Thursday, August 16, 2012

"So You Still Think Homosexuality is Sinful?"

Another graphic that is floating around the social media sites is one titled "So You Still Think Homosexuality is Sinful?" and subtitled "And therefore gays shouldn't be allowed to marry?" (Example)

That's not actually the reason that "gay marriage" shouldn't be allowed. The reason is that such a thing is an oxymoron. Marriage is a permanent union between a man and a woman. Homosexuals have always been "allowed" to get married, they just don't want to because they don't want that kind of permanent union with a member of the opposite sex. More precisely, many have been married (for immigration reasons, because of family pressures, or the like), but that is not what they are demanding now.

The graphic itself is a flow chart. If you answer the title question, "no," it rewards you by telling you "congratulations on begin part of civilized society!" Apparently, the graphic's author thinks that having a faulty understanding of morality is part of being in a "civilized" society. It used to be that "civilized" referred to societies who live by rules (especially those rules associated with the Bible), not those that abandon rules.

For those that answer "Yes," the graphic asks, "Why?" and offers six alternatives. The first alternative is, "Because Jesus said so," which the graphic answers by saying, "Not true. Jesus never uttered a word about same-sex relationships." There are several responses to this.

First, Jesus repeatedly referred to Sodom as an example of hardhearted wickedness deserving severe divine punishment:
Matthew 10:15
Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Matthew 11:23
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

Matthew 11:24
But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Mark 6:11
And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

Luke 10:12
But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
He doesn't explicitly mention the term "homosexuality," but he doesn't have to. Everyone knows what kind of people the men of Sodom were.

Second, Jesus endorsed the old testament law.

Matthew 5:17
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Third, Jesus sent Paul as his apostle:
Romans 1:1
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

1 Corinthians 1:1
Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,

2 Corinthians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:

Galatians 1:1
Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Ephesians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Colossians 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,

1 Timothy 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;

2 Timothy 1:1
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,

Titus 1:1
Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
... and Paul clearly taught that homosexuality is sinful.

The chart assumes that we will accept the claim that Jesus had nothing to say about the matter, and returns to the question "why." The next option provided in the chart is "Because the Old Testament said so."

The chart responds by asserting, "The O.T. also says it's sinful to eat shellfish, to wear clothes woven with different fabrics, and to eat port." The chart then asks, "should we still live by O.T. laws?"

The O.T. also says it's wrong to kill people, commit adultery, and steal their things. Should we still live by O.T. laws? It's safe to say that the chart's author thinks we should, when it comes to those, and that we shouldn't when it comes to eating kosher and avoiding mixed fiber clothing. In fact, aside from Jews and some Judaizers, we all generally agree on the points.

The question (which is begged by the graphic) is whether the prohibition on homosexual relations is one that falls in the former category or the latter category. The chart doesn't offer any argument as to why we should consider it to be similar to the requirement to eat kosher, and not consider it similar to the prohibition on adultery. But homosexual sex is much more like adultery than it is like eating shrimp. Moreover, we have New Testament guidance which helps us distinguish between the ceremonial laws (like the dietary laws) and the moral laws (like the laws regarding sexual behavior).

The chart assumes that the answer to the question posed will simply be "yes" or "no," rather than actually addressing the premises provided. Since there is another way to the "yes" outcome, we'll address that in a minute. The "no" outcome loops us back to the "why" question.

The next option the chart provides is, "Because the New Testament says so." The chart responds:
The original language of the N.T. actually refers to male prostitution, molestation, or promiscuity, not committed same-sex relationships. Paul may have spoken against homosexuality, but he also said that women should be silent and never assume authority over a man.
The chart then asks, "Shall modern-day churches live by all of Paul's values?"

Actually, the original language of the NT does not distinguish between "committed" and other kinds of homosexual activity. In other words, it's not as though the NT exclusively refers to male prostitutes (although it does refer to them, using the euphemism "dogs"). It uses terms that cover the range of homosexual activity, including both "active" and "passive" homosexuality. For example:

1 Corinthians 6:9
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

And the New Testament broadly addresses both male and female homosexuality:

Romans 1:26-27
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Regarding what Paul said about women, he said that they were to be silent in the church not always. But yes, there are many things that Paul teaches about women that modern feminists (of both sexes) don't care for.

Regarding the question of whether we should adopt "all" of Paul's values, even if the answer were "no," that would still leave open the question of whether we should adopt this very clearly stated moral value. One might argue that there are some of Paul's values that were culturally conditioned (the typical feminist argument for egalitarianism). But even if we grant that argument's force (I certainly don't grant it, just to be clear), that still does not lead us to a conclusion that we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In other words, raising an objection that we shouldn't accept everything Paul taught does not automatically lead to a conclusion that we should reject everything Paul taught - or even that we should reject any particular thing that Paul taught.

If you think we should follow everything that Paul taught (or everything that the Old Testament taught - and it is clear that Paul is following Jesus and the OT), then graphic provides the following outcome:
Have fun living your sexist, chauvinistic, judgemental [sic], xenophobic lifestyle choice. The rest of culture will advance forward without you.
Of course, that's not really an argument, it's just a stream of epithets and an unsupported assertion regarding the direction of "culture." But were we really expecting a rational argument? A return to a time where homosexuality was widely accepted is not a step forward - it's a step backward. After all, it's such activity that was widespread in Greek culture that Paul was condemning. To try to overthrow Biblical morals is not to move forward along a moral uprightness trajectory, but to revert to the lower pre-Christian state.

The chart is not through, though. It offers another option: "Because God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." The chart responds:
That was when the Earth wasn't populated. There are now 6.79 billion people. Breeding clearly isn't an issue any more.
That might make sense as an argument in favor of the use of contraception, but it is pretty much irrelevant to the issue of marriage. Notwithstanding what homosexual males may think, women are help meet for men in more ways than just breeding.

The argument from the large number of human beings is a red herring. At the time when Adam and Eve were created, it was just them. But by the time Jesus introduced the "Adam and Eve" argument, there were at least millions upon millions of people on the earth. Granted that billions is more than millions, but trillions is more than billions, and millions is still a large number. Jesus' argument that marriage was ordained to be one man and one woman by the creation of one Eve for Adam was made when the Earth was already largely populated, and was not tied to the question of reproduction - it was addressing the issue of divorce.

The chart assumes that the large number of people negates Jesus' argument, and so returns to the question "why." The next option is "because the Bible clearly defines marriage as one-man-one-woman" to which the chart responds:
Wrong. The Bible also defines marriage as one-man-many-women, one man many wives and many concubines, a rapist and his victim, and conquering soldier and female prisoner of war.
This argument is itself wrong, which has already been thoroughly addressed in my previous post (link to post regarding Biblical definition of marriage). In very brief, the rapist/victim and soldier/prisoner examples are also one-man-one-woman examples. Moreover, the examples of polygamy are examples of a man being married multiple times, not of a multi-party marriage. Furthermore, polygamy is described but not condoned by the Bible. Finally, for the purposes of this particular argument, we should add that expanding the definition of marriage to include polygamy and concubinage still excludes "gay marriage."

The chart seems to think that this argument is helpful, however, and so it proceeds to a final option, from which the chart provides no "out." The chart's final option is: "Because it just disgusts me." The chart responds:
Props for being honest. However, a whole population of people shouldn't have their families discriminated against just because you think gay sex is icky. Grow up!
What "whole population" does the author have in mind? The whole population of Sodom? What the chart's author really means is, "the homosexuals" - and not really all of them, because most of them prefer promiscuity - but let's assume that it is all or most of them.

Their families aren't "discriminated against." What defines a family is the presence of parents and offspring. They are parts of families (they are offspring of parents), but they do not form their own families. But even if their social units were "families," they are not "discriminated against," simply because we don't mislabel their relationship "marriage," just as we are not discriminating against divorcees by failing to call them "widows" and "widowers."

Whether or not homosexual sex is "icky," is not really the point. We may think that toilets are icky, but we don't discriminate against plumbers who fix them.

But we can flip it on its head. Just because a small fraction of males think that women are "icky," and wish to abandon the natural use of women in favor of men, doesn't mean we have to make such perversion legal, much less pretend that a "committed relationship" that is based on such perversion is "marriage."


How the Bible Defines Marriage

There is a graphic that has made its way around various social media sites (example) that purports to describe "How the Bible Defines Marriage."

The graphic manages to oversimplify things, get things wrong, and needlessly complicate things. Let's address the needless complications first.

The Bible is pretty clear on the definition of marriage. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. There are many passages that illustrate this point - perhaps the easiest is "Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son." (Deuteronomy 7:3)

The situation in which a woman is given to a man is a marriage. There is more to it than that, of course. After all, there are such things as fornication, broadly encompassing adultery, rape, and prostitution, none of which are marriages.

The graphic needlessly complicates things by describing eight scenarios: one in which a man and a woman are shown, and then seven more. All that is needed is that first box of the graphic.

There are, remarkably, three more boxes that likewise show one man and one woman in this graphic. The only difference is that in these three, the people have different clothing/accessories. These are all actually examples of a man/woman marriage, so they aren't really alternatives to the "traditional" case at all.

Three of the remaining four boxes show one man plus more than one woman. There will be more discussion of these below, but these boxes are not really alternatives to the first box, either. Instead, they are instances in which one man is either married to one woman and has some kind of sexual relationship with other women or a man is married more than once. It is not as though there is a three-way knot tied, in which the women are bound to one another and their husband. Instead, the man is married twice (or more times).

The last remaining box is perhaps the creepiest looking, as it illustrates a skeleton plus a man plus a woman. It is a reference to the levirate law. The levirate law did not vary the "man plus woman" model. Instead, it provided for certain widows to be provided automatically with a husband. The very existence of the law presumes and emphasizes that marriages are between a man and a woman.

In short, all that was really needed was one box showing a man and a woman. That's how marriage is defined in the Bible. There is no other definition. There are lots of examples of marriages and other sexual behavior in the Bible, and there are quite a few laws about marriages in the Bible, but there is only one definition.

Now that we've seen that the graphic is needlessly complex, lets address some of its inaccuracies, by examining each block in turn.

First, within the "Man + Woman" block, the graphic states:
- wives subordinate to their husbands
-interfaith marriages forbidden
-marriages generally arranged, not based on romantic love
-bride who could not prove her virginity was stoned to death
The statement regarding subordination is certainly true. The Bible does teach that the man is head.

The only "interfaith marriages forbidden" are those between believers and unbelievers. Thus, for example, there is nothing in the Bible that forbids a Hindu and a Muslim from marrying one another, only one that forbids a Christian marrying a non-Christian.

Saying that marriages were "generally arranged," is probably a misstatement. Generally, marriages involved the father of the bride giving the woman to a man to be his wife. To induce him to give her to be the man's wife, the father was ordinarily given a dowry - a payment. Typically, young men would not have the financial means to give such a payment, and thus their fathers would be involved in making the payment to the fathers of the brides-to-be, to obtain them for their sons.

In such a process, romantic love may or may not play a part. Romantic love is something that would obviously incentivize a young man to work hard to obtain a dowry, or to beg his father to obtain one particular young lady rather than another.

Likewise, romantic love (or lack thereof) is something that would lead a young lady to try to influence her father's decision regarding potential suitors and suitable dowries. In other words, the marriage market was not the supermarket. Except in the case of heartless fathers, their daughters were not simply for sale to the highest bidder.

That said, it was not up to the young woman, and so the young woman's romantic love had only an indirect role. The young man's romantic love might have a greater role, although since sons were supposed to honor their parents, there was certainly a possibility that romantic love would be entirely overlooked.

The final point is the least accurate. The situation referenced is that described in Deuteronomy 22:14-21. In that passage, a man marries a woman and discovers that she was not a virgin. He then goes around telling people about this, to his wife's shame.

In this case, if the parents object they are to produce the evidence of her virginity. Once this is produced, the man is fined heavily and the man is prohibited from ever divorcing the woman (normally the law allowed for divorce).

On the other hand, if the it turns out that the man was right, and the woman was sexually experienced before marriage, then she was to be executed by stoning at the door of her father's house.

So, this was not simply a case that the woman was not a virgin, but that her husband discovered this after marriage and objected to it publicly, and it turned out to be true. There was no requirement that men deal with their disappointment about their wives' lack of virginity in this way. You may recall that when Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he thought about divorcing her quietly - which would not have invoked this provision of the law (he understandably assumed that she was not a virgin from the fact of pregnancy).

Moving on to the second box, the graphic lists "man + wives + concubines." The practice of concubinage is described in the Bible, but never endorsed. For example, while concubinage is mentioned in Genesis, in the law it is never described or regulated.

The next box is "man + woman + woman's property." The graphic cites Genesis 16 for the idea that "man could acquire his wife's property including her slaves." This is a strange claim, given

Genesis 16:3
And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.


Genesis 16:6 But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.

That doesn't seem very close to the graphic's description, at all. Moreover, note that this is an example of Abram entering into a second marriage. This, as with other polygamous marriages, is described but not endorsed.

The next box is "man + woman + woman + woman ... ." The Bible does describe many instances of polygamy (and specifically polygany). These, however, are examples of one man being married multiple times - not of a 700-1000 way marriage (in the case of Solomon). While the law does regulate polygamous men, it does not endorse polygamy. Indeed, "husband of one wife" is a requirement for elders and deacons in the New Testament, making it clear that monogamy is the moral requirement.

Continuing counter-clockwise, the next box is "male slave + female slave." It is true that the law provided for slaves to marry one another, and provided that the arrangement of this marriage was at the will of the slaves' master.

The next box is "male soldier + prisoner of war." Actually this is misleading, because "prisoner of war" is not an accurate description of a non-combatant woman captured during war. There was a specific provision whereby in certain cases women of conquered countries could be taken as wives, rather than being killed off or sold into slavery with the rest of the people of their nation. There were specific regulations of this practice, some of which are actually quite interesting.

The next box is "rapist + his victim." The passage cited for this Deuteronomy 22:28-29, which states:

Deuteronomy 22:28-29
If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.

Standing by itself, one might think that this referred to a situation of rape. There is, however, a parallel provision of the law in Exodus:

Exodus 22:16-17
And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.

This parallel passages suggests that Deuteronomy passage is referring to a seducer, not a rapist per se. Moreover, the Exodus passage makes it clear that the father still has the right to refuse his daughter to the seducer. If the father has the right to refuse in the case of seduction, much more in rape as well. Thus, while a father is given a right to insist on the marriage (and the dowry being paid), the father is not forced to give his daughter up.

It should be noted that while "lay hold on her" does sound like physical violence, it can just mean what it literally says. When, a few verses earlier, the law refers to the case of the rape of a betrothed woman, a different word (translated "force") is used. It's certainly broad enough to include rape, though. Whether it is intended to refer to rape, or not, the other parallel passage makes it clear that the marriage to the man is not automatic, but depends on the consent of the girl's father (as with all marriages where the daughter is still under her father's authority). In any case, the man must pay the dowry. The point of the law is, of course, about protecting a now unmarriageable woman (given that there was generally an expectation that a woman would be a virgin at marriage).

Incidentally, that's the same reason for the dowry - namely so that in case the man fails to continue to care for the girl (by divorcing her, for example), the patriarch of her family will have at least some means to maintain her. The point of the dowry is not to quantize the value of the woman, but to protect her against the case of divorce, both as a bond and as an insurance policy.

The final box of the graphic illustrates (somewhat eerily) a levirate marriage. The levirate law was designed to protect widows who had no son to provide for them. These women were entitled to have one of their husband's kinsmen marry and provide for them. The graphic is wrong to call the man her "brother-in-law." There is no brother-in-law after the death of a spouse. Moreover, the nearest male kinsman might be a cousin, rather than a brother. The point of this marriage was to provide for the welfare of the otherwise helpless widow.

The graphic says, "must submit sexually to her new husband," but both husbands and wives have that mutual obligation. In fact, the law regulates polygamy in certain cases by specifically requiring the husband to continue to feed, clothe, and fulfill his first wife's "duty of marriage" as he had done before. The New Testament explains more clearly:

1 Corinthians 7:4
The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

More could be said on this topic, but won't for now.

Finally, as noted above, the chart is incomplete. For example, there is no example of "man + female slave," which is a situation provided for in the law. Likewise, there is no discussion on the marriage limitations imposed on inheriting girls (girls in families that have no sons must marry within their own tribe). Furthermore, there is no discussion of the extensive rules prohibiting various types of incest, or of many of the rules related divorce, including the prohibition on leap-frog marriages (re-marriage to a woman you previously divorced unless she has remained single).

In other words, the Bible says a lot more about marriage than what appears on the graphic, what appears on the graphic is not completely accurate, and the graphic needlessly complicates the issue of how the Bible defines marriage, in that the Bible defines it - at a fundamental level - as the permanent union of a man and a woman.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Are Nations Supposed to be Concerned About Righteousness?

Some people seem to think that nations have no business in promoting morality in general or sexual morality in particular. There's not always a cogent reason for this objection, but often the presupposition behind the objection is that there is supposed to be separation of church and state, and that this separation should entail the state being concerned with "secular" things and the church being concerned with "religious" things. Morality is then identified as a "religious" thing, and so the objection concludes that the state has no business addressing issues of morality.

The Bible provides a counter-point. While there is separation of church and state in the Bible's example of the monarchy of Israel (the king was not the high priest, and the high priest was not the king), there is also significant areas of overlapping concern. The king (not the high priest) was supposed to enforce a lot of laws that clearly were designed to regulate morality, while the high priest was supposed to provide for sacrifices for sins.

Some have imagined that the example of Israel is not set forward to be an example for the nations. On one level, that's true. There are certain aspects of Israel's system that have passed out of existence. The old administration of the worship of God has passed away, particularly in view of the coming of the last and greatest priest, Jesus.

Nevertheless, church and state remain. Thus, the question remains - whether the state, as such, should be concerned about righteousness.

The Bible has the answer:

Proverbs 14:34
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.

My point is not to emphasize the word "any," which is added by the translators, but rather to emphasize that this is presented as a gnomic truth (the point the translators conveyed with "any"). Sin and righteousness are something that leads God to treat nations as nations in a particular way. Thus, nations as nations have an interest in promoting righteousness and suppressing sin.