If It’s News Is it Still A Slippery Slope?

Homosexual MarriageGiven that, under the American constitution, we do not have a state religion, the types of arguments Christians can realistically expect to make in the civil sphere as it actually exists are limited. We have American history, our Constitution, the Declaration, Supreme Court decisions and related documents as precedents. The founding documents did not appeal to Scripture but to a shared understanding of “nature” and “nature’s God.” That shared understanding is certainly under assault (as illustrated below) but by asking fellow citizens to recognize and consider language, concepts, and premises that they have already endorsed in the civil sphere, which they cannot openly repudiate without weakening their own case for civil liberties., we have, at least, a place to stand in civil, public discourse.1

To my mind the best argument in the civil sphere against homosexual marriage is from God’s revelation of his law in nature. I’ve tried to sketch a case here and here. One of the arguments against homosexual marriage is that the same rationale can and will be used to justify even more aberrant behavior, social patterns and arrangements. If marriage is no longer defined by nature (at least potential procreation) but by consent, affection, and desire then the terms of marriage are malleable. One must simply show that consent and affection exists and the parties to the proposed union are irrelevant. The real argument concerns the legitimacy the relationship. Once that is conceded marriage will inevitably follow as society solemnizes what already exists.

Ironically, in the case of homosexual relationships, it is frequently argued now that it is indeed “natural” insofar as the behavior itself is no longer stigmatized by the APA as a mental illness and it has become widely accepted that homosexuality is a “naturally” occurring phenomenon due to genetics or some other inherent biological cause. Whether science actually knows this to be case is another matter. The elements of consent and affection are easily demonstrated. If these tests can be met for other partners what barriers are there to pedophilia or bestiality?

The pro-homosexual response has been to characterize this criticism as a “slippery slope” argument. An argument is said to be a “slippery slope” when one argues “if we permit p then q will happen.” The question is whether q is inherent in p. If q is not inherent in p then the argument is fallacious.

If, however, q is inherent in p, then it’s not a slippery slope. If the very same sorts of arguments that were being made for homosexual relationships are being made for pederasty or bestiality then the relation between the pro-homosexual argument and the others is established. The same arguments are being made. It is being argued that pederasty and bestiality are 1)natural, 2) consensual, 3) affective.

The UK Guardian reports that “experts” are conflicted over whether pedophilia is a bad thing and whether it should perhaps be “normalized.” According to that same paper, “zooists” are also arguing that animals can give consent and have affection for one another. In case you think this is impossible, Germany legalized bestiality in 1969. They just moved toward banning it again but this has offended “Zoophiles.” As recent social debates have demonstrated, what happens in Europe no longer stays in Europe.

Mark this well. The case for pederasty and bestiality is next and the basis is identical to that used to advocate for homosexual relationships. It took thirty years, if we start with the Stonewall Riots (1969),  effectively to “normalize” (socially, not morally) homosexual behavior and relationships. Homosexual cohabitation has led to homosexual civil unions and homosexual marriage. In the age of the internet movements progress much more quickly. The next phase of the war against boundaries is already upon us.

A war against the created order is a war against the Creator.

May the Lord help us to argue wisely and persuasively against the logic that has led to the current situation. Things could get much worse.
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1. As far as I’m concerned Christians are morally free to make any sort of argument in the public civil sphere they want. I am making a prudential argument. Any argument that begins with the Torah will likely provoke the response, “You probably also want to re-institute the Mosaic punishments.” Then the Christian “Torah-ist” says, “No, I only want to prove that God disapproves of homosexual behavior.” The critic replies, “How can you appeal to one aspect of Torah but not to another? Isn’t that arbitrary?” It may not be arbitrary but do we want to argue fine points of biblical hermeneutics and the progress of redemptive history and revelation at a city council meeting or at a hearing before committee in the state legislature?

Nevertheless, if we begin by appealing to natural law, we may also appeal as Althusius did, to the Mosaic law as a witness or example or outworking of the natural law in a particular instance without becoming embroiled in a difficult argument about biblical hermeneutics. On the same basis we can appeal to other states and civilizations too.

Nevertheless, as a matter of wisdom, it seems to me that, in our post-Christian, post-Constantian setting, we can learn from those early Christian, pre-Constantinian fathers, who, to the degree they made arguments about civil life, did not make them on the basis of special revelation but on the basis of general revelation, which they believed to be accessible to believer and unbeliever alike.

To the objection that Canons of Dort 3/4.4 teach that natural law is inherently insufficient for civil policy: I disagree. That’s not what the text says or implies. First, according to Synod, the problem isn’t with creational boundaries but with us. Second, the question is what “incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil” means. The phrase “incapable of using it aright” does not mean “incapable of using it at all.” As I’ve argued elsewhere on the HB, that phrase must be understood in its original context not as a prohibition against appeals to divinely established boundaries in creation.

36 comments

  1. “Nevertheless, as a matter of wisdom, it seems to me that, in our post-Christian, post-Constantian setting, we can learn from those early Christian, pre-Constantinian fathers, who, to the degree they made arguments about civil life, did not make them on the basis of special revelation but on the basis of general revelation, which they believed to be accessible to believer and unbeliever alike.”

    Amen and indeed, Dr Clark.

    Scripture and nature (as expressed in the theological use of the Law) are clear — *homosexuality* is sinful. Homosexuality as deviation from and rebellion against the creation order is not about actual sins (eg. pederasty/ sodomy which are the symptoms) but ORIGINAL sin. Homosexuality is a form of “blasphemy against creation,” a divine ambition that expresses the sinner’s unbelief in the creation order.

    Having said this, it is my personal opinion/ thinking that the (post-Christendom) churches in the West that remain confessional and faithful to Scripture and tradition must somehow come to terms with same-sex unions or gay marriages. I guess Christians in societies such as Malaysia are relieved of the burden to contend with homosexual marriages – be it civil or religious.

    For churces which remained unconvinced about the intention and purpose of gay marriages – even as an (parasitical) “analogy” of marriage (ironically no common grace, eh?), there should be cooperation with non-Protestants and non-Christians (this includes conservative atheists and humanists) alike on a common platform of “natural law.” Otherwise, especially in contexts such as the UK, the conservative evangelical churches can only “campaign” themselves into irrelevance.

    At the same time, we are constantly reminded that on the issue of homosexual marriage, we are dealing with persons (just like abortion, i.e. re the “foestus”). So, even if there’s no existential struggle (within) on the issue, we are called to be compassionate and as far as possible distinguish between Law and Gospel and also the distinction between the 1st and 2nd uses of the Law and the divide between Christ’s righteousness and civil righteousness.

    • Jason,

      In the civil sphere, I don’t think the churches as institutions, should be saying much. The Westminster Confession articulates the view the orthodox Reformed that churches as institutions should only speak in extremis. Believers, however, as private citizens should be engaged in cultural and civil discussions. In that regard I find the law/gospel distinction helpful here. Civil life is law, not gospel. That doesn’t mean that civil life should be uncivil or martial. Mercy (clemency) is appropriate and necessary but the law is the fundamental principle that organizes civil life (and international relations).

  2. ‘To the objection that Canons of Dort 3/4.4 teach that natural law is inherently insufficient for civil policy: I disagree. That’s not what the text says or implies. First, according to Synod, the problem isn’t with creational boundaries but with us. Second, the question is what “incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil” means. The phrase “incapable of using it aright” does not mean “incapable of using it at all.”’

    I agree with your reading of Dort. However, even if Dort does say that natural law is inherently insufficient for civil policy we cannot conclude that natural law (or natural law arguments) are somehow unnecessary. Just because apologetics or philosophical arguments are not sufficient to convert someone does not make them unnecessary in the endeavor. Similarly, we may concede the natural law is not sufficient for public policy while still maintaining that natural law is one necessary tool among many for shaping public policy.

    • Hi Bob,

      Indeed. It’s a little bit cryptic and it has to be read in the context of the rise of rationalism associated with the Remonstrants but it doesn’t follow that we may dispense with arguments from creation.

    • “What the pro-pederasts and pro-bestialists or pro-zooists have proved is that the terms “affection” and “consent” can be changed to fit their case but they can’t change “nature” because it is, as they say, what it is.”

      RSC,

      I believe that is essentially correct. Post-modernism is concerned with “affection” and “empathy” and “emotional intelligence” as opposed to modernist structuralism and things like “age of consent”.

      Consent then is no longer a matter of intellectual assent but rather emotional assent. By itself it doesn’t necessarily disqualify “age of consent” because the same arguments could be made that children are not mature enough to use emotional assent.

      I’m not sure I agree that the original argument did not account for nature. I’m not sure I’m following you on that point.

  3. Hi, Dr. Clark,

    Have you read any of the work by scholar and orthodox Jewish Rabbi David Novak? He has written a good deal over the last fifteen to twenty years about natural law and Judaism, and how to argue from natural law in civil and secular spheres. He’s also been involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue about many issues, including social issues like the one you have brought up above. Although it goes without saying that I profoundly disagree with him on many foundational issues, particularly in theology, I think he is very insightful and sophisticated aobut the way in which Jews and Christians can make cogent arguments from natural law in a largely secularized society.

    On another, related point, I am more or less a two kingdoms kind of guy, both for biblical and experiential reasons, but at what point can the church as institution invoke the “in extremis” principle and speak to a social or political issue? I think of, for instance, the German Luteran repentance of not speaking out against the Shoah and the many oppressive acts that led up to it as the church proper (I know there were many heroic individuals that acted out of their Christian faith) and the two kingdoms theology–or perhaps a misunderstanding or abuse of it– played at least some role in this inaction. Would it need to come to something like a targeted group of our fellow citizens being rounded up and sent to ghettos for the church as institution to speak “in extremis?” I really don’t have an agenda here. Just wondering.

    • I think it’s very difficult. I take some cues from the pre-Constantinian church. They suffered mightily at the hands of Caesar but the church as church never spoke out. Christian writers did, however, speak out regarding the injustice of persecution.

      I think the Divines had in mind occasions when the magistrate might meddle in the life of the church.

      If the church as church begins speaking out on great crimes the list will never end. I can think of several great crimes from the Holocaust to the Armenian genocide, to Ruwanda, to Cambodia, to the Russian Kulaks ad infinitum. Once the church as institution begins she has to be comprehensive/inclusive (how would one say “we must speak to this crime but not that one” and so she could never quit.

  4. “Mark this well. The case for pederasty and bestiality is next and the basis is identical to that used to advocate for homosexual relationships.”

    Society has always made a distinction in regards to consent with regards to children, in heterosexual affairs and other activities.

    The UK Guardian article claims a couple of studies that claim that there is no long term harm to children involved in pederasty.

    The problem with trying to link the arguments is an apples and oranges situation. Is the argument against adult homosexual civil union a matter of societal harm or personal harm. Is the homosexual agenda necessarily an argument against “age of consent” laws?

    • GS,

      Yes, Western society has typically agreed that children are not capable of consent. The advocates of pederasty (and bestiality) are arguing, however, that they do consent and therefore these are said to be legitimate. This changes the nature of the debate and shows the illegitimacy of the original argument in favor of homosexual relationships.

      The original argument did not account for nature. Homosexual relations are contrary to nature. Pederasty is contrary to nature. Bestiality is contrary to nature. What the pro-pederasts and pro-bestialists or pro-zooists have proved is that the terms “affection” and “consent” can be changed to fit their case but they can’t change “nature” because it is, as they say, what it is.

      Creation is. This is why Paul says that people who defy creation (Rom 1-2) sexually do so to their peril.

  5. “What the pro-pederasts and pro-bestialists or pro-zooists have proved is that the terms “affection” and “consent” can be changed to fit their case but they can’t change “nature” because it is, as they say, what it is.”

    I believe that is essentially correct. Post-modernism is concerned with “affection” and “empathy” and “emotional intelligence” as opposed to modernist structuralism and things like “age of consent”

    With that being the case it is no longer a matter of intellectual assent but rather emotional assent. By itself that does not disqualify “age of consent” because the same arguments could be made that children are not mature enough for emotional assent.

    I’m not sure I agree that the original argument did not account for nature. I’m not sure I’m following you on the nature argument?

    • RSC,

      So would you summarize the pro homosexual lobbies way of thinking as, on the one hand, modernist darwinian determinism as to nature, and on the other hand, postmodern emotivism as to consent?

  6. I’m less concerned with the church speaking out on specific public policy with regard to homosexuality than I am about it speaking to the sin at all. I’ve noticed recently that some very conservative (i., e., PCA) churches never mention homosexuality from the pulpit at all — or even abortion for that matter. By “mention” I mean not a rant against the unbelieving culture, but solid Biblical exegesis on those passages that are directly relevant to the subject. Unfortunately, some preachers are taking what they apparently consider the “safe” route of saying nothing at all. (We know, of course, that it’s only “safe” in the short run.) I consider this a dereliction of duty of the first rank. It is inexcusable.

    Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about mentioning abortion or homosexuality every week. But I certainly am talking about each church’s duty to take a Biblical stand on two of the major sins of our day, clearly, unequivocally, and publicly.

    There’s a saying (of my own making) that I’ve lived with for forty years, and which I believe with my whole heart: “If it’s not preached from the pulpit, it’s not important to the church.”

    Shame on pastors who, for fear of church members or the broader culture, will not preach what the Bible says about the very sins that sinners praise. Man up, brothers. You have a prophetic voice. Speak out or get out.

  7. One practical rule of thumb:

    If, after a period of time, the community doesn’t know where a church stands publicly on homosexuality or abotion, that church has failed in its duty.

    NOTE: “Community” will of course vary from place to place. Where I live, it’s the entire town (approx. 50,000) or the surrounding area (approx. 100,000). For some churches, it might be a small neighborhood or the entire country. “Period of time” may also vary. Six months? One year? Five years? I can’t say for sure. But you see what I’m getting at. At some point, you must be known as a Bible-centered church that takes the entire law of God with utmost seriousness. Then your preaching of the Gospel will really ring true.

  8. G,

    The pro-homosexual case has tried to have it both ways on nature. OTOH, they’ve tended to deny that there is such a thing as “nature” that would restrict their behavior and then, OTOH, they’ve argued that biology is destiny and that homosexuality is a natural biological phenomenon (not a disorder). I suppose that some evolutionary biology is assumed in the latter but I haven’t seen people making the connection. It would be hard to see how homosexuality could be considered anything but a cul-de-sac in evolutionary terms since procreation requires two sexes. From the POV of the preservation of the species, homosexuality is aberrant because it cannot reproduce.

    • This is an argument I heard, however, when it comes to evolutionists their evolutionary presuppositions are so engrained, every dang thing is interpreted through or made up through it.
      Anyway, it goes like this: two rats exhibit homosexual behavior as a way to connect to each to ensure survival by helping each other. The connection they shared sexually will help them to protect each other, or something to that affect.
      So as I said before, that is what they came up with due to their presuppositions. I am unsure how exactly this argument can be torn apart because you have to chop up the conclusion from the assumptions, when the assumptions are part of the conclusion. (Hopefully somebody will figure this out) This I think is why so many people are sucked into evolutionary thinking because when evolutionists present evidence, it’s evidence mixed with their assumptions.
      I bring this up so I don’t commit a straw man fallacy, I’d rather take the high road as oppose to the way they argue against us Christians.

  9. I was listening to Peter Hitchens the other day in a recent round table debate and questioning from the audience, and he said he doesn’t know why this ‘civil rights’ of homosexuality is an enormous deal (he is against homosexuality however) when it only affects 1/5th of 1% of the UK population.

  10. Trent,

    For the argument from evolutionary biology to work it would have to account for the fact that if homosexual behavior doesn’t procreate. Whatever benefits it might have in rats or other creatures, it necessarily leads to the destruction of the species. It can only happen if other, heterosexual rats, reproduce. If that stops and the species depends upon homosexual rats, there will be no rats.

    The pro-homosexual argument presupposes heterosexuality as the norm. The same sort of argument comes up in apologetics/evangelism. Unbelievers denying God do so whilst sitting on is lap, as it were. If he lets them go, as it were, they would not have the luxury of denying him. If the world really were random in the way that some pagans claim we could not have this conversation. Predication depends on order and order is rooted in the tri-personal God who knows and is known.

    In both cases what we have here is a case of rebellion. Just as a child needs the parent to continue feeding him (or he starves and therefore cannot rebel) so the defiant human depends on God to continue sustaining and ordering the universe the pagan says is not sustained nor ordered.

    That, by definition, is perversity.

    • It seems to me that another possible strain of thinking within the pro-lobby is a liberation theology anthropology.

      Homosexuality, they might argue, is a creational given and overcoming oppression to homosexuality is the path to salvation.

  11. “Anyway, it goes like this: two rats exhibit homosexual behavior as a way to connect to each to ensure survival by helping each other. The connection they shared sexually will help them to protect each other, or something to that affect.

    I am unsure how exactly this argument can be torn apart because you have to chop up the conclusion from the assumptions, when the assumptions are part of the conclusion.”

    I think one way to counter this type of argument is to point out that such an “evolutionary narrative” – some story about how some state of affairs could have come about through some evolutionary process – does not constitute science. Sometimes people use this type of narrative to jump from possible to plausible to theory to fact in a single bound. The rubric of science would demand a falsifiable hypothesis that can be empirically tested. This “evolutionary narrative” does not meet scientist’s own criteria.

    • True, and I was thinking last night after I posted it, well it doesn’t account for any sort of genetic aspect supposedly ‘inherent’ in homosexuals, only behavior. However, then the behavior (if not genetic) is said to be right anyway for means of survival.
      Circular reasons it seems to me.

  12. Frank, what do make of the fact that on the one hand the RCUS has recently made a formal effort to be clear on where it stands on homosexuality, but on the other that most NAPARC denominations have eschewed making such formal statements because they have determined that the Bible is clear enough on homosexuality (and other sexual sins) and thus needs no further emphasis? Are you saying that the larger balance of NAPARC denoms are essentially guilty of a dereliction of duty of the first rank and should either man up or get out?

  13. Hey Dr. Clark,

    Good thoughts. Two additional comments.

    First, one of the thing that Robert Gagnon points out (and seriosuly, anyone who wants to deal with the impending struggle with modern sexuality needs to read Gagnon) is that there is no principled distinction between arguments for homosexuality and for incest.

    Perhaps homosexual supporters would object that your slippery slope goes to far with pederasty (age of consent) and beastiality (inability of an animal to consent) but with incest you have consenting adults engaged in clearly depraved behavior. Gagnon argues that the crux of the popular homosexual ethic (and broader American sexual ethic) is that whatever consenting adults participate in is justifiable. But if adult consent is the basis of sexual ethics then why not a father with his consenting adult daughter or a mother with her consenting adult son?

    We know better than this though and we should rightly be revolted at this thought. I’ll just note as well that Gagnon definitively shows from 1 & 2 Corinthians that if Paul objected to the consenting relationship between mother and son, then he would likewise reject the modern homosexual argument put forwarded by many homosexual advocates.

    Second, as a Protestant, you’re not supposed to appeal to natural law. I found out that only Catholics can really appeal to natural law. A Truly Protestant response to homosexuality needs to include a good Southern accent and end with the statement, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Read here for more: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/09/sola-scriptura-and-the-gay-marriage-debate-how-protestant-theory-concedes-too-much/

    *Tongue emphatically in cheek*

    • Hey Brandon,

      Gagnon’s work is very helpful. If you check out the earlier essays linked you’ll see that I’ve been pointing people to his work for some time.

      Re your link, more evidence that it’s not about truth or history. It’s about the QIRC.

  14. Yet another fundamental problem with special rights for sodomites is the flawed appeal to “equality/civil rights/discrimination”.

    Since we are told that heterosexuals have “freedom” to marry anybody they want to, but homosexuals don’t, it is both reasonable and constitutional to privilege same sex marriages over same family marriages (incest) or more than one person at the same time marriages (polygamy).
    Huh?

    The artificial insemination/adoption issues when it comes to children and homosexual marriages promises even more chaos
    in family law, never mind the fundamental confusion/perversion in the first place.

  15. Oops, missed Brandon’s comment.
    Wasn’t going to bring up Gagnon, whose work is commendable, but since he is a minister in the PCUSA, maybe with all due respect, he is part of the problem.

    As in aren’t women ministers more consistent with God as Mother, Daughter and Holy Spirit? At least if the minister as God’s representative still gives the Aaronic blessing at the close of worship in PCUSA congregations?

    • Bob,

      Gagnon’s work is still very helpful. Some of the arguments that have been made in favor of the ordination of females has contributed to the state of things. We have to deal honestly with Scripture. The mainline has simply dismissed 1Tim 2 or tried to assign it to a fictional crisis (i.e., the claim that Paul was responding to a crisis created by an alleged rise of a sort of radical feminism in Ephesus. The first great problem with this argument is that there’s not a shred of evidence for it. The second is that it’s hard to see how an argument against feminism isn’t still an argument against feminism. Of course, the critical establishment is, to understate things, skeptical about the pastoral epistles.

    • It should be pointed out for clarity’s sake that Dr. Gagnon is not a Minister, but a Ruling Elder. He teaches New Testament at my sort-of alma mater Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Ironically it was during a class of his that while he was presenting the case against gay ordination that led me to deny the ordination of women to the office of Minister or Ruling Elder.

  16. “Second, as a Protestant, you’re not supposed to appeal to natural law. I found out that only Catholics can really appeal to natural law. A Truly Protestant response to homosexuality needs to include a good Southern accent and end with the statement, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Read here for more: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2012/09/sola-scriptura-and-the-gay-marriage-debate-how-protestant-theory-concedes-too-much/

    *Tongue emphatically in cheek*”

    The writer, David Anders, COMPLETELY misunderstands Luther’s thinking re natural law. Reason and natural law is whore only in so far as there is a SYNTHESIS with divine revelation and the Gospel, i.e. as the way of salvation (which what Romanists do). Indeed, his quotation proves precisely the point.

    This is why our righteousness is an alien righteousness, a righteousness from a different aeon.

    Reason and natural law are IN-BUILT into the creation order. It is a fact, a descriptive reality. The use of reason and natural law is for the sake of the old creation, the left-hand kingdom – to serve the neighbour and care for this world. This is the proper use of reason and natural law.

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