Tag Archives: Jack Crabtree

You Do WHAT in your Bible? The Ethics of Sex and the Demiurge (edited)

Sooo… I have to put an apology in here.  I posted this in a haze of tiredness and just-get-it-done.  I left out some thing that may be important.

Here is the edit.

Trigger Warning: Elliot Rodgers quotes.  Quotes from the Bible involving damnation. Discussion of  Biblical stories involving sexuality- some of them abusive.  Discussion of rape. Discussion of animal sexuality. Discussion of BDSM. Discussion of Jack Crabtree’s version of God meeting  the technical definition of a sadist.  Discussion of the version of God derived from the Bible (when this is treated as an authority) having analogy to a misogynist serial killer. Use of Sarcastic language throughout, including during all the other triggers I have mentioned above.

This post is part of my response to Jack Crabtree’s lecture On the Ethics of Sex in the Bible.  The notes, which I am going over, as well as audio recordings can be found here.

http://blog.gutenberg.edu/2014/the-ethics-of-sex-in-the-teaching-of-the-bible/

***

The class is over, but the show goes on.

I must admit that this section held little glamour for me. I also currently consider it the longest section of anything on the face of the earth.

Troublingly enough, this section has the best claim as the explanation of what the phrase Biblical Sexual Ethics means. You know- the title subject. Which we have not bothered to define till now.

IV. Biblical perspectives that are completely at odds with modern perspectives and that must be grasped in order to understand the Bible’s view of sexual ethics:

To the ordinary ear, it sounds as though we are going to to be talking about the Bible in this section. I mean, it does to mine anyway. So imagine my surprise when-

A. God created a purposeful, telic creation. Everything has a telos, a purpose, and it has a design to facilitate that purpose.

-it turns out we are talking about Aristotle!!!

A telos (from the Greek τέλος for “end”, “purpose”, or “goal”) is an end or purpose, in a fairly constrained sense used by philosophers such as Aristotle. It is the root of the term “teleology,” roughly the study of purposiveness, or the study of objects with a view to their aims, purposes, or intentions. Teleology figures centrally in Aristotle’s biology and in his theory of causes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telos_(philosophy)

Now. I cannot recall the Bible stating that ‘everything has a telos, a purpose, and is designed to facilitate that purpose.’ If there is one, and I have overlooked it, please, let me know.  In Psalms 119:91 the Psalmist states that

Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.

But the laws referred to seem to be the Judaic Ritual Law (the only law that had then been issued)?  According to Acts 15 Gentile believers are not required to follow this. All things do not serve the ritual laws as their purpose, so probably the endurance of the law is instead the indirect result of all things serving God.

However, this brings up the troubling problem that even the damned, by their damnation, serve God. If we assume that (at least part of) the Telos of humans is to ‘live according to God’s telos for them’, the damned are actually serving God by failing to enact their telos. Thus they aren’t failing in their telos and should not be damned.

If we further consider that certain passages in the Bible state that God purposed the failure of the failing-

Romans 9:16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”…

Romans 9:19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory…?

-and actually designed them to fail, thus designing them to facilitate the purpose of not fulfilling their purpose, this statement on the part of Mr. Crabtree becomes highly suspect.

Let’s leave this ‘Telos for everything’ business aside. Maybe if we narrow our focus, things will become clearer.

Does the Bible state that God has a purpose for humans?

Yes, it does! It says that:

Gen 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Apparently the purpose of humans is to rule the world. Some people interpret this to mean ‘care for the world in a protective/nurturing manner.’ That makes more sense, as most of our attempts to dominate the earth have been setting off processes that will eventually destroy it, if God doesn’t show back up and destroy it first.

(Question for another time. Is it a good idea to take the advice of someone who has the stated intention of violently destroying your world?)

Unfortunately, in order to maintain a stable socio-political, economic, environmental state in which the earth was cared for by the human race, the human race will probably have to find ways to limit its own growth, as a finite system cannot sustain infinite growth in any one of it’s parts. As a biological phenomena, homosexuality limits population growth without attempting to render a large segment of the human population asexual.

An attempt that was actually made by the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages. It worked so well that Priestson became a family name.

http://www.americanlastnames.us/last-names/P/PRIESTSON.html

But we’re saying homosexuality is a horrible evil. So that can’t be it.

Tossing the Bible aside, where can we get a statement of God’s purpose for humans?

Westminster Catechism and random sermons by Puritans seem like as good a place as any, seeing Mr. Crabtree has given us no source for this statement. Telos!

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

http://www.reformed.org/documents/WSC.html

http://www.puritansermons.com/watson/watson5.htm

The trouble with this still is that Pharaoh glorified God by being destroyed.

Romans 9:17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”…

And the rebellion against God, for which he was destroyed? It wasn’t a question of predestination or free will (Exodus 9-14); God mind controlled Pharaoh so that Pharaoh would keep rebelling and God could keep destroying him until He had had enough fun destroying things for His own glory.

If you don’t love God, God is going to destroy you and glory in your destruction.

Totally free choice there.

But either way, the damned do not enjoy God.

God has still not designed humans such that their design facilitates their purpose.

Now, some kinder gentler christians have argued that hell and damnation don’t exist. Some of them say that if you don’t like God, you just go out like a candle and stop existing. Others say that eventually everyone is saved.

Here are the verses that made us think that God plans to subject everyone he doesn’t like to conscious eternal torment.

Isaiah 66: 22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure. 23 From one New Moon to another and from one Sabbath to another, all mankind will come and bow down before me,” says the Lord. 24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.”

Matthew 25:41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out… 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell… 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where

“‘the worms that eat them do not die,
and the fire is not quenched.’

Luke 16:23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ …26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

2 Thessalonians 1:5 …as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

Revelations 19:20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

Revelations 20:10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

Revelation 20: 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Revelation 21:7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

You know where else I’ve heard this line of thought?

‘I’m going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoilt, stuck-up, blonde slut that I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would’ve all rejected me and looked down on me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them…’

It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it…

‘I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one. The true alpha male …’

http://bellejar.ca/2014/05/24/elliot-rodger-and-men-who-hate-women/

 Humanity has never accepted me among them, and now I know why. I am more than human. I am superior to them all. I am Elliot Rodger… Magnificent, glorious, supreme, eminent… Divine! I am the closest thing there is to a living god. Humanity is a disgusting, depraved, and evil species. It is my purpose to punish them all. I will purify the world of everything that is wrong with it. On the Day of Retribution, I will truly be a powerful god, punishing everyone I deem to be impure and depraved.

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Elliot_Rodger

Despite Augustine’s semantic squirming about evil being uncreated, there is only one person to blame for Hell. Mr. Crabtree himself once pointed out to me that if the New Heaven and Earth are perfect, if we’re there we probably wouldn’t sin. But we probably would have free will, or else our non-sinning wouldn’t be real- a.k.a. existentially chosen.

An argument routinely made by other Christians is that God had to allow sin (and hence evil) so that humans could have free will.

But apparently the sin we’re being damned for wasn’t necessary for the Creation to exist. God added it in because he wanted it.

And if reality is a novel that God is writing, not only is free will ultimately an illusion any way, but He could have easily written it such that everyone was saved.

If we take the parable of the sheep and the goats seriously, some of the people reading this are are goats. Goats, if there is a hell, you are going to meet me there.

Because I would rather go to Hell than to worship a Being this depraved.

Sheep, I sort of despise you. I would call you the ultimate quislings- traitors to sentient beings on every world and to all the Buddhas.

But you know what? You believe in God, and God is fekking scaring. You’re taking care of yourselves. Who am I to judge?

So much for purpose.

1. Human sexuality constitutes an objective reality to which human beings are
accountable. Human sexuality is not something that I can make into whatever I
want it to be. It is what it is (that is, it is what God designed and purposed it to
be); it is not mine to do with as I please.

If the universe is a novel written by God, the people who make sexuality into whatever they want (thus incurring the wrath of God and eternal torment), are what God designed and purposed them to be.

Sooo… why are we saying they are bad if God’s prescription sexuality is good? Or- if God can design something that’s bad, as long as it glorifies him, on what basis do we call the sexuality good just because God designed it?

Also, note the use of the word objective here. We’re still in section A. In sections C) D) and I) we are treated to a fascinating account of which parts of reality are to be treated as important- as really real. It sheds some light on the use of ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’.

Spoiler: According to Mr. Crabtree, reality isn’t necessarily the physically or experientially verifiable part.

…it is not mine to do with as I please.

Weeell, technically, even in this scenario sexuality is yours to do with as you please. It’s just that you are God’s property to do with as he pleases. If you don’t do it the way he likes you to do it, he’s going to make you wish you were never born.

2. The Biblical worldview is completely compatible with the notion that “natural laws” exist (if the concept of a “natural law” is understood in the right sort of way).

I just love tautologies.

This concept is completely compatible with that concept, as long as by that concept you mean this concept.

Yeah.

a) To speak of something as being “against nature” means to speak of something as being at odds with God’s purpose and design for what he has created.

A key to understanding what he’s saying here is the retroactive understanding that reality isn’t material. I swear this is actually coming- C, D, and I. ‘Nature’ doesn’t mean ‘biological existence as it actually occurs’. That would lend homosexuality and its variations the justification of being biological phenomena and actually occurring.

And we can’t have that.

No. ‘Nature’ means- ‘what the Bible says nature is’. Or rather, what Mr. Crabtree says Aristotle says that the Bible says that nature is.

(1) Therefore, to speak of sexual behavior as being “against nature” means that that sexual behavior is at odds with God’s purpose and design for human sexuality.

See? Against nature= ‘against what I think Aristotle thinks the Bible says.’

(2) Romans 1:26–2:2

Just as an aside.

Romans 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

In my Mary Pride-filled youth, this verse was used to explain to me how women giving their babies formula (unnatural relations) instead of breastfeeding (natural relations) causes men to be gay. Also- I think- AIDS?

Or maybe that’s just what Mary Pride says the Bible says that nature is, hm?

b) When we consider what might be “natural” with regard to human sexuality,
we must ask what is “natural” with regard to human sexuality.

Hm. Interesting. Yes and no. According to Jared Diamond (author of Guns Germs and Steel), in his book, Why is Sex Fun? human sexuality has a number of traits that are uncommon or unique in the animal kingdom. He also gives fairly rational arguments as to how it evolved, and how the biological evolution of human sexuality has corresponded with human social evolution.

So yes, in a sense, humans have a unique pattern of sexuality. However, that does not mean that human sexuality is fixed. In fact, if society is to change further, I wonder if different forms of and attitudes towards sexuality might be the necessary groundwork.

I mean, not to go all John Lennon on you, but- a society without rape- where each person’s wishes for their own lives and bodies were respected and valued.

What would sexuallity look like in that society?

And wouldn’t that also have to be a world where the fact that a person was a person is more important than the religion they followed? Where people are more important than money or convenience? A world without genocide?

A world where an entire race of people couldn’t be massacred by, say, drowning them all in a flood?

(1) We cannot judge what is natural for human sexuality by observing what is “natural” in animal sexuality.

On the other hand, the author of proverbs sends his son to the ants as examples of diligence in order to learn wisdom (Prov 6:6-8) and these are moral traits. Morality is supposedly the thing that distinguishes humans and their God-yearning souls from the soulless animals.

If the Bible says we can learn moral lessons from the nature of animals, what’s the problem with learning about animal sexuality for lessons on what Nature is?

For instance- the great variety of roles that male and female play in animal societies might point towards the fact that the roles taken by male and female in OUR society are not necessarily Forms Dwelling in the Suprarenal Palace of Forms, informing all reality with our particular version of Male and Female-ness.

[Content Note: this link contains cartoon/symbolic nudity to indicate gender, but does not depict sex]

“If humans used animal mating rituals” http://9gag.com/gag/aZP2zgz?ref=fb.s

But the Bible isn’t actually important in this Biblical Sexual Ethic. Mr. Crabtree needs to not be able to learn from animals, because animals operate according to the rules of their biological existence. Other people, not Mr. Crabtree of course, would say they are ruled by Nature.

And Nature has to be what Mr.Crabtree says it is- NOT what’s observable. Otherwise it might not turn out to be what he says it it.

So. Those physical/ biological examples you have? Ditch them. After all, who needs facts when you have a theory about what the Bible says!

3. Given that this is the biblical worldview, it makes no sense whatsoever to reject the idea that “natural law” (if that is understood to mean whatever coherence to the created order would dictate) gives us important information about how we humans ought to behave.

Woah! Shit! When did the Bible come into this?

Oh right. This is the Biblical Worldview- a horse of a different color.

…whatever coherence to the created order would dictate…

The key word here is “created.” “Natural Law” is being used to mean ‘the rules of the material world when understood as a creation of God /the Bible/Aristotle.’

Well duh. Of course that’s not going to contradict the Bible. When squeezed and mutilated into being understood as a created order as defined by Mr. Crabtree’s interpretation of the Bible, the material world is going to always, 100%, going to agree with what he says the Bible says.

Wave your flag for team Tautology.

a) Accordingly, the fact that homosexual sex is incompatible with procreation is an important datum in one’s reaching a rational conclusion about the morality of homosexual behavior.

And so now, without quoting a single verse, passage or Creation Science Study, we are assuming that the purpose of sexuality is procreation.

The Biblical Book On Sex, The Song of Solomon, is overflowing with intimate and metaphoric details of the lovers delighting in each other. And never once mentions procreation.

David’s first wife, Michal- you know, the one he bought for the price of several hundred severed Philistine dicks (oh alright, foreskins)- who was madly in love with him at the time, never produced a child in conjugal relations with him. But she saved his life when her dad ordered him killed (1 Samuel 18-19, 2 Samuel 6). Were their sexual relations immoral?

Or how about David’s pretty little bed warmer, Abishag? He never even had conjugal relations with her, but once he was dead, her remarriage was considered a political threat to his son Solomon (1 Kings 1). It wasn’t because of any children she had had or could have, but because she had been the king’s consort.

Was Abraham and Sarah’s relationship illicit (well, other than that it was incest) in the years before it produced a child? Or why were Abraham’s children by his concubine Keturah (Genesis 25:1-5) simply given a sack lunch and a walking stick and thrown out when they were too old to be cute anymore? Like dumped pets. God more or less micromanaged Abraham’s life. If he was doing something wrong, you would expect God would have popped up and smote him or something. But of all the many children Abraham procreated, only Isaac counted to him (and kind of Ishmael). If the procreated themselves didn’t matter to Abraham, how could procreation be the point of the sex that produced them?

But perhaps all those examples are not important because the Bible gives us bad examples as well as good ones, eh?

Maybe we should be looking to Jewish covenantal/ritual law to tell us what the purpose of sex is.

You know. The law that evil modern society has by and large discarded because they think that kidnapping people of a different ethnic group and selling them like talking pottery is a detestable ?

I don’t have time to go into it here. And Mr. Crabtree didn’t either. But maybe those are not important because they only apply to the Jews. Or something.

Maybe we know that procreation is the purpose of Sex because in first chapter of the book of the Book of Genesis, God says that his reason for making humankind is so that they will rule the earth and he tells them to reproduce in order to do it.

But if sex is the means of procreation and procreating is part of the reason humans exist, it doesn’t logically follow that procreating is the only reason for sex.

Your hands are useful both for lifting things up and for setting things down. If we could establish that the purpose of your existence was to lift boxes onto shelves- that might end up meaning that your hands are necessary to move the crates already on the shelves down onto the floor in order to make room for said boxes.

The purpose of your hands’ existence might be both actions, even if the purpose of your existence was only one of them.

There is a great deal in the Bible to be dealt with before one decides what God has decided the point of sex is. It has emotional, social, and political aspects as well as procreative ones- and that isn’t even starting on economics or demographics.

But to just decide halfway through a sentence- without dealing with any of this? Are you kidding me?

This is the argumentative equivalent of a Piggybank marked ‘Jesus Saves’.

(1) Because it gives us important information about God’s purpose and design for human sexuality.

A design we pulled out of our ass.

Excuse me while I have trouble taking this seriously.

B. A moral judgment with regard to sexual behavior (as with regard to any and all
behavior) must be made on the basis of a rational moral judgment (grounded in the
biblical worldview), not on the basis of what feels right, natural, or acceptable.

Ahem.

Polanyi`s concept of knowledge is based on three main theses: First, true discovery, cannot be accounted for by a set of articulated rules or algorithms. Second, knowledge is public and also to a very great extent personal (i.e. it is constructed by humans and therefore contains emotions, “passion”.). Third, the knowledge that underlies the explicit knowledge is more fundamental; all knowledge is either tacit or rooted in tacit knowledge.

http://www.sveiby.com/articles/Polanyi.html

Emphasis added.

1. The moral judgment we place on any behavior (including our sexual behavior)
must NOT be made on the basis of what seems right to us, for what seems right
(and natural) to us is derived from our acculturation in and by a particular culture.
It is not typically a function of our rational, moral judgment.

Broca’s work seemed particularly invulnerable to
refutation. Had he not measured with the most
scrupulous care and accuracy? (Indeed, he had. I have
the greatest respect for Broca’s meticulous procedure.
His numbers are sound. But science is an inferential
exercise, not a catalog of facts. Numbers, by themselves, specify nothing. All depends upon what you do with them.) Broca depicted himself as an apostle of objectivity, a man who bowed before facts and cast aside superstition and sentimentality. He declared that “there is no faith, however respectable, no interest, however legitimate, which must not accommodate itself to the progress of human knowledge and bend before truth.”

Women, like it or not, had smaller brains than men and, therefore, could not equal them in intelligence.

Broca understood, of course, that part of this difference could be attributed to the greater height of males. Yet he made no attempt to measure the effect of size alone and actually stated that it cannot account for the entire
difference because we know, a priori, that women are not as intelligent as men (a premise that the data were supposed to test, not rest upon)

http://faculty.washington.edu/lynnhank/wbgould.pdf

The declaration that one is functioning rationality and not emotionally is no protection against cultural prejudice. The otherwise impeccable practice of rationality does not protect one against cultural prejudice.

Rational thought falls prey to culture just as easily as gut instinct does.

My suspicion is that the only real protection against cultural prejudice that exists is the injunction to know thyself- and to actively pursue knowing the culture as well.

a) To the member of a tribe of cannibals, eating his enemies (though they are
human beings) feels comfortably “right” and “natural.” Why wouldn’t it? That
is all he has ever known.

Apparently, Broca noticed that German brains were on average larger than French brains. A good Frenchman, Broca corrected his study of French and German brains to account for the average physical difference in height.

He thought it was perfectly right and natural to not correct his data on male and female brain sizes for differences in height.

http://books.google.com/books?id=MAw5Ol_VnmwC&pg=PA217&lpg=PA217&dq=broca+women%27s+brains++Gratiolet&source=bl&ots=iMH3z66bbz&sig=cFpxXgT-yG1vccF393nZrJov-Go&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yFuXU-kdyKfIBN2ogqgJ&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=broca%20women’s%20brains%20%20Gratiolet&f=false

Rationality won’t save you.

b) From a biblical perspective, it is important that we be willing to have our cultural attitudes and perspectives completely undermined and overturned.

Kind of like how God’s perspective was completely overturned between saying

Ezekiel 18:1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
“‘The parents eat sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
3 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. 4 For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die…

19 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. 20 The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.

And saying

Exodus 34: 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

I mean if the ultimate cookie cutter of morality for all of reality sometimes changes his mind on what it means to be moral, we shouldn’t be afraid to either, right?

(1) “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” > Romans 12:2.

In the verse before this, Paul talks about offering your body as a living sacrifice to God. One has to wonder if this is similar to what the Israelites are said to have done to the children of the citizens of Jericho.

Joshua 6:16 …Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted[a] to the Lord…

Footnote a. Joshua 6:17 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 18 and 21.

20 When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. 21 They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Were those children living sacrifices before they were ‘given over’ to God ? Or only after?

At any rate, our minds must be renewed and transformed such that the murder of children is acceptable to us before the Biblical View will make sense.

To conclude IV B, I believe that the human mind is finite. Even if God exists and has gifted us with an absolute revelation, our understanding of that revelation is going to be limited. I see no reason to try rid ourselves of emotion (or rationality) in a misguided attempt to obtain absolute knowledge.

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes that talks about eternity being set in the heart, and a passage in Corinthians that talks about gaining the Mind of Christ. Perhaps you don’t share my bleak view of the limitations of knowledge.

Even so, no one said that the mind of Christ could be gained by simply discarding our human emotions in favor of our human mind.

C. My physical sexual nature is not an essential element of what I am as a human being— it is not an essential facet of what I am as a creature created in the image of God.

And now we are in Section C. The long awaited.

I have to ask. Did Adam, before he fell, have a body?

Gen 2:7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

God begins with straight out and out matter and adds a spirit. Adam was never without a body, even when he was without a soul. The answer appears to be yes.

Did his body have a sexual aspect?

Gen 1:27 …male and female he created them.
28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

The answer appears to be yes.

Were the body and its sexual aspects part of God’s image?

Gen 1: 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them…

Again, yes.

Was it good?

Gen 1:31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

It wasn’t just good, it was very good.

This entire point of Mr. Crabtree’s, if the Bible is our authority, is complete bunk.

The ‘image of God’ was pronounced on Adam as a total being. There was no disclaimer made about which aspect was the Image. So, if the Image was everything he then was, how is the rejection of sexuality anything less than the rejection of God?

Well- because God doesn’t have a body- the reasoning might go. God doesn’t look like a barely evolved monkey like we do. God doesn’t have sex. He doesn’t shit. The Image of God must be something other than our physicalness.

I’m afraid I have a lot of sympathy for the Via Negativa on this. If it isn’t generally useful to pursue the Via Negativa it is also useful to not forget it. God- if such a being exists- exists outside of  the created reality that informs our concepts.

As far as we know, God doesn’t have a spirit, as we understand spirits. The human spirit or consciousness is a lonely thing- embedded in material reality- most likely an illusion created by the firing of neurons.

http://www.amazon.com/Phantoms-Brain-Probing-Mysteries-Human/dp/0688172172

Hence the importance of being given a New Body when resurrected into the New Heavens and Earth. If you weren’t given a new body and new neurons in the new physical reality, you probably wouldn’t exist.

As far as we know, God doesn’t have neurons.

God, as the source of reality and as a being previous to and greater than reality as we know it, is no more accurately described by the word ‘spirit’ than he is by ‘matter’. Or ‘red’ or ‘blue’.

He’s on a different ontological level than we are.

If God can accurately be described as the author of the novel which is the universe, ‘spirit’ ‘will’ and ‘existential decision’ are just as much created items as the ‘body’ and its sexuality.  No more and no less.

If the entities that experience existence and  decision (our spirits, for lack of a better term) can be a metaphor of God, what prohibits bodies from being metaphor along with them?

1. In the biblical worldview, I transcend my body. My physical body, in general, is
not an essential element to what makes me “me.”

a) I will eventually have another, wholly new “physical” body. I don’t require
being in this present body to be me.

My impulse is to smart off, but this is an interesting question. I suspect that the new “physical” body Mr. Crabtree is talking about here is the resurrected body, alive in the New Heavens and Earth. And yet…

Your body replaces the matter you are made up of every seven years. And yet your experience of yourself as yourself persists. Different material being. Same identity. Clearly the person does transcend the body, right?

Let’s look closer. Your soul does not simply migrate from one block of matter to a different block of matter on the stroke of midnight every seventh year. It replaces that matter a little at a time. It discards and replaces the molecules you consist of according to a consistent pattern. At no time, during the seven year cycle, does that pattern simply and suddenly change. If the pattern according to which you are continually being made ever does simply and suddenly change, it’s called a genetic disorder, an autoimmune disease, or cancer, and may cause you to cease to exist in any measurable sense.

Pattern transcends matter.

But what governs this pattern?

Your DNA.

What is DNA made of?

Matter.

In any sense we can verify, your physical body is the essential element of what it means to be you.

2. When it comes to my sexuality, it is helpful to think of myself as a person—a
being created in the image of God—given an animal-like body through which to
act and express myself.

Maybe I just have a dirty mind. But you know what this person/animal/sexuality dynamic reminds me of?

Ponyplay.

Ponyplay is a combination of BDSM and erotic role play where the bottom assumes the role of an equid and becomes a ponygirl (or ponyboy)…

I would classify ponyplay into two very general types:

“Forced” ponyplay in which the pony still considers himself to be a human but is treated as an animal and is compelled by his trainer/owner/handler to behave as an animal. This type of ponyplay typically involves humiliation since the pony is a human who is forced to take on the role of an equid and may thus feel degraded.

Note: While it should not have to be said, it is still worth noting that in forced ponyplay (as with BDSM generally), the pony has consented to play and is not literally being forced. Ponyplay is consensual!

“Equine role play” in contrast, is when the human “becomes” an equid and does not have a human persona while in pony role. Humiliation does not typically play a role in this type of ponyplay since animals are generally not considered to be able to be humiliated, and in any event there would be no reason a horse would feel humiliated simply for being a horse.

http://www.cpony.com/home/faq.html

If we assume the body is an Animal that I, the Person, have to indwell- it sounds vaguely like God is into ponyplay.

a) The animal-like body through which I do and must express myself is a less
noble, less eternal, and less beautiful facet of who I am.

And not just Equine Role Play, either. God is going the ‘forced’/humiliation route.

b) It is my true identity as a “person” that constitutes the ultimate, eternal, noble,
beautiful, and essential facet of who I will be.

Let me reiterate something here.

Note: While it should not have to be said, it is still worth noting that in forced ponyplay (as with BDSM generally), the pony has consented to play and is not literally being forced. Ponyplay is consensual!

The difference between BDSM and actual torture and humiliation, as I understand it, is that the person being done to, in BDSM, has voluntarily entered their role.

As I understand it no one in the ‘created’ universe has entered their role voluntarily. The Bible is at pains to emphasise that point.

Isaiah 45:9 “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker,
those who are nothing but potsherds
among the potsherds on the ground.
Does the clay say to the potter,
‘What are you making?’
Does your work say,
‘The potter has no hands’?

Romans 9:20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”

God hasn’t just created a kinky universe, where he has People running around in Animal bodies.

God is actually a sadist.

“You are a person, a beautiful image of the Most Holy. But I have you in my power and, without your consent, I’m going to trap you in an animal body that will subject you to horrible perverse urges. I’m going to watch you continually to see if you slip up and have your fellow Animal People butcher you- like an animal- if you fail. You have NO RIGHT to want anything other than what I want, so if you dare to be angry or resentful of what I’ve done, or do anything other than praise me and /or beg for forgiveness for your continual failures, I’m going to take you back out of the body and drown you in fire which will torment you but of which you cannot die.”

If being a Person is different than being a Body- who the hell would do this?

The Gnostics (of whom much has been written and of whom I do not feel qualified to speak authoritatively), seem to have believed that People were different entities than their bodies. Their responses to this belief differed. Some, I believe, proscribed ascetic practices, constricting and controlling the body so that it would not interfere with the Person. Some  were said to have proscribed complete licence. After all, if the body is so unimportant, what does it matter what the Body does?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnosticism#Moral_and_ritual_practice

But they tended to agree that the Creation of the material universe was not the work of the Good God. Creation was the act of an evil minor deity- the Demiurge.  Where Christians longed for a New Earth, the most sensible thing the Gnostic could long for was that Creation would dissolve completely and the work of the Evil One would be undone. The trapped souls then would be released to return to the Good God from whom they had been separated.

I have to hand it to them. The Gnostics were at least sharp enough that they didn’t worship the Demiurge.

3. Sexual desire per se is not spiritual, transcendent, eternal, or even ennobling. It is
not an ultimate good. Indeed, being connected with an inferior animal-like facet
of who I am, it has the potential to be demeaning.

Actually, according to the first chapter of Genesis.

You know.  In the Bible.

It’s part of the Image of God.

Not to bring up the sadist thing again- but given Mr. Crabtree’s Worldview why exactly did God/ the Demiurge trap People in bodies that reproduce sexually?

The last time I read anything about it, asexual reproduction is a pretty viable solution to the problem of biological death. God/the Demiurge either knew that humans would fall or created them broken to begin with. He also apparently has this very particular taste in human sex such that he needed to make all these rules and is upset if we don’t follow them.

So why not do some damage control and foreknowingly make the physical bodies ones that wouldn’t get on his nerves in case of Fall?

Did he want to pack in the most humiliation and brokenness possible in retaliation for humans not being good enough? Or what?

a) So long as the expression of my sexuality is kept within the bounds of its God-given purpose—it can be an expression of what is good, noble, right, and of God. But, if it is not kept within the bounds of its God-given purpose, then it will become evil, dirty, demeaning, and unclean.

So, the other day, I was walking along and saw a smashed set of earbud wires lying on the side of the road. I picked them up, cleaned them up, braided them into a single strand, and made them into a DYS, totally punk necklace.

Their original purpose, for which they were made was to transmit sound. The purpose I used them for was not that.

Some people don’t like Punk very much and that’s ok. But pretend you like Punk. Or that I had striped the plastic off and used them to wire a machine that makes shoes for orphans or something. You know what those wires were when I repurposed them?

They weren’t evil. They weren’t dirty. They weren’t demeaning. And they weren’t unclean.

Now, in real life (or in in the hypothetical version where I know how to wire machines), the purpose I put the earbud wires to was either innocuous or down right noble.

What if I had instead used them to strangle some one to death?

The wires would still not be evil. Or dirty. Or unclean.

You know what would be unclean if I decided to use the wires for murder?

Me. The person who had commited murder. And only me. The wires would be just what they were before.

Wires.

(1) While it is true that sexual desire and sexual behavior is not necessarily “dirty,” neither is it “transcendent,” beautiful, and a higher aspect of my being.

Either sexuality is morally neutral or it isn’t a possible element of both Good or Evil. Get your story straight.

(a) Sexual desire and behavior can readily become “dirty,” when they transgress their created purpose.

Sigh. There goes birth control.

And yet, the lecture is about how homosexuals are dirty. Pick on the minority, will you?

(2) While it is true that sexual desire and sexual behavior is not an inherently good and ennobling facet of who I am as a human being, yet it is nonetheless true that sexual desire and sexual behavior can become an expression of and a part of that which is good, righteous, beautiful and noble.

So, dispite the fact that sexuality is neither dirty nor trancendent in and of itself, it is for some reason not morally neutral either. When used for ‘the good purpose’ it is taken up into the Telos and becomes a moral good. When used for anything else, it is a perversion.

(a) Our physical sexuality is NOT inherently noble and good, but it can be taken up into that which is noble and good.

Is it just me, or is there a lot of repetition in this section?

(b) This is where the biblical worldview parts company with the Platonic worldview that has infused so much of Christianity.

Uuuh. I’m not going to try and figure out what he thinks the Platonic/Christian hybrid is with regards to sexuality- given that Christianity has by and large taken an extremely low view of sexuality since the time of Augutine (a Platonizer in other respects) whereas Plato described sexual attraction as a rung on the ladder that we climb to reach the Good. A very low rung, but a rung nonetheless.

The real difference from Platonism itself may be that Christians often think that there is an alternative to God (who nominally corresponds with the Platonic Good).

In the Platoninc universe, what Christians call evil can be created by stopping on any given rung of the ladder- loving the beauty of the body and not going on to love the soul as well results in lust- loving the beauty of one particular body/soul and not the beauty of all body/souls results in covetousness, loving people only and not the harmony of people desired by the laws of the polis results in political discord. Etc.

But in Plato’s universe, there only exists good which has not been taken far enough to be Good. There are only deficiancies of Good.

It seems to me that Mr. Crabtree believes in Evil as well as Good.

You can subjegate a thing to a Good Purpose. And then it is a step towards the Good. But there exists Evil Purpose as well. And the thing you subject to the Evil Purpose becomes a step towards Evil.

This, despite believing that God is Good and that everything in Creation is produced by him and is intimately under his control.

Somehow, Something, Somewhere, exists that is Against Him.

O Uncreated, speak thy name.

4. If I choose to act sexually in a manner that is inconsistent with what is morally good, then my sexuality has become beast-like.

AAAGH!!! SO MUCH REPITITION!!!! YES YOU ALREADY SAID THIS!!!

Note the dichotomy that’s been set up here. Physical desire (“urges”) are beastlike. What he says Aristotle say the Bible say God says, on the other hand, is morally good, despite being incredibly not well justified Biblically.

One’s sexuality is defined by the choice one makes.

One one hand, if his theory of sexuality is treated as a theory, he forces you to chose between verifiable reality, the nature of one’s own body and one’s own consistent physical responses- and how he believes things ought to work. Believes, I might add, in direct contradiction to the Bible, whilst claiming the Bible as his authority.

If you don’t chose his theory, you are beastlike.

On the other hand, if his theory were to be treated as the Moral Good that he says it is, one is forced to chose between material reality (the Animal body you have been trapped in by God/the Demiurge) and the immaterial reality of the Good.

You must reject material reality entirely if you want to be accepted by the Good.

a) It is not the God-created person inside of me that is determining what I do with my sexuality; rather, it is the animal-like body I have been given that is determining what I do with my sexuality.

AGH!!!! JACK HAS A PERSON INSIDE OF HIM!!!!!! AAAAAAAAGGGHHH!!!

In the previous point Mr.Crabtree said you could act inconsistently with his moral good if you  chose to do so. Here, he’s saying that if your actions are inconsistant with his moral good, it is not the Person who is determining your actions but the Animal.

Guess what? “You” are not the God-created person. “You” have a God-created Person contained within your borders-

but the God-created Person is not the part that choses.

If “you” are capable of choosing between being a Person and being an Animal, I have to ask-

What are “you”?

Isn’t the point of Existentialism that since you are a Person, you must chose?

Maybe I misunderstood existentalism.

But at any rate, the Gnostic soul/body Good/Evil split is being furthered. One must escape what is normally referred to as reality and superimpose on yourself the world of your mind. Ah. Well. Jack’s mind.

And, conveniently, Mr. Crabtree has found a way to claim that his opponents are literally Animals.

Thanks so much, teacher.

5. The physical (animalistic) nature of my sexuality is, in and of itself, morally undiscerning and does not discriminate between various sexual behaviors. (That is, there is not a class of sexual behaviors that is inappropriate to the animal in us.) Hence, physical sexual response can be influenced, trained, or channeled to respond to anything.

ARGH!!!!

I hate to bring this up. However.

The physical (animalistic) nature of my sexuality is, in and of itself, morally undiscerning and does not discriminate between various sexual behaviors.

I am suspicious that Mr. Crabtree doesn’t know anything about animals. Animals may not be morally discerning. But most species of animal are definitely discriminatory about sexual behavior- unless being raped by a human. Most animal species have sexual patterns, some of which are different than normative human patterns. But individual animals of the species stick to their species’ pattern.

The only species that breaks pattern, by, for instance, occasionally raping animals of a different species, is the human one.

What Mr. Crabtree is calling animalism is actually pretty unique to humans. If I were assuming a Christian worldview, my first impression would it was a direct result (via the Fall) to human moral nature.

Animals just don’t do shit like this.

(That is, there is not a class of sexual behaviors that is inappropriate to the animal in us.)

Appropriate? I think you would have to be either an anatomist or a biologist to say yes or no to that. I am neither.

Hence, physical sexual response can be influenced, trained, or channeled to respond to anything.

Uh. Wrong.

For the human race as a whole, I would refer you to the biologist. I have no clue. I do believe that the normative human sexual pattern is not fixed, as we have already been able to watch ourselves moving away from harems (characteristic of some species of apes and the patriarchs) towards monogamy.

However, as individuals go- there are some humans who will never find ponyplay appealing. No matter how much training is applied towards that end.

Some individuals will never be turned on by cars. Some individuals are asexual- and will never be turned on by another individual of any species.

Some people will never be turned on by people of the same gender.

And do you know what?

That is totally ok.

I believe it is necessary to respect other beings and not force on them behaviors that they don’t understand or do not consent to. But other than that, no two people are exactly alike. And while you can probably force someone to CLAIM that they respond to certain things, by, say, threatening to take them outside the city walls and throwing rocks at them until they’re dead- you can’t threaten, influence or channel a person into actually changing their preference.

a) Therefore, the things in which human beings become sexually interested should come as no surprise to us. Just because a human being finds something sexually interesting does not make it “natural” and, therefore, moral.

Because “nature” means “Mr. Crabtree’s interpretation of the Bible” instead of “the physical/material/biological structure of the universe”.

But, yes. I am ceasing to be surprised.

Thus ends Section IV, A through C. Next time? Section IV, D through J.

Because Section IV is the longest section on earth.

Thank you, whitechocolatelatte, for pointing out Gnosticism. That was incredibly ept.

Back from Beyond

Well.

This was quite a hideously interesting break from blogging.   I got a lot of work done that I would not have otherwise and also fruitlessly banged my head against several things that cannot be changed.  I got over a couple things, took certain items to Goodwill, and attempted to work for the greater good.

This attempt did not render me able to fly or even make me look good in spandex.  Much to my disappointment.

I have started in on the incredibly long Section IV of Jack Crabtree’s Lecture, The Ethics of Sex in the Bible.  Jack has asserted that he has an animal-like body, that is an inferior (“a less noble, less eternal, and less beautiful”) facet of his self.  Which God gave him.

On purpose.

Homosexuality is so much worse than Gnosticism, after all.

Anyway, whilst I finish that post, here is a passage that has been on my mind the last week or so.  It is from the book Letters and Papers from Prison, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

There is no longer any need for God as a working hypothesis, whether in morals, politics or science.  Nor is there any need for such a God in religion or philosophy (Feuerbach).  In the name of intellectual honesty these working hypotheses should be dropped or dispensed with as far as possible.  A scientist or physician who seeks to do otherwise is a hybrid.

At this point nervous souls start asking what room there is left for God now. And being ignorant of the answer they write off the whole development which has brought them to this pass.  As I said in an earlier letter, various emergency exits have been devised to deal with this situation. To them must be added the salto mortale back to the Middle Ages…But that is the council of despair, which can be purchased only at the cost of intellectual sincerity. It reminds one of the song:

It’s a long way back to the land of childhood.

But if only I knew the way!

There isn’t any such way, at any rate, not at the cost of deliberately abandoning our intellectual sincerity. The only way is that of Matthew 18:3 i.e. through repentance, through ultimate honesty… God is teaching us that we must live as men who can get along very well without him. The God who is with us is the God who forsakes us (Mark 15:34)… God allows himself to be edged out of the world and onto the cross.  God is weak and powerless in the world, and it is exactly the way, the only way, in which he can be with us and help us.  Matthew 8:17 makes it crystal clear that it is not by his omnipotence that Christ helps us, but by his weakness and suffering.

…Man’s religiosity makes him look in his distress to the power of God in the world; he uses God as a Deus ex machina.  The Bible however directs him to the powerlessness and suffering of God: only a suffering God can help.

Why must God suffer?

Why is the Dying God the only one who is of value to Bonhoeffer and not the Warrior King- who created the universe by telling it had better exist or it’d be sorry- who brought you into this world and can take you out of it?

Perhaps it is because, as Aphrodite embodied the lovely desire of one for another, the Dying God Jesus personifies empathy.

I’m not going to argue about what aspect of history triggered the story of Jesus here.  But as the story stands, not even Jesus could save all humans from hell.  He couldn’t even make their lives on earth less nasty brutish and short.

But he could feel what they felt.  He could suffer too.

 

 

Guest Post: A Desire for Something

I do not believe that I can add much to what my guest poster has said by way of introduction. She is an amazing human being and a fantastic artist. You can find her work and blog here: 

http://www.kristenmohr.com/

I am honored to have her post.

 

Preface

In the interest of full disclosure let me give some background before I begin. My name is Kristen and I am a Gutenberg College alumni, class of 2008. When I first attended Gutenberg I was nineteen going on twenty. The school was like a breath of fresh air, but perhaps in ways different than might be expected.

To this day I have strong positive feelings and memories about much of my time at Gutenberg, the tutors themselves, and the life long friends I made during my four years as as student. As a child, I was homeschooled until the middle of third grade. I then attended two different private Christian schools for a year each, after which I moved to public school in the sixth grade as a result of the fact that a) kids at private school were mean and b) it was quite expensive. So off to public school I went. I walked there every day with my neighbor and socially it was a much better situation that either of the private schools had been.

When I was thirteen my family moved to Oregon where I attended public middle school and high school in Eugene. After high school I moved into the Mckenzie Study Center following a welcoming interview with two of the four house managers at that time (Tim & Corrie) wherein I told them I was “not really a Christian” and to which they replied that was perfectly fine and not a requisite of living at MSC. I did have to attend Tuesday night classes if I lived at the house though, to which I thought, “no problem, I’ve been dealing with church my whole life, I can deal with this.” I just wanted a place where I could live in peace and quiet away from any partying while I attended LCC.

[MSC is a living environment/ housing program associated with Gutenberg College. Gutenberg College was, at that time, housed in the same building as most of its students, but is technically a separate entity from MSC- Editor]

Two of my earliest memories involving the tutors were with Ron and Jack on separate occasions. My experience with Ron involved listening to a lecture he was giving on a Tuesday night. He was talking about the verse (Corinthians 11 I think?) where Paul is talking about women’s hair and head coverings and things of that nature. Verses which seemed to me the kind of thing you would want to avoid if you were trying to make sense of Christianity.

I found it impressive Ron was taking this passage on and attempting a rational explanation of how historically this sort of thing could make sense within the culture, considering people’s biases back then, and how in the present we have developed different ways to express similar sentiments. Because the sentiment itself is actually good. It wasn’t a passage degrading women, it was about respecting your husband, a notion that still makes sense in the modern world (because all women should respect their husbands and all husbands should respect their wives, right?). Anyways, I did not leave feeling pissed off. I left feeling I could appreciate the fact that these people were working to reconcile the bible’s most controversial passages in comprehensible ways.

My other memory involves the first time I met Jack at a social function. I must have had some impression of his teaching because at the outset of our conversation – practically after I told him my name – I added “ and I’m not a Christian.” I guess I wanted to be honest. Anyways, Jack looked at me and said “oh, ok!” in a awkward but quite friendly fashion (how do you not respond awkwardly in that context?). And that was it. I might as well have said, “I have brown hair!”. And it occurred to me that no one here hated me because I didn’t think the same things as them and they didn’t mind having me around. So I stayed.

My first year living at the house convinced me that not only were there people who did not mind my presence, they actually liked having me around. So many people, but a few in particular, were exceptionally welcoming. I am sure they know exactly who they are. These people went to great lengths to make sure I knew I was cared for. They dragged me out of the dark den of a room I hid in and got to know me. We had things in common. We had similar interests. I liked them a lot. And their compassion without pity changed me. And for the first time in many years it seemed maybe Christians could be something other than hypocrites.

I continued to attend LCC for a year while attending Tuesday night classes. Then one day after the presidential election in September (I had begun attending LCC for a second year) I had a very strange experience while I was at school. I should mention at this point politics were not a topic of much discussion at my house as far as I can remember. Probably because there were people who who held strongly opposing opinions living under the same roof and who didn’t want to create a more adversarial environment at home than already existed. My values were largely informed by whatever information I was naturally exposed to through my family, friends, school, and church or that I gathered myself during adolescence and early adulthood. Politics were confusing to me then and they remain confusing to me now.

Unexpectedly in the middle of an afternoon class I was suddenly overwhelmed with regret. I wished I had not voted for Kerry. I simply wished I would not have voted at all, or at least voted for a minority or third party leader who more accurately represented my own values. But I had voted for a mainstream party member because I did not want Bush to win. But he did, so did it even matter that I voted? Thinking of this made me desperately unhappy. And for whatever reason, I felt an enormous amount of fear, like I had done something wrong by voting for someone I had not felt convicted about. In retrospect, I hadn’t. I had done what seemed like the only logical thing to do at the time. But that is water under the bridge.

For whatever reason, all of this conviction and guilt led me to wonder if perhaps there was an objectively right way to live, a world where even if our actions did not make the kind of difference we wanted them to, we would still have made a decision that mattered on another level. And so I began to actively entertain the possibility of the existence of a good God and objective morality once again. Please note that I had never denied the possibility of a divine entity or even fully dismissed all my ideas about the Christian God. I would not have described myself as an atheist. And I certainly never stopped being terrified of being damned to hell. I had stopped actively trying to make sense of the Christian God because I was so exhausted by the hardships of life, frustrated by the hypocrisy of the church, and overwhelmed by the difficulty of making sense of biblical text. But I was ready to take on the challenge anew.

At this point I talked to someone about the possibility of starting at Gutenberg although it was already halfway through the fall term. The reason for this decision was because a) I had actually wanted to attend Gutenberg straight out of highschool but didn’t feel mentally or emotionally stable enough to commit myself to the curriculum in a way I wanted. I now felt stable enough. And b) because Gutenberg was a place where we could discuss everything in the universe while also considering these things in relation to the plausible existence of a good God. I would not have to make an argument at the outset of every discussion about why I was even considering a god of some sort in relation to the topic. I could expect other people to want to investigate things from this same perspective, and yet the jury could still be out! It was great. I could not have been more excited. I wanted to find out what the world looked like if in fact, a good God existed. Plus we read primary sources, my absolutely most favorite way of learning.

So I started late, attending two schools at once. I studied simultaneously at both institutions for around three weeks. It was crazy making and I do not recommend it. I made up almost every single reading and learned the greek alphabet along with some grammatical basics over winter break. And I studied Euclid and Aristotle over the next summer or two. Studying Aristotle by yourself is awesome by the way. And hilarious. Oh winged things, how can I forget you. ❤

I loved it. I loved learning everything. Over the next two years (the first western civ cycle) between work, school, and friendship I did as much background reading as I could sanely manage. I bought extra books whenever I could afford them. In general, I was bat shit crazy about learning the history of western civilization, literature, and philosophy. The world felt like it was beginning to make a bit more sense. The final two years of my degree were more complicated for a variety of reasons which I won’t discuss right now. In many ways they were not as enjoyable as my first two years, but they were probably just as influential.

After college I married  my BFF Mike O’Malley Mohr (ceremony performed by Mr. David Crabtree himself) who attended the University of Oregon obtaining an undergraduate degree in Classics. Some of you might know him or be familiar with his participation in the ongoing discussion of Jack’s present lectures. After this we promptly moved to Ann Arbor where he obtained a J.D. from the University of Michigan while I helped manage a small cafe. We presently live in Portland, Oregon where I am a practicing visual artist and take continuing ed. workshops and classes at PCC. Mike is a practicing attorney. We have cats, smoke hookah, and spent a stupid amount of time talking about life, the universe, and everything. I wondered if these topics might get old at some point, but they don’t. Aren’t we lucky?

Anyways, now that you know a little more about me and where I am coming from, I’ll share some of my thoughts on how I first experienced the school. This is not written to be an attack on Gutenberg or anyone affiliated with it. It is meant to be both expressive and informative. It is also an opinion piece, obviously. Moving along.

 

Part I

While Gutenberg was a place open to discussion about all manner of material, I still felt pressure to conform. I cannot say whether this was an self imposed pressure or something external. It may have simply stemmed from my own desire to be fully accepted as someone who thought the “right” way. I have always been someone who desires acceptance and have gone to great lengths to find it in the past. I am trying not to do that anymore, but to live more honestly.

It’s important to state very clearly that no one was twisting my arm into believing any one thing in particular. Apart from all our studies about the history of the western world, Christianity was presented through reasonable argument as the ultimate Truth (capital T, meaning the type of truth that represents the ultimate nature of the universe). If for whatever reason you did not follow this same line of logic, it stood (and still stands) to reason you might not come to the same conclusion. Which was fine. But if this was the case, that your reasoning did not lead you down the same general path to Christianity as Truth, you might be destined to find yourself wandering through life as a vessel of wrath as opposed to a vessel of mercy. But, we were also told this was not cause to despair. Because it was possible for us to graciously accept that both vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy are equally important to the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan for the universe. A plan which is morally good in nature in accordance with the necessity that God himself is good.

But if I am honest, I imagine no one wants to be a vessel of wrath, whatever that happens to mean. And if you can graciously come to terms with your reckoning, aren’t you actually a vessel of mercy after all?

All of the tutors at Gutenberg were Christians of some flavor. But we didn’t have to be Christians, or at least the same “kind” of Christian, to go there. We didn’t have to be determinists and there weren’t any rules about going to church on Sunday or referring to the bible as an infallible text. We were there to ask questions about all those things: why should we pray if we believe in Calvinistic determinism? How can the bible be infallible given that it was a cannon put together by far-from-divine humans years and years after the life of Christ? If the second half is radically different from the first and there are all these other parts that some people left out while others kept in, how do we know all the right pieces ended up in the version we have now? Etc. You get the idea. It was a place to ask questions freely about Christianity, how Christianity could be true, what it meant for us if it was true, and how, if we accepted Christianity, should we refer to the bible as a relevant guide when it is the year 2000+ and we have stuff like computers and woman teach in protestant churches?

As a culture (and perhaps especially protestants) we have decided that freedom of choice is important .At Gutenberg, freedom of choice was very important. Just wait until you read Kierkegaard. He, the gadfly of Denmark, nearly tore himself to pieces over the importance and necessity of every individual’s ability to make personal decisions honestly and consciously.

The existential decision to freely choose Christianity has become important to many adults throughout modern Christendom, just as Kierkegaard would have wanted. And while these adults may sincerely desire – even desperately desire – their children to find themselves vessels of mercy as opposed to the other less savory aspect of this binarism, they know that only through a  free choice can one be certain of whether they are in fact a vessel of mercy (saved) or a vessel of wrath (something else). If we don’t honestly know our own hearts, how can we make a truly honest decision to either turn towards or away from God?

But I wonder if when faced with this choice – to orient oneself towards or away from goodness – can we honestly say we want anything other than “goodness”, unless to be divisive? Especially when this is merely a hypothetical and poetic question being presented verbally as opposed to the actual moment in which a decision is made. Is there anyone in this world who honestly believes with complete certainty in a supremely good being and chooses to verbally reject them/it when posed with the question? I don’t know. But I don’t think so.

This situation brings us to a question we all face regularly and which is especially important to making an informed existential commitment defined by action as opposed to words: how does one rightly determine “goodness”? The short answer given by Gutenberg in the current lectures is through reference to the bible. Which leads us to several other big questions at the heart of Gutenberg’s project which were the focal point of discussion while I was in attendance: How can we know the bible is infallible and how can we know what the bible is really saying? This assumes we value authorial intent in our interpretation of a text. I did and I still do. And the short answer, to the best of my recollection, is this: we can know what the bible is saying, and we can say we know it with certainty through a hermeneutic defined by careful individual reading, translation and exegesis in accordance with our faculties of reason, common sense, and experiential knowledge. We can know the bible is true because of all texts, it most accurately represents reality and the moral nuances of reality. To explicate further, Jesus is the best example we have of a moral teacher and as such his word is trustworthy. The biblical story is more resonant than other story in recorded human history in that it accurately identifies the problems of human nature and the solutions to those problems which are found through rightly orienting ourselves towards God.

Most (all?) of the controversy surrounding Gutenberg presently, and to which some alumni are openly responding, stems from both the paper Jack presented at the last Summer Institute and the ongoing weekly lecture he is currently giving entitle Biblical Sexual Ethics. If you have even gotten this far into this post, you probably know what I am talking about.

While I attended GC, Jack’s interpretations of scripture were discussed in Tuesday night classes in the same way that other members of the community presented their own views. Maybe he got more air time, maybe he didn’t. In my opinion, Jack’s views were not given preferential treatment within the school’s curriculum. Or at least this was true when I started at the school. It is fair to say this changed during my attendance when we suddenly became required to take a “biblical capstone” or “biblical philosophy” class taught by Jack instead of what had traditionally been a year of Kant microexegesis. I was very excited to read Kant and this sudden change in an otherwise set curriculum (shorter individual readings changed occasionally, but year long subjects generally didn’t) made me upset. The class focused solely on Jack’s biblical interpretation. Apart from this, Jack’s viewdid come up in his lectures and discussions (as many of the tutor’s views did), but this was also partly due to the prompting of student questions. I think it is also fair to say that Jack spoke and continues to speak authoritatively, and he does not seem afraid to do so.

None of Jack’s views in particular seemed unwarranted since no view was unwarranted in the sense that we were there to discuss varying interpretations of all sorts of writing. Let me stress the learn part here. We were learning. We were fledgling adults. We were taking the opportunity to decide what we thought. I did not want to be pressured into accepting another pre-packaged opinion. Although in retrospect I think I was too terrified of God, the rejection of my family, and the notion of hell, to completely step outside a view of the universe involving Him. But this was the beauty of the idea of Gutenberg, in theory we could discuss all these ideas without judgment from the tutors or our peers and would be allowed to make up our minds about what we thought was true on our own.

In Tuesday night lectures specific scriptural exegesis was often the topic. The method of teaching often involved distributing handouts of the translation. The lecturer would then go through the passage line by line, verse by verse, explaining things in terms of historical context, sharing the various interpretive problems surrounding certain words and phrases, and generally doing their best to create a coherent picture of what a particular passage was saying without leaving anyone in the dark. At the end we all asked questions.

The sermons (well, lectures) at Reformation Fellowship followed a similar format. [Reformation Fellowship is the church associated with Gutenberg College. The tutors from the school collectively pastored the church, taking turns speaking. -editor] Apart from the people who went there, the method of these lectures was one of the things I liked most about MSC, Gutenberg, and Reformation when I first encountered them. It seemed to me that we were being given the clearest possible explanation of specific Biblical passages and discussing how to incorporate the moral principles of those passages into a coherent biblical worldview. We were not discussing theological “concepts” independent of biblical reference. There was too much of that in my life growing up. I did not want to go back there.

We were working inductively, from the bottom up, or from specific observations to broader generalization and theory – exegeting scripture and extracting relevant moral principles. If the the premise is true, the conclusion drawn from it should also be true.And then there is deductive reasoning or working from the top down, working from a broad spectrum of information to a specific conclusion. I imagine this could mean using the framework of a “biblical worldview” to find moral principles which are not explicitly stated within scripture or to argue for the application of previously “outdated” moral principles found in scripture.

Here are some picture to help clarify these two terms:

Inductive Reasoning

 

Deductive Reasoning

 

http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/dedind.php

At this point it needs to be said that both inductive and deductive forms of reasoning have their uses. One is not bad while the other is good. They are simply methods without moral affiliation. I thought using the inductive method with regard to interpretation of the bible made a lot of sense. I was okay with that. I am not inclined to think deductive reasoning is as good a method to determine moral truth via the bible.

Let me return to one of the projects at the heart of Gutenberg, or at least at the heart of some of Jack’s teaching: How can we know the bible is infallible? A deeply important and harrowing question for many Christians or people interested in Christianity who are actively seeking to reconcile their own experiential knowledge, common sense, and reason with the biblical text itself. Using an inductive method, we can say something like this: the teachings of Jesus resonate with my own experience of reality more powerfully than anything else I have encountered by way of authoritative moral teaching. They accurately reflect an idea of goodness that corresponds to the way I perceive goodness according to my experience. Therefore, I think this moral principle taught by Jesus is true and I will apply it to my life as such.

After this some people will further conclude that because we trust Jesus with regard to his moral teaching, we may also trust that he is who he said he was, the Son of God. I believe the argument goes something like this: it is difficult to imagine that someone endowed with as sound moral wisdom as Jesus could also be delusional. So he must be who he says he is. And in turn, we can also regard the same authorities he trusted as authoritative ourselves.

This is all fine and well in that it is a line of reasoning most people can probably follow. But I personally take issue with the validity of this argument. I am not convinced that because Jesus had common-sensical moral wisdom to offer, it means everything he said is true. I don’t think entertaining the possibility that Jesus wasn’t of completely sound mind is an irrational conclusion in any way. Were the teachings of Jesus truly something that only someone who was divinely inspired could have come up with?

Many of the things Jesus taught were not new ideas. Confucius: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”  (Analects, pt.15). This sentiment or something very similar is evident in many ethical traditions.

http://classics.mit.edu/Confucius/analects.3.3.html

http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/socialsciences/ppecorino/ethics_text/chapter_8_kantian_theory/Not_Golden.htm

Ethical traditions are not necessarily religious. They often contain moral sentiments which we now broadly associate with major religions as opposed to governments or other culture shaping forces like art and literature where they have been found since very early times. See the Code of Hammurabi and the Epic of Gilgamesh.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/mesopotamian/gilgamesh/

Forgiveness is a concept found in Hinduism recorded in Hindu texts (such as the Rg Veda) dating back to 1500-1200 BCE. Here is a quote from the Bhagavad Gita regarding forgiveness and salvation from the 2nd century BCE or even as early as the 5th century BCE, the actual date of authorship has not been determined.

Though a man be soiled with the sins of a lifetime, let him but love me,
rightly resolved, in utter devotion.  I see no sinner, that man is holy.
Holiness soon shall refashion his nature to peace eternal.  O son of
Kunti, of this be certain: the man who loves me shall not perish.

                     Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism) 9.30-31

http://www.unification.net/ws/theme068.htm

Solon is rumored to have instituted debt relief in Ancient Athens. Jainism (which dates back to the 5th century BC) literally has a “Forgiveness Day.”

http://ejainism.com/kshamavani.html

Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and Rhetoric exemplify a pre-Jesus discussion of philia, brotherly love or true friendship.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/love/

Of this we might ask, were the early Greek’s influenced by Jewish tradition and culture, the heritage of N.T. teaching? It certainly seems that way, but I don’t think this implies ethics of love were something unfamiliar to humans apart from Jewish tradition. And aside from this, the ethics governing the behavior of the Jews at the time of the O.T. were significantly different than the ethics governing the teachings and behavior of Jesus and his disciples.

Morality is not purely the concern of religion, it is a fundamentally human issue whether or not religion is involved. For instance, the Epic of Gilgamesh not only has parallels to the bible in its narrative structure, contains many examples of early concepts of justice, yet is not regarded as a religious text. We might ask ourselves: do these parallels exist because the bible is True or could they exist because these are ideas and principles which originate uniquely within humans evidenced in religious, literary, and legal texts from early times all over the world of which the bible is one example?

Here are a couple other links I found interesting pertaining to the above topics. I am sure you can do a simple internet search to find a wealth of information on most of the primary sources listed above.

Forgiveness in general: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgiveness

More about Jainism: http://www.herenow4u.net/index.php?id=67777

Getting back to the point: I don’t think it is strange to suggest Jesus was not of sound mind, especially considering he was making such a bold claim as to be “the Son of God”. There are a lot of people in this world who have profoundly good things to say, but who then say other things that are difficult to reconcile with everything else they have said and done. I can think of people in my own family who exemplify this type of paradox.

For me, the conclusion that the bible is infallibly true does not follow from me agreeing that Jesus indeed both taught and exemplified wise examples of ethical behavior. But I don’t want to stop here. Let’s assume that because I think Jesus was right about certain types of claims, he is also right about other types of claims. And after further biblical exegesis I will eventually conclude that the bible (the original version) must be infallibly true if in fact it is the Word of God. Perhaps we conclude this out of rational necessity or conviction, I am not entirely sure. But this is a conclusion not uncommonly drawn.

To me, what this means is that even if sound biblical teaching contradicts whatever internal sense of morality has been fostered within me, I should accept those teachings as both true and morally right.

I have trouble with this. I cannot accept that the method of inductive reasoning which first inspired me to entertain the validity of Jesus’ teaching seriously and find them resonant should then be discarded in favor of a deductive method of reasoning which that argues that we ought also to accept all other parts of the biblical canon even if through inductive thinking we find scripture elsewhere that contradicts our intuitive sense of morality. I cannot accept that once the inductive method has served its initial purpose we are supposed to set it aside in favor of biblical infallibility whether or not it contradicts our internal sense of morality.

 

Part 2

And so now we need to talk about how our internal sense of morality is formed, otherwise known as “conscience.” Fortunately there was actually a discussion of what conscience is in the lecture two weeks ago.

Paraphrased or transcribed directly from the recording during the closing comments/questions (around 1:22:02) of Sexual Ethics in the Bible, session III:

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/8042776/Sexualethics

(Jack) The Christian life is not about not making mistakes in any way, including sexually – we have all been perverse and wrong sexually.

It’s about coming to the self knowledge; where did my mistakes and evil come from? From me. It’s a problem built into the very nature of who I am, God have mercy on me.

We can’t reform society,

We can’t reform ourselves,

We can’t change ourselves,

We can’t purify ourselves,

We can’t transcend our sinfulness,

Any christian teaching that says we can is a diabolical lie.

We are helplessly trapped in the depravity and evil that defines us from the get go, but are we willing to admit it?

Are we willing to call our depravity depravity, our sin sin, our evil evil?

That is the real life and death issue that we all need to come to terms with.

(Question posed by a member of the audience) So figuring out my moral and immoral choices is not necessarily in my conscience?

(Jack) What we call conscience is a cultural artifact.

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of our mind…” (Paul) could be rewritten as “do not be conformed to this world, train your conscience.”

Your conscience is no good, it needs to be trained.

Conscience is the product of cultural forces, it tells us what to get excited about what not to get excited about.

I can feel completely not guilty about things I should feel guilty about. And vice versa.

I grew up thinking the conscience is basically infallible. If it made you feel guilty, it was wrong. If it didn’t, it was right.

My conscience is a product of cultural forces, therefore my conscience needs to be trained by the bible so it will be aligned with true moral judgement and sound moral judgement.

——-

 After hearing something like this I usually have a lot of questions running through my  mind. I have gone ahead and written them down so you can start to understand where I am coming from.

 

My questions prompted by this exchange

I am taking “conscience” to mean an inner sense of right and wrong felt both emotionally and perceived on an intellectual level. You describe it as the product of the influence of popular ethics within any given subgroup of a culture. Is this correct? Is this what you mean by conscience as a cultural artifact?

You also said that to have a properly functioning conscience, it needs to be trained by the bible so it will be aligned with true moral judgement.

I am understanding conscience then as our personal “morality gauge”, an internal indicator of whether we are doing something (or about to do something) right or wrong. And this determination of right and wrong is calibrated by whatever culture we are apart of.

If this is the case, do humans have any way to understand or know true morality apart from reference to biblical text? Do we have any innate sense of true and accurate morality that belongs to us solely by nature of existence, or is true moral sensibility solely a derivative of biblical exposure and study?

Considering morality in this way, could we say it is an epistemological model in the same way rationality is an epistemological model? A theory of knowing, considering morality is not simply something felt as an impulse, but also something thought and considered in relation to decision making? Are the two synonymous? Meaning that the morality one derives from the bible is equal to a form of rationality?

How does one determine that the bible is the one true source of moral knowledge and wisdom if one must make this determination before already having accepted it as the one true source of moral knowledge? Is this not a decision made through some personal, intuitive sense of morality/rationality (or conscience) as it has been enculturated? Or is it innately within us apart from (or pre) biblical exposure?

If we do not determine these decision based on rationality, conscience, or morality apart from biblical reference, what then is our criteria for determining what is true knowledge and a true reflection of goodness before we accept the bible as authoritative?

If reason as a method of thinking is the most fundamental (first) tool we have to determine that the bible is the best tool for determining true wisdom and knowledge, why should we choose to set aside our opposing moral sensibilities and rational thoughts when they are they very tools we first used to recognize the validity of Jesus’ teaching?

If there are discrepancies within the biblical text which cause us to give pause and question the moral certainty of its teaching, should we not be ready to address those concerns, concerns which stem from our pre-established sense of moral rightness and goodness, the one which led us to consider the bible seriously in the first place?

If you say that it is through some intuitive sense or innate wisdom we are aware we must set aside these uncertainties and questions posited by our “conscience”, why would we further choose in any other life circumstance to ignore what seemed to us to be this same innate wisdom that offered an answer contrary to scriptural authority? How is this innate wisdom different than our “conscience”?

By what criteria do we trust our intuition and moral sensibilities in some circumstances, but not in others? Why should we be convinced that Christianity is not also a cultural artifact with no greater influence than any other popular system of ethics?

On the other hand, if the bible is perfectly rational in the sense that we need not put aside our intuition and conflicting moral sensibilities (our reason) to accept it’s ethical and moral consistency, shouldn’t we be able to come to these rational, ethical, and moral conclusions without the aid of the bible? Especially when we consider the main subject of the bible is the imperfection and fallibility of humanity, a subject we have ample experience with and exposure to?

What does being obedient to God have to do with “morality” as a set of principles to live by? Is not obedience to God the only true moral law within an internally consistent biblical worldview?

If the only way we know the bible is the one True source of moral knowledge apart from rationality is because God has written the correct intuition on our heart, are we actually talking about “rationality” in the way I thought we were? What is rationality in relation in Christianity? What is rationality if not a faculty contained within the self? If divine influence is necessary for rationality to function properly, should we still be referring to it as “rationality”?

—–

Relevant addendum from this week: should we be referring to unconscious decisions as “choices?” or is there another force at work in these instances and should we be using a different word?

 

-End Questions-

What I see happening in the present lecture (BSE) is that the inductive method has been set aside in favor of reference to deductive methods and conclusions that have not been “confirmed” or even observed on the level of biblical reference (yet, I think this will change next week). This is my view. It may not be what is happening. Also, I have not taken logic classes so forgive me if I am using this language improperly.

First I want to pose a few questions regarding the Biblical Sexual Ethics series as a whole (not just epistemological ones). First, since the lectures have not defined Biblical Sexual Ethics as a subject, I am going to assume it means something like “a lecture series about any type of sexual behavior with contextual evidence of moral judgement found in the bible.”

The first question is this. Why would one seek to find anything more in the bible regarding the nature of morality or sexual morality beyond that which is clearly stated? And second, why must a biblical worldview be inclusive of a particular biblical sexual ethic when clearly the “sexual ethics” found in the bible regarding sexual attitudes, say, towards women – where there is a lack of the concept of consent, a notion highly valued today, even within many Christian worldviews including those held by the teachers at Gutenberg/MSC I assume – contradict many beliefs held by Christians at present about the nature of right sexual relationships between men and women? Does a modern biblical worldview exclude other moral imperatives found in the bible? Do we have new views surrounding sexual relationships between men and women than those presented in the bible? By what criteria have we made these decisions to include extra-biblical values or exclude scriptural values to form our “biblical worldview”?

Why are we not investigating sexual ethics with regard to the treatment of women as it is found in the bible? Why are we not discussing the concept of consent? Why are we talking about what Biblical Sexual Ethics are not as opposed to what they are? Isn’t this akin to negative theology, a form of theology that was described during my years at GC as unhelpful with regard to actually knowing the true nature of God? (See Via Negative and Cloud of Unknowing. And I believe it was talked about this way because we were interested in discovering how we could know who God was by his visible aspects, not through negation). I do realize the question I pose above regarding consent is also a negative type of question, I simply want to know why we aren’t also talking about since it has an established place in modern Christian culture although it lacks a sound biblical basis.

Why, in our investigation of “sexual ethics” are we using harmful language to describe the behavior of people whose sexual orientation and activity does not fall within the morally good spectrum of our biblical sexual ethic? Is “viscerally repulsive” a modern way of understanding the word “abomination”? As far as I can tell, this phrase boils down to some version of being exceptionally wicked or sinful, an evaluation which is equalized when we acknowledge that the wages of all sin are death, no matter how small or less abominable the sin might be in human terms. But in the lecture the exceptional part is being emphasized.

I myself am not about to argue that all harm is of equal value or that it all deserves the same punishment. And this is part of the reason why I think the language being used to discuss homosexuallity in the BSE lectures should be seriously reconsidered. I don’t think most people truly evaluate all “sin” as equal, despite how it will be judged by God. Individuals face and have faced significant alienation, discrimination, violence, and bullying due to non heterosexual orientation. When marginalized groups of people are discriminated against in this way, I think it is important to be sensitive and empathetic in the way we are discussing them simply because they already face heightened physical and psychological harm due to a part of their own identity they cannot help. And even if such cruel behavior towards individuals with homosexual orientation was condoned, why should we not choose to view this evaluation as a culturally contextual discrepancy we may disregard considering our cultural advancement? What is the moral principle underlying homosexual activity that should compel me to see it as “sinful” in all epochs?

While these lectures might be intellectual and philosophical discussions and have no intention of harming others, it is my perception that the nature of the language used in the lecture is priming the mind of listener’s towards singling others out and devaluing them as morally lesser beings. As adults who have the ability to choose to consent or not, we have no more to fear from people who are homosexually inclined than we have to fear from any other anonymous person with any type of sexual inclination, so why would we compare the moral equivalent of their actions to someone who would eat or rape our child? Even if you are only linguistically comparing the moral valuation of these behaviors, the comparative terms are regarded as heinous criminal activity within American culture, and as such are met with harsh punishment as is endorsed by the American legal system. Is consensual homosexual activity, even if you view it to be viscerally repulsive, a similar morally qualitative type of behavior as child rape according to your “conscience”, whatever it is trained by?

I find the attempt to rationally equate moral valuation of homosexual activity with that of child rape incredibly insensitive at the very least. What is happening here is that we are assigning dispositions that are not inherently harmful with moral valuations. I believe comparing these criminal behaviors (even if only the moral valuation) with acts of homosexuality engenders ideas of moral inequality and criminality among persons who do not deserve these designations. It propagates a view of the world wherein not all are created equal and that some of us are endowed with more viscerally repulsive qualities than others, categorizing their moral “level” alongside that of child rapists. The afterthought is that we each equally deserve to be put to death for our moral transgressions.

The final thing I have to say with regard to the present lectures is that I find it qualitatively different from the lectures I found most memorable and important via MSC and Gutenberg. I think the main reason for this is because from what I can tell, deductive reasoning is playing a significantly larger role than inductive reasoning. So far in this lecture we have not looked directly at scripture to see what it says regarding homosexuality in particular. We have not started out by asking ourselves, “how can I further inform my biblical worldview based on these scriptural references?” Instead this lecture is being presented as, “we have a formed a worthy roadmapthrough careful inductive study. This is our biblical worldview through which we can further deduce what God’s moral stance is on issues of sexuality which the bible does not coherently expound on.” Or maybe the bible does coherently expound on them. Either way, thus far the lecture has not focused on scripture with regard to the specific moral issue in question. Fortunately it sounds like we are going to be hearing about what Paul has to say on the matter next week.

If this is a misrepresentation of what is actually happening, please feel free to recharacterize the situation.

The reason I was initially drawn to the teaching at MSC/Gutenberg after my initial exposure to the community was because I felt it was defined by intellectual integrity with regard to study of the bible among other things. We began with scripture and from there asked ourselves, “does this teaching resonate with my own experience, does it strike me as true and is it consistent with my other perceptions of reality and what I innately understand goodness and morality to be?” I think this is both a good and right criteria to set out when studying anything for moral guidance. But even so, for me the answer to questions regarding the resonance of biblical content is not always yes.

Because of this, I cannot form a coherent biblical worldview. And I can definitely not form a biblical worldview from which I feel comfortable deducing moral principles which may or may not actually be present in the bible. And beyond that, certain moral issues that are contained within scripture have already been deemed out-of-touch even by the MSC/Gutenberg community. So why then, if through our faculty of reason we have been able to assume which of the bible’s teachings are inclusive in a true biblical worldview and which are not, should we set aside our faculty of reason in the judgement of this one issue in particular? And at this point I should say that deeming homosexual activity as immoral is not the only part of the bible I take issue with. Now just happens to be a time when an open discussion about these things has arisen and I am feeling brave enough to participate.

If it is true (and this was an idea discussed at Gutenberg and a premise of many of Jack’s arguments while I was in school) that morality is the most fundamental aspect of our humanity, the thing which defines us most essentially as created beings, why would morality be presented in such an obscure manner as to contradict the methods by which we reason? Especially if reason is one of the key tools by which we come to know the Christian God is the True God. If we are knowers and the world is meant to be known, why would God not present us with a recognizable sense of morality that appealed to our human sensibilities, being both thought and felt? He was willing to send Jesus as a man, so why not this?

This probably doesn’t need to be said, but I will say it anyways. Just because something has taken sway culturally does not mean it is morally wrong. One obvious example is moral opposition to slavery in America. There was huge resistance to change for a variety of reasons, yet this behavior would be viewed as “backwards” thinking by future generations and condemned as immoral by conservatives and liberals alike. If the inverse nature of this argument bothers you, what about the introduction of women’s rights or allowing women to hold positions of power in government and otherwise?

Also, I’m not sure it is fair to generalize “moderns” as one large entity defined by their opposition to the moral teachings and practices of small conservative communities throughout the country. It seems to me the world is full of pockets of people, some larger, some smaller, who have their own highly nuanced views on just about everything. And many of them are not vocal about their opinions or have any interest in imposing their views on others.

 

Some final-ish thoughts

My next question is this, why do we need an authoritative text to live by? Why must we know with certainty what the ultimate nature of reality is to engage in a life well lived (a bias, I know! forgive me, but I do want to live a life well lived even if I can’t tell you why it matters for me to do so.)? I think we would all find it reassuring to have a decided sense of certainty about these things, but I do not think such certainty is necessary to meaningful continued existence. What is so wrong with a universe where there is no known objective moral law laid down for all of mankind (other than the obvious “nothing”, lulz)? Maybe it is a frightening prospect to some, but it isn’t to me, not anymore at least. I should also say I am entirely ready to admit there may be a supreme being in this universe and that their ways are not our ways. I just don’t think that being is represented in the bible.

For me, existing without the plague of constant existential anxiety has become the only way I can move forward with my life. I have given up worrying about whether I was seeking out the truth hard enough. All I know is that knowing is something I will strive for throughout my life because that’s the kind of person I am, for better or for worse. And when I say knowing, I mean to know anything. I don’t think knowledge can lead us away from the truth, so I am done worrying I can know in the wrong direction.

I am not convinced there exists a knowable set of precepts that set out a morally consistent way to live. It seems that all we can do is decide on what we value most highly and base the many difficult choices presented to us in this life on these prioritizations. I have “chosen”, and some might call this cowardly, to regard my own personal well being (living without constant dread and anxiety) above obedience to a doctrine I cannot feel sane regarding as True. For me, this was an incredibly difficult choice I struggled with for many years. You don’t have to believe me, but it was.

To me and almost all people I know, there are things in this world we equate with goodness. And I do value goodness because well, it feels better (you might also read this as “sits better intellectually”) than anything else. You can brush this off as hedonism, but I think emotions are at the crux of everything I’ve already discussed. At the heart of any philosophical or existential discussion about the ultimate nature of reality is the desire to know the truth. And this desire is usually accompanied by additional feelings. Does being right make me feel better than being wrong? Does knowing what is true allow me to sleep at night? Does believing I have been obedient to God allow me to feel good about myself in spite of all my other shortcomings? Does trusting I have done my philosophical homework leave me contented that I am fulfilling my purpose as a human being? Does making an existential commitment to constantly orient myself towards goodness put my “conscience” at ease?

We have feelings and we wrestle with them every day whether or not we acknowledge them. Even leaving moral determination and law up to God (and the scripture) is a “decision” made through a need or desire for something.

And so I will go on inevitably struggling to live my life according to whichever ethic appeals most highly to my own moral sensibility. And so will everyone else. To some this will be mean adopting the belief in an all knowing good God whose will is represented in the biblical text. For others, it will mean doing what they believe is best for their own community with regard to a personal sense of justice and kindness. And for others yet this will mean simply trying to survive and probably harming others in the process, intentionally or unintentionally.

When I first found the MSC Community it sounded to me like everyone believed that if you were seeking the Truth, you would indeed find it. When I realized that Truth meant Christianity quite specifically, it was an exciting prospect. I would have really felt a lot better about myself if the ideas I had been raised with and spent most of my life agonizing over were actually right. But my search has not led me to this conclusion, and I accept this without hating myself for it. For me, the Truth has yet to reveal itself in any way other than everything I have already stated thus far. For me, this, the reality I have described above, the type of thinking I have described above, is truth. And freedom. And in the same way I have chosen to disregard the bible as a source of ultimate authority based on my own intuitions, wherever they may have come from, so others will choose to disregard my way of thinking. This is the way the world is. But if you made this far, thanks for hearing me out.

 

god help me if I ever try to retire- aka required reading for The Ethics of Sex in the Bible Section IV

Alice Dreger is a professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She has written for The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

(blurb from The Pacific Standard)

Her article, here quoted, was published in The Pacific Standard, on May 12, 2014.   It can be found here, if you would like to read it in full.

http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/nature-nurture-third-option-fraternal-birth-order-effect-kickstarting-homosexuality-womb-81256/

Discussions and debates over the origins of homosexuality have tended to focus on two possibilities: You’re either gay because you’ve got a “gay gene,” or you’re gay because of some aspect of your upbringing. (The latter option is usually imagined to involve something nasty, like a pedophilic priest.)

These two options—gene-gay and turned-gay—fit neatly in the (yawn) nature-nurture debate, and that probably explains why almost everyone seems to keep ignoring a third option, one for which there is astoundingly robust data: womb-gay.

The official name of the womb-gay idea—bestowed by Ray Blanchard, the man who articulated the phenomenon—is the fraternal birth order effect. Blanchard is head of clinical sexology services at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

The upshot of the fraternal birth order effect is this: “In men, sexual orientation correlates with an individual’s number of older brothers, each additional older brother increasing the odds of homosexuality by approximately 33%.” And this isn’t because big brothers somehow socially pressure their little brothers into becoming gay. Another sex researcher, Anthony Bogaert of Brock University in Canada, has shown decisively that it isn’t due to family environment; adopted male siblings don’t show the fraternal birth order effect, and the effect holds even when biological male siblings are raised separately. It doesn’t happen in females, and female fetuses don’t add to the effect. The effect happens only among male siblings who have inhabited the same woman’s womb.

So if you are a man, the farther down the reproductive chain you were in terms of male fetuses inhabiting your biological mother’s womb, the greater the chance you are gay. Blanchard estimates this effect accounts for the sexual orientation of somewhere around 15 to 29 percent of gay men.

Why on Earth would this happen? That’s not at all clear, but the researchers who have looked at this phenomenon think it may involve some kind of immunological response a woman’s body exhibits to carrying male fetuses, a response whose effect on male fetuses grows stronger with each successive male-fetus pregnancy. This etiology remains theoretical. But the effect does not. In spite of the long-running “gene-gay versus turned-gay” discussions of homosexuality, we have far better data evidencing womb-gayness than we do gene-gayness or turned-gayness.

The fraternal birth order effect, incidentally, is a great starting point for telling just-so stories of evolution. For instance, isn’t it interesting that traditional religious societies often feature large families and polygamy? So wouldn’t a neat way to explain this be that the fraternal birth order effect co-evolves successfully with polygamy, because in a situation where you have one brother snatching up a bunch of wives, it would be good if a lot of the other brothers didn’t care? (When I asked Blanchard what he thought about this ironic possibility, of traditionally homophobic religious societies producing more gay sons on average, he responded wryly, “This proves that God is supporting my research.”)

 

Visceral Repulsive Update

Due to some family/ personal matters, I am going to have to take a short break from this blog.

I should be back around the 31st of May.  At that time, I intend to go through Mr. Crabtree’s Section IV, in his lecture The Ethics of Sex in the Bible.

Section IV is a very exciting section that everyone is going to want to hear about, as it contains statements such as:

The moral judgment we place on any behavior (including our sexual behavior) must NOT be made on the basis of what seems right to us…

and

Some things are viscerally repulsive to a person for aesthetic, psychological, emotional, and/or physical reasons. Other things are viscerally repulsive to a person for moral reasons.

Let’s hope “seems right” doesn’t include “visceral repulsion”, eh?  If it does, I won’t know what to do any more!

And in the meantime, or at some point, we may or may not have a guest post, also addressing Mr Crabtree’s series. My suspicion is that it will have far more intellectual poise than my reviews, but I can’t claim enough certainty of knowledge to be sure…  😉

 

You do WHAT in your Bible? Part III- How the Bible is Done

III. What is the “Teaching of the Bible” with regard to sexual ethics? 

Ok.   We have, in previous posts, discussed Section I and II in Jack Crabtree’s lengthy handout.

The handout can be found here, along with a link to audio recordings of his lectures.

http://blog.gutenberg.edu/2014/the-ethics-of-sex-in-the-teaching-of-the-bible/

In Section I, Jack explained to us that Moderns won’t think his view of sexuality is cool.   He also displayed, I thought, a marked lack of familiarity with the Modern Mindset.  And he attributed an attitude he does not approve of (a ban on interracial marriage), which is clearly expressed in a text he considers authoritative (Ezra), to a source other than the authoritative text (Book of Tobit/ first century Judaism- which I don’t think are actually even the same thing).  Implying that said ban was a deviation from, rather than a feature of, Biblical Sexual Ethics.

Which it actually is.

Making his maneuver fairly dishonest.

Uncool.

And he explains what kind of person his view of sexuality will appeal to and says they should all form a cult together.  Sorry- ‘underculture’.  Which no one will ever, ever, ever join just because they want to be part of a club.  No siree.

In Section II, Mr. Crabtree explained about the Bible being an authority for Jesus Followers.  The closest he got to telling us what a Jesus follower is that they are people who consider the Bible the highest authority (so, presumably all non-Protestants are out). Except in the case of Science.  Science, it appears, has authority alongside the Bible.

Let’s hope they never conflict, right?

Anyway, Section IV is going to be really interesting, because that’s where he starts talking about sex.  In the meantime, in Section III, Mr. Crabtree explains how he derives his view of the sexuality from the Bible-  his method, in other words.  And that’s pretty interesting too.

A. To understand what the Bible “teaches” on sexual ethics, one must understand the entire biblical worldview and the ramifications of that worldview for sexual ethics.

If my memory serves (which it may not), in the Middle Ages, the people of Europe had the idea that the collapsed Greco-Roman civilization previous to them was more learned than they were, and that the beliefs of the Greco-Romans were pretty nearly true.  They therefore took all of the remnants and fragments of Greco-Roman literature that they still had, derived from them the entire Greco-Roman worldview, then spent a lot of time philosophizing about the Greco-Roman worldview’s ramifications.

The trouble turns out to be that, while the Greco Roman civilization had built up a higher concentration of learnedness than the  Medieval Europeans, they also had, in their learnedness, many different theories about how the universe worked- some of which were mutually exclusive.

The Medieval Europeans had created a theory of the world in which all of the fragments they had access too appeared as compatible parts of a coherent system- even the bits which had, once upon a time, been diametrically opposed.  This marvel of interpretive ingenuity (the product, if not the process) is described in CS Lewis’ book The Discarded Image.  It is probably my favorite book by that author, and is highly readably.

It was later discovered was that this synthetic monster did not match either reality or really even the views of the Greco Romans- a fact which allowed ‘Enlightenment’ thinkers to refer to the Middle Ages as ‘The Dark Age’ and preen themselves on being smarter than people who were essentially trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, but with Huns.

In the later portion of the Christian Bible, Jesus (ethical teacher extraordinaire  and deity of the Christian religion) claims that The Law and the Prophets (the then existent portion of the Christian Bible- sometimes referred to as the Jewish Bible) can be summed up in the phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12) (Rabbi Hillel said more or less the same thing, shortly before Jesus’ time)

In the Law and the Prophets, at one point God is said to have commanded his followers to kill all the men in certain cities and treat the women and children as plunder to be used- and in certain other cities to simply kill everything- old or young, animal or human (Deuteronomy 20:10-18).  These cities are said to have sinned such that they deserved to be massacred and have their land given away as a present to some other group.

The trouble, for me, is the children.

They cannot in any meaningful sense have participated in whatever crimes those cities committed.

If I were guilty of some crime that deserved death, I would not want my innocent children to be executed along with me.   If I were guilty of some crime and my children were innocent, I would certainly not want them to be treated as plunder by an army that is authorized to use prisoners as slave-wives (Deut 21:10-14).

God- said to be the source of the moral order of the universe- ordered his followers to treat others in a way that no one wants to be treated.

The Law and the Prophets cannot be summed up the way Jesus says they can.

Unless, of course, the Law and the Prophets are secretly a polemic against God, but they say that they aren’t and I’m not doing conspiracy theories in this post.

The Christian Bible seem to me to be written from at least two different ethical worldviews, diametrically opposed to each other. Possibly more. Mr.  Crabtree clearly believes that the Bible is learned and (with the exception of Ezra?) more or less true.  What Mr. Crabtree has not told us is why he thinks it is permissible to derive from the Bible a single ‘entire’ worldview.

1. I will not know what the Bible “teaches” simply by discovering what I take to be a decisive verse. I know what the Bible teaches only when I understand the entire, coherent worldview of the Bible

If we had some reason to believe that the Bible presents a single coherent worldview, this, I suppose, would be fair enough.  Only the sum of the whole can explain the parts, and so forth.

So, all we have to do is come up with The Correct View of Life, the Universe and Everything from a book that has spawned two thousand years worth of arguments, heresies, failed theologies, and multiple contradictory ‘successful’ theologies.  We can then derive our sexual ethics from that!

Sounds easy, right?

Furthermore, one finds out what the sum of the parts is by examining the parts and adding them together.   If Mr. Crabtree is taking this Sexual Ethics thing seriously, I would expect at least to hear a list of relevant passages, what each one is talking about, and then hear how the whole can be derived from them.  It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.

Furthermore, once you have found out the sum of the whole (the total worldview  that has created and informed all of the  particular passages) you could at least expect that all of the relevant verses would be explicable in terms of that total worldview.  There wouldn’t be any individual verse that CONTRADICTED the total world view, right? Because then the theory you had derived from them would be proved incorrect.

None of this has to be a problem.

However.

Given the fact that Mr. Crabtree essentially discarded a Biblical passage (Ezra) that expresses an attitude he condemns, then blame shifted, accusing another group in a different era of history of producing the idea.

And is now distancing himself from “decisive verses”.

I have a bad feeling about this.

2. To make moral judgments consistent with what the Bible teaches, my moral judgments with regard to sexual behavior must be made on the basis of the theory of human sexuality that is taught in and/or assumed by what the Bible asserts.

At first blush I thought he was just repeating what he had said in the first two points,  but he is emphasizing here that one’s specific moral judgments come from the theory, not from applying specific verses directly to specific situations.  There is an intermediary. That intermediary, the theory, is the thing we operate from.

I like to work from an understanding of things, not a list of rules, so I guess I’m down with that.  If it could be proved that the Bible has a single consistent theory of ethics, that is.

But it hasn’t.

And there is the Book of Tobit/Ezra still hanging over our heads.

I have a bad feeling about this.

a) The Bible teaches more on sexuality than what can be found in the explicit assertions of individual verses.

Oh god.  He’s not just going to discard passages that say things he doesn’t like.  He’s going to “find” things that it doesn’t say.

Why cloud your own opinion with a bunch of textual references, Mr. Crabtree?

(1) I cannot find a “verse” that teaches that adult-child sex is a sin. Yet, in the context of a biblical theory of sexuality and sexual ethics, adult-child sex would clearly be considered evil from the perspective of the Bible, even though there is no “verse” that says so.

Well.  The Bible also doesn’t have a verse (that I recall) that says when childhood ends.

Our legal definition of adulthood is 18 years old.  The physical and hormonal changes that begin in children during puberty, between 8-12 years old, don’t really level off before then. Also, before that age, young people have too little experience of the world and themselves. They haven’t had the experience necessary to learn what physical desire means and doesn’t mean, what emotional and romantic attachment is and they don’t have the life experience to know a good person from a seducer. They have no defenses.

Thus, we treat adult/child sexual contact as a crime.  Because, even if it’s consensual, one of the involved parties isn’t yet developed enough to give informed consent.

Do you like charts?  Here’s an overview of human development.

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/for-professionals/lesson-plans-professionals/201?task=view

The Jewish coming-of-age ritual takes place at about age 13.  I don’t believe they currently use this as a legal age of adulthood.

Consider this.

In the the list of unlawful sexual relations given in Leviticus 18, the unlawful relations are given in terms of social roles, familial relationships and rituals.  

Don’t sleep with your father’s wife (assumption of polygamy/concubinage), don’t sleep with your half-sister, don’t sleep with the children of your children (assuming that your children are old enough to have children and are still called children suggests to me that the grandchildren here referred to as children are not necessarily young. it means they have that role in relation to you- no matter what their age). Don’t sleep with a woman during her period. Etc.

In 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34  we learn that Josiah was eight years old when he became king in Jerusalem.

In 2 Kings 11 and 2 Chronicles 22, Joash was seven.

Why? There is no possible way that either one could have been ready to govern a nation.

Despite the fact that they were otherwise and in every other way too young, these two children were made kings because social roles, familial relationships and ritual demanded it. 

God spent practically the entire Book of Exodus instructing the Jews in detail about what kind of tassels he wanted them to put on the curtains of the Tabernacle.

And yet, he didn’t bother to address adult/child sexual relationships even once.

Why aren’t there any verses that address adult/child sexual relationships?

Interesting fact.

Most sermons I’ve ever heard on the subject hypothesize that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was about 14 when the whole pregnancy incident happened, due to this being “the right age” for her to be engaged to Joseph.

http://christianity.about.com/od/newtestamentpeople/p/marymotherjesus.htm

http://www.ask.com/question/how-old-was-mary-when-she-gave-birth-to-jesus

http://www.truthortradition.com/articles/mary-a-teenage-bride-and-mother

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15464b.htm

So, according to our standards of informed consent (potentially applicable to the free existential choice Mr. Crabtree is so fond of), Mary was to young to agree to sexual activity with another human, let alone consent to bear and give birth to the Son of God.

God is a pedophile.

(2) There is no “verse” that tells me it is perverse to have an erotic attachment to my automobile. That does not mean that the Bible would consider it morally acceptable.

Uh.  Actually, there is.  Given that there is no human female or animal involved, I’m guessing this would probably fall under the category of nocturnal emissions- Deuteronomy 23:9-11, Leviticus 15:16-17.  Ejaculating right out into nothing and not into a vagina/womb.  It’s not forbidden, but you aren’t allowed to participate in any ritual activities the next day.

The thing that’s weird about this fetish (and at some point in the hazy days and sleepless nights I looked this up, but I’m not going to again for a link) (DO IT YOURSELF) is not the fact that some guys do themselves on their cars, but that they describe it in romantic terms.  For that I’d say, maybe too much Thomas the Tank Engine as children?

But nowhere in all the rules did I noticed the Bible mentioning anything about romantic attachments- one way or the other.  The closest thing I can think of is  the story of Jacob and Rachel, Genesis 29. The romantic attachment in that story was more or less incidental to the dynamics of marriage  and the story itself except to explain why Laban could charge such a high price for his daughter and get away with so many shenanigans.

Oh gosh.  David and Michal! 1 Samuel 18. Same deal, although there’s are a lot more being dealt with in this passage than just marriage.  The romantic attachment is there to explain why Saul can make his prospective son-in-law David risk his life collecting so many… Philistine… foreskins… Presumably, as a willing sexual partner, Michal is more desirable and therefore Saul can make David pay for her as part of his scheme to get David killed.

And then there’s the Song of Solomon. The great erotic poem of the Bible, written by David’s son Solomon. Solomon, of the 700 wives and 300 concubines.  Solomon who collected women like some men collect. Well. Cars.

No one ever said that Rachel was in love with Jacob.  Given that her opinion didn’t count, how exactly was this different from doing a car that you have a crush on?

(3) If it were the case that no “verse” tells me it is wrong for “marriage” to occur between two human beings of the same sex, would that fact entail that the Bible would consider same-sex marriage morally unobjectionable? The answer is “no.”

He’s saying, again, that you can derive from the theory things that aren’t explicitly stated.

Sort of like how you can derive from Jesus saying ‘treat others the way you wish to be treated’ the theory that you shouldn’t commit genocide.  Then, even though God never commanded anyone NOT to commit genocide,  you can know that he would never ever ever command anyone to do something so utterly morally reprehensible!

Oh shoot!  That’s just what I wanted God to be like!

b) What the Bible asserts in individual verses must be understood in the light of
the Bible’s theory of marriage and sexuality, and in the light of its entire
worldview.

You can beat a dead horse to water but you can’t make it have a single consistent theory of sexuality and marriage.

Don’t look a gift horse in the Ethics. It might be as old as the Bronze Age.

He’s saying what I said about the parts having to be explicable by the whole- the  worldview/theory you construct from them. Except he’s leaving out the part where they also have to not contradict the whole or the whole is invalid.

We’ll see why in a minute.

(1) “Love your neighbor” clearly cannot be construed to mean “have sex
with your neighbor” (as the followers of Moses David taught).

Wow.  Something we agree on. Yes, that is an obviously stupid reading of that passage.

I have no idea who Moses David was or what his followers taught.  I don’t care. I’ll assume he was some hippy Mr. Crabtree knew back in his longhair days.  Moving on.

(2) To construe the handful of relevant verses as suggesting that Jesus
taught that divorce is NEVER morally permissible is to ignore several
facets about the biblical worldview.

Remember back in A.1) when I said that you could derive a theory from a set of facts/verses, and use them as an interpretive framework, but none of the facts/verses could contradict the theory, or the theory would be wrong?

And then in A. 2) b) he said more or less the same thing, but left out the part about how, if facts/ verses contradicted the theory, the theory was wrong?

The ‘handful of relevant verses’ constitute EVERY SINGLE TIME Jesus gave instructions about divorce.

Matthew 5:30-32

Matthew 19:1-11

Mark 10:1-12

Luke 16:18

“To construe... said verses… as suggesting Jesus taught divorce is never morally permissible…” is putting rather a fine point on it.

But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matt 5:32

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery. Matt 19:9

He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” Mark 10:11-12

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.  Luke 16:18

Jesus explicitly stated, every time he addressed the issue, that divorce is never morally permissible except in the case of adultery.

What grounds does Mr. Crabtree have for saying that we misconstrue Jesus when we say Jesus believed what Jesus explicitly stated he believed?

Deuteronomy 24:1 If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house,and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Divorce was a normal transaction in the Old Testament.  There were certain restrictions on it, but they were nowhere as severe as Jesus’.

The ‘indecent something’ the man discovers about the woman?

Leviticus 20:10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

It wasn’t adultery.

Its as if Jesus and the writers of the Tanakh were working from two completely different views on the matter. They absolutely contradict one another.

Interestingly enough, Jesus himself knew of and dealt with this discrepancy.

Mark 10: 2 Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

Moses permitted this in cases other than divorce.  And yet Jesus has said that he agrees with the Law of Moses- Matt 5:17-20. What’s a Jesus to do?

Mark 10:5 “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Jesus explains that there IS a single coherent ethic that informs both his teaching on divorce AND the Old Testament’s teaching.  However, he says, the Jews back in the day weren’t ready to drink God’s ethic straight. So God watered it down for them and allowed them to divorce for reasons other than adultery.

Divorce for reasons other than adultery- the Moses’ law- is a corruption of God’s ethic.

But according to Mr. Crabtree, Jesus cannot possibly mean what he said, because the Tanakh and the theory Mr. Crabtree has constructed, must be taken into consideration as well. Jesus’ teaching must be explained in their light.

Mr. Crabtree agrees with Jesus in saying that Jesus’ teaching  and the Tanakh’s are two parts of a single self contained systems of ethics.  Like Jesus, he MUST say that one of the two doesn’t really mean what they are saying.

And, of the two, he chose to discard Jesus.

Given the depth of incompatibility some couples display and the unnecessary suffering that divorce can prevent, I can’t say that choice is wrong.

Given his statements about the Bible and being a Jesus Follower, in his own system, he totally is.

(3) Some seek to defend the legality of “gay marriage” on the grounds that
to deny the legal possibility of marriage to gay people is to violate the
Bible’s supreme ethical principle—love for our neighbor. This argument
disregards several facets of the biblical worldview.

And now he’s accusing other people of discarding things. Oh Joy. The Ocean.

The supreme ethical principle- love for our neighbor- when stated in full is, love your neighbor as you love yourself.

It was stated by Jesus (Mark 12, Luke 10 among others), his disciples (Paul- Romans 13- and James- James 2- come to mind) and some of the Old Testament writers(Leviticus 19:18) Given that they  were also all gung-ho about killing the neighboring Canaanite tribes, possibly they meant it to be limited to the Jews.  With the more cosmopolitan streams of Judaism it was applied to all humanity, as it was in the more cosmopolitan strains of Christianity as well.  Jesus gave an example of it with his parable of the good Samaritan.

Luke 10:25-37

The parable implies that ‘your neighbor’ is anyone, of any race, even if they are of a different religion, even if their religion is a  corrupt version of your religion and they leave out all the things you have labeled as purity, truth and relationship to God.

It is the reason I feel bad about treating Mr. Crabtree’s lecture with such sarcasm.

It can also be restated in a form we have previously touched on- “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  And it is fairly easy to see how the same dynamic informs both renderings.

Pretend you are that other person. Thus, their life and experience of life are just as valuable as your own.  And then, just as you don’t like it when people do stuff that harms you, don’t do stuff that harms them. Just as you like it when people do stuff that helps you, do stuff that helps other people.

How does this apply to the controversy of gay marriage?

Well- what does Mr. Crabtree want for himself?  He’s already told us.

A subculture utilizes social and cultural pressure to effect conformity. The
follower of Jesus does so out of free, existential obedience. The Bible never
advocates cultural conformity for its own sake, where no free, existential
choice is involved.

He wants to make his own choices- freely and out of the core of his existence.  He wants to be able to follow his chosen religion and (presumably) its sexual ethics, not because society or his culture has forced him to.  Perhaps by – and who’s ever heard of such a ridiculous thing!- making the normal manifestations and sexual practices of his chosen religion illegal.

But  apparently this is too drastic for him to grant anyone else.

His life matters.  Other people’s don’t.  According to him.

(a) This argument assumes that relationship is the supreme principle in
life, as well as in sexuality. Truth, moral purity, one’s relationship to
God, and, hence, sexual purity—these must never be allowed to take
precedence over authentic, loving relationship (as a modern would
define love).

Uh.  No, it doesn’t.  It assumes that truth, moral purity,  and relationship to God are matters of intense and prolonged debate, and that people should be allowed to make up their own minds about said matters and then pursue those without having to superficially conform to the  opinions of others.

Assuming that sex is more important than truth, moral purity and God sounds like something a hippy would say.  Except I suspect that a hippy would say that sex WAS truth, moral purity and God.  So maybe is sounds like the thing a person who didn’t like hippies would say that a hippy said.

Or maybe we shouldn’t pull opinions out of our asses and randomly assign them to people. As Mr. Crabtree has done here.

(b) Does love for my neighbor require that I want my neighbor to have
and do whatever he wants to have and do? Clearly not.

What the hell.  Why doesn’t it?

I’ll assume (randomly)(out of my ass) that the argument here continues; but what if my neighbor wants to have and do things that hurt me?

Like- blowing themselves up in a crowded mall so they can die a martyr and be sure of getting into heaven? Or- making illegal all expressions of sexuality other than their own because God said butt-sex is icky? Or massacring entire nation/races because God said he likes you better and you get to have all their stuff now?

What if what one person wants involves another person, but the other person doesn’t want it?

Well. This is why, to limit the limitless freedom that ‘loving your neighbor as you love yourself’ bestows upon us all, and to resolve the conflict between having not One, but Many persons (aka moral agents) in existence, we have introduced the concept of consent.

Informed Consent, no less.

One  person can only do what they want to another person if the other person understands and wants it as well.

That is my answer.  I don’t know if that was actually Mr. Crabtree’s question, since the matter was so ‘clear’ to him that he didn’t give it a bullet point of its own.

(i) However, that is exactly what we unthinkingly assume in the
context of debates like “gay marriage.”

Actually, some of us don’t assume it but come to this conclusion by reasonable processes that you are ignoring.

(c) The above argument “begs the question.” It assumes the very point
at issue: that there is nothing morally objectionable about
homosexuality as such.

No, it doesn’t.  It assumes that different persons come to different understandings of what morality is.  It also assumes that while everyone thinks that they’re right and wants to do what they think is right, no one has agreed on the details since pretty much the beginning of time.

(d) To love my neighbor is to promote my neighbor’s well-being. Don’t
I have to know what is truly good for my neighbor in order to love
him? Isn’t the entire scope of the Bible’s teaching relevant to
answering that question?

And here I thought that conservatives don’t like the welfare-nanny state.

To love my neighbor is to promote my neighbor’s well-being.

I don’t know.  But to love your neighbor as you love yourself is to allow them to tell you what their well being looks like to them, and respect that.

No one ever said you could just love your neighbor.

To simply assume that you know what’s good for them and they don’t, especially when one has displayed as impressive an ignorance of your neighbor as Mr. Crabtree has in this lecture, is to infantilize everyone but yourself and to anoint yourself the Supreme Nanny of the Whole World.

Except even your views grow and change, so you’re not qualified.

Don’t I have to know what is truly good for my neighbor in order to love
him? 

No.

Having done your research, knowing what their various choices they face, familiarizing yourself with the processes by which they make decisions, their history, motivations, hopes, fears, etc, make you a better resource for them as they make their decisions.  That is perhaps more loving than just letting them rot in your corner while you rot in yours.

But no.  You don’t have to know.

Isn’t the entire scope of the Bible’s teaching relevant to answering that question?

uh… in the general sense that, isn’t the history of everything  ultimately related to every question? sure it is.

But to be particularly and specifically relevant, we would have to have proven that the Bible had a single ethic that informed its entire scope.

And we haven’t.

And, in fact, what we have seen has indicated quite the opposite.

Once upon a time, the Bible was considered a guide for Astronomy.  The relevant verses and the theory derived from them were studied in detail.  They caused much consternation when a man named Galileo began to popularize a theory that went against the theory that had been derived from the Bible- and in fact explained the observable data better than Biblical  Astronomy did.

Today, Mr. Crabtree claimed the Bible is relevant to ‘theology,
philosophy, and spirituality’ but had to leave Science, Technology, Engineering, and  Mathematics to wander on their lonesome. He left out Astronomy as well.

From what I have seen of Mr. Crabtree’s arguments, I’m beginning to wonder if the Bible is eventually going to bow out of the discussion of Ethics.

After all, the Bible’s claim to fame is it’s Divine inspiration.  But the Divinity, God, the Bible tells us, is perfect and eternal- the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

And the Bible both contradicts itself and shows signs of having developed.

So ends Section III

 

In the next section, Section IV,  Mr. Crabtree talks about viscerally repulsive sexual practices. In detail.  For pages and pages and pages.

Tune in Next Week!

 

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions concerning Sex in the Bible

I am about halfway through Mr. Crabtree’s notes for The Ethics of Sex in The Bible, Section III. So that  post will probably come out in the next few days.

In the meantime, a commenter had some questions- there were a lot of them, and I did not feel I could do them justice just in a reply.  Also,  I felt that some of his questions related to format- so I thought I might as well clarify that before going on.

His comment can be found at the end of this post- if I were more technologically ept I would link straight to it, but I’m actually lucky to have figured out the link thing at all.

You do WHAT in your Bible? How viscerally repulsive! Part II.

He begins:

I must say, I am confused by your approach.

I’m confused by the fact that I’m having to deal with this lecture.  At least we’re confused together.

The handout you are critiquing is not a transcription of Jack’s talk, it is an OUTLINE. And you are critiquing it without having even listened to Jack explain his argument?

Oh god.  I really am so sorry about that.  However this subject is very emotional for me. If you think my treatment of the outline is bad, I don’t think you would approve of me trying to do the livestreaming. The reason I’m critiquing the “OUTLINE” is because the written format is easier for me to deal with in a semi-rational manner.

This is as uncharitable and intellectually illegitimate as ‘tearing apart’ the argument of a book having read only the table of contents. 

But I don’t claim to be criticizing anything but the table of contents.

If anyone wants to read the book (aka the audio recording), it’s sitting there waiting for them.  I believe I’ve linked to the Gutenberg Website at least a couple times in all this.

Here it is again.

http://blog.gutenberg.edu/2014/the-ethics-of-sex-in-the-teaching-of-the-bible/

Sure, the handout was ‘public’. It was posted online so that people watching the lectures could follow the outline (I’m sure you are familiar with Jack’s lectures, and that he generally hands out an outline for the benefit of the listeners). A table of contents is also ‘public’.

We also don’t read Aristotle because all we have are his lecture notes!

I am not surprised that you are so confused about Jack’s references to Tobit, etc…

If you, with your auditorily wired brain, can explain to me how it is ethical to describe a ban on interracial marriage clearly found in a portion of the Bible ‘shared’ by Christianity and Judaism as a “Taliban”-like feature of first century Judaism, thus pushing the Christian and Jewish shared heritage of apparent racism off onto just the Jews- please, feel free.

I’m actually not kidding here.  It would make me a lot calmer to hear a convincing explanation of why I’m wrong.  This freaks the hell out of me.

He does define his terms… in the lectures.

Mm. In the outline, which appears to be presenting the structure of his argument, so that, as you pointed out, the audience of his lectures can follow his arguments more easily, he devotes THE ENTIRE first section to defining in detail, the types of people who will and won’t be attracted to his views.

He spends several bullet points in that section explaining the different definitions of ‘subculture’ and ‘underculture’.

The term I was most disturbed by his not-defining-of was “Biblical Sexual Ethics”.  The topic of the lecture.

It not even just that he didn’t put the definition in his handout.  It’s that there’s no place for him to say that definition in the flow of his argument as it now stands.

Why is it important to define the people who disagree with you as conformist moderns and the people who agree with you as courageous Jesus followers, in detail, at the beginning of your argument… but not define the subject?

And if he doesn’t define a specific term that you are confused about, there is a format for asking questions during the lecture.

Please see what I said above about myself, the written format, and rationality.

The real question is, if answers are so readily available (through online streaming) why aren’t you looking for them? 

Those I have spoken to who DID listen to the livestream and who DID ask questions were referred to ‘a sermon I’m going to do at Reformation next month’ that would answer all their questions.

That only has the value of hearsay, and if I were able to process the livestream format in a mentally intelligible  fashion, I would tell you whether it were true or not first hand.

That inability to process IS a failing on my part, but I didn’t make my brain.  If you have a problem with it, file a complaint with the Almighty.

Are you really interested in dialogue? Or are you trying to do something else?

Ah- 1) No, 2) Yes?

This is a blog, not Academia. If you look over my other posts, you’ll find they mostly involve how I feel about my mother and  how  I hate God  for being such a meanie weanie.  In this particular series of posts, I am processing my personal thoughts and emotions about Jack’s series.

I thought that was obvious.  If it wasn’t, I apologize.  I’m not sure if more or less sarcasm will make it clearer.

I’m not saying I will never be interested in dialogue. But if I ever write an actual rebuttal, it will be very dry, scholarly, and will have pages and pages of footnotes.  At that point I will also have calmed myself down enough to watch the recordings as well.

I can send it to you to critique first before sending it to Jack, if you like. 🙂

I am NOT saying this to invalidate your perspectives on the Bible or Biblical sexual ethics. From what I have read I am pretty sure we disagree on many things, but I am interested in hearing more of your perspective and understanding where you are coming from.

Well, thanks.  When I can stop seeing red, I may feel the same way about you.

That being said, I expect a certain standard of intellectual and discursive integrity from Gutenberg alumni. 

If this were a discourse, I believe I would be crushed by that remark.  Good thing it’s actually sort of my online diary that you decided to expose yourself too by reading, eh?

That being said, this lecture on Sex Ethics ended up being one of the things I cry about in my online diary because I expected a certain amount of intellectual and  discursive integrity from a Gutenberg Tutor.

It seems to me that in choosing to respond to Jack’s outline without bothering to listen to the lectures you have either carelessly or willfully set up a straw man and pinned Jack’s name to it.

If you chose to see what I’ve written as a formal response, then find you feel bothered by its informality, that is your decision.

Next, you seem to be saying that Jack is such a poor writer that his outline of his own argument constitutes a misrepresentation of said argument.  I at least think better of him than that. But- if you are right and Jack’s outline can’t be trusted to represent his argument- well- then-if Jack wishes to write caricatures of his own arguments and post them online with his name attached, that is his decision.

Finally, Noah, this is your uncle, and I do not expect you to be excited about the fact that I am criticising him, publicly, for all the world to see.  And Jack is a pleasant person who loves his children and family and has hopes and fears and the whole ball of string.

But so am I.

And I hardly expected my teacher to call me animalistic, morally disgusting, viscerally repulsive, an abomination, and to create special category of sinner for me along with pedophiles, sadists, and sociopaths (Section IV E)-

Publically, for all the world to see.

My family agrees with him, you know.

I do not believe I have earned this from him.

 

 

 

You do WHAT in your Bible? How viscerally repulsive! Part I

My thoughts on Jack Crabtree’s lecture, which he entitled:

Part One: Considering Biblical Sexual Ethics in the Context of Modern Culture

Line by bloody line. You will find the full copy here:

http://msc.gutenberg.edu/audiofiles/EthicsSex_Handout_1_Cultural_Context.pdf

I. From the perspective of modern culture, biblical sexual ethics will inevitably seem
odd, old-fashioned, bizarre, out of touch, and uncool.

Biblical Sexual Ethics will seem uncool.

My mind- it is blown. His first thought is whether his sexuality is cool or not.

I would say that I’ve seen underwear models with about this approach to sexuality. BUT. The thought doesn’t end there.

Biblical Sexual Ethics, he says, will seem uncool to modern culture. Not just uncool, but odd, bizarre, and old fashioned. And it will seem these things inevitably.

Here, I think he’s selling modern culture short. How many lives do retro fashions have? Millions, apparently. Regurgitating a style for irony’s sake was the soul of hipster decor, the last time I peered out of the hole in the ground I hide in.

Uncool IS cool. Old fashioned is charming.

Reality, however, does not appear to be his concern. Mr. Crabtree plays a deep game.

With the word inevitable, Mr. Crabtree has introduced a necessary relationship. If you are enculturated into modernity, you WILL be repulsed by his sexual ethics.

Therefore, if you are repulsed by his sexual ethics…

Therefore, if you don’t agree with him…

He doesn’t finish the thought here. But hold on to it. He does.

A. As a matter of fact, biblical sexual ethics is radical and revolutionary relative to
modern cultural attitudes.

You want to know what Biblical Sexual Ethics AREN’T Radically and Revolutionary in Relation to?

The Bronze Age!!

You know! When ‘slave’ and ‘wife’ were interchangeable roles!

Exodus 21: 7 “If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as male servants do. 8 If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her. 9 If he selects her for his son, he must grant her the rights of a daughter. 10 If he marries another woman, he must not deprive the first one of her food, clothing and marital rights. 11 If he does not provide her with these three things, she is to go free, without any payment of money.

Biblical Sexual Ethics- if, by this term, Mr. Crabtree means the sexual ethics taught in the more ancient portion of scripture- are totally in sync with the thought patterns of Teh Ancient World!!

Well- now at least we know where he’s getting the accusation old-fashioned from.

But does modern culture consider people uncool for treating sexuality as a master/slave relationship?

I think not! Mr. Crabtree is so shy.

1. Moderns will typically view biblical sexual ethics as an “unhealthy” repression of
sexuality

Speaking as someone with a more ‘modern’ view of sexuality and a bit of a Jungian as well, this statement is incorrect.

I do view what he refers to as Biblical Sexual Ethics (I am far from convinced the Bible presents an account as coherent as he makes it out to) as repressive.

But not of people’s sexuality.

It represses their actual identities in favor of artificially constructed personas. It forces them to pretend to be things that they aren’t- to try and make themselves into things that they never will be- in order to fit in with whatever interpretation of the Bible happens to be in vogue at the time.

To cast their own souls out into the wilderness as scapegoats or else sacrifice themselves on the Altar of What We Think God wants.

Perhaps there are people to whom the sexuality Mr. Crabtree approves is normal and natural. The full expression of their identity would reflect this. An it harm none, I applaud them and wish them well.

However, my sexuality is not what is described here. Those whose sexuality is more ‘biblical’ than mine would feel incredibly persecuted if they had to spend their lives pretending to be what I am- faking their way through social situations- policing themselves to prevent any little slip up that would give the game away-

standing next to a person they were suddenly and irrationally convinced was the most wonderful amazing person in the world and possibly the reason for the existence of the universe-

And not say anything, or meet their eyes too long.

They would not like pretending to be me. So why, if we are doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, do they insist that I pretend to be them?

(of course, that’s all nonsense. If my sexuality were the social norm it would be ok to fall in love with any person of adult age. There would also be sparkles and unicorns instead of rain and taxicabs. No, just kidding. Rain and taxis are much more romantic than unicorns.)

In section 1. a) Mr. Crabtree describes ‘the modern mindset’.  The Modern, it seems believes that those who disagree with them (such as Mr. Crabtree) do so solely because the Disagreers are products of a Disagreeing culture.  The Disagreeing culture is seen by the Moderns as narrower and more irrational than their newer and more rational culture.

As a Modern, I must again say that this is entirely incorrect.  If we must go into it, I am the product of the Disagreeing culture.  I was born in it, raised in it, and had few other influences.  Of the other influences I did have, some of them were Mr. Crabtree and Company.

So that’s out.

As for Mr. Crabtree himself, I recall him describing a very strict upbringing, which he may have internalized, if his story of the dream of being held down and forced to drink alcohol is anything to go off of.

But I have this hazy memory of him telling stories about being a Longhair too.

Perhaps that is not correct.  But both the Modern and the Disagreer in this story were products in whole or in part of the Disagreeing culture- and the Disagreer may actually have been a hippy for a while.

There is no direct correlation here as far as I’m concerned.

He goes on to point out, in 1. a) (1), against this idiot strawman he’s created, that the Modern may be a product of their environment too.  Uh. Sure. They may- as far as ‘no direct correlation’ allows.

In 1. a) (2) he points out how the change in culture is not ALWAYS a change from a less to more rational culture.  This, I grant him. The fall of the Roman Empire- the rise of the Nazi Empire. The rise of the Roman Empire.  These are possible examples of a culture moving from better to worse, and many more can be found, I’m sure, depending on your definition of better and worse.

However I would ask him not to rush past the point so quickly.  There is an internal logic sometimes, in the shift of culture.  Kuhn? if I remember correctly, posited that in any given scientific paradigm, there was a certain amount of time people would keep working within the old paradigm after it stopped producing interesting answers?  But then they would move on, searching for a new paradigm.

They weren’t changing to a new paradigm simply out of perversity. They were changing to a new paradigm because the old paradigm had reached the end of its explanatory power.

If Mr.  Crabtree sees people pulling out of his paradigm, is proclaiming how cool it is to be uncool really the answer?  Wouldn’t he be better served to try and find out why they’re leaving?

2. Fearful repression of sexuality results in a very different set of moral values than
does courageous, radical obedience to God’s purposes.

Well duh. They of the Teh Ancient World were interested in successful tribal warfare, not repressing sexuality. The Patriarchs were encouraged “by God” to express their sexuality on anything that could be tied down and would produce human offspring.

Fearful sexual repression didn’t come along until the Catholics and the Victorians abandoned the evil material world for the sake of Heaven. Since they both believed that the material world was governed by the rules of sexuaity Mr. Crabtree is proposing, I really can’t say I blame them for being squeamish.

a) Biblical ethics is the latter—courageous, radical obedience to God’s purposes.

b) Radical Islam (and some forms of Christianity) are very possibly an example
of the former—fearful repression of sexuality

Let me translate a couple of the words.

a) Biblical ethics is the latter—courageous, radical Submission to God’s purposes.
b) Radical Submission (and some forms of Christianity) are very possibly an example
of the former—fearful repression of sexuality

Because Islam means submission. And true obedience is also submission.

I’m confused. What’s different here?

So so radical to treat sexuality as a means of popping out enough babies to exterminate the neighboring tribe. So courageous to never question the orders of a being who will make your life a living hell if you question Him but who will give you nice stuff if you do what He says. Even if that Being orders you to commit genocide. Yay for the Bronze Age!

And yes, the Veil does remind me of the Victorians and the Medieval Catholics (putting on gloves before touching money, gah! horrible material world!) as well. Possibly, like them, Islam is having trouble integrating Bronze Age Sexual Ethics with a religion that values salvation of the individual soul.

d) Judaism in the time of Jesus and the apostles had gone beyond sexual
righteousness. In some respects, perhaps, it was more like the modern Taliban
than it was like an ideal biblical sexual ethics.

Oh my God. Christians commentating on whether Judaism is Biblical enough. This is so inappropriate and offensive that it actually makes me want to say a bunch of cuss words and just move on, BUT, that would probably not help anyone.

And unlike MOST of his points in this article, Mr. Crabtree actually gives references to support this.

The first is from Acts 15.

Oh yes. From the Christian Scriptures.

Here’s the passage.

Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, men who were leaders among the believers. 23 With them they sent the following letter:

The apostles and elders, your brothers,

To the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

Greetings.

24 We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul— 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.

Farewell.

30 So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. 31 The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.

Do you see where the Taliban comes into the passage?

The story on chapter 15 is that The Jewish Christian council in Jerusalem has been debating with Paul and Silas about the role of Jewish law in the lives of the Gentile converts Paul kept dragging in. They finally decided that the Gentile Christians should not be required to follow Jewish Law with the exception of 4 simple rules- don’t eat meat sacrificed to idols (aka don’t deliberately participate in other religions) don’t eat blood (ENGLAND!!! HOW COULD YOU!?! I THOUGHT YOU WERE A CHRISTIAN NATION!!! YOUR PUDDINGS ARE SEPARATING YOU FROM GOD!!!) don’t eat meat of strangled animals (cause all the blood is still in it, ENGLAND) and ‘from sexual immorality’

About which final point Mr. Crabtree has a note.  His ‘evidence’

“fornication” = marrying beyond certain boundaries (e.g., a Gentile?)

Hence, first century Jews were the Taliban! Isn’t it obvious?

Epic epic epic fail. I’m not going to get out the Greek NT (THAT JACK SIGNED) to look up fornication- this letter is addressed TO Gentiles.  Off in Gentile-land.  If it were warning against intermarriage with Jews, presumable, Mr. Crabtree should have said (e.g., a Jew?). To imply that it is describing an ‘unnecessary sexual scruple’ attempting to preventing Jews from marrying Gentiles, is such a horribly ridiculous statement that I am tempted to throw my hands in the air. And cuss. And go read a novel. Instead of wading through any more of THIS.

And then to say that this passage reflects the state of Judaism in the first century simply puts me in one of those prey-animal responses where you stop struggling and your brain stops taking in sensory data so that it won’t hurt as much to be eaten.

Maybe he said something different in the lecture itself. Maybe he didn’t transcribe his notes correctly. Yeah. That must be it.

The second reference is much better. It’s from the Book of Tobit.

The Book of Tobit is part of the Christian Apocrypha. It is not considered canonical by most Christians. It is also part of the Jewish Apocrypha. It is not considered canonical by most Jews. According to Wikipedia, “most scholars now prefer situating the composition of Tobit between 225 and 175 BC” which is roughly 200 hundred years, one way or the other, before the time of Jesus and the Apostles.  So- not even in the era of history he’s commenting on.

But what’s an era of history between friends?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Tobit

And despite the fact that the Book of Tobit doesn’t hail from the era in question, there is a quote from the Book of Tobit that shows the Jews of the time had gone WAY off base Biblically.

Tob. 4:12 Beware of all whoredom, my son, and chiefly take a wife of the seed
of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife, which is not of thy
father’s tribe: for we are the children of the prophets, Noah, Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob. Remember, my son, that our fathers from the beginning, even that
they all married wives of their own kindred, and were blessed in their children,
and their seed shall inherit the land.

 

 

So being like the Taliban means…?  Not marrying Gentiles, I guess? Commiting inscest like Abraham, rather contaminating yourself with outsiders?

The Bible never says anything like that! It says things that are quite the opposite!  Like this!

Ezra 9:1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, “The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”

When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice….

10:1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it.”

Oops. Well. Maybe the Bible says exactly the same thing as the Book of Tobit on that particular subject.

But there WERE instances in which the Chosen Ones were allowed to marry outsiders.

Deuteronomy 21:10 When you go to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, 11 if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. 12 Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails 13 and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife.

So apparently only consensual marriages with outsiders were considered unholy. If you killed Gentiles, kidnaped their daughters and then kept the daughters around the house for their sexual and presumably domestic services,  it was totally ok to call that marriage!

More and more, I’m seeing why Mr. Crabtree doesn’t quote the Bible very much, in his explanation of Biblical Sexual Ethics.

Continued tomorrow.

 

Confession and Prelude- Sex in the Bible

Sarcastic Trigger Warning: Contains Sarcasm

Today is Tuesday.  For a  short but significant period of my life, Tuesday was the day of Tuesday Night Bible Study at Gutenberg College.  It was the night of coffee in tall urns and teabags in little baskets- setting up folding chairs and sitting in the back of the crowded classroom so that I could draw or write bad poetry unobtrusively when my attention wandered.

It was a ritual, you know?

Then, came the awful change.

Tuesday Night Bible Study was moved to Wednesday.  Horrors.

It caused the slightest stumble in my mind when that happened.  I had to pull out some of the wires in my mind and stick them back together to get over the switch. Tuesday Night… Tuesday… Wednesday Night Bible Study!

Last week, something happened that has caused me possibly even more trouble.

Jack Crabtree, Gutenberg Tutor, began a series of lectures entitled The Ethics of Sex in the Bible.

I had heard about this lecture series.  But when I looked it up and started reading about it for myself, I realized I had to start blogging about it.

I am bisexual.  I have both emotionally fallen for and felt physical attraction for boys and emotionally fallen for and felt physical attraction for girls.  I was raised in a very Christian home where my parents referred to our one lesbian relative as Aunt Sewer.  If I go on pretending to be straight I can probably continue peaceable interactions with my family.  If I break all ties and declare myself Bi I could get- I don’t know- a merit badge from the anti-Christ? A romantic partner? Peace of mind?

Boys creep me out in theory, possibly because I’m always afraid they see me as a sexbot or something. This fear I am pretty certain I got from watching commercials and reading  the Books of Moses too many times before the age of 10. However, in person, I like certain ones pretty well.

There was a period of my life where the phenomena of bisexuality occurred in my life and I didn’t know what it meant.  I didn’t have words for it.  It was like Columbus’ ships sailing up to my island, to put it into a metaphor familiar to Gutenbergers.  I can testify that I did, in fact, see the ships.  I just didn’t know how to talk about them.  Or that there was anything to talk about.

Part of this phase was spent at Gutenberg. I can name the girls and the boys I had crushes on at Gutenberg.

There was another period in my life in which I had realized what this all meant.  I was a Christian at the time.  I believed that homosexuality was a sin, and that these impulses were impulses towards sin, but so what? Everyone has impulses towards sin.  Some people towards greed, some towards gluttony, some towards you know, normal lust- and whatever else. As long as I didn’t act on the impulse, I could still consider myself faithful. I felt very noble and sacrificial about the whole thing.

I spent many years in this phase.  I did not feel these impulses and attractions voluntarily, I thought they were sinful and that they were messing up my life. I did not feel them because I had been indoctrinated or trained into feeling them- the only experience I had was life at Gutenberg and living in a fundamentalist home/community.

Then finally has come the very recent period of my life.  It’s a story for another time, but I guess I can sum up by saying that I’m no longer concerned about homosexuality being a sin.

A detail that may be important to this discussion is that I have never physically engaged in sexual activity with anyone of any gender.  I don’t know that, if I continue my double life, I ever will.  But I have experienced attraction towards members of both genders, and I believe it is that, and my acceptance of the fact, that earns me the title.

But most of all.

I have never

ever

had Sex in the Bible.  EW!

Get your damnation calculators running, folks. Try figuring out what percent evil I am!

I am a alumni of Gutenberg College.  I would not pick on them like this if I were a stranger. I do not feel qualified to represent QUILTBAG individuals generally, I have been too isolated and know too little about ‘non-biblical’ sexualities for that.

But I can’t let this pass.

I do better with the written word than with spoken word (hence the drawing and bad poetry during Bible Study), so I am going to be following this series via the notes Mr. Crabtree has posted here:

http://msc.gutenberg.edu/audiofiles/EthicsSex_Handout_1_Cultural_Context.pdf

Assuming he continues to do so after this first one.

If the handouts do not match what was said in the lecture, that is not my fault.  And they, just as much as the live stream, are open to the general public.  It seems worthwhile to me to respond to the Handout as a separate entity, and it is to the general public that I present my take on them.

And with that, let the games begin!

Rare Who-Roast-Beast

For a more detailed look at some of the things that have been happening at Gutenberg- posts by R.L Stollar, for your viewing pleasure.   He is a kinder human being than me, and a graceful writer if there ever was one.

Where’s the Great Conversation, Gutenberg?.

This Is How the World Ends: On Jack Crabtree And The End of America, Part One.

This Is How the World Ends, Part Two: Jack Crabtree’s Vision of the American Beast.

This Is How the World Ends, Part Three: The Sky Is Falling (Hide Your Kids, Hide Your Wife).

This Is How the World Ends, Part Four: Angelo Codevilla and the Neoconservative Fantasy.

This Is How the World Ends, Part Five: There Is No “I” in Team America.

This Is How the World Ends, Part Six: You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too.

This Is Where I Use Memes to Explain My Reaction to Jack Crabtree’s Summer Institute Paper.

The Scarlett Letter of Unbelief.