Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Which of the moral rules in the Old Testament are still binding on Christians?

Jonathan M. writes an analysis of the applicability of Old Testament laws that’s a must-read for Christians.

First, the summary:

I recently posted an article on this blog wherein I outlined my viewpoint with regards same sex marriage and some of my reasons for holding to that position. Now, my views on this issue fall into two categories — theological and sociological. While I think that there are good sociological arguments against the institution of same sex marriage (the focus of my previous post), I also hold that homosexual behaviour is immoral for theological reasons. The Biblical basis for this view comes from a number of Scriptural passages. Among them, is Leviticus 18, a chapter concerned exclusively with sexual sin. Verse 22 commands, “Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” Mention of this passage routinely raises the objection, “But aren’t you cherry picking the Bible? After all, you don’t follow all those laws in Leviticus either. Do you refrain from wearing clothing woven from two kinds of material as prohibited in Leviticus 19:19? And do you obey the dietary laws outlined in Leviticus 11?” I get this objection put to me so often that I felt compelled to write a blog post addressing it. I trust that those who make this kind of objection will find this post informative.

Here’s his argument:

In his Summa Theologica, the theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) writes,

“We must therefore distinguish three kinds of precept in the Old Law; viz. ‘moral’ precepts, which are dictated by the natural law; ‘ceremonial’ precepts, which are determinations of the Divine worship; and ‘judicial’ precepts, which are determinations of the justice to be maintained among men.”

[...]Only God’s moral law is applicable to us today. The ceremonial and judicial laws of ancient Israel are not. Galatians 2:1-3; 5:1-11; 6:11-16; 1 Corinthians 7:17-20; Colossians 2:8-12; Phillipians 3:1-3 all indicate that the covenant of circumcision has now been done away with. What counts now is, in a manner of speaking, a circumcision of heart — which takes the form of faith in Christ and repentance from our sin.

I think his argument squares with Jesus’ constant dismissing of ceremonial laws and customs, and his focus instead on moral obligations.

Here’s an example from Matthew 15:10-20:

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.

11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”

13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.

14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.

17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?

18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.

19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

It’s important for Christians to be familiar with these categories, because we get challenged on this all the time by people who reject the idea that God has any say about what is right and wrong for us. The challenge is meant to shut down discussion of objective morality by citing a hard case, and we should be ready to respond.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Should wives refuse / deny their husbands regular sex?

Dennis Prager features a lot of discussions about male-female relationships on his show, particularly during the male-female hour. I think this is one of the parts of his show that I really like best, because he knows what he is talking about.

He did a two part series a while back on 1) male sexuality and 2) what women should do about it within a marriage.

Part 1 is here.

Excerpt:

It is an axiom of contemporary marital life that if a wife is not in the mood, she need not have sex with her husband. Here are some arguments why a woman who loves her husband might want to rethink this axiom.

First, women need to recognize how a man understands a wife’s refusal to have sex with him: A husband knows that his wife loves him first and foremost by her willingness to give her body to him. This is rarely the case for women. Few women know their husband loves them because he gives her his body (the idea sounds almost funny). This is, therefore, usually a revelation to a woman. Many women think men’s natures are similar to theirs, and this is so different from a woman’s nature, that few women know this about men unless told about it.

This is a major reason many husbands clam up. A man whose wife frequently denies him sex will first be hurt, then sad, then angry, then quiet. And most men will never tell their wives why they have become quiet and distant. They are afraid to tell their wives. They are often made to feel ashamed of their male sexual nature, and they are humiliated (indeed emasculated) by feeling that they are reduced to having to beg for sex.

When first told this about men, women generally react in one or more of five ways…

He then explains the 5 ways that women respond to this.

Here’s one:

1. You have to be kidding. That certainly isn’t my way of knowing if he loves me. There have to be deeper ways than sex for me to show my husband that I love him.

I think that this is a common mistake that liberal women make because they think that men are just hairy women. But men are not women, we are different and sex means something different to men than it does to women. In the past, most women understood how men are different than women, but younger women have been taught that there are no differences between the sexes. To think any different is “sexism”.

Here’s another from the list:

4. You have it backwards. If he truly loved me, he wouldn’t expect sex when I’m not in the mood.

Again, this is the common mistake that many younger women today make in thinking that love is a one-way street – flowing from men and children to the woman. If men and children DON’T do what the woman wants, or if they make demands on her, then they don’t “love” her and she is justified in ignoring them.

Liberal women have been taught to believe that they are always victims or some group of oppressors, such as men and children or corporations. It makes them rebel against having to do anything for anyone else, because they don’t want to be “oppressed”. That makes them unable to accept that relationships are give-and-take, Once a commitment to love another person permanently has been made, then each person has responsibilities to provide for the needs of the other.

I actually had a conversation with a Christian woman once who said that women should not be obligated to do things that they didn’t feel like doing. I asked her if men were obligated to go to work when they didn’t feel like going. She said yes, and acted as though I were crazy for asking. I just laughed, because she didn’t even see the inconsistency. The truth is that men often don’t feel like working, but they get up and go to work anyway, whether they like it or not (in most cases). Similarly, a women should feel obligated to have sex with her husband, even if she is not in a perfect mood for it (in most cases). Sometimes, a man stays home from work, and it’s OK. And sometimes a woman says no to sex, and it’s OK. But it’s not OK to stop doing it for months and months with no good reason.

Part 2 is here.

Excerpt:

Here are eight reasons for a woman not to allow not being in the mood for sex to determine whether she denies her husband sex.

He then explains the eight reasons.

Here’s one of them:

7. Many contemporary women have an almost exclusively romantic notion of sex: It should always be mutually desired and equally satisfying or one should not engage in it. Therefore, if a couple engages in sexual relations when he wants it and she does not, the act is “dehumanizing” and “mechanical.” Now, ideally, every time a husband and wife have sex, they would equally desire it and equally enjoy it. But, given the different sexual natures of men and women, this cannot always be the case. If it is romance a woman seeks — and she has every reason to seek it — it would help her to realize how much more romantic her husband and her marriage are likely to be if he is not regularly denied sex, even of the non-romantic variety.

Women have to engage their husbands if they expect their husbands to engage in the marriage as a husband and father. Men don’t do their protector, provider and spiritual leader role. Performance of these male duties is not free. Wives have to love their husbands in the way that men expect to be loved. That’s what they vowed to do in the wedding, isn’t it?

At the end of the article, Prager makes a general point about women that I think needs to be emphasized over and over and over:

That solution is for a wife who loves her husband — if she doesn’t love him, mood is not the problem — to be guided by her mind, not her mood, in deciding whether to deny her husband sex.

This problem of sex-withholding is so widespread, that it really makes me (although I am a virgin) wonder what women think that marriage is about anyway. When a woman vows to love her husband, what do they think that word really means? Why do women think that men marry? What do men want that marriage provides for them? Which of those needs are the women’s responsibility to provide for? I think these are questions that men should ask women. I think women should be prepared to answer them. Men should expect that women be reading books on men and marriage, and that she has relationships with men where she is giving support, respect, affirmation, affection and approval. You can learn a lot about a woman by how she treats her father, for example.

I think that the best place to learn about the needs and feelings of husbands is in Dr. Laura’s book “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”. Women can learn what (good) men need in order to function as husbands and fathers in that book. A smart man will choose a woman who has read books like that, so that she can support and affirm him as he does his husband responsibilities.

Unfortunately, many men today haven’t thought through what they need from wives in a marriage. They spend their young years chasing women who are fun and sexually permissive. Every husband I asked about what they need has told me that respect, affirmation, affection and regular sex are more important than appearance and fun. Pre-marital sex, having fun, getting drunk, and going out, etc. are not the right foundation for marriage – which requires mutual self-sacrifice in order to work. Men need to be testing women during the courtship to see if women understand the differences between men and women, and whether they are prepared to handle the needs and feelings of a husband.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Readers vote: who is to blame for this problematic marriage? The wife or the husband?

Please read the excerpt from the article BEFORE you vote in the poll at the bottom of the post! Thanks.

Letitia the Damsel posted this article from the UK Daily Mail on my Facebook page. The article is written by a woman who rejects the traditional roles and responsibilities of women in marriage.

She writes:

My husband is the kindest, most considerate man in the world. During the seven years we’ve been married, Ben has done most of the cooking, cleaning and ironing without ever being asked.

He brings me an organic buffalo milk cappuccino every morning in bed and once spent hours making fresh syrup from rhubarb to add to my favourite champagne after I’d given birth. And yes, he works full-time.

But for all he does for me, anxious to make everything in my life better, he gets a raw deal in return.

I am shamefully neglectful of my wifely duties. In fact, I am the anti-wife.

The trouble is that I just can’t do the subservient partner thing. Ben is more likely to arrive at our home in Twickenham, South-West London, after a hard day’s work and find me having a manicure or checking Facebook than slaving over a hot stove.

This may make me sound selfish, but I’m just being honest. At 39, I’ve never ironed a single item of my husband’s clothing. I rarely cook for him either. Why would I bother when he’s so much better at it than I am?

Last Christmas, he produced a lavish three-course lunch and booked a 15th-century cottage for our whole family to eat it in. All I did was hold out my champagne glass for him to refill while saying: ‘Well done, darling.’

And if you think I reward his sterling domestic efforts with treats in the bedroom, I’m afraid I fail in that department, too. Intimacy is reserved only for his birthdays – and then just the ones with a zero.

I felt occasional pangs of guilt about our unusual dynamic during the first year of our marriage, but now I find it liberating. He even refers to me as the ‘household manager’ because I’m an expert in the art of delegation.

Recently, Ben’s job for an organic fruit and vegetable box delivery scheme meant he was away on business for three weeks.

Before he left, I found him packing the freezer with organic ready meals and ringing round for short-term nannies to take care of our children, Ronnie, six, and Stanley, two.

The truth is that I’m just too busy and involved in my career as a writer to be a traditional, caring wife.

I work from home and, like most self-employed people in a recession, I push myself to the limit. I set my alarm for 6am so I can squeeze in an hour of work before the school run and I often write until midnight.

My job often means being away from home during the evenings and weekends, which means the lion’s share of the childcare falls to Ben. Even when I am home, I keep one eye glued to my iPhone for fear of missing a work call.

Ben bemoans my inability to achieve a work/life balance. He sees the word ‘driven’ as a negative, while I think I’m aspirational and ambitious. Now, I know what you’re thinking – that I must earn more than Ben. But no, I don’t.

He’s the breadwinner and a domestic god. But my work is so all-consuming there’s little of me left to go round by the time I switch off my laptop. Don’t get me wrong – I love Ben very much and regard our marriage as happy. And he could never claim breach of contract because he always knew I was a workaholic. 

[...]When we began dating in 2003, I was helping to launch a woman’s magazine, which required me to be at work from 8am until 11pm.

It was Ben’s touching gesture of sending boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts to the office that made me realise what an excellent husband he’d make.

But when, in the early throes of our relationship, he mooted the idea I might one day be a ‘stay-at-home mum’, I bristled. ‘But my mum stayed at home for the first five years of my life,’ he said. 

‘That’s never going to happen,’ I replied sharply. The matter was never raised again.

[...]It’s my fault that he returns home to find no dinner and our children running amok.

But I work hard, too, and that changes everything. While I love my children deeply, wiping noses, bottoms and encrusted beans off the floor doesn’t inspire me in the way my work does.

I’m too busy to share the chores. After a day of writing, I feel happy and complete; after a day with the children, I am frazzled.

After the birth of our first son, I went back to my £60,000-a-year job as deputy editor of a national magazine and put Ronnie full-time into an eye-wateringly expensive nursery.

I felt guilty about it, and working 8am to 6pm every day and barely seeing my son just compounded that guilt. But I didn’t want to give up work.

You might think me self-obsessed, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for my happiness.

Just before the birth of our second son, I decided to leave my job and pursue a career as a writer after being offered a generous redundancy package.

But instead of relaxing into my new job, I allowed work to seep into all areas of my life.

That is why I ignored cripplingly painful contractions ten minutes apart and carried on writing to meet a deadline.

I was back at work just two weeks after giving birth to Stanley, breast-feeding while conducting tricky phone interviews.

Now that you read the excerpt, please vote in the poll:

I’ll vote and comment later tonight to say how I voted.

By the way, if you like the articles that Letitia finds, you can hear her on her Visible Conservative podcasts on Fridays. Here’s the most recent one and the opening monologue transcript is here on Letitia’s blog. If you’re like me, and you like hearing conservative women talk passionately about issues that matter, you’ll love this podcast. I never miss it.

UPDATE: I voted and my vote was to blame the man entirely. He chose this woman to marry and to mother his children. He knew she was unqualified to be a wife and mother and married her anyway. It’s ALL HIS FAULT. She is completely innocent because she was bad BEFORE the marriage and he knew it.

You cannot blame a bad woman for continuing to act badly after you marry her. If she is bad before, she’ll be bad after. If she has no moral standard for marriage before, then she’ll have no moral standard after. She doesn’t BELIEVE that she is doing anything wrong – either before or after marriage. You can’t blame her for acting according to her own feminist worldview. It’s the MAN who is to blame for choosing her.

The man shouldn’t even be opening his mouth to complain about her after he chose her. He chose her, and he has no right now to blame her or complain about it. You can’t expect traditional wife and mother behavior when you marry someone who explicitly repudiates those roles. Blame the man 100%. And what’s more he is EVIL to have inflicted this on his children.

You can’t go to the pet store and pass by all the cats, dogs and birds and buy an alligator then complain when you get the thing home and it bites your arms off. It’s a freaking alligator, and you knew that when you bought it. It’s your fault.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Satire: The end of moral duties

New Zealand philosopher Matt Flannagan wrote a satirical piece on moral duties from a naturalistic perspective: (H/T Michael’s Theology)

Some people claim we have a duty to not rape women, or that religious people have a duty to not engage in wars or acts of terrorism, conduct inquisitions and so on. I think this is nonsense as it assumes there is such a thing as a moral duty and this is false and here’s why:

First, the burden of proof is on he who makes a claim, as an amoralist I am not making a claim I am simply not affirming that moral duties exist, so I don’t have to justify my non-belief in duties. Instead those who believe in duties have to come up with compelling proof they exist.

Second, one cannot empirically verify the claim duties exist so it’s meaningless incoherent nonsense until such verification is given.

Third, no one has yet to provide a proof that duties of any sort exist. Such things if they can be decided at all must be shown to exist by the methods of natural science and to date no one has shown that belief in moral duties is necessary to any scientific theory. Neither physics or chemistry or biology has need of that hypothesis to explain the world.

Fourth, think of all the evil done in the name of duties, almost every war fought through out history has been justified by those who did it claiming they were doing the right thing. Inquisitions, crusades and the suppression of science were all done in the name of doing the right thing and avoiding the wrong thing.

Fifth, if you claim you believe we have duties such as a duty to not rape, I’ll ask you to explain “which duty” do you follow. There are so many different “duties” appealed to. Some people claim there is one fundamental duty, but those who do disagree as to what it is or exactly how to conceive of it. Others claim there are many duties and a small number of people claim there are none. Everyone rejects some concept or account of duty; us ‘adutyists’ just deny one more duty than everyone else.

Sixth – Think of how degrading and contrary to human autonomy the belief in duties is, duties are things we are supposed to live our lives in allegiance to. Rational people can figure out what to do for themselves using reason, we don’t need moral duties to tell us what to do, it stifles human autonomy and is childish to believe in duties.

Seventh – Evolutionary psychology shows us that small children from a very young age have evolved a disposition to believe certain things are right and wrong. The fact we can explain this belief entirely in evolutionary terms shows duties don’t exist.

Eight – What duties you believe is determined largely by your family and cultural background. If you were raised in Iran you would believe you had a duty to execute homosexuals. If you were raised in secular western Europe you would believe you had a duty to support same sex marriage. Clearly therefore, belief in duties is the result of parental and cultural brainwashing and up bringing.

Ninth – We should treat all our beliefs from the perspective of a sceptical outsider, hence we should treat our belief in moral duties from the perspective of moral skeptics.

Tenth – Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The claim there are moral duties is extraordinary. It claims that there are things that tell us what to do and that we have to do it and this trumps every other reason or desire we have in favour of the action and that failure to do it makes us guilty or blameworthy. No other thing in reality has these features, hence those who believe in duties must provide us with extraordinary evidence.

Eleventh – No-one has ever seen a duty. Duties have no colour, shape or smell, or sound hence they are invisible to sensory perception.

Michael’s blog post on this added two more to the list:

12. Duties were developed by bronze age, desert dwelling peoples and we should grow out of such myths.

13. Those who argue for moral duties use metaethical reasoning and metaethics is not an academic subject.

I think that it’s possible – but not rational – for naturalists to treat moral duties as objective. And that’s good, because otherwise you couldn’t trust them further than you could throw them for even little things. However, I wouldn’t put naturalists into situations of extreme temptation where they felt were not being monitored. I don’t think that they have what it takes in their worldview to do the right thing when no one is watching, especially when it goes against their own self-interest. It’s just not rational for them to care about moral duties, on their worldview – they think that they are just accidents and they think that moral duties are just arbitrary conventions that vary arbitrarily in different places at different times. They are really up front about this view, and I think that we should take them at their word and understand that there are limits to their “moral” behavior. Certainly you don’t want to be in a cloe relationship like a business partnership or a marriage with someone who thinks there is no free will, and therefore no moral duties and no moral responsibility. You might get lucky with them for a while, but eventually, they are going to break down.

For a more detailed look on what a typical non-theist might mean by “morality”, take a look at this post on Uncommon Descent about the famous progressive lawyer Clarence Darrow.

Excerpt:

In 1912, in Los Angeles, for example, Darrow himself went through two trials where he was both the defense lawyer and the defendant – on two counts of attempting to bribe jurors in the union-related murder casein which he had been, as usual, counsel for the defense. In response to the first charge Darrow told the jury:

“I have committed one crime: I have stood for the weak and the poor.”

And at that first trial the verdict was in Darrow’s favour, though it is now generally accepted – even by Darrowphiles – that he was in fact guilty on both counts, plus other similar activities that he was never charged with. At the second trial Darrow proved less able to “soft soap” his way out of trouble, and the proceedings ended with a hung jury. But although Darrow escaped being convicted, he certainly didn’t escape the consequences of his actions.

Firstly he was made to leave California after undertaking never to practice law again in that state.

Secondly he was dropped by the unions as one of their regular attorneys – which is why he spent the last part of his career practising criminal law.

And thirdly, he reportedly suffered what would nowadays be described as a “nervous breakdown” and became, if it were possible, even more pessimistic and morose than had previously been the case.

Clarence Darrow is a hero for atheists like Jerry Coyne, and it’s interesting to see what this Darrow’s “morality” amounted to in practice. When a person denies free will, as Coyne and Darrow do, you can be sure of one thing – nothing evil that they do will be viewed by them as their responsibility. It was the fault of their genes, they’ll say. They will never admit that they are wrong, and their resistance to temptation will be lower than someone who believes in free will – and personal responsibility. I think that at the very core of atheism is this desperate, overarching desire to dispense with moral obligations – or at least to make them optional so that they are only binding if they don’t require any self-sacrifice. That’s why atheists are always celebrating each fresh assault on traditional morality, like gay marriage. They celebrate the breakdown of morality even for things they themselves don’t do, because they just want to be rid of moral duties and accountability entirely. I think there are some exceptions to this, but definitely it’s true of the rank-and-file atheist.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Five common objections to the moral argument

Apologetics 315 posted a list of five objections to the moral argument from philosopher Paul Rezkalla.

Here are the 5 points:

  1. “But I’m a moral person and I don’t believe in God. Are you saying that atheists can’t be moral?”
  2. “But what if you needed to lie in order to save someone’s life? It seems that morality is not absolute as you say it is.”
  3. ‘Where’s your evidence for objective morality? I won’t believe in anything unless I have evidence for it.’
  4. ‘If morality is objective, then why do some cultures practice female genital mutilation, cannibalism, infanticide, and other atrocities which we, in the West, deem unacceptable?’
  5.  ‘But God carried out many atrocities in the Old Testament. He ordered the genocide of the Canaanites.’

That last one seems to be popular, so let’s double-check the details:

For starters, this isn’t really an objection to the moral argument. It does not attack either premise of the argument. It is irrelevant, but let’s entertain this objection for a second. By making a judgement on God’s actions and deeming them immoral, the objector is appealing to a standard of morality that holds true outside of him/herself and transcends barriers of culture, context, time period, and social norms. By doing this, he/she affirms the existence of objective morality! But if the skeptic wants to affirm objective morality after throwing God out the window, then there needs to be an alternate explanation for its basis. If not God, then what is it? The burden is now on the skeptic to provide a naturalistic explanation for the objective moral framework.

If you have heard any of these objections before when discussing the moral argument, click through and take a look.

 

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