Saturday, June 30, 2012

Can an adulterous affair instantiate "love"?

With one plausible assumption about what (a sort of mutual respect variety of) "love" minimally involves, seemingly any adulterous affair will not instantiate love.
Given that "at time t, a loves b" involves something like "a respecting the whole person that b is at t", for any three people, x, y, and z, such that x and y are married at t*:
1. Part of the person that x is at t* is "the spouse of y."
2. If at t* z conducts an adulterous affair with x, then x does not respect x qua the spouse of y.
3. If at t* z does not respect x qua the spouse of y, then z does not respect part of the person that x is.
4. If z does not respect part of the person that x is, then z does not respect the whole person that x is at t*.
5. If z does not respect the whole person that x is at t*, then z does not love x.
6. Suppose that at t* z conducts an adulterous affair with x.
7. Therefore, x does not respect x qua the spouse of y.
8. Therefore, z does not respect the whole person that x is at t*.
9. Therefore, z does not love x.
10. Therefore, if at t* z conducts an adulterous affair with (a married) x, (ipso facto) z does not love x.

~ Matthew J. Bell

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Joycelyn Elders and Begging Questions about Set Membership


Statement 1: "We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children."*

The above statement - unless it be (<-- subjunctive) an expression of schizophrenia - seems to have the following form:

Statement 2: Instead of doing x, do y.

To be intelligible in the usual sense, this requires that x and y be distinct.

So, if one is to "worry about/love children" instead of "worrying about/loving fetuses", one modest requirement would seem to be that the set of "children" and the set of "fetuses" not overlap - that is, both, that the set of children does not have as a member any fetus and that the set of fetuses does not have as a member any child.

But, I take it that a burning question, and one over which persons generally divide, is the question of whether "fetuses" are distinct entities over against "children". For, on a broad construal, "child" is a common name that marks out a fairly expansive range of human developmental stages.

So, for instance, in certain contexts of use, an "infant," a "toddler," a "grade schooler," a "tween," a "teen," and a "high schooler" might all reasonably count as "children." It would sound absurd to suggest that:

Statement 3: "We really need to get over this love affair with toddlers and start worrying about children."

The reason for the absurdity is that, normally, a "toddler" is considered to be an instance of a "child." That is, in many contexts, "toddlers" are included in the category of "children."

One way of putting the question, then, is: Do "fetuses" belong on our list of entities that count as "children." Offhand, I would say that (at least a fair amount of) those who oppose abortion generally would answer "yes." And, clearly, if the answer is "yes," then Joycelyn Elders' quotation in Statement 1 really is as absurd as the the modified version in Statement 3.

But the main point here is simply to acknowledge that whether "fetuses" count as "children" (in a sufficiently broad sense) just is the question. Hence, Elders remark begs the question since it assumes (on a charitable interpretation of what she said) - without argument - that "fetuses" do not count as "children" (or, more generally, that "fetuses" do not count as the sort of entity that is as worthy of "love" or "worry" as "children").

One can imagine Joseph Goebbels chiding the "Allied Powers" by entreating:

Statement 4: "We really need to get over this love affair with Jews, Gypsies, the handicapped etc. and start worrying about human beings." 

I trust that the problem with Statement 4 is obvious to "Enlightened Americans". But, really, the prevailing story about Nazi Germany readily allows (indeed, demands) that some people did not think that statement 4 (or some statement relevant similarly and properly translated) had any problem whatsoever, let alone any obvious problem.

So, there seems to be a practical lesson.

In cases where one is tempted to admonish others to "do y instead of doing x", one had better make sure that x and y are uncontroversially exclusive sorts of things. And, if their distinctness is controversial, then one had better argue for their distinctness before delivering the admonishment.

As it stands, Elders' statement merely begs a crucial question. And one should be forgiven, I think, for expecting more than arguably logically fallacious statements from a former U.S. Surgeon General - even one who was fired.

* Cf. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/01/30/magazine/joycelyn-elders.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Facebook polemics

Facebook polemics arguably function in a manner akin to a political advertising campaign. Images and slogans are introduced - in lieu of arguments - which images and slogans are apparently designed to elicit cheers from supporters and "boos and hisses" from opponents. The general strategy of the Facebook polemicist is as follows: create a cutesy image overlain with text. The text may be variously abbreviated and sparse - e.g., where the reader sees only a vague, minimalist complaint like "wtf?" - or it may be abbreviated and dense - e.g., as below, where the reader is confronted with a conglomeration of numerous allegations strung end to end.

The benefit (to the polemicist) of minimalism (the former approach) seems chiefly to be that the complaint is left intentionally "fuzzy", which fuzziness allows those sympathetic to the general thrust of the complaint both to fill in details as they see fit, but also to facilitate disdainful posturing towards persons wishing to see a more sharply articulated criticism. The idea here is seemingly to present the criticism as being so obvious (and so obviously correct) that any protest concerning the vagueness of the presentation is the product of either willful blindness or stupidity. 

Alternatively, the primary appeal of the abbreviated-dense approach seems to be to try to psychologically overwhelm any would-be detractor, giving the impression that the mountain of evidence in favor of the (still usually vague) complaint is literally insurmountable.

Here is an example of an abbreviated-dense Facebook polemic:



(Arguably, this particular specimen adopts a composite strategy, with it's minimalist header ("MARRIAGE =") followed by a deluge of additional text. However, I will here ignore the header and treat this exclusively as a species of the latter type - as given, above.)

Here one can see the "density" in terms of the number (given the size of the image) of proper names, common names, and descriptions. And one can see the "abbreviated" nature of the enterprise in terms of the slipshod "citation" effort. (Namely, there was some attempt to provide bible citations for the material deemed relevant by the author. However, this attempt was incomplete or halfhearted in that the author provided no citations at all for one quarter of his or her introduced categories.)

Characteristic of the image-slogan polemic form (and, indeed, arguably characteristic of polemics more broadly), however, is the absence of substantial argument. I presume that the general form is supposed to be (something like): 1) "marriage" equals a, b, c, d, e, f, g, and h; 2) a does not equal b; a does not equal c; [with the non-equivalence demonstrated recursively]; 3) therefore, "marriage" cannot equal ab, c, d, e, f, g, and h.

Intuitively, the author seems to want to make the point that "marriage" is a wooly notion. Perhaps, this point can be intelligently pressed. But, the above digital doodle is not a suitable vehicle for this effort.

First, this polemic fails to make one fundamental distinction: reports can be descriptive or prescriptive. It can be truly stated that the Bible accurately reports the (shall we call them) "marital circumstances" of numerous persons. However, in several of the categories depicted (e.g., Genesis 16 regarding "man + woman + woman's property" and "man + woman + woman + woman..."; etc.), these reports are plausibly merely descriptive and do not constitute endorsements of the relevant actions. The Bible describes what these people did. But this does not amount to a Biblical prescription for marriage that is an alternative to the clear prescription in Genesis 2 (|| Matthew 19).

Second, the caption speaks of "illegality". But, number one, at least three of the categories depicted aren't obviously illegal at all. For example, "man + woman", "man + brother's widow", and "rapist + victim" all represent circumstances that are not obviously illegal. (For sure, a rapist is not, in our legal system, required to marry his victim. But, this says nothing about it being illegal for a woman to freely consent to marry a man who had at some past time been convicted of raping her. It is surely highly implausible that such a situation would obtain. But, "implausible" and "illegal" are not synonymous terms.)

Number two, two categories that DO arguably depict illegality (e.g., "male soldier + female prisoner of war" and "male slave + female slave") do so in virtue of depicting actions that run afoul of laws other than marriage laws. That is, the soldier-prisoner example is not illegal because it violates marriage laws; it's illegal, when it is, because it represents violations of the laws of war. Likewise, the male slave-female slave example is illegal because of the 13th Amendment, not (in the first instance) because of a particular marriage law per se.

To summarize, and expand slightly: Three sorts of "marital circumstances" depicted are not illegal at all. Two sorts are illegal but for reasons other than marriage laws. And three sorts of "marital circumstances" are illegal, and are illegal because of marriage laws (they represent cases of polygamy or, maybe, polyandry), but in these cases, the Bible apparently only describes these "marital" arrangements, it does not obviously prescribe them. Hence, even for the uncontroversially maritally-relevant cases, the Bible itself could be rightly said to describe persons and circumstances that violate prescriptions that are set forth elsewhere. In other words, the Bible itself arguably indicts many of the characters that appear in its narratives.

This instance of Facebook polemics will doubtless excite anti-Christians to "hurrays" - or rather "Likes." But, although the author would probably bristle at the idiom, this excitement indicates nothing more substantial than an exercise in what (when Christians are the culprits) would unhesitatingly be called shallow, unconvincing "preaching to the choir."

Friday, June 8, 2012

On the arguments of Jonathan Lewis against the notion that homosexual sex acts are sinful, taken and rebutted, in order

On the arguments of Jonathan Lewis against the notion that homosexual sex acts are sinful, taken and rebutted, in order. [Note: Where Jonathan Lewis's arguments are incomplete as given every attempt has been made to charitably complete the arguments before responding.]

I. Argument number one, on Leviticus 20:13:

Jonathan Lewis writes:

"I often hear how Homosexuality is an 'abomination.' This comes from, the often cited, Leviticus 20:13:  'If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.' But Leviticus also states that eating shellfish (verse 11:12), cutting your hair and shaving (verses 19:27-28), and wearing two different fabrics (verse 19:19) are abominations."

Now my first impulse is to say that this is not actually an argument at all. Rather, it seems merely to be a complaint. For, so what if eating shellfish (and so on) are also called "abominations"? How does this observation tell us anything about homosexuality?

If it IS an argument, it is enthymematic (that is, the sort of argument that is given informally, without stating all of the premises). If I were to try to fill in the missing premises, I might do so as follows:

1. If one and the same source predicates f of x, y, and z, then if, later, y and z are no longer f, then x is no longer f either.
2. The book of Leviticus predicates "abominability" of male-male homosexual sex, eating shellfish, cutting one's hair, and wearing two different fabrics.
3. Eating shellfish, cutting one's hair, and wearing two different fabrics are no longer "abominable."
4. Therefore, homosexuality is no longer "abominable" either.

Objections:

A. The first argument FORM is itself problematic.

Consider a parallel argument:

2*. The (fictitious) "Book of Frontier Essentials" predicates "indispensability" of water, a milk cow, a rifle, and spare wagon wheels for living in the "Wild West" area.
3* A milk cow, a rifle, and spare wagon wheels are no longer "indispensable" for living in the "Wild West" area.
4* Therefore, water is no longer indispensable either.

Clearly, this is a bad argument. Water can be (and is) still indispensable for daily living whereas other trappings of 18th-19th century frontier life (arguably) no longer are. This shows that x, y, and z must be evaluated independently. Even if y and z are no longer f, if doesn't automatically follow that x is no longer f. But, the FORM of the argument is the same as Jonathan Lewis's first argument against the "abominability" of homosexuality. Therefore, Jonathan Lewis's first argument is formally problematic.

B. There is also a relevant difference between the proscription of male-male homosexuality and prohibitions of various dietary and clothing restrictions; namely, the former endures, while the latter do not.

Firstly, it is noteworthy that Jesus himself said:

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19, NIV).

Hence, there appears to be a presumption of endurance on any particular "command" - even "the least".

However, this presumption can be overcome; for example, in the following way: If there is strong scriptural evidence for a particular law's abrogation - whether through repeal or "fulfillment."

This sort of approach has defenders across "denominational" lines.

As the Catholic Catechism puts the point:

"Jesus did not abolish the Law of Sinai, but rather fulfilled it (cf. Mt 5:17-19) with such perfection (cf. Jn 8:46) that he revealed its ultimate meaning (cf.: Mt 5:33) and redeemed the transgressions against it (cf. Heb 9:15)" (CCC, 592).

The Protestant systematic theologian Wayne Grudem puts it this way:

"[T]he sacrificial system of the Mosaic covenant did not really take away sins (Heb. 10:1-4)... It is not that the laws were wrong in themselves, for they were given by a Holy God, but they had no power to give people new life, and the people were not able to obey them perfectly... . Paul realizes that the Holy Spirit working within us can empower us to obey God ... (2 Cor. 3:6)", ("Systematic Theology," 521-522).

And secondly, in fact there is strong scriptural evidence that Old Testament dietary laws are no longer binding on God's people.

For example, Paul refers to dietary restrictions as "shadows" in Colossians 2:17. In Acts 10 Peter is told that salvation has been made open to the Gentiles and that the Judaic restrictions (e.g., on meats) are no loner applicable (cf. vv. 9ff.). It is important to realize, however, that the historic Christian position has NOT been that some meats which, in and of themselves, defiled at one time no longer, in and of themselves, defiled at another time. Rather, the position is that foods never defiled in and of themselves. Jesus himself stated: "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean" (Matthew 15:11, NIV). In other words, "It is sin only which properly [defiles people], and meats of themselves ... do not defile: but so far as by accident[see note] they make a person sin, as the disobedience of God's commandments or of our Superiors who forbid some meats for certain times and acauses, is a sin" (Annotations on Matthew 15:18, Rheims NT 1582). 

[Note: The word "accident" here is used in a technical, philosophical sense. It does not designate "an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/accident), but rather "A feature that something happens to have but that it might not have had" (http://www.philosophypages.com/dy/a.htm#acc). It is used, that is, is contradistinction to "essence".]

Therefore, the first argument fails.

Number one, the argument form cannot reliably demonstrate that male-male homosexual sex is not "abominable" merely because eating shellfish is no longer "abominable" just as it does not follow that water is no longer indispensable for daily living just because owning a milk cow is no longer indispensable for daily living.

And number two, the Christian can coherently hold the historic position: namely, and somewhat roughly put, the "moral law" endures while the "ceremonial and dietary laws" do not endure. Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system, which system foreshadowed his atonement on the cross. Hence, Christians are no longer bound to sacrifice animals. Now, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Christians have the potential to observe the moral law more perfectly. But, for Christians to be capable of observing the moral law implies that there is a moral law to observe. (Also, note well that the potential or capability to do something does not necessarily imply that the thing will be done.)

II. Argument number two:

5. "Jesus ... came to set us free from the old law."
6. The prohibition against homosexual sex is part of the "old law".
7. Therefore, Jesus came to free us from the prohibition against homosexual sex.

This argument, as stated, is really ambiguous.

Let me disambiguate it.

One reading - call it "the abolition reading" - is the following:

5a. Jesus came to set us free from the old law by abolishing the old laws.
6. The prohibition against homosexual sex is part of the "old law".
7a. Therefore, Jesus came to abolish the prohibition against homosexual sex.

But another reading - call it "the propitiation reading" - is this:

5b. Jesus came to set us free from the old law by taking onto himself the punishment that human beings would experience in virtue of disobedience to that law.
6. The prohibition against homosexual sex is part of the "old law".
7b. Therefore, Jesus came to take onto himself the punishment that human beings would experience in virtue of disobedience to the prohibition against homosexual sex.

As I understand it, the historic understanding of Christ's atonement, as it relates to the prohibition of homosexual sex, is expressed by the propitiation reading. But since Jonathan Lewis's formulation of his second argument is ambiguous (and enthymematic), it is unclear which reading he intends. He SEEMS to intend something like what I have called the "abolition reading". However, he gives no citations for this nor any other evidence in support of that reading.

As it stands, the second argument COULD be read in the propitiation sense. If so, it is potentially unobjectionable. However, on the propitiation reading, there is no abolition of the prohibition against homosexual sex - whether expressed or implied.

III. Argument three might be given as:

8. "Jesus ... never mentioned Homosexuality..." (read "homosexuality" as "homosexual sex").
9. If Jesus does not explicitly "mention" an activity, then that activity is permissible.
10. Therefore, homosexual sex ("homosexuality") is permissible.

Objections: The argument is materially problematic.

First, no reason has been given to accept premise 9. Why favor premise 9 over something like the following?

9*. If Jesus does not specifically approve of a "morally significant" activity, then that activity should be assumed to be forbidden.

Second, no reason has been given as to why a Christian should limit his or her consultation on moral matters to the recorded words of Jesus. After all, Christians have historically held that the entire Bible is a reliable (if often obscure) indicator of moral laws. Why should a Christian then favor premise 9 over the following?

9**. If the Bible as a whole[Note] does not explicitly mention an activity, then that activity is permissible.

[Note: We could replace "the Bible as a whole" with other phrases like "the New Testament" or "Church doctrine" or "Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition" in order to generate other competing principles which Jonathan Lewis has given no reason for us to disfavor.]

Thirdly, EVEN IF if is assumed that Jesus did not ever "mention homosexuality" (which assumption is dubitable in light of John 21:25) still, Jesus never "mentioned" a number of other activities that are obviously morally wrong. For example, Jesus never "mentioned" torturing children and yet the following argument is (I hope) obviously bad:

8*. Jesus never mentioned torturing children.
9. If Jesus does not explicitly "mention" an activity, then that activity is permissible.
10*. Therefore, torturing children is permissible.

Here, however, there is the following anticipated rejoinder:

Premise 9 should be amended to something like the following:

9***. If Jesus does not explicitly "mention" an activity, then that activity is permissible provided that it does not harm others.

However, there are several problems with this new principle.

Firstly, we can, I think, generate other examples that do not "harm others" - in at least a physical sense. For example:

8**. Jesus never mentioned suicide.
9***. If Jesus does not explicitly "mention" an activity, then that activity is permissible provided that it does not harm others.
10**. Therefore, suicide is permissible.

Secondly, it isn't clear that "harm" should be limited to physical harm.

On the historic Christian view, a human being is possessed of both a body and a soul. "Harm" then can come to either the body or the soul.

Jesus himself warns: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28, NIV).

However, plausibly, "sin" can be defined as (something like) "a transgression of God's law that harms the soul." If so, then IF homosexual sex is a sin, then homosexual sex harms the soul. But if THAT is so, then it is not the case that homosexual sex is "harmless." But, then, it will not do further amend premise 9*** by dropping the word "others". It must first be shown that homosexual sex is not a sin before it can be shown that engaging in homosexual sex does not "harm" (at least the soul [Note]).

[Note: Penetrative anal sex is also arguably harmful physically. This would apply equally to heterosexual as well as homosexual instances. But, let us set this aside, presently.]

Finally, it isn't entirely clear that premise 8 is true. For Jesus does in fact mention Sodom and Gomorrah in various passages (e.g., Matthew 10:15, 11:23ff, Luke 10:12, & 17:29). If "Sodom and Gomorrah" is, as is traditionally understood - contra the present author - an allusion to homosexual sin, then these references would plausibly be sufficient to deny premise 8.

In summary:

Number one, Jesus never mentioned a number of other, obviously morally wrong acts. The mere fact that he never mentioned homosexual sex is therefore insufficient reason to conclude that homosexual sex is permissible.

Number two, no reasons have been given to think that what Jesus does NOT say should imply permissibility or even that what Jesus did NOT say should be given priority over what other biblical authors, for example Paul, did say.

Number three, it is arguable that Jesus did indeed "mention" homosexual sin after all - via his references to Sodom and Gomorrah.

And number four, the (again enthymematic) argument turns on a controversial and ambiguous application of the would "harm" - which, additionally, requires the question-begging assumption that homosexual activity is harm-less (question begging because, for the argument to work, it must assume the very thing that is supposed to be shown by the argument - namely, that homosexual activity is morally permissible).

IV. Argument four:

11. "In those [presumably "biblical"] times, there was a populations shortage. There for (sic.), any sexual relation that did not have the ability to produce a baby was considered wrong."
12. Homosexual sex does not have the ability to produce a baby.
13. Therefore, homosexual sex was considered wrong because of a population shortage.

Objections

A. First of all, this argument employs several vague phrases.

Clearly, the texts assembled into the bible span an enormous interval. Conservatively, the bible spans many hundreds of years. It is unclear, therefore, whether Jonathan Lewis means to suggest that there "was a population shortage" at some particular time or through the entire "biblical period."

Additionally, the notion of a "population shortage" implies that there are fewer people than are needed for some purpose. But what is the purpose for which there were too few people "in those times"? Jonathan Lewis gives no clue.

Intuitively, there were fewer people "in those times" than there are now. But, why this fact alone should be sufficient to justify language of a "population shortage" is entirely opaque to me.

B. Second of all, the argument is entirely a-historical.

The historic argument of the Church against homosexual sex was not grounded in "population shortages" - whether real or imagined. Rather, it was grounded in the fruitfulness of the male "seed."

As Charles Provan elsewhere has articulated, the Church objected to any "intentional wasting" of the male seed. Any activity that intentionally renders the male seed fruitless was unambiguously condemned. Intentionally wasteful activities therefore included: male masturbation, male-male homosexual sex, anal sex (whether hetero- or homosexual), oral sex (whether hetero- or homosexual), heterosexual vaginal sex during female menstruation, and abortion (which destroys the fruit of the seed), etc.

An activity can be "wasteful" in two possible senses.

Number one, a sexual activity is essentially wasteful if that activity, when performed by persons whose sexual organs are functioning correctly, cannot result in conception.

Number two, a sexual activity is accidentally wasteful if that activity, when performed by persons whose sexual organs are functioning correctly, can result in conception; but, because of some defect beyond the control of the persons, will not result in conception.

"Cooperation" in an activity has two relevant senses:

"The first fundamental distinction to be made is that between formal and material cooperation. Formal cooperation is carried out when the moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, sharing in the latter's evil intention. On the other hand, when a moral agent cooperates with the immoral action of another person, without sharing in the intention, it is a case of material cooperation."

Now, an "evil intention," in the present circumstances, comes to this: the intention to render the male seed fruitless.

There is a relevant emphasis on intentionality. "[I]nfertile married Christian women and men still have sex", plausibly, not merely because (one hopes) they do not intentionally waste the male seed, but because their activity is not essentially wasteful. As it turns out, in God's providence, the relevant male and relevant female have been rendered incapable of bearing children, yet this incapability is due to accidental factors entirely unrelated to human intentionality. Their action is accidentally wasteful. If they do not formally intend evil, then they have no sin.

Now, it is conceivable that a male and female intentionally partner with each other because they know (or justifiably believe) that one or both of them is accidentally infertile. In such a case, if they intentionally partner in part in order to avoid conception, their intention to avoid conception would be formally sinful. And clearly in cases where otherwise healthy males or females intentionally render their bodies infertile (surgically or pharmacologically) their intentional actions would also be formally sinful.

In the case of homosexual sex, the sex itself is essentially wasteful (in the male-male case) or essentially unfruitful (in both the male-male and female-female cases) and therefore is materially sinful in and of itself. Now, this sinfulness is compounded in cases where the participants intend formally to be unfruitful. However, in cases where the participants do not formally intend evil, the act itself being materially sinful is sufficient to justify the moral prohibition. Although, the lack of a formal evil intention - in cases of ignorance for example - when the lack is genuine and not pretended, plausibly mitigates somewhat the guilt of the participants. To what degree the guilt is mitigated even in cases where there is a genuine lack of a formal, evil intention will depend upon whether other factors; e.g., in cases of ignorance, the sort of ignorance - whether vincible or invincible - will be germane.

Heretofore we have been assuming Jonathan Lewis's premise that an "infertile" couple can be validly "married." At this point, it is worth mentioning that according to Catholic Canon Law, female and male "impotence" (for example and broadly construed) is considered to be a "diriment impediment" that prevents a marriage from being validly contracted at all (#1084; cf. 1073).

In summary:

The Protestant can say that a (married) heterosexual couple that happens, as a matter of accidental, unintentional factors, to be "infertile," is not prohibited from engaging in vaginal sexual intercourse, provided that the couple does not formally intend to be unfruitful, because the relevant activity (vaginal sexual intercourse) is not essentially materially sinful (the heterosexual couple is, however, prohibited from engaging in activities that are essentially wasteful, e.g., oral and anal sex); whereas, the homosexual couple is prohibited from engaging in sexual intercourse because the only possible sexual activities (anal, oral, etc.) are activities that are materially sinful because they are essentially wasteful.

The Catholic can agree with much of the content of this available Protestant reply. But, the Catholic will add that certain antecedent conditions of infertility, broadly construed - chiefly, "impotence" - can constitute impediments to marriage. Hence, in some cases, persons that are incapable of having children (whether "heterosexual" or "homosexual" in terms of desires) are also incapable of validly contracting marriages.

V. Argument five, concerning 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

Jonathan Lewis states:

"1 Corinthians 6:9-10 reads like this in the NIV Bible: 'Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men (or 'Homosexuals' in some translations) nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.' Now, lets focus on the line about Homosexuality. According to the documentary film 'FISH OUT OF WATER', the word in the original text that has been translated to mean Homosexuality means for a grown male to have a pedophile type relationship with a young boy."

Now the argument seems to be this:

14. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 seems to condemn "homosexual sex".
15. But 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 uses a "word in the original text" that really designates "a grown male [having] a pedophile type relationship with a young boy".
16. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 really condemns pederasty (that is, the acting out of pedophilic desires).

Objections:

Jonathan Lewis is seemingly ignorant, however, of the translation issues involved.

For one thing, Jonathan Lewis speaks of "THE WORD in the original text" (emphasis added) when Jonathan Lewis's presented translation - that of the NIV - clearly reveals in a footnote to the relevant passage that "The words 'men who have sex with men' translate TWO GREEK WORDS that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts" (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+6%3A9-10&version=NIV#fen-NIV-28477a, emphasis added).

Secondly, neither of the two words - 'malakos' and 'arsenokoites' - designates "a grown male" who has sex with young (esp. prepubescent) boys. There was a word in Greek for such a relationship. The word was 'paiderastes' which is the root of our own word 'pederasty,' used above. The word is a composite of 'paidion' or 'child, boy' and 'erastes' (related to 'eros' or erotic love), that is, 'lover.'

Paul uses - in fact coins - a word that delivers precisely the scope that he wants. "Erastes," meaning "lover," is too broad since it can designate any lovers - including male-female married ones. "Pederastes" is too narrow since it designates only man-boy sex. Paul's word selection, therefore, condemns any sort of male-male pairing where one man is in the "effeminate role" as the "passive or submissive partner" and the other is in the "masculine role" as the "active or dominant partner." Paul also avoids the word "kinaidos" which, although it designated - like "malakos" - effeminant and passive male sexual partners, nevertheless came also to connote cross-dressing and the like (as in "cinaedus"). Similarly, Paul avoids the words that distinctly pick out prostitutes - for example, "porne," "akolouthi," or "hetaĆ­ra."

Hence, Paul's word pair - "malakoi oute [nor] arsenokoitai" - designates any male-male homosexual pairing - regardless of age, regardless of whether cross-dressing is involved, and regardless of whether the activity is contractual.

VI. Argument six, regarding Romans 1:26-27.

Jonathan Lewis writes:

"Then in Romans 1:26-27 ('Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.'), the phrase (sic.) 'unnatural' is used.  Paul uses that phrase to refer to something when it is not part of his culture. And the culture of that time did not know anything about loving and consenting same sex relationships.  They just did not publicly exist at this time in history. The only situations of Homosexuality in that time where when an army would rape the survivors of another army once defeated. Or when a man would molest a boy or use him as a sex slave.  No love.  No consent."

This passage is riddled with difficulties.

A. Historical

For one thing it is simply historically inaccurate to describe Paul's "time in history" as one which "did not know anything about ... consenting (sic.) same sex relationships."

Homosexuality was very common in the ancient world. It was practiced by both males and females (the female version was then known as "tribadism"). Greece in particular had a long history of this. It has been said of Plato's dialog the "Symposium," which is a discourse which revolves heavily around the notion of "love," that is has mainly in focus male-male homosexual love. It was a common attitude in the Greek world that males were superior and, therefore, the idea of being "partners" with a female was unimaginable. It was commonly held that for true, reciprocal "love," a male would need another male.

But, these considerations completely deflate Jonathan Lewis's argument. Far from being unheard of, homosexual relationships were very common.

Paul nevertheless proceeds to argue against them by arguing that such relationships – those involving homosexual sexual activities - are "unnatural."

B. Lexical

Jonathan Lewis suggests that by "unnatural" is used by Paul to designate "something when it is not part of his culture".

Now this suggestion is remarkable for several reasons.

First, in Jonathan Lewis's preferred NIV translation of Paul employs the word "unnatural" exactly once - in the passage here under consideration. But when Jonathan Lewis insists that Paul uses this word for such-and-so a purpose, it's a very strange assertion. Typically, one establishes word meaning in part by cataloging other examples of usage. But there are no other Pauline examples - at least, none in Jonathan Lewis's NIV. And Jonathan Lewis provides no hint of why he believes that Paul uses "unnatural" for the purpose asserted by Jonathan Lewis. His reasons - if any - are not given.

Second, the root word "physis" ("phusis"), however, is very well known. And, it has a very well-established meaning. And that meaning is certainly NOT anything like "conventional" or "culturally usual" or any such thing. The word "physis" means "natural" as in, "of or relating to nature." According to the standard BDAG reference, the word also denotes "the regular or established order of things" (p. 1070.).

We derive our modern English words "physics" - which, in it's broadest outline studies regularities in the (physical) universe - and "physiology" - which studies the functions (or nature) of the body.

Hence, something "unnatural" is something that goes against the "regular or established order" OF NATURE - that is, of the physical universe. This has nothing to do with cultural relativism or convention - although, it is fashionable (albeit sophomoric) to introduce these notions into moral discourse.

Again, the Greeks had words that would have been much more appropriate had Paul intended to convey merely the foreignness of a particular concept. "Ethos" for example was a word designating the conventional moral beliefs (that is, mores) of a polis (or city state). But, Paul does not choose this word.

Paul's argument turns on the notion of "function." As Gregory Koukl has put it:

"Paul is not talking about natural desires here, but natural functions. He is not talking about what one wants sexually, but how one is built to operate sexually. The body is built to function in a specific way.  Men were not built to function sexually with men, but with women. ... Paul says men forsake not their own natural desire (their constitutional make-up), but rather the 'natural function of the woman..' They abandoned the female, who was built by God to be man's sexual compliment" (http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=6289#_ftnref4).

VII. Argument number seven, regarding "love":

Jonathan Lewis asserts:

"If God is love (1 John 4:8) then God is with the Homosexuals who have true love for one another."

Objections:

A. Ambiguity

"Love" is an ambiguous notion.

In general, there are emotional and volitional concepts that are marked out by the English word "love."

In terms of emotion, or “feeling,” "love" could designate any of the following feelings (and probably more besides):

- sentimentality (e.g., "I loved my childhood teddy bear.")
- general fondness (e.g., "I love a good book.")
- strong like (e.g., "I love chocolate.")
- strong friendship (e.g., "I love my best friend.")
- pity (e.g., "He tries so hard, God love him.")
- deep concern (e.g., "I have a special love for the poor.")
- blood-familial affection (i.e., parental - paternal, maternal; filial; sororal; or fraternal; etc.) e.g., "I love my sister.")
- erotic-sensual feeling (e.g., "I love her legs.")

In terms of volition, or “willing,” "love" could designate any of the following actions:

- erotic-sexual activity (e.g., "We met at a party and loved each other the entire night.")
- altruistic/self-sacrificial activity (e.g., "Daily he loved and cared for his comatose wife.")

Additionally, there are composite notions.

For example, "healthy" marital (conjugal-uxorial) "love" (husband-wife relations) is likely a composite of certain emotional "loves" (e.g., strong like, deep concern, and erotic-sensual feelings) as well as certain volitional loves (chiefly, erotic-sexual).

Hence, it won't due to simply make hand-waving comments about "true love" without specifying, more precisely, what sort of "love" one has in mind. And, in fact, there is at least one more relevant sense of "love."

B. Disambiguation

In terms of Christianity, there is also the theological virtue of "love" (also termed "charity").

There are two prongs to the Christian concept of "love."

Firstly, "love" is the intentional activity of "[willing] good to another and ... [wanting] to do only what is good for another..." (cf. Baltimore Catechism, Glossary entry: "Love").

Secondly, "love" ("charity") is "[t]he greatest of the theological virtues, by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God" (Baltimore Catechism, Glossary entry: "charity").

Now, these definitions crucially depend on two other concepts (among others).

Number one, speaking of "willing GOOD" depends upon a particular understanding of The Good.

Number two, speaking of "loving our neighbors as ourselves for the love of God" depends upon an antecedent "love of God" of a specific sort.

The key point is this: Not just any conception of "good" will do. By Christian lights, the "good" is a very specific designator.

"The Good" picks out all-and-only those things that God approves and commands.

Hence, when we are commanded to "will good" to others, we are commanded to "will those things that God approves and commands" to others. "Love" in this sense will not involve anything of which God disapproves.

But then, IF God disapproves of homosexual sex, then Christian "love" simply will not - and cannot - involve homosexual sex.

And if love for one's neighbor depends on a prior guiding and genuine "love of God," then one cannot have a "true" love for one's neighbor without having a genuine love for God. And, plainly, one cannot "love" God while simultaneously disobeying his precepts regarding sexual activity.

C. The relevant sense of "love" makes "true homosexual-erotic love" an oxymoron

Given this framework, it is clear that IF homosexual sex activities are prohibited by God, then engaging in homosexual sex activities is both contemptuous of God as well as a violation of the Good.

But, insofar as one is contemptuous of God, one cannot truly love God, in the sense of theological charity.

And insofar as one does NOT love God appropriately, one is prevented from having "true love" for one's neighbor.

Furthermore, IF homosexual sex activities are forbidden to God's people, then engaging in homosexual sex activities is not Good, in the Christian sense. Hence, engaging in homosexual sex acts implicates one in evil ("the Bad"), and not the Good.

But, insofar as one is engaging in evil activities with another person, one cannot truly "will good" to that person without also willing to give up or forego the evil activities.

Therefore, if two "homosexuals" had true, Christian love for each other, they would both will that the other forego engaging in homosexual sex activities and observe God's commands with respect to sexual conduct.

However, this is simply to say that "homosexual sexual-erotic love" must designate something like "mere sexual activity" or "strong physical attraction" or "strong like"; but it simply cannot designate "true love" on anything like a traditional Christian conception of "love/charity." If taken in a traditional Christian sense, "true homosexual sexual love" is simply a contradiction.

D. On the "if"

Now, astute readers will have surely noticed the recurrence of the word "if" in my above explication of "love."

The conditional ("if") formulations have two implications.

Firstly, if the question is whether or not homosexual sex is acceptable to God, one cannot resolve the question by saying, "well, if two homosexual REALLY 'love' each other, then homosexual sex is 'okay.'" One cannot say this and expect it to resolve the issues at hand because the statement ASSUMES that "homosexual sexual love" is a possibility. However, as I have argued above, Christian "love" is deeply linked with God and God's commandments. If homosexual sex is unacceptable to God, then "homosexual sexual love" is impossible. If homosexual sex IS acceptable to God, then "homosexual sexual love" IS possible. But we cannot answer the question of acceptability merely by appealing to "love." Rather, we must settle the issue of acceptability before we can draw any conclusion about the possibility of "homosexual sexual love."

Secondly, the traditional Christian presumption is that homosexual sexual activity is prohibited. Hence, in order to demonstrate that homosexual sexual activity is acceptable, the proponent of such activity must overturn the historic Christian understanding. Jonathan Lewis has attempted to this with various arguments and various exegetical suggestions. However, as I have by now expended considerable energy to show, none of Jonathan Lewis's arguments stands up to scrutiny. Or, to put it more cautiously, the defender of the traditional Christian position on the unacceptability of homosexual sexual activity has plausible (indeed, strong) rebuttals to each argument that Jonathan Lewis suggests.

But then, Jonathan Lewis has failed to make a strong case that homosexual sexual activity IS acceptable. But then, Jonathan Lewis has failed to make any case at all that "homosexual sexual love" is even possible - under a Christian definition of "love." But, then, Jonathan Lewis's appeals to "love," "God being love," and "true love" are simply wrong-headed and futile efforts.

By traditional Christian lights, the *true loving* approach to homosexual sexual activity is to discourage it, for such activity is a violation of God's law, and those who engage in it commit serious sin (at least materially, and perhaps formally as well).

[Note: "Material sin" is sin that is, in and of itself, grave or serious. "Formal sin" is material sin that a person commits on purpose (intentionally) with full knowledge of the sin's material gravity or seriousness. If a person does not know that a particular activity is materially sinful, this ignorance (which can be either vincible or invincible) does not render the activity not-sinful, but the ignorance may mitigate the *guilt* of the person who engages in the activity. Similarly, if a person does not intend to engage in a materially sinful activity - with or without knowledge - the lack of intention may mitigate guilt, but doesn't render the activity sinless in and of itself. Material sinfulness is an objective property of any serious or grave violation of God's moral laws.]

VIII. Argument eight, on "judging":

Jonathan Lewis states:

"Jesus is constantly telling people not to judge unless you have a clean slate. Constantly."

Objections:

A. The statement is arguably simply false, as written.

In John 7:24 Jesus tells us:

"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment" (NIV).

The condition here is not "[having] a clean slate"; rather, the condition is putting aside "appearances." But,

There is a bigger problem: Jonathan Lewis's statement is ambiguous.

B. The statement is obviously ambiguous, as written.

"Judging" has no fewer than four different senses. To see what these four senses are, consider the standard form of a moral argument.

In a typical moral argument, one begins with two premises. The first premise lays down a moral principle or rule. The second premise articulates a particular, relevant case. An example would help to clarify.

So, take a moral principle:

17. It is horribly morally wrong to torture and kill children.

And take a particular case:

18. Albert Fish tortured and killed children.

And then we conclude:

19. Therefore, what Albert Fish did was horribly morally wrong.

Now, I take that (hopefully!) this argument will not be objected to.

Once a morally wrong act has been established, one typically proceeds with some sort of punitive measure. For example,

20. Anyone who tortures and kills children should receive life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty (etc.).

21. Therefore, Albert Fish should receive life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty (etc.).

At this point, it will be instructive to examine the form of the argument.

The first pertinent premise (here numbered premise "17") lays down the moral precept that "Torture and killing children is wrong." The second relevant premise (here numbered premise "18") asserts something factual (in this case, about a man named "Albert Fish" and what that man was alleged to have done). The third germane premise (here numbered premise "20") lays down what is asserted to be a reasonable punitive measure (in this case, life in prison or execution). And, finally, one concludes that the party referred to in the factual second premise, should receive the punitive measure laid down in the third premise, on the basis of their guilt coupled with the correctness of the moral precept laid down in the first premise.

But I hope that it is clear by now that there are at least FOUR JUDGMENTS involved in this moral argument - which, as I have said, is in a VERY standard form, typical of MANY moral arguments.

Firstly, there is the "judgment" THAT the asserted moral principle is a correct moral principle - that is, there is the judgment that such-and-such activity, call it A, really is wrong (or right, depending on how the moral precept is articulated).

Secondly, there is the "judgment" that asserted facts in the factual premise are, really, facts - that is, there is the judgment that so-and-so, call him S, REALLY did such-and-so activity, call it A1.

Thirdly, there is the "judgment" that the persons and events referred to in the factual premise really are governed by the asserted moral principle - that is, there is the judgment that "S committed A1" really is an instance of the form "S committed A," in violation of the moral principle that "A is wrong."

And, fourthly, there is the "judgment" that the persons referred to in the factual premise, in virtue of their violation of the precept expressed in the moral premise, should be subjected to the punitive measure laid down in the third or punitive premise.

Now, which of these judgments is Jesus supposedly forbidding?

Let us examine the case that Jonathan Lewis himself appeals to.

Jonathan Lewis writes:

"One of my favorite’s is when the religious leaders of the time came to him with a women that they had caught in adultery. They where ready to stone her in accordance to old laws and their traditions. They brought her to Jesus. Jesus looked at the men holding her and told them that the one who is without sin could throw the first stone at her and Jesus was the only one who was sinless. With that, the leaders let go of the women and walked away. And Jesus did not stone the women, he showed her love."

Here is the relevant passage, from the NIV:

"[B]ut Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, 'Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one, sir,' she said. 'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin'," (John 8:1-11).

From this passage, we can formally construct an instance of a moral argument of the same form as already presented, above. We do so as follows:

Moral Premise: Adultery is morally wrong. (Implied premise)
Factual Premise: "[T]his woman was caught in the act of adultery." (From Observation)
Conclusion1: Therefore, "this woman" has done something morally wrong.

Punitive Premise: Women who have committed adultery should be "stoned" (to death). (from "the Law Moses")
Conclusion2: Therefore, "this woman" should be stoned (to death).

Now, in line with the prior discussion, we have four relevant judgments, as follows:

Judgment #1: Adultery REALLY IS morally wrong (that is, the Moral Premise really is true, as asserted).
Judgment #2: "This woman" REALLY DID commit adultery (that is, the Factual Premise is true, as asserted).
Judgment #3: The moral premise REALLY DOES apply to the case at hand (that is, the application of the relevant Moral Premise to the relevant Factual Premise REALLY IS appropriate).
Judgment #4: "This woman" REALLY SHOULD be stoned to death without delay (that is, the punitive premise, as asserted, REALLY IS both appropriate and applicable and should be applied forthwith).

But from this passage of Scripture, which of these judgments does it seem that Jesus has a problem with?

Judgment #1, recall, asserted that "Adultery REALLY IS morally wrong (that is, the Moral Premise really is true, as asserted)." Jesus never disputes the wrongness of adultery. He never questions the moral premise.

IN FACT, more strongly, HE ACTUALLY IMPLICITLY ENDORSES IT. At the conclusion of the passage Jesus tells the woman to "Go now and leave your life of sin." But, if the woman is to "leave [her] life of sin," then how she is presently living must be sinful. However, the only relevant information that we have about her life is that she is an adulteress. Therefore, Jesus is either speaking of sins that go unmentioned; or Jesus is speaking of her adultery as a sin. The most natural reading is indisputably that Jesus is here calling the woman's adulterous behavior sinful. But, if so, then Jesus is acknowledging the truth of the moral premise.

Despite their NOT having "clean slate" consciences, nevertheless, "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees" got the moral principle RIGHT. How did they do this? Did they have some gnostic-occultic insight into the mind of God? Hardly! They simply read the Old Testament (Tanakh) and reported its contents faithfully! It clearly states:

"If a man commits adultery with another man's wife--with the wife of his neighbor--both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death" (Leviticus 20:10, NIV).

So, the Pharisees, despite having logs in their eyes, nevertheless got this moral precept CORRECT, and Jesus acknowledges the principle's correctness.

But, then, it seems obvious that people CAN make judgments of the first sort. People - even sinful people whose consciences are not always "clean slates" - can read the Bible, find correct moral precepts, and articulate those moral precepts.

How about judgment number two?

Judgment #2 was, again, the proposition that "This woman" REALLY DID commit adultery (that is, the Factual Premise is true, as asserted).

Again, Jesus never disputes this either. There is no hint in the passage that the woman has been wrongly accused.

As to judgment #3 which, to refresh our memories, was that the moral premise REALLY DOES apply to the case at hand (that is, the application of the relevant Moral Premise to the relevant Factual Premise REALLY IS appropriate), Jesus does not dispute this either. Jesus does not say that the governing moral principle has been incorrectly applied.

So far, then, we have a true moral principle, a true factual premise, and an appropriate relationship between the moral and factual premises such that the moral principle truly applies to the factual premise.

What then DOES Jesus object to?

Most obviously, Jesus objects to what we have been calling "Judgment #4":

Judgment #4: "This woman" REALLY SHOULD be stoned to death without delay (that is, the punitive premise, as asserted, REALLY IS both appropriate and applicable and should be applied forthwith).

Jesus tells the "one ... who is without sin [to] be the first to throw a stone...". In other words, Jesus clearly says that no sinful person should be anxious to PUNISH OTHERS for the commission of even CLEARLY SINFUL acts.

The sinfulness of adultery was not disputed. The guilt of the woman wasn't disputed. The applicability of the prohibition of adultery to this woman was not disputed.

She's clearly guilty of a bona fide moral wrong.

What Jesus encourages, however, is that this woman be shown mercy.

Likewise, Christians can articulate the following moral principle without violating Jesus' example in the least:

22. Homosexual sex is morally wrong.

Furthermore, without deviating from Jesus' example, if a case presents itself, the Christian can apply the moral principle just articulated to an actual case without running afoul of any restriction on "judgment":

23. Harvey Milk engaged in homosexual sex.
24. Harvey Milk did something morally wrong.

Going this far is perfectly in line with Jesus' example and with thousands of years of Christian understanding concerning homosexual sex.

However, probably, the Christian should stop here.

For what Jesus obviously discourages is the sort of "judgment" that presumes to actually CARRY OUT A PUNITIVE MEASURE on a person - even on a person that is obviously guilty of an admitted sinful action.

(Parenthesis: The case of the woman is strange for several reasons. Firstly, one difficulty was that the relevant man would also be subject to stoning, and yet the relevant man never enters into the picture. However, Jesus does not appeal to this fact - which is, admittedly, a violation of justice - as the reason why the woman should not be stoned. Second, EVEN IF the woman WAS justly condemned, nevertheless, that this wildcat band of Pharisees could act as both judge/jury AND executioner is also apparently a miscarriage of justice. However, AGAIN, Jesus does not appeal to THIS either. He merely gestures towards the rightness of mercy. Finally, I wish to register my awareness of the textual difficulties with this passage. However, I set these aside as irrelevant for present purposes chiefly because this was, after all, the example that Jonathan Lewis chose to display. I am merely responding to a text that Jonathan Lewis chose to make a fixture of his argument. I submit that my treatment of this passage (ignoring the textual difficulties) is, therefore, appropriate.)

IX. Argument nine, basically, that "all sin" is "equal":

Jonathan Lewis asserts:

"THE POINT: A fundamental cornerstone of a relationship in Jesus is admitting that we are all EQUALLY screwed up. The pastors, the priest, the deacons, the youth pastors, the Homosexuals, Charlie Manson, me, you."

Objection:

This principle is vague. It is unclear what "equally screwed up" comes to.

The principle is also merely an assertion. No evidence whatever is presented for its truth.

Finally, the principle is ambiguous. Here are what I suggest are the two most likely possible readings.

Number one, Jonathan Lewis could mean that all people are "equal" in the sense that everyone needs the redemption that Jesus offers.

Here, I trust, no Catholic or Protestant would dispute this.

Famously, Protestants (especially, but not exclusively Baptists) quote Romans 3:23:

"[F]or all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (NIV).

And we clearly read in the epistle of First John:

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us" (vv. 8-10, NIV).

However, admitting the biblical truth that "all have sinned" does NOT imply that "all sins" are "equal" IN TERMS OF SERIOUSNESS.

By way of analogy, suppose it were true that there was a mountain, call it "Mount Impossible," that no human being had ever successfully summitted. In such a case, I could truly state that:

"All have fallen short of the summit of Mount Impossible."

However, this fact alone says NOTHING about HOW FAR various climbing attempts may have gotten. Some people, doubtless, never summitted the mountain because they never tried to climb it at all. Others, however, attempting to climb it, would likely have failed to summit the mountain in various ways, some climbing higher than others. Hence, some people may have come CLOSER to the summit that others, while other people were far away, and still others were very far away indeed.

Similarly, even if "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God", this is perfectly compatible with some people COMING CLOSER to "the glory of God" than others. It's like the old adage, "There are many ways to miss a target; but only one way to hit it." There will be "near-misses" and "far-misses" and everything (or, at least, very many things) in between.

Nevertheless, some Protestants do indeed assert that all sins are "equal."

So, number two, there is a possible sense of "equally screwed up" that asserts that all people are "equal" in the sense that "all sins" are "equal" in terms of their gravity.

But, here are several reasons to think that this second disambiguation, if taken seriously, is just false.

Firstly, the equation of "all sins" in terms of severity is intuitively ridiculous. If "all sins" were truly "equal" in terms of severity or gravity, then a child's intentional theft of a candy bar would be the moral equivalent of the 20 million Soviets that dictator Joseph Stalin was responsible for murdering. I submit that such an equivalence is so obviously incorrect that it scarcely merits any serious response. However, I will proceed in any case.

Second, the Bible clearly speaks about differences in the seriousness of various sins. There are indirect examples and direct examples.

For one thing, the old testament laws - for example the Levitical laws - prescribe DIFFERENT punishments for various violations of God's law. In Leviticus, adultery is punishable by death, for example. But violation of various dietary laws - for example, a person who "eats anything found dead or torn by wild animals" - will be punished by having to "wash their clothes and bathe with water" (Leviticus 17:15, NIV).

The point is this: If ALL sins REALLY WERE morally equivalent, then we would expect that the punishments for every sin would be the same. But a cursory review of Leviticus will reveal that this is far from the case. There are very severe punishments for some sins, and very lenient punishments for other sins. The most natural conclusion to draw is this:

It is simply not true that the Bible teaches that "all sins" are "equal" in terms of their seriousness.

For another thing, though, First John 5 speaks of a distinction between sins that "lead to death" and those that do not (cf. vv. 16ff.). Jesus himself distinguishes between sins that "can be forgiven" (Matthew 12:31, NIV) and an "unpardonable" sin or "blasphemy against the Spirit" (Ibid.).

Catholics likewise distinguish between "venial" (less serious) and "mortal" (leading unto death) sins (cf. CCC 1854-1864, etc.). Protestants, however, have historically drawn similar distinctions, the Westminster Confession, for example, distinguishes between sins "small" and "great" (15.4). And, elsewhere, the Confession mentions sins that are grave enough to be termed "grievous" (cf. 17.3). And even though, by Protestant lights, both sorts are enough to separate one from God, still, the acknowledgment that some sins are "small," others are "great," and others are "grievous" is an acknowledgment that sins come in degrees of severity. But, in light of the historical distinctions in the severity of sin, made by Protestants and Catholics alike, and in light of the clear and explicit distinctions of sin types drawn in the New Testament itself, the most natural conclusion to draw is that:

It is simply not true that the Bible, or historic Christianity, teaches that "all sins" are "equal" in terms of their seriousness.

***

As a final sidebar - a sidebar that is NOT to be construed as my main point - to this section, I want to note that Jonathan Lewis's own assertion is curious. For Jonathan Lewis asserted that:

"A fundamental cornerstone of a relationship in Jesus is admitting that we are all EQUALLY screwed up. ...the Homosexuals...".

Now, what is curious is the fact that here Jonathan Lewis includes "homosexuals" as members of the group of "the screwed up". But, is Jonathan Lewis merely saying that homosexuals have committed sins of an undisclosed, unknown, and miscellaneous sort? Or is Jonathan Lewis here saying that "homosexuals" are "screwed up" in virtue of BEING "homosexuals"? I presume that Jonathan Lewis will answer that he holds the former position, as opposed to the latter. But his wording is curious.

I say that the wording is "curious" because it seems to me that Jonathan Lewis's point would be far more forceful if he DID hold that homosexual sex WAS a sin. I myself can say, as Jonathan Lewis seems to suggest one SHOULD say, "Therefore, there are only two true people groups to a Christians: Screwed up people who know Christ and screwed up people who don’t know Christ."

But, here's the thing:

Homosexuals who openly engage in homosexual sex acts simply DENY THAT THEY'RE "SCREWED UP" (in what appears to be Jonathan Lewis's sense).

One has to FIRST acknowledge one's sinfulness before one even sees the point of "want[ing] to know Christ". As a Christian, I acknowledge that I myself AM "screwed up" in Jonathan Lewis's sense. I am a sinner who needs Christ.

However, which is more loving, to allow someone to persist in a particular spiritually poisonous behavior, like engaging in homosexual sex acts, all the while believing that that behavior is healthy? Or, is it more loving to point out to the person that their homosexual sexual behavior - like various examples of my own sinful behaviors - IS spiritually poisonous?

Here is an analogous case, take a person who uses a powerful drug that really, objectively has poisonous effects on one's body. Imagine a person who uses the drug repeatedly and who insists that the drug has no ill effects. Such a person simply has no incentive to stop using the drug unless or until they come to acknowledge the fact that the drug does, in fact, causes harm to himself or herself (perhaps because they become sick).

While I cannot agree that "all sins" are equally serious; I can nevertheless acknowledge that OTHER SEXUAL SINS (like adultery, fornication, etc.) are, more or less, equal to homosexual sex acts in terms of severity. (One must here refer back to the discussions about material sinfulness and the wasting of the male seed.) I have no problem admitting (at least a qualified version of) this. But, BECAUSE I admit this, I must say that homosexual sex acts ARE sinful, just as adultery is sinful or fornication is sinful. Homosexual sex acts are NEITHER more nor LESS sinful (give or take, again taking on board the discussions about material sinfulness and the wasting of the male seed) than other deviant sex acts. I can admit this; but can Jonathan Lewis? It's not clear. His curious wording leaves me to wonder.

X. Argument number ten, on "specks" and "planks":

Jonathan Lewis writes:

" So when Christian groups try to go after Homosexuals, I often point them to Matthew 7:3.  'Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?'"

Now, here is the passage with a few additional lines of context:

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (loc. cit., NIV).

A few comments are in order.

First, the passage is seemingly best understood as a warning against hypocritical judgments. For example, if I tell Sam that "homosexual sex is wrong" and then I myself engage in homosexual sex, I had better be aware that "in the same way [I] judge others, [I] will be judged, and with the measure [I] use, it will be measured to [me]." So, obviously, I cannot apply to others different standards than I apply to myself. This is, to use Noam Chomsky's turn of phrase, an "elementary moral principle" - moral principles must universalize; that is, they must apply to everyone.

But, does this mean that as long as I don't judge others about something, that I won't be judged for that something either? For example, is it the case that I could get avoid being judged for murder as long as I don't judge other people who have murdered?

I hope that it is obvious that I cannot.

Second, we cannot simply make up the moral rules. As I mentioned above in my discussion of the Pharisees' condemnation of the woman caught in adultery, the Pharisees got the moral principle CORRECT: Adultery IS sinful. The fact that we must be careful not to be hypocrites certainly does NOT imply that there are no objective moral rules.

For thirdly, the passage even suggests as much. Many people truncate the quotation, stopping after Jesus' mention of the plank in the speaker's eye. But, continuing, we see that Jesus states clearly that a correct moral judgment is indeed possible. For he says:

"...first take the plank out of your own eye, and ***then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye***".

It is possible to "see clearly".

Elsewhere I quoted John 7:24:

"Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment."

According to Jesus, then, it IS possible to "make a right judgment".

And I stress that EVEN THE HYPOCRITE PHARISEES were able to articulate true moral principles. Articulating true moral principles is straightforward when those moral principles are set forth plainly in Scripture.

And, amongst the true moral principle that Scripture plainly sets forth is the truth that homosexual sex acts are immoral. This is set forth in in both the Old Testament (e.g., in the passage Leviticus 20:30 which Jonathan Lewis acknowledges are merely complains against, as I cover more thoroughly, above) and in the New Testament (e.g., in Romans 1:26-26 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which his arguments attempt to deflate, and which attempts I rebut, above).

Finally, I wish to express my wholehearted agreement with Jonathan Lewis on one point, namely:

"You never EVER EVER have an excuse to bully, tease, make fun of, or show hate towards anyone as a Christian.  1 John 4:8 tells us 'Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.'"

What I apparently disagree with Jonathan Lewis about is the following:

It IS NOT "showing hate" towards "homosexuals" to simply point out to them what Scripture reveals, and what the Church held for thousands of years, namely, that homosexual sex acts are gravely sinful. IN fact, pointing this out is the loving thing to do, as long as it is done in the way that Paul prescribes, that is, "speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).

However, when this truth is not accepted, we are compelled to ask, as Paul himself asked in Galatians 4:16 (NIV):

"Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?"

XI. Argument eleven, specifically regarding Sodom and Gomorrah:

Jonathan Lewis finally argues that the "sin of Sodom", historically (both construed in terms of historical doctrine and in terms of the etymology of the word "sodomy") was NOT homosexual sex.

He gives two arguments for this:

A. The argument from the notion of gang-rape:

Jonathan Lewis writes:

>>Lets think about what the men where trying to do as they surrounded Lots house.  They where trying to GANG RAPE two innocent men to humiliate them for no reason at all.  I don’t think that homosexual aspect had anything to do with the decision of God.  I think it all had to do with they fact that what they tried to do to those men is inhuman.  It goes against love, peace, and mercy.  Is is in fact loveless and merciless.  It is a act of hate just for the sack of hate.  They wanted to degrade these men and make them feel worthless by humiliating them with the act of gang rape.  They tried to make two men who where made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) feel like they where trash.<<

Response:

First, the ideas of "humiliation," "[making] them feel worthless," and "[making] two men...feel like they were trash" are simply not explicitly found in the text. This is a sort of psychological speculation that, however imaginable it may be, simply goes beyond the wording of the passage.

Second, some these extraneous notions, while plausible, are simply irrelevant for the following reason. I take it that the question under consideration is whether the distinctly homosexual nature of the sexual crimes figured in the assessment of the situation as sinful. And, plainly, EVEN IF we grant that the situation would have been humiliating and contrary to charity and hospitality and so on, it doesn't follow, merely in virtue of THOSE considerations that the homosexual elements weren't ALSO sinful. (For example, many murders have doubtless been conducted in such a way as to humiliate the victim and make him or her feel worthless and so on. But, surely, even if a murder victim was made to feel humiliated and worthless, it does not follow that eliciting these feelings – by itself - is what made the act wrong. For we would – I hope – not wish to say that murders conducted without stimulating humiliations or feelings of worthless (e.g., perhaps murders quickly committed while the victims sleep, not allowing the victims to feel anything at all) are morally acceptable.)

Third, other of the extra notions are simply distractions. The idea of "innocence" is simply a noisemaker. The very idea of "rape" has the notion of "unjustifiability" baked in, so to speak. There plausibly ARE NO "guilty" rape victims. (For example, if a murderer is actually *raped* I would say that, although the murderer be guilty of murder – and, thus, deserving of a fitting punishment for his or her murders – nevertheless, rape is not a fitting punishment for murder and, thus, the murderer's being raped constituted an unjustified violation. But suppose someone objects that a rapist could plausibly be punished – in an eye-for-an-eye type way – being having a punishment served to him that mirrors his crimes. So, the objection would go, the rapist COULD be justly raped. To this I would reply that a rapist who is forcibly penetrated as a punishment is plausibly not “raped”. Rather, plausibly, the rapist is *punished justly* (granting that this WOULD BE a just punishment merely for argument's sake – although, in fact, I would tend to think that such an action would NOT be a just or fitting punishment.))

But, then, if we take out all of the irrelevant or distracting notions, what remains of the point seems to be this:

"Lets think about what the men where trying to do as they surrounded Lots house.  They where trying to GANG RAPE two ... men...".

Now, it appears that we have two notions left: homosexuality plus rape.

Clearly, rape is sinful. There is no question about that.

But Lot's reaction is significant. Lot's reaction is basically, "Look, this is a grievous offense, for this gang to commit homosexual rape." But then he adds, "It would at least not be quite as repugnant if you raped my daughters. So, take them and leave these guys alone."

The explanation for this reaction seems straightforward: As far as rapes go, although both are moral outrages, homosexual rape is, nevertheless, worse than heterosexual rape. But the only thing that could possibly make homosexual rape worse than heterosexual rape is the only other concept that is relevant to "homosexual rape" besides the concept of "rape" itself: Namely, HOMOSEXUALITY.

Now, it may at first seem that it is perverse to suggest that something as repugnant and obviously morally wrong as rape could possibly come in “better” or “worse” variations. But, I think, a little reflection will show that this first impression is mistaken.

Consider, for instance, murder. Murder – defined as “the unjustified taking of human life” - is an atrocity, regardless of the identity of the victim or victims. However, it seems true to say, nonetheless, that the mass murder of a group of adults, while horrendous and despicable, is surpassed in vileness by the mass murder of a group of children. But, if this is so, then we can see that there can be stratification of severity even in those evil moral acts that are inherently and outrageously depraved.

But, then, there is nothing obviously untoward about maintaining that, although rape is an atrocity regardless of the identity of the victim or victim, nevertheless, homosexual rape is a worse outrage than heterosexual rape.

B. The argument from Ezekiel 16:48

Jonathan Lewis writes:

"But don’t take my word for it.  Take the words of God. In Ezekiel 16: 48 God states his reason for destroying the cities very plainly: 'Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.'"

For sure, to a Christian, any passage of Scripture must be taken seriously. When we're discussing Sodom and Gomorrah, then, we need to take account of all relevant passages. However, Ezekiel 16:48 is certainly not the only passage wherein we have the opportunity to "take God's word for" why he was compelled to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. We must also take stock of Jude 1:7:

"In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire" (NIV).

Yes, they were prideful, gluttonous, lazy, and inhospitable. Yes, they seemed to be rapists who humiliated their victims. Yes, they lacked love and mercy. But they also had what Paul called "unnatural passions". They rejected the natural heterosexual functions of human beings, and exchanged them for unnatural, homosexual ones.

This element of sexual perversity simply cannot be explained away. And the crux of the sexual perversity was the homosexual nature of the sex acts.

It's one thing to reject outright the clear biblical view on homosexuality. It is one thing to reject Christianity and Christian ethics. But it is quite another to try to turn the traditional Christian ethic – an ethic that has been more or less stable for over a thousand years - on its head.

As Isaiah warned the Israelites:

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20, NIV).

It is fashionable, presently, to regard "liberty" as freedom from moral constraint. However, Christianity has taught the objective moral wrongness of homosexual sex for centuries. It is historically Christian to regard “liberty” as something more like the power to follow God's laws (to do the Good).

Contemporaries can - at their own peril - call "evil good and good evil"; but, as for me, I will side with the historic Church.

Sincerely,

Matthew Bell

***

Jonathan Lewis's posts could, at the time of this writing, be found at the following URLS:

http://jonathanlikespotatoes.tumblr.com/post/8675126902
http://jonathanlikespotatoes.tumblr.com/post/7585136473