Friday, May 15, 2009

Science and Religion and Blessing Same Sex Unions

Augustine is quoted as saying of God "our hearts are resltess until they rest in Thee." I believe that is true. Every person is created by God and searches for ultimate meaning in their lives. This is basically a good thing because ultimate meaning can only find its fulfillment in the Ultimate Truth - God.

As a Christian, and as an ordained deacon Christ's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church; I find ultimate truth to be the Holy and Undivided Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I know this Trinity because of God's self-revelation through Holy Scripture and because of the Second Person of the Trnity's incarnation in Jesus Christ - who described himself as "the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6)

Also, in my academic training, I have concentrations in science and math with a degree in Information Systems. In mathematics, I was trained to "prove" postulates and theorems. I was also trained in logical thinking and algorithm development (an algorithm is a step by step process to solve a problem in a finite number of unambiguous steps).

One of the reasons given for offering blessings of same sex unions (and ordaining men or women involved in same sex unions) is that science has "proven" that sexual orientation (at least for men) is not something that is chosen by the person. It is something that is, often, determined prior to birth. Now, I don't know that science has conclusively proven that sexual orientation is something determined prior to birth or shortly there after or if sexual orientation is deterministic at all. However, let's assume it is for the sake of argument.

The argument runs thus: Since people do not seem to have a choice in their sexual orientation, it must follow that they are created this way by God and, since God does not create sin, sexual orientation must not be sinful. Since the orientation is not sinful, then the physical expression of that orientation (within perscribed limits such as mutual monogamy and life long) must not be sinful. Since heterosexual expression is not sinful within marriage, homosexual expression must not be sinful within its marriage analog (or within marriage).

There are at least two problems with that statement. First is the definition of marriage, but that is another post. The second, and the one I want to tackle here, is that the reappraisers confuse "fact" with "truth." Facts are things that are. Human beings have two ears and one mouth. That is a fact. The Truth, on the other hand, describes the meaning behind the facts. We were designed to listen twice as much as we speak. That is a truth statement.

The problem here is that science and religion ask and answer very different questions. Science asks "what" and "how." Religion asks "who" and "why." When it comes to sexual orientation, science can speak to what and it is beginning to explain the how of orientation. But it still cannot proclaim the expression of that sexual orientation to be "good" or even morally neutral. That is the job for faith and religion.

Too many of our clergy and leaders in TEC today have made the enlightenment error of confusing "fact" and "truth." They seem to believe that because something "is" it is "good." They forget that all of creation is fallen and almost all of the things that are, are twisted out of their original design - sexuality included.

So, how do we know the "truth" rather than just the facts? The truth is known through the One who is the Truth - Jesus Christ. We look at God's self revelation in Holy Scripture and in Holy Tradition and we look at the reasoning of the whole Church on an issue. On this issue, Scripture, Tradtion, and reason are all in agreement that sexual expression is to be limited to the insitution of marriage - which is one man and one woman for life.

Phil Snyder


Loni said...

To take a slightly different slant (as you knew I, the atheist, would) I would argue that marriage is a civil contract which may (or may not) also include a religious component. The government for all purposes legal recognizes the civil portion of the union. If the marriage contract is executed (as if can be in Florida) by a Notary Public in a secular ceremony federal, state and local government recognize the union as a legal. As an aside, if a marriage ceremony occurs officiated by clergy who is not sanctioned by the state to perform such a ceremony or without benefit of a government issued license the union is not considered legally valid.

I would maintain that anyone should be free to enter into a civil contract with anyone they so choose (Given that they enter into the contract of their own free will and are of legal age to execute a contract). I would also argue that those wishing a religious component to their civil contract are subject to whatever rules and limitations are imposed by the sect/denomination they have chosen. If the TEC (or LCMS, SBC, RCC et al) wishes to prohibit sanctifying same sex marriages and maintain a position that to enter in to such a union is a sin…. that is absolutely their right. I would also expect them to not impede the execution of civil marriage contracts any more then they would impede the execution of an employment contracts, real estate contracts or similar.



plsdeacon said...

Hi Loni,

Great to hear from you again! I, too, would make a distinction between the civil state of marriage and the Christian Sacrament of Marriage.

I would not impede the legal avenues open. But I would hope that you would allow me the same rights as other citizens - to vote my conscience and to work for the ordering of society (within the confines of the US Constitution) that I believe would be best for everyone involved.

In terms of marriage. Up until the last decade, the US has always held it is the union of one man and one woman. The idea that homosexual men or women could not enter into "marriage" is simply not true. A homosexual man can marry any woman (assuming she meets the other legal qualifications, such as degree of relationship, age, and not currently being married) that will agree to marry him. Likewise any homosexual woman can marry any man (with the same restrictions) she can get to marry her.

What is being proposed is a change in the definition of "marriage." Since we are changing it from one man and one woman to any two people, what is to stop us from chaging the definition to "any number of people who wish to form a corporate union" - especially since the majority of the change has not been done by the people or their legilatures, but by the court system?


Loni said...

I would not object to a corporate union (aka plural marraige) given that all parties enter freely in to it (unerline freely - as there are those, under the guise of freedom of religion who practice nothing short of child abuse) If you and your wife (and I mean no offense) decided that your life/relationship would be enhanced by the addition of a third person (either gender) and THAT person was like minded, well then it isn't any of my business. You are consenting adults hurting no one.

You may of course vote for whom ever you it is up to the courts from time to time to act to protect the minority against the majority. Without Brown v. Board of Education I'm not sure the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would have come to pass...and I'm also pretty sure that had the CRA faced a popular vote it would have been defeated in more than a few states. Jim Crow laws were the product of elected legislators.

I actually see very little difference between the current 'gay rights' activism and the racial activisim of the 50s/60s. It was only in 1967 that the Supreme court struck down the last group of segregation laws to remain on the books — those requiring separation of the races in marriage.

Smarter'n whut you are said...

You set up a straw-man argument, and make the pro-gay case in the worst way possible. As has been said here before, deacons should not do theology. Even if they are good at mathematical algorithms, where the facts at hand are pitifully limited, they should not be allowed to do theology. There is so much at issue there, so many variables, that they are liable to...whaddaya know...HURT someone.

You offer nothing to assuage a life of loneliness; you make no apology for the violence done on your behalf to gay persons; you utterly refuse to acknowledge your church's complicity in injustice; you ignore the fact that we live in a secular state that allows religious liberty and differing viewpoints.

Let's say I divorce my husband (I am male); what do you offer me, seriously, as a churchly alternative? A chance to take EFM once you decide I'm "cured enough?" A chance to leave town quietly? A chance to suffer in silence, with the unsaid judgement "he deserves it"--?

You must be joking, or worse.

Your sneaky argument is that "I can change if I want to." Well, NO, I CANNOT. Stop trotting out that old argument--IT IS A LIE!

You've got nothing, Deacon, nothing to offer me. I already have God, and don't need a minor cleric to gatekeep Him for me.

And you run for shelter in the name of the Trinity. Well, let Thomas a Kempis ask you: "What doth it avail thee to discourse profoundly of the Trinity if thou be void of humility, and consequently displeasing to the Trinity?"

From now on, stick to rocket science, and leave theology to those of us with real brains.

plsdeacon said...

Mister "Smarter"

I see if you cannot argue against what I said, then you must make personal attacks.

I never, ever, said you should be kicked out of the Church. I never said that you do not have access to God nor to His Grace. I never even said that homosexual persons should not have some form or recognized civil union. (I, balk, at calling it "marriage" but in that case I share the opinion of President Obama, so I can hardly be a "right wing zealot" for that opinion.) Likewase, I have never said that you can chance your sexual orientation. Where do you see anything of what you accuse me of in my writings?

In this post, I am positing a difference between fact and truth.

You have made a "truth statement" that "deacons should not do theology." I challenge you to back that up with evidence from Holy Scripture or Holy Tradition. Should Stephen not have "done theology" in his "sermon" to the crowd? Should Philip have not "done theology" with the eunuch in Acts 8?

I submit, with evidence from Scripture, Tradition, and Reason; that homosexual sex is sinful and the Church has always considered it so. Can you offer me evidence from Scripture, Tradition, or Reason (not "what I think" or "what the culture thinks") that homosexual sex is blessed by God?

Phil Snyder

plsdeacon said...


Our comments are a bit wide of the topic. This weekend (God willing), I will post on the definition of marriage and the difference between civil marriage and the Sacrament of Marriage.


Loni said...

To: Smarter'n whut you are said

Exactly what did you hope to accomplish with that little tantrum?

I do not care who you love, I do not care what you believe. I do not care what gender, nationality or color you are. As you may have gathered from my earlier comments, I think what consenting adults do is their business, not mine. If you wish to marry sixteen men and nine women - fine by me. If you wish to worship Gumby and Pokey and that works for you then have at it.

The blog author and I are polar opposites in our religious beliefs. While I may disagree with his beliefs I know him well enough to know that they are sincere and I respect them.

Ranting and name calling are counter productive. Yelling louder doesn't make someone simply makes them loud.

If, as you say in your comment "You have a God" …well good for you. If your “God” accepts homosexuality and same sex and marriage then why do care what the Deacon’s “God” thinks? If you are correct won’t your “God” judge the good Deacon and his like minded brethren when the time comes? Isn’t that enough?

I find that Christians all claim that they have the god thing right … yet every one seems to interpret that old Jewish book of fairy tales differently.....and expend untold amounts of time and energy trying to make others believe (or in atheist speak ‘god didn’t create man in his image….men created god in their’s) .

If you want to advance the acceptance of what you are and how you live then go graciously into this world, treat people well (yes, better than they treat you). Show people your truth by your example…not by mindless rants

Bill said...

Dcn Phil,

I will have to challenge you on the assumption you made regarding the "fact" that homosexuality is a result of nature. To date no "gay" gene or set of genes has been identified that conclusively causes a person to have same sex attraction. There have been no other conclusive findings in the fields of medicine and biology that can positively point to a causative mechanism for same sex attraction. Some studies that would point to this have very small sample sizes or the "researcher" (from the biographical data) would appear to have a bias towards the subject.

It would seem that same sex attraction is more akin to the disease of alcoholism in that alcoholics have a strong attraction for something that is bad for them. Alcoholism is both counterproductive and unnatural. Individuals can overcome it. Same sex attraction seems to be the same way. At Virtue Online there are some good articles on a recent conference in London regarding the treatment of homosexuals to rid them of same sex attraction.

There is much more that I would like to bring up but the hour is late, I am tired and my brain is sluggish.

Do enjoy your blog and your posts elsewhere.

plsdeacon said...

Hi Bill,

I don't know what the cause of homosexual attraction is. All I know is that I know several people who have always known they were attracted to people of the opposite sex and that science postulates several theories as to why this is.

I was assuming this is true (that homosexual attraction is not something that the person chooses) to follow the reappraiser argument that since homosexual men and women do not choose their orientation, (the "assumed" fact) they are created that way (the resultant "truth").

Phil Snyder

Phil Snyder

Dale Matson said...

"Human beings have two ears and one mouth. That is a fact. The Truth, on the other hand, describes the meaning behind the facts. We were designed to listen twice as much as we speak. That is a truth statement."
This is an interesting thought but we have two ears to help us in locating the sound source. Frankly, I think we should listen more than twice as much as we speak.
Blessings from a professional listener.

plsdeacon said...


I am aware of the necessity to have two ears to get bi-aural hearing (which tells us the direction of the sound).

I was trying to give a personal reason, rather than a scientific one for two ears. I was trying to give meaning beyond the scientific about the ratio of ears to mouth.

I agree that we should listen far more than we talk. But in our society, I would love it if we could acheive the 2-1 ratio of listening and talking.

Phil Snyder

BillyD said...

Scripture attests to the institution of one man and one woman for life, does it? How exactly does that square with the marriage patterns of the Patriarchs? They were decidedly not one woman and one man - and there's no hint of disapproval in the sacred text about the arrangement.

plsdeacon said...

Actually, BillyD, almost every polygamous relationship in Holy Scripture causes problems for Israel. Jacob and Esau are prime examples. David's multiple wives and his own sexual immorality lead to the Rape of Tamar (2 Sam 13)

As for the witness of Holy Scripture, look at Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4, and Ephesians 5:32. These all show us the ideal of one man, one woman, for life.

Phil Snyder

BillyD said...

Causes problems, sure. So does the monogamous union of Adam and Eve.

Polygamy is not only allowed in the OT, it is blessed.

The standards of marriage change, and change pretty drastically, over the course of the Bible. The number of partners varies, and the OT, at least, not only allows for divorce, but it regulates it. The idea that Scripture clearly teaches one man, one woman, for life simply isn't true.

Dale Matson said...

Billy D.,
"Polygamy is not only allowed in the OT, it is blessed."
OK Billy D. I hesitate to ask this but are you personally advocating polygamy? Are you FLDS?

Jack said...

pisdeacon, Billy D. ate your lunch.

plsdeacon said...

First, to BillyD - please show me where God commands or blesses polygamous relationships. Every time I see it in the Bible, I see the result bringing significant problems into the family and into the history of Israel.

But, you cannot get around the injunction in Genesis (and reinforced by Jesus in the Gospels and Paul in the Epistles) that marriage is designed to be one man, one woman, for life. That is God's design. God did not create multiple "help-mates" for Adam. Paul did not say that the union between husband and wives sybolizes the union between Christ and the Church. Jesus did not say "the three are no longer three, but one flesh."

Again, you fall into the trap of mistaking existence for approval and letting facts make truth claims. You seem to think that, because some men in the Old Testament had multiple wives and concubines, God blessed this mode and it is part of His design.

The difference between fact and truth is much greater. To understand that difference, you need to leave the enlightenment mindset and the post-modern mind-set to understand that God has a design for us and that He has shown us, in His self-revelation, what that design is. That self-revelation is recorded in Holy Scripture and interpreted through the teachings of the Church.

(Jack - munch, munch)

Phil Snyder

BillyD said...

"OK Billy D. I hesitate to ask this but are you personally advocating polygamy? Are you FLDS?"

Uh, no.

"You seem to think that, because some men in the Old Testament had multiple wives and concubines, God blessed this mode and it is part of His design."

If it wasn't part of his design, making a polygamous family the source of the 12 tribes of Israel seems like an odd way to proceed, doesn't it?