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Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

The man. The myth.

Postby rusmeister » 29 Jul 2008, 11:37

Thank you, Dr U! :thumbsup:
(It feels pretty lonely sometimes being the among last defenders of orthodox teaching on the sanctity of marriage and sexual relations when so much of Christendom is caving in and abandoning the faith of their fathers in favor of a faith in their own intellect.) :sad:
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Postby Dr. U » 29 Jul 2008, 15:50

Well, thanks, Rus-M!

I don't think we're quite the "last defenders" of anything, though. I don't know about Russia, but I travel a lot in Latin America, I collaborate in small ways with national Christians in a variety of countries, and I have had numerous undergraduate and graduate students from Africa and Asia over the years. Among the Christians I have met, of many ages, from Latin America, Africa and Asia, almost without any exception, all strongly believe the "pro-gay" churches in the U.S. have lost their minds to the prevailing American pop culture. It's just harder to see that from within our own culture, as it is within any culture in any time. I wish all those liberal-leaning churches that have said so much over the years about "listening to the Third World Church", would seriously listen now!

In the final analysis though, we all fall short oF God's glory in one way or another, we all compromise somewhere with our sinful selves and culture and hide it from ourselves. But Jesus promised the Holy Spirit that He was sending would convict the world of sin and righteousness and the judgment to come. And He's still on the job, we're just permitted to be small and imperfect collaborators. Bless God that we're not responsible for being the "last defenders"!

Sadly, if certain American churches continue down a sensual and narcissistic path, Scripture seems clear that God isn't checkmated, He will just pour out His blessing elsewhere, and those churches embracing unrepentant sexual sin (of any kind) will gradually find themselves merely religious institutions, no longer in a powerful relationship with Jesus Christ the vine. Or God in his mercy may allow a cleansing judgment of some kind, as seems to be happening with the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S., with the many cases of covered-up child molestation finally forced into the light, or as happened with exposure of adultery or embezzlement among several of the high-living Protestant televangelists a few years back.

I keeping hearing from a variety of confidential sources, some of them eye-witnesses, about historically unprecedented numbers of conversions of people to Christ across the Muslim world, not uncommonly under miraculous circumstances. Something really big seems to be going on in God's economy, completely under the radar of the secular press. I suspect that as this new wing of the church gradually emerges from a context of persecution even to death, it will have a zeal for Jesus and purity that is going to offend a lot of the morally compromised churches of "the West" - and maybe some in "the East", too. Regretfully, those churches may not even realize any longer what they're missing....
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Postby rusmeister » 31 Jul 2008, 02:17

Sorry, Dr U - didn't mean to come across as a drama queen.

Of course, we all speak from our own experience. Part of our experience is what we hear in the media, part is from our travels (if any) and what we personally see, from people we know - family and friends, what goes on in our church and other churches.

Certainly the media conflate things, and completely support making as much noise as possible, because it's controversial and therefore "news". But it also, merely by raising the question, causes people to question the wrongness and unnaturalness of this sin. The constant repetition of a lie makes it the truth to people, and that's a practical effect the media have, to get everyone thinking and saying the same things.

Of course we are all sinners here, and no individual is being judged. In this particular case we have an effort to publicly justify sin, and that is what ought to be stopped. As Christians we are supposed to bear witness that sin is sin. If we don't do that, then people won't even get to the step of realizing that all have sinned, because in their minds, they're not sinning. This is not a place to simply be humble and focus on our own sins - although that, too, is an important general principle that we do need to hold to. St Paul had to write to the churches to correct all kinds of errors that easily arose and readily spread - he didn't stop at merely speaking of his own sinfulness.

My experience is that among people I know, the traditional acceptance that the homosexual act is sin is breaking down. The further they are from Orthodoxy the faster the breakdown. My unbelieving friends in the US now accept the lie that has become the truth. They all use the primitive arguments the media repeat again and again: "Why not? It doesn't hurt anyone. People just want to love each other..." Everybody that I know now uses the modern terms that have been foisted upon us - euphemisms that justify the sin - from 'gay' to 'civil marriage' to 'partner', etc.

There are objective events that point to a general breakdown in Christian churches, and that this breakdown is becoming world-wide (although of course you are right about resistance), in this and related issues (someone on another thread here hit a nail in pointing out that the issues of church approval of homosexuality and women priests are, broadly speaking, a package deal), and that growing abandonment of traditional Christian values by the churches themselves is part of what I was speaking about.

Obviously there are some points where we don't touch base - especially the nature of the Church itself - but I won't respond to those things here, unless they touch on the OP. It is a difficult dance, trying to discuss any topic at all when the most fundamental question is the nature of the Authority that we accept.
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Postby robsia » 03 Aug 2008, 20:02

rusmeister wrote: There are a couple of NT references that list (what is today called 'homosexuality') along with murder, adultery, and a few other sins of commission that, amazingly, we (traditionally) have outlawed. 1 Corinthians ch 6 comes to mind:
9. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10. Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.


Anyway, point is that sins of commission is where we stop.


However, adultery is not actually - in this country at least - illegal. Neither is fornication, idolatry, covetousness or being effeminate!

Drunkenness is an odd one. You can be arrested for being 'drunk and disorderly' but I'm not sure being drunk of itself is actually a crime - if it were, the jails would be full and the pubs empty. However it might be one of those where it is technically illegal to be drunk in public past a certain point of inebriation, whatever that might be, but if you aren't causing any trouble they won't arrest you.

Self-abuse - is that masturbation? Heck if that were illegal then the police'd have to arrest themselves!!

This is only on current laws you understand, if we go in historical laws, it would be a different story entirely. Also there are an awful lot of damn stupid laws out there still (see www.dumblaws.com for some doozies) and there are all sorts of things in certain states in America that you can't do.
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Postby rusmeister » 04 Aug 2008, 03:22

robsia wrote:
rusmeister wrote: There are a couple of NT references that list (what is today called 'homosexuality') along with murder, adultery, and a few other sins of commission that, amazingly, we (traditionally) have outlawed. 1 Corinthians ch 6 comes to mind:
9. Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10. Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.


Anyway, point is that sins of commission is where we stop.


However, adultery is not actually - in this country at least - illegal. Neither is fornication, idolatry, covetousness or being effeminate!

Drunkenness is an odd one. You can be arrested for being 'drunk and disorderly' but I'm not sure being drunk of itself is actually a crime - if it were, the jails would be full and the pubs empty. However it might be one of those where it is technically illegal to be drunk in public past a certain point of inebriation, whatever that might be, but if you aren't causing any trouble they won't arrest you.

Self-abuse - is that masturbation? Heck if that were illegal then the police'd have to arrest themselves!!

This is only on current laws you understand, if we go in historical laws, it would be a different story entirely. Also there are an awful lot of damn stupid laws out there still (see www.dumblaws.com for some doozies) and there are all sorts of things in certain states in America that you can't do.

It is true that adultery is not prosecuted today, and I would not be surprised to be told that the laws had been taken off the books.
I used the present perfect verb tense (have outlawed), which means (in this case) at any (unspecified) time from the past until now.

Any discussion of us as a people has to include our history. The strange thing would be to ignore the history and speak only about today, as if that was all we knew or all that mattered.

One thing Lewis wrote about frequently was the idea that modernity and modern thought (now) is superior to past thought - the danger of thinking that 'we' are better than 'them'. While there certainly have been foolish laws passed, we need to be careful in judging what we think to be foolish. I'll bet that in most cases, the law seems foolish to you because you don't know the circumstances that spawned the law - and there are plenty of cases where people no longer know why we should preserve the sanctity of marriage, or hold other traditional stances, rather than mindlessly embrace modern changes in the name of individual freedom.

And yes, drunkenness in this context means public drunkenness (drunk and disorderly). Not talking about any other kind.

The terms 'abusers' and 'effeminate' refer to unnatural sex, particularly sex with members of the same sex.
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Postby robsia » 04 Aug 2008, 07:09

rusmeister wrote:The terms 'abusers' and 'effeminate' refer to unnatural sex, particularly sex with members of the same sex.


Hmm - interesting interpretation of the text.

In discussion of laws, and particularly why such laws were spawned in the first instance, one must also consider why such laws were repealed - as that is also part of our history.
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Postby rusmeister » 04 Aug 2008, 08:28

robsia wrote:
rusmeister wrote:The terms 'abusers' and 'effeminate' refer to unnatural sex, particularly sex with members of the same sex.


Hmm - interesting interpretation of the text.

In discussion of laws, and particularly why such laws were spawned in the first instance, one must also consider why such laws were repealed - as that is also part of our history.


Of course! But having hung around here for a while, you must realize that people of that time held that there were valid, rational reasons for the laws, and that the question is one of who is right, the moderns* or the ancients? Moderns always act as if the ancients had no case, or that the case was merely one of unnatural and unreasonable oppression, and that is what I object to.

*Just a side note on the meaning of mode, moda in the word modern - that which is fashionable, that which is temporary, that which is NOW, which is always changing.
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Postby robsia » 04 Aug 2008, 18:54

People change, and people's attitudes toward things also change.

Time was there was no need for a church service to make a marriage. It was sufficient for two people simply to declare to each other that the other was their spouse and that was it - they were married.

It was usual to have witnesses and a celebration and a church blessing, which all grew into the rigmarole surrounding the event today. However it was not necessary.

Who is to say which is 'right'? Maybe there is no 'right' - there is only custom. Which brings us round to the idea of there being moral absolutes - or not. It's easy for religious types - you can just say that what God says is right is right and leave it at that - not so easy for the rest of us mere mortals.

Of course, it's not so simple as that. Your book doesn't change to keep pace with our society so religious morals are necessarily outdated, and I don't mean that as offensive. Hence the problems now arising. Society changes and becomes more accepting - religion doesn't.

But there is an awful lot in the Bible which is quietly ignored because it doesn't fit in with modern outlook - and mostly it isn't the important things so no one really minds. But homosexuality just isn't one of those things.
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Postby Stanley Anderson » 04 Aug 2008, 20:18

robsia wrote:Society changes and becomes more accepting


This is a curious statement apart from the rest of your post. It certainly sounds nice and comfortable. But do you think it is really true? And I don't mean just within one's own neighborhood or one's own country (though even there I wonder if most of us can't find evidence to the contrary), but in general all around the world. I'm not sure -- at times it seems very much the opposite to me.

And when thinking honestly about this question (I'm not declaring an answer one way or the other at the moment, just suggesting looking at the question directly in its face), try not to ignore those areas that one happens to agree with but that really are less "accepting" after all. So for instance, on a local area, one might hate smokers (or at least hate the smoking that they do) and agree wholeheartedly with smoking bans that have been enacted in many places these days. But can one honestly not put that into the "less accepting" tally? Far easier to ignore it and only look for the "accepting" things that one happens to agree with in order to support the "comfortable" idea of society becoming more "accepting". Or perhaps one supports abortion and is pro-choice -- is the idea of a ban on Catholic institutions that refuse to do abortions a case of society being more accepting or less accepting? I suppose one could argue either way on that particular issue, but it's certainly not "clearly" in the acceptance tally without some argument from the other side.

But even beyond those sorts of "small" local things, when we read about the horrifying atrocities that occur, not in onesy-twosy cases or small groups of people, but in grand magnitudes around the world, or, say, about a country like China limiting its entire population to the one child policy, do these seem like society is getting more "accepting"?

Just posing the question. Like you, I'd like to think of society as becoming more -- well, accepting is probably not the word I would use because for me it is so fraught with unwanted connotation -- but maybe "loving" or "concerned with the well-being and freedom of others". But I have to say that it is not at all clear to me that that is what is really happening in the world as a whole -- except perhaps in the one area where you specifically said it is not happening, ie, in religious areas (and of course even there, not all religious areas).

And of course there is the whole question of when "accepting" is even desirable (as some of my examples above suggest). It's almost too "large" an idea to even be very useful, I'm thinking. But again, not sure of any of this -- just tossing out ideas to consider.

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Postby robsia » 04 Aug 2008, 20:31

Hmm - I guess. I hadn't really thought about it in regards to anything other than sexual issues, such as homosexuality and sex outside of marriage etc.

Definitely society is less accepting than it used to be of other things such as smoking, ruining the environment etc. Even the Americans are finally jumping on the green bandwagon - better late than never ;)
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Postby Dr. U » 06 Aug 2008, 03:26

Time was there was no need for a church service to make a marriage. It was sufficient for two people simply to declare to each other that the other was their spouse and that was it - they were married.


I was catching up on the interesting discussion going on in this thread, and I thought I'd respond to this statement by Robsia.

May I suggest that right now we are at the far end of the spectrum, that in many cultures and times, making a marriage was far MORE elaborate a legal commitment between two families? There's a point here that's correct, I think, but more typical in times of deep poverty or oppression. For a lot of medieval serfs or slaves in the U.S. South, common law marriage like you describe above was the only practical option. Even then, the local baron or slaveowner might decide to spend a night with the wife, and had the force to back him up.

However, marriage is first a legal covenant, with rights and obligations among all the parties as recognized by a society, before love is involved. Families are formed in three ways: marriage, birth and adoption. Love makes a good family, but, despite the bumpersticker I occasionally see around, Love does not make a family. In a lot of societies, marriage has meant detailed negotiations between two families, quite apart from the couple, happy or otherwise. Under US law at least (I don't know about EU law), parents from either family aren't legally liable in cases of divorce or separation, but in a number of societies, that wasn't the case, there were elaborate dowry laws, who owes which family what if the husband leaves, if the wife leaves, under what circumstances, etc., etc.

Many, maybe even most, of our ancestors throughout history may not have been given a choice of marrying based on love, it was all about the survival of the family. As an American child of the 60s, it was a revelation while I was doing graduate studies to begin to meet peers from other cultures who had arranged marriages. Some felt badly for how confused Americans were, trying to first find someone to love and then marry!

As one example, a couple I knew from an upper caste Hindu family considered their parents quite liberal because they were allowed to meet each other - once, in a very public setting - a few weeks before their marriage. Their wedding ceremony and feast was highly elaborate, involving at least a full day or two if I remember right. When I knew them, both were pursuing graduate degrees, and they considered their marriage a good and happy one.

I'm not idealizing nor advocating arranged marriages, but making a point that, it's cultures such as contemporary America that have the most relaxed attitude and laws about marriage, not the other way around, as though marriage was once very informal, and gradually was built to what it is today.
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Postby robsia » 06 Aug 2008, 07:42

It was the Middle Ages I was referring to. I'd give you a link to the article but it's one of those I stumbled across a year or so ago and I dout I could find it again - but it was really interesting.

However, according to the same article, the practice of handfasting persisted for quite a while in more remote places.
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Postby Dr. U » 08 Aug 2008, 04:24

Who is to say which is 'right'? Maybe there is no 'right' - there is only custom. Which brings us round to the idea of there being moral absolutes - or not. It's easy for religious types - you can just say that what God says is right is right and leave it at that - not so easy for the rest of us mere mortals.

Of course, it's not so simple as that. Your book doesn't change to keep pace with our society so religious morals are necessarily outdated, and I don't mean that as offensive. Hence the problems now arising. Society changes and becomes more accepting - religion doesn't.

But there is an awful lot in the Bible which is quietly ignored because it doesn't fit in with modern outlook - and mostly it isn't the important things so no one really minds. But homosexuality just isn't one of those things.



Well, I think it would be helpful if we identified worldviews - basic faith assumptions - at work here.

There are three basic beliefs about the nature of reality: (1) only the measurable world is real, and (usually linked with that), there is no God and no spiritual reality; (2) there is a Creator God separate from Creation: both the measurable world and the spiritual world are real, and there is a universal moral law based on God's character; (3) the measurable world is an illusion, only the spiritual world is ultimately real: our obligations to that spiritual world are real (but vary among different belief systems).

It sounds to me like you believe (1), and believe that with the passing of time, all will take that faith outlook, the "modern outlook". Auguste Comte, the "father of sociology", also took that view, that all the Earth is progressing toward a common belief in empiricism (= trusting only the measurable).

Of the 6-7 billion people on Earth, it wouldn't be hard to show that there are billions in all three belief categories, (and many people counted in more than one category, sometimes making decisions by one belief, and sometimes by another). Sometimes people in (1) handle this by unfriendly adjectives - "They're just primitive"; "They're still medieval" or whatever. However, that doesn't really help in discerning which faith is most likely correct. They are ALL living on the same Earth at the same time!

Societies do change, as do individuals. Is a given change better or worse, and how do we know? Right now, in the U.S., we are observing changes in the toleration of open homosexual behavior and in the adoption of torture by certain government agencies. (The two are unrelated issues I want to add.) Both are big changes.

I hope that you, like me, are shocked and horrified by torture being used - and approved - at all by anyone in authority in the U.S. When earlier you used the word "accepting", I am guessing from the way you used it, that you ultimately mean something like "value the dignity of each human being, regardless of their beliefs or behaviors". Torture would not qualify. However, there are Americans who defend torture on a sort of utilitarian grounds - it (supposedly) gets the job done and causes harm to only a few people rather than many people. I oppose torture b/c I believe it violates a whole spectrum of commands in the Bible, all of them based on the revelation of God as good and loving, humans as intended to be a reflection of God's character, but prone to evil that, left unchecked, increases.

The fact that many people without a belief in God, yet oppose torture, reflects that universal moral law based in God's character. Opponents of torture are appealing to an invisible standard. Dignity and value, after all, can't be seen or measured. Yet, to be fully human, we somehow know that dignity and values are real. That creates a genuine tension about the truth of belief system (1), and a case for (2) or (3), which brings us to having to take a look at religion seriously.

Christian concern about homosexual behavior and all the other sexual behaviors supposedly freed by the "Sexual Revolution" is based on more than just arbitrary words in a book. There are basic worldview issues, including what it means to be human (i.e., male and female says the Bible); all the difficult character lessons driven home within marriage; the role of family; the role of sex as more than just pleasure, but also teaching us about self-discipline and thoughtfulness for the other sex; and other issues, too. Ultimately for Christians, husband and wife are a picture of Jesus Christ and his bride, the Church, so there is far more going on that just what's visible.

Anyway, to do justice to Christian concerns, you have to consider the level of worldview and theology - the Big Questions. The "pace of our society" doesn't demonstrate anything true or false, it just distracts at a surface level.

I hope this is helpful in some way.
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Postby Paul F. Ford » 10 Aug 2008, 00:21

From Yours, Jack: Spiritual Direction from C. S. Lewis, HarperOne, 2008, edited by yours truly, pages 241-243:

TO SHELDON VANAUKEN, who had asked Lewis how to counsel some Christian homosexuals he and his wife were trying to help: On what is not permitted homosexual persons and what might be for their “glorious gain” (Wordsworth, “Character of the Happy Warrior,” line 14); . . . (Lewis called this letter “an interim report” – he wrote a further letter, loaned to a homosexual and lost).

14 May 1954

I have seen less than you but more than I wanted of this terrible problem. I will discuss your letter with those whom I think wise in Christ. This is only an interim report.

First, to map out the boundaries within which all discussion must go on, I take it for certain that the physical satisfaction of homosexual desires is sin. This leaves the homosexual no worse off than any normal person who is, for whatever reason, prevented from marrying. Second, our speculations on the cause of the abnormality are not what matters and we must be content with ignorance. The disciples were not told why (in terms of efficient cause) the man was born blind (Jn. IX 1–3): only the final cause, that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

This suggests that in homosexuality, as in every other tribulation, those works can be made manifest: i.e., that every disability conceals a vocation, if only we can find it, which will ‘turn the necessity to glorious gain.’ Of course, the first step must be to accept any privations which, if so disabled, we can’t lawfully get. The homosexual has to accept sexual abstinence just as the poor man has to forego otherwise lawful pleasures because he would be unjust to his wife and children if he took them. That is merely a negative condition.

What should the positive life of the homosexual be? I wish I had a letter which a pious male homosexual, now dead, once wrote to me – but of course it was the sort of letter one takes care to destroy. He believed that his necessity could be turned to spiritual gain: that there were certain kinds of sympathy and understanding, a certain social rôle which mere men and mere women could not give. But it is all horribly vague – too long ago. Perhaps any homosexual who humbly accepts his cross and puts himself under divine guidance will, however, be shown the way. I am sure that any attempt to evade it (e.g., by mock- or quasi-marriage with a member of one’s own sex even if this does not lead to any carnal act) is the wrong way. Jealousy (this another homosexual admitted to me) is far more rampant and deadly among them than among us. And I don’t think little concessions like wearing the clothes of the other sex in private is the right line either. It is the duties, the burdens, the characteristic virtues of the other sex, I expect, which the patient must try to cultivate.

I have mentioned humility because male homosexuals (I don’t know about women) are rather apt, the moment they find you don’t treat them with horror and contempt, to rush to the opposite pole and start implying that they are somehow superior to the normal type. I wish I could be more definite. All I have really said is that, like all other tribulations, it must be offered to God and His guidance how to use it must be sought.


I am just catching up on this discussion and I have not been able to read every previous post carefully.

Blessings,
Paul
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Postby rusmeister » 10 Aug 2008, 02:23

Thanks, Paul.
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