Monday, November 26, 2007

Lights Out for Logic

Last week, Andrew Sullivan linked to a segment of Albert Mohler's radio show, during which Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, asked his listeners to engage in a conversation about Christian views of homosexuality. He wondered whether Christians really were "on the wrong side of history" with the issue, as many people (including many Christians, to be fair) now believe. He's an articulate host, and he spends much of the show honestly confronting the fact that evangelicals are losing the culture's attention when it comes to homosexuality. He admits it's embarrassing that, in the past, the Bible was used to justify things like slavery, and he wonders if a similar mistake is being made now. (He ends up firmly arguing that a similar mistake is not being made now, because of scripture, and this always amuses/horrifies/enrages me, when someone says, "Hey, I know that interpretation of scripture has been used in the past for pretty evil ends, but that's not happening now, and let me point out the scripture that proves it." Ugh. Failure of Logic 101.)

Articulate heads screaming for the fire exit, though, when Mohler opens his phone lines. Most entertaining was an exchange between Mohler and a caller from Louisville named Phillip. The caller before Phillip dusted off the old argument that sex is meant for reproduction, so if we were all gay, it would be "goodbye" to the human race...
Phillip: I think no matter what, (Christians will) be in the minority, because Jesus states in John 7:7 that the world will hate him because he testifies that their deeds are evil. And on top of that, the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is against Christianity in 1st Corinthians 6. But not only that, survival of the fittest and Darwinism contradict homosexuality, going back to the comment earlier that, you know, we are not created to be reproductive in homosexuality, so we would die out eventually, so they contradict themselves in that sense, too.

Mohler: You know, that's a very interesting point, Phillip. And you remind me of the Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant.
Wha? Really, Albert?? Phillip reminds you of Kant? Do they have the same haircut?

Mohler then goes on to greatly abuse Kant's categorical imperative in the service of that argument, the one about reproduction. Science increasingly finds evidence of homosexual behavior across the entire biological spectrum, so the notion that we might all wake up tomorrow and choose to be gay is even dumber than it used to be, which was already As Dumb As Possible. Mostly, I just wish that people making claims about morality would just admit it and fight it out as best they can, and stop trying to appeal to practicality. Look around the planet, people -- reproduction is not our problem.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your logic fails, though, when you categorically say that one should not appeal to scripture to justify/villify something if you have already admitted that scripture has been used to justify some evil things in the past. All interpretations of scripture are not created equal. There is a difference between some backwoods preacher taking one ambiguous line and then creating an entire moral structure around it vs. more established moral tenants considered central to scriptural teachings. Or, interpretations and moral pronouncements based on the Ten Commandments are different from plucking obscure statements to make a point. Just because scripture has been used in the past to justify some kooky or wrong things does not mean that scriptural teachings should be disregarded wholesale.

-Father Dezmond

7:47 PM  
Blogger Dianna said...

I could be wrong, but it sounds like John is criticizing the circular logic of the statement. If scripture is fallible, you can't prove that scripture is infallible by citing scripture. I didn't listen to the Mohler show, so I can't be certain of John's paraphrasing of Mohler, but I've heard that argument before. It's infuriating.

While there may be differences between a backward preacher and established moral tenants, the moral tenants are not valid BECAUSE they are nestled in scripture. They are valid (assuming they are), because they agree with our society's rigorously tested code of ethics. Slavery is condoned in the Bible, but not in society. We don't say society is wrong, we say the Bible is wrong.

Perhaps scriptural teachings shouldn't be disregarded completely, but the Bible shouldn't be a person's first source for moral teachings because it's often wrong. It's on thin ice as far as credibility goes, so anything it says should be treated skeptically. It's a third source at best.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Saxo Philologus said...

One problem with using scripture as a basis for morality is that there are at least three (and probably more; someone more conversant with Judaism can tell me) moral codes in the Bible: the Law of the Old Testament - not limited, of course, to the 10 Commandmentas-, the apocalyptic Judaism preached by Jesus, and Paul's interpretation of Jesus's teaching.

The essential problems for Christians of any variety is that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet. He expected the imminent coming of the Son of Man, who would usher in God's kingdom on earth, saving the elect and condemning the sinful (he did not suppose that he was that Son of Man, though Paul and the Evangelists wrote to imply that he did). The poor, those who hunger and thirst, those who are oppressed, etc. are blessed because the current age of evil is due to expire at any minute (pace Luke). Even Paul though the world was going to end pretty soon. Christian morality is all about repenting because the end is near; it is thus fundamentally at odds with the imperatives of a modern industrial society.

Even if we reduce the esssence of Scripture to the two components of the Law that Jesus especially praised (Leviticus 19:18 - love thy neighbor as thyself and Deutoronomy ?:? - love the lord thy God), I don't think we're left with anything very useful. The former command assumes the existence of God. Loving one's neighbor is unnecessary, impractical, and devaluing of love.

1:28 PM  
Anonymous the grammar police said...

To anonymous and dianna:

Not to be obnoxious, but I think that when you write "moral tenants" you actually mean "moral tenets."

'Moral tenants' would, I suppose, be defined as apartment dwellers who paid their rent in a timely fashion and took excellent care of their landlord's property. ;-)

10:09 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

All I know is that Williams is as gay as the day is long . . . and so was Kant . . . I mean, he probably was . . . most Germans are gay . . . and by gay, I mean like to have sex with men.

2:46 PM  

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