whose justice? whose morality?

I awoke this morning with a thought experiment that might be interesting to try out. When someone says that opposition to same sex marriage is immoral (or disrespectful, demeaning, unjust, unloving, or whatever term they might use), ask them how they know this. On what basis is it immoral?

They can’t just say it’s obvious, because it’s clearly not obvious to us or even to the president, until last year. If they claim it’s unloving, you can show them how it is loving, both to the homosexuals, who try as they might will never succeed in becoming one with another person, and to their children, who will grow up without a mom and a dad, and this on purpose.

They can’t appeal to nature, because any biology class proves them wrong. It’s instructive how the same people who claim that some conservatives are denying science (with evolution and climate change) deny the empirical facts of biology that are the very cause of their existence. I don’t enjoy wading through this smut (I feel a bit like the fellow who must watch the movies to report on them to parents), but last night on The Daily Show John Oliver thought he disproved the argument from nature by showing a clip of a dog humping another dog’s face. “This is natural!”, he screamed. Of course, the reason he and his audience laughed was because the clip was exceedingly unnatural–there was a standard that this dog was violating, which is the very reason he showed the clip. It is that very standard which homosexual behavior violates. Oliver and his audience could not see this, but instead proudly proclaimed that homosexual behavior is tantamount to one dog humping another dog’s head. Which somehow supported their position. Is there a more perfect illustration for the noetic effects of sin?

If the person appeals to Scripture, well now they’re in big trouble, for Scripture is clear and direct on this topic. Of course, they will claim that it’s hard to understand, but this is a convenient subterfuge. Scripture’s stance on homosexual practice is exquisitely transparent, and anyone who doesn’t see this has an agenda.

So should you encounter someone who claims your beliefs about marriage are unloving or immoral, say fine, on what basis? It could be a helpful conversation, hopefully one that will lead them to Jesus.

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  1. Good stuff. I suspect the appeal would be to none of those things (at least by themselves) but to the autonomous Self. Each of those arguments can only be adopted based on the prior supposition that each Self, its desires, hopes, ideas of morality, are beyond questioning. The argument might go: It’s obvious because it’s obvious “to me”, and that’s sufficient. It’s supported by nature because it’s supported by “my” nature (which here would be equated to desires, not anatomy). It’s supported by Scripture, because I’m not in submission to Scripture, but it to me. Of course, this only goes so far. Those arguments don’t count for those who have a more “exclusive” vision of morality.

  2. I have found Alexander Pruss’s book, One Body, very helpful in comprehensively thinking through Christian sexual ethics (http://www.amazon.com/One-Body-Christian-Studies-Culture/dp/026803897X). Pruss’s thought has a depth and scope make it unusual, and his topic make the book incredibly timely. Perhaps the book is too scholarly to be a “game changer” (e.g., contrasting Aristotelian and Kierkegaardian concepts of particularist love). I am hopeful that future Christian books may popularize his concepts.

  3. At the dawn of the twenty-first century when I worked in the Bible Group for Zondervan, I received a phone call one day with a caller on the line asking about the term “homosexual offenders” in 1 Corinthians 6:9 with a notion that it referred to those who offend homosexuals. This was before a corporate policy was instituted not to interpret the Bible for people but to refer them their pastor, priest, or rabbi. Although I had studied a couple of years of Greek by that point, I didn’t need to appeal to the original language. The answer is just as apparent in English, or so I thought. I perceived that this person was not used to searchig in the Scriptures for answers but was in this case fishing in hopes of finding something the Bible says that it doesn’t. A classic case of a text without a context is a pretext for a prooftext. Thankfully rather than answer the caller directly, I asked the person to read the immediate context in verses 9-10. After the caller read the list of negative behaviors offered in these verses–a list identifying those who will not “inherit the kingdom of God”–I asked what the caller thought the term “homosexual offenders” referred to. The caller now understood what the Bible was saying. I see that the NIV 2011 (cf. TNIV) now reads “nor men who have sex with men” with a translator’s note that explains further: “The words _men who have sex with men_ translate two Greek words that refer to the passive and active participants in homosexual acts.” We increasingly live in a time when such notes seem necessary to include in translations of the Bible. The Scripture is indeed clear and direct on this topic, yet the noetic effects of sin (how sin affects our capacity to think and reason) does muddle the clear and pure water of the Word. Thanks, Dr. Wittmer–helpful post and useful thought experiment.

  4. Rev. Z. Bartels June 28, 2013 — 11:41 am

    Things I Never Thought I’d Read:
    #261, Mike Wittmer referring to an animal “humping another animal’s face…”

  5. Well, that makes two of us. Lately there has been a lot of things I’d never thought I’d read.

  6. I think it would be interesting to see how the lawmakers would have drafted the wording of the equal protection clause to have prevented its abuse today.

  7. “They can’t appeal to nature, because any biology class proves them wrong. It’s instructive how the same people who claim that some conservatives are denying science…deny the empirical facts of biology that are the very cause of their existence.”

    Would you care to elaborate on this? What empirical facts are you suggesting demonstrate the *immorality* of homosexual behavior?

    “…last night on The Daily Show John Oliver thought he disproved the argument from nature by showing a clip of a dog humping another dog’s face.”

    I think you misunderstood the joke. By displaying an example of animal behavior that many persons would find unusual, revolting, and unrepresentative of acceptable standards for human conduct, Oliver was jokingly suggesting that proponents of the argument from natural law might want to reevaluate their position that “nature” is our best guide for morality. I’m actually confused as to how you believe nature supports your stance that homosexual behavior is immoral. Surely you’re aware of the myriad examples of such behavior amongst other species?

    “…there was a standard that this dog was violating, which is the very reason he showed the clip. It is that very standard which homosexual behavior violates.”

    What standard are you making reference to, and how might a dog violate such a standard? Are you suggesting that an animal, lacking even the ability to appreciably communicate with humans, somehow understands and consciously chose to engage in behavior that subverts your interpretation of “natural law”? The behavior of any wild animal is necessarily “natural” as it is a direct product of its genes and environment. Attempting to apply some nebulous moral “standard” of behavior to the animal kingdom is the hallmark of anthropomorphism.

  8. Will:

    You asked: “Would you care to elaborate on this? What empirical facts are you suggesting demonstrate the *immorality* of homosexual behavior?”

    My answer: sexual intercourse, which is impossible for homosexuals to achieve. My point here is that this demonstrates that homosexual practice is unnatural. I didn’t say in my post that this proves it is immoral, but I am willing to make that argument.

    I think you misunderstood the joke. Oliver and his audience were laughing at the absurdity of the clip–note his comment twice that “You can’t unsee what you just saw.” They weren’t merely laughing at people who would have been shocked by the clip but shouldn’t be.

    I’m not claiming the dog acted immorally, only that Oliver clearly was assuming a natural standard for sex that the dog was violating. I’d call it a non-culpable violation of nature.

    If you’re still not persuaded that heterosexual practice is the only natural way for human reproduction, then pause and remember how you got here.

  9. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    I apologize; I now realize that you were actually stating that those who assert that opposing homosexuality is immoral cannot appeal to nature in making such a claim.

    However, I still don’t understand what it is you are arguing. When you state that sexual intercourse is “impossible for homosexuals to achieve”, what do you mean?

    “Oliver and his audience were laughing at the absurdity of the clip…”

    Of course they were laughing at the absurdity of the clip; I did not mean to suggest that they were merely amused by the logical conundrum which Oliver had satirically framed. Oliver purposefully used a humorous example of animal behavior (thrusting one’s genitals in the face of random a passerby) to demonstrate that attempting to define human morality through an appeal to what occurs “naturally” results in some troublesome outcomes, as many would not find such behavior to be acceptable in humans.

    “I’m not claiming the dog acted immorally, only that Oliver clearly was assuming a natural standard for sex that the dog was violating.”

    Oliver was providing an example of animal behavior (what many use to define “natural” and “unnatural”) that demonstrates the folly of attempting to extend natural law to a framework of human morality and ethics. There are many others, such as consuming one’s dead, killing one’s mate after achieving sexual reproduction, rape, incest, etc. And again, many other species engage in homosexual behavior; do you truly wish to appeal to animal behavior in your argument that homosexuality is “unnatural”?

    “If you’re still not persuaded that heterosexual practice is the only natural way for human reproduction…”

    Show me the person who believes that homosexual sex is capable of producing human offspring. This is a complete straw man. You are attempting to define acceptable human sexual behavior by suggesting that sex has only one purpose. Humans engage in sexual intercourse for reasons other than reproduction, surely you’re aware of this. If you wish to declare homosexual sex immoral or unnatural because it does not result in the fertilization of an ovum, then may I assume that you also view contraception, oral sex, heterosexual anal sex, sex during the menstrual cycle, coitus reservatus, and sex in which the male delays ejaculation in order to enjoy the physical sensation for a greater amount of time to be equally immoral or unnatural?

  10. Will: it’s the nature of this topic to become disgustingly gross, so I’ll try to answer briefly.

    1. Homosexuals do not possess the requisite physical equipment to have intercourse. This is an obvious fact.

    2. I don’t know anyone on “my side” who claims that we should define what is natural for human sexual behavior by what some animals do. First, as humans we are in the image of God, and so are qualitatively superior to animals (those who believe we are merely highly evolved reptiles will not agree with this, but so be it). Second, animals often behave badly. Not that they’re morally culpable, but they do many things that no human I know wants to emulate. E.g., my dog eats the poop of other animals, but no one I know thinks we should copy that.

    3. Or do they? I think your interpretation of Oliver’s example proves too much. If the point is truly to say that the behavior on the clip is natural, and that animal behavior may be extended to humans, then are you and Oliver prepared to say that humans are morally permitted to do what those dogs did? Are humans permitted to eat their mate after intercourse, commit rape, etc.? You see the folly of extending human behavior to humans, don’t you? This is why it’s important to work from the other direction, allowing God’s Word to define what is natural and moral for human sexual activity.

    4. You commit a logical fallacy in the last paragraph. I said that heterosexual activity is the only means of reproduction, I did not say that reproduction is the only reason for sexual activity. You reversed my statement and then argued against what I did not say. So it’s a bit ironic that you accuse me of committing a straw man fallacy.

  11. Dr. Wittmer, thank you for your thoughtful, and biblically based starting point. This is so instructive for discussions on morality. I see in the media, conversations with others, and even this forum, where starting points outside of the Bible only lead to a logical dead-end or argumentation from anecdote. Keep up the good work.

  12. “Homosexuals do not possess the requisite physical equipment to have intercourse.”

    What exactly are you attempting to argue with this utterly banal statement? Clearly, homosexual sex does not meet the definition of a term that is used to describe the insertion of a penis into a vagina. I am confused as to what you believe this proves, exactly.

    “I don’t know anyone on “my side” who claims that we should define what is natural for human sexual behavior by what some animals do.”

    I will assume, in good faith, that you truly are unaware of the fact that many religious conservatives attempt to argue for the immorality of homosexuality by claiming it to be “unnatural”. Of course, the problem is defining what is or is not considered to be “natural”. A reasonable starting point would be to examine the behavior of animals, as their behavior is largely instinctual and not confounded by the problem of “sin”. If religious conservatives wish to declare homosexual behavior as unnatural, then they must reconcile this position with the fact that such behavior is exhibited by many other species. If they are not appealing to animal behavior in defining what is natural, then by what standard do they declare homosexual behavior to be unnatural?

    “Or do they? I think your interpretation of Oliver’s example proves too much.”

    I believe we’re talking right past each other on this point. I have never stated that animal behavior serves as a suitable moral or ethical framework for human beings, nor was that the point that Oliver was making. Many religious conservatives assert that homosexuality is “unnatural”. Oliver was displaying a humorously disgusting example of “natural” behavior (again, animal behavior is necessarily natural as it is a direct product of genes and environment, and animals lack the ability to engage in introspection and self-directed behavior modification as humans do) that most would find unacceptable in humans to show the folly of attempting to extend natural law to a framework of human morality and ethics. The humanist and other secular moral frameworks clearly do not believe that it is acceptable to engage in rape, incest, or other such behaviors because they are exhibited by other species.

    “You commit a logical fallacy in the last paragraph. I said that heterosexual activity is the only means of reproduction, I did not say that reproduction is the only reason for sexual activity.”

    You are correct; I wrongly assumed that you were making a point much less obvious than “homosexuals cannot reproduce via sexual intercourse”. Since it appears I was giving you too much credit, would you care to elaborate on your statement of, “If you’re still not persuaded that heterosexual practice is the only natural way for human reproduction, then pause and remember how you got here.”?

  13. Will: I will answer your questions point by point.

    1. You wrote, “What exactly are you attempting to argue with this utterly banal statement?”
    I don’t know what else to say, as I can’t make this any more clear. I am surprised that you think this is banal. I would ask you to describe the ways that homosexuals attempt to have intercourse, but then I would have to delete your post on the grounds of polite speech. So let’s agree to disagree here.

    2. Well, we certainly don’t look to animals for cues on what is natural for us. As you know, our highest authority is Scripture, which is clear on this subject. We also find ample support in the natural means of human complementarity and reproduction. This is so obvious to us, and it’s clearly not obvious to you, so again there isn’t much more to say here. I’ll just add that even plumbers speak of male and female fittings on pipes, so if you live in a house that doesn’t leak you already tacitly agree with this point.

    3. Okay. If neither side is saying we look to animals for what is natural to humans, then let’s agree to drop this. Oliver must have been mistaken for bringing it up.

    4. Same as number 1, I would be happy to go on and make more than obvious points, but until we agree on the obvious ones there isn’t much more to say.

    I do have one question for you. Do you think homosexual activity is natural, and if so, on what basis?

  14. “I don’t know what else to say, as I can’t make this any more clear.”

    By banal, I mean to say it is obvious that homosexual sex does not qualify as sexual intercourse as defined (insertion of the penis into the vagina). What, however, do you believe to be the significance of this statement? What are you attempting to prove by pointing to this undisputed fact? I’m essentially asking “so what?”

    You stated earlier that sexual intercourse is impossible for homosexuals to achieve and that “this demonstrates that homosexual practice is unnatural.” Why does this demonstrate that homosexual practice is unnatural? I believe you are alluding to the fact that it does not culminate in sexual reproduction, am I wrong in assuming this?

    “Well, we certainly don’t look to animals for cues on what is natural for us. As you know, our highest authority is Scripture, which is clear on this subject.”

    So essentially, because God says so. We will not agree not this premise, so I will not address it.

    “We also find ample support in the natural means of human complementarity and reproduction.”

    Ample support for what, exactly? Would you kindly state unambiguously why you believe sexual reproduction can be used to declare non-reproductive sexual activity to be unnatural?

    I would be happy to answer your question regarding my thoughts on the naturalness of homosexual activity, but I would ask that you first define what you mean by “natural”.

  15. Will:

    You have a habit of reading into my words and assigning statements to me that I never said. For example, I never said that “non-reproductive sexual activity” is unnatural. I believe that homosexual activity is unnatural, and I think that it’s inability to reproduce offspring is a strong indication of that, but it’s unnatural for the simple reason that male genitals don’t fit with male genitals but they do clearly fit with female genitalia. Surely you agree!

    Here’s a rough, common sense definition of natural, which is what most people mean by the term in this discussion: The way things are supposed to be or the way things have to be in order to function properly.

    Applied to our topic, “natural” human sexual relations work and unnatural human sexual relations misfire in important ways. While this includes reproduction, it would also include love’s desire to unite bodies and so become one with another person.

    If you disagree with this definition, please give your own and then say how homosexual acts meet that standard.

  16. “You have a habit of reading into my words and assigning statements to me that I never said. For example, I never said that “non-reproductive sexual activity” is unnatural.”

    You stated that you find “ample support in the natural means of human complementarity and reproduction” for the position that homosexuality is unnatural. Because homosexual sex does not involve insertion of a penis into a vagina, or culminate in reproduction, could one not infer that you believe other non-reproductive sexual activities to be unnatural as well? If not, what differentiates the two from one another?

    “I believe that homosexual activity is unnatural, and I think that it’s inability to reproduce offspring is a strong indication of that…”

    Again, if you are using fertilization of an ovum as the standard for what constitutes “natural” sexual activity, is it not then reasonable to infer that you also believe contraception, oral sex, heterosexual anal sex, sex during the menstrual cycle, coitus reservatus, and sex in which the male delays ejaculation in order to enjoy the physical sensation for a greater amount of time to be equally unnatural?

    “…but it’s unnatural for the simple reason that male genitals don’t fit with male genitals but they do clearly fit with female genitalia.”

    I would like to respond to this, however, I do not wish to again make a logical inference which misrepresents your position. Is it your belief that “natural” sexual activity may be reduced to those activities in which “parts” fit together?

    “Applied to our topic, “natural” human sexual relations work and unnatural human sexual relations misfire in important ways.”

    In what ways? Are the examples of sexual activity that I described above included in the category of natural or unnatural sexual relations?

    “While this includes reproduction, it would also include love’s desire to unite bodies..”

    Are you, or are you not, attempting to argue that reproduction is necessary for a sexual act to be deemed “natural”? You stated that I was reading into your words when I inferred that you believed non-reproductive sexual acts are unnatural, yet you have again asserted that the lack of reproduction is indicative of “misfiring” or “unnatural” human sexual relations.

    “…and so become one with another person.”

    You are romanticizing and/or spiritualizing the physical act of sexual reproduction. What does “become one with” mean?

    I believe that “natural” is a nebulous term, which cannot be easily characterized by a highly subjective definition such as “the way things are supposed to be”. When you suggest such a standard, you are clearly making reference to your religious beliefs, however, I do not share those beliefs or the idea that there is an objective standard of “the way things are supposed to be”. As far as my definition of “natural”, I believe that every event we observe in nature is inherently “natural”, as each is, to the best of our knowledge, governed by and resultant from the same physical laws which undergird the increasingly complex biological and ecological systems that we observe in the universe. To answer your question, yes, I believe homosexual intercourse is “natural” by the mere fact that it occurs.

  17. I think one needs to elaborate on what we mean by stating “natural”. From Will’s perspective, natural is divorced from any teleological “with a purpose” concept and therefore means whatever takes place naturally. We would use God’s word to justify a teleological universe. Anything that appears out of the ordinary we would then assign to the fall. When a pro homosexual ethic is argued, it is done via out of fiat or by another rule that was out of fiat.

  18. Will: sexual reproduction is an important part of natural sexual intercourse but it is not the entire purpose for it. You keep insisting that I reduce natural sexual function to this one purpose and I keep saying I’m not. Once again, I don’t know what else to say on this topic, so like Oliver’s dogs, let’s agree to drop it.

    At bottom, one of the central differences between us is that I believe sex has a supremely high function. It is a gift from our triune God and a reflection of the perichoretic unity between the Father, Son, and Spirit. This is why it’s essential for “the pieces to fit,” and why two same gendered persons cannot achieve the physical and spiritual unity that reflects the image of God within us.

    But though you won’t agree with this, it is stunning that you don’t admit the argument from nature. Consider your definition of “nature.” If every event that occurs in nature is by definition natural, then it’s impossible for anything to be unnatural. And since humans are a part of nature, it’s impossible for us to do anything that is unnatural. You seem to assume that what is natural is morally permissible (correct me if I misread you). If that is the case, I’m wondering on what basis you would declare anything to be immoral. I assume that you must even believe my views on homosexual marriage are morally permissible, given that my believing them is also a part of nature. How would you go about discerning right from wrong?

  19. “You keep insisting that I reduce natural sexual function to this one purpose and I keep saying I’m not.”

    I’m insisting that you choose what your stance is so that we may engage in a productive discussion. I feel as though you are purposefully side-stepping each of the questions that I pose in order to preempt the arguments that you predict I will make. You make endless appeals to reproduction as a criterion for “natural” sexual behavior, yet when I ask elucidative questions that require you to rationalize this belief you accuse me of misrepresenting your position. What IS your position? Do you, or do you not, believe homosexual sex to be unnatural because it fails to culminate in reproduction? If so, could one not infer that you believe other non-reproductive sexual activities to be unnatural as well? If not, what differentiates the two from one another?

    Please answer my previous question. Do the other sexual acts that I described fall into the category of “natural” or “unnatural”? Why?

    “This is why it’s essential for “the pieces to fit,” and why two same gendered persons cannot achieve the physical and spiritual unity that reflects the image of God within us.”

    It seems we’ve reached an impasse.

    “But though you won’t agree with this, it is stunning that you don’t admit the argument from nature.”

    I’m still confused as to what your conception of the “argument from nature” actually is. Would you kindly explain the argument and its significance to the current discussion?

    “You seem to assume that what is natural is morally permissible…”

    This is not my belief.

  20. Homosexual marriage argument aside, your line of reasoning regarding unity in marriage (as expressed in statements such as: “This is why it’s essential for ‘the pieces to fit,’ and why two same gendered persons cannot achieve the physical and spiritual unity that reflects the image of God within us.”) leaves out many heterosexual individuals who are unable to achieve said “unity” with their spouse through the means you describe, due to physical and/or mental disability or difference. Your assertion that intercourse requires certain functioning (I assume?) parts, would lead me to believe that you would consider a heterosexual couple that is unable to ever achieve “traditional” intercourse, due to disability or difference, to be unable to reflect the image of God in their marriage. It seems that in an attempt to identify exclusions for one particular group by reducing the concept of marital unity to one specific sexual act, you have succeeded in excluding a wide diversity of Christian heterosexual couples from the potential of experiencing the covenant relationship of marriage as you see it.

  21. Will: We have indeed seem to have reached an impasse, as we both think the other isn’t listening and we keep asking and answering the same questions. As far as I can tell, the only question of yours I didn’t answer was your grocery list of sexual acts. That may be more appropriate for a private conversation, but it’s not something I feel comfortable discussing in public. I have repeatedly said that reproduction does not have to occur for a sexual act to be natural, though many natural acts do produce offspring. I don’t understand why you keep asking for my position. There it is, for the third or fourth time.

    I do think it would be interesting to hear how you decide moral permissibility and impermissibility. What makes an act right or wrong from your perspective?

    James: Obviously God and we have compassion on those who have injuries of any sort, so my comment was meant to state a truth rather than disparage. If a couple for whatever reason has never consummated their marriage, then they are missing out on the fullness of marriage and are not fully imaging God as they otherwise would. This is not their fault, so this is not about assigning guilt or blame, but just stating an obvious fact. We can’t have it both ways, saying that sexual oneness is participation in the perichoretic life of the triune God but then saying it’s no big deal when it’s absent. I think that if you asked someone in this condition, they would agree with this. They know they’re missing out on something important, and we agonize with them.

  22. This is a helpful post, Ryan. He’s right that what is natural can only be understood in light of our end/purpose, which brings into high relief where this controversy lies. We’ll never agree on nature if we can’t agree on ends.

  23. “…the only question of yours I didn’t answer was your grocery list of sexual acts. That may be more appropriate for a private conversation, but it’s not something I feel comfortable discussing in public.”

    I hardly see how stating whether you view these particular acts to qualify as natural or unnatural could be viewed as inappropriate for public discussion. As adults engaged in a discussion involving human sexuality, are we not able to speak clinically and objectively about our own bodies?

    “I have repeatedly said that reproduction does not have to occur for a sexual act to be natural…”

    Very well. Then can we agree that these are meaningless statements?:

    “They can’t appeal to nature, because any biology class proves them wrong.”

    “…sexual intercourse, which is impossible for homosexuals to achieve. My point here is that this demonstrates that homosexual practice is unnatural.”

    “If you’re still not persuaded that heterosexual practice is the only natural way for human reproduction, then pause and remember how you got here.”

    “We also find ample support in the natural means of human complementarity and reproduction.”

    “Applied to our topic, “natural” human sexual relations work and unnatural human sexual relations misfire in important ways. While this includes reproduction…”

    I don’t believe there can be a single objective measure by which an act is determined to be morally permissible or impermissible. In any given situation, there are a number of variables to consider, the most important of which are intent and the effects of said act on other persons. I anticipate that you will now attempt to speak about the ills of “moral subjectivity”, but first consider the fact that Christians themselves have no truly objective standard in determining an act to be morally permissible. You cannot honestly claim that the Bible provides the solution to every moral dilemma. A single book cannot address the almost infinite number of subtly unique situations, shaped by an immense number of relevant variables, that the billions of humans that ever live will encounter during the centuries of their existence. Furthermore, Christians themselves are often in disagreement on their interpretations of scripture. This is why such a denominational schism exists in the church today, with some denominations approving of female pastors, others believing the use of contraceptive aids to be immoral, and all knowing that only they have the true “Word of God”. If Christians cannot even agree on foundational doctrine, how can their subjective interpretation of a collection of ancient texts obscured by translation, removed from a complete understanding of its sociopolitical context, and riddled with metaphors, allegory, and apocalyptic imagery be trusted to guide mankind in its moral strivings?

    Ryan: Thank you for the link; I will check it out.

  24. I wish you would be more careful with my words. It is meaningful and logically consistent to say that reproduction is important without saying it is the sine qua non of the definition of natural. Reproduction is an overwhelming indication that heterosexual activity is normative, but the reverse doesn’t necessarily follow, that all natural sexual activity must be aimed at reproduction. I have friends who will argue this, but that is not the point I’m making.

    It’s also important to distinguish the ontological fact of moral truth and our epistemological access to it. Disagreement over Scripture doesn’t mean it isn’t the foundation of morality, or even that the majority of its commands are hard to understand, just as our disagreement doesn’t prove that both of us are wrong. Christians who believe the Bible is true agree on the vast majority of its moral commands, including its declarations about homosexuality and any sex outside of marriage.

    You say that you decide moral permissibility based on intent and the effects of the action. But what guideline do you use to measure these, and where does that guideline come from? How do you know you’re right?

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