Category Archives: Ethics
Can someone be genetically predisposed to violence, drug addiction, or even aberrant sexual behavior? What if homosexuality can be demonstratively shown to be a genetic predisposition?
The bottom line is that the genetic element in sin does not excuse it. To see that, it is important to put the issue into an even wider perspective. Christianity forces us again and again to widen our angle of vision, for it calls us to see everything from the perspective of a transcendent God and from the standpoint of eternity. Such perspective helps us to see our trials as “light and momentary” (II Cor. 4:17) and our sins as greater than we normally admit. From a biblical perspective, the difficult fact is that in one sense all sin is inherited. From Adam comes both our sin and our misery. We are guilty of Adam’s transgression, and through Adam we ourselves inherit sinful natures. If a genetic predisposition excuses sodomy, then our inheritance from Adam excuses all sin! But that is clearly not the case. Of course, Reformed theology construes our relationship to Adam as representative, rather than merely genetic, and that is important. But Adam represents all who are descended from him “by natural generation;” so there is also an inevitable genetic element in human sin.
-John M. Frame, “But God Made Me This Way!”
We’ve looked at the transcendental necessity of God to ground the truths of logic so now let’s turn to laws of morality.
I believe in a Real Right and a Real Wrong. Now we turn to the issue of objective morality or ethics (I’m using them interchangeably here). Have you ever wondered whether our outrage at the evil in this world is an expression of personal distaste? Whether the recent Virginia Tech shootings were objectively evil? I ask this because I’m of the view that without the God of the Christian faith (i.e. the God revealed in the Old and New Testaments) the underpinnings of ethics are destroyed, and the moral motions that we feel every day of our lives are rendered non-sensical.
Now here’s an important note to take into consideration. I’m not saying that only Christians are moral people. On the flip side, neither am I saying that all non-Christians are horrible, evil people. What I’m talking about here is what are the fundamental foundations our assumption about reality that underlie our beliefs about morality, right and wrong. Richard Dawkins may very well be a nicer, kinder, and more law abidding citizen than I am. That’s not in question. The question is whether, on a worldview that rejects the existence of God, are those basic pillars that support our common everyday assumptions about ethics there? I don’t think that they are. Without the infinite-personal God of the Bible, how do we define good and evil, right and wrong? I’m convinced that we can boil down the matter to only left two alternatives: either 1) an individual subjectivist response, and 2) a collective subjectivist response. For the sake of handling the various possible replies, I have distinguished the alternatives. However, as we will soon see, both alternatives reduce to subjectivism and skepticism.
Individual subjectivist responses. This is the view that a given acts our behavior is good or bad because I have chosen it. If I commit myself to a given path, it is good. If I am made to do something I chose not to do, it’s bad. If the non-Christian claims moral justification (that which makes a good acts good, and a bad act bad) is found in what one chooses to do, we are left with no standard whatsoever by which we can condemn the worst types of behavior. Pedophilia, rape, incest, bestiality, and murder, are all morally acceptable. Why? Because for those that commit such acts, they were the products of active volition. This view can be quickly be placed to one side.
Collective subjectivist responses. The term “collective subjectivist” may strike some as paradoxical at best and oxymoronic at worst, yet such a title is fitting for “society says” moral relativism. According to this position, morality is, in a weak sense, objective in that the individual is not free to create moral norms from scratch. They are to live within the ethical structure of societal consensus. Such an ethical standard is collective. Yet, on the other hand, it nevertheless remains a subjectivist position on meta-ethics (i.e. on how we philosophically justify or provide warrant for the system we’re espousing). What makes the collective approach ultimately subjectivist and indeed relativist is that each society determines it’s own moral norms, and accordingly, one culture (or sub-culture) cannot condemn the actions of another. The problems for this approach are equally evident. If indeed no supra-cultural definition of evil (or good) exists, how can two or more cultures or sub-cultures with different standards of ethics be compared? Consistently applied, the collectivist subjectivist model prohibits us form labeling the crimes committed at Auschwitz evil. In fact, it becomes even more problematic because not all German citizens would have approved of the war crimes and genocide of the Nazis. So, what we are left with is at least two moral sub-cultures in WWII Germany, those that would call the Nazi actions evil, and those who participated in those actions and condoned them. But any system that strips us of the ability to make moral distinctions is highly counter-intuitive. A paradigm that seeks to explain our “moral motions” must respect the moral outrage we feel at events such as the holocaust. Moreover, we do instinctively know right and wrong in most cases. We can proclaim moral relativism from the rooftops all day, that is, until someone steals our belongings, or hurts our family members. Suddenly we feel that it’s not something that we simply dislike, but rather that it is something that’s truly wrong! Then we become moral absolutists.
Lastly, if we reduce we moral claims to preference claims then we would have to radically change the way we commonly speak. Instead of saying “The terrorists who flew two airplanes into the World Trade Center buildings were wrong, and it was an evil act!”, we would have to replace it with, “I personally do not think that the Terrorists attack on Sept.11th was expedient, and it did not accord with my subjective tastes, but I could be wrong. I don’t want to “impose” my morality on anyone!” I feel my point has been made.
The Christian Response. Lastly, allow me to touch upon why I believe that the Christian God is the best bet for explaining the our ‘moral motions.’ When we find our selves taken with a belief that person X should not have committed Y act, what we’re saying is that person X is morally obligated to have done the right and good thing. In the case of murder, we’re saying that person X ought to have a respect for innocent human life, and ought it a word that implies obligation. But, we do not have obligations to mere material things. I have no obligations not to throw a stone across a beach. The stone demands no such loyalty. But both obligations and loyalty can be pledged to a person. Personal relationships imply certain obligations and can demand loyalty. But what about ultimate moral obligations? Moral obligations are, after all, hierarchical. My loyalty to my brother places certain obligations in my path, but my relationship to my mother demands an even higher level or loyalty. But my mother cannot simply ask me to rob a store. If she did, I would have to tell her that I couldn’t because it would break the law and would (in principal) cause civil unrest. But what if my government told me that I am obligated by my citizenship to randomly kill any person living in my immediate community that was not born in America? What should I do then? I would appeal to a higher standard of obligation. But what higher standard is there? Maybe one could say the ‘world community’, but that only pushes the question back one step.
Ultimately, who’s my greatest loyalty to? If i’m correct to say that obligations and loyalty only make sense in the context of personal relationships, then ultimate loyalty is due to an Ultimate Personal, or, as I’ve said above, a Personal Absolute. But Christianity is the only religion in which the greatest thing in existence (the ultimate metaphysical reality) is a Personal Absolute. In other philosophies, religions, and myths, you have absolutes that are not personal (like Plato’s form of The Good, Hegel’s Geist, Brahma is Hinduism, etc.), or you’ll find personal gods or principles that aren’t absolute (the Greek Pantheon, the god of Mormonism, thetans in Scientenology, etc.) Only in the Bible do you find a God, the final reality, that is both person and absolute/ultimate. This in my mind is strong evidence for the Christian conception of God as the best explanation for ultimate, objective, universally binding ethics.
Conclusion. Now this is my reason for rejecting an empiricism model of epistemology. It cannot account for the metaphysical assumptions that underlie the scientific method, and it cannot account for the existence of universal, immaterial absolutes, such as numbers, laws of logic, and universally binding principles of ethics. While on a Christian worldview all such things make perfect sense, and in fact can be explained (at least at the beginners level) to a child in Sunday School. One may not agree with the answers posited by Christianity, but they have to admit that Christians do have answers to these philosophical issues. Thanks so much for listening to this (rather extended) letter. Also, please forgive me for the great length of time it has taken to complete it. My prayer is that we can both understand the position of the other person fairly, and see where we’re coming from.
For more see:
More than a few Christians have expressed concern that the Reformed doctrine of eternal security leads to a lazy attitude toward holiness. This is one reason why many Reformed people (Calvinists) feel uneasy talking about ‘once saved, always saved,’ or even ‘eternal security.’ Instead, Calvinists speak of ‘perseverance of the saints’ or even the ‘preservation of the saints.’ Founding faculty member of Westminster Seminary, John Murray, sheds some much needed light on this subject:
The new covenant also finds its centre in the promise, ‘I will be your God and ye shall be my people’. The new covenant as an everlasting covenant reaches the zenith of its realization in this: ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people’ (Revelation 21:3). But we must ask: Do believers continue in this relationship and in the enjoyment of its blessing irrespective of persevering obedience to God’s commands? It is one of the most perilous distortions of the doctrine of grace, and one that has carried with it the saddest records of moral and spiritual disaster, to assume that past privileges, however high they may be, guarantee the security of men irrespective of perseverance in faith and holiness. Believers under the gospel continue in the covenant and in the enjoyment of its privileges because they continue in the fulfilment of the conditions; they continue in faith, love, hope, and obedience. True believers are kept unto the end, unto the eschatological salvation; but they are kept by the power of God through faith (cf. I Peter 1:5). ‘We are made par- takers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of confidence stedfast unto the end’ (Hebrews 3:14).
It is through faith and patience we inherit the promises (cf. Hebrews 6:11, 12). We shall be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable before God if we ‘continue in the faith grounded and settled and not moved away from the hope of the gospel’ (Colossians 1:22, 23). Paul the apostle could exult in the assurance that his citizenship was in heaven and that one day Christ would change the body of his humiliation and transform it into the likeness of the body of his glory (Philippians 3:20, 21). But co-ordinate with this assurance and as the condition of its entertainment is the protestation, ‘Brethren, I do not yet reckon myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press on toward the goal, unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 3:13, 14).
Paul knew well that if he were to attain to the resurrection of the dead all the resources of Christ’s resurrection power must be operative in him and all the energies of his personality enlisted in the exercise of those means through which he would apprehend that for which he was apprehended by Christ Jesus (cf. Philippians 3:10-12). This is just to say that the goal is not reached, the consummation of covenant blessing is not achieved in some automatic fashion but through a process that engages to the utmost the concentrated devotion of the apostle himself. It is not reached irrespective of perseverance, but through perseverance. And this means nothing if it does not mean concentrated obedience to the will of Christ as expressed in his commandments. We readily see, however, that the attainment of the goal is not on the meritorious ground of perseverance and obedience, but through the divinely appointed means of perseverance. Obedience as the appropriate and necessary expression of devotion to Christ does not find its place in a covenant of works or of merit but in a covenant that has its inception and end in pure grace.
-John Murray, Principles of Conduct: Aspects of Biblical Ethics, 200 (emphasis added)
In the last chapter of his introduction to Systematic Theology, Salvation Belongs to the Lord, John Frame asks the “So what?” question. Given the rich variety of biblical teaching, how should it be put to use? So his book ends with ethics. While his comprehensive discussion on this topic can be found in his Doctrine of the Christian Life, here Frame provides his readers with three biblical reasons for a life of Christian obedience and good works:
The History of Redemption. Scripture uses basically three means to encourage believers to do good works. First, it appeals to the history of redemption. This is the chief motivation in the Decalogue itself: God has redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt, therefore they should obey.
In the New Testament, the writers often urge us to do good works because of what Christ did to redeem us. Jesus himself urges that the disciples “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus’ love, ultimately displayed on the cross, commands our response of love to one another. Another well-known appeal is found in Col. 3:1-3:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ died, we died to sin; when he rose, we rose to righteousness. We are one with Christ in his death and resurrection. So those historic facts have moral implications. We should live in accord with the new life, given to us by God’s grace when we rose with Christ. See also Rom. 6:1-23, 13:11-12, 1 Cor. 6:20, 10:11, 15:58, Eph. 4:1-5, 25, 32, 5:25-33, Phil. 2:1-11, Heb. 12:1-28, 1 Pet. 2:1-3, 4:1-6.
So the Heidelberg Catechism emphasizes that our good works come from gratitude. They are not attempts to gain God’s favor, but rather grateful responses to the favor he has already shown to us.[i]
But our focus on the history of redemption is not limited to the past. It is also an anticipation of what God will do for us in the future. God’s promises of future blessing also motivate us to obey him. Jesus commands us, “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).[ii]
This motivation emphasizes God’s control, for history is the sphere of God’s control, the outworking of his eternal plan.
The Authority of God’s Commands. Scripture also motivates our good works by calling attention to God’s commands. Jesus said that he did not come to abrogate the law, but to fuilfill it, so
Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19)
So in their preaching Jesus and the apostles often appeal to the commandments of the law, and to their own commandments, as in Matt. 7:12, 12:5, 19:18-19, 22:36-40, 23:23, Luke 10:26, John 8:17, 13:34-35, 14:15, 21, Rom. 8:4, 12:19, 13:8-10, 1 Cor. 5:13, 9:8-9, 14:34, 37, 2 Cor. 8:15, 9:9, Gal. 4:21-22, Eph. 4:20-24, 6:1-3, 1 Thess. 4:1, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, Tit. 2:1, James 1:22-25, 2:8-13, 1 Pet. 1:16, 1 John 2:3-5, 3:24, 5:2.
God’s commandment is sufficient to place an obligation upon us. We should need no other incentive. But God gives us other motivations as well, because we are fallen, and because he loves us as his redeemed children.
This motivation reflects God’s lordship attribute of authority. We should obey him, simply because he has the right to absolute obedience.
The Presence of the Spirit. Thirdly, Scripture calls us to a godly life, based on the activity of the Spirit within us. This motivation is based on God’s lordship attribute of presence. Paul says,
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal. 5:16-18)
God has placed his Spirit within us, to give us new life, and therefore new ethical inclinations. There is still conflict among our impulses, but we have the resources to follow the desires of the Spirit, rather than those of the flesh. So Paul appeals to the inner change God has worked in us by regeneration and sanctification. In Eph. 5:8-11, he puts it this way:
for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
In the following verses, Paul continues to expound on the ethical results of this transformation. Compare also Rom. 8:1-17, Gal. 5:22-26.
So Scripture motivates us to do good works by the history of redemption, the commandments of God, and the work of the Spirit within us, corresponding to God’s lordship attributes of control, authority, and presence, respectively.
-John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord
[i] This motivation is not what John Piper calls the “debtors’ ethic,” in which we do good works in a vain attempt to pay God back for our redemption. We can, of course, never do that, and we should not try to do it. See Piper, The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1995), and the summary discussion on pp. 33-38 of Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2002). But gratefulness, nonetheless, is the only legitimate response to the grace God has given us in Christ.
[ii] This is what Piper calls “future grace” in the works cited in the previous note.
The point of Christian ethics is not to be as liberal as we can be, or as conservative. It is, rather, to be as biblical as we can be…Jesus rebuked both the conservative Pharisees and the liberal Sadducees; Paul rebuked both legalists and libertines. Understanding God’s will rarely means falling into lockstep with some popular ideology. We need to think as part of a community, listening to our brothers and sisters, but we also need the courage to step aside from the crowd when God’s word directs us in that way.
-John M. Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life, 6-7
These words are especially poignant during an election year.
From John Frame’s article “But God Made Me This Way!”
I believe on faith that God can deliver homosexuals, because Scripture teaches that His grace can deliver his people from all sin. (See especially1 Cor. 6:9-11.) I haven’t done first-hand research on the results of various ministries to homosexuals. It would certainly not surprise me to learn that many people who struggle by God’s grace to overcome their homosexuality still experience homosexual temptations. People who have been addicted to alcohol often face continuing temptations in this area long after they have stopped drinking to excess. Similarly those who have overcome the impulses of hot tempers, drugs, or heterosexual promiscuity. If that were true in regard to repentant homosexuals, it would not cast the slightest doubt on the power of God’s grace to heal such people. Recurrent temptation is a problem for all of us, and will be until glory. One may not judge the fruits of Christian ministries on a perfectionist criterion, namely the assumption that deliverance from sin must remove all temptation toward that sin in this life.
The bottom line is that the genetic element in sin does not excuse it. To see that, it is important to put the issue into an even wider perspective. Christianity forces us again and again to widen our angle of vision, for it calls us to see everything from the perspective of a transcendent God and from the standpoint of eternity. Such perspective helps us to see our trials as “light and momentary” (2 Cor. 4:17) and our sins as greater than we normally admit. From a biblical perspective, the difficult fact is that in one sense all sin is inherited. From Adam comes both our sin and our misery. We are guilty of Adam’s transgression, and through Adam we ourselves inherit sinful natures. If a genetic predisposition excuses sodomy, then our inheritance from Adam excuses all sin! But that is clearly not the case. Of course, Reformed theology construes our relationship to Adam as representative, rather than merely genetic, and that is important. But Adam represents all who are descended from him “by natural generation;” so there is also an inevitable genetic element in human sin.
The entire article is quite helpful. For Frame’s discussion on homosexuality in his work on Christian ethics, Doctrine of the Christian Life, see pages 757-763.
As the internet is still abuzz with discussions of Biblical view of homosexuality I thought sharing a few comments might serve to help clarify things. These thoughts aren’t original by any means, but they are especially apropos in light of the present culture war.
A legitimate concern. Many Christians are concerned that the latest round in the debate over the legal status of homosexuality (especially as it applies to the issue of homosexual marriage) is merely a power tactic of the Republican party to rally support from evangelical and otherwise Christian voters. Now, I don’t doubt that some in the GOP are willing to use whatever cultural conduit is found useful to bolster their voting base. It’s also worthy of noting that some Christians assume that politics is the crucial key to transforming culture in a godly and righteous direction. This is simply mistaken. This faction of Christianity must beware of the leaven of playing the world’s power game.
Another perspective. So, I’ll admit that opposition to homosexual marriage can indeed be used as a Trojan horse for a covert GOP agenda. But that’s not the only explanation. Such opposition can also be the result of individuals who do not believe the State has the authority to define (or in this case, redefine) marriage. That’s why the issue of gay marriage isn’t about homosexuality at all: It’s about the definition of marriage. The State does have the authority to grant civil unions, tax breaks, etc. to whomever it chooses. That is perfectly within their preview. What it cannot do is redefine an institution it did not create. That largely comes from other spheres (the family, the church, and behind that, ultimately the creation ordinance of God).
Cogent and persuasive ethical reasoning presupposes a worldview and standards of judgment. It is not easy to argue these from nature alone. For Christians, these standards come from Scripture. So apart from Scripture, ethical argument loses its cogency and often it’s persuasiveness. Nonbelievers, of course, won’t usually accept Scripture as authoritative. But they may at least respect an argument that is self-conscious about its epistemological and metaphysical presuppositions.
In public discussion, it may sometimes be desirable to argue a position without directly referring to Scripture. We may, for example, point to the cultural consequences of China’s one-child policy, or to the general indifference to human life encouraged by legalized abortion, or to the societal consequences of secularized education. Arguments like these will be persuasive to some non-Christians. They appeal to that knowledge of natural revelation that they are unable fully to suppress. But when someone presses us to ask, for example, why we think that indifference to human life is a bad thing, we must in the end refer to Scripture, for that is the ultimate source of our values.
In the ongoing debate on the biblical status of homosexuality, a not-so-infrequent objection to the conservative (and classical, mind you) approach is that Jesus himself never addressed homosexuality. After all, if it were really a big deal, wouldn’t Jesus himself address it?
The nub of this argument is a half-truth (and the wrong end at that). First, though we have no explicit statements from Jesus on same gender attraction and relationships-using the word ‘homosexual’ or one of its cognates- we do have his positive definition of marriage with its undeniable link to sexuality (Mark 10:6-8). Second, Jesus never explicitly denounced homosexuality as a deviation from God’s design for human sexuality for one primary reason:
…the same reason why a GOP candidate doesn’t argue for lowering taxes at the RNC national convention.
… the same reason why Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t argue in favor of a woman’s “right to choose” at a Planned Parenthood rally.
… the same reason why a Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t argue against the deity of Christ in a Kingdom Hall.
…the same reason why a Muslim doesn’t try to convince those at his local mosque that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.
I think you get the picture.
In light of the present heated discussion on homosexuality, I thought it might be helpful to post this discussion on the Bible and homosexuality by Dr. Robert Gagnon. Christians, and especially pastors, should listen closely to Gagnon’s words. Twenty-three minutes well spent.
For more from Gagnon, see his exhaustive work:
Perhaps you’ve seen the poster pictured above in your journeys across the interwebs. It’s a quasi-comical statement about the “foolishness” of Biblical marriage. The point is clear, while many (or most) Christians strongly advocate a definition of marriage that sees it as a lifetime covenantal union between one man and one woman, there is a “clear” discrepancy between their “traditional” position and the Book from which they’re supposedly basing that view. My friend Ra McLaughlin, webmaster and Vice President of Curriculum and Web Delivery at Third Millennium Ministries, has given me permission to repost his response to this poster on Facebook. His thoughts are clear, detailed, and yet concise:
Biblical law doesn’t require women to marry their rapists (cf. Ex. 22:17). The bride price to be paid by rapists was a sort of reverse dowry, not payment for “property.” It was owed whether or not the woman married the man. In the only example of rape and subsequent attempted marriage that I can think of at the moment, the woman’s family chose to murder the rapist and his people rather than give her as a bride (Gen. 34).
The Bible also doesn’t require the stoning of women that couldn’t prove their virginity (unless otherwise stated, legal penalties are maximum not mandatory; cf. Joseph’s treatment of Mary in Matt. 1:19). Similarly, levirate marriage was not a requirement; it was assumed that the women would want an heir, but it wasn’t a necessary arrangement (cf. Deut. 25:7).
I take issue with the way he defends free-will (he defends a libertarian understanding of the will), but otherwise this is a viewer-friendly and informative presentation of why the very idea of objective morality demands Christian theism.
In his book, Generous Justice, Tim Keller quotes French deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida as stating the following:
Today the cornerstone of international law is the sacred, what is sacred in humanity. You should not kill. You should not be responsible for a crime against the sacredness, the sacredness of man as your neighbor… made by God or by God made man…. in that sense, the concept of crime against humanity is a Christian concept and I think there would be no such thing in the loft today without the Christian heritage, the Abrahamic heritage, the biblical heritage.
Again, as is the case of Nietzsche in a post a few years back, a more articulate presentation of this truth could not have been presented by the most pious of Christian apologists.
Not a single one of us, whether or not we are directly involved in a religious tradition, has escaped the influence of religious traditions on our attitudes. Some of our shame or guilt over sexuality – our contradictory feelings about sexuality and spirituality – stems from religious traditions whose tenants and teachings emphasize spirit over flesh, penance over pleasure, an idealism over realism.
Religious dogma is not wrong; it is just not realistic. Nor is it supposed to be. The purpose of religion is to awaken our highest ideals and possibilities, make demands, stretch our souls, draw forth the highest and best within us. Religion calls us to our human maturity.
Ultimately you may be best, from a religious or spiritual perspective, to practice abstinence and direct our sexual energies into other creative pursuits until married. But this is not what most imperfect humans actually do. Even many priests and nuns, but dedicated their lives to their calling, have problems living up to the ideals of the church.
Give me chastity and self-restraint,
but did not give it yet. – St. Augustine
Whatever faith we practice we need to realize that sexuality has no inherent morality or immorality. Such ideas are a human invention. No absolute, sexual guidelines exist. Every culture and era has its own beliefs and ideas of sexual right and wrong. As Bertrand Russell insightfully observed, “sin is geographical.” According to one anthropological study I read years ago, the Trobriand Islands natives engage in sexual play and intercourse in public without any sense of self-consciousness. Yet they consider it inappropriate and shameful to be seen eating in public.
I find interesting several points in the excerpt above. I’ll outline them as bullet points to work through
- Postively, The author attempts to be neutral on the issue of religion. Yet, he clearly and explicitly endorses sexual relativism.
- Negativism, and related to point 1, Millman portrays himself as religiously neutral, while in fact asserting that the Christian understanding of sexuality and sexual mores is wrong.
- He fails to distinguish Christianity from institutionalized Roman Catholicism.
- His quotation of Augustine is self-serving and contrary to Augustine’s original intent.
- Millman commits the naturalistic, or “is-ought” fallacy in his reasoning.
Sexual relativism. In an earlier blog post, I noted that the Bible is anything but prudish on the issue of sexuality. Yet, it is clear that the Bible does lay out guidelines for sexual conduct. And these guidelines are not mere opinion, but directives from the Creator God. Those desiring to be faithful to the Bible have always claimed that God’s word speaks to the deepest aspects of our humanity, even our sexuality. Sexuality is an ethical issue, and if the biblical God exists there is no room for ethical relativism of any sort (1 Cor. 10:31).
Relativism relativized. Almost no relativist comes out and directly says another position is wrong, but whenever they do (in whatever language they use to imply a contrary position isn’t “realistic,” practical, etc.) they secretly smuggle ethical absolutes back into the discussion. This is self-refuting.
Priests and Nuns. Ever notice the frequency with which people who challenge Christianity tend to blur the distinctions between Evangelical Protestantism and the institutionalized Roman Catholic Church? One would think that the Reformation never happened. This reminds me of the frequently-asked question I received back when I first told people I was going to attend seminary, “Oh, are you going to be a priest?” But this is nick-picking…
Augustine. Millman quotes Augustine’s (in)famous prayer, “Give me chastity, but not yet.” When Augustine recounts this prayer in his book The Confessions, Augustine is explaining his struggle with an over-active and unhealthy sexual appetite. The point was that Augustine was “confessing” a moral struggle he wrestled with, a struggle to flee from sexual deviation and maintain sexual purity before God. Yet, the way Millman quotes Augustine you would think that Augustine remained in this position, continually praying that God would deter granting him chastity for “another day.”
Is/Ought. My most pointed criticism in this regard is related to something that I posted previously in my “Pointers” series. Non-Christians normally do not distinguish creation as it was intended to function and creation as it now functions and given the entrance of sin into the world. That is to say, they don’t distinguish between creation and fall.
Do both Christians and non-Christians find it difficult to live up to the Bible’s standards of sexual conduct? Yes. Is it just because there are no objective, God-given standards for the expression of one’s sexuality? No. It is an expression of our sin-sick addiction to living our lives as if we were God. We all suffer from this autonomous death-instinct, an instinct which, since the fall of Adam, drives us to rebel against God’s right rule over us even to our own detriment.
Just because people fail to obey God doesn’t mean there’s anything “normal” or healthy about it.
In light of this being the 37th year since Roe v. Wade, here are some more top-notch pro-life resources from Scott Klusendoff.
Scott is also the author of The Case for Life:Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture.