Friday, 31 July 2015

Foreknowing is knowing previously

Leighton Flowers has written an excellent commentary on Romans 8:28-39. It is difficult to summarise without reproducing the whole article. So here is the passage translated in accordance to what Flowers suggests it says. Basically Flowers is advocating that Paul talks about how the creation was subjected in the past, and thus what the creation will be. Likewise Paul talks about God's activities in the past; and that by observing what God has done in the lives of the saints in times past we can know what God will do for us. This passage is not about God's foreknowledge but God's faithfulness.
And we observe that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He knew previously, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that [Jesus] would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Monday quote

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Monday quote

The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit—replacing what works with what sounds good.

Thomas Sowell

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Does Moses force a woman to marry her rapist?

A not infrequent claim of the abhorrence of Scripture is that it commands victims of rape to marry their attacker. Support for this proposition comes from Moses' sermon before the Israelites entered the promise land.
If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days. (Deu 22:28-29)
Even conceded by some Christians as a difficult passage, or even a harsh one, for those who have read the relevant sections of the Old Testament. The problem is, in part, not due to too much Bible but to too little.

It is worth reading a larger section of Deuteronomy, if not the entire book. Here is a slightly larger section. This comes within laws dealing with sexual crimes and immediately following the issue of sexual fraud.

If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.

If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

But if in the open country a man meets a young woman who is betrothed, and the man seizes her and lies with her, then only the man who lay with her shall die. But you shall do nothing to the young woman; she has committed no offense punishable by death. For this case is like that of a man attacking and murdering his neighbor, because he met her in the open country, and though the betrothed young woman cried for help there was no one to rescue her.

If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days. (Deu 22:22-29)
Adultery is forbidden and both participants are condemned to death.

Betrothal was a covenant to get married but the ceremony had not yet occurred and the marriage was not consummated. Thus coitus between a man and a woman betrothed to another was viewed as a violation of that covenant and a form of adultery. As such bath parties were to be executed. Both these situations describe consensual sex. But what if it is not consensual?

The next command states that if a betrothed woman does not consent but is taken by force then she is innocent. She is free but the rapist shall be executed.

Which brings us to the passage in question. There are several things to say about it because our culture is significantly different when it comes to issues of betrothal, marriage, provision, sexual consent.

The first thing to note is that the command is somewhat parallel to the previous commands. Each case reflecting further consideration. Consensual married, consensual betrothed, non-consensual betrothed, unbetrothed. The problem for the modern reader is that he is concerned about the consent but the law is concerned about the covenant. So sex with a person when they are covenanted to another is punishable by death, unless it turns out that it was non-consensual. The woman can not be punished when she was not breaking the covenant. So the last case is not so much discussing consent as it is discussing a case that does not involve transgressing a covenant. The woman is neither married nor betrothed.

So it is difficult to address the consent aspect in a command that is written for the covenant aspect. In the first 2 cases the man lies (shakab) with the woman. In the 3rd the man overpowers (chazaq) the woman and lies (shakab) with her. In the 4th the man seizes (taphas) the woman and lies (shakab) with her.

Now it may be that the man is doing this against the woman's will. The fact that the country or city is not mentioned in this case as it is in cases 2 and 3 means that this case covers both situations. Even so, if she were in the city she would be expected to call out. This means that the case is covering the situation where there may be consent. The term translated "seize" may cover both the concepts of seduction and subjugation.

The command is that the man in this position must take responsibility for his actions. That is he cannot have sex without responsibility. Such actions make the woman unmarriageable in this culture, or at least much less desirable as a wife. He is commanded to pay the bride-price and take her as a wife; that is provide for her. Further, he is forbidden to divorce her; that is his actions mean that he will be forced to provide for the woman for her entire life.

Note that this is not a command for the woman or her father, it is a command for the man. What if the father does not wish his daughter to be married to this man? In Exodus Moses gives this command for a man who seduces a woman and lies with her. This is parallel to the command in Deuteronomy except that the command in Deuteronomy may possibly be read to include both seduction and subjugation as mentioned. Moses writes,
If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins. (Exo 22:16-17)

The Bible allows a father to refuse the marriage of his daughter but still demand the bride-price. The ongoing provision for the woman will be the father's responsibility unless the woman subsequently married. Thus Exodus allows an out for the woman via her father if they so wish. But both passages command the man to provide as a husband. He must marry and provide and is forbidden to divorce but the woman could refuse.

The modern Westerner asks who would marry a rapist but this assumes a much different culture. We have a culture of much greater food and wealth; one in which woman frequently provide for themselves. And people usually marry those that they fall in love with.

This was much less common the past. Although there were some women of means in times past, daughters (and sons) were provided for by their fathers until they cot married and then were provided for by their husbands. Famine an starvation were frequent risks faced by the majority of society. Marriages were often arranged. In a culture where food was scarce at times provision was vital. Being able to provide was important in a husband.

It is the view and expectation in all societies that the married couples will be sexually active. In most societies having children is also highly valued. A girl in such a society is concerned that she is provided for and that she will have a family. It is her expectation that she will be having sex with her husband, and that she may have little say (and sometimes no say) in who her husband will be.

That is not to say that romantic love was unheard of (consider Jacob and Rachel, also Canticles); nor that parents never asked their daughters about prospective grooms. It just means that our thoughts about love and consent were not the significance to them that they are to us.

Consider the example of David's daughter Tamar. When Amnon asked her to have sex with him she said,
“No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” (2Sa 13:12-13)
She declined sex but was willing to become his wife if Amnon requested this from the king. Nevertheless Amnon overpowered Tamar and raped her. Then he told her to leave. Tamar viewed Amnon's shaming of her by refusing to marry her as worse than him raping her.
But she said to him, “No, my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went. (2Sa 13:16-19)
It is right to see Amnon's behaviour as despicable. Yet moderns struggle to understand why Tamar thought Amnon's rejection of her the greater offence. You cannot assess how her culture viewed the situation from a 21st century Western perspective. In a culture with arranged marriages every women knows that she will have sex with the man who becomes her husband, not a man in the community who she happens to find appealing. This changes how they viewed sexual consent. We struggle because don't grasp the cultural issues. Moderns discuss the concept of marital rape whereas this would have made little sense to the ancients, they thought that married people have sex. Consent had to do with who you were married to, not who you wanted to do it with (though the latter is still a consensual issue). The much bigger issue is, Who is going to provide for me? not, Who am I going to have sex with? because it was assumed you would have sex with the man (husband) who was providing for you.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Monday, 6 July 2015

Monday quote

The post-evangelical Sexuality Gospel has simply replaced the Boomer Prosperity Gospel for a generation that idolises the comfort that experience offers, rather than the comfort that money offers.

Steve McAlpine

Sunday, 5 July 2015

40 answers on same-sex attraction and the Bible

Matthew Vines posted 40 questions to Christians who believe that people of the same sex cannot get married.

Below are the questions; a couple of comments about the them. Some are written from the perspective that homosexual behaviour is a morally acceptable therefore they can be difficult to answer without addressing or rejecting the assumptions behind the question. Further, I don't buy into the concept of gay Christian. The term gay is used to identify those who have sexual desires toward those of the same sex. But we don't say diabetic Christian, or covetous Christian, or vegan Christian, or lusting Christian. Christians who struggle with wrongly-directed sexual attraction should not define themselves by their inappropriate desire.

1. Do you accept that sexual orientation is not a choice?

I think that sexual desire is a complicated situation. Men who desire other men do so to varying degrees. It is hard to know why this is always the case but it seems that sexual abuse by other men and lack of father input can contribute to this. This may mean an absent father or a soft father, especially in the context of a domineering mother. Other actions within the child's life such as a lack of redirecting desire or an encouragement toward same-sex desire can make things worse. Same sexual activity,even experimental in those who do not have much same sex desire, can intensify desire. That is, both actions by the person and actions by others, especially in formative years, can strongly influence later desire. There may also be intrinsic qualities, such as effeminacy, that contribute.

2. Do you accept that sexual orientation is highly resistant to attempts to change it?

I think it can be in some circumstances. It depends on the strength of the underlying desire, the age at which it is addressed, the behaviour already engaged in, and the degree to which the environment encourages and discourages such behaviour. It can also be very difficult when there are significant spiritual issues that are not addressed.

3. How many meaningful relationships with lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) people do you have?

How does one answer this and why is it relevant? And what do you mean by meaningful. For years it was pushed that 10% of the population is gay. This was unlikely to be true and shown to be false. Figures closer to 1% were more likely though I think this may rise as it becomes more culturally acceptable and somewhat trendy. Assuming 1% of the population are gay may suggest that 1% of my meaningful relationships would be with gay people but that's not how it works. I have greater or lesser meaningful relationships with people of various careers and ages and religions depending on my job and age and religion. As it is I don't exactly know because I don't know who is gay. Unless someone is vocal about their sexuality or demonstrates overtly gay stereotypes I do not know that they are gay. I have known people for several years before finding out that they are gay (openly so). On balance of probabilities, most people I know are heterosexual. Of the 10 I work most closely with 1 is gay.

4. How many openly LGBT people would say you are one of their closest friends?

Again, why is this relevant? And why would it be likely that I have close friends that are gay. My closest friends are Christian, yet the number of Christians in society is much lower than the percentage that are my closest friends. Some good friends are highly skewed careerwise. Friendships are not random. Men have more male friends. Policemen have more police friends. If I have say 10 good friends there is no reason to suspect that at least one of them would be gay, especially if my friends are more likely to be Christian.

5. How much time have you spent in one-on-one conversation with LGBT Christians about their faith and sexuality?

Faith? As much as they wish to talk about it. Sexuality, not a lot, but then I don't talk about this a lot with my friends either. And some gays are more than happy to tell me far more about their proclivities than I really wish to listen to.

6. Do you accept that heterosexual marriage is not a realistic option for most gay people?

No I do not accept that, at least for those who wish to follow Christ. While this question requires a post of its own, I think that marriage between a gay man and a woman, or a gay woman and a man can be useful depending on the reasons, and so long both parties are aware of the other's struggles. If the issue is companionship then (heterosexual) marriage may be appropriate as most men can find companions in either men or women. If the issue is sexual desire then many gay men can perform sexually with a woman even if they do not desire a female in a sexual manner.

7. Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?

I think that unmarried gay men should avoid sex just like all unmarried men and women. I also think the term celibacy is unhelpful rhetoric. Chaste is the expectation.

8. How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long?

I have walked the path (in as much as it is appropriate) with a single woman for many years; she would like to be married and is not and is therefore not sexually active. I have encouraged a Christian who struggles with attraction to men to hold onto God's grace in his struggles. I know of men married to women who struggle with attraction to other men and who struggle with this at times. But again, why is this relevant and why is every Christian expected to both know and walk with multiple Christians who struggle with homosexuality?

9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?

Press into Christ. And address the issues that make suicide seem like an option.

10. Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know?

Chaste behaviour leads to less problems than unchaste behaviour in Christians. I don't see why this should be different for those who are gay.

11. How many married same-sex couples do you know?

I deny that same sex couple can ever be married. The concept is oxymoronic. Further the issue is the same as #3 and #4. If it matters, I have worked with a a few females who have longish-term relationships with other women, one of whom would call herself married. Many gay men I meet are highly promiscuous.

12. Do you believe that same-sex couples’ relationships can show the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

I believe a relationship could show that. Any relationship between 2 people, married or unmarried, friend or acquaintance, could exhibit patience for example. But this is not really what the fruit of the Spirit means. Rather it means that these (love, joy, etc.) are qualities that the Spirit is developing in those in which he dwells. Unbelievers can exhibit some of these qualities in various measures. I don't believe that the sexual aspect of same-sex couple's relationship is one that is revealing the fruit of the Spirit. Such sexual behaviour is a fruit of abandoning God.

13. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support same-sex marriage in the church?

Yes and no. My concept of salvation is such that people can believe a range of things including unorthodox ideas. A person may be a Christian and misguided about this. If they have been a Christian for some length of time and this issue has been addressed and they do not come around to understanding that marriage is between men and women they may not be Christian. If they have gone from thinking that marriage is only between men and women to thinking people of the same sex can get married then they may not be Christian or may have abandoned the faith. If they are in a position of leadership in the church and they advocate for same-sex marriage then they are a wolf in the church and should be removed.

14. Do you believe that it is possible to be a Christian and support slavery?


15. If not, do you believe that Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards were not actually Christians because they supported slavery?

Not applicable, but note also what it means to be saved.

16. Do you think supporting same-sex marriage is a more serious problem than supporting slavery?

Yes. Much worse. One must also distinguish between the institution of slavery and the slave trade.

17. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s passages about slavery before you felt comfortable believing that slavery is wrong?

I don't believe it is always wrong. The Bible condemns kidnapping (Deu 24:7) and the slave trade (1Ti 1:10). It does not condemn owning slaves, though freedom is better than slavery (1Co 7:21). It seems ironic that you seem to think slavery is wrong and not homosexuality given that both appear in the same vice list: the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers.

18. Does it cause you any concern that Christians throughout most of church history would have disagreed with you?

It concerns me that moderns don't understand these distinctions.

19. Did you know that, for most of church history, Christians believed that the Bible taught the earth stood still at the center of the universe?

While I don't hold to geocentrism for our planet within the solar system, the idea that our planet and solar system is near the centre of the universe is not an unreasonable assumption. It also has some empirical evidence depending on one's interpretation of red-shifts. The church held to the idea of geocentrism as much as the surrounding un-churched culture. It did so partly based on the teachings of Aristotle and Ptolomy. It was Christian scientists who challenged this belief based on their strong Christian convictions. They were opposed by those within the church who were married to the pagan ideas. Kind of opposite to the current situation.

20. Does it cause you any concern that you disagree with their interpretation of the Bible?

No. It delights me that faithful Christians (such as Kepler) thinking God's thoughts after him made such strides in understanding  the natural world.

21. Did you spend any time studying the Bible’s verses on the topic before you felt comfortable believing that the earth revolves around the sun?

I am familiar with verses that some have used to defend geocentrism in times past. The interpretation is poor and unwarranted by context. More importantly, although I think the Bible talks to history and facts that are observable, morality is not the same kind of issue. A book can mention the colours of various plants and a person may observe the same plants, but morality is not observed in the same way. Some morality can be observed in the sense of natural revelation, but more is gained from special revelation. Aristotle was wrong in thinking physics could be entirely deduced by logic. Moderns are wrong in thinking that moral knowledge can be obtained via experiment.

22. Do you know of any Christian writers before the 20th century who acknowledged that gay people must be celibate for life due to the church’s rejection of same-sex relationships?

I don't know enough specific writings but am aware that prior to the 20th century the church taught that sex outside matrimony is sinful as was sodomy was condemned.

23. If not, might it be fair to say that mandating celibacy for gay Christians is not a traditional position?

Chaste behaviour is a very traditional position: no sex for those who are not married and  sex only with one's spouse for those who are married. You are trying to create arbitrary categories to legitimise your claim.

24. Do you believe that the Bible explicitly teaches that all gay Christians must be single and celibate for life?

I believe the Bible teaches that men can only marry women and women can only marry men. I do not believe it bans people who are sexually attracted to someone of the same sex from marrying someone of the opposite sex, and in some situations that may be appropriate.

25. If not, do you feel comfortable affirming something that is not explicitly affirmed in the Bible?

Again, arbitrary categories. If people wish to be sexually active they must be married to someone of the opposite sex.

26. Do you believe that the moral distinction between lust and love matters for LGBT people’s romantic relationships?

No. I believe that wrongly directed sexual desire is lust. Expressed desire: behavioural or willful (covetness) towards anyone you are not married to is lust. Expressed desire: behavioural or willful to someone as the same-sex as you is lust. All sexual activity including kissing, petting and sodomy between 2 men is inappropriate desire, that is lust, regardless of their feelings.

27. Do you think that loving same-sex relationships should be assessed in the same way as the same-sex behavior Paul explicitly describes as lustful in Romans 1?

Yes. Sin between 2 people is forbidden even if they both agree to it. Bondage is sinful between a married man and woman even if they both wish to engage in such behaviour.

28. Do you believe that Paul’s use of the terms “shameful” and “unnatural” in Romans 1:26-27 means that all same-sex relationships are sinful?

I believe that all same-sex sexual relationships are intrinsically sinful. "Shameful" and "unnatural" are descriptors of this. There are sins that are not shameful. There are sins that are not unnatural. Paul uses natural (φυσικα) to highlight that the activity is contrary to nature. He probably uses shameful (ασχημοσυνην) because of its connection to nudity, and because the behaviour should make them ashamed but doesn't.

29. Would you say the same about Paul’s description of long hair in men as “shameful” and against “nature” in 1 Corinthians 11:14, or would you say he was describing cultural norms of his time?

It is not completely certain what Paul means here. Samson certainly had long hair as did any Nazirite; and also Absalom. Although "long hair" is the usual translation for koma (κομα), the context is in comparison to women's hair; it may mean "tresses". The point seems to mean that it is unnatural for a man to grow out his hair in order to look like a woman. Thus this passage speaks against effeminacy. And Paul says that this is more dishonourable (ατιμια) than shameful.

30. Do you believe that the capacity for procreation is essential to marriage?

Yes, in the sense that procreation is a design feature of marriage.

31. If so, what does that mean for infertile heterosexual couples?

It means we should mourn with them that they suffer this way in a fallen world.

32. How much time have you spent engaging with the writings of LGBT-affirming Christians like Justin Lee, James Brownson, and Rachel Murr?

Never heard of them. While I believe that such engagement may be necessary in the current milieu for the sake of the church; the idea that one can affirm sin, aberrant sex, and psychologically disturbed positions is antithetical to the Christian faith.

33. What relationship recognition rights short of marriage do you support for same-sex couples?

In terms of their relationship, as opposed to any contract 2 people enter? None specifically, though I expect the courts to honour property issues that have been agreed to such as shared ownership of a house.

34. What are you doing to advocate for those rights?

These are established and are indifferent to sexuality.

35. Do you know who Tyler Clementi, Leelah Alcorn, and Blake Brockington are, and did your church offer any kind of prayer for them when their deaths made national news?


36. Do you know that LGBT youth whose families reject them are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than LGBT youth whose families support them?

I suspect the case is similar for thieves, murderers, anorexics, alcoholics if we compare families rejecting and accepting them. I wouldn't be surprised to see an increased risk for any youth who are rejected by families even those without any vices.

37. Have you vocally objected when church leaders and other Christians have compared same-sex relationships to things like bestiality, incest, and pedophilia?

No. Nor do I see any reason to. One could say that paedophilia is partially non-analogous because of consent issues, but the others are fitting.

38. How certain are you that God’s will for all gay Christians is lifelong celibacy?

Absolutely certain that it is God's will for all people to be chaste. Fornication and adultery are forbidden.

39. What do you think the result would be if we told all straight teenagers in the church that if they ever dated someone they liked, held someone’s hand, kissed someone, or got married, they would be rebelling against God?

And this means what? So I tell the children who earn their money to spend it wisely. Is it somehow wrong that I tell a child-thief that he is not to spend the money wisely but rather return it. If I tell the young married youth to enjoy sex with each other, is it bad that I tell the unmarried youth to abstain. Your question assumes that homosexual acts are morally acceptable. If such acts are sinful the question is irrelevant.

40. Are you willing to be in fellowship with Christians who disagree with you on this topic?

It all depends. People can be mistaken; see #13. I don't think we should attempt to pull up the weeds before time, we don't want to exclude those within the kingdom who are still mistaken in their acceptance of homosexuality. But we should drive away the wolves.


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