Friday, June 11, 2010

Homosexuality Is Acceptable For Christians, But Not Pagans

From another thread:

Scott Windsor wrote:

"You may have turned a blind eye to the context, even after quoting some of it, just to further a bigoted agenda, but the context most certainly does state the prayers to the dead men he objects to are these dead men spoken of by the poets who have been deified by them."

You're ignoring what I wrote against that argument. Again, Lactantius twice chose similar phrases ("prayers to dead men", "prayers to the dead") to describe what he had in mind, and his focus both times was on the dead in general. He didn't use other phrases available to him that could have been used to express the focus you're suggesting, such as "prayer to false gods" or "prayer to the dead as if they're God". You aren't explaining why he repeatedly focuses on the dead status of the recipients of the prayers. If you think there's nothing wrong with praying to the dead, why would you repeatedly focus on the dead status of the recipients of prayers?

I gave you an example of a somewhat similar comment on a different subject, a comment Aristides made about homosexuality. You haven't responded to that example. Here's what Aristides wrote:

"By reason of these tales, O King, much evil has arisen among men, who to this day are imitators of their gods, and practise adultery and defile themselves with their mothers and their sisters, and by lying with males, and some make bold to slay even their parents." (Apology, 9)

Do we assume that Aristides is only condemning such practices if done by people as "imitators of their gods"? When he refers to "lying with males", do we assume that he's only condemning homosexuality when done in pagan religious contexts? Or that he's only condemning it when it's done outside of marriage, for example? No, despite the immediate context of pagan religions, and despite the fact that the homosexual activity in question did occur outside of marriage, we conclude that homosexual activity in general is being condemned. Not only is that the prominent view of Christianity in general at the time when Aristides lived, and not only is it the view of the sources that would have most influenced Aristidies on the issue (such as scripture), but it's also the most natural way to interpret his choice of words. If his focus was on pagan homosexuality or the fact that the sex was outside of marriage, then he could have said so. But a broad phrase like "lying with males" is most naturally taken as a condemnation of homosexual acts themselves, regardless of whether they take place in a pagan religious context or outside of marriage. If he meant something like "lying with males in a pagan context" or "having sex outside of marriage", he could have said so. But he chose to focus on the homosexual nature of the sex instead.

Similarly, as I argued in the previous threads linked above, the Christianity Lactantius had lived in and the sources that would have influenced him (primarily scripture) viewed God alone as the proper recipient of prayer and sometimes condemned any attempts to contact the deceased. And Lactantius repeatedly chose terminology suggesting that he had the dead in general in view, not just false gods or some other narrower category that would be consistent with Roman Catholicism. When somebody who comes out of Lactantius' context repeatedly uses such broad language about prayer to the dead, the most natural interpretation isn't to conclude that he had your qualifiers in mind. The fact that he shows no concern for adding such qualifiers suggests that he didn't come from a perspective like that of a modern Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox.

And you'll have to explain why my "agenda" allegedly is "bigoted", whereas yours isn't.

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