The Church against perversions

A British friend of mine, Rob, just posted this nice comic strip on his Facebook account:

 

Question: would it have been possible, back then, to find plenty of reasons for leading left-handed folks to live as if they were right-handed on the grounds that they would sin otherwise?

Pope Francis and the importance of fighting homosexuality

While I certainly don’t agree with many of the dogmas (officially) held by Pope Francis, it cannot be denied that he accords more importance to social justice than to problems of sexual ethics.

Whilst adultery is wrong and promiscuity bad (this is recognized by most progressive Christians), I doubt that these sins should be our priority. Jesus was much more concerned with pride and the unjust way people treat each other. If this underlying darkness can be overcome through God’s grace, positive changes are going to sprout everywhere.

 

So I was greatly encouraged after having read this article about Pope Francis.

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Pope Francis has sensationally said the Catholic Church is “obsessed” with preaching about issues like abortion and gay marriage and that it needs to stop interfering.

In an incredibly frank interview with the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, the Pope said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to “interfere spiritually” in the lives of gays and lesbians.

Dismissing critics who say he should be more vocal about fighting abortion and gay marriage, the Pope said the Church “sometimes locked itself up in small things.”

Describing his new vision for the church he said: “We have to find a new balance,” saying it should be a “home for all” and not a “small chapel.”

“Otherwise,” the Pope continued, “even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards.”

He added that women must play a more key role in church decisions but emphatically stated that the “door is closed,” on women’s ordination.

“The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions,” he said. “The church cannot be herself without the woman and her role.”

Expanding on the explosive comments he made about homosexuality in July when he was returning to Rome from Rio de Janeiro, where he had celebrated World Youth Day, the Pope said he has no right to judge anyone from the LGBT community.

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he said in the interview.

“I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”

In July, he famously said “Who am I to judge” gay people.

Now, he has admitted he has faced criticism, but determinedly insisted that the church’s priorities must change to incorporate his views.

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods,” he said.

“I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that.”

“It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” Francis said.

 

 A next step for him would be to sincerely wonder if homosexuality is truly harmful for the individual or society.

For the God revealed in Jesus Christ does not utter arbitrary prohibitions which don’t contribute to our well being and flourishing.

 

 

 

The tentative apologist and the friendly atheist discuss about heaven

Randal Rauser (the tentative apologist) is arguably the best apologist within the Evangelical camp.

During one episode of the British show Unbelievable he debated about the existence of heaven with (the friendly atheist) concerning a book Randal recently published that Randal wrote for dispelling wrong conceptions many Christians have about heaven.

hemant_mehta

At the beginning of the conversation, Randal mentioned the fact that many Evangelicals neglect the protection of the environment because they expect God to put pretty soon an end to this evil creation, delivering them from it.

I can remember very vividly a Conservative Evangelical telling me that he did not worry about global warming because God allegedly promised there would  no longer be any worldwide catastrophe after the Genesis flood.

This is a logical consequence of the doctrine that God cursed the whole creation and humans with a sinful nature we have to escape from, a gnostic doctrine which was introduced into the Church largely by Augustine.

Randal challenges Mehta’s assumption that the fact that heaven fulfill our wishes is an indication of its falsity. Ever since the days of Feuerbach, many atheists (not least Dawkins) have kept making the same claim.
But it is obviously wrong, the fact that a vanilla ice satisfy most desires of my gut does not mean there is no such thing.

Randal went on pointing out that evidence for heaven are going to heavily depend on our background beliefs. If we think that God exists, we have strong grounds for thinking there is an afterlife, especially if he raised Jesus from the dead.

Mehta rightly emphasized the problem of eternal conscious suffering and the atrocious injustice it would be if all people dying as non-Christians would end up in such a state.

Randal replied he is an inclusivist believing that a Jewish girl dying in a Nazi camp after having rejected Christ would most likely be in heaven.

It is worth noting, at this point, that most Conservative Evangelicals hold to the view that everyone deceasing without faith in Jesus earns an everlasting stay in God’s torture chamber, thereby believing that most victims of genocides will be tormented days and nights after having perished under an atrocious pain.

This seems to be a logical consequence of their belief that the Bible is the full revelation of God  from which the reality of post-mortem conversations cannot be easily deduced.

I think it would have been great if Randal had pointed out that the Bible points towards immortality being a gift of God, those not receiving it being going to eventually cease to exist instead of being endlessly tormented.

While being an incluvist myself, I do not, however, feel the need to be a hopeful universalist wishing the salvation of everyone.

If Hitler, Mussolini, Staline or Fred Phelps (the God hates fags pastor) will repent, that’s fine. But I would not feel too depressed if they won’t and will be utterly destroyed, blotted out from existence.

Justin Briley (the moderator) asked Mehta if he would wish to be in heaven if there were one. He answered this was a “silly question”.

Randal replied this was pretty condescending and that which beliefs we see as being dumb will hinge on our own plausibility structure.

Mehta responded by quoting the widespread atheistic meme “the absence of evidence is evidence of absence” illustrating the principle by using the Skeptic’s favorite pet, the unicorn.

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A huge problem is that atheists have actually strong grounds for believing in the existence of such beings.

The reason is that atheists are better off believing in an infinite multiverse for avoiding the troubling problem if the extreme fine tuning of the physical constants allowing our very existence.

But in an infinite multiverse, every possible event (including the arrival of intelligent unicorns with very strange features) is necessarily going to happen somewhere.

We believe there is no unicorn species living on the surface of the earth because we would clearly expect evidence to be there if it were the case.

Therefore unlike an agnostic, an atheist has a burden of proof and must provide us with arguments against the existence of God and of the afterlife.

Once this mistake (and other similar ones) are debunked, the case for atheism appears to be much weaker than village atheists usually take for granted.

Rauser pointed out that another crucial difference between the afterlife and unicorns consists of the existence of many peer-reviewed publications arguing for the authenticity of some Near Death Experiences.

This is a fair point but I doubt that NDEs are really evidence of a life after death while being open to a small number of them being due to paranormal phenomena.

Mehta said that if everyone in heaven would have to submit themselves to God and Christ, this is a pretty bad new for all non-Christians.

I think that there is a fallacy going on here, which is interestingly enough also committed by Conservative Evangelicals such as William Lane Craig: the fact that someone dies as a non-believer does not mean he doesn’t wish Christianity to be true, as the case of French philosopher Andre Comte Sponville arguing for atheism nicely illustrates.

“Given that — and this is the key point — God’s mercy has no limits, if you go to him with a sincere and repentant heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience” Pope Francis wrote.

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“Sin, even for those who have no faith, is when one goes against their conscience” he added.

Finally, Justin mentioned the anguish of his seven years old son after having heard that the universe would end up becoming inhospitable for life. Justin answered this is what is going to happen according to science but that God would step in to keep this from occurring. He then asked Metha what hope he would give to his own child in such a situation.

He did not answer this question and just said that he would encourage his kid to think by himself on this issue, while recognizing it wasn’t morally wrong for Justin to have transmitted such a hopeful vision of the future to his boy.

This is how I view faith: hoping in the truth of something extremely desirable if the evidence is not sufficient.
Given such a definition, faith does not have to be irrational since it does not pretend to be a form of knowledge.

Actually I don’t know how anyone manages to love the pleasures of his life while being fully aware that everything he is now will usher into nothingness.

If atheism is true, a Buddhist-like resignation and detachment seems to be a much more coherent and viable choice than Western hedonism.

To conclude, I want to strongly advise everyone to buy some of Randal’s books for he is truly a far better apologist than William Lane Craig in numerous respects.

Next episode on hell: the dark side of destiny.

Complementarianism, egalitarianism and the differences between men and women

There is a huge debate raging in the Evangelical community about the place and role of women.

Egalitarians believe that men and women are not only equal but dispose of the same abilities in every respect.

Complementarians believe that men and women are equal but different with respect to their skills and roles.

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I don’t share the belief in Biblical inerrancy of both camps and don’t base my thinking on culturally conditioned statements one can find in Scripture.

Nevertheless I am a complementarian.

Since this might shock many people, I reproduced a great post of Mike Patton explaining this:

The most common understanding of both Complementarianism and Egalitarianism goes something like this:

Complementarians: Do not let women be pastors over men.

Egalitarians: Do let women be pastors over men.

or…

Complementarians: The husband is the leader of the family.

Egalitarians: The husband and wife co-lead the family, with no priority.

or…

Complementarians: Wives submit to your husbands.

Egalitarians: Husbands and wives are to practice mutual submission.

While I think that these are characteristics of both groups, they are not foundational characteristics that define each group. In other words, I don’t think that they are helpful in defining what it means to be a complementarian or egalitarian and they serve to cause a great deal of misunderstanding that leads to emotional bias that is very difficult to overcome once set.

In fact, I am going to say something very radical here and then explain. Here it goes:

It is possible to be a complementarian and believe that a women can serve in the position of head pastor over men.

Did you get that? Reread it. Reread it again…

Complementarianism is not first defined by it view of the roles of men and women in the church, family, or society.

Here is what Complementarianism is:

Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but often, functionally, take subordinate roles (like the Trinity). These differences complete or “complement” each other. Due to these differences, there will be some things that women are predisposed and purposed to do more than men. As well, there will be some things that men are predisposed and purposed to do more than women. Therefore, there are ideal roles for both men and women that should be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society. To deny these differences is to deny the design of God and thwart his purpose.

Here is what Egalitarianism is:

The belief that God has created men and women equal in all things. Men and women are ontologically and functionally equal. The way the sexes function in the church, society, and the family is determined by individual giftedness, not role distinctions according to the sexes. Therefore, each person should be judged individually when being placed in a particular position. We should exemplify this reality by overcoming the stereotypical placement that has traditionally been a part of societies in human history, thereby giving freedom to individuals to follow the path that God has uniquely created them for, whatever that may be. In doing so, we should no longer educate or indoctrinate according to any of the former stereotypes, including those of basic masculinity and femininity.

These, in my opinion, are the foundational tenants of each position without giving examples on how this plays out in the family, the church, or society.

The case I am making here is that in order to be a consistent egalitarian, one must deny virtually all differences that typify men as men and women as women. It is not just about getting women behind the pulpit or the concept of mutual submission in the family. It is much more complex and, in my estimation, more difficult to defend with sensibility.

I had a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary who was an Egalitarian (he left because of this—I won’t mention his name). I loved this guy. Still do. Great teacher, thinker, and Christian. In fact, I had him come speak to our pastoral staff at Stonebriar to challenge us on why he became egalitarian and to defend his position. I wanted the staff to understand the “other side” from a very able defender. During his presentation, he painted himself into this very typical corner that I find most all egalitarians end up. 

He was advocating a foundational principle of egalitarianism: there are no essential differences between men and women other than reproductive stuff. We were all quite taken aback. Every example we brought up, he shot down by giving a counter-example in the form of an exception. His basic argument turned on finding exceptions to everything. Whether it was that men were less emotional, more aggressive, more one tracked in their thinking, less tender, more competitive, unable to nurture as well as women, or even liked the color blue more, he brought up exceptions that he believed neutralized the “pattern”. Finally, I thought I had him. I said “What about physicality? Men are stronger than women.” He would have none of that. He then brought up examples of German women who were stronger than men! We could not stump the guy!

The problem is that in order to defend egalitarianism consistently, he had to deny all of the common sense distinctions that people have made about men and women since the dawn of time. I won’t get into the science or psychology of this issue as there are many very good resources that do this. To me, it is rather bizarre that one would actually be inclined to produce evidence to prove that men and women are different!

I am of the opinion that many egalitarians would have been appalled by Peter who said that women are the weaker of the sexes (1 Pet. 3:7) siting every exception to this rule and bemoaning this stereotype until Peter cried “uncle.”

Complementarianism says that men and women are different by design. We are different and God did it. It is that simple.

However, most people would not be willing to go as far as my former professor. They realize that sustaining a proposition that men and women have no essential differences is a battle that cannot really be sustained in real life (only theoretical ideology). Men and women are different. Even most egalitarians that I know would give me this. Hear this again. Most egalitarians that I know would admit, when push comes to shove, that there are some essential differences between men and women. Most would even say that there are essential differences that go beyond reproduction and physicality. But I would argue that these people are not really egalitarians, at least in the way I have defined it. They would be complementarians because they would have given up what I believe to be a central driving tenant of egalitarianism and embraced the central tenant of complementarianism: men and women are different by design and their differences complement each other.

Now, having said this, I believe that it is theoretically possible to be a complementarian and yet not take a traditional complementarian stand on the issue of women in ministry. In other words, someone could believe that men and women are different by design yet not think that these differences have any bearing on women in leadership in the church. They may be convinced that the Bible does not really teach that women should not teach men, and yet be complementarian in other issues and, broadly, in their theology of the sexes.

I am interested and committed to complementarianism for more than just the women in ministry issue. This is just one application. But (and here is where I get in trouble with fellow complementarians), I don’t think that it is the most important issue in this debate. Neither do I think that it is the most “damaging” issue.

You see, when people are truly committed and consistent egalitarians, they have to defend their denial of essential differences. In doing so, they will advocate a education system in the home, church, and society which neutralizes any assumption of differences between the sexes. In doing so, men will not be trained to be “men” since there is really no such thing. Women will not be encouraged to be “women” since there is no such thing. The assumption of differences becomes a way to oppress society and marginalize, in their estimation, one sex for the benefit of the other. Once we neutralize these differences, we will have neutered society and the family due to a denial of God’s design in favor of some misguided attempt to promote a form of equality that is neither possible nor beneficial to either sex.

We will have troubled men and women groping to find their way and feeling pressured to repress their instincts and giftedness. We will no longer be able to train up men and women in the “way” they should go since there is no “way” they should go. Women can act masculine and men can be feminine. Men can retreat in the face of responsibility because, in truth, they don’t have any “responsibility” other than the one that they choose. This is to say nothing of the implications this has on the issues of homosexuality and gay marriage.

But in a complementarian worldview (even one that allows women to teach men in the church), men are taught to be men and women are taught to be women. They both have defining characteristics. Masculinity and femininity find their place and are exemplified and celebrated. Men protect women from physical danger and take their positions of leadership seriously, without trepidation or fear that they will be seen as power mongers. And women support this. Women take up their positions of nurturing and supporting the emotional well-being of the world. And men support it. No role distinction is seen as inferior because in a complementarian worldview both are seen as essential and of equal importance. Only in complementarianism do we not define the rule by the exceptions and bow to the least common denominator. Only in the complementarian worldview, in my opinion, can freedom to be who we are supposed to be find meaning.

The true spirit of complementarianism is that God has intentionally created men and women with differences and we are to celebrate this in every way. The true spirit of complementarianism is never domineering (that is a sinful corruption). The true spirit of complementarianism provides no shame only freedom. The true spirit of complementarianism speaks to God in appreciation.

When we attempt to neuter this design, we have lost much more than authority in the pulpit.

Complementarians, while I believe that the Bible teaches the ideal that women should not have authority over men in the church, let us promote the true spirit of complementarianism then simply defending its particular applications.

I believe that female preachers and pastors can be really great and are an enrichment for the Church. I do hope that the Church of Rom will allow them to become priests over the next decades.

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However, I do believe that (statistically speaking) men and women are both psychologically and biologically different and that there are therefore some types of work which are (statistically speaking) more appropriate for females than for males and vice-versa.

I am convinced that if a man and a woman apply for the same position, there NEVER should be any discrimination.

However I believe that endeavors such as Gender Mainstreaming (aiming at erasing all differences between the sexes in society) are profoundly stupid and noxious.

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My position lies on empirical grounds and is shared by many French (and to a lesser extent German) secular people who are extremely skeptical of the gender ideology.