William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reaction To Disagreements Over The Bible's Alleged Condemnation Of Homosexuality

The comment was made:

"An interesting response to Newsweek's recent attempt to justify homosexuality and homosexual behavior from the Bible, interestingly co-written, it would seem, by Joseph Bottum of First Things, John Mark Reynolds of the evangelical Biola University, and Elder Bruce D. Porter of the First Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:


To which one person responded by citing approvingly to a quote from the article, as follows:

"Jesus loves us enough not to let us do whatever we want. Every generation attacks biblical ethics in some new way, but the Bible endures. Hypocrites pretend they have no sin. Hedonists pretend their sins are good. Honest people repent."

To which I responded:

Zealots pretend there is no reasonable dispute concerning their interpretation of scripture. Puritans think just about anything pleasurable is sin.

It is a good thing to be willing to repent of wrongdoing. But first it must be established that something is wrong. Those who subscribe to divine command theory think that the rightness and wrongness of things are determined by whatever God happens to pronounce. I do not subscribe to that theory. I believe that God's commandments to us are generally only given to codify what independently exists as right and wrong. Therefore, I believe that right and wrong can generally be deduced by logic and reason. The scriptures function to clue us in to the issues; they are not inerrant pronouncements of God's commandments. I claim the privilege to reject any scripture which in my good faith view does not hold up to logic and reason. The scriptures were written by people who had their own prejudices and misunderstandings and circumstances, and those prejudices in my view often tainted the revelations from God.

Honest people repent. But does that mean that every perceived sin that we "repent" of is actually a sin? What of the LDS investigator who "repents" and confesses to his minister that he has been talking with the missionaries, and commits to no longer talk with them or read the BoM ever again? Do we applaud that person for "repenting?" What about a catholic priest who breaks his vow and gets married because he can't stand the loneliness of being single, and is then later convinced, after his wife dies, that he should "repent" of having married and re-join the ministry?

The point of all this is that the starting point for morality is that everything is permitted, unless there exists a justification for prohibitting it. We need not reject a practice as sinful just because someone wishes to do it because it makes them feel good. Granted, there are a great many things which are legitimately regarded as sinful: murder, sexual assault, harmful drugs used without medical justification, slavery, spousal abuse, white collar crime, etc. But in each of those instances, there is an identifiable objective harm.

In the case of gay people, no one has demonstrated to me any inherrent, objective harm associated with responsibly-conducted, consensual gay activity. As such, I have an extremely difficult time concluding that God would outlaw homosexual behavior or declare it sinful in and of itself.

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