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Monday, February 5, 2018

The Bloomington Statement Revisited

Over the course of the last week, I have been carrying on a discussion with a blogger named Jensen Carlyle regarding my scriptural and philosophical justifications for the Bloomington Statement. Although I have found the conversation to be stimulating, it recently occurred to me that the folks who read this blog on a regular basis might be interested in following this discussion. For those who are so inclined, I invite you to review the original post and the comments which it has generated here: http://godcannotbecontained.blogspot.com/2017/09/the-scriptural-and-philosophical-basis.html

Part of the discussion has focused on whether or not homosexuality should be regarded as natural. I have contended that it should be regarded as natural for several reasons: 1) Whatever we may eventually learn about the role of nature vs. nurture in determining sexual orientation, it is clear that humans do not choose their orientation; 2) As homosexual behavior occurs in nature, it cannot be said to be man-made (I can't think of any examples of someone setting out to create a homosexual or develop a program to do so, can you?); 3) If homosexuality is innate, then it is natural; 4) If homosexuality is generated by environmental factors (hormones, mutations, chemicals, etc.), then it is natural; 5) Sexual attraction appears to be a universal phenomenon within the animal kingdom, and must therefore be adjudged to be natural; 6) The fact that homosexuality occurs less frequently than heterosexuality does not make it unnatural (volcanic eruptions occur with less frequency than earthquakes, but they are both considered to be natural phenomena); 7) Likewise, in this same sense of the word natural, homosexuality cannot be designated as unnatural simply because a majority of human society has deemed it to be abnormal.

The fact that marriage is a very human institution means that it is NOT natural. Yes, some animals mate for life, but I have never heard anyone suggest that such animals are married. People can and do procreate without marriage. Hence, it certainly cannot be claimed that marriage is an essential natural element of procreation. As it is not uncommon for single adults and institutions (e.g. orphanages) to raise children, we cannot claim that marriage is essential to the rearing and nurturing of children.

If we are talking about civil marriages, then the institution is defined by the society/culture/government of which it is a part. Similarly, if we are talking about religious marriages, then the institution is defined by the religion/church/denomination which administers it. Finally, if we are talking about biblical marriage, then we are looking at an institution which is defined by an individual leaving his/her parents home, cohabiting with another individual and having sexual intercourse with that person. From a biblical perspective, it is also generally understood that marriage is intended to be exclusive (yes, there are many instances of polygamy recorded in Scripture) and lifelong (albeit there are several disputed justifications for divorce also recorded in its pages).

Hence, from the biblical perspective, we must conclude that there are a great many folks who think that they are simply living together who are in fact married in God's eyes. Likewise, there are a good many folks who are on their third, fourth or fifth "marriage" who we could certainly characterize as NOT being married in God's sight. Remember, there is no biblical formula for a marriage ceremony. The Bible is much less formal about the subject than most churches and states appear to be.

To say that marriage is fundamentally about procreation and child-rearing is to ignore much of what the Judeo-Christian Scriptures say about the subject. We are told that Adam needed a companion and a helper - that it wasn't good for him to be alone. We are told that husbands and wives owe each other love and respect. We are told that sexual activity is meant to unite two souls, and that it is dangerous for the pair to refrain from this activity for any length of time. The Song of Solomon glorifies sexual attraction between a man and woman. In short, from a Scriptural perspective, marriage is about the union of two people.

To be sure, those same Scriptures make plain that God chooses to bless some marriages with children. And those children can and should enrich any marriage of which they are a part. Nevertheless, the marriage IS NOT about the children - it is about the two people who are a part of the contract. Hence, from a biblical perspective, we could say that children are incidental to a Godly marriage.

Now, admittedly we have been talking about marriages between one man and one woman, but does that mean that two people of the same sex should be excluded from participating in this institution? Are the folks who say that a comprehensive or organic union between two people of the same sex is impossible correct?

Surely, we can all acknowledge that human sexuality is about much more than procreation? Indeed, most folks are willing to acknowledge that there is an emotional component to sex - that it is an expression of love. Are two men or two women excluded from experiencing this?

Without getting too graphic (we don't want to unnecessarily offend anyone), we should all be willing to acknowledge that homosexual folks engage in many of the same sexual behaviors that their heterosexual counterparts engage in. Like heterosexuals, homosexual folks come to climax and exchange bodily fluids during intercourse. Like heterosexuals, intercourse is about much more than a penis or a vagina (things like faces, mouths, hair, hands, breasts/pecs, buttocks, etc. are often integral parts of the act). And we should all be willing to acknowledge the most important sexual organ which humans possess - our brains. Just think about the role of imagination and desire in this behavior!

Finally, the claim that "no bodily good" can be derived from homosexual sex is unsustainable. As with heterosexual intercourse, homosexual sex can improve immunity, heart health, lower blood pressure, relieve pain and stress, strengthen muscles, improve sleep, reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and improve bladder control in women. If that's not enough, think for just a moment about the potential psychological and emotional benefits which might be had by our theoretical homosexual lovers (pleasure, self-esteem and the expression of love, respect and tenderness for another person).

Hence, it is clear to me that the use of nature, procreation, child-rearing and comprehensive union as arguments against homosexual behavior and marriage is not sustained by a review of the available evidence. What do you think?

14 comments:

  1. For those who are interested, here is a link to another perspective on the natural vs. unnatural debate concerning homosexuality:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unfundamentalistchristians/2014/04/top-7-claims-for-same-sex-relationships-being-unnatural/

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  2. Hi,
    It's not quite finished, but is done enough for the purpose of continuing our conversation - my response: http://samsonspetlion.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-bloomington-statement-critique.html

    As to this response, or to the patheos blog you link to, you are operating under a faulty and irrelevant definition of what is natural. As I understand it, you're saying that what is natural is more or less what we find in nature (understood as the collection of natural or living things). However, as I understand natural, and as I think Scripture (esp. Paul) understands it, it has more to do with the essence of human beings, understood in a classical sense, as understood in Natural Law Theory. Think more of like Aristotle's definition of man as rational animal.

    I will say more about this later. So far though, I think I've shown your definition to be incorrect with my examples of pedophilia, polyamorous attraction and bestiality. These all can be "natural" in the way you define "natural" but are clearly not permissible to act upon.

    Anyway, look forward to seeing what you think about my post, and I hope you're well.

    Take care,
    Jensen

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    Replies
    1. Jensen,
      Thank you for taking the time to respond to each of the fourteen articles of the Bloomington Statement. I will respond to that post on your blog at the following address:
      http://samsonspetlion.blogspot.com/
      As for defining the term "natural," we are both using the term in a fashion that is consistent with how the dictionaries and Scriptures define/use the term. If we Google the term, we see that this term can be defined in both ways when it is used as an adjective: "1. existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind and 2. of or in agreement with the character or makeup of, or circumstances surrounding, someone or something." It can (and is) used both ways.
      If your comment refers to Paul's remarks in Romans 1:26-27, I believe that the apostle's statement comprehends both meanings. And, if he was truly saying here that all homosexual attraction and behavior is not natural, then he was clearly wrong. I have shown homosexuality to be a natural phenomenon in that it most assuredly occurs in nature and is not derived from human choice. Also, the fact that there are homosexual humans certainly indicates that it can be a part of human nature - natural in the sense which you are employing the term.
      As for your examples of pedophilia, polyamory attraction and bestiality, I believe that it would be wrong to describe any of these things as natural (using either sense of the word). However, for the sake of argument, let's say that you're correct.
      I think that you would agree with me that whether or not something is natural or unnatural is not the only factor in determining the suitability of some behavior. Pedophilia, polyamory and bestiality do not pass the Scriptural standards of mutual consent and respect or not doing any harm to anyone/anything else.

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  3. Also, you're not entirely wrong when you say that marriage is not natural (though you also equivocate by what you mean that word in various places). The self-styled Maverick Philosopher, William Vallicella, makes this relevant observation:

    I think this overlooks something important, namely, that marriage, while grounded in the biological complementarity of male and female human animals, and essentially so grounded, is a social institution. So there is more to marriage than the merely natural. For this reason, I prefer 'traditional marriage' to 'natural marriage.'

    http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2015/07/traditional-marriage-or-natural-marriage.html

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    1. Marriage is not natural in both senses of the word. Civil marriage is entirely a human creation. Likewise, I think that most of us would say that biblical marriage is spiritual in nature.

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  4. Sorry for my random order or response, but here is another one: Finally, the claim that "no bodily good" can be derived from homosexual sex is unsustainable. As with heterosexual intercourse, homosexual sex can improve immunity, heart health, lower blood pressure, relieve pain and stress, strengthen muscles, improve sleep, reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men and improve bladder control in women. If that's not enough, think for just a moment about the potential psychological and emotional benefits which might be had by our theoretical homosexual lovers (pleasure, self-esteem and the expression of love, respect and tenderness for another person).


    I don't recall saying that no bodily good can come about from homosexual activity. Rather I said that in such sexual activity no true bodily union can be formed. Many of these benefits can be attained by, say, taking up a sport, eating healthy meals with friends, but in none of these activities does one form a true bodily union with the other. (I say more about this in my post.)

    Although, I did say that pleasure is not a good. In this I'm correct. Likewise, self-esteem is not a good, nor are expressions of love as such, nor is respect. These can be good in that they can flow from what is, strictly speaking a good in of itself, or be the just means to something that is good in of themselves. But as such they are neutral between being bad or good.

    For example, I can be a terrible murderer, rapist and thief and enjoy self-esteem. (Or I can live in an honor-shame culture and have no self-esteem, rather caring only for how others value me.) Or I can respect such a vile person, but in that case my respect is misplaced and so is not good.

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  5. The quote about "no bodily good" came from the paper by Girgis, George and Anderson which you referenced in your earlier remarks and used to justify your conclusions about coitus and marriage. They also stated in this paper that "bodily union involves mutual coordination toward a bodily good..."
    Hence, I would say that it is immaterial to our discussion that the benefits which I listed can be accomplished by other means. The fact that they can be accomplished through homosexual intimacy established that it constitutes a legitimate "bodily union" via the criteria which you and they have employed.

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    Replies
    1. It might meet the criteria set forth by George, Anderson and Girgis - they belong in the inferior New Natural Law Theory camp whereas Clasical Natural Law Theory is the best! - but it does not meet the criteria I law out for true bodily union.

      https://www.academia.edu/6631768/A_Defense_of_the_Perverted_Faculty_Argument_against_Homosexual_Sex

      https://www.academia.edu/31758359/The_Perverted_Faculty_Argument

      https://www.academia.edu/23301482/Consenting_Adults_Sex_and_Natural_Law_Theory

      I'll download copies and put them on my google drive (linking to these at my blog) in case you don't want to make an Academia.edu account.

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  6. Hi, Miller.
    I see your comments on my post. I will want to continue the conversation just a little more, specifically as it relates to what is natural. Though, it will take me some time to write a further post. Over at my blog I will link to some relevant essays, however.

    I also will respond to any new points you raise in your comments here or over at my blog.

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  7. Hi, just a few remarks.
    "Also, the fact that there are homosexual humans certainly indicates that it can be a part of human nature - natural in the sense which you are employing the term."

    Not so. But this just shows that you're not understanding what I mean by natural. I've given some hint at it in my comments and posts, but have not described it systematically, so this err is somewhat understandable. I will adress it in a future post, however. In the mean time, just a few more remarks.

    "Marriage is not natural in both senses of the word. Civil marriage is entirely a human creation. Likewise, I think that most of us would say that biblical marriage is spiritual in nature."

    Concerning marriage, it behooves you to explain whether there are any objective (that is, not relative) marital norms, and then explain why these norms obtain and not others or none at all.

    "Hence, I would say that it is immaterial to our discussion that the benefits which I listed can be accomplished by other means. The fact that they can be accomplished through homosexual intimacy established that it constitutes a legitimate "bodily union" via the criteria which you and they have employed."

    But you're implicitly draining notions like immanent telology from at least my account if not also theirs. Hence you see "bodily union" when there is no such thing present in sodomy anymore than in picking someone else's nose.

    "I believe that nature, science, experience and human reasoning can also contribute to our understanding of God's will."

    Agreed, hence why I appeal to natural law theory and the metaphysics and ontology that make it intelligible.

    "While I feel no need to harmonize apparent contradictions or explain obvious errors, Jensen feels compelled to make it all work and deny that any errors exist."

    Concerning sexual ethics, I don't see any contradictions that need to be harmonized. One can make contradictions, but they are not really there.

    "These different attitudes toward Scripture impact almost every aspect of what both of us offer in the way of arguments for our respective positions."

    Maybe, but I would still think that homosexual acts are wrong even if I thought Christianity is false (at least if I remained a theist - if God doesn't exist, that is just to say that the Good does not exist, hence to say that there is no morality).

    When I get around to writing that most on what is natural (maybe two weeks), I'll come back and let you know.

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    1. Hello Jensen,

      Natural Law Theory is an amorphous collection of views that would be hard for anyone to clearly define. My responses heretofore have assumed that you believe that homosexuality is contrary to any legitimate rationale for explaining the nature of humans and the world in which they live. Perhaps I have misunderstood, and I look forward to your clarification. Are your views closer to those of Thomas Aquinas or some of the more modern proponents of the view? At any rate, I will await your explanation before saying anything more on the subject.

      I know that you don't see any contradictions regarding sexual contradiction in the Bible, but they glare at me. You obviously reject polyamory as a morally acceptable behavior for humans, but don't see any problems with what Scripture has to say on the subject? What about the strictures placed on human activities relative to bodily emissions? What about the strictures placed on women after childbirth relative to the gender of their baby? How do you explain all of that clean and unclean stuff relative to sexual intercourse? What about the biblical teachings on divorce? Personally, I don't see any way to harmonize the teachings of Moses, Jesus and Paul on the subject! What about the perspective of the Torah on female captives and women's sexual and marital rights in general (especially when compared to those given to men)?

      Your statement "if God doesn't exist, that is just to say that the Good does not exist, hence to say that there is no morality" is problematic. It contradicts your appeal to Natural Law. I know of some very moral atheists - some of them very good people. If morality has any basis in the nature of man and the world of which he is a part, then it must follow that atheists can be moral people.

      Finally, I am a Christian, and I believe that it is possible for homosexuals to live moral, Christian lives. Your statement that you would still think that homosexual acts were wrong even if you weren't a Christian is very revealing. That tells me that you are unalterably opposed to homosexuality, and that your opposition has little to do with religion or the Bible.

      At any rate, I look forward to YOUR views on Natural Law - the theory or theories within that umbrella which you subscribe to and appeal to for your arguments against the acceptance of homosexuality.

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  8. Marriage is a social construct. Of all animals humanoids take longest time to reach independence. Difficult for women to do this alone.

    Cobra poison is natural. To drink it would be lethal.

    As a kid I used to think homosexuality could not be "natural" since a consumed union would not produce survival of our species.

    Within the entire discussion above I missed one element.

    Let me explain. Somehow nature is able to produce in populations a 50-50 percent rate male - female. This rate only changes through war or disease.

    This implies to me that "nature" is not only concerned about INDIVIDUALS but more concerned about how POPULATIONS ensure the future and dissemination of information (that is DNA).

    This led me to conclude that "nature" might have a reason to "have homosexuals" included in populations not so much for INDIVIDUAL survival or dissemination of information (DNA) but for the purpose of POPULATIONS to survive.

    Therefore "the homosexual" in my thesis could be seen as an integral part of a social construct to ensure the future of the social construct and perhaps lesser purpose to procreate.

    Now what would that social purpose of homosexuals be???

    Purely speculating based on personal observation and without trying to generalise as Lonnie has warned me about. I do find that homesexuals at times go outside established boundaries or put it differently display artistic or creative talents of all sorts.

    I would not be surprised if many "male role models" in hollywood or other creative industry are in fact gay people. Many singer song writers are. I will not explain the use and importance of entertainment for a society to thrive.

    I would speculate that the early paintings in the grotto systems of Europe would be painted by "gay priests/shamans."

    It seems ancient humanoid men were hunting all the time and lived separately from the female camp. Perhaps they would leave some "men behind" for security or protection of the little humanoids, that they instinctively felt would not harm their wives and were in some way able to relate better to these strange female creatures than they, mighty hunters could.

    (In China the empress and household would be served by Eunuchs, so my reasoning is not far fetched at all.)

    I could list many more functions of gays acting as intermediaries between the female species and male species in order to have their social constructs work and function in extremely difficult times. Parties, feasts, or religious festivals could have certain people set apart who apparently were not in desperate need of female companions. Druids lived alone. Catholic priest occupation draws large percentages of gay men (although they would never admit or find out themselves enjoying a self made narrative that they have dedicated their lives to God)

    I feel gay people have distinct characteristics that could have a purpose for keeping societies as social constructs to have DNA procreate, lively and alive.

    All the rest is codification of that experience. So any fears in holy books on gays might be an expression of the objective observations that gays are more likely to not abide with the strictest of social constructs as men driven by testosteron have in their nature, that is to come up with all types of female unfriendly rulings, to have women cover themselves or be subordinate.

    My take!

    nck

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  9. I've finished my post - http://samsonspetlion.blogspot.com/2018/02/failure-to-bloom.html

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    Replies
    1. I've chosen to respond to you on your blog site.

      Delete