Homosexuality and the Gospel

Last Monday night, I addressed the students of Boyce College about Billy Lucas, a high school student in Greensburg, Indiana who took his own life after suffering an extended period of bullying and abuse from his classmates. Just days later, the entire country heard the news of Tyler Clementi, a gay Rutgers University student who also ended his life after a cruel violation of privacy perpetrated by his classmates. The New York Times reports this morning that there have been several recent incidents in addition to these in which homosexual students have taken their own lives as a result of bullying or abuse.

What is going on here? And how are Christians to minister to homosexual persons in this kind of a context? I argued last Monday that Christians have a special responsibility to speak the truth in love as we reach out to homosexuals. That means that Christians must speak at least three things:

1. Speak the Truth (Rom. 1:26-27)
2. Speak the Gospel (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
3. Speak Humility (1 Tim. 1:8-16)

I didn’t say everything that needs to be said on this topic, but my hope and prayer is that I made a faithful start of it. You can download the message here or listen below.

[audio:http://www.sbts.edu/media/audio/BoycePodcast/20100927-boyce-podcast-burk.mp3]

UPDATE: A commenter just asked if I would share my sermon notes, and I am happy to do just that. You can download them here.

UPDATE 2: Albert Mohler has a must-read on the same topic here: “Between the Boy and the Bridge: A Haunting Question.”

61 Responses to Homosexuality and the Gospel

  1. Scott Maze October 4, 2010 at 7:13 am #

    Denny,

    Thank you for your sermon and your stand on this important topic. Any way you can present your notes to us as well? No problem if you are unable to do so. Again, thank you.

  2. Denny Burk October 4, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    Scott,

    I just posted a link to the notes at the end of the original blog entry above.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  3. Donald Johnson October 4, 2010 at 8:39 am #

    I suggest “speak love” is the first thing for ANY believer to do. If one does not do that, one is just a clanging cymbal.

  4. David Vinzant October 4, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    As long as there are religious leaders insisting that homosexuality is somehow wrong or deviant, the tragedies of bullying and of gay teens comitting suicide will continue. It is no coincidence that homophobia is greatest in the same parts of the country where Southern Baptists and other religious conservatives prevail. Your words of hating the sin and loving the sinner are hollow comfort to the grieving.

  5. John October 4, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    “As long as there are religious leaders insisting that homosexuality is somehow wrong or deviant, the tragedies of bullying and of gay teens comitting [sic]suicide will continue.”

    Well, you are entitled to your opinion, but we hope you realize that your opinion is not fact.

    “It is no coincidence that homophobia is greatest in the same parts of the country where Southern Baptists and other religious conservatives prevail.”

    Perhaps you might present some data to support your opinion. FWIW, correlation is not equal to causality.

    “Your words of hating the sin and loving the sinner are hollow comfort to the grieving.”

    Assuming they are meant to comfort the grieving.

    Homosexuality is wrong and deviant because 1 Cor. 6:9 and 1 Tim 2:10 clearly state so. Homosexuality is not the only sin, but a sin it is nonetheless. Do you think it is loving to homosexuals to pretend that their lifestyle is not under the condemnation of God?

  6. Nathan October 4, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    I think the proper Christian response to homosexuality is more than telling homosexuals a thing or two.

    Telling me how bad you think my actions are really only exposes what you really think of me.

    You telling me that some other person loves me isn’t going to do much for me if I don’t really believe the other person actually exists.

    I think something is missing. Do you agree?

  7. Nate October 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    We have a false notion that if the country says something is not illegal or immoral, then the church should get in line with the government. Case in point, to the Christian communities shame, we have allowed divorces in the church to be far easier to get than they should be, due to the no-fault divorce laws and other easy-access divorce laws in the last 40 years.

    What is also shocking, for those of us born before (say 1980), is to now see Christians pandering to homosexuals. It really hasn’t been too many years ago that nobody (except for the tiny number of closet homosexuals) even dared to speak openly about being homosexual, and coming of the closet, etc.

    My concern is that 20 years from now the country will be tolerating sex with children. If so, will the church be making similar statements at that time about how Christians need to be loving towards the sinner. I think we confuse loving with speaking the truth. Christians aren’t going around saying how we should love rapists or murderers, we go around and say we need to share the gospel with them (which is a loving thing to do).

    This probably piggybacks into the discussion surrounding Christians and the political process, but it seems clear to me that Christians, asleep at the wheel for the last 40 years (politically speaking), are now stuck having to come up with talking-points on how to deal with what previously was considered a crimminal act. And for those who did not read it earlier, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take the gospel into prisons, jails, etc. – WE SHOULD!

  8. Nathan October 4, 2010 at 1:46 pm #

    If you consider it pandering to allow people to speak openly about being homosexual, then you are part of the problem. Plan and simple. Keeping people in the closet is not being on the side of truth. Only bad things can happen in this scenario. We’ve seen it over an over. A person cannot find help from you if they cannot claim, “It is I” within your midst. Plan and simple.

  9. Nate October 4, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    You obviously did not read the part about rapists and murderers Nathan. We don’t make similar statements about them, do we? What you and others forget is that homosexuality (engaging in homosexual acts) was a criminal offense in all 50 states less than 60 years ago. So do you think we should take the same approach towards MANBLA, as you advocate for homosexuals, as they seek to come out of the closet and say their lifestylye is normative and misunderstood?

  10. David Vinzant October 4, 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    “LGB [Lesbian, gay, bi-sexual] youth who come from highly rejecting families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.”

    from http://www.thetrevorproject.org/suicide-resources/suicidal-signs

    There is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that gay teens in religiously conservative families experience a great deal of stress and suicidal tendencies due to religious beliefs about homosexuality. One example from a website for gay teens:

    “I’m sixteen and i’m bisexual leaning towards gay. My parent are Christians and so am I. I very much believe in God and know he lovese but my mom has cancer and my brother committed suicide earlier this year and I don’t know if she could handle me coming out. My dad hates gays and thinks we are all just accidents an that we convince ourselves we are gay. I can’t stand it. I’ve contemplated suicide and running away but I can’t tell my parents I’m gay. Even as I write this I’m hiding and writing it on my iPod. I don’t know what to do.”

    The fact that people like Nate view homosexuality as equivalent to murder or rape shows how many people still hold ignorant and destructive beliefs about homosexuals.

  11. Nathan October 4, 2010 at 2:35 pm #

    Nate,

    Advocating against the closet is different from advocating for 100% acceptance of homosexuality. Each side has to realize that the other side has the right to be wrong.

    I will agree that homosexuality should be considered akin to murder because they are both sin, as soon as you go to the gallows for your sin. Why should we keep your sin legal (assuming that they are all legal)? Why should we allow for you to admit your faults without fear of castigation? Why should we have a real, objective view of what’s going on in your life and present you with grace and love?

    BTW, the organization is called NAMBLA, not MANBLA, but I get why you’re confused…

  12. Nate October 4, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    David, you entirely missed the point as well. I merely pointed out that committing homosexual acts was against the law (a criminal offense) in the country up until 40 years ago or so. I never said it was equivalent to rape or murder. Technically speaking (according to the law) rape and murder aren’t equivalent. But to attempt to say that homosexuality, in the near history of this country, was not a criminal offense is ignorant of history and the facts.

    So, David, what about MANBLA. They are where the homosexual community was 40 years ago. Is it destructive of society to consider them criminals? They would argue they are misunderstood. They would argue that the children they have sex with deserve the right to choose for themselves, and they would argue that they are being forced to hide in isolation and fear.

    As I said, Christians aren’t going around saying how we should love (tolerate) those who represent MANBLA. Yet we should say we need to share the gospel with them (which is a loving thing to do).

    I don’t want to see young people end their lives over this issue. But we are fooling ourselves if we start developing an attitude that today’s criminal offenses (see MANBLA argument) won’t turn into tomorrow’s tragedies (see today’s homosexual issues) by pandering to a culture that wants to become more and more deviant morally.

    That’s why I said the Christian community’s refusal to stay involved politically has bred much of the struggles we are dealing with today. Secularist’s don’t care about homosexual’s or anybody’s eternal destiny, because they don’t think there is one. It is loving to speak the truth (of the gospel) and to attempt to prevent society from imploding into a immoral trash heap.

  13. David Vinzant October 4, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Nate,

    Yes, homosexual acts (sodomy) were illegal in many states 50 years ago. Also, oral sex committed within marriage was illegal. Also, interracial marriage was illegal in every southern state. This proves absolutely nothing. Your logic is flawed.

  14. Nate October 4, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Yet, you won’t weigh in on the issue with NAMBLA though, will you David? Why is that?

    Your refusal to state that there must be moral limits in a society is flawed. And the interacial marriage argument is a civil rights issue, not a sexual choice, which is apples and oranges.

    If you won’t speak to NAMBLA issues, then what about polygamy?

  15. David Vinzant October 4, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    The point here, Nate, is that just because something was illegal in the past, yet now legal, does not mean that gay behavior should be criminalized or that any current illegal behavior will necessarily become legal someday.

    With regards to who has sex with whom, my position is that legally competent adults should be able to engage in sex and or marriage with any other legally competent adults. Thus – adults having sex with children is out, but I have no problem with polygamy.

  16. Sue October 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm #

    My concern is that 20 years from now the country will be tolerating sex with children.

    In fact, sex with children is sex within a dominance-submission framework – a power differential. Any sex within an power differential ought to be outlawed. That is what I would like to see. It is stomach turning to have sex within a power (or authority) differential.) I am surprised that this has been tolerated as long as it has in our society.

  17. Sue October 4, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    legally competent adults

    Yes, exactly. I wish that I had been allowed to become one of those. I wish that I had been given equal authority and equal responsibility with those who are usually considered legally competent adults.

  18. Thomas Newell October 4, 2010 at 7:24 pm #

    Why the outrage and concern about his young man David? In your atheistic worldview this is just a Darwinian event in which a person choose to end it.

    You can pretend to be outrage and think it is heinous for his roomate to do such a thing (you can even try and link the cause to religion which is a FAIL on your part) but why is this heinous?

    Lets just faithful live out our worldviews here David. Why does this young man have any dignity, value or worth in your opinion? As far as I can tell you are borrowing chips from a theistic worldview-such as meaning – to import into a worldview that does not have any.

  19. Nathan October 4, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    A ha! Living out one’s worldview. That is what I think is missing from the average Christian’s response to gay people.

  20. Nate October 4, 2010 at 9:15 pm #

    “Thus – adults having sex with children is out, but I have no problem with polygamy.”

    But now David you are succumbing to your own rationalizing. 20 years from now our government may give children the right to make their own decisions (see 13 year old’s that can have abortions without parental notification already), so then it would be a consenting adult to consenting adult. Therefore, your toleration of a situation today that previously was outlawed is hypocritical if you will not tolerate a similar scenario down the road. Hence there is no moral boundary for you, it is whatever society tolerates.

    That has been my point all along. So how far will you go? Sounds like you will go as far any anyone else takes you.

  21. Sue October 4, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    20 years from now our government may give children the right to make their own decisions

    But, as a matter of fact, the age of consent in England in the 19th century was 12 years old. It was an egalitarian women who took this up with British Parliament – Catherine Booth. She had a 14 year old daughter and she preached to members of Parliament on her mother’s heart, that 12 year old girls were controlled by pimps and members of Parliament, (christian men, one supposes) frequented these young prostitutes without running the risk of conviction of a sex crime.

    THe trajectory is operating in the opposite direction, not liberalizing but tightening up all the time.

    When I went to school, it was common enough for male teachers, and preachers, single ones, to date 16 year old girls. This would not be acceptable today.

  22. Sue October 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm #

    Taken from a transcription of Booth’s address at Exeter Hall, 1884.

    “I read some paragraphs taken from the report of a debate in the House of Commons, which made me doubt my eyesight, with respect to the age at which female children should be answerable for their own ruin. I could not help the blood rushing to my temples with indignant shame. I could not help rubbing my eyes and reading again and saying, do my eyes deceive me? Could this ever have happened in the House of Commons in England? Oh! my God, are we come to this? I did not think we were so low as this—that one member should suggest that the age of these innocents should be heightened to 14, and that another suggested it should be not so high. Another that it should be reduced to 10, and oh! my God, pleaded that it was hard for a man—HARD—for a man!—having a charge brought against him, not to be able to plead the consent of a child like that. I would not tell what, but for the grace of God, I should feel like doing to the man who brought that argument to bear on my child.

    I have a sweet innocent little girl—many of you have also—of 14, as innocent as an infant of any such things—what, if a man should make an application of this doctrine to her. Well may the higher classes take such care of their little girls? Well may they be so careful never to let them go out without efficient protectors. But what is to become of the little girls of poor unprotected widows? Of the little girls of the working classes of this country? I do not know who these men were who discussed this matter of ages. It is a good thing I do not just now. But I think we ought to know. Still, I do not care who they were. I say I could not have believed that in this our country such a discussion amongst so‐called gentlemen could have taken place. I talk a good deal about the masses, and I know a good deal about them, but I am bound to say that I do not believe there could be found twelve roughs in any tap‐room in England who would be parties to, page: 14 or tolerate such a discussion.”

    This is the age of consent in Vicotian times. It has never been as high as it is today, and we have Christian women to thank for this.

    I do not like to see this constant suggestion that tolerating homosexuality means that we will one day tolerate pdophilia. Using children for sexual ends has been around since the beginning of history. It is not recent.

  23. Sue October 4, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    Nate,

    I hope you recognize that Christian women have raised the moral boundary from what it used to be.

  24. David Vinzant October 4, 2010 at 11:08 pm #

    Nate, The things you say do not make sense. My moral boundaries have to do with reason, not the standards of society. For instance, I think slavery is wrong now, it was wrong 200 years ago when practiced by Southern Baptists in the American South, it was wrong 2,000 years ago when practice by early Christians, it was wrong 3,000 years ago when practice by Jews. I’m what you might call an absolutist. Most Christians are relativists on slavery.

    Thomas, You don’t really know much about me so it is a bit presumptious for you to assume you know my thoughts and motives. My morality is based on reason. Darwin’s theory brilliantly explains how species originated. It has nothing to say about morality. It is fascinating that when confronted with the problems in your worldview, rather than defend it, you decide to attack me. That says volumes about your worldview.

  25. David Vinzant October 4, 2010 at 11:11 pm #

    Atheism is not a worldview.
    Evolution is not a worldview.
    If you must fit me into one of your worldview pigeonholes, use the one labeled humanism.

  26. Mark October 4, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    I said this in a previous discussion in Dr. Burk’s blogsite: is it truly loving to not stop a recklessly speeding car that is headed towards a cliff? I don’t understand why many liberals and mainliners always criticize conservative Christians for being unloving for calling homosexual acts as sin. The fact that we speak the biblical truth about the sin of homosexual sex demonstrates our love for those who are engaged in this kind of behavior.

  27. Mark October 4, 2010 at 11:28 pm #

    David, secular humanism is a lie invented by the followers of the evil one.

  28. Thomas Newell October 4, 2010 at 11:33 pm #

    Humanism is just silly and a euphemism for, “I want to be an atheist but still believe in meaning, value and morals without any reason to do so.”

    Be consistent David, if you want to be an atheist that’s fine, but put away this notion you can with “reason” arrive at conclusions of slavery being wrong. On what grounds?

    Heck if anything a non-theistic view of humans would see us as just animals trying to survive. If I can exploit and abuse another to advance my survival who in the world are you or anyone else to tell me it is wrong?

    If your going to be an atheist David than go all the way with Bertrand Russell and accept that “outside of human desires there is no moral standards.”

    So get off the moral soapbox David, your belief system won’t buy you one to stand on.

  29. Brian October 5, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

    It is dissapointing that the conversation in the comments section of blogs usually accomplishes nothing beneficial. Isn’t is possible to respond to a comment that you disagree with with grace and humility?

    Most Christian’s I know have 1 Cor. 6:9 loaded in their gun ready to fire at homosexuals telling them that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

    But that passage is for all of us, thieves- have you burnt a cd? Fornicators- have you had sex outside of marriage? Drunkards- are you always messed up? Nor idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, covetous, revilers, or swindlers.

    We can’t just read the text and pick out homosexuality because we don’t understand it or struggle with it or because it seems gross to us all sin condemns.

    But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ that he did something about sin by sending His Son to die on the cross. Bearing the wrath of God directed towards us, 3 days later he rose from grave.

    If we are going to truly help people who struggle with homosexuality we must always point them to Jesus.

  30. Nate October 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Brian, your point is understandable, but how many churches do you know where the theives, fornicators, drunkards, adulterers, etc. are standing up and saying that the bible really doesn’t mean we can’t do these things, where they say they should be allowed to still practice these things without concern of judgment.

    That is what the majority of the homosexual community is saying. The bible just meant homosexual rape, not two men who love each other.

    Your statement, “if we are going to truly help people who struggle with homosexuality we must always point them to Jesus,” would be responded with, “I already have Jesus and he is cool with my homosexuality.”

    That is why this issue is a little more toxic. Grace and Humility doesn’t have to equate to agreement and non-reaction. Sometimes it means speaking truths that can seem harsh.

  31. Brian October 5, 2010 at 4:09 pm #

    Nate I agree with most of what has been said, but I know it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.

    Col. 4:6 tells us let our words be with grace as though seasoned with salt.

    Essential to true Christian ministry is speaking about sin, righteousness, and judgment. Because Jesus said that would be characteristic of the Holy Spirit Jn. 16:8.

    We cannot be passive about sin. The only thing in all of creation that disobeys God is us. We are wicked to the core and in need of new life, we need to be re-born.

    All I’m saying is there is a good Christ exalting way to speak to people about the terrible condition that they are in and there is a bad way.

    Through prayer the good way could lead to everlasting life.

    On the other hand.

    The bad way leads to homosexuals committing suicide.

    There is hope to be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  32. Chris October 5, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    Actually I think it’s self-serving to make the loss of this young mans life a rallying point for homosexual tolerance. It isn’t and its shameful and selfish to try and make it so.

    The real issue is not whether he was gay or not, not whether we change the meaning of scripture to fit our own life view or not, but rather how can we provide a better support network for any young person who questions the value of their life.

  33. David Vinzant October 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    Thomas,

    I’m curious about the quote you gave from Bertrand Russell: “outside of human desires there is [sic] no moral standards.” Can you tell me where he said this? I’m guessing that you are taking him a bit out of context. I would also assume that he is talking about the overall desires of humanity. In other words – outside of humanity, there is no morality. That is a statement I would agree with. I do not think of my dog as immoral because she routinely kills moles, birds, and rabbits.

    Since you bring up Bertrand Russell, here are some other, fuller quotes from him that help expain morality apart from a deity.

    “All who are not lunatics are agreed about certain things. That it is better to be alive than dead, better to be adequately fed than starved, better to be free than a slave. Many people desire those things only for themselves and their friends; they are quite content that their enemies should suffer. These people can only be refuted by science: Humankind has become so much one family that we cannot ensure our own prosperity except by ensuring that of everyone else. If you wish to be happy yourself, you must resign yourself to seeing others also happy.”

    “If throughout your life you abstain from murder, theft, fornication, perjury, blasphemy, and disrespect toward your parents, your church, and your king, you are conventionally held to deserve moral admiration even if you have never done a single kind or generous or useful action. This very inadequate notion of virtue is an outcome of tabu morality, and has done untold harm.”

    “Those who forget good and evil and seek only to know the facts are more likely to achieve good than those who view the world through the distorting medium of their own desires.”

    “I am not suggesting that there should be no morality and no self-restraint in regard to sex, any more than in regard to food. In regard to food we have restraints of three kinds, those of law, those of manners, and those of health. We regard it as wrong to steal food, to take more than our share at a common meal, and to eat in ways that are likely to make us ill. Restraints of a similar kind are essential where sex is concerned, but in this case they are much more complex and involve much more self-control. Moreover, since one human being ought not to have property in another, the analogue of stealing is not adultery, but rape, which obviously must be forbidden by law. The questions that arise in regard to health are concerned almost entirely with venereal disease.”

    Russell rejected evolutionary ethics as seen here: “The phrase ““survival of the fittest”” seems to have given rise to the belief that those who survive are the fittest in some ethical sense, and that the course of evolution gives evidence that the later type is better than the earlier. On this basis, a worship of force is easily set up, and the mitigation of struggle by civilization comes to be deprecated. It is thought that what fights most successfully is most admirable, and that what does not help in fighting is worthless. Such a view is wholly destitute of logical foundation. The course of nature, as we have seen, is irrelevant to deciding as to what is good or bad. A priori, it would be as probable that evolution should go from bad to worse, as that it should go from good to better.”

  34. Thomas Newell October 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm #

    He said it in “Why I Am Not A Christian.”

    Even with all of your quotes from Russell you only further prove my point David, all of these are just his opinions, there is not obligation that I must agree with him or find his opinions to be binding.

    Russell says, “Moreover, since one human being ought not to have property in another, the analogue of stealing is not adultery, but rape, which obviously must be forbidden by law.” Where does his “ought” come from and why am I obliged to abide by it? Who are you to impose your morality onto others David? This seems quite judgmental on your part.

    Basically this is a question about the NATURE of moral values. Are they matters of social convention like driving on a certain side of the road? Or are they binding, independent of our opinion. if they are objective and binding beyond our on opinion the question is on what grounds? I have not heard an answer from you on this David, so as I pointed out before, your soapbox about moral atrocities has no legs to stand on…

  35. David Vinzant October 5, 2010 at 10:15 pm #

    Thomas,

    I don’t have a copy of “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Could you please give the full paragraph in which he made that statement in order to give it context?

    I would also suggest you read Russell’s “What I Believe.” His views are not grounded simply on his opinion, but in a carefully reasoned argument. I look to reason as the guide in morality. That’s where the “ought” comes from. I cannot impose this view on anyone, but I can try to persuade others of the benefit to all of us to behave morally.

    You might say, “Why should anyone else accept reason as a guide to morality?” My answer: enlightened self-interest. It is in my own interest to act morally. I cannot force anyone else to act rationally, but I can attempt to persuade them to do so. If I go around pillaging and murdering, I am liable to be killed or arrested. My friends and family would be very displeased with me. To put it bluntly, it would not serve my long-term interests.

    Morality is not a social convention like which side of the road you drive on. Morality, like reason, stands objectively and independently of our opinion. Even if the whole world were to approve of torture, it would still be wrong. In the same way, if the whole world said 2 + 3 = 9, they would be wrong.

    Every major philosophy and religion has concluded that the most rational and moral way to live is to treat others the way you yourself want to be treated. Christians know this as the Golden Rule, but it was stated long before the time of Jesus.

    Confucianism: “One word sums up the basis of all good conduct: loving kindness. Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself.” Confucius, Analects 15:23.

    Hinduism: “This is the sum of the Dharma (duty): do naught to others which would cause pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517.

    Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it.” Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

    Taoism: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Lao T’zu, T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien.

    Buddhism: “…Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” The Buddha, Udana-Varga, 5.18.

    Here’s how Thomas Jefferson put it, “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear. . . . Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure you.”

    A more recent public figure, Alan Dershowitz said this: “Morality based on religion is often no morality at all. If you do it because of heaven or hell, or because an instruction book told you to, it’s not morality. It’s morality when you have decided yourself, without benefits or threats, that this is the right thing to do.”

  36. Thomas Newell October 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm #

    These are still not objective and binding David. You cannot just use the word “reason” and pretend it has an imposing force upon all people.

    What if my reasoning on morality leads me to genocide and I believe the greatest good can come about by putting millions of a certain ethnic group into ovens?

    And what if this “self-interest” which you appeal to is relative from person to person. I could be in my interest and moral framework to enslave you. Alexander the Great long ago coined the phrase “might makes right” and was acting in his own self-interest.

    You say it would not be beneficial for you to go around killing and stealing, but I argue it would…if you could get away with it. This was the foundational thesis of the classic movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

    You said, “Even if the whole world were to approve of torture, it would still be wrong. In the same way, if the whole world said 2 + 3 = 9, they would be wrong.” How do you know this? This is a massive knowledge claim that it I doubt you can prove…do you want me to take this on faith? And even if moral values did just exist, I am not obliged to abide by them. I can consider if they will benefit me and then decide. But ultimatly it is completely meaningless if I act moral for the sake of being moral. The universe is on its way to heat death and all we do will pointless anyway.

    The Dershowitz quote you provide is makes a number of confusions about morality. Dershowitz just assumes there is a “right thing to do.” Who is he to say? He needs to support this knowledge claim. How did he discover the right thing to do and why is it objectively true for everyone. This is classic subjectivity.

    And your wrong that most philosophy’s have reasoned to the same conclusion of treating people the way you want to be treated.
    -egotism
    -totalitarianism
    -postmodernism
    -nihilism
    -some forms of atheism
    -facsim
    -variations of communism such as Stalinist
    -eugenics, tribalism, and aggressive nationalism
    -statism

    I could give more but I think you are getting the idea. So you have to do better than “reason” because it seems that humans reason to all sorts of different conclusions. And even if we did reason it does not make it objectively binding, as our reasoning could change over time and thus are morality would also.

  37. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 8:35 am #

    Reason is both objective and universal, unlike religion. Within Christianity alone, over 30,000 denominations have been identified, each claiming to have arrived at the truth while all reading the same book and guided by the same Holy Ghost. The one thing they all agree on is that the other groups are not right.

    Yet, using reason – with no holy book or ghost – people from all over the world and of all religions and philosophies – have been able to jointly agree on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is an amazing document stating the fundamental rights of all based on human reason and experience. That document condemns slavery and genocide, both of which are condoned in the Bible. It states that every person is entitled to a public education, basic medical care, and freedom of religion – three concepts the Bible forgot to mention.

    You say that reason is not binding. This is true. Various individuals and groups have acted irrationally and immorally throughout history. It is up to those of whose who are rational to create and enforce a system of government in which the rights of all, even homosexuals, are protected. By contrast, some religious texts, including “God’s perfect Law” actually condemn honmosexuals to death just for their sexual orientation.

    You say that it would be beneficial for you to go around killing and stealing if you could get away with it. I disagree. For even if no one else knew, you would know. You would be haunted by your own knowledge of having wronged others. If not, you are probably deranged and hopefully those of us who are rational would be able to capture you and lock you up.

    You are not obliged to follow reason any more than are you obliged to agree that 2 + 2 = 4. If you wish to have a happy life, I would strongly suggest that you follow the laws both of reason and math.

    You mention “might makes right.” Isn’t this the real power behind a religion that claims the ultimate might and the ultimate threat of eternal punishment? Reason says “right makes right.”

    A final question: If you were a member of Joshua’s army and were ordered to steal others’ goods and to kill with your swordall the people of a city, including the elderly, children and women (including preganant women), would you obey?

  38. Thomas Newell October 6, 2010 at 11:59 am #

    David I am going to end here because you keep dodging. You continue to use reason as this “objective” category that is known by all but I listed numerous groups and philosophies in my previous comment that have reasoned to many different conclusions on what is right and moral.

    Even so, reason could never be binding because it creates no binding duty on anyone. It goes back to what Alvin Plantinga has called that atheist problem of “who says?” Who says I have to follow an arbitrary human rights declaration? It bears not obligatory authority upon me. I am under no requirement to listen to their subjective opinions on how they think I should live my fleeting, meaningless life on this floating rock. If other biological animals want to come together and create pacts then good for them, but in no way is it binding and objective for all.

    There are no moral laws (meaning duties and actions all are required to obey with enforcing consequences) without a law giver who possess the authority and jurisdiction to make them binding upon all. Without a law giver you only have opinions. These opinions may be based on reason, consensus, or declarations, but all of these are malleable, subjective and lacking in authority for all to recognize as valid.

    Good chat David, but I have yet to see where you root/ground your moral outrage at slavery in anything other than your own opinions and preferences, which you seem deeply passionate about imposing upon others…somewhat intolerant if you ask me.

  39. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 1:12 pm #

    Thomas,

    Reason is not binding in the sense that it forces anyone to comply. People can choose to be irrational and immoral. Reason is, however, objective and universal. Experience, especially with some of the nasty regimes you mention, has taught us that reason and the Golden Rule are the only lasting basis for a good society.

    If anyone is dodging here, I suggest it is you. Those who look to some outside divine power to tell us what is right have several serious problems to overcome.

    One is the Euthyphro Dilemma, origianlly identified by Plato, which asks, “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” If it is good whether or not God has said so, then morality exists apart from God. If it is only good because God says so, then it is not really good on its own. God could order rape and murder and it suddenly becomes “good.”

    This brings me back to the question you artfully dodged: “If you were a member of Joshua’s army and were ordered to steal others’ goods and to kill with your sword all the people of a city, including the elderly, children and women (including pregnant women), would you obey?”

    Another serious problem you dodged is the fact that so many people who claim to follow the same religion disagree on what their religion teaches. Christian pacifists say that it is wrong to go war, yet most evangelicals have no problem going to war. Which side is right and how do you know? Both claim to obey the Bible. Please don’t tell me that you are going to use your reason to determine what the Bible actually says since reason is “malleable, subjective and lacking in authority for all to recognize as valid.”

    The problem is further complicated by the billions of people who follow other religions entirely. Each claims to speak the truth (or Truth) for its god. How do I determine which is right? Surely I can’t use old unreliable reason.

    The issue of slavery is fascinating because the Bible so clearly approves of slavery yet most Christians consider it immoral. Hardly any Christians thought slavery was immoral for the first 1,800 years of Christianity. It was only after the Enlightenment and the reliance on reason as a moral guide that a few Christians started realizing that slavery was immoral.

    I have only two legs to stand upon – reason and experience. But two is better than none.

  40. Thomas Newell October 6, 2010 at 1:26 pm #

    I did not dodge any subject David, only refused to go down rabbit trails with you since you can’t justify objective moral values on an atheist view.

    I have already highlighted how many philosophies and groups have “reasoned” to many different conclusions which makes this catagory far from objective or always steady and true. Rather it is fickle and vulnerable to new interpratations and understandings at a later point. Objective moral values are not.

    Your experience is irrelevant, this is subjective and only what you or a group of people have found to be best. This means nothing to others as they drift in space deciding how they want to live their fleeting moments on this Earth.

    So you can say “slavery…yuck,” but you can’t tell me is is truly wrong at all times and for all people. You do not have the authority to make that true or impose that value onto others. It is simply your preference that people not be enslaved, one that if you are honest is quite inconsistent with a Darwinian view of survival of the fittest.

  41. Nate October 6, 2010 at 1:36 pm #

    “If you were a member of Joshua’s army and were ordered to steal others’ goods and to kill with your sword all the people of a city, including the elderly, children and women (including pregnant women), would you obey?”

    First, they weren’t told to steal others’ goods. Secondly, God had already told Abraham that He would give him that land but not yet because the sin of the Canannites was not yet finished. They had over 400 years to repent. They could have, like Rahab (the Jericho harlot) came to the Israelites and become followers of Yahweh and had been spared.

    Futhermore, one cannot read Joshua from simply a newspaper subscription standard. This is the almighty, all-powerful, Judge of the whole universe, who told Joshua to carry out His guilty verdict on the Canannites. Interestingly enough, this God later sends His own Son to die, so that anyone who believes in Him will not be judged at the final judgment.

    It’s also a fact that the Canannites were some of the most sexually deviant, child-sacrificing people on the planet. Yes, that is condemning, but you and I condemn ideas and people that we think are wrong every day. Regardless, from God’s vantage point, we are all deviant and on our way to judgment without Christ. One day there will be anohter judgment, on a much larger scale and it will be an eternal judgment, coming on the heels of another bloody war – Christ vs. the world, although the blood will only be shed this time by those opposed to Jesus.

    As for you not being able to use your reason David to determine which Savior to follow I can only say that you need to realize your reasoning powers are finite. If you truly want to understand the infinite, then you have to step out in faith. Otherwise, you will continue to follow the god of your choosing; which is you.

  42. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Just a “yes” or “no” will do, Nate and Thomas.

    Also, your unwillingness or inability to explain why slavery was OK in Bible times and for the first 1,800 years of Christianity. is very revealing.

    Neither of you seem able to explain how one chooses your brand of Christianity over other religions without the use of reason.

  43. Thomas Newell October 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm #

    More dodging and rabbit trails from David. I think you are more interested in raising objections and starting new tangents than finding truth David.

    At this point I can’t even hear any of your objections that are morally based with all the flaws I have brought up on the soapbox you try to stand on but does not exist.

  44. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 1:57 pm #

    Are you that afraid of a simple question?

  45. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm #

    Is defending the basis of the objective moral values which you claim a rabbit trail?

  46. Nate October 6, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    David, if you didn’t understand yes from me you didn’t read the response. Yet it is important to understand all have sinned and deserve the wrath of God.

    As for slavery, the Israelites were commanded to treat slaves differently than other nations. In other times, Christians merely lived under other rule (Romans, etc) and abided by their laws (many of them being slaves). As for the more current times, people are sinners and make poor choices. Yet, it was Christians who finally put an end to slavery in the West.

    I also never said that you should choose your Savior without reason, but faith must come into play also.

  47. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 2:23 pm #

    So, killing children and pregnant women is morally right under some conditions?

    So slavery is ok if we follow the OT rules for treating slaves?

    It’s a bit absurd to say that Christians put an end to slavery in the West since almost everyone in the West was a Christian. Almost all slaveholders were also Christians.

  48. Nate October 6, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    “It’s a bit absurd to say that Christians put an end to slavery in the West since almost everyone in the West was a Christian. Almost all slaveholders were also Christians.”

    So then who put an end to it?

    “So, killing children and pregnant women is morally right under some conditions?”

    Is eternal damnation right? To you probably not, but I don’t pretend to be the Judge of all the earth.

  49. Donald Johnson October 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Slavery is an excellent question.

    For the most part, it was Christians that fought to end the slave trade in England and it was Christians who were abolitionists before the American Civil War. Of course there were others on the side of slaveholders claiming the Bible endorsed slavery. The SBC formed over the question of slavery (they allowed it) and only in the last few decades repented of its position.

  50. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 2:41 pm #

    The larger question about slavery is why Christians only started opposing it after the Enlightenment. Was slavery morally right in the thousands of years prior to 1800?

    So, Nate, are you ok with slavery being re-introduced under OT rules?

    I suppose you are saying that it is sometimes morally right to kill children and pregnant women. This destroys the whole point about morality being objective, doesn’t it?

    Another OT law was that the punishment for raping a virgin was to marry her. Who would like to see this law introduced today?

  51. Nate October 6, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    David, If you understand Christianity, as you claim to, you also understand that the nation of Israel (a theocracy) is no longer a prescribed, necessary means to point towards a Savior who has already come. We (Christians) live under a new convenant (grace) and await Jesus’ return to rule and to reign.

    As for your larger question, Christians are not perfect and as I already said make bad moral and sinful choices.

    So, the OT laws that Israel lived under are no longer prescribed for a relationship with God because He has sent His Son (Jesus) and all who believe in Him will have eternal life. We are living in a day of grace, but make no mistake, there is a Final Judgment day coming and those who don’t believe in Christ will be judged and suffer eternal punishment.

  52. Thomas Newell October 6, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    Who cares David? Who cares about slavery, genocide, or any other action. I can’t answer any moral question from your viewpoint because they are all just preferences. Stop imposing your preferences on other people.

    We do not condemn the lion for killing the zebra, or killing baby male lions. Nor do we judge the Great White sharks for at times forcefully copulating with female Great Whites. Its just what they do.

    If some humans want to enslave others and they can get away with it then so what? Who is to say that it is wrong? The best you have David, is your own opinion, or that of a group, which means little to others nor compels them to submit to your moral whims.

  53. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm #

    You both managed to avoid answering any of the questions.

    Neither Jesus nor Paul had a bad word to say about slavery. Is slavery objectively wrong or not?

    Wasn’t the Law perfect as David said it was over and over in the Psalms?

    Thomas, are you totally unable to offer a single piece of support for your position?

  54. Thomas Newell October 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    All I have offered is support David and you continue to dodge. In fact it is you who refuses to offer any support for your use of the word “wrong.”

    This is really a futile exchange David if your best is to just pretend evidence has not been mounted against your views. Go back and read posts 36, 38, 40, 52.

  55. ex-preacher October 6, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

    I agree you have attacked my views many times. What you haven’t done is defend your views. Why do you ask me to do something that you are unwilling to do yourself?

  56. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    I agree you have attacked my views many times. What you haven’t done is defend your views. Why do you ask me to do something that you are unwilling to do yourself?

  57. Thomas Newell October 6, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    I have defended my view ex-preacher/David. In order for there to be binding, transcendent, objective moral laws, then there must be a law-giver.

    This is my view. Go back and look at my first comment in this thread. I have only been arguing all along that your atheist view does not afford you the grounding for your moral outrage. I think I have made my point quite substantially by this point considering you are miffed to respond to all arguments in the above referenced comments. All I have gotten from you has been rabbit trails to try and take the focus off the absurdity of moral outrage with no way to fit objective morals in your atheist perspective.

  58. David Vinzant October 6, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    Yet you offer not a shred of evidence to prove your assertion that a lawgiver is necessary.

    How did you determine that a lawgiver is necessary? Did you use unreliable reason?

    After you prove that a lawgiver is necessary, then you can start proving how exactly you determined who that lawgiver is. Again, no reason please.

    Then you can explain how you determine how to understand and apply the laws given by your lawgiver and why others who claim the same lawgiver differ in their interpretations. And, of course, please don’t use reason which is “fickle and vulnerable to new interpratations [sic] and understandings at a later point.”

    Then we can look at some of the specific issues such as slavery and murdering children and you can explain whether they are objectively wrong. And, of course, don’t use reason.

  59. paul October 7, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    I’ll never get this 10 minutes back, David and Thomas. You are both awful people. Nate isn’t far behind you.

  60. Chris October 7, 2010 at 11:25 am #

    Meanwhile back to homosexuality and the Gospel…..

  61. Mitch October 7, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    “You need to feel like YOU are the biggest sinner on the planet”

    “God help us not to be arrogant”

    Great points from your sermon Denny. Obviously not observed by some of your blog readers but great points nonetheless.

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