Theology and Sexuality, Part 2: Arguments from Creation

Following up from the last post, and still reflecting on today's SoulForce visit, we find that we need some theological framework from which to evaluate sin. We need to know WHY God finds certain acts offensive. Only by identifying these theological principles will we be able to reason effectively about novel ethical situations.

So, why might a sin be a sin? I'm building a list of five theological arguments each with some commentary:

1.) Divine Command (which we dealt with last post)

Today, we deal with #2:

2.) Arguments from Creation.

Some things in life have been deemed right/proper or wrong/improper by making an appeal to the created order. This appeal has been made in debates about slavery, women's roles, medicine usage, food, and sexual practices. Basically, the appeal is that God created the world and human relations to be a certain way, a God-intended way, and, thus, any deviation from that Order is wrong. In this reasoning, since homosexuality is "unnatural," it is wrong.

I expect I'll hear this argument a lot today on the ACU campus.

But, like with Divine Command thinking, we are immediately immersed in problems.

First, appeals to what is "natural" or "unnatural" don't always morally line up. Many things that are natural (e.g., the lust for revenge) are patently immoral. Further, most things that are virtuous (e.g., turning the other cheek) are patently unnatural. The point is, when thinking about naturalness, we need to monitor two common fallacies: The naturalistic fallacy and the moralistic fallacy. Both Christian groups and gay-activiist groups make these errors.

The naturalistic fallacy comes from David Hume: You can't get an ought from an is. That is, it is notoriously difficult to squeeze moral values from facts. Chairs, trees, and dolphins just don't speak values to us. Logically, the natural world is mute to us when in comes to decide how best to live. (Plus, the animal kingdom is clearly governed by survival of the fittest, so I don't think the animal world should dictate morals). In short, oceans and mountains are beautiful and may testify to the handiwork of God, but they don't help you deal with ethical issues like physician-assisted suicide. To conclude, just because something is "natural" gives us no moral guidance.

The moralistic fallacy is similar, but slightly different: What is natural is good. This fallacy lies at the heart of Christian anxiety regarding a possible "gay gene." The idea seems to be, from both the Christian and gay camps, that if evidence for the heritability of homosexual orientation is ever found, then homosexuality is to an extent, "natural." And therefore good. This fallacious reasoning is why so many Christians are fearful of the outcomes of genetic research regarding the origins of homosexuality. And why so many gay-activist groups push for it. If a "gay gene" could be found, many think the debate is lost for Christians, for it would seem that God had clearly "created" homosexuality. Homosexuality, it would appear, would be an uncommon but legitimate part of the created order.

But, like we learned with the naturalistic fallacy, this conclusion simply does not follow. Thus we see how simplistic appeals to "Creation" and "Naturalness," by both Christians and gay-activists, quickly get muddied and confused.

So, although arguments from Creation will be heard a lot today on campus, I don't think much light will be shed on the debate.

Tomorrow I'll discuss hedonic arguments for defining sin (still keeping a focus on homosexuality).

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4 thoughts on “Theology and Sexuality, Part 2: Arguments from Creation”

  1. I would think you'd want to address C. S. Lewis' first few chapters of "Mere Christianity" as you discuss the concept of "Moral Law." Your ideas posted here are skirting around what he takes a bit of time to say powerfully...

  2. Agreed again.

    I especially appreciate your association of Christ's ethic to something quite dissociated with "natural law." This is the worst argument the church employs.

    I often hear folks say, "homosexuality occurs nowhere else in nature." I always think, "then you've never been to a monkey house or a doggie park." And given that we are called to live according to something different than our OWN natural tendencies (the works of the flesh), it just seems a terrible argument.

    I'm really interested in this thread. Hope you'll keep it up.

  3. Some questions:
    1. Could you get from an "is" to an "ought" in the order of an unfallen world?
    2. Is it possible to filter a fallen world by any criteria whatsoever so that the remaining cases are those where "is" coincides with "ought"? The filters of original intent, integrity of purpose and use, the criterion of health, the criterion of survivability (a sustainable pattern), and the criterion of faithfully reproducing the original pattern are possible areas of exploration.

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