Look! Girls!

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So let me tell you a little bit about my recent reading, which will then help you understand where the following comes from. I recently listened through all C.S. Lewis’s Essays, and have now listened to most of The Abolition of Man (again). I am currently reading God Is Not a Story by Murphy (which has made me think yet again that perhaps all really smart people ought to be locked up), and now I just read Mark Horne’s short essay on natural law here.

Mark wonders what good natural law offers us if an entire civilization (ours) can miss out on what that law is saying with regard to something as basic as the creational distinction between male and female. In the wake of Obergefell and Jenner messing with his pronouns, Mark finds natural law “much less credible” than it was previously.Unnatural Sign

A couple of responses to this concern spring to mind, and then I would like to go on to offer something else as food for thought.

First, we ought not measure the efficacy of anything by whether or not unbelievers deny the efficacy of it.

Mark says this:

“I never thought I would have to resort to divine authority to establish that human beings are male and female and that this biological structure should impact how we culturally define marriage and the family. But that is where we are.”

But what happens when he resorts to the divine authority of Scripture, as he now feels he must do? He is met by the very same unbelief that taunts the tenets of practical reason.

So if we put down our guns whenever the unbelievers tell us to, then why shouldn’t we put down all our guns? Why should we put down one gun but still keep the other one? It seems to me that thinking straight about our “credibility” in the eyes of the world means that either that we put down both guns or we keep both of them. If their denials have authority, they have authority as far as their denials go — which would include Scripture. If they don’t have authority, why should we pay any attention to them at all?

This leads to the second point. We are in fact living in a era of marked intellectual apostasy. This means that unbelievers today will be much more prone to suggested attempts to live “outside the Tao” than they were, say, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. This means that “common ground” arguments ran a better chance of practical success back then, after which point the unbelievers would retreat into hypocritical conformity. Now they advance into hypocritical defiance. The common ground arguments are just flatly denied.

But we should not put the power of the argument up for a vote among the powerless. The heavens declare the glory of God, and it does not matter how many blind men are assembled who cannot see the stars, and who declare in all confidence that the blackness is simply that — all black, no stars, no glory. And as Paul argues in Romans 1, they are not really blind men. They try to function that way, but for all their efforts, they still see the point. The fact that they will not confess the point is a matter between them and God.

So the point about natural law is not that unbelievers cannot deny it. The point is that they cannot deny it and have an reasonable excuse for having done so. They are without excuse.

So here is my thought. I am a presuppositionalist to the back teeth. A finite creature, in order to reason at all, must reason axiomatically. And in order to reason axiomatically intelligently, he must do so knowing what he does.

But what is it that I presuppose before I reason? It is not a Cartesian starting point. It is not a Bible floating in the sky, independent of history. It is not a set of autonomous Thomistic arguments. What is it then?

What I presuppose before I seek to reason is that which would enable me to reason. I presuppose the world as God made it. So I believe the answer is the world as it is. Objective reality. Kant thought we had no access to noumenal reality — to things as they are. I think we don’t have access to anything else.

I am a common sense realist. The world is there because God put it there, I am here because God put me here, I see the world because God gave me eyes, I think about the world because God gave me a brain, I love God because God gave me a heart, and so on. And after about thirteen years of that . . . look! girls!

Not . . . look! androgynous carbon units!

But the heady ones among us (who are going to cause a lot of trouble later on after some misguided soul lets them enroll in a philosophy class) are the ones who are mumbling to themselves, “What is a girl, anyway?” In one way this might be a reasonable question for these guys because they never actually got a very close look.

I do not presuppose general revelation apart from special revelation. I do not presuppose special revelation apart from natural law. I presuppose the world as God gave it to us — and in the world He gave us I have a Bible in my hand and stars over my head.

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timothy
timothy
6 years ago

But what is it that I presuppose before I reason? It is not a Cartesian starting point. It is not a Bible floating in the sky, independent of history. It is not a set of autonomous Thomistic arguments. What is it then? The atheists will assert (without proof) that meta-physics (which you are discussing here) must be a natural phenomena. Since (my) theism is not derived, but put there super-naturally by God, we can see their arguments As C.S. Lewis remarked , “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it,… Read more »

Moor_the_Merrier
Moor_the_Merrier
6 years ago
Reply to  timothy

Reminds me a bit of something someone once said… We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human… Read more »

RFB
RFB
6 years ago

Its all in the smell: end cut prime rib dripping with a juicy pink center with a nice cabernet.

Or, a stinking corpse lily salad.

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

"A" dad
"A" dad
6 years ago

Yeah. What The Word says!

jigawatt
jigawatt
6 years ago

In one way this might be a reasonable question for these guys because they never actually got a very close look.

I can’t help but be reminded of Andy Griffith’s character in No Time for Sergents when he met with the Air Force psychiatrist. You know, back when comedy was actually funny.

https://youtu.be/ghD2FwwK_w4

“‘Scuse me for sayin’ it, sir, but I think a feller youre age wouldn’t be so confused about it if you went out and seen some girls onest in a while.”

Jeremy
Jeremy
6 years ago

Mark stipulates his definition of natural law: “an area of knowledge that all people should be able to agree upon.” His point is that what God has established as natural (common sense realism) does not come naturally to all, because of fallen human nature. So there is no law or reality that all people naturally see. There is God’s reality that people can see by God’s grace. Mark also makes it clear that he is not against using common sense realist arguments when he says, “I fully endorse arguing from shared beliefs with non-christians. There is nothing wrong with Christian… Read more »

katecho
katecho
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy

Jeremy wrote: Mark stipulates his definition of natural law: “an area of knowledge that all people should be able to agree upon.” This definition doesn’t get to the heart of the matter. The issue isn’t what an unbeliever will confess or admit to, for the purpose of argument. Natural law shouldn’t be construed as our attempt to find “common ground” to reason with unbelievers. The unbelieving heart is slippery and prepared to deny the obvious. If we understand natural law merely as something that can give Christians a neutral surface on which to constructively dialogue with deniers and scoffers, without… Read more »

RFB
RFB
6 years ago
Reply to  katecho

Sir,

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your consistent erudition. I have benefited greatly from your posts. RFB

katecho
katecho
6 years ago
Reply to  RFB

Thanks for the encouragement. God has blessed us with good instruction. May God be glorified if I ever say anything beyond what I learned from good teachers.

Ian Sims
Ian Sims
6 years ago
Reply to  katecho

I want to whole heartedly agree with RFB. I love Doug’s posts, but I am often even more excited when scrolling through the comments and coming across “katecho”. Do you have your own blog you can point me to?

Benjamin Bowman
6 years ago

It’s not that things should not be questioned, it’s not that questions should not be asked, it’s just that there are actually answers for a lot of things. But since answers for most things won’t do for most, they will resort to doubting the answers themselves, until they doubt themselves out of any answer. And doubts, as we know have no answers that will suffice.

Jeremy
Jeremy
6 years ago

Doug, a few followup comments. Natural law is posited as the common sense reality that an unbeliever as well as a believer can “naturally” confess as true. The problem is that not everyone is a common sense realist, or perhaps, not everyone’s common sense realist faculties are working properly. If you think a man can marry a man and live happily ever after, you are no longer a common sense realist in any meaningful way, or at least your common sense realist faculties are broken. Put another way, if people can and will (apart from God’s grace) suppress natural law,… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy

One last comment and clarification. I wrote, “The presuppositionalist says no, God’s law only comes naturally to those with a heart and mind to receive it.” We can be thankful that in God’s providence he gives non-believers proper vision of certain parts of reality.

The point, though, is that it’s most natural for unbelievers see reality incorrectly. When it happens, they’re not going against their natural inclinations. It’s natural for them to suppress general and special revelation. Hence there is no natural law.

ME
ME
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy

“The point, though, is that it’s most natural for unbelievers see reality incorrectly.”

I think I disagree, Jeremy. Unbelievers have to work really hard for their unbelief. It is not natural, it requires them to deliberately and constantly try to resist all evidence to the contrary. That is why we have evangelizing atheists these days, they must go forth and seek constant validation. Contrast that kind of unbelief with a child who is far more open and trusting of what they see in the world.

Malachi
Malachi
6 years ago
Reply to  ME

Piggy-backing on this, I would point out that toddlers know the difference between boys and girls without ever having “gotten a very close look.” I have a 2-yr-old who can correctly identify men/women, boys/girls…all without knowing the first thing about their plumbing. Kids just know.

I think they have to get to the point where, “thinking themselves wise, they become fools.” The eggheads ask, “How do we know she’s a girl?” To which the toddler answers, “Cuz she has long hair,” and the junior high boy answers, “Du-huh…boobs.”

ME
ME
6 years ago
Reply to  Malachi

Ha! Very cute. It gives a whole new meaning to “come unto me like a child.” As adults we can elaborately think ourselves into a great deal of trouble, when the truth is often so practical and obvious, even a child can find it.

Jeremy
Jeremy
6 years ago
Reply to  Douglas Wilson

1. Mark was critiquing the school you disagree with. That’s the main point here. 2. Natural or general revelation requires a moral response, as does special revelation. But just as there’s no “special law,” there is no “general/natural law.” One moral law. Two ways God reveals it. That’s standard presuppositionalism. 3. A fundamental tenet of natural law theory is the belief that man can naturally arrive at knowledge of moral truth. Natural *law* excludes knowledge of the true God. Natural *revelation* reveals the true God (a revelation that the natural man will not accept). Natural law fits with former presuppositionallists,… Read more »

ME
ME
6 years ago

“What is a girl, anyway?” This cracked me up. She is that mysterious thing God put on this earth to remind men that “they do not always know what they think they know.” Smoke will come out of men’s ears long before they ever figure women out. “Mark finds natural law “much less credible” than it was previously.” That’s a bit like finding gravity less credible than it was previously. Natural law is just one of those things that keeps rearing it’s ugly head no matter how much we try to defy it. The thing that is really ridiculous is… Read more »

jesuguru
jesuguru
6 years ago
Reply to  ME

“The thing that is really ridiculous is why do we keep trying to defy it?”

Sin, I’m guessing. And yes, sin is ridiculous, but here we are.

holmegm
holmegm
6 years ago
Reply to  ME

“Smoke will come out of men’s ears long before they ever figure women out.”

True :)

(The reverse is often true as well; just about different topics.)

Evan
Evan
6 years ago

“‘What is a girl, anyway?’ In one way this might be a reasonable question for these guys because they never actually got a very close look.”

Well done.

Gianni
Gianni
6 years ago

“LOOK! GIRLS! . . . But the heady ones among us (who are going to cause a lot of trouble later on after some misguided soul lets them enroll in a philosophy class) are the ones who are mumbling to themselves, “What is a girl, anyway?” In one way this might be a reasonable question for these guys because they never actually got a very close look.” How ironic that the current confusion about genders is rampant among the very generation of people who, in the history of mankind, have had by far the most widespread, free, detailed and unrestrained… Read more »

Jack Bradley
Jack Bradley
6 years ago

Well said, Douglas. Here is Hodge on Rom. 3:5-8: The apostle often does recognize the authority of the intuitive moral judgments of our nature, and thus teaches us that those truths which are believed it on their own evidence, as soon as presented to the mind, should be regarded as fixed points in all reasonings; and that to attempt to go beyond these intuitive judgments, is to unsettle the foundation of all faith and knowledge, and to open the door to universal skepticism. Any doctrine, therefore, which is immoral in its tendency, or which conflicts with the first principles of… Read more »

ashv
ashv
6 years ago

I’m surprised the discussion has made it this far without mentioning 1 Corinthians 11:14. If Paul can ask “does not nature itself teach you?” then obviously there’s some sort of nature out there we should be drawing lessons from. “Look, girls!” indeed. I should note that the problem of ignoring natural revelation is not limited to the left either — plenty of people in conservative circles are willing to ignore the idea that nations and races are normal, meaningful features of the world. While not as immediately harmful as denying that God created man male and female, it still bears… Read more »

Moor_the_Merrier
Moor_the_Merrier
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

“Birds of a feather flock together” used to be a completely reasonable assessment of the natural phenomenon you describe. Now it’s racist. Or orniphobic.

Lance Roberts
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

Not sure what natural revelation has to do with nations and races. They are just a subset of groups of people, so are dealt with as we deal with any groups. I also don’t know of any conservatives who deny that there are such a thing as nations or races, and that they’ve been around for a long time, at least as long as the first sunbeam hitting the first melanin.

ashv
ashv
6 years ago
Reply to  Lance Roberts

The worst offenders are the “borders are just arbitrary meaningless lines on a map” types like Bryan Caplan, but it takes various forms.

jillybean
jillybean
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

Do you believe that racial and ethnic identities will continue to be significant in heaven?

ashv
ashv
6 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

Do you believe that being male or female will continue to be significant in heaven?

jillybean
jillybean
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

We were created as two genders, so I believe that we may retain that distinction even after we are transformed. But God intended Adam and Eve, and their descendants, to live as one people. The division into races and ethnic groups came as a result of the fall. So I don’t see the two as remotely comparable. Bible Questions answered this as follows: “Conclusion:The ultimate answer to your question is found in Revelation 21-22 which describes the new heaven and earth. In Revelation 21:24 we are told that people from the various nations will be in heaven. That is, those… Read more »

ashv
ashv
6 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

It’s far from obvious to me that nations are a result of the fall.

Anyway, I asked the question because my answer to both is largely the same: “yes, but not in the way it is now, and probably not in a way we can really comprehend”.

timothy
timothy
6 years ago
Reply to  jillybean

If they do, it will be as a source of joy and wonder.

JohnM
JohnM
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

There for a moment I thought you were going to comment on 1 Corinthians 11:14. I don’t know why I thought that.

ashv
ashv
6 years ago
Reply to  JohnM

well, Paul argues that men should have short hair and women should have long hair, and we should know this based on opening our eyes and noticing the world we live in. Seems like that’s something we should remember to pack in our epistemological toolbox.

JohnM
JohnM
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

Yes, Paul points us to something nature tells us about men and about women, which is no reason to change the subject.

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

I’m not completely sure it’s that obvious. Would Paul’s statement have been obvious to a Native American or a Scandinavian or a Chinese man or a Australian or many of the other places where men naturally have long hair….or in certain African cultures where women naturally had short?

This seems to be an area where Paul really was speaking out of the experience of his particular culture.

ashv
ashv
6 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Sure. So, what do we do with that as a guideline for understanding the relationship between culture and general revelation?

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago
Reply to  ashv

I don’t think that’s an easy question, at all. In terms of my Biblical exegesis I’d say it’s the place where I’m most unsure of my answers. I just think that in this particular case, where Paul points to an aspect of culture and says, “Isn’t it obvious to us that this is natural”, when it is not natural to many, many other cultures on Earth, is a very tentatively strong example.

Malachi
Malachi
6 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

But when Paul, speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, points to an aspect of nature, not culture–as in “does not even nature itself teach you that it’s shameful for a man to have long hair”–and he tells you it’s obvious, it probably IS a very strong example. Cultures, then, that have rebelled against nature need to be shown the way of repentance.

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago
Reply to  Malachi

I don’t think that Samson and the Nazirites were necessarily rebelling against nature by letting their hair grow the length that God allows it to continue growing. Greeks didn’t start cutting their hair until the 6th century BC, and Romans did around the 3rd century BC. The time period when Jewish men began cutting their hair regularly is debated. But it seems unlikely that Greeks and Romans suddenly shifted to a more “natural” practice several centuries before the word of God had reached them. A possibility here that some have noted is that Paul is referring to a specific Greek… Read more »

Jonathan
Jonathan
6 years ago
Reply to  Malachi

What about African women who naturally have very short hair, because it is extremely curly and kinky, therefore cannot grow out as far and also breaks off much earlier?

(Also should mention that some argue that the Greek refers to “uncut” hair, not just long, and that women of the period did not cut their hair at all – therefore today all women who cut their hair to any length would be in violation. It’s not an easy passage.)

ashv
ashv
6 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I don’t believe it’s trivial either. As a result, it seems to get ignored rather than engaged with.

Gianni
Gianni
6 years ago

Jeremy said, “The point, though, is that it’s most natural for unbelievers see reality incorrectly. When it happens, they’re not going against their natural inclinations. It’s natural for them to suppress general and special revelation. Hence there is no natural law.” “It’s natural for them”? The natural man does not get to define what is natural in the sense which is here in view. His disagreement on what is natural is culpable, because general revelation, when properly interpreted, does not conflict with special revelation. So if special revelation says one thing, then this is also what general revelation meant all… Read more »

Jeremy
Jeremy
6 years ago
Reply to  Gianni

Right — “what is natural” is unnatural to many. The law to which natural revelation (as well as special revelation) points doesn’t always come naturally to people.

Gianni
Gianni
6 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy

Yes Jeremy, I can agree with that much, but you seem to equivocate on the word “natural” when you proceed, on that basis, to disagree with Wilson and say things like “hence, there is no natural law”. The point is people are wrong in seeing things the way they do, and that natural law is normative for them, too. It’s like a Brit coming over to America and renting a car. His natural instinct is driving to the left, and he finds the traffic indications to be counterintuitive and unnatural. But it doesn’t follow that the traffic signs do not… Read more »

Lance Roberts
6 years ago

Completely off-topic, I noticed the posts from December 23rd and back have all the comments deleted. Is this a scheduled thing that always happens on this blog?

JohnM
JohnM
6 years ago
Reply to  Lance Roberts

I don’t know why but it does seem to always happen.

timothy
timothy
6 years ago
Reply to  Lance Roberts

it is probably a Disqus setting that Pastor Wilson doesn’t know exists.

(searches internet…)

Here it is: https://help.disqus.com/customer/portal/articles/466243-how-do-i-close-comment-threads-

Doug probably has to modify that setting.

Ian Miller
6 years ago
Reply to  timothy

Thanks for the info – I’ve been wondering that myself.

Chad Barnes
6 years ago
Reply to  Lance Roberts

Lance, thank you for letting me know. I think I have resolved the issue.

"A" dad
"A" dad
6 years ago

“I never thought I would have to resort to divine authority……”?????

Divine Authority is the only Authority That Is, the better question is:

Why didn’t he start with it?

Anyway, what did the “girls” say, after you said “look! girls!” ?

“the heady ones among us” might finally get it, if you explained the process more thoroughly! ; – )

doug sayers
doug sayers
6 years ago

For what it’s worth: When engaged in my Dad’s land surveying business I learned the importance of *witnesses*. We were always supposed to get three witnesses to a major property line point of intersection. We would measure (and record) the angle and distance to each witness. Later, when someone had to find the point, the witnesses were essential and very helpful. We could strike an arc from each witness and where each arc crossed (sure enough) we would find the point. This has proven to be a valuable lesson in defending the existence of God, the claims of Christ, assurance,… Read more »

Ian Miller
6 years ago

While I personally think that just because an argument participates in Bulverism doesn’t mean it’s invalid, I believe Doug has supported C. S. Lewis’s opposition to the tactic, so I’m a bit unimpressed by his “evolutionary reductionistic materialist atheists are all effeminate nerds who don’t get girls, and that’s why they REALLY don’t believe in the soul.”

bethyada
6 years ago

I would generally equate natural law with general revelation (moral). It seems that there is equivocation on “natural” and, to an extent, “law”. Do we mean natural in that we learn this from nature (or the nature of things), or that it comes naturally. Natural law means the former. We need to then argue why people do not find natural law natural. In as much as men agree with us about natural law, we can work from our shared assumptions. But we can do this anyway, even if the shared assumption is not natural law (eg. the peace child). So… Read more »

Ether Doc
6 years ago

The only thing I can agree with is that there is an objective reality. We can measure and describe reasonably well. “God”, a concept in our heads, is not part of it.