12/25/10

Christmas and Cultural Identity

The Last Refuge of Western Civilization
By: Jonathan Harris

This Christmas season, I've had the opportunity of temporarily working at Barnes and Noble. One interesting thought I had while working- being surrounded by Christmas music, books, and products- was, "I feel like I have something in common with everyone here." Even though I know that most of the people shopping and working aren't Christians in the biblical sense, they are still voluntarily choosing to surround themselves with "holiday cheer." No matter where you go you hear the voices of men hailing the arrival of God. Whether our culture is oblivious to it is really inconsequential. They still habitually act every year as if there is something important about December 25th. Sure, commercialism has watered the message of Christ down; but He is sill there, and has not been ignored on a large scale.

Cultural identity is really about what you have in common with the other members of your particular group. Our culture shares a common identity during the month of December. Unfortunately, we quickly regress to our individual "ghettos" the rest of the year. I feel as though every 12th month we all take a step back in time to copy the traditions of our Christian forefathers, though most of us have no clue what the real implications are. I believe we are in a sense catching a glimpse of what a Christian culture should look like, and use to look like in the Western world. A world in which Christ was honored with our tongues (i.e. "Merry Christmas" during December, and "God bless you" the rest of the year), hands (charity), and feet (church attendance). There is a certain uniformity even in our dress code (greens and reds, sweaters and hats). We have something in common, and it points to God's greatest gift. What a beautiful picture. Have a Merry Christmas!

12/11/10

Discerning Truth

Discerning TruthExposing Errors in Evolutionary Arguments: A Review
By: Jonathan Harris

Dr. Jason Lisle's Discerning Truth may be the most practical academic book I have ever read. Many of you have probably read or taken courses on logic, but to have such material applied to the naturalist position is something not taught in school for obvious reasons. Lisle does the Christian Creationist community the service of defining such logical fallacies as reification, bifurcation, begging the question, etc. and then shows how the most common arguments for Darwinism use them. Once you're able to spot logical fallacies, you're able to disarm your opponents quicker, easier, and more effectively. For example, when a naturalist says, "Either you live by faith, or you have rational reasons for what you believe," you can respond by saying, "Why can't someone have both," rather than asserting your "rational" credentials. If you can spot the arguers bifurcated statement (i.e. presenting two options when in reality a third exists) you can then aim your response at the logical fallacy, instead of accepting the fallacy and then trying to defensively insist your rationality. The four last chapters of this short 137 page book provide practice problems that will give you an opportunity to spot the logical fallacy in a set of statements. If you are going to defend your faith,  not only do you need good arguments, but you need to know what a bad one looks like: 1) so you don't use them; 2) so you can spot them when others do. I wholeheartedly recommend this book, and don't believe any college student should be without it. Order yours today by going to the link below!

Discerning Truth

12/10/10

Feminism Revisited

How Compartmentalization Gave Rise to the Feminists
By: Jonathan Harris

In an earlier post entitled Woman's Wrongs: When Eve Took a Second Bite I critiqued the early feminist's religious and social views coming to the conclusion that they were in essence wrong. Most conservative Christians today will grant that the feminism of the 1960s to the present (characterized by lesbianism and abortion) is unequivocally wrong, yet they will try to level their criticism by pointing back to the "original feminists" such as Susan B. Anthony, who apparently was pro-life. In the previously mentioned post, I showed why this cannot be honestly done. The pioneers of feminism, even if they all weren't as radical as modern feminists, did in fact lay the ground work for what we see today. Their goal was to obliterate gender roles, dispense with the Bible as the primary authority, and for many to usher in socialism. I still stand by these remarks, and maintain even if some of their causes were noble, their basic motivations weren't.

That being said, It is understandable that I was greatly criticized by many friends and other readers for making such claims. I in a sense, had gone where no conservative Christian had (or at least not many in quite some time) by questioning the "noble" progressive changes of the mid to late 19th century. Though I as a mere sinner am capable of stating things too harshly and illogically, I am nonetheless afraid that many of my critics fail to understand something rather basic about Biblical authority. I fear that many (not all) have been privatized. They fail to see the reason for why the majority of Christians in the mid-1800s took the position I advocate, and for good reason. They perhaps view religion as one type of truth, and morality as another. Religion becomes a personal and private truth subjective to the individual, whereas morality (for conservative Christians) is an objective transcendent truth. Sure, there are points at which both may complement, verify, or overlap each other, but some issues, such as women in leadership for instance, are objectively right without having Biblical support. This is worrisome, because wherever the Bible does speak on the issue it does so usually in a negative light (the position that women can lead women, but shouldn't- not that it's necessarily a sin- lead men).

In this follow-up to the previous article I would like to do two things. Number one, I would like to in a more gentle and insightful manner provide the reasons that the feminist movement came to be in the first place. Secondly, I would like to provoke my readers to find Biblical solutions for how to restore gender roles to their rightful place whatever that might be. My information will be taken from Nancy Pearcy's book Total Truth which everyone should read.

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural CaptivityIn Pearcy's chapter How Women Started the Culture War , she starts off with the assertion that in our day and age the perception is that church is basically for women. In fact, statistically speaking, there are a majority of women as opposed to men attending evangelical churches. Why is this? In other religions such as Judaism and Islam there are actually more men, so we can't say that men are by nature less religious. What conclusion should we draw about this, especially upon the realizing that it hasn't always been this way? Let's take a walk through history to find out what happened, and how it relates to feminism.

In colonial times- and generally for the entire history of the world- men and women have worked side by side. There was an integration of family life and social life. If you needed to go to a particular store, you would end up walking into the "business" portion of someone's home. Sometimes the clerk would be the wife nursing her baby with her children eating a meal in the next room. Sometimes it would be the father right after scolding one of his children for intemperance or some kind of foolishness. Generally, whatever business venture the man was involved in, so was the woman, and the children generally helped out. Call it a "small town" culture, call it an "agricultural" culture, whatever it was, it was an integrated way to make a livelihood. Pearcey writes:

What did the colonial integration of work and life mean for a family relationships? It meant that husband and wife worked side by side on a daily basis, sharing in the same economic enterprise. For a colonial woman, one historian writes, marriage "meant to become a co-worker beside a husband . . . learning new skills in butchering, silversmith work, printing, or upholstering - whatever special skills the husband's work required."

This isn't to say that the wife and husband functioned without gender distinctions. The man was considered the head and headship had a highly specific definition. "It was defined as a divinely sanctioned office that conferred a duty to represent not his own individual interests but those of the entire household." So yes, there were distinct roles, but they were not unconnected. So what changed? Why is it not the same way in our time?

"The old pattern was based on personal relations between a farmer and his sons and hired hands, or between craftsman and apprentices. In the Industrial Revolution, that gave way to impersonal relations based on wages." So it was the Industrial Revolution that brought the change about. Men left the home to find work in the world. Women stayed home to care for the children by themselves. This unfortunately, is our modern day "conservative" ideal on traditional roles. We don't remember before the Industrial Revolution when the same tasks were tackled by both genders, when a husband and wife made a team.

The new perception was that the home was a nostalgic traditional oasis of morality and the finer things in life, whereas the cruel raw world of industry came to represent coarseness and hardship. A man had to be "tough" to endure the vile pleasures and cold mechanism of the "machine," which did not take into account such things as ethical concerns but only the "bottom line." Isn't it ironic that today instead of wanting the men to come home and behave like decent human beings, the women want to go out and prove they're as tough as men? Inevitably, religion fell into the domain of the home and thus became a feminine institution.

Since the home now represented "enduring values and ideals that people desperately wanted to maintain in the face of modernity . . . laws were passed limiting the participation of women and children in the factories." Work and family were now separate spheres. Men's physical presence around the home dropped, child-rearing manuals left out the father, home "ceased being the locus of production and became a locus of consumption" (women became the consumers), household industries were replaced by factories, and "women's tasks were reduced to housekeeping and early child care." Women as a result, became socially isolated and experienced a drastic decrease in the work available to them at home while remaining solely responsible for the limited range of tasks of which they were responsible. "Printers, blacksmiths, arms-makers, proprietors, and small business owners" now became the sole domain of men. Women were now charity cases if their husband's died, being unable to take over the family business.

Whilst the societal ideal woman changed so did the ideal man. A man went from being a dutiful male who kept his passions in check to being a competitor. No longer was he the spiritual leader. Instead he was expected to be naturally crude, and the woman was to teach him morality for now she was the spiritual leader (remind anyone of every sitcom out there portraying a man as a crude competitive foolish hypocritical glutton, while the children and mother are viewed as morally favorable?). So the new male was a tough, competitive, pragmatic brute. This was the beginning of the end for chivalry.

It wasn't long before the churches started making their pitch to women and releasing men from their religious responsibilities. It was up to the women, who came from the gentle virtuous home, to show benevolence to the world. Charity and civic duty belonged to them because they were the ones capable of understanding what true love really was.

Some men were worried about the influence that mothers were having on young boys. How could a gentle woman raise a tough man? In reaction, many novels and comics, etc. came out during the turn of the century to teach young boys just what a man was supposed to be. Of course, this whole model is based on an evolutionary concept of gender and it should come as no surprise that the proponents of "animal instincts" produced a primitive and barbarous view of man. Billy Sunday and others brought in the "muscular Christianity" approach portraying a tough version of Jesus. In the 1920-30s men tried to instill this toughness in their children in urban areas by becoming "hobby fathers." The children got to go with daddy to the zoo or the ball game, but the important aspects of life like true character were left up to the mothers. Father was no longer the disciplinarian. By the time that 1980 came around the amount of time men spent in the home decreased 43% from 1960.

Some women objected to their new sphere. How come men got to participate in natural selection by competing in the real world of business, while the women stayed home? Were women less evolved. Naturally, women became upset at what had happened to their economic worth. They were mere appendages to the man in society. Why not follow man into his world and compete in the same way? Some of the more "conservative feminists" saw this as an opportunity to "re-moralize" the public sphere with the morality of the private sphere. This is why you have feminists like Sarah Palin (a re-moralizer) and Hillary Clinton (a "let's beat the boys at their own game" attitude).

Women are now fed up with being the moral conscience to their husbands. While he's off having affairs and doing what's expected by society, she has to sit home and twiddle her thumbs. If she doesn't regulate his sexual behavior properly, she feels as though she's the one to blame. This fed up attitude is partially what has led to women becoming as course as men. They are tired of being moral guardians of the family.

The youth of the 1960s suffered from a "father hunger" and have unfortunately followed their father's example of being the tough brute. Sadly, the daughters have done the same. This is the root of why there is a family breakdown. I'd like to suggest that the church has missed the boat on this one. We rail against the symptoms and forget the root cause: the abandonment of vocation. This is why Pearcey concludes by saying:

Christians must not fall into the trap of assuming that paid employment is the only thing that will give women a sense of dignity. That's a mistake secular feminists often make. Instead Christians need to challenge the prevailing ideology of success by insisting that individuals are most fulfilled when they enjoy a sense of calling.

Now I pose a question, which is at the heart of this issue. What should we do about this? We can't just turn the clocks back and reshape our economy to be "pre-Industrial Revolution." I would like to suggest that men will not come back to the home until they are shown by their fathers and the church that it is "manly" be a husband and father. The church must first teach gender roles correctly. Secondly, men should include women in their business decisions and economic lives, and women should include men in home life as much as possible. Men should make every effort to be home as much as possible to fulfill their responsibilities, and women should make every effort to visit their husbands at work as much as is permitted. Neither is more valuable than the other.

I hope that now you can see how the Industrial Revolution and society's reaction to it led to the feminist movement, but I also hope you can see that restoring a "traditional role" view is not the solution, since such a view of gender comes from a post-Industrial Revolution conception. Instead, we must invoke a timeless standard.

12/7/10

A Few Thoughts on Slavery

And Why it's Unavoidable
By: Jonathan Harris


Spiritual Slavery

A couple weeks ago we had a guest speaker at our church talk on the subject of slavery. The main point of the message was that as Christians we are slaves of Christ. There has been what John MacArthur calls a "conspiracy" concerning the Greek word Doulos which often times is translated as simply "servant," when in reality it means "slave." Certainly there are far-reaching implications for the Christian who considers himself a slave of Christ. He no longer belongs to himself, he belongs to Christ entirely. The language of Scripture is crystal clear when it comes to the subject of spiritual slavery. We were "bought" with a price as 1 Cor. 6:20 says. Over and over again we see Christians referring to themselves as slaves. Paul, James, Jude, Peter etc. and even Christ considered themselves slaves of God. Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master; neither is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him." If one studies the Bible thoroughly they will find there are only two options- either you are a slave of God, or a slave of sin (Mark 6:24, John 8:34). So the question is not, "Am I a slave," but rather, "Who's slave am I?" Now of course we are speaking in spiritual terms right now, but what about chattel slavery? We all know that's wrong right? This question has come up in many discussions I've been apart of , and I want to see if this issue can be addressed from a Biblical and historical perspective without waxing long or sounding boring. It's my hope that this information will help you defend your faith from those who want to point the finger at "those racist Christians!" and also help you think rightly in your own mind.

The first thing we need to figure out is what the Bible says about chattel slavery. I know there are some of you out there who immediately want to discount anything the Old Testament has to say on the topic, so in deference to you, I will start with the New Testament.

New Testament on Slavery

Let's start with Christ. He lived at a time when slavery was commonly practiced (i.e. the slave girl who confronted Peter when he denied Christ, the slave of the high priest whose ear Christ healed, etc.) and said nothing negative about it. There was no speaking out against it on his part, only passive approval. Some of you may argue, "But His purpose was to seek and save the lost, not champion social causes." I'm not sure this premise is completely valid because Christ had a lot to say about society, government, relationships, etc., but even if we grant this premise we still have to deal with the parables Christ told involving slavery. The parable of the landowner (Matt. 21:33-46)?, the parable of the slave's duty (Luke17:7-10)?, and the parable of the wise slave (Matt. 24:45-51)?, etc. must be reckoned with. Christ often used slavery as a spiritual analogy. Does this mean He approved of the institution on an earthly level? Perhaps so, perhaps not. At the very least it does mean that he didn't oppose it.

Many have tried to use Paul's writings to renounce slavery, but nothing could be further from the truth. Let's look at a couple of the most quoted passages on the subject. In Col. 4:1 (and Eph. 6:8) Paul states, "Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven." Here we can see a "bridge" coming into focus between the idea of spiritual and chattel slavery. Notice Paul doesn't say, "Free your slaves for it is a sin." Instead he instructs for masters to treat them kindly. It is utterly shortsighted for people to use what Paul said in the previous chapter to support the idea that Paul was opposed to the institution simply because he said there was no "slave and freeman" in Christ. All it means is that when Christ is held in common there is nothing significant dividing slaves and freemen because they are equally significant. Paul also says there is no "circumcised and uncircumcised." Does that mean that we should all be circumcised? It can't because that would contradict Paul's other writings on the subject.

Paul also wrote a letter (the book of Philemon) to Philemon on behalf of Onesimus, a runaway slave, who Paul had converted. Paul's intention was for the Philemon to accept Onesimus back into his service. If slavery was a sin would not Paul have warned Philemon of his sin instead of encouraging him to continue in it?

The major text used to support the notion that Paul opposed slavery is 1 Cor. 7:21-24 which states:

Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each man remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

Most anti-slavery proponents forget about the last portion of the phrase for good reason, because it would totally negate their point. In context, Paul is talking about the physical condition of converts- Jews and Greeks, slaves and freemen. He then relates chattel slavery to spiritual slavery showing that if one is a converted slave he is free from sin in Christ, and if he is free, then he is Christ's slave. In other words, a restatement of the idea that Christ unifies all social classes and ethnic distinctions, not a statement on whether slavery is right or wrong. His command to "not become slaves of men" must be contrasted with the first phrase in the sentence stating that we "were bought with a price." It means, Christ is our primary master. He paid the most for us. We have a duty to disobey our earthly masters when it conflicts with Christ. Likewise, if we can become free as verse 21 says, we should do it! It gives us greater freedom to serve God. This is not a statement about slavery being a sin, but rather a personal admonition to follow Christ first. To make more of it is nothing short of eisegesis.

The Old Testament

We could talk for weeks about what the Old Testament has to say on the subject. My goal however is to find out primarily what it says. i.e. I'm not looking to know every single law concerning slavery. Instead, I just want to know if it was approved, and if it was, to what degree. Before we start however I must make one thing clear. The Old Testament does matter. Some of you might say, "But that was given to the Jews." True enough, the moral and ceremonial laws have been negated by the New Covenant (or at least aspects of them), and they don't apply to gentiles, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't look at them. My reason is simple. The same God reigned then that reigns now. His nature does not change, and therefore his moral standard is unmoving. His principles are the same yesterday, today, and forever. With this being said, I am not arguing that we must apply the Old Testament to today for fear of sinning if we don't. I'm arguing that we should apply it. In other words, it's the best model we have. Sure there are differences between a Theocracy and a Republic, but this doesn't mean the civil magistrate is therefore not required to punish murderers etc. in the latter. He still "bears the sword" to "punish evil" and promote good as Romans tells us. We only know what justice is and how it should be carried out by the government on society by looking at the Old Testament. So on that note, we shall proceed.

Slavery was definitely accepted both for kinsmen (Ex. 21:2) and for those captured in battle (Deut. 21:10), however there were limits placed on it. As I stated in a previous post Leviticus and the Goodness of God:

Biblical slavery, is not based on race, it is based on economic standing (see Ex. 21:2-6; Deut. 15:12-18). Hebrews would sell themselves into slavery for the purpose of obtaining livelihood (our equivalent of declaring bankruptcy). Also, criminals would become slaves as a way to pay for their crimes (our equivalent of community service). Therefore, it was voluntary. . .“kidnaping” was not an option. . . the Israelites were never to go out and capture slaves. In fact in Exodus 21:16, the death penalty was instituted for those who engaged in such practices. . . Hebrew slaves were freed after six years (Ex. 21:2), All slaves were freed on the year of Jubilee ( Free slaves were released with a handsome payment (Deut. 15:12-15), slaves were given responsibilities such as having families (Ex. 21:3-4), runaway slaves from other cultures curious about Israel’s God were not to be returned (Deuteronomy 23:15-16), excessive punishment was forbidden (Ex. 21:26-27; Lev. 24:17), foreign slaves could become proselytes (Lev. 22:10-11), slaves could share inheritances (Prov. 17:2), slaves were to rest on the Sabbath, and female slaves were to be protected (Exodus 21:4-11).

So much for the Old Testament being "anti-slavery" since the Jews were slaves in Egypt. The real problem in Egypt wasn't slavery, but an unjust slave system.

American History and Slavery

I will admit that it's hard to use the term slave (even though it comes from a derivative of Slav who were white) without it conjuring up images of racial injustice. In our country sadly this has happened, but let's be fair, there's plenty of blame to go around and plenty of blessing to remember. African waring factions sold rival tribe members for rum in the first place. New England slave merchants (note: they are from the North) then bought these slaves in the horrendous Triangle Trade and eventually shipped some of them (4% of those that came to the New World) to the South (Read my post on Northern involvement in slavery here). The less than 5% of Southern whites who used slavery (there were both black and white masters) did so in an honorable way in accordance with Paul's admonition for Masters to treat their slaves with respect (Read my post on Southern slave conditions here). The Northern opposition to the "expansion of slavery" had everything to do with protection for white labor, not care for black families. Still, in spite of all the wrongs done both in the North and South, God's purposes were served. Former pagans were exposed to the Gospel in Christian homes. Western Civilization has blessed those who continue to work hard for their living even today in what was once the slave community. It is for this reason that I can look at all the problems with it (i.e. man capture and racism which were both forbidden by Scripture) and say, "Thank God that the slave trade brought the Gospel to the heathen." Insofar as the slave masters lived in accordance with the Word of God, they were doing nothing wrong, even if their government was.

We're All Slaves Now

Yes, I realize the header is politically incorrect (well...just about everything about this post is), but it is true. Think about it for a moment. On a spiritual level (that which is of the utmost value compared to our flesh) we are all slaves of something, otherwise Christ was a liar. However, we are also slaves of someone in the physical dimension as well. You see, I don't believe the Bible conveys the idea of "ownership" but rather "stewardship." This applies to property both animate and inanimate. Slave masters are stewards of what God has entrusted to them because after all, "All authority has been given to Christ." So in that sense, slave master's are completely responsible for their slaves. In the same way however, governments are responsible for their people, parents for their children, and pastors for their sheep (we are to be "subject one to another). What happened during reconstruction was the federal government became the slave's new masters and the welfare doles started with the Freedman's Bureau. Today it has expanded into an empire of slavery, only this type of slavery is not warranted by Scripture. The sons of former slaves find themselves today to be slaves (in general) to Uncle Sam. The only differences are they don't work for their privileges, and they lack the love and support of kind masters. What's the result? A moral catastrophe. My point is three fold. 1) We are all slaves in a loose sense. 2) Those who were suffering injustice in our country at the hands of slavery are now under a greater injustice undergoing an unauthorized form of slavery.3) Slavery will always be around (Rev. 13:16)

Apologetic Approaches

Now hopefully even if you don't agree, you have a Biblically informed opinion on this topic now. The information provided here may be fine and dandy for most Christians but what about the nonbeliever? How do you deal with them if they ask the question, "Doesn't the Bible support slavery?" Really the question is very simple to answer, and I have used this approach first-hand. This will require some knowledge of presuppositional apologetics (check around the website for tons of material), but it's fairly easy to grasp once you understand what to do. Basically, the unbeliever has no transcendent ethical standard to appeal to. So you can say, "Yes the Bible does allow a form of limited slavery." Then ask, "Why is this wrong." A nonbeliever will not be able to give you a rational answer. They may appeal to convention (well people say it's wrong) or their own arbitrary standard (I don't like it) but both fail in the long wrong. Very simply stated, Hitler winds up being right either way you cut it by these criteria, and you could in fact use that logic to prove that slavery is right under the proper circumstances. In Muslim countries the majority agrees that slavery is fine (although not a Biblical type at all), so it must be. Or, I think it's fine, therefore it is. What looked like your biggest problem to overcome with the unbeliever soon becomes your biggest asset because it provides an opportunity by which to do an internal critique of his or her worldview. Don't forget though, be sure to at least make sure the nonbeliever knows what the Biblical position is (so they don't get the wrong idea) and if you have the historical background, what American slavery truly was. (Note: Apologetics is about reaching people with the Gospel, so don't get bogged down in rabbit trails like slavery for too long)

In closing, I think it can be seen that slavery can either be a good or a bad thing depending on your master. Christ is a good master. Sin is not. Southern plantation owners were primarily good Christian masters. The federal government is not. Yes, there are injustices because of sin, but don't criticize an institution because of individual sin. Simply advocate that the government does its job and punishes the individual instead of abolishing the institution.Under the former logic we should get rid of the institution of marriage because the divorce rate is so high. Remember, God has not been silent. He speaks through His word, and He has given us principles to defend. Let us not be ashamed of them because of our culture. Let us instead defend them! It's called making disciples.

For further reading check out:

Are Christian's Racist?

Leviticus and the Goodness of God

Slave Treatment in the South 

Northern Involvement in Slavery

Abraham Lincoln: The Great Discriminator

12/3/10

Sex and the Government Part 1

Why Libertarians are Wrong
By: Jonathan Harris

Yesterday I watched a an episode of the new show Stossel, in which the mustached libertarian gave his "reasonable" opinion on sexual ethics and government involvement. As most of you are aware, the libertarian and progressive (liberal) ethics are nearly identical when it comes to "social" issues. The conventional wisdom is, "Anything goes, as long as no one is hurt."



The progressive ethic wasn't always this (and still isn't among the elite progressives). One only has to be reminded of the eugenic efforts of 100 years ago. These initiatives were government sponsored with the intent of creating a "super race" of human beings. After all, if you breed horses for speed and agility, why can't you breed humans for specific tasks such as cognitive assignments and physical feats? Of course, at the time minorities were considered to be "less evolved" and the progressives wanted to sterilize as much of the "bad" gene carriers as they could. It was during this era that Planned Parenthood was set up to get rid of the bane of society (Planned Parenthood still holds a monopoly in urban black areas). Now what you'll hear out of a liberal's mouth is different. They'll say, "Anyone can have sex with whom or whatever they want, as long as it doesn't hurt anybody." Is this an improvement? Conservatives might be tempted to say, "At least it's out of the hands of the government." But is that really an improvement? What if Jesus Christ were dictator (as He will be) and regulated sexual practices?

The principle that, "Anything goes if no one is harmed" makes two crucial assumption. First, it posits an ambiguous definition of harmed. Who says what harming is? One person is harmed by peanuts because they're allergic. One person claims to be emotionally harmed (i.e. offended) by politically incorrect behaviour. A child is harmed when his or her father spends all his time pursuing hobbies like hunting and fishing without living up to his fatherly prerogatives. Society is harmed in general when certain vices are legalized (prostitution, gambling, etc.) because they usher in a general numbing of the collective conscience and other violent crimes follow. We could go on and on about what constitutes "harm" even after having a basic agreed upon definition. Social conservatives think that homosexual marriage harms children collectively and in the long run. A libertarian can look at an individual case and say, "Doesn't seem to be any scratches. No abuse here. Therefore: no harm." But he fails to understand such factors as time. Say a tick latches onto your body when you're in the woods. You then come home, find it in the shower, and pull it off. There's a slight wound, but no harm right? Wrong! That tick could have been carrying Lyme disease, and you may not see the symptoms for months. So is it still harmful if the effects aren't immediate? The social conservatives would say "Yes!" regarding same-sex marriage. The libertarians would probably say, "No!" The point is, when we talk about "harm" we are arriving at it from many different standpoints with many different definitions. Generally the libertarian/liberals like to equivocate harm with immediate physical or emotional abuse. Unfortunately, they fail to see the big picture.

The second assumption being made in the previous statement is the idea that it is reasonable. A liberal will just posit, "As long as no one's hurt it's fine" and think that everyone will automatically agree. Who says that "As long as no one's hurt it's fine?" What if I disagree and say, "It doesn't matter who's harmed. You have your individual rights!" What authority can they appeal to that's transcendent over me to say, "See here, you're being unreasonable!" They can't. The folks who make this claim are being arbitrary. They have no justification for such a position.

Stossel starts with this arbitrary premise and then seeks to find an ethic completely based on the autonomy of the individual. His second assumption is that man can himself make a better decision than government can regarding "issues of morality" (in reality everything is moral, but I digress). Again I pose the question, "Can a righteous civil magistrate (such as Christ) make a better decision than a depraved individual?" The answer is of course "Yes!" If the law precludes homosexuality, then the law is making a wiser determination (according to Christianity) based on ethics, health, child-rearing, economics, etc. than the individual sinner is. The inverse is also true though. So the real question is not what is right (As Christians we should already know), but whose responsibility is it to enforce such righteousness? The individual, the family, the church, or the government?

Stossel argument basically goes like this, "Individuals are better at taking care of themselves, therefore individuals are better at taking care of themselves." Of course, he doesn't come out and say this explicitly, but he does beg the question. Defining and highlighting every government failure he can, and championing every individual success he can, serves as his evidence-but in reality his evidence is tampered with; by himself. Think about it. He starts with the assumption that his autonomous moral code is correct (that fornication shouldn't be punished, etc.) and then concludes that individuals (i.e. himself) should make their own decisions on morality. So he creates the standard based on his standard.

Here's the bottom line. Libertarians are at least more consistent than liberals (who only apply the free market to "social issues") because they apply capitalism to everything, not just finances. But why do they do this? It doesn't follow that the same procedure that worked well in one area will work well in another. The free market is a mechanism that can harness evil (with limited governmental regulation) for good because evil people with evil motivations are still forced to provide a beneficial product if they want to make a dollar. It's the only system in which greed can be harnessed effectively along with good intentions. The question then becomes, "How does a free market approach to sexual ethics harness evil for good?" The answer is, "There is none!" A fornicator cannot produce something considered "productive" (in the Christian sense) through his fornication.

Conclusion? Libertarians/liberals have a great many assumptions they bring to the table whenever they argue for their position. Their position, while perhaps being attractive to a Christian who believes in private property, is not compatible with Christianity because of the way these assumptions are defined. The Christian must not be arbitrary like the libertarian. He must look to God as the source of moral guidance in all areas, realizing he's not the irrational one for doing so. Some of you may be saying, "You never answered the question! You never said who's responsibility it is to regulate sex! You never said what involvement the government should have!" The fact is I haven't for a reason. I want you to think about this. Is the Bible really your standard? If it is, you'll look in its pages to make this determination. You may come to the conclusion that it's the individual's choice (for reasons not pertaining to libertarianism), you may come to the conclusion that it's the government's or a mixture of government and individual, you may find that the church has the sole responsibility to regulate such things, or you may say "It really doesn't matter to God." The most important thing is that you're looking in Scripture for the answer. The second most important thing is that you're "rightly dividing it." That's why in the coming weeks I'll post what I think the Bible has to say on this issue. Until then, think this through on your own and find out who your authority really is. Is it you the autonomous individual, or is it God the transcendent creator?

12/1/10

Total Truth

Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity: A Review
By: Jonathan Harris

Perhaps the best book I've ever read outside the Bible up to this point has been Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. Pearcey, a former L'Abri student who studied under the tutelage of Francis Schaeffer is now a professor at Philadelphia Biblical University, a member of the Discovery Institute, and the chief author of the Pearcey Report. Reading the 400 page Total Truth is much like reading Schaeffer for today. The book is divided into four sections: What's in a Worldview, Starting at the Beginning, How We Lost Our Minds, and What's Next: Living It Out. Section one reads a little bit like How Shall We Then Live tracing dualistic thought from  Platonic Dualism through Augustine and Aquinas all the way to our present modernist outlook. The second section deals with the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate in which Pearcey gives powerful apologetic reasons for rejecting a materialist worldview. How We Lost Our Minds is particularly helpful for understanding what happened to the church. Why does the church buy into a dualistic mindset? The final section is very helpful in encouraging the reader to think through the ramifications of what total truth really is, and how to apply it to life.

To understand exactly what the book is about we must look to one of the many diagrams Pearcey has included to help us understand the dualistic nature of thought throughout time.

Upper Story
Nonrational, Noncognitive
---------------------------------
Lower Story
Rational, Verifiable

The upper story is what is thought to be true for everyone or "universally true." We encounter this in the science class. We are marked wrong for mathematical error. The lower story is what is subjective and open to interpretation. We encounter this in the ethics class. It is that which relates to aesthetics, feelings, and yes, religion. So one is true for all and one is true for each individual separately. One is objective, one is subjective. One is rational, one is romantic. Though this dichotomy has taken on many different shapes throughout time from the Form/Matter dichotomy, to the Grace/Nature dichotomy, to the Mind/Matter dichotomy, today we have a kind of Fact/Value dichotomy governed by both Modernism and Postmodernism. Our culture believes that there are certain things empirically verifiable that all humans are governed by (Modernism) yet morality or values are not in this category. Everyone can choose what works (Pragmatism) for them according to their own likes and dislikes (Postmodernism). 

Christianity however is total truth. It is a complete philosophical system which does not recognize this distinction. Jesus is the truth, all wisdom and knowledge have their origin in Christ, all our thoughts are to be taken captive to Christ, etc. It use to be that Christians functioned this way. They knew that God had an awful lot to say about science, government, personal morality, etc. There was no distinction. However, with the rise of Fundamentalism and its offspring Evangelicalism in the mid-1800s, Christianity has been relegated to the lower story- the story of values, not facts. Evangelicals used emotions and personal experience to verify their beliefs taking it outside the realm of "science" and into the realm of "religion." It is no longer "total truth" for most of us. Pearcey challenges this conventional wisdom with Scripture, philosophy, and by showing the negative effects of such thinking. It has lead to practical atheism, the woman's liberation movement (which she spends a whole chapter on), theistic evolution, etc. Basically, the church has stopped being salt and light. 

Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural CaptivityBut the book isn't merely and indictment against the church. It is a call to the individual (especially the college student) to apply Christian principles in every area and to show the foolishness of this dichotomy to those around us thereby shattering it. Much is said about apologetics, but much more is said about applying Christian principles to your life. The book is entertaining, easy to read, extremely enlightening, and a MUST READ before or during college. Pick up yours today by clicking the link below!

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