The Court, the Culture, and the Glory of God

God does not conform to culture. Culture does not conform itself to God. Stated thus, the situation almost seems symmetrical, but obviously it is not. In the beginning the world was not created by the culture, and in the end culture will not own it. The earth is the Lord's, and its fullness, including culture.

In the times in which we live, though, human culture seeks to define it the opposite way around. There is no Lord (or so it is claimed), so culture owns the definitions of what is true and good. So a clash is inevitable. It is Christians' task to be “conformed to the image of God's son” (Romans 8:29) meaning that we cannot take culture's side in this clash.

Endorsing, Not Creating

The U.S. Supreme Court did not create culture with its marriage decisions Wednesday: rather it endorsed existing culture. It endorsed a particular culture, that is: that of the rhetorically powerful. There are many who oppose gay “marriage,” but they are not generally the ones holding the strong positions in media, education, and the arts. The rhetorically weak were left behind; something the U.S. Constitution was designed to prevent, but then it's unclear how much the Constitution had to do with the Court's reasoning. I have read disparate thoughts on that, and I will read the Court's opinions later to form my own view. (It has been an incredibly busy last several days.)

The Court's decisions did not create anything new last week, but they cut deeper channels and wider banks for the culture of the rhetorically powerful to flood over and drown dissent. Thus on one highly significant battlefield, America's culture war has been fought and seems for now to have been lost.

“The Culture Wars”

Christians have been blamed for these culture wars, as if we had burst in upon a calm and socially liberal scene, and cried out, “Hey! We're sick and tired of your so-called gay 'marriages' you've been practicing all these centuries, and we're starting a war to get you to stop it!” No, it was quite the opposite. Our defense of marriage has always been just that: a defense; and if we can be faulted for going to “war” over it, then the Royal Air Force could likewise be faulted for shotting at Luftwaffe bombers over London. There's a difference between defending and aggressing.

But I've lately come to realize — since a very insightful conversation with Josh McDowell Ministry leaders in Dallas in April — that these culture wars have different facets and purposes. There are those for whom the most important thing has always been to protect the unborn from violent, untimely murder. There are those for whom the main thing concerning marriage has always political/judicial: to keep marriage properly defined in the courts and legislatures.

Different Purposes

That day in April I realized that, although I have stood with those efforts and still support them, I am motivated by different purposes. The original statement goes back to an almost unknown leader in a far-off country centuries ago, through whom the Lord said, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14). I live to advance the knowledge of the glory of the Lord: his reality and his goodness.

The rhetorically powerful disbelieve in the goodness of God. They have judged him and found him at fault. Not that they believe in him, of course; their judgment is by proxy, by way of his people and his word. God is evil, they say, for denying “marriage equality” and a host of other modern liberal freedoms. God's ways are hateful, and to speak his ways is to be a hater.

This has become the ascendant message, resoundingly affirmed this week.

To Miss the Glory of God

There will be much harm from court's decision Wednesday — or rather, rhetorically powerful culture's decision. For families, for children, for marriage itself, and for religious freedom, I can foresee damage beyond words. And yet that is not, in my mind, the most important story. The greater damage is for God's name not to be associated with good but with evil. The Court and the culture have judged God's ways and found them unloving, unjust, and wrong.

Yet God is good, and they have in fact turned love, justice, and righteousness upside down.This is what concerns me most among the many highly concerning directions we are taking together. We see God's goodness as bad, his wisdom as farce, his ways as wrong. We are settling for the weak and wasted counterfeit glory of running matters our own way, an altogether missing the much greater goodness and glory of God.

Have you ever been to Rocky Mountain National Park? I met my wife there, on a long hike from Bear Lake up toward Dream Lake and Emerald Lake (I forget which one comes first). I've even walked on Bear Lake — in snowshoes, deep in the middle of winter. Or perhaps you've been to Yellowstone, or the Grand Tetons, or the Grand Canyon, or Finland's Karelian Peninsula, or a Norwegian fjord. If not, I hope you can imagine the scene from pictures. These are places of great majesty, of glory.

Now imagine touring through these places with me, and that the whole way through I kept my eyes glued to a game on an iPod. Imagine I never even noticed there was a vista there to behold. Imagine urging me to look up and take it in: and hearing me respond with annoyance, insisting nothing could be better than my iPod. “Mountains? I don't care about any mountains! Let me be! Let me have my own fun!”

That's only a taste of what it is to miss the glory of God.

God is very good. Our culture has judged him and found him lacking, but what is lacking is our own willingness to open our eyes and see his goodness for what it is.

If you haven't noticed, for me this is about God. The “culture wars” are about proclaiming the goodness of God in the face of disagreement. I'm not sure I could have said it that way before now, but this is what it's all about: making God's reality, his greatness, and his goodness known among a culture that's stuck with its nose in a metaphorical iPod. I will take the risk of annoying some people by pointing out there is something — Someone — far better and greater out there to be known. I think that's a risk worth taking. It's what I'd want others to do for me.

Comments 75
  1. Clay the atheist

    It’s very easy for someone who isn’t attracted to members of the opposite sex to portray homosexuality as some especially heinous and damaging sin. They’re not tempted by it, so they can’t understand how anyone else could. Which partly explains why Christian divorce isn’t universally frowned upon and Christian adultery is forgiven — people don’t condone it, but they can understand the attraction.

    There are a lot of sins in the Bible. Just ask Paul: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” There’s more than one item on that list, but to hear some Christians talk you would think that same-sex love is the most heinous and widespread affliction known to man.

    Exodus International shut down and apologized because they realized that you can’t “pray the gay away,” that condemning genuine relationships between people of the same sex as fake and wicked was not only ineffective but counterproductive, piling misery onto the heads of some already guilt-stricken people.

  2. Mr. X

    Clay:

    What exactly is your point here? Are you suggesting that Tom “think[s] that same-sex love is the most widespread and heinous affliction known to man”? Or are you just trying to smear him by association with these (conveniently vague and shadowy) people?

  3. ordinaryseeker

    One problem with these thoughts, Tom, is that you imply that only atheists support gay marriage whereas in fact many supports believe in God and many of those are Christians.

  4. Tom Gilson

    I understand that, ordinaryseeker. I think that those who support gay “marriage” are wrong on that point, and that they are denying what God says about sex, marriage, and family, regardless of what else they may or may not get right.

  5. BeingItself

    So some Christians think God supports same sex-marriage whereas some Christians think God opposes same-sex marriage. Big surprise . . . Christians thinks God thinks like them.

    But why the confusion? We know where mere mortals stand on the issue. We all know what BHO thinks. We all know what Tom Gilson thinks.

    Why does not God clear up the matter?

  6. Andrew W

    So, Being, what would it take to convince you – and I mean convince – that (1) God is real and (2) what his take on this issue is?

    Does your standard differ based on whether or not it conforms to your current opinion?

    And would you be willing to know the answer if it was knowable?

  7. John Moore

    About Culture Wars, I think it’s important to recognize the wide diversity of cultures in the U.S. There’s Southern culture and New England culture. There’s Hollywood culture and university culture, but there’s also Christian culture and down-home rural culture. You can’t lump them all together, and you can’t say some imagined “majority culture” is imposing itself on dissenters. Everybody’s free to keep their own culture. Actually, this diversity is one of the greatest strengths the U.S. enjoys.

    I’m surprised that you suggest the “rhetorically powerful” support gay marriage. Fox News is by far the most powerful media company. Also, Republicans still control the House, and they’re certainly powerful if not rhetorically so.

  8. bigbird

    Why does not God clear up the matter?

    As Tom said, he has. But as human beings we have a strong tendency to rationalize and justify what we want to do, irrespective of how clear the matter has been made by God or anyone else.

  9. Tom Gilson

    I know bigbird will answer, but I want to speak for myself as well.

    This is all clear enough in God’s word. It’s as simple as that. It’s also clear enough from history and from the nature of humans as God created us.

    Pro-homosexual interpretations of the Bible rely on a strained interpretation of the text and on weak challenges to standard interpretations. All of this can be answered, and has been, according to the same historical/grammatical hermeneutic that we apply to any other reading, taking genre into account.

    Sometimes we can know, and know that we know, and know that we aren’t rationalizing. It’s not always that difficult after all.

  10. Tom Gilson

    John Moore, Fox News is America’s most widely viewed news network, but the most powerful media producers are still those who work in tv, film, and music, not news. Furthermore, there is a mutual amplification effect among most of the other news services, including the major newspapers (which still have great influence), the broadcast news companies, CNN, MSNBC (though its audience is tiny), and the entertainment industry.

    So I’m surprised that you question that the rhetorically powerful support gay “marriage.” Need a demonstration?

  11. bigbird

    Bigbird, how do you know you’re not the one rationalizing?

    Fair question, which Tom has answered well.

    When there has been a long standing traditional interpretation, you are seeking to challenge that interpretation and have a vested interest in doing so, I’d call that rationalizing.

  12. urbanus

    There will be much harm from court’s decision Wednesday … and for religious freedom, I can foresee damage beyond words.

    How is this a religious freedom issue? No-one’s forcing you to get gay-married if you don’t want to. You can still live your life in accordance with your beliefs and what your conscience dictates. Passing laws that allow others to live their lives in accordance with their principles (which are different to yours) helps those people and doesn’t harm you.

  13. Mr. X

    Urbanus @ 15:

    “How is this a religious freedom issue? No-one’s forcing you to get gay-married if you don’t want to. You can still live your life in accordance with your beliefs and what your conscience dictates. Passing laws that allow others to live their lives in accordance with their principles (which are different to yours) helps those people and doesn’t harm you.”

    First of all, people have already been sued for providing services to heterosexual married couples and not to gay couples. Here in the UK, I can think of two cases off the top of my head where people lost their jobs after disagreeing with gay marriage — and this was even before the SSM bill became law.

    Secondly, gay couples are already able to “live their lives in accordance with their principles”. If two men want to live together, there’s no law against that. If they can find a church willing to perform a marriage ceremony, it’s not as if the Morality Police will drag them off to prison.

  14. Clay the atheist

    Urbanus, there is concern that churches will eventually be obliged to carry out marriages they disapprove of, and that florists and other wedding-related companies will be forced to labor in the service of gay weddings that offend their beliefs. Those are valid concerns. And trashing democracy in California by invalidating Prop 8 leaves me queasy, though I support the result.

    As for harming “families, children…marriage itself,” that seems a much weaker argument. Heterosexuals have been doing a fine job destroying the sanctity of marriage since the 1970s at least. Hard to get figures, but my WAG would be up to 3 of 10 marriages end in divorce. And children need families, not foster homes, so if a gay couple wants to take them in, why not? It might be imperfect but it’s an improvement.

    Christians have shown theological flexibility on other issues, and not just purportedly outdated Old Testament doctrine. They no longer obey the New Testament’s commandments for women to keep silent in churches and to cover themselves. And the NT has only a bit more to say about homosexuality as it does about the submission of women in church.

  15. urbanus

    Here in the UK, I can think of two cases off the top of my head where people lost their jobs after disagreeing with gay marriage…

    Okay, but that’s not the issue. If they lost their jobs for discriminating against people who are black, or disabled, or something, who would be crying about “freedom” then? (I wish I could refuse to do my job and not get sacked, on the basis of my freedom-of-something-or-other!)

    Secondly, gay couples are already able to “live their lives in accordance with their principles”.

    If that were true, there would be no debate and no resistance to gay marriage.

  16. Mr. X

    Clay @ 17:

    “As for harming “families, children…marriage itself,” that seems a much weaker argument. Heterosexuals have been doing a fine job destroying the sanctity of marriage since the 1970s at least. Hard to get figures, but my WAG would be up to 3 of 10 marriages end in divorce. And children need families, not foster homes, so if a gay couple wants to take them in, why not? It might be imperfect but it’s an improvement.”

    I’ve always found that argument pretty dubious, TBH. Sure, marriage is in a sorry state right now; but that doesn’t justify throwing caution to the wind and potentially damaging it even further. If somebody were in hospital with cancer, would you be fine with giving them food prepared in unsanitary conditions because “Hey, he’s got cancer already, a little bit of food poisoning isn’t going to make any difference”?

  17. Mr. X

    Urbanus @ 18:

    “Okay, but that’s not the issue. If they lost their jobs for discriminating against people who are black, or disabled, or something, who would be crying about “freedom” then? (I wish I could refuse to do my job and not get sacked, on the basis of my freedom-of-something-or-other!)”

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re trying to say here, or how you think it’s meant to rebut my examples. If people are forced to choose between keeping their jobs and obeying their religion, that seems to me (and would, I suspect, seem to most reasonable people) to be a threat to their freedom of religion. If people are unable to even state their religion’s views on a certain issue in a private capacity without losing their jobs, that seems like a threat to their freedom of religion. And there’s a difference between refusing to support a particular *action* (like, e.g., getting married to somebody of the same sex), and refusing to serve somebody because of a *characteristic* they happen to possess (like being black or being disabled).

    “If that were true, there would be no debate and no resistance to gay marriage.”

    No, because “Being able to live your lives according to your principles” =/= “Being able to force the State and your fellow-citizens to support your principles”. It’s odd how many people like to bring up the distinction whenever Christians or conservatives are allegedly forcing their principles on society, but conflate the two when liberals are doing the same thing.

  18. Tom Gilson

    Actually I think the patient is already in the hospital with food poisoning. Herero marriage failure and gay “marriage” advocacy are two varieties of one disease.

  19. Mr. X

    Hmm, maybe… In that case, amend it to “He’s already got food poisoning, who cares if he gets a bit more?”

  20. JAD

    Gay rights and SSM have never really been about gay rights. It’s a wedge issue, designed by so-called progressives, to undermine and destroy traditional moral values. While it pretends to be for human rights it is actually opposed to human rights. For example, their agenda opposes freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, God given natural rights which historically have been considered foundational to a free and open democratic society.

  21. SteveK

    Heterosexuals have been doing a fine job destroying the sanctity of marriage since the 1970s at least.

    I have to agree with you here, Clay. As a society, we should turn that around and I don’t think we are doing that.

  22. Pingback: Three Reasons Freedom of Religion Matters - Thinking Christian

  23. bigbird

    Gay rights and SSM have never really been about gay rights. It’s a wedge issue, designed by so-called progressives, to undermine and destroy traditional moral values.

    No doubt this is true, but we should also not forget the human element of many gay couples out there who just want to marry, irrespective of agendas of various groups.

    Freedom of religion is a tricky issue. It has never been absolute. Obviously we don’t have freedom to do whatever we want just because of our religion. For example, freedom of religion does not permit us to be racist (if for example, our religion had racist views). Society has decided racism is wrong no matter why you might believe it.

    This is where gay rights groups have cleverly made opposition to SSM analogous to racist bigotry, and it is a very difficult argument to challenge without digging yourself deeper.

  24. d

    If there are groups out there who’s motivating interest in gay issues, is to undermine traditional values (and I agree, there are), its utterly, unequivocally, totally, irrelevant. It just couldn’t be more irrelevant to the *actual* gay rights issues.

    We should do the right thing, which is to actually formally recognize the *real* marriages that gay couples actually, obviously already have, while accepting that we’ll have other battles to fight later.

    Extremists like the Black Panthers… regulations like affirmative action… reverse discrimination… these things don’t count as reasons to oppose civil rights for blacks. Of course they don’t. Connect the dots.

  25. DR84

    d

    Per what definition are gay couples truly married? Do you believe that two guys who are not in love with each other and do not engage in homosexual acts together can form a real marriage together? If not, why not? If so, do you really believe they are just as truly married, in all ways, as a husband and wife are?

  26. Tom Gilson

    d,

    Your comment lacks historical perspective.

    Gay “marriages” could nevern have been counted by anyone as “real” marriages before the sexual revolution of the 60s redefined and undermined the connections between sex, marriage, and child-raising.

    But I have explained this in the past and you did not get it then, either.

  27. Ray Ingles

    Clay the the athiest –

    Urbanus, there is concern that churches will eventually be obliged to carry out marriages they disapprove of, and that florists and other wedding-related companies will be forced to labor in the service of gay weddings that offend their beliefs. Those are valid concerns.

    The “concern that churches will eventually be obliged to carry out marriages they disapprove of” seems entirely invalid to me. It’s been decades – coming up on half a century – since the anti-miscegenation laws were struck down, and not once has a church been compelled to carry out an interracial marriage. Quite the opposite, in fact. I know of no one – no one – who advocates legally compelling churches to carry out same-sex marriages. Again, quite the opposite.

    The wedding-business bit has some meat on it. (There’s room for questioning how religious some of the objections are, but presumably there are some businesses that are consistent about such things.) Banning discrimination by businesses is sometimes necessary, but I think it should be limited to things more necessary than flowers at a wedding. Say, housing, food, finances, that sort of thing.

  28. bigbird

    The “concern that churches will eventually be obliged to carry out marriages they disapprove of” seems entirely invalid to me.

    It seems entirely valid to me. Churches already get sued for not permitting civil ceremonies on their property.

    And are you aware that gay couples in Denmark have the right to marry in whatever church they choose, irrespective of the view of the church? It is now mandatory in Denmark for all churches to conduct gay marriages.

  29. Tom Gilson

    What that means, Ray, is that whatever freedoms you thought were being so carefully preserved are very much at risk.

    This is not just about marriage. This is not just about churches. This is about freedoms being tossed aside.

    You should be as mortified by this as we are. You should be as concerned as we are. For when religious freedom fails, other freedoms will follow. Count on it.

    Western democracy is built on freedom of religion and of speech. Both are at risk. Don’t just lie down and let it happen.

  30. Tom Gilson

    Of course you should be worried. What happens there is bad. When it comes here, it’s really bad.

    Don’t be an idiot. Don’t let your opposition to Christianity blind you to what’s going to happen to all of us, while we’re on this trajectory.

  31. bigbird

    Bigbird – And it’s legal in Russia and Greece to prosecute people for blasphemy. Should I be worried?

    I doubt that Russia is a country that is indicative of where most Western nations are headed. In Greece, the Greek orthodox church is the state religion, and blasphemy has been on the books for at least 100 years.

    Nevertheless, I think blasphemy laws are a very bad idea – they encroach on people’s freedoms – and yes, I’d be concerned if I thought blasphemy laws were likely to be implemented.

    In fact in the UK and in Australia, blasphemy laws in the new guise of religious vilification or tolerance laws are already making their way onto the statute books, and having a chilling effect on free speech. These laws are generally opposed by Christian groups.

  32. SteveK

    Should I be worried?

    Should? How does that word fit within a naturalistic framework where mankind determines what is good for mankind, and there are no exceptions to that rule?

    If you *should* be worried that mankind might get it wrong, you’re not living in a naturalistic world.

  33. d

    Your comment lacks historical perspective.

    Gay “marriages” could never have been counted by anyone as “real” marriages before the sexual revolution of the 60s redefined and undermined the connections between sex, marriage, and child-raising.

    But I have explained this in the past and you did not get it then, either.

    I seriously doubt that’s true, though support would have been hard to publicly find.. since the consequences would be much more severe for anyone who voiced such public support, compared with today.

    But even if it were true, this is just an argument ad populem – the popular opinion back then was tragically wrong (and we probably owe most the weight behind it to Christian heritage, but also plenty of good ole human ignorance and prejudice).

  34. d

    Per what definition are gay couples truly married? Do you believe that two guys who are not in love with each other and do not engage in homosexual acts together can form a real marriage together? If not, why not? If so, do you really believe they are just as truly married, in all ways, as a husband and wife are?

    Roughly, I’d roughly say marriage is, “… a complete, all-encompassing, nurturing relationship. It’s about care for the whole person, so much so that no one else in all the world is quite as important.” (for more, see: http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/blog/2011/03/on-nurturing-as-the-purpose-of-marriage/)

    If we look at the differences between a married heterosexual couple who is not “in love”, and does not have sex, to a married homosexual couple who is not “in love” and does not have sex, I’d say if either of their relationships can be called marriages, then both of them can be called marriages.

    So I’ll pose the same question to you in reverse – is a heterosexual couple, who is not in love, and not sexually active, a true marriage?

  35. Tom Gilson

    No, d, that wasn’t an argumentum ad populum. That was an answer to your statement that gay “marriage” is unrelated to the undermining of traditional values. Note that you again skipped over the part that I have explained to you in the past.

    Your easy and blithe condemnation of every culture in history before the year 2000 is incredibly intolerant chronological snobbery. What, everyone was wrong?

    No, marriage was always about the couple and about children, until the 60s or so. Your definition in #39 is a definition that cares nothing about future generations. It’s all “you ‘n me, babe,” it’s self-oriented, and it’s dangerous to everyone’s future.

    I’m specifically not blaming gay “marriage” for that: hetero marriage went to seed after the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce, and so on. Gay
    “marriage” is the stamp of deep societal approval on that tragic and deadly error.

  36. Ordinaryseeker

    Ray ingles @ 31

    How is being denied a wedding cake at a bakery that serves “straights only” any different than being denied service at a lunch counter reserved for “whites only”?

  37. JAD

    Over at Reasonable Faith, William J. Craig has some interesting about SSM (however the interview was recorded before the DOMA decision).
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/Same-Sex-Marriage-June-2013

    However, I disagree that SSM grows out of a kind of “new absolutism”, as Craig calls it, rather than an encroaching and all pervasive relativism that Allen Bloom warned us about. Actually what we have is the classic “bait and switch” move (IOW it’s both/and). To define SSM as marriage you have to start with relativism (marriage is what you and like-minded people have subjectively decided marriage is) but then to force everyone else to accept your definition, you have to pretend that your opinion is now a moral absolute. Obviously, this is dishonest, devious and destructive. Forcing your beliefs on me is a form of tyranny. What gives you the right to arbitrarily make something up, call it a right and force it on everyone else?

  38. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson –

    What happens there is bad. When it comes here, it’s really bad.

    Look at bigbird’s examples, I mean really look at them.

    He can point to a church – singular – that’s been sued over its pavilion (not the church building itself) which was made available to the public and received benefits from the government on that basis.

    And he can point to the state church of Denmark. The U.S. does not have a state church, and I see no signs whatsoever that there is any imminent danger of there being one. Again – can anyone point to a church that’s been forced to marry an ‘interracial’ couple against their will? Which Catholic church (name and address, ideally) has been forced to hand out Communion to a divorced parishioner?

    Let’s cut to the chase. What freedoms – specifically enumerated, please – are you worried about losing? What do you do now that you are worried about not being able to do – specifically? What do you not do now that you are worried about being compelled to do – specifically?

  39. Ray Ingles

    SteveK –

    If you *should* be worried that mankind might get it wrong, you’re not living in a naturalistic world.

    We already went over that.

    Ordinaryseeker –

    How is being denied a wedding cake at a bakery that serves “straights only” any different than being denied service at a lunch counter reserved for “whites only”?

    The law already makes a distinction between ‘luxury goods’ and ‘necessities’. You can’t buy a wedding cake with food stamps, for example, but many states allow food stamps to be used at restaurants.

  40. Mr. X

    d @ 38/39:

    “and we probably owe most the weight behind it to Christian heritage, but also plenty of good ole human ignorance and prejudice”

    Your parochialism is showing again. Not every country before the year 2000 or so was Christian. Not every country disapproved of homosexuality. The Greeks, for example, (and to a lesser degree the Romans,) were fine with, even approving of, certain homosexual relationships. Funnily enough they never thought that these relationships were the same as marriage or that the people involved in them should get government benefits.

    “Roughly, I’d roughly say marriage is, “… a complete, all-encompassing, nurturing relationship. It’s about care for the whole person, so much so that no one else in all the world is quite as important.””

    If it’s just about you and your beloved, then why should the state get involved at all? Why should you *want* the state to get involved? Surely nobody can be so insecure that they don’t think they can love somebody properly without official government approval?

  41. JAD

    Ordinaryseeker:

    How is being denied a wedding cake at a bakery that serves “straights only” any different than being denied service at a lunch counter reserved for “whites only”?

    Would the Jewish owners of a T-shirt company be morally and/or legally obligated to print up t-shirts for a neo-Nazi group that is planning to have a rally? If they refuse wouldn’t this be discrimination? Aren’t neo-Nazi’s rights (freedom of speech and assembly) protected by the U.S. Constitution? If the Jewish owners refuse aren’t they guilty of discrimination?

  42. Ordinaryseeker

    JAD,
    I don’t know whether they are legally obligated to do so, but it seems to me that your example may fall under an exemption related to hate crimes.

    Certainly anyone who feels a moral responsibility to or not to provide a service to a specific customer of his or her public business can chose whether to do so; however, that business owner must accept the consequences.

  43. SteveK

    Ray,

    We already went over that

    Yes we did, and your response was that the universe and humans are the way they are, so that fact governs the way we *should* live our lives. It was an incoherent theory back then, and it hasn’t changed. Welcome to naturalism.

  44. SteveK

    I agree, Ray. Here is that comment you wrote.

    Me: To repeat myself, you’re arguing for an objective moral principle that governs human living. That principle must be grounded in some reality.

    You: The reality of the universe and how it behaves, along with the reality of what humans are and want, isn’t enough reality? I’m willing to grant that, if humans were other than they are, what would be in their best interest would be different. But so what? I’m human, you’re human, even Saddam Hussein was human.

  45. SteveK

    Should you be worried about those things, Ray? Not really. That’s just the reality of the universe and of what human beings are and want. No worries. Welcome to naturalism.

  46. Ray Ingles

    Note that that comment is part of a rather longer discussion.
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2012/12/happy-birthday-piltdown-man/#comment-44848
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2012/12/happy-birthday-piltdown-man/#comment-44858
    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2012/12/happy-birthday-piltdown-man/#comment-44903
    …all came before that comment, and linked to even more context some of which I linked to in #50 above. I’ve never seen SteveK actually grapple with that context. Or what came after, like:

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2012/12/happy-birthday-piltdown-man/#comment-45080

  47. JAD

    Ordinaryseeker @ #48,

    My example above was hypothetical but the fact the courts have ruled in favor of the free speech rights of neo-Nazi’s is not. Consider the famous Skokie case. Here’s a brief summary:

    In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, one out of every six Jewish citizens in the late 1970s was a survivor–or was directly related to a survivor–of the Holocaust. These victims of terror had resettled in America expecting to lead peaceful lives free from persecution. But their safe haven was shattered when a neo-Nazi group announced its intention to parade there in 1977…

    The debate was clear-cut: American Nazis claimed the right of free speech while their Jewish “targets” claimed the right to live without intimidation. The town, arguing that the march would assault the sensibilities of its citizens and spark violence, managed to win a court injunction against the marchers. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union took the case and successfully defended the Nazis’ right to free speech.
    http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/strwhe.html

    Did holocaust survivors in this case have a right to be morally outraged?

    If the Nazi’s had decided to up the ante, so to speak, and demand that the Jewish owners of a local t-shirt shop print t-shirt for the Nazi group would the Jewish owners have had the right to refuse their business?

    In a parallel case do Christian owners of a t-shirt shop have a right to refuse “to print t-shirts for a local gay rights organization.” (This is not, BTW, a hypothetical case.)

  48. SteveK

    Ray,
    I’ve grappled with those plenty of times. For example, you said:

    As I note – repeatedly – in the various essays and discussions I’ve had, in non-zero-sum games in general, game theory has found that the most resilient and successful strategies have four things in common: they are nice, forgiving, non-envious, but willing to retaliate. That is, they don’t start fights, they are willing to let go of grudges, they don’t worry much about how others are doing, but they are ready to retaliate if attacked. ‘Killing all the Jews’ violates several of those.

    You beg the question about what is “the most resilient and successful strategies ” for mankind. You attempt to ground your answer in the way the universe is and what human beings are and want – but anger, unforgiveness, enviousness, etc also compete for that same space. That’s the reality, and that’s your grounding source.

    You think this approach isn’t the most resilient and successful strategy, therefore humans *should not* implement it as a means to obtain the end result they want, but you’d be objectively wrong to conclude that when you realize that your grounding source doesn’t lead you to that conclusion. Anger, unforgiveness, enviousness, etc work pretty well.

    You also said:

    Just as it’s an objective fact that, if you want to win a chess game, you shouldn’t sacrifice your queen early in the game – it can be an objective fact that cooperating with others is in your own best interest.

    If you want to expend the least amount of energy and get it over with quicker, it’s the best strategy. Yet another objective fact.

    But, hey, I’m repeating myself and we probably shouldn’t dig up old threads.

  49. SteveK

    Ray,
    To close this out and respond to your charge that I haven’t grappled with what came after, the short answer is I don’t have to because your responses fail to resolve the inherent problem you are trying to overcome. In other words, my response need not change.

    Here’s some of the things you said in that ‘after comment’:

    We’ve learned more about humans and how humans can best live together, too.

    and

    I’ve compared morality to ‘social engineering’ before, and neither will we know enough to have a ‘perfect morality’. But the overall direction does seem to look something like progress.

    True. However, we’ve learned a lot about how humans can best live apart without necessarily living together or working together. We’ve learned there are certain ways to live apart that are better than others. We’ve learned that there are certain ways to be at war with each other that are better than others.

    Those certain ways only depend on what the human desire is at the time. Your grounding source says all of this is progress just the same – just a different kind of progress according to a different kind of human desire.

    Somehow you are seeing things in reality that your grounding source isn’t revealing to you. They call this an illusion, Ray.

  50. Andrew W

    There’s a philosophical issue fundamental to this entire discussion:

    Let’s assume “naturalism” – no supernatural, no external “purpose” to the world. Under this model, the “equality of humanity” is an arbitrary human construct.

    It’s blatantly obvious that people are different. Sex, age, race, appearance, physical and mental ability, circumstances of birth. The only consistent unifying factor is the we shared a chromosomal structure.

    So, the first assertion is that this commonality is more important than the many differences.

    But then we note that many supporters of “equal rights” also support abortion and euthanasia, and are not utterly scandalised at the likes of Peter Singer suggesting that friendship with animals may be superior to friendship with other humans. So in practice the actual belief is that a subset of humanity is “equal” with another subset of humanity, but there are other subsets that are not.

    In practice, what we have is that the rich and powerful and “like me” deserve certain freedoms, and the “not like me” should become “like me” (or be killed off if they are inconvenient). Which sounds like a pretty pure version of just about any maltreatment of humans by humans throughout history. That it is justified as “moral consensus” (ie mob rule guided by thought leaders) is a failing, not a feature.

    In stark contrast, the Christian claim to equality of humankind appeals to an external referent, namely God. And the claim is not that we are identical, but that each person, whether young or old, rich or poor, pink or olive, is of great moral value in God’s sight, and must be treated accordingly. However, this claim also comes with a definition of purpose – people are not just “valuable”, they are also “for” something, which makes it possible for what we do to be “good” or “bad”.

    (Observe that assenting that Christian’s are not inherently immune to the inhumanity of the previous paragraph – many examples can be found through history. However, Christian thought predicts this, explains this, and calls Christians to account for their failure to be Christian. In contrast, the condemnation flowing from “not like me” thinking (whether “Christian” or “secular”) never starts with the one expounding the idea).

  51. bigbird

    Let’s cut to the chase. What freedoms – specifically enumerated, please – are you worried about losing?

    You don’t seem to get it Ray. Vilification laws are gradually spreading around the globe. They don’t happen in isolation.

    Take a look at the Victorian example if you aren’t concerned by the others I provided.

    The Catch the Fire vs the Islamic Council of Victoria case was horrendous. Some Muslims attended a private Christian conference on Islam, and objected to what was said about Islam. In court, it was demonstrated that the conference speaker had lived in Islamic countries and was far more familiar with the Koran and Islam than the Muslims bringing the complaint. The initial ruling was that the pastors involved had “engaged in conduct to incite hatred against and contempt for the Islamic faith”. Eventually, it was overturned on appeal but took years and hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Laws like this outlaw any criticism of religion. Aren’t you concerned about that? I am. In Victoria, Australia, you could be taken to court for quoting Dawkins’ infamous quote about a vindictive God.

  52. Ray Ingles

    SteveK – I wasn’t asking where you were quoting my words from. I was asking where you had attempted to make your points from before. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in one of my comments.

  53. Ray Ingles

    SteveK – You weren’t quoting your response. You were writing new words. Can you link to where you attempted to make those points before?

  54. Ray Ingles

    bigbird –

    You don’t seem to get it Ray. Vilification laws are gradually spreading around the globe. They don’t happen in isolation.

    I don’t like blasphemy laws either. I see at least as much religious efforts to suppress criticism of religion as I see efforts to suppress religiously-motivated criticism. And that’s different from (a) marriage, federal benefits, etc. and (b) public accommodation laws.

    (And, note, the “Victorian example” was in another thread; we may need to untangle our discussions a bit.)

  55. Tom Gilson

    Gratuitous jab at religion, as if “religion” were one thing.

    Do you honestly think anyone here supports “religion”?

  56. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson – I don’t think you read me correctly. I didn’t make any “Gratuitous jab at religion”. I didn’t actually say anything about religion.

    What I said was I see efforts “to suppress criticism of religion”. I didn’t make this phrasing up myself – there have been several U.N. resolutions decrying the “Defamation of Religion”. Along with the blasphemy laws – both new and long-standing.

    I didn’t say that anyone here supports blasphemy laws (or “religion”). But singling out laws that are perceived to have anti-Christian overtones while not noting their connection to blasphemy laws seems shortsighted at best.

  57. Tom Gilson

    “I see at least as much religious efforts to suppress criticism of religion as I see efforts to suppress religiously-motivated criticism.”

  58. Ray Ingles

    Tom Gilson – That’s not a jab at religion, any more than “efforts to suppress religiously-motivated criticism” is a jab against secularism. At most, you could take it as a jab against both religious and secular authoritarians.

  59. BillT

    Andrew W @ 60,

    That is simply a great post and deserves recognition as such.

  60. Mr. X

    Ray @ 67:

    “But singling out laws that are perceived to have anti-Christian overtones while not noting their connection to blasphemy laws seems shortsighted at best.”

    Is there any evidence of a connexion between the two? Has anybody who’s prosecuted a Christian for hate speech said something like “We need to do this, otherwise they’ll try and shut down *our* freedom of speech — just look at what happened in Russia”, or “This’ll teach those God-botherers to try and pass blasphemy laws in Greece”?

    (Conversely, has anybody in Russia said “Look at those Westerners persecuting Christianity — we’ve got to pre-empt them or this will be happening here in a few years’ time”?)

  61. Ray Ingles

    Mr. X –

    Is there any evidence of a connexion between the two?

    I didn’t say that one was a retaliation for the other. I’m saying they both stem from the same impulse to suppress dissent, to protect people from encountering any contrary opinion. The only difference is who’s sensibilities are being ‘protected’.

  62. Ray Ingles

    SteveK – Well, if you actually want to try to have a discussion now, and attempt to raise new points, we can do that. Want to do it on the original thread?

  63. SteveK

    News from across the pond – Gay couple to sue church over gay marriage opt-out,

    Below are some quotes from the soon-to-be bride, or maybe it’s the groom, can’t really tell.

    “I want to go into my church and marry my husband”

    “It upsets me because I want it so much – a big lavish ceremony, the whole works, I just don’t think it is going to happen straight away.”

    “As much as people are saying this is a good thing I am still not getting what I want.”

    “I want a golden goose…now”

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