What About “Sexual Orientation”?

heartPicking back up my series on Christian sexual identity, we have to realize that the foundational issue in conversations about “gender roles,” homosexuality, and the public place of marriage is that of definition. For the progressive gender, sexuality, and the various institutional structures supporting them are to be defined by the individual’s desire. Now, this doesn’t simply mean the surface-level choices that one makes, though it does mean that often enough, but rather those deep-seated desires which then incentivize one’s actions. I’m not sure if it is still the preferred nomenclature, but not too long ago folks used to use the term “orientation” to name this concept. A person’s “sexual orientation” was either heterosexual, homosexual, or something else, and this orientation was an important way that they were to be classified, even getting down to their fundamental identity.

This debate over orientation vs. “what’s natural” is at the heart of the traditional marriage debate. In its crudest form, the traditional marriage position says that it doesn’t matter what an individual might feel about it, marriage is by definition the union of a man and a woman. The response has been to say that this definition is far too thin and doesn’t take into account all of the images and promises that we have been attaching to marriage for some time now. Some might point to the Protestant Reformation, with its emphasizing “mutual society” over procreation. Others might blame it on dating culture and no-fault divorce. Others might still point to the notion that marriage is now one of those ways in which people continue “the pursuit of happiness.” Either way, the issue is that marriage is not simply a societal institution for childbirth and rearing, but it is also a key way for people to find personal fulfillment.

And we should admit that this response has been mostly unanswered because it is (currently) unanswerable. Continue reading

Advertisements

What Makes a Man?

lebowski

It’s funny. I can look back on a life of achievement, on challenges met, competitors bested, obstacles overcome. I’ve accomplished more than most men, and without the use of my legs. What… What makes a man, Mr. Lebowski?  Is it… is it, being prepared to do the right thing? Whatever the price? Isn’t that what makes a man?

Too many of our conversations about gender roles presume that there are certain social attributes which, taken together, make up the essence of the respective sex. To “be a man” is to be strong, hardworking, and determined, and to “be a woman” is, supposedly, to be meek, servile, and emotional. But this is fundamentally wrong. Continue reading

What are Men and Women?

7321265-man-and-womanAs I’ve written about sexual identity and the natural differences between men and women, several questions have come up in different venues all asking the same thing: Where are you getting your concepts of gender roles? There are a lot of complicated ways to answer this question, and there are a lot of flat-out wrong ways to answer this question. I’ll try to keep it as simple (and right) as I can, but it will still take some ins and outs.

I believe that men and women have distinct roles and functions in life because I believe that sex matters. Men are men. They do not choose to be men. There is not some internal asexual self waiting to be freed. The same is true for women. This is both physical and psychological. It is a matter of body and soul.

Now all of this is derived from my own understanding of God and His design, but also from the nature of things. This can get us into the “complicated” very quickly, and so I’ll start by giving us some easy analogies. Imagine yourself in something of a desert island situation. You’ve got leaves, trees, sand, dirt, rocks, animals, etc. Then you stumble upon a fully-crafted ax. You can tell it is different from the other items because of its composition and the clear evidence of design. You run your thumb across the blade and cut yourself. This thing is meant for cutting. It might work for other jobs, but obviously cutting is the primary one. Continue reading

Pro-Life Principles- The Ethical Questions

As we noted in the previous post, the abortion discussion can be divided into two parts: the ethical and the political.  These are not unrelated questions, but they are distinct.  So first, the ethical-

Is abortion moral? 

This question is the elephant in the room.  Almost no one in the pro-choice camp is willing to answer in the affirmative.  They will always say that abortion is to be regretted, yet there are other influential factors that may make certain abortions morally justifiable.

We can already anticipate more questions, but we must not run off just yet.  Let’s stick to this one question.  Is abortion moral?  Or rather, is it moral to end the life of (kill) a human entity (person?  being?  life?) prior to its birth? Continue reading

Pro-Life Principles- A Prolegomena

The fallout from Proposition 26 has been very revealing.  The measure was defeated by a sizable majority, and there are various theories as to just what was its downfall.  “Overreaching” seems to be the consensus explanation, but I think the problem is more basic.  It was seen as overreaching because it implicated a variety of issues and practices that the average “pro-life” Christian was not prepared to question.  Almost everyone in the great state of Mississippi is “pro-life.”  It’s really quite polite to be so.  But it is a much smaller percentage who are willing to condemn abortifacient birth control, and still fewer of that group are ready to say that certain advances in “reproductive technology” violate the natural law.  Perhaps, and a bit more understandably, legal “personhood” is also too difficult of a concept to apply to entities that do not yet exist within the immediate jurisdiction of the state.

While I supported Prop. 26 and am still convinced that it was a morally justified position, I am willing to have the conversation about each of these issues.  From my own perspective, I am convinced that the ethical questions will always have a singular answer, however, the prudential political questions may vary depending upon our context and ability.  Still, what I saw more than anything else was a failure on the part of the citizenry to articulate clear principles and to explain why they would support one practice yet condemn another.  We did not have our first principles in order, nor did we quite know how the law ought to work in support of those principles.

Because of this, I would like to have an extended conversation about these matters.  I want to examine those principles, as well as ask certain key questions as to why people think and decide as they do.  Continue reading

Secular? Private? It All Depends on what You Mean

Peter Leithart mentions me in this post, and I can say that I agree with the bulk of it all.  I do still think, however, that there are some terminological problems.

It is true that “secular” is time and not a space, in a way, because the term itself refers to the “temporal kingdom.”  Thus even the visible church exists in the secular.  But for many of these conversations we seem to let the metaphors get away from us.  Secular isn’t physical space, but it does have a sort of “space” of jurisdiction.  Continue reading

SPSA in New Orleans

As I mentioned earlier, I will be presenting a paper for the Southern Political Science Association this Saturday in New Orleans, LA.  This will be at the Hotel InterContinental, and so if you’re in the area please come on.

My panel is called “Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the Common Good,” and you can check it out by going here and clicking “browse the program” and then clicking on “Saturday.”  I’m at 1:15.  To get at philosophy and the common good, I examine a dispute among early American Presbyterians about natural law and religious freedom.  The paper overlaps with the political discussions we’ve had here, and it shines a clear light on the old-guard disciplinarian and Presbyterian view of “the two kingdoms.”  Here is the abstract: Continue reading

Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 3)

Our conversation has been going on for some while now, and it would probably be helpful to review what has been said and what remains to be said.  Everything began with the C/A review of David VanDrunen’s Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms.  We received mostly positive feedback overall, though Darryl Hart did fire a few snipes.  We responded here, and the comments took off.  Dr. Hart argued that the “two kingdoms” are not different in quality, one spiritual in kind and the other earthly and temporal, but rather that both are temporal and physical yet having different zones, goals, and means.  He even maintained that church officers were spiritual rulers in the kingdom of God.  Church discipline is then a coercive force in the kingdom, and the church is indeed an alternative city, though it should nonetheless mind its own business.  In this case, that means that it does not have any particular voice in the common public sphere.

While this conversation was in full swing, we had our own sort of apparition of Mary.  “Mary Campion” appeared in the comments offering particularly clear articulations of both positions, yet later revealed herself to be Michael Hickman and offered the Roman Catholic counter.  Michael suggested that the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession was the necessary safeguard to allow the Church a voice in the public sector without being dominated by the State.  We have already devoted two posts to interacting with this.  The first sought to define “the Church” and thus show why it should be considered qualitatively spiritual.  Our view is that the Church is not a worldly-temporal entity and thus is in no real “competition” with the State.  The State is designed to deal with bodies, as it guides temporal matters in various ways according to prudence.  The Church, though always embodied, is designed to deal with hearts.  Once the visible and invisible distinctions are made in regard to the Church, we concluded that invisible Church is properly the spiritual kingdom of God and is always guided by the Holy Spirit, while the visible Church exists in the temporal kingdom and lives according to law.

Secondly we sought to discuss apostolic succession in particular, though there ended up being little interaction with my particular biblical observations or criticisms of the Roman doctrine.  What seemed to come out, through much coaxing, was that apostolic succession is the necessary means to identify the Church (the successor of Peter), and that this Church is itself a temporal and spatial power which must direct the political kingdoms of the world.  Not settling for a general advisory role, this view also claims that the magisterium (the Pope) is the one class of humanity able to properly interpret and use the natural law, and in the event that the civil magistrates should come to disagree with the magisterium, they would need to submit to his will or face civil as well as spiritual sanctions.

What makes apostolic succession relevant and appealing to this discussion is that it seeks to guarantee that there will be a protected interpreter of nature and reason capable of ruling those who have lost this ability.  It clearly identifies “the Church,” and it attempts to provide a true “new city” and “new humanity” in the form of the clergy.  It offers an enduring apostolic office and even a vicarious Jesus Christ for the world to see and follow.  It provides clarity and singularity of direction.

The Protestant position is that through the agency of the Holy Spirit and the role of faith, each Christian has received Jesus Christ in full, and each is a successor to the apostles, both in doctrine and in baptism.  “The Church” is quite simply “the people,” and the people are presumed competent self-governors, capable of recognizing and enacting the principles of civic order on the one hand, and the principles of Christian confession and charity on the other.  Neither the magistracy nor the ministry has the whole competence of the Christian people by delegation, but rather by representation.

Thus we come back to our original dispute about the nature of the Church and the relationship between the spiritual kingdom and the temporal kingdom. Continue reading

Apostolic Succession and Civic Freedom (pt. 2)

As our conversation continues, we have witnessed a transformation in the accidents of Mary Campion.  Though her substance is still the same, she is now Michael, and so it seems that I should shift the names accordingly.  We have now, in my opinion, gotten to the bottom of the disagreements in defining the church.  The Protestant view is that the essence of the Church is the Word, found in the preaching and sacraments, as well as embodied in the people of God by the immediate action of the Holy Spirit.  This allows for a distinction in terms, with “the visible Church” typically referring to the Church as institution, complete with polity and laws, and the “invisible Church” referring to all believers wherever they may be.  For Protestants, the “Church” and the “State” (better termed the “Commonwealth”) can inhabit the same space and time without displacing or doing violence to one another.  There is no need for a hierarchical arrangement because the two entities are different in quality, jurisdiction, and telos.

Our second question then was, “What is apostolic succession, and is it a valid theory?”  Michael suggests that Apostolic Succession (hereafter AS) is the key to a harmonious society, and he also points (rightly) to Unam Sanctam’s claim that the civic arena must be subordinate to the Church.  Unam Sanctam, however, goes further and says that princes must be in submission to the clergy:

Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered  for  the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.

Unam Sanctam goes on to say that the spiritual powers may not be judged by the temporal powers.  When you combine this with the particular view of “spirituality of the Church” that Thomas Becket posthumously won over King Henry and the Investiture Contest’s Dictatus Papae (which states that the Pope alone can call general councils, that the Pope cannot be judged by anyone, and that the Pope can remove the magistrate’s authority over his subjects), you get a clear picture of the Roman position.

AS then enters into the picture as a proof of who the “spiritual rulers” are and from where they get their commission.  AS is also a sort of lynch-pin argument for Roman Catholic apologists in defining the Church.  It often serves the function for Roman Catholics what sola fide does for traditional Protestants.  I also know from personal experience that AS can be the single decisive issue in Protestant conversions to Roman Catholicism.  I’ve seen it on more than one occasion.  But I have a few concerns about AS, some of which seem to be significant enough to warrant its dismissal from consideration.

1) What exactly is meant by “Apostolic Succession”? Continue reading