February 4, 2018 § Leave a comment
If you’re reading this and you’re human, you have rights. In fact, we seem to have certain inherent rights simply because we’re human. These fundamental human rights are different than civil rights, which are established by governments in something like the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights. But in general, civil rights are informed by our understanding of human rights.
Regardless of religious belief, there is wide general agreement over the existence of basic human rights. Our nations’ founders argued for them on Biblical principals, asserting in the Declaration of Independence, that equally and self-evidentially, all people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness…” Not everyone shares this view of the origin and source of our rights.
Does the Bible inform us about basic human rights? The message of the Gospel begins with the revelation that all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard, rightly deserving eternal separation from God (Romans 3:23). It’s only by God’s mercy and grace and our humble turning to Jesus Christ in faith that we are saved—“not of yourselves lest anyone should boast.” Can we boast about rights? And what, if anything, does the Bible say about them? We won’t find a list of human rights in Scripture, but such rights can be inferred and even identified rather specifically by taking a closer look at:
1) how we are created, and
2) how we are commanded to treat our neighbor.
We can also discover that what many claim in today’s culture to be human rights are most certainly not.
HOW WE ARE CREATED
“…among these are Life…”
God’s word tells us from the beginning that all human beings are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that God breathed life into Adam and he became a living being (Genesis 2:7). Since God gave us life, it’s reasonable to assume that we have a right to live it.
God also gave mankind a free will, the faculties to make choices, so we have a right to make choices—good vs. evil, true vs. false, God’s desires or our own desires, etc. God wants us to choose Him (Deuteronomy 30:19), but He doesn’t force us to believe in or trust Him, or to make any other particular choice. We have the liberty to think and act at our own discretion.
“…and the Pursuit of Happiness….”
God directed the first humans to be fruitful and multiply, to fill and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:29). This is more than a directive to have babies, but to flourish—set up communities and governments and seek fulfillment in relationships, productivity, and satisfaction in the course of living a purposeful life. So it isn’t too difficult to find a Scriptural basis for the three rights Jefferson penned in the endowments God gave humans.
HOW WE ARE COMMANDED TO TREAT OTHERS
Moral obligations, our God-given sense of right and wrong, can also be grounded scripturally in the law of God written on our hearts (Romans 2:15 and Hebrews 10:16). But moral law deals with the good we are obligated to do, not rights that we have.
As image-bearers of a moral God, all human beings are endowed with moral truth we can’t NOT know.(1) While the reality of “Natural Law,” our basic moral intuition, doesn’t need to be informed by God’s word, He has nonetheless revealed in it detail about what is right and wrong. For most moral obligations, there is a moral agent obligated to some duty, and there is another agent who is a recipient or object of that obligation. Some duties are to God, and some are to other people.
The key to understanding human rights is considering the latter—moral obligations to our fellow man. Wherever God expects a certain kind of treatment toward others, He likewise expects others to receive that treatment. To be clear, any favor sinful humans receive on earth is part of God’s grace, but it’s also a logical necessity that if good is given by one, it’s received by another. Since moral law applies to all human beings equally, all human beings are also equal recipients and therefore have the same “right” to receive it.
The Ten Commandments given to Moses at Sinai (Exodus 20:7-17 or Deuteronomy 5:7-21) are a good example of God detailing His moral law. The first four commandments list obligations in our relationship to God, so they don’t lead to human rights. As Creator of everything, God has all rights that don’t contradict His character. The last five, however, deal with our relationship to other people, and this is where we will find the most obvious picture of human rights.
“Do not murder” prohibits anyone from unjustifiably killing anyone else. As a result, on the other side of it, everyone has the right to not be unjustifiably killed. This evidences the basic human right we all have to value, preserve and defend human life, and I would include in that the inherent dignity that comes with being made in God’s image.
“You shall not commit adultery” means we are obligated to keep sexual activity within our marriage and to abstain if we are single. The people we are forbidden to pursue sexually consequently have the right to not be violated in this way. It also seems those in the marriage have a right to protect the fidelity of the marriage—but of course that right would be limited to those who are married.
“You shall not steal” means that not only are we required to respect the property of others, but that everyone has the right to own things and not have those things stolen from them.
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” implies that anyone we might lie to has a right to the truth and to be dealt with honestly. This takes a high view of transparency and availability of truthful information to everyone, usually promoted in the context of government(2), but everyone at least claims to value truth.
The tenth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, or property,” does NOT actually lead to a human right because following or not following the command doesn’t directly affect another person. My unhealthy desire to possess something that belongs to my neighbor ultimately affects me, not my neighbor—unless that desire leads to actual theft or adultery.
I skipped the sixth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” because, while everyone has parents, not everyone is a parent, so the right to receive honor is limited to fathers and mothers—and even then, the honor due is from their own children. Since it isn’t equal or universal in scope, I wouldn’t consider this determinate of a basic human right (rights we have simply because we’re human).
So from the last four commandments, basic human rights—rights God apparently wants all people to have—include the right to life, dignity, sexual integrity, personal property, and honesty.
In Mark 12:30-31, Jesus summarized the principals of the Ten Commandments this way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” summarizing the first six, and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” summarizing the last four. Jesus came “not to abolish, but to fulfill” the law (Matthew 5:17), and He took the Old Testament commandments further. For example, in verses 21-22 of Matthew 5, He says, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment…”. Jesus equates hatred to murder because the hater essentially wishes death for his neighbor. But this magnifies for us the severity of our sin against God, even sins of the heart against other people. Without the outward result of a murder victim, this doesn’t seem to magnify any rights on our behalf.
This wasn’t a new command, of course. The murder-in-the-heart concept and summary of the commandments regarding our neighbor appear way back in Leviticus 19: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart… You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In context, this passage actually details a lot of practical ways we are to “love” our neighbor that result in basic human rights.
• In verse 9, “gleanings of your harvest… leave…for the poor and the stranger” implies a right to charity.
• In verse 10, “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another” implies a right to honesty.
• In verse 13, “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning” implies a right to civility.
• In verse 14, “You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind…” implies a right to decency in our weaknesses.
• In verse 15, “You shall do no injustice in court” implies a right to justice.
• In verse 15, “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor” implies a right to fairness and impartiality.
• In verse 16, “You shall not go around as a slanderer” implies the right to verbal respect.
• In verse 16, “you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor” implies a right to life.
• In verse 17, “You shall not hate” implies a right to not be hated.
• In verse 18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge” implies a right to not be a target of revenge.
And we are required to do the opposite of these things: “…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
How do we love ourselves? We preserve our own life and do things that generally promote our own health and dignity. We seek freedom and happiness and fulfillment. We desire truth and justice. Given how we treat ourselves, we have a rule so true it’s considered golden: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31). This seems to mean we have a basic human right to be treated in such a way that preserves life, dignity, personal freedom, the pursuit of happiness, fulfillment, truth and justice. In the prohibition of evil, we have a right to freedom from general tyranny and injustice.
Mutual respect for our human rights is of course not guaranteed. The presence of sin in the world virtually guarantees that all of us at some point will see our own rights violated to some extent. This doesn’t escape God’s notice or control, and our duty in those cases is to humbly submit to a righteous and just God who is never absent in trials. But in a general sense, these rights seem to be what God in His grace desires for all human beings to maintain in our dealings with one another. In a sense they mark a standard by which God distinguishes justice from tyranny.
HUMAN RIGHTS THAT ARE SO NOT
Seventy years ago, the United Nations drafted its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, listing 30 basic rights for all people of every nation(3). Most can be grounded in the same Biblical foundations. But after looking at what God desires for us to give and receive, we can assess our culture’s claims of what specific human rights are and see if they pass the test.
Sometimes you’ll hear that abortion is a basic human right. The UN Human Rights Commission has wrongly ruled that it is. Based on a particular case in Peru where a hospital refused to terminate a pregnancy that threatened the life of the mother, the Commission declared that human beings have the right to an abortion in any situation.(4) Ironically, the UN puts it this way: “States parties must liberalize restrictive abortion legislation to realize women’s right to life.”(5) Scripture eliminates such confusion by affirming the right to life for all human beings, including the unborn (Psalm 139:13-15, Jeremiah 1:5). Since human beings are revealed in God’s word and affirmed by honest science and logic to be fully human from conception, “You shall not murder” means the unborn also have a right to life, and the absence of any form of the command “You shall abort unwanted pregnancies” excludes the possibility of a right to abortion.
The right to die, as in a right to assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, has been proffered as a fundamental right everyone should have. This notion fails the same test as abortion. Every human being is an image-bearer of our Creator with intrinsic value and dignity, and furthermore we are not our own. We belong to God. Death, though nothing to be feared for the Christian, is still the enemy and a result of sin in the world. If we are forbidden by God to kill others without justification, we are also forbidden to kill ourselves. Therefore self-inflicted death, as a right, is also wrong.
The right to marriage equality is perhaps the most confused proposition in our modern times. First, marriage by definition is something scripture defines and human history affirms as the union of a man and a woman. LGBT advocates of “marriage equality” aren’t really demanding the right to marriage, but a very different kind of relationship. Second, given the above truth, marriage equality already exists in the reality that everyone is already free to marry any non-relative of the opposite sex they choose. Same-sex couples can’t constitute a marriage any more than a circle can be square. Third, marriage in the traditional sense is arguably not even a human right. God created it but has not required it for everyone, so marriage doesn’t quit fit in this category.
There are others of course, but in these 3 we can at least see how God’s created order and His commands reveal that some “rights” are so called simply because people just really wish they had rights to do certain things.
From the Bible we can humbly but confidently find a foundation for human rights rooted in freedoms granted at creation and the desired outcomes from God’s commands for how we treat our neighbors. God gave us life, free will, and freedom to flourish, so we have a right to exercise those. God wants us to love our neighbor, so they have a right to receive that love in a variety of ways.
Notice that God clearly presents love as a command, and not expressly as a right. While we can justify human rights Biblically, our first thought should be to choose the freedom God’s one and only Son offers, and to be the obedient giver of the good that God desires others to receive. Micah 6:8 declares that “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Our rights do include justice, but our salvation depends on God’s mercy and our humble trust in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Incidentally, we also have a basic human right to choose to follow Him, the most important one we could exercise.
1) What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide (J. Budziszewski)
2) Rule of Law – Right to the Truth (UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner)
3) United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights
4) United Nations Committee Affirms Abortion as a Human Right (HuffPost)
5) OHCHR Center for Reproductive Rights
August 19, 2015 § 1 Comment
I had the privilege of co-teaching an apologetics class at church, and below is about three and a half hours of audio from the course. It’s meant to be an introduction to Christian apologetics, defining the practice of defending Christianity, the role of faith, arguments for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, Creation and Flood debates, and the problem of evil. Teaching is not my strongest suit, but I think the material and the flow of the lessons turned out pretty well (and the friend I taught with, Mark Kline, is a rather gifted teacher). Use this if it fulfills a need, and feel free to download the corresponding PDF handouts and PowerPoint slides to look at while you listen. We may do something similar to this again in January, so any feedback would be appreciated.
• The what, why, who and how of apologetics
• The role of faith and reason
• The argument from reason for God’s existence
• The argument from morality for God’s existence
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 1
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)
• What are the different forms of the Word of God?
• How do we know the Bible is God’s word?
• How did we get our Bible?
• Are there any errors in it?
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 2
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)
• Are there ay errors in the Bible?
• God’s publishing process
– Manuscript evidence
– Archaeological evidence
– Prophetic evidence
– Statistical evidence
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 3
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)
• How old is the Earth? How big was the Flood? How much does it matter?
• Too much evil and suffering in the world?
• Unanswered questions lead to atheism
Listen: Creekside U – Defending Your Faith, Session 4
Download: Slides (PPS) • Handout (PDF)
September 13, 2013 § 7 Comments
This article cites a recent London Times interview with perhaps the world’s best known atheist Richard Dawkins that doesn’t even touch on atheism or religion. Instead the controversy over the article was spawned by Dawkin’s seemingly cavalier outlook on what he terms “mild pedophilia.”
“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”
I think this is unavoidably ABOUT the atheism that Dawkins subscribes to, which logically requires him to say that we “can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours.” In an atheistic worldview, moral standards are in constant flux because they are subject to popular opinion, not given by a moral law-giving God (a God Dawkins ironically chooses to morally judge by His actions in a much earlier era).
(Stemming from one blogger’s comment below, an extended debate about slavery in the Bible, and the origins of morality and logic, can be found here. )
July 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
This religion debate was held at Cambridge University in early 2013. Arguing for the proposition that religion has no place in the 21st century is Andrew Copson, Richard Dawkins and Arif Ahmed. In opposition is the pro-religion team of Rowan Williams, Tariq Ramadan and Douglas Murray.
The entire debate is over an hour and a half long, but I want to focus on the first 12 or so minutes, on the specific arguments brought forth by Andrew Copson. He is the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, an organization representing atheists in the UK. Copson proposes that organized religion does more harm than good, that the good in religion can be had by other means, and offers an alternative explanation for morality. How would you respond to Mr. Copson’s arguments?
To give away the ending of the full debate, the house voted overwhelming against the proposition, most people saying that organized religion does indeed have a place in society. And to clarify the statement, Copson clarifies (2:45) what is meant by “a place in society” (because it seems to have a place, right or wrong, because here it is): “When we say it has no place, we don’t mean that is should be banned, persecuted, wiped out or eliminated, but that the harm it does outweighs the good that it does, and that we’d be better off without it.”
I would hope that if he thinks something harmful, that he would also wish it to at least be banned, wiped out, or eliminated. But back to it.
As a Christian apologist, I would not generally seek to defend organized religion, since organized religion as a whole is a human construct, a context in which we practice what we believe about our ultimate convictions. I also view Atheism and Naturalism as religions too. But much of Copson’s argument against organized religion reflects a rejection of many of the ultimate convictions of orthodox Christianity as explained in the Bible, which I do seek to defend.
How does Copson define organized religion? He explains at the very start of his talk (2:00): “We’re not talking about individual men and women on their personal quest for values and meaning and purpose in life… We’re talking about… clearly defined groups which have in-out memberships… hierarchies—whether clergy or otherwise—and an “institutional existence above and beyond their individual members.”
What Copson may not realize is that this definition fits his own organization. Visit the British Humanist Association web site to read about this clearly defined group and their in-out memberships, hierarchies, and an institutional existence above and beyond their individual members. If Copson, as most atheists do, seeks to separate his own beliefs from religious beliefs, he’ll need to do a better job of that. Let’s see if he does.
Copson then posits, “In a world like this, where do we best get our ethics? It is not from organized religion.” He correctly notes that both religious and non-religious groups do charitable work (5:00). Everyone can do good.
The Christian explanation as to why all people are capable of good is because we are all made in the image of God and innately aware of the moral law written on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15). We don’t get morality from any religion; we get it by simply being God’s creation.
His main point follows: “Shared values of altruism and care for others on the common heritage of all human beings, organized religion adds nothing to plain human compassion and empathy. (5:50)… We need fellow feeling with all people rather than just with members of our own in-group.” (6:15) On social morality, Copson says, “Organized religion is not a particular good. Good done in its name is incidental to it… can be secured by other forms of organizations.” The harm it does outweighs the good it does, and it “adds great barriers and divisions that we do not need in our age.” (7:00)
Copson again tries to distance his own philosophy from other religions. He says socially organized religion differs from political ideologies “in that they give a reason over and above and beyond human beings to sanctify their commandments.” (7:20) In other words, religious principals provide an external authority that people are subject to, whereas in political ideologies, the BHA, or whatever principals of Atheism or Humanism he follows, such principals are man-made. But are our ultimate principals man-made?
Copson says he bases his morality “solely on human compassion” (7:40). Is this not “a reason over and above and beyond” human beings? When human beings can’t provide a rational basis for the principal, it is presupposed. He says this view of morality is “harmful” and “out of kilter with our modern needs,” however he appeals to the same external type of moral principals that religions do.
What is morality? Copson defines morality (8:00) as “something that has its foundations in biology, in the social instincts that we can see that we share with the animals that are most closely related to us. Morality is an organized attempt to reinforce those social instincts. It’s generated from human beings ourselves in our interactions with each other, both originally at its source and in an ongoing way.”
This is a typical Humanist attempt at a explaining ethics, but it contradicts how morality is always talked about and lived out. Copson assumes morality’s foundation is in biology, but of course doesn’t and cannot on his own worldview pinpoint it’s ultimate source, since everything about morality reveals it as our discovery, not our convention. It’s merely a faith proposition. He goes on to say that morality is an attempt to organize social instincts (i.e. survival of the species is a good thing) but doesn’t explain the morality behind that assumption (why is survival morally good?).
Here is a true statement (9:00): “Genuinely believing that the source of value is located outside humanity and not within it inevitably dehumanizes human ethics.” Of course it does! Morality is dehumanized if it isn’t of human origin. This is not a bad thing, because human ideas of morality are corrupt and in constant flux. We badly need it to be something other than human.
Atheistic presuppositions show up in Cospon’s remarks about blasphemy being too severe in religious circles (9:15). If he doesn’t believe there is a God, we wouldn’t expect him to find the slandering of Him a problem at all. There is no one there to blaspheme in his mind.
Copson speaks of the harm done by organized religion by citing “attempts to limit abortions by American evangelicals. No one outside an organized religion could possibly deem that activity moral.”
Isn’t it amazing how upside-down a godless philosophy can become? The “attempts to limit” the slaying of innocent children in the womb is labeled “massive human suffering” and does greater harm to the living than to the those who are murdered by the procedure. No one outside of atheism could be so blind as to think we follow our own moral laws, that blasphemy slanders no one, and that unborn human beings are of no real value.
Copson notes that nowadays “people are less automatically deferential to authority,” (10:25) following that up with typical platitudes of freedom and democracy. But the things for which he favors freedom are things like abortion and autonomous moral relativism that leads to such tragedy. “Immediate access to knowledge through social media” is what Copson credits for the advancement of freedom, as if religions (“totalitarian ideologies”) are estranged or opposed to knowledge.
As he begins to sum up his argument around 11:30, Copson suggests that we ought to proceed, without organized religion, toward goals of human welfare, with a “commitment to make our moral decisions in the here and now, based on evidence…” (a commitment he makes without evidence) and “organize our affairs globally, in a way that will increase freedom and fulfillment in the one life we know we have.” If one life is all we have, some of what Copson says would make sense.
The opposition lost the full debate because they were unable to present a convincing argument that religion has no place in society. Andrew Copson lost the debate in the first 12 minutes by demonstrating a basic misunderstanding of morality and that his own belief system is itself an organized religion.
April 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
Atheist Richard Dawkins recently tweeted, “The only religious people I fear are the ones who take their religion seriously: the ones who really believe what they say they believe.” It was re-tweeted well over a thousand times.
It doesn’t mean much to be “religious.” Even atheists can be religious. Apparently the fear factor brings significance to religion. The goal of Jesus’s followers is not to instill fear in anyone. God does that through an awareness, sometimes through Christians, that we are all, including Christians, an impossibly long way from righteousness by ourselves. That fear serves to drive us to the righteousness of Christ.
But fear is often felt in the face of anything we oppose. Nothing opposes the apathy of atheism and post-modern belief in flavor-of-the-month philosophy more than a firm conviction of truth. Belief naturally scares unbelief. It is indeed something to fear when you aren’t sure what else to be afraid of.
There are a great many feared Christians in the public square some would like to see removed from the public square.
Current stories abound, particularly over the issue of gay rights, of fearsome individuals such as Pastor Louie Giglio, who was invited to pray at the last presidential inauguration, but was soon ousted out of fear that he may still believe what he did 20 years earlier when he preached a sermon on homosexuality. Or Pastor Greg Laurie, who now faces the same type of outlier status for holding to millenia-old Biblical teachings. ESPN’s Chris Broussard, Iowa Senator Dennis Guth, and Johns Hopkins’ Dr. Ben Carson have recently faced similar backlash for holding to the same unchanging truths.
Teaching the Biblical view of sex and abstinence is now a “hurtful” and “dehumanizing” dogma, and conservatives are often feared as extremists.
Teaching the Biblical view of Creation is nothing new, yet it is now a form of child abuse or Taliban-style indoctrination, according to physicist Lawrence Krauss.
Sadly, there is no shortage of professing Christians who are no threat at all, who proclaim His name in word when convenient and in deed when the coast is clear. They are safe choices for product endorsement, commencement speeches, and political candidacy, because they will bend like putty to the whims of secularism and bow to the new moral consensus. Their moral compass is more of a windsock, changing direction with the times as feelings “evolve“.
“For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)
If the world could hear you, would it fear you? Do you really believe what you say you believe? Will you still believe it 5, 10 or 20 years from now? Paul’s first century warning is realized. Morally compromised and doctrinally flexible teachers, preachers, presidents and CEOs are in high demand. We no longer want to be shocked, or have our feelings hurt, or have our ideas challenged by anyone who exhibits a consistent belief and unwavering stance on the Biblical truth that guided our predecessors.
God ultimately judges folly. Better to be firmly grounded in the truth and feared by some, than to preach on shifting sand and have God to fear when the foundation washes away.
March 14, 2013 § Leave a comment
I happened to catch this morning’s Valentine in the Morning show where radio host Sean Valentine posed a question to see what people thought about waiting to have sex until marriage. Of the various opinions called in, one with a few proponents was, basically, “You’ve got to test drive that car before you buy it.”
As wrong as I think it is to compare people to cars and marriage to a sales transaction, I understand the analogy. We don’t want to leap into the pool without testing the water.
This line of reasoning is nonsensical, and we can see that by asking the following question: What exactly are we “testing” for that makes a “test drive” necessary?
If it’s some kind of transmittable disease, then the results of any “tests” can and ought to be disclosed with your clothes on. If it’s some other known health issue, this ought to come out in conversation in the course of the relationship. It’s hard to imagine a deal-breaker intimacy issue that can’t be talked about in advance rather than vetted in a “test drive.”
What we’re most interested in when test driving a car is performance. If the concern is your ideal expectation of “performance level” in bed, then that becomes more important than how a person performs as a faithful and supportive spouse, as a sincere lover and leader, and as a committed father or mother to your children. These characteristics are assessed in other ways. Are you really going to judge what should be a lifelong commitment on the thrill level or whatever initial impression you hope to get from a sexual test drive? If that’s the case, you’re not ready for any kind of serious relationship.
Sex is important—critical, in fact, to the survival of the humanity. Fortunately, the important thing we need to know about sex at any stage of life is that men and women are well-capable of it. The experience of sex is meant to be discovered within the experience of a committed marriage, and is too important to tested in situations outside of that relationship. It is also too simple of a process to require practice, and too deep and meaningful of a connection to merely sample. We are really going after something like ownership without the commitment of ownership. A short-term “lease”, in fact. So the “test drive” logic fails.
Sex is fun and we want it without limitations. This is the truth behind the “test drive”, a means to justify sex in spite of where our moral conscience might be telling us it belongs.
And about that conscience: One caller expressed regret that she had NOT waited until marriage because she was now having difficulty convincing her teenaged daughter to wait. Mom didn’t so why should she? That’s a dilemma indeed. We apparently know that even though we might advocate a past lifestyle, when it comes to teaching our children, we want something better.
Even though in secular culture we’ve largely abandoned Biblical values that show us God’s design for sex within the context of marriage, it seems the values still get called upon. Those who prefer abstinence can’t always articulate why we want our children to marry as virgins, and even those who prefer to “test drive” can’t articulate why we still stigmatize others who do. But we inherently know there is a respectable standard that says waiting for marriage is just a better way to go.
February 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
Jon Huntsman’s recent article in the American Conservative, Marriage Equality is a Conservative Cause, is not a call to conserve marriage but a call to compromise it. Huntsman says that “we must demand equality under the law for all Americans.” But under the law, where the law limits marriage to one man and one woman, all Americans are equally free. We are free to marry any non-relative of the opposite sex we choose. Where the law allows gay marriage, all same-sex couples are equally free to “marry.”
Gay rights and the legalization of same-sex marriage is sold by advocates as a fight for freedom, but that’s misleading. The goal is to gain freedom that is currently not allowed “under the law”. Isn’t this valid though, the pursuit of desired freedom that we don’t have?
Not always. When the option is thoroughly examined, I think you’ll find that total freedom is something nobody really wants. Unlimited freedom isn’t truly attainable anyway, because one person’s complete freedom will inevitably take away from another’s freedom. I can’t have everything I want without stealing something. You simply aren’t free do anything and everything.
We readily accept all kinds of boundaries in our freedom, and there are two types of boundaries that are useful to recognize: What we can do and who can do it. Both are legitimate restrictions and widely accepted in various situations.
In what we can do, certain laws limit how fast we can drive, which national borders we can cross, what we can wear in clubs and restaurants, which public restroom we can use (unless you’re a student in Massachussetts), what type of speech we can use in public discourse, and how many fish we can take home from a Canadian excursion. We are not free to harm or kill or steal or cheat in our activities with fellow citizens.
As far as who can or cannot do these things, there is freedom within limits as well. A ten-year-old is not free to drive a car. A citizen cannot enter most other countries without the fulfillment of certain conditions. Men cannot use the womens showers at the Y, or vise-versa. No matter how unfair I think it is, I cannot fish without a license, dine at a country club without a membership, skateboard in front of the QuikTrip, or play a trumpet in the local library.
There are practical reasons why certain activities are prohibited or that only certain people are free to do them. The point is there are plenty of restrictions on the what and the who every day, and we are generally fine with that. Freedom and equality aren’t universal, nor should they be.
Likewise, in the case of marriage, there is equal freedom, but with limits on what and who. The case for gay marriage is not linked to a lack of freedom, but rather a desire to destroy the boundaries that naturally exist in marriage.
I say these boundaries “naturally exist” because marriage was designed to function a certain way within certain limits, just like everything else. But designed by whom? If marriage was designed by people then people have a right to redefine it. If it was designed by God (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6), then we don’t have the right to redefine it.
Of course, not everyone will agree with an appeal to the Bible for the design of marriage by a divine Creator. So, let’s assume this is not the case and pretend the boundaries to marriage—specifically its confinement to a man and a woman overwhelmingly demonstrated by every civilization throughout human history—don’t truly belong, but were set in place by past cultures and are subject to revision. Let’s see where that logic leads.
If marriage was not relegated by God to include a man and a woman, then men are morally free to marry men and women to marry women—so far, so good for the cause of gay marriage rights. But it also follows that individuals ought to be able to marry their parents, siblings, children, or close relatives. If God didn’t design marriage or doesn’t care what we do with it, we ought to think it acceptable to take anyone for a mate. But do we allow this? Isn’t incest simply immoral?
Perhaps it could be argued that the risk of abnormalities in offspring is enough cause to classify incest as immoral. However, since there are health risks involved in homosexual relations, and even sometimes in heterosexual relations, this can’t be sufficient cause to deem incest morally wrong. Based on the same logic, if marrying family is morally permissible, then polygamy and even bestiality should be too.
At this point, proponents of same-sex marriage might declare a slippery slope fallacy and interject that marriage ought to be limited to two human, consenting adults who love each other, which would prevent an ever-widening definition of marriage. Such a requirement would leave out children, animals, non-sentient life forms and inanimate objects. But on what basis can we limit marriage to two consenting adults who love each other? Why grant that freedom but insist on restrictions that alienate people with pedophilic, incestuous, or other perverted inclinations, thereby denying their happiness? What is the basis for requiring mutual love in marriage? Certainly many people marry for reasons other than love and we don’t prohibit that.
For the non-religious, we still know by moral intuition that many types of relationships are just wrong. As thousands of years of practice reveal, regardless of religious cultural beliefs, humanity has held to and flourished by heterosexual marriage. Setting that aside yields more freedom for more people, but then there is then no true basis for restricting anything at all. We can try to condemn some types of relationships that seem harmful on the common ethical grounds that we should do the least harm to our neighbor. But that moral principal doesn’t mean anything without the moral law-giving God of the Bible, so there’s no rational moral basis even for denying “taboo” relationships that risk disorders in offspring (incest), are cruel to animals (bestiality), are abusive, or aren’t based on mutual love (objectum sexuality). It boils down to being able to ground the fundamental moral values that we all assume, which we can’t ground outside of the truth of God’s word (Rom. 2:14-15). A fuller discussion of morality is beyond the scope of this post (but not this one).
For the Christian, if on the Bible’s numerous passages on marriage we have somehow in the last decade or so stumbled upon their true meaning, that it doesn’t mean to limit the institution to one man and one woman and forbid homosexuality despite longstanding historical Christian teaching to the contrary, then we can’t look to the Bible for any kind of guidance for marriage. Since there are 6 or 7 passages forbidding homosexuality that we must discount in order to validate it, for consistency we must also ignore the relatively fewer number of passages that forbid incest and bestiality (only 3 or 4) and other revolting practices.
There are many ways people manage to live inconsistently with what they claim to believe. One is to reject the Biblical account of the origin of mankind, relationships and sexual morality, and then live as if it’s all true. We do this when we deny there are any God-given rules about how to live and then cherry-pick certain rules that we expect everyone to follow, as if they were handed down from on high.
Observation and logic show us that we never accept freedom and equality without limits and boundaries. Nature shows us that heterosexual unions lead to human flourishing whereas other types of sex run counter to it. God’s revelation shows us that there is moral law that tells every one of us what we can’t otherwise rationalize—that some things are independently right or wrong. Marriage, for one, is right as it was intended, an equally free union with few other limitations but this one: It’s designed for one man and one woman.
[Related post: Examining the Biblical View of Homosexuality]