Monday, January 25, 2016

Some (Slightly Edited) Facebook Posts about Gay Marriage and Related Topics from Last Year

** In response to the Supreme Court's decision on gay marriage:

Okay, here's my rant-y, overly-long, and potentially incendiary post for the quarter (actually a cleverly disguised apology/call for love and understanding):

Thank you friends for being who you are. I'm proud to say that, given the recent Supreme Court judgment on gay marriage, Facebook pretty clearly shows I have friends on BOTH sides of the issue. This is a good thing (surrounding yourself only with those you agree with is not the best way to go about life). And frankly, you've all been, without any exceptions, extremely respectful and loving in every one of your posts on the subject, even when others may not be. Even the articles you share have been similar. On the one hand, you have been celebratory without being gloating or judging. On the other hand, you have been disappointed without being bitter or judging. Thank you for doing your part in making the internet and life in general a more respectful, friendlier, and generally more decent place for everyone.

In general, I get annoyed by debates over gay marriage or homosexuality in general. Not because I don't have an opinion on some matters (listen to my Cornerstone class on the Old Testament laws where I talk about biblical commands about sex) or that people don't agree with me but rather because of the tone and irrationality of the debate in most cases. Debates generally consist almost entirely in name calling, straw men, false analogies, condemnation for even making an analogy (without even considering the merits of the argument), begging the question, equivocation, ad hominems, genetic fallacies, etc.

On the debate over the legalization of gay marriage I just have a few points to make which, if taken seriously, would have at least as much chance as any in making things a bit more tolerable (though maybe not):

1) Just because someone supports the legalization of gay marriage does not mean they think it is morally permissible. You can think being a Jehovah's Witness is wrong, for instance, all the while thinking that people have a basic right to be a Jehovah's Witness. People can have rights to choose whether or not to do a bad thing.

2) Just because someone is against the legalization of gay marriage does not mean they think it is morally wrong. The majority of the legal and philosophical arguments against legalization do not depend in any way on the moral (or even religious) status of gay marriage. (Nor does anyone claim that gay marriage will harm their own personal marriage - that's a straw man) For instance, one argument is that marriage by definition excludes two persons of the same sex so that saying we should legalize same sex marriage would be akin to saying that we should legalize round squares. Whether the argument works or not, that has nothing to do with morality.

3) Similarly, just because someone thinks it's wrong doesn't mean they are against legalization and just because someone thinks it's morally permissible doesn't mean they think the law should recognize it. In other words, issues of legal rights and legal values are separate (though not always necessarily completely distinct from) issues of moral rightness and moral values. Just because it should be legal doesn't mean it's okay. Just because it shouldn't be doesn't mean it isn't. To repeat: these are distinct questions. How we relate the questions to each other will largely depend on the political and legal assumptions we adopt. It's not a matter of being a bigot or not, or being an approver of sin or not - it's about political and legal views, period. In general, Americans tend to confuse legal and moral values and jump to conclusions about one from a conviction about the other. "People should have the right to do X; it's none of your business if they do it, so mind your own business" quickly becomes "So doing X is okay"; and "Doing X is wrong" quickly becomes "We should outlaw X".

4) There's a distinction between what should or shouldn't be legal and what is or isn't constitutional. Someone can think the supreme court ruled correctly while also thinking that gay marriage should be illegal or think that it should be legal while thinking that the court ruled incorrectly. (A distinction that was lost on those who, simply because they thought it should be illegal, criticized Chief Justice Roberts for ruling in favor of "Obamacare")

5) The Bible does not explicitly and directly tell us which political and legal theories to adopt nor does it explicitly and directly speak about gay marriage, hence to say "the Bible says no to gay marriage", etc. is a bit misleading when we're talking about legal rights.

6) On the other hand, to say "The Bible says nothing about gay marriage" is also misleading since it does in fact (in my opinion) say direct things about homosexual acts and morality (note that I say "morality", not "legality"), which are topics obviously closely related to gay marriage.

Bottom line: As someone who has not chosen a specific political/legal reference point, I don't have a particular opinion on whether or not the Supreme Court made the right decision. I don't know - I haven't considered these reference points nor the arguments for and against gay marriage in enough detail to make an informed decision regarding legality. (I really can see both sides of the argument at the moment.) I make decisions based on warrant and right now I simply haven't acquired enough information. Some other people may have done this, but I haven't. I hope that's okay - it wasn't up to me to make the decision anyway. But let's be understanding of those who do not share our own views, whether of the legality or the morality of gay marriage. Let's listen and understand where they're coming from, WHY they hold the views they do, and let's see things from their point of view before we rush to condemn. Let's have empathy with others and drop the name calling, shaming, and judging. We're not enemies, we're family. We're people. Let's treat each other as such.

** In response to Kim Davis refusing to sign marriage licenses:

Not a popular opinion (feel free to disagree) - and I may be wrong about this - but I can't help but think regarding what's going on in Kentucky that recognizing that two people have met government requirements to enter into a government contract, regardless of whether entering into such a contract is sinful or unwise or otherwise inadvisable (and the clerk in question apparently has no problem recognizing other contracts she disagrees with), is in no way an endorsement or moral acceptance of such a contract. I'm a very strong supporter of religious liberty, but I don't think religious liberty has much of anything to do with what's going on here. That's just my initial reaction, though.

** In response to this bit of silliness:

Oy. Sorry, short rant: While I agree that Davis isn't doing the right thing here, I have to object to the way Huffington Post is trying to argue for that position. This is the sort of article you see again and again (not necessarily about this case, but in general), and it's really annoying since it completely ignores how biblical hermeneutics (the interpretation and application of the Bible) even works. The majority of these jobs are not "banned by the Bible". For one thing, most of the out-of-context quotes don't even match the job description given. Not eating pork, for instance, doesn't have much to do with selling other people pork (though if the former is wrong, one could argue the latter would be as well, but that doesn't follow automatically). For another, even if they did, it still wouldn't be relevant since lists like this ignore the fact that there are biblical and theological reasons why Christians follow some laws strictly and literally today and others not so much. Articles like this try to make it seem arbitrary, silly, and a case of picking and choosing. While many Christians might not be aware of the exact reasons WHY some laws are followed more strictly than others, that does not mean that there are no good reasons. This is precisely one of the many reasons why I did the Old Testament laws class I did, so people would understand biblically how to interpret these laws and how they are supposed to be applied today. Other than the psychic advisor or maybe the gossip columnist (which is kind of a scummy job to do anyway), I don't see how any of these would be a violation of biblical principles.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Bibliography: Second Half of 2015

A bibliography similar to the previous one. This one covers July-December 2015. Again, it's not necessarily complete and contains only whole books, not articles or primarily reference works. I'm also trying to only include books that are newish - i.e., not on the previous couple lists. (Childrens' books also not included!) Starred books are ones I consider particularly outstanding, interesting, important, or otherwise likable.


Bruce, F.F., The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament.
*Dulles, Avery Cardinal, A History of Apologetics.
Edgar, William and K. Scott Oliphint, eds., Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader, Volume 1, to 1500.
Edgar, William and K. Scott Oliphint, eds., Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader, Volume 2, from 1500.
Enns, Peter, Ecclesiastes.
Fox, Michael, A Time to Tear Down and a Time to Build Up: A Rereading of Ecclesiastes.
Marcel, Pierre, The Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd: I. The Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought.
*Pascal, Blaise, The Mind on Fire: An Anthology of the Writings of Blaise Pascal.
*Walton, John (with a contribution from N.T. Wright), The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Genesis 2-3 and the Human Origins Debate.


McNeill, Graham, Nightbringer.

The Horus Heresy series:
The Imperial Truth.
Cybernetica: Mars Must be Purged. 
Nemesis: War within the Shadows.
The First Heretic: Fall to Chaos.
Aurelian: The Eye Stares Back.
Prospero Burns: The Wolves Unleashed.
Age of Darkness.
Various short stories.