agree with the position many different evangelicals took that homosexual practices are is clearly forbidden in the Bible and that those who are in leadership positions must be as much about warning the saints against sinning as it is in reaching out to those who are lost. Relevance should never trump revelation.

The thing that bothers me in all of this, though, is that Houston's stance on homosexuality is not his most troubling belief. Reading Houston's own books, it is very clear that he teaches the very unbiblical doctrine of the prosperity movement. In other words, Houston teaches that all Christians should never have financial or health troubles. He published a book in 2000 entitled You Need More Money. Granted, Houston said that the title was a mistake6, yet his prosperity gospel is reinforced in his 2013 book Maximize Your Life where under the chapter title of Blessing he writes:
God's will is always to bless you, but if you think His blessing is entirely for you, you are missing the point. The blessing of God in your life should go well beyond your own existence, God told Abraham that He would bless him, but the purpose of blessing him went far beyond his own life. This is what God said:

I will make you a great nation;

I will bless you

And make your name great;

And you shall be a blessing: (Genesis 12:2)
The purpose of God's blessing is to enable you to be a great channel of blessing to others. If you have nothing, there is nothing you can do for anyone else; if you have a little, you can only help a little; but if you have plenty, there is a whole lot you can do. When you are blessed, you have a mighty foundation from which to impact others. You are blessed to be a blessing.
But material blessing is not always God's will. Houston twists the scriptures here. Paul died broke and in prison. Stephen, in Acts 8, was stoned to death for his testimony—he was faithful, yet he received no material blessing. And Jesus Himself told the rich young ruler not to give his money to the church for use, but to "sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me" (Luke 18:22). Jesus Himself was poor; he stated "the foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head" (Matt 8:20) and needed to have Peter catch a fish because he didn't have a coin to pay a tax (Matt 17:27)

Prosperity Teaching More Dangerous than Sexual Impropriety

The big problem I see here is that Houston's prosperity doctrine has been well known. He's written books on the subject and even this year posted to his blog that "God is our Father and like any loving parent He enjoys His children being blessed in every way, including financially. Simply put, it is God's desire to bless us because He loves us!"7 Yet, the prosperity teaching of Hillsong hasn't causes a ripple while his distancing himself from taking a stand on homosexuality has created a tidal wave of concern. Why?

Prosperity teaching is vastly more dangerous, because it claims to present the will of God, but misrepresents God in so doing. Those that believe in this kind of teaching and then find themselves in hard times can quickly give up Christianity all together. In other words, it has implications for the salvation of the believer. As one can see from the passages above and others, there's always a subtle subtext about doing what's right, about obeying the law. In his Blessings chapter, Houston writes:

Throughout the Bible, God consistently promises to bless His people, but His blessing also depends on our choices. He puts two dear choices before people: 'I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live;' (Deuteronomy 30: 19)

The book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament contains a list of blessings and a list of curses which were directly linked to whether one chose to obey or disobey the commandments of the Lord. You can read these in Deuteronomy 28: 1-14. To choose life with God is to choose a blessed life.
But the New Testament is clear that believers are no longer under the law. Deuteronomy 28's blessings and cursing are not applicable to Christians, they were directly meant for the nation of Israel. Paul tells the Christians in Galatia that they are no longer under the curse of the law, but they have freedom in Christ and then warns then that "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery" (Gal .3:10,4:31, 5:1). He says that for anyone under the law, "Christ will be of no benefit to you" (Gal 5:2). So which is the more important issue?

Matthew Vines, who wants to see evangelicalism accept his homosexuality, provided this insight to the New York Times, "Is Hillsong influential primarily for doctrine and theology? No, it's not, but its music is as evangelical as you're going to get, in terms of reach and impact, and that's very significant."8 If Hillsong's position on homosexuality is that important, shouldn't Christians be more upset over Hillsong's undermining of the gospel through its prosperity teachings? "Jesus, You're All I Need" is a popular Hillsong worship chorus. Too bad it isn't the message Houston teaches.

References

1. Thompson, Tuck. "Hillsong Pastor Defends Ministry against Cult Claims." The Courier Mail. News Ltd., 25 May 2009. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/hillsong-pastor-defends-ministry-against-cult-claims/story-e6freoof-1225715404571
2. "Hillsong Church." Hillsong Church. Hillsong Church, n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://hillsong.com/.
3. Paulson, Michael. "Megachurch Pastor Signals Shift in Tone on Gay Marriage." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/18/us/megachurch-pastor-signals-shift-in-tone-on-gay-marriage.html?_r=2.
4. Churchwatcher. "A Transcript and Statement on Brian Houston's Recent Press Conference." Hillsong Church Watch. Hillsong Church Watch. 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://hillsongchurchwatch.com/2014/10/20/a-transcript-and-statement-on-brian-houstons-recent-press-conference/. You may listen to a recording of these comments here.
5. Paulson, ibid.
6. Marriner, Cosmina. "Next Stop Secular Europe, Says Hillsong Founder." The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media, 25 May 2009. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://www.smh.com.au/national/next-stop-secular-europe-says-hillsong-founder-20090524-bjj1.html.
7. Houston, Brian. "Day 3: Make Room for Blessing." Hillsong Connect. Hillsong Church, 3 Jan. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. http://hillsong.com/blogs/collected/2014/january/day-3-make-room-for-blessing#.VEVuXPnF-So.
8. Paulson, Ibid.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Levitical Laws, Slavery, and Sexual Prohibitions

Yesterday, I began a conversation based on a question from an atheist concerning a passage in Leviticus that seems to condone slavery. You can read the first post here, but basically he asked why Christians believe that slavery is immoral if:

  1. It has biblical support, such a Leviticus 25:44-46
  2. It is used as a model by the New Testament writers as a way to express allegiance to Christ.
In yesterday's post, I discussed how the NT writers were referring to a different type of slavery than what one might immediately come to mind, such as that practiced in the Antebellum South. I also noted that Levitical laws performed three different functions (distinguishing Israel from pagan nations, demonstrating allegiance to Yahweh, and laws governing social interactions). However, since these laws are all intertwined, a fair question would be "isn't the distinction arbitrary?" How does one know whether a law still holds for Christians, such as the prohibition against homosexuality in Leviticus 18:22 versus the longer slavery passage just a few chapters later?


How Leviticus Applies to Christians

The short answer to the question above is simple. Christian theology teaches that none of the Levitical laws are binding on Christians today. Paul is very clear that a Christian is no longer governed by the Old Testament laws (Gal. 3:15-29, Rom. 6:12). In fact, Paul makes a big deal in Galatians that the law was something of a schoolmaster, used to teach people about their sinfulness: "Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor (Gal 3:24-25)."

Given that we are not to abide by the Levitical laws, does that mean that they are worthless to us? Here would be the longer answer. As a teacher, the Levitical laws can help illuminate certain actions that God considers sinful. For example, Leviticus 18 uses the strongest possible language when forbidding adultery (v. 20), child sacrifice (v. 21), homosexual relations (v. 21) and bestiality (v.22). Interestingly, intercourse with a menstruating woman is the only prohibition not specifically carrying its own term of condemnation.

Leviticus 18 is primarily a guide of differentiation. Verses 24 through 26 state "Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you." The Canaanites were using all of these practices and many times in ritual worship.1 However, designating such practices as "abomination," "defilement," and "perversion" distinguish these acts as wrong intrinsically.

When we look at Leviticus 25, though, the focus is not one of differentiation, but of dealing with laws of land ownership and how to treat the poor. Slaves fall into the second category as slavery served as a type of indentured servitude that allows the poor to survive. Since laws like reverting the land to its original owners during the Year of Jubilee (Lev 25:10) and providing a kinsman redeemer (Lev. 25:25) don't apply in any way to modern Christians, neither do the slave statues that immediately follow. However, the point must be made that because the slavery passage is found within the context of national dealings with the poor in a nation where all land rights have already been assigned, it shouldn't be assumed that modern concepts of slavery are in view at all.

References

1. Neill, James. The Origins and Role of Same-sex Relations in Human Societies. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009. Print. 96.
Photo provided by Jun and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Why do Christians Condemn Slavery?

I saw an interesting question posed by David, a self-identified atheist in a Facebook group the other day. I believe the question is earnest and his tone appropriate. I think it deserved a thoughtful response. He asks:
I am an atheist. However, this is a serious question that will appear to be trolling. Trust me, it isn't.

Why do Christians condemn slavery?

The Bible seems to condone a few different forms, explicitly in the OT (Leviticus 25:44-46) and at least complicity in the NT. Doesn't Jesus (Luke 12:47-48), Paul (Ephesians 6:5, 1 Timothy 6:1-2) and others use this relationship as a allegory of people's relationship with Jesus, being "slaves to Christ"? Isn't this supposed to be a picture of this relationship, similar as a husband and wife relationship is a picture of Christ and the Church? We wouldn't want to abolish the institution of marriage, correct? If we abolish slavery forever, how will people one hundred years from now REALLY understand this slave/master relationship? Perhaps abolishing slavery will ultimately hurt our chances of understanding God, no? So, why do Christians condemn slavery?

Slaves to Christ

There's a lot here, so I want to go through it appropriately. I also think there's a related question that wasn't expressed but that may be in the back of the questioner's mind, which deals with the Christian objection against same-sex marriage. Let me tease this out a bit.

One way that some Christians have argued for the sanctity of man-woman marriage is because God created it to reflect the relationship between Christ and His church (Eph. 5:22-33).Same-sex marriage mars that model by eliminating the husband/wife distinction. Two men or two women don't fit the designations of Ephesians 5.

Another model of the relationship between Christ and the believer is the slave model. Almost all the New Testament writers used the phrase of themselves (Rom. 1:1, 2 Cor. 4:5, Gal. 1:10, Phil. 1:1, Jas. 1:1, 2 Pet. 1:1. Jud. 1:1, Rev, 1:1) and also other Christians (Col.1:7, Col. 4:7, 2 Tim.2:24, Rev, 1:1). Slavery, therefore, is a way believers can identify in their relationship with Christ. Thus, if same-sex marriage corrupts the picture of Christ and his church as laid out in Ephesians 5, then doesn't the abolition of slavery also corrupt the picture of a devoted believer to his Lord as cited in the passages above? Aren't Christians being inconsistent in standing against same-sex marriage while they support the abolition of slavery? Since Leviticus is the primary text against homosexuality (Lev. 18:22) and it condones slavery in Lev.25:44-46, then shouldn't Christians be consistent in their obedience to the Levitcal laws?

Not All Levitical Laws are Alike

I appreciate David's thoughtful approach to this issue. However, I think he misunderstands the role Leviticus plays in the life of the Christian. The Levitical laws are primarily written to the inhabitants of Israel and they were intended to give the new nation a way of separating themselves from their pagan neighbors, showing their allegiance to their God, and various social laws on how to run a nation. Today, the first two items would be seen by most Westerners as separate from the third, but that wasn't true for people of that era, just as it isn't true for many in the East. Paul Copan notes the distinction when he writes:

So when a neighbor, say, moves boundary stones to enlarge his own territory, this has a social impact, affecting his neighbor's livelihood. This act of theft from a neighbor isn't just a societal violation; it's a violation against God as well. Or consider how adultery throws a family into upheaval, not to mention creating a tear in Israel's social fabric. It was an offense against God as well. So when the one God makes a covenant with his people (at Sinai) just before providing a land for them, he is attempting to reshape his people into a nation very much unlike their neighbors.1

Some of these laws, such as dietary restrictions or not wearing garments of mixed fabric are clearly made to distinguish Israel as discriminating and unique. The New Testament tells us that the sacrifice of Christ abolished those distinctions in passages like Acts 10, where Peter first sees a vision of the unclean animals, is told to kill and eat them, and then receives gentile visitors. He concludes, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Acts10:34, ESV).

Laws Must Reflect Their Culture

Secondly, the laws of a nation will naturally reflect the times in which one lives. For example, horse theft used to be a capital crime in many states when a horse was crucial to a man's livelihood and it usually was the most expensive piece of property he owned. Those statues are no longer applicable; not because the crime has changed, but because the culture has changed around it, making losing one's horse an act that has different consequences. Jesus noted this, too, when he chastised the Pharisees asking about Moses' law of divorce in Deuteronomy 24.

I say this because it is crucial to understanding the concept of slavery in the ancient world, especially in the way the New Testament writers use the term. As I've said before, slavery in the Ancient Near-East was not the same as the chattel-slavery of the pre-Civil War South. It was more like serfs and Lords in Israel. Remember, no one was guaranteed a meal in those days. If you were hurt, if you were poor, or if you were a conquered people, you had very few options to avoid starvation. People would even sell themselves into slavery to pay off debts. Once under the protection and care of a wealthy master with the resources to guarantee your basic welfare, some people would actually be better off as slaves. There were even those who decided to pledge their allegiance to their master and became a permanent "employee" of the master's house, sometimes written as a bond-slave or bond-servant. This is the idea that Paul and the other writers above make when they compare themselves to slaves. They are committing themselves freely and permanently to Christ.

Slave in the New Testament is also often used as a descriptor of one's entrapment to sin, such as Romans 6 where Paul tells the church in Rome that they were previously slaves to sin, but now have become slaves to Christ. So, Christians can consistently oppose slavery and still hold the idea of being a bond-servant to Christ. Slavery in that culture meant something other than modern versions of slavery, and the kind of slavery the New Testament writers use concerning Christians is a voluntary slavery.

Tomorrow, I will discuss a little more how the Levitical laws are relevant to Christians and the general culture.

References

1. Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011. Print. 70.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Values so Shockingly Consistent They Make the News

In the ever-growing competition for our attention, news media outlets have sought to find stories that sit ever stranger to our sensibilities. The unusual is prized as the type of a story journalists seek to capture eyeballs and get people talking. It's just like that old saying that what's expected is not really news, like a dog biting a man. But if a man bites a dog, then that's news!



That's why I was very intrigued with the Associated Press story that ran just today about a homosexual couple who were denied Communion from the Roman Catholic in central Montana. The AP article reports:
A gay couple has been told they can no longer receive Communion or participate in church ministry after the new priest at a Roman Catholic church in central Montana learned they had been married in a civil ceremony more than a year ago.

The decision set off a split that has cut attendance at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Lewistown, population 5,900. It has prompted an upcoming visit from the bishop of the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings.1
The article goes on to report that the men were involved in a relationship for some 30 years, but decided to get married "so they can make medical and financial decisions for each other."2

Most conservative Christians of any stripe would read the above and probably react with a collective "Yeah, so?" The Roman Catholic Church has been very clear in its condemnation of homosexual unions. The biblical teaching on homosexuality is very clear on recognizing practicing homosexual s as those who are not considered part of the faith. Paul explicitly states in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality… will inherit the kingdom of God."

The Shock Value of Consistent Values

So why is this so newsworthy? Why would the AP run a "dog bites man" story like this? There are only two reasons I can think of and probably both are true to some extent. The first would be that the AP assumes most people would feel that the men were somehow being discriminated against. It's a "how can the church discriminate against these two poor men who only want to look after one another financially and medically" kind of angle.  Of course, anyone with an inkling of understanding would know better than to buy that. For example, the men were joined in a civil union, not in the church. Why do you think this was? Because they knew the church would never allow it! So, how could they be "stunned by the priest's decision" to not allow them to partake in the church's other sacraments? The answer: they weren't. They just don't want to play by the rules.

Secondly, it is entirely possible that the secular AP and its readers cannot fathom an organization having a moral code that calls for certain people to be excluded by virtue of their actions, no matter how sincere, heartfelt, or popular in public opinion they are. This is another example of the faux-virtues I talked about a couple of days ago. It's believed that all decisions are OK, just as long as one doesn't hurt anyone else's feelings. Well, that simply isn't true. These men may sincerely love each other, but they are not taking the teachings of their church honestly. They seem to see the church teachings as something to be gamed. Communion is at it root an act of identifying with Christ and His actions on the cross. It entails a foregoing of self and a devotion to following Jesus as your Lord. That means following the rules He set down for His church. Jesus taught explicitly, "If you love me you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). He didn't teach that Christians can pick and choose which they would like to keep and which they can ignore.

No matter what the actual motivation was for the AP to run this story, I see it as another clear sign of the shift that has occurred in culture over the last decade. When Christians display Christian values consistently, our society no longer looks upon such actions as normal or unordinary. While the plane that doesn't crash isn't news, now consistently living out one's Christian values is.

In some ways, I think this is as much of an indictment of the Christian church as it is the culture. The broader culture should have been able to recognize Christians by their moral character much more clearly before today. But we have now reached the point where the separation is strange enough it's considered newsworthy, so expect to see more stories on it. They'll be considered as foreign as the story of a man biting a dog, and naked when doing so.

References

1. Associated Press. "Montana Gay Couple Denied Communion After Marriage." ABC News. ABC News Network, 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2014. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/montana-gay-couple-denied-communion-marriage-25626162.
2. Ibid.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Gay College Prof Indoctrinating Students

Here are some stories from September's Apologetics Update email newsletter. Sign up on the right to get these delivered to your inbox each month.

September is here and school has begun, which means that the ministry here takes on an increasing importance. Just this week in fact, I spoke with a girl who is a freshman at the local community college. She had enrolled in freshman English, a required class. The professor announced that he was an "out" homosexual man and was recently married to his partner.



Such professions by an instructor would be perhaps a bit bothersome, but not completely avoidable in such an environment. However, the shocking thing was the first assignment given to the class: the students were required to write a four page essay answering the question "What is Marriage?" in a new, fresh, engaging, and/or surprising way (emphasis included in the original assignment sheet).

Why should the concept of marriage, which all cultures across time have understood as the lifelong coupling between a man and a woman that provides the stability to produce and rear offspring, need to be redefined in some new or surprising way? That is like asking someone to redefine automobile in a new or surprising way. Why would one create such an assignment unless the goal is to create the impression that the idea of marriage is up for grabs? Note that this was an English class, not sociology or political science, and 10% of the grade earned in this required course comes from this assignment.

These types of subtle tricks to indoctrinate our kids infuriate me! How in the world will kids just out of high school be able to defend the historic and natural understanding of marriage on their own? They simply don't have the experience to answer the subversion of their beliefs in this assignment. They are like the proverbial frog in the pot; the prof slowly turns up the heat and soon all their Christian values are boiled right out of them.

I was glad to be able to provide some resources to this girl that clarifies how marriage requires of two people of the opposite sex because it is a function of how God constructed our bodies. Marriage is as much a function of biology as it is of relationship, and as such it cannot be redefined on a whim, even if you do not believe the Bible.

I'm glad that I was able to help this student clarify her beliefs and provide her with some answers to maintain her Christian witness. But there are many other people out there who need help in a similar way. That's why Come Reason Ministries exists: to provide answers for the seeker and to help the Christian defend the truth of the Gospel in a hostile world. We do this through our web site, podcasts, videos, publications and speaking events. But we need your help.

Please prayerfully consider supporting Come Reason with a gift or inviting me to speak for your church or group. We need supporters so I can continue to help people like this young girl. Many have nowhere else to turn to find the answers that strengthen their faith in Christ, instead of tearing it down.

Speaking the Truth in Love Conference

I had a great time last month at the Speaking the Truth in Love Conference in Kent, Washington. It was great to meet conference organizer Eric Urabe in person although we has a "virtual" relationship for some time now. I also got to catch up with my friend Abdu Murray, who has been in great demand since his book Grand Central Question was published this year.  I should have videos of the event very soon and we will be making them available on the web site and in DVD format, so stay tuned!

September Apologetics Class:
Defending the Trinity Against World Religions


On Monday, September 8, I will be holding my next apologetics class at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside entitled "Defending the Trinity Against World Religions." This class will help believers defend critical challenges against the Trinity such as the claim that the Trinity is a logical contradiction, the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and the Trinity is too mysterious and unintelligible for us to understand.

The class is free and open to anyone. It begins at 7:00 PM and childcare is provided. Click here for details.

This Month's Apologetics Resource:
Hidden Ways the Gospels Prove Reliable


This month, I'm excited to offer a new resource for your gift of any size. "Hidden Ways the Gospels Prove Reliable" takes a look at evidence that has recently come to light showing how the gospel accounts must have been written by first century eyewitnesses of the events they record. By studying the names used throughout the accounts, noting interlocking testimony, and finding undesigned coincidences, it becomes easy to see that the gospels are not fable, fiction, nor falsehood.

This gift is yours for a secure donation of any size to help support the efforts of our ministry. Your tax deductible gift may be given securely online here, or you may send us a check at the address on the bottom of this email. However the Lord leads you, please know that I'm deeply grateful for your prayers and your friendship.

Blessings,

Lenny
Lenny Esposito

Monday, June 23, 2014

Do Homosexual Couples Value Women Less?

What a mess in Texas. Jason Hanna and Joe Riggs are homosexual partners who decided they wanted a family. Because the two men cannot procreate with each other, they enlisted an egg donor and a surrogate who gave birth to two boys, one sired by each man who was listed as that child's father on the birth certificate along with the surrogate. Hanna and Riggs wanted to adopt each other's boy so they could be legally recognized as parents; however a Texas judge disallowed the listing.1


This whole issue is a mess and it grieves me that Hannah and Riggs don't like the ramifications of their choice to be a homosexual couple. Part of choosing a homosexual relationship is knowing that one can never naturally produce children. It simply cannot be. Instead, they decided to father children through artificial means. This means that the two men enlisted the aid of at least two women in their desire to create children, one or more as the egg donor and another woman to carry the babies to term.

The fact that women are necessary to the child-bearing process shouldn't surprise anyone; even a third grader can tell you that every baby had a mommy and a daddy at some point. But Hanna and Riggs really don't like that reality. They are trying to manufacture a family while still holding onto their male-only relationship. But the question then arises: If a mother is necessary for the first nine months of human development, why would anyone think that she is optional for the next eighteen years? Why are the same feminists who scream because there are no women priests not screaming when two men appear before a Texas judge and say, "We would like you to legitimize our choice to deprive two children of their biological requirement for a mother"? Of course, they didn't put it in those terms, but that's what is implied by the action. Hanna and Riggs think that women add nothing essential to the proper development of human beings. Two people are all that matters, even if they are the same sex.

As an aside, why two? Where does the idea of a couple come from? That is also a result of biology, because only one man and one woman can procreate. You can't get a child with one or three. But if one ignores biology it could be one or five or perhaps even the government itself.

Perhaps that's the solution; take all biology out of the equation, have the government create the babies and assign them to people. Everyone gets the same chance that way and orientation or fertility never come into play. Or, we can say that we feel for the individuals who cannot conceive, but such a solution is worse than the affliction.

Riggs has protested the court decision, claiming that it isn't good for the babies. "Ultimately, we're talking about is what's better: one parent or two parents. For me it's two parents. It's a no-brainer."2 If Riggs was thinking about what's better for children, then he should have thought twice about the surrogacy itself. As I've written before, children from sperm donors don't do as well as children from biological parents.  Also, Mark Regenerus' huge study comparing same-sex families to natural families underscores the fact that if one wants the best outcome for a child, they should be reared with a mother and a father.

 I therefore think that it is right for the judge to rule as she did. Interestingly, I think a case can be made that those who hold to natural marriage as the appropriate environment in which to rear children actually value women more than those lobbying for the legal rights of homosexual men adopting children. Natural marriage proponents see women as irreplaceable—irreplaceable!—in the development on young lives. While some children may tragically lose the opportunity for a mother, to create that scenario by design strikes me as cruel.

References

1 Jehangir, Mariam. "Texas Judge Denies Gay Couple Legal Parenthood of Biological Sons." First to Know. Web. http://firsttoknow.com/texas-judge-says-gay-couple-cant-adopt-listed-birth-certificates-biological-sons-gay-couple-adoption/ 18 June 2014. Accessed 23 June 2014.

2 Ibid.

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