You May Not Cut Nature

One of the reasons I go on about the regeneration thing is because I believe that many other crucial things ride on it. If we don’t keep the necessity of the new birth in the forefront of our minds, we will in short order find ourselves unable to answer the arguments and demands of those secularists who want to remake the world with their own version of a “new birth.”

All we got here is toilets. That and Western culture going down them. Please flush twice if you need to.
All we got here is toilets. That and Western culture going down them. Please flush twice if you need to.

This is another one of those inescapable concepts — not whether, but which. It is not whether you will have a doctrine of the new birth, but rather which doctrine of the new birth will you have. Will it be the doctrine of liberalism, of human perfectibility, of utopian progress, in which you may always become whatever you want? Dream your dreams! You go, girl!

Or will it be the doctrine of Christ, where God takes raw material made up entirely of wrecked residue of human, and performs the marvelous miracle of transforming that material into completed and restored human beings?

If we abandon the historic Protestant doctrine of the new birth, as I have argued, we will be unable to answer the demands of the secularist new order, and this for two reasons. One is that we will have lost a foundational argument that the mere fact of the new birth provides. Secondly, because we will not have been preaching with the new birth in view, we will find ourselves shepherding quite a mixed multitude, many of whom will want to go wherever the world is going. For two cents, a good portion of the church would to join in the orgy now.

So let us start with where the world wants to go — which can readily be ascertained by looking at where the world is in fact going. Just within the last week, Washington State instituted their new “No Perv Left Behind Act,” which allows any male student who self-identifies as a creep to use the girls’ locker room at the neighborhood government junior high school near you — in order to get a better view when ogling your daughter. And our heart really should go out to that poor girl. She has quite a hard go of it — she has a creep for a stalker/suitor, mountain orcs for civil magistrates, and idiots for parents.

Am I being too hard on those parents who (having a choice) even now willingly subject their children to the government school system, what one wit called the State Indoctrination Network (SIN)? Let me think about it, no. For as long as I can remember, modern Christians have been tsking about that regrettable story in the Old Testament — you know, the one where Lot offered his daughters to a street full of rapists? This is a problem passage, we say. It displays a problematic deficiency of moral sense, and is not worthy of a holy book. Says a generation of Christian parents doing the very same kind of thing.

There is also, natch, a truckload of restrictions on free speech with regard to this.

In the face of such lunacy, you may pardon me for thinking that we in the church have been unwilling or unable to do some hard thinking about some pretty basic issues. One of those basic issues is this one — what is human nature? Is there such a thing? If that fixed human nature can change, what are the parameters for that change? Does the direction of change matter? What is lawful to change and what not? What is lawful to leave the way it is and what not? By what standard? Always and everywhere, by what standard?

Now if one of the driving assumptions behind this secular pomosexual push is the evolutionary idea that there no such thing as a defined human nature, with set limitations and boundaries, then I hope you see why we should be wary if Christians (even if for entirely different reasons) start to say something that sounds similar.

Now you will have to work with me here. In order to answer this cultural foolishness, we need an abstraction. We need something called “human nature,” independent of any particular human being.

Here’s a thought experiment. Take 100 men and 100 women and put them on a deserted island. We need to observe what they do, and what they don’t do. We also need to observe what a few of them do, to the outrage of the others. Let us watch them for a while, say for a hundred years. When we have gathered all our data, we need to define certain things about human nature generally — what is the telos of this creature? What is he for?

Certain aspects of that last question cannot be answered apart from special revelation, certainly. We are not going to learn that man is meant to glorify God and enjoy Him forever simply by watching the boar hunt and feast on the beach afterward. And yes, so I guess I did imply that the Shorter Catechism is special revelation.

But many questions about the nature of man can be answered apart from special revelation — provided we are allowed to abstract from “this man” and “that man” to “men.” For example, we will learn that part of the telos of the race is to reproduce after its kind, and in order to achieve this, the behavior involved will have to be recognizably old school.

Of course, in all our calculations, we also have to factor in the reality of sin — which would run contrary to the telos we have identified. These creatures have a standard which all of them recognize, but which none of them fulfills adequately We have to discount for that.

As we continue to push the question, we also need to distinguish certain actions which are identical when defined one way and worlds apart when the telos of human nature is factored in.

I trust you have gotten the point, and so we can leave our deserted island now. That is because the whole world is that island.

So then, what is the difference between a man cutting his hair, paring his nails, and getting a sex change operation? All three could be defined simply as “cutting off part of your body.” But with regard to the first, Christians know that it is unnatural if he doesn’t cut his hair (1 Cor. 11: 14). With regard to the second, it is simply uncouth if he doesn’t. With regard to the third, it is an abomination if he does.

The problem can’t be “body modification.” A teenage boy getting braces on his teeth and a teenage boy getting breast implants are doing completely different things, but those completely different things can be equally classified as “body modifications.” The moral difference is not to be found there. So we can’t tag the one as the result of responsible parenting and the other one as appalling without knowing something about the “givenness” of human nature.

So each person in the world, whether male or female, has a nature that is defined by creation, covenant, curse, history, ancestry, genetics, and biology. Once the complete telos of that nature is grasped, it becomes possible in some cases to to modify that nature around the edges. It is lawful to get a haircut. It is not lawful to get a pair cut.

Put it another way. Of course surgery is lawful. Of course body modification is lawful. You may cut your hair. You may trim your nails. You can have a kidney taken out. But you may not violate the blueprints. What you may not cut is nature.

Now if my theology says I do not have “a nature” at all, then how do I answer the secularist who asks me why I do not condemn the haircut, but I do condemn other modifications? It is not enough to say “of course I condemn sex change operations.” Yes, we know that. But why?

Special revelation does teach us that boys should not dress up like girls (Dt. 22:5). But special revelation does not teach us who the boys are. We were supposed to figure that out ourselves. It should not be that hard. In fact, Eve figured it out on the very first go. “I have gotten a man from the Lord” (Gen. 4:1).

But suppose the argument is that if God made this person with traits commonly associated with being a boy, and so we don’t have the authority to try to change it. You don’t need to appeal to “nature” in order simply to appeal to the status quo. Why wouldn’t that work? The answer is that the stars quo argument works equally well in shutting down the orthodontist who wanted to fix a snaggletooth.

There is no answer to this dilemma without appealing to nature. The orthodontist has a natural template in mind that he is trying to get back to. His template is in fact correct, and he is trying to fix something broken. The sex change surgeon has an unnatural template in mind, and he is trying break something that is whole. That is the only difference between them — but it is quite a difference.

We are to exercise dominion over nature, and we must also respect the nature of nature, leaving her inviolate. In order to do both, we must study Scripture closely, and nature just as closely. As we study nature, we look at particular instances, using an adequate sample size. We then render general by induction. We come up with a general definition, and if we have done our work correctly that definition will have spiritual authority. We know it to be true.

I do not believe in a generic natural law. I don’t believe that atheists can consistently have natural law (although they nevertheless do have it). I am much more comfortable with the phrase natural revelation because I want to insist that the revelation reveals the true and only God, and I believe that natural law is given by the Father of Jesus Christ.

All that said, one of the things we know by natural revelation is the fact that we have a nature. We know when it is being degraded and insulted, and we know when it is being disciplined and trained. We know this, but there is no place in the Bible that tells us what those precise boundaries are. The Bible tells us that there are such boundaries, and it also tells us that we are responsible to find and honor them.

The fact that the church at large has largely refused to undertake this task is one of the central reasons why we live in a culture where sexually inchoate boys can be sent into the girls’ showers. And if there is a problem, of course it will be the normal people who are disciplined. These are your representatives, America. I am rapidly becoming convinced that God is running a reductio on our stupidity in order to prove that a people struck with a judicial stupor cannot recognize when a reductio has been run on them.

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Jeremy
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Jeremy

Since you connected your previous post to this one, I want to suggest that the view of nature and natural revelation that you defend in this post (which I fundamentally agree with) does not demand the view that a son of God, who has been given the “Father implant/transplant,” necessarily will not become a son of wrath / the devil. Here is the question: Was prelapsarian Adam given eternal life? That is, was he by nature a son of God? That is, was God truly his Father? If you answer no, then you have a prelapsarian Adam who was by… Read more »

Jerrod Arnold
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Jerrod Arnold

This goes to the question I had for Doug in the last post.
My understanding of scripture is that we (born again Christians) have Christ’s nature now. Sure, prelapsarian Adam was a son of God and he fell from that position. Because of that we all follow in his wake. However, the second Adam (Jesus) did not fall from that position and because of that fact we do not fall either since we have his nature. This is the outworking of our union with Christ.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

Perseverance is the outworking of the decretally elect’s union with Christ. Apostasy is the tragic end to the decretally non-elect’s union with Christ. In John 15, some of the branches united to the Vine persevere, while others are eventually cut off and thrown into the fire. The cut-off branches were vital, living until they weren’t. The decretally non-elect’s union with Christ need not be non-vital or qualitatively deficient to avoid Pelagianism. Remember, prelapsarian Adam did not have a sinful nature or a qualitative deficiency in his relationship with God, and yet he managed to severe himself from Life. And we… Read more »

Jerrod Arnold
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Jerrod Arnold

It sounds very much to me that you are talking yourself in circles…or at least you are talking me in circles. Kudos for thinking hard about this topic though. You say that “perseverance is the outworking of the decretally elect’s union with Christ” and I would agree with you only so far as we both keep our eye on the fact that it is God’s power and not our own that “keeps” us. Perseverance to the end is ultimately brought about because John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them… Read more »

Jeremy
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Jeremy

No, I’m suggesting that the only time a pastor can give assurance is when a believer is “abiding in Christ” (John 15:1-6). All I’m saying is that pastors should never say to anyone, “God has promised that you will not fall away.” To be clear, pastors can and should tell their congregation that God has given them the power to persevere, everything they need for life and godliness, every Spiritual blessing in Christ. I know it sounds Arminian to say that someone could fall away after receiving from God the power to persevere, but again, this was the situation with… Read more »

denise njim
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denise njim

Basically, it is the doctrinal denial of the totality of man’s fall! It is STILL the argument of Arminian vs Reformed about that darn “T”.

bethyada
Member

Special revelation does teach us that boys should not dress up like girls (Dt. 22:5). But special revelation does not teach us who the boys are. We were supposed to figure that out ourselves. Not certain whether you mean that special revelation does teach that boys not dress up like girls, or that special revelation is required to teach us that boys not dress up like girls. If the first, then yes it does. If the second, I think no, natural revelation also teaches us this. This is probably the point of Paul’s comment about long hair in 1 Corinthians… Read more »

bethyada
Member

With regard to the third, it is an abomination if he does.

I think it interesting that the only legitimate reason for orchidectomy (apologies to Jill again) is in the context of disease (cancer). We emasculate you, which is drastic, in order to save your life. Not sure where we run with this concept?

Jane
Member

You can take things out to make things work better, according to their created nature. (If you have cancer in your nether regions, and you don’t do something about it, eventually other parts of you will cease to work well at all.) You can’t take things out to try to make things work *differently,* in an attempt to create a different nature.

bethyada
Member

Good point, though I was thinking more of prostate cancer than testicular cancer. The latter removes the problem, but attempts to keep the function (hormone replacement, prostheses, AI). The former means that the intention is functional castration. The treatment leaves a man as a man without the hormones. Castrating a boy in his attempt to be a girl is so that (amongst other things) he will no longer produce testosterone. Castrating a man with cancer is so that he will no longer produce testosterone. Same functional intent, different telos. I think the prostate cancer example gets at Doug’s point better.… Read more »

timothy
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timothy

Seeing a sign like that makes me want to piss on the seat.

“. I am rapidly becoming convinced that God is running a reductio on our stupidity in order to prove that a people struck with a judicial stupor cannot recognize when a reductio has been run on them.”

Me too. The speed of it is unexpected, but quite wondrous to behold.

dcbenji
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dcbenji

Excellent post. However, I am confused with what you said at the end. Your conclusion that the boundaries of human nature are meant to be “discovered” (outside of scripture?) and it is up to us to “find and honor them” seem to support an ultimate standard of “lived human experience” by which we interpret our theology (such as used in this article: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/homosexuality-church-1). What it sounds like —and I know this isn’t what you are saying —is if we observe enough people who have same-sex attraction, perhaps this is a part of our nature that we are discovering. Or perhaps,… Read more »

ashv
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ashv

The natural consequences of the sodomite lifestyle are enough to condemn it. Our culture expends a lot of energy to keep people from observing what it’s actually like.

Jane
Member

Our investigation is ultimately bounded by scripture. What we appear to see cannot make God a liar, therefore regardless of whether it is “part of nature,” it is not part of nature to be allowed free reign (just as many creatures eating their young is part of nature, as is a tendency for many people to be sexually promiscuous.) But within those, yes, we investigate to find out the details of how nature works.

dcbenji
Guest
dcbenji

This sounds as if acting out on same sex-attraction may be ok if we discover this is a part of our nature…but “gender fluidity” (free-reign) is not.

Perhaps Doug is not saying that we have yet to discover the boundaries of our nature, but rather that we *have* discovered the boundaries and that the church has done a crappy job of explaining (enforcing?) these discoveries?

Jane
Member

“This sounds as if acting out on same sex-attraction may be ok if we discover this is a part of our nature”

I don’t see how you get that, since though same sex attraction is part of some people’s nature (in the same way lust, murder, and covetousness are) it is not allowed free rein (apologies for my misspelling in the previous comment) because of the boundaries of scripture.

dcbenji
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dcbenji

Understood. I guess I’m just sort of lost on Doug’s final point. What is he saying that the church has done a bad job at doing…and should start doing?

doug sayers
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doug sayers

“One of those basic issues is this one — what is human nature? Is there such a thing? If that fixed human nature can change, what are the parameters for that change? Does the direction of change matter?…” +Can this nature be duplicitous? (How then can you being evil know how to give good gifts to your children?) +What effect does the common grace of God have on our ability to think right and believe? (Unbelievers can see *clearly* the invisible attributes of God in creation and Gentiles, can do by *nature* the things contained in the law. Note also,… Read more »

ashv
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ashv

Stimulating thoughts. The nature of a thing depends on intent. To understand what something is, we can’t skip asking what it’s for. Even the pagans are getting a whiff of this — various academics are poking around the edges of it, talking about “teleofunction”.

An example that comes to mind is that the natural purpose of marriage is to raise children. The fact that some marriages are childless is no impediment to this statement, for the same reasons that the existence of a three-legged dog is not a counterargument to the statement “Dogs have four legs.”.

drewnchick
Member

Inevitably, this discussion will funnel down to the question of birth defects–once we get past the “problem” of confused brains living in denial–in the same way abortion discussions always funnel down to questions of incest and rape. But Wilson has already addressed that with the simple statement, “The orthodontist has a natural template in mind that he is trying to get back to. His template is in fact correct, and he is trying to fix something broken. The sex change surgeon has an unnatural template in mind, and he is trying break something that is whole. That is the only… Read more »

Conserbatives_conserve_little
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Conserbatives_conserve_little

I was looking at the regulations. It is going to need to take a Fedeal lawsuit by women to go after this monstrosity, because it is not just schools, but all public buildings. Anywhere that your wife/daughter goes in Washington State is vulnerable

insanitybytes22
Member

“We are to exercise dominion over nature, and we must also respect the nature of nature, leaving her inviolate.” I think what is at the heart of the issue is that we are to love ourselves the way God created us, to embrace who and what He intended us to be. Even when one manages to die to self and become a new creature, Christ does not erase the essence of who we are, He makes us better versions of ourselves. The problem with perceiving yourself as whatever new identity you wish to take on, your sexuality, your new perceived… Read more »

ashv
Guest
ashv

American propaganda rarely discusses the drastically high suicide rate among transsexuals. Nature cannot be denied easily.

drewnchick
Member

Who is Caitlyn Jenner? I know of a guy named Bruce Jenner who is one seriously screwed up man, but I don’t know a Caitlyn Jenner…

Jane
Member

Well, there’s this guy who was named Bruce Jenner who legally changed his name to Caitlyn, so I guess that’s his name now. I mean, I’m not particularly thrilled with the fact that Frank Zappa named his daughter Moon Unit but that’s her name, legally speaking, so…..

Doug Wilson’s preferred approach (which I rather like) is just to refer to him as “Jenner” from now on. Bruce really isn’t his name anymore, but it does grate to call a man Caitlyn, especially given the circumstances of his being named that.

And don’t even get me started on “Chelsea” Manning.

drewnchick
Member

I don’t care if he changed his name to [insert really nifty squiggly mark that looks kinda like an Egyptian holy symbol but is unpronounceable]. He will never be “the runner formerly known as Bruce.”

gerv
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gerv

“It should not be that hard.”

While accepting that in the vast majority of cases it’s indeed not at all hard, and while agreeing that hard cases make bad law, what do you do when it _is_ hard – e.g. when phenotype (female) and genotype (male) do not match, as in cases of CAIS? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complete_androgen_insensitivity_syndrome

If such a person came into your congregation, would you advise them that the natural template that they personally had to honour was that of a woman (matching their external characteristics) or a man (matching their DNA)?

bethyada
Member

You are assuming the DNA takes priority. Why should it?

XY with CAIS are female.

gerv
Guest
gerv

I don’t think my message assumed any such thing. I asked the straight question as to which should have priority. Doug said “So each person in the world, whether male or female, has a nature that is defined by creation, covenant, curse, history, ancestry, genetics, and biology.” But here, genetics and biology point in different directions. So what nature is defined? You think XYs with CAIS are female – you think the phenotype takes priority. OK, your question back to you – why should it? Androgen insensitivity syndrome has different degrees, as the Wikipedia article explains. At what degree does… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Fair enough. The history in sports goes from observing competitors naked (in private) to genetic testing to currently (I think) doctor’s certificates. I think we need to go from what is clear to the hard cases. phenotypical-female, genotypical-female, (fertile) would be the start. In the case of CAIS the androgen insensitivity is complete, thus the person develops down a female phenotype. I think this is a good reason for calling them female. XY are usually male but they are so because of male determining genes on the Y chromosome. If those genes don’t work I don’t see any reason to… Read more »

gerv
Guest
gerv

So the history of sport goes from phenotype, to genotype, to the personal opinion of another human being? When it comes to a Christian anthropology, that doesn’t seem to tell us much, it seems to just be following where the wind blows… If we say that phenotype trumps genotype, we are effectively saying that appearance trumps design. OK… but then what’s the difference between someone who says “OK, my DNA says l’m a man, but I look like a woman in my body, so I should live like one” (CAIS patient, thumbs up from bethyada), and “OK, my DNA says… Read more »

bethyada
Member

The history of sports reflects (somewhat) the medical perspective (in that medics were involved). The problem is that I am not so much saying that phenotype trumps genotype (though if you are born with female genitals genotype would seem to be kind of irrelevant). Rather that XY is a chromosomal label not a gene label. The chromosome usually coincides with the genes so that XY is an appropriate shorthand in most situations. But one can’t point to XY when Y does not contain sex determining genes. I would argue that CAIS has a genotype phenotype correspondence, but not a chromosomal… Read more »

scttsmmns
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scttsmmns

There is a tragic error in Doug’s understanding of the new rule. It applies to private schools as well. If it were in Idaho then Logos would also be forced into open restrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms. The other thing I noticed was the intellectual nature of the responses on this page. In other words, I would express it as “worthless as teats on a boar hog”. Not one response on how to combat it. Knowledge without action is the same as active stupidity.