Predictably, there has been much comment from Christians about the Phil Robertson controversy, and (just as predictably) quite a diversity of viewpoints expressed. I concur with Mike Kruger’s commentary. But I also want to comment on a particular kind of response to the controversy, which goes something like this:
C’mon, guys! Compared to the kind of persecution Christians suffer in other countries, this is small potatoes. Christians in the US need to get a sense of perspective and move on. This really isn’t a big deal.
Here are four reasons why I think this sort of response is quite misguided.
A spike in my otherwise flatlined traffic alerts me to the fact that Bill Vallicella has breathed some new life into an old post of mine which connects the same-sex marriage debate with postmodernist anti-realism. Check out Bill’s commentary and then consider the following:
Nate Silver, the statistician and psephologist, correctly predicted the winner in 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election, plus the winners of all 35 US Senate races. This time around he successfully predicted the winner in all 50 states, including the 9 “swing states”. (He also predicted the winner in D.C., although that wasn’t exactly a tough call.) On the morning of the election, Silver’s FiveThirtyEight model gave Barack Obama a 90.9% chance of winning a majority of electoral college votes.
If Silver can perfect his model, it opens up some exciting possibilities for future elections. For one, it will obviate the need for people to actually go to the polls and vote. Silver will simply run his stats and tell us how Americans would have voted had they gone to the polls. Just think of all the time and money this will save!
I learned this morning that NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, not content with regulating the size of people’s soft drinks, now wants to limit access to baby formula in hospitals. As a “pro-choice” liberal Bloomberg is eager to protect a woman’s choice to have her child killed in the womb, but apparently he’s not so eager to protect her choices about what to feed that child if she opts to keep him or her.
According to reports, new mothers in NYC hospitals will be lectured about the negative consequences of using formula instead of breast milk. But don’t expect to find new mothers-to-be being lectured about the negative consequences of abortion.
Opponents of same-sex marriage (a.k.a. defenders of real marriage) are routinely characterized as hateful. But who are the real haters? What does the empirical evidence tell us?
On May 8, residents of North Carolina will have the opportunity to vote on whether the following amendment (“Amendment One”) should be added to the state’s constitution:
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.
This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.
Not surprisingly, numerous yard signs are on display around Charlotte, where I live: some for the amendment, some against. One house on a busy road between my home and my office has three “Against” signs in its yard, right next to the road. They’ve been there for over a month now and no one has removed them, defaced them, or otherwise interfered with them. Free speech has been honored.
Meanwhile, a friend of mine put a “For” sign outside his house in a quiet middle-class neighborhood. Within days it had been vandalized with obscenities. A few weeks ago the seminary where I teach placed a single “For” sign on its grounds. Since then our receptionist has received what she described as a series of “ugly” telephone calls. Apparently these aren’t isolated incidents — far from it. They’re just two instances of a pattern of intolerance, intimidation, and flagrant disregard for free speech.
So who are the real haters here? Perhaps Freud’s projection theory has something to it after all.
Addendum: Another despicable example from yesterday’s local news. (This is also close to home: Pastor Kulp is a friend and a graduate of RTS.)
Postmodernism is modernism driven to its logical end: the end of logic.
Occasionally sermon illustrations are handed to you on a plate. Here’s a gift for any pastor preaching on the Tenth Commandment:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
From today’s edition of The Telegraph:
With her culinary wizadry, [sic] melt-in-your mouth voice and Rubenesque figure, Nigella Lawson has made a career out of turning heads.
But while many husbands might resent such flirtatious behaviour, Charles Saatchi yesterday revealed his pleasure at his television chef wife’s appeal — declaring “who would want to be married to someone who nobody coveted?”
In extracts from his new book, the outspoken adman turned art collector also described the Ten Commandments as an “overrated lifestyle guide” which only succeed in “making people confused and guilty”.
Mr Saatchi, who has been married three times, insisted that the tenth commandment in particular was “obviously a no-hoper” because “coveting is all everyone does, all the time, every day.”
No kidding. Saatchi makes the right observation, but draws entirely the wrong conclusion. Let the apostle Paul set the record straight:
What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. (Romans 7:7-12)
Consultations have been launched, first in Scotland and now in England and Wales, to consider whether the definition of marriage should be changed to include same-sex partnerships. Some opponents have argued, on various grounds, that marriage shouldn’t be redefined. Commendable as this response may seem to most Christians, it concedes far too much, for it misleadingly implies that marriage is the sort of thing that could in principle be redefined. (If you don’t see this point, just reflect on the difference between “You shouldn’t drive faster than the speed limit” and “You shouldn’t drive faster than the speed of light”.)
To grant that marriage could be redefined is to capitulate to a postmodernist anti-realism according to which all social structures and institutions are mere human conventions and there is really no such thing as human nature, understood in traditional metaphysical terms. We must insist that marriage is not something that can be defined and redefined as we see fit. Marriage is a divine institution, not a human social construction like chess or money that we invented for our own purposes. There wasn’t a point in time at which humans ‘defined’ marriage in the way that, say, a foot was once defined as 12 inches. Marriage was bestowed upon us, not created by us.
If the traditional view of marriage is correct then the idea that we could redefine marriage to include same-sex partnerships is on a par with the idea that we could redefine elephants to include hippopotamuses. Only the most deluded postmodernist would say that elephants were defined by humans. (Don’t make the mistake here of confusing elephants with the English word ‘elephant’. Words don’t have trunks and tusks.) But of course, we humans didn’t define humans any more than we defined elephants. To think otherwise would be to put the cart before… well, the cart. And if marriage is grounded in the very nature of human beings, as the traditional view maintains, then we humans didn’t define marriage any more than we defined ourselves. Nor are we in any position whatsoever to redefine marriage. It simply can’t be done — and Christians, along with other traditionalists, should be quick to point out the presumption and absurdity of claims to the contrary.
The very fact that these consultations have been launched in the first place, never mind their final outcomes, reveals just how deeply Western culture has sunk into the mire of postmodernism.
H. Richard Niebuhr famously skewered the liberal Protestantism of his day with this distillation of its message:
A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.
Seven decades later, some Dutch clergy are taking it to the next logical level: a God without existence brings men without beliefs into a kingdom without hope through the ministrations of a Christ without a life.
What would have functioned as a parody of liberalism a generation or two ago is now a tragic, pathetic reality. Abraham Kuyper must be spinning in his grave.
Thankfully there are still many thousands in the Netherlands who have not bowed the knee. Pray for them — and for revival in their homeland.