The Nature of Nature

Unbelievers live in the world, and this is why we must continue to insist on the authority of nature. They also live in the world defined by Scripture, but they are more inclined to deny this than to deny they live in the world. Not only so, but whenever they deny that they live in the world defined by the enscripturated Word, Christians are more inclined to let them get away with it. This is because Christians accept the Bible, and non-Christians don’t. Everybody lives in the world, like it or not.

Right, and this is why we must continue to insist that the world has a nature, and that this nature is teleologically structured. There is an entelechy to all things, and this purpose, this telos, this intention, this embodiment, was determined by the God who made the world. The world has a nature. Whenever we speak of Nature, we are simply expressing this truth in a shorthand way.

But we are currently living in the midst of a large-scale revolt against nature and nature’s God, and this revolt wants to say that “nature” is a blank, that it has no nature, and that man can therefore impose whatever he wants on it. The godly man wants his dominion to be the result of an obedient conforming to the way things are, while the ungodly man wants his dominion to be the result of whatever he wills, and what he wills is almost always wired up to his lusts somehow.

According to the theorists of this revolt, the world is a lump of dough, to be shaped into whatever forms the masters of the universe in question desire for it. Sarte’s phrase for this was that “existence precedes essence,” and he touted the idea that human beings do not possess any inherent nature or value, and that everything we become is therefore a function of the will. Just as Nixon surrendered economic sanity by allegedly saying “we are all Keynesians now,” so also fickle Christians seem to be readying themselves for the time when they can say “we are all existentialists now.” It turns out the Cities of the Plain have a theological society, and we have a bunch of guys who are desperate not to get kicked out of it.

But the world has a nature. The world is not a colorless, odorless lump of stuff for which humans can volunteer to be the demiurge. Nature has a grain, and that grain must be honored, respected, and obeyed. Without an assumption of this fixed given-ness of nature, justice becomes an impossibility. Suppose you were to set the family dog to fold the laundry, and then punished him severely if he did a poor job. This would be a gross injustice because you failed to take into account what a dog is.

In the same way, if you do not know what a man is, and if you do not know what a woman is, you are setting the stage for grotesque sexual injustice. If you do not know what a prepubescent child is, then you cannot know what sexual molestation is. If the nature of things does not have a nature, then everything is lost. If our deep thinkers want to kick against the authority of nature, I would simply cut to the chase and ask them to formulate why a sex change operation would be a travesty and abomination. If they cannot or will not do it, then this is because they have already surrendered to the central tenet of sexual existentialism. I do not want to know whether they are for or against same-sex mirage — I want to hear their case against it. If that case does not involve the nature of nature, then at worst they have already gone over to the other side, and at best they have been taken prisoner.

I should also add that once sexuality has become a matter of the will, we have set the theoretical stage for every form of coercion — from the strong-arming of evangelical wedding photographers to the construction of rape rooms.

In saying all this, I continue to insist that I am a classical Protestant, and a Van Tilian. I prefer to speak of natural revelation, in distinction from natural law. I am suspicious whenever people want to leave the Bible out of our discussions of what should go on in the public square. I want the authority of the Lord Jesus to be confessed by the House and Senate, and I want the president to sign it. So I trust my bona fides are in order.

But I give these qualifications because I continue to be dismayed that the homo revolt is being opposed more effectively and consistently and rigorously by Thomistic natural law theorists than it is by the erstwhile heirs of Bahnsen and Rushdoony. I believe that this is the result of some form of dryrot that has gotten into our floor joists, and which makes our people willing to retreat to a biblicism that wants to posture inside a faith community — but because we want to come off like conservatives, we don’t use the phrase faith community. This “retreat to commitment” wants to pretend that the God who gave us a Bible with set characteristics did not do the same thing when He gave us us a world with set characteristics — with the set characteristics of the Word and the world being fully consistent with one another. By that, I mean a woman in the Bible has the same nature as a woman in the world. The world described in the Bible is the very same world in which the sexual existentialists are conducting their bizarre and perverse experiments. This is why the end of their revolt against nature will be that nature will revolt against them.

Luther once called Aristotle “that Greek buffoon,” and as a biblical absolutist, I do understand the point. But everything hinges on what you are comparing him to. We do have to recognize that when it comes to this question of nature’s nature, Aristotle was closer to the kingdom than some of our modern theologian squishes — conservatives intent on conserving nothing.

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43 thoughts on “The Nature of Nature

  1. Amen, it all does come down to differences in cosmologies. If human bodies are just made up of meaningless hunks of stuff, it doesn’t really matter who sticks what where, so long as nobody gets their feelers hurt, of course.

    Also, this is especially important to us as Christians. The modern materialist conception of reality would reduce the incarnation to dumping God into a hunk of bits. The universe capable of bearing the Godhead must be a rich tapestry of forms, essences, meanings and purposes. And if we merely add on to that a sort of Cartesian soul, if the really important part of us is our completely immaterial soul, what is the point of the incarnation in the first place.

  2. I think the reason why Thomists are defending marriage more effectively than the Bahnsenists are is because Thomistic metaphysics is more correct than presuppositionalism. Thomism starts with trying to understand the nature of reality itself and validates it by agreeing with the Bible. Presuppositionalism starts with a commitment to scripture and ends with appeals to internal coherency. Unfortunately I think this approach ends in post-modern relativism. By not grounding the approach as corresponding to reality independent of our worldviews there isn’t any reason to think that their moral reasoning should be necessarily true, whereas Thomism can make that claim.

  3. Brian, I agree that this is what has happened in fact, but I don’t see the logical necessity of it. In other words, I can’t see how a true commitment to start with Scripture as the Word that defines all things can consistently wind up leaving some things out. The appeals to internal coherency are therefore internally incoherent. That make sense?

  4. Doug, I would find this entire line of argument far more persuasive if you didn’t insist on ignoring how nature behaves in actual practice, in favor of how the Bible says it’s supposed to behave, whether it actually behaves that way or not.  Do you think homosexuality doesn’t exist in nature?  It does, across large numbers of species.  I don’t see how you can appeal to nature while at the same time ignoring what nature actually does.
     

  5. Eric, the point is to study nature, not copy it straight across. This is because, in the biblical worldview, nature is both created and fallen. As created, it reveals God’s will to us. As fallen, it reveals what the rebellion of man did to it.

    So of course homosexuality occurs in nature. And in some species, mothers eat their young. This would be part of the reason I would want to reject a “pure” natural law approach that disclaims the need for scriptural guidance. But it goes the other way too — Scripture needs to assume that the world is the way God made it.

  6. Eric,

    Genocidal behavior is also common in the animal kingdom, as is polygamy, polyandry, fratricide and a whole host of other behaviors considered immoral by the standards of human society. Some of these are likely the result of the fall, and others are simply the way those animal kinds were designed to operated (e.g. polyandry or polygamy). Sheep are not violating natural law when a single ram services 20 ewes. That’s just how sheep roll.
    There are other “homosexual” situations in the animal kingdom where brokenness is clearly evident. For example, when penguins males pair up, they have been observed to use a stone in place of an egg. It does not seem to be much of a stretch to say that the penguin homosexual delusion is clearly the result of a broken natural instinct, and that it is not perfectly normal behavior free from the influence of the fall.

  7. Eric,
    Im trying to follow your line here. Is your premise that because homosex is found in nature therefore its natural and acceptable, or just that Dougs thinking doesn’t seem consistent with whats found in nature and his view? If the first scenario, this opens up all the rape, incest and murder we find in nature. Which is far more than the homo animals. 
    Darren

  8. Eric,
    Hasn’t the scientific community itself argued against this kind of reasoning? Only very rarely and under abnormal circumstances could homosexuality as we understand the word now be used to describe animal behavior. If you mean examples like dog dominance behaviors that is not how we talk about being “gay”. Your own arguments for evolution would have to knock out animal homosexuality as normal, wouldn’t they?

  9. [T]he point is to study nature, not copy it straight across.

    Everything has meaning and purpose, but that doesn’t tell you whether the meaning and purpose are good or bad. As Oliver O’Donovan said in Resurrection and Moral Order, you have to look at the purpose of the whole cosmos to tell how smaller purposes fit in.

    This is something I’ve noticed about not a few poets who don’t want to go against the zeitgeist too much (Shelley comes to mind): being poets, they don’t want to propose a meaningless, purposeless universe, so they posit that the purposes and meanings are evil. It therefore becomes our duty to thwart nature. The similarity to some forms of gnosticism should not escape one.

  10. The following is based mainly on my reading of Jonathan Haidt, Alasdair MacIntyre, Mary Douglas, as well as my readings in the psychology of religion, including people like Stuart Guthrie and Bruce Charlton.

  11. I have been thinking about religion, purity and teleology. They seem to go together, but the logic behind that grouping is not immediately clear, and I don’t think anyone has really tried to link them up.

    —————————–

    I’m going to take gay sex as my main example, as it provides the best illustration of exactly how religion, purity and teleology are linked.

    Opposition to things like gay sex seems to be highly correlated with Jonathan Haidt’s purity foundation. Religion also seems to be highly correlated with the purity foundation. Hence, religion is highly correlated with opposition to gay sex. And all religions, including Christianity use purity language as part of their rhetoric.

    Yet, the primary moral arguments advanced against gay sex by most religious thinkers don’t directly refer to purity at all. Most religious moral argument does not appeal directly to how “icky” or “noble” things are and leave it at that. This is a bit of a puzzle.

    Purity is defined by Mary Douglas as something being out of place. We can use C.S. Lewis’ example of dirt being good clean dirt in the garden, but dirt dirt on the table.

    In the cases of dirt, feces, vomit, mucus, rotten meat, a relatively simple and easy to understand version of purity is effect: these substances shouldn’t be near us because they cause us to be sick. They simply don’t belong in or near our bodies, at least when they are coming from outside (thought they are thought of as perfectly “clean” when inside us, generated by our own bodies).

    Notwithstanding the notable addition of feces to the exchange of bodily fluids in at least in some forms of gay sex, this doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation for the strong dislike of male on male couplings. Normal sex involves the swapping of bodily fluids too, but we aren’t usually that disgusted by the thought of other male-female couples having sex. Furthermore, one doesn’t even necessarily have to mentally picture a gay couple having sex for the antipathy to be aroused.

    In addition, this explains nothing about the link between purity and religion. Why should religion be so exercised about potential disease carrying excretions per se? To explain that, we need a different analysis.

    Religion is the postulating of human-like agency in the non-human world. Of course, how this agency is interpreted is very different in all religious traditions, but nonetheless this is the common denominator in all religion. Reality has an inherently personal aspect to it.

    The postulating of human-like agency in the non-human world quite naturally leads to the idea that things in the world have purposes. Teleology follows naturally from religion.

    Teleology is the basis for any specifically religious morality.

    Teleology posits that things have inherent purposes. When those things are used in ways that contradict their purposes, they can be said to be out of place. This means that they are impure. This is what links religion to purity.

    Gay sex, or at least gay male sex, violates both the simple “avoid dirt, feces, vomit, mucus, rotten meat” version of purity and the teleological version of purity. Add the violation of purpose to the disgust naturally aroused by any exchange of bodily fluids to the high importance we humans place on sexual matters and it is not at all surprising why gay male sex has aroused such strong negative feelings.

    Doing unsanitary things is usually bad. However, from a Christian perspective, the violation of our purpose is the more important purity concern.I have been thinking about religion, purity and teleology. They seem to go together, but the logic behind that grouping is not immediately clear, and I don’t think anyone has really tried to link them up.

    The following is based mainly on my reading of Jonathan Haidt, Alasdair MacIntyre, Mary Douglas, as well as my readings in the psychology of religion, including people like Stuart Guthrie and Bruce Charlton.

    —————————–

    I’m going to take gay sex as my main example, as it provides the best illustration of exactly how religion, purity and teleology are linked.

    Opposition to things like gay sex seems to be highly correlated with Jonathan Haidt’s purity foundation. Religion also seems to be highly correlated with the purity foundation. Hence, religion is highly correlated with opposition to gay sex. Yet, the primary moral arguments advanced against gay sex by most religious thinkers don’t directly refer to purity at all. Most religious moral argument* does not appeal directly to how “icky” or “noble” things are. This is a bit of a puzzle.

    Purity is defined by Mary Douglas as something being out of place. We can use C.S. Lewis’ example of dirt being good clean dirt in the garden, but dirt dirt on the table.

    In the cases of dirt, feces, vomit, mucus, rotten meat, a relatively simple and easy to understand version of purity is effect: these substances shouldn’t be near us because they cause us to be sick. They simply don’t belong in or near our bodies, at least when they are coming from outside.

    Notwithstanding the notable addition of feces to the exchange of other bodily fluids, at least in some forms of gay sex, this doesn’t seem to be an adequate explanation for the strong dislike of male on male couplings. Normal sex involves the swapping of bodily fluids too, but we aren’t usually that disgusted by the thought of other male-female couples having sex. Furthermore, one doesn’t even necessarily have to mentally picture a gay couple having sex for the antipathy to be aroused.

    In addition, this explains nothing about the link between purity and religion. Why should religion be so exercised about potential disease carrying excretions per se. For that, we need a different analysis.

    Religion is the postulating of human-like agency in the non-human world. Of course, how this agency is interpreted is very different in all religious traditions, but nonetheless this is the common denominator in all religion. Reality has an inherently personal aspect to it.

    The postulating of human-like agency in the non-human world quite naturally leads to the idea that things in the world have purposes. Teleology follows naturally from religion.

    Teleology is the basis for any specifically religious morality.

    Teleology posits that things have inherent purposes. When those things are used in ways that contradict their purposes, they can be said to be out of place. This means that they are impure. This is what links religion to purity.

    Gay sex, or at least gay male sex, violates both the simple “avoid dirt, feces, vomit, mucus, rotten meat” version of purity and the teleological version of purity. So, violation of purpose + exchange of bodily fluids + the high importance humans place on sex means it is not at all surprising why gay male sex has aroused such strong negative feelings.

    Of course, doing unsanitary things is often bad. However, from a Christian perspective, the violation of our purpose is the more important of these purity concerns.

    ——-

    Note that religion (reality is personal) and purity do not save.

  12. The world’s natural entelechy is, without the light of scripture, obscure. Why would an unbeliever submit to the Christian interpretation of “nature” if he doesn’t submit to scripture? Natural law is totally uncompelling without the Gospel, and totally unnecessary with it. So why bother?

  13. Doane, to answer your question, I think any appeal to nature is a waste of time, for two reasons.  First, we override nature all the time; if we didn’t we wouldn’t wear clothes, fly airplanes, or vaccinate our children.  Second, it’s largely subjective and subject to confirmation bias.  If homo sapiens was the only species in which homosexuality occurred, Doug would cite that as evidence that homosexuality is sinful, fallen behavior; because it is found in other species, the argument shifts and becomes that what other species do is irrelevant to what God wants humans to do.  That is not a principled standard; that’s a result-oriented heads-I-win, tails-you-lose shell game.  (And by the way, proponents of homosexuality can, and do, play the same shell game in which they simply make the mirror-image appeals to nature that Doug does.)  I will agree with everyone here that just because a certain behavior is found in some other speciies does not mean humans should do it, but then the question becomes how to tell when the nature argument applies, and when it doesn’t, and how to apply it when it does.  Doug’s answer is read the Bible, but if that’s the standard, then what do you need an appeal to nature for?  So because the entire line of argument is so ripe for abuse and confirmation bias, I think the whole thing is a red herring.

  14. Carole, evolution would say that if everyone were gay, human life would come to a screeching halt after a single generation.  But not only is everyone not gay; only a small percentage is; much too small, in fact, to impact the survival of the human race.  It’s a biological anomaly, just as being left handed is a biological anomoly, and has no more impact on human survival.
     

  15. “I can’t see how a true commitment to start with Scripture as the Word that defines all things can consistently wind up leaving some things out.”  And Doug, respectfully, that’s the problem.  You start with an assumption that is completely at odds with observation of the world around us.  Yet, because that is your assumption, it *must* be true.  In fact, you’re not even allowed to test the assumption, or to entertain any contrary evidence.  So, when the assumption keeps coming back at odds with what certainly appears to be objective reality, your only real recourse is to  claim that reality isn’t reality.  My system at least has the advantage of being testable, and in fact demands that any presupposition, no matter how cherished, be abandoned in the face of compelling contrary evidence.

  16. The testing system is the five senses — I know that the laws of physics are still in full force and effect because I can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the results, plus other testers consistently get the same results.  If that testing system is flawed, then I have no way of knowing anything to be true, and this entire conversation is pointless.

  17. As the number one Catholic A-T metaphysics believing fan of Pastor Wilson, I just thought I should jump in and defend my belief system from Erik’s confusions. We look to nature to understand purposes. What is the purpose of man’s sexual organs? To procreate. So the proper end of sex is to conceive children. Note two things: the Bible of course confirms this Truth and (speaking now as a Catholic) it logically follows that we should not deliberately frustrate the telos of sex (i.e. use contraception).

    BUT, Erik objects — why do some people like to have sex with men? They tell us it seems natural to them. And the simple response to all these types of questions, once you’ve figured out the basic telos of “X”, where X is the phenomenon or thing you are studying, is to say that given our sinful nature we will find many ways of ignoring the natural law. But unless you have an argument for why committing sodomy really fulfills the end of your sexual organs (beyond ‘it feels good’ because that’s not an argument that speaks to the ends of your sexual organs, although ‘it feels good’ seems to be the default liberal position on just about any issue these days) then you should be able to understand the power of A-T metaphysics.

    If you are really interested in these issues, the guy to read is Ed Feser. I’m just a humble blogger doing my best to learn all I can from Professor Feser.

  18. Just realized that when I said “some people” in the above comment I meant to say “some men” (in case it wasn’t obvious).

    And a belated and blessed Easter to Doug and all his readers.

  19. Fake Herzog, the late Ayn Rand once wrote an unintentionally hilarious essay in which she said that it was obvious that nature intended for people to smoke because the webbing between the fingers is perfect for holding a cigarette. It is not known if she continued to hold that view after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Your comments about the purpose of sex are on the same level.

  20. Doug,

    Is your main point herein basically that you want to continue to demolish vain speculations that are in disobedience to Christ raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Co 10:6) with more prominent/plentiful explanations of how the presupposed truths of Scripture are CONFIRMED (vs. PROVEN from a pretended higher or ultimate epistemic authority) by using ‘evidences’ of the perceived contingent causal and consequential regularities of the world?

    And so, for instance, while a believer is reasoning (in a debate) with an unbeliever, perhaps a homosexual like Andrew Sullivan, the believer after having been accustomed to think in such a way about the ‘nature/being of the world’s natural order via God’s working’ would then have a plentiful amount of illustrations from how nature regularly is (being) in its causes and consequences as a means to CONFIRM the debater’s preached/announced truths of Scripture (that are appraised by those who have ears to hear in the Spirit through faith that presupposes/assumes such truths when sanctifying Christ as Lord).

    Is such a prudent employment of an additional means of CONFIRMATION of truth via illustrations of perceived nature in the world what you are mean by “insisting on the authority of nature” in this article, or do you mean something else quite different?

  21. Fake Herzog, here’s the intelligent argument: Just because something has one purpose doesn’t mean it can’t have other purposes as well. Just because you think something has any purpose at all doesn’t mean it does. Just because two things work well together doesn’t mean one of them was designed with the other in mind or that one of them doesn’t also play a role in other things. Your argument has undistributed middle, assumes facts not in evidence, equivocates, and has a conclusion that doesn’t follow from the premise. Other than that, I suppose it’s a good argument.

  22. A woman in the Bible has the same nature as a woman in the world. But we need the Bible to reveal to us what the nature of a woman in the world actually is.

    Also, the 5 point Covenant stuff does a good job of simplifying all this for us. God tells us that He owns everything, then He delegates His authority, tells us what to do to get good results, assesses those results, and then we enjoy fellowship with Him as co-regents (at whatever level history is at at the time).

    My favorite phrase for these “results” is Plunder or Plagues. We see both in Israel’s rescue from Egypt. And when the Ark gets ejected by the Philistines, they send it out with plunder (gold) in the shape of plagues – ten items altogether.

    So this “blank check” thinking is the same as it ever was – either assuming God’s blessing, or stealing God’s blessing, without doing what is required for that blessing. And the plagues are mounting. I wonder what number we are up to now.

  23. and what he wills is almost always wired up to his lusts somehow.

    Is that not man’s nature?

    Eric also makes a good point. Humans subvert nature all the time. The most pertinent example for our topic here is birth control.

    Incidentally, why did you get rid of the formatting buttons on the comments?

  24. Eric,

    Oh my goodness! After approximately 2,500 years (give or take a few hundred) in one simple blog comment you have finally managed to effectively refute A-T philosophy and the concept of telos. Well done. I have nothing more to say.

    Not.

    “Just because something has one purpose doesn’t mean it can’t have other purposes as well.”

    Yes, theoretically something could be designed for more than one purpose. But you’d need an argument to demonstrate what that purpose is and remember, a telos is about final ends, not instrumental ends.

    “Just because you think something has any purpose at all doesn’t mean it does.”

    Well yes, just because I think I exist or you think you wrote the above comment at 3:31 AM this morning doesn’t mean you did. See how easy it is to play the nominalist game? Either reality exists and has meaning or it doesn’t. Either God exists or He doesn’t. You can accept the Truth or you can ignore it. Folks around here are trying to guide you to the Truth.

  25. Eric the Red wrote:

    “Just because something has one purpose doesn’t mean it can’t have other purposes as well.”

    Unfortunately for Eric’s materialism, nothing has any purpose. Nothing comes with any intended function at all. Even sex organs are a pure accident, because our existence as sexual organisms, rather than asexual organisms, is also an accident. Even man’s behavior of assigning ad hoc purposes to things is just another accident.

    Now all of us who live in the natural world see with our eyes, we hear with our ears, and we touch with our hands. Some of us even think great thoughts with our brains. Yet Eric has the burden of convincing the world that there is no purpose or intent behind these blessings. It’s a full time job. We should take pleasure in frequently insisting that Eric get back to work. Then we need to remind Eric that, at the end of another workweek, his labors have been entirely in vain. Because they too have no purpose. There is no sky daddy to reward his zeal, because that would give purpose to Eric’s agenda. Eric is a rebel without a purpose. His argument is not with us. His argument is with nature itself. He argues with atoms and forces of nature that made them behave contrary to his atoms.

    Get back to work, Sisyphus!

  26. Well said katecho!

    I just wanted to make one more reading recommendation to Eric and really to all of Pastor Wilson’s fans. Professor Feser is excellent but he is kind of intense at first. Another excellent guide to natural law thinking, or natural revelation if you prefer, is the philosopher J. Budziszewski. His style is very different from Ed’s — more accessible I think (although he is rigorous in his thinking). Here is just one sample from Touchstone magazine:

    http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=18-06-022-f

    You can find more of his articles and a link to all his books (he has one dealing with just sexual issues called On The Meaning Of Sex) at his website where he also maintains a blog:

    http://www.undergroundthomist.org/

  27. Conservatives who want to conserve nothing…That would be the Republican Party of Nevada. :-/ They just threw their support behind same sex mirage and the sacrifice of human babies to Molech.

  28. Agree. Budz is good. When you’re done reading his stuff on natural law. Check out his articles “The Problem With Liberalism” and “The Problem With Conservatism” at First Things archives. Some of the best stuff on a Christian approach to politics that I’ve read.

  29. Fake Herzog, the problem with your argument is that even if I accept every one of your premises, your conclusion doesn’t follow, because you have not established that sex was designed by anyone, that procreation is the only purpose of sex (I could list a half dozen others without breaking a sweat), or that sex requires a purpose other than the pleasure it gives its participants. You’ve shown none of that. Plus, I doubt very much that you even believe that procreation is the only purpose of sex; are you suggesting that heterosexual married couples past their childbearing years must stop having sex? Since your own premises don’t support your conclusion, I don’t have to bother untangling your premises.

  30. Katecho, you might try finding someone whose worldview actually matches the claims against it that you’re making to argue with.

  31. Eric,

    You say,

    because you have not established that sex was designed by anyone, that procreation is the only purpose of sex (I could list a half dozen others without breaking a sweat), or that sex requires a purpose other than the pleasure it gives its participants

    Your confidence is matched by the emptiness of your rhetoric. Please try and pay attention to the discussion. As Ed Feser says in this paper, “The telos of a thing or process is the end or goal toward which it points.”

    http://www.epsociety.org/userfiles/art-Feser%20(Teleology)(1).pdf

    It is quite obvious that pleasure is not the end of sex as many things and activities give us pleasure but they don’t result in babies! Now, there is more to the story from an A-T/natural law perspective and I might even be willing to debate you if you demonstrated the slightest willingness to engage in good faith with your opponents. But you don’t and I’m also quite sure you reject my premises to begin with. That’s fine, but why bother hanging out here? What good does it do? You aren’t convincing anyone of anything and apparently we aren’t convincing you of anything — so what’s the point?

  32. Fake Herzog, it does not follow from “sex is the only way to make babies” that “making babies is the only reason to have sex”. Just as “Juneau is only accessible by plane and ferry” does not mean that “Juneau is the only place planes and ferries go.” Or that “only people with law degrees are allowed to practice law” means that “practicing law is the only career path for someone with a law degree.” Do you honestly not get this?

    Just to be clear, since apparently you’re new here, I’m a utilitarian, which means that any purpose I find in anything will be a utilitarian purpose. The reason you shouldn’t use a laptop to drive a nail into a 2X4 is that it won’t work, and even if it does work it will damage the laptop. No need for a divine purpose; pure utilitarianism does the trick just fine. So, if you’re looking to make babies, sex will serve that purpose, but it doesn’t follow that that’s the only purpose sex serves.

  33. If I have understood him correctly, Pastor Wilson regrets that, in the attempt to shore up opposition to same sex marriage, appeals to natural law seem to be more persuasive than appeals to Biblical authority. Thomistic natural law, while derived from an understanding of man’s duty to his Creator, ought to be less persuasive than the flat condemnation found in Leviticus. I suppose I can understand a preference for obedience based on literal adherence to scripture over an obedience based on an attempt at rational understanding. But what I can’t understand is why the Rushdoony-type argument would be persuasive to anyone who doesn’t share every one of his (or his heirs’) presuppositions: that Biblical laws are to be taken literally, that there is no room for competing interpretations, that they are to be the basis for current civil law, and that they are equally binding on all, regardless of personal belief. I read a chunk of Rushdoony’s speculations this afternoon, and I think they would be far less tolerable to most Americans than the prospect of an occasional gay pride parade. For many people of good faith, a central issue is the propriety, in a secular republic, of imposing a Christian moral belief (homosexual conduct is wrong)on those who do not share that belief. If Thomas Aquinas can do the trick, why stretch credulity by asking them to accept a moral theology that proposes the death penalty for adulterers?

  34. Jill that is well stated.

    As a thought experiment can you envision conditions where American’s would freely choose to live under “Rushdoony-ism”?

  35. Jill,

    You keep using the buzz word ‘literal.’ I’m not sure it fits. The first time you use it, it is not necessary. The second time the word, along with ‘taken’ should both be together changed to just the word ‘followed.’
    It is not about toleration or what sounds best, and it is not even about persuasion. It is about authority.

  36. Jill,

    I also find Rushdoony speculative in his analyses quite a bit, but I do appreciate his goal of attempting to apply “every word” (Dt 8:3; Mt 4:4) of “All of Scripture” (2 Tim 3:16) through a New Testament lens. Nevertheless, one afternoon of reading Rushdoony has been enough for me thus far.

    And, yes trying to have folks obey the word of God that was given through Moses will generally be less tolerable than those shameless disobedient parades. Paul clearly says that men who have their mind set on the flesh hate God’s law (Ro 8:7); unlike Paul, whose mind is set on the Spirit, is joyfully pleased with the law (Ro 7:22), while noting that when he sins he does not do what he wills (Ro 7:19), the good of keeping the Law that he agrees with (Ro 7:15,16). But, for those that hate God’s law, it is difficult to persuade them to follow/obey something (and Someone) they hate and are at enmity with (to include God, and not merely His demanded/commanded standards of righteousness against sin per Ro 7:7).

    Similarly, a book with the cover ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ would sound more appealing or persuasive to read then one titled ‘The Death to Sin and Crucifixion of the Self Driven Life As Repentant Obedient Slaves of Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 6:6; Luke 9:23). The latter is offensive to our desire for our own uninterrupted autonomy and pretended self-sufficiency, where as the three words of the former title at least leaves some prima facie room that we ourselves can maybe still autonomously determine/choose what that so-called purpose/entelechy/goal of our life and surrounding nature is.

    Furthermore, unless homosexuals and their supporters become born again with a heart that in faith towards God will follow Christ (to include rationally keeping, teaching and joyfully/pleasurably concurring with the commandments such as condemning homosexuality as being even the least of the commandments of God’s revelation given through Moses per Mt 5:19; 1 Tim 1:1,8,9,10; Ro 3:31; Lk 10:16; 2 Tim 3:16), they will likely not be persuaded to repent of their homosexual desires and conduct (Lk 8:12) — or at least do so only temporarily (Lk 8:13,14) without the fruit of enduring belief/faith until the end (Mt 10:22; Jn 8:31; Col 1:22,23; Heb 10:38,39; Ro 11:20,21,22).

    Unfortunately, this lack of persuasion among homosexuals will likely continue apart from heart that will sanctify Christ as Lord in their heart (1 Pe 3:15), bowing the knee to God’s word, even after it has been explained that the civil authorities/rulers/kings are actually God’s ministers of wrath to restrain evil. Even in suppression of the truth, a nation’s civil authorities may thus be only pretending to be secular since as God’s ministers under the Lord of lords and King of kings, they ought to be operating under their non-secular King’s righteous standards of justice for crime & punishment (Mt 5:19; Heb 2:2; 1 Timothy 1:8; Is 40:8; Mt 5:18) given through Moses in the forever abiding word of God through which the “whole world” — not just Israel (Ro 3:19) — is held accountable to God for sinfully disobeying, where their King as the Word of God Incarnate, who has not already merely received all authority in remote heaven above for one’s high hopes and ascending prayers of personal piety, but also has at present already received “all authority” “on earth” (Mt 28:18; Rv 1:5).

    “If Thomas Aquinas can do the trick, why stretch credulity by asking them to accept a moral theology that proposes the death penalty for adulterers?”

    Such “doing of tricks” (by which you decently seem to mean ‘persuasion against homosexuality’) should not involve the trickery of fallacies, arbitrary speculations, and anything else contrary to Scripture. There’s a lot of people where the false prophet Mohammad has been able to show that he “can do the trick” in being persuasive against homosexuality. Coming to the right conclusions even through twisted/perverted so-called justification is not enough in the sight of the Lord.

    Additionally, this use of ‘natural law’ being used to appeal to man’s autonomy, since there is in some sense the hope that what is noticed in nature or that even natural revelation (as decreed by God) will prima facie not be able to objectively demonstrate that homosexuality is wrong while avoiding going to the personal word of God, where it becomes ‘less persuasive’ as offense is taken when what God reveals to us in nature is also objectively revealed in sentences on the pages of Scripture, such as God hating even the homosexuality and adultery so much that (unlike rape) these crimes, even if committed consensually, always ‘in principle’ deserve ought to be carr through due process (Dt 17:9,10,11,12; Ro 13:1,2,3,4) the just and worthy recompense (Heb 2:2) of the death penalty by one’s society that ought to be carried out ‘in fact’ through the State’s due process (Dt 17:9,10,11,12; Ro 13:1,2,3,4) against autonomous vigilanteism (Jn 8:3,4,5,6; 18:31).

    Moreover, Moreover, besides this apparent and misleading hope of autonomy, ‘natural law’ as a Thomistic doctrine employs the fallacy that if something is the case, then it ought to be the case, exemplified in quotes below:

    1. ‘It is the case that created beings such as animals commit homosexual acts or have a subset of their offspring for a snack, so created beings as humans ought to be able to do these (perhaps even in moderation).’

    Yet, when now have to go to “less persuasive” Scripture, which against any autonomous sensibilities in the foreground or background of our ‘more persuasive’ procedure we were originally trying to avoid by appealing to ‘natural law’ to objectively see/discern/validate which conduct throughout creation is fallen and not fallen.

    2. ‘It is the case that homosexuality doesn’t result in the conception of children as the purpose of sex, and it’s natural for people to (want to) have children, so folks ought to not engage in homosexuality which can never fulfill this purpose of sex.’

    Yet, before/after engaging in the necessary and purposeful child begetting activities with one’s spouse, some may find fulfillment in turning to the Home Shopping Network, and some may find fulfillment in turning to the homosexual concubine, which while maintaining the purpose of sex, doesn’t rule out homosexual conduct.

    3. ‘It is the case that for some subset of the mode of primary homosexual activities, that stinky poo’ on the members of your body that is generally unpleasant and has to be washed off along with ‘exchange’ of matter that can result in increased risk of injury or disease more than would be for heterosexual activity via vaginal intercourse (such that you can be restricted from donating blood, etc.); and so therefore since it is the case that these are unfavorable, then this proves by Thomistic natural law that homosexuality ought to be morally unfavorable (i.e., immoral).’

    Yet, the problem with this reasoning is that even unmitigated unsanitary impacts/effects on the body, do not Biblically reduce to something immoral (like performing an urgent medical/emergency and messy/stinky procedure when sterile conditions are not realistic/practical, and the Bible doesn’t necessarily require doing something that has the absolutely least risk (driving in a car or running vs. walking). So, like the first two examples, the “more persuasive” to the masses ‘natural law’ herein is fallaciously unrealiable.

    ‘But, doesn’t the unbeliever know that homosex is sinful and degrading/indecent (Lev 18:22; Ro 1:26,27,28,32)?’

    ‘Doesn’t the unbeliever know that God created sex for marriage, and even fruitful and multiplicative procreation, of which homosex can never “naturally” share in fulfilling that purpose, even in heterosexual matrimony without concubines (Gen 1:28; Ro 1:26,27)?’

    ‘Doesn’t the homosexual unbeliever know that homosex is wrong as his body is typically at risk of being punitively dishonored or injured through homosex (Ro 1:27)?’

    Yes, to all the above, and even without reading Scripture.

    ‘How so?’

    Through the truth of natural revelation, which is sufficiently clear so that all are without excuse (Ro 1:20,19,21), having God’s law instinctively written on the heart (Ro 2:14,15) of His image bearers.

    However, this clear knowledge through natural revelation gets suppressed (Ro 1:18) to various degrees across humanity, and so not all unbelievers will predictively admit to noticing on their conscience and throughout human culture in regularity a ‘law’ of nature of various immoralities or other sins (and their condemnation deserving of God’s retributive anger/wrath). Furthermore, this natural revelation of the sin of homosexuality is not demonstrably known through deduction/induction of/to propositions (Ro 1:32; 2:14,15; cf. Ps 19:1-3), any more than the revelation within the pages of Scripture has been revealed by God through induction/deduction. Since we don’t know or can prove via deduction/induction about the immorality of homosexual activities (while going camping with or without concubines, penguins, bonobos, black swans, elephants, etc.), we should try to give a truthfully justified form persuasion that does not employ logical fallacies or imply contradictions to Scripture.

    Therefore, for this reason, we should attempt to persuade others to repent of homosexuality and other sinful thoughts and behavior not through the an employment of ‘natural law’ that avoids Scripture, which may seem prima facie somewhat hopeful for human autonomy and success of persuasion by attempting to arrive at the (moral) goal/purpose/entelechy God intended for man by abstracting deduced/induced propositions from nature as a substitute/alternative to the (“less persuasive,” at least generally for the naïve or unregenerate) avoided Scriptures, which despite the best of intentions is rooted in human autonomy and self sufficiency, falling short of sanctifying Christ the Word of God first as Lord in our hearts (1 Pe 3:15). For under its authority, the written word of God provides us with a sufficient proper and authoritative means to objectively demonstrate God’s will for sexual morality, while those who oppose it or even avoid it are shown the consequential impossibility of the contrary for knowing/justifying anything if the Bible weren’t true, even how God, as our ultimate Authority and Author of the ultimate standard of Scripture, would have us live.

    Finally, none of this is to say that ‘natural law’ arguments can’t be used to make a case regarding human morality, but that it couldn’t and shouldn’t be done blatantly in the foreground or even effectively and more subtly in the background by Christians in an autonomous manner. Like anything that belongs to God in His universe, the notions of natural revelation/law may be as a means to provide evidence to CONFIRM/TESTIFY (rather than deductively or inductively PROVE) morality as provided and shown in the word of God on the pages of Scripture without any self-contradictory compromise of not sanctifying Christ as Lord in our hearts, as we persuade the unbeliever to repent of his autonomy, and trust God rather than in himself or any other arbitrary and fallacious traditions of men.

  37. Brian, thank you so much for your comprehensive and erudite answer. I am reading and re-reading in small segments, and I want to make sure I understand thoroughly before I ask any more questions. I appreciated your point about why the reasons for opposition to SSM are important.

  38. You’re welcome, Jill. Thank you for your serious consideration.

    Here are some corrections for some regretted typos:

    i. In the paragraph that begins with “Additionally, this use of ‘natural law'” should have the misplaced/redundant string of words “ought to be carr through due process (Dt 17:7,8,9,10; Ro 13:1,2,3,4)” removed / struck out so that it reads as:

    “… that (unlike rape) these crimes, even if committed consensually, always ‘in principle’ deserves the just and worthy recompense (Heb 2:2) of the death penalty by one’s society that ought to be carried out ‘in fact’ through the State’s due process (Dt 17:9,10,11,12; Ro 13:1,2,3,4) against autonomous vigilanteism (Jn 8:3,4,5,6; 18:31).”

    ii. In my response to the enumerated first example of what could fairly/validly be believed/reasoned through Thomistic use of ‘natural law’, which relies on the natural fallacy of ‘if xyz IS the case, then xyz necessarily OUGHT to be the case'; the paragraph that begins as:

    “Yet, when now have to go to “less persuasive” Scripture, which …”

    should read as:

    “Yet, we now have to go to “less persuasive” Scripture, which …”

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