July 24, 2014

Jesus and homosexuality

James Tissot, "The Beatitudes Sermon" (1890)
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, July 24, 2014

Jesus and homosexuality

I sometimes hear the argument that because Jesus didn't say anything about same-sex sex, same-sex sex is not sin. So Jesus' absence of speech on the topic means approval.

This argument is problematic, however, for several reasons.

First, it's an argument from silence. Good arguments are usually based on positive evidence, not absence of evidence.

Second, the argument falls prey to a reductio ad absurdum: we can concede the view for the sake of assessment, deduce falsehoods/ absurdities, and thereby show the argument fails.

Assume it's true that Jesus' not saying anything about X is sufficient grounds for thinking X is okay. Jesus was silent about incest and bestiality. Therefore, incest and bestiality are okay, too. But, obviously, these are not okay.

Thus, the argument's assumption—that Jesus' silence about same-sex sex is enough to conclude it's not sin—is false.

Third, it's not true that Jesus didn't say anything about homosexual sex. He did, indirectly.

Jesus taught that among the things that defile is porneia, i.e., sexual immorality (Matthew 15:19, Mark 7:21). Porneia is a Greek catch-all term (from which the English "pornography" comes) which, in Jesus' Jewish context, includes any sexual activity outside heterosexual marriage. So Jesus teaches same-sex sex is sin.

Also, Jesus is God the Son who is one with God the Father, and both Father and Son are one with God the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the prophets and the apostles. (God is a trinity, i.e., God is one in essence and consists of three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

This means the God-breathed scriptures—Genesis, Leviticus, Romans, Corinthians, etc.—are from the God who became a human being in Jesus. Significantly, these scriptures teach sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sin. So, again, Jesus teaches same-sex sex is sin.

(Keep in mind that Jesus abolishes the Jewish dietary/ ritual purity laws, but not the universal moral law. Jesus also intensifies the moral law to apply to our thoughts as well as actions.)

At this juncture, one might object that, for Jesus, love is enough. Love justifies all.

In response, we should notice that, for Jesus, true love—holy love—is structured by moral law. In holy love Jesus calls us to turn from sin, not embrace it.

Also, the love-is-enough justification justifies too much. Enter another reductio ad absurdum.

If love is sufficient for justifying sexual behaviour (contrary to otherwise clear biblical moral principles), then if I love X it should be okay that I have sex with X. But X could be another's spouse, a relative, a child, or an animal. Love would justify adultery, incest, pedophilia, and bestiality.

True love, then, requires a framework of moral truth.

Therefore, justifying same-sex sex via the argument from Jesus' (alleged) silence is a failure.

For further thought: see Sam Allberry's book Is God anti-gay? (2013), Michael Brown's Can You Be Gay and Christian? (2014), Joe Dallas's The Gay Gospel? How Pro-Gay Advocates Misread the Bible (2007), and Robert Gagnon's The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics (2001).

See too last month's online debate between Michael Brown (pro traditional understanding of scripture) and Matthew Vines (pro gay-revisionist interpretations). [See too Michael Brown's follow-up on this debate: "A 'Gay Christian' Advocate Sinks His Own Ship".]

For help with unwanted same-sex attractions, and for testimonies of same-sex attracted persons who seek holiness via costly discipleship, see Restored Hope Network and Living Out and Courage.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy and is no stranger to struggles against sinful desires.)

July 10, 2014

Same-sex marriage, Subway sandwiches

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, July 10, 2014

Same-sex marriage, Subway sandwiches

A popular internet argument (meme) dismisses concerns about same-sex marriage by drawing a comparison to choosing a Subway sandwich. It persuades many, but it's mistaken.

Here's the argument: "I went to Subway today to get my favorite sandwich. The guy in front of me ordered a different sub. I was pissed because he didn’t get the same sub as me, even though it didn’t affect me in any way. This is what people sound like when they say gay marriage affects them. LOL."

So, just as someone's choice of a particular sandwich doesn't affect anyone else, and so we shouldn't be concerned, so too gay marriage doesn't affect anyone else, and so we shouldn't be concerned. Thus, voicing concerns about gay marriage is silly—laughable.

The argument's analogy, however, is faulty. The sandwich choice is a personal matter, but the legal redefinition of marriage is a public policy matter.

Granting legal status to same-sex marriage affects others in multiple ways.

First, it changes the public's understanding of the minimal requirement of marriage from (a) the union of a man and woman who can (at least in principle) reproduce sexually via their union and nurture their biological children to (b) a union of two adults regardless of their sexual noncomplementarity, requiring new reproductive methods and new family structures.

According to political philosopher Ryan T. Anderson, co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (2012), this change centers marriage on "consenting adult romance" instead of what's best for children. How? By emphasizing adult wants so much so that men and women, mothers and fathers, are made interchangeable when they're not.

Significantly, Anderson argues, reliable studies from the social sciences strongly suggest parenting by married biological parents—i.e., biological mother and biological father—is ideal for the well-being of children.

But same-sex marriage (along with divorce and single parenting) takes society another step away from this ideal.

Also, McGill University ethicist Margaret Somerville points out that same-sex marriage abolishes the child's biologically-based moral right to know and be raised by both biological parents.

Furthermore, according to Somerville, same-sex marriage may normalize In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and thereby exacerbate IVF's problems. (IVF creates leftover frozen human embryos, i.e., human beings; often requires "selective termination," i.e., abortion of unwanted implantations/ fetuses; exploits women as surrogates and egg suppliers; plus threatens to turn children into commodities.)

Also, same-sex marriage is conceptually wed to a non-fallacious slippery slope. According to Anderson, once we redefine marriage broadly as committed adult intimacy instead of the union of a heterosexual couple, why not accept a "throuple" (rhymes with "couple" but involves three or more)?

The rationale for "couple" derives from the one-man-one-woman sexual union requirement—but this requirement has been abandoned. So why stop at two? Why not a polyamorous relationship?

If loving commitment is a sufficient condition for marriage, and if one man and one woman are no longer a necessary condition, then if you love X, you should be able to marry X. But X is a placeholder. (Slate Magazine has published an article arguing in favour of polygamy.)

Finally, religious liberty is affected. For deeply held religious/ moral reasons many citizens believe same-sex sexual relations are wrong.

But with legalized same-sex marriage, public institutions must embrace same-sex marriage as a good that's equivalent to heterosexual marriage. As a result, many public school children are taught what their parents believe is immoral.

Problems also result for businesses and private schools that disapprove of same-sex marriage, as wedding florists, bakers, photographers, and Trinity Western University Law School will attest.

Voicing concern about same-sex marriage is not like getting upset about another's choice of sandwich. Rather, it's like being served a stale sandwich sold under the advertising slogan "Eat Fresh!" and then explaining it's not fresh.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College.)

For further thought:
  • Ryan T. Anderson clearly sets out and develops three negative consequences of same-sex marriage in this 23 minute video presentation. (The subsequent 34 minute Q&A is important, too.)
  • See too Ryan T. Anderson's recent presentation at Stanford University: 3 minute highlights video, 55 minute lecture, and 36 minute Q&A.
  • For a truly helpful overview of the traditional understanding of marriage as set out in the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (by Anderson, Girgis, and George), see John G. Burford's Amazon review. (Also, Burford's succinct outline of the Anderson-Girgis-George reply to the gays-are-like-infertile-heterosexual-couples-who-marry objection is very good.)

June 26, 2014

In Vitro Fertilization unwise

Embryos float in a petri dish held by Dr. David Diaz,
 an Orange County, California, fertility doctor
 (Seatle Times, October 12, 2008)


By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, June 26, 2014

In Vitro Fertilization unwise

Is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) wise? I don't think so. Let's examine IVF and its pros and cons.

IVF means fertilization "in glass," that is, fertilization in a test tube or Petri dish.

The IVF procedure involves the following steps: (1) a woman's ovaries are stimulated to release multiple eggs; (2) 5-15 eggs are extracted (via minor surgery); (3) sperm is obtained from a donor (via masturbation); (4) eggs and sperm are placed in a Petri dish where fertilization occurs; (5) up to three embryos are placed in a woman's uterus; (6) remaining embryos are frozen.

If IVF is successful, an embryo implants in the uterus and a baby is born nine months later. If not successful, leftover embryos are thawed and more embryos are implanted.

IVF pros/ "pros":

● IVF allows a woman and her husband to have a child if they otherwise have difficulty with getting pregnant. If needed, a donor's sperm or egg can be used.

● Older women whose eggs risk defects may use a donor's egg with her husband's or a donor's sperm.

● IVF makes it possible for women who can't bear children themselves to have their eggs fertilized by their husband (or sperm donor) and use a surrogate mother.

Lesbian couples can have a child using an egg from one partner, sperm from a donor, then have the baby carried to term by the other partner.

● Gay men can have a child, too: egg from a donor, add sperm from one partner, add a surrogate mother.

● Conceivably (sorry) single men and women, gay or straight, could have their own children by using their own or a donor's sperm/ eggs plus a surrogate mother, if needed.

Parents could find egg/sperm donors with specific qualities to create a child of their choice.

IVF concerns/ questions:

● Up to three embryos are placed in the uterus. But what if, as is not uncommon, there's more than one implantation? Possible problems: (1) too many children, thereby perhaps risking mother's health; (2) "selective termination," i.e., abortion of the extra child/ children.

● IVF usually creates more frozen embryos than needed. What about the "leftovers"? Garbage? Research? But science tells us that the human embryo is a human being. Surely, discarding or doing research on human embryos (research that destroys them) is a moral concern. Should embryo creation cease until the frozen leftovers have been implanted or adopted?

● Do biologically-based moral obligations to the IVF child accrue to sperm and egg donors? Biological parents have moral obligations to their offspring—we sue biological fathers for child support because they are biological fathers. So what about the sperm donors who become biological fathers? What about the egg donors who become biological mothers? Do egg and sperm donors violate a nature-based moral duty to their children? Is this unjust to children?

● When sperm and egg donors—i.e., the biological parents—are anonymous, their IVF children struggle deeply with personal identity. For a child, knowledge of and being loved by his/ her biological mother and father are important. But anonymous sperm and egg donors obliterate this connection. Is this unfair to children?

● IVF creates markets for women's eggs and egg harvesting presents serious health risks to women. Is this "eggsploitation"—the exploitation of women for their eggs?

● IVF creates markets for surrogate mothers. Are women (especially vulnerable women) now exploited for their wombs? Does IVF contribute to the creation of a sub-class of women—a.k.a. "breeders"?

● IVF-created people should be loved and respected. But do IVF efforts to create "designer babies" turn children into commodities?

● Finally, what about the many already-born, non-IVF children who need parents? Should they be rescued first? Should their adoption occur instead of IVF?

Is IVF wise? I think the cons outweigh the pros.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College.)