A Little Black Twisty Thing

As Christians continue to process the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s supreme arrogance on the same sex mirage issue, one of the things we must continue to remember to do is review the basics. This of course will include constantly reviewing what the Scriptures explicitly teach on the matter of same sex sexual activity, but it is also important for us to go a layer beneath all that.

We also need to keep reviewing what the Bible teaches about the nature of man’s nature, and the nature of man’s choices. A hidden driver in a lot of what is going on around us is something that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with human sexuality. But it really does. The roofline is cockeyed because of blunders in the foundation work.

We have to identify, and reject, two false doctrines concerning man — one oddly mixes genetic destiny with Pelagianism, while the other oddly mixes heroic choices with absurdity — a form of existentialism.

One says that homosexuality is baked into the genes, nothing can be done about it, and hence no one is to be blamed for it. Blaming a homosexual for expressing his sexuality this way would be like blaming someone for having red hair.

The other existentialist option says that existence precedes essence. Whatever someone becomes is what they choose to become, and that choice is imprinted on the raw stuff of reality, which cannot be known, so we needn’t worry about it. Someone’s adopted persona, including their sexual persona, is a construct, and the one in charge of that construct is the individual making the choices. The painter moves his temporal brush over the ultimate canvas of absurdity. Sartre said that the only thing that mattered was to move your brush in good faith — as though there were any such thing. But in this scheme the only thing that really matters is the chooser choosing. The universe is bad weed, but everybody gets to roll their own.

One doctrine says that a man cannot be faulted if he had no choice. The other says that a man cannot be faulted if he made the choice. One says that nature is determinative, and that therefore it would be unjust to blame someone for what they are. (Unjust? What’s that? Blaming people is just in my genes.)

The other way says that choice is determinative, and once the choice is made by the sovereign individual, that decision must be respected by everybody, hear? This is why people are so hot to talk these days about gender, instead of about sex. Sex is what God did; gender is what we think we’re doing.

Now I am going to go into this luxuriant thicket of nonsense with the machete of Calvinism. Those Christians who know that we need to respond to the homosexual challenge need not be explicit Calvinists, as I am — though that would be jolly — but I do believe that the only cogent responses to these hidden drivers will have to come from somewhere in the Augustinian tradition. Here’s why.

The Pelagian assumption is that one cannot be blamed for what one cannot help. If that assumption is shared by conservative Christians (as it often is in the circles of evangelical semi-Pelagianism), it will be terribly difficult to answer the homosexual argument that this “is just the way they are.” And you can’t fault someone for that. This is why many Christians find these arguments strangely persuasive, and they don’t know why.

Now I happen to believe the research hunting for the gay gene is a lot of yelling up the wrong rain spout. I don’t think they are going to find it. But that is neither here nor there — it doesn’t matter to a Calvinist if they find it. Suppose they do locate the gay gene, and the research is conclusive, such that no thinking man can deny it. They bring me to the laboratory to show me the proof under the microscope, and as they do so, they are grinning widely. My response would be to acknowledge what they had proven, and say further that I did not think that I would live to see the day, but that I had. “There it was, with my own eyes I saw it! Scientific proof of total depravity. It was a little black twisty thing . . . just like what you might think.”

I would say something like this is because the Pelagian assumption is false. Pelagianism argues that obligation is limited by ability. They say to say we are by nature objects of wrath and to say we are also by nature creatures with a particular color hair is to use that phrase “by nature” univocally, and that this means we can no more be blamed for one than the other.

But sin is defined by the nature and character of God, as expressed in holy Scripture. He defines certain attitudes and actions as sinful, and so they are. He does not define hair color as sinful, and so it isn’t. See how straightforward life is? The phrase “by nature” must therefore be taken equivocally — in two different senses.

Sin is not defined by what I have the ability to stay away from. Why all the fuss and bother to find a homosexual gene? We can already illustrate this excellent principle using heterosexual desire, which is of course genetic. The fact that sexual desire is indisputably genetic does not mean that the subject is not responsible for his lustful thoughts and actions. God’s Word says he is responsible, and so he is responsible. He doesn’t get to point an accusing finger at the (genetically caused!) testosterone flood that derailed all his innocent boyhood activities, those which involved his paper route and his Lego collection, to a thought life that was uniformly girlz, girlz, girlz. There is absolutely a genetic basis for all of this, and he is still being a freak show.

In other words, God faults us for certain aspects of what we are. We are by nature objects of wrath. Jesus does not just point to the sinful actions we do, that rotting fruit on the ground, but He also points to the kind of tree we are. The kind of tree we are can do nothing but produce that kind of fruit, and far from eliminating our moral responsibility, it heightens it.

When Jesus called the Pharisees snakes, He was not showing them an argument to use to get off the hook. “Hey, we never asked to be snakes.” No, they didn’t, but He was going to crush their head anyway.

In short, moral responsibility is defined by our relation to God. It is not defined by our inabilities because there is such a thing as a moral inability, which is culpable. Physical inability — such as my inability to fly to Hawaii by flapping my arms — does remove obligation. Nobody blames me for not doing so. But there is a kind of inability that we do find blameworthy. Take, for example, the well known inability of orc chieftains to participate peacefully in flower garden tours.

The Pelagian argument is valid, which means the only way to deal with it is by denying the truth of one or more of the premises. Some form of the Augustinian tradition is the only real way to do this. And by participating in the Augustinian tradition I do not include drawing a paycheck under false pretenses from a wobbly Augustinian institution.

Since the point is to carve out room for our lusts, and not to be intellectually consistent, as soon as it becomes obvious that fate won’t deliver the goods, we will turn to choice — raw, unbridled choice. Genes be damned! What matters is that I self-identify! And as I do, as soon as I do, all you haters who want to keep me out of the women’s restroom, which is the only place I find any solace anymore, must learn to respect my choices. Does this eyeliner work with the pink contacts?

In order to make choice sovereign in this way, it is necessary for reality, if it has a nature, to keep that nature to itself. We expect nature to keep quiet about it, and it was Kant who most helpfully bolted and padlocked that door for us. A reality that expressed itself would necessarily intrude on our choices. So we pretend that we have no access to things-as-they-are, which leaves us here with . . . Yay! Choices!

In this blunder, for all intents and purposes, nature serves as a blank screen on which we project what we have going on. Nature brings no authoritative information to the game — that would be too constraining and way too off-putting. So we “retreat to commitment,” which is to say, we retreat to our faith community’s projector, which we then point at the screen of who knows what.

But Sartre at least had enough sense to know he was being absurd. Without an infinite reference point, every finite point is absurd. Our current crop of sophomores just got here, which is why they think this is a party where the cool kids still are. But if there are any cool kids left, which is actually uncertain, they are passed out drunk in the back yard.

Who is vulnerable to what? Pop evangelicalism is vulnerable to the first irrationalism, while the academic Reformed are vulnerable to the second. Pop evangelicals have a long history of semi-Pelagianism, and so they have real trouble learning how to give the answers of hard Calvinism. The academic Reformed had just enough hard Calvinism as an undergraduate to be inoculated to it, but they feel they have read more than enough Barth to make up for all that now.

After the reception, the new head of the biblical theology department looked across the seminar room at his new intern, his chest heaving with barely restrained emotion. “Troy, Troy . . . You had me at perichoretic . . .”

So hold your peace, rebellious pot. The Lord is God, and you are not. God is God, and His majesty applies in two relevant ways here. His majesty and person define what the word good means, and His majesty as expressed in creation defines what nature means. This requires that it also defines what against nature means.

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43 thoughts on “A Little Black Twisty Thing

  1. …and we have impact, with the mass of a thousand moons and the speed of a thousand comets, which is to say, with the approximate momentum of reality, landing upside the grinning mandrill-face of self delusion.

    There was of course a brief and feeble reaction from the heterodox, which shows up -there- as a sort of minor dimple on the seismic charts, but as always, it didn’t change anything.

  2. We make choices–“Choose life,” said Moses, “Repent and be baptized,” said Peter–so it is Biblical to exhort to right choices (“Repent!” is the law, prophets, and a vital link in the gospel; the rest is commentary.) We Calvinists know God is behind this (so to speak). We humans make sexual choices: however genetic Doug + Nancy, or Andrew + Wendy, is, we make all kinds of choices about how to express this. Homosexuals make sexual choices: an utterly controlling “gay” gene would never breed (credit: letter to Credenda years ago.) And they need the opposite sex to breed, and still will even if science offers artificial eggs and wombs (artificial women for the men) and/or artificial semen for the women (artificial men). So keep on exhorting all of us to repent wherever we need to, and keep on earnestly praying and trusting God that His elect will indeed repent. All this in love. Not my fault I’m “gay”? As Doug says, who you are is your fault along with what you do; and since you do make choices, you can be faulted. Can you avoid “gay” sex for 15 minutes right now? How about two hours? You need grace and blood atonement, not a genetic fig leaf. (If Adam and Eve hid, imagine how Adam and Steve would still be running!) If you say it’s sheer choice, choose differently (and glance at how Mark prayed under temptation in “That Hideous Strength.”)
    Pray also for the peace of Jerusalem, that God’s people live Godly lives in peace as much as our Sovereign Lord sees to be good for His glory–I Tim 2 preceded Constantine by 250 years and 10 or so severe persecutions. God changed Rosaria Butterfield; He can change supremes and presidents; their hearts are in His hand like the course of a flash flood, like your heart and mine.
    (Small point: since “sex” so often now refers to sexual activity, I think “gender”–men and women–can be useful in referring to the difference without hinting at sexual activity. “Gender” may have had grammatical origins, but the usage of words changes.)

  3. Doug, this is an excellent article. Thank you for posting it.

    I believe you are saying that Kant bolted & padlocked the door so that nature would keep quiet because Kant said that you can’t know things (e.g. nature) in themselves. Yet, as needing a freebie, Kant amazingly, as if supernaturally through his natural reason, knew the nature of the limits of knowledge, which does, of course, still involve an aspect of nature that he said he couldn’t truly know.

    We are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Mt 5:48). No man with flesh & bones except Jesus Christ has this total moral ability, yet we have no excuse (Ro 1:20), when we don’t live up to this demand/command.

    Unregenerate sinners do not have this moral ability (Ro 8:7; 7:5); they have physical ability to not commit sin, but they do not have the moral ability to do anything motivated by glorifying God in their hostility (1Co 10:31; Ro 1:21; 8:7) — even when they momentarily physically (in deed) keep some set of letters of His Law. And even regenerate sinners, the born-again, with a new heart/mind have the moral ability to love God’s Law (Ro 7:16,22; Ps 119:97) as the Law under the New Covenant is covenantally written on hearts of Jews & Gentiles alike (Col 3:11) through faith in Jesus Christ (Ezk 11:19-20; Heb 8:9-10); but yet in some sense still sin due to the indwelling sin in their flesh (Ro 7:17-20,23), which is still in some sense sold into bondage into sin (Ro 7:14) until the day they are mercifully separated from their body of corruptible & fallen (i.e., sin-indwelling) flesh via physical death (Ro 7:24-25).

    The Bible is clear that homosexuality is a result of not honoring God, and so homosexuals dishonor themselves accordingly (Ro 1:21,24,26-28). Although I believe a material cause (via genes or pathogens) to homosexuality has not been inductively proven, if God wills that the means of giving sinful men over to wicked lusts like homosexuality includes such an intermediate material means, then so be it – for God is just. Thus, to whatever degree that there would be such a material cause, there would still be no excuse.

    For just as some have a material (physical) disadvantage for getting easily drunk/mastered in small quantities; that doesn’t mean they would be morally excused for not being morally perfect, even in such a state of physical weakness with regard to alcohol/cocaine. Yet, praise the Lord that in Christ that just as the Spirit will powerfully raise those whose had corruptible bodies that died (as He did Christ), the Spirit in raising us from being dead in trespasses and sins now graciously & powerfully gives us as His born again some sense of moral ability to overcome the lusts of their sinful flesh and walk obediently (to include repentantly) by faith in newness of life (Ro 6:8-14) before being mercifully physically separated from the members of our corruptible bodies of indwelling sin that have been passed down from our father Adam (Ro 7:23; 6:12-14).

  4. Doug, would you please help me as I think through this issue. I am struggling with the idea that pagan sinners who either deny God or worship another god have been marrying in our states since the founding of our country. It strikes me as similar to the Boy Scouts finally allowing gay scouts. They have been allowing Muslim scouts and Jewish scouts and Hindu scouts for ages. Why the fuss? In fact, isn’t homosexuality the by product of the denial of the triune God? Romans 1. Isn’t the greater sin the rebellious nature of man as he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness?

  5. Small correction on some of that “gay gene” stuff.

    Sorry Andrew, but of course an “utterly controlling” gay gene could breed. Any recessive gene, for example, could keep itself in the gene pool indefinitely even though every time someone showed up with both genes recessive, they might then not breed. Dominant genes can be breed out entirely fairly quickly, but recessive genes are far more resilient.

    That, of course, is in the case of a single gene causing it. I don’t think that any scientists believe that homosexuality is caused by a “gay gene”. If it is genetic, it is caused by the interactions of many genes. However, I think that most scientists believe that sexual orientation is caused by a combination of genetic factors, intrauterine development (including epigenetic factors), in some cases early childhood development, and in some cases choice. Obviously, even if it is 100% limited to those first two factors, the genetic/intrauterine factors could continue to cause homosexual individuals to be produced indefinitely even if any of those who are fully homosexual never reproduce.

    Personally, I’m with Pastor WIlson, in saying that no matter how genetic or non-choice involved it is, it doesn’t change whether or not homosexual expression is moral or sinful. Personally, I believe that sexual orientation is usually fixed without our choice (though some individuals fall in the middle zone where choice is there), but that we can choose sexual expression or non-expression. However, understanding the genetic/development factors behind homosexuality would change how we council homosexual people and the potential range of options available to any particular homosexual person. It should also inform our empathy for homosexual persons.

    I think that Richard B. Hays’s “The Moral Vision of the New Testament” speaks extremely well on a Christian view of homosexuality. Unfortunately, compassionate, loving, Biblical approaches like that are few and far between.

  6. Small correction on some of that “gay gene” stuff.

    Sorry Andrew, but of course an “utterly controlling” gay gene could breed. Any recessive gene, for example, could keep itself in the gene pool indefinitely even though every time someone showed up with both genes recessive, they might then not breed. Dominant genes can be breed out entirely fairly quickly, but recessive genes are far more resilient.

    That, of course, is in the case of a single gene causing it. I don’t think that any scientists believe that homosexuality is caused by a “gay gene”. If it is genetic, it is caused by the interactions of many genes. However, I think that most scientists believe that sexual orientation is caused by a combination of genetic factors, intrauterine development (including epigenetic factors), in some cases early childhood development, and in some cases choice. Obviously, even if it is 100% limited to those first two factors, the genetic/intrauterine factors could continue to cause homosexual individuals to be produced indefinitely even if any of those who are fully homosexual never reproduce.

    Personally, I’m with Pastor WIlson, in saying that no matter how genetic or non-choice involved it is, it doesn’t change whether or not homosexual expression is moral or sinful. Personally, I believe that sexual orientation is usually fixed without our choice (though some individuals fall in the middle zone where choice is there), but that we can choose sexual expression or non-expression. However, understanding the genetic/development factors behind homosexuality would change how we council homosexual people and the potential range of options available to any particular homosexual person. It should also inform our empathy for homosexual persons.

    I think that Richard B. Hays’s “The Moral Vision of the New Testament” speaks extremely well on a Christian view of homosexuality. Unfortunately, compassionate, loving, Biblical approaches like that are few and far between.

  7. (One aspect I forgot to include – I think most researchers believe that homosexual orientation can be developed via more than one factor, sort of like how there are a number of different paths to end up very very tall. Some people may end up with a homosexual orientation primarily via genetic factors and there may be more than one combination of genetic factors that result in different expressions of homosexual orientation. Others may only be partly genetic and more conditioned by intrauterine development. Others may only be partially genetic/intrauterine, and end up with homosexual orientation via childhood development experiences or their own choice. Obviously, these different causation factors would likely show up in different ways, and may be able to be addressed to different degrees.)

  8. A gay gene or equivalent is a complete non-starter. In the words of Greg Cochran, it’s just hell on reproductive fitness. Even the most died in the wool creationist believes in natural selection to that degree.

  9. “The Pelagian assumption is that one cannot be blamed for what one cannot help. If that assumption is shared by conservative Christians (as it often is in the circles of evangelical semi-Pelagianism), it will be terribly difficult to answer the homosexual argument that this “is just the way they are.”

    Actually its the easier answer: that is NOT the way they are.

    Those who have the most difficulty answering the homosexuals are the Calvinists who themselves make us of the “born that way” excuse for their sins. Born totally depraved, Born homosexual — what’s the difference? If you are truly “totally” depraved, you must be a homosexual! So all Calvinists are asserting the were born homosexuals. The Pelagian maintaining that NOBODY is born totally depraved (i.e. homosexual) has the stronger position.

  10. Absolutely, pastor Wilson.

    Just like with evidential apologetics. Which is useful and even successful, but it depends on whom you are dealing with. You need to go presuppositional when all the evidence just bounces off them, and a more radical challenge needs to be made.

    Likewise “natural law” is useful and good, but apparently takes you only so far with self-conscious, sophisticated, matured evil. We told them about the plumbing, and the design, and the purpose. It’s good and even essential that we did. Christian ethics is not detached from the hard facts of nature, from the way the world is. But they scroll their shoulders.

    So in this climate we definitely need to go back to Scripture, to special revelation, to the law, to the systematic theologies, to the works of classic Calvinism.

  11. Doug is absolutely right that Calvinism is an internally consistent belief system that allows for condemnation of homosexuality even if the homosexual had no choice about being a homosexual. But what mystifies me about it, is that Calvinists then have the audacity to claim that their God is loving and benevolent.

    If God exists, could he be the God of Calvin? Of course; that would merely make theism unpleasant, but not necessarily untrue. But he would also be a sadistic monster. I really wish Calvinism would acknowledge that necessary conclusion to its premises.

  12. Eric, you want to use God-defined words in one hand (loving, benevolent) and then supplant them with your own definition with the other.

    If you love God and have seen the beauty of his purpose in creation, then there is no problem. If you want to be your own king with your own purposes then of course the (just) judgment that He declares will seem quite…mean.

  13. Zack, I’m not assigning moral values to the words loving and benevolent. I’m simply pointing out that there are words to describe someone who creates sentient living things for the explicit purpose of torturing them for all eternity, with no opportunity on their part to escape, just so he can show the universe how powerful he is. Those words are not loving and benevolent. In fact, if I did something even remotely comparable, I’d be hustled off to the nearest psych ward or jail cell.

    Why do you praise God for conduct that would not be acceptable in a four year old?

  14. They have stopped looking for a gay gene when it was pointed out that it could be then be tested for at Planned Parenthood.

  15. Eric,

    Four year old’s are part of the creation, and are distinct from the Creator Whom made that creation. You are employing a fallacious false analogy here. What applies to man does not necessarily apply to the Creator; Biblical Calvinism teaches this – (e.g., man is not to worship other men, angels, stars, or any other created thing, but only God, the eternal uncreated Creator). An internal analysis/critique of Calvinism or the Bible ought to analyze/critique what all of that system of thought (worldview) teaches.

    Biblical Calvinism ought not to make what you desire Calvinists to acknowledge because these conclusions, being too broad or untrue, do not necessarily follow from what God has revealed in the Scriptures. Indeed, Christ’s theism is pleasant. It is a pleasant good message (gospel), giving knowledge that sinners can be saved from God’s monstrous/terrifying eternal wrath through Jesus Christ; and that through the born-again’s faith in the Lord Jesus, He is sanctifying us entirely so that we will eventually never commit sin against Him in an age to come. It is also pleasant to know that those enemies of God who in their love for darkness voluntarily refuse to submit to God, and who according to faith in merely their own (or another man’s) finite and erroneous judgment will only define justice sin as they autonomously see fit (as well as hold/walk/live to those definitions as they fit) will not strive against God and seek to oppress His redeemed creation forever. Of course, His defeated enemies apart from any neutrality would be expected to say this aspect of Christ’s theism is unfortunate or unpleasant for them.

    God is not sadistic as you irreverently accuse & slander Him. He says He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezk 33:11). There is a sense where the judge who sentences to prison or where the executioner may be righteously pleased that justice is done, but that such pleasure is restrained because those made in God’s image have had the blessing of life in abundance removed in their punishment.
    God also says His judgments are just. We trust/believe Him. We also know that those who say they don’t believe Him, to include His love and justice, really do in some aspect believe Him as they in being in God’s image have been given the common grace to believe the truth that morbid sadistic pleasure in the death of God’s wicked enemies does not reflect God’s standards of righteousness (Job 31:29-30; Pr 24:17; Lk 10:20). We also know God has promised to justly judge those who suppress truth in this manner (not giving God the credit/honor/glory per Ro 1:18,19-20,21), and do not repent and believe in the name of Jesus Christ, refusing to be saved from His just eternal wrath.

    Eric, stop foolishly striving against an infinitely wise, righteous and powerful God (Whom has graciously revealed to you His salvation & wisdom), where your striving is according to man’s/your wisdom that is finite, erroneous, unrighteous, and futile. Repent and be saved from this perverse generation by trusting in the Lord, instead of leaning on your own understanding (Ac 2:21,37,38-39,41-42; Pr 3:5-6), which includes your own personal preferences about the way you live and corruptly think/twist notions about God, righteousness, love, mercy, and justice. Take this opportunity to call on the Lord Jesus, humbly seeking His saving grace (Pr 8:17; Lk 9:23; Jer 29:13; Jn 6:37; Ro 10:9-10,11,12-13).

  16. But if God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, why does he continue to create so many of them? Isn’t it entirely predictable that most of the people being born will end up in hell? So if God hates sending them there so much, then, like a responsible pet owner who has his pets spayed and neutered, wouldn’t the responsible thing be to lower the birth rate? And that’s even before we get to the next obvious question, which is this: Since God has the monopoly on giving people the faith necessary for salvation, how can he withhold it and then condemn those from whom he withheld it? Don’t blame me for not having what you refused to give me and which I couldn’t acquire through any other source.

    And those questions illustrates the difference in our paradigms. Your closed, insular and entirely circular paradigm begins and ends with the idea that whatever God does is good, and that’s that. But if you look outside that box, the idea that this system can be called loving, benevolent, or anything other than a cynical shell game is laughable.

    As an atheist, of course, I believe none of this, and so I’m no more inclined to be outraged at God than I am to be outraged at Simon Legree, another fictional character with atrocious manners. The difference is that nobody has founded a religion claiming Simon Legree is loving and benevolent.

  17. My theological training is sympathetic to Doug’s argument – but in the end Jim (if it really is James Jordan) has a valid point. In all this though… I am noticing an alarming turn in Doug’s blog postings (over say the last two years of so) and the people who parlay their “prowess” in his comment threads… Why is it that the reformed are so prone to hate… why is it that they refuse to see sin as concrete-relational (offending a person, straining a real relationship)… why do they keep dealing with divine justice and right and wrong as if it is impersonal?
    And the sad part is, Doug DOES know better, he’s an outstanding Christian, with years and years of excellent pastoral experience faithfully executed… maybe he just lets one slip every once and a while or goes on a little theological/hate-“bender” because he’s getting old… I don’t know… maybe it’s because he’s human… maybe he’s no “cooperating” enough with grace or maybe that’s just the way he was ordained to be when he wrote and posted this entry… Frankly I don’t care. I am a loyal fan and will cherish his ministry for years to come.
    WHAT CONCERNS ME MOST THOUGH – is his “disciples”… and not the ones in Moscow or in various other places (somehow they get it and have discretion)… the online ones though are by and large hate-filled, R Scott Clark-esque douche bags that think that following Christ isn’t a process but is relegated strictly to thinking the right things… as if God just wants a bunch of smart people in heaven or people that agree with him.
    Wasn’t it Rich Lusk when rebuking Gordon Clark or John Robbins (I forget) that said, “Jesus died for people too, not just propositions”? I suggest we all go do a little beam work… especially those of us who do this stuff as a sport.
    Remember your chains, remember the sins that once imprisoned you – and you who are more spiritual – graciously and mercifully help those who are falling short – reconcile them to their Creator God, who in his infinite love for humanity (maybe all of it) selflessly endured humiliation so that we could be his brothers and sisters and (and of course that he would glorified, etc.)

  18. Read this the other day — forget who it was from… someone commenting on Colin Gunton’s witness in his personal life (amazing how the libs and the aberrant just get it somehow)…

    “Theology done properly must be cheerful work. How can we speak (read; write) of God’s infinite grace poured out without limit in the gift of Jesus Christ, and not find our hearts warmed, our sorrows comforted, our failures rendered into proper perspective? How can we not be basically, joyful, if to do this is [part of] our life’s work.” * I inserted “[part of]”*

    What if – Doug’s comment threads had this kind of heart in them? What if the Gospel actually affected what we did online beyond not looking at porn of course. What if all men really could tell who we are by the way we loved?

    Of course, Atheists (like Eric the Red), if there really are such things, aside. Who can expect much from someone who is damned anyway ;)

  19. Eric,

    I do not want to turn this into a 150 post/reply kind of thing. I will try once.

    Here is how I understand your position:
    You want to describe God as “loving and benevolent”.

    You do not want to use God’s definition of what those terms mean, and instead want to use an autonomous (which said attribute of autonomy remains regardless of the number of people subscribing to it) self-declared definition.

    You say that a God who does not meet your standard and definition is “a sadistic monster”, but this said labeling is still based upon your autonomously declared definition of good and evil. In this, what you seem to be saying, is that you have declared God to be evil unless God conforms to your standard of attributes and behavior.

    You also seem to want to limit God to only being “loving and benevolent”, which completely contradicts a God who self-declares attributes such as omni-potent, omni-present, omniscient, etc.

    (A car is not accurately described as a “rubber car” because it possesses tires made of rubber. This is a deeply flawed comparison, but all are when compared to The Living God’s self-description.)

    My position: I do not get to decide the definition of anything apart from what God says it is, because as the Author, He retains full “author-ity” over all and everything, and He does not consult His creation as to what is good or evil, right or wrong, but instead He sets those definitions and terms.

    Think of a human author writing a story. In the story all characters really exist, and are free to do only what the author intends, and no one in the story is ever given authority to rise up off of the page and challenge the author. The characters are created, named, given parts, are placed into lives and situations, and yet still have only the freedoms as established by the author. Never is a character allowed to complain that his part is unjust, unfair and furthermore that “the author is a “sadistic monster” for making me this way” without said character losing all intellectual integrity. Without the Author, there is no book, no character, no words and no definitions.

    One more try: an airplane is only “free” to fly as long as it remains in obedience to the “laws” of aerodynamics. Once the airplane departs and remains apart from those laws, it has departed from controlled flight, and while still in the air, the trajectory is certain.

    Hope this helps.

  20. Eric,

    God is not responsible for man’s sin. Man’s purpose is to glorify the Creator whom he images, and he has no excuse to attempt to thwart His Creator’s purpose in sinning against Him (Lk 7:30). On the contrary, pets are not voluntarily sinning against God against His purposes when they multiply (Ge 8:17). So, your pet owner analogy just on these grounds is a fallacious strawman, neglecting these precepts that the Bible teaches about God’s purposes for His creation. Also, please recall what I wrote by relying on generally fallacious analogies that fail to make the Creator-creature distinction. Since it is not the case that the Bible teaches that whatever applies to man’s responsibility must analogously apply to God; then you are issuing this criticism in strawman fashion. In fact, the Bible doesn’t even teach within the creation realm, that whatever applies to pets analogously necessarily applies to man made in His image; then how much more would this not necessarily apply in sound reasoning from the finite creature to the infinite Creator?

    God condemns sinful man with the judgment for loving darkness, that’s what we are to be judged/blamed for, Eric (Jn 3:19,20). That is why we need Christ’s righteousness, which we do not deserve, but which mercifully by grace brings the born again sinner salvation from God’s wrath through His shed His blood (Jn 3:16,17). Yet, when our love for darkness produces the bad fruit of refusing to believe in the Lord Jesus, then God will faithfully bring His judgment upon us as He has promised (Jn 3:18).

    Yes, if you unfaithfully do not trust God “as you look outside the box” of Christian faith, then in making a strawman of Christ’s system (since the teaching of Scripture includes the demand for faith in God), the Bible’s doctrine (as well as every other idea) should seem laughable (1Co 2:14), including the idea of holding to the intelligibility of non-arbitrary notions of love and benevolence in the first place so that you could laugh when those notions do not pass your laughable strawman test that is based on faithless personal preferences of what constitutes love & benevolence while you’re confronted by Christ’s system’s (systematic doctrine) claims of true love & benevolence. So, yes, besides you laughably employing a laughable strawman (that is inconsistent with tenants of Scripture), you have also shown that without faith in God as revealed in God’s Word, all truth unintelligibly seems ultimately irrationally laughable, including your foolish laughter (or outrage) per Ps 36:9; Pr 1:7; 1Co 1:24,30. To the glory of God, such a skeptical lack of knowledge (justified true belief) is the intellectual price (as a precursory warning of hell) the untrusting pay for unfaithfully rejecting/despising the certainty of Christ’s knowledge (as the only unbroken, consistent, non-arbitrary and righteously-unlaughable circularity) — which does indeed include the Bible’s teaching that God has sufficient moral reason for everything He does. Therefore, God justly/righteously promises unbelievers much more outrage (Mt 22:13) in the ultimate form of hell (the second death) as those who are guilty of having loved (even with laughter) darkness instead of loving God, Who is Light.

    Instead of blaming things on your environment (e.g., God), without hypocrisy live up to your concern for the responsible thing being done by faithfully humbling yourself before your Creator, giving glory to Him, and repent from your voluntary dark refusal to come to the Light (Eph 5:14), Truth & Life (Jn 14:6) in Jesus Christ. Repent and believe, Eric, lest you be eternally condemned to the outer darkness for your love for darkness.

  21. The offense of sodomy is in the violation of the image of God. Its personal. The offense of of what I will call (for broad generalization sake) Doug’s reformed internet groupies is twofold. Lack of love of self indulgence. Both are personal… both violate the intended image of God.

    Nikon of Optina said, “Our salvation and our ruin – is in our neighbor… our “salvation” depends on how we relate to our neighbor… Don’t forget to see the image of God in your neighbor!”

    Brian. RFB. What in the hell are you guys ranting on about. We get it. You’re cool and super smart and can quote lots of verses and you really do believe everything you say. And yes, Eric the red is in for a big surprise – but consider your pearls and recognize your swine. This is sport for him. He’s not someone really looking… he found a good interlocutor in Doug… which says something – Doug is doing something right(!)… but I suspect Eric thrives more off of reaction… he’s inoculated by now… he’s over it… now he’s just heaping coals o his head and trying to convince himself of the reality of his ingratitude to acknowledge the grace and mercy of God.

    Love him… pray for Our Lord’s mercy on him, but be better stewards of your time and shield our eyes from your overindulgent ramblings please. Let real, profitable comments be done… give us a chance to reflect on Doug’s actual posts before you hijack them and make them your venue for showing us your cool reformed jedi mind tricks.

    Do either of you really think he hasn’t heard all that you are saying and more. Do you really think that someone that read’s Doug’s blog and has been engaging now for some time – is really as clueless as you are assuming him to be? For all you know about God, are you guys really that naive in your doctrine of man?!

  22. George,

    Is using courteous speech and avoiding ad hominem also included in “how we relate to our neighbor”? Neighbors such as “Brian. RFB. What in the hell are you guys ranting on about.”

    I think that Pastor Wilson is astute enough to moderate his house as he sees fit, and I think that for the most part, the majority of posters try to conduct themselves as Christian gentlemen and ladies.

    Thank you.

  23. George, as with the Calvinists here, I don’t believe in free will (except to a very limited extent). The real difference between me and the Calvinists here is whether human nature and behavior is caused by a personal force (God), which is the Calvinist position, or by the impersonal laws of physicals, biology and chemistry (determinism), which is my position. But essentially, Calvinism is determinism for theists, and determinism is Calvinism for atheists. So we actually have more in common than you might think. And by the way, as a child I was given Calvin’s Institutes with mother’s milk, so I understand you pretty well too.

    But respectfully, you are in error as to my motivation. This is not sport. I believe that your theology kills people, hurts people, and causes much unnecessary pain and suffering in a world with far too much of those things to begin with. If I thought you were merely harmless cranks, I probably wouldn’t bother, but I’ve seen far too much pain and suffering inflicted by people who think like you. So no, this is not sport; this is outrage and indignation.

    That said, I probably should find a new hobby. You’re not going to convince me, and I’m not going to convince you. It’s probably rude of me to keep showing up uninvited to say unkind things about you and your theology, and I’ve been a bad guest more than once. So, I am now officially going on to other things.

  24. “Eric, you want to use God-defined words in one hand (loving, benevolent) and then supplant them with your own definition with the other.”

    Zack, Eric might not always have the right idea about what is loving and benevolent, but the meaning of those words HAVE to have some clear connection to what humans think they mean, otherwise they’re pointless to use. This is especially true since “loving and benevolent” are English words, and if the Hebrew/Greek words in the Bible don’t match the current definitions of “loving” or “benevolent” in English, then perhaps you should be using different English words to express how you believe God is. If your argument is “God is loving and benevolent, because God’s definition of loving and benevolent is what we would call hateful and mean-spirited”, then what’s the point of even using the words “loving and benevolent” anymore?

    I agree with George, that sometimes people here claim to express things that are “loving”, when it is incredibly difficult to see how they could be defined as loving by any definition of that word. So you use rhetoric to attack people who hold different beliefs than you and repeat intellectual propositions that they have already heard, in the name of “convicting them of sin”, in a manner that drives the wedge between you and them stronger in place. That is loving…how?

  25. RFB, you are missing only one thing. The point.

    Oh yeah and love. That too.

    Doug is a big boy and can (and does?) moderate his own discussion. And Doug uses strong words too. He’s made many stumble in the 15 years I’ve been following his writing and speaking.

    There’s a time an place. Actually, I think there’s a bible verse and a song about that.

    My point what that your rants seemed self indulgent (self gratifying)… AND more importantly, they lacked love. Any Christian (not just Doug) has the freedom to point that out. People like you (and me) need to be kept in check, by all… part of “social media responsibility”… not to mention its the “christian” thing to do.

    As to time and place:

    Just because you don’t swear doesn’t mean your not a pharisee… and it certainly is not a barometer of the hate (yes that’s what it is) in your heart. Your actions (which I cannot see) and your posts (which I do see) speak to that.

    If your self righteous enough to use polite language to express your “loving” things, then maybe you should stumble a bit over someone who loves Jesus (me) and used the word hell, when he wasn’t judging his neighbor in terms of ultimately ending up there (like you do).

    Get a life man… go love your wife, spend time with your kids, or if you can muster up the time… pray for the fools like myself that just don’t get have the secret knowledge that you and so many other reformed types have. Must be nice to be right all the time. Bet your wife and kids love that!

  26. I realized yesterday why conservative Christians have already lost the argument and lost the war: It’s not because there’s a gay gene that causes homosexuality (there probably isn’t). It’s simply because 40 years ago, the American Psychiatric Association determined that homosexuality is not a mental illness or a character disorder. Now all the relevant major professional scientific and medical organizations agree with this determination. This immediately undercuts any attempt to argue that homosexuality is destructive, unhealthy, etc; that is, that homosexuality has the attributes we expect of sin. So once the scientific and medical community decided that homosexuality is normal and natural, it was only a matter of time until full acceptance of gay people and same-sex relationships.

    Now conservatives are still trying to argue that homosexuality actually is unhealthy and that gay people cannot achieve happiness by being gay. But by doing so, they are arguing against established science, and to a younger generation that is much more accepting of gay people, this comes across much the same as creationists arguing against evolution. This can only harm Christian groups that continue to go down this path: The younger generation is increasingly alienated from religion (the fraction of young people that are “nones,” unaffiliated with religion, is high and increasing), and one key reason is that they regard conservative religion as intolerant on this issue.

  27. “But respectfully, you are in error as to my motivation. This is not sport. I believe that your theology kills people, hurts people, and causes much unnecessary pain and suffering in a world with far too much of those things to begin with. If I thought you were merely harmless cranks, I probably wouldn’t bother, but I’ve seen far too much pain and suffering inflicted by people who think like you. So no, this is not sport; this is outrage and indignation.”

    But Eric we can’t help it. Our behavior is determined by the laws of physics. We were born this way. Surely you wouldn’t tell someone what they’re doing is wrong if they can’t help it?

  28. If it is “loving” for God to create people in a manner that “displeases” Him with the sole purpose of torturing them for all eternity, then it is also “loving” for a man to beat his blind child with a rod because they couldn’t see the toys they were commanded to pick up. Why should man behave “better” than God?

    So fine, let’s just jettison all of our ideas of right and wrong since they apparently mean nothing. Let’s bury people in sand and smash their heads in with rocks as a human sacrifice offered to God for their having offended Him by picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36). Oh wait … we think that IS ethical, don’t we?

  29. Eric the Red wrote:
    “I’m simply pointing out that there are words to describe someone who creates sentient living things for the explicit purpose of torturing them for all eternity, with no opportunity on their part to escape, just so he can show the universe how powerful he is. Those words are not loving and benevolent. In fact, if I did something even remotely comparable, I’d be hustled off to the nearest psych ward or jail cell.

    Why do you praise God for conduct that would not be acceptable in a four year old?”

    Ya, who does God think He is anyway? God or something?

    Of course it’s morally unsuitable for Eric, or a four-year-old, to act like God. They are not God. Eric simply fails to make the Creator/creature distinction. Eric refuses to accept that God is Creator, and Holy, and has authority to dispose of us all as He sees fit. No mere man or creature can ever have this right of disposal.

    Eric’s contempt for God’s sovereignty really shows, but he will not deal honestly enough with our actual belief to do more than box in the air. Eric wants to paint himself as the poor helpless infidel puppet, and God is the sadistic tyrant. Same old line. However, God has made us to be personal accountable creatures. We make very real choices all the time, and these choices are heavy with meaning and consequence, even representative, covenantal and eternal consequence (unlike Eric’s atom-soup amoral paradigm where every reaction is equally meaningless).

    Eric can whine all he wants, but God remains just. God’s precise knowledge of who will be redeemed and who won’t be redeemed does not diminish our accountability in history at all. Man’s choices are enough to earn eternal condemnation, but our choices are not enough to erase sins and make restitution. God had to make a way for salvation or we would all remain isolated in death. He saved the worst injustice and the worst humiliation for Himself in order to accomplish our redemption. Tyrants and bullies never dirty their own hands or suffer humiliation in place of others. Our God knows all about self-sacrifice, and He leads by example. Eric wants to forget all that, but we won’t.

    This has all been explained to Eric at various times on this blog, so apparently he just wanted to get another frustrated jab in the air, or perhaps he would like to climb right up into God’s lap and punch Him good. I have no pity for Eric’s attempt to deflect accountability, but to watch someone wear themselves out trying to punch at God? That is pitiful.

    Eric, let God be God. Eric, repent already.

  30. Neither Calvin nor Augustine discovered the doctrine of ancestral sin. From the beginning of Christian history, the Church have taught that we are all born corrupted. Long before Augustine, the Greek Fathers taught that we are born contaminated by mortality, and a corrupt nature. If one is born homosexual, and that has yet to be proven, it is a manifestation of ancestral sin. One does not have to be a Calvinist to believe that a Christian can resist the temptation to sin with the help of God’s grace, which also makes us holy and liberates us from the corruption that we all inherited from Adam. In fact the doctrine of free will means that we are all responsible for our actions and can cooperate with God’s grace to overcome sin in our lives.

  31. Seth B wrote:
    “But Eric we can’t help it. Our behavior is determined by the laws of physics. We were born this way. Surely you wouldn’t tell someone what they’re doing is wrong if they can’t help it?”

    Well said. I’ve personally never come across a materialistic determinist who would even attempt to be consistent once they set themselves up for their own argument to be tossed back at them. It indicates that they don’t really take their own determinism seriously. It’s mostly about shifting blame. Guilt manipulation tactics, sentimentalism, etc. Eric is dripping with emotional appeals against God for acting like God. The outrage! Same old stuff, just another day. But it is still called Today. Still time for repentance. The invitation continues to go out, patiently, from God’s throne to every creature. Time is on the side of life and mercy.

  32. Doug writes, “Pelagianism argues that obligation is limited by ability.” I would say, rather, that moral obligation (and guilt) are “proportional” to *knowledge* (and the implied ability to will (and act) in light of that knowledge). Consider, for example, John 15:22, 24; Matt 25:24-27.

    What would a Calvinist say is minimally required for one to be morally obligated?

  33. Seth, and katecho, exactly right: You can’t help what you are, and neither can I help what I am; it’s basic Calvinism or determinism, depending on whether one is a theist. A rattlesnake can’t help what it is either, but that doesn’t mean you allow rattlesnakes to set public policy, nor does it mean that you don’t object if the rattlesnake claims to be benevolent and loving.

    And katecho, you seem not to grasp the basic concept of atheism: I can’t be mad at God, or try to punch him, because I don’t believe he exists. It would make no more sense for me to be mad at God than it would be for me to be mad at Lucy for pulling the football away from Charley Brown; she’s a fictional character too. The only reason I even care about God is that people like you, who do believe in him, continue to wield entirely too much political power for my comfort; if not for that, I wouldn’t be wasting my time.

  34. Eric the Red wrote:
    “You can’t help what you are, and neither can I help what I am”

    “if not for that, I wouldn’t be wasting my time.”

    So is Eric trying to help us change what we are, or is he wasting his time? Which is it?
    His own philosophy seems to have rendered his agenda on this blog an utter waste of time.
    My conclusion is that Eric is a closet Pelagian, and doesn’t actually believe his deterministic philosophy at all. So he attempts to persuade us to resist the laws of physics that are acting on our neurons. He doesn’t tell us how we are supposed to do that though.

    Eric the Red wrote:
    “A rattlesnake can’t help what it is either, but that doesn’t mean you allow rattlesnakes to set public policy, nor does it mean that you don’t object if the rattlesnake claims to be benevolent and loving.”

    What if rattlesnakes are benevolent and loving, according to their standard? Then whose standard are we going to use to make public policy, and why? Somehow Eric thinks his standard is privileged. The deterministic fizzing of his atoms is superior to ours. Further, Eric seems to be caught in the grip of a persistent delusion that the world ought to be one way rather than another. Sadly, in his naturalism, whatever is, is. There is no purpose for any of it, and so nothing can be said about any oughts or shoulds. If the laws of physics have allowed it, then it is as legal as anything else that is.

    Eric apparently didn’t get the memo about atoms not moving with any regard for abstractions like love, benevolence, morality, etc. Neurons just fire when the chemical potential is right. Period. That other stuff, that Eric extols with urgent sentimental appeal, never shows up in any of the equations of their motion.

    Consistency would dictate that Eric stop his futile attempts to invite the rattlesnake to change its nature. It’s ineffectual, and simply annoys the snake. Fortunately, God has the power to convert our nature through the foolishness of something as simple as the Gospel preached. Eric’s philosophy has no access to such powerful weapons. Instead, folks who share Eric’s worldview have eventually resorted to the will to power through the weapon of the State. The king’s of the earth have taken their stand to cast away the nagging fetter….

    One philosophy believes in the power of the Word to change mankind, the other believes in the power of the jack booted State to force its will. God is using history to show us which is more powerful.

  35. Eric the Red wrote:
    “The only reason I even care about God is that people like you, who do believe in him, continue to wield entirely too much political power for my comfort; if not for that, I wouldn’t be wasting my time.”

    This is odd. The Christian faith is objectively at its lowest condition of public influence in the history of our nation, yet Eric is roused to action because of our political power? Huh? His timing would be perfect if his goal was comedy.

    Our nation is at the high point of its Christian apostasy so far. Obeisance to the civic gods is rigidly observed, but public cultural expression of the Trinitarian faith is almost non-existent. Christian prayer is routinely excluded from commencements. The Ten Commandments are removed from civic buildings and parks. Nativity sets are packed up permanently to make room for Frosty and reindeer. Google honors Hugo Chavez instead of Christ on Easter Sunday, while the White House hides eggs. Creationists can’t even get a pathetic little one-sentence disclaimer on the government evolutionary text books. Gay mirage is being openly celebrated in the streets. Abortuaries are running at full mill, and the little girls can get their abortificants over the counter.

    But Eric is uneasy about our great political power? It seems more plausible that his shot of courage at this late stage is because he perceives our blood is in the water. What a valiant hero. I suppose it could be taken as a compliment that “people like you, who do believe in him” can be so weak, and yet still be seen as such a grave threat.

    My conclusion is that atheism is a philosophy of profound and consuming fear. The sound of a driven leaf will set them to flight or fight.

    I would like to assure the atheist that they have nothing to fear from us, and it is true that we are only messengers, but I am reminded that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom. This is a fear that does not consume; a fear that leads to life and freedom. To fear the living God is to be set free from the fear of man.

  36. Doug, When I first read your reply it struck me as a tautology. But as I read it a second time, I happened to glance at your thumbnail “picture” to the left of your name, and it all became clear to me. :)

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