Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Consequences of Legalizing Same-Sex 'Marriage'

Marriage has always been a union of a man and a
woman, and it is simply not possible to foresee the
consequences of tampering with such an ancient
and enduring institution.
The most significant ramifications of the Supreme Court opening the door for the federal definition of marriage to be changed would probably be long-term and should be measured in terms of centuries not years. It is simply not possible to foresee all the long-term consequences that could arise from tampering with such an ancient and enduring institution as marriage.

One possible consequence that could come fairly quickly, however, in the area of paedophilia. A California Bill was recently put forward to prohibit giving a minor therapy to change his or her sexual orientation, even if the minor requests it. Republicans wanted to add an amendment specifying that, “pedophilia is not covered as an orientation” but Democrats defeated the amendment. Rep. Alcee Hastings justified this by saying that all sexual lifestyles should be protected under the Bill. (Read more about this in the article 'Pedophilia Is A Sexual Orientation Under CA Bill?')

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Arian Heresy

The heresy of Arianism arose when a pastor from Libya named Arius (250–336) opposed the Orthodox idea that Jesus is co-eternal with the Father. In my article 'The Tenacity of Saint Athanasius,' I suggest that this heresy was attractive because it made the Christian message more politically correct. 

Like modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses, Arius argued that if Jesus was God’ son, then by definition he must have had a beginning to his existence and could not also be eternal God. Arius gathered a following of other pastors who walked around chanting, “There was a time when he was not, there was a time when he was not,” indicating their belief that Jesus was a creature with a beginning rather than the eternal Son of God.

The reason this heresy was appealing is because for hundreds of years Mediterranean culture had revolved around the worship of the emperor and various other demigods. If Jesus was simply a great man or angel, then serving Him was compatible with the worship of these other deities. Arianism was thus found to be highly attractive to those in positions of power.

Further Reading

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Normalcy Fields and Homosexual Acceptance

In an article I did for Christian Voice last month titled 'Normalizing Perversion', I suggested that the behind all the ostensible aims of those championing same-sex 'marriage' is the more basic goal of normalizing homosexual activity. In this post I want to explore the psychological dynamics that need to be in place in order for something unprecedented like same-sex 'marriage' to achieve widespread acceptance.

In earlier articles I have used neuroscience to explain how errors and perversions become accepted through the plasticity of our brain structures. (For example, see my articles ‘Sex and the Kiddies’ and ‘The Neuro Transformers’.) But it is also possible to understand the process of normalization through parallels with the way technologies reach us.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Debate Rubric

I'm a busy person. In fact, I'm a really busy person. Yet still, I try to defend the things I write. I try to interact with my readers and field objections. 

When my articles are syndicated to my Facebook page, people often have questions to ask and often want to point out real or perceived flaws in my argumentation. I usually try to set aside time to respond to my interlocutors and defend my articles.

Invariably, however, I find that these discussions usually proceed in a maddeningly unsystematic manner. Moreover, I often find that my opponents will use rhetoric instead of cogent reasoning, and I end up having to teach basic Logic 101 to people who are not even interested in learning. The busier I get, the less time I have for these types of unstructured discussions, and the result is that some of my readers have got angry at me for not being more willing to come to the defense of my articles.

I have thus created a very structured rubric for those who wish to engage in public debate with me. Using this rubric, I am willing to defend anything I have written. The rubric is for a written debate (only because I don't have the equiptment for an audio debate) and can be conducted over any IM software like Skype of Facebook. Here it is:

Resolution (example): "Should government legalize same-sex marriage?"

Opening Statements

The Negative has up to 600 words to state his case
The Affirmative has up to 600 words to state his case
.
Cross-Examination
.
Affirmative can ask Negative 10 questions. The questions must not exceed 40 words. After each question the Negative is allowed to answer in 50 words or less, unless permission is granted to him by the other side to exceed this limit.
.
Negative can ask Affirmative 10 questions. Same rules
 .
Rebuttals
.
The Negative has 300 words to refute the Affirmative’s opening case
The Affirmative has 300 words to refute the Negatives opening case
 .
Concluding Remarks
.
The Affirmative has up to 600 words to conclude his case
The Negative has up to 600 words to conclude his case


Additional Rules

After the debate, both sides are free to publish it whenever and wherever they want, provided it is published in full. The exception to this is if the word count has been exceeded in situations not authorized by the opposition, in which case either party is free to edit the other person's words to fit the word count. If either side drops out in the middle of the debate (as defined by at least a week’s hiatus in submitting a reply), then either party is free to treat the incomplete debate as finished and to publish it.

The debate will be moderated by Robin under a seperate name, but the involvement of this moderator will remain neutral and will be limited to enforcing the structure of the debate, such as making comments like, "It is now the Negative's turn to enter into cross-examination," etc.

During any point of the debate, the word count may be exceeded by 200 words for either side to explain a rule of logic provided that such an explanation is generic and does not mention anything pertaining specifically to the topic of the debate.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hell and Beyond Interview and Discussion, part 2


Below is the second segment of the interview I did with my dad on his new e-book Hell and Beyond.  For background about the book and this interview, see my earlier post 'Introducing Hell and Beyond.' To read all the interview segments that have been published so far, click here.

As I said before, one of the original purposes of this interview was to generate a lot of discussion. If you would like to contribute your own thoughts to these questions, use the Facebook links at the end of this segment. This is your chance to continue the discussion about God, the afterlife, and the nature of reality, even if you haven't read the book. 


RP 4: You are careful to stress that this novel should not be taken literally, nor as a theological statement on everything you believe about hell and God's judgment. But in several places, the story seems to be directly critiquing traditional Christian beliefs about hell. What would you say to critics who take the book to be a theological treatise in the guise of fiction?

Hell and Beyond Interview and Discussion, Part 1


Below is the first segment of the much anticipated interview with my father on his new book Hell and Beyond.  

For background about the book and this interview, see my earlier post 'Introducing Hell and Beyond.' To read the other interview segments that have been published so far, click here.

One of the original purposes of this interview was to generate a lot of discussion. After the first couple segments, we get into some pretty deep questions. If you would like to contribute your own thoughts to these questions, use the Facebook links at the end of this segment. This is your chance to continue the discussion about God, the afterlife, and the nature of reality, even if you haven't read the book.

Introducing Hell and Beyond

  

My father, Michael Phillips, has just released a fantasy about the afterlife titled Hell and Beyond. Modeled after C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce, but with more explicitly universalist motifs, the book is being heralded by many as the next step in the Love Wins phenomenon. (At the moment the book only exists in e-book format and can be purchased on Amazon Kindle or associated e-readers here.)

Does hell last forever? Is God or the devil in charge of hell? What is the lake of fire? What does it mean to be saved? These are just some of the many questions raised in Hell and Beyond.

My parents recently came to visit us, and while they were here I finished interviewing my father about the book, probing him about the book's implied theology and anticipating some of the objections he is likely to encounter from more traditionalist readers. Over the next few weeks I will be publishing our interview in separate segments in order to invite you, my readers, to participate in the ongoing discussion. A Facebook plugin will be imported into each interview segment to facilitate a user-friendly discussion. Meanwhile, the entire interview can be downloaded at the following link:


An important disclaimer for readers of this blog is that I do not agree with everything in Hell and Beyond, nor do I subscribe to the larger epistemological and hermeneutical architecture on which the book's conjectures ultimately depend. At the same time, I think the book raises some important questions about the afterlife, and I hope to use Hell and Beyond as a platform to generate a vibrant dialogue both in this blog and in the wider online community.

To read all the interview segments as they becoming available, and participate in the discussion, click on the following link:


Compliments of Salvo Magazine

Saturday, April 20, 2013

From Gorgias to Marcuse

The ancient Greeks had a school of philosophers known as the Sophists, who took pride in their ability to prove impossible things. Some sophists even hired themselves out at public events, where audiences could watch spellbound as they proceeded to prove propositions that were obviously false. 
 
The sophist philosopher Gorgias (4th century b.c.) invented an ingenuous argument to prove that: nothing exists; and even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and even if something exists and something can be known about it, such knowledge cannot be communicated to others; and even if something exists, can be known about, and can be communicated about, no incentive exists to communicate anything about it to others. 

It would be nice if such sophistry had been limited to ancient Greeks. However, the 20th century saw a thinker whose nonsense rivaled and even surpassed anything produced by the sophists. His name was Herbert Marcuse (1898–1979), the guru of the 1960s counterculture.  

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Gay Infertility

"Legislation has been filed that would require group insurance to cover gay and lesbian infertility treatments just as they do heterosexual. But, as I note elsewhere, AB 460 isn’t limited to a finding of actual infertility. Nor does it require that gays and lesbians have tried to conceive or sire a child using heterosexual means, natural or artificial. Rather–as with heterosexual couples–merely the inability to get pregnant for a year while having active sexual relations is sufficient to demonstrate need for treatment, meaning if the bill becomes law, it would require insurance companies to pay for services such as artificial insemination, surrogacy, etc. for people who are actually fecund. Indeed, since the bill prevents discrimination based on marital or domestic partnership status, theoretically every gay and lesbian in the state could be deemed infertile for purposes of insurance coverage merely by the fact that they don’t wish to engage in heterosexual relations." Wesley J. Smith, from CA Legislation Would Require Insurance for Gay “Infertility”

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Raised a Spiritual Body

I used to teach history at a private Christian school. Like many schools in the classical education movement, we couldn’t afford our own building and had to rent from a church. One day as I was walking to my classroom, I stumbled over a piece of paper in the hallway. Stooping to pick it up, I saw that it was a hand-out from one of the church’s Sunday school classes, titled “Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible.”
 
I found myself intrigued. I knew that the church had Gnostic leanings, so I was curious to see how they would handle the doctrine of bodily resurrection. However, as I scanned the Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible I soon discovered that the doctrine had not made it onto the list.
 
Well, I thought, maybe resurrection is mentioned under something else, like salvation. Reading the section on salvation, I saw these words: “Salvation deals with the afterlife, heaven, hell, and whether or not it is safe to die.”
 
After that I decided to try the doctrine of “Future Things.” Maybe resurrection would make an appearance here. However, echoing the section on salvation, the paper said that the doctrine of future things dealt with “the end of the world, and eternity.”
 
I stood there in the hallway reflecting on the words, as students filed past me into their classes. How sad, I thought, that the entire Christian hope had been collapsed into fire assurance. How strange that salvation was being reduced to escaping to heaven for eternity and that the teachers of this class had not found it necessary to even mention the hope of bodily resurrection.
 
It would be nice to be able to say that the teachers at this church were an anomaly within the evangelical tradition. However, the truth is that this Sunday School class reflected a widespread move within the evangelical church towards a belief structure that is more Gnostic than Christian.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marriage: union of persons?

In the Question and Answer I did for the American Family Association about same-sex 'marriage,' I argued that marriage is not a union of persons, but a specifically sexual union between a man and a woman publically recognized because of its potential fecundity. But this raised a question: how do I know marriage is a union of a man and a woman? How do I know marriage is not simply a union of persons?

To answer this question, I did a Reductio ad absurdum on the opposite view. I asked my readers to consider what it would mean is marriage actually did mean the union of two consenting adults. I explained that there would then be only two options. I quote:

The first option would be that while marriage hasn’t always been the union of persons, this is what marriage ought to be now. The second option is that marriage always has been the union of two consenting adults.

Now if both these options are problematic—and I will argue that they are—the only option left is to say that marriage is not a union of persons per se, but the union specifically of a man and a woman.

So let me explain why the first option—that while marriage hasn’t always been the union of persons, this is what marriage ought to be now—is so problematic. The problem with saying that marriage ought to mean the union of persons while acknowledging that historically this just hasn’t been the case, is that the whole case for same-sex ‘marriage’ then collapses. This is because 99% of the case for same-sex ‘marriage’ rests on the notion that what is being sought is not a qualitative change to the definition of marriage but simply a quantitative enlargement of the pool of people allowed to marry. But if we acknowledge that up to now the institution of marriage has never meant a union of persons, then that is essentially to concede the argument, since it implies that no one has been discriminating against couples of the same sex any more than they have been discriminating against an individual who wishes to “marry” himself or individuals who might wish to include polyandry in the definition of marriage. If up to now marriage has always meant the union of a man and a woman, then while we might be able to speak of a government discriminating against a black man by denying him the right to marry a white woman, it would not be coherent to talk about government discriminating against people wanting to marry someone of the same sex since such a contingency is incoherent according to the terms of the institution itself.


Indeed, if marriage has always been the union of a man and a woman, then saying that this discriminates against same-sex couples would be like saying that a club which has always been for golf discriminates against tennis players. The only way to get around this and to still maintain that marriage has previously referred to a union of a man and a woman would be to simply assert that the definition ought to be changed. That would be like saying that the golf club ought to become a golf-and-tennis-club. But this is not what is being pushed, because if it was, then it would negate the claim that homosexuals have been victims of unequal treatment. In reality they are no more the victims of unequal treatment than tennis players who are told they can only play golf at the golf club.

The other option left is what I mentioned a minute ago, namely that marriage has not previously referred exclusively to the union of a man and a woman, but that it always has been the union of persons. That would be like someone claiming that the golf club had actually always been a golf-and-tennis club. Now suddenly the issue becomes an empirical question that can be verified on historical grounds. Someone taking this position would need to maintain that the gender of the persons has always been accidental in an Aristotelian sense. But notice what follows -- We are then claiming that the union of a man and woman has always been a variant of the union of persons; that biology and the possibility of reproduction were never at the core of what marriage is, but additions to it; that consummation was never central to the completion of a marriage since only practical when the “union of persons” happened to be members of the opposite sex; that “man and wife” were never something that made a relationship a marriage but were always a species of the genus “union of persons.” These are historical claims that we can verify empirically, in the same way as we could verify it if someone claimed the golf club had always been a golf and tennis club.

As we look at the facts, we find that this has never been how the institution was understood, even among cultures like ancient Rome, which might have been most inclined to understand marriage as the union of persons. Given the fact that it was only fifty years ago that marriage stopped being understood in conjugal terms, it simply will not do to say that “man and woman” has always been a subset of “persons.” Ergo, those who take the view that marriage always has been the union of persons are pushed into the corner of having to acknowledge that throughout most of human history, the laws, customs, culture and language built up around marriage was based on a misunderstanding of what marriage actually was, for until recently no one understood that marriage has actually always been the union of persons. That would be about as absurd as saying that everyone in the golf club had really belonged to a golf-and-tennis-club or a golf-and-water-sports club or a golf-and-chess-club without realizing it.

Let’s be clear, the fact that marriage has never been understood as a union of persons does not itself prove the new concept to be faulty. However, at a minimum it does establish that it is a new concept, a novel definition that is discontinuous with the institution of marriage as it has been understood and practice for thousands of years. This is something the champions of gay marriage are reluctant to acknowledge since their case for “equal access” depends on maintaining some degree of continuity with the norms of an existing institution. They want to appropriate these norms to themselves without having the courage to admit that what they are really doing is restructuring, rearranging and changing the essence of the institution itself.
____________

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Grinding Uniformity and Thought Control

The de facto criminalization of certain thought has also found expression as a mechanism for short-circuiting debate within the American media. On issues such as intelligent design, global warming, homosexual rights, abstinence education and a host of other questions, American liberals allow for only one correct viewpoint. In a final swipe of McCarthyism, those who dissent from the grinding uniformity demanded by the liberal establishment are treated, not as mistaken, but as bad. Thus, journalists who dissent from climate change hysteria, for example, do not require refutation but stand in need of therapy, since any alternative interpretation to global warming automatically puts one on the same level as delusional flat-earthers.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Supreme Court and the 14th Amendment


As the Supreme Court looks at the issue of same-sex 'marriage' the basic question centers on the Constitution’s 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment was ratified after the War Between the States and specifies that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The question that the Supreme Court must consider is whether California’s Proposition 8 and the Federal Defence of Marriage Act violate the 14th Amendment. This is a constitutional question that ought to be considered on purely legal grounds, though this is not happening because politics and ideology have inevitably got mixed up in it. But theoretically, it ought to simply be a question of what the Constitution means when it grants people equal protection under the law?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Same-Sex 'Marriage' and the Slippery Slope


After legalizing same-sex 'marriage', the Netherlands began giving legal recognition to 'threesomes.' The women Bianca (31) and Mirjam (35) are both bisexual and have a sexual relationship with each other in addition to having a sexual relationship with their joint 'husband', the heterosexual Victor de Bruijn (46) 

If there is anything defenders of gay ‘marriage’ hate, it is ‘slippery slope’ arguments. The notion that gay ‘marriage’ is objectionable because of where it could lead is an argument automatically presumed to be invalid and unworthy of serious consideration.

Gay Marriage and Family Values

In Canada even marriages among heterosexuals were
affected once gay marriage was legalized.
Republicans who now support gay marriage have been keen to emphasize that it is consistent with “family values” and that it will strengthen rather than undermine the institution of marriage.

Senator Rob Portman reflected this idea when he came out for gay marriage. During his CNN interview, Portman said he now accepted same-sex marriage “for reasons that are consistent with my political philosophy, including family values, including being a conservative who believes the family is a building block of society, so I’m comfortable there now.” Portman echoed these thoughts in his article for the Columbus Dispatch, saying,
“One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn’t amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution…. the experience of the past decade shows us that marriage for same-sex couples has not undercut traditional marriage…. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society.”
In this post I would like to argue that it is actually a myth that gay marriage will not undermine the traditional family. Indeed, the experience of Canada shows that after gay marriage is legalized, it affects EVERY marriage in the land, and not simply those of same-sex couples. The argument I will present is a condensed version of what I have argued in more in my Christian Voice article 'Why Gay Marriage is a Public Threat.'

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Love, Wonder and Perception

"Love achieves its creativity by being perceptive" wrote Oliver O'Donovan in his book Resurrection and Christian Order.

I like that quote, because it encapsulates the reality that for the great artists of the Western tradition, creativity was a form of love. This is the point that Josef Pieper made so eloquently in his tender book Only the Lover Sings: Art and Contemplation.

Great sculptors like Michelangelo could look at a slab of unworked marble and ‘see’ the finished product that they would then take months to lovingly bring to reality. Similarly, Bach could be given a series of five or six notes and instantly realize in his mind the potential those notes had for an entire invention. (In the case of the Goldberg Variations, Bach was able to take a simple musical statement that by itself might seem unimportant and, under the loving care of his creativity, to worked it into some of the finest music that has ever existed.) This is similar to the way that we are the workmanship of our Heavenly Father, whom He is steadily bringing to completion (Ephesians 2:10). The Lord sees us not as we are, but as the people He is making us into and the people He will have brought to perfection when we are finally glorified.

If this is true of the way artists perceive raw materials and how God perceives us, it can also be true for how you and I perceive the world. We can train ourselves to observe the glory and beauty inherent in the world we inhabit.

Children do this naturally, since they have an inborn sense of wonder and enchantment. Part of what it means to grow in maturity, however, is to recover this sense: to learn to once again experience a child-like delight in the things we have become accustomed to taking for granted, to perceive the world around us in fresh and exciting ways.

Keep reading...

Monday, April 08, 2013

Industrialization and Marriage


In the house where I grew up, when you walked through the door you had a choice of three options. You could turn right and you would immediately be in the “family room.” Or you could turn left and go into the “living room.” Or, you could go straight ahead to the hallway, which would usher you to all the other rooms of the house.

I never tended to spend much time in the living room, except during holidays when my dad would set up an electric train around the Christmas tree. Apart from those times, there wasn’t much to do in the living room. I much preferred to go into the rooms that facilitated activities.

I once asked my mother why the living room was called that. She replied it was because it was a place to live. The concept intrigued me. Never before had I thought of living as a separate activity that people did, abstracted from everyday life. I then asked my mother why the family room was called the family room. She replied that it was because that was the room where we went in to be a family.

I recently learned that the concept of the family room originated from guidelines that the government issued in the middle of the 20th century when specifying how homes could qualify for insurance. A new model of the home emerged which deliberately detached it from labor and functionality. Government planners urged architects and home-owners to get rid of walls and doors, to eliminate various work rooms like the sewing room and the pantry, and to focus the house instead around the type of domestic bonding that was supposed to occur in rooms like the family room. As the 20th century progressed, this de-functionalized view of housing came to be the dominant view.

This shift was only possible because of the fruition of certain trends that had been put in place at the time of the industrial revolution.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The Evolution of the Book

We are standing at a critical juncture in history, when the future of the printed word can no longer be taken for granted. It is appropriate therefore to ponder the implications the digital revolution might have for the Church's reception of Scripture. What might be the future of the Bible's role for the Church in a world where our communication technologies are changing so rapidly? 

To explore this question, it may be helpful first to consider some of the effects of previous paradigm shifts in communication technologies. In the history of human literacy, the "book" has undergone four key transformations. These can be crudely sketched as follows.

According to the historian Frederick Kilgour, the first phase in the history of the "book" roughly spanned the years 2500 b.c. to a.d. 100, when men used a stylus to inscribe text onto clay tablets. The second phase of book-making technology began about 2000 b.c. and lasted to about a.d. 700, when a brush or pen was used to write on papyrus rolls. The years a.d. 100 to the present are the period of the codex, a term that has become almost synonymous with our term "book." 

As these dates indicate, there was considerable overlap between the different phases of book-making technology. The fourth transformation, currently in overlap with the age of the codex, is, of course, the electronic book.

Within the era of the codex, there have been two important developments that helped give the written word the particular primacy it has enjoyed in Western culture. The first of these may seem trivial to us, but was of vital importance not only in affecting our relationship with the written word, but also in bringing reading to a wider audience.

Keep reading

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Questions and Answers with the American Family Association

On Thursday the American Family Association published an interview where I am answering questions about Same-Sex 'Marriage' and the case before the Supreme Court. To read it, click on the link below:

Q&A about same-sex 'marriage'


Thursday, April 04, 2013

Marriage is Bigger than the Couple

In an interview that David Blankenhorn did with Ken Myers for Volume 51 of the Mars Hill Audio Journal Blankenhorn pointed out that
“The current conception of marriage is that the couple is now bigger than the marriage. To put it in religious terms, the couple is the god of their marriage. They define it. They give it all its meaning. Marriage is a private religion that the couple defines…. The couple becomes bigger than the marriage rather than the other way around.”
Blankenhorn, who is the founder and president of the Institute for American Values and author of The Future of Marriage, pointed out that a marriage cannot so easily be disposed of when a society treats the institution as being bigger than the two individuals involved, rather than visa versa.

Mr. Blankenhorn explains how a society that has a high regard for the institutional integrity of marriage surrounds the couple with an entire network of laws, taboos, traditions and expectations that place the marriage relationship in a larger context. (See 'Marvin Olasky Interviews David Blankenhorn')

David Blankenhorn
The sense of marriage as an institution that is bigger than the participating couple was embodied in the practice of having the couple recite marriage vows that were given to them by the society. These vows represented fixed standards external to the couple to which they promised conformity.

By contrast, today it has become increasingly normative for the couple to compose their own vows. For my own wedding I wrote the entire service (using bits of the Book of Common Prayer according to my inclination) for precisely this reason: to reinforce the personalized and individualistic nature of the contract.


Consequences


Under the older framework, marriage was seen to be an objective institution first, and a subjective relationship second. The consequences in a society that has reversed this are legion.

One immediate ramification is that couples are no longer encouraged to conform to the expectations of marriage, but are in many respects discouraged from doing so, as Brandon revealed in his discussion of moral hazard.

Or, we might legitimately ask, if marriage is pretty much little more than a close relationship, then why is marriage even necessary if cohabiting couples think they can enjoy this same level of relational closeness?

There have also been more subtle and less obvious ramifications, affecting our very concept of marriage itself. Think about it: if the relationship between two people is bigger than the marriage, and if the relationship is what keeps the marriage alive rather than the marriage being what keeps the relationship alive, then once the relationship turns sour does marriage suddenly lose its integrity? The answer given by our 'no fault divorce' laws is yes.

Or again, if marriage is a private relationship that the couple defines (as embodied in the practice of the couple composing their own wedding vows), then are there any limits to what can be encompassed in that definition? Can anything count as marriage? This is a question that has been explored here, although the implications this has for current debates about 'gay marriage' should be immediately apparent.

Marriage Sustains Love


The institutional importance of marriage was encapsulated by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a wedding sermon he wrote in May 1943 for a young relative on her wedding day. In the sermon, titled ‘A Wedding Sermon from a Prison Cell,’ and later collected in the volume Letters & Papers from Prison, Bonhoeffer wrote that:
“Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which he wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom….

Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal – it is a status, an office….
A little later in the sermon, Bonhoeffer wrote a wonderful line that gets at the heart of the issue: “It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”

The erosion of the institutional importance of marriage - what Bonhoeffer called the status or office - created the plausibility structures in which notions like same-sex 'marriage' could come to fruition. The purpose of marriage has gradually shifted away from its institutional importance to become little more than a romantic relationship pursued for individual fulfillment among two consenting adults.

Further Reading

____________

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Celtic Christianity

Their aspect is terrifying. . . They are very tall in stature, with rippling muscles under clear, white skin.” Thus wrote the Greek historian, Diodorus Siculus in the first century B.C., describing the Celtic peoples. 

Diodorus continued: “The Celtic way of fighting was alarming. They wore . . . bronze helmets with figures picked out on them, even horns, which make them look even taller than they already are . . . while others cover themselves with breast-armor made of chains. But most content themselves with the weapons nature gave them: they go naked into battle.”

Emerging from central Europe around 1000 B.C., these fierce warlike people were among the most successful conquerors the world had ever seen. Archaeologists have discovered Celtic artifacts as far North as Denmark and as far east as India. By the time of the Roman Empire, however, Celtic dominance had waned, being limited primarily to Gaul (modern France) and the British Isles, where Celtic languages are still spoken today.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Marriage is NOT a Union of Persons

If those who are advancing gay marriage are to be belived, then the union of a man and woman has always been a variant of the union of persons, that biology and the possibility of reproduction were never at the core of what marriage is but additions to it, that consummation was never central to the completion of a marriage since only practical when the “union of persons” happened to be members of the opposite sex, that “man and wife” were never something that made a relationship a marriage but were always a species of the genus “union of persons.” 

The only problem with construing marriage in these terms is that this has never been how it was understood, even among cultures like ancient Rome which might have been most inclined to understand marriage as the union of persons. Those who take this view are thus pushed into the corner of having to acknowledge that throughout most of human history the laws, customs, culture and language built up around marriage was based on a misunderstanding of what marriage actually was, for until recently no one understood that marriage has actually always been the union of persons.

Now let’s be clear: the fact that marriage has never been understood as a union of persons does not itself prove the new concept to be faulty. However, at a minimum it does establish that it is a new concept, a novel definition that is discontinuous with the institution of marriage as it has been understood and practice for thousands of years. This is something the champions of gay marriage are reluctant to acknowledge, since their case for “equal access” depends on maintaining some degree of continuity with the norms of an existing institution. This pretence of continuity enables them to form their arguments in quantitative terms, as if they were merely expanding the pool of people who can get legally married, rather than qualitatively altering the very essence of what marriage is.

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