Friday, July 03, 2015

Evangelical watcher news

A couple of developments for watchers of the Baptist and evangelical scene, with regard to the topic that one can't seem to stop talking about these days, unfortunately.

The ERLC of the Southern Baptists has put out a disturbingly insufficient statement about the recent Supreme Court ruling, and Robert Gagnon has some trenchant criticisms here. I especially want to emphasize Gagnon's points I, II, and IV. (Which is not to denigrate his points III and V.) This whole, "Outrage is out of place" approach is plain wrong.

Also, as point IV says, it is disturbing that the Southern Baptists have increasingly adopted the "LGBT" nomenclature and have adopted uncritically the language of loving, respecting, etc., "LGBT persons" without clarifying what that means. For example, does it mean that parents have to subsidize their adult children's homosexual lifestyles? Moore's recent thunderings in various venues about parents who kick out their young adult children for "coming out," without any apparent discussion of the complexities of these situations, might indicate so. If your 20-year-old "comes out," that doesn't mean you have to let him use your home as a hotel from which he goes out and engages in homosexual acts. Nor do you have to continue subsidizing his college education so that he can have sex at college. But all the outrage against parents suggests that Moore might think continuing to do so is part of showing "dignity and respect" to homosexuals.

Gagnon's points are well taken. I also want to stress that I'm quite certain, as Gagnon says, that many of the signatories of the statement did not mean to endorse its flaws but only its good points. So I would not blame someone for signing it (though I would want to point out the flaws). Whoever wrote the statement is responsible for its problems. I haven't, unfortunately, heard any news to the effect that the ERLC has taken Gagnon's criticisms to heart.

In other news, readers who are interested or concerned are invited to look at the public Facebook status of evangelical scholar and author Michael Licona, and the comments beneath, where he raises an extremely easily answered "question" asked by one of his Facebook friends who appears to be an advocate of homosexual civil "marriage." Unfortunately, Licona indicates that this question is a real poser, and even more unfortunately, when people (including yours truly) gave the sensible and obvious answers, Licona said he was unconvinced that these answered this really good question. Even more unfortunately, after having raised this "question" and having endorsed it so far as to say, and repeat, statements such as that it is a "great question," he indicated that he doesn't have the time even to read someone like Ryan Anderson, Robert P. George, or Robert Gagnon in order to clarify and strengthen his own position on the nature and proper goods of civil marriage, which would dissolve this "great question." (Hint: The question had to do with comparing homosexual civil "marriage" to the recognition that Islam is a religion and giving religious liberty to Muslims.) This is all in the thread. Feel free to read through. I submit my characterization here to the judgement of the fair-minded who read the exchange for themselves. Steve at Triablogue has blogged a bit about this and has been accused of gross misrepresentation, so I have summarized the circumstances of the exchange at somewhat more length, making it clear that this was a matter of raising as a "good question" someone else's question, etc., and I encourage anyone interested in getting the facts to read the thread for himself. (It is unfortunate that Facebook now has sub-threaded comments. I have tried to draw attention by the link above to one of the most relevant sub-threads, beyond the early first-level comments on the status.) Speaking for myself, I found this development extremely discouraging and disappointing. Those with influence in the evangelical world should be well-informed enough about this urgent and timely issue that they are able to answer such shallow, slanted questions with one hand tied behind their backs, just to make it fair, not be so arrested by them as to tell the whole world and especially their 5,000 Facebook "friends" what a tough, good question this is. And if you wake up one day and find yourself thrown by such a question, and you are such an evangelical writer and scholar, you should for goodness' sake take the time to read a couple of articles by Ryan Anderson and co. and give it some thought, clarifying your own ideas about what, precisely, civil marriage is, what its purpose and goods are, and whether homosexual "marriage" can be a variety thereof, before you raise these doubts in other people's minds. To first raise such a "question" and then retreat to, "It's not my role to research this further. I'm busy, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I have other research interests" is, quite frankly, gravely irresponsible.

Finally, a small house-keeping question. If you ever comment on this blog, have you run into a problem with your comment utterly disappearing when you press "publish," without any indication that the comment has gone to moderation? I ask, because I've realized that some blogger blogs have the following problem: If you try to publish a comment before logging in, e.g., with a Blogger account, the comment disappears entirely. It does not go to moderation. It just disappears. Then Blogger presents the commenter with a new, empty combox, with the drop-down menu below showing that he is now logged in. If he repeats the comment after this happens, it goes through. I have full moderation enabled, and it may be that this is preventing this problem here at Extra Thoughts.


Anonymous said...

Hi Lydia, in 'What Is Marriage?', the authors argue that the revisionist view has difficulty explaining why the government is in the marriage business. But can't the revisionist simply say that the government is in the marriage business because married couples want to share, say, property and various legal benefits, and this involves various legal issues?

Thank you!

Lydia McGrew said...

If the response were worded as you suggest, it would be question-begging. (If I'm understanding the question correctly.) The question from the outset is what *is* a "married couple"? To _assume_ that two men can constitute such a couple and then say that the government should be "in the marriage business" for a couple of men is to beg the question.

Suppose we were to try to reword it the objection as follows: Government is in the marriage business because *some people* want to share property and various legal benefits, and this involves various legal issues.

Well, that won't work, because it doesn't tell us how many people, how they are related otherwise, and so forth. For example, if a brother and sister (no sexual connection, just an unmarried brother and sister) want to own a home together, they can do that quit eeasily, but no one considers them married just because they want to own a home together. And so on if we envisage the brother and sister wanting to leave their money to each other, wanting to have healthcare durable power of attorney for each other, joint bank accounts, and so forth. They can do all these things, but they have to fill out the paperwork, and quite rightly and rationally no one suggests that simply doing these things constitutes their being married.

If ten unrelated people wanted to do this, it might not be allowed, because some neighborhoods have ordinances that no more than three unrelated people can live together in a house. And this seems like it could be a reasonable rule.

So it's clear that civil marriage does _not_ exist, and that its existence is not justified as a matter of policy, simply because _some otherwise unspecified number, etc., of people_ want to share property, etc.

Of course we all know that civil marriage is historically meant to pick out romantic-sexual relationships and celebrate them qua romantic-sexual relationships. That, in fact, is what homosexual revisionists are demanding--that homosexual relationships per se be recognized, on the basis of their "sexual orientation." (They aren't in fact happy when two "bros" get civil marriage so they can get some travel deal or something. I believe something like this happened recently in New Zealand ?, and the homosexuals were upset about its "trivializing" marriage.)

But then the question arises, what goods does it serve for the government to be in the business of recognizing sexual-romantic relationships? And I think we should admit that *in and of itself* it does not serve important goods for the government to recognize these alone.

Which brings us to civil marriage as the foundation of society through a set-up of the possibility of the natural family.

Lydia McGrew said...

Note too that homosexual "marriage" and also civil unions were intended to _mimic_ the natural family by envisaging children as being put into the equation and then envisaging the two people "married" or "in a civil union" as having joint custody of the children. Hence, if one lesbian in a "marriage" or civil union has a baby through artificial insemination, the other lesbian is deemed the child's mother _automatically_.

This would not be the case if we were merely talking about a mother and daughter who wanted to own property together. The mother wouldn't automatically have joint custody of any child born to the daughter. So situations in which just some people or other want to have joint property do not have this quality of the attempt to mimic the natural family, but homosexual "marriages" do have that quality of being an ersatz of _marriage_, not just a convenient way of setting up joint property.

This of course then creates custody presumptions of the homosexual "marriage" breaks up, which again would not be the case if this were just about property or legal convenience. Because homosexual "marriage" is an attempt tor redefine not only "marriage" but by immediate extension "family," the custody of the children is be treated by the courts as if both partners had equal natural parental rights if the child was "born or conceived in the union," even if this is not the case.

Anonymous said...

"Well, that won't work, because it doesn't tell us how many people, how they are related otherwise, and so forth."

Why can't we just add the 'romantic-sexual relationship' condition, so we get this: marriage is a romantic-sexual relationship between two people who want to share their lives with each other, and this typically involves sharing property and legal benefits?

Given this view, we can easily explain why government is in the marriage business, contrary to what Anderson et al. claim.

Debbie Licona said...

Statement from Mike Licona

Lydia McGrew said...

You can stipulate anything you want, of course. One could, for example, stipulate that marriage is a "romantic-sexual relationship among three people" or "between two white people" if one had the power to do so in law. That wouldn't make it rational for the state to stipulate that and give it that meaning.

The fact of the matter is that stipulating it that way lacks rational grounding in the *goods* of the relationship. Threesomes are already pointing this out, by the way.

Why in heaven's name should there be any particular point in the government's specially recognizing and giving privilege sexual-romantic relationships between two people?

I think I'd probably _rather_ give special recognition to the non-sexual brother-sister pair, myself. It would make more sense in terms of public policy than to give it to two men in a homosexual relationship.

So no, that doesn't "easily explain" it at all. It doesn't explain it historically, because historically that *isn't* how the government got into the marriage business. The need and desire to make a stable family for children was _historically_ important. And it doesn't explain it in terms of rational public policy, because there is nothing about sexual relationships of just any old kind, including between two men or two women, that makes them worthy of defining into such a specially recognized and applauded relationship.

Lydia McGrew said...

(The immediately previous comment was in answer to Anonymous.)

Now, in response to the PDF, for which I thank Dr. Licona.

Mike, that is a very interesting PDF. I think that I should mention that your setting on the post and thread in question is "public" (even though I understand the difference between a personal and a "public figure" Facebook page) and that you have 5,000 friends on that page. Hence, 5,000 people could be getting notifications of the post and anybody in the world with an Internet connection who can log into Facebook can see it. So I do think that there might be some confusion caused by the PDF about whether this was a private conversation made public or something of the sort. Perhaps your "public" privacy setting was unintentional? I assure you that I would not, for many reasons, have shared it elsewhere had it been marked "friends only," despite the fact that there are 5,000 of them, though I would have said approximately what I have said in the thread. Second, I will want to give it a more considered reading later, but *thus far* the clearest statement that I am seeing in the PDF in response to Chris Armer's alleged "great question" is that freedom of religion is granted by the Constitution but a right to marry is not. This is of course true and important for reasons of constitutional self-government and jurisprudence but does not really amount to a reason to distinguish the two things *as a matter of policy*--that is to say, not to *value* the "freedom" of homosexuals to "marry" as such even if one thinks they are wrong, just as one *values* the freedom of others to join a false religion. On that basis alone, for example (that one is in the Constitution and the other isn't), one could nonetheless vote for homosexual "marriage" in a state legislature. Now, your statement in the PDF that the restriction to two people is arbitrary if the male-female requirement is thrown out is somewhat more to the point, implying that having homosexual civil "marriage" is actually a *bad policy* and therefore different from freedom of religion, which is *good policy*.There is, of course, much, much more that can be said about why homosexual "marriage" is not a valued expression of "freedom-even-though-I-disagree-with-you" as freedom of religion is.

I am glad to have this PDF and thank you for sharing it, and I encourage you in your own thinking to continue reflecting on this matter, including the goods of civil marriage and the reasons for rejecting homosexual civil "marriage" utterly as policy and refusing to go along with it in the myriad ways in which that will now come up in the lives of Christians.

Lydia McGrew said...

Dr. Licona's PDF also points out that he signed the ERLC statement. I did not know this until I saw it in his document. I have made no attempt whatsoever to look at the list of signers of the ERLC statement and at this moment don't even know for sure whether the list of signers is at the same URL as the statement itself. My post was also absolutely explicit in absolving the signatories of responsibility for the flaws of the statement. If the point is that the statement was _not_ flawed at all, that of course can be discussed as a matter of individual points, if Dr. Licona were to desire that discussion, which of course he is not obliged to engage in. I merely wish to clarify that my including the ERLC statement in the same post as a criticism of him was not some subtle allusion to his having signed the ERLC statement.

Anonymous said...

Anderson et al. object to the revisionist view because it cannot *explain* certain facts, i.e. governments are involved in the marriage business, marriage is monogamous, marriage has a sexual aspect. In responding to an explanatory argument, why would it be inappropriate for the revisionist to add auxiliary hypotheses to his explanation of marriage so as to explain these facts? Calling this mere 'stipulation' seems to misunderstand the revisionist's point.

"Why in heaven's name should there be any particular point in the government's specially recognizing and giving privilege sexual-romantic relationships between two people?"

Because in a large number of cases, these sexual-romantic relationships want to share property and legal benefits.

"It doesn't explain it historically, because historically that *isn't* how the government got into the marriage business. The need and desire to make a stable family for children was _historically_ important."

Could you please point me to reliable sources supporting these claims? Thank you!

Lydia McGrew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lydia McGrew said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "reliable sources supporting these claims" because quite literally the entire history and content of marriage law up until the present supports them. If your argument is an historical one (that the mere desire for some sexual-romantic couples to have property benefits, etc., was the historical origin of marriage), then the sheer fact of universal heterosexuality of marriage is a glaring piece of evidence that this desire per se (such that homosexual couples might as well be included) was not the historical _etiology_ of marriage. So, too, is the requirement in law for consummation, otherwise the marriage can be civilly annulled. So, too, are the legal aspects of the background of marriage and divorce law that make marriage difficult to get out of, such as the requirement to divide even property that is not explicitly jointly owned if the people go their separate ways. In this sense, marriage is at least as much about inconvenience as convenience. Even in these days of easy divorce, divorces are expensive and messy, and one spouse's retirement account can be divided 50-50, even though there is no reason to think that _that_ was a piece of property that he got married *in order to* own jointly, and in one obvious sense it was not formally owned jointly before the divorce. These provisions for stability make little sense if the whole goal is the convenience of adults in joint property ownership, etc., of the couple.

The sexual aspect is joined in an entirely arbitrary fashion to the non-sexual aspect in your so-called "explanation." There are, of course, entirely non-sexual couples, pairs, and groups who want to jointly own property, yet this has been historically entirely unrelated to marriage law. So your "auxiliaries" do not explain why sexuality and these other legal aspects should come _together_ historically in the institution of marriage. You merely state that they do come together. This is not usefully explanatory of the origin of the institution as we find it, in terms of the actual policy and societal reasons for this particular combination, any more than it would be explanatory for me to say that a car has both wheels and a steering wheel because "somebody wanted to put both wheels and a steering wheel on a thing that somebody made."

The fact that marriage law makes provision for "children of the union" presupposes that that is a meaningful concept and that the unions thus honored can, qua unions, produce children.

And so on and so forth.

Anonymous said...

Those are good points about marriage law, I'll think about them.

By reliable sources, I simply mean good books on the history of marriage and marriage law. Proponents of traditional marriage often make these claims about history, but they just as often don't cite any sources.

Lydia McGrew said...

Not to be snarky, but presumably the reason they don't cite sources is because this is common knowledge and because it is so overwhelmingly supported by common knowledge and by legal knowledge. In fact, I'd be surprised if even the majority of homosexual activists dispute the _historical_ claim. The majority of them know (as far as I know) that they are trying to _expand_ the meaning of marriage beyond what it has historically been and that, in fact, their goals are a continuation of the sexual revolution. This is moving society towards more tolerance, etc., etc. It's a societal change.

Anonymous said...

Also, contrary to the claim of 'the universal heterosexuality of marriage', there is evidence that same-sex marriage has existed throughout history. If you're interested in reading about it, see Section II of Eskridge's 'A History of Same-Sex Marriage' here:

Lydia McGrew said...

I have not researched Eskridge myself, but as far as I can tell he appears to be a revisionist historian doing what revisionist historians typically do--ransacking the historical record for obscurities and extrapolating far, far beyond what the evidence actually shows. Richard Posner is no Christian fundamentalist and finds Eskridge's historical argument wanting. See here

See a summary of Lubin and Duncan's criticisms here:

I am familiar from my background in literature with this kind of straining, for purposes of a political agenda, to make out a case that something was really around commonly out there in history before it was suppressed by the nasty church, nasty Westerners, etc. I do not have time to read Eskridge's book, but all appearances indicate that what he is doing here is the kind of weak, revisionist argument with which I am already all too wearily familiar.

You should not lightly assume that the mere existence of a book like Eskridge's means that there *is evidence* for that claim.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the links on critiques of Eskridge!

M.L. said...

Hi Dr. McGrew, I wonder what you think of the following argument for traditional marriage. Is it sound? Does it have any weaknesses?

Either marriage is a relationship involving sexual acts or not. It can't be the latter, otherwise, there would be nothing to distinguish marriage from other kinds of relationships, so it must be the former.

Now, either marriage involves sexual acts that are in opposition to the reproductive function of the sexual organs or not. It can't be the former, otherwise, there would be nothing to distinguish marriage from, say, a cohabiting couple who want to avoid having children at all costs, so it must be the latter.

Finally, either these sexual acts take place in the context of a committed relationship, or not. It can't be the latter, otherwise, there would be nothing to distinguish marriage from, say, a couple in a one night stand who engage in uncontracepted sex, so it must be the former.

So, marriage is a committed relationship that involves sexual acts that are in accordance with the reproductive function of the sexual organs. And since only sexual acts between man and woman can be in accordance with the reproductive function of the sexual organs, marriage is necessarily between a man and a woman.

Thank you!