Archive | Ethics

Can Homosexuals Be Saved?

I have been asked this quite a few times over the years and the issue was brought up again recently. Can homosexuals be Christians? Or, better, is there such a thing as a “homosexual Christian”? Many would believe that someone who engages in a homosexual life style is necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God unless they repent. Repentance here would mean a change of thinking and, shortly following, a change of action – no longer participating in this lifestyle. In other words, while some would be willing to say that a homosexual can be saved, their salvation necessitates their change of lifestyle within a short period of time.

While I agree with those who say that homosexuality is a terrible sin (Lev. 18:22, 20:13 Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:6; 1 Tim. 1:10), I do not believe it is one that is outside the realm of a believer’s carnality. Neither do I believe that if one practices homosexuality their entire life, they are necessarily excluded from the Kingdom of God. I hope people do not misunderstand my purpose here. I in no way endorse homosexual behavior or seek to relativize its standing before the Lord as an abomination. But I do think that sometimes, we who are not tempted in such a way can fail to see the seriousness of the struggle experienced by people who are tempted towards homosexuality.

Sexual sin and temptation are part of everyone’s life. We are born with a drive toward fulfillment of this God-given part of our humanity. Some will deny this drive because of God’s calling in their lives (e.g., singleness). Yet sin has corrupted this drive and we are all born infected with sin. Because of upbringing, genetics, cultural influences, and other factors, people will experience this corruption to greater and lesser degrees. I personally have never felt any inclination toward expressing my sexual corruption in a way that was focused on the same sex. Why? Not necessarily because of good choices I have made, but because the genetics, upbringing, and influences were not there. I have just never had the sinful bent within me that compels me to lust after someone of the same sex. Don’t get me wrong. I have a sinful sexual bent, but it is of the more natural kind. This does not justify it or make me more innately righteous than the homosexual, it is just a fact that this is not a sin I have ever had to deal with. Continue Reading →

Orientations, Identities, Disorders, and Future Possibilities that Might Make you Squirm a Little

DSM-IVRecently there was a stir about something in the newest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) of the American Psychiatric Association. A couple of headlines were saying that this fifth and latest version was identifying pedophilia as a “sexual orientation.” Not long after those headlines registered their requisite shock and response, the APA issued a retraction and clarification.

Watching this unfold I was reminded again how seemingly confusing is the use of terminology by this group, especially when it comes to key words like “orientation,” “identity” and “disorder.” A first principle of critical thinking is the clear and precise use of important terms. Failure to define these words with clarity and consistency in this case includes an ominous potential to carry our society down a moral and logical river that runs straight into a sewage pond. To see what I mean, consider more carefully the definition and use of each of these strategic words.

Orientation

The APA & similar organizations describe “sexual orientation” as persistent attraction to those of a particular type or group. The attraction is of a sexual (in some cases they add “emotional” or “romantic”) nature. Sometimes you see, along with “attraction,” other words such as “tendency,” “proclivity,” “interest” & “preference.” So in essence a person’s sexual orientation, according to this characterization, amounts to his or her feelings of attraction toward a given group.

Usually the emphasis of the ‘group’ to which a person is attracted is along the lines of gender (i.e., attracted to males, females, or both), but there is nothing in the definition to prevent other things besides gender from defining the parameters of the group. There is no reason given, for example, why such an orientation would not instead have to do with age (e.g., attraction to the elderly or to children), body type (e.g., attraction to the obese or to “little people”), or something else.

Clearly a person who does experience one of these peculiar kinds of sexual attraction (or interest or preference) based on something other than gender would have a legitimate case for his or her attraction being an “orientation” by the definition commonly used. So the description of pedophilia as an “orientation,” for all of the reaction it evoked, would nevertheless, by the reasoning of the APA, be perfectly sensible. I don’t see any argument they could make against that application of the word as it has been loosely defined.

Identity

Now a safe bet for why many people were so uncomfortable with notion that pedophilic attraction could be an “orientation” is that there is another (seemingly added on) aspect of “orientation” that is often mentioned when the term is being discussed and explained. This aspect is basically a sense of one’s identity being in some way tied to the sexual attraction one feels toward the given group. Like the feelings of attraction themselves, this sense of personal identity is entirely 1st person  and subjective. I have the specific orientation if I say that I do, and thus it is part of my identity if I say that it is.

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If procreation is part of marriage, are infertile couples unmarried? And if human beings walk on two legs, are amputees not human beings?

Simple logical errors sometimes pass by undetected, and in a few cases a persistent fallacy becomes so frequent in the wider public conversation that we don’t even think to analyze and question it. One such mistake that I’ve noticed involves definitions of things and a kind of mistaking of the exception for the rule. Before you stop reading because this just seems like uninteresting academic nitpicking, let me assure you that this rational error is relevant in some of today’s most heated topics of debate. It makes a difference whether we recognize it or not.

To explain:  definitions of things are basic to all of our understanding and communication. In any debate on any subject, terms have to be defined. Additionally, things have natures, which is part of why we define them as we do. In other words, there are things that are generally true about, for example, a tree. It is part of the nature of a tree to have roots, to have branches, to grow upward, to have foliage, to use the sun and water for growth, etc. I wouldn’t say those things about a dolphin, since it has a very different nature. Some people may deny that things have natures, since they may not like the implication of design (teleology) that this idea implies. But such objectors are a minority and I will not deal with them at present.

Nothing I’m saying here is novel. We could go back through the centuries all the way to the Greeks and let Aristotle explain this, but I want to be brief and succinct so I’m trying to give you the Cliff’s Notes (Clint’s Notes, to be exact). Christian thinkers have certainly always understood this, and all the more since they recognize that the natures to which things conform are definitely by design. Think, then, about how definitions of things involve their natures, and ask yourself: Are there ever exceptions? And of course you will recognize that there are. Rarely does a definition of something in this world apply to every member of the class or category being described. When you think of birds, for example, you think of flight, since it is generally in the nature of birds to fly. BUT there are a few exceptions.  There are a few species of flightless birds. And even if there were no species of flightless birds, there will always be the individual cases of birds that cannot fly because of developmental deformities in their wings or having been wounded.

Human Nature

This brings us to one of the examples in the title of this post. One thing we usually talk about as having a nature is a human being (as in the term “human nature”). When discussing the definition of human beings, we do our best to consider what is part of the nature of humanity – physically, mentally, and otherwise. Our definition of what it means to be human is, like others, general. It is not meant to say that every single human being will always have all of the traits we ascribe to human beings. It is meant to say, rather, that, all things functioning properly and in accord with what is the nature of a human being, the definition will apply.
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Is Limiting Marriage to Unions of a Man and a Woman Discrimination?

I’m not a legal scholar or an expert on the issue of same-sex marriage, but I’d like to offer some thoughts I have had on the subject for some time. Specifically, I want to address the complaint that the traditional restriction of marriage to unions of a man and a woman are discriminatory against gay and lesbian persons.

same-sex-marriage

I would suggest that laws prohibiting two men to marry one another, or two women to marry one another, are not discriminatory at all. They do not even discriminate based on sexual preference or orientation. If you’re homosexual, you can still get married, as long as it is to a person of the opposite gender. To understand why this is not discrimination, consider a far more common sexual orientation and its relevance to the issue of marriage.

A fairly typical male has natural inclinations or proclivities toward sexual relationships with multiple females. That is, he has biological urges that cause him to find women sexually attractive other than his wife. Moreover, this typical male doesn’t seem to be able to eliminate these feelings. They appear to be natural to him. For some reason, he has not yet been added to the alphabet soup of persecuted groups, LGBTQIA, but perhaps he should be. After all, there are a lot of guys in this category, and they get no respect. Admittedly some females have a similar desire to be united sexually with multiple males, and we don’t want to ignore them. Call these people, both males and females, the polyamorous, or the promiscuous, and add them to the mix. Now we have the LGBTQIAP.

At the present time the law allows Ps to pursue sexual relationships with any number of females that they might like as long as they are adults and consent. However, a P cannot be married to more than one woman. He can set up house with each one, if he can afford it, and procreate children by each one, but the fact is that he would not be allowed to marry any of them except one. The law does not allow him to marry anyone else as long as he is already married. Is this “discrimination”? No. The law is not discriminating against promiscuous men. The fact that he may feel that he sincerely “loves” more than one woman does not make the law discriminatory. The P is free to marry; but he is free to marry only one person. The male P is free to marry one person, and that person must be (a) female, (b) not a biological relative within certain parameters, (c) an adult, and (d) consenting to the marriage. So the law is not discriminating against him personally, nor is it discriminating against a class of people (the Ps).

A promiscuous man, then, may marry if he chooses. In doing so he is choosing to renounce his natural inclinations toward multiple sexual partners in the interests of a higher purpose. Billions of Ps have done just that throughout history; thousands of Ps are doing this every week. If a man simply finds refusing his promiscuous inclinations too painful, he is also free not to marry. But it would be ridiculous to claim that marriages with multiple partners needs to be made into a legally sanctioned and protected form of marriage on the grounds that not doing so “discriminates” against the P class of people. At least it seems ridiculous now to most of us. I suspect it already seems sensible to a few of us and that it may seem less ridiculous as our society abandons the traditional understanding of marriage. However sensible or ridiculous one may find such an idea, the fact remains that laws limiting marriages to unions of just two persons are not discriminatory.

Similarly, laws against incest discriminate against no one. Suppose a man and his sister feel that they are in love and want to live together, share property together, have each other in their wills, procreate or adopt children together, etc., etc. Is the law discriminating against them by refusing to recognize their relationship as a marriage? No. Refusing to sanction certain types of unions as marriages is not discrimination. Our law refuses to sanction as marriage sexual unions between an adult and a child, between two consenting adults who are siblings, and between any two individuals if one or both of them are already married to someone else.

Likewise, the lack of legal sanction for same-sex marriages does not constitute discrimination against any individual or class of individuals. No law currently requires anyone to identify his or her sexual orientation prior to getting married. Any consenting adult may marry any other consenting adult within certain limitations: the other adult must not be a close biological relative, must not already be married to someone else, and must be of the opposite gender. The law does not ask how you feel about sex with persons of the same gender or of different gender; it does not ask how many persons you find sexually attractive. It therefore does not discriminate against a class of persons based on their sexual orientation. It does, however, limit the government’s official sanction of marriage in specific ways. One may not like those limitations, or one may argue on some other grounds that they should be eliminated, but they are not discriminatory.

The main objection to the above line of reasoning is that it would mean that prohibiting people of different races to marry one another would not be discriminatory. After all, anti-miscegenation laws, so the objection goes, prohibited no one from getting married, but only prohibited certain kinds of unions, namely, interracial marriages. There are a lot of problems with this objection, not the least of which is that race is an amorphous construct that cannot be defined in a clear enough way to be coherently applicable to marriage laws.[1] It is really not even possible to find an arbitrary standard by which anti-miscegenation laws can be consistently enforced. Those laws, which were on the books in some states in America for two to three centuries, were unjust laws, but not because they “discriminated” against a particular class of people; they applied to ALL people and were nevertheless unjust. Anti-miscegenation laws were irrational on their face: supposedly a single drop of “Negro” blood made a person a Negro, but many drops of “White” blood did not make a person a White. We now know that far more Americans commonly classified as “White” have ancestors of African descent than one could guess by looking at them or even looking at a typical family tree going back a few generations.[2] There is simply no valid comparison between anti-miscegenation laws, which were themselves legal innovations, and the traditional view of marriage as a societally sanctioned union of a man and a woman.

Another problem with this objection is that miscegenationist marriages entail no differences in potential functionality than any other marriages. A black man and a white woman who are married can potentially perform any function normally associated with marriage in the very same way as a white man and a white woman. The claim here is not merely that each and every mixed couple can procreate; it is that a couple, by virtue of its being mixed, is in no way hindered from procreation. By contrast, each and every same-sex couple, simply by virtue of its consisting of two persons of the same gender, is by definition hindered decisively from procreating. Thus a normal function of the marital union is at least possible in most marriages regardless of race or ethnicity but is by definition impossible in any same-sex union.

Also, any heterosexual couple by definition will have one parent of the same gender as any child the couple might procreate or adopt, whereas approximately one-half of all children adopted by same-sex couples (assuming an approximately equal number of gay and lesbian adoptive couples) will necessarily have no parent of the same gender. About half of the adopted boys in such households will be raised with no father. The empirical evidence is overwhelming that the lack of a father will be disadvantageous for boys. This fact cannot be swept aside by citing exceptional circumstances; there are bad heterosexual parents and I would assume by contrast admirable homosexual parents, but overall children do better if they have parents of both genders, and particularly if the boys have fathers.[3] I have nothing but admiration for women who through no fault of their own are doing their best in raising their children without husbands, and I acknowledge that homosexual parents would all things being equal be better than no parents or abusive parents. But these qualifications do not change the fact that same-sex unions, by their very nature, cannot provide the normal dynamic of child-rearing produced in families that have a father and a mother. Obviously, this potential problem does not apply to racially or ethnically mixed marriages, so once again the analogy to anti-miscegenation laws is invalidated.

Having given some reasons why restricting marriages to heterosexual unions is not comparable to anti-miscegenation laws, the argument I presented above stands that shows that disallowing same-sex unions as marriages is not discriminatory. It is more like disallowing incestuous unions as marriages, or disallowing polyamorous associations as marriages. Any consenting adult may marry any other consenting adult, but “marry” here has a specific, recognized, historic meaning, namely, to enter into a publicly-sanctioned, exclusive, perpetual union with a person of the opposite sex. If the couple are siblings, or if their expressed intent is only to enter into a temporary living arrangement, or if the persons forming the union number three or more, or if the union includes two persons of the same sex, then by definition it is not a marriage. It is not arbitrary to define marriage in this way, nor is it discriminatory.

NOTES

[1] On the difficulties inherent in defining race, see, for example, C. Loring Brace and George W. Gill, “Does Race Exist?” Nova, 15 Feb. 2000 (presenting opposing viewpoints); Michael J. Bamshad and Steve E. Olson, “Does Race Exist?” Scientific American, 10 Nov. 2003.

[2] For an interesting article on this subject, see Steve Sailer, “Analysis: White prof finds he’s not,” UPI, 8 May 2002. The article reports that an estimated 30 per cent of “White” Americans have “Black” ancestors.

[3] See the National Fatherhood Initiative’s webpage on research data on the consequences of father absence, which includes helpful citations. Only some of the data can be explained as the result of only one adult in the household.

 

Should William & Kate Get an Abortion?

It’s hard to miss the big news story of the week. Britain’s Prince William and Catherine Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting a baby. The news broke sooner than the royal family were probably intending. The Duchess is experiencing severe morning sickness which forced her to be hospitalized.

I know there’s a great deal of excitement in the air regarding this pregnancy. I fear, however, cooler heads need to prevail. There seem to be reasonable issues on the table here making an abortion a good option for the royal family. Here are just three examples why William and Kate should terminate the pregnancy:

First, the royal couple have not even been married for two years yet. They have their whole life in front of them. There will be plenty of time to settle down and start a family. Right now, however, is not a good time. They need to first travel the world and enjoy their youth.

Second, Kate is very early in her pregnancy. Yes, the news is saying she is pregnant with a “baby.” Does anyone know who the uneducated backwoods hick is feeding such silliness to the news agencies? Anyone with even a high-school education should know Kate simply has a blob of cells inside her starting as a zygote forming into a fetus. Kate is simply experiencing a parasite feeding off of her body. No wonder she’s sick. If Kate terminated the pregnancy right now she would be well in her rights since the parasite is so early in development. If it were removed right now it could not survive outside the womb, no harm, no foul.

Third, someone has to think about Kate’s health. Our planet has advanced so far in support of women’s health. It’s a shame for us all to sit back and allow ourselves to be thrown back into the dark ages as Kate suffers. I’m thankful to be far enough removed from the situation to be able to think clearly on this point. Kate is obviously suffering due to this parasite. Kate is an intelligent, professional woman with the entire world in front of her. Why should we allow her to suffer? Perhaps William is a selfish jerk? He doesn’t seem like it, but do you really ever know somebody? Someone needs to make sure William is not forcing her to have the baby against her will. Kate, if you’re reading this, think about yourself.

Should William and Kate get an abortion? If the same reasoning used throughout the developed civilized world is used in William & Kate’s situation the answer very well could be: yes. They should get an abortion.

I think this situation, however, has revealed something inside the heart of all people. The entire world would rightfully place our hands over our mouths and gasp if William and Kate decided to terminate the pregnancy. If their explanation was, “Well, it was just not the right time. We’ve only been married for a year and a half. Kate was suffering with morning sickness. We’ll start a family some day, but not today.”
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Does God Approve of “Greater-Good” Theology?

“Greater good” theology. We often talk about the “greater good” in ethics. We defend God’s use and allowance of evil, understanding that so long as there is a “greater good” which can be expected, evil is justified. Joseph tells his brothers after they sold him into slavery out of jealousy, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good” (Gen. 50:20).

Though I am not too comfortable once we, as fallen, ill-informed humans, began to incorporate a “greater-good” theology into our lives, practically speaking it seems anything can be justified when the door is open for us to find a “greater good” that might come from any particular unrighteous action. Of course, it is not always cut-and-dry. Often, when people seek my advice on these matters, I want to hide. Some things are just too hard to give advice on. Take marital issues, for example:

1. A wife comes to you and says that her marriage is falling apart. She and her husband have tried and tried, but their marriage is, according to her, beyond hope. They fight continually in front of the kids. They bring out the worst in each other. The marriage has changed both of them into bitter, unhappy people. Their kids are suffering greatly due to their unhappiness and seeing a terrible example of marriage.

It is a sin to get a divorce. However, the attitudes that they continually bring out in each other are terribly sinful as well. Not to mention that they are hurting the kids. Which is the greater evil? Which is the greater good? Continue Reading →