Conservative Theology

August 02, 2013

Religion and Politics / Money and Gay Marriage

JB

I was reading an article recently against gay marriage by a child of a gay couple.  One statement from the article really struck me:

I support same-sex civil unions and foster care, but I have always resisted the idea that government should encourage same-sex couples to imagine that their partnerships are indistinguishable from actual marriages. Such a self-definition for gays would be based on a lie, and anything based on a lie will backfire.

I think that this is the heart of where the concern from conservatives comes.  There are many practical problems with gay marriage.  Many social problems with gay marriage.  Many moral and spiritual problems with gay marriage.  However, even more than that, eating at the back of our minds, is the knowledge that, whatever you want to call it, it really isn't marriage, and playing pretend always leads to bad social consequences down the road.

For instance, when we play pretend with money, it eventually backfires.  When we get into debt, and misperceive and mislabel that debt as wealth, then we run into problems.  This is true for the individual going on a credit card shopping spree.  It is also true of the government, providing services and being hugely in debt.  Because the true nature of the money was misunderstood, many actions - some of them very subtle - compound together to lead to large societal problems down the road.

Similarly, if we pretend that sexual relationships between male/male and female/female are in the same category as marriage, we deceive ourselves again.  Of course, this is based on even earlier deceptions about male and female.  Our current society has lied to us to say that men and women are exactly the same except for the specific sexual organs.  That is the big lie that undergirds all of the small lies, and is at the heart of why the male/female relationship is totally different than male/male or female/female.  

The second lie that undergirds the lie of gay marriage is the lie that societal ideals don't matter anymore.  That is what is behind all of the "what we do doesn't matter to you".  Even if it were true that your actions behind closed doors doesn't matter, marriage is about defining the cultural standard.  So, when you bring it out into the public definition of marriage, it actually does affect us all.  The goals and virtues of a society eventually get reflected in its children, no matter whose they are.  It is a simple falsehood to say that it doesn't.

Marriage is about the ideal of a united humanness.  There are two sides to humanity - male and female, and marriage is the celebration and the substance of the bond that joins them together.  To call a male/male or female/female relationship a marriage is to simply misunderstand the term.

This blog has touched upon several larger-scale issues with gay marriage and society, but I think even deeper, that we will lose on a thousand subtler issues the very fabric of our society, because we will constantly be repeating to ourselves lies about who we are and what makes humanity whole.

 

June 28, 2013

Religion and Politics / A Better Libertarian Approach to Marriage

JB

I think many Libertarians have been hoodwinked on the marriage issue.  There are several views which popular Libertarians seem to take.  One is "the government should not have anything to do with marriage".  Another is "the government has no authority to not allow gay marriage".

The problem with both of these opinions is that they are naive about the fundamental integration of marriage with society.  In other words, marriage and children are such a fundamental part of society, that if a government ignores these institutions, the government has, in fact, ignored the society it is supposed to govern.

It would be like setting down rules for basketball, but not mentioning the basket or the ball.

The fact is that marriage and its expectations - for society, government, contracting, obligations, responsibilities, presumptions, etc., require that governments have some working definition of what marriage is in order to deal with it effectively.  Is a child being neglected by his parents?  How could you who his parents are without a marriage policy?  What about custody rights in divorce cases?  Again, some view of marriage has to be presupposed.  It *cannot* be contract law, because the responsibility and upbringing of a human being is outside the realm of contracts.  Husbands and wives don't have to testify against each other.  Again, this presupposes some view of marriage.

Now, Libertarians don't want the government involved with the marriage process.  I agree with this totally.  However, this does not mean that the government shouldn't have a definition or understanding of marriage.  The best Libertarian option is not to leave marriage undefined in governance (and, by extension, to have governance have no relevance to human life experience), but rather to re-establish common law marriages.

Common law marriages are marriages which the state recognizes without the participants having to have gotten an official state certificate.  The nice thing about having a certificate of marriage is that the state makes its position on your relationship official and clear.  The nice thing about common law marriages is that it allows you to live your life free and clear of the state so long as you are living within proper bounds.  It is only if one neglects their duties that the state becomes involved at all.  

To put it succinctly, I think the Libertarian idea of leaving the concept of marriage out of government is foolish and naive, and this latest wave of naievity has caused many normally clear-headed Libertarians to essentially sit out the marriage policy debate, for the worse for us all.  The better option is not to ignore or sidestep marriage policy debate, but rather to find ways, such as common law marriage, in which people who are living rightly can pursue their lives completely unencumbered by the state.

October 28, 2012

Religion and Politics / Hobby Lobby, Obama's Healthcare Law, and What it Means to be a Corporation

JB

Many people have been talking about <a href="http://newsok.com/federal-government-says-hobby-lobby-cannot-raise-religious-objections-to-insurance-requirements/article/3722053">this story</a> about the government forbidding Hobby Lobby to apply for religious exemption to Obama's law.  

The claim being made by conservatives is that the Obama administration is impinging on the religious expression of Hobby Lobby.  That is not the case.  I hate the Obama law, and I certainly think it should be repealed.  The law itself is an abomination to religion, but not its particular application to Hobby Lobby.

As I said, I disagree with Obama's law itself, and think it is horrendous and should be repealed. But I don't disagree with the idea that Hobby Lobby should be held to that law, for one simple reason - Hobby Lobby is a corporation, not a private business. Corporations are created to shield its investors from personal risk, because the idea is that the corporation serves a purpose independent of the investors/owners. In other words, corporations have put themselves under the umbrella of the public, in order to shield the actual investors from legal action and certain forms of taxation. Therefore, it is certainly legitimate for the state to require that the corporations do things even if the owners/investors don't like it. They ceded that moral right when they incorporated. Again, I disagree wholly with the law, but agree that, as it stands, the law applies to Hobby Lobby.  People starting businesses need to start paying closer attention to the moral issues involved, and not just look at the tax/liability implications.  

In other words, tell your lawyer and your accountant to shove it when it comes to moral decisions.  And, lawyers and accountants, you are not doing your customers any service when you ignore the ethical/personal side of the decisions you counsel them on.

September 23, 2012

Religion and Politics / Why Conservatism - the Importance of Social Norms

JB

Just saw this <a href="http://www.freerangekids.com/playgroup-suspended-for-lack-of-insurance/">article on Free Range Kids</a>.  Basically, a playgroup is *disbanding* because of lack of insurance.  Isn't that crazy?  Kids - don't play with your friends because they may not be well insured for when we sue them!

This is, specifically, what I hate about America today.

I believe in a world in which living according to accepted norms gives you the freedom to just be in community. This is as much the fault of the liberals (who reject the freedoms) as it is the libertarians (who reject the norms). It is even the fault - to some extent - of the conservatives, who never thought it necessary to teach the value of social norms to other people.

For you confused libertarians - without the norms, everyone *must* have insurance, and *must* have presigned waivers, because there are no norms otherwise to govern the interaction.

For you confused liberals - just watch the President's interview with Letterman. Don't you think someone should be able to brew beer in their own home without having to go ask a lawyer about all the regulations? Don't you see how being regulation-happy doesn't hurt big businesses (who can pay the lawyers), but just hurts the individuals, who are now not free to their basic personhood anymore.

July 10, 2011

General / A Sermonette in Celebration of Marriage

JB

In this day and age, we often forget what marriage is about.  Is it about children?  Sex?  Loneliness?  What?  It is this lack of understanding of marriage that leads to so many problems in the family.  Therefore, when my brother-in-law asked me to give a sermonette in his wedding to introduce the scripture reading (1 Corinthians 13), I decided to celebrate his marriage by reminding them and everyone about just how important marriage is, and what it is for in the first place.  So, here is my sermon.  Feel free to use it for your own weddings if you like it: 

We are here today to celebrate the marriage of Billy and Stasia.  It is worthwhile to take a moment and reflect on this mystical union between man and woman.  Aristotle noted that all civilization starts with the natural attraction between husband and wife, which brings them together to form a family, and from the interactions of families, we get towns and cities.  Thus we see in Billy and Stasia not only the beginning of their lives together, but the very roots of society spreading further.

Not only is marriage the foundation of society, but it is also the foundation of unity in humanity.  The divide between man and woman is the ultimate divide.  Races can be mixed.  Religions can be syncretized.  Cultures can be influenced.  But man and woman have been split from the beginning, more distant than any two tribes or nations, and no amount of breeding can ever remove the boundary.  It is only through marriage that the two parts of humanity are reunited back into one.  And it is marriage as a symbol of unity that gives us all hope for any peace among anyone else.

However, since men and women are so different, sometimes maintaining unity is difficult.  God gives us some help in nature by giving us attractions to each other.  As Garth Brooks said, "Some times we fight just so we can make up"!  While attraction brings us together, it doesn't bond.  For that, we need love.  Some days choosing to love is easy, and other days it is harder.  But we must choose it each and every day, for it is the highest Christian virtue.  

June 05, 2011

Religion and Politics / Dennis Prager vs Perez Hilton on Gay Marriage

JB

A very good and insightful debate.  Prager managed to get in some key philosophical points in a short discussion.  Most important was the discussion about whether the differences between men and women was a matter of body parts alone, or if there were deeper differences.  If there are deeper differences, then there are things which a mother/father can provide which is different not just in degree but in kind which a mother/mother or father/father cannot provide.

Watch Video

Another good, interesting vide:

Watch video

May 19, 2011

Religion and Science / Spirituality and Physics

JB

Some of you might be interested in my new article on physics and faith at Classical Conversations.

May 09, 2011

General / Francis Schaeffer on Academics

JB

Someone sent me this quote, and I thought it was worthwhile:

Sadly we must say that in the area of scholarship the evangelical world has not done well. In every academic discipline the temptation and pressure to accommodate is overwhelming. Evangelicals were right in their rejection of a poor pietism which shut Christianity up into a very narrow area of spiritual life. Evangelicals were right in emphasizing the Lordship of Christ over all areas of culture art, philosophy, society, government, academics, and so on. But then what happened? Many young evangelicals heard this message, went out into the academic world, and earned their undergraduate and graduate degrees from the finest secular schools. But something happened in the process. In the midst of totally humanistic colleges and universities, and a totally humanistic orientation in the academic disciplines, many of these young evangelicals began to be infiltrated by the anti-Christian world view which dominated the thinking of their colleges and professors. In the process, any distinctively evangelical Christian point of view was accommodated to the secularistic thinking in their discipline and to the surrounding world spirit of our age. To make the cycle complete, many of these have now returned to teach at evangelical colleges where what they present in their classes has very little that is distinctively Christian.

Note that this criticism is not a call for intellectual retreat and a new anti-intellectualism. Evangelical Christians should be better scholars than non-Christians because they know that there is truth in contrast to the relativism and narrow reductionism of every discipline. But too often Christians have naively entered the academic world with a glassy-eyed fascination and left their critical judgment and Christian truth behind.

The battle we are in rages most intensely in the academic world. Every academic discipline has dominated secularist thinking especially in the behavioral sciences, the humanities, and the arts. Part of our task as Christians is to carefully understand and study these areas—but then to respond critically from a distinctively Christian point of view. But note, as I pointed out in the preceding chapter, this involves two things: 1) being truly Bible-believing; and 2) facing the results of the surrounding wrong world view with loving, but definite confrontation. Please do not take this lightly. We cannot retreat and shut Christianity up to a narrow view of spirituality; but in the totally secularistic academic world the dangers and the temptations are profound. It is very difficult to live in this world as a college or university student for four years or longer and not become infiltrated by the surrounding world-view.

(in The Complete Works of Fr. Schaeffer,  vol. 4: 385-387)

March 13, 2011

Religion and Science / Faith and Science Article at Classical Conversations

JB

For anyone interested, I have started writing a monthly article for the website for Classical Conversations, which is a homeschooling community.  My first article is on the various relationships that people think about regarding faith and science.  You can read it here.

April 11, 2010

Religion and Science / (Almost) Believing in Divine Action

JB

One thing that many people have always told me is that there is a difference between knowing something and believing it.  You only really believe something when that belief has practical consequences for your life.  I might know that God knows what's best for me, but if I continually act against His will, what does that say about my true beliefs about God?

In the same vein, I want to discuss Waltke's leaving Reformed Theological Seminary.  For those who don't know, Waltke is an evangelical who is also a semi-theistic evolutionist.  His recent comments in a Biologos video, indicating that those who "disregard science" are in danger of making Christianity a cult, got him in hot water, and I believe he resigned.

In any case, I wanted to look at some of the things Waltke says, and why, rather than help the cause of Divine Action in the world, they actually play right into the hands of the materialists.

Here is Waltke's summary of his position, and my comments:

1. [God] created all the things that are out of nothing and sustains them

This is fine, but it leads to nothing interesting.  That is, it doesn't have many practical consequences on its own.

2. incredibly, against the laws probability, [God] finely tuned the essential properties of the universe to produce ADAM, who is capable of reflecting upon their origins

This is still pretty vague. First of all, how does Waltke know how probable the universe is?  This is a pretty safe claim, precisely because it doesn't lead to any definitively positive statement about anything.

3. within his providence [God] allowed the process of natural selection and of cataclysmic interventions – such as the meteor that extinguished the dinosaurs, enabling mammals to dominate the earth – to produce awe-inspiring creatures, especially ADAM [by Adam he means the human race].

So did God do this or just allow it to happen.  If it is the former, what are the marks of the catastrophe, and how does it differ from natural acts?  How are we to understand, theologically, God wiping out the dinosaurs?  What was the reason for their creation in the first place, in order to wipe them out?  Why did God need to use a meteor, rather than just create humans?

4. by direct creation [God] made ADAM a spiritual being, an image of divine beings, for fellowship with himself by faith

What are the properties of a spiritual being?  Are they biological in character?  Or is this just another nebulous claim? 

5. [God] allowed ADAM to freely choose to follow their primitive animal nature and to usurp the rule of God instead of living by faith in God, losing fellowship with their physical and spiritual Creator.

Where? When? How?  What did life look like before humans did this?  What was the effect of it happening?

6. and in his mercy [God] chose from fallen ADAM the Israel of God, whom he regenerated by the Holy Spirit, in connection with their faith in Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, for fellowship with himself.

Well, finally, there we get something concrete.  Of course, this part has nothing to do with Creation.

So, do you see the pattern?  Waltke is painting all sorts of nebulous theological ideas, which are mere superficial dressing over evolutionary biology.  What happens to a lot of people is that they start out believing this, but then shortly realize that 1-5 are entirely superfluous!  The have no practical impact on anything.  If they were removed, you probably wouldn't notice.

God didn't do anything, He just allowed it to happen, or, if He did do something, He did it in such a way as to look just like He did nothing.

Here's the deal - I don't mind theistic evolution so much as I mind this complete capitulation to naturalism.  Might the belief in God have *some* effect on what you believe in science?  Behe, for instance, has tried to show explicit design in the world through Irreducible Complexity.  He might be right or wrong, but he is at least saying, this is something which is (a) different from a naturalistic belief, and (b) has practical consequences to biology.

Some people worry because, *gasp* what if it is proven wrong? Here's the deal - almost everything we think we know will probably be proven wrong at some point.  Deal with it.  We need to work with what we have, and take every thought captive to the knowledge of Christ.  That means that we should not engage science as materialists.  While Waltke claims he is not doing this, in practice he is.  Despite the fact that the scientific world is steeped in materialist thinking, Waltke provides no fundamental critique of their results.  One would think that having such a wrong starting point might cause their results to be off in some practical, identifiable way, not merely in some esoteric way.

So, while he does, at least in words, give a challenge to naturalistic thinking, *in practice* his view plays right into their hands.  Because one day his students will wake up and realize that all of the theologizing was superfluous window dressing, and it was the materialistic paradigm which was doing all of the heavy lifting.  Hopefully when this happens they will say, "how can we fix this?"  But I fear that Waltke's own teaching of deference to science on all questions of natural history will cause them to instead simply cast off the theology as irrelevant to reality.