Why Equality is the Wrong Category By Which to Analyze Homosexual Marriage

Homosexual MarriageOne of the most most rhetorically successful and popular ways to defend homosexual (gay) marriage is the appeal to “marriage equality.” The argument is, in short: if heterosexuals may marry and enjoy the social and civil benefits of the institution then homosexuals, who deserve equality under the law, should be allowed the same benefits by participating in the institution of marriage. There are two great problems with this argument. First equality is quite the wrong category by which to analyze the problem of homosexual marriage and second the assumption that homosexual behavior deserves equal protection under the law.

Homosexual behavior does not deserve equal protection under the law. Please understand that I am not calling for the abuse of homosexuals as persons. Those who identify themselves as homosexuals deserve equal civil protection from criminal acts against them. Homosexuals, like all other sinners, are bearers of the divine image. It does not follow, however, that everything homosexuals do, including chiefly homosexual behavior, is deserving of equal protection under the law.

Magistrates exist to preserve order and to execute justice. They must do so on some basis. They do not create by fiat the order they preserve. Rather, they recognize what has already been established by nature. That is why magistrates (from magister or master or teacher) are also ministers. They serve an authority above them, the law, which, in the civil realm, is grounded in nature. The magistrate is ordained by God to preserve order, which is determined by creation. Understood properly, that natural order is not an arbitrary, man-made category created by one class to oppress or control another.

Nature is objective (i.e., outside) to all of us, it is received by us, and we must order our lives according to it or face the consequences. It’s easy to establish that there is such a thing as nature. Climb a tall structure and jump. What will happen? We can predict because there is a creational institution (or law): gravity. That law, though perhaps superseded or modified by Einstein’s theory, still describes our universal sense experience. It is neither fair or unfair, just or unjust. It simply is. It cannot be defied without consequences. The same is true with sexual behavior. There are natural laws that govern sexual behavior that cannot be defied without consequences. We know by nature that pederasty, pedophilia, and bestiality are all contrary to nature. It is only quite recently that some have begun to argue that homosexual behavior is natural but the claim defies universal sense experience.

Pro-homosexual marriage advocates ignore the reality of the natural order for the purpose of justifying or gaining legal protection for homosexual behavior. Yet it is obvious that the very act of homosexuality is contrary to the natural order. This is a family blog so I cannot explain in detail why it is contrary to the natural order but anyone who is unsure should betake himself to the nearest pasture where there are sheep or cattle and simply watch the animals for a few days. Yes, one might see occasional homosexual acts but the normal or ordinary pattern of things is heterosexual activity. Homosexual activity is the exception, not the norm. Further, though humans are mammals, we are not cattle or sheep. We were created in the divine image and thus we have the natural intellectual and voluntary capacities to avoid doing what cattle and sheep occasionally do. The fact that is happens does not make it natural. Pederasty and bestiality and murder happen but that does not make them natural acts in the same sense in which gravity is a natural phenomenon. Homosexual behavior is so obviously contrary to nature that it’s one of the behaviors to which the Apostle Paul appealed in his exposition of natural or creational law. He knew that pagans, Jews, and Christians could all see that homosexual behavior is manifestly contrary to the natural order:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for ua lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Paul was not appealing to Moses nor to the theocratic legislation issued under Moses (613 commandments) but to nature. His citation of homosexual behavior only works because it is universal sense experience that homosexual behavior is contrary to the intended, natural order of things. Obviously, procreation happens via heterosexual, not homosexual, behavior. Homosexuals are, if you will, living off of borrowed capital provided by heterosexuals. They can only do what they do, so long as heterosexuals continue to do what they do. Should heterosexuals stop procreating, the human race would die out. This truth should be so obvious that we should be embarrassed to say it but here we are. We are at the place in our culture we one must say the most obvious things because we’ve become so culturally oblivious to the obvious. When most people think that food appears magically in the grocery store, then we have become sufficiently alienated from nature as to require basic tutorials. Food does not appear magically in the store. Someone, somewhere grew it—all the while adhering to the natural order lest the crop not grow. Those who would deny that there is such a thing as nature (e.g., “food just appears”) presuppose those who still adhere to nature.

It is with nature that the magistrate must concern himself. There are limits to what people may be allowed to do. Humans may not murder other humans. Humans have a natural right to live and they may not be deprived of that right without due process. Arbitrating such cases is the magistrate’s business. Marriage is a natural, creational, institution received by and administered by the magistrate. It is not a mere arbitrary, nominal convention cruelly imposed by mean-spirited heterosexuals for the purpose of hurting or controlling homosexuals. Marriage is fundamental to the natural order and it is inherently heterosexual. The union of homosexuals, whatever it be, is not a marriage. The magistrate may no more license or sanction the violation of the natural order in marriage any more than he may sanction the violation of the natural order in physics or murder. Why don’t murderers get “equal rights”? Because they don’t have any right to commit murder. This is why “equality,”, however appealing it may be to the post-19th-century American egalitarian spirit, is the wrong category by which to analyze who may marry whom.

If we’re going to ignore nature and use “equality,” as the governing rubric then how, on such a basis may we exclude the “marriage,” of humans and animals or adults with children? Don’t laugh. Homosexual marriage is only the starting point in the war against nature. Bestiality is already being advocated in leading universities. This is not the dreaded “slippery slope” argument. The same arguments used to promote homosexual behavior and homosexual marriage are now being used to promote other contra-natural unions.

Like murder, homosexual behavior and unions are not adjudicated under “equality” because that assumes things are false and contrary to the creational order. This is why pedophilia or incest or bestiality are not treated under the rubric “equality.” This is why racial inequity must be treated under the rubric of equality, because it is contrary to the natural order for people to be deprived of their liberty because of their race. Race or ethnicity is not the same thing as homosexual behavior. No one chooses to be Caucasian, Asian, or African. “But”, one might argue, “no one chooses to be homosexual”. Even if it that is true (and it is a highly disputed proposition) it does not follow that homosexual behavior is necessary. Caucasians, Asians, and Africans cannot be other than they are and one’s race does not necessitate any behavior because of race. One’s race does not justify murder. Thus, even if one is born with a homosexual orientation it does not follow that the law must sanction homosexual behavior. Some people are born with unnatural inclinations. We don’t permit sociopaths to practice sociopathic behavior. Even if some are born with a homosexual inclination society has a right to expect that class of people not to act on their impulse and certainly such an innate inclination creates no necessity on the part of a society to license it.

It is true that the categories of “nature” and “natural law” have been abused in the past in order to justify racial oppression and in order to commit crimes against humanity. The abuse of a category doesn’t destroy the category of analysis. The French radicals appealed to “equality” in order to justify mass murder as did the Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot but that does not obliterate the category of equality.

Further, the proponents of homosexual marriage cannot appeal to nature and deny it at the same time, in the same way. They cannot argue that homosexuality is a natural condition or natural phenomenon and, at the same time, deny the category of nature when it suits their agenda. If nature exists, then it exists.

I understand that late moderns are deeply suspicious of nature but I think that late moderns are still capable of reason in civil matters. First, we have to overcome the late modern aversion to nature. We must establish that there are boundaries to what humans may do, that we are not endlessly plastic, that there is a pattern that we all inherited, to which we must conform, which we must observe. No human instituted gravity. Speed limits do not apply only to one race or another. They apply to all equally. Theft is a crime for everyone. Most people still recognize such basic, creational universals. We should begin with them and work back to marriage. We might start with the question: which group of people invented marriage? It’s a trick question. No one “invented” marriage. The question assumes a false premise but I guess that many, particularly those under 40 simply gratuitously assume that marriage is just another social, artificial, institution fabricated by someone, somewhere, to control them. Of course countless heterosexual parents have given them plenty of reason to think so, have they not? Those who argue that the destruction of marriage began long before the debate about homosexual marriage.

So, the answer to the problem of homosexual marriage is not “equality” but nature but it is long road back to recovering that category in a deeply suspicious age. Nevertheless, on reflection, if we think about something as basic as food, we may begin to see that, though we are increasingly alienated from nature, nevertheless, it still is and so we are necessarily bound by and obligated to it.

137 comments

  1. Dr. Clark,
    First I want to thank you for your post and the respectful manner in which you wrote. Also, I want to thank you for speaking against the violence and abuse the homosexuals have experienced in the past and present. We need these statements. I am guessing that you are writing this in response to the post I suggested. If so, I appreciate the attention and response.

    But you know from my post that I have disagreements with what you have written. The argument that we should prohibit homosexual marriages in society also, of course the Church should never conduct them, because homosexuality is against natural law has some weaknesses. Certainly I agree with Paul that homosexuality was not a part of God’s design. Be he sees natural law from a Christian perspective. But now we are working with a religious view of natural law.

    Some advocates of same-sex marriage will note that homosexuality is not just common in the animal world, it has a non-procreative function (see http://www.news-medical.net/news/2006/10/23/20718.aspx). Yes, such views fall short of God’s design, but that is part of being sinners. And since there is a sufficient amount of evidence supporting the claim that homosexual behavior is natural in animals, fallen man, with whom we share society, has a reasonable argument that homosexuality should be regarded as part of the natural order.

    In addition, I see two other problems with using Romans 1′s natural order to argue against society viewing same-sex marriage as being against the natural order. One could easily make the argument from Romans 1 that acknowledging God is a part of the natural order. Should it then be a part of natural law. One could make this assertion because of the clarity by which God’s attributes can be seen in creation. So why not make acknowledging God a part of natural law that is enforced by the magistrates? In addition, there were other debased things that God gave people, who did not acknowledge him, up to such as mentioned in Romans 1:29-31. Some of these things should be made illegal such as murder. But should all of those things be made illegal because God gave them up to these things just as He gave people up to homosexuality?

    See, even after using Paul’s definition of natural law, it is not the criteria for what should be prohibited or allowed by the magistrate. These are the problems I see with the Romans 1 argument.

    Another struggle I have with the logic used in your post is what many of us Christians compare same-sex marriage with. Edward Said, in his book “Orientalism,” observed that many studies of the orient reflected more on the person doing the study than the object of the study. Can we say the same thing here when we compare same-sex marriage with pedastry, pedophilia, and bestiality? After all, isn’t same-sex marriage much more comparable to heterosexual marriage than these other things? That depends on what bothers us the most. Do the sexual dynamics used by same-sex couples bother us more than the abuse and the violence or threat of violence that automatically occurs in pedastry and pedophilia? And aren’t those who practice a same-sex marriage consenting adult partners of the same species have more in common with consenting adult partners in a heterosexual marriage than with a person and a living being from another species? Does the slippery slope argument point more toward an inner fear than a valid concern?

    In addition, to compare homosexuality with other activities such as murder because it violates the natural order overlooks a more significant difference. Same-sex marriage between consenting adults does not infringe on the personal liberties of others. Acts of violence, such as murder and abuse, do.

    Certainly the scriptures speak clearly against homosexuality. But are the magistrates, a term from the reformers and confessions which reveals a religious view of the duties of these people, obligated by God to ban same-sex marriage? I don’t find the arguments that support this view convincing to me let alone to the secular people with whom we share society. And thus we return to the equality issue. When there are differences in views of what is the natural order, should one group be able to dominate the other group?

    And once we are back at the equality issue, we must ask if we want to legislate our religious views on people who, understandably so, see nature a different way and thus feel oppressed and dominated? Or would it be better to confront homosexuality and same-sex marriage solely through the preaching of the Gospel in a way that it cannot be associated with oppression or domination?

    BTW, I do agree with you on another point. Using how one is born to justify homosexuality is no justification at all before God. After all, we are all born sinners and we choose sin–the worst of all worlds. Fortunately, the Gospel is there to rescue us from how we were born.

    But I don’t see same-sex marriage threatening the existence of the species, especially more than other human activities, because those who promoting same-sex marriage want marriage equality.

    • I quote what you said ” And once we are back at the equality issue, we must ask if we want to legislate our religious views on people who, understandably so, see nature a different way and thus feel oppressed and dominated? Or would it be better to confront homosexuality and same-sex marriage solely through the preaching of the Gospel in a way that it cannot be associated with oppression or domination?”
      Can’t both things be done together? Legislate our conviction and preach them the gospel.
      One way or another someone will be oppressed. How about abortion some view nature differently as us, will you want to oppress someone’s right to destroy the embryo? In the non believers view a 3 weeks old life is a parasite it has no rights. Even Many atheist have agreed that homosexuality is contrary to nature and this comes from those who deny the existence of God. Homosexuality is unnatural you should look up std statistics, suicide rates in the homosexual community, in some states they have civil unions with same benefits but they just want the title marriage. And even then when they get it, I say this because so many are just giving in like spineless jelly fish with no care for our future generation or our children’s children, these homosexual men and women will still continue down their miserable lives destroying everything in its path. Adulteress heterosexuals have damaged the sanctity of the title marriage homosexuals will nail the last nail on the coffin.

    • Joseph,
      I don’t think we can do both. Here is why. Same-sex marriage advocates are simply asking that society allows those wishing to engage in a personal decision that does not infringe on the ability of others to make personal decisions. Despite the hyperbole, the most comparable kinds of marriages with same-sex marriages between consenting adults are heterosexual marriages between consenting adults. Those in the former group are asking why can’t we let them be different. One friend of mine asked why if he put his life on the line to defend this country could he not marry the adult person he loves? Why should my religious views on the Church and natural law be allowed to prohibit him from doing so? Please answer that question for him.

      In addition, what does citing statistics about suicides in the homosexuality community imply? Are the higher rates because of their homosexuality or because of how they are hated and harassed and stigmatized or prohibited from marrying whom they want by part or much of society? The numbers themselves say nothing.

      And if you wish to refer to the number of atheists who oppose homosexuality, I will refer to the number of churches that support it. There are no conclusions to be drawn from either.

      The one point I agree with you on is regarding the unborn. Why can’t we treat every human life as equal to all others?

      We can’t legislate all of our convictions and not be dominators of society. We can legislate against murder, stealing, rape, and such because these actions allow one person to horribly infringe on the person and rights of another. We are stopping injustice when we legislate against these actions. But, again, how are your rights and person being infringed on by a couple engaging in sex outside of marriage or who are joined in a same-sex marriage?

      If you wish to legislate most or all of our(Christian) convictions, please realize that we are practicing some degree of theonomy. We are also practicing what American-Israeli activist, Jeff Halper, calls an ethnocracy. That is a ruling of the country by a particular ethnic or religious group. If we do that, we no longer have any kind of democracy or democratic republic. If we do that in the name of Christ, we will cause people who feel oppressed by our religious laws they do not accept to unnecessarily stumble when they hear the Gospel.

      In short, why do you seek such control over those who are different?

    • Curt,

      1. Marriage isn’t a private matter. It’s a public matter. That’s why there are public records of marriages. There is, after all, regulation of marriage. Incest is still, for now, illegal. Consanguinity is illegal. Before Mrs HB and I married we had to get blood tests. Not anyone may officiate at a wedding. Those who officiate at weddings must have some credentials and meet certain criteria. It’s not a free-for-all.

      2. Consenting adults are rightly and regularly forbidden to do all manner of things. The fundamental basis for such regulation is nature. A civil society has a natural interest, e.g., in the continued survival of its citizens thus societies have regulations against suicide, yet nothing is more personal than suicide. Thus, even intimately personal behavior is regulated.

      3. I quoted Romans as an example of a natural law argument. Such arguments are universal and not limited to Scripture. They are found outside of Scripture because they reflect the universal knowledge of the moral/natural law embedded in the conscience of every human in all times and places.

      4. You quite misunderstand me. I’m not trying to legislate Christianity! This blog has been mightily criticized by theocrats, theonomists, Constantinians and others for arguing precisely against attempts to impose Christianity on a secular society. If you listened to the Heidelcast on Belgic 36 you’ll know that I explained how Abraham Kuyper helped us to revise Belgic 36 so that it no longer contains the old Constantinian language. What I’m trying to impose is nature. In the older language, I’m making a secular (not secularist) argument, i.e., I’m not arguing from Scripture or grace or redemption. I’m arguing from nature, from creation, from the divinely imposed order that is universal. Do you understand the historic Reformed distinction between nature and grace?

    • Dr Clark,
      Thank you for the response. I only have time to respond to one point now. Will respond to the rest later.

      I agree that you do not believe in legislating Christianity. But the question is can we legislate against same-sex marriages without legislating Christianity in some form. We have differing views of natural law on the subject. And again, the comparisons you are making between same-sex marriage and practices that are currently illegal don’t seem to match.

      Also, please correct me if I am wrong but seems a bit reductionistic to say that gov’ts are obligated to enforce natural law.

      Also, if we prohibit same-sex marriages because gov’ts are to enforce natural law and Romans 1 tells us that same-sex marriages would be wrong because homosexuality itself violates natural law, why should we not make all homosexuality illegal?

    • Dr Clark,
      Marriage is a part public and part private affair. The legal contract and joining of of two consenting adults has social implications. One of the current implications we see today is a problem with stds among gays because our society inhibits monogamous same-sex relationships by prohibiting same-sex marriage. In addition, because society has defined same-sex relationships as not being acceptable, society incites some to demonize and then attack homosexuals. So yes, there is a public component to this issue.

      Yes, consenting adults are not given license to do anything they want. Most of the prohibitions prevent one adult from infringing on the rights or person of another person. Suicide is prohibited but is unenforceable when successful and, to my knowledge, is not treated as a crime when not.

      But again, we want to examine what we compare same-sex marriage to to see if we are revealing something about ourselves more than something about the issue. Most, if not all, of the comparisons I’ve seen are really not as strong as comparing same-sex to heterosexual unions. That does not imply what Paul said if false, it just means that we could be employing hyperbole to argue our case.

      And again, the problem with citing Romans is that that is natural law as understood from a Christian point of view. Others will point to other resources for and thus a different understanding of natural law and so we have a standoff in society. I have already provided a source that some will point at and say: “homosexuality conforms to natural law.” Will we demand that the civil magistrates use the Christian view of natural law?

      And why is natural law the canon being used here unless we are reductionistic in our use of natural law?

      We don’t have to approve of homosexuality to allow it in society. It might mean that we will have to be more involved in society if same-sex marriages are allowed so as to provide a bigger influence on culture. And that might be good for us. I have often thought that Conservative Christianity in America has all too often encouraged its followers to live like the Amish. This makes our way of going out into the world to make disciples is to wait for the world to come to us.

  2. While I agree that equality is the wrong category from which to view the issue, I don’t think it’s as simplistic as, the magistrate always and only follows natural law.

    As Paul Helm and others have written lately, God allowed the unnatural act of divorce to OT Israel because of the hardness of their hearts.

    No amount of governmental coercion will change hardness of heart. Nor will governmental actions that regulate consensual human activity “preserve order”.

  3. Reading this reminded me of how the Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill (often called the Indiana Pi Bill) that purported to describe a method for squaring the circle. Not as harmful as the current attempts to set aside nature but just as absurd.

  4. Curtis,

    Not only is the post timely and homosexual relations unnatural, the problem further is that the argument for homosexual “marriage” is a contradiction in its own terms.

    It privileges same sex unions over same family/incest or more than one person at the same time/polygamous unions. Which is . . . horror of horrors: Discriminashun, the mortal sin of a godless age which otherwise knows no right or wrong.

    FTM J. Irons? or some other actor recently pointed out the hypocrisy and contradiction implicit in favoring homosexual unions over incest and polygamy. (Never mind Cher and Chaz), would fathers still be forbidden to marry their daughters all the while it would legal to marry their sons? Brothers could marry brothers, but not their sisters?

    If we are going to allow the redefinition of marriage to include Abbot and Costello tying the knot, likewise the Three Stooges have to get in on the party as well our ersatz Nork ambassador Dennis R who at least at one time wanted to marry himself – which is, not to be redundant, just more of same old infantile narcissism that in part defines homosexuality.

    IOW it’s an all or nothing proposition as defined by the same sexers own argument premised on the French Revolution/Jacobin redefinition of equality to mean equality of outcome, not equality of opportunity.

    Still if the same sexers absolutely insist on the freedom to redefine reality, fair enough. Then the same freedom – which would include freedom from prosecution – has to be allowed to those who disagree with them and continue to consider marriage to be what it has always been.

    I could live with that, if not that the homosexuals have pretty much already have attained a civil right to engage in perversity since Bowers v. Hardwick, but then again freedom to marry is not what SSM is really all about.

    Thank you,

    • Bob,
      Right now I am a bit busy to fully read and answer your note. Thanks for commenting though. I will give my best answer tomorrow.

    • Bob,
      Again, we have to look at what we are comparing to see if it is saying more about us or more about the objects we are comparing. What I sense here and other places is that if we allow for marriage to be redefined so that it allows for same sex partners as well as heterosexual partners, we will see the collapse of the space-time continuum.

      But when we look at all of the comparisons being made, same-sex marriages compare most favorably to heterosexual marriages. In addition, we have to distinguish between those who legitimately fear a slipper slope from those who are employing overgeneralization for whatever reason.

  5. Marrying whoever you like sounds novel and may actually become law — until a mother marries her son to avoid paying the death tax. When those tax dollars escape the clutches of the govt., the policy will change.

  6. Dr. Clark,
    Great article. Good use of natural law arguments. As a theonomist, I feel that natural law arguments do have value, and that some non-Christians would be convinced by your post. However, because of the noetic effects of sin, not all would be convinced of course. You allude to this when talking about those who are against natural law arguments etc..
    I have come to the conclusion that when understood consistently (from an epistemological and logical standpoint), and if the logic train is carried all the way to the end of the line, natural law arguments are really simply “theonomic” or “kuyperian” arguments in reverse.
    For instance, you say that “Marriage is fundamental to the natural order and it is inherently heterosexual.” This is true!
    Even jungle-men societies of Africa understand this and they dont have revealed law. Then, if the onion was peeled back even more, we would then ask, why is it fundamental? What is the basis behind the natural order? What the meaning behind the term “fundamental”? And of course, we all know that these are derived from the God of the Bible, and clarified (among other things) by revealed law.
    You also allude to this when talking about how marriage isnt something that man made up, and that it is a creational universal. This is true!
    So, what exactly is a creational universal? How do we know? By what basis? If we were to properly answer these questions, of course, we would say that it is from God etc… Again, these things being clarified by the revealed law of the Bible.
    In my own personal studies, I have come to see that natural law arguments (when fully strung out) are like bottom up arguments, while theonomic arguments are top down arguments.
    I am pretty sure that you soberly understand that in reality that there will be little few homosexuals who would ever be convinced by your post, and to them, this will essentially sound like a religious argument cloaked in natural law arguments.
    But, this exactly proves the point that nature cannot be understood without the context of who created nature, and who orders it (God).
    Some non-Christians have a hard time understanding the proper order of nature because they are actually being consistent (or actively unwilling?). From the ***unaided naturalist mind***, no imperative about nature (natural order etc…) can logically be derived from an observational indicative (man and woman come together in marriage etc..). They have no epistemological basis for saying so!
    However, non-Christians generally have understood that in fact there are imperatives because of the natural law implanted in their hearts. (And of course, they dont get it right all the time, because they are being inconsistent etc… )
    But where can we get this understanding of natural law? How is it clarified and “corrected”? Through the revealed law of the Bible etc…
    This is why I say that natural law arguments when consistently strung out are theonomic/kuyperians arguments in reverse.
    Thanks for the post!

    • Christopher,

      No, NL arguments are decidedly NOT theonomic.

      1. theonomy is the insistence that, contrary to the WCF, the civil laws of the 613 commandments given under the Mosaic covenant have not been abrogated (21.3) or expired (21.4). Such a view is not only contrary to the explicit teaching of the WCF but it is unbiblical.

      WCF 21.4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

      2. Paul made a NL argument not a theonomic or theocratic or proto-Constantinian argument (see below for definitions). That’s the point. He knew that everyone knows certain things by virtue of their status as human beings.

      3. Your post is a good example of the QIRC, which goes beyond what is appropriate for this stage in redemptive history (over-realized eschatology) or seeks the sort of certainty that cannot be hand in this age. NL arguments are the best arguments we can make in the civil realm as we seek to fulfill our vocations as citizens in that sphere under God’s sovereign rule.

      4. Even an appeal to Scripture, in the civil realm, however, isn’t theonomic. It might be theocratic (were it the church as such making it or seeking to impose it) or perhaps Constantinian (were it the state seeking to impose a particular religion) but it isn’t necessarily theonomic.

      5. Your appeal to the noetic effects of sin is misleading. Paul certainly understood the noetic (i.e., the intellective faculty) effects of sin but that did not lead him to epistemic skepticism. The Reformed tradition has always taught that, despite the effects of the fall (which are real and profound) fallen humans are able to perceive empirical, sensible reality in a sufficiently accurate way so as to know civil (not-soteriological) and other proximate truths truly. Look at Rom 1. Everyone, believers and unbelievers actually know certain things.

      What they are unable to do with them is to reach the proper spiritual and soteriological conclusions but we’re not talking about the spiritual and the saving. We’re talking about the universal, natural, and shared (common). One need not be regenerate to see that there is such a thing as nature. Plato, that pagan, was able to see that homosexual behavior is contrary to nature. It is arguable that Cicero saw the same. I suspect Seneca did too. I’m still researching that. When Nero began to flaunt his sexual depravity the Senate and others were shocked. Yes, there was gross sexual immorality in the Roman baths but it was private and it was not enshrined into law.

      To anticipate a reply, I’ve addressed the claim re the Canons of Dort. The short answer is that “aright” does not mean “not at all.”

      UPDATE

      Christopher, I didn’t post your links to that blog. Not here. Not ever. I don’t allow pornography (intellectual or visual) on the HB.

  7. Dr Clark,
    It will take me a long time to address your points and I will try when I find the time, but for the time being, I guess part of the issue is how we are to define terms, which I didnt do.
    “Theonomic” to me means that you are applying the standard of the Bible to particular issues.. The civil laws, as you quote, are a subset of that, but that does not constitute, in my mind, the theonomic argument. And, if NL arguments are taken to their logical conclusions, they would end up at the Bible. This is what I meant when I said that NL arguments are theonomic arguments in reverse.
    Also, there are different strains or versions of theonomy, but I dont really know of any theonomist (I am sure that they are out there) that would hold to statement #1. One of the most visible spokesmen of theonomy, Bahnsen, understood these laws in their “general equity” form.
    I will try to answer your other points later. Also, I didnt really understand your comments about “pornography”.

    • Christopher,

      The word “theonomy” has two widely accepted uses, the broad and the narrow. Broadly, as used by Paul Tillich and Cornelius Van Til, “theonomy” was juxtaposed to “autonomy.” In that sense “theonomy” means “God directed” as distinct from “self-directed.” Used in that sense no Christian objects to it but that, of course, is not what is meant by advocates of “theonomy” such as RJR, Bahnsen, North, and others. They mean something quite specific. The slogan, in Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics is “the abiding validity of the law of God in exhaustive detail.” Of course, he did not mean the ceremonial law nor was the moral law in dispute among Reformed folk, so “law” in that context meant, “civil law.” That position is simply contrary to the WCF as demonstrated above.

      When you say “applying the Bible” to civil issues, that is not “theonomy” in any recognized sense of the word. I’ve already shown that it’s not necessary to end up with Scripture. I make reference to it here because this is not a secular court or a secular civil magistrate (e.g., legislature). Here, I appeal to Scripture to illustrate what I mean because it’s a familiar text with authority but the same arguments can be made without appeal to Scripture.

      I keep saying, if folk want to go to legislative bodies and appeal to Scripture, Go right ahead. Nothing is stopping you. There is not a shred of evidence in the NT or in the early post-apostolic Christian history that Christians did that in their time. Appeals to Scripture before pagan secular authorities only had persuasive power after Constantine, when Scripture was gradually recognized as an authority.

      To the degree that we are living in a post-Christian society, Scripture is increasingly unknown and no longer regarded as authoritative. In that sense Bill O’Reilly was right. We need to make arguments that have a universal appeal. If we’re going to appeal to Scripture in the civil sphere then we must first engage in apologetics to demonstrate to the pagans making decisions that God is, the Scriptures are his Word, Christ is the Savior etc. Now, of course, we’re not making social or civil arguments but doing evangelism.

      If the goal is to replace policy discussions with evangelism, then you’ve got a start but streets must still be paved and if Christians do only evangelism then what started as creational civil engagement under Christ’s Lordship has arguably been reduced to pietism, the notion that the only thing that really matters in life is evangelism and spiritual experience and the rest of life can go hang. I thought that Kuyper wanted us to go out and engage the world under Christ’s Lordship?

  8. Curt,

    You don’t get it.
    Forget the Biblical and natural law arguments against homosexual marriage. The argument of the homosexuals for their own position is self defeating.

    IOW as we are serenaded every time the Big Lie comes up on the mainstream moron media, the fundamental premise of SSM is that:

    Equal rights for homosexuals means that they can marry anybody they want, just like heterosexuals can marry anybody they want.

    Rebuttal:

    But heterosexuals cannot marry anybody they want (incest, polygamy, age, consent etc.).

    ∴ Equal rights for homosexuals does not mean they can marry anybody they want.

    If p, then q.
    Not q.
    Therefore not p.

    Believe it or not, this is elementary. Which just goes to show how far the so called discussion is debased and ignerunt (sic) and Poe’s Purloined Letter is no longer taught in high school Am.Lit. classes.

    If you want to redefine the fundamental building block of human society (which includes the church), the family, suit yourself.
    But some of us are not interested in drinking that koolaid, even if it is really is antifreeze and tastes better.

    • Bob,
      Regarding your argument:

      If p, then q.
      Not q.
      Therefore not p.

      Besides the fact that you never assigned statements to your propositional/statement variables, you used the indirect method, which is based on the contrapositive and is the wrong form for you to prove your point. This means that you have assumed the implication p–>q is true, which is undefined but I am assuming that p = all heterosexuals can marry anyone they want and q = all homosexuals can do the same. BTW, the indirect proof method is sometimes called proof by contradiction. However, when one calls the indirect method proof by contradiction, they have to distinguish two kinds of proofs by contradiction.

      As I wrote before, the constraints are implied or assumed. The constraints as you listed them include no polygamy, no incest, no children, no non-consensual, and nothing outside the species. So far, both heterosexuals and homosexuals have the same constraints and are thus equal. And in fact one could argue that since both heterosexuals and homosexuals are under the same constraints of not marrying someone of the same gender, both are still equal. This last constraint and argument is disingenuous however because the same argument could be made if the law prohibited people from marrying anyone from the opposite gender.

      Here is where equality comes into play. Heterosexuals, remaining within the above listed constraints, can marry someone from their preferred gender while homosexuals cannot. Again, reverse the situation and you would have heterosexuals calling for equality too.

  9. Christopher, you claim that understanding of natural law must be clarified and corrected through the revealed law of the Bible. But what this reasoning always seems to fail to take into account is that reading any text, to say nothing of comparing two texts, takes a reader. And readers are human beings, and human beings are sinful and so always vulnerable to mis-reading a text, whether it’s written inwardly or outwardly. In other words, the Bible doesn’t resolve things the way this reasoning seems to imply. If it did, couldn’t we expect those who affirm something homosexuality to open the Bible and fairly quickly reject its validity? Not likely, and why not? Because the human heart is in the way, that 500 lb. gorilla this reasoning just glosses over.

    The law written inwardly (heart) and outwardly (Bible) is authored by God, and the suggestion that either one needs help, in this case the former, seems to suggest there is something inherently insufficient in God’s natural revelation. But insufficiency is inherent to human beings, not either of God’s two books.

  10. Dr. Clark, I have an macro-question: how do we decide which natural laws the magistrate should enforce? If natural law is to be the basis of civil law we need to answer this question.

    • Mikel,

      The short answer is that the magistrate should enforce those laws in which he, as God’s minister bearing the sword, has a natural interest. Those laws are embodied in the 2nd table. The magistrate has a natural interest in maintaining order generally (5th commandment), preventing and punishing murder and suicide (6th commandment), the regulation of marriage, preservation of the family and the basic outlines of sexual morality, the protection of children from sexual predators, prohibitions against bestiality etc (7th commandment), prohibition and punishment of theft and the protection of privacy and private property (8th commandment), the prohibition of falsehoods in court, contracts, and public documents and the like (9th commandment).

      Re the 4th commandment, arguably, the magistrate has an interest in a basic social rhythm (e.g., a 1 in 7 pattern). I understand that this is debatable but to do the degree the sabbath is rooted in creation (Ex 20:8) the magistrate should preserve the general welfare by ensuring that workers are not abused by being forced to work 7 days a week.

      I don’t see a natural or creational role for the magistrate in regulating religion (commandments 1-3 and arguably the 10th). The magistrate’s natural role is to regulate outward, civil behavior. People should be left to attend to their religion privately (not that their faith is merely private! It is “private” relative to that which is civil, public having to do with the governance of civil life). Christians (and others) should not be molested by the magistrate in their worship services or their daily observance of their faith or in its daily outworking. I agree with those 2nd-century Christians who begged the magistrates to be left alone to do their daily work quietly and to serve God according to Scripture and to pay their taxes to the magistrate.

      Obviously in a democratic republic, Christians have a role in civil life that they did not have in 2nd century.

  11. Curt,

    List for me the assumptions you don’t make about homosexuals.
    Beginning with they have to be able to make their case just like anybody else/no special favors/no cuts.
    Capiche?

    I’m not trying to be a snark, just that propaganda is propaganda and the very popular “racistsexistbigothomophobeantisemiteneonazi”smear is likewise just that.

    • Bob,
      Since you implied there was a difference in how heterosexuals regard being able to marry whom they wish as opposed to homosexuals, please tell me what you are assuming about homosexuals. It is a very simple request.

  12. No, Curt.

    All desires are equal, although they may be different desires.
    That’s the homosexual argument in a nutshell.

    “Since we desire what we want and can’t, while heteros desire and can, we receive unequal treatment re. what we desire.”

    The problem again, is not so simple as the pro-homosexual lobby paints it.

    But if that’s not the homosexual marriage argument, what is it?
    Briefly please, in that WADR you haven’t done real well at articulating your position.
    Thank you.

    • Bob,
      And what desires to homosexuals have? The ones I know are in stable, monogamous relationships. The ones I know have a lot in common with the rest of us. That doesn’t make their relationship right, but that is how it is.

  13. A swing and a miss, Curt.
    That some, all or just a few homosexuals have a stable desire for marriage is immaterial to the/their fundamental argument.
    IOW so what?

    Why do we give them a cut in line in front of a stable desire for incest, polygamy, an under age spouse or a partner in a stable?

    Because that would be unequal, the very thing their case is premised on and what we are constantly being badgered about and exhorted to by the yapping heads in the MSM echo chamber.

    Read the Supreme Court arguments, ScotusBlog, Volkh Conspiracy etc. Aside from a nod at federalism, equality – of outcome – is the bottom line.

    IOW the philosophes of the French Revolution have conquered and as usual the conquered don’t have a clue. At least Patrick McGoohan knew he was The Prisoner, but our happy campers suffer no such delusion. They actually think they reached their opinions independently of the zeitgeist.

    It also means Kurt Vonnegut needs to update Harrison Bergeron’s BIOS ROM pronto since Aldous’s Brave New World is now the new numero uno.

    cheers,

    • Bob,
      Do you have statistical studies that show homosexuals have more desire than heterosexuals for the kinds of relationships you listed?

  14. Good grief, Curt.
    Can you read/follow an argument?
    Homosexuals don’t have desires for heterosexual incest or polygamy/amory. Heterosexuals do.
    As in heteros don’t get to marry just anybody they feel like marrying.
    Contra the meme that because “heteros get to marry whomever they want to”, homos are persecuted, discriminated against and receive unequal treatment because homos can’t likewise “marry whomever they want to”.

    Or are you going to throw a change-up and argue that as long as homosexual unions are not incestual or polygamous, they should be legal? Brothers can marry brothers, but not their sisters?
    But that’s not . . . unequal treatment/discrimination?

    IOW even if all arguments are equal, some really are objectively stupider than others even if Derrida or the QueerGuy don’t think so.

    cheers,

    • Bob,
      All I asked was that if you want to make claims about homosexuals, that you provide statistics. These statistics should come from peer reviewed sources. It is the best way to make the claims you want to make.

      Besides the fact that the claims you want to make fly in the face of the gays I know, I think that you should have no problem in showing why you are making these claims.

    • Bob,
      In addition, I already wrote why society should allow for same-sex marriage. Dr Clark and I disagree about this but I find this to be an equality issue. Just has heterosexuals get to marry whom they want, the so should homosexuals be able to. BTW, the constraints are implied for both which is the biggest problem you have had in following the argument.

      To you, it is obvious why they should not. Go ahead and convince me. Just don’t make generalizations unless you can back them up. And make sure that your comparisons don’t say more about you than the people you are comparing.

    • Curt,

      Your claim begs the question. You’re still assuming that marriage is an artifice imposed by heterosexuals on homosexuals. This premise is false.

      Homosexual marriage is an oxymoron. By definition it doesn’t exist ergo it cannot have equality with marriage anymore than murder can have equality with life or bestial sex can have equality with heterosexual activity. That which violates the most fundamental natural order has no claim on equality.

      Equality is natural right limited to the natural order. That’s why the Declaration appeals to nature as the ground of liberty from tyranny. The latter is a denial of nature and the former is submission to the natural order.

    • Dr. Clark,
      Homosexuals could easily say that marriage is a right that has been denied them by gov’ts that favor heterosexual marriages.

      To me, the problem I see with your position begs the question of who defines natural order. Certainly I agree with Paul on what the natural order is but why should the atheist or non-Christian be forced to abide by laws based on a definition based on someone else’s religion? If we insist that our laws must be determined by all that is in the natural order that is defined solely by Christianity, then aren’t we using a back-door approach to establishing at least a minimal theonomy? We could call this theonomy-lite. Not sure what the advertisement for this would look like.

      In addition, why stop at same-sex marriage if we are to accept that it is against the natural order? In Romans 1, Paul defines all of homosexuality as being against the natural order, not just same-sex marriage. If we are consistent in letting the natural order determine the law and rights, would we not be compelled to prohibit all homosexual acts and not just same-sex marriage?

      If we are to insist on society basing its laws solely on our interpretation of natural law, it would be similar to insisting that society uses the disciplinary laws of the Church for its civil laws only less contentious. But despite the lesser intensity, it would call on the Church to lord it over society and that puts the Church in a situation where it will be forced to try to do too much. And that too much will be in the form of discipline and control over those outside of the Church–something that is foreign to the New Testament. That is both unnecessary and will significantly hurt our attempts to evangelize.

  15. I think Curt might have a point. To take an analogous example, those of us who read this blog understand that equality is also the wrong category when it comes to the “right” to worship other gods. Yet most of us (myself included) don’t complain about the civil rights of Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists to worship as they see fit, and to be equally protected under US law to do so. Yes, It’s obvious to you and me that homosexuality is against nature, but what do we do when a significant segment of the population–due to their having lost their grasp on what is and isn’t natural–insists otherwise? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as disgusted by homosexuality as the next guy. I’m just not yet convinced that there is any neutral or common ground for “proving” to non-Christians that homosexuals shouldn’t marry. Could Dr. Clark have written the above post without resorting to confessional language such as “creational” and “divine image bearer”? And given the fact that it is a civil “right” in this country to exchange the truth of God for a lie, I don’t know that we should be surprised that many of those who do so will be given over to unnatural relations (since the latter naturally follows from the former, according to Paul.) All this to say that if we acknowledge it to be a civil “right” to transgress the first table, then perhaps we shouldn’t expect the second table to remain entirely intact either. Perhaps, as in the case with idolatry, we will ultimately have to allow for equal civil protection for something we know to be unequal under God’s law.

  16. But, David R., the hinge to oppose true religion being affirmed and false opposed by the sword isn’t civil rights. It’s opposed because true religion ought not be coerced by the sword, as in weapons of the flesh vs. those of the Spirit. Instead of it flowing from a doctrine of civil rights it flows from the spirituality of the church. The second table alings with sword bearing.

    That said, my own observation is that the unstated assumption is fashionable debates about marriage and family is how the hinge for virtue flows in and out of legislative decisions, i.e. as long as the right laws are on the books human and civil virtue are preserved. But an older conservatism would say that legilation reflects what naturally arises from human tradition and custom. Sure, equality is the wrong category here, but I also wonder about legislation being given so much import.

  17. Zrim, Agreed on the spirituality of the church. But what to do if the sword bearer isn’t a Christian? Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness naturally results in losing one’s grip on the natural, even in terms of the second table. What then?

    • David,
      I don’t think there is a general rule on how to react to the sword bearer regardless of his/her faith. We do have constraints in terms of how far we can support or oppose the sword bearer. But the faith or lack of faith of the sword bearer should bring no automatic response.

      At OWS, we have been protesting the coalition of the sword bearer with the moneyed-interests of this country because of the political and economic abuses they continue to practice. And what I am saddened by as Christian Fundamentalist is that American Conservative Christians are so apathetic to institutional sins that cause such immediate harm such as death from war or bankruptcy from economic abuses while they are frightened to death by personal choices made by others that do not infringe on their rights or person.

  18. Curt -

    “The constraints as you listed them include no polygamy, no incest, no children, no non-consensual, and nothing outside the species.”

    I realize there are various difficulties in defining natural law and that it’s a non-starter in the courts. But if you reject it wholesale, do you have a basis to say it is not a matter of liberty (switching from equality) for those so inclined to engage in polygamy and incest?

    • Mikelmann,
      One thing I would suggest is that just as we cannot define Christ by what we want him to accept, natural law cannot be formed by what we want rejected. I believe that both are examples of post-modern thinking.

      I would point out that same-sex marriage is much more comparable to heterosexual marriage than polygamy and incest. So that is one starting point.

      BTW, incest has been rejected because of the suffering it has brought especially to the offspring. And I am guessing here that behind polygamy is a culture of dominance where the person with the many (spouses) dominates over the person with the one (spouse). I have not hear of any kind of polygamy where both partners have multiple partners. And the only group I can see promoting a polygamy where both partners can have multiple partners is the American Bar Association.

      So we could start there but I have not given it enough thought to give a more comprehensive answer. But I don’t think we have anything to fear here.

    • Curt, the SCOTUS case upholding the criminalization of polygamy rested on two grounds:
      1) “there never has been a time in any State of the Union when polygamy has not been an offence against society, cognizable by the civil courts and punishable with more or less severity. In the face of all this evidence, it is impossible to believe that the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom was intended to prohibit legislation in respect to this most important feature of social life.”
      2) “according as monogamous or polygamous marriages are allowed, do we find the principles on which the government of [98 U.S. 145, 166] the people, to a greater or less extent, rests. Professor, Lieber says, polygamy leads to the patriarchal principle, and which, when applied to large communities, fetters the people in stationary despotism, while that principle cannot long exist in connection with monogamy.”

      The first basis – looking at history to determine the intent of the Constitution, is passe to the majority of the Court.

      The second basis is similar to your point in its reference to “stationary despotism,” but in this age of liberties, sociological studies, ahistoricity, and rejection of natural law, I don’t know how compelling it is any more.

    • Mikelmann,
      And who brought the suit to the SCOTUS? A fringe group.

      What is keeping people from supporting equality here is fear. I believe it is an irrational fear that says the law prohibiting same-sex marriage is the last finger in the dyke. That is why we get all of these expressed concerns when the issue comes up.

      What maintains this fear? Perhaps it is the realization that same-sex marriage is more comparable to heterosexual marriage than they care to admit.

      BTW, egalitarian polygamy would so screw up the property division laws during a divorce, I can’t see it happening. That is why I said only the ABA could support such a practice.

    • Curt: “And who brought the suit to the SCOTUS? A fringe group. What is keeping people from supporting equality here is fear.”

      I don’t understand the relevance of who brought the suit; the SCOTUS ruling is the SCOTUS ruling and is precdent that has to be consciously accomodated or marginalized when discussing this area. Also, I can’t say that I’m trembling with fear as I analyze this. Iowa (where I live) has had gay marriage for 4 years and no one has noticed.

      Up until you just engaged in a psychoanalysis of those who disagree with you, I thought your arguments were refreshingly principled. Let’s not go down that road.

    • Mikelmann,
      We have to realize that there is a psychological component to both the support of gay marriage in society and its rejection. If you don’t like it, just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Its just that every time a comparison is made in fear, you observe something. In addition, a little psychology might help us understand those who feel the need to compromise the faith as they decide on which side they are on.

      The relevance of who brought the suit tells us the threat of it being brought again.

  19. David, if the political powers that be aren’t Constantine but Nero then isn’t it that classic balance between submitting to him and obeying God rather than men? In which case, if Nero wants his worship then maybe becoming his backyard candlesticks is more biblical than retaining a lawyer to protect our rights.

  20. Zrim, in this case, I don’t think it’s so much about refusing to worship Nero as it is about whether or not we can persuade him that something is unnatural (and hence should not be legalized) without resorting to special revelation. I recognize that special revelation isn’t likely to persuade him either, but I’m suggesting that if the civil sphere is going to be non-confessional (which I think it should be), then we may have to accept that views of what’s natural will be necessarily diverse.

  21. David, I disagree. Diversity seems to only demonstrate the inherent deficiency of human beings to read what is revealed clearly in nature. Same goes for what is clearly revealed in the Bible, which is to say look at the diversity in interpreting the Bible. Does that diversity mean we now need yet another authority to which we appeal to settle absolutely what the Bible itself teaches? I smell a Magisterium brewing.

    So don’t we have to be a little more at ease with the fact that people get things wrong, instead of saying natural revelation is less than clear without the Bible rushing in to help in the civil sphere (or Magisteriums in the sacred)?

  22. FOR GAYS ONLY: Jesus predicted that just before His return as Judge, there will be a strange, spontaneous, mind-twisting fad – a global steamroller notable for its speed, boldness, violence, and impudent in-your-face openness. In Luke 17 He called this worldwide craze the repeat of the “days of Lot” (see Genesis 19 for details). By helping to fulfill this worldwide mania quietly coordinated by unseen spirit beings, gays are actually hurrying up Christ’s return to earth and making the Bible even more believable!
    They’ve actually invented strange architecture: closets opening not on to bedrooms but on to Main Streets where kids can see naked men having sex in “Madam” Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco Brothel District. We wonder how soon S.F.’s underground saint – San Andreas – will get a 10-point jolt out of what goes on over his head (see the dire prediction about cities in Revelation 16:19)!
    What’s really scary is the “reprobate mind” phrase in Romans 1:28. A person can sear his conscience so much God turns him over to S, the universal leader of evil who can turn such a person into Mr. Possessed with a super-human strength that many cops together have trouble restraining.
    Remember, gays don’t have to stay bound to their slavery. Their emancipation is found in a 5-letter name starting with J – no, not James or Julia. As soon as they can find out the all-powerful J name, gays will really start living!

    • Colin,

      I am not sure how many gays read the HB, but I don’t think it is many. Regardless of this, congrats for one of the most outlandish comments I have seen not only on the HB, but Reformed blogs in general – pretty much ever. It possesses the ever so rare mix of conspiracy, super-special inside knowledge of God’s providential work in the world, and apocalyptic fervor.

      I am curious though, how do you know God is accomplishing his purposes for final judgment through the agency of “the Gays”?

    • “It possesses the ever so rare mix of conspiracy, super-special inside knowledge of God’s providential work in the world, and apocalyptic fervor.”

      But it really is extraordinary, isn’t it? A funnel cloud of adjectives and metaphors swirling at the behest of spiritual powers, then, at the end, a couple word games: Mr. S & “guess which J?” Chaos, judgment, salvation, and a “ten point jolt” as well.

      It’s gold, Jed, it’s gold!

    • MM,

      Like a fine Scotch, some comments need to be savored for their complexity, audacity, and dare I say subtelty. Not to wax all Hartian but I’d go so far as to say it had all the elements of a great Cohen film. Drama, heroic suspense, and irony. Honestly it made my day. And I don’t mean to sound like a jerk when I say so – this was simply a case of reality trumping fiction.

  23. Zrim, I am not saying that natural law is unclear. I’m just pointing out that those who exchange the truth for a lie with regard to the first table can be expected to do the same with regard to the second, according to Romans 1. Since this is the case, then nothing short of conversion (which requires special revelation, as you know) can restore a right apprehension of natural law. Hence, in the civil sphere, we’re stuck in a cooperative enterprise with those who are unable to make right use of natural law (I’m not denying common grace), and therefore won’t be persuaded by our protestations that “It isn’t natural.”

  24. Dr. Clark,

    I know that the WordPress back-end CMS doesn’t track the sexual orientation of it’s readers, I doubt yours does either, it was an educated guess. I just wonder how he thinks you have amassed such a large gay readership that he could write a comment, not to the blog’s author, but solely to the gay readers.

    In the words of Ted from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, “strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”

  25. David, I’m not sure unbelievers are unable to rightly apprehend the natural law. CoD teaches that “There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, and natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior.”

    So I don’t see how we can say that “…in the civil sphere, we’re stuck in a cooperative enterprise with those who are unable to make right use of natural law.” It certainly doesn’t align with experience. If it were true that unbelievers were unable to make right use of natural law then don’t we make hash of Romans 2:14-15?

    • Zrim,
      If we say that unbelievers are unable to see natural light, we will then take on a paternalistic role which means exercising more and more control in the name of doing good. In addition, our unwillingness to listen to others, that is unbelievers, will blind us of our own faults.

      The above reminds me of something Martin Luther King said when he said,

      “Western arrogance that it has everything to teach and nothing to learn from others is not just.”

      With what we say about ourselves and what we say about non-Christians, it seems that the arrogance King was talking about is a trap we fall into all too easily

    • Dr. Clark,
      The issue isn’t Western, Western is an instance. King said this in a speech protesting the Vietnam war. He was describing Western, American, foreign policy that assumed it could dictate to others what was best for them. It was really a dictation about what the U.S. wanted. And since it was always telling other countries what to do but listening to nobody, King called it an “arrogance of feeling” (see http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0115-13.htm).

      When you think of how we rejoice in sola scriptura and the confessions, and I am always sure of the order of our boast, it is easy for us to prey to that arrogance. And we will unless we learn that we can learn from the unbeliever too.

  26. Zrim,

    Here’s the entirety of CoD 3/4.4:

    There remain, however, in man since the fall, the glimmerings of natural light, whereby he retains some knowledge of God, and natural things, and of the difference between good and evil, and shows some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior. But so far is this light of nature from being sufficient to bring him to a saving knowledge of God and to true conversion that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay, further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted and hinders in unrighteousness, which by doing he becomes inexcusable before God.

    As you can see, according to the Canons, the presence of “the glimmerings of natural light” and “some regard for virtue and for good outward behavior” (Romans 2:14-15) is not at all inconsistent with being unable to make right use of natural law (Romans 1). In fact, I think the precise issue of this post is a perfect illustration. The plea for “equality” (i.e., equitable treatment) demonstrates the glimmerings of natural light, while the failure to discern that equality is the wrong category demonstrates the inability to make right use of it.

    • David,
      The wrongness that you refer to in the cry for equality depends on the sphere. In society, it is not wrong. In the Church, it is. That is because, as a famous hot dog manufacturer says, “we answer to a higher authority.” We would be excommunicated if we didn’t repent. That is the highest form of punishment in the NT for a personal sin.

  27. Curt, while some of what you’ve been saying resonates, there are not two standards of morality, one for society and one for the church. There is one moral law transcending both, but if civil morality is going to be grounded in the mere glimmerings of it (and the natural man can’t even use that rightly) then the question is to what extent we can reasonably expect morality to be enforced civilly.

    • Unless you want Church discipline to extend past the Church, something that did not interest Paul in I Cor 5, you will have to have two sets of morals. One set of morals will be enforced by the Church with excommunication being the highest form of punishment and the other will be enforced by the gov’t. We have seen how the latter works in history while it has no NT justification.

      Sometimes it is just a matter of being able to make distinctions. What is required to live righteously in society does not qualify one for eternal life. However, it qualifies one to enjoy the benefits of society more fully. Thus the standards must be different.

      There is a caveat. Society needs to eliminate cases and systems of social injustice and crime.

  28. David, I’ve understood you to be trying to say that at some point the Bible must be used in the civil arena because “I don’t think it’s so much about refusing to worship Nero as it is about whether or not we can persuade him that something is unnatural (and hence should not be legalized) without resorting to special revelation.” I’ve been trying to say that while there is nothing wrong with appealing to the Bible, the Bible isn’t needed to persuade anybody of anything pertaining to nature since everybody has (ahem) equal access to natural law.

    But now you seem to be saying equality is the issue on homosexual marriage and that nature teaches this. But those who say it’s instead an issue about nature (our host) demonstrate how nature can be misread. Well, I disagree. I think our host is correct, and I could just as easily say you are the one demonstrating an incapability of using the light of nature aright, namely by turning the discussion on equality instead of nature. And here is the part where you say “that if the civil sphere is going to be non-confessional…then we may have to accept that views of what’s natural will be necessarily diverse.” Agreed. Is this where you think the Bible enters to sort things out? Because if you do, I’m not sure equality is favored. Sure, there’s no more male nor female, but neither are females given authority because of the order of creation. In other words, the Bible esteems a multitude of virtues but tends not to take sides, as it were. Think of generosity and prudence. Or think of a time for everything under the sun. And it seems to me that when that time is the question of marriage, nature is a better hinge than equality.

  29. Zrim,

    I think we’re not connecting.

    But now you seem to be saying equality is the issue on homosexual marriage and that nature teaches this.

    No, I’m not intending to say that. What I said was: “The plea for ‘equality’ (i.e., equitable treatment) [that is, the demand for equal treatment coming from gay advocates] demonstrates the glimmerings of natural light [because in the absence of such light, one could not make an appeal for equitable treatment], while the failure to discern that equality is the wrong category [i.e., the failure of gay advocates to discern that their demand for equality is unjust] demonstrates their inability to make right use of it [i.e., natural light].” I don’t know, does that help any?

  30. Curt,

    To cut the chase.

    So after all the blah blah blah about not assigning statements to my arguments etc. etc. come to find out your position really is the change-up version:

    If marriage is defined as a stable union between two partners (barring incest or multiple partners).
    And homosexuals unions are stable.
    ∴ Homosexual unions are marriages

    Then you have the audacity to accuse those defending the status quo of post modernism.

    But PM does not tell us that the distinction between male and female is a social construct? That what, there really is at least five or six genders/categories? Then of course, the distinguishing characteristic of marriage categorically cannot be that of a union of a man and a woman only. No prejudice or discrimination there though, right? (Didn’t think so.)

    Neither is the stricture against hetero incest applicable because birth defects don’t apply to homosexuals because (obviously no?) sodomy and lesbianism are not procreative. Nor does your crystal ball forecast anybody but the ABA merely thinking about including incest, polygamy/amory or bestiality in the equation.

    Yet with all due respect, we are not impressed by your track record in grasping the implications of the current equality/stability kool aid. (We’d insert a Dabney quote here, but this is already running long for a comment.)

    As for “fear”, a PM bully/smear word tantamount to being slandered as a “homophobe” which was not chosen, because we pre-empted it, that has nothing to do with it. Rather the reality is the argument for faux marriage is hardly compelling, Christian, reasonable or constitutional.

    Again, as stated previously, if the homos want to redefine nature, that’s their business. But heteros ought also to be allowed the same liberty in standing by the traditional view which has objectively been around far longer than everybody in the debate, whatever those swilling PM opine.
    But surprise, surprise, the homos are not really interested in either freedom or equality. (See Rom. 1.)

    Fine, but then the self righteous hypocrites, as well the useful idiots in the so called discussion are not necessarily those whom are branded as such by the advocates for faux marriages or the supporters in the lamestream media .

    cheers,

    • Bob,
      First, the assignment statements to variables is important. Second, your argument relies on the implication, which was unknown. Third, you represented my argument incorrectly anyway.

      As for why we don’t allow certain forms of marriage, I think harm to the offspring is a very important consideration. An incestuous relationships does cause harm to the offspring. That is something homosexual relationships do not do.

      And, as far as I can tell, same sex relations are not procreative. But that is not a threat when have the allowance for heterosexual marriages. And since most couples are heterosexual, the presence of homosexual relationship have no effect on society’s procreative needs.

      And yes, it is post modern for the possible effects to determine the truth of the premise. That doesn’t make the people who do that entirely post modern.

      And if equality is a kook aid, then kool aid is one of my favorite drinks. And it appears that that drink has not harmed my health

      But it seems like you really want to vent. Not sure why. You want to use hyperbole. That is fine. Just realize that when you make things comparable, that you don’t say more about yourself than what you are comparing.

  31. The short of one major part of the argument is this:

    If we push state laws on society, we will be advocating theonomy.

    If we push our perception of natural law on society and insist that society uses this to govern itself, we will be advocating ethnocracy (this is the predominance of an ethnic or religious group in governing society).

    If we discuss the issue in a way that says we have everything to teach and nothing to learn about natural law, society, relationships, etc, we will be disingenuous, amongst other things (http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/2012/05/what-christian-attitude-is-louder-than.html).

    If we use hyperbole, especially in our comparisons, we will be shedding light more on ourselves and our real motivations for opposing same sex marriage. One key motivation is the fear of change especially when change means my group has less say.

    If we stick to scriptural definitions while having the attitude of the tax collector who could only see his own sin unlike the pharisee who could only see his own righteousness, we will not just optimize our outreach, we will have represented the Gospel well by how we relate as well as in what we say.

  32. Zrim, I don’t really disagree with the thrust of Dr. Clark’s post, but where I thought Curt might have a point was in pushing back against the idea that we can make natural law arguments that will persuade anyone except ourselves, or that don’t ultimately invoke confessional categories (if that is in fact what he was pushing back against). Paul seems to say that a good handle on the second table (creation) begins with a good handle on the first (Creator). (Although I’ll admit that homosexuality seemed just as unnatural to me prior to becoming a Christian as it does now.)

  33. David, it seems like a wooden read of Paul to say that a good handle on the second table begins with a good handle on the first. Whatever Paul is saying there, it’s not clear to me he means to imply, as your suggestion does, that the only way to grasp the problem of stealing is to first grasp the reality of God. Sure, there may be an epistemological problem, but epistemology isn’t everything, especially when in real life plenty of those who deny first things still get secondary things right. Add to that the wrinkle of those who get first things right but not second things (i.e. Xns who affirm the hinge of rights over nature here).

    So if we’re left with only being able to make natural law arguments that only persuade the already persuaded then the neo-Cals are right. But since I always had a hunch before my own conversion that blasphemy was a real thing and probably to be avoided, I’m much more inclined to think 2k has it right: nobody needs the Bible or even conversion to know what is naturally written on the human heart.

  34. Zrim,

    Whatever Paul is saying there, it’s not clear to me he means to imply, as your suggestion does, that the only way to grasp the problem of stealing is to first grasp the reality of God.

    I’m not sure stealing is the best example. I would agree that pagans have a decent grasp on the immorality of theft. Not as much so with homosexuality it appears.

    So if we’re left with only being able to make natural law arguments that only persuade the already persuaded then the neo-Cals are right.

    No, I don’t think that follows. I think pagans have a far better grasp of plumbing than they do of the seventh commandment.

    … nobody needs the Bible or even conversion to know what is naturally written on the human heart.

    I think we have to be careful here. What’s left on the human heart is the “glimmerings” of natural light, which aren’t used rightly even in things natural and civil. I realize that Dr. Clark made an argument that Canons 3/4 doesn’t actually mean what the plain reading appears to indicate, but I’m not (yet?) persuaded.

    So what are the implications of this for me? In brief: I think we need to keep a clear distinction between the holy (civil realm) and the common (ecclesiastical realm). I do think that the glimmerings of natural light are sufficient (in God’s design) to order the common realm for its temporal, civil purposes (which is way I’m not a theocrat). But the common realm is not the holy realm, and we should not expect it to fully reflect the moral standards of the holy realm, even in terms of the second table. I’m not saying that unbelievers don’t understand murder and theft, but I think those are arguably more at the heart of the state’s divine mandate (Genesis 4, 9) than is the issue of homosexuality (which Paul seems to single out as a primary symptom of a race that has forsaken God).

  35. David, wow, really? Believers have a better grasp on sexuality than unbelievers? What about the Corinthian who did sexually what even the Gentiles abhor? What about Abimelech who chided Abraham for his lying which almost lead to his violating Sarah? Sorry, but I don’t see how sexual ethics is in some sort of different category when it comes to natural law such that unbelievers need a dose of the Spirit before we can all agree that relations with mothers-in-law and neighbors’ wives is out of accord with nature.

  36. Zrim, Can you tell me what I said that your “wow, really?” is specifically in response to? But in response to you, I might ask if you really think that regeneration and faith has no effect on one’s sexual ethics. I find that hard to believe.

  37. David, the wow response was to: “I would agree that pagans have a decent grasp on the immorality of theft. Not as much so with homosexuality it appears…I think pagans have a far better grasp of plumbing than they do of the seventh commandment.”

    But if you re-read what I said it wasn’t that “regeneration and faith has no effect on one’s sexual ethics.” It was that regeneration and faith aren’t necessary to know that adultery is wrong.

  38. Zrim, regeneration and faith aren’t necessary to know that homosexuality is wrong either; it’s just that if the truth is being suppressed in unrighteousness, I don’t think the argument that “It’s not natural” is the one to use. As I said, I don’t think it will convince the unconvinced. Also, in addressing the unconvinced, I don’t think we can (or necessarily should) disconnect our notions of what’s creational and lawful from our notions of the Creator and lawgiver.

  39. David, agreed on the imprudence of disconnecting creational norms from the Creator. Not quite convinced that unbelievers suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Ro 1) undermines the fact that they do by nature what the law requires and thus show that the law is inwardly written (Ro 2). It seems more like a balancing act to me. So I happen to put a lot of stock in the “it’s not natural” argument. I understand it may have relative success. But I also think Reformed don’t put as much stock in results as in principle. Homosexuality should not enjoy the sanction of marriage because it’s not natural–anything other than that argument seems like a forfeit.

  40. Curt,

    (Not to vent), but those of who don’t buy in to your post modern “as far as I can see” basis for redefining equality and marriage are not haters or scared on account of your say so.

    But whatever.

    FWIW a guy named Dabney once said:

    (A)n erroneous theory is never harmless. Man is essentially a logical creature; while capable of much shortsightedness as the ulterior outcome of his known opinions, and even capable of much intentional inconsistency in refusing to apply them squarely, he ever tends to work out the corollaries of his own theories. The erroneous theory may have stopped just now at inoffensive measures; it will not tarry there. If it is not refuted, it will be sure to advance to other measures, despotic and mischievous (Pract. Phil. ‘84, p.343).

    ciao

    • Bob,
      Not all are scared, but some definitely are. You can tell by the comparisons they make and the hyperbole they use.

      And I would not say my view is all post modern. But there are things to appreciate about post modernism and there are things to stay away from.

  41. Zrim, I don’t really have a problem with what you say there. Sometimes I get the (perhaps false) impression that natural law arguments are designed to make that disconnect that I mentioned above. I still think maybe your view of what’s left of natural law in fallen man sounds a little rosy (though maybe not). I find the distinction made by John Calquhoun in the following quote to be helpful in striking the balance you speak of. In his view, the natural law is far from intact. This is from chapter one of Treatise on the Law and the Gospel (pardon the length):

    That fair copy of the natural law which had been transcribed into the nature of the first man in his creation was, by the fall, much obliterated; and it continues still to be, in a great degree, defaced and even obliterated in the minds of all His unregenerate off-spring. And, indeed, if it was not in a great measure obliterated, what need could there be of inscribing it anew on the hearts of the elect? What occasion would there be for such a promise as this: “I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Hebrews 8:10)? What necessity could there be of writing it in the Sacred Volume in order to make it known to men in all generations? Indeed, so obliterated was it that the Lord saw it necessary to make it known to His people by both external and internal revelation. But although this natural law inscribed on the heart of Adam was much defaced by the Fall, yet it was not wholly obliterated. Some faint impressions or small relics of it remain still in the minds of all men. Indeed, with respect to its general principles and the immediate conclusions obviously deducible from them, it is not and cannot be totally effaced; but with regard to such conclusions as are more or less remote, it is, by the darkness of the mind and the depravity of the heart of man, wholly perverted (Romans 1:21, 32). The general principles which, in some measure, are still inscribed on the minds of men, even where they have not the benefit of the written law, are such as these: there is a God; that God is to be worshipped; that none are to be injured; that parents ought to be honored; that we should do to others what we would reasonably wish that they would do to us; that such general principles as these are, still in some degree, engraven on the minds of all men, is evident from these words of an apostle: “The Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law.” This shows the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another (Romans 2:14-15). The same is also manifest from the laws which, in countries destitute of the light of revelation, are commonly enacted for encouraging virtue and discouraging vice, and for preserving the rights of civil society. Men in heathen countries can have no standard for those laws but the relics of natural law, which all the descendants of Adam bring with them into the world.

    The remains of the law of nature in the minds of men are commonly called the light of nature, sometimes the light of reason. They are the dictates of natural conscience, and they contain those moral principles respecting good and evil which have essential equity in them. The law of nature, as engraven on the heart of Adam in his creation, should always be distinguished from the light of nature as now enjoyed. The former is uniform and stable, of universal extent, and of perpetual obligation; the latter, being that knowledge of the nature of God, and of their own nature, as well as of the duties resulting from the relations between them which men since the fall actually possess, is greatly diversified in its extent and degree, according to their different opportunities, capacities, and dispositions. In some parts of the world, where the light of nature is not assisted by the light of revelation, it does not appear superior to the sagacity of some of the inferior creatures. How far, then, must it be from being sufficient to guide men to true virtue and happiness; or to afford them in their present depraved state proper views of the wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy of God!

  42. David, you may find my view of what abides rosy, but I’m still wondering why you think sexual ethics is less within reach of the unregenerate than plumbing. I understand sexual ethics have fallen on hard times, but that seems quite different from saying they have been extinguished.

  43. Scott, it may be. But I’ve always found Darryl’s points about learning from the liturgicals below to resonate:

    If Protestant liturgicals actually represent a viable way for conservative believers to participate in public life, they may also provide an escape from the impasse that has bedeviled recent discussions about the relationship between religion and civil society. 60 Ever since 1980 when the religious right emerged as factor in electoral politics, the typical approach to religion and public life assumed a bipolar perspective. Either the public square welcomes or excludes religion; either religious convictions are private or they legitimately inform the aspirations that guide public life. 61 In other words, no middle ground exists. If evangelicals are going to participate meaningfully in public life, the wall between church and state has to come down. Or, at least, some gates have to be added to allow for passage back and forth. In this way of looking at the problem, the religious right and secularists are made for each other. As much as evangelicals try to say all areas of life belong to God and so religion should not be excluded from public affairs, secularists see that such divine possession can likely end up dispossessing those who do not believe in the deity of evangelical Protestantism. 62 Of course, this is not the first time such an impasse has arisen. The bipolar character of most discussions about religion and public life is [End Page 36] the legacy of Anglo-American Protestantism’s political philosophy. Ever since the heady days of the American republic’s birth, when the United States tried to live without the older authorities of monarchy and established church, evangelicals have operated according to a simple political formula–if it is divine it is trustworthy, if it is human it is suspect. 63 Though responsibilities as presidents, chemists, parents and umpires have forced evangelicals to modify this formula, it still lurks within the evangelical soul and plays havoc with Protestant efforts to relate their religious convictions to non-religious walks of life. 64

    Liturgical Protestantism offers a way around this impasse. A different way of putting it is to say that liturgical Protestantism represents a way for Protestant believers to support the wall between church and state. By looking for religious significance not in this world but in the world to come, liturgical Protestantism lowers the stakes for public life while still affirming politics’ divinely ordained purpose. The public square loses some of its importance but retains its dignity. It is neither ultimately good nor inherently evil; politics becomes merely a divinely appointed means for restraining evil while the church as an institution goes about its holy calling. 65 For some evangelicals, the liturgical Protestant approach to public life is not a solution but rather a sell out. 66 Religious convictions demand unswerving allegiance in all spheres. In fact, the moral absolutes of Christianity require the same kind of conduct at home and city hall. To admit otherwise is inconsistent and leads inevitably to moral relativism. But if Daniel Bell is right about the nature of modern society, liturgical Protestantism may very well be the best approach for Protestants. In his 1978 foreword to The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Bell described himself as a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture. “Many persons might find this statement puzzling,” he explained, “assuming that if a person is radical in one realm, he is a radical in all others; and, conversely, if he is a conservative in one realm, then he must be conservative in the others as well.” But modern capitalistic society does not permit such ideological consistency. According to Bell, “[S]uch an assumption misreads, both sociologically and morally, the nature of these realms.” 67

    In the end, the most important lesson the religious right could learn from liturgical Protestantism is not how to negotiate public life but how to prevent a legitimate concern for politics from distorting the faith. Here the religious right could well take a page from one of their neglected heros, J. Gresham Machen. A Presbyterian fundamentalist, Machen almost single-handedly fought liberalism within the northern Presbyterian Church during the 1920s until he was suspended from the ministry and started a new Presbyterian denomination. 68 What is more, he was particularly [End Page 37] active in fighting legislation that undermined, in his view, family life and the legitimate authority of parents. In other words, Machen would appear to meet the religious right’s theological and political litmus tests. But he was keenly aware that religious liberty in the United States prohibited Christianity from providing the norms for public life. In fact, Machen ridiculed the hypocrisy of liberal Protestant churches that took pride in theological diversity while also supporting legislation aimed at achieving Anglo-American cultural homogeneity. Mainline Protestants were guilty of such duplicity precisely when they argued that religion was beneficial for community or public life. For example, Machen wrote, “there is the problem of the immigrants; great populations have found a place in our country; they do not speak our language or know our customs; and we do not know what to do with them.” So religion is “called in to help.” It is “thought to be necessary for a healthy community.” And in the process, Protestants “proceed against the immigrants now with a Bible in one hand and a club in the other offering them the blessings of liberty,” or what some called “Christian Americanization.” 69 For Machen, the norms of America and the churches were necessarily distinct and to conflate them violated religious liberty.

    But Machen was even more concerned about what politicizing religion did to Christianity. In order to make religion relevant to public life, he argued, Protestants had turned to the Bible only for its ethics while ignoring almost completely its ultimate message about sin and grace. This was one of the reasons for Machen’s opposition to prayer and Bible reading in public schools. Aside from questions surrounding the separation of church and state, even more alarming was what this practice did to the gospel. “What could be more terrible,” he asked, “from the Christian point of view, than the reading of the Lord’s Prayer to non-Christian children as though they could use it without becoming Christians?” In effect, a politicized Christianity ends up being little more than moralism. “When any hope is held out to lost humanity from the so-called ethical portions of the Bible apart from its great redemptive core,” then, Machen concluded, “the Bible is represented as saying the direct opposite of what it really says.” 70 Curiously enough, H. L Mencken, who admired Machen while abhorring the fundamentalist’s Presbyterian colleague, William Jennings Bryan, the leader of the 1920s religious right, agreed with Machen’s assessment. Mencken wrote:

    It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, [End Page 38] but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. . . . That, it seems to me, is what the Modernists have done, no doubt with the best intentions in the world. They have tried to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet, preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. 71
    Mencken did not think one needed to be a partisan to see what politics was doing to the Christian religion. For him, as for Machen, the logic was simple. Anytime religion is forced to perform a function it cannot do, it necessarily becomes something different.

    The lesson for the religious right should be obvious. The effort to bring religious values to bear on public life is similar to what Protestant modernists did seventy years ago when they advocated prayer and Bible reading in public schools, Prohibition, and a rating system for Hollywood’s movies. And like the Protestant establishment during the middle decades of the twentieth century, today’s advocates of public religion could presumably add greater dignity and decency to American society. But at what cost? What will happen to the non-evangelical citizens of the United States if they do not comply with evangelicalism’s moral code? Even more important, what will happen to faith once delivered to the saints that evangelicals are so eager to share? As difficult as it may be to find a common ethical platform for public life without the foundation of revealed religion, the difficulties on the other side are just as great, if not greater. To be sure, the desire to make Christianity relevant for public life does not automatically force someone to deny the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ. Neither is it immediately obvious, however, what these articles of belief have to do with limited government, free markets, or family values. And so, a comprehensive biblical program for American society and politics turns out to be little more than the second table of the Ten Commandments, the ones having to do with love of neighbor. Loving neighbors is a good thing. But historic Christianity involves much more. The irony is that by reducing Christianity to its ethical teaching the religious right and its defenders could be making one of the greatest concessions to modern secular life imaginable. For that reason it may be better to scrap altogether the project of public or civil religion. 72 In the case of Anglo-American Protestantism, such efforts have not worked out well either for the republic or for the churches.”

    http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~edgoodwi/Hart.html

    • Zrim,

      Thanks for this. Darryl is always worth reading.

      I think people under 30 have a harder time with the concept of nature. They think it’s arbitrary. They’ve been raised on deconstructionist assumptions. It’s hard to question the framework within which one is raised.

  44. I wouldn’t worry about it, Curt.

    If you can throw the baby out with the bath house and define marriage as chiefly a stable union instead of a union between a man and a woman then you qualify as post modern.

    Or as they say, if it walks like a duck . . . ducks can get married.

    • Bob,
      That is the problem. That is because labels come and go so easily. When you label someone for a single belief, it is called all or nothing thinking.

      Or using your analogy, it might walk like a duck but has no wings. So do I still call it a duck?

  45. Zrim,

    I understand sexual ethics have fallen on hard times, but that seems quite different from saying they have been extinguished.

    Where did I ever say they’ve been extinguished?

  46. …I’m still wondering why you think sexual ethics is less within reach of the unregenerate than plumbing.

    You can’t be serious.

  47. David, I am, but at least you didn’t call me Shirley. But the implication of what you’ve been saying seems to be that when it comes to sex the unregenerate are more functionally degenerate than not. Are you flummoxed because you think this is a mis-reading of you or because you are indeed saying this but can’t believe I am disagreeing?

  48. Zrim, I think I’ve already acknowledged that by virtue of common grace/natural light, the civil realm functions according to its design. Call me flummoxed if you’d like, but so far, I can’t tell if you’re willing to admit the distinction between the natural law as it functioned in man pre-fall from the “small relics” of it, “faint impressions” (Calquhoun), and “glimmerings” (CoD) that remain after. You also seemingly want to deny that regeneration effects any renewal at all.

  49. David,

    I understand you’ve acknowledged that by virtue of common grace/natural light, the civil realm functions according to its design. Huzzah.

    And I do acknowledge the distinction between pre-fall and post-fall natural law as you’ve articulated it. What I am left wondering, though, is why you think that post-fall the specific category of sexual ethics is fainter for the unregenerate than other ethical categories. It may be that I misunderstand you and you don’t mean to say that. Is this the case?

  50. Zrim, I’m glad for your acknowledgments. With regard to your wondering, experience suggests that unbelievers more readily perceive the immorality of theft than that of, say, fornication. Anecdotally, my sister, though not a believer, yet in many ways more virtuous than I (indeed a shining testament to common grace), can’t imagine how anyone opposed to gay marriage isn’t a bigot. But I’m not all that interested in the question whether or not the unregenerate have more access to some ethical categories than others, and perhaps this varies according to place and time.

    But I wonder if you wouldn’t mind clarifying a couple of things regarding the argument from nature:

    1. We agree that the civil realm is designed to operate according to the standard provided by the remnant (relics, glimmerings) of natural law that remains in fallen man (as opposed to the fullness of natural law as it existed in Adam pre-fall), correct? But since this is the case, shouldn’t we expect that arguments like “It’s not natural” will likely not resonate?

    2. Also, isn’t the assertion “It’s not natural” really a creedal statement, since for Christians, “natural” is defined in terms of creation and the Creator (as you agreed), whereas others will assume a different definition?

    Interested in to what extent you would answer affirmatively to these questions.

  51. David,

    1. Correct, but it seems to me that if we grant that natural law is sufficient to govern civil life that “it’s not natural” should suffice in response to those who contend that something “is natural.” The fact that they are interpreting things wrong doesn’t change things. A third grader who refuses to admit that 7×6=42 and instead equals 45 out of some convoluted reasoning that sincerely makes sense only to him can only be opposed with the reality that it’s 42. Who cares that it doesn’t likely resonate? He’s wrong.

    2. Yes, it’s a creedal statement of sorts. But it’s one that flows from what it means to be primarily imago Dei creatures, which is to say the regenerate and unregenerate alike can say in unison that men go with women (and men don’t go with men or women with women). Nobody needs to be Xn to know that–everybody knows homosexuality is contrary to nature. Admitting it may be another matter, but just because some don’t admit it doesn’t mean they don’t know it. So I don’t see how your view here doesn’t imply that people must become Xn to admit it. But I reject that, because the law is inwardly inscribed on every creature and that is sufficient to work with.

  52. With regard to your wondering, experience suggests that unbelievers more readily perceive the immorality of theft than that of, say, fornication.

    David, this suggests your experience-o-meter might need a little calibrating. We may like to tell ourselves that comparably speaking we have sexual ethics pretty well cornered, but it may turn out that believers can be just as human as unbelievers:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christandpopculture/2013/04/who-are-you-sleeping-with-my-conversation-with-timothy-keller/

  53. Zrim, thanks, I enjoyed the article. However, I don’t recall ever claiming that we (professing believers) have sexual ethics under control. (Note that what my experience-o-meter had calibrated was the perceptions of unbelievers.)

    In response to your responses to my two questions (thanks for clarifying), a couple of thoughts:

    1. First of all, I’m not quite comfortable with your dictum, “natural law is sufficient to govern civil life,” because it glosses over the distinction between pre-fall and post-fall that we’ve discussed. The reason this is important is that if you say “Natural law is sufficient …”, you are implying that the light of reason (i.e., the relics of natural law) is insufficient for structuring civil life .” I don’t think you want to imply this.

    Secondly, since the light of reason/relics of natural law are sufficient to structure the civil kingdom, but obviously not sufficient to keep the civil kingdom free from occasional ethical blunders, your solution seems to me much like telling a murderer he’s wrong to murder. Yes, he is, but what end will your protest accomplish?

    2. If all you meant to say was simply that both regenerate and unregenerate can agree that sexual coupling most often occurs between people of different genders, then I would agree with you. But once you bring “nature” into the conversation with an unbeliever, you’ve introduced theologically-loaded content that he will (by definition) reject. Which is why I’m not sure how helpful it is to argue that “everybody knows homosexuality is contrary to nature.”

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the unregenerate don’t possess a certain recognition that homosexuality is unnatural. My complaint is rather that the argument that something is not natural appears to assume an area of neutral territory to be exploited in the persuasion of unbelievers. But the relics of natural law, while sufficient to render the unregenerate inexcusable and sufficient to order civil society, are not sufficient to provide such neutral territory (though perhaps you think Van Til was wrong about this?).

  54. …I don’t recall ever claiming that we (professing believers) have sexual ethics under control. (Note that what my experience-o-meter had calibrated was the perceptions of unbelievers.)

    David, what you had said was “I would agree that pagans have a decent grasp on the immorality of theft. Not as much so with homosexuality it appears.” Isn’t that the implication of unbelievers having less of grasp on sexual ethics, namely that believers have more?

    But, no, my point isn’t to bifurcate natural law and reason and somehow gloss over the latter. My point is to assume both. To press my arithmetic analogy, there is a place to reason with our student for why 7×6=42. But when you keep making the distinction between the regenerate and unregenerate and suggest that the former have a relatively better grasp on any set of natural ethics, it seems to imply at least to me that faith is somehow necessary to improve that grasp.

    I’m not clear on how “the argument that something is not natural appears to assume an area of neutral territory.” It seems to me that the very suggestion that there what’s natural and what’s unnatural in inherently non-neutral. Think about when you suggest that homosexuality is unnatural to those who are much more affirming of it. What is the response? Typically it’s visceral because it is understood that judgment is being made, particularly in a direction that offends your friend. And he is correct. We are both in fact making judgments, which is inherently non-neutral. So what do you mean here?

  55. Since this thread is still active, two article of possible interest. Sex After Christianity over at the American (not so) Conservative by Rod Dreher, who is EO. Arguably, the following 2 paragraphs summarize his thesis:

    Gay marriage signifies the final triumph of the Sexual Revolution and the dethroning of Christianity because it denies the core concept of Christian anthropology. In classical Christian teaching, the divinely sanctioned union of male and female is an icon of the relationship of Christ to His church and ultimately of God to His creation. This is why gay marriage negates Christian cosmology, from which we derive our modern concept of human rights and other fundamental goods of modernity. Whether we can keep them in the post-Christian epoch remains to be seen.

    It also remains to be seen whether we can keep Christianity without accepting Christian chastity. Sociologist Christian Smith’s research on what he has termed “moralistic therapeutic deism”—the feelgood, pseudo-Christianity that has supplanted the normative version of the faith in contemporary America—suggests that the task will be extremely difficult.

    Then there’s the Slate Legalize Polygamy! No. I am not kidding. The closing paragraph:

    The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.

    • Bob,
      Note that polygamy is based on heterosexual relations rather than homosexual ones, you really can’t lay the blame on legalizing same-sex marriage for this. The drive for polygamy existed way before same-sex marriage was an issue. The thinking you seem to lean toward is that the smallest change will automatically include larger changes. It seems to be a fear that is similar to the fear one has when watching the other team start a rally to catch up to your team. Some are nervous until the game has ended.

      Equality for same-sex marriages simply means that in society, one person can marry 1 consenting adult spouse regardless of the gender. That is all. And in that, same-sex marriage is more comparable to heterosexual marriage than to polygamy.

      There are those who want to use hyperbole in warning against same-sex marriage. The use of hyperbole reflects more on the person using it than on the people one is speaking about.

      There are more than enough reasons to rely simply on evangelism to combat the cultural trend to allow same-sex marriage. To include using the law only plugs the ears of the people we need to preach to the most.

      If you follow the argument Paul makes in Romans 1, you will see a number of sins that are comparable to homosexuality. They include: wickedness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, gossip, slander, arrogance, and disobedience to parents. The connecting vs of Romans 1:28 and the parallelisms that Paul uses when talking about homosexuality and these sins implies their comparability. Should we pass laws to prohibit people from committing any of these sins or just some of them?

      Is the real argument by those who oppose legalizing same-sex marriage that Christians will lose control over society one same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land? If the answer is yes, then we Christians have provided an unnecessary and significant stumbling block to the unbelievers of this nation. This is especially true when we blow fuse after fuse over this issue and don’t care at all about how many people die from the wars we engage in, from lack of healthcare and food, and how many people will soon be endangered by the environmental damage our lifestyles have caused.

  56. How do you guys think legal recognition of gender “changing” figures into all this. It seems to me that this is as much or more a case of civil support of a sin against nature as homosexuality. In California (where I reside), this has been around for ten years or so I think.

    • David,
      Isn’t the freedom of religion a civil support of sin?

      Either we recognize that there is a different standard of what allows a person to remain in good standing in society from what allows a person to remain in good standing in the Church or forever will either theonomy or Constantinian Christianity dominate our destiny.

      BTW, Martin Luther felt that unless society punished the Jews, society was complicit in their unbelief.

  57. Note bene Curt, as per the original post Dreher doesn’t approach marital rights for sodomites and lesbians at all from an egalitarian POV.

    On the other hand, nice try, but you did miss the salient detail in Slate.

    The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults.

    Better yet, make that:

    “The definition of marriage is plastic (according to postmodernism/relativism).”

    I know.
    To all this you will say ad hominem/insult.
    And I say reductio adsurdum/the ridiculous should be ridiculed.

    Which means you still don’t get it.
    Because postmodernism means . . . we’re both right!

    Not only that, it has taken modern neanderthals this long to figure out the Statue of Liberty really is a drag queen and Hans Christian’s story about an emperor without any clothes was really all about the travails of an 19th century transvestite.

    Of course after the Supremes weigh in the new math, x amount of mommies or x amount of daddies will equal a mommy and a daddy.

    Go figure.
    No, really.

    ciao

    • Bob,
      I didn’t miss it. Rather, I addressed it when I said that there is a fear that a small change will automatically lead to larger changes. That is the reasoning. The problem with the reasoning is the premise. Again, since monogamous same-sex marriages are more comparable to our current heterosexual marriage system, the definition marriage does not become vulnerable to large changes.

      Cynthia Nixon said the following:

      “When women got the vote they did not redefine voting. When African-Americans got the right to sit at a lunch counter alongside white people, they did not redefine eating out. They were simply invited to …the table…We have no desire to change marriage. We want to be entitled to not only the same privileges, but the same responsibilities as straight people.”

  58. Curt,

    Isn’t the freedom of religion a civil support of sin?

    I was talking specifically about civil support of sins against nature.

    Can you clarify, what is the moral standard for society, as you see it?

  59. David,
    According to Romans 1, to deny the God who exists is to deny nature because nature testifies of God. And again, when we look at the other sins that Paul makes comparable to homosexuality, are we going to outline all of them or is “sin against nature” the only criteria? BTW, that “sin against nature” argument is contested for if only Christians get to define nature, we have a backdoor to lording it over society.

    The moral standard I see for society is this, if a practice does not infringe on the rights or person of another, then most likely we allow it. If a practice does infringe on the rights or person of another, then almost automatically we control it through the law.

    Also, we’re living in a fantasy land if we think we are helping our evangelical cause by trying to make society submit to our religious definitions. A while back, I cited a website that made a good argument that, based on animal behavior, homosexuality was not only common but served a beneficial purpose. So you are asking, without further qualification, for Christians’ definition of nature and natural law to rule over those who are not Christian.

  60. The moral standard I see for society is this, if a practice does not infringe on the rights or person of another, then most likely we allow it.

    Somebody has to define “rights.” Who gets to define it in your book?

    • David,
      Rights are what applies to everybody. We could start with the declaration of independence and say life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Then we could see what we could raise or what is implied from that.

      Or we could start with the principle of universality that says what is right for you to do is right for all others to do and what is wrong for all others to do is wrong for you to do. So if you can dictate what personal morals someone else must follow then they get to dictate what personal morals you have to follow.

  61. Curt,

    The Declaration says that the rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness are endowed by the Creator. You seems to be saying that we have a God-given right to marry someone of the same gender. Is this what you mean to say?

    • David,
      And the person who wrote that did not believe in the Creator God of the Bible. In addition, whose god will declare what rights we have. Some declare that God blesses same-sex marriages, while we say He doesn’t. But in a land of religious freedom, are we going to press our point so much that we must dominate the religious views of others?

  62. Zrim,

    David, what you had said was “I would agree that pagans have a decent grasp on the immorality of theft. Not as much so with homosexuality it appears.” Isn’t that the implication of unbelievers having less of grasp on sexual ethics, namely that believers have more?

    No, the implication of unbelievers having less of a grasp on sexual ethics was that they have more of a grasp on property ethics. But if you’re asking me, do I think believers have a better grasp of sexual ethics than unbelievers do, the answer of course is yes, at least in principle. The addition of special revelation and regeneration means something/, no?

    But, no, my point isn’t to bifurcate natural law and reason and somehow gloss over the latter. My point is to assume both. To press my arithmetic analogy, there is a place to reason with our student for why 7×6=42. But when you keep making the distinction between the regenerate and unregenerate and suggest that the former have a relatively better grasp on any set of natural ethics, it seems to imply at least to me that faith is somehow necessary to improve that grasp.

    You correct the child because he is not reasoning rightly. Likewise, unregenerate people come up with the wrong answer because they do not rightly read the law of nature. But how will you correct his faulty reasoning? It seems to me that in order to do so, you will at some point during the conversation have to define “nature,” and once you do so, you have brought nature’s God and His special revelation into the conversation and your argument is no longer a bare natural law argument per se. (Unless you just plan to respond to all his protests with something to the effect of “You know what I’m saying is true, even if you deny it, because it’s written in your conscience!”) So what I’m saying is that it seems to me that your argument assumes “nature” as a brute fact apprehendible by theists and materialists alike. That’s what I meant by the reference to neutral territory.

    Think about when you suggest that homosexuality is unnatural to those who are much more affirming of it. What is the response? Typically it’s visceral because it is understood that judgment is being made, particularly in a direction that offends your friend. And he is correct. We are both in fact making judgments, which is inherently non-neutral. So what do you mean here?

    Yes, you are both making judgments, that is, reasoning. He is reasoning wrongly and you are reasoning rightly. But how is this so? It is so because you have the added benefit of God’s Word and Spirit to correct your faulty grasp of natural law. To say this is not to imply a need for cultural transformation.

  63. Curt,

    In addition, whose god will declare what rights we have. Some declare that God blesses same-sex marriages, while we say He doesn’t.

    By your logic, I don’t see how cannibalism isn’t a “right,” as long as someone’s god declares it to be.

    • David,
      Why do we think we have the right to tell people what they are legally allowed to do sexually if what they do does not infringe on the rights and personhood of others?

      And look at your example. Are you now saying that homosexuality is comparable with cannibalism?

  64. Curt,
    I know you’re a busy guy, but check out 1 Cor. 6:9,10 when you get a chance. Therein, along with a number of other items, sexual promiscuity and perversion are declared sufficient reasons to bar one from salvation.

    Which is all to say, one doesn’t choose their race or sex. Neither is one barred from the kingdom of God on the basis of the same.
    Consequently trying to make marital rights for sodomites and lesbians on par with civil rights for blacks or women getting the vote is a non sequitur.

    That in a nutshell is the biblical position. If you want to argue that God is mistaken; that the Bible has got it all wrong on sexual perversion as a culpable choice, then you need to take it up with all the liberals and old ladies of both sexes in the PCUSA. They pretty much got the bleeding heart disingenuous guilty white liberal party line down pat and your argument would get way more strokes over there.

    • Bob,
      Since when is the law of the land dependent on what disqualifies one from salvation? We have another recognized right that allows people to practice different faiths that do the same to one’s eternal destiny. So if you are going use I Cor 6:9-10 as a basis for denying gays the right to marry as they choose, then you must do the same regarding denying Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and all others from nonChristian religions the right to practice their faiths because, after all, who has the right to sin? In fact, you can go beyond that and persecute the Christian faiths that you consider to be non kosher. Heck, let’s join the Puritans and persecute some Quakers is what your logic points to.

      Of course, what was part of Paul’s response to the person sleeping with his father’s wife? Wasn’t it a disregard for disciplining those outside the Church (I Cor 5:12f)? Didn’t he say that it was for God to judge them? But if you want to insist that Christians define natural law and use the law to punish all who would do things that disqualify them from salvation because they have no right to do such things, aren’t you going beyond what Paul said? And for what aim?

      The more we try to dominate, the more the hearing of the Gospel will be associated with that domination and it will be rejected and not because of the Gospel itself. When you use “natural law” as a backdoor for permission to dominate, you bring unnecessary offense to the Gospel. And you make it all about you lording over the Gentiles rather than preaching the Gospel by serving them.

  65. (cont. )
    So much for Cynthia’s argument.

    The natural law argument is that the rule for marriage, not the exception, is a monogamous sexual union between a man and a woman.
    That is at times is honored more in the breach is not an argument against it, nor does it justify the perversion of it.

    IOW for the nth time, history and nature both deny your leading premise that marriage is chiefly a monogamous union between consenting adults.

    Neither will we channel Joe Sobran channeling Juvenal who had more than a few quips about those who couldn’t figure out what the poopchute was for.

    ciao

    • Bob,
      Your brushing aside of Nixon’s statement shows the contempt some Christians for the opinions of others. What is it? You just want to dominate others? Is that what Christianity gives you permission to do? When the Puritans attacked the Indians and took their land, what was the justification? Didn’t they justify their taking of Indian land that the Indians didn’t have the right kind of gov’t to have the authority to keep the land?

      The problem with your natural law argument is that it is yours that you apply inconsistently. For if you were going to apply it consistently, not only would you outlaw homosexuality because it goes against nature, you would outlaw unbelief because, in essence, it contradicts nature and you would make every sin mentioned in Romans 1:29ff against the law. Certainly, some of those behaviors do merit to be controlled by laws. But do you want to put children in jail for not obeying their parents? In addition, you would declare Christianity’s recognition of what is natural law, remember that not all agree with you as to what natural law says here, as the law of the land.

      In the meantime, attitudes like your unnecessarily become stumbling blocks to those hearing the Gospel because what they will reject first is the Christian’s assumed right to rule over others by having the final say on all definitions. And the question becomes, when will we learn from history that attempts to dominate are done to serve oneself rather than God?

  66. Curt,

    Distinguish between refuting somebody’s argument and emoting.
    Distinguish between the first and second table of the law and the relevant civil application.
    Distinguish between how many people there are in a marriage as opposed to the Godhead.
    Distinguish between speaking to the point and consistently wasting bandwidth.

    Likewise, distinguish between reformed Christianity and disingenuous guilty white bleeding heart liberalism.
    Again.

    • Bob,
      As with Nixon’s statement, you simply sweep things aside, never address them.

      But I will tell you two things that won’t be confused, Reformed Theology and bleeding heart liberalism. Why? Because it seems that Reformed Theology is for the maintenance of a status quo that relies on exploitation and dominance (See http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/2013/04/why-reformed-church-cannot-work-for.html)

      Just by the names you give groups or positions, you indicate no desire to interact. It seems that you only want to feel superior to others. And perhaps that is because you ignore the Scriptures and uncritically focus on the models of thought from Reformed Theology that assumed the right to dominate culture

      So when you answer the questions I posed in the last few notes, I will play your littles distinguish game.

    • Curt,

      Reformed theology is not for any particular partisan political position. It is neither socially left or right. If you check out the HB archives/categories under “Christ and culture” and “two kingdoms” and “culture stuff” you would see that I’ve been arguing for years for a distinction between spheres.

      You’re argument is about as theocratic as that of many on the “Christian right.” In a sense you lot deserve each other. Neither group seems to be able to distinguish the covenant of grace (administered in the church) and the covenant of works, which exists both in natural revelation (which you don’t see to understand well) and in the church.

      When we’re talking about civil life, we’re talking about a shared sphere, a common sphere, that is administered under creational norms established by God. Your skepticism about our ability to know these norms is about like that of the “Christian right.” Both of you seem to want to establish the KOG on the earth in the civil realm and both seem to want to confuse law and grace in the civil realm.

      The magistrate doesn’t create rights, he recognizes them. Rights are endowed by God. Those rights are perspicuous. They are known by the senses. My perception of the left is that it is so deeply influenced by eschatology (Plato!) that it forgets or ignores universal sense perception. The American founders, however, believed in universal sense perception and so did the Apostle Paul.

      That’s how he knows that everyone knows, in his conscience, that homosexuality is contrary to nature. The magistrate is bound to forbid ostensible marital unions that are contrary to nature. Marriage, by nature, by definition, is heterosexual. Any other union is, by definition, by nature, not a marriage. That’s not arbitrary. That’s nature. That’s creation. That’s not an evil convention devised by middle class white oppressors. That’s just nature. It’s as natural as gravity. Middle class white oppressors did not create gravity. They didn’t create marriage. They didn’t invent procreation (or the potential for procreation).

      In the civil sphere, the question is not sin but nature. Sin is a category that belongs to the spiritual-ecclesiastical sphere. That’s not the responsibility of the magistrate. Contrary to the leftists who want to punish thought crimes and those on the right who would ask the magistrate to enforce the first table of the decalogue, we don’t ask the magistrate to enforce religious orthodoxy. We do expect him, however, to prevent crimes against nature. That is why homosexuality was illegal just as bestality is illegal and pederasty is illegal and incest is illegal. They are all crimes against nature.

      The human will is not the final measure. There are givens in life that must be received by all and to which all must submit. Those givens are nature.

    • Dr Clark,
      I am going to have to disagree with your first sentence. When you look at what the Reformers taught as well as what they wrote and practiced, you see a strong emphasis on elite-centered gov’t. Yes, there are two spheres and I appreciate your drawing that distinction. I like to celebrate what we can agree on. But the one sphere, the public sphere, is being so overshadowed by the religious that the distinction is sometimes moot.

      Now as soon as you say that all rights are given by God, the question arises does God give us the right to sin? And if that question is tough enough to answer, since Paul’s view of natural law is based on the God of the Bible who is the author of nature, then how do we escape interjecting the Christian God into the sphere of the earthly kingdom by requiring that the magistrates enforce natural law?

      Then, if you take the Reformers Calvin and Luther and include the Reformed Traditions, which I referred to in my post, you will note that they all believed that the gov’t should enforce the Christian faith on the personal lives of people while letting the leaders of gov’t be the voice of God with regards to both domestic or international justice. This is your all to familiar with conservative platform of traditional values and country first. I really emphasize country first here because with the stress on following the authorities as the civil voice of God and our duty being that of seeking quiet and peaceful lives, there exists an implicit tribalism and this is noted in John Frame’s a Theology of the State, though I know you do not agree with Frame’s call for a Christian state. IMO, you are on two significantly different spots on the same continuum.

      Finally, my guess is is that if you took a pole of Reformed theologically religious leaders, from professors to clergy, you will find, in this country, that the overly vast majority of them are politically conservative.

      So when you say that Reformed Theology is not for any partisan political position, I have to disagree.

      As for my position, the only things people who are politically like me are asking for is the principle of universality with regards to international policies and an extended democracy domestically. There is no expectation of the KOG on our part. The questions that we ask are can we do better and can we redistribute power as a check on its abuse?

      Believing in the combination of nonviolent anarchism and socialism means a belief in extending democracy so that the tradition definition of stakeholders are included in both business, politics, and anyplace where we share resources. It is not utopian by any measure. It is a way to provide checks on those who would first consolidate power in order to then abuse it. And it believes in the international which to me is far more reflective of knowing that all are made in the image of God.

    • David,
      I already listed the first three rights and they were the basis for our country: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

  67. But if you’re asking me, do I think believers have a better grasp of sexual ethics than unbelievers do, the answer of course is yes, at least in principle. The addition of special revelation and regeneration means something/, no?

    David, sure, but if even the holiest among us make but the smallest beginnings of obedience in this life then that something would seem to amount to less than we might think. If we think it amounts to more then the unbeliever has at least some ground to accuse us of having a moral and ethical superiority complex, which is to say arrogance.

    Yes, you are both making judgments, that is, reasoning. He is reasoning wrongly and you are reasoning rightly. But how is this so? It is so because you have the added benefit of God’s Word and Spirit to correct your faulty grasp of natural law. To say this is not to imply a need for cultural transformation.

    But what about the unbeliever who agrees with me? He has not Word and Spirit and yet comes to a correct grasp of natural law. This happens all the time, believers and unbelievers agreeing on any number of ethical issues. How do you explain those who have no Word and Spirit reasoning rightly on natural law, indeed even better than those that do have Word and Spirit?

  68. Curt,

    It’s a combox, OK?
    You give a general outline and things can move pretty quick.
    The problem with Nixon is not the argument per se, but what you tried to do with it. I wasn’t clear, but you ought to have been able to pick up the gist from the context.

    Your attempt to piggyback on Nixon’s is a non sequitur – it does not logically follow – that moral choices like sexual promiscuity or perversion are on par with one’s race or gender.

    Or FTM gravity. These are not categories decided by a CNN poll, but have been around longer than all parties in the current dust up.

    Neither have you in this entire discussion – I use the term quite loosely – substantially acknowledged and engaged, much more refuted the fundamental and stated thesis of the post, that equality is the wrong basis upon which to determine marital rights for sodomites and lesbians.

    That is again, you are not really arguing on the basis of equality, but of the French Enlightenment/Revolution equalité; not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcome.

    Consequently if homosexuals are equal to heteros, then homos can get married too – to homos. So the Enlightenment philosophes’s sophist redefinition of the terms regardless if Bill O’Really was paying attention in history class and he wasn’t.

    According to this unspoken dictum of equalité/egalitarianism, we may not privilege anything beyond the lowest common denominator or even acknowledge the obvious. Like men and women are not the same, but are different and a marriage is a fundamentally a union between a man and a woman.

    But if reality, nature and marriage really are that plastic, then the gutter’s the limit, if even that and polygamy, incest, bestiality and homosexuality are all on par and categorically must be given “equal” rights.

    But we repeat the obvious and our chance of winning the Ebay tar baby auction grows ever more elusive by the moment.

    ciao.

    • Bob,
      you call everything you disagree with a non sequitur. By doing so, you do not have to engage and prove your point. The difference between Nixon’s position on marriage and yours is what is counted as its essence of marriage.

      I was tempted to write a long response but personal animosity against homosexuals is the foundation of your argument against same-sex marriage. What can one do with that? Just realize that the way you criticize homosexuals reveals more about who you are than who they are.

    • Bob,
      One more note. Inseparably attached to the passage in Romans 1 where Paul says homosexuality is not a part of God’s design and where Paul assails other sins as well, is the beginning of chapter 2. It is important to note this because while Paul uses chapter 1 to convict the unbeliever about his/her sin, he uses chapter 2 to convict the believer of the same. And as bad as the sins are in Romans 1, Paul allows no leeway for the believer. His first statement is that whoever judges is condemned because the one who judges is guilty of the same sins of the unbeliever and thus such a person judges him or herself.

      Note that your animosity begs question of how sinful homosexuality is. And despite your faulty comparisons, in the end, they only show that same-sex marriage, as wrong as it is, is still far more comparable to heterosexual marriage than the practices you compare them to and list as the worst.

      Again, Romans 1 wasn’t written to focus on the sins of others. It was part of a composition to convict all of us of sin. And the measure to which we understand Romans 1 will be indicated by how we compare ourselves to others. If we think of ourselves as superior, we are resting on our own righteousness. If we join the worst of sinners, as equals, in begging for mercy in the name of Christ, we will be saved. That isn’t just the lesson of Romans Chapters 1-3, it is also the lesson of the parable of two men praying.

  69. Zrim,

    How do you explain those who have no Word and Spirit reasoning rightly on natural law, indeed even better than those that do have Word and Spirit?

    Common grace. But isn’t your purpose to correct those who reason wrongly? If so, how will you do it?

  70. David, by reasoning rightly. Isn’t that all anybody can finally do? But you’ve suggested it isn’t, that the Bible eventually has to be used. I don’t have any problem with that per se. I just wonder what it implies for the veracity of natural revelation. Besides, if the Bible must eventually be used then why not skip all the natural revelation appeals and go directly to the Bible? You know, working smarter instead of harder. That’s in the Bible, you know (joke).

  71. Curt,
    Yeah, I blew it re. Nixon. I thought her argument was yours. My bad.

    The problem is HBlog has something to do with the P&R faith, which faith includes the belief that while all sin is sin and damnable, some sins are more heinous than others; some sins are more egregious violations of the natural order that others, your take on Rom. 1 notwithstanding.

    But even the unbelieving world has standards and the reasoning is – which you agree with – if marriage is just a stable relationship between two people, then incest, polygamy and arguably bestiality (between two beings) are just as able to qualify as marriage as homosexuality.
    Again, that’s not my argument, that’s yours, if not its implications. Again, you don’t seem to be able to comprehend that, but whatever.

    Further you have bought into the Big Lie – however vociferously you object ala postmodernism that we are patriarchal bigots – that one of the – if not the chief – characteristic of marriage is that it is between a man and a woman.

    And of course next we will be told that storks don’t deliver babies, but test tubes do, just like milk comes from the store, even dehydrated and that pretty soon now we will be just be able to add water on both counts. So too families are just arbitrarily conjured up on the fascist fly and two mommies or two daddies a family make whatever history might indicate.

    Again, however tedious it is becoming, privileging same same sex unions over same family or more than one person at the same time unions is the mortal sin of those afflicted with hyper PC sensibilities or DISCRIMINASHUN. Which is right up there with RACISSM and all the rest of the bugaboos of the left.

    Color me unpersuaded.

    • Bob,
      I could care less if you are unpersuaded. The real lesson of Romans 1 is more personal than informational. It is more about how we should see ourselves as sinners than giving us a chance to look down on others. The more we look down on others, the more we go against Romans 2:1 and the more we follow the Pharisee’s example in the parable of the two men praying.

      Some of us reformed theology people have had at least a partial fall from humanity–I wrote this on my blog about Frame because of his position on war. For some of us, God’s truth is impersonally tabulated as if we had punched in a formula on a calculator. We deliver judgments against this group or that group as if those judgments never speak to us and never cause pain. We know how to conform to the past so why listen to those in the present?

      Finally, hyperbolizing the wrongness of homosexual relations is done more to distance ourselves from it than to describe it. Hyperbolizing against homosexuality, or any sin, is a way of continuing to live in denial about our own faults. Again, same-sex marriage is more comparable to heterosexual marriage than to polygamy where only one person can have multiple partners and that person is a ruler. Likewise, the same goes when trying to compare same-sex marriage to bestiality. There is no equal partnership between two adult people in bestiality as there is in both heterosexual and same-sex marriages. And yet, one can at the same time say it is wrong and preach repentance to those who need it.

      You seemed to have drunk the all or nothing kool-aid that says to fully condemn something, you can’t go half-measures. But again, that is always done to first distance ourselves from other sinners–like the Pharisee who looked down on the tax collector. But we always have Romans 2:1 to come back to. Only those who admit they too are human read and tremble at the words that tell us not to judge less we condemn ourselves. See, Romans 1 & 2 lead us to Romans 3:9 where Paul says there are none who have an advantage or are superior because all sin.

      So you don’t have to ask yourself if you are a patriarchal bigot. After all, you don’t have to worry about sin. Those who delight in judging others, never do.

      Finally, as wrong as post modernism can be, it does have something valid to say to any of us who lust after having people below us so we can look down on and rule over them. After all, it has seen millennium after millennium of people doing just that and always reaping mass destruction for far too many. For either we will descend from our perch and join the rest of humanity, like Jesus did, or we will prove that we will never learn from history. For either we will preach a gospel of repentance to fellow sinners or we can deny that we sin as we destroy others with our words. Realize that when Paul says that all have sinned but that faith undoes all boasting, he is telling us that we can speak with all as fellow sinners even though our sins are not the same.

    • Bob,
      Again, Romans 2:1 says that those who judge others condemn themselves because they do what they condemn others for doing. It is one thing to say homosexuality is wrong. That is consistent with the Bible. It is another to demonize homosexuals in order to distance oneself from them so one can pray their own version of the pharisee’s prayer recorded in the parable of the two men praying.

      Faith does away with boasting. Boasting is what the Pharisee did in his prayer.

  72. Zrim,

    David, by reasoning rightly. Isn’t that all anybody can finally do? But you’ve suggested it isn’t, that the Bible eventually has to be used. I don’t have any problem with that per se. I just wonder what it implies for the veracity of natural revelation.

    I think the question is not whether natural revelation is true, but what is its purpose and what are its limits. As I understand it, natural revelation orders civil society and renders sinners inexcusable. But it is not a brute fact and thus Christians ought not attempt to set aside their Christian presuppositions for the time being while they frame an argument with the non-believer on neutral ground. (Perhaps no one is suggesting they should, but I would like to see some clarification on this.)

  73. David, I’m not suggesting that Xn presupps be set aside at all. I’m just wondering why they are necessary when it comes to natural law considerations. Yes, God is the author of all things, but how is that necessary when reasoning naturally? Maybe in epistemological theory, but in actual reality when I reason with unbelievers in my secular vocations rare it is that what’s right must traced back to God. When the pagan cashier gives me wrong change, I don’t have to make that explicit appeal to get it corrected. Why should it be any different when reasoning about marriage?

  74. Zrim,

    David, I’m not suggesting that Xn presupps be set aside at all. I’m just wondering why they are necessary when it comes to natural law considerations. Yes, God is the author of all things, but how is that necessary when reasoning naturally?

    Well, once you get done telling the unbeliever he’s acting immorally and/or unnaturally, and he remains unpersuaded, would you agree that Xn presupps are necessary for the next phase of the dialogue?

    Maybe in epistemological theory, but in actual reality when I reason with unbelievers in my secular vocations rare it is that what’s right must traced back to God. When the pagan cashier gives me wrong change, I don’t have to make that explicit appeal to get it corrected. Why should it be any different when reasoning about marriage?

    Because there is a difference between reasoning with unbelievers in your secular vocations and reasoning with them about civil morality. Pagan cashiers don’t argue when you show them they’ve made the wrong change (unless they’re thieves, in which case going to the store manager may be a better use of your time than trying to persuade them that stealing is wrong). The product of 43 x 9 isn’t contested in the public square, but sexual mores are. What will you say to pagans who won’t buy your argument that homosexuality is immoral/unnatural because their conscience tells them so?

  75. Well, once you get done telling the unbeliever he’s acting immorally and/or unnaturally, and he remains unpersuaded, would you agree that Xn presupps are necessary for the next phase of the dialogue?…What will you say to pagans who won’t buy your argument that homosexuality is immoral/unnatural because their conscience tells them so?

    David, it depends. If the point is provisional and temporal then it may be we’ve hit what is commonly known as an impasse. If the point is eternal and spiritual then Xn presupps seem fitting, which may also come to frustration. You wondered just above about the limits of natural revelation, so I wonder if we’re making enough room here for the limitations of reason.

    You also say that the product of 43 x 9 isn’t contested in the public square, but sexual mores are. Sure, but the larger point is that what is true is true, whether it is a brute fact or moral reality. You may find it problematic, but I just fail to see why because the latter requires more interpretation that it also requires Xn presupps. Again, Xn presupps are fine, but if they are eventually required on the question of sexual mores then why not for those having trouble with even brute facts? So to my mind, introducing Xn presupps with our morally challenged friend seems as unnecessary as introducing them to our student who struggles with his times tables. Yeah, 7×6=42 and men+women=moral because God made it that way, but I don’t see why that reason is needed to convince anybody of the truth of those equations.

  76. Dr. Clark, your post here is interesting.

    I need to digest it. Obviously I don’t agree but your natural law argument is one of the better arguments I’ve seen for a position with which I disagree.

    The fact that you are “drawing fire” from supporters of homosexual marriage/civil unions is to your credit.

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