Archives for: June 2012, 28
I would not call Biblical rules arbitrary. I am not privy to the reasoning of the beings who wrote them, whether they were mortal or otherwise. I assume that there was some reason--some motivation--to do so, but moral foundations range from the rational (fear of disease) to the irrational (simple disgust).
I raised the question of arbitrary rules to lead into my point that, if these rules are backed by some kind of reasoning, then the rules are only worth preserving as long as that reasoning is valid. If that is the case, then God's rules are not absolute, but were temporary measures designed to protect people at that time. And if God's rules are not absolute, then Christians are obligated to reconsider what constitutes "good" and "evil" in 2012.
Now, a Christian could argue that, since we cannot be certain that we know the purpose of Biblical rules, we cannot be certain that it is now acceptable to violate them. Therefore, we ought to follow them just in case. However, this argument takes us to my other point: without explicit justification, morality seems arbitrary; we become attached to rules for their own sake; and we are less capable of determining the other behaviors, if any, that are bad. These results have counter-productive and even harmful effects.
In my book, that's bad. But what do I know? God has sold more copies of his.
While Ryan frequently contributes here, he also writes for his own site, where reason is the best insurance against arbitrary rules, not matter the volume of volumes sold.
Please visit Secular Ethics.
In response to Burr Deming's Choosing to Worship God, Not Scripture
T. Paine's reaction is, sadly, the unfortunate misinterpretation of scripture shared by many Christians. Too many condense Paul's letter to the Romans to a single verse. After introductions and salutations, Paul begins his message with a short, insightful, theory about the nature of sin. God created everything. Evidence of God can be seen pretty much everywhere you look. But some worship, not God, but things God has created. They put forth representations of these things, icons, and worship them instead of God. This substitution is called idolatry. Paul expands on this substitution of values to name a host of afflictions that flow from it. Yes, he does mention homosexuality, alongside gossip and murder and disobedience toward parents.
Burr, my friend, I would humbly submit to you that you are quite wrong on this solitary issue. I would further submit to you that it is not I and “too many Christians” that have misinterpreted this passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. You are correct that Paul is calling out idolatry, but what you seem to gloss over is the list of sins that God abhors when one strays from God and/or worships other idols, whether those idols are a tangible carving or something less tangible such as power, money, sinful sex, or any other things that further distances one from God. They are not simply “afflictions” of idolatry. They are sins in and of themselves. All of those aforementioned sins can very much be idols though, and homosexual acts are specifically listed as one of those sins that further erodes one’s relationship with God.
When one tries to obfuscate the sin of homosexual acts by making it a part of a litany of other seemingly nonsensical sins like a prohibition of eating shellfish or wearing blended fabrics, you minimize a very real threat of not receiving His grace for one of God’s beloved persons. By minimizing the seriousness of homosexual acts because they were not the main topic of Paul’s discussion hardly makes such acts non-sinful or permissible in God’s eyes. Indeed one can see in various places throughout the Old and the New Testament of where homosexual acts are considered gravely sinful. From the aforementioned passage in Romans to 2 Peter 2:4-10 one can see that this is behavior that is not pleasing to God. See 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Christ tells us in Matthew chapter 19 that God’s plan is for man and woman to cleave together and become one flesh. This is what He intended and not for any other iteration of the sexual act outside of marriage.
I would further add that this is the teaching of the first and largest denomination of Christians in the world today. Indeed, that scripture from Romans was canonized along with all of the other books into the Holy Bible and was done so by that very church (and indeed was the only Christian Church from the time our Lord walked the earth as man until Martin Luther came along 1500 years later). No offense but I think I will follow the magisterium of the Catholic Church’s teaching on this scripture and others regarding this topic accordingly.
You further stated (correctly) that Christ did not come to “replace” the law of the Old Testament with a new covenant. I should have been more precise in the choosing of my words there. That said, Christ came to fulfill prophecy and bring into fuller revelation God’s law. John Myste’s inaccurate assertion that there was a “Christian reinvention of God” notwithstanding, part of that fuller revelation under the new covenant was that man could eat what were previously considered unclean animals (Acts 10:10) and other such minor things as bringing salvation not only to God’s chosen people of the Jews but also to the Gentiles as well.
“By trying to separate gay people from God, even with the mitigating effort to ‘love the sinner and hate the sin’ we would yield to yet another temptation. In the end that temptation does not separate anyone from our Creator but ourselves.”
I would take issue with the implications of your statement that “we” are trying to separate gay people from God. There is nothing sinful about having same sex attraction. It is acting out on those impulses in homosexual acts that is the sin. Further, it is the sin of the person perpetrating such acts. It is not a matter of those that wish to characterize or pigeonhole gays into a sinful category simply to meet some Pharisee-like letter of the law interpretation. Just like other sins regarding adultery, stealing, drunkenness, murder, etc., homosexual acts are not tolerable to God. Further, are we not called to be our brother’s keeper. If we see a friend flirting with giving into sin, are we not supposed to lovingly rebuke them to remain faithful to God? I, for one, am very thankful for the friends and family members that have helped me keep on the correct path far more than I would have in my sinful nature otherwise! Lord knows I stumble too much on my own regardless.
Continuing, I whole-heartedly agree that we must “endeavor to worship, not scripture, but God.” Truly only God is worthy of our worship. Part of how we worship Him though is by learning about Him through scripture. Indeed, St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of scripture, is ignorance of Christ.” Further, as I am sure you will agree, we all need to be careful to not use scripture as a weapon in order to justify our own opinions or agendas. We should use and seek to understand what is written by His various inspired writers in the manner that God intended, just as we should worship Him as He would have us do, and not as we want to worship Him.
Moving on, Ryan asked a good question: “I would like you to address the apparent arbitrariness of those rules. Is there a good reason that we should care about shellfish consumption, homosexuality, the proper way to prepare sacrifices, sacrifices in the first place, and so on? Or perhaps I should ask: Why does God care?”
All of those rules had an important purpose at the time, even if they are seemingly bizarre or antiquated to us today. I think Tim already gave a good summarization of why it was not permissible to wear blended fabrics. As for shellfish, they are filter feeders. In some conditions they can feed on phytoplankton that is toxic in “red tide” conditions. Consumption of those contaminated shellfish by humans could be very dangerous. Homosexual acts not only deny the propagation of the human species but also go against God’s design of male and female in matrimonial union, having children, and providing the best environment for their raising. It is actually rather pragmatic. Sacrifices became unnecessary after Christ’s perfect sacrifice of himself in expiation of my and the world’s sins. Basically it comes down to this: some of God’s rules are for our own protection, some are for making a more harmonious society, and some are for simply living a life that is in fuller communion with Him. Why God cares to give us these rules is because He loves us, and isn’t true agape love the desire for the well-being of the beloved?
In addition to his valued contributions here, T. Paine writes for his own site, where he is devoted to the well-being of all.
Please visit Saving Common Sense.