Wednesday, December 12, 2012

NoSCo on Morality

Irony can be funny. For today, Nick Peters -- who voices NonStampCollector in my TektonTV videos on him -- provides us with a written response to an entry NoSCo wrote (yes, he actually can write, can you imagine?) on a freethought blog. Maybe eventually NoSCo will also get noses for those stick figures of his.


Recently, the NonStamp Collector (NoSCo) posted an argument about Christian morality with someone asking about the holocaust and saying “If Hitler had won the war, would we say that the Holocaust was right?” NoSCo issues a number of statements in reply.

Firstly, we wouldn’t condemn Hitler for having done it. That’s part of the analogy, I know, but it’s worth stating again. We would possibly admire him for having done it, if we were brainwashed enough, although that is not necessary for the analogy to hold. At one extreme we’d praise him for it, at the other, we’d just be hush-hush about it with a tacit acceptance. Chances are there’d be a middle-ground between adoration and tacit acceptance that most people would occupy. All, though, as the example specifies, would pretty much be in line with the idea that Hitler had done the right thing.

Interesting to say that we have to be brainwashed to accept that what Hitler was did was not wrong. This would imply that indeed, we do know that it was wrong. It’s also noteworthy that NoSCo thinks we’d all be in lock-step saying this was right. There was always opposition to Hitler and there’s no reason to think that it would stop had he won the war somehow. Of course, it could be that everyone who disagreed enough would be killed. Could it be NoSCo just would not disagree enough? Still, it is difficult to argue such hypotheticals, but I find NoSCo’s first admission to be revealing.

What we would think, at the very least, is that it had been necessary. That’s the kind of justification that would come out for it, and would be held by just about everyone, even those not necessarily praising Hitler for having done it. We would look back and think, and maintain, that in the case of the early 20th century, things had gotten so bad, or were about to take such a massive turn for the worst, that drastic action had become appropriate, and the genocide had been a viable option, even if not necessarily the only one. For some, it would have been the best option. For others, simply necessary and justified.

There is no reason given for this. Upon what does NoSCo base this? Today, we do not look back at a number of great tragedies in history and think that they were necessary.
If we were all brainwashed by propaganda, as the example mentions, then that propaganda would, again, necessarily, include the idea that the Jews had deserved their genocide. Even if we didn’t share Hitler’s zeal, we would all at least be sitting around saying that yes, there had been extenuating circumstances that had deemed it necessary in that particular case for the Fuhrer to have carried out such an incredible act.

Once again, we have to be brainwashed. In other words, we have to be taught to believe that the holocaust was okay. Keep in mind the question is about asking if the holocaust was really wrong. What we would do in response is interesting, but if the holocaust was wrong, it was wrong regardless of if we all stood up and praised Hitler forever.

Now, the hypothetical seems to be suggesting, that no matter the propaganda, it would still have been wrong to have carried out the Holocaust. Read it again and check the language. The analogy ends with a kind of suggestion that indeed this is part of the whole moral argument for the evidence for God, as a necessary objective moral law giver. “Would it still be wrong…?” Because, presumably, we all do know that it was wrong. I mean, certainly the world gets along on that assumption.

This is indeed what is being suggested. If something is wrong, it is wrong. There cannot be excuses for it. This does not mean that everything is clearly black and white. There are areas of difficulty in ethics, but the only reason that gray exists is because of the clear reality of black and white. This is the fundamental question that needs to be answered. Was the holocaust really wrong?

Instead, NoSCo ignores the argument with this:

But look again at the picture I was painting there. Doesn’t it look familiar? Making excuses for genocide? Pointing out its necessity? It should be very familiar: It is comprised of exactly the kind of responses that Christians give when challenged on the Old Testament genocides.

Yes, they (very mostly) say: genocide is bad. Objectivity bad. Absolutely immoral. It’s just that in this case, the case of the Israelites entering the promised land, genocide was actually moral and morally necessary. It has to be viewed in the correct context to be correctly understood morally.
Glenn Miller has dealt with the idea of how badly NoSCo is dealing with this, as well as the improper appeal to "genocide". Bt at the start, there is a difference in that Israelites were dealing with the behavior of a people in one region that they (the Israelires) were entitled to be in and were not on a path to have a final solution to the pagan problem. Still, there is something worth noting here.

NoSCo does not deal with the argument.

Instead, he does a tu quoque with saying “Your position is inconsistent!” Well even if that was the case, which it isn’t, it does not mean that NoSCo’s position isn't as well. If NoSCo wants to argue against objective morality, then he has lost any argument against the “genocides” in the OT. If he wants to argue that the events in the OT were ipso facto wrong, then he needs to have a moral basis as the argument suggests, and it has not been given here. 

Later, NoSCo goes on to say:
You’re using the bible, and the morality inherent in the bible, to judge the morality of the bible.

So many atheists regularly have this ignorant position that Christianity teaches that no one can know right from wrong unless the Bible says so. This is just the opposite of my position. I contend that when the Bible says X is moral or immoral, it points to a truth independent of itself still. For instance, it is not the case that Jesus was crucified because the Bible says so. Jesus was crucified and the Bible says so because it’s true and it’s true in what it reports. The saying of it in the Bible is not the reason why it’s true. 

In fact, in the history of Christian thought, this has been the case with Natural Law thinking. The very argument from morality implies this. After all, how could the arguer point to NoSCo’s judgment of right and wrong unless it was to be assumed that NoSCo ought to know this and he doesn’t need the Bible to know it?

NoSCo wants to have it both ways. He wants to avoid objective morality, but when he wants to condemn God, he wants objective morality. He cannot have it both ways and he will need to choose which one he wants to go with.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Book Snap: A Jigsaw Gude to Making Sense of the World

I'm still catching up after a conference last week, so I'm pleased to have this review by our ministry partner, Nick Peters.
Puzzled By This Book
I recently received from my ministry partner, J.P. Holding, a copy of Alex McLellan's "A Jigsaw Guide To Making Sense of the World," with the reason being that since it was a book more along the lines of my interests, that I should review it for Tektonics. I was glad to do so. I liked the idea at the start being a fan of jigsaw puzzles and I was expecting to see much that was good since Ravi Zacharias, a personal hero of mine, endorsed it.
But in the end, I was puzzled.
Why? I do agree with McLellan's approach overall, but as I went through the book, I found that very little was said and some aspects seemed quite contradictory. Repeatedly I was told that under naturalism the world does not make sense and theism makes sense of the world. I was told that under theism there is a basis for objective morality and there is not one under atheism. I was told told that Christianity does make sense of the world.
All of these statements I agree with, but what was missing was why I should agree with them. The only arguments I remember seeing for God's existence other than meaning were the first cause argument, fine tuning, and morality. None of these were really spelled out. There was about a single paragraph on saying how the apostles were willing to die for the claim that Jesus rose from the dead (A dangerous statement to make since we don't have a firm foundation for the deaths of ALL of the apostles), and in the final chapter, an end note could lead someone to the works of Walter Kaiser and F.F. Bruce on if the Old and New Testament documents are reliable.
Much of the book read as a psychology of religious belief. More and more my personal psyche seemed to be being discussed. There were times that I thought McLellan was about to deliver a great point, but I was let down. Instead, it all became more and more internalized and I was left thinking that this might work on someone who is more emotionally geared, but if someone is not, then what is one to do?
An example of the way the message seemed contradictory was that in the third chapter which is on belief, he does say that we should not emphasize feelings. He gives the illustration of how Mormons came to him and what did they go to but their inner testimony of the Holy Spirit? He tells the story about how an atheist spoke to a crowd once and no one knew how to answer him until a preacher got up and said he didn't have any learning really, but then got an apple out of his bag and began to eat it and asked the atheist how it tasted. Was it bitter or sweet? The atheist said he couldn't answer since he hadn't tasted the apple. The preacher responded saying neither had the atheist tasted his Jesus. The crowd applauds and the atheist leaves. McLellan rightfully says that this is not the right approach.
Yet all throughout the book, it seems his approach is on feelings. He talks about how we just know that there is something wrong with the world. We all know that reality is supposed to be meaningful. We all know that there has to be something more. Now I do agree with the idea that life is meaningful and there is to be more, but an atheist reader who was informed would see right through this and say "There you go. They only believe for emotional reasons."
This is quite sad since there are many points McLellan gets right. He points out correctly that faith is not blind and even points out on page 107 that the Greek word translated as faith is translated as proof in Acts 17:31. Unfortunately, he does not state anywhere I recall what faith really is. There is no idea of it being seen as trust in the one who has been providing and that it is thus necessarily based on evidence.
On page 134, he rightly states that too many people are disappointed with what they receive at church today as the culture is superficial and unwilling to dig deep into the truths of Christianity, or religion period for that matter. He is correct in that. He is right in that even people of faith do not know the treasures in their midst. He then goes on to describe studying under Robert Saucy and how it was. At this, I have two concerns.
First, McLellan talks about systematic theology, but the book he cites of Saucy's is not a systematic theology per se but a book on the church. This is part of systematic theology, but not the whole. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a book that just covers a part. I am not saying every book on theology has to cover every aspect. 
Second, and this was the far greater concern, was that after hearing about the awesome resources the church is missing and hearing about the grandeur of God McLellan said he was learning, I expected to hear more. Instead, I heard nothing. I was told we should reflect on what we believe, but I was not told what exactly it was that makes God so awesome. This was a recurring criticism I had. McLellan gives the impression of bouncing from point to point without diving in deep into any of them.
On page 160, he says atheism is at a disadvantage when we take a common sense approach to making sense of it all. As one who has debated a number of atheists over the years on the internet, I can state with certainty that the atheists will say the exact same thing. They are the position of common sense and we who believe in miracles and something "supernatural" are those who lack common sense. I always have a problem with an appeal to common sense. If you need to state it, it's not common sense. If it is common sense, why bother stating it? 
On page 164, McLellan writes that some will answer that if this world is broken due to our freedom, it would have been better had God not created it. McLellan replies with "Apparently not, since God created us with it, and he delights when people use it to reach out and ask him to start putting the broken pieces of their lives back together."
This was extremely problematic to me. I view it this way. The argument is against God's nature and existence saying "A good God would not create people with freedom knowing they would use it for this kind of evil." This is a real objection and fortunately people like Plantinga and others have answered it. McLellan's response comes across as "But we know that God created this way." That's the very point under dispute! It does not answer the objection to say "God thought it was worth doing" since the questioner is confused on God's existence.
I do think McLellan could have dug a bit deeper and given some good thorough answers to questions and good apologetic arguments. I do not doubt he knows them, but there was little presentation of them. New atheists are sometimes cited, but not really responded to. One of my criticisms of the new atheists has been that they do not interact with Christian scholarship in their works or evangelical sources. I have the same problem with McLellan's book. 
Another looming problem is the constant pointing to one's own experience, although that does not seem valid when he addresses the Mormons. If anything, for most of us, our problem is that we think about ourselves far too much. I am told often in here about how God longs to have a relationship with me. I find this odd since this is not anything I find the apostles teaching. I see them teaching the kingship of Christ over the cosmos and we need to get in line. This focusing on ourselves heightens an individualism that is more problematic than the problem McLellan wishes to address.
It is my contention that one will still be better off elsewhere. For a good start on Christianity, one should read something like "Case For Christ" by Lee Strobel or "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis. For the question of doubt and belief, excellent material can be found in Gary Habermas's "Dealing With Doubt" and "The Thomas Factor." Both of those are in fact free downloads that can be found on his web site.
Perhaps McLellan will write another book soon to further flesh out the argumentation, for at this point, I am indeed, still puzzled.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Rauch Stuff

From the July 2009 E-Block, we have a guest item by Nick Peters.

Full book title: "Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good For Gays, Good For Straights, Good For America."
Homosexual marriage (I have a point that unless I am quoting someone, I do not say "gay" but always say "homosexual") is a hot topic in our country today. Christians are often put in an uncomfortable place on this. We are seen as forcing our religion down someone's throat or as being intolerant bigots and who are we to keep two people from loving each other. What harm is it doing to our marriages? (At the time of writing this, I do not have a marriage so I cannot argue from the perspective of one married, but I can argue from the perspective of one who values marriage.) 

Jonathan Rauch who is openly homosexual argues in this book why he thinks homosexual marriage is good for homosexuals, for straights, and for America. Rauch is a correspondent, a columnist, and a writer at the Brookings Institute. He is also the vice-president of the Independent Gay Forum. 

Which brings me to one of my first criticisms. You'd think with his writing history, he'd have more references in this book. As it is, there is no bibliography. The only arguments on the traditional side that I remember seeing come from blogs or from news stories. When talking about marriage, he refers to only the work of E.J. Graff. This isn't to say anything against bloggers (I'm one after all) or news stories, but it makes me wonder if Rauch has read anything outside of the Internet on the topic. 

Rauch begins this book with an appeal to emotion asking what it would be like if we could never marry. What if you woke up in the morning and the person you'd pledged your life to was not married to you? You still lived together, but you could not speak of your relationship as a marriage. What would that mean? 

It's an effective tactic, but yet this seems to be the only tactic I see coming from the homosexual left: Whether it's Keith Olbermann's self-pitying objections on YouTube on Prop 8 or the homosexual community sitting outside the California Supreme Court shouting "Shame on you!" or the accusation that all people who support marriage as it is hate homosexuals and are intolerant bigots. 

This isn't to say Rauch downplays marriage. He says on page 2 that marriage is the foundation of civilization and he is certainly correct on that. On page 7, he accepts that the onus of proof for his case is on his shoulders. He also says he intends to challenge the arguments of his opponents rather than their motives and this is something that is commendable. Let's suppose for instance that I opposed homosexuals getting "married" because I was an intolerant bigoted homophobe. Does that mean then that they automatically ought to get married? 

No. It just means that I could rightly be seen as a jerk. 

The first chapter has Rauch asking what marriage is for. On page 13, he dismisses the idea of a religious law because the patriarchs were biblical and because we allow divorce and remarriage which Jesus didn't. Also, since there is such disagreement amongst religions, we will need a sensible secular doctrine. 

At this I wonder "Why?" Not everyone agrees on religious truth, therefore secular truth is what we have to go with? Considering the debates we have going in courtrooms today, not everyone agrees on secular truth. Yet it seems that while saying consensus is required, Rauch has ignored the consensus already in place. All societies practice marriage as it is! (Henceforth, I will simply be saying marriage due to my problem with the idea of saying traditional marriage as I do not believe we need to clarify what we mean by marriage.) 

I also contend that my stance is not based on religion. My belief is that religion does not tell us anything new in the area of morality as a new moral rule cannot be invented. Morality can be applied to new situations (the ancients did not deal with stem-cell research for instance), but the moral principles are still the same. Thus, I believe that X is immoral not because the Bible says so, but I believe the Bible says so because it is immoral. Revelation is an aid to natural reason as God reveals truths to us many times that we would have had a hard time finding out on our own. (I do agree he does reveal truths also we could not have found out on our own.) 

An analogy would be being a student in a math class and God being the teacher and you going to the teacher asking for understanding on a problem. Morality is first as it comes from the nature of God and the Bible does not contradict this. For those interested in this, it's Natural Law thinking and I highly recommend the writings of J. Budziszewski on this topic. 

When asking what marriage is, Rauch goes to the dictionary and gets the definition of "the state of being married; a legal contract, entered into by a man and a woman, to live together as husband and wife." (p. 13-14.) Rauch dismisses this as not much help. Why? What's difficult about it? Rauch doesn't give a reason. As he continues the book, he will treat marriage's idea as if it was defined not to say what it is, but to simply exclude homosexuals. 

Upfront then, I'd like to say that I agree with the definition and why. I believe marriage is fundamental because it is the society that followed through by its natural tendency is capable of producing children, which means the next generation can come about. Children are also ideally to be raised where there is a mother and a father. Homosexual couples by nature are incapable of doing this. 

Also, marriage is not about love. Now I'm not anti-love as I think it's great that married couples love each other, but any married couple could say that love as we know it today ebbs and flows. Marriage is not saying that you will have an emotion towards a certain person or feel a certain way or always have a certain mindset. It is saying that regardless of what happens, for better for worse, and the rest of the vow, that you and I are in this together. 

On page 15, Rauch does give some statements about secular law in relation to marriage. He states that the two people must consent. They must also not be closely related. They must not be children. They must also be a man and a woman. Why does the law not want people closely related to marry? The first is that it would tarnish relationships in that a father could be looking at his daughter deciding if he wants to marry her someday or her brother could be doing the same. The relationship is to be father-daughter or brother-sister. It is not to be involving potential mates. Also, children of such unions have a higher potential of having severe disabilities. In other words, it's about the family unit and the good of children. 

Rauch says that the law says nothing about what marriage is for, but does it have to? When I see the law of "Do not murder" do I need to know what that law is for? As soon as one understands the way murder harms someone and how it does so and the injustice of it, it is understood why it is illegal. As soon as one understands the nature of marriage and the restrictions of it, one understands what it is for. 

There is no doubt that we have at times had to look at something and further understand it for ourselves. In fact, this is a process that helped us shape much of Christian doctrine. When we encounter the heresies, we learn why the orthodox view that has always been there is so important. 

On page 24, Rauch has his own definition where he says "I would say that marriage is two people's lifelong commitment, recognized by law and by society, to care for each other. To get married is to put yourself in another person's hands, and to promise to take that person into your hands, and to do so within a community which expects both of you to keep your word." The key part of this is "recognized by law and by society." 

I have good friends who are identical twins. Let's suppose neither of them ever planned to get married, but decided to live together in a relationship perhaps because they wanted to share the same business. They could do anything that Rauch has described, however, they would not call themselves married. You can do all of this without having marriage and the government doesn't care. If my friends chose to live together that way, the government would not interfere. It has no interest in what friends do provided they're not doing anything illegal. It has no business regulating friendship as friendship. 

It does so with marriage since that is the foundation of civilization as Rauch himself has said. Rauch is playing on dangerous grounds if he knowingly wants to change the foundation. Let's look at that key part again. Why is it so important that this be recognized? It is at this that the true homosexual agenda comes out. This isn't about equal rights. This is about recognition. It's not just wanting to be tolerated. It's wanting approval. Rauch wants society to say, "Yes. We approve of and celebrate this kind of relationship." 

In the next chapter, Rauch argues against why substitutes for marriage will not be acceptable. On page 30, he states that for some people, opposite-sex love is not an option, which brings up another problem with this book. Rauch throughout assumes homosexuality is normal, good, and unchangeable. 

Back this? No. What about ex-homosexuals? Dismissed with a wave of the hand. Rauch asserts this and does not defend it. It never occurs to Rauch apparently that for some people, before asking if homosexual marriage is good for X, they want to know if homosexual marriage is good and before that, if homosexuality is good. 

However, Rauch writes that for such people for whom it is supposedly not an option, they need love and attachment as much as anyone else. On some levels, I can easily see love as a need. However, marriage is not. Also, no one is denying homosexuals love and attachment. They can form their relationships all they want to. We are simply saying that we will not celebrate those relationships and give them the title of marriage. 

Rauch also says that this will make more people happy. What does he mean by "happy" however? He never tells us. I think of how Mortimer Adler has written on one of the great philosophical mistakes is to see happiness as "having a good time." Now pleasure is a part of happiness, but not all pleasure is truly something good. I would think Rauch means a certain joy and contentment one might have if they get what they want, but we all know that sometimes what we want is not what we ought to have. 

On page 31, Rauch argues that domestic-partnership laws do not give society what it needs. First off, what it needs I do not see clarified anywhere. Second, society seems to have got along just fine for millennia without having homosexuals getting married. I seriously doubt that all of a sudden, society needs this or it won't survive. 

Throughout this chapter, Rauch also speaks about the lack of benefits. If they want benefits, fine. Work that out with the law. There's something different however between wanting benefits and wanting the relationship that you are practicing to be called "marriage." In California, homosexual couples already have the same benefits as married couples do. This just shows that this is not about benefits. This is about approval. 

The next chapter is about how homosexuals will benefit. One of the first ways he describes is on page 56: "Being there when your partner is sick or in trouble, or when your mother-in-law is dying, is what marriage is for." Aside from not having a mother-in-law if they're single, there's no reason friendship can't do these things. Friends can be there for one another when they're sick. Friends can help each other out when they're in trouble. Friends can provide comfort when a loved one dies. Friends can do this and live together. Does Rauch think he needs marriage to do this? 

On page 60, Rauch argues that marriage gives more than a potential of union of bodies but also union of lives. With that, I agree, but his statement is very revealing. He asks how often someone is heard to say, " 'We broke up because he (or she) wanted more than I was ready to give.' Translation: the sex stopped when one partner realized it wasn't leading anywhere. (Gay people have that same conversation all the time, by the way.)" I'd like the reader to just keep this in mind. It will be touched on later.

He then goes on to discuss the "Long Dark Age" where homosexuals were hunted down and you just hoped they didn't come to get you. Historical references that are given for this? None. One must simply take Rauch's word at it. However, thank goodness for what he describes happened on page 63. 

Intellectual opinion showed up and rejected that with a vengeance! Yes. Finally, when intelligence arrived on the scene, people finally saw the light. What was it? Well there's no evidence given. They just knew that homosexuality was normal and good somehow.

On page 69, Rauch also makes the assumption that 3 to 5 percent of the population is homosexual. This is not an accurate number. He is downplaying the number usually given of 10% which comes from Kinsey. For those curious about the fraud of Kinsey, I recommend visiting I bring this up so that the readers will understand that we are most likely talking about 1% of the population wanting to change an institution for everyone in America.

The next chapter is how straights will benefit and one point he states on page 75 is that forbidding homosexuals to raise children is neither humane nor practical. Why? No reason given. Rauch's problem in this statement is that he's forgetting that a woman cannot be a father. Neither can a man be a mother. 

This is also a reason I am against single parents adopting. Now I realize that sometimes due to abandonment, divorce, or death, some parents will be forced to be single parents. No one's saying they're going to be bad parents, but it will be harder for the child and is less than ideal. We should commend all those who are working to raise their children without a parent of the opposite sex and as the church, be there to aid however we can.

On page 78, Rauch writes "If it is true that marriage creates kin, then surely society's interest in kin creation is strongest of all for people who are less likely to have children of their own to rely on in old age and who may be rejected or even evicted-it is still not all that uncommon-by their own parents in youth."
I read that, and I reread it, and I reread it numerous times. I could not make any sense out of the "if, then" argument. I took it to some Christian co-workers who are both trained in logic and we read it multiple times and could not make any sense out of this either. As I write this reply, I still have no idea what argument Rauch is making. Why do I say that? Because this is the kind of argumentation we see. We see conclusions throughout that do not follow and arguments that just don't make sense.

The next chapter discusses how homosexual marriage is good for America. On page 89, Rauch states that "Homosexuals are indeed tired of being seen as 'perverts' or 'deviants' or 'queers'-who wouldn't be?-and legalizing same-sex marriage would signal that the law, for its part, recognizes that some people just happen to be gay."

We can agree that it is best to not call homosexuals snide terminology. That's why I use the term "homosexual" as it is a neutral term. I am against the technique of Fred Phelps as I do not believe it furthers our cause any. However, note again that Rauch is saying that it's not the benefits he truly wants, as those are already given. This is about recognition of something that has yet to be established and he makes no attempts to establish.

One of Rauch's contentions throughout this chapter, and even the whole book, is that marriage has already been damaged by heterosexuals and to that I must agree. Organizations like the National Organization For Marriage were founded not to deal with homosexual marriage, but to deal with no-fault divorce. We are paying the price for the way we treated sexuality with no-fault divorce, co-habitation, pre-marital-sex, abortion, etc. The way to solve that is not to go further downhill with homosexual marriage. The way to solve it is by getting rid of that which is wrong.

Rauch also argues on page 96 that in America, homosexuals cannot marry anyone they love. (Emphasis his.) That's true. Neither can heterosexuals. I cannot marry my sister. I cannot marry a male friend. I cannot marry a parent. I cannot marry a girl of age ten. Homosexuals already have equal rights with regards to marriage. They can marry anyone of the opposite sex who is of age and is not a close relative. So can I. The homosexual community wants different rights.

On page 100, Rauch does give a revealing testimony saying "If I could have designed myself in the womb, I would have chosen to be heterosexual, because I feel I am missing out on something special and irreplaceable by not being able to conceive and raise a child with the partner I love."

I find it hard to read those words without being moved in some way. Now it doesn't change my stance at all but it reminds me that this should be a clue to someone that this is not the way they were intended to be. Unfortunately for Rauch, he dismisses all hope of change in any way. If there is one person who has truly changed, and I believe there are several, then Rauch's theory is wrong and he can get that something special and irreplaceable that he feels he's missing out on.

On pages 101-103, he speaks of giving homosexuals the same benefit as everyone else and points to the Lincoln-Douglas debates using Lincoln's words concerning the black community at the time. This is quite interesting since he says on page 65 earlier that "My intention, of course, is not to compare the situation of homosexuals in America today with that of slaves two centuries ago. The two are not remotely comparable."

So which is it?

However, he is right. They are not remotely comparable. We often here of this today as a Civil Rights battle. Let's compare the homosexual community today with the black community.

 The black community had separate water fountains. They had separate bathrooms. They had separate places at restaurants if they could even go there. They were banned from the schools. They were not welcome at professional sports. (Consider how Jackie Robinson was treated.) They had to move to the back of the bus for a white person. When they protested, they were turned away with fire hoses. Many of them were not even welcome in the church.
Today, the homosexual community consists of people that can use the same water fountains, bathrooms, restaurants, and sit where they want on the bus. They can attend school and they are not hosed down on the streets. In fact, June was declared by Obama to be GLBT pride month and parks like Disneyland often have time periods set aside for homosexual celebration.

In what way are these two similar then? I'll leave that for you to think about. We can certainly see how they are different!

On pages 102-103 he states "Whether to condemn, tolerate, accept, approve, or celebrate same-sex unions is your own business and entirely your prerogative. But the law's job, at least its essential job, is to do none of those things." It's quite the opposite! That is the law's job! The law is to lay down what is wrong, which is what we will condemn, and what is good, which is what we will approve. There are some actions that are wrong that the law will tolerate. Consider adultery and gluttony. The law will not celebrate these, but at this point, it also knows it can't monitor your bedrooms or your grocery list. It is willing to tolerate some individual evil to bring about the good of the community.

The next chapter is the question of children. Rauch quotes Rick Santorum speaking in 2003 saying that principally, children are the reason for marriage. Unfortunately, Rauch gives no source. I'm sure Santorum said it, but there is no place where we are told he said it. Fortunately, I have found the whole of what was said taken from an interview done with Brit Hume:

SANTORUM: Well, that's a separate issue. I mean, the issue here is marriage. And to me, the building block -- and I think, to most people in America, number one, it's common sense that a marriage is between a man and a woman. I mean, every civilization in the history of man has recognized a unique bond.
Why? Because -- principally because of children. I mean, it's -- it is the reason for marriage. It's not to affirm the love of two people. I mean, that's not what marriage is about. I mean, if that were the case, then lots of different people and lots of different combinations could be, quote, "married."

Marriage is not about affirming somebody's love for somebody else. It's about uniting together to be open to children, to further civilization in our society.
And that's unique. And that's why civilizations forever have recognized that unique role that needs to be licensed, needs held up as different than anything else because of its unique nurturing effect on children.

And there isn't a statistic out there that doesn't show that married couples, in a healthy marriage, is the best environment in which to raise stable children and is the best thing, long term, for our society. [1]

Rauch draws some conclusions from this. The first is that marriage is uniquely good for raising children. No disagreements there. However, the second is that without children, marriage isn't worth having. No explanation how he got that. 

The third is that without natural children, it isn't worth having. I'm still confused how he got that one. The fourth is that without the possibility of natural children it isn't worth having, to which I see a trend forming here. The final is that without sex of any type that produces children, it's not worth having.

Rauch then will go on to deal with these arguments he draws, while I'm still wondering how he got 2-5. I'll go on instead and answer the objection. The institution of marriage has been normalized as one man and one woman simply because that couple can reproduce, even if they choose not to. The institution is not changed for the particular. If a couple is sterile, it is also because of a flaw within the system in someway. With homosexuals, it is because the system itself is the flaw. Unfortunately, Rauch has spent the entire chapter arguing against a straw man.

The next chapter is Rauch's response to the slippery slope argument. This is quite likely the worst argumentation that will be shown throughout the book. For instance, in arguing against polygamy on 126, he says that the law says you can only marry one person you love. Splitting the affections may be foolish or hurtful, but it is common and legal. They must simply narrow down the people they want to marry to one.

To which I can hear the polygamist arguing "But wait! You changed the law when it said you could only marry someone of the opposite sex. You said that making someone change their love could be foolish or hurtful, but it was common and legal. Why is it that you can change the law for what you want but I can't change it for what I want?" I see no way Rauch could answer this and it shows his inconsistency. He wants the law changed for him, but not for anyone else. By his own rules, he wants to exclude marriage.

Rauch also decides to deal with incest saying first, "I don't know any group arguing for this." That's irrelevant. Ethics frequently takes difficult situations and works through them. However, once again the law says that you cannot marry a close relative. Again, why should someone wanting an incestuous relationship accept this?

On page 127, Rauch says that the homosexuals are the only ones barred by law from marrying anyone that they love. Interesting, since on page 125 he says "Gay people are not asking for the legal right to marry anybody they love or everybody they love." Which is it?

On page 131, Rauch argues "Before we leave Planet Earth altogether, a reality check. From society's point of view, the main purpose of marriage is not, and never has been, to affirm love, as Rick Santorum so aptly said." So which is it? Again, Rauch argues that he wants his love affirmed and then says that this is not the main purpose of marriage? As one reviewer on Amazon has said, Rauch makes all the arguments and all the arguments contradict one another.

The next chapter is about monogamy in homosexual relationships. Keep in mind what was said on page 60 that I asked you to remember. This is why. Rauch speaks about a debate he had on the radio with a minister in Charlotte where someone called in and asked about promiscuity and disease in the homosexual community.

In response to this, the minister asked Rauch if he had ever committed adultery. Rauch said he didn't have to answer that to which the minister replied saying "You've just told me all I need to know." Rauch never does answer this question, which makes one wonder how you can have a loving and committed relationship when you are committing adultery.

Rauch argues throughout this chapter that the stories are not as bad as we hear. Now he doesn't deny that there is promiscuity going on. The statements in this passage are worth reading the book for. His only source against the idea being argued is the work of Volokh. That is not our area of expertise to comment on, but it is recommended that someone interested check the book out at a library and see the statements Rauch himself makes about promiscuity.

The next chapter is about the debt to tradition where he points out that if we stayed with tradition, slavery would still be going on. Slavery was abolished, but this was on moral principle. Rauch has yet to give the moral principle whereby homosexual marriage should be welcomed. What he needs to show again is that homosexuality is good and he does not do so. In this chapter, he does not address that point at all and in that sense, there is not an argument that really needs to be countered.

The next two chapters speak of how this can be implemented, but there is really no argumentation to counter. The further one gets, the less the argumentation is. This has been said to be one of the best books in defense of homosexual marriage. We can be thankful Rauch does not use tactics of referring to his opponents as hate-filled homophobes. Unfortunately, Rauch does not address the issue of if homosexuality is good and if it isn't, we ought not celebrate it. Homosexuality is about a moral action. We are not condemning someone for having an orientation, though I doubt such exists. We are condemning an action.

The Christian response to this should be to re-discover the joy of marriage and pure sexuality. If the homosexuals are trying to get through the door, it's only because we left it open with co-habitation and the other methods of cheapening marriage that I mentioned earlier. I fully agree that we should have a great love for homosexuals and seek to help them escape that lifestyle. To that, I would argue that we also need to recover what masculinity and femininity are for today as most men and women don't know what it means to be men and women.

This is also a battle I do not believe we can lose and still have our civilization going strong. How we answer will change everything. This could be the finest hour for evangelicals when we reclaim marriage and show the world what it is really about and show the love of Christ, or when we give in to that which we ought not and change the foundation of society, and once the foundation crumbles, all that is built on that foundation crumbles. Let Rauch's book be a wake-up call. We can do better.

-Nick Peters

[1] Transcript: Sen. Rick Santorum on Fox News Sunday.,2933,93646,00.html (Accessed June 27, 2009).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Pastor at Liberty

Over the past week I’ve had two rather disturbing encounters – disturbing because of the way they illustrate the problem the modern church has with accepting its responsibilities.

One encounter was on Nick Peters’ blog, where a commenter reacted to his posting declaring that apologetics should be a mandate for pastors. This oblivious soul declared that by declaring such a mandate, we impinged upon the “liberty” of pastors, who should feel free to explore apologetics as an option, but not be required of them.

The second encounter was with a book. I’ve been researching the relationship between the Nazis and Christianity for a TektonTV series of late, and it’s been a fascinating exploration. However, I was disgusted to find that a book had been published on the subject by Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor at Moody Bible Church in Chicago.

I’ll be blunt as usual: Lutzer has absolutely no business writing such a book. He is not knowledgeable in that subject area. Nor is he competent to research the subject, and his bibliography shows this: The newest edition – published this year – makes no reference to one of the most critical and comprehensive volumes on the subject of Nazism and Christianity (The Holy Reich).  The few respectable books used are badly out of date (e.g., Shirer’s 1960 history), and Lutzer also makes use of questionable sources like Dusty Slkar’s item on Hitler and the occult, and (cough) Dave Hunt.

To make matters worse, Lutzer’s book won an ECPA Gold Medallion Award for excellence (!) and Ravi Zacaharias wrote a foreword. This, in spite of the fact that it was clearly amateurishly done, as reflects Lutzer’s non-expertise on the subject (and I’ll add just in case it’s true, that of any ghost writer he may or may not have used), and at times is more like a sermon than a serious history.

This is not the first time Lutzer has put out a book on a subject that is truly none of his business. I also recall he did the same for The DaVinci Code. There may well be others.

In light of this, I have to ask: Do pastors really need to be given the “liberty” to NOT be responsible generators of information? 

As I told the person on Nick’s blog, all of this talk about “liberty” for pastors would be fine – if (among other things) they also agreed to not meddle in subjects they have no business meddling in. As it is, Luzter was clearly authoring this book not because he had any idea what he was talking about, but because a book by Erwin Lutzer, star pastor, sells well.

The sad fact is that many Christians do come to their pastors for advice on all sorts of things a typical pastor knows nothing about. In turn, some pastors either think they know the answer, but don’t (as with Lutzer), and continue to spread false or incomplete information. That in turn spirals downward to a time when those who first queried of them find out their pastor was talking out of his hat, and then we have the standard crisis of confidence in authority figures…and on it goes.

Pastors like Luzter do not need “liberty”. They need accountability.