Same-Sex “Marriage” and the “Dogma” Fallacy

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Commenter Fleegman has come to the conclusion that

All I’m saying is – as you agreed – the primary motivation for Christians [to oppose SSM] is accepted Christian dogma on the subject. Since this is irrelevant as far as the law is concerned, you have to come up with secular reasons.

There are at least four errors here related to “dogma:”

  1. An error concerning what dogma is
  2. An internal contradiction in Fleegman’s thinking
  3. A further misconception about Christian thinking
  4. Bigotry

The fourth error may be the most telling, but I have to go through the first three to get to it.

1. The current connotation of “dogma” as beliefs accepted uncritically, unthinkingly, by force of authority is historically inaccurate and misleading. The term is related to doctrine, which simply means teachings; thus, accepted Christian dogma is equivalent to accepted Christian teachings.

But very few “agreed Christian teachings” started out that way. The history of Christian doctrine is a history of conflict and resolution, with battles waged in exactly the same way intellectual conflicts are still fought today: papers and conferences. Rumors of political authorities settling these issues are completely false, and to the extent that ecclesiastical authority has been brought to bear on it, it was primarily through conferences (or councils, as they were more likely to be called). Or in other words, a lot of learned people got together, studied the paper, and came to consensus. Nothing unusual about that: it happens all the time in the 21st century.

Granted there was some politicking going on as well—just as there is in academia today!—but the long passage of time has a way of sorting such things out. The councils’ decisions have stood the test of time. Not all of them, mind you: the Reformation, for example, is evidence of active, continuing, and lively thinking about Christian doctrine. It shows that our predecessors’ doctrinal authority is always up for review. It shows that Christians continue to think critically.

Anyway, the councils pronounced on basic doctrines relating to the Trinity, the nature of Christ, and so on, and their pronouncements became the Church’s teaching. No council, however, tackled the question of same-sex couples uniting in marriage. There has been no pronouncement of dogma upon that topic. The closest thing to it is perhaps the Church’s teaching that the Bible is the authoritative rule of faith and practice (also a disputed topic in church history, settled in much the same way). Since we take the Bible as our authority, and since the Bible teaches that marriage is for man and woman, we have an authoritative reason to believe that SSM is impossible and/or wrong.

So the stigmatic connotation of unthinkingness associated with “dogma” is historically naive at best.

This is a frequent error made by non-believers, by the way: see here, here, here, here, here, here, and especially here, just on this blog in the last twelve months. We have to recognize that it reflects current usage of the term, though. Therefore as I continue here I will highlight that current connotation, using the term stigma-dogma as shorthand for “teachings accepted unthinkingly, uncritically, by force of authority.”

2. Part of Fleegman’s intent in this comment (echoing what others have said; see my earlier work on this) seems to be to show that Christians oppose SSM for unthinking reasons (note also his comment here). He sets aside the reasons that we offer, claiming that they have been necessitated by our dogma: rationalizations, not reasons. But if dogma is supported by thinking, it is no longer stigma-dogma; and if it is not stigma-dogma, then the accusation of dogmatic thinking loses its power.

3. But Fleegman brings up another problem: “accepted Christian dogma is irrelevant as far as the law is concerned.” Here again he has a false conception of dogma, for Christian thinking is very often informed by secular sources. Augustine and Aquinas, perhaps the two most influential Christian thinkers since the first century, relied heavily on secular sources all the time. Aquinas’s work is almost as much a commentary on Aristotle as on Scripture. This was frequent in the mid- to late-medieval period. It has been frequent throughout church history.

And it is still frequent today. It’s exactly what I and others are doing when we bring forth secular reasons (along with Scriptural ones) to oppose SSM. In other words, just because Christians accept some teaching does not make that teaching “religious dogma” of the sort that’s irrelevant to law.

4. The stigma-dogma view of Christianity is bigoted. What Fleegman does in this comment is to sweep away at least half, probably even more, of the reasoning we bring to the subject: the portion that comes from sources other than Scripture. He tells us we’re lying when we claim these reasons are important to us. He tells us we’re motivated only by uncritical, unthinking acceptance of authority.

In short, he denies the reality of who we are, in favor of his own self-concocted image, which he imposes upon us. That image is a stereotype. It is bigotry in action.

It’s also arguably stigma-dogmatic thinking of his own, since it is a favored belief of his to which he holds tenaciously in spite of contrary evidence.

So I call upon Fleegman and others who accuse Christians of “dogmatic” thinking: take a close look at yourself. Do you approve of stereotyping? Do you like bigotry? Do you see how you cling to your beliefs about Christian stigma-dogmatism in spite of evidence to the contrary? Wouldn’t you rather live according to reality? Wouldn’t you rather treat your fellow human beings rather than as stereotypes or caricatures?

P.S. I’ve already pointed this out to Fleegman, but he was simply wrong when he said I agreed with him that Christians’ primary motivation is accepted dogma. I don’t know where he got that from.

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220 Responses to “ Same-Sex “Marriage” and the “Dogma” Fallacy ”

  1. I see that SSM is continuing to provoke many of the comments on these forums since last time I visited.

    On dogma, it is worth noting that until relatively recently, “dogmatics” was the accepted term for Christian doctrine, as in the magnum opus of Karl Barth, “Church Dogmatics”.

    As so as Tom notes, “dogma” is simply Christian doctrine. If you are a Christian, it is entirely proper to oppose something because you think it is contrary to Christian doctrine. Christian doctrine is meant to be a framework that is to be consulted in this way.

    As Fleegman says, this is not very helpful in arguing the case against SSM to those unconcerned about (or even hostile to) Christian doctrine. Thus secular arguments need to be found to mount a more credible case.

    This should not be a criticism though, as (again) Tom has pointed out that secular thought has contributed to Christian doctrine throughout history. In one sense, finding secular arguments is to rediscover some of the reasons why a particular view (in this case traditional marriage) is part of Christian doctrine. But in addition, it may be that secular thought (including scientific enquiry) has produced more reasons in support of said Christian doctrine since its formulation – and this too is worth discovering.

  2. Your views regarding the historical formation of Christian dogma/doctrine would be news to those teaching in the vast majority of mainstream universities and seminaries.

    “Since we take the Bible as our authority, and since the Bible teaches that marriage is for man and woman, we have an authoritative reason to believe that SSM is impossible and/or wrong.”

    There you go–you accept these views based on the authority of ancient documents (that never actually marshall any arguments for their assertions). This sounds a lot like what Fleegman was saying.

    Isn’t it interesting that your secular opposition and views pertaining to same sex marriage happen to coincide with your sectarian religious beliefs (deeply ingrained in you for the past 50+ years)? Tell me–if tomorrow, you were to find out Christianity was false, would you continue to oppose same sex marriage? You do realize that science is overwhelming against you on this issue, and the studies that have come out with anti-SSM connotations have been called into question by the science community at large?

    Now, are you going to challenge me on this, or are you going to continue to treat me in a petty and dehumanizing way?

  3. I’m not sure what’s there to challenge, Bryan. You tell me that somebody somewhere disagrees with me. That adds nothing. You agree with what I say about biblical authority, but you take it completely out of context, ignoring the rest of what I said about how we come to our conclusions. You bring in some vague allusions to science, which happen to be diametrically opposed to the status of research on child-raising in same-sex parenting situations.

    I banned you as a commenter on this blog a while ago because you expressed support for the most severely outrageous immorality that I’ve ever seen suggested on a blog. I explained my reasoning to you. I have the right as blogowner to limit immoral expressions here.

    You have been posting occasional comments since then, which were blocked because of the ban. Today you emailed, asking me directly to lift that ban. I just got home from church and lunch, and I had been planning to email you back to discuss that with you.

    Now I hear that I’ve been treating you in “a petty and dehumanizing way.” I let this one comment through, and I’ll let this conversation continue as long as it seems fruitful, but I’m not going to put an end to sending your comments into moderation. Not unless I see a better reason than this to change my mind.

  4. “I’m not sure what’s there to challenge, Bryan. You tell me that somebody somewhere disagrees with me. That adds nothing.”

    I’m saying you may be presenting a whitewashed version of how Christian dogma was formulated (see Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted). Yours isn’t generally the view taught in mainstream universities and seminaries. It seems that it was much, much more politicized and underhanded process than you may be letting on. Moreover, the councils decisions have only “stood the test of time” because dissenters were set on fire, marginalized, etc (much like I’ve been as of late). And what the Protestant Reformation is evidence of is how Christianity is an evolving, human religion like the others. Why couldn’t God have made everything crystal clear from the beginning? Why did it take 1600 years of bloodshed for “true” Christianity to emerge?

    “You agree with what I say about biblical authority, but you take it completely out of context, ignoring the rest of what I said about how we come to our conclusions.”

    I considered your context–you believe that the Bible is the authoritative word of God based on the consensus findings of church councils. But I’ve rejected your whitewashed version of history. Even so, this simply means you hold your views on homosexuality by force of authority. That’s not an argument; we have the right to know the rationale behind the assertions.

    “You bring in some vague allusions to science, which happen to be diametrically opposed to the status of research on child-raising in same-sex parenting situations.”

    That may be true, but LGBT parents have been shown to be more than capable (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_parenting) on top of the American Psychological Association making explicitly clear that there isn’t anything wrong with homosexuality.

  5. Apart from your biased version of the history of Christian doctrines and your reliance on a false Wikipedia source, Bryan, you have still persisted in ignoring much of the context of what I said about how we have come to our conclusions regarding SSM.

    I don’t have time right now to send you sources on the first two of those things, but I suspect someone will. As for your failure to attend to context, it’s right here on the page. I don’t care to link to comments you can find by scrolling the window yourself.

  6. Tom,

    The current connotation of “dogma” as beliefs accepted uncritically, unthinkingly, by force of authority is historically inaccurate and misleading

    You claim that the correct interpretation in the Bible is that marriage is one man and one woman. According to you, it’s right there in black and white. If you believe that’s the case, how much thinking is required to accept that as true, given that you believe everything in the Bible is true? And since the Bible is your authority on the matter, it’s by force of authority.

    Nothing unusual about that: it happens all the time in the 21st century.

    Yes, and this is exactly my point. Christian “teachings” change with the times. And at this point in time SSM is considered a Bad Thing.

    Since we take the Bible as our authority, and since the [current popular interpretation of the] Bible teaches that marriage is for man and woman, we have an authoritative reason to believe that SSM is impossible and/or wrong.

    FIFY

    But once again, this is an example of exactly what I’m talking about.

    He sets aside the reasons that we offer, claiming that they have been necessitated by our dogma: rationalizations, not reasons. But if dogma is supported by thinking, it is no longer stigma-dogma; and if it is not stigma-dogma, then the accusation of dogmatic thinking loses its power.

    I set aside nothing. I said the secular reasons you gave are weak and unsubstantiated and are therefore a clear smokescreen to hide an obvious religiously motivated agenda. They are not convincing reasons, so it’s very difficult to believe they are anyone’s primary motivation to oppose SSM.

    I don’t think your dogma is unsupported by thinking. I think a whole lot of thinking goes into, yes, rationalising it. Two millennia of thinking, in fact.

    Your third point is just another way of saying Christianity moves with the times and I agree. Apparently I’m wrong when I say that Christian dogma is irrelevant when it comes to legalities because some of it borrows from secular sources, although this is an incredibly disingenuous interpretation of what I said and I believe you included it just so you’d have another bullet point.

    And then you play the bigotry card. And this is after you play the “the Bible is my authority” card. Blimey.

    I’m off to bed now. I’ll check back in the morning. Cheers for now,

  7. Bart Erhman is not the only NT scholar in the game, you know – there are plenty of professional NT scholars and historians, just as educated, just as scholarly, who accept the NT’s claims about itself, and who disagree with Erhman and have taken him to task over his popular writings.
    Try Daniel Wallace, Darrell Bock or N.T. Wright – the scholarly debates about the NT are far from settled, so merely agreeing with Erhman is to agree a priori with metaphysical naturalism over and against Christian Theism.

  8. You do realize that science is overwhelming against you on this issue, and the studies that have come out with anti-SSM connotations have been called into question by the science community at large?

    For pragmatic reasons I’m not necessarily opposed to secular SSM. I think the Christian church should be trumpeting something called “Christian marriage” and be a little less concerned about whatever arrangements society chooses to endorse.

    However to claim that science is overwhelmingly against those who oppose SSM is simply not true. There isn’t much data available (most studies are based on small sample sizes), the diverse nature of families make such research difficult, and there is immense pressure on researchers to produce results that do not oppose the agenda of LGBT groups.

  9. @Fleegman:

    I said the secular reasons you gave are weak and unsubstantiated and are therefore a clear smokescreen to hide an obvious religiously motivated agenda.

    Please define “secular reasons”.

    You *said*, that is correct. But you did not argue. Second, even if the “secular reasons” are found wanting, it does not follow from that that they are a “clear smokescreen to hide an obvious religiously motivated agenda”. And even if they are, tit for tat, your intellectually bankrupt arguments are a “clear smokescreen to hide an obvious” vicious hatred for religion, Christianity in particular, so why exactly are you complaining?

  10. I said the secular reasons you gave are weak and unsubstantiated and are therefore a clear smokescreen to hide an obvious religiously motivated agenda.

    As has been asked in the other thread: what are ‘secular reaasons’ again? Further, all you’ve done is say ‘your secular reasons are weak and unsubstantiated!’, without even arguing against them, from what I’ve seen.

    Really, this quote by bigbird illustrates part of the problem here.

    As Fleegman says, this is not very helpful in arguing the case against SSM to those unconcerned about (or even hostile to) Christian doctrine. Thus secular arguments need to be found to mount a more credible case.

    Actually, the problem goes beyond that.

    For people who simply have an emotional, visceral dislike of Christianity such that they want to oppose Christianity at every turn, the arguments don’t matter – provide whatever non-Biblical arguments you want, and at the end of the day the process will still be ‘support SSM, because it’s opposed to Christianity.’

    For people who have an emotional, visceral attachment to SSM and LGBT goals, again the arguments do not matter. Whether because of their self-image or the people they know, they want what they want and any arguments in opposition are hateful or wrong or misunderstood.

    The fact of the matter is, ‘arguments’ play very little role, shockingly little, in defense of SSM. They are avoided at all costs. Because the moment you start to examine the logic or think things through, the entire case suffers greatly. It becomes complicated, and ‘complicated’ is the last thing people want on this issue.

    Hence all that sloganeering.

  11. Wikipedia’s article on same-sex parenting is out of date. In short, every study cited to support the “goodness” of LGBT parenting is methodologically flawed. There is no really good study on the topic, because there are nowhere near enough stable LGBT-parented homes to compare to stable man-woman homes and provide robust results. The most methodologically rigorous study to date is the highly controversial Regnerus study that shows that children of LGBT families do not have as good life outcomes. There are weaknesses in that study, too, but Regnerus is forthcoming about those weaknesses and the methodological difficulties in overcoming it.

  12. Follow-up question to Crude’s comment: bigbird says secular reasons must be found.

    How many times??!! How many times do I have to link to them here??!!

  13. Fleegman, how is it that our secular reasoning is a smokescreen to hide an agenda, while your stubborn resistance against dealing with them for what they are—and your consistent and really quite annoying stereotyping of Christians as unthinking stigma-dogmatists—are not a smokescreen to hide yours?

    Until you rise up out of your own unwillingness to discuss this with us as if we are actual human beings rather than mindless religious robots—until you recognize how you are dehumanizing us by regarding us as being controlled by Rome or whatever—you have no moral, intellectual, or rational grounds from which to say anything for or against our reasoning.

    I think in fact I can confidently say you don’t know anything about our reasoning, because you continually treat it as something other than what it is.

    You’re a fake and a sham until you deal with me and the others here as fellow human beings. I’d like to think you can do better than you have been. Can you?

  14. Further, you say,

    You claim that the correct interpretation in the Bible is that marriage is one man and one woman. According to you, it’s right there in black and white. If you believe that’s the case, how much thinking is required to accept that as true, given that you believe everything in the Bible is true? And since the Bible is your authority on the matter, it’s by force of authority.

    1. It takes some thinking to understand this to be true of the Bible.
    2. If it is indeed true of the Bible (as we hold it to be, based on reasons by the way), and if the Bible is a trustworthy authority, it would take some incredibly irrational stupidity not to accept its teachings as trustworthy.
    3. Nevertheless, even apart from that, you have failed elementary logic again; for you assume that because we have one trustworthy source to refer to, we have no other thoughts or reasoning besides that to refer to. (See my previous comment, please, before you parrot once again your theme that those reasons are fake and false.)
    The same goes for Bryan @#4, 3:17 pm above.
    It’s as if there’s something hard about that logic, but I can’t imagine what that could be. Could you explain it to me?

  15. The fact of the matter is, ‘arguments’ play very little role, shockingly little, in defense of SSM.

    To be fair arguments seem to play very little role on either side of the SSM debate.

    You personally might feel you are an exception, but I have little doubt that the vast majority of Christians who oppose SSM do so because of Christian doctrine rather than ‘argument’. If you are a Christian then it is likely that this too is the basis of your opposition to SSM.

    I don’t really see this as a problem though. It doesn’t mean that they are necessarily unthinking or not aware of arguments for and against SSM. Relying on Christian doctrine in the first instance (as a Christian) is a perfectly reasonable thing to do – it has been tried and tested over many years and should only be cautiously challenged because of its status. It’s analogous to scientists relying on existing knowledge to be cautious in making claims that overturn what we know.

    I think too in these debates we should all be willing to acknowledge that all human beings tend to want to justify our existing beliefs, and we look for evidence that will support them rather than oppose them. No-one is immune.

  16. I do think (not “feel like” but “think,” as in, having reasons for it) that I’m an exception to that, bigbird. If you disagree, I suggest you check the evidence. There are links you could refer to. It’s not hard to find here.

  17. I do think you’re right in this: a lot of Christians have a limited repertoire of arguments on this issue, as do SSM proponents. It’s my intention to help Christians develop their thinking on this and other topics.

    I’m not sure what that has to do with the discussion here, however, since we’re talking about whether there are good arguments, not about whether most Christians deploy them.

    I also agree with you that the use of a trustworthy authority is valid, and that it’s not just a “religious” thing to do. It’s also a good idea to be aware of our biases, and I do appreciate your saying that here.

  18. I do think (not “feel like” but “think,” as in, having reasons for it) that I’m an exception to that, bigbird.

    I think most people on these forums who oppose SSM marriage have solid reasons for doing so apart from their faith. You’ve obviously thought through the issue as much or more than anyone I’m aware of.

    I do suspect though that their faith was (initially at least) the primary reason for their opposition – perhaps the motivator behind investigating the issue more thoroughly. It certainly was for me when I held that view, and it remains the primary reason why I regard homosexual activity as morally wrong. If my primary reason is a moral one, it is always going to be difficult to persuade those who do not share my morals.

  19. To be fair arguments seem to play very little role on either side of the SSM debate.

    To some point? Sure. I also think there are fundamental problems that go even beyond that.

  20. Tom,

    Loren Marks seems to call into question most of the studies done on same sex parenting, not all–at least as I interpret his wording. And it seems like Regnerus’s study is bunk:

    http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/six-more-sociology-phds-call-for-retraction-of-regnerus-anti-gay-study/news/2012/10/23/50968

    http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2012/10/30/1110591/regnerus-admits-gay-parenting/

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/closeread/2012/06/a-faulty-gay-parenting-study.html

    So I can still claim that the remaining scientific evidence supports the viability of same sex parenting, and there isn’t any strong evidence against it. This is the position the APA still stands by: http://www.apa.org/news/press/response/gay-parents.aspx

  21. G.Rodrigues,

    Please define “secular reasons”.

    Please refer to a dictionary.

    You *said*, that is correct. But you did not argue.

    Please refer to my arguments in the comments of the specific posts Tom’s authored on the subject. I’m not here to go over the same ground.

    Second, even if the “secular reasons” are found wanting, it does not follow from that that they are a “clear smokescreen to hide an obvious religiously motivated agenda”.

    Please read what I said. I did not say the conclusion logically follows. I said it made it pretty clear, because I find it hard to believe these weak arguments could be someone’s primary motivation for opposing SSM.

    And even if they are, tit for tat, your intellectually bankrupt arguments are a “clear smokescreen to hide an obvious” vicious hatred for religion, Christianity in particular, so why exactly are you complaining?

    In the thread to which Tom copied my comment, and on this one, I haven’t made any arguments supporting SSM. In fact, my whole reason for commenting was to say I don’t think arguing with Christians is worth it.

    “Vicious hatred,” yeah, ok. Whatever you say. And Christianity in particular? What brings you to that completely false conclusion?

    Crude,

    or people who simply have an emotional, visceral dislike of Christianity such that they want to oppose Christianity at every turn, the arguments don’t matter – provide whatever non-Biblical arguments you want, and at the end of the day the process will still be ‘support SSM, because it’s opposed to Christianity.’

    I’m not sure if this was directed at bigbird, but this is simply not the case for the vast majority of SSM supporters. “Opposing Christianity at every turn?” “Supporting SSM because it’s opposed to Christianity?” Please. If there were no Christianity in the US anymore, people like me would still support SSM, although we probably wouldn’t have to since it would simply be a way of life already. Or do you not think Christianity in the US is the primary reason why homosexuality is still considered so terrible?

    Tom,

    Fleegman, how is it that our secular reasoning is a smokescreen to hide an agenda, while your stubborn resistance against dealing with them for what they are—and your consistent and really quite annoying stereotyping of Christians as unthinking stigma-dogmatists—are not a smokescreen to hide yours?

    As I said to G. Rodrigues, I have already argued with you on these issues in the comments to the posts you made on the subject. My “stubborn resistance against dealing with them” is nothing of the sort, but that is not my intention in these recent threads. I am trying, once again, to simply point out the futility of arguing against established “Christian teachings.”

    I think in fact I can confidently say you don’t know anything about our reasoning, because you continually treat it as something other than what it is.

    This is patently absurd, unless you have completely forgotten about the contributions (regardless of their merit) I made on your posts on this subject a few months ago. I am perfectly aware of your secular reasoning.

    You’re a fake and a sham until you deal with me and the others here as fellow human beings.

    Ok, maybe I’m wrong about all this, and it’s certainly not my intent to treat you or anyone else as anything other than a fellow human being. So, how would you answer this question:

    Given the currently accepted Christian teachings on the matter of what defines marriage, is it possible for an argument supporting SSM to change your mind?

  22. Fleegman,

    “Please refer to a dictionary” is equivalent to, a) “there’s only one possible meaning for it,” coupled with, b) “and it’s a very simple meaning susceptible to a one-line definition,” coupled with, “and if you’ve thought it through or not, and you disagree with (a) and (b), please refer to (a) and (b) as proof you are wrong.”

    In other words it’s interpersonally dismissive and intellectually reprehensible.

    You, sir, are interpersonally dismissive in your ways here, and your writings are intellectually reprehensible. And you don’t even seem to care.

  23. Fleegman, before I answer your closing question to me, is it possible for an argument against SSM to change your mind?

    This is not just tit-for-tat. I have a specific reason for asking you.

  24. Tom,

    You, sir, are interpersonally dismissive in your ways here

    I speak to people in the way I’m spoken to. If you are suggesting that G.Rodrigues is not dismissive in his tone, I would have to disagree.

    As far as the “please refer to a dictionary” comment, I said that because I suspect G.Rodrigues knows exactly how I’m using the phrase “secular reasons,” and wants to pick a fight over it. Yes, of course there is more than one possible meaning, but it is intellectually dishonest of him to pretend he doesn’t know exactly the way I’m using it. In future, I will use “non-religious reasons” to avoid the issue, since it’s irrelevant to this discussion.

    Fleegman, before I answer your closing question to me, is it possible for an argument against SSM to change your mind?

    This is not just tit-for-tat. I have a specific reason for asking you.

    In principle, yes it’s possible.

  25. Actually, Fleegman, G. Rodrigues knows how deucedly difficult it is in this context to define “secular” and “non-religious,” too; or rather, how difficult it is to draw tight distinctions between secular and religious reasoning.

  26. So it was not intellectually dishonesty at work when he asked that question. He wasn’t asking because he doubted whether he knew what you were talking about; he was asking Socratically, because he doubted that you knew what you were talking about, and wanted to open up a discussion to that end.

  27. Now, if it’s possible in principle for an argument against SSM to change your mind, how much adjustment of your underlying worldview would be required for you to be open to that happening?

  28. I hope that question was clear enough. It’s not an easy one to self-assess on. Maybe you could ask yourself questions like, can I really imagine changing my mind? What kind of person would I be if I did that? What would have to be different about the way I perceive humans and human relationships? What would be different about how I perceive and experience the world in general if I were to make that shift, or in order to persuade me to make that shift?

  29. Tom,

    Perhaps I’m not applying the deep thought your question really deserves, but if an argument could be made, or a study were performed that conclusively showed that SSM was detrimental to society (in non-religious terms) over and above what I consider to be the benefits then it would make sense to me to oppose SSM.

  30. You’re not thinking it through deeply enough. You haven’t defined “harm” or “detriment” here, you haven’t defined what you consider to be the benefits, and you haven’t stated how you would compare apples, oranges, and kumquats: moral, economic, pro-social, criminal, libertarian, “happiness factors,” and other considerations. Nor have you said how you would handle the so-called “utilitarian calculus” problem (how to compare x amount of good or bad in population X of size x, to y amount of good or bad in population Y of greatly differing size y, for example).

  31. In order to answer those hard questions you have to ask yourself some very deep worldview questions: “what do I consider to be the basic human condition? What is our end or goal? What is our basic problem and how is it best solved?”

    The reason I’m pursuing this is because I think you’re in exactly the same condition I’m in: to change either of our minds on SSM would require a deep re-ordering of our views of reality. For either of us.

  32. Tom,

    Why would I need a deep re-ordering of my view of reality to accept an argument or study that showed SSM to be detrimental to society? I’m not saying that showing such a thing wouldn’t be difficult, but it could be done within my current worldview.

    Are you saying that for me to accept SSM as harmful, I would have to change my worldview to that of a Christian? I’m not being flippant, here, that’s a serious question.

    And if that is the case, then how can you say that opposition to SSM isn’t religiously motivated?

  33. Please re-read my previous comments, Fleegman. I’ve already answered your questions as far as I want to before you do your own hard thinking.

    But no, I’m not saying you have to become a Christian to accept SSM as harmful. I’m saying you ought to think through the worldview implications of your position, because I think you are wrong to think that the Christians here are the only ones whose SSM views are invested in their worldviews.

  34. @Fleegman:

    Please define “secular reasons”.

    Please refer to a dictionary.

    More intellectual dishonesty from you? What a surprise.

    I consulted two online dictionaries, none had a definition. You connected “secular reasons” with the making of laws, so in your view, whatever secular reasons are, they are the ones that can be used to justify the making of laws. That is *not* the common understanding of “secular reasons”; so once again, please define “secular reasons”.

    Here is my guess why you do not deign to defy “secular reasons”: you cannot give a consistent definition of them and you are not even interested in doing it; they are just a broom to broadly sweep away the Christians off the public square.

    Please refer to my arguments in the comments of the specific posts Tom’s authored on the subject. I’m not here to go over the same ground.

    The post linked to in this post does not contain a single argument. With some lit tle searching (not much time) I have found:

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/worldview/ethics/life-and-choices/2012/04/ssm-reason-and-the-religious-divide-part-1/

    summary: comment #4. Comments mostly against a certain subset of the prudential arguments against SSM marriage. You are “nor impressed” with them

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/worldview/ethics/life-and-choices/2012/04/ssm-reason-and-the-religious-divide-part-2/

    summary: comment #55. “Of everything that has been written so far, this is the only thing that has any potential substance to it, in my opinion.” The reference here is to some data suggesting that man-woman marriages are healthier for children. Once again this is only one argument, a prudential argument, against SSM.

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/worldview/ethics/life-and-choices/2012/05/ssm-reason-and-the-religious-divide-part-3/

    summary: comment #40: starts as “Just want to mention something about your slippery slope argument.”. You do not understand the argument.

    I do not remember a *single* rebuttal of the core classical arguments. Since you think they are weak but at the same time you are not willing to rehash them (totally understandable) can you explain what they are and where they wrong? A link to a discussion is enough.

    Please read what I said. I did not say the conclusion logically follows. I said it made it pretty clear, because I find it hard to believe these weak arguments could be someone’s primary motivation for opposing SSM.

    Read what I said. From *you* finding the arguments offered “unsubstantiated and weak” it does not follow, neither it is evidence, that they are a smokescreen for some hidden agenda. Whether the primary motivation is what ytou sat it is; maybe you are correct, maybe you are not. Just what is the relevance of one’s primary motivations in judging arguments? Unless you are going for an ad hominem.

    “Vicious hatred,” yeah, ok. Whatever you say. And Christianity in particular? What brings you to that completely false conclusion?

    My dear clueless Fleegman, I am just employing *your* exegetical method against you. You say “smokescreen” and “hidden agenda”, I say “vicious hatred”. Potatoe, potato.

    I speak to people in the way I’m spoken to. If you are suggesting that G.Rodrigues is not dismissive in his tone, I would have to disagree.

    Personally, I have no problem with your tone; but I suspect you already know that as that comment was directed at Tom. Am I dismissive of you? Yes. I already have made it clear my intellectual judgment of you.

  35. to change either of our minds on SSM would require a deep re-ordering of our views of reality. For either of us.

    Not necessarily. I used to be opposed to SSM, and I am no longer (within certain parameters). I retain the same Christian worldview – just because I support a particular implementation of a law for pragmatic reasons does not mean I endorse everything that law stands for. As I’ve said elsewhere, just because Jesus permitted divorce does not mean he endorsed it.

  36. G.Rodrigues,

    summary: comment #4. Comments mostly against a certain subset of the prudential arguments against SSM marriage. You are “nor impressed” with them

    I addressed the references provided by Tom which he was using as a backbone for the six points which were the meat and potatoes of that first post. I explained why I found them weak or irrelevant. Do you think they are strong arguments? Can you seriously read the referenced material, and in turn the material referenced contained therein, and conclude that the author has a strong case against SSM?

    If someone argues that SSM is bad because fatherless children don’t do as well in school, there’s no rebuttal to be made because the argument is a complete red herring.

    I consulted two online dictionaries, none had a definition

    Are you being intentionally obtuse? Let’s see what Google has to say:

    Secular:
    Denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis

    Just to help you, the “other things” can be replaced with “reasons to oppose SSM.” And when I connected them to the making of laws, I was referring to the First Amendment – as I’ve already mentioned, and of which you are no doubt fully aware.

  37. @Fleegman:

    I addressed the references provided by Tom which he was using as a backbone for the six points which were the meat and potatoes of that first post.

    So at best and being charitable, you have addressed a couple of prudential arguments advanced by Tom, *not* the philosophical ones. I rest my case.

    Are you being intentionally obtuse? Let’s see what Google has to say:

    Secular:
    Denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis

    Just to help you, the “other things” can be replaced with “reasons to oppose SSM.” And when I connected them to the making of laws, I was referring to the First Amendment – as I’ve already mentioned, and of which you are no doubt fully aware.

    So “secular reasons” are those that have no “religious basis”, that is, “secular reasons” are the complement of the set of “religious reasons”. And I am even afraid to ask what is meant by “spiritual”. And I am the one being deliberately obtuse?

    Since you are mentally challenged, let me try and help you. Let us roll with your circular and uninformative definition. Then you have provided an ostensive definition; you have singled out “religious reasons” and deemed them unacceptable *because* they are religious. But this is special pleading. By your circular definition of secular reasons, anti-religious-spiritual reasons (whatever those are) trivially have no religious or spiritual basis; but if religions reasons are not acceptable, anti-religious-spiritual ones are neither. You have to explain what is special about “religious reasons” that makes them unacceptable. And you have to present a non-question begging criterion that does not exclude political, scientific, philosophical, moral, ethical, etc. reasons.

    Since you are mentally challenged, let me help you a little more. Suppose you are presented with an argument like the following:

    1. The Bible tells X is morally wrong (proof: read the Bible).

    2. The Bible is the word of God (premise).

    3. God cannot lie (almost “by definition”).

    4. X is morally wrong (from 1-3).

    5. The law should prohibit, or at the very least disincentive, what is morally wrong (premise).

    6. The law should prohibit, or at the very least disincentive X (from 4 and 5).

    The argument is logically valid. You will dismiss it, not because it is “religious” but because you reject premise 2 (and possibly also 5). Now you can say that you reject religious reasons and deem them unacceptable, because they rest on premises you reject as wrong. But of course this is wrong too, as many laws were passed by judicial fiat (Roe vs. Wade, the judicial murder of Terri Schiavo, etc.) for reasons considered wrong by a considerable subset of the population. So the fact that you, or you and your party of like-minded fellows, think the premise(s) are wrong cannot serve as a justification for anything. So what are you appealing to?

  38. Tom:

    These guys are neither presenting arguments nor are they acting in good faith.

    I suggest a provocative post: on average, can one even expect this from atheists? It seems to me Fr. Neuhaus’ Aug/Sep article in First Things, “Can Atheists Be Good Citizens?” (http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/11/003-can-atheists-be-good-citizens-5) was spot on correct: no… because they can’t even be consistently good people all across the spectrum of human activities. Of course, neither can we (Romans 3:23)… but at least we recognize it and try. Ultimately, there is no “try” for them… and there is no human nature for them.

    I repeat my mantra: if one intentionally sins against the First Commandment, that sin dehumanizes the sinner, which means human capacities suffer… like reason. I sent you earlier a link to an article by Anthony Esolen, and here’s a terrifying excerpt:

    … the essence of one’s sin is made manifest in the punishment—that the punishment is the sin repeated endlessly and inexorably. And, appropriately so. Thomas Aquinas, in justifying the eternity of hell, notes that mortal sin is an infinite and self-defining act of enmity against the peace of the City of God. Such sinners long for immortality, he says (quoting Gregory the Great), so that they might sin forever—for, even more than they love life, they love the sin to which they have given their lives.

    The irony is they rail against God for “putting” sinners in Hell and “torturing” them… when these guys have already gotten there on their own, and refuse to leave: the door is closed from the inside.

  39. Tom,

    As in loaded, do you mean coming from liberal sources? That doesn’t necessarily invalidate their arguments. If you spend some time reading the opposition on Regnerus’ study, I don’t think you’d have quite as much confidence in his results.

    For me, if I were to be persuaded that SSM or SSM parenting is detrimental…well…then I’d be persuaded that SSM and SSM parent are detrimental. That’s the beauty of freethought. We can follow the evidence and logic wherever they lead. However, for a Christian to admit the validity of SSM would be tantamount to chucking the doctrine of inerrancy and admitting the Bible is wrong. The book they’ve venerated since adolescence as God’s infallible Word isn’t infallible. How agonizing a thought is that? If there’s one error, what other errors might we find? Why should we trust this book? Does Yahweh even exist?

  40. I don’t just mean coming from liberal sources: I mean taking a decidedly antagonistic and needlessly slanted view toward the study.

    Do you even know how to evaluate a study in the social sciences?

    “The beauty of freethought:” what a phrase. It’s the “beauty” of being able to live your life on an empirical, materialistic plane; to miss most of what’s true of life as a result.

    I haven’t venerated the Bible since adolescence (but hey, you’re free to bring whatever assumptions into this debate that you want—that’s another beauty of freethought, right?). I have taken it as God’s trustworthy revelation it since I first became convinced by good evidence that it was worthy of being regarded that way. I haven’t found any good reason to think otherwise. I haven’t found it especially in the SSM debate, because frankly the arguments in favor of SSM are too weak to bother with.

    As for SSM parenting being detrimental, the fact is that we have no reliable empirical information on that specific question at this time. Therefore what the SSM advocates are proposing, in effect, is that we run the experiment, in gross, culpable violation of all scientific ethics. But wait: we have a lot of information on the advantages to children in being raised by their two biological parents. So what do you do with that?

  41. http://www.advocate.com/politics/marriage-equality/2012/10/30/parenting-study-author-regnerus-admits-faults-data

    Here’s a non-antagonistic view of the study. It’s hard not to let emotion seep through on this topic. And the one from the New Yorker wasn’t that bad. Can you provide an example from the previous links of needless slant?

    “I haven’t venerated the Bible since adolescence (but hey, you’re free to bring whatever assumptions into this debate that you want—that’s another beauty of freethought, right?). I have taken it as God’s trustworthy revelation it since I first became convinced by good evidence that it was worthy of being regarded that way. I haven’t found any good reason to think otherwise. I haven’t found it especially in the SSM debate, because frankly the arguments in favor of SSM are too weak to bother with.”

    Right. But if you were to be persuaded that homosexuality or SSM/parenting are okay then that would require you to reevaluate your belief that the Bible is God’s trustworthy revelation. This is probably one of your core convictions. Without that conviction, in the eyes of many conservatives, Christianity comes tumbling down. For me, or secular society to be persuaded that SSM is detrimental, that would just have to be something we would have to begrudgingly accept. But it wouldn’t be worldview shattering. That would just be the nature of reality.

    So do you think in principle a ethically valid study on SSM can’t be done? Isn’t that convenient. Anyway, I found the last paragraph from the eurakalert link interesting:

    In a final comment on Regnerus’ research, Pennsylvania State University, sociologist and professor Paul Amato points out, “If growing up with gay and lesbian parents were catastrophic for children, even studies based on small convenience samples would have shown this by now […] If differences exist between children with gay/lesbian and heterosexual parents, they are likely to be small or moderate in magnitude—perhaps comparable to those revealed in the research literature on children and divorce.”

  42. @Bryan:

    The book they’ve venerated since adolescence as God’s infallible Word isn’t infallible. How agonizing a thought is that? If there’s one error, what other errors might we find? Why should we trust this book? Does Yahweh even exist?

    What is the point of these questions? How agonizing would be for a lifelong atheist to acknowledge that his whole life has been spent in complete waste and living a complete lie?

    Here is one of the most important modern philosophers, Thomas Nagel, in the Last Word:

    In speaking of the fear of religion, I don’t mean to refer to the entirely reasonable hostility toward certain established religions and religious institutions, in virtue of their objectionable moral doctrines, social policies, and political influence. Nor am I referring to the association of many religious beliefs with superstition and the acceptance of evident empirical falsehoods. I am talking about something much deeper–namely, the fear of religion itself. I speak from experience, being strongly subject to this fear myself: I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers.

    I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

    So please, spare us your psychological trash about how devastating it would be for Christians to recognize the falsehood of one of their beliefs. The sword cuts both ways.

  43. “What is the point of these questions? How agonizing would be for a lifelong atheist to acknowledge that his whole life has been spent in complete waste and living a complete lie?”

    What? If strong arguments/evidence demonstrated that SSM/parenting was bad, that wouldn’t entail that secularism or philosophical naturalism was false. At all. The converse, however, would entail that Bible-centric conservative Christianity is false. It’s part of the reason I abandoned Christianity last year.

    That’s why I believe that conservative Christians have a much stronger subconcious motive to not give SSM arguments valid appraisal.

  44. “In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.” – Chesterton

  45. Bryan (@3:20 pm), are you saying that one reason not to accept Christianity is that it gets in the way of giving other arguments a decent appraisal?

    This seems bootless at best. What if your position on SSM hinders you from giving Christianity a decent appraisal? What if your subconscious motivations are affecting your judgment regarding the faith? How would you know that the one error is worse than the other?

    I suppose you will say it’s because Christians have such a huge existential investment in Christianity being true. I admit I do. But I think you and others are confused as to the order of events here. I developed that investment in Christianity as a result of being persuaded of its truth.

    Having thus been persuaded, ought I not regard it as true? Should I regard as unknown that which I have already become convinced is true, on the grounds that thinking it’s true might keep me from a neutral assessment of other propositions’ truth?

    I think that’s what you’re telling us. But no one makes a totally neutral assessment of any existentially loaded proposition, for one thing. For another, if I were now to assess SSM as if Christianity were not true, that wouldn’t be neutral, that would just be mistaken, for (I am quite convinced) Christianity is true.

    And the logic is palpably doomed to failure: for if holding my Christian belief in abeyance enabled me to accept some other proposition P1 as true, I would immediately have to regard that P1’s truth as unknown, lest my commitment to its truth hinder me from accepting some other proposition P2’s truth. But having thus opened the way successfully (at last) to accept P2 as true without taint of Christianity or P1, I must immediately let go of my belief that P2 is true, because of the possibility that P2 would keep me from recognizing P3 as true. And on and on….

    It’s a fool’s game, don’t you see?

    Furthermore, the natural-law arguments against SSM are very strong. If I were not a Christian, I think I would be forced to the same conclusion on SSM that I now hold. Except for this: if I were not a Christian, I would feel more freedom to believe that sexuality is fully malleable, that the sexual act is purely a matter of physical enjoyment, that parenting is not of the essence of marriage but rather the couples’ fulfillment is—a most self-centered view of the relationship.

    Or in other words, if I were not a Christian, I could possibly feel the freedom to make all kinds of obvious moral errors without realizing they’re wrong. I might agree with a prior commenter here, Paul, who said that in slave times and in slave culture, slavery was not wrong. I might agree with him that in Nazi Germany the Holocaust was not wrong. People who lose their moral anchors can believe all kinds of things.

    I might even feel I had the freedom to agree with your own prior expressed opinion that it’s morally acceptable for a man to beget a child expressly for the purpose of marrying that child when she (or he?) became an adult.

    So yes, it’s possible that if I were not a Christian I might not lend much weight to natural-law moral arguments. I might become a moral idiot instead. I’ve seen it happen all too frequently.

  46. Holopupenko: I repeat my mantra: if one intentionally sins against the First Commandment, that sin dehumanizes the sinner, which means human capacities suffer… like reason.

    Whether true or not, citing a mantra like this won’t get you far in a debate. It’s tantamount to shouting “you’re stupid” to your opponent. I don’t see how you can possibly demonstrate this to be the case anyway.

    Bryan: However, for a Christian to admit the validity of SSM would be tantamount to chucking the doctrine of inerrancy and admitting the Bible is wrong.

    For a Christian to conclude that SSM should be *tolerated* says nothing about inerrancy.

    Bryan: If strong arguments/evidence demonstrated that SSM/parenting was bad, that wouldn’t entail that secularism or philosophical naturalism was false. At all. The converse, however, would entail that Bible-centric conservative Christianity is false. It’s part of the reason I abandoned Christianity last year.

    That’s an astonishingly weak reason to abandon Christianity, given the state of research about SSM parenting. I hope you had far better reasons than this one.

  47. I’m not sure if this was directed at bigbird, but this is simply not the case for the vast majority of SSM supporters.

    I think the ‘vast majority’ of SSM supporters simply don’t give the issue very much thought at all and tend to agree with what their peers think. The idea that arguments play a very strong role in how most people make up their minds on these subjects is itself the stuff of fantasy.

    “Opposing Christianity at every turn?” “Supporting SSM because it’s opposed to Christianity?” Please.

    I also said ‘supporting SSM’ for other reasons that have very little to do with arguments. But yes, for some people – particularly the ones who get very animated about this subject – they’ve got an axe to grind against Christianity, or ‘conservative Christianity’ or what have you.

    If there were no Christianity in the US anymore, people like me would still support SSM, although we probably wouldn’t have to since it would simply be a way of life already.

    That would explain why gay marriage has been recognized in all those countries where Christianity never gained much of a foothold, right? I mean, it’s not as if it’s for all practical purposes a very, very modern invention, right?

    C’mon. You know the truth here. It wasn’t that long ago that even secular people regarded same-sex attraction – along with many other things – as a kind of disorder of the sexual appetite.

    Or do you not think Christianity in the US is the primary reason why homosexuality is still considered so terrible?

    I think the reasons there are complicated, and absolutely go far beyond Christianity. Really, to hear you put it, the idea of marriage as being an essentially male and female union was a novelty of Christian belief. Far from it.

  48. The problem with these debates, which I’ve tried to touch on here, is that there are a common, but inane standards that tend to be in play.

    First: ‘Christians need to develop arguments that convince determined pro-SSM advocates that they’re wrong. If they fail to do that, they haven’t made their case intellectually.’ This is strongly implied, even in this comment thread – and it’s inane. It’s like suggesting that a defense attorney hasn’t made a case unless the prosecution themselves are convinced and concede in front of a judge. Or it’s like saying that Perrier doesn’t really taste like regular water unless the CEO of Perrier himself admits it does. No, you can actually make quite a strong argument and still have people ranting that ‘your argument is no good!’.

    Second is the idea that there’s been a change in opinions about gay marriage in the US as a result of very strong arguments on the pro-SSM side, or weak ones on the anti-SSM side. I think all available evidence indicates this is absolute nonsense, and you can see as much in how pro-SSM advocates have primarily conducted themselves. They don’t advance their cause by arguments – they advance them by publicity and PR in general. Sympathetic stories, particularly in fiction and culture in general. Which is one reason why ‘natural law arguments’, despite their historical presence in these arguments, tend to be avoided at all. The whole point is to avoid the very idea that there can be principled arguments against SSM to begin with – even if the tack is taken that such arguments are superficially reasonable but ultimately mistaken, that would be something to obscure, precisely because conceding there were apparently reasonable arguments would itself be harmful to the cause.

    Finally, people keep coming back to the topic of ‘harm’. But the concept of ‘harm’ is itself a loaded question that ultimately swings on back to metaphysical and philosophical reasoning. That ties into why I, and possibly G. Rodrigues, have been asking repeatedly for these ‘secular reasons’. Because really, there may not be any.

    Same-sex attraction was once considered damage itself – not ‘something that can lead to harm’, but itself ‘harm’. Without much reflection, some people – and a good chunk of society – changed their idea of what is and isn’t harm. But that very question of what constitutes harm is central, and talking about ‘secular’ doesn’t solve this problem at all: at best it obscures it by pretending that what people tend to reflexively agree on at the moment is a ‘secular reason’. Hence Bryan’s wild gesturing over the impact it would have on ‘conservative Christianity’ does more to highlight his own ignorance of Christianity than anything else – he seems to think the biblical teaching is ‘Gay marriage is wrong, because your child’s drug use and SAT scores will be worse compared to the national average in a statistically significant way, adjusted for other variables.’ It’s inane.

    Finally, the call for scientific studies are yet more bunk – any given study of this type, if it goes the wrong way, will be denied by parties who dislike it. You see this in this very thread regarding the Regnerus study – it spit out the wrong result, and so was attacked from all angles, often without much merit. Even if those attacks were judged by most people to be ill-placed, then the question would again become one of causation – was ‘gay parenting’ the culprit? How about cultural attitudes? What other factors were at work? And people who wanted, desperately, for gay couples to perform similarly to straight ones would go right back to ‘let’s wait and see’, which is always an available option.

    Really though, the biggest problem with these discussions is the utter delusion that good, solid arguments are the driving force of how people think, such that when a given view is in the majority, it must be because of the overwhelming force of arguments in favor of the majority position – or, if the population’s attitudes shift, it must be as a result of increased learning of The Truth on their part. It’s a nice idea, but really – in most cases, it’s a joke.

  49. bigbird,

    Whether true or not, citing a mantra like this won’t get you far in a debate. It’s tantamount to shouting “you’re stupid” to your opponent.

    In Holo’s defense – and I disagree with him plenty of times – sometimes ‘debate’ is inappropriate anyway. This idea that two people who disagree should always engage in dialogue, exchanging their ideas, only works when there’s common ground, mutual respect and intellectual honesty. With regards to SSM, this is all too often lacking. When it is, the response should not be ‘well, I’ll keep trying to pretend you’re rational, and you can keep being nuts or dishonest’. At that point, you have to talk at, or over, a person – not ‘with’.

  50. bigbird @48:

    I wasn’t speaking to you or anyone else whose mind is damaged by atheism. (Case in point: “I don’t see how you can possibly demonstrate this to be the case anyway.” … as if “demonstration” in the narrow, scientistic way you seem to demand it applies here.) I was speaking specifically to Tom.

    “Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservation.” (unknown)

    “To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” (Thomas Aquinas)

  51. Holopupenko: I wasn’t speaking to you or anyone else whose mind is damaged by atheism. (Case in point: “I don’t see how you can possibly demonstrate this to be the case anyway.” … as if “demonstration” in the narrow, scientistic way you seem to demand it applies here.) I was speaking specifically to Tom.

    You have not been reading very carefully at all if you think I am an atheist.

    And you are implicitly speaking to everyone who reads the blog when you post, and implicitly inviting comment from every reader.

    Making comments on a public Christian blog about “minds damaged by atheism” is probably not the most helpful way of encouraging engagement with atheists.

  52. bigbird:

    You are correct: the word “else” should NOT have been included in my statement. Apologies.

    Regarding the engagement thing, I speak from having become jaded over the years, and I’ve generally concluded that faith is indeed a gift that demands Grace… and all our discussions here are generally for naught (although, no, I don’t claim to see the future or claim to be a prophet). “Fiat” has become a very, very important word to me, with perhaps the greatest lesson taken from the Magnificat of Luke 1:46.

    It is true that atheism damages–severely–minds. So, how does one engage in dialog in such circumstances? Step back and take one look at some of comments from atheists here… and: it’s more than an issue of ignorance. Ahh, if it were only a matter of ignorance… but it’s not: there’s deep intentionality, which brings in a factor of moral culpability.

    Atheists do more to prove Aristotle correct over Plato (who thought, crudely put, “education cures all ills”) than Aristotle himself or subsequent commentators. To become good, one must act good: one does not become “educated” into goodness except in the sense of initially being presented the option of goodness. Do you think it’s any accident that generally speaking atheists support bad things… even at the expense of good things? Consider this post: you’ve got atheist commentators here whose best arguments are “why not” when it comes to SSM? Implied and real damage to H[etero]SM is (no pun intended) immaterial to them.

    How do you respond to such inanity as discounting people’s arguments simply because they’re faith based (which is also the genetic fallacy)? How do you deal with the latent presupposition that rejects natures, which then makes it impossible to show a non-faith-based argument against SSM?

  53. Speaking of harm, Crude…

    “The real need is a change in the attitude which assumes that all cases of paedophilia result in lasting damage.” *

    Further proof that no amount of scientific investigation can support the conclusion that harm (or benefit) occurs until you first have a firm and accurate metaphysical foundation. If you don’t have your head screwed on straight regarding metaphysical reality, those same scientific facts can be used to stoke the fires of hell – as they are doing here. The issue of SSM really isn’t any different.

    If love and consent are all you need, then what’s the harm? Where’s the secular argument. I mean, adults get married without knowing what they are getting themselves into, so why does it matter if the person is a child — and instead of getting married, they are having sex. No big deal right? There is no secular argument.

    (* From here. Scary stuff.)

  54. SteveK,

    If love and consent are all you need, then what’s the harm? Where’s the secular argument.

    And ultimately – though this is far off, perhaps – ‘love and consent’ are just as up in the air for the secular too. What’s the value of love again? Why does consent matter again? These things may be popular, but popularity don’t matter much in this context.

    Right from the article:

    Even now there is no academic consensus on that fundamental question – as Goode found. Some academics do not dispute the view of Tom O’Carroll, a former chairman of PIE and tireless paedophilia advocate with a conviction for distributing indecent photographs of children following a sting operation, that society’s outrage at paedophilic relationships is essentially emotional, irrational, and not justified by science.

    Emotional, sure. Irrational? On what grounds? And ‘not justified by science’? As if science is what tells us what’s immoral and immoral? Science can’t tell you that rape and murder are immoral, or what you should and shouldn’t be angry at.

    But yeah, that’s probably the next frontier.

  55. G.Rodrigues,

    You have to explain what is special about “religious reasons” that makes them unacceptable.

    I don’t think I do, actually. I think you know precisely what is wrong with religious reasons as points of law. Why do you think “have no other gods before the Christian god” is not written into law?

    The argument is logically valid. You will dismiss it, not because it is “religious” but because you reject premise 2

    Well, of course I reject it as unsound. Not sure why you think I would reject 5, though. I would more readily reject 3 given the evidence.

    And as I try to untangle the point you are trying to make, it amuses me that the two cases you give as examples of judicial fiat are both went against the religious “side.”

    That you call it murder is telling. Don’t talk to me about the moral high ground when your so called “objective” morals serve to increase suffering.

    Holo,

    Do you consider the brain of an atheist to be more, or less, damaged than that of a Muslim?

    Crude,

    Just a quick one: do you really think you need God to tell you that rape and murder is wrong? If so, why?

  56. Bryan, I just saw this for the first time.

    You didn’t include the full context, especially this. I call that misrepresentation.

    You called me a fascist. Sure, you put a question mark after it, but that doesn’t soften it as much as you might think.

    And then after that you sent me messages asking to be allowed back on the blog, not informing me what you were doing behind my back.

    This blog is a place that I’ve established for neighborly conversation with neighborly people. Very early on in my blogging experience I was encouraged to remember that there’s no moral imperative for me to include every person in that neighborhood, especially if they’re going to take up an abusive attitude toward me as host.

    Even though you never used a word like “fascist” about me here, you have nevertheless said it to the world on your blog. I expect you’ll have to consider again now whether you’ll repeat that kind of charge, because people who call me names like that are not welcome here. Your commenting opportunities here are closed off for good, unless you can provide me some good reason to think otherwise, including a retraction and an apology.

  57. fleegman @58:

    In an ultimate sense, FAR more damaged. The fact that you substituted “brain” for “mind” speaks volumes about your inability to deal with such issues.

  58. @Fleegman:

    So you do not deign to define secular reasons. I will just follow Tom’s advice and drop the issue, as by now it is abundantly clear that you have no idea what you are talking about and pulling out “secular reasons” is just a cudgel you use to rig the public debate in the public square to suit your self-serving needs.

    And as I try to untangle the point you are trying to make, it amuses me that the two cases you give as examples of judicial fiat are both went against the religious “side.”

    I find it amusing that you find it amusing. I chose them *precisely* because they “went against the religious “side.”” But once again, you missed it all.

    That you call it murder is telling. Don’t talk to me about the moral high ground when your so called “objective” morals serve to increase suffering.

    I was making a logical point about how one argument you could possibly give does not work. That you understood it as me taking the “moral high ground” once again speaks volumes about your utter and complete inability at understanding how dialectics proceeds. Morality and the example of Terry Schiavo were brought in only as illustrations.

    And by the way, that you do *not* think it was murder means one of two things: you do not know what murder is (this would be my guess as you go on to justify it by invoking “suffering”) or you are a moral idiot — which as a moral relativist, and approving of Terry Schiavo’s judicial murder, you are anyway.

    @Tom Gilson:

    I will not withdraw a single insult hurled at Fleegman. He deserves them all and even more. If you feel you should delete them, by all means go ahead; your blog, your rules.

  59. bigbird:

    I’m not necessarily interested in pursuing these, and I grant you wide berth for clarification. Nonetheless, I do believe they’re important enough to highlight.

    @8 you say: “For pragmatic reasons I’m not necessarily opposed to secular SSM. I think the Christian church should be trumpeting something called “Christian marriage” and be a little less concerned about whatever arrangements society chooses to endorse.”

    You carefully qualify what you say with “not necessarily” and “be a little less concerned,” but this begs for clarification—especially given the implications and impacts of SSM upon society. First, as Christians, we’re called to oppose actualized/practiced evils and moral disorders. It is part of the nature of the Christian faith to stand in opposition not only to personal but to social ills as well (read “ills” as “sins”), while at the same time standing up for the sinner as the broken human we all are. (In the interests of full disclosure and clarification, I am quite un-PC and quite wary of “social justice” schemes not firmly rooted in Christian orthodoxy.)

    Second, simply by stating firmly that SSM is disordered against human nature, against human biology, and against God as Creator of natures, we are in direct opposition to the “I don’t see what’s wrong with…” nonsense of the world. That’s what really irks the atheists: that we actually stand up for the good and against the evil. If we were to keep to ourselves (impossible per the Great Commission), they wouldn’t have to face their own fears—including feeling threatened by truth.

    (Digression: That’s also part of why Tom’s blog is so successful: a “performance indicator” that “measures” (heh) its success is not only his approach and the atmosphere Tom tries to maintain here, but it is also evidenced by how threatened atheists are by what is discussed. I don’t mean it’s always a shrill manifestation of their insecurities, but at a deeper level one senses a worry on their part—despite their denials and despite any inchoate means by which they oppose such a characterization. End Digression.)

    Christians must oppose SSM… for among other reasons (while not neglecting its anti-human nature and anti-fecundal character) for the long-term damage it does to society as a whole. (Contextually-related, see: http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=2EF11NNU.) We should openly oppose SSM in a similar manner that Christians oppose slavery, pornography, etc., etc… which means being “a little less concerned about whatever arrangements society chooses to endorse” doesn’t quite cut it. Witness what’s currently happening at Big Red High School in Steubenville, OH: do you think the rape of a high school girl by members of sports teams while others looked on, laughed, video-taped, and posted the actual event just pops out of the thin air? Do you think those ACLU lawyers who “defended” freedom of speech by arguing all these years against restrictions upon pornography are not morally culpable? Try applying your point to pornography, i.e., try arguing honestly that we should be “a little less concerned” about pornography. What about Newtown? As Hollywood pinheads play ultra-violent roles in films, they hypocritically decry several-pound pieces of metal as the cause of carnage. That’s the evil genius of Satan: he uses God’s greatest gift and desire for us—freedom to seek REAL happiness—by turning it into chaos, i.e., freedom with no order and hence no chance of being oriented to the good. Perhaps you meant what you said as a matter of practical emphasis… to which I respond that the long road to Hell is paved with “practical” intentions.

    @ 48 I’m assuming you understand why you’re saying “I don’t see how you can possibly demonstrate this to be the case anyway” is problematic at best, ceding the whole argument (on scientistic terms) to the atheists at worst. My apology to you was for pulling you into “mind-damaging atheism,” not for the point. Again, I grant you wide berth… although I’m left uncomfortable with your statement. Not to be evasive, but this would take us a long time and off the track of this particular post.

  60. Bryan has emailed me with an apology and a retraction. I’m on my way out the door so I can’t post anything further by way of explanation right now, but I’ve reinstated his status to comment here.

  61. Perhaps that apology, to mean something, should appear on his post with the offending and implicating title. He has removed the title, but there is reason to doubt (given the track record) Bryan will admit in his own post that he has apologized… This is speculation, of course, but could it be Bryan values his image in the eyes of fellow atheists more than he does truth? Inquiring minds would like to know…

  62. Just a quick one: do you really think you need God to tell you that rape and murder is wrong? If so, why?

    It’s not a ‘quick one’ at all. In fact, the question isn’t even clear.

    Are you asking me if I need an explicit command from God to personally feel that rape and murder are wrong?

    Are you asking me if I need an explicit command from God to ground the view that rape and murder are wrong objectively, independent of my or others’ judgment?

    I certainly don’t deny someone can subjectively declare rape and murder to be wrong without reference to God. I also don’t deny that someone could subjectively declare these things to be right without reference to God. That’s part of the problem.

  63. You carefully qualify what you say with “not necessarily” and “be a little less concerned,” but this begs for clarification—especially given the implications and impacts of SSM upon society.

    I’ve qualified this statement because my views are not fully formed on this issue.

    Christians must oppose SSM… for among other reasons (while not neglecting its anti-human nature and anti-fecundal character) for the long-term damage it does to society as a whole.

    There are many things that cause long-term damage in our society. However it is not necessarily appropriate or practical for me to attempt to impose my morals on society with regard to all of these things.

    For example, smoking kills many, many people. It is clearly extremely harmful to both individuals and society. Should I be lobbying to make smoking illegal? In my view, that would be counter-productive and a waste of my time.

    Premarital sex is harmful to marriages (according to my interpretation of the research), and is therefore harmful to society. Should I lobby to make that illegal as it is in some Islamic countries?

    Divorce is terribly harmful to our society – I imagine far more so than almost anything else. Should Christians lobby to make divorce illegal? Again, it’s not practical – and even Jesus chose not to do so *within* the church!

    So, it appears that we pick and choose what moral issues we decide are important enough to try to get codified into law.

    Therefore (in my view) Christians do not *necessarily* have to oppose SSM in secular society (on my reading of the Bible, Christians of course cannot permit SSM within the church).

    So then it comes down to what criteria is used to decide what issues are important enough to lobby for their enforcement in law.

    It is clear (to me anyway) that one important criterion (not the only one of course) is whether there is any possibility of lobbying being successful. In the case of divorce, it is clear that it is impractical to ban divorce, as it is for premarital sex.

    Therefore we accept that these things are permissible in society because there is no likelihood of them being made illegal. Instead, we try to minimize their occurrence within the church.

    Now this criterion cannot be the only one used – if it were, then Wilberforce et al would never have bothered to fight against slavery.

    Therefore another criterion (which should overrule the first) is the amount of damage the issue is causing, and to whom.

    Slavery obviously meets this criterion, and so even though at the time of Wilberforce there was little prospect of it being abolished, it was an important issue to pursue.

    Today, an issue like abortion clearly causes an enormous amount of damage to innocent parties, so it seems to me that it is an issue worth pursuing (although given its widespread acceptance in very recent times, it seems that our approach on this issue was severely flawed).

    So we come to SSM. Is there any chance of success in opposing it? Very doubtful. What harm does it cause? To society in general, probably some – although that is hard to quantify. To SSM families including children, probably little, primarily because these families already exist and permitting SSM will not change that.

    There is also the issue of what harm is being done to the church by opposing SSM (in particular, by the church’s seeming obsession with the issue).

    So my (tentative) conclusion is that strident opposition from the church to SSM is counter-productive, and that a different approach is required.

  64. So we come to SSM. Is there any chance of success in opposing it? Very doubtful.

    ‘Opposition to SSM’ was successful for an incredibly long time, so much so that the very idea of approving of it at the legal, societal level was utterly alien until recently.

    So why say success is ‘very doubtful’? Because that’s the way the wind is blowing right now?

    What harm does it cause?

    It IS harm, according to traditional Christian teaching and the noted metaphysical views. Not ‘leads to’, but ‘is itself’. The same question I’ve asked others about harm come into play here.

    There is also the issue of what harm is being done to the church by opposing SSM (in particular, by the church’s seeming obsession with the issue).

    Explain what you mean by ‘obsession’, and how much of it is actual versus PR – and insofar as it’s PR, how much of your complaint could be reduced to ‘the church should conduct itself better’ rather than ‘the church should drop this issue.’?

  65. It IS harm, according to traditional Christian teaching and the noted metaphysical views. Not ‘leads to’, but ‘is itself’.

    This is my point as well. The harm comes from accepting as truth, that which is actually false. You don’t need to do anything other than embrace the lie, and at that point you’ve harmed your soul.

  66. So why say success is ‘very doubtful’? Because that’s the way the wind is blowing right now?

    Yes. The horse has already bolted. Do you think there is any prospect that SSM *won’t* be legalized in the US? Well, actually 9 states already recognize SSM.

    It IS harm, according to traditional Christian teaching and the noted metaphysical views.

    Agreed. So is divorce, pre-marital sex, homosexuality and adultery. How do you feel about lobbying for making these things illegal? Why aren’t you?

    Also, it is dubious (in my view) to say that a same sex couple is suffering greater harm once the state formally recognizes their relationship as marriage.

    Explain what you mean by ‘obsession’, and how much of it is actual versus PR – and insofar as it’s PR, how much of your complaint could be reduced to ‘the church should conduct itself better’ rather than ‘the church should drop this issue.’?

    I don’t know about the US. But as an example from Australia, take the Australian Christian Lobby, the premier Christian lobby group here. An analysis of their recent press releases showed that SSM had five times as many press releases as the next issue, prostitution/human trafficking. The ACL is virtually a single issue lobby group. That does not represent Christianity very well in my view.

    Unfortunately, the peak Christian lobby groups I know of seem to have this focus. Instead of being known as a group lobbying for the sick, the poor and the marginalized, in the eyes of the world Christianity is defined by two things – opposition to SSM and church child abuse.

    Maybe this is largely a PR issue. But in my view, there are far more important issues for the church to be concerned about.

  67. Yes. The horse has already bolted. Do you think there is any prospect that SSM *won’t* be legalized in the US? Well, actually 9 states already recognize SSM.

    I think it can be blocked in some states. I think, potentially, it can be turned back in others. I think it could conceivably be legalized in all 50 states, and then eventually be delegalized in all 50 states.

    The future’s always open. And since when does what Christians should and shouldn’t defend hinge on what they can get away with? Should Christians have given up and succumbed to, say… Stalinism instead of resisting it?

    Agreed. So is divorce, pre-marital sex, homosexuality and adultery. How do you feel about lobbying for making these things illegal? Why aren’t you?

    I oppose no-fault divorce, so I suppose I’m lobbying regarding that.

    You may as well tell me “murders happen every year inevitably, so why make murder illegal?”

    Also, it is dubious (in my view) to say that a same sex couple is suffering greater harm once the state formally recognizes their relationship as marriage.

    They’re not the only ones harmed by it.

    I don’t know about the US. But as an example from Australia, take the Australian Christian Lobby, the premier Christian lobby group here. An analysis of their recent press releases showed that SSM had five times as many press releases as the next issue, prostitution/human trafficking. The ACL is virtually a single issue lobby group.

    Are there really all that many prostitution/human trafficking advocates making the news in Australia?

    Have you analyzed how often LGBT groups issue press releases about Gay Marriage in Australia? Do you make the suggestion that they’re focusing on it way too much and should stop it?

    Instead of being known as a group lobbying for the sick, the poor and the marginalized, in the eyes of the world Christianity is defined by two things – opposition to SSM and church child abuse.

    Because, what – Christians don’t have worldwide relief efforts for the sick, poor and marginalized (that are largely ignored by the popular press)?

    Maybe this is largely a PR issue. But in my view, there are far more important issues for the church to be concerned about.

    Why not be concerned about all of them?

  68. bigbird:

    I’m sorry to say you are quite the accomodationist–even when it concerns ultimate truths about human nature, which appear trumped by your political and PR pragmatism. Sad, really. Have you read about the theologian in Lewis’ The Great Divorce? (Artificially pitting the importance of the impact of homosexuality upon individuals and society against human trafficking… really?) It might spark an examination of conscience…

    Crude @67 and SteveK @68: Brilliant and to the point. Truth… what a concept.

  69. I’m sorry to say you are quite the accomodationist–even when it concerns ultimate truths about human nature, which appear trumped by your political and PR pragmatism.

    I am happy to be in the same company as Jesus when it comes to being accommodationist (Matthew 19:8).

    And unless you support making homosexual activity, divorce and adultery illegal you also are quite the accommodationist about ultimate truths about human nature.

  70. bigbird, you ask,

    Agreed. So is divorce, pre-marital sex, homosexuality and adultery. How do you feel about lobbying for making these things illegal? Why aren’t you?

    Because those horses have bolted. SSM is not a done deal yet. Have you noticed?

    You ask what critera is [sic] to be used to decide what should be enforced in law. Wrong question. The question at hand is whether long, long-existing law should be overturned.

    And why would a lobbying group speak more about a law that’s being debated than one that isn’t? Gee, that’s a tough one….. Oh, I know, it’s because they don’t care about that other issue! Sure. That’s it!! It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that lobby groups don’t have to lobby for laws that aren’t in dispute.

    Sure, human trafficking is a serious issue, but I’m not sure what I can contribute to public opinion or to legislation on it through a blog. Public opinion is already well set against it in my audience of readers. Maybe I’m selling my potential influence short on that point, but let’s take the question back to the lobbying group: do they need to petition anyone now to halt a movement to make human trafficking legal? I thought not. And if not, then there’s no viable parallel between that and SSM. The analogy fails.

    And what on earth would it mean to lobby for the sick and the poor? Are you suggesting we go socialist? Not me, my friend. I don’t think that’s good for the sick or the poor.

    As for “far more issues for the church to be concerned about,” well, duh. There are many, many, many issues toward which the church is devoting a lot more attention than SSM. Don’t be fooled by SSM advocates who want you to think that what we say on public forums is all we are and all we do! Having agreed on that, then, are there far more issues for lobbyists to be concerned about? As lobbyists, no. Not in the U.S., anyway, except for possibly religious freedom and right to life.

  71. As for accommodationism and Matthew 19:8, you’re falling into the fallacy of the-last-ten-years-equals-all-of-human-history-now-and-forever-more-world-without-end-amen.

    SSM has the appearance of momentum, but it is such a young movement it’s way, way, way, way, way, way, way too early to decide it has won forevermore.

    The same is not true of divorce, obviously.

    Your analogy fails here as well.

  72. The future’s always open. And since when does what Christians should and shouldn’t defend hinge on what they can get away with? Should Christians have given up and succumbed to, say… Stalinism instead of resisting it?

    There’s always someone who wants to bring up one of these regimes to try to make a point (usually invalid). It’s the way of the Internet I suppose. Please reread the criteria I posted.

    You may as well tell me “murders happen every year inevitably, so why make murder illegal?”

    Society does consider inevitability when it comes to law-making. That’s part of the reason why prohibition was eventually repealed. Society also considers the harm – that’s why murder remains illegal.

    Have you analyzed how often LGBT groups issue press releases about Gay Marriage in Australia? Do you make the suggestion that they’re focusing on it way too much and should stop it?

    SSM is obviously an extremely important issue for LGBT groups, and I expect them to focus on it.

    I don’t see it as extremely important issue for Christianity – certainly not the most important one. There are many, many other things wrong with the world that we can be far more effective in helping to right.

    Myself, I’d rather we be known for how we are helping the poor, the hungry and the enslaved than to be known for our opposition to SSM.

    Maybe that is primarily a matter of PR – maybe people are unaware of the huge amount of good Christians are doing.

  73. Crude’s question, “Why not be concerned about all of them?” is quite to the point, when one recognizes that “concern” doesn’t have to, and indeed shouldn’t, look the same for every issue. SSM calls for a quite public and political concern precisely because the SSM insurgency has made it so. What? Once Hitler started WWII in Europe, would you have had us mount our defense in Brazil?

  74. “Bryan (@3:20 pm), are you saying that one reason not to accept Christianity is that it gets in the way of giving other arguments a decent appraisal?”

    That isn’t a reason to not accept Christianity. It’s just a natural consequence (possibly not giving counter-Christian arguments fair appraisal), for better or for worse.

    “This seems bootless at best. What if your position on SSM hinders you from giving Christianity a decent appraisal? What if your subconscious motivations are affecting your judgment regarding the faith? How would you know that the one error is worse than the other?”

    I was against same-sex marriage when I was a Christian because of the Bible (and my own personal prejudices), but then I came to find the actual arguments against it unpersuasive. My Christianity always came first. I read, and I prayed on these types of things. And yet I still fell away. I don’t see, given my background, how I can be accused of bias toward SSM.

    “I suppose you will say it’s because Christians have such a huge existential investment in Christianity being true. I admit I do. But I think you and others are confused as to the order of events here. I developed that investment in Christianity as a result of being persuaded of its truth.”

    Fair enough. I have to ask, though: did you come to faith through reason and evidence, or, like me, did you come to believe based on blind faith in the Bible’s propositions (and/or possibly answers for your ignorance regarding the mysteries of existence) and then go searching for more concrete, scientific reasons to believe? It seems like most conversions are overwhelming due to the latter (to young people, primarily). I was “first” converted when I was 12.

    “Having thus been persuaded, ought I not regard it as true? Should I regard as unknown that which I have already become convinced is true, on the grounds that thinking it’s true might keep me from a neutral assessment of other propositions’ truth?”

    No, if you’re persuaded Christianity is true, then you obviously have no choice in accepting its claims. But what happens when we come across arguments, possibly strong arguments, which run counter to our background, deeply held, metaphysical convictions? I’ll tell you what: cognitive dissonance, delusion, rationalization and belief reinforcement. The mind is a factory for all sorts of quackery (see Micheal Shermer, The Believing Brain, etc). Now, I’m not saying this is what is happening to you and others. Who knows, it could even be happening to me. But it is what it is.

    “I think that’s what you’re telling us. But no one makes a totally neutral assessment of any existentially loaded proposition, for one thing.”

    Sure. But how much harder is it to give an existentially loaded proposition a fair hearing when an entire worldview hangs in the balance? My worldview isn’t in danger if something were to persuade me that SSM/parenting is detrimental. There are many inconvenient truths that I accept. What’s one more.

    “Furthermore, the natural-law arguments against SSM are very strong.”

    What is your natural law argument, in it’s strongest form? Most of the natural law arguments I’ve seen commit Hume’s Is-Ought fallacy, in trying to prescribe public policy and ethical behavior based on the descriptive facts of human biology or the historical contingencies of human evolution. They also depend on dubious metaphysical hokum. I found this article pretty informative on natural law arguments, including the commentary: http://marksilk.religionnews.com/2013/01/03/the-natural-law-scam/

    “If I were not a Christian, I would feel more freedom to believe that sexuality is fully malleable, that the sexual act is purely a matter of physical enjoyment, that parenting is not of the essence of marriage but rather the couples’ fulfillment is—a most self-centered view of the relationship.”

    My male friend and his girlfriend–should they have been refused a marriage certificate because they didn’t plan on having children? Were they self centered? There is *only* the self if there are no children. And honestly, part of marriage at least is selfish insofar that it is an efficient way to meet our physical, emotional and sexual needs. Moreover, there isn’t any strong evidence that same sex couples can’t raise children effectively (I don’t accept Regernus’ study–sorry.)

    “So yes, it’s possible that if I were not a Christian I might not lend much weight to natural-law moral arguments.”

    Precisely, so why should I? Why should secular society, beholden to many races, creeds and religions?

  75. Tom, do you care if I post my apology here (partially, or in its entirety), like I originally did before it was auto-deleted? I don’t want to derail your post any further.

  76. Most of the natural law arguments I’ve seen commit Hume’s Is-Ought fallacy, in trying to prescribe public policy and ethical behavior based on the descriptive facts of human biology or the historical contingencies of human evolution. They also depend on dubious metaphysical hokum.

    Great. Let’s see you give an example of one of the supposedly many natural law arguments you’ve encountered. The fact that you’re quoting Hume does not bode well for you here.

    I found this article pretty informative on natural law arguments, including the commentary:

    There’s nothing “informative” there other than the author stating they dislike natural law, and that they think ‘natural law’ arguments have reached conflicting conclusions in the past. The very fact that they think ‘same sex behavior in the animal kingdom’ means ‘Natural Law prescribes a certain amount of homoeroticism’ is enough to show they’re spouting off against something they know nothing about.

    My male friend and his girlfriend–should they have been refused a marriage certificate because they didn’t plan on having children?

    It’s pretty clear that they’re abusing marriage. Whether it’s worth the time to outlaw something that is so easily evaded (they can just lie if they really want) is another question.

    Precisely, so why should I? Why should secular society, beholden to many races, creeds and religions?

    You come from a metaphysical point of view that, until recently and rather conveniently, resulted in a shrugging of shoulders over a parent raising a child for the purpose of eventually marrying that child.

    No, I suppose the short version is, on your metaphysical views you shouldn’t care about anything at all unless you personally like it, or unless you’re threatened or forced.

    Right?

  77. Crude’s question, “Why not be concerned about all of them?” is quite to the point, when one recognizes that “concern” doesn’t have to, and indeed shouldn’t, look the same for every issue.

    That’s a good point and very true. Of course we can be concerned about a great number of issues, and different people can feel called to lobby for different issues.

    There is a point, though, when we simply accept what society has made permissible (in some instances) and no longer spend our energies opposing these laws. We recognize that it is utterly impractical to make adultery illegal, for example, even though in OT times that was part of Jewish law.

    It is true however that we are not yet at the point of universal acceptance and legalization of SSM, and so it is still the right time to be opposing it. I see it as inevitable but no-one knows the future.

    SSM calls for a quite public and political concern precisely because the SSM insurgency has made it so.

    I do wonder if the church is simply inadvertently playing into the hands of LGBT groups – perhaps they have better PR people.

    Unfortunately the church has a lot of baggage that makes it harder for people outside to hear what we are saying.

    You must read Girgis, Anderson, and George. Otherwise you have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m quite serious. It’s that crucial.

    I’m currently digesting their 2010 paper and various reviews of their book, together with their responses.

  78. Crude: It’s pretty clear that they’re abusing marriage.

    Do you really think that if a couple does not plan on having children, they are abusing marriage??

  79. “Great. Let’s see you give an example of one of the supposedly many natural law arguments you’ve encountered. The fact that you’re quoting Hume does not bode well for you here.”

    Just about all of the relevant ones Google let me get my hands on. Feel free to make your own or link me to an article.

    “There’s nothing “informative” there other than the author stating they dislike natural law, and that they think ‘natural law’ arguments have reached conflicting conclusions in the past. The very fact that they think ‘same sex behavior in the animal kingdom’ means ‘Natural Law prescribes a certain amount of homoeroticism’ is enough to show they’re spouting off against something they know nothing about.”

    So, here’s what a Christian slanted view looks like. I’ll let other readers and lurkers come to their own conclusions. Like I said, let’s here your argument.

    “It’s pretty clear that they’re abusing marriage. Whether it’s worth the time to outlaw something that is so easily evaded (they can just lie if they really want) is another question.”

    I don’t know what to say to this. I didn’t think I could get you to oppose male and female childless marriage for the sake of opposing childless same sex marriage.

    “No, I suppose the short version is, on your metaphysical views you shouldn’t care about anything at all unless you personally like it, or unless you’re threatened or forced.”

    So you agree that there isn’t any rational argument that a secular, diverse society should accept in opposing same sex marriage?

  80. Well, it’s coming from the guy who equated opposing same sex marriage with opposing murder.

    See, this is telling: no, I nowhere did that. I’d say you were intentionally being dishonest, but I think it’s more likely you just don’t understand what you read, and may not even understand what the word ‘equate’ means.

    Bigbird said that since they think SSM is inevitable, that Christians should stop opposing it. My reply was that it made as much sense to say that since murders take place every year, that we should stop opposing that as well. There was no ‘equating’ the two going on.

    Is this what you were like when you were a dedicated ‘conservative Christian’? Saying all the things you thought a conservative Christian should say, but never understanding the reasoning behind it all? And now that you’re not a Christian, well, you better keep on saying what you think you should say according to the NEW idea you subscribe to, and skip over all that dull monotonous hokum, like understanding what’s being said and so on?

  81. Just about all of the relevant ones Google let me get my hands on. Feel free to make your own or link me to an article.

    Haha. No.

    You, in your own words, provide these natural law arguments you’ve heard of and refuted. ‘Google scholarship’ is exactly the thing to avoid here.

    So come on. You said you’ve heard them all and they all committed Hume’s is-ought fallacy or were hokum or, etc. Let’s hear them. Let’s hear you describe, accurately and charitably, the views you say are wrong.

    You can do that, can’t you? I mean, it’s not as if you’re just going to google the first thing you find, try to reproduce it, and open yourself up to observation that you don’t understand the first thing about natural law arguments, right?

    So, here’s what a Christian slanted view looks like.

    No, that’s less a slanted view, more an accurate summary.

    I don’t know what to say to this. I didn’t think I could get you to oppose male and female childless marriage for the sake of opposing childless same sex marriage.

    You didn’t ‘get me to’. All kinds of heterosexual marriage are abuses of marriage as well – getting married while having no intention of every having children or raising a family is, yes, another form of abuse of marriage. So would two people getting married while intending and having an utterly platonic relationship.

    I suspect you’re going to bring up infertile couples, and not understand the obvious problem with that very example.

    So you agree that there isn’t any rational argument that a secular, diverse society should accept in opposing same sex marriage?

    No, I didn’t say that. There’s your reading comprehension problems again.

    I said, on your metaphysical views – which allow for some pretty horrible stuff, and which basically amount to “I only have to do what I want to do, unless you threaten me” – that no, no such argument is coming.

    Are you under the impression that ‘secular’ means ‘atheist and materialist’? Or that Natural Law arguments are identical with Christianity?

  82. “Bigbird said that since they think SSM is inevitable, that Christians should stop opposing it. My reply was that it made as much sense to say that since murders take place every year, that we should stop opposing that as well. There was no ‘equating’ the two going on.”

    This sounds suspiciously like a distinction without a difference. Murder and same sex marriage are apples and oranges. If nothing else, it’s a failed analogy.

  83. This sounds suspiciously like a distinction without a difference.

    Sure it does, to someone who utterly does not understand the difference between equating two positions and contrasting/comparing reasoning.

    Murder and same sex marriage are apples and oranges. If nothing else, it’s a failed analogy.

    Only if you completely misunderstand what the analogy was intended to demonstrate.

    I’d ask you to tell me, in your own words, what you thought the point of my example was – but really, you have your work cut out for you with the natural law argument request. On the other hand, I fully expect you to avoid that challenge like the plague.

  84. Crude,

    You are splitting hairs. You do realize that the word ‘equate’, like many words, is ambiguously defined? Only under a particularly wooden definition of the word ‘equate’ can you save yourself. Okay, you certainly didn’t “contrast” opposing same sex marriage with opposing murder. You compared them. We can use that word instead. You look just as ridiculous.

  85. You are splitting hairs. You do realize that the word ‘equate’, like many words, is ambiguously defined?

    What I realize is that you said “Well, it’s coming from the guy who equated opposing same sex marriage with opposing murder.” Very little ambiguity there.

    Okay, you certainly didn’t “contrast” opposing same sex marriage with opposing murder. You compared them. We can use that word instead. You look just as ridiculous.

    Bzzzt. Wrong again.

    I compared the motivations behind failing to oppose both. You, meanwhile, took that as ‘failing to oppose gay marriage is like failing to oppose murder!!!’ Which is one hilarious misconstrual.

    Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for you, in your own words, to accurately describe natural law arguments – say, of the sort Aquinas gives – and then show how they fail. You’re apparently trying to avoid that, hoping I just give a link so you can play Google Scholar with it.

    Why not just admit that you were wrong here, and that really, you don’t know all that much about natural law arguments anyway? I’ll give you a free hint: presupposing mechanistic metaphysics in your attack on the arguments will cripple your move from the start. And if you don’t know the basic differences between the mechanistic view and the broadly Aristotilean view, now’s a good time to admit you just don’t know all that much.

  86. Holo,

    Thank you for your entertaining answer.

    G.Rodrigues,

    I was making a logical point about how one argument you could possibly give does not work.

    Yes, and indeed hinges on what you said here:

    You have to explain what is special about “religious reasons” that makes them unacceptable.

    Because they’re arbitrary.

    But you also demanded that I “[had] to present a non-question begging criterion that does not exclude political, scientific, philosophical, moral, ethical, etc. reasons.”

    If you can’t see why “my specific religion says so” is at odds with the First Amendment, then nothing I say can help you. Again, why do you think “have no other gods before the Christian god” is not written into law Is it not because it has no non-religious footing?

    If purely religious reasons were a basis for establishing law, where could you possibly draw the line?

    That you understood it as me taking the “moral high ground” once again speaks volumes about your utter and complete inability at understanding how dialectics proceeds.

    The comment on morality was an aside, as I’m sure you are aware. That you constantly misrepresent what I say in the most disingenuous way possible continues to show your complete lack of interest in civil discourse.

    But, you know, whatever floats your boat.

  87. @92: Oh, you mean pointing out your ignorance of conflating “mind” with “brain” (@58 and @60)? Or, could it be you’re troubled by promulgating a disorder of the mind (atheism) that has directly killed more people in the 20th century than all faiths combined throughout history? Or, are “mind” and “brain” terms also conveniently “ambiguous” (heh) so that you can spin things to match your self-imposed ignorance? In any event, thank you!

  88. @Fleegman:

    The comment on morality was an aside, as I’m sure you are aware.

    An aside of moral relativist outraged by me allegedly “taking the moral high ground”, and at the same completely failing to address the points.

    That you constantly misrepresent what I say in the most disingenuous way possible continues to show your complete lack of interest in civil discourse.

    “Constantly misrepresent”? “in the most disingenuous way possible”? Whatever lies make you sleep well at night.

  89. If purely religious reasons were a basis for establishing law, where could you possibly draw the line?

    Nobody is offering these kind of reasons. You’re thinking of Islam. Nobody is limiting their argument to “let’s pass a law against same sex marriage because the Bible says…. That would be an example of a purely religious argument.

    What people are doing is offering an array of rationally justified reasons – some are metaphysical / philosophical, some come from natural law theory, some are rooted in social science or biology, etc.

    The fact that you can use the Bible to validate and support these arguments, and ultimately say, “Christianity teaches that same truth”, doesn’t mean these are religious arguments. It does mean Christianity is worth taking seriously.

  90. For those claiming “we can’t make laws based on the Bible” I’d like to know this. What philosophical, moral, intellectual or other basis are you using to support the things (e.g. SSM) you propose? Also, tell us why your basis is better, fairer, or superior in whatever way you can, to one based on the Bible.

  91. Fleegman, you say the problem with religious arguments is that they’re arbitrary. I could hardly dream up a more arbitrary objection than that one.

    It is either that or it is culpably uninformed: uninformed, as evidenced by its apparent ignorance of all that goes into theological and theological/ethical reasoning; culpably so in that you pretend to know it even when you obviously do not.

    And let me directly your attention to this question: suppose the status and proper form of marriage weren’t a legal question, but purely an ontological and/or ethical and/or social one. What would happen then to all your First Amendment objections to religious argumentation, and what would be left of your argument? I think it would be interesting to see how much of a philosophical case you could make, without relying on case law as your cover.

  92. BillT,

    Also, tell us why your basis is better, fairer, or superior in whatever way you can, to one based on the Bible.

    The thing is, I don’t have to tell you, it’s written into the Constitution. Look, I apologise for continuing to beat this long dead horse, but I don’t think I’m making this clear enough.

    I’m not arguing that non-religious reasons are better than religious ones, and since I’m not making that claim, then why do you think I have to back it up?

    The closest I came to that was saying they’re arbitrary, but only after being pushed by G.Rodrigues. And while I certainly think that’s a good reason to favour non-religious over religious laws – and of course Christians would argue that they are not arbitrary – that’s not the point I’m making or have been making.

    Tom,

    What would happen then to all your First Amendment objections to religious argumentation, and what would be left of your argument?

    Considering my argument – in this thread, and the thread we came from – is that Christians need good non-religious reasons to make a case against SSM thanks to the First Amendment, with respect, your question seems somewhat out of place.

    I’m not actually arguing – again, in this thread, and the thread we came from – that secular laws are better than religious laws (although I do of course think that’s true), I’m saying that on their own, they can’t make a case against SSM. If this were not a First Amendment issue then of course I wouldn’t be here pointing this out.

    (P.S. Tom, I originally posted this in the thread on the slogan effect. I hate to increase your workload, but would you mind deleting it, please? By the time I realised, I’d lost the delete window)

  93. I’m saying that on their own, they can’t make a case against SSM.

    *sigh* Who is doing this? Seriously.

  94. Fleegman,

    First of all, it’s not in the Constitution. The 1st Ammendment has nothing to do with what you can use as a basis for law. Second, the Bible is no more arbitrary than what you would use for a basis. And further, given the influence of the Christian worldview on the development of both English and American common law, the Bible actually was the basis for many of our laws.

    And as far as secular reasons to oppose SSM. Tom has posted many right here on this blog and I provided What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense by Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George in post #49 above. Is that not enough for you?

  95. BillT,

    Frist of all it’s not in the Constitution. The 1st Ammendment has nothing to do with what you can use as a basis for law.

    First of all, it is part of the constitution – unless you mistakenly think amendments to the constitution aren’t part of the thing – and laws can’t be established that violate it. So yes, it does prevent the use of religious reasons as a basis for establishing laws.

    And as far as secular reasons to oppose SSM. Tom has posted many right here on this blog and I provided [a link to a book]

    I’m aware of Tom’s non-religious reasons for opposing SSM, but I haven’t read the book you recommended. I have to ask, though, if your non-religious reasons are so convincing, why was prop 8 overturned? Was it because the judge was gay, or was it because those defending it simply didn’t have a case?

  96. Fleegman, that will get you nowhere. It was a complex case. There were numerous identifiable points of misunderstanding in the court’s opinion. To try to sort that out here would be to open up a morass. How about sticking with the actual arguments instead?

  97. The 1st Amendment concerns the establishment of religion. It says nothing about what can be used as the intellectual basis for law nor has it ever been interpreted to do so.

    “Was it because the judge was gay, or was it because those defending it simply didn’t have a case?”

    Neither. A badly applied equal protection decision is my understanding.

    However, your erroneous take on my 1st Amendment comment, your failure to address my other points and the Prop 8 red herring are duly noted.

  98. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2010/12/the_best_argument_against_gay_marriage.html

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2010/12/lose_the_baseball_analogy.html

    http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/what_is_marriage

    Here are three articles I found relevant to the book, What Is Marriage?. The first two are critical of the arguments likely found within it, and the last is a positive review of the book itself and summary. (I prefer articles which allow for reader commentary). Would those of you who’ve read the book agree that the postive link provides an accurate summary of the arguments contained within the book?

  99. Bryan, those 2010 articles preceded the book, and the authors specifically addressed each of their points. I’m on my mobile so it’s hard to read and write much, and I don’t have the book with me so I can’t provide any further detail. Ask me again next week, please.

  100. I have not read the book but have read essays that replicate their arguments. As the 3rd article reproduces a number of paragraphs it’s a reasonable take for such a brief summary. However, this isn’t an argument that can be handled in a 15 second sound bite. The fact that the pro SSM arguments fit so well in 15 second sound bites is certainly to their advantage if not their validity.

  101. The fact that the pro SSM arguments fit so well in 15 second sound bites is certainly to their advantage if not their validity.

    Well, the trick there is that the arguments don’t fit, but the slogans absolutely and representations do. And that’s what I think SSM opponents should focus on (not exclusively of course): how to, in a soundbite or on a bumpersticker or otherwise, sell their position.

    Sadly, that’s necessary.

  102. Tom,

    “Bryan, those 2010 articles preceded the book,…”

    Yeah, I saw that, which is why I only said the arguments are “likely found” in the book, since the arguments were marshaled by the books eventual authors. Anyway, thanks for your link, I’m going to read it.

    BillT,

    “However, this isn’t an argument that can be handled in a 15 second sound bite.”

    Okay. But this is a web blog, and I’m not looking to read, or write, any dissertations. Thing should be kept light, if possible. Hopefully, at least, we can discuss specific arguments critical to the book’s thesis, appropriate for a web blog.

  103. And that’s what I think SSM opponents should focus on (not exclusively of course): how to, in a soundbite or on a bumpersticker or otherwise, sell their position.

    We need some good, witty/comic writers. I’m not one of those, but here’s what I came up with 🙂

    FACT: Sam, Mike & Tim are
    – Your average platonic friends.
    – A legal marriage if they file the papers.

    Stop the Insanity!

    and a similar one…

    What are the LA Galaxy & the LA Lakers?
    – Two well known sports teams
    – A legally married couple if they file the papers

    Get the facts about marriage

  104. Bill et al,
    I think it would be interesting to test the reaction we get from a response like the one above. I just posted it on a news site linked to an article about gay “marriage”.

    If you and others want to join me in the test, please do the same. Come up with your own if you want, but the idea is to communicate in a short, witty manner that (a) marriage is a particular thing and (b) the popular understanding of marriage leads to embarrassing and laughable absurdities.

    Here’s the cleaned up version of what I posted in the comments.

    Sam, Mike & Tim are:
    – Your average platonic friends, AND
    – A legal marriage if they file the papers.

    The LA Galaxy & the LA Lakers are:
    – Two well known sports teams, AND
    – A legally married couple if they file the papers.

    Stop the Insanity! Get the facts about what marriage IS.

  105. Probably not suitable for Tom’s blog – it’s less about discussion and more about action – but this seems like a worthy topic to pursue.

  106. “Sam, Mike & Tim are:
    – Your average platonic friends, AND
    – A legal marriage if they file the papers.”

    I don’t get it. I have female platonic friends. Wouldn’t it be just as silly for me to marry one of them?

    Besides, Christians already have a slogan: “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” 🙂

  107. I’ve read through the 2010 paper on what is marriage, and read some critiques and the authors’ responses. I’ve not read the recently published book yet of course.

    I doubt that this is the place to debate the authors’ views. But my take is that while they do a good job of explaining their views, it is extremely doubtful that any SSM proponent would be swayed by the arguments I’ve read. I certainly didn’t find them very convincing, despite not having anything invested on the side of SSM.

    SteveK, it seems unlikely to me that your slogans would be taken seriously. Pointing out an unlikely slippery slope result of legalizing SSM isn’t very persuasive (in my view).

  108. SteveK, it seems unlikely to me that your slogans would be taken seriously. Pointing out an unlikely slippery slope result of legalizing SSM isn’t very persuasive (in my view).

    I think it’s a good start, and frankly, trying to make a ‘good argument’ with a slogan – even a fair argument – is counterproductive.

    I’ll throw my own attempts in.

    “You love your parents. Do you have to marry them to show it?

    Choose love, and stop the assault on marriage.”

    “You love your pet. Do you have to marry them to show it?

    Marriage is for starting a family. Love is for everyone. Choose love, and stop the assault on marriage.”

    Add in the right graphics to accompany this, and I think it’s flawed, but a good start.

  109. Does anyone know if any states have any language that says that the by signing a marriage license a couple is affirming their intent to stay together for life, to love and care for each for life, and to only engage in sexual relations with each other and only each other for life? Not necessarily those exact words, but just something along those lines.

    If not, I wonder if writing legislation and trying to get it passed in state governments to add something like the above to getting a marriage license (even if people can simply lie about their real intentions) would not be good strategy for marriage advocates. It seems to me another way to make a move on the offensive side of this debate rather than remaining on the defensive side of it.

  110. Expanding on my previous post regarding making it so that in order for a couple to receive a marriage license a couple must affirm that they intend that their union be life long, loving, and sexually exclusive.

    I believe this would:
    1. Put marriage advocates on the offensive and put some so called marriage equality advocates on the defensive.
    2. The so called marriage equality advocates that would welcome this, would be unwittingly an important premise in the argument made my R.Geoge, S. Girgis, and R. Anderson that marriage has these particular norms.
    3. Any so called marriage equality advocates that would balk at this change to the marriage license process reveal their position that they are not really for a lifelong, sexually exclusive, union. Something that I believe would be anathema to the vast majority of people in this country.
    4. It would give marriage advocates a way of fighting to improve marriage in a public way that has nothing to do with same sex relationships.
    5. As a whole, if this language were to be added to the marriage license process in states it could make the idea of marriage less attractive to people who do not really want to be married (which includes anyone wanting to ‘marry’ someone of the same sex). A hypothetical state that both had affirming these things as part of their marriage process, and also had redefined marriage to be gender neutral would likely make their redefined marriage unattractive to many, if not most, same sex couples.
    6. It could open public debate regarding why lifelong commitment and lifelong sexual exclusivity with your spouse are good things. We already know the arguments for why these are good things are based on men and women being sexually complementary and how this tends to lead to children. And, that same sex relations cannot explain these good things.

  111. SteveK, it seems unlikely to me that your slogans would be taken seriously. Pointing out an unlikely slippery slope result of legalizing SSM isn’t very persuasive (in my view).

    Adding to what Crude said, my slogans are not slippery slope arguments. They are factual statements of marriage as it is currently understood by pop culture.

    I’m saying to them, “these things are also a marriage as you have currently defined the term, is this really what you intended?” My hope is that most would answer “no, this is not what we intended” and then think about the issue a little more.

    BTW, I got banned for posting my slogan on the news site. Maybe people thought like you, that I was making a slippery slope statement and got pissed off.

  112. Steve,

    More likely you got banned because you actually did make them “think about the issue a little more”.

    That’s the last thing SSM advocates want.

  113. Bryan,

    I don’t get it. I have female platonic friends. Wouldn’t it be just as silly for me to marry one of them?

    Yes it would be silly. But that’s not my point. My point is that you would meet the definition of a marriage, if you went through with it. There’s a disconnect there.

    On the one hand, it’s nonsensical and silly for you and your female friend to go down to the courthouse and get married. On the other hand, marriage is a valuable social institution. Why would your actions be silly when you (I assume) love her deeply as a friend and would want to keep her as a friend for life?

  114. “Marriage exists because men and women make babies”

    Its too bad that any point regarding procreation gets twisted by the anti-marriage crowd to be saying marriage is only about procreation. I suspect most good, truthful slogans for pro-marriage folk to use have already been poisoned.

  115. I suspect most good, truthful slogans for pro-marriage folk to use have already been poisoned.

    I’d actually like to hear what you guys think of mine. I think it’s novel enough, and could help turn the debate around.

    I’ve said for a while now, a major mistake Christians have made in these debates has been to treat all aspects of a homosexual ‘relationship’ as wrong, or be perceived as saying so. It’s the sexual aspect that is a problem. Subtract the sex, and I question how much of the remainder of the relationship is problematic, even from the most traditionalist Catholic or conservative Christian view.

    If I’m right, the slogan I’m advocating is something even people with SSA could get behind.

  116. I suspect most good, truthful slogans for pro-marriage folk to use have already been poisoned.

    I’d actually like to hear what you guys think of mine. I think it’s novel enough, and could help turn the debate around.

    I’ve said for a while now, a major mistake Christians have made in these debates has been to treat all aspects of a homosexual ‘relationship’ as wrong, or be perceived as saying so. It’s the sexual aspect that is a problem. Subtract the sex, and I question how much of the remainder of the relationship is problematic, even from the most traditionalist Catholic or conservative Christian view.

    If I’m right, the slogan I’m advocating is something even people with SSA could get behind. (Well, to a point, and in principle. The anti-Christian and the activist never will.)

  117. Crude,

    “You love your parents. Do you have to marry them to show it?”

    My reaction: I don’t…but what does this have to do with SS “marriage”?

    “Choose love, and stop the assault on marriage.

    My reaction: Decent, but a bit too vague. I imagine they already think they are choosing love and will be confused and not get your point.

    “You love your pet. Do you have to marry them to show it?

    My reaction: same as the one above.

    “Marriage is for starting a family. Love is for everyone. Choose love, and stop the assault on marriage.”

    My reaction: I like it but my guess is it will immediately get people thinking about those marriages that don’t result in families – which will then cause them to shrug their shoulders and basically miss the point altogether.

  118. SteveK,

    My reaction: I don’t…but what does this have to do with SS “marriage”?

    Because one of the major slogans/arguments regarding gay marriage revolves around the idea that those involved love each other, with the idea being ‘If you two people love each other, they should get married.’ Also, Christian opposition to SSM gets portrayed as being anti-love. So, this is intended as a response to it.

    My reaction: Decent, but a bit too vague. I imagine they already think they are choosing love and will be confused and not get your point.

    I think one problem is that a slogan isn’t necessarily self-contained, but associated with an argument. You know, “Hate is not a family value.” Well, sure, who thinks it is? But the slogan/soundbite brings to mind the whole idea that people ‘love each other’ and SSM opponents are anti-love, or pro-hate, etc.

    Also, those weren’t 4 slogans, but 2 slogans with 2 parts. Pardon me, I should have made that clearer.

    My reaction: I like it but my guess is it will immediately get people thinking about those marriages that don’t result in families – which will then cause them to shrug their shoulders and basically miss the point altogether.

    Actually, I think that’s a feature, not a bug. Part of the criticism of opponents to SSM is that we seem to focus on only this one specific abuse of marriage, but not the heterosexual ones. Well, then let’s owe up to that, and broaden our focus.

    Meanwhile, from a Christian perspective, the ‘love’ between two people of the same sex isn’t really the issue. It’s the sex and the desires for sex. Strip those out, and there’s actually little that’s a straightforward problem. So let’s tighten our focus.

    I say ‘our’ realizing that some people may disagree with me. But what I’m doing here is trying to improve on the anti-SSM message, both at the slogan level and the level of the argument and focus.

    With this, we’d position ourselves to be pro-love, pro-marriage, and not anti-gay or anti-love.

  119. Crude

    I think your slogans go a long ways towards making a distinction between being married and being in a loving relationship. There is a common argument that by only recognizing natural marriage, society is preventing people of the same sex from forming loving, committed relationship. This argument is clearly fallacious; however, I get the impression many are still persuaded by it.

    ‘Two men who care about each other is not a marriage, it is something else’

    ‘Some men play xbox games together, others romance each other. Neither makes for a marriage’

    ‘Some men play xbox games together, others romance each other*. Whats the difference?’

    ‘Marriage Equality says these are the same thing: Two men who exclusively play xbox games together and a man and woman who are monogamous’

    ‘Marriage is for a man and a woman, we can have something else for everyone else’

  120. DR84,

    I think your slogans go a long ways towards making a distinction between being married and being in a loving relationship.

    I’m glad you see what I’m going for here.

    I think what I’m talking about is more than a slogan. It’s a change in attitude and approach to this question, and I’m not so naive as to think it wouldn’t be bumpy to transition to this. But I also think it’s the most reasonable position – and the most effective one.

    ‘Some men play xbox games together, others romance each other*. Whats the difference?’

    Going along these lines is good. I’d probably switch out Xbox for something else, but still.

    I’d also add, along with these slogans – the goal should be to expressly reach out to people with same-sex attraction. The Christian position needs to be clarified, and one thing that would go a long way towards clarifying it would be that kind of attempt. This is where I want to make clear, ‘person with same-sex attraction’ is absolutely not the same as ‘LGBT group / activist’.

  121. Crude, I’ll read your reply and respond later hopefully, but I wanted to post my thoughts about slogans and where to put the focus.
    ……..

    Any slogan we come up with – assuming it’s a good idea to go this route in the first place – should address the points made by the authors of the book Tom linked to above. The debate is over the two options (a) defining marriage the way society chooses, or (b) defining it in a way that reflects what marriage is.

    Pop culture currently thinks (a) = (b) no matter what, and the only way to show them that this is false is to give them examples of (a) that rub them the wrong way and then challenge them to correct their thinking.

    So, current society says a marriage is a consensual union between people with an intense, loving, emotional bond. Okay…

    Then one example of a marriage would be Bryan and his female friend, after they consented to go to the courthouse for whatever reason they choose.

    In other words a marriage is platonic friends agreeing to file marriage papers – because they can. My hope is that most people will say to themselves, “That’s not a marriage. There must be more to it than consenting people who love and care for each other.”

  122. Crude

    Im right with you on distinguishing between SSA and one identifying themselves as LGBTPQXYZABC123. When we make that distinction, and say that we are simply opposed to same sex physical intimacy but not same sex love. The other side typically makes the argument that because LGBTPQXYZABC 123 is ‘who they are’ by being against what they do you are against who they are; and accordingly, hate them. Its another fallacious argument that persuades many people.

    ‘Whether a man romances a man or a woman, his body only fully functions with a woman’

    ‘Gay or straight, all men have bodies that fit with a woman and not another man’

    ‘One’s body is part of who they are. Gay or straight, men and women have bodies that work together’

  123. I think one key thing to strike on with these kinds of thoughts is that, like it or not, it’s better to be for something than against something.

    Look at the pro-life side. They’ve actually had success, despite the shifting culture. And I think that’s partly because they made themselves to be out pro-life and not anti-abortion. (Notice, by the way, that that’s something that changes whenever the anti-pro-life side speaks. Pro-life becomes anti-choice or anti-abortion, immediately. There’s a reason for that.)

    Instead of being against gay marriage, be pro-marriage. Not ‘pro traditional marriage’ but ‘pro-marriage’, period, in how we define ourselves.

    I think the most controversial part of what I’m suggesting here is that our slogans and approach offer approval, even celebration, of say.. a certain kind of same-sex love. That’s the tricky part to explain, the idea that the love is not the problem, but the sex is. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if some people who otherwise agree with me here will disagree with that part, or at least require me to explain and defend the position.

  124. Heck, these thoughts are endless. Here’s another…

    In life, there are many different kinds of loving, caring relationships.

    – Siblings
    – Teammates
    – Friends
    – Lovers

    Not all loving, caring relationships are marriages. (or “Not all of them are marriages.”)

    Marriage: it’s a specific kind of loving, caring relationship

  125. BillT,

    Neither. A badly applied equal protection decision is my understanding.

    Your understanding is flawed. It was actually a rather simple ruling, but your interpretation clearly betrays your biases.

    However, your erroneous take on my 1st Amendment comment, your failure to address my other points and the Prop 8 red herring are duly noted.

    Was it the part about it being part of the constitution – it is – or the bit about not using religion as the basis for establishing law? Do you really contend that the First Amendment has nothing to say on the matter? And if it doesn’t, why aren’t you simply arguing that SSM should be opposed because that’s how you believe Jesus defined it? That’s a serious question. If you’re saying “that’s not what we’re saying” then explain why that’s not what you’re not saying. If Jesus is saying that, why isn’t it enough? Why do you need to justify it? Are you saying on its own it’s not good enough?

    Oh, and the slogans that have been proposed here? Please do what what you can to get them out there.

  126. Fleegman, you’ve been holding out on us. I had no idea the answer was in such easy reach:

    Your understanding is flawed. It was actually a rather simple ruling, but your interpretation clearly betrays your biases

    It’s solved! That’s all there is to it. Why didn’t you explain it so clearly a long time ago? Think of all the heartache you could have saved us, trying to work through the intricacies court’s decision, when it turns out there weren’t any! Think of how quickly and simply you could have relieved us of trying to see whether the ruling impinged on religious liberty or misinterpreted our side of the case. If you had just clarified it for us this way earlier, we could have been so much more at ease about it all!

    And now I have to ask myself, “self, why didn’t you see it earlier?” But even there, you’ve supplied the answer. What it took (and thank God or whatever for this!) was someone with no biases whatsoever to get it right.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Would you like to write a guest post for me to spread the word even more broadly? All you would need to say would be those two simple sentences. The floor is yours for the asking. I yield to your superior wisdom and unparalleled objectivity.

  127. Oh, and the slogans that have been proposed here? Please do what what you can to get them out there.

    I intend to. It may be the first step to make people with same-sex attraction start to, en masse, question their commitment to LGBT groups who, quite frankly, are abusing and harming them in significant part. And it certainly helps explain the anti-SSM side better.

  128. Fleegman,

    Your take on my 1st Amendment comment is still erroneous as is your non-expanation of the CA Supreme Court decision. Your posting more red herrings doesn’t suffice to cover up your first one. Oh, and your “serious question” isn’t.

  129. I think one key thing to strike on with these kinds of thoughts is that, like it or not, it’s better to be for something than against something.

    Yes, pushing a positive case is more likely to garner support.

    I also think it is a mistake to major on what could be the ultimate logical consequences of SSM, such as polygamy being recognized as marriage. The law does not evolve logically, but by majority support, and most people realize it.

    I don’t think Girgis, Anderson, and George help much here. I don’t see how their essay would convince anyone on the pro-SSM side, and the arguments that they present are too convoluted to ever make sense as a slogan.

    Maybe appeal to tradition is the best approach.

  130. I don’t see how their essay would convince anyone on the pro-SSM side, and the arguments that they present are too convoluted to ever make sense as a slogan.

    Heh. Slogans are barely about making sense in a complicated way. They’re about emotion, allusion to broader and greater ideas, etc. The arguments hardly matter.

    That’s why pro-life/anti-choice carries so much weight. They mostly have the same intellectual referent, but the difference in the words is powerful. Swap those words and you change the whole tone/perception of an article.

    Likewise, ‘Hate is not a family value’ is nonsense. It refers to no argument – if you actually spelled it out intellectually, it would fall apart immediately upon inspection. But man, it’s easy to remember and it strikes an emotional chord.

    ‘Appeals to tradition’ will sink. Appeals to purpose and vision have a far better chance. And that, at the end of the day, is what’s important. People need to communicate a vision, not just arguments. The sea change on gay marriage was not accomplished with anything at all like rigorous argumentation – that was expressly avoided like the plague.

  131. Here is part of my response to the summary of the book What Is Marriage?, found here: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/11/7215/

    “The revisionist view, on the other hand, treats marriage as a malleable union of any two partners; here marriage is simply “a loving emotional bond, one distinguished by its intensity.”

    Actually, I see the “revised” definition of marriage as follows: “marriage is a bond charged with the emotions of intense romantic love and sexual desire between two people, which usually, but not always, involves sexual intimacy and typically, but not always, results in procreation or the raising of children.” I find this to be a more encompassing and precise definition.

    “Take Oscar and Alfred as an example. They have lived together for some time, trust and love each other deeply, spend their time and affection especially with each other, and cannot imagine what life would be absent the other. But, are they married? Marriage may be an emotional bond of particular intensity, but of what sorts?

    We tend to think that Oscar and Alfred are sexually involved, but need they be to meet the revisionist definition? What if they are bachelor brothers who’ve spent their lives together—are they married, and would it be unjust to deny them the status and benefits of married spouses?”

    The answer to this simple: No, they’re not married, or should they marry (nor would they want to marry, given the nature of their relationship). The nature of love between brothers and friends is different from the love between romantic partners. This should be obvious to anyone. Moreover, to legalize incestual marriage is to essentially legalize incest. And since the vast majority of incestual marriages would between males and females, the amount of genetically defective children produced would be detrimental to society.

    “If not, why not? And what if Herman joins them? Whatever basis Oscar and Alfred had for their emotional bond, sexual or otherwise, is in principle open to the addition of Herman as well. Is this marriage?”

    I’m not sure what they mean by this. Are they talking about some type of “triad” marriage (whatever that entails)? Or are one of the three married to both of them ala traditional polygamy?

    “…what rational basis limits marriage to exclusive monogamy while not including polyamory, close friends, or any sort of arrangement?”

    Close friends are excluded due to the nature of their love. They wouldn’t even want to marry. I see polyamory as an open question. Whatever the pros and cons of polyamory (King Solomon, filled with the wisdom of God, seemed to approve), SSM must be judged on its own merits.

    “According to the conjugal view, on the other hand, marriage is more than a formless emotional bond; it is a basic human good, a way of being well with an objective and rational basis. Marriage cannot be redefined without deeply misconstruing (and thus missing out on) this good and the flourishing it partially constitutes.”

    Under my revisionist definition, marriage isn’t a formless emotional bond. And I don’t see how SSM can’t be everything described here (couched in flowing rhetoric).

    “The authors propose an analogy with friendship: “Suppose someone thought that friendship was mainly about people using each other, with occasional good will and cooperation just an optional spice.” Would this view offer a new form of friendship? Or would we conclude that someone with this opinion has not only failed to understand what friendship is, but is also not a friend? Concluding that most of us would take the latter stance, the authors suggest that this person “would not just be mistaken about the meaning of a word,” but would be mistaken about “a basic human good, one of the core ways of being well.”

    Sure, but this begs the question as to whether marriage is being misconstrued.

    To be continued…

  132. @Bryan
    King Solomon’s many wives and concubines, despite his wisdom, were his downfall – it actually says that in 1 Kings. While polygamy was practised in OT times, the examples that we are presented with never portray it in a positive light. It was tolerated, but never encouraged – God’s design ideal was expressed in Genesis 1 – one man + one woman; the first time we come across a polygamous situation is Lamech, in Genesis 4:19-24, from the line of Cain, a murderer who was banished from God’s presence – not exactly a glowing recommendation. Despite your claim to be an ex-Christian, you clearly don’t seem to understand how to read God’s Word.

  133. @Victory:

    Despite your claim to be an ex-Christian, you clearly don’t seem to understand how to read God’s Word.

    It is not like Jesus Christ himself did not address this issue… He said (quoting from memory) that “this was not the case from the beginning”, but because of the “wickedness and hardness of heart” of the Israelites, Moses had granted them the ability to issue a certificate of divorce. He spoke about divorce, but obviously enough the issue extends to polygamy as Jesus explicitly mentions one wife and one wife only.

    Sheesh; this is Christianity 101.

  134. Victoria,

    the first time we come across a polygamous situation is Lamech, in Genesis 4:19-24, from the line of Cain, a murderer who was banished from God’s presence

    I don’t see the connection. He was a descendent of Cain, but what difference does that make? If your grandfather had been a murderer does that make you any more likely to be one? And I can’t see what any of that has to do with him having two wives. Whether you believe he killed in self-defense or not, and whether you think him bad because he wanted vengence, it has absolutely no connection to him having two wives. At least, not from reading the text.

    The Bible says he had two wives. It doesn’t say “…which upset the Lord mightily,” or anything to suggest this displeased God.

    And Solomon married foreign women (who turned him against God), rather than the problem being that he married more than one of them. Again, unless you can point me to where the Bible states that God was unhappy with Solomon because he had many wives, rather than that he was burning sacrifices to other gods.

    I’m sure you can interpret it as being anti-polygamy, but that’s the beauty of the Bible.

  135. @Fleegman,

    An argument from silence? Not pulling punches are you?

    We are told in Genesis that “…a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh…” Apparently that isn’t clear enough but that the Holy Spirit needed to push Moses to spell it out more clearly for those unable to discern the meaning.

    Your comment @148 brought to mind the scene in Monty Python and Holy Grail regarding the deploying of the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch:

    “… then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out.”

    Or even The Madness of King George where the King reprimands his physician for the effects of the laxative that was prescribed to him. Seems the King thought that if a little is beneficial then more is better.

    By this standard, we can blame the manufacturer for instructing us to put 5 quarts of oil in the engine since they didn’t include instructions to not put in less than 5 or more than 5. Or the cookbook author when the recipe comes out wrong because they said to use 3 cups of water and we decided that 4 would be better.

    You’re being purposefully obtuse.

  136. @Fleegman
    Nothing is written in the Bible just for the heck of it. The fact that we find polygamy first mentioned in the line of Cain’s descendants is significant.
    Polygamy represents fallen humankind’s distortion of God’s original design ideal for human male+female marriage relationships.

    Sure, Solomon married foreign wives, despite God’s instructions to kings to not take many wives (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). Had he not taken so many foreign wives, he might not have fallen into idolatry. But to take away from Solomon’s story that polygamy was somehow OK because Solomon did it will get you a failing grade in the Holy Spirit’s Bible 101 class.

    And, Solomon is not the only example we could name; what about King David, his father? Polygamous marriage certainly didn’t do him any good, culminating in stealing his friend’s wife and having his friend killed. David’s story is one of God’s grace in the face of human sin and repentance; Solomon’s story is one of what NOT to do. If you trace the thread of marriage throughout the Bible, you will always find that polygamous marriage is negatively portrayed. The law of Moses did not encourage it, but it did regulate the practice. God did make some concessions to the hardness of the human heart, yes (as Jesus explains in the Gospels).

    However, what SSM advocates who want to use the Bible to support their position seem to overlook, is that NOWHERE in the Bible do we see God making concessions to sexual immorality (as in, OK you can do this, but…), least of all same sex intimate physical acts – there is uniform opposition to it in both the Old and New Testaments. As my brother G. Rodrigues said so perfectly, this is Christianity 101.

  137. @Fleegman
    There is more to reading the Bible than just isolated passages. You have to read them in context (the immediate as well as the global) before drawing conclusions. It also helps to know something about the historical/cultural contexts of the authors and original readers.
    You unbelievers read the Bible in the most woodenly literal fashion possible, not using any sound methodology of reading, especially a methodology that takes into account the dual nature of the Bible (divine and human co-authored), and you seem surprised that mature, Biblically literate, Spirit-filled Christians disagree with you.

  138. Victoria,

    Once again, I’m only arguing that I don’t think:

    A) Solomon’s downfall was due to the fact that he had multiple wives, but that they were foreign.
    B) Being a descendent of Cain has any relevance to the fact that he had two wives.

    Can a case be made that polygamy is treated in a bad light in the Bible? Yes, one can make that case. I don’t, however, think one can draw that conclusion from the two examples you gave. I mentioned it only because I thought your “you call yourself an ex-Christian and you don’t even know your Bible” shot at Ray was uncalled for given that the examples you provided didn’t make your point.

    On another note, didn’t Aquinas and Augustine both believe that the Bible didn’t forbid polygamy? As in, they didn’t believe it was sinful. Would they have failed Bible Studies 101?

  139. There are many instances of polygamy in the Bible. There are none in which it came out well.

    Tell me, Fleegman, what is the principle upon you base your belief that God was required to explain his entire moral law all at once, entire and whole, to bronze-age men and women? By what principle do you conclude that if God did not do that, then God is not credible? By what principle do you hold that God was restricted from unveiling something in, say, the life of Christ, that he had not previously revealed?

    If you can elucidate those principles we can work with them. Otherwise all we have is your assumption that God if God was unhappy about Lamech having two wives, then God had to say so right then and there!

  140. Tom,

    If you can elucidate those principles we can work with them. Otherwise all we have is your assumption that God if God was unhappy about Lamech having two wives, then God had to say so right then and there!

    My point is that he doesn’t say one way or the other, so you can’t draw any conclusions about God’s attitude towards polygamy from that reference.

  141. @Fleegman
    My you are slow today 🙂 Of course the law of Moses did not forbid polygamy, and we never said it did. It discouraged it, and the Law of Moses regulated the practice to mitigate the problems that it could cause. When you follow the thread (and why do I have to do all of your heavy lifting for you? Why don’t you actually do it for yourself? Oh, but I forgot – you are not here to learn, just to criticize) of God’s design ideals, you will find that polygamy, divorce and all forms of sexual immorality are sinful mankind’s rejection of those ideals. The difference is that in the case of divorce and polygamy, concessions were made because of the hardness of the human heart – NO CONCESSIONS are made for outright human depravity that leads to sexual immorality of any kind. Whatever conclusions one wants to draw about allowed (or tolerated) marriage practices in the Israel of the Ancient Near East, one CANNOT use them to justify something that is clearly forbidden and clearly sinful by God’s standards.

  142. @Fleegman
    There you go again, isolating passages apart from the global context of Scripture. Lamech is the first recorded instance of polygamy, the beginning of that particular thread of human sinfulness and rejection of God’s ideals.

  143. Bryan, the problem with your definition of marriage is that it is subject to too many qualifications, too many exceptions, and too much ad hoc reasoning. “Usually but not always” is one of those qualifications.

    Can marriage be marriage without “romantic love”? It happens all the time, all over the world, and even in mature marriages in the U.S., depending on how you define romantic love. So there’s one complete failure in your definition.

    Besides that, it’s an idiosyncratic definition. It’s your own. Maybe you can find a lot of people who share it, but you won’t find anyone making a philosophically tenable case for it, and neither will you find it being referred to as the principled definition of marriage that’s being sought by SSM proponents. (You’ll see more on this in a blog post I’m preparing to publish later this afternoon.)

    So in other words, your definition would be irrelevant even if it weren’t failed to begin with. I don’t mean to be harsh, but that’s the way it is.

    Marriage can be marriage if sexual attraction fades away. It used to happen all the time before Viagra.

    Your answer concerning Oscar and Alfred is essentially, “No, their relationship is different and they shouldn’t marry.” You never explained why that was the case on any principled level. Perhaps you think you did, based on your definition of marriage, but that definition is of no value here, so you have nothing to work with.

    You say “close friends … wouldn’t want to marry.” Wow. I’m impressed with your knowledge of every close friendship in the world! Some of us were wondering what would happen if close friends actually did want to marry, and now we find out from you they never will!

    But if they said, “we want to become legally recognized as married,” by what principle would you allow or prohibit that happening?

    I think it’s fascinating how you commented,

    And I don’t see how SSM can’t be everything described here (couched in flowing rhetoric.

    … and you excluded much of what was described there! SSM can’t be the founding of a family in the same way conjugal marriage can. It can’t be the union of two persons in the same way conjugal marriage can. I don’t know why you chose to obscure those obvious facts!

    You say that the question about friendship begs some question. Which one and in what way?

  144. Adding to what Victoria said, Fleegman, concerning this:

    My point is that he doesn’t say one way or the other, so you can’t draw any conclusions about God’s attitude towards polygamy from that reference.

    I would also say this: So what? What difference does that make? And what’s your point, in view of the fact that you’ve just offered us an irrelevant answer?

  145. Tom,

    Why do you ask?

    Because every reference I can find that mentions Aquinus and Augustine with reference to their views on polygamy says the opposite.

  146. Polygamy, divorce, immorality (both heterosexual and homosexual), etc are all symptoms of our sinful human nature and our rebellion against God’s standards and ideals. In fact, in Malachi, God clearly says that He hates divorce. Yes they are all failures to miss the mark of God’s standards (and that is the definition of sin in its most basic form). They can all be forgiven by the grace and mercy of God, through His Son, our LORD Jesus Christ.
    However, just because we are now under grace, we are still not free to practice any sin we want (Paul makes this very clear in Romans).

    The concessions God made to the first two are clearly presented in the Bible;
    show us where God made concessions to allow the practices of sexual immorality. There are none. My point is that OT marriage practices provide absolutely no support for same sex marriage as just another alternative, since homosexual/lesbian relationships are clearly forbidden in both the Old and New Testaments.

    What we should do about SSM in a 21st century pluralistic secular society is another question. My point here is that trying to justify it by misreading and misapplying the Bible is not going to work.

  147. Well, we’ve taken a bit of a tangent into polygamy, haven’t we? So I think it’s relevant that two rather large heavyweights whose opinion on the sinfulness of polygamy is contrary to that of the Biblical heavyweights that frequent this site at the very least brings into question how certain one can ever be of what one thinks one knows about what the bible teaches.

  148. Victoria,

    I’m certainly not trying to justify SSM using the Bible. I don’t know where you got that idea.

  149. @Fleegman #169
    Yeah, I didn’t think you were doing that specifically, but there are SSM proponents that do? Why else bring up polygamy?

  150. Ah, my #166 – that should read, “failure to hit the mark”, or “miss the mark”,
    not “failure to miss the mark” 🙂

  151. Note also, Fleegman: you asked whether polygamy is a sin. You asked a present-tense question.

    Do Augustine and Aquinas regard it as morally acceptable in the period since the New Testament was written? If not, then you’ve identified no disagreement between us and them.

  152. My comments on this thread were initially stimulated by bigbird’s #72, where he(she?) said he or she would be happy to be in the same accomodationist camp as Jesus, and then by Bryan’s reference to Solomon’s wives

  153. fleegman:

    Tom, of course, is correct regarding your attempts to sow discord where none exist… but that’s clear given you inability to actually draw careful distinctions.

    As a formally-trained Thomist, I have some authority to characterize you as a cherry-picking ignoramus.

    Ever consider what Thomas wrote in the Summa contra gentiles, say, chapters 123 & 124? (Take a gander at 122 through 126 here: http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles3b.htm#124.) Thomas specifically and emphatically argues that marriage is to be between ONE man and ONE woman—especially as this pertains to the non-brute animal aspect of humans called “friendship.” So much for your “reading” of Thomas…

    If you knew anything about Plato and Aristotle, you’d realize just how far off base your wild assertions are in the light of what friendship is—a basic good, per human nature, toward which all (with the exception of that murderous worldview known as atheism) are inclined.

    Further, Thomas clearly notes a woman cannot have more than one husband because this is contrary to the good the child’s conception of parenthood, and neither ought a husband have more than one wife because this is incompatible with the equal and freely given friendship meant to exist between husband and wife.

    Marriage is not one natural good (an inclination shared with the brutes—namely procreation) artificially pitted against another natural good (an inclination toward marital friendship).

    And now for a word from St. Thomas (from the ST II-IIae, 154 as referencing Romans 1:26-28) on homosexuality and other perversities:

    “I answer that, As stated above (A6,9) wherever there occurs a special kind of deformity whereby the venereal act is rendered unbecoming, there is a determinate species of lust. This may occur in two ways: First, through being contrary to right reason, and this is common to all lustful vices; secondly, because, in addition, it is contrary to the natural order of the venereal act as becoming to the human race: and this is called “the unnatural vice.” This may happen in several ways. First, by procuring pollution [i.e. masturbation], without any copulation, for the sake of venereal pleasure: this pertains to the sin of “uncleanness” which some call “effeminacy.” Secondly, by copulation with a thing of undue species, and this is called “bestiality.” Thirdly, by copulation with an undue sex, male with male, or female with female, as the Apostle states (Romans 1:27): and this is called the “vice of sodomy.” Fourthly, by not observing the natural manner of copulation, either as to undue means, or as to other monstrous and bestial manners of copulation.”

    In Article 12, Thomas asks whether the unnatural vice is the greatest sin among the species of lust, to which he responds most emphatically yes, for “Augustine says … ‘of all these,’ namely the sins belonging to lust, ‘that which is against nature is the worst.’” (So much for your “reading” of St. Augustine as well…)

    “Therefore, since by the unnatural vices man transgresses that which has been determined by nature with regard to the use of venereal actions, it follows that in this matter this sin is gravest of all. After it comes incest, which, as stated above (Article 9), is contrary to the natural respect which we owe persons related to us.”

    Homosexual acts are the worst type of sexual sin (based on the moral species, not on intention or circumstances), even worse than incest, adultery, prostitution, and other sexual sins. The only worse sin is bestiality. But, hey, you have nothing in your (heh) repertoire to argue against this: http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Man-charged-with-trespassing-on-farm-in-horse-sex-1185409.php.

  154. Goodness me, Holo, such restraint. I must have caught you in a particularly good mood.

    And you’re a formally trained Thomist? If only you’d mentioned it in every other post!

    Given your lofty credentials in this matter, just to be clear (ignoring all the irrelevant stuff you mentioned about homosexuality and bestiality), are you saying that it was the view of Aquinas that polygamy is contrary to natural law?

  155. Victoria,

    Before you make sweeping generalizations about my hermeutical approach to the Bible, let’s see if you can pinpoint where 1) in 1 Kings it says King Solomon’s downfall was due specifically to his polygamy, and not to, say, the foreignness of his wives or the fact that they led him into idolatry, and 2) where it portrays King Solomon’s polygamy in a negative light–all this using the historical-grammatical hermeneutic. If you can’t, you’ll be asked to retract your statement.

  156. As a formally-trained Thomist …

    What on earth is a “formally-trained Thomist”? How do you become one? If you do a church history college course does that suffice? A single subject on Aquinas? Or a Bachelor of Thomism?

  157. Tom,

    “Bryan, the problem with your definition of marriage is that it is subject to too many qualifications, too many exceptions, and too much ad hoc reasoning. “Usually but not always” is one of those qualifications.”

    In principle, there isn’t anything wrong with qualifications and exceptions. Moreover, I wasn’t “reasoning.” I was providing a definition.

    “Besides that, it’s an idiosyncratic definition.”

    It seems to me like any definition of a human convention, like marriage, is going to be idiosyncratic to some degree.

  158. Victoria: What we should do about SSM in a 21st century pluralistic secular society is another question. My point here is that trying to justify it by misreading and misapplying the Bible is not going to work.

    Agreed, SSM certainly can’t be justified biblically without theological contortions – in my view.

    It is the 21st century pluralistic secular society question that is the interesting one.

    After reading the *What is marriage* arguments, it seems to be that one way forward is to recognize that there *are* now two completely different views of marriage – the traditional conjugal view and the revisionist view. They are irreconcilable, and yet neither view is going to go away, and adherents of one view are unlikely to be persuaded by the other.

    This is why my preferred approach is to formally recognize Christian marriage as something different to secular marriage. This actually elevates Christian marriage, and if Christians were able to have lower divorce rates than non-Christians the world may even take notice.

    It is common in Europe to have a state wedding ceremony followed by a church ceremony, which is a similar idea.

  159. Bryan, this may be the first time I’ve been tempted to use an abbreviation I happen to detest: LOL. it was when you wrote this:

    It seems to me like any definition of a human convention, like marriage, is going to be idiosyncratic to some degree.

    I give in: LOL!

    (What does “convention” mean, for Pete’s sake?)

  160. @Bryan
    I will concede that in the specific case of King Solomon, the Bible records that his foreign wives led him to commit idolatry
    and turned his heart from following the LORD. So, yes, his polygamy per se was not the issue in 1 Kings 11:1-13.
    Nehemiah 13:26 also explicitly mentions Solomon’s sin as having married many foreign wives.
    However, Deuteronomy 17:14-20 makes it clear that a king of Israel was not do certain things (accumulate many horses, wives, riches), yet Solomon
    did all of these things.
    Your reference to Solomon’s wives seemed to imply that if Solomon did it, God must have approved of it.
    Well, the command in Deuteronomy 17 already tells us God’s will on this matter – we already know He does not approve of His kings
    doing such things. Nehemiah 13:26 tells us that God loved Solomon and blessed him in spite of Solomon’s sin.
    Marrying foreign wives was a common practice for kings in the ANE, to establish treaties and alliances with other nations. Israel’s
    kings were told not to do this, and yet most of them did. People in the ANE also practiced it for the purpose of producing children

    Solomon’s case is but one example in the thread of polygamous marriage, a thread which I submit, if you follow from its
    start in Genesis 4:19 with Lamech (whom I already mentioned as being of the ungodly line of Cain), to it being expressely forbidden
    in the New Testament for deacons and elders ( 1 Corinthians 7:2 and 1 Timothy 3:2), shows that it is not God’s intention for marriage.

    Your flippant reference to Solomon’s wives is bad hermeneutics, since you attempted to portray it in a way favourable to your point,
    without taking into account what the rest of Scripture had to say on the practice.

  161. One other point about Solomon –
    The record shows that his many foreign wives lead him into idolatry. If Solomon had followed God`s monogamous ideal for marriage, his story would have been far different.
    I`m done now 🙂

  162. bigbird: you’re kidding, right?

    No, I’d like to know what it means to be formally trained as a Thomist.

    It might determine whether I’m a formally trained subjective idealist (in the Berkeley tradition).

  163. bigbird:

    The level of ignorance you display is what threw me for a loop. Let’s see… the person who is the Universal Doctor for the Catholic Church, who represented the pinnacle of Scholasticism of the universities (a Catholic “invention” by the way), after whom tons of high schools are named, for whom many universities (including the Pontifical University or “Angelicum”) are named, in whose intellectual tradition higher degrees are awarded (including my own), etc., etc., etc. If you did not know that, and…

    … if you are indeed a “subjective idealist (in the Berkeley tradition),” then that goes a long way in explaining your problems… in particular why you are so eager to accommodate faith and reason to secular pragmatism.

  164. The level of ignorance you display is what threw me for a loop. Let’s see… the person who is the Universal Doctor for the Catholic Church, who represented the pinnacle of Scholasticism of the universities etc etc

    Please, try reading my two posts a little more carefully before you make silly assumptions.

    The question is about what makes you a “formally trained” Thomist, not who Aquinas was! I’m sure I’m not the only one who is curious.

    I am trying to ascertain what you actually mean by that.

  165. Please, try reading my post a little more carefully (and to the end of the relevant paragraph) before you come to a silly conclusion. Your question was answered.

  166. Victoria,

    I will concede that in the specific case of King Solomon, the Bible records that his foreign wives led him to commit idolatry
    and turned his heart from following the LORD. So, yes, his polygamy per se was not the issue in 1 Kings 11:1-13.
    Nehemiah 13:26 also explicitly mentions Solomon’s sin as having married many foreign wives.

    Thank you for this concession, even though it was directed at Bryan for pointing out precisely the same thing I highlighted in #148 and #154. But, you know, I’ll take it! 😉

    I realise we’re going too far down this tangent, but I would like to add a little more.

    You pointed out God’s commandment that Kings were not to have multiple wives. But you can’t say that very specific commandment to kings extends to the rest of the people just because it suits your needs, can you? Is having multiple horses just as bad? The same goes for commandments given to deacons and elders.

    And regarding your Lamech example, I still don’t see your logic. It seems to be something like this:

    P1) Everything a descendant of Cain does should be viewed as wicked.
    P2) Lamech descended from Cain.
    P3) Lamech had two wives.
    C) Polygamy is wicked.

    Is P1 accurate? Do the “sins” of a distant relative influence how “evil” someone is?

    Further, given that Cain’s line didn’t survive the flood, the vast majority of polygamists in the Bible were in fact Sethites. So how can the example of Lamech be used to infer anything about Polygamy?

    You accused me of taking things out of context, but aren’t you doing precisely the same thing? You mentioned two instances of polygamy to illustrate your case that polygamy wasn’t approved of by God. But when the specifics of the two examples you gave are brought into question, you cry “out of context!”

    So why give examples in the first place?

  167. I mentioned three actually, Lamech, David and Solomon, as cases in point. I also encouraged you to examine the complete thread of this topic in Scripture – have you done that yet?

    Lamech’s case is interesting because it is the first recorded case. This is not recorded just as a bare fact – it is there for a reason. Cain represents a type in Scripture, as does Abel, them brother he murdered. Lamech has taken Cain’s example and exceeded it, by his own admission – look at the arrogance of Lamech in what he says. It’s the beginning of a pattern of behaviour, one that spread throughout humanity, as a result of Adam and Eve’s disobedience.

    By the time of the flood, humanity had become so wicked that God had enough. Noah and his family were saved through the flood, but the curse of our sinful nature once again reared its ugly head, as the subsequent record shows from Genesis 11 on. They were not just Seth’s descendants, but Japheth’s and Ham’s – and it was from Ham’s descendant Canaan that the Canaanite peoples came from – people who would develop the most depraved societies that would later come under God’s judgement.

    I did not mean to say that Deuteronomy 17 prohibited kings from having multiple wives (if I did, then that was a mistake). It really says that they should not multiply wives (as in an abundance of wives – the Hebrew word translated as multiply in the NASB, or many in the ESV implies that) – which no doubt, the kings understood as allowing more than one, but not having too many, i.e. to excess, something which Solomon certainly did in spades.

    You are the one who is not taking the entire context of Scripture into account.

    Why don’t you take the time to go over to here and here and read the articles?; you will see what better thinkers than you and I have discerned.

  168. And you(unbelievers)are the ones who do not take seriously the root cause of these issues, namely our wicked hearts and sinful nature; polygamy, divorce, sexual immorality (of all kinds), murder, idolatry and all the evil that we do, come from that.

    You guys stay at the most superficial level, never going deeper into what God has to say. You never ask the deeper questions, like why did David, a man after God’s own heart, do what he did? For all of David’s great character, he was a lousy father, at least until he was completely broken by God after his sin with Bathsheba. Why?

    Why did Solomon, with all of his God-given wisdom, fail to apply that wisdom to his own life? He wrote in of the blessings of wisdom in Proverbs (see Proverbs 3:1-35). He wrote of the pitfalls of immorality in Proverbs 5, undoubtedly something David and Bathsheba taught him from the hard lessons that they learned – Proverbs 5:18-19 – to be satisfied with the wife of his youth, yet Solomon himself was never satisfied.

    Another thread you will find in the pages of the Bible is how God’s plans cannot be thwarted by human sin and rebellion, intertwined with the thread of His lovingkindness and grace – for it was through Solomon, the son of forgiven parents, that the lineage of our LORD Jesus Christ (known as the lineage of grace) is fulfilled.

    This is why you guys simply don’t understand God’s Word: (a) you never seem to dig deep enough, (b) you are not prepared to apply it to your own lives – to believe it and obey it, and (c) you have not the indwelling of the very Spirit of God in your own hearts to teach you.

  169. Victoria:

    With all due respect, you’re not going to get anywhere preaching to someone when you can’t–in the first place–reason with that someone.

    You can’t get anywhere with someone who cannot (or, perhaps, refuses) to distinguish a mind from a brain… and doubts that things having natures… and who argues fallaciously (a priori bigoted against non-faith arguments that support faith, i.e., the genetic fallacy)… and cherry picks–intentionally ignoring context… and does not argue in good faith…. All of these “issues” are persistently, tenaciously, intransigently on display here.

    A will driven by a disordered reason is, well, under demonic influence. Faith is a gift. Reception of a gift presupposes openness of a heart… a fiat.

  170. @Holopupenko
    Hey you 🙂 How are you?

    Yes I know, but I felt I had to say it anyway, if only for the sake of those people who browse the blog because they are truly seeking to learn, who are truly interested in knowing the reasons for the hope that is in us. They deserve to know that Christianity is a substantial, solid faith, that it is worth pursuing.

    I think Tom said it well here

  171. “And you (unbelievers) are the ones who do not take seriously the root cause of these issues, namely our wicked hearts and sinful nature…”

    This is a great point Victoria. It is the unbelievers that seem to most want to ignore the truth about the brokenness of basic human nature. Everything is about the supposed good that comes from individualistic self expression. There seems very little understanding that our most basic human motivation isn’t all that pretty. In fact, it’s downright awful. Do they really look around at how people regularly act and think, “Gee, humanity is just great”. Moreover, do they look at themselves and say, “Yeah, I’m really a good person”. None of that pride, greed, lust, anger, envy motivates me. It’s more than a little naive.

  172. Good point, Victoria. There are hundreds of people reading this blog daily. We write for all our readers, nit just the one current interlocutor.

    Additionally, I disagree with Holopupenko’a pessimism about the effect of “preaching,” for as Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the message of God. Preaching is a means God uses to change people’s minds. It’s how mine was changed.

  173. Victoria,

    Ignoring the fact that the rest of your scripture quotes weren’t relevant to what I was saying (that King Solomon was filled with the wisdom of God and had no problem with polygamy, even though he communicated directly with God and God could have said, hey, cut that out), none of them actually support your claim that polygamy was seen as bad (at least in a clear and unambiguous way). For example, if you read Nemehiah 13:26 in context (starting from verse 23), you’ll see he was talking about foreign wives.

    Despite your claim to be an Christian, you clearly don’t seem to understand how to read God’s Word.

  174. Tom:

    The “hearing” in that verse presupposes a heart open to hearing. Even God–precisely because of who He is and because of our natures (which He created)–cannot and will not impose Himself on anyone. There must be a fiat moment…

    While God is Omnipotence itself, just as the “larger rock” question is a non-starter, so is the usual atheist mantra of “why can’t God just get rid of evil?” a non-starter. The efficacy of preaching–the ringing of Truth behind that preaching–cannot override the will of listener.

  175. @BillT, Tom
    Hey guys, thanks for the support 🙂
    Same here for me, Tom – it was hearing my Christian physicist colleagues explain Christianity in a way that I had never considered before, coupled with encouraging me to read God’s Word for myself, to ask them questions, that brought me to the point where I was ready to hear what God had to say, and more to the point, was given the faith to believe it and obey it. I knew I needed what God had to offer, and I accepted His grace. That opened up everything for me, and that which I once hated I now love, and then I discovered apologetics to boot 🙂

  176. @Tom Gilson:

    Additionally, I disagree with Holopupenko’a pessimism about the effect of “preaching,” for as Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the message of God.

    I share in Holopupenko’s pessimism — after all, this is a natural response before the amount of ignorance and idiocy, yes idiocy, we see on display in the thread – but I think we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to Him to continue trying, even in the face of impossible odds.

    I wil not quote the Bible; I will quote however T. S. Eliot in the Four Quartets, the East Coker part:

    For us, there is only the trying.
    The rest is not our business.

    Rabi Tarphon, in the Sayings if the Fathers, the Pirke Avot, puts it even more strikingly:

    It is not necessary for you to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

  177. Sure Victoria. And Bryan’s belief that “you clearly don’t seem to understand how to read God’s Word” should come as a real compliment considering the source.

  178. @Bryan
    I conceded that point already – the technicality of it, not the principle.
    I already referred to Nehemiah in my response and agreed that it was the foreign wives who led him into idolatry.

    You however, have missed the deeper point that I am making.

    If you had simply said something like “Whatever the pros and cons of polygamy, SSM must be considered on its own merits”, without the reference to Solomon, I probably would not have commented. But you did mention Solomon, and you put a spin on it that is contrary to the fuller teaching of Scripture.

    Tom’s question is appropriate – why did you bring up Solomon in that context in the first place? What was your intent?

    It was you who took a single example, without regard to its context, not I. As I have tried to explain, the issue of polygamy goes much deeper; sure, Solomon fell into idolatry because of his polygamous marriages to foreign wives, but there is a deeper issue at work. David never fell into idolatry, but his practice of polygamy also led to his sin with Bathsheba and the resultant consequences of all that. If you can read these narratives and not learn the deeper lessons, to see what is going on behind the scenes, then you have not learned anything at all.

  179. Victoria,

    It looks like you did also concede Nemehiah when you were conceding 1 Kings. I don’t know how I missed that. My bad.

    But I’m still not convinced that the Bible condemns polygamy in no uncertain terms, anywhere. For example, Deuteronomy 17 is more about the accumulation of wealth for Isrealite kings, hence the mention of horses in the same context, etc. This is exactly how my conservative ESV Bible commentary describes the text. It’s hard to find anything that is against polygamy qua polygamy, and not due to subsequent murder or idolatry, etc.

    Tom,

    I was just trying to show that even in biblical terms, polygamy is sort of an open question, at least. But I’ll drop the subject if you want.

    Also, re: the “convention” comment, is marriage not a human social institution? As such, it would seem to be idiosyncratic by definition. It seems that many evangelicals and catholics hold to the “conjugal” view (as evidenced by the fact that only they seem to find the arguments found in the book What is Marriage convincing), while my view is found to hold purchase among a growing proportion of western society. Also, you may be assuming that a persuasive, philosophical case for marriage can even be developed which excludes homosexual unions. I’m not sure it can.

  180. And this is how many other commentaries address the same text
    http://bible.cc/deuteronomy/17-17.htm

    How is it more about the accumulation of horses and wealth than wives, when all three are mentioned in exactly the same place, using the same Hebrew words?

    Deuteronomy 7:3 already stipulated that the Israelites in general, were not to intermarry with the people of the surrounding nations (with Rahab from Jericho and Ruth the Moabitess being exceptions who became followers of Yahweh and embraced the faith of Israel). So, why did not God tell Solomon to stop what he was doing? Answer- He already did, and according to Deuteronomy 17:18-20, the king was supposed to know this already – why did Solomon ignore that?

    You want clear examples of the negative effects of polygamy? How about Jacob and his household? How about David and his household? It just happens that we are given the most details about these particular families because of their importance. How can anyone claim to know how to read the Bible and miss this is beyond reason.

    and

    http://bible.cc/1_kings/11-1.htm

    And, because of the practice of polygamy in OT times, we should conclude what about SSM?

  181. Thought of you, Victoria, when I saw this. Looks good.

    I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith – 2 Tim 4:7

  182. @SteveK
    Well, thank you for the inspiration, Steve 🙂 I can use it, as I have a knee issue that makes running somewhat painful – looks like I’ll need more than physio to deal with it.

  183. Additionally, I disagree with Holopupenko’s pessimism about the effect of “preaching,” for as Romans 10:17 says faith comes by hearing the message of God. Preaching is a means God uses to change people’s minds. It’s how mine was changed.

    I agree, and that’s why preaching remains important in churches 2000 years on from when Paul wrote.

  184. I can’t quite believe this thread is discussing whether polygamy finds Biblical support. If we are debating whether SSM or polygamy are endorsed by the Bible or not, we’ll never get anywhere!

    It seems very clear to me that they are not supported, both by a plain reading of the text and by examining Christian tradition.

    My tentative support for permitting SSM is not based on Biblical grounds, but is based on my view as to what degree we expect Biblical norms to be enforced by secular laws, and the negative consequences of doing so (taking it as a given that there are also positive consequences of maintaining the status quo). Naturally, Christians differ in their opinions here, which I think is to be expected – there is no “right” answer.

  185. Please, try reading my post a little more carefully (and to the end of the relevant paragraph) before you come to a silly conclusion. Your question was answered.

    You’re right, I stopped reading your first paragraph when I saw you were trying to explain who Aquinas was. Sorry.

    I’m still curious though as to what makes a formally qualified Thomist. Have you done a higher degree specifically on Aquinas for example?

    By contrast, I’ve degrees in mathematics and physics, but wouldn’t consider myself to be a mathematician or a physicist. If anything, I’m probably a computer scientist as my higher degree is in that area, but in time I may regard myself as a Christian philosopher (depending on how my studies in philosophy progress). BTW I do find Berkeley’s views fascinating, and it seems that he is not generally well understood.

  186. Victoria,

    Most of those commentaries say the problem is idolatry; many explicitly referencing Solomon.

    I mean, look at the text:

    “16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.”

    …”His heart will be led astray”…this is a clear euphemism for idolatry. It seems like if you have 700 Jewish wives, this wouldn’t be a problem.

    My ESV study bible says that it’s about the accumulation of wealth for Isrealite kings (gold and silver, horses, women–of course, women were property in ancient times). These may both be true. But it certainly isn’t clearly against polygamy qua polygamy. Like I said–it’s ambiguous.

    Yes, Solomon should have heeded God’s Word against having many foreign wives who would lead him into idolatry. But where are the admonitions for having multiple Jewish wives?

  187. @Tom
    I’m done now with this particular line.
    Bryan doesn’t seem to get it anyway – we already agree that polygamy was practiced and tolerated in Israel, so I don’t know why Bryan keeps coming back to that. He keeps missing the deeper issues.

    Correct me if I am misreading you, Bryan, but are you trying to imply that because polygamous marriage was permitted in the Law of Moses, that same sex marriage should be permitted as well?

  188. @Bryan
    I suggest that you pick up a copy of How to Read the Bible for all its Worth by Gordon and Fee (see here) so that you will learn something about reading Old Testament narratives: to recognize the three levels, to recognize the implicit assumptions made by both the authors and the original readers. Then you will see, at least, why we draw the conclusions we do, and why they are different from yours.