February 2011


My last post was about the importance of the debate over same-sex marriage.  While many people (including Christians) think it does not matter, I argued that the legalization of same-sex marriage will have a large impact on society as a whole, as well as Christian freedoms.

In that vein, I just read this story today coming out of Britain.  A Christian husband and wife, Eunice and Owen Johns, have been denied the right to serve as foster parents due to their convictions against homosexuality.  While they have provided foster care to 15 children in the past, social workers recommended that they not be allowed to care for children in the future because they would not agree to instruct those children that homosexuality was morally acceptable.  According to the article “Lord Justice Munby and Mr Justice Beatson ruled that laws protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation ‘should take precedence’ over the right not to be discriminated against on religious grounds.”

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When it comes to controversial subjects, it’s not often that those of one persuasion will cede the objections offered by those of a contrary persuasion.  The cogency of some objections is so strong, however, that those of one persuasion will cede the merits of their opponents’ objection even though they do not cede the merit of their opponents’ position.  I have found this to be the case with the debate over same-sex marriage.  Many opponents of same-sex marriage cede some of their opponents’ objections to prohibiting the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships as “marriage.”  While several come to mind, the one I want to discuss is what I call the irrelevancy objection: recognizing same-sex relationships as “marriage” will not affect your marriage or society-at-large, so why make a big deal about it?

Is the debate over same-sex marriage irrelevant?  What do we stand to gain or lose in this cultural/moral/political battle?  What would the fallout be if same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land?  I think we would feel the effects in two main areas: (more…)

I have made two attempts at offering a rational argument for monotheism.  The first one failed, and Scalia challenged my second one.  I did not respond to his challenge immediately because I knew it would require some additional thought.  After putting it off for a while I have given it some additional thought, and concluded that my second attempt failed as well.   

I’ve been working on some additional arguments, but haven’t thought them through entirely.  If you were following the previous post, you might be interested in checking out the comments section again for my response to Scalia’s objection, and my new proposals.  Hopefully you can weigh in on their strengths and weaknesses.  If they seem to be sound, perhaps I’ll make them the subject of another post, “Omnipotence and Monotheism III”!

The National Council of Church’s report on church membership lists the following organizations as the top ten biggest religious denominations in the U.S.A.: 

  1. The Catholic Church: 68.5 million
  2. Southern Baptist Convention: 16.1 million
  3. The United Methodist Church: 7.8 million
  4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 6 million
  5. The Church of God in Christ: 5.5 million
  6. National Baptist Convention, USA: 5 million
  7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 4.5 million
  8. National Baptist Convention of America: 3.5 million
  9. Assemblies of God: 2.9 million
  10. Presbyterian Church (USA): 2.7 million

I was surprised by the large gap between the number one and number two slots, and I was astounded to learn that Mormonism is the 4th largest denomination in America.  

HT: Theology in the News

That’s a name I never thought I would mention on this blog!  No, I’m not a fan.  I’m male and 35 years old, so I’m out of his target audience by 20 years and one gender!  But I was pleased to read this morning that in his interview with Rolling Stone magazine Bieber came out candidly in favor of the pro-life position.  Bieber confessed, “I really don’t believe in abortion. It’s like killing a baby?”  When asked about cases in which rape was involved Bieber was a little less sure of himself, but still came out on the pro-life side: “Um. Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason. ‘I don’t know how that would be a reason. I guess I haven’t been in that position, so I wouldn’t be able to judge that.”

It’s nice to hear a mega-star (especially a young one) voice his support for the pro-life side.  While I do not look to a 16 year old pop star for sound moral advice, there are millions of teenage girls who will bank on his every word.  I hope they hear about this interview and are influenced by his thinking in a good way.  

HT: Jivin Jehoshaphat

Homosex advocates often try to argue their case theologically.  One of the most popular arguments is based on the love of God “If God is love,” they ask, “why would He deny me the opportunity to love and be loved?”  While this is emotionally compelling, it is not theologically or logically compelling.  Three points should be made in response.  First, even if we find it difficult to reconcile God’s desire for us to give and receive love with God’s prohibition against homosex, the fact remains that He has specifically and clearly prohibited us from engaging in homosex.

Secondly, why think homosex is truly loving?  If homosex results in physical, emotional, and spiritual degradation, then engaging in homosex is anything but loving.

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In the cultural battle between those who oppose and those who approve of homosexual behavior, homosex advocates often describe their ideological opponents as “homophobic” and label them as “homophobes.”  In addition to the fallacious nature of such an argument (commits the ad hominem fallacy), the charge itself is false.  A phobia is an irrational fear of something.  Those who suffer from arachnophobia have an irrational fear of spiders.  Those who suffer from claustrophobia have an irrational fear of small spaces.  Would it be accurate, however, to describe those who disapprove of homosex as having an irrational fear of homosex or homosexual persons?

In all my years of trafficking among people who oppose homosex, I have yet to meet a single individual who is genuinely fearful of homosex and/or homosexual persons.  While such individuals may exist, surely their numbers are exceedingly small, and thus they should not be used to characterize opponents of homosex generally.  It is not fear, but a sense of moral disapproval and/or personal revulsion to the act of homosex that drives most anti-homosex proponents.  This is the same basis on which most homosexuals would oppose incest and pedophilia.  In the same way that their opposition to these sexual practices should not be labeled incestophobic and pedophiliophobic, those who oppose homosex on moral or personal grounds should not be labeled homophobic.  It is a misuse of language.

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Christians are often accused of being judgmental by non-Christians—and sometimes, even by fellow-Christians.  Indeed, it’s not uncommon to even hear non-Christians quote Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1 against Christians: “Judge not, lest you be judged.” (even if they’ve never read a page from the Bible in their life!)  I am persuaded that both the church and the culture at large have failed to understand the Biblical teaching on judgmentalism.  Before I explain, let’s look at a few more Biblical passages often cited in support of non-judgmentalism:

1 Cor 4:3-5 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (ESV)

1 Cor 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (ESV) [talking about executing punishment]

James 4:11-12 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? (ESV)

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In today’s society everyone seems to be hyper-sensitive to judgmentalism.  The minute you tell someone you disagree with something they are doing, you are accused of being judgmental.  Of course, it always escapes their notice that they are judging you for being judgmental, so they are guilty of both judgmentalism and hypocrisy!  But the problem runs deeper than mere self-contradiction.

As the term is commonly used today, judgmentalism is thought to be limited to expressions of moral disapproval of X, or attempts to correct some person P for doing X.  In reality, judgment involves both moral disapproval and moral approval.  Judgment requires that we distinguish what is right/good from what is wrong/evil.  Judgments are involved when you say X is good, as well as when you say X is bad.  Indeed, the only way to say some X is good is if you know what bad is, and know X is not that.  The only way to avoid making judgments is to make no moral distinctions whatsoever.  No sane person can do this, nor is this a worthy goal.  Moral judgments are indispensable to a healthy society.

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As someone who supports Intelligent Design theory, I have often been puzzled by the many Catholic thinkers who do not.  The scientific basis for ID is strong, and ID is just as friendly to their theism as it is friendly to mine, so why do so many Catholic scholars reject ID, or at least have such strong reservations against it?  A recent essay by Edward Feser in Philosophia Christi[1] has enlightened me regarding the main source of contention between Catholic theology and ID theory, and it boils down to Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and final causation.

Feser explains that Thomists (those who follow the theological system of Thomas Aquinas, who followed the philosophy of Aristotle) believe teleology inheres within all substances (final cause) and is evident to rational minds, whereas ID theorists believe teleology must be imposed on substances from an external source (no final cause), and can only be detected empirically through various probability assessments (not evident).

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