Monday, April 29, 2013

What God Thinks About Modern Western Society

    We have been considering some of the differences between Christianity and Islam, and have noted that the concept of jihad is rooted both in the Quran and Islamic history. But does that make Western society superior to the Islamic world? What does God think about us?
    Atheists sometimes advance what is known as the moral argument against the Bible: the Bible cannot possibly be taken seriously as a moral guide because it shocks and offends our sensibilities. The critics who advance this argument will point to certain episodes, mostly contained in the Old Testament, such as Abraham being told to sacrifice his son Isaac, the Israelites being told to wipe out the Canaanites, the toleration of slavery, and the treatment of women generally. The argument is then made that the Bible reflects the barbaric standards of a primitive society, and therefore cannot be taken seriously today.
    The criticism, however, masks a fatal weakness on the part of the critic. In order to sit in judgment on the Bible, one must have a standard external to the Bible by which to judge it. But what is the standard, and where does it come from? When pressed the critic is generally forced to admit that there is no standard – most modern secular critics of the Bible do not admit the existence of moral absolutes. In their view there is no universally binding moral code. Morality is culturally relative.
    But if morality is culturally relative, how can someone in one culture sit in judgment on another culture? He is inevitably applying the culturally relative standards of his own, modern, Western society on others. One might ask, however, how a modern society that could drop an atomic bomb on a civilian population during World War II could sit in judgment of an ancient moral code that contains such quaint aphorisms as "thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," or how a society that can support a multi-billion dollar sex industry can criticize the way women were treated in the Bible, but such is the arrogance of modern Western (politically correct) society.
Modern Progress

    But beyond that we ask the fundamental question: should we judge God by our standards, or should we judge ourselves by His? Exactly who or what determines right and wrong in the first place? Once it is conceded that God exists, the answer is obvious. If God is the Creator, Sustainer, and Judge, His will is normative. His opinion is the only one that counts. It is for us to comply with His standards.
    In point of fact God has told us what He thinks of us. In Romans 1:18-32 we have a scathing critique of a society in deep moral decline – and it is an apt description of us.
    The apostle Paul is writing to the early Christian church in the city of Rome. He had never been there before, and he was describing to the Roman Christians his mission and his message. In setting the stage for his exposition of the Christian gospel he records his impressions of Graeco-Roman society. It is a remarkable piece of psychological insight.
    Interestingly, in his analysis of human society he traces the moral decline to a form of secularism. "The wrath of God," he says, "is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men . . ." (Rom. 1:18; NKJV). "Ungodliness" is the failure, or perhaps we should say, the refusal to acknowledge God. "Unrighteousness" is the failure to live by His laws. What makes this a crime in God's sight? The fact that God is our Creator and we owe everything to Him. We are surrounded by evidence in nature of God's wisdom and power, and our conscience bears witness to His existence as well. Hence our refusal to acknowledge His is nothing less that a species of moral rebellion against our Creator. It is the clenched fist of human defiance, and if affects our whole way of looking at reality. They "became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools . . ." (vv. 21,22).
    And how does God respond to this? "Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves" (v. 24). As hard as it may seem to believe, God sometimes abandons us to our own lusts. People sometimes say that they see no evidence of God at work in the world today, and up to a point they are absolutely right. God is largely absent from our world, and for good reason. When we ignore Him, when we systematically exclude Him from our thinking and our lives, we fall under His judgment. He leaves us to our own devices.
    The "sexual revolution" is a symptom of this abandonment by God, and the prevalence of homosexuality is specifically mentioned as a particularly egregious example of this. "For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful" (vv. 26,27). It is a picture of a society sunk in moral degeneracy.
    The terminal stage of social and moral decline is marked by a wide range of compulsive, anti-social and self-destructive behavior. And not only is the behavior indulged in, it is openly condoned. " . . . who knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them" (v. 32). It has become a truly godless society.
    It is not hard to see the parallels with modern western society. We have witnessed the radical secularization of our culture, and with it the breakdown of public morality. We have become sexually permissive, and marriage has largely become a meaningless institution. A whole generation of children is being reared in dysfunctional one-parent households. Yet even as we careen toward the precipice of social disintegration, we lack the presence of mind to turn around. We have become a morally bankrupt society bent on self-destruction.
    "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting . . . " (v. 28).

For a fascinating article by Rod Dreher of The American Conservative on gay marriage and the sexual revolution, see Sex After Christianity

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Christianity and Islam

The Sacrifice of Isaac. (According to Islamic tradition, it was Ishmael who was nearly sacrificed)
In our last blog post we discussed the difference in attitude between Christianity and Islam toward violence. But there is a more profound difference the two religions, one that strikes right at the very essence of religion itself, and that is in the nature of our relationship with God.

    There are similarities between the two religions, of course. Both are monotheistic: they both believe that there is only one God Who is the Maker of heaven and earth. But what makes Christianity unique and distinctive is its belief in a Savior – a divine-human being who came into the world and died on a cross to save us from our sins. This notion Islam utterly rejects.
    "O People of the Book! / Commit no excesses / In your religion: nor say / Of Allah aught but the truth. / The Messiah Jesus son of Mary, / And a Spirit proceeding / From Him: so believe / In Allah and His Messengers. / Say not 'Trinity': desist" (Quran 4:171). To a devout Muslim to say that God is three-in-one is thinly disguised polytheism, and is blasphemy.
    Does it make a difference? Yes! For a Christian the idea of a Savior is crucial.
    Both Christianity and Islam believe that God is the sovereign Ruler of the universe and is just. Both religions teach that there will be a Last Judgment in which God will reward good and punish evil. But what Islam fails to reckon with is the extent and depth of human depravity. It is, of course, obvious that the world is full of evil – everything from marital spats to world wars. We are confronted with dishonesty and discord on a daily basis. But what is the cause of all this dysfunction? The Bible offers a striking diagnosis: the root problem is human nature. "The heart is deceitful above all things, / And desperately wicked; / Who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9; NKJV). And then the prophet adds this terrifying prospect: "I, the Lord, search the heart, / I test the mind, / Even to give every man according to his ways, / According to the fruit of his doings" (v. 10). What makes the judgment of God different from that of a human court is that God is able to examine our inward motives. And no matter what pretense we can maintain before our fellow human beings, God knows the real truth about who we are, and how we think and feel.
    That being the case, how will any of us escape divine scrutiny? How will any withstand God's judgment? For the plain fact of the matter is that we are all guilty in His sight. "The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, / To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. / They have all turned aside, / They have together become corrupt; / There is none who does good, / No, not one" (Ps. 14:2,3).
    It is at this point that the Bible proposes a unique solution to the problem. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Jesus claimed to be more than just a prophet; He is the Son of God and Savior of mankind. Coexisting eternally with the Father, He came into the world by being born of a virgin, died upon the cross as an atonement for our sin, and then rose from the dead and ascended back into heaven, where He sits at the right hand of God the Father making intercession for us. Because Christ alone is qualified to be the Savior, there is no salvation apart from Him.
    Islam, then, leaves us in a hopeless position. It acknowledges the fact that God is just and will judge the world, but leaves us with no means of atoning for our sins and reconciling us to God. It's only answer to our innate lack of righteousness is "try harder." But if we are at all honest with ourselves, and measure ourselves by God's standards, we are left with the certain prospect of damnation. This is why Christianity, and only Christianity, can meet the need of mankind. Islam is a non-solution to the problem.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Radical Islam v. the West

Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Dzhokhar Tsarneav
    The major news event of this past week, at least here in the U.S., was the terrorist bombing at the Boston Marathon on Monday. One suspect was subsequently killed in a shootout; the other is now in custody. They were brothers: Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – Muslims of Chechen extraction.
    It is too soon to know for sure exactly what their motives were. Friends and acquaintances find it hard to believe that they would have been capable of such a crime. But there is some evidence to suggest that the older of the two brothers, Tamerlan, had become more serious about his Islamic faith in recent years, and that he was troubled by what his fellow Chechens had suffered at the hands of the Russians, as well as the ongoing civil war in Syria. He also reportedly had difficulty relating to American culture.
    The bombing was just one more in a string of events involving the Islamic world that has left Americans baffled. Why the hostility? What have we done to them? How can one justify terrorism in the name of religion?
    Part of the problem is that we tend to assume that Islam is much like the religions with which we are familiar: Christianity and Judaism. But it is not, and understanding the differences is crucial to making sense out of the world situation today. Consider two key events: one in Christianity and the other in Islam.
    According to the Gospel of John, shortly before His crucifixion, when Jesus appeared before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Pilate asked Him straight out: "Are You the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33; NKJV). Jesus answered that "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (v. 36).
    The Jews had been looking for a political Messiah to deliver them from Roman rule. But in its present form at least, Jesus' kingdom is not an earthly kingdom – it is not a geo-political entity that can be defended through force of arms. Rather, it is a spiritual kingdom – it exists in the hearts of believers who embrace the gospel.
    Now fast forward nearly 600 years. The scene is a valley near the city of Badr, about eighty miles southwest of Medina in the Arabian Peninsula. On the one side is a relatively small band of Muslims led by Mohammed. On the other side was a larger force from Mecca determined to stamp out the Mohammedan nuisance (the Muslims had been raiding caravans). Mohammed pleas for divine guidance. He believes he received it; the Muslims attack, and the Meccans are routed. It was the beginning of a long march of conquest through the Near East and North Africa.
    In a Surah written shortly before the Battle of Badr, Mohammed lays out the rules for his community. He says, among other things, "Fight in the cause of Allah / Those who fight you, / But do not transgress limits; / For Allah loveth not transgressors. / And slay them / Wherever ye catch them, / And turn them out / From where they have / Turned you out; / For tumult and oppression / Are worse than slaughter; / But fight them not / At the Sacred Mosque, / Unless they (first) / Fight you there; / But if they fight you, / Slay them. / Such is the reward / Of those who suppress faith . . ." (2: 190, 191).
    It is important to recognize two things here. One is that the use of force in the defense of the faith is explicitly sanctioned in the Koran. The second is that there are rules that govern the use of force: indiscriminate killing is not permitted.
Sir John Glubb

    Sir John Glubb, a former British army officer who was once Commander of the Arab Legion, summarized the difference between the two cultures this way: "Their respective attitudes to the legitimacy of physical force has, ever since then, been one of the most marked contrasts between Muslims and Christians . . . The fact that Muslims believe that war can sometimes be a religious duty has resulted in the fact that Muslim soldiers are often extremely religious and enjoy a far higher status than they do in Christian countries." But then he went on to add, " . . . once violence is admitted, it is all too easily abused" (A Short History of the Arab Peoples, chapter II).

    The majority of Muslims today do not support the terrorist campaigns of the radical jihadis, but the jihadis themselves believe that they have just cause. They can point to the actions of Israel and to tyrannical governments in their own countries, and to the tacit support that the U.S. government gives to both as ample reason to attack us. We need to understand and address their concerns. Simply calling them "terrorists" resolves nothing. At the same time it will do little good to pretend that Islam is no different from Christianity. Muslims cannot be expected to think and act like Christians. And "by their fruits you shall know them."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Globalization: Good or Bad?

    It is always interesting to think back in time and see how much the world has changed over the years. The world of our youth (speaking for those of us who are of a certain generation) was very different from the world today. The Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is gone, and Chairman Mao is in his grave.
    But along with this changes have occurred profound alterations in the global economy as well. Trade barriers have fallen. Once underdeveloped countries have industrialized, and a global economy has emerged.

   In this connection we are reminded of an interesting debate that took place thirty years ago over economics and our moral obligations to the poor. Back in 1977 Christian author Ronald J. Sider published a book entitles Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger: A Biblical Study. He furnished an array of statistics to demonstrate what was perfectly obvious at the time, viz., that there was a vast disparity of wealth between the industrialized countries of the western world and the underdeveloped "Third World." He then examined the biblical teachings on wealth and poverty, including Old Testament poor laws and the practice of the 1st Century church. He went on to suggest that the wealthy nations were exploiting the poor ones. Trade barriers, he pointed out, were weighted in favor of the wealthy countries.
    The key question, then, is what to do about all of this. Sider had several suggestions: simple living, increased giving, and efforts to change national policy.
    Sider's book drew forth a vigorous response from David Chilton, a Christian Reconstructionist who once worked closely with Gary North. In 1981 Chilton published a volume entitled Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators. It even had a cover that looked similar to Sider's book. A second edition appeared in 1982 along with a preface from North himself, and the book was dedicated to none other than Pat Robertson, "a 'productive Christian' who is leading God's people to victory."

    Chilton was a very strong advocate of free-market economics and was firmly opposed to almost any form of government interference. What especially drew his ire about Sider's book was its tacit support for government planning and attempts to redistribute wealth. Chiltondid not deny that poverty and hunger were real problems, but strongly disagreed with Sider about the causes. Whereas Sider tended to capitalism for the maldistribution of resources, Chilton cited corruption, government planning, and underlying cultural factors as the causes. His solution: evangelism, Christian schools in poor neighborhoods, and political action aimed at abolishing government interference in the economy.
    Both authors appealed to biblical precepts in support of their ideas, and both called for political pressure to change national policy. On the whole we would have to say that Sider's theology was better than his economics, while the opposite is true for Chilton. But it can be argued that they both shared one common flaw: they were both trying to apply biblical principles to society at large. It is doubtful that the great mass of humanity can ever be persuaded to live by biblical standards, although in Chilton's favor it should be pointed that he was a Postmillennialist – he was convinced that society would get progressively better before Christ returns.
    Both men thought that trade barriers were a major cause of Third World poverty. But while Sider wanted to tip the scales in favor of the developing countries, Chilton wanted to eliminate trade barriers altogether.
    Today we can report that their prayers have been answered, perhaps beyond their wildest imaginations. Trade barriers have come down; countries like India and even China have abandoned socialism and adopted free-market economies. The new global economy has lifted millions of people around the world out of poverty. But it has been a mixed blessing: millions of Americans have seen their jobs get shipped overseas.
    In his book The Audacity of Hope, President Obama tells of a trip he made to Galesburg, IL during his 2004 run for the U.S. Senate. The town had seen several manufacturing plants close their doors. The president of the local machinists' union described the hardships endured by the laid off workers. After winning the election, during a Senate debate over CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement), Mr. Obama asked former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin whether there was any basis for the fears expressed by the workers in Galesburg. Rubin was cautiously optimistic, but noted that "with the pace of technological change, the size of the countries we're competing against, and the cost differentials with those countries, we see a different dynamic emerge." As Mr. Obama pointed out in reply, "the folks in Galesburg might not find that answer reassuring" (The Audacity of Hope, p. 175).
    It is sometimes said that capitalism is a process of "creative destruction." But in this instance we fear that what is being destroyed is the traditional American way of life, and that what is being created is a New World Order controlled by a small number of super-rich plutocrats.
    Is there a better way?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ron Paul, Gary North and Moses

    Recently a frequent commenter on our blog mentioned Christian Theocracy movements, and we responded, in part, that we were familiar with the writings of some of the leaders of the movement, and mentioned in particular Gary North. As Providence would have it, at about the same time an atheist blogger at Patheos, Libby Anne ( Love, Joy, Feminism) wrote a blog post entitled "The Bizarre Libertarian / Christian Reconstructionist Alliance." She noted that the leading libertarian politician Ron Paul has started his own home-school curriculum, and that the curriculum director is none other than the very same Gary North!
    For those not familiar with Mr. North, he is an economist who became closely associated with the late Rousas J. Rushdoony, one of the founders of the Christian Reconstructionist movement, even marrying Rushdoony's daughter. The basic premise of the movement is that the Old Testament Law is still valid today and should be applied to American society. As Libby Anne pointed out, this means, among other things, stoning adulterers and homosexuals.
    How is it possible, Libby Anne wants to know, to combine libertarianism with theocracy? "I'm having a hard time reconciling the libertarian ideas of freedom from government interference, legal marijuana, etc., with a Christian theocracy based on the Old Testament legal code. Something extremely strange is going on here."
    Something strange indeed. But it should come as no surprise that Gary North is working with Ron Paul. He was first hired by Paul as a research assistant when Paul was first elected to Congress in 1976. The problem, rather, is a jarring disjunction between North's economic philosophy and his professed attachment to biblical ideals.
    Libby Anne tells us that she can "understand how people combine Christian social conservatism with libertarian positions on economics . . ." If she does, she understands more than we do. Rather, we think that North has misunderstood biblical economics.
    North has been committed to the "Austrian School" of economics right from the very beginning. The problem is that when he became associated with Rushdoony he read laissez-faire capitalism back into the Bible. It was Vienna thinly disguised as Jerusalem; Ludwig von Mises masquerading as Moses. But they are actually quite different.
    The real Moses actually had quite a lot to say about economics. While it is true that an essentially free market was allowed to operate, and no provision was made for an elaborate welfare system run by the state, the idea of the private ownership of property was significantly qualified. Every seven years debts were to be forgiven and slaves were to be freed, and every fifty years agricultural land was to be returned to its original owners. Farmers were to leave the corners of their fields unharvested so that the poor could come in and take what they needed. The underlying principle in all of this was "you shall love your neighbor as yourself: (Lev. 19:18; NKJV). ". . . you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need, whatever he needs" (Dt. 15:7,8).
    Rushdoony, in his landmark work The Institutes of Biblical Law (Craig Press, 1973), insisted that all true law, if it is to be valid and binding, must ultimately flow from the Creator Himself. He rejected natural law concepts and denied the state the power to enact positive law. ". . . revealed law is the need and privilege of Christian society" (p. 10). Yet Rushdoony was capable of using creative exegesis to explain passages that seemed to with his free-market assumptions.
Rousas J. Rushdoony

    In his treatment of the Eighth Commandment ("Thou shalt not steal"), Rushdoony begins with a discussion of "dominion." The concept of private property is rooted in the fact that God created man to have dominion over the earth. Thus, Rushdoony says, "Man has a God-given urge to dominion, to power" (p. 450). He then goes on to discuss theft, which he defines as "taking another man's property by coercion, fraud, or without his uncoerced consent" (p. 452). This, he says, would include "passing a law which steals from the rich, the poor, or the middle-classes, for the benefit of a particular group. The state then becomes the agency whereby theft is accomplished, and a pseudo-moral cover is given by legal enactment."
    But what about those laws in the Mosaic code that require the redistribution of land every fifty years? According to Rushdoony, they have no applicability outside of Palestine. He then concludes by saying that "The purpose of Biblical law with reference to land is to ensure the security of man in his property . . . "(p. 493). Thus it became possible for North to meld the "Austrian School" of economicsd with a professed regard for biblical law.
    They are, in fact, fundamentally different. In a secular legal system there is no sense of moral accountability to a transcendent Supreme Being. Hence the emphasis tends to fall on property rights. What's mine is mine, and I get to keep it. One of the chief functions of the state is to protect my property. But if one looks at human society from the standpoint of God, the Supreme Law-Giver, humanitarian concerns become more important. It is unconscionable that some should starve while others live in luxury. God is less concerned with helping millionaires keep their millions than He is with meeting the basic needs of the poor. "A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, / Is God in His holy habitation" (Psalm 68:5). Granted, there was no elaborate state-run social welfare system; rather the moral burden for caring for the poor rested directly on property owners, usually through extended family relationships.
    Libby Anne is right: there is a contradiction between libertarianism and theocracy. But it does not appear that Ron Paul has fatally compromised his values. The proposed curriculum says little about Theonomy or Christian Reconstructionism. It does not even contain a Bible curriculum as far as we can see. But it says a great deal about free market economics. It is Gary North who has made the fatal concessions. We do not think that either Ron Paul or Ludwig von Mises pretended to be biblical in their approach. The problem is that neither is Gary North.

Other blog posts you might enjoy:
Wealth Management 
Capitalism and the Sabbath 
The Social Agenda of the Tea Party 
Capitalism and Christianity (click herehere, and here)
Jesus and the Torah 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

God’s Portrait of Modern Society

Dore: Moses Breaking the Tables of the Law
 We have been discussing the current debate about "gay marriage" and the two cases surrounding the issue now before the U.S. Supreme Court. The attorneys opposing gay marriage are required to present a secular argument against the idea, which amounts to a pragmatic argument that gay marriage is somehow harmful to American society. But there is a deeper issue to all of this as well. As human beings we must also ask the ultimate question, what does our Creator think about all of this?

    The easy answer is that "God loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life," as one famous religious tract once put it, and in a sense that is perfectly correct. But the whole truth is more complicated than that. God loves us, but He is also angry with us. Why, you ask? Because we have rebelled against Him.
    The apostle Paul gives us a vivid portrait of human society in Romans 1:18-32. Here Paul begins by stating that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (v. 18: NKJV) Here we are told that God's anger is directed against two things: "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness." The translation "ungodliness" is a little misleading. The Greek word actually means a lack of piety or reverence. It is the refusal to acknowledge God and honor Him. "Unrighteousness" is the unwillingness to do what is right, to conform our lives to God's laws. In modern terms what Paul is describing here is nothing less than secularism.
    Paul goes on to describe a civilization in decline. Significantly it all begins with the refusal to acknowledge the true God. Paul points out that people are surrounded by the evidence of God's existence (vv. 19,20), but that in spite of this they "did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful" (v. 21). The result was a kind of intellectual impairment. They "became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened." This, in a word, is the story of Western philosophy from the 17th Century onward.
    And where does it all lead? The answer is terrifying: "Therefore God also gave them up . . ." (v. 24). He gave them up to their natural inclination to do evil, and especially to sexual immorality, including rampant homosexuality (vv. 26,27).
    The end result of sexual license, then as now, was social disintegration. God "gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting" (v. 28). People were filled with every kind of wickedness and iniquity. They were full of envy, violence, strife and deceit. They hated God, and soon they hated each other. They lacked discernment, integrity, and even natural affection. They had become implacable and unmerciful (vv. 29-31).
    Does all of this sound familiar? It should. Paul could very well have been describing us. In some ways the decisive turning point for us was the Theory of Evolution, which, in turn, led to the secularization of society as a whole. If there is no such thing as Intelligent Design, then there are no such things as universal truths. Social experimentation then follows. Tragically, in the midst of all the intellectual and social change of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries the major Protestant denominations caved into the new modes of thought and largely abandoned the central message of Christianity, the gospel of redemption in Christ Jesus. In society in general there was an initial spasm of licentiousness in the "Roaring Twenties," tempered somewhat by the hard times of the Great Depression and World War II. But then came the '60's, and the standards of public morality began to crumble. We have now become the picture of depravity described by Paul.
    It is not hard to look at current events and see what is happening now. God has given us up, and we are now in the terminal stages of social decay. The whole push to legalize "gay marriage" is an indication that He has given us up to our own sin and depravity. But it is important to note that it all began with secularization, with the refusal acknowledge God and honor Him. Religious apostasy inevitably leads to social disintegration. We are a society under divine judgment.
    But, you might ask, shouldn't God rather pity us than be angry with us? God certainly does pity us, but He is also angry with us. The reason is that we must take full responsibility for our sin and rebellion. We know that God exists. We know the difference between right and wrong. Yet we choose to do what is wrong. We "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (v. 18), and therefore are "without excuse" (v. 20). We in the United States are especially inexcusable: we had a rich Christian heritage and deliberately turned away from it. We can hardly plead ignorance. If God is angry with us, we have no one to blame for it but ourselves.
    It is hard to think of our country as being under divine judgment. But we must look at the situation soberly and realistically. The great need of the hour is repentance. We are rich in the things of this world, but poor in the things of heaven. We assume that God is pleased with us, and expects nothing more from us, but we are sadly mistaken. The truth is far different. We Evangelicals are a worldly and apathetic church in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. We need to start thinking about what God wants, and live accordingly. God wants us to have a meaningful relationship with Him – a relationship marked by faith, love and holiness.

Related blog posts:
What God Thinks of Us 
The Problem of Evil 

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Real Issue in the Gay Marriage Debate

    Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases involving same-sex marriage. The first case centered on California's "Proposition 8," which overturned, by popular referendum, the state's law allowing same sex couples to wed. The second case involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage, for federal purposes, as a union between one man and one woman, thereby denying federal spousal benefits to homosexual couples who were legally married in states that permit such unions. Rulings in the two cases are expected in June.
    Recent polls show that public opinion is shifting in the direction of acceptance of gay marriage. One option at the court's disposal would be to treat the matter as a states' rights issue, and let the political process take is course in the individual states. If the court pursues this course, it is possible that in the next two years seven more states may legalize same sex marriage, in addition to the nine states and the District of Columbia which have already done so.
    But why the change in public opinion? Why were people opposed to gay marriage before? Why was it illegal in the first place?
    During the argument over DOMA, Justice Elena Kagan noted that the report of the House of Representatives attached to the statute cited "moral disapproval" of homosexuality, and she called that "a pretty good red flag" for discrimination. Press reports indicated that her comment caused a stir in the courtroom.
    This, however, begs the question. All morality entails discrimination: discrimination between good and evil, between virtue and vice. The court itself discriminates every time it decides a case, ruling in favor of one party against another.
    Moreover, if morality itself involves discrimination that is impermissible under the Constitution, is morality itself unconstitutional? Is America legally constrained to be an amoral society?
    It should not have surprised Justice Kagan that the House of Representatives, in passing a bill dealing with a subject like homosexuality, would cite moral considerations. Homosexuality was roundly condemned by both Judaism and Christianity.
    The traditional belief is was that sex was designed to fulfill a specific purpose, viz., heterosexual reproduction. To that end there is a natural attraction between members of the opposite sex, and in order to promote social stability sexual activity was supposed to be confined to marriage. Homosexuality was regarded as a grotesque anomaly, the very antithesis of what marriage was supposed to be.
    It was also regarded at one time as a mental disorder. A pivotal turning point in the way society views homosexuality came in 1975 when the American Psychiatric Association decided to remove the condition from its Diagnostics and Statistics Manual. The APA arrived at its conclusion, however, not because of any new clinical findings, but because of political pressure: a group of young activists campaigned for it. The rationale for the new policy is that since many homosexuals do not feel any subjective distress over their sexual orientation, it should not be considered a pathology. But under this standard almost any form of compulsive, antisocial, and even criminal activity could be considered "normal." If the alcoholic is not willing to admit that he has a drinking problem, is he mentally ill? What if he's perfectly happy being drunk, and thinks that he can control his drinking? Is the benchmark of mental health simply feeling good about one's self?
    The anomaly presented by homosexuality should be readily apparent. If one is biologically male, and yet is sexually attracted to other males, there is something obviously dysfunctional there, a disconnect between a person's psychology and biology. It is absurd to call such a condition "normal."
    The argument is often made that gays are born that way and therefore cannot help being the way they are. Yet numerous studies have been done to find a biological or genetic cause for homosexuality, yet none have produced conclusive results. What has been demonstrated, however, is that a common pattern among male homosexuals is a close binding mother and a distant father, suggesting that homosexuality is a learned behavior acquired during early childhood socialization.
    The gay lifestyle, at least among male homosexuals, is highly eroticized and notoriously promiscuous, whereas marriage is about restricting sex to one partner. How many gays who want to get "married" are willing to practice strict monogamy within an exclusive relationship?
    The overriding interest of the state in marriage is to encourage stable family units, and this calls for
Van Gogh: Mother and Child
responsible, committed heterosexual relationships. Children need to be connected, wherever possible, to their natural, biological parents. Marriage is meant to recognize these realities.

    The push to legalize same-sex marriage threatens to redefine marriage in a radical way. The effect will not be felt immediately. Gays will be able at first to claim that they have not undermined anyone else's marriage. But what kind of expectation will be created for future generations? That anything goes? That any pairing of sexual partners is permissible? That a permanent, committed relationship between a child's biological parents is unrealistic?
    As we have said before, gay marriage is not the beginning of the end. It is the end of the end, the end of a long process of moral and social disintegration that began with feminism and the sexual revolution of the 70's. Today the wreckage lies all around us – a whole generation of young people raised in unstable, single-parent families. Of course they support gay marriage by large majorities: traditional family life is foreign to them. The question is, will the Supreme Court deliver the final blow?

Related blog posts:
Should Same Sex Marriage Be Made Legal? 
Same Sex Marriage: What Is at Stake 
The Future of Playboy America