The Worldly System and the Mystery of Iniquity

EffectsUponTheUnbelievingWorld

Entire books could be written on what the Bible simply calls “the world”. This term, which dribbles from Christian tongues so readily, has a far deeper meaning than merely functioning as a label which can be stamped upon a list of evils. Depending on who you talk to, it seems nearly every Christian has their own personal collection of “worldly” evils, from tattoos to television.

But what the apostles mean when they speak of the world is something far more sinister. They speak of a system that has been established in opposition to God. The world consists of the political, social and economic structures within which we live. It is this system that allows some people to attain “power” over others, despite being no smarter, stronger, or more worthy than the men which they govern. It is the worldly system that allows, for example, the rotund dictator of North Korea to destroy other people’s lives in relative immunity from justice.

Neither is the world limited only to malevolent political systems. The idol of “democracy” is just as much part of the world as anything else, despite the efforts of some people to argue otherwise; usually when their politics have bled into their theology until it is impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

The world consists of attitudes, processes, behaviours, ambitions, habits of thinking, reasoning, and desires that are founded on unbelief and a lack of reverence for God. When a politician expounds some new theory of marriage, he or she is functioning as if God did not exist, and spreading ideas that run counter to God. When a person spends their money on pornography, the worldly system is granting them gratification for their evil desires, and they in turn reciprocate by loving and approving of that system in one aspect or another. That is how the world works. It provides the veins through which sin can flow.

When God placed man on the earth there were no cities, no governments, no technologies, nothing at all, save man and the creation. After mankind’s expulsion from Eden, human beings immediately went to work creating all of these things which, had righteousness been the rule of the day, could have been godly. But unbelief and sin was at work from the beginning. Cain, is the archetype. He goes out from the presence of the Lord and builds himself a city. And ever since, mankind in his hopelessly sinful state, has created “the world”, always and ever founded on unbelief.

The world is characterised in the Bible as a living, potent, toxic system. There is real power in unbelief. St. Paul even refers to the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thess 2:7). St. John tells us that the “whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). Holding sway over this vast web of human interactions is Satan himself, who Christ tells us is the father of lies. When he lies, he speaks his native language (John 8:44).

It is Satan’s supreme purpose to create an “anti-creation” in the form of “the world”. This anti-creation will run counter to God’s revealed will at every point, for it will be sin-soaked, nature-twisting, and perverted. It is Satan’s desire that this anti-creation will eventually become a hell on earth due to the prevalence of sin. As this happens, Satan intends to gloat as he watches human beings show preference for the earthen hell rather than the good creation of God’s righteous order.

The world is already full of Satan’s treasonous philosophy. Every social and moral revolution originates from Satan, who injects it into the worldly system and works tirelessly to have these ideas spread. The beliefs, values and ideas Satan spreads throughout the worldly system are always inimical to human flourishing. Sadly, humankind will always accept his ideas in their own pride and wickedness.

All of this explains why St. Paul can say that men will go from bad to worse as time continues. It is why we have just emerged from the bloodiest century in human history, where mankind discovered industrial means to murder people and developed weapons sufficient nearly to pulverise the life out of the planet. It further explains why St. John can say that the world is passing away; and why Christ says that the world loves darkness rather than light, for its deeds are evil.

Political Correctness: A Parallel Morality

MosesTablets

It is not possible to read the Bible for very long before one comes to realise that central to its message is the concept of law.

The Law of God enters very early into its pages. Before Moses brought the stone tablets down from Sinai in an awesome – even staggering – demonstration that God is the supreme legislator of the universe, there are hints of an inviolable moral construct. Joseph appeals to this, for instance, when resisting the advances of Potiphar’s wife.

Much of the Old Testament is an exploration of the splendours of God’s Law. The lengthy 119th psalm is an extended meditation on God’s law and the excellence of its precepts- those things that are moral, behaviourally, and spiritually “legal” are always beautiful, noble, and exalted. It is a moving psalm insofar as it reveals much about the author, a faithful priest whose life had not been a bed of roses, but who had discovered through it all that God’s Law was a bedrock foundation that even offered consolation.

Modern evangelism does not often present God’s Law in this light!

The New Testament does not hesitate to introduce us to Jesus of Nazareth, who is identified as the “Word made flesh“. In his own words, the Lord tells us that he did not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it. Christ, therefore, is the embodiment of God’s Law; the solitary perfect man who follows the Law when all around him are lawbreakers.

Later, St. Paul provides an infallible and inerrant interpretation of Christ’s life and ministry, explaining the interplay between Law and grace, and how it is now possible that lawbreakers can be spared the penalty of their spiritual criminality. St. Paul explains that these people who are now saved from the wrath of God the Final Judge, can be renewed in a divine rehabilitation that makes them desire to be true, upstanding citizens of the Kingdom, obedient to the King and to his righteousness.

From beginning to end, the scriptures are soaked with Law. Indeed, the Law of God is the earthly manifestation of God’s character and nature.

The concept of law itself, though pivotal in scripture, is not isolated to Christian societies. Law has emerged in all human societies in all places and at all times. Man may be a natural rebel against the laws of God and even the laws of man, but his own heart and mind bears the indelible imprint of his godly origin – the imago dei –  and so laws and rules flow out of his character nearly spontaneously. Man may lay in moral ruins, like a fallen castle, but the very ruins themselves bespeak of a time when he was erect and walked tall.

Even criminals operate according to codes, rules, and laws. The notorious Italian mafia – the cosa nostra – who have no respect for the laws of either God or man, and pillage and loot according to their whim, nonetheless enforce iron discipline upon each other. They mete out death penalties, tortures, and savage beatings for violating rules that they themselves have legislated.

In this we can see how the imago dei is inescapable, even in a group as revolting as the Mafia. Ironically, the Mafia’s existence is predicated upon rebellion, yet even they have found it necessary to establish laws in order to maintain cohesion within their rebellious group.

A natural capacity for law is expressed early in children. Though they quickly learn that rules often curtail exciting opportunities and tempting pleasures, children are natural lawmakers. Watch any group of children playing a game together, and it will not be long before one or other is appealing to rules, or making rules up, or arguing over the rules.

Neither is the law merely a matter of doing what works, although laws certainly serve the practical purpose of maintaining harmony within a collective of people. But there is a deeper, intangible moral universe underpinning laws that everyone is innately programmed to both understand and recognise. For instance, all people are able to identify laws that are actually forms of injustice – such as those that typically emanate from despots. No child needs to have “rules” and “laws” defined for him or her. They may need to be taught what the rules are for a particular place or situation, but they never need to be taught what rules are. This understanding is native, as it were, straight out of the box.

In our time – a time of universal moral chaos – our culture is in the process of supplanting God’s Law, hitherto communicated through scripture, nature and conscience, with a parallel law. It is manifested primarily in political correctness, and is every much a binding legal code. Sometimes it even has the force of parliamentary law behind it. Yet this new moral code of our times is a direct antithesis to the moral law given by God. It is a challenger to the throne of the Heavenly Legislator. Nearly at every point – in a manner that exceeded even a few ancient pagan societies – the new moral code contradicts God and his Law, which is maligned as bad, retrograde, and repressive.

A prominent example is sexuality. God’s law condemns all forms of sexual behaviour outside of a covenanted union between a man and his wife. But the new morality commands people to not only refrain “from judging” but to celebrate all the forms of sexual expression that carry God’s explicit censure. Thus, our times are marred by sexual abomination and purposeful gender confusion, and this in turn, inflicts great damage upon everything else. Or, take the laws pertaining to fidelity. God’s Law calls men to a life of worship of himself. But the new morality celebrates all religions, and claims some kind of validity for them all.

Movies and music are full of the new morality, with its debased language; its constant innuendos; its crass materialism; its coarse and guttural sensibilities. (No wonder historians in the past used to say that without marriage and all the attendant restraints on human appetites, civilisation is impossible.) It is seen in activist groups, like feminists who wish to impose a whole constellation of outlandish and ridiculous ideas upon the populace, and are halfway to succeeding. It is seen in the theory of climate change which, when taken to extremes, becomes an ideology in search of law.

It is everywhere around us, these new rules and sensibilities. Woe betide “offending” someone who is a member of a protected group of class! Woe to those who dare to speak plain truths into a world governed by this new parallel moral law (I had a comment erased from The Guardian some weeks ago because I had the temerity to point out the reality that homosexual unions are, by definition, sterile).

Yet even so, like the writer of Psalm 119, we can still take comfort from the Law of God. Its penalties as far as Christians are concerned have been lifted by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the work he has wrought on the cross. Whatever else may happen, we can stand on this expression of God’s character as a rock foundation. Forevermore it will be a “lamp for my feet and light to my path”, a sure anchor, worthy of our delight and meditation, and that which surely spells the way to a happy, fulfilled, and ultimately purposeful life.

moses-tablets

Bringing Alan Watts Back to Earth

Watts

Alan Watts was a religious everyman, the sort of religious person who is both bizarre and contemptible. No one likes a religious everyman, except other everymen. No true Christian feels any affinity for a man who takes a pinch of Christian theology and mixes it with a pinch of Buddhism and a punch of Hinduism. For their part, Buddhists and Hindus tend to be rather down on the freelance blending of their cherished traditions too.

Although ordained as an Anglican priest in 1945, Alan Watts was never a Christian in any meaningful confessional sense. His first love was always Buddhism and Eastern religion. After five years in the priesthood, an extramarital affair drove him to leave it. He became a wandering star among the firmament shared by 50’s, 60’s and 70’s new age spiritualists, effortlessly spewing forth the buzzwords of the day: “cosmic”, “mystic”, “nature”, “meaning”, “identity”, “psychotherapy” and so on.

Blending various religions together according to his own tastes, Watts created a philosophy that is humdrum and shopworn to anyone familiar with the contemporary New Age movement. There is nothing novel in Watts’ outlook. Nothing distinctive. It is only style that marks him out as different, not substance.

His was a philosophy that celebrated hedonism – good food, alcohol, parties, and sex – and like every other New Age teacher on the block, he taught people to believe that everything that seems real is not real. We are so deceived about the true essence of things, he reasoned, that we need to be shown the reality of our nature.

Watts’ taught that every person “is god” yet was secretly pretending not to be. But if we simply opened our eyes we would see how powerful and grand we all really are. Indeed, the entire universe is compressed into our tiny beings. Thus, life, he claimed, is the discovery of the “true self”. The “true self”, naturally, is always glorious, magnanimous, and free, and never wretched, evil, or in bondage to sin.

Looking inward to oneself in the effort to find a divine essence is a trait of all New Age thinking. It produces, in turn, prideful arrogance and a worldview that is unhinged from the requirement to be based on any objective deposit of reality. Listening to Watts gives one the distinct impression of standing next to quicksand and watching a man paddle across it on a log, making things up as he goes along.

For one after the other – now here! now there! – Watts makes bold assertions about life upon the basis of no authority other than himself. Then, to justify these, he selects convenient examples from nature, or daily life, or something he claimed to have seen. This constitutes the “evidence” for his views, but it is really such a flimsy, folksy approach, and so nakedly intellectually dishonest that only a person already halfway up New Age creek would find it at all compelling. Deeper scrutiny reveals that the foundation for his claims rests entirely on Watt’s own subjective, ever-moving opinion.

New Age teachers were buried by the hecatomb when the hippie movement ran out of steam and the young radicals started to settle into the conventional lives they had professed to despise. Alan Watts, too, would have disappeared into the fog of time like the overwhelming majority of his fellow gurus, except for three things.

Firstly, he was much given to having his monologues recorded, which had the attendant effect of prolonging his notoriety. Secondly, Watts was a skillful speaker; something that most people would be forced to acknowledge even if the actual content of his speeches were utter nonsense. And thirdly, Watts never missed the opportunity to tell people that they were amazingly powerful and could shape their realities to their will. The only reason they had failed to do so, he said, was because they had not realised that they were god after all. Start telling people that they are god with the power of the universe within them, and what do you know? They like it.

If only starving refugees and the victims of war could have experienced Alan Watts to breezing into the nearest town to let them know that they were actually god and had created their own realities, I’m sure they would feel as enlightened and liberated as Watts did, living out his final years on a serene houseboat and in a semi-intentional commune on Druid Heights. (The fatal flaw of the New Age religions is their incapacity to cope with the problem of evil. Theodicy is not merely the Achilles’ Heel of the New Age, but the inferno that consumes it and renders it mere ashes.)

Despite Watts lecturing to others about the secret of life, his own was astonishingly sordid. Three marriages, one ending through an extramarital affair, and another because after having started a family with one woman, he met another. Toward the end of his life, his friends worried about his excessive drinking. It seems probable that he became an alcoholic – or something dangerously close to it. And alcoholism does not exactly sell the idea of a glorious, successful, radiant, god-shaping-self, type life. Well might we say, “Physician, heal thyself“.

The following clip shows Alan Watts at his finest, mixing logical categories and getting stuck on words, projecting his own subjective experiences out to humanity in general and turning them into law, and drawing from this or that anecdote as if it somehow makes the case for the otherwise incoherent nonsense being spouted.

It is difficult to rebut, not because there is so much robust and logical substance, but because there is scarcely any substance at all. Skip to 4:08 to see a classic example.

Evolution: Sophisticated Magic

magic

An old article appeared in a newsfeed sidebar last week that caught my attention. It was about human hair, a topic that is addressed on nearly every news website. Usually in kitschy, tabloid articles that pad out the political news.

This article responded to a question: “From an evolutionary standpoint, why is it beneficial for men to have facial and chest hair?”

The question, of course, presupposes 1.) that evolution is true, and 2.) that evolutionary theory tells us something meaningful about male hair. I would dispute the first premise. There is abundant testimony in the natural world that it has been carefully formed by our Creator.

Yet even if a person accepts evolutionary theory, exactly how are scientists to derive objective, useful, provable information about why men have chest and facial hair? Where might scientists go and what evidence might they look at to derive insight into a abstract process that allegedly took millions of years, and was unfocused, undirected, and completely mindless? Evolution is not, after all, a person. It does not have the properties of personality. It does not set out with a specific purpose in its “mind” to shape organisms in a general direction until they reach a targeted end-point.

Yet whenever evolution is spoken of – even in this case by a professor of zoology – it is nearly always in terms that attribute personhood to the process. It is nearly impossible for evolutionists to speak of evolution without implying it had a mind and purpose of its own. A creative force can never be a mindless force. And since evolution is regarded as a creative force, usurping the place of God, it cannot be spoken of for long without giving it a mind. Take the following example:

But evolution is usually pretty prompt at getting rid of features we don’t need, says Gibbins, so the reason men still have facial and chest hair is more likely due to sexual selection.

The article goes on to give the professors answer to the question. Note that the professor appeals to no objective, concrete evidence at all. The answer is a story. The professor uses the ubiquitous evolutionary narrative-technique which draws everything back to sexuality and natural selection. It is a technique that is easy to master with a bit of effort. All that is required is a little imagination.

First, the professor sets the stage by pointing back to a mythical ancient time – a time long, long ago, too far removed for anyone to prove anything one way or another with any certainty. There is no data about this time, but that is irrelevant because there are all kinds of hidden clues in the human body. The human body is regarded as the equivalent of archaeological source material:

In fact, Gibbins suspects it wasn’t that long ago that we sported a pretty impressive fur coat of our own. The evidence for this comes from goosebumps.

The professor explains that these ancient humans needed to make an impressive show to “get ahead of the pack”. The article then interjects: “Basically if you’re a very hairy man and hairy men are in, you get the girls“, which is so basic that its fundamental irrationality could evade the casual reader.

It is irrational because the inverse is manifestly untrue: “Basically if you’re not a very hairy man, and not very hairy men are in, you get the girls“. We should anticipate then that all relatively hairless men will have no difficulty whatever in finding partners in the modern world, since women are simple creatures and look at nothing else but the hirsuteness of their match. But we know that is not true. Entire populations of people are not motivated, even in their sexuality, by one, simple common feature. Even animals do not select their mates because of eye size alone or the length of their hair, or whatever.

The professor explains that our piloerection system (e.g. goosebumps) would fluff up a more hairy person so that they would look bigger and more impressive. But alas, our thick hair has gone and now all we get is the gooseflesh.

Yet earlier in the article, the professor explained that evolution is prompt at getting rid of features we do not need. Despite evolution’s famous home economy, our goosebumps reflex has survived despite all the hair they once operated going missing from the human body. The professor explains this away by suggesting that our hair has only “recently” been lost in our evolutionary history, and the goosebumps reflex still has not caught up.

It does not take a great deal of scepticism to see how bereft this explanation is. It is a fallacious begging of the question coupled with circular reasoning. The professor assumes from the outset that goosebumps are evolutionary leftovers that “originally” moved hair around. He assumes that human beings were once exceptionally hairy beings. Having made these assumptions, he strings together all the “evidence” and poof, bingle, bangle! An evolutionary answer is born.

The closest the professor gets to actually addressing the question in evolutionary terms, is to tell us that an assumed process was already underway. Why this should be so, we are never told:

At some stage while we were losing our excess body hair either women found hairy men more attractive, or men preferred non-hairy women.

So, there you go. It just is. And as all this “excess” hair (note again, the presumption is always that evolution is moving toward a targeted endpoint) was flying off the human body generation after generation, somehow ideas of attractiveness shifted as well. We are not told how. We are not told why. It just is. Somehow, amidst  a population of humans with a gorilla-like appearance, men started to find less hairy women attractive, or women found hairy men attractive. Why? How? It just is.

Hair growth and size is modulated by hormones, in particular androgens like testosterone, which kick in during puberty. As men generally have higher levels of testosterone than women they tend to have more terminal hair. Testosterone also increases the size of hair follicles on men’s faces at puberty so that they begin to grow visible beards.

Then we are then told that there are complex biochemical processes that govern the differences in human hair between men and women. Hormonal differences at puberty lead to differences in hair thickness and prevalence. So, which came first? Ultimately all evolutionary narratives devolve into chicken-and-egg scenarios, or hopeless circularity.

Did men start to find less-hairy women attractive first, and then the biochemical complexes of their bodies followed suit? Or did the biochemical complexes begin to change first, leading to women with less-hair and thus allowing for men to find them more attractive? Where did the variation come from to start this process? How do you tell the difference between a hairy and less-hairy gorilla? After all, women at some point must have been walking rug carpets too. Maybe there was intense competitive squabbling between males over the occasional near-bald specimen.

The fact that such complex processes govern hair formation suggest quite the inverse of the professor’s claims. It suggests that the differences between the genders are ancient, not recent. Indeed, our bodies would function very poorly with a heavy coat of fur or hair. The scenario works only if a person re-imagines human beings as apes, and then applies simian biological logic to the imaginary construction.

In the end, the professor’s answer is simplistic – despite its pretences to be more, with its clever erudition – and does not answer the question because it cannot. The professor’s answer is merely a sophisticated magic spell, an eminent foolishness. It denies the Creator of all life, and is an assault on His wisdom.

Christ’s Return: Not with Signs, but Sudden and Unannounced

ten

A grave misreading of Matthew 24 leads people to imagine that Christ’s return will be accompanied by remarkable signs and wonders.

Jesus’ well-known discourse actually addresses several questions, and much of what he says regarding the destruction of the Temple has erroneously found its way into the apocalyptic thinking of many religious groups.

One of the most interesting aspect of Jesus’ discourse is that his summation of history is void of anything remarkable. There will be wars, says Jesus, and rumours of wars. Persecutions. People falling away from the Faith. Anyone familiar with human history knows that this has characterised life for the last 2,000 years, and shows no signs of abating for the foreseeable future. Thus, our Lord sees human history as a writhing serpent, never still, its upheavals and convulsions never ending.

Contrary to the apocalyptic view that jumps at “signs” or the charismatics that see apocalypse in their morning cornflakes, Jesus teaches the inverse. There is absolutely no doubt about this at all because it is something that is belaboured in the text not only at the end of Matthew 24 but also in the parables of Matthew 25.

His return will be like a “thief in the night”. Just as a thief does not herald his coming with fireworks, neither will the Son of Man herald his coming with signs. It will be like the Flood, Jesus explains. In this example, Christ emphasises not the wickedness of Noah’s generation, but the suddenness and unexpected nature of Judgement Day that swept them all away.

They were eating and drinking – having breakfast; taking a snack; sitting down to lunch – and they were marrying and giving in marriage, right up to the day Noah entered the ark. In other words, the day of Deluge was also some young woman’s “special day”. It was the day some young man somewhere had wedding jitters and was reassured by his friends.

Thus, our Lord emphasises the mundane, ordinariness of human life right up to the final hour. He illustrates his teaching with reference to life’s daily humdrum necessities and the impulse toward family life. Judgement Day, Jesus points out, was an ordinary day. At least, it began as an ordinary day.

The fundamental point made by the text is sombre: the day and hour are unknown, and because this is true, many will be unprepared. This was so for the five foolish virgins who were not ready when the bridegroom arrived at midnight. They were found on the wrong side of a closed door, a common theme in Jesus’ teaching. As they hammer on the door asking for admission, the bridegroom makes a critical statement: “I tell you the truth, I do not know who you are.”

foolish

If we read at a deeper doctrinal level, we can see that this, then, was the problem of the foolish all along. They claimed to know the bridegroom, but he did not know them. And that is why they were foolish. That is why they had no surplus oil, and why they were unprepared, and why they ultimately were shut out. It wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t an error. The bridegroom was not being peevish and unreasonable. It was because they really were not friends of the bridegroom at all, but mere impostors trying to gain access to a wedding that they were not really entitled to be at.

Those who do not know Christ – authentically and palpably – will never be ready to meet their Maker. In the parable, the bridegroom could have come at 1:00 am, or 2:00 am, or even the next night. It would have made no difference to the outcome. The foolish would still have been unprepared. They still would have lacked oil. They still would not have sought the essential resource from the sellers.

The spiritual lesson is simple: those who do not really, properly know Christ – and most vitally, are known by him – will never be ready for his return. They could live until they are 80 or 180, and it would make no difference. For fools are always in the business of “getting ready”, but are they never truly and properly “ready”. They are not watching, waiting and hoping.

No wonder Jesus says to be watchful. For the bridegroom could return at any moment. It could even be tonight.

entering

4 Arguments Against Same-Sex Marriage

200342073-001

This week I came across a comment under an item in The Spectator in which a young man declared that he had never read an argument against same-sex marriage.

I believe him. Although the media refers to a “same-sex marriage debate” no such debate has happened. Serious scholars and intellectuals that oppose same-sex marriage (and there are many) have hardly been given equal airtime compared to advocates. In fact, in my country, the state sponsored media usually find a token bigot to speak against same-sex marriage, typically a middle-aged redneck. In contrast, the same-sex marriage position is advanced by attractive, educated and erudite people.

It is the oldest trick in the book. At risk of committing a reductio ad Hitlerum, Streicher was a master at portraying all Jews as fat, sly, big nosed, sleazy and dirty. He understood that associations can be learned. The terminally uncritical people that comprise our society are exactly the sort of person most easily manipulated by such presentation.

The arguments for same-sex marriage are weak. They can be exploded with very little imagination or effort. The arguments  made on its behalf are mostly appeals to emotion, and to consensus. Since movie stars and rock singers have made this their cause célèbre, it naturally follows that anyone who is enlightened and sophisticated will also embrace the position. Sometimes their arguments go to tragic extremes. Same-sex marriage is frequently equated to the liberation of slaves or giving the franchise to women.

But, people sometimes ask, what arguments are there against same-sex marriage?

Arguments against something require more effort and energy than peppy slogans – “Love is love!”. They require people to listen for longer than the 15 second attention span that news companies assume of their audiences. Worse, arguing against same-sex marriage is a form of opposition to a popular revolution. Like all revolutions, same-sex marriage is driven by grievances, resentments, fears, and the thrill of “freedom” and removal of restraint. All revolutionaries have enjoyed this mixture of controlled anarchy. The untying of old restraints while paradoxically exerting power to forge new ones.

Nonetheless, here I present a number of arguments that I believe are serious responses to the arguments of same-sex marriage advocates. They are not enumerated according to strength or importance and there is more arguments I could have included.

#1. Same-sex marriage deviates from history

Throughout history there is no evidence anywhere that any human culture ever practised same-sex marriage as a valid institution. Conversely, the humanity of the whole world – in places both remote and populated; in deep jungles and tropical islands as well as urban centres – have all developed a concept of marriage reflecting natural law.

Some cultures have demonstrated little technological development, such as the Australian Aboriginal culture, but nonetheless developed complex kinship laws across a staggering range of tribes and languages. It is a remarkable cultural achievement for an oral society, and indicates the historic importance human experience has always attributed to pairing, children, and the orderly management of relationships.

Marriage has obviously differed in different places and times. Some societies have practised the taking of multiple wives by a man. In more rare circumstances, (and always under economic and environmental pressures), some societies have allowed polyandry, where multiple men are married to one woman. This is usually intended to prevent the breakup of a small parcel of land to the new families that would result from normative monogamous marriages. Other societies have permitted concubinage.

Obviously these are sub-optimal forms of marriage, but the one thing that marks them all, is that they follow the natural law: men marry women; women marry men

A culture must greatly despise history and the wisdom of their forebears to lightly brush such a brute fact aside. Humanity, in all of its varied cultural experiences over many millennia has found that marriage is a form of union that exists between men and women.

In all cultures, its principal object concerns the succeeding generation, and its secondary effect is to create harmony and stability within societies and between families. Indeed, even something as alien as polyandry exists primarily as a social remedy to stabilise a family’s future.

Some historians have gone to great lengths to try to challenge this reality. Their arguments end up being perverse. They refer to Nero, a moral exemplar to be sure, “marrying” a boy he castrated who was meant to take the place of a teenage girl he had killed. Alternatively, they reference the various satiric references to “marriage” between homosexual men in ancient Rome. Yet, these “marriages” never had the force of law, and activist historians seem strangely averse to discussing the attendant, virulent, and disgusting pederastic culture of both ancient Rome and ancient Greece.

Ancient Rome practised sexual anarchy and perversion on a scale that even same-sex advocates do not approach. The consequences were grotesque. The abuse and misuse of slaves, children, women, and even criminals was utterly deplorable. To use such a society as a justification, or even as a model, for what marriage ought to be is deranged.

When something has no historical warrant, this must raise important questions. Chief among them would be: why have societies never done this before?

#2. Same-sex marriage is sterile, destroys family and genetic trees, and turns children into products

In same-sex marriages the natural issue of children is an impossibility.

Two men, or two women, who are exclusive to their sexual partner, and who claim to have no orientation or desire for the opposite gender, are sterile. By definition. Their relationship cannot yield children. It is an infertile coupling.

The only way they can have children is with the help of a male donor (for lesbians) or the hire of a female womb and egg (by gay men). In both cases, the child becomes a transferable product who must be separated from a biological parent. This represents one of the cruellest consequences of same-sex marriage ideology. By design – not by natural accident or due to a physical disorder – but by design, a child is removed from one of their own parents.

They are then placed in a situation where they are told they have “two daddies” or “two mummies”. A child does not need to be very old before they realise this is an impossibility. Thus, one of their “daddies” or “mummies” will have a primacy the other does not, because one – and only one – actually contributed the genetic material that has been subsumed into the physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological complex of the new human person. The children can see a biological similarity to themselves in only one parent. Never in the other.

When this happens in a heterosexual situation – whenever children are not raised by their biological parents – we regard it as tragic.

Single mothers who bear children to multiple fathers are regarded with contempt, even by a morally degraded society. It is understood even within the social sciences as a sub-optimal arrangement.  Adoption exists as a result of trauma and tragedy, for no child is given up for adoption unless one of these things has occurred. Blended families, with “steps” are always the result of divorce or the death of a previous partner, and therefore involve heartbreak for the children as well as parents. Even infertile partners who cannot conceive and seek surrogate wombs or laboratory assistance are regarded with pity and compassion. They are fortunately in the minority among heterosexual relationships.

Note that what is regarded as tragic, aberrant, sad, or dysfunctional in heterosexual unions, is the normative course for homosexual ones. Homosexual relationships can only “bear children” through the routes and avenues that are seen as lamentable in heterosexual relationships.

There will be long-term consequences for this because it causes the concept of the family tree to disintegrate, and makes kin relationships between people utterly arbitrary. For instance, how many grandparents does a child raised by gay men actually have? Does the child have four, or six? Do the parents of the surrogate mother count as true grandparents? What about the parents of the sperm donor? Is it possible for a situation to arise in a society where people who are directly genetically related to another person may not be identified or acknowledged as a relation? And what of uncles and aunts? Cousins and nieces? What about inheritance? What of the children whose biological grandparents of the biological parent they never saw, decease and leave a legacy?

The concept of family as a kinship network with intricate economic, genetic, and relational linkages ceases to exist. This has severe ramifications for children who may develop medical conditions that require knowledge of kinship. I expect to see, in the future, adults raised by same-sex couples seeking for genetic relations to provide compatible organ donors, or trying to find whether particular medical conditions run in the family. To do this they would be forced to rely on natural law after all, because the construction of a true family tree always reflects the biological realities of nature. Same-sex marriage pretends that biological realities are non-existent. It transposes an invented family tree.

For those who object that all of these problems could exist in “messy” heterosexual families, I would agree. Adopted children may find it just as hard to seek out a medical history. The children of a mother whose relationships are transitory may never know who their father or grandparents really are. The key difference, however, is that when these situations arise in heterosexual relationships, it is either unavoidable or the result of clearly identified moral and relationship irresponsibility. When it happens in same-sex partnerships, it is by design. It is on purpose.

#3. The philosophy that allows same-sex marriage must logically allow everything else

Slippery slope fallacy,” shout same-sex marriage activists dismissively, “next you will be telling us that same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy!

This is to misunderstand the slippery slope fallacy – and the fact that slippery slope arguments are not always fallacious; after all, if you are standing on the very edge of a real slippery slope and someone pushes you over, the resulting puree of human remains was definitely foreseeable in advance.

Moreover, this dismissive charge is to be ignorant of history. Twenty years ago we were told that civil partnerships between same-sex partners was the simple granting of property rights to a disenfranchised group: “After all, it’s not as though they are going to be getting married in churches!” At the time, there were indeed people who saw the logical and necessary translation of civil partnerships into marriage. They were derided for mounting slippery slope arguments. Yet their argument has proven precisely prescient, which means that this is not a fallacy.

I have tirelessly attempted to explain to same-sex marriage advocates that a slippery slope fallacy (as distinguished from argument) is an attempt to prove that something will inevitably follow something else without establishing strong causal links (X = Y = Z). For instance, as I read in the Guardian this morning, it was opined that electing Trump as President means the United States is now going to become worse than North Korea. This is a slippery slope fallacy. There is no warrant given at all to why one event must inevitably lead to another.

To return to the argument. The philosophy that drives same-sex marriage effectively dissolves marriage as a meaningful institution, at least, it does if the philosophy is consistently applied. I suspect, however, that it will be only arbitrarily applied for the time being.

If there is nothing special about the gender of people being married, then why is there something special about the number two? If gender must be eliminated from the definition of marriage to include homosexuals, why do homosexual desires get preference over polygamist desires? Or close-kin desires?

Surely this is both arbitrary and discriminatory. After all, if love is love, then Mormon fundamentalists and Muslims in loving, traditional, Islamic-approved plural marriages should be able to access the institution as well. Why should their love be less honoured and less validated than the love of homosexual people?

It’s a matter of rights. Polygamists have been discriminated against, persecuted, and even killed – as in Utah during the early years of the Mormon sect. Yet polygamy has a rich history, and is even entwined into the religion of 1.6 billion people. Don’t these people have rights too? Don’t they deserve marriage equality?

Here we see that the very same arguments for same-sex marriage apply equally to virtually any coupling, relational model, or sexual orientation imaginable. This is an indisputable philosophic fact, and represents the most powerful answer to same-sex marriage opponents. After debating this issue intensely for a long time, I have never received a single meaningful answer to this conundrum, although I have received some spectacularly angry and hostile responses that have verged on tantrums.

Same-sex marriage is entirely predicated on a concept of individual rights, and the unproven assumption that homosexual people are “born that way” and would be otherwise denied love and family. It is a matter of fairness, we are told. It is a matter of civil liberties. It is a matter of including a marginalised portion of the society.

But polygamists and every other off-the-beaten-path sexual group similarly claim to have orientations as well. It is natural for them, they say. These people claim that as they are in loving, voluntary relationships they cannot understand what threat it poses to society for them to be married as well. Indeed, there is a sizeable polygamist community where women enunciate the benefits of their relationship with every bit as much passion as that of homosexual activists.

If “love is love“, and there is no material or substantive difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals – if it is all a matter of rights, freedoms and individual liberties – then there is no foundation for stopping the marriage train at some arbitrarily decided point.

Think about it for a moment. Under the philosophic framework that advances same-sex marriage, what possible valid arguments exist against, say, polygamy, or step-sisters and step-brothers marrying? Why do the arguments of homosexual activists not apply to these situations at well? What possible valid argument under this framework can be given so as not to extend marriage to polygamists, for instance?

Ironically the only way to stop the envelope expanding is for same-sex marriage advocates to appeal to the arguments made by true marriage proponents, the very same arguments that they claim to have invalidated. Needless to say, if you a forced to contort in such intellectual gyrations, the basic irrationality of the position is clearly revealed.

#4. The unhappiness of children of same-sex partners

There is no equivalent to be found among children of heterosexual parents. In recent years, children of same-sex partners have actively opposed same-sex marriage. As the children of same-sex partners increasingly grow to adulthood, I suspect we shall see more of this.

These children – now grown up – have sought to participate in same-sex marriage debates (in opposition), and have written open letters. Articles have been published.

While often acknowledging that they were raised lovingly by same-sex partners, these children often feel an inexpressible sense of sorrow and emptiness. Maturity leads them to conclude that it was being deprived of one of their biological parents. They talk of longing for a mother who understood their trials as they grew up, or wishing for a father to lead them into manhood.

One of these children, a woman by the name of Heather Barwick, wrote the following for The Federalist. It is a typical example:

Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.

Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter. That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.

I grew up surrounded by women who said they didn’t need or want a man. Yet, as a little girl, I so desperately wanted a daddy. It is a strange and confusing thing to walk around with this deep-down unquenchable ache for a father, for a man, in a community that says that men are unnecessary. There were times I felt so angry with my dad for not being there for me, and then times I felt angry with myself for even wanting a father to begin with. There are parts of me that still grieve over that loss today.

She goes on to explain that many grown-up children of same-sex marriages feel like they cannot be honest. Children of divorced parents, she says, have the freedom to express the unhappiness they felt with their situation but not children raised in same-sex marriages.

Some might argue that children of heterosexual marriages could say the same things if they were adopted or if there was a divorce and they were deprived in some way. I would respond that the objection itself is a false equivalence.

It’s a false equivalence for this reason:

Many of the people “going public” with their concerns were raised by same-sex partners in a loving, social, supportive and functional environments (functional in the sense of an absence of neglect, abuse, or poverty). Yet, as adults they have written open letters and articles like the one above.

But, how many times do you find the inverse? How often do children of functional, loving, supportive heterosexual marriages write articles and open letters in which they express a sense of loss or sadness as a result of being raised by two parents of opposite genders? You do not find children of happy heterosexual marriages actively opposed to heterosexual marriage. In fact, they are more likely to value marriage, not fight against it.

The best homosexual marriages raise children who often express sorrow at missing out on one of their biological parents. The best heterosexual marriages do not.

This suggests – all other things being equal – that children of homosexual partners are expressing concerns that need to be taken seriously. They feel deprived. Not deprived of love; or stability; or money; or peace; or support. Deprived of gender. In particular, deprived of the gender of one of their biological parents.

This suggests that the gender of parents is not irrelevant and not insignificant, at least not for many of the children of same-sex partners. In turn, this calls into question the bedrock of same-sex marriage philosophy which uses the Beatles’ Argument(TM), that all a child needs is love. Love, is all it needs. And if it gets love, then it does not really matter if they are raised by a village, or two dads, or two mums. If they are loved, nurtured and nourished then they will thrive and grow up to be happy adults.

Countless anecdotes from real children raised in same-sex marriages or partnerships renders this claim false. And we know that the plural of anecdotes is data.

Almost Persuaded: Almost, but Lost

ap

The hymn Almost Persuaded has a distinguished history in evangelicalism. Its key refrain is derived from the Authorised Version’s (KJV) wording of Acts 26:28:

“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

Before analysing the history of the hymn in more depth, we must recognise that the Authorised Version gives an inaccurate representation of what Agrippa says to St. Paul. Commentaries have long noted that the wording of the Authorised Version is misleading.

Charles J. Ellicott, Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol, wrote in his 1878 commentary:

At the cost of giving up a familiar and impressive text, it must be admitted that the Greek words cannot possibly bear the meaning which is thus put upon them. The words run literally, in, or with, a little thou persuadest me; and this may be completed by, “with little speech,” “with little labour,” or “little evidence.” So in Ephesians 3:3 we have precisely the same phrase rendered “in few words.”

Agrippa’s words, accordingly, are the expression, not of a half-belief, but of a cynical sneer. Thou art trying to make a Christian of me with very few words, on very slender grounds, would be the nearest paraphrase of his derisive answer to St. Paul’s appeal. 

The Scottish Baptist preacher and Greek scholar, Alexander Maclaren, wrote in his own commentary:

They are very familiar words, and they have been made the basis of a great many sermons upon being all but persuaded to accept of Christ as Saviour. But, edifying as such a use of them is, it can scarcely be sustained by their actual meaning. Most commentators are agreed that our Authorised Version does not represent either Agrippa’s words or his tone. He was not speaking in earnest. His words are sarcasm, not a half melting into conviction, and the Revised Version gives what may, on the whole, be accepted as being a truer representation of their intention when it reads, ‘With but little persuasion thou wouldst fain make me a Christian.’

Modern translations show the nuances of the statement better:

(NIV) Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

(NLT) Agrippa interrupted him. “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?”

(ESV) And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”

(HCSB) Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you going to persuade me to become a Christian so easily?”

Whatever the inaccuracies of the AV’s translation, this hymn has had a powerful effect on many congregations. Sources indicate that when sung after a sermon, it had the capacity to reduce thousands of people to deathly silence, or else tears:

One of the most impressive occasions on which this hymn was sung was in the Agricultural Hall in London, in 1874, when Mr. Gladstone was present. At the close of his sermon Mr. Moody asked the congregation to bow their heads, while I sang “Almost Persuaded”. The stillness of death prevailed throughout the audience of over fifteen thousand, as souls were making their decisions for Christ.

“While engaged in evangelistic work in western Pennsylvania,” writes the Rev. A. J. Furman, “I saw the people deeply moved by singing. I had begun my preparation to preach in the evening, from the text, ‘Almost thou persuaded me to be a Christian,’ when it occurred to me that if Mrs. B-, an estimable Christian and a most excellent singer, would sing, ‘Almost Persuaded’ as a solo, great good might be done.

At once I left the room and called on the lady, who consented to sing as requested. When I had finished my sermon, she sang the song with wonderful pathos and power. It moved many to tears. Among them was the principal of the high school who could not resist the appeal through that song. He and several others found the Pearl of Great Price before the next day. After the close of the sermon, I spoke to Mrs. B about the effect of her singing, and she told me that she had been praying earnestly all that afternoon, that she might so sing as to win sinners for her Saviour that night, and her prayers were surely answered.”

A couple of observations. First, these sources describe a palpable tension among 19th century congregants. The gospel message they were hearing was clearly presented to them as being supremely serious and important. A decision to repent and believe in Christ was demanded and none of them walked away from the service with any illusions that a half-baked confession was going to suffice.

So powerfully was this impressed upon people, that a sad story serves to illustrate just how important the moment of decision was preached.

(Please note: the following story bears the imprint of “cautionary tales of dubious authenticity” that have tended to be common in Christian “preaching lore”. Obviously it is impossible to verify the particulars of this story since no names or specific details are mentioned other than a certain Reverend Young (who could be anybody!). The story, in my opinion, is probably inauthentic since it does not pass the credibility test.

But, the fact that these stories were in circulation at all, and no doubt proclaimed from the pulpit, tell us something about how people saw faith in Christ. It was desperately urgent! Time was of the essence! Delay was foolish and hazardous!)

Said a young man to the Rev. Mr. Young: “I intend to become a Christian some time, but not now. Don’t trouble yourself about me. I’ll tend to it in good time.”

A few weeks after, the man was injured in a saw-mill, and, as he lay dying, Mr. Young was called to him. He found him in despair, saying: “Leave me alone. At your meeting I was almost persuaded, but I would not yield, and now it is too late. Oh, get my wife, my sisters and my brothers to seek God, and do it now, but leave me alone, for I am lost.”

Within an hour he passed away, with these words on his lips, “I am lost, I am lost, just because I would not yield when I was almost persuaded”.

The essence of the story should not fail to make its impression upon us, even if it is not historically true. There is nothing more bitter, nothing more terrible than “to be lost”.

The hymn was written by Philip Paul Bliss. The inspiration was a severe warning he heard at the close of a sermon:

He who is almost persuaded is almost saved, and to be almost saved is to be entirely lost,” were the words with which the Rev. Mr. Brundage ended one of his sermons.

P. P. Bliss, who was in the audience, was much impressed with the thought, and immediately set about the composition of what proved to be one of his most popular songs.

Philip Bliss’s life was cut short five years after this hymn was composed. Both Bliss and his wife were involved in a train wreck. Philip Bliss survived the wreck, but turned back and braved the flames to rescue his wife. Subsequently, both were killed.

Although Philip Bliss died at the age of 38, his life bears the imprint of one who was busy using his talents while he could. He composed 132 hymns, about 38 hymn tunes, and published 6 volumes of hymns, roughly one for each of the years proceeding his death. If only Christians were as active in the world today.

According to one source, he was living the light of eternity, right up to the point of his death:

The night before that terrible railroad accident at Ashtabula… he said to his audience, “I may not pass this way again”. 

Then he sang a solo, I’m Going Home Tomorrow. This indeed proved prophetic of his own home going.

In the past, Christians were much more mindful of the fragility of life in a way that has increasingly become a struggle in our scientifically successful, entertainment saturated, our-best-life-now oriented society.

In the past, people learned to “number their days aright”, make certain their were “fully persuaded”, and took eternity very seriously. They applied their hearts unto wisdom.