Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Getting Clobbered By Someone Who Is Clobbering Bible Clobberers?

That is a most ridiculous title...

Anyway, I came across this today: http://www.thegodarticle.com/7/post/2011/10/clobbering-biblical-gay-bashing.html

It uses the understanding of the Greek etc. of the Bible to show that homosexual relationships are not condemned biblically. The author goes through and shows how most of the verses that are used to condemn homosexuals by Bible Bashers are not referring directly to consenting homosexual relationships, but the abnormal forms of those relationships. Judging from the translation, this is a reasonable assertion to make. The point about Paul using the word physikos from which we get the term physics in Romans 1:26-28. The author of this insightful post makes the logically valid point that this term is referring to how the whole of the universe and Creation are to act as they were made to. This is true, Creation is supposed to behave just as God created it to. However, the author goes too far in reasoning that it does not mean that homosexual relationships (even consensual ones) are acceptable under this proper understanding of the word.

Here is the issue with this jump in logic, it completely forgets the doctrine of Original Sin and the general feeling of even the Pagan world that things were not right on Earth. Humans throughout the ages have found that they tend not to feel as though the world is as it should be. There is something written on our hearts that tells us something is not right with the state of the world or ourselves. In other words, humanity seems to have this incredibly odd notion that humanity is supposed to be something higher. Sure, we are the "political animal" (Thanks, Aristotle. *wink) or the "reasonable animal," and that seems to elevate us above our animal relatives. It does, in fact, do this. When other apes, killer whales, or bottle-nosed dolphins begin to capture humans and study them, there will have been a paradigm shift. That has not occurred, however.

Humans are different than the whole of the animal kingdom, but still have this feeling that they are not where they should be. This, according to a quintessential Christian (and I hate to say this terrible word) dogma, is a direct result of some sort of catastrophic Fall. That is The Fall, ladies and gents. The whole Genesis account of it is something most everyone knows because the Western World continued to exist due to the Church and this was a Church teaching. Results of The Fall, Adam's "Happy Sin," include enmity between men and women, mankind and the natural world, and that whole stain of Sin all of us are born with (excepting for Our Blessed Mother's pre-Birth salvation).

The doctrine of The Fall lets us know that the whole of Creation is not as it should be. In particular, Mankind is not as it should be and this has had ripple effects since that point in pre-History. Sometime after we became mankind, however it ended up happening, we failed to live up to what our natures were created to live up to.

Pushing aside the fact that The Fall made many things possible that were not possible for us before, such as bravery, let us not forget that it was still a dreadful mistake that ended up in our Creator, God the Father Almighty, had to send His only Son to save us. All of human history since that time is a story about how our Father's love is calling to us, though we prodigal children often run away from his voice for shame, fear, or anything that catches our fancy. The point is, The Fall was a bad thing that God had to turn to good for the sake of allowing us to have our own wills. Free-will is also important to what I am trying to illustrate, but I will come to that later.

Now, being such that Creation has fallen as a result of our actions, what conclusions can properly be drawn from such a notion. Let's try this: 1. Both Creation and Mankind as a whole are fallen. 2. Being fallen refers to a state of affairs where a creature or created thing is not behaving as it was intended to behave. 3. A creature or created thing that is not behaving as was intended is doing so against its own nature. 4. Creation and Mankind as a whole are not behaving as they were intended to. 5. Therefore, If Creation and Mankind are not behaving as they were originally intended, not all of what is now "natural" is indeed natural. (underlying assumption: some of our behaviors are in accordance with our natures.)

All these lines of thought flow logically. Now, it takes an acceptance of Original Sin, something one of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton, states is the most obvious and provable aspect of the Faith. People have some odd notion that we are supposed to adhere to some invisible standard, otherwise--as C.S. Lewis would say--quarreling as such cannot exist or make any sort of sense. Since we feel as though our fights about various infractions on our or other's parts make sense, then there is a standard we must be appealing to.

Accepting all of this, and accepting my first premise means that you necessarily must come to this conclusion. Another premise that could be placed before my first premise is that we are created creatures. If that isn't the case, then none of the rest matters and we can behave as we wish (as if laws mean we won't). What I mean is that we truly can say that we make our own meaning and the like; you know, that whole--dare I say it--dogma of relativism: all truth claims are relative...except for this one (can you say arbitrary?)

Assuming all of these, because one has to have a base or standard to reason from, not all of our currently natural actions or thoughts are what we were intended for. Essentially, our free will allows us to misuse our bodies, minds, souls, and the entirety of the Earth. God could, realistically, override our wills if He so chose. However, it appears as though He chooses to refrain. Otherwise, evil does not exist, as we believe that God is wholly good. Indeed, God is the ultimate good, God is Love itself!

Now, here is the line of thought to take on: how do we know which behaviors are against our original natures? This is an incredibly important conversation that humans have always sought after, even if they did not realize that they were, in some fashion, acknowledging Adam's "Happy Sin." Pandora's box, every pagan myth that tries to understand the ills of our world recognizes that things are not as they should be. So, how can we figure out what things are bad and which ones are not? Trial and error is one way. For instance, you only get to see your friend poke a Grizzly Bear once before you realize that bear poking really isn't for mankind.

Thankfully, we do have some tools to help us understand our world: reason and, later through the Church, science as a discipline. In the pre-Christian world, it was simply reason. Philosophy was born out of this need. Science stems from natural philosophy really.

It was reasoned by many cultures that homosexuality was off somehow. The author of the article I am refuting says that men believed the whole of life was contained in male sperm. This is probably true for a lot of cultures; after all, we could not understand the womb back then as we did not have the proper tools. It was a reasonable thought process, however misogynistic. Logically speaking, a woman does not get pregnant until a man gives his sperm to her and the baby does, in fact, incubate in its mother's womb. So, maybe there was superstition regarding this belief, but that does not mean it is a reasonable position to take given what they had. Let us, post-Modern/Moderns stop acting as though we invented reasoning and the ancient world was full of the dumbest humans ever. Every age has dummies (see: The Jersey Shore. How much spray tan can one apply to one's body without dissolving into nothingness? No one knows, I think The Jersey Shore is secretly a documentary that is attempting to understand that conundrum).

If you can admit that men form their dogmas or beliefs from reason, life experience, and any possible transcendant experiences (In the universe, as painted by my argument, the latter are allowable nay probable) then we are ready to continue down our path.

People throughout the ages, through intuition, reason, and experience, have attempted to figure out just how to live. Many wrote about it, but originally this sort of knowledge was passed down orally.

Speaking of oral tradition, that is exactly where the entirety of the Christian Scriptures (both testaments) comes from. Without that prior tradition, there would have been nothing to inform the God-inspired writers of this Holy Book. With or without writing down what was believed, the people of Israel (initially) and later both Christians and Jews would have had their Faith imparted solely through tradition (I exclude the other Abrahamic religion, Islam, because I am fairly sure the Quran is believed to have come down in its complete form. I could be mixing up facts as it has been a while since I engaged Islam).

So, what does all of that mean? It means that the Scriptures are still Holy and still useful for living within the Faith (Jew or Christian), but this is not the only source of true doctrine. Doctrine, in fact, produced the Scriptures. Every book of the Bible is inspired by God, written by men and then compiled into the more cohesive Holy Bible (I'm veering back to the Christianity part). The Bible itself comes from the Church, and would not exist without it.

The fact that the Bible was compiled over a series of councils throughout history and written by God-inspired men is an important to remember when discussing scripture. This is because the Bible was not compiled for the uninitiated. It can help others convert, but it is primarily a book for the faithful. My patron saint, St. Augustine, converted after consulting the Scriptures, but he had to come to a place where he desired to and that means you're already practically in the door of Faith.

So, the Bible is for those within the Church. It has to reflect the teachings of the Faith and that was passed along orally by eyewitnesses initially with some supplemental writing (like the Epistles of the New Testament). Thus, all of the writers of the Bible are working within the realm of the Faith. They are speaking to the faithful, to the various branches of the Church that popped up after Christ's death and Resurrection.

The epistles in particular were written in response to specific issues that arose within the early Church. The same can be said of the Gospels because one good way of fighting heresy is having the essentials within grasp (see: the prologue of Luke's Gospel). Now, does that mean that these issues do not apply for today's Christian? Not at all. After all, there really is nothing new under the sun. Heresies come in and out of fashion just like ridiculous clothing. Heresies even take on different forms, appearing as lambs but hiding a wolf beneath.

Here is the point, Paul may not have mentioned other specific homosexual behaviors for many reasons. The author of the document I am rebutting makes a good point. It is logical to say that, just looking at the Scriptures, the Bible is not always specifically condemning consensual homosexual relationships between two adults. That is a logical conclusion, and this author must be applauded for it (I really should look up the name, but I got in the zone). He is very much right within a specifically Protestant context, which raises the level of Scripture to untold heights. Sola Scriptura was a common battle cry for Protestants during the most turbulent parts of the Reformation and has continued to be one today. Unfortunately, Protestantism (even though trying to count all those churches under this banner is actually quite difficult) has fallen victim to several heresies. It probably is not a new one. I am sure other faithful adherents of Christianity and Judaism ran into a similar problem. It could not happen early on because there weren't generally agreed upon Scriptures yet.

Still, this idea of Sola Scriptura, translated "By the Scriptures alone," is set up for the failings that the author of that other post pointed out. If it is simply the Scriptures and everything must be taken literally, then it stands to reason that some homosexual behaviors seem to be permissible. However, his argument only stands without reference to Tradition and History.

As I have shown, the Bible came about over many years and had to be informed by Tradition. Even the earliest books of the Old Testament are a product of tradition likely written during one of many exiles. The belief that homosexuality, in general, was wrong is a traditional one and is not exclusive to any one religion or people. Many pagan cultures disapproved of homosexual relationships, though it is true many approved or at least tolerated these relationships. It is important to note that different ages, and different people have their own virtues and vices.

I realize the word tradition is liable to get a lot of people exiting this page en masse (if there are that many people), but everyone draws from some sort of tradition. Families have traditions, Science itself has a traditional way of approaching the physical world, and religions have traditions. Some things in a tradition are superstitious and some are not. Some things in a tradition are valid while some not. So, I am not under the illusion that tradition does not have its faults, but the knee-jerk reaction is completely unnecessary. Everything we have now was built off of previous societies and cultures. Humans borrow from each other all the time, and there has been an abundance of sound wisdom and reasoning throughout human history.

Here is another truth: people tend to agree on what sorts of things are evil, but tend to disagree on which ones are tolerable. This is another paraphrased nugget from G.K. Chesterton. Prime examples include the vices of cowardice and adultery. All cultures have said that those things are wicked and deplorable. Cowardice because it is only through bravery that we can get anywhere, and adultery because it necessarily disrupts families (polygamous or not).

Mankind has agreed that marriage is between man and a woman, for the purposes of starting a family. The family was the most important unit of life back then, really. Where they disagreed was on who was in charge, how many husbands or wives can one have, and whether or not in-laws are of the devil.

Similarly, there have been many cultures who disagreed with homosexual relationships. The tradition that Christianity and Judaism draw from are in agreement on this matter. Homosexuality is wrong, however people end up that way. The current teaching of the Catholic Church on the matter is that, actively engaging in homosexual desires is wrong, and not the inclination itself. This is the whole "love the sinner, hate the sin" notion that the author scoffs at. He cannot see how one can separate the sinner from the sin. That's fairly reasonable, actually; but, that does not make it a correct view. Viewing a person as a person first and taking into account what they struggle with is perfectly reasonable and perfectly possible. It is forgiveness for all, right? Murders, blasphemers, and the like can all be forgiven and accepted as a person beyond their faults and sins. Thus, the Church can realistically teach what it teaches on the matter. All can be forgiven if they ask for it and all can be loved even if they continue to do what is wrong. You liking them personally is of little matter. You can love someone and not like them, because love is not simply a feeling, it is action. So, the author is off base in thinking that sins cannot be separated from a person, if you are a Christian you know that it can be cleansed.

Think about this as well, having a desire to do something or attraction to someone does not mean that you have to go indulge in that desire. Similarly, sex before marriage is the result of normal, healthy desires that are indulged, in the belief of the Church, in an improper time and place for such behavior. There is a lot more depth to all of this, but just ask yourself this: can you honestly dislike/hate someone simply for their inclination to slap you in your face if they do not engage in it? Maybe, but you cannot do so reasonably. They have done nothing wrong. (I hear people turning to Matthew and finding where Christ said even the thought to do something is wrong. I think that is hyperbole, but we can't get too far off track.)

Leading us back to the point, it is a traditional view that homosexuality is against nature. Even religions who do not have a fall of man have had similar notions. From whence does this notion come? Well, let's look at the Natural Law; humans, are able to look at the universe and note that certain things follow from other things. All humans know that male and female copulation results (if all goes well) in a child. All humans know that, for the human race to persist, sexing must be done. Because it is kind of hard to get pregnant, a lot of sexing must be done.

That said, humans also noted that a homosexual relationship, whilst sharing a great many of the qualities that makes heterosexual eros so enchanting, cannot produce life. It was clear that man and female are to compliment each other and that life, which is a good gift, cannot continue without it. This does not say that the feelings of the homosexual couple are not real or valid, they just unfortunately go contrary to this Natural Law. It also stands to reason that those two types of relationships are ultimately going to be of a different nature in the end.

The nature of each is as follows: one produces life and the other must end where it is. Until very recently, it was not possible for a homosexual relationship to garner children beyond two kindhearted partners decide to adopt a child in varying circumstances. Now, with the help of sperm and egg donation and surrogacy, this can happen. This is nice for homosexual these days, if they have the funds to do such things, but it still does not erase that natural truth. We may not always have these technologies, and one day we may have to start from scratch. Thus, come to the same truth. A heterosexual relationship can produce life while a homosexual one cannot.

Since the two relationships are really a bit more different than most would care to admit this brings me to the next step in understanding what Natural Law says about this matter. This has to do with telos or the belief that things are made a certain way for a certain end. The fact that we and other animals produce with male and female pairs shows us that such sexual encounters are for species and cultural continuance. If we take that thought further we can see that sexual encounters have a certain telos about them. Human males and human females are necessary components and one cannot continue without the other. Their copulation ultimately has the natural telos of producing a human child. That is the ABSOLUTE end that sexuality seems to be for. The fact that it feels wonderful and can bring about further intimacy is secondary to this end. The Church and the Jews both upheld this notion. The "natural" and good use of sexuality is for the purpose of bringing forth children. Thus, it is unlawful or sinful (against natural law, which God necessarily set in place) to engage in pre-marital sexual relationships of any kind. It is sinful to engage in a sexual relationship that is necessarily going to be outside marriage, and even if that were allowed, cannot naturally produce a family. It is not simply about feelings, strong though they may be. That is why such things are condemned and that is where the tradition draws its conclusions from. Sex is for a certain end and, in a fallen world, we need to do our best to hold on to these better parts of our natures. So, using someone for sex is wrong, and (as per the Catholic Church teaching) purposely withholding an essential part of this sexual function is wrong.

If we go back to earlier in this longwinded document I am writing, there are connections being made. What does tradition's relationships with the Scriptures have to do with any of this? Well, for instance, the Scriptures had to written within a certain worldview which was passed down through tradition before it was written down. This means that all of those beliefs, whether they made the "final cut" or not, inform everything about what was being written. It is perfectly possible that Paul and other writers in the Bible felt that the people they were writing to knew that homosexuality in general is wrongheaded. Tell me, if you feel as though someone already knows something and you need to address more pressing matters, such as the male prostitution that the author of that other paper brought up, are you going to take the time to repeat that thing? You may, but probably it is something that is a newer tradition. For instance, the Eucharist was a new institution created by Christ himself. Many Jews would get the gist of it and Gentiles were no strangers to sacred meals, but the fact that the meal is believed to contain Christ's full presence was something new. It is something that needed to be insisted on, and therefore references to it litter the New Testament.

The truth is, things that are easily derived from natural law need not be repeated in an epistle that was written for the purpose of dealing with specific matters. That would be like your parents reminding you to wipe your behind after using the restroom every time you did it. When you are learning these things, i.e. being potty trained, it is necessary for them to drill you in these matters. If you are 35 it is quite simply annoying.

So, what I am positing is that a more logical conclusion regarding Paul and other Biblical writer's tendency not to mention homosexuality as a sin directly is more due to the fact that they were writing to people who understood a certain tradition (or in the case of Gentiles, likely understood natural law). They were more dealing with subtleties (read: specific issues). These works made it into the Bible because the the early Church fathers felt as though these books would stand the test of time. Surely some epistles or writings that were written and acceptable maybe dealt with someone only a Corinthian would worry about (idol sacrifice and meals surrounding that are not included). A good testament to this fact is that child prostitution is still a problem in the world.

We can now see that the Scriptures may not specifically state a sin, but that does not mean that we cannot figure out if something is wrong or misguided. I personally, think that sexuality is far more complex than the author of the other work thinks. It is not simply a matter of being "born" a certain way. That would negate free will and it forgets that environment has just as much to do with who we become as people. I grew with an abusive father, and I developed behaviors and patterns of thinking that were designed to help me cope with those issues. I reasoned, if I cannot do anything right, then I probably should not try very hard, and it has taken time to heal from things of that sort. This is not to say that we are not born with certain traits and inclinations, I am simply saying that nothing is set in stone as far as who we become. There can be issues that make it difficult or truly out of your abilities to do something you desire, but humans have a choice in how they will act. Aspirations are not the same as character. Character is formed by choice.

Finally, this is not saying that any person who is homosexual, whether or not they are practicing, is a terrible individual. It is simply saying that, homosexuals are not exempt from God's natural law, His commandments, and the like. If a homosexual person wants to become a Christian, a cross they will have to bear is celibacy. It is terrifying and horrible, I know, but we have been promised that, if we give up these things which keep us from God, we will be given something more in replacement, we will be restored. Our lives will be made brand new and, in the end of all things, we will find that giving up what we had to give up was worth it.

Blessings on you all, and peace be with you.


I would also like to note that I agree with him (his name is Mark Sandlin apparently) on the point that we should not be using our beliefs or our Scriptures, however they are formed, in a hateful manner. We should be humble and note that we have our own stains and things that we struggle with. The best thing to do is pray for and love people. If they decide to join our ranks, blessings to them, but this is not a light task. The paradox of Christianity is that upon losing our life we will find it. That means giving things up like ways of thinking, bad habits, and poisonous relationships. Again, blessings on you all.

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