Thursday, May 28, 2015


Recently, I was debating a "progressive Christian" (for want of a better term) who hurled the Josh Duggar scandal at me. I'm of two minds about commenting on this scandal. I don't think it has any intrinsic significance. However, one might use it to make some general points:

i) I don't keep tabs on what 15-minute celebrities of reality shows say or do. Indeed, I avoid informing myself about the private lives of 15-minute celebrities. The fact that somebody is famous for being famous doesn't make his beliefs or lifestyle any more important than men and women who live and die in obscurity.

The only folks taking a serious interest in the antics of celebutants are folks who are just as vapid as the celebutants they obsess over. Airheads of a feather flock together. 

ii) Christian faith is faith in Christ, not faith in Christians. Christian faith is putting faith in Christ, not putting faith in fellow Christians. If a professing Christian is a hypocrite, that's irrelevant to the Christian faith.

iii) I had to do a bit of Googling just to write this post. The Duggar parents are famous (or infamous, depending on your viewpoint) for having 19 kids and counting. 

Historically, that's not unusual. Before the advent of modern contraception (and abortion on demand), mothers often continued having babies until they hit menopause or died in childbirth. 

By contemporary standards, the Druggars are a freak show, but historically, that was the norm. The main difference is that, in the past, due to high child mortality, most kids didn't survive into adulthood.

iv) I assume the Duggars agreed to do a reality show to help finance their domestic expenses. It's very expensive to raise 19 kids. Of course, that turns your private life into a fishbowl.

v) It wouldn't surprise me if their squeaky clean public image isn't the whole story. We generally put our best face forward in public settings.

vi) I've read claims that the Dugger parents belong to the "Christian Patriarchy movement." I don't know if that's true, and I don't know what that means, specifically. I don't care enough to research the issue.

I'm a complementarian, but that can be taken to extremes. TGC recently did a post on hyper-headship:

vii) I don't have a firm opinion on the size of families. 

a) On the one hand, so long as parents provide for their kids, it's none of my business how many kids they choose to have. 

b) On the other hand, above a certain number, parenting suffers. Above a certain number, you can't individualize in childrearing. It's a choice between more time for fewer kids or less time for more kids. It also depends on spacing pregnancies. 

So childrearing gets subcontracted to older siblings or grandparents. In a sense, that's not fair to children.

If, however, the parents had a smaller family, some kids who lose out through lack of parental attention would never exist in the first place. Arguably, you have more to lose by not existing. So there are tradeoffs between a lesser and a greater deprivation.

viii) I think contraception is morally permissible and morally responsible. I reject abortifacients. 

ix) I don't know that Josh Duggar is a hypocrite. Being raised in a Christian family doesn't make you a Christian. If, moreover, you were indoctrinated in a legalistic theology, that can be even more reason to rebel or misunderstand the Gospel.

x) Some Christians have turned tables on the critics by pointing out that liberals generally give a free pass to Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. So the charge of hypocrisy rebounds. 

Mike Huckabee has pointed out that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of minors. That, too, draws attention to liberal hypocrisy. When policemen shoot a teenager, liberals accuse them of shooting a "child."

So we certainly see double standards in the attack on Josh Duggar. 

xi) However, the sisters whom Josh is accused of molesting might have a very different take on the situation. 

David French accuses the parents of stalling tactics to play out the clock on the statue of limitations. 

xii) Mind you, a person can be a cad without being a hypocrite. And it was certainly a mistake for the Family Research Council to make Josh its executive director. That illustrates the dangers of a celebrity culture infecting Christian organizations. 


  1. I've known who the Duggars are, and I've actually caught their show a couple of times. I noticed a blurb about Josh Duggar recently and investigated to find out about whatever tabloid issue people were discussing. My only comment regarding it was a two-liner:

    "Christians recognize repentance as an occasion to glorify God. Others seek to destroy someone in order to glorify themselves."

    Actually, that's the reason most people crave the tabloid news. They glory in the destruction of people. The only reason people bring up cases of moral hypocrisy is to try to justify their own sin. So, your debate opponent pointed out Josh Duggar to you because a) He wants to justify sin of some sort; and b) He actually thinks Josh Duggar sinned. That makes your debate opponent a hypocrite, whether he:

    i) wants to justify dismissing sexual sin by pointing out sexual sin, or
    ii) he wants to point out that you aren't allowed to judge sin based on your standard of morality while he judges sin based on his own standard of morality.

    (i) is a more objective hypocrisy. (ii) is a more subjective hypocrisy. Now, it could be that he wanted to demonstrate an inconsistency in your thinking by judging the Duggars to be hypocrites. However, regarding (i), no one points out sins as sins that they don't think are actually sins. For example. a self-professed Christian arguing for the moral legitimacy of homosexuality doesn't use a homosexual Christian as an example of his opponent's hypocrisy. Rather, he picks someone who he and his opponent would both consider to have sinned. The argument isn't persuasive otherwise.

    So, I don't know what your opponent was arguing, but I'd say the following is likely:

    1) he was arguing for the legitimacy of some sexual sin
    2) still thinks that Josh Duggar sinned
    3) thinks that forgiveness of sin is hypocritical, and that you would agree - in other words, if a sin can be forgive, it's not really a sin; and if a sin is heinous enough, it can't be forgiven. If it can be forgiven, then a repentant sinner who has been forgiven is not a hypocrite. This is a flaw in relativistic thinking that demonstrates that relativistic morality really results in just another system of objective morality.

    1. The exchange took place a Denny Burk's blog. Here's what the disputant said:

      "I’ve been monogamously partnered for over four years. That’s not 50 years, but we’ll see. I like Dan Savage a little, but as I said, he doesn’t speak for me. Should I assume you share the moral character of men like Ruben Israel or Fred Phelps (or Josh Duggar) merely because they’re more prominent and vocal than you?"

      Of course, the comparison is disanalogous inasmuch as Josh Duggar isn't part of a movement that lobbies for incest or abolishing the age of consent.

    2. It doesn't look like he's very thoughtful anyway, though he wants to be seen as such. The way he worded it was odd, as though you chose your moral arguments based on people's vocal prominence: those individuals speak for you like Dan Savage apparently doesn't speak for him. So he's claiming that you can't think for yourself. His ultimate goal is still to come off as the one who is thoughtful about the moral question, thus lending legitimacy to it. Nevertheless, he doesn't know you very well. I don't know you very well, Steve, but if I know one thing, it's that you don't let others do your thinking for you.