Homosexuality

August 11, 2010

Well, I’ve been away from blogging for several weeks now. I went on vacation — back to North Carolina and then to the mountains — and I just sort of forgot about blogging. Anyway, I’ll get back into it. For now, here are some noteworthy articles related to the recent resurgence of interest in homosexual unions/marriage.

“Gay Marriage” by Carl Trueman, Westminster Theological Seminary

“For people like myself, now in middle age, dislike of homosexuality came with the territory; our reasons for opposing it were more to do with our own cultural backgrounds than with any biblical argumentation.  Our opinions on the issue may have happened to coincide at points with biblical teaching, but that was more by accident than design.   We were basically bigots and we needed to change.”

“Those evangelical leaders, academics and evangelical institutions that prize their place at the table and their invitations to appear on `serious’ television programs, and who enjoy being asked to offer their opinion to the wider culture had better be prepared to make a choice.  As I have said before in this column, we are not far from the place where to oppose homosexuality will be regarded as in the same moral bracket as white supremacy.”

“The End of Marriage in Scandinavia” by Stanley Kurtz

This is a rather long article on the social scientific data related to the Scandinavian separation of marriage and procreation, a separation which has encouraged the normativity of homosexual and multi-sexual relationships. Here is an excerpt:

“Kari Moxnes, a feminist sociologist specializing in divorce, is one of the most prominent of Norway’s newly emerging group of public social scientists. As a scholar who sees both marriage and at-home motherhood as inherently oppressive to women, Moxnes is a proponent of nonmarital cohabitation and parenthood. In 1993, as the Norwegian legislature was debating gay marriage, Moxnes published an article, “Det tomme ekteskap” (“Empty Marriage”), in the influential liberal paper Dagbladet. She argued that Norwegian gay marriage was a sign of marriage’s growing emptiness, not its strength. Although Moxnes spoke in favor of gay marriage, she treated its creation as a (welcome) death knell for marriage itself. Moxnes identified homosexuals–with their experience in forging relationships unencumbered by children–as social pioneers in the separation of marriage from parenthood. In recognizing homosexual relationships, Moxnes said, society was ratifying the division of marriage from parenthood that had spurred the rise of out-of-wedlock births to begin with.”

“So What? How Does Homosexual Marriage Affect Me?” by R. Scott Clark, Westminster Seminary California

“Not only is the term “parent” being re-defined but, of course, the basic natural definition of “family” is necessarily being re-defined to include homosexual marriages and homosexual parenting. This is not an insistence upon small nuclear families as a definition of marriage but it is an insistence that family and marriage have something to do with objective, natural reality. I understand that the way we often think of “family” as a small nuclear unit is the product of modern social forces and even of marketing and mass media but the older idea of family (including extended family and even, if we go back to the classical and biblical periods, of household servants) was grounded in the nature of things. The redefinition of “family” to include units that are contrary to the nature of things is much more an act of radical nominalism (we can call things anything because there’s no intrinsic connection between names and things) and voluntarism (the human will is ultimate) and a denial of the very existence of nature.”

Also, I am happy to see that Wesley Hill’s book on celibate homosexuality is to be released in a few weeks: Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. You should read this article by Hill if you have not already. Here are my reflections related to his article.

8 Responses to “Homosexuality”

  1. ken oakes said

    Thanks for this Kevin.

    There tends to be such a knee-jerk, angry response by all sides in this debate (and sometimes justifiably so I think, but that is another matter), that discussion is rendered impossible and politically and institiutionally dangerous (meaning your career, livelihood, and the well-being of your family is at stake).

    I do wonder, though, about the advocates of ‘natural families’ and their view of divorce, remarriage, and multiple divorces and remarriages, which is not an uncommon matter amongst evangelical Christians in the US and elsewhere. Are they preaching and legislating just as hard against divorce and remarriage, single parents, adopted children? The explanations of these aberrations tend to depend on appeals to tragedy and sinfulness, but these appeals will only bolster the more sophisticated arguments ‘from the other side.’

    What a horrible mess…

    • Kevin Davis said

      Thanks, Ken. I actually do see a lot more self-criticism from the traditionalist side regarding the current norms of heterosexual relations — especially in regard to divorce but even in regard to the unflinching acceptance of the wider “birth control mentality” rightly criticized by various Communio theologians in the Catholic Church (though I would not go as far as they do in completely eliminating artificial birth control from sexual ethics). Yet, this self-criticism has been going-on for years and the divorce rate for evangelicals has not improved. As far as I can tell, the reason has largely to do with a persistent romanticism — an emotional valuation of human relations and commitment — running through evangelical moral ideology (and aesthetics), and as long as this romanticism remains unnoticed and uncriticized, then the problem of divorce will continue. This romanticism is equally pervasive, if not more so, in liberal sexual ethics, which is why liberals are truly offended when traditionalists deny their “right” to emotional security and happiness. On both sides, we have an anthropology determined (first) by subjective criteria of human well-being and (secondly, if at all) supplemented by dogmatic content. Contrary to this, the dogmatic valuation of human relations — the bridegroom-bride/Christ-Church model — should come first. Only then will “sacrifice,” “agape,” “losing your life to find it,” etc. determine human well-being. This requires subjection to an order outside ourselves and the humility of chastity, all of which is completely foreign to liberal thinking and much of evangelical thinking. One proof of this: both sides consider life-long celibacy with suspicion or outright contempt.

      By the way, I would not lump “single parenting” and “adopted children” with divorce and remarriage. These are not necessarily the results of “aberrations,” and they often require moral courage. Nor can divorce itself always be judged as a fault, at least not for both parties. Often with divorce, there is a victim, e.g., someone who was abandoned and did not pursue or encourage the divorce.

    • I am a Westminster Seminary graduate who wrote a letter to Carl Trueman with regard to his post on “Gay Marriage”, which you have excerpted above. A copy of the letter is posted my blog under the title “Letter to Carl Trueman”.

      Nearly every person who acknowledges an aversion to homosexuality does so on the basis of what he or she believes the Bible has to say. In their mind, there is no doubt whatsoever about what the Bible says and what the Bible means. Their general argument goes something like this: Homosexuality is an abomination and the homosexual is a sinner. Homosexuality is condemned in both the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, if we are to be faithful to the clear teachings of Scripture we too must condemn homosexuality. Needless to say, this premise is being widely debated among evangelicals today and seriously challenged by biblical scholars, theologians and religious leaders everywhere.

      It rarely occurs to any of us that our reading of Scripture is profoundly colored by our own cultural context and worldview. Clearly, throughout church history most Christians who have used the Bible to condemn other Christians were acting in good faith. However, history has revealed that what many were defending was their presumption of what the Bible teaches, not the truth of Scripture.

      Since I speak and write on this very topic, perhaps you might find some of these posts of interest.

      -Alex Haiken
      http://JewishChristianGay.wordpress.com

  2. ken oakes said

    I think you’re right as regards the effects of a mountain of confusion as to what marriage is actually for and what are the sorts of narratives and practices that might sustain something like Christian marriage.

    As for my remarks on ‘aberrations,’ I was trying, not very sucessfully, to say that I don’t think arguments from ‘the natural’ are very helpful, not only because some of the discourse around ‘the natural’ becomes so self-serving so quickly (the natural as ideology), but also because a great deal of standard evangelical practice reveals amount of ‘the unnatural’ happening.

    • Kevin Davis said

      Ohh, yes, I completely misread what you were saying. This gets at the most difficult aspect of the controversy. As I would characterize it, evangelicals have failed greatly by trying to force homosexuals into heterosexual aesthetics and practices. I don’t entirely discount re-orientation scenarios, but that shouldn’t be the only alternative put forth, nor even the dominant alternative. As I’ve said, an understanding of celibacy as fruitful vocation is much needed, but our society, including the churches (whether liberal or evangelical), have no understanding of ascetic practice — they are only able to comprehend it as negative and other-wordly. Interestingly enough, Sarah Coakley has some good stuff to say in this regard, even though I profoundly disagree with her on much else (including, obviously, her view of gender and sexuality, which I believe is overly influenced by a historicized rendering of gender norms, not unlike Troelsch’s reading of Christian dogma).

      Sorry to go off on rabbit trails and making points that are only slightly connected to your own points. 🙂 I’m always moving from one connection to another, which makes me a systematic thinker but not a very disciplined one!

      • Kevin Davis said

        I forgot my original point I was trying to make…

        So, as I see it, the problem with appealing to “the natural” is when it fails to value the homosexual pattern of vocation as blessed by God; thus, it is not secondary or less-fruitful than the heterosexual pattern of marriage and sexual activity.

  3. Francesca said

    The meaning of the term ‘natural’ is not immediately obvious. My father, a scientific naturalist, thought adoption is wrong because it is ‘unnatural’. Gilson recorded being told by the headmaster of the school in which he teaching that, no, he could not rebuke a student for bringing his mistress to the school gates, because the school would be told by the boy and his parents that ‘it is natural’. The French (c. 1911).

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