Saturday, October 25, 2014

Transgender gynecology

It's been said that when you try to break a law of nature, you only serve to illustrate the law. If you jump off a bridge, you don't break the law of gravity–you illustrate the law of gravity. If you gab a power line with both hands, you don't break the laws of electromagnetism, you demonstrate them. There's a reason why homosexuality is such a disease-ridden activity. 

In a way, I'm glad the liberal establishment is pushing the transgender agenda. That has even more potential to backfire than the homosexual agenda. Although sodomy is perverted, it has a basis in reality. Sadly, there really are men who are physically attracted to other men.

By contrast, transgender identity is fictitious. Pretending to be something you're not. When fiction collides with reality, reality wins every time. 

The transgender agenda is totally unworkable in practice, and that's becoming quickly evident. Take the "right" of grown men who "self-identify" as female to use the women's (or girl's) locker room. Many people, not just right-wingers, rebel it that.

But that's not where it ends. Take a physiologically male patient who "self-identifies" as female. "She" goes to the doctor. The doctor diagnoses "her" as suffering from stage-1 testicular cancer. He advises an aggressive course of treatment.

Or take a physiologically female patient who "self-identifies" as male. "He" goes to the doctor. The doctor diagnoses "him" as suffering from stage-1 cervical cancer. He advises an aggressive course of treatment.

But isn't that transphobic? I mean, it's not as if "she's" really a man. It's not as if "he's" really a woman. To say so is grounds for termination. 

So what is oncology supposed to do in that situation? Is gender objective? Is gender grounded in physiology? Or should we fire an oncologist who gives a patient "offensive" medical advice about the gender-specific course therapy which the patient must undergo to survive? Should oncology be outlawed?

For that matter, isn't gynecology transphobic? If gender has no objective physiological basis, if gender is just a social construct, then isn't gynecology a hate crime? Should gynecology be outlawed?

Or take endocrinology. Since men and women produce different hormones, I assume an endocrinologist must take that into account when treating his patients. But what if a man self-identifies as a woman, or vice versa? Is the endocrinologist allowed to state the obvious, or is giving sound medical advice now grounds for revoking his medical license because the patient was offended by his politically incorrect diagnosis? If gender no longer correlates with physiology, where does that leave medical science? 

All that's necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing

Sadly, most Christians in the United States, when it comes to recognizing the dangers to their civil and religious liberties, sleep the sleep of ignorance that the disciples slept at Gethsemane before the arrest of Jesus. It ought to be obvious by now how "sexual orientation" laws and "gay marriage" are used to subvert the civil and religious liberties of those who rightly view homosexual practice as sinful, contrary-to-nature conduct.
In terms of protecting themselves against such developments, It matters not if they reach out in love to those who are same-sex attracted, acknowledge their own need for God's grace, and speak out against a "God hates fags" rhetoric that exists only on the extreme fringes of the Christian faith. They too will be subject to the same harassment and curtailment of liberties. Sometimes in a misguided effort at appeasement, orthodox Christians even offer support for "sexual orientation" laws and same-sex civil unions or marriage in the mistaken hope that they will lessen the ire of homosexualist activists. In reality, they merely supply such activists with the political weapons by which the liberties of Christians will be attenuated.
Most pastors have failed to fulfill their responsibility to alert their flock to the dangers that the church is now facing. Consequently, most Christians cower in the face of abusive attacks by those promoting a homosexualist agenda, just as the disciples fled at Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. Sadder still, many Christians, particularly those who consider themselves among the elite of evangelical Christianity, continue to relegate this issue to the back burner of political concerns, dissuading fellow believers from seeing this as a central (in my view, the central) political issue of our day.
Our children are being taught at school (with our tax money, incidentally) that their parents are bigots for opposing homosexual unions. Teachers who don't toe the line are threatened with dismissal. They must teach about "Stonewall" and other historical occasions of homosexualist advocacy as positive events in history, irrespective of the fact that such readings are at odds with reality. They must lift up people like Harvey Milk, who bedded many an underage boy and lived a sexually promiscuous life with hundreds of male sex partners, as heroes of history or be fired. The entire state of California now (as Mass Resistance reports) "requires that the 'historical contributions' of 'lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans' be included in courses, instructional material, and textbooks in California Public Schools. Furthermore, the law includes prohibition of any 'materials that reflect adversely' on LGBT persons or the movement." It is now against the law to critique homosexualist ideology in every California public school. It is the obligation of every teacher to promote such ideology.
To get an idea of what else is coming down the pike for America’s elementary and secondary schools, one need only look to Canada and Britain. The Vancouver (British Columbia) Board of Education has adopted a new policy that mandates that all schools from elementary on up appoint at least one staff person to promote “LGBTTQ+” resources to “students, staff and families” and that all high schools have “Gay Queer/Straight Alliance Clubs”; that under no circumstances are staff ever speak positively to students about "programs or services that attempt to change a student’s sexual orientation or gender identity”; that teachers regularly combat in the classroom “homophobia,” understood as any critical attitude toward homosexual and bisexual relations and the “Trans” life; that all teachers in elementary and secondary schools avoid masculine and feminine pronouns (using “xe,” “xem,” and “xyr” instead) and references to “boys and girls,” in order to avoid offending “transgendered” students; that schools “reduce or eliminate” all “sex-segregated” activities; and that in sports students can participate in either boys or girls athletics in accordance with their own self-perceived “gender identity,” in addition to having access to shower and rest room facilities that correspond to that identity. Already in the United States some school districts have adopted similar policies.
In days to come we can expect even private religious elementary and high schools to be forced to teach children about the "civil rights" triumphs of homosexualism and the hateful bigotry of those who don't embrace homosexual practice, as is already being done in the United Kingdom.
Christian colleges like Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., are now being threatened with loss of accreditation and/or loss of federal funds if they have moral standards that prohibit all sexual conduct outside of marriage between one man and one woman, including homosexual intercourse. Students at Gordon College seeking public school teacher certification are no longer allowed to student-teach in an area school district because of Gordon's policy on homosexual activity. Intervarsity chapters and other Christian groups have been de-recognized in various colleges (including at Vanderbilt; and all the public universities of California) if they operate with the "queer" notion that the views of student leaders of Christian groups should be, well, Christian (i.e., comport with the orthodox sexual ethics of the Christian faith taught by Jesus and the apostolic witness to him).
Bakers are being fined as much as $150,000 if they refuse to letter a "gay wedding cake," even if they are willing to sell cakes to homosexual couples, just not specifically design it for a wedding. Photographers in some states are liable to fines of thousands of dollars if they politely decline to photograph a "gay" or lesbian "wedding," even though it is their right not to contribute their gifts of artistic expression to further what they regard as immoral sexual conduct. Florists unwilling to provide floral arrangements for "gay weddings" are likewise being put of business. A couple in upstate New York who allow their scenic barn to be used for weddings were fined $13,000 for declining a lesbian "wedding." A civil rights commissioner has found that a Kentucky Christian T-shirt company that refused to print shirts for a gay pride parade is guilty of discrimination, requiring its employees to attend diversity training, with fines to follow if the violations continue. Religious liberty does not even exempt religiously affiliated associations, like retreat centers connected with denominations that forbid same-sex marriage, from renting its facilities out for homosexual "marriages."
Increasingly, Christians in "white-collar" positions who don't support homosexual indoctrination at the workplace are being fired. Some have been fired simply for expressing the view on Facebook and other social media outside the workplace that "gay marriage" is immoral. Even in professional sports, coaches and players that express publicly their own thoughts about the immorality of homosexual practice are disciplined or fired. A major CEO was removed when it was discovered (horrors) that he once had the audacity to contribute to California's Proposition 8. Employees, both blue-collar and white-collar, have been fired for indicating that they no longer want to be bombarded with emails that promote a homosexualist agenda. Not joining in work station "coming out" celebrations can be cause for dismissal in some places of employment. Workers at the water cooler may rail against "bigots" who oppose a homosexualist agenda but workers who express disagreement with such an agenda can be terminated.
The Obama administration and Democrats in Congress are currently pushing for a "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" promotion bill that will make this the law everywhere. Employment "non-discrimination" policies for "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" lead to discrimination against any employee who indicates less than enthusiasm for promoting all things homosexualist in the workplace. This past summer Obama issued an Executive Order mandating that all corporations receiving contracts from the federal government (whether for-profit businesses or charitable relief agencies) embrace affirmative-action "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" policies. Even religious organizations “are not exempted or excused from complying with the other requirements contained in this Order,” namely, “race, color, … sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.”
Recall how the Obama administration revoked an invitation to a socially conscious Black pastor to offer a prayer at Obama's 2nd inaugural when it was discovered that he had once, a decade earlier, given a sermon where he expressed the view that homosexual practice was sin. It didn’t matter that the Black minister had worked tirelessly against sex trafficking and shown the love of Christ in countless other social justice causes. He must be defined as a bigot if he doesn't bend the knee to the idol of homosexualism. The Obama administration appoints as judges and officials only those who are wedded to the homosexualist cause. If you are not, you have no right to serve in the executive branch or the judiciary, however well qualified. Obama regularly compares those who oppose "gay marriage" to racial bigots who opposed interracial marriage up until the 1960s.
At Dartmouth College, my alma mater, an African Anglican Bishop who was appointed to lead the Tucker Foundation, which oversees all social justice and religious ministries on campus, had his appointment terminated before he even arrived on campus because it was discovered that a decade earlier he had expressed disappointment over the appointment of Vicky Gene Robinson to be the first "gay" Episcopal Bishop. Even though the African bishop protested that he was now affirming of "gay marriage" they terminated his employment because at some point in his life he had expressed opposition to this idolatry of homosexualism. Dartmouth went on to hire as the moral overseer of the campus a lesbian Episcopal minister who was "married" to a woman.
In most mainline seminaries today candidates for faculty positions who are known to have published in favor of the scriptural and orthodox position on male-female marriage will not be hired. It is even less likely that candidates for faculty positions in secular colleges and universities will be hired. After all, institutions of higher learning cannot tolerate the hiring of "bigots." Most colleges today even give an affirmative action bump to applicants who identify as "gay," lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or no gender at all.
Articles and op-ed pieces in the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, Time, Newsweek, and other major media outlets, heavily staffed with homosexual activists, routinely mock those who oppose "gay marriage" as hateful, ignorant bigots (for an example, check out this tendentious article:…/why-gay-marriage-opponents-keep-b…). Christians who believe that homosexual practice represents a degradation of the gendered-self are regularly ridiculed on TV sitcoms and dramas, even as homosexual characters are represented in greater numbers than African Americans. Balanced discussions of "gay issues" on television are now a nearly extinct species.
Against parental protests and concerns for safety "bathroom bills" have been passed in many jurisdictions that allow boys who identify as female to use girls' rest rooms. Men who identify as women must be allowed to use female changing rooms and rest rooms. In these jurisdictions it is the "civil right" of persons who regard themselves as the sex opposite of the one given to them at birth to force all the rest of us to become complicit in their gender confusion, the very confusion for which the state should be providing appropriate therapeutic help. Women's colleges are now beginning to enroll men who regard themselves as women or as no gender at all, claiming that the subjective sense of self is more important than biologically-based gender, even as these same "all women" schools contradict themselves in admitting women who regard themselves as men.
In many states, even if an adolescent and his or her parents want to receive help in managing or reducing the intensity of homoerotic urges, that adolescent is forbidden by law to do so because, allegedly, it confirms the adolescent's "internalized homophobia." So much for the self-determination of the client. Christian adoption agencies that believe that it is inadvisable to place children in homes exhibiting gender confusion and instability (which defines homosexual parenting situations) have been put out of business. Foster care parents in some jurisdictions must first indicate affirmation of homosexual practice before they can be deemed suitable caretakers.
Most recently the lesbian mayor of Houston had subpoenas issued to some Houston pastors, compelling them to either produce transcripts of every sermon in which they discussed the issue of homosexuality and "gender identity" or face contempt of court (after the public outcry the demand has been reduced to speeches by the pastors pertaining to Houston's "Equal Rights" Ordinance, which allows "transgendered men" to use women's restrooms). Two ordained ministers in Idaho who for a fee conduct Christian weddings for Christians are being threatened with six months in jail and $180,000 in fines for declining to officiate at a homosexual "wedding," even though the "couple" can go across the street and get married at the courthouse. A professor of English at a secular college (Robert Lopez) has been harassed by persons in and outside of his institution simply because he shared the story that his upbringing by two lesbians was less than ideal. Others who have come forth to tell their stories about life in homosexual households have had their workplaces phoned by gay activists to demand their firing and their home addresses and phone numbers published for further harassment.
It is not a question of "live and let live" when it comes to a homosexualist agenda. It is a question of homosexualist advocates doing their best to drive out of the public square with abusive rhetoric and the teeth of "sexual orientation" laws anyone who calls into question their agenda. So, no, I'm not willing to support ridiculous "interpretations" of the Constitution that codify me and other believers who adopt the view that Jesus held about marriage and sexuality generally as bigots and the moral equivalent of racists. Surprisingly, I'm not willing to supply the legal bat with which to beat me senseless. Imagine that.
On top of all this is the absurdity of arguing that a "gay marriage" is comparable to an interracial marriage. As someone in an interracial marriage I resent the comparison to an immoral unnatural relationship. Racial differences in marriage do not represent any kind of conflict with nature. Homosexual unions do. It is obvious at every level (anatomically, physiologically, and even psychologically) that a true sexual complement or counterpart to a man is a woman, not another man. Human society has to work hard to suppress deliberately this obvious truth given to us in the material structures of nature.
If the logic of a heterosexual union is that the two halves of the sexual spectrum reunite to form a single sexual whole, moderating the extremes of a given sex and filling in the gaps of the sexual self, the logic of a homosexual union is that two "half-males" unite to form a single whole male; two "half-females" unite to form a single whole female. That is what Paul referred to as a self-dishonoring, self-degrading act, where it treats one's own sex as only half intact, not in relation to the other sex (in accordance with truth) but in relation to one's own sex (in accordance with falsehood).
It is not "discrimination" to say that such a union is not a true marriage, any more than it is "discrimination" to say that adult-consensual incestuous or polyamorous unions constitute a true marriage. Persons in polyamorous and incestuous relationships today suffer from far more public hostility than persons in homosexual unions. Should not, then, there be advocacy for their "civil rights"? In most areas of the country today, Christians who have spoken publicly at some time in their life about the immorality of promoting homosexual relations are more likely to be discriminated against than persons openly expressive of their homosexual behavior.
It is time for Christians to make it their top political priority to vote against any politician who promotes a homosexualist agenda. If they do not, they will leave their children with a legacy of oppression against Christian believers, which they themselves had the luxury of avoiding for most of their adult lives. Who is foolish enough any longer to vote for candidates who regard said voter and his or her family as hateful, ignorant bigots and support policies and appointments that will codify that assessment in the law?

"Abhorrent" commands

This is a continuation of an earlier post. Michael Kruger reviewed Peter Enn's new book. He cross-posted his review at TGC. This attracted criticism from Adam Omelianchuk (among others). In this post I'll will do two things: I will comment on Omelianchuk's criticisms, and I will post replies to Omelianchuk by James Anderson and Paul Manata.

Adam Omelianchuk 
With respect to Fritz, I think your conclusions are too strong. The sort of scenario you describe with Fritz is a moral tragedy: there can't be right action performed in that case (much like in Sophie's choice). There can be a "less bad" option as the outcomes are relevant provided that both options are bad, and that might be a mitigating factor in our assignment of blame, but I don't think it follows that what Fritz does is okay and that he can't at all be held responsible for doing something evil. His hands are dirty regardless.

He doesn't bother to explain why Fritz's action is morally wrong. 

i) What would make it wrong? Is it wrong because it wrongs someone? If so, who would that be? It doesn't plausibly wrong Arnold because he's already hopelessly morally compromised. 

If there's a wronged party, presumably that's the Jews. 

ii) However, there will be an order to gas the Jews whether or not Fritz issues the order. If, however, Fritz issues the order, it's hard to see how he's wronging them, since Fritz is stalling for time in order to save them.

iii) Even if issuing the order carries the risk that it will be carried out before Fritz has time to implement his plan, the Jews would be gassed by someone else, so they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by that Fritz using the order to buy time. So, once again, it's unclear how they'd be the wronged party–even if the plan fails. 

But if no one is wronged by the order, then what makes it wrong? Is it wrong in some other respect?  

iv) If "there can't be right action performed in that case," then why is his action blameworthy at all? Especially since he didn't create that situation. Rather, he finds himself in that situation. 

This is the same sort of objection that can plausibly be made to dropping the A-bomb on Japan. It probably prevented a worse outcome, but the deliberate targeting of civilians just can't be justified (as Anscombe famously argued). 

To begin with, the argument depends on certain planks of Catholic moral theology. Just war theory concerning the immunity of noncombatants. But it's not as if that's an unquestionable given.

Much of this, though, isn't relevant to the topic at hand, because God is not constrained by these sorts of things.

It's relevant because it goes to the question of what's "intrinsically" wrong. Are these things wrong in principle? 

James, I frame the issue in those terms, because using euphemisms to cover up the violence of the acts that are constitutive of such events lead us astray.

What about Adam using dysphemisms to poison the well? The question is whether his terminology ("genocide," "bludgeoning babies") is accurate or prejudicial. Does the Bible command "beheading" or "bludgeoning" babies? He resorts to that terminology because it's inflammatory, not because it's accurate.  

We live in a world where people decapitate others for not sharing another's religious beliefs. You can watch them online.

Is his objection to the how they are executed or why they are executed?

Canaanite genocide (I used that term because even if herem warfare is what it really is, there is enough morally relevant overlap to call it as such).

So even though it's inaccurate, he will continue to use "genocide" due to "enough morally relevant overlap." 

I agree that Christ affirmed the OT, but his affirming it tells me nothing about how to resolve this interpretive problem. 

Why not?

I don't know what he thinks about these passages, because he didn't say; 

That's evasive.

perhaps he wouldn't agree with my approach, but I doubt that he will condemn my effort to use the text for "training in righteousness" which is what Scripture was given to us for.

That's reminds me of some atheists who say, if there is a God, he won't condemn them for honest doubts. 

Fury interview

Hard death, good death

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb 12:2).
One popular argument for euthanasia is that people are entitled to a "dignified" death. What are we to make of that claim from a Christian perspective?
For instance, Hume died a peaceful death while Jesus died in a state of physical and psychological torment. Was Hume's death a better death?
It was better in the sense that it's an easier way to die. But in a more important sense, the death of Christ was far better. Worse for himself, but better for others.
I'm not saying there's anything inherently good about an "undignified" death. But by the same token, there's nothing inherently bad about an "undignified" death. 
The death of Christ was paradigmatically undignified. A humiliating death. A  horrendous death. A hard death, but a good death.
Of course, the death of Christ is uniquely redemptive. But there are other examples. Take a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to shield his comrades. He may die in agony. Yet there's a sense in which that's a better death than the painless death of a coward. 
Death is bad. Death is a curse. But how we die can be a witness. And how we die can be an opportunity for others. To have a loved one die in your arms is excruciating. But we shouldn't spare ourselves that pain. 
If, say, a loved one is dying of cancer, it's important for their family members to care for them right up to the bitter end. To follow through even when–or especially when–it hurts. Not abandon them at the low point of their life when they are most vulnerable, most fearful, most helpless. Even though it just gets worse and worse–and you know it won't have a happy ending–you don't desert them. 
And euthanasia can be abandonment. I don't want to face what you're going through. I don't want to watch it get worse and worse. I can't stand it! So do me a favor and off yourself to spare my feelings. Don't drag this out. Hurry up and get it over with! 

Private Depravity

Here's something I saw linked by Tim Challies yesterday. It's about pornography use among teenagers and how ignorant parents often are about it. Here are some lines that stood out to me:

"32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online. 39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online. 83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online."

I realize that watching bestiality videos doesn't prove that a person is attracted to sex with animals, but watching such videos is something that should be avoided, for many reasons, even if sexual attraction to animals isn't involved. For one thing, watching such videos lowers people's opposition to bestiality, even if they don't practice it or desire to practice it themselves. Popularizing bestiality videos is part of the pathway to popularizing mainstream acceptance of bestiality. The same mindset that leads people to become increasingly accepting of fornication, pornography, homosexuality, and other sexual perversions can lead them in a lot of other directions as well.

How long will it be before political leaders and other figures in our culture start having sex scandals involving animals rather than humans? How much longer, after that, will it take for the people who criticize them to be accused of being judgmental, mean-spirited, prudes, etc.? And take a guess at which political party will lead the way.

In a society in which people openly build up a national debt of almost twenty trillion dollars, celebrate same-sex marriage, have tens of millions of abortions, engage in sexual practices leading to more than one hundred million infections of sexually transmitted diseases, etc., imagine how much worse they are in the more private parts of their lives. And not all of that will remain private. It will get pushed out into the larger society more and more.

“The Inevitable Consequences of an Atheist Worldview”

Over at the Secular outpost, Jeff Lowder took issue with what an ostensible atheist said about “The Inevitable Consequences of an Atheist Worldview”. Jeff's attempted rebuttal is muddleheaded. He fails to distinguish between the logical implications of atheism and what individual atheists happen to believe. He imagines that by citing examples of atheists who take different positions, that somehow disproves the claim. But that, as I say, is confused. 
All that means is that some atheists are inconsistent. They balk at the radical consequences of atheism. They pull their punches. 
Atheism is a proposition. A proposition has objective implications. It affirms something and it denies the contrary or contraries. 
The question at issue isn't what any particular atheist believes, or how he behaves. He may retain some beliefs in spite of his atheism. He may refrain from certain behavior despite his atheism. 
Jeff is a propagandist for atheism, so he always wants to put the best public face on atheism. That's one reason he's so hypersensitive to perceived slights. 


Gagnon on Gushee

In a tendentious puff piece about David Gushee (“Progressive” Baptist and Christian ethicist at Mercer University), Jonathan Merritt (senior columnist for Religion News Service) trumpets that Gushee’s defection from the orthodox stance on homosexual practice will do great damage to that position (“Leading evangelical ethicist David Gushee is now pro-LGBT. Here’s why it matters”). Mr. Merritt declares with the usual bias that we have come to expect from him when talking about homosexuality:
“While other pro-LGBT Christian activists — including Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network and Matthew Vines, author of ‘God and the Gay Christian’ — have been dismissed in some circles as wet-behind-the-ears youngsters without formal theological training, Gushee, 52, is a scholar with impeccable credentials. He can add intellectual heft to what has largely been a youth-led movement, and is not someone who can be easily dismissed.”
Mr. Merritt goes on to agree with Dr. Gushee in characterizing everyone who concurs with Jesus’ stance on a foundational male-female prerequisite for sexual relations as a “hardline conservative” and a member of the “far right.”
One helpful point in the article, though, is the disclosure of the reason for Dr. Gushee’s departure from the overwhelming evidence from Scripture and nature: “Then in 2008, his younger sister, Katey, came out as a lesbian. She is a Christian, single mother, and had been periodically hospitalized for depression and a suicide attempt.”
I will respond to each of the last three paragraphs in order.
(1) Dr. Gushee's alleged "intellectual heft" on the issue of the Bible and homosexuality:
Dr. Gushee carries no “intellectual heft” on the issue of Scripture and homosexuality, for two simple reasons: (1) Dr. Gushee is heavily dependent on the “wet-behind-the-ears” Matthew Vine for his “exegesis” of biblical texts pertaining to the issue of homosexuality; and (2) Dr. Gushee has ignored nearly all the major arguments against his embarrassingly bad exegesis, even when I sent him links to online articles that summarize more extensive arguments in my published work.
In response to a request from FB friends, I looked at Part 11 of his series of articles posted on, entitled “Two Little Words: The LGBT Issue, Part 11,” on two terms in 1 Cor 6:9: malakoi (“soft men,” which I argue means, in context, effeminate men who serve as the passive partners in male homosexual practice) and arsenokoitai (“men who lie with a male,” formed from the Greek translation of the absolute prohibitions of man-male intercourse in Lev 18:22; 20:13).
Dr. Gushee was trying to argue that these terms had to do only with exploitative forms of homosexual practice. It was clear that he had no personal facility with Greek and was entirely dependent on Matthew Vines (who likewise has no personal facility in Greek). The research, such as it was, was amateurish and unworthy of a scholar.
I sent him a private message on FB, asking him that if he was determined not to take an hour or two to read my 33-page analysis of these two terms in The Bible and Homosexual Practice (303-36), he might at least look at a 5 page online summary of the 4 arguments for malakoi and 8 for arsenokoitai, arguments which indicate that these terms are inclusive of adult-committed male homosexual relationships (point 4 of I asked him if he would revise his article by at least responding to these arguments, heretofore ignored. He thanked me and did revise his article, but not in light of my arguments; rather, only in light of the comments that others, who were not scholars, left below his online article.
In his revision, he not only ignored my arguments, but he also mischaracterized an important scholar’s view (William Loader) as supporting his (Gushee’s) viewpoint and opposing mine (the exact opposite was the case). He added a reference from “biblical scholar Michael Vasey” about the cultural milieu. Yet Vasey, who was not a biblical scholar but a gay Anglican priest who died at age 52 of HIV complications, was oblivious to the evidence for committed homosexual relationships in the ancient world.
Dr. Gushee followed this with an over-reaching theological claim about Paul that is unsustainable from the evidence. He claimed that God’s grace precludes the possibility that Paul could have warned sexual offenders, including homosexual offenders, about exclusion from God’s kingdom. Yet Paul’s offender list in 1 Cor 6:9-10 is precisely such a warning (“Stop deceiving yourselves: [The following] shall not inherit the kingdom of God”), where the larger context is the shocking case of a self-proclaimed Christian “brother” at Corinth in a sexual relationship with his stepmother. Paul has similar warnings about sexual immorality sprinkled throughout most of his extant letters.
So I asked Dr. Gushee a second time through private FB messaging to respond to the many counterarguments that I offered. He sent me the message, “I appreciate your comments. Thank you.” A day or two later Dr. Gushee blocked me from his FB page so that I couldn’t see or answer his public response on Facebook (a FB friend sent me a copy anyway). In it he lamented that adopting the LGBT stance “will cost me suffering, including public repudiations and stinging attacks from erstwhile friends and determined adversaries.” I’m quite sure that my work has received many times more attacks than his (by those long on vitriol and short on academic integrity), but I don’t cry about it. (And my first book on the Bible and homosexuality came out less than a year before tenure.) I rather investigate to see if the charges are merited.
He added that by Gagnon asking him to read 5 pages of material that differs from his preferred viewpoint I have demanded the impossible since he cannot spend his “entire life reading ancient Hebrew, Persian, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Christian, laws, plays, poems, fables, and moral exhortations on sexuality, in the original languages, plus all associated scholarly literature produced in the last 40 years”; that he doesn’t have time to spend “his entire career doing [this] work.”
Does not everyone see the ridiculousness of this claim by the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics and Director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University? Could you imagine an undergraduate, let alone first-year M.Div. student, far from a tenured full professor, making that kind of remark? “No, professor, I can’t read a 33-page chapter of a key work, or even a 5-page summary of the chapter, from the principal scholar who disagrees with my agenda because I can’t spend my entire life reading Hebrew, Persian, Aramaic, Greek, etc., and all the scholarly literature produced in the past 40 years.” Well, I wasn’t asking you to learn again the Greek and Hebrew that as a professor of Christian ethics you shouldn't have let slide in the first place (let alone Persian and Aramaic), now was I? I was asking you to read an English-written 33-page chapter or just a 5-page summary.
Brave soul that he is, Dr. Gushee was resolute on his FB page: “I will continue to publish articles each week @abp/rh on this LGBT issue reflecting my best, highly fallible, time-limited effort to address the relevant dimensions of the problem…. I will not be intimidated or rebuked into silence. I will follow what I believe Jesus is calling me to do.”
Well, when did I ever want David Gushee to stop following Jesus? I just think that he shouldn’t be citing Jesus as justification for shoddy work that deliberately hides from readers the problems with his exegesis of Scripture. Apparently now “intimidation” occurs when one scholar shows the deficiencies of a poorly argued position by another scholar who has the intellectual wherewithal to do much better but refuses to spend even a half hour to investigate the counterarguments. Gushee, like Vines and Justin Lee of the “Gay Christian Network,” is an intellectual coward (I’m sorry to say). By that I mean that he deliberately ignores the array of counterarguments to his own ideological position and sometimes even misrepresents the views and credentials of scholars in order to advance that position.
Dr. Gushee has recast bad scholarship as martyrdom. According to his FB post, there are only two kinds of people in the world: Those who care for same-sex attracted persons and those who don’t. He feels that love for same-sex attracted persons demands that we twist Scripture to mean what it can’t possibly mean, read in its historical and literary context, so that such persons can now enter into homosexual unions free of any societal reservation or stricture. Never mind that Paul viewed such behavior as a dishonoring of the integrity of one’s gender vis-à-vis one’s own sex; or that Jesus viewed a male-female prerequisite for sexual relations as foundational for sexual ethics according to God. All of that must be dispensed since it can’t possibly be loving to believe such things. Dr. Gushee apparently thinks that he is a better, more compassionate ethicist than Jesus.
I later looked at his Part 9 posting on Sodom and Gomorrah. It was as badly researched as his piece on 1 Cor 6:9. Again, he ignored all the counterarguments that I put forward more than a decade ago regarding interpretation of the Sodom narrative (The Bible and Homosexual Practice, 71-91). I point readers to a shorter online summary of the arguments at
(2) Regarding Mr. Merritt's and Dr. Gushee's extreme description of those who disagree:
As I noted earlier, Mr. Merritt, in agreement with Dr. Gushee, refers to everyone who agrees with Jesus’ stance on a male-female prerequisite as a “hardline conservative” and a member of the “far right.”
Mr. Merritt and Dr. Gushee must be correct in their pejorative labels because we all know that drawing the conclusion that the appropriate sexual counterpart to a man is a woman and to a woman a man is completely obscurantist. Why should the views of Jesus, the apostolic witness to him in the New Testament, the Old Testament witness from Genesis on that precedes Jesus, the witness of early Judaism, and the united witness of the Church Fathers, the Reformers, and everyone of note in the Judeo-Christian tradition until only the last few decades be regarded as a centrist theological position? We’re not just “right”; we’re “far right.” We’re not just “conservative”; we’re “hardline conservative.” I guess that using such extreme nomenclature helps Mr. Merritt and Dr. Gushee to deceive themselves into thinking that they are in some sort of moderate theological middle relative to worldwide Christianity.
But how can we not agree with their labels for us as extremists? After all, it is not at all obvious that anatomically, physiologically, and even psychologically men and women are sexual complements. (What was St. Paul thinking when he referred to this as a deliberate suppression of the truth?) And it is not at all self-evident that the absence of a true sexual complement in homosexual unions results in disproportionately high rates of measurable harm in male homosexuality and female homosexuality but at different rates for each group that corresponds to gender type.
Then, too, it is certainly clear that claiming congenital influences on homosexual development constitutes a great moral argument for endorsing the behavior arising from those desires. We all know that innate urges with a biological basis are usually or always good and should be promoted (like a polyamorous orientation, greed, pride, envy, jealousy, etc.). Don't we know this?
It is also crystal clear that the arguments used to endorse homosexual unions have nothing to do with undermining sexual standards on adult-consensual forms of polyamory and incest. It is not as if the twoness of the sexual bond has any relationship to the twoness of the sexes (as Jesus thought) or that the elimination of a principle of sexual otherness has any bearing on the elimination of a lesser principle of kinship otherness, right?
We can all be thankful for these extreme descriptions of us by Mr. Merritt and Dr. Gushee ’cause us far-right hillbillies recently began walking upright and still subscribe to Soldier of Fortune magazine, right?
(3) Regarding the impact on Dr. Gushee of his lesbian sister:
I sympathize with the struggle of Dr. Gushee's sister Katey and with the struggle of all those like her. Yet I disagree that the solution to the problem is to put one’s own desires over the will of God clearly expressed by Jesus, the apostolic witness to him in Scripture, and indeed the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation (to say nothing of philosophic nature arguments and science, both of which lend further support to the overwhelming biblical witness). All of us are called to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and lose our lives, and follow Jesus. None of us gets an exemption.
To be sure, I don’t struggle with same-sex attractions like Katey, though I am honored to be close friends with many who do and who nonetheless continue to live a life of faithfulness before the Lord. All of us have one or more areas of life (some of an even more serious nature than same-sex attractions) where we are called on by God to let the “dying of Jesus” become manifest in our body so that the “life of Jesus” might likewise become manifest (as Paul mentions in 2 Cor 4). Nobody gets a pass from a cruciform life, out of which resurrection follows.
The church is called by God to come alongside all those who suffer and to encourage such in the midst of hardships and deprivations that God’s grace will in the long run prove itself sufficient even in the midst of hardships and deprivations, because knowing God is so great that it more than makes up for life's deficiencies. In fact, God’s power is brought to completion precisely in the midst of our weaknesses. Consequently we can even delight in these weaknesses because through them we learn what it is to rely on the God who raises from the dead (2 Cor 12; 1).
We have no right to short-circuit the work of God, who through the Spirit is in the business of transforming us into the image of his Son, by assuring people falsely that God does not regard this or that behavior as an egregious violation of the divine will. I do not fault Dr. Gushee for sympathizing with those who suffer. I fault him for distorting the message of Jesus and the apostles through bad exegesis and, worse still, for playing the role of God in granting immunity from divine judgment for behavior against which God gives grave warnings.
When Mr. Merritt and Dr. Gushee pejoratively label such responses as “hardline conservative,” “far right” “backlash,” it is relatively transparent that they are using manipulative rhetoric to cover up the problems with their position and, ultimately, the lack of true love in that position. When Paul began his moral exhortation (paraenesis) to the Roman believers, he stated, “Let love be without phoniness [or: pretending, play-acting],” immediately adding: “abhorring [or: detesting, strongly hating] what is evil, joining [or: gluing, attaching] yourselves to what is good” (12:9; my trans.). Unfortunately for Gushee, one can’t really do the first without attending to the second and third. When one calls what God declares an evil to be a good, one's "love" is phony, a mere pretense, a play-acting. Love must be genuine, which means (with Jesus) that one's outreach to the lost includes a call to repentance and to discipleship.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Libertarian Calvinism – 3

Why I vote conservative

"Death with dignity"

"Death with dignity" is one of the popular euphemisms used to defend euthanasia. In one sense, proponents are correct. The aging process can be very undignified. Losing control of your mind and/or body is painfully undignified. 
Of course, when you stop to think about it, human life is replete with little indignities. Childbearing is undignified. Childrearing is often undignified. Sex is undignified. Defecation is undignified. Breaking wind is undignified. Sickness is often undignified, both for the patient and the caregiver. 
Comedy is undignified. Comedy lampoons human foibles. 
Many essential occupations are undignified. Indeed, there's a whole TV series (Dirty Jobs) which explores that topic.
To a great extent, we are grubby little creatures. That's an ineluctable component of our physicality. We take ourselves far too seriously if we imagine that our "dignity" is all that important. 
There is, however, a different kind of dignity. Moral dignity. This requires a contrast between a person's undignified situation and how, through grace and courage, they cope with their undignified situation. There's a special kind of beauty that only shines forth in the midst of moral and physical ugliness. Goodness in spite of badness. Bringing good out of evil. 
That's a central feature of the Christian worldview. That's one reason God predestined the Fall in the first place. There's a unique kind of good, a second-order good, that's only possible in the face of evil. That's when it rises to the occasion–like a flower rising out of the underlying decay.

There can be dignity in all states of life

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Since the Catholic dogma of Mary's perpetual virginity (hereafter PVM) recently came up, I'd like to say a few things. 

i) We need to begin with a definition. There's more to the PVM than the claim that Mary never had sexual intercourse. Rather, Rome has a very idiosyncratic definition:

499 The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man.154 In fact, Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it."155 And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the "Ever-virgin".
ii) It's unclear what Mary's in partu virginity is supposed to denote. In order to affirm something, it must deny the contrary or contraries. Offhand, I can only think of two logical possibilities:

a) In some miraculous fashion, Jesus passed through the birth canal without rupturing the hymen. Did he momentarily dematerialize, then dematerialize? Did the hymen momentarily dematerialize, then dematerialize? 

b) Jesus was born without passing through the birth canal. Rather, it was a miraculous C-section. Teleportation. "Beam me up, Scotty!" 

iii) I don't have any a priori objection to a miraculous birthing process. However, the stated rationale indicates that there was something improper about the normal birthing process. And that is theologically objectionable.

iv) The onus is not on a Protestant to disprove the PVM. My disbelief is justified by lack of evidence. Indeed, absent evidence, I'd be irrational and irresponsible to believe it. 

Suppose you ask me if I believe in leprechauns. I say, "No." You say, "Prove it!"

Prove what? The onus is not on me to disprove the existence of leprechauns. I don't believe in them for the simple reason that, to my knowledge, there's no credible evidence that they exist. I need no further justification. I don't have to produce evidence against their existence to be warrant my disbelief. Regarding the PVM, the Catholic shoulders the burden of proof. 

v) What would count as evidence for the PVM? Needless to say, there's no available medical evidence. 

At best, it could only be known by divine revelation. Yet Rome can't add to the deposit of faith. So unless it can be proven from public revelation (i.e. the Bible), there's no evidence for the PVM.

There's no point quoting the church fathers. It's not as if the church fathers conducted a pelvic exam of Mary. 

vi) Some Protestants attempt to disprove it. There's nothing necessarily wrong with that effort. Keep in mind, though, that justified disbelief in the PVM doesn't depend on the success of that effort. It is not incumbent on Protestants to disprove a dogma for which there's no evidence in the first place. 

vii) The weakest argument is that Jesus was Mary's "firstborn" son. However, that doesn't necessarily imply subsequent offspring. Given the cultural importance of primogeniture, the birth of a firstborn son was significant in its own right.

viii) A better argument is that the Gospels refer to brothers and sisters of Jesus. Catholics counter that the word can mean cousins. That's possible. But unless there's a presumption that they couldn't be his brothers or sisters (or stepbrothers and stepsisters, to be precise), there's no reason to reach for "cousin."

ix) An even stronger argument involves the "until" clause in Mt 1:25, with its before and after contrast. That's very hard to get around, and there's no reason to evade it unless you have a prior commitment to the PVM–based on what?

x) Finally, as I recently observed, if Mary and Joseph never consummated their marriage, then there's nothing to distinguish their "marriage" from an extension of their betrothal. If Joseph was never the legal stepfather of Jesus, then that in turn delegitimates the theological rationale for the Matthean and Lukan genealogies–both of which trace Christ's ancestry through Joseph:

and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ (Mt 1:16). 
Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli (Lk 3:23).

Ike Redivivus?

Commanding evil

One objection which some "progressive Christians" raise to OT "genocide" is that if genocide is wrong, then commanding genocide is wrong. Therefore, the OT attributes commands to God which God did not in fact command. 

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that OT "genocide" is wrong. If what is commanded is wrong, is it wrong to command it? That might seem like a logical inference, but is it?

Let's consider a couple of counterexamples:

i) My first example is adapted from a friend's illustration. Many of us have seen movies or TV dramas in which a spy or uncover cop must take certain actions, including some ordinarily immoral actions, to maintain his cover. He might have to issue "abhorrent" commands to a subordinate. Suppose he orders a subordinate to torch the establishment of a business that refuses to pay protection money. If he doesn't issue that command, someone else will, so his refusal to issue the "abhorrent" command will not prevent any evil that would otherwise occur. On the other hand, by maintaining his cover, he is able to greatly mitigate the scale of evil. 

Although it's wrong for the subordinate to carry out the command, it's not wrong for him to give the command. 

ii) I sometimes use a different example. Instead of commanding wrong, it's a case of instigating wrong. But I think they're morally comparable. 

For instance, suppose a Latin American country is trying to protect the populace from two drug cartels. But it's a losing battle. The gov't lacks the resources to defeat the cartels. The cartels bribe judges, soldiers, policemen, &c. Those that can't be bought off are assassinated. 

The only way for the gov't to defeat the cartels is to provoke a civil war between the two cartels. They will so degrade each other that it will be a mopping up operation after the dust settles.

In order to pull that off, the gov't must kill the son of a drug lord, but make it look like a hit by the rival cartel. The son is deeply involved in the family business, so he's a legitimate target.

It would be wrong for members of the rival cartels to murder each other. But it's not wrong of the gov't to instigate their mutual hostilities. The gov't has a duty to protect innocent citizens, and that's the only feasible strategy. 

Some critics might object that God doesn't face the same limitations as my two scenarios. True. But the question is whether, as a matter of principle, it is necessarily evil to command evil. 

You also have radical chic Anabaptist types who refuse to get dirt under their fingernails by even contemplating tough judgment calls in ethics. They subcontract that out to others. Leave it to others to make the hard choices. They repeat the benefits without having to make the tough call themselves. 

Keep in mind that I don't concede that God commanded evil. I'm just responding to critics on their own grounds. Even if we grant their operating premise, does their conclusion follow? 

Foreign affairs

I'm going to briefly compare and contrast Obama and Bush 43 foreign policy. I don't think Bush 43 is the standard of comparison by any means. That's not how I'd cast the issue, left to my druthers. But since this issue has come up, I'll address it on those terms:

i) The Iraq war obviously backfired. 

ii) Keep in mind that many critics of the Iraq war preferred the containment policy of economic sanctions and the no-fly zone. However, that strategy had many critics too.  The sanctions were hard to enforce. And they took a toll on the civilian populace. Eventually, the UN would have allowed the sanctions to lapse. 

A problem with the no-fly zone is that Iraq kept firing anti-aircraft missiles at our fighter jets. What should we have done if they downed one of our fighter jets?

iii) I think the Afghanistan war was justified, but the nation-building component was a boondoggle. 

iv) Obama's foreign policy is basically procrastination. 

v) One traditional component of American foreign policy has been the balance of powers concept. The world is safer for America when some foreign powers form a check on the ambitions of other foreign powers. You play one off against the other. Kissinger is a famous exponent of this strategy.

It's been criticized for favoring global stability over human rights. An amoral foreign policy. There's some truth to that. However, it's not as if the Arab Winter or Putin on the march promotes human rights. 

During the Cold War this involved a tradeoff between the greater evil of global communism and the lesser evil of, say, the Shah of Iran or Latin American dictatorships. 

The lesser evil principle is not amoral. Moreover, global stability doesn't mean you can't ever challenge the status quo. But it's a cost/benefit analysis. 

Because the future is unpredictable, good intentions sometimes have calamitous unforeseen consequences. Both retaining and changing the status quo has unintended consequences, for good or ill.   

With the passage of time, the threats change. Islam is now a greater danger. So is the threat of pandemics.

vi) A basic problem with Obama's foreign (non-) policy is that no one knows what, if anything, the US is prepared to fight for. We don't present a credible threat. Under Obama, America's enemies don't fear America. Obama is an international laughingstock. A guppy in a sea of sharks. 

In addition, he's undercut Israel, and he's strengthened Iran.

He's let Chinese cyberterrorism go unchecked. 

We have an open border on the South, with potentially catastrophic consequences.  

By killing rather than capturing bin Laden, we were unable to interrogate bin Laden. In addition, Obama has apparently failed to exploit the intel cache we did acquire:

And we still have two years to go before his second term expires. 

“Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon”

Sola Fide Before The Reformation

The doctrine of justification through faith alone is foundational to the Christian life. It's a source of great peace, love, joy, and other blessings. And it's one of the central themes of the Reformation, which is relevant in light of Reformation Day coming up next week.

Disputes over sola fide often focus on Biblical and philosophical objections to the concept. But there's a common historical objection that's seldom addressed in depth, and it's even more uncommon for it to be addressed well. It's an objection that has a lot to do with the Reformation and, thus, Reformation Day. Did anybody hold to justification through faith alone between the time of the apostles and the Reformation? If not, then isn't that absence of the doctrine strong evidence against it? There are many implications that follow for the plausibility of a Protestant reading of scripture, how we view church history, and other issues.

I've addressed sola fide before the Reformation in many posts over the years. What I want to do here is link my central post on the subject. The comments section of the thread has some relevant material as well, such as a discussion of sola fide in Clement of Rome. You can find similar material in other threads in our archives, like the ones I link in the post just mentioned.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


i) I'd like to make a brief observation about the culture wars. Not winning isn't the same thing as losing. For instance, we didn't win the Korean, Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan wars. But we didn't lose. In the last three wars, we simply gave up. All four wars ended in stalemate. We couldn't win, but as long as we were there, the enemy couldn't win, either. 

Now, my point is not to comment on the wisdom of those war efforts. Rather, I'm using that as an illustration. Not winning the culture wars isn't the same as losing the culture wars. A stalemate is better than losing. Never surrender unless and until you're defeated.

ii) Liberals are perpetual malcontents. They see something wrong with the world everywhere the look. Fixing the world is a full-time job. Liberals are chronically dissatisfied with the way things are. They lurch from one cause to another. It's like an addiction. As a result, liberals have something to offend everyone. Sooner or later they alienate every voting block. 

Take the food police. Take Mayor Bloomberg's ill-fated ban on jumbo soft drinks.

Or take attempts to sexually integrate contact sports. 

Or take transgender policies, which give grown men the right to use the locker rooms of women and girls. 

Just watch how that plays out.

Consider the havoc that transgender policies can wreak in medicine. 

You also have factions within the liberal movement. Take environmentalists. When wild animals (e.g. deer, rabbits, squirrels) lack natural predators, they multiply to the point where they destroy habitat. That creates a war between the tree-huggers and the animal rights activists. 

iii) The future is predictably unpredictable. Today's losing team may be tomorrow's winning team. Don't count yourself out.