Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Crime and culture

An opinion piece on the lack of prosecutions in the UK for female genital mutiliation:

Amongst other things, I think it is revealing to see how opinion-formers and commentators in our secularist, post-Christian society are now speaking.

" Moral relativism has long been thrown out as a sensible argument" - good, but what have you got to replace it? Next lines: "One person taking a knife to a young girl's genitals is a crime. A million people doing it doesn’t make it culture." - and then, the end of the article.

So, just a declaration, with no argument. If you dare to raise a question, then presumably you'll be shouted down for supporting the mutilators. (And comments are closed on the piece, though that may be because it concerns a matter that is sub judice). What's my point? My point is that we're seeing this pattern of argumentation more and more frequently. People realise that moral relativism clashes with reality. It is self-contradictory in theory, and doesn't work in practice. So, what's next to try? If you don't have moral relativism, then you must have moral absolutes. But absolutes need grounding in something. What are the commentariat going to ground them in? The answer appears to be in the force of their declarations, followed by their ringing full stops. It's a crime... so shut up. Got any quibbles with the concept of two men "marrying" each other? It's obviously right, so you're a hater, so put a sock in it! When I was at university, the student union was a "no platform" policy for anyone who wasn't in favour of ending children's lives in their mother's wombs - not just that they were held to be wrong, but that they weren't allowed to speak; giving them the "oxygen of publicity" would, for the elite in the student union leadership, be itself morally wrong. Etcetera.

In fact, when you get down to it, this is just moral relativism re-branded. Rather than "everyone's chosen morality is right for them", it's "the chosen morality of those in power is right for everyone". The same question is ultimately begged - why is it right? What does "is right" mean? Where's the external measuring stick - beyond man's ability to choose or change - that we can use to make this evaluation?

Christianity provides moral absolutes that are grounded. Our Maker is good, and we are living in his creation. His essential nature binds us, and he has given a law that reflects that nature. Morality is not arbitrary - whether the arbitrariness is personal and different for everyone, or just the arbitrary choices of the leaders of society. It is binding upon us, becomes it proceeds from our Creator and Judge. Secularism and atheism provide no logical foundation for morality; Christianity does.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Facts, values and Christian education

Many Christians, in their approach to education, have in their minds the "facts/values" dichotomy given to us by the Enlightenment. There are neutral facts on one side; and meaning/values on the other. The division is (in Enlightenment thinking) quite deep.

This division becomes "useful" when thinking of schooling. The question comes up: why would I send my children to a secularist school, when I am not a secularist? Why would I not educate them in a distinctively Christian environment, if I believe that Christianity is distinguished from other philosophies of life by being true, whilst secularism is a philosophy of life which is, ultimately false? This is where the Enlightenment dichotomy comes to the rescue: schools teach facts, whilst home and church teach values. I can send my children to this or that school, because any influence of a different philosophy of life will be minimal - they're not really learning that way of life from their school. They're learning times tables, dates, laws of science, etc. I will give them a way of looking at the world that is authentically Christian outside of school.

Probably everyone would realise it's more complex than that. But if it comes down to it, that explanation is more-or-less in the ball-park. It's the go-to explanation to answer the basic question "why am I giving my children an education for which the central and majority use of time is instruction from people working within a secularist paradigm?"

The Enlightenment divide between facts and meaning has never been how human society works. The idea of neutrality is a myth. Human beings were not created to be "split-brain" in this way. All facts have meaning, and all true meaning is a fact. However, whether Christians do or don't look at school according to the philosophy of the Enlightenment is increasingly irrelevant today. It may be an idea that vaguely floats around the back of our minds, and appear to have its uses at times, but it's often very far from floating around the minds of our children's educators. Those who hold the reins of power and influence in Western society are emphatically not saying "when educating children, we'll stick to times tables, dates, science experiments, etc., and let their parents teach them a way of viewing the world". The fact that such a thing is impossible to do in practice is increasingly meaningless.

Which brings me to the link that prompted this - from Tim Challies; entitled "The New Birds and Bees": Whether or not it's possible to have a neutral, merely "fact-based" sex education is irrelevant. The real facts are that in schools, Western children are increasingly taught radical 1960s and post-1960s gender theory. The "facts" that they are taught are that the Bible's view of man and woman are wrong, wrong and wrong, and that the opposite is true. And then they are not left to work out some "values" of their own based on it, but are taught the "values" which flow naturally from these "facts".

The church needs to read, weep, and act, before the church's children begin to view it as their job to re-educate the church out of its "unenlightened bigotry", and bring it into line with "modern understandings of gender". There are lots of home educators going it alone to try to provide children of Christians with education that is Christian. There are increasing numbers of co-ops. And yes, there are some Christian schools. But, the amount of attention that this issue gets in evangelical churches and the wider sphere of evangelicalism is tiny. I understand that nobody wants to tie up enormous burdens to weigh down already highly-pressurised individual parents with. One of the ways to avoid over-burdening individual Christian parents is for the church as the church to rise up and face up to its responsibility for this area. It's a glaring need of our times. If churches can have building committees, missionary teams, youth work committees, evangelistic teams, women's ministry teams, etcetera, etcetera, there what is the Western evangelical church's reason for, on the whole, having no officers specially appointed to look at the question of how to make sure that church children have maximal opportunity to receive a Christian education instead of a secularist one? Isn't it something we need to think about, and ask God to show us what we can do about?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Should I go to a "gay wedding" if invited?

This question is one that Christians are now having to face.

It should not be a difficult one.

Should you go to a celebration, at the heart of which God calls evil? A celebration of something which, in its essential nature, is evil?

Some are already trying to slice-and-dice the question. Every marriage, they point out, will involve sin somewhere. So perhaps we should just abandon the world and live as hermits in caves, to avoid sin?

This is an evasion of the main point. Marriage in itself, in its essential nature, is good, and evils are incidental to its essential nature. Homosexual practice, however, in itself, in its essential nature, is contrary to God's law and to the order of his creation. The evil is inherent and unavoidable in every manifestation of homosexual practice.

There might be some actual marriages a Christian would not attend, because they fundamentally corrupt the nature of marriage itself. If a man abandons his covenant commitment to his wife to take a younger model instead, then we should shun him when he does so. If his marriage is incestuous or bigamous, we should make clear in every way possible that the act of marriage, in this case, is unavoidably and essentially wrong.

If a Christian was invited to a child marriage, in which a dirty old man is to "marry" his ten year-old niece, then presumably the suggestion "perhaps I should go along anyway, to bear witness by my handshakes, smiles and pleasantness to God's grace even to the worst" would be given short shrift in most evangelical churches.

There's no difference to a "gay marriage", except that a "gay marriage" goes even further into depravity - if we let the Bible be our guide as to what depravity is, that is. The only "difficulty" is of societal pressure. We don't live in some traditional African or some Islamic societies where child marriage is accepted and promoted. We feel no pressure to not say "that is an abomination" in those cases.

And that is the only difference. The world has been carrying on a multi-generation re-education campaign to teach us to call good evil, and evil good. We "must" now call truth-telling bigotry, and describe vileness as an affirmation of love, if we are to be accepted by the world. Acting as a Christian in this case rather than in that might cost us something. Being faithful to Jesus might mean taking up the cross and following him. It always has. There is no alternative on offer to his followers.