Expert Witness:
Kevin T. Keith on Consequentialists Ethics

Expert Witness — By on May 20, 2005 at 8:07 am

[Note: More information about the Expert Witness series can be found here .]

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  • http://www.brokenmessenger.com Broken Messenger

    “But what is ‘the good’?”
    By the world’s standard today, “good” is increasingly being realized as anything that is perceived to be accepted by a majority of society that is clearly distanced from or outside the notion of abosolute truth that comes from God.

  • http://www.brokenmessenger.com/2005/05/relatively-speaking.html The Broken Messenger

    Relatively Speaking

    Unfortunately, though realitive truth should live in the vacuum of the theoretical, it is practiced widely today and with increasing frequency. This lead me to ponder Kevin’s question, “But what is ‘the good’?”

  • http://southernappeal.blogspot.com QD

    I think this is pretty nicely done, with one (perhaps important) quibble. If Locke is any guide, utilitarianism isn’t as necessarily tied to classical liberalism as perhaps you make it out to be.

  • Strophyx

    There is indeed a great problem in believing that “good” is whatever the majority, the polls or the media say it is. However, this isn’t really a unique problem for a consequentialist ethic. Those who accept the will of God as the ultimate and unquestionable source of what is good might believe that it is God’s will that they kill all unbelievers (or those who believe different things about God).
    The real question seems to be whether the will of God is revealed to us as a list of rules that specify how we should behave in all circumstances [e.g., Rule 371.1(a)

  • Elwood

    “why many conservative religious thinkers insist on restricting access to birth control or clean drug needles, where consequence-minded liberals are more willing to adopt a

  • http://www.brokenmessenger.com Broken Messenger

    “Those who accept the will of God as the ultimate and unquestionable source of what is good might believe that it is God’s will that they kill all unbelievers (or those who believe different things about God).”
    Then they believe in total error. Christ taught the love of our neighbor as second only to that of our love for God. Moreover, loving our neighbor is validation of our love for God (see 1 John 4:19-20). Those who think killing an unbeliever is God’s will, do not believe the words of Christ Himself.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com mumon

    Elwood:
    Just a random thought… can’t drug users boil water? or is there more to sterilizing needles?
    Ever read the Darwin Awards?
    Even people who are not drug-addled do really stupid fatal things. Those who are needle users are not a priori concerned about their health.
    Yet they pose a health risk for others.
    So for that reason, clean needles- and legalized heroin- are better than the current insanity.
    The reason I would be for the government NOT being in the business of providing needles and birth control is not just because I think drug use and pre-marital sex are wrong (absolutism) but precisely because of consequentialism. I believe that providing needles or birth control may very well help that individual in the short term, but it has the unintended consequence of encouraging more of that risky behavior among others in the long run.
    And I support the legalization of opiates, clean needle exchanges, easy access to contraception, etc. for precisely the same reason. Harm reduction reduces harm.
    In another thread, I noted that it appears that we indeed have free will (even if it’s not a falsifiable proposition).
    If there is free will, then, as Dostoyevsky noted, even in a perfect world, people will engage in destructive behaviors because they can. In an imperfect world, there will be all the more destructive behaviors.
    You cannot remove the root desire itself, at least not through prohibition or restrictions. So as an act of mercy, and keeping with a moral imperative to avoid killing and suffering, there is no need to complicate what is already a horrible situation.
    Providing clean needles and access to treatment might actually help more than restrictions on clean needle distribution. Heroin, in its pure form, is less toxic than aspirin (that is, the ratio of lethal does to effective dose is actually higher for heroin than aspirin). It is the prohibition of heroin that actually makes it dangerous.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    1. There is a difference between RESTRICTING access and PROVIDING clean needles. I don’t know of anyone passing laws to restrict access to clean needles. There are people who want to PROVIDE those needles. (On the other hand, there are laws being passed to restrict access to cold medicine which is used in making meth.)
    Just a random thought… can’t drug users boil water? or is there more to sterilizing needles?

    There have often been such laws prohibiting the purchase of needles over the counter without a prescription. There have been a lot of reasons given for those laws over the years but I would guess that originally it was simply a means to ensure no one was using them and posing as a doctor or nurse without a license.
    The needle exchange programs I have read about encourage the use of bleach for sterilizing needles, not boiling water. Indeed bleach is often distributed with the needles.

  • AndyS

    Great post Keith. And my compliments to Joe on running a series like this.
    Keith wrote:

    [Liberals] do not hold a weak sense of moral obligation; they simply regard fewer things as falling within the span of moral obligation, because the consequentialist emphasis leads to a position of moral tolerance for any kind of behavior until it results in tangible good or harm to a person, at which point moral evaluation is required.

    I think you made many good points in the essay and generally agree with your approach, but I would like to comment on your assertion that liberals “simply regard fewer things as falling within the span of moral obligation.” Rather than “fewer” I’d say “different” things.
    Perhaps liberals would state fewer prohibitions on personal behavior like homosexual sexual acts, abortion, and end-of-life decisions (the usual topics on this evangelical blog). On the other hand, liberals like myself also assert some positive moral imperatives that many conservatives object to, and we generally motivate them with a consequentialist approach — like adding more resources to education and consequently improving students skills, human resources for business, and reducing crime. We would make similar kinds of arguments for social security, minimum wage, maximum work hours, health care for all, etc. In this sense liberals perhaps see more things as falling within the span of moral obligation.

  • RA

    Break the law, damage your body, damage other people’s bodies…. but do it “safely”. What about the people these drug users victimize. The thefts, murders, children and spouses that are abused physically, emotionally and econommically. Drug users are a plague on our society. Yet moral relativists want to protect their “right” to be a plague on our society. Only moral relativists can claim it is good to promote and safeguard those who do evil.
    The ultimate good is to force these people to hit bottom as soon as possible. Arrest them and dry them out. Giving them a second chance to do good in their lives instead of doing evil.
    As to the issue of the “good lie”. No one ever has to tell a lie. They can be evasive or they can say nothing. Rationalists always use the idea of the “good lie” to promote their rationalizations. They never point out that lies are used, in the vast majority of cases, to victimizes or otherwise manipulate other persons. But the rationalist says “its good for me so I’m going to do it”.
    Moral reativists never act for the ultimate good. Because they don’t know what the ultimate good is. Only the One who created us knows what the ultimate good is. His truth should be pursued. Moral relativists are promoting opinion based on very limited knowledge and clear misunderstanding of why we are here.

  • The Raven

    This post is truly outstanding, Keith. My deepest compliments.
    As the religious right has strengthened its hold on government and media of late, I’ve been troubled by the assertion that religion is important, necessary, and mandatory because it averts the problems of moral relativism. The argument you lay out here is very much my reaction to foregoing.
    In fact, as a liberal and an atheist, I perceive myself as spending far more time and energy wrestling with moral and ethical questions than do the self-professed adherents of traditional faith systems. Unlike them, I don’t get a book with all the answers; these things have to be ascertained through study and reflection. When it comes to study, at a bare minimum the sources cited in this entry are required reading. Ancient and modern philosophers, from Plato to Sarte, contribute to the liberal world-view, as do the ideas promoted in classical literature. Dryden, Pope, Coleridge, Dickens, Shakespeare, et al., have a lot to say on the question of what is “good” and what is “right.”
    What you start to notice is that the kinds of situations that require careful moral reasoning in life are rarely clean-cut issues that lend themselves to the application of biblical precepts. One rarely has to deal with a baby left on one’s doorstep, but one may very well have to see to the interests of a drug-addicted relative’s offspring. It’s wrong to steal, but to what extent do you punish a teenaged runaway who makes off with a sandwich? It’s wrong to lie, but what do you say to a terminally ill grandparent already experiencing signs of dementia?
    More to the point, though, is that I doubt most self-described “Christians” run to the Bible to answer such questions themselves. Adultery is simply rampant among this population, so we know that “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” is largely ignored by the devout. But when it comes to really tough matters, I suspect that most of us try to work things out as best we can.

  • Yasonyacky

    Break the law, damage your body, damage other people’s bodies…. but do it “safely”. What about the people these drug users victimize. The thefts, murders, children and spouses that are abused physically, emotionally and econommically. Drug users are a plague on our society. Yet moral relativists want to protect their “right” to be a plague on our society. Only moral relativists can claim it is good to promote and safeguard those who do evil.
    It’s quite a leap from “Break the law, damage your body…” to “…damage other people’s bodies….” Yet these “consequences” are presented as if they logically follow from one another – or all necessarily follow from drug use. They do not.
    The ultimate good is to force these people to hit bottom as soon as possible. Arrest them and dry them out. Giving them a second chance to do good in their lives instead of doing evil.
    Thank you for revealing the “ultimate good” for us, oh wise one. Humans have struggled with the question of the ultimate good for millennia – it is truly amazing that you have found it, and deigned to share it with us, your intellectual and moral lessers. Thank you, thank you – a million thank you’s.
    Just as a side note, please consider the abject failure of the strategy you suggest as embodying the ultimate good: “forc(ing) these people to hit bottom as soon as possible.” Has it worked so far? I mean, just how successful do you think the so-called “War on Drugs” has been? And as for this – “Arrest them and dry them out” – if that were the reality of the War on Drugs, we might at least be able to claim some moral high ground here. But that is not the reality. The reality is more like “Arrest a first-time drug offender and, thanks to minimum sentencing guidelines, put them in prison for 30 + years.”
    As to the issue of the “good lie”. No one ever has to tell a lie. They can be evasive or they can say nothing. Rationalists always use the idea of the “good lie” to promote their rationalizations. They never point out that lies are used, in the vast majority of cases, to victimizes or otherwise manipulate other persons. But the rationalist says “its good for me so I’m going to do it”.
    This is just willful ignorance. You seem to indicate that “lying” and “being evasive” are completely different. Get it straight, my friend – any word or action designed to deceive or mislead is a lie. I can say for myself that if I was hiding a Jewish family during the horror that was the Nazi regime, I would have lied my tail off to protect them – and felt wonderful about it. If the SS asked me, “are you harboring Jews?”, and I hemmed and hawed around (being evasive) or just said nothing, what would happen next? It would be exactly like saying, “Why, yes sir, I am harboring Jews! They’re right upstairs in my attic! Let me go get them for you.” And so I (the “rationalist” [?]) think to myself, “It’s good for humanity that these people not die at the hands of an evil empire trying to wipe them off the face of the earth, so I’m going to do it.”
    Does that sound like “If it feels good, do it” to you?
    Moral reativists never act for the ultimate good.
    Quite a bold pronouncement. “Never” is a very long time. Are you absolutely sure that “Moral relativists” (the existence of which the author of this post went to great lengths to question) never act for the ultimate good? I mean, even a broken clock is right twice a day. But I guess in your black and white world, only you and some of the people that attend your particular church can really act for the ultimate good. I forgot – you’ve got the secret decoder ring.
    ………….
    Moral relativists are promoting opinion based on very limited knowledge and clear misunderstanding of why we are here.
    Limited knowledge, huh? You know, before I read this line of yours, I’d have wagered dollars to donuts that I, for one (as one of your “moral relativists”) am operating in the world with quite a bit more knowledge than you are. But, as your superior knowledge of philosophy and religion indicate, you have all the answers.
    Man, it must be nice to live in a world where you can just say whatever inane thing pops into your head, and never see yourself as mistaken about anything, let alone God and His intentions.
    {/rant}
    T

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com mumon

    RA:
    Break the law, damage your body, damage other people’s bodies…. but do it “safely”. What about the people these drug users victimize. The thefts, murders, children and spouses that are abused physically, emotionally and econommically. Drug users are a plague on our society. Yet moral relativists want to protect their “right” to be a plague on our society. Only moral relativists can claim it is good to promote and safeguard those who do evil.
    It wasn’t always so. If you go back and read about the history of prohibition of marijuana and heroin, you’ll find that a) addiction rates were lower when they were legal, and b) consequences of drug use were less.
    Prohibition, in effect, incentivized criminal activity by tying it to an addiciton. By making many people’s fixes dependent on getting lots of money and dealing with criminals, in effect, then you make the addicts have a choice where theft, and sometimes violence, is seen as a better choice than dealing with the addiction.
    Are you honestly going to tell me that you think it’s morally acceptable to have incentives to commit crimes?

  • Sinequanon

    Kevin Keith: This discussion is quite wonderful. I typically avoid, at all costs, any evangelical blogs, as they make me crazy. Just a fact—tying to keep my blood pressure down. But, I found this link to take a quick look at your article and ended up reading the whole thing. I see just above this post a comment an ad for generic valium, and I don’t need it here, except for the posts by RA and Elwood. I agree with Yasonyacky and Mumon relative to their remarks about RAs little diatribe and Elwoods imperitives. I also agree with AndyS’s point that Different is better terminology than Fewer. He makes a good point. And, so does your thesis. What is does for me, and obviously for most of these other bloggers is indicate the dilemnas we all face when trying to do the right thing. The bottom line for liberals is, we all do the best we can for everyone’s sake, which in these days and times is better than the religious right’s imperitives to control everyone under their moral “christian” restrictions, and it also beats a stick in the eye …. or a theocracy for that matter.
    Great thesis and I plan to read more ohilosophy now…..in my little to no spare time….I’m late for a meeting as it is!

  • http://www.choicemaker.net/ James Fletcher Baxter

    Many problems in human experience are the result of false
    and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised in man-
    made religions and humanistic philosophies.
    Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe. The
    balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human reason
    cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the intellect
    can rise no higher than the criteria by which it perceives
    and measures values.
    Humanism makes man his own standard of measure. However,
    as with all measuring systems, a standard must be greater
    than the value measured. Based on preponderant ignorance
    and an egocentric carnal nature, humanism demotes reason
    to the simpleton task of excuse-making in behalf of the
    rule of appetites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands.
    Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament, cannot
    invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist lacks
    a predictive capability. Without instinct or transcendent
    criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with foresight
    and vision for progression and survival. Lacking foresight,
    man is blind to potential consequence and is unwittingly
    committed to mediocrity, averages, and regression – and
    worse. Humanism is an unworthy worship.
    The void of human ignorance can easily be filled with a
    functional faith while not-so-patiently awaiting the foot-
    dragging growth of human knowledge and behavior. Faith,
    initiated by the Creator and revealed and validated in His
    Word, the Bible, brings a transcendent standard to man the
    choice-maker. Other philosophies and religions are man-
    made, humanism, and thereby lack what only the Bible has:
    1.Transcendent Criteria and
    2.Fulfilled Prophetic Validation.
    The vision of faith in God and His Word is survival equip-
    ment for today and the future.
    Human is earth’s Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by nature
    and nature’s God a creature of Choice – and of Criteria.
    Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive characteristic
    is, and of Right ought to be, the natural foundation of his
    environments, institutions, and respectful relations to his
    fellow-man. Thus, he is oriented to a Freedom whose roots
    are in the Order of the universe.

  • Adam

    Fulfilled Prophetic Validation? That only washes inside the circle of faith. Outside that circle, all your arguments about ‘humanism’ could be replaced with ‘christianity’ or any other belief system.

  • http://shortattnspan.knowinpart.org/?p=246 Short Attention Span

    test post

    the evangelical outpost — Culture, politics, and religion from an evangelical worldview.

  • PQuincy

    Thanks for a thoughtful and helpful post.
    I can’t help being struck by the sheer “ships-passing-in-the-dark” nature of a few comments, specifically those insisting that the Judeo-Christian scriptural canon (however compiled, edited and translated) provides all necessary moral guidance to all humans.
    ——————
    To “Broken Messenger” (in good will). You say:
    “Christ taught the love of our neighbor as second only to that of our love for God. Moreover, loving our neighbor is validation of our love for God (see 1 John 4:19-20). Those who think killing an unbeliever is God’s will, do not believe the words of Christ Himself.” Alas, I sympathize with your understanding of what Jesus taught. But the historical record indicates that far too many–who also insisted they followed what Christ taught–thought it their duty to kill unbelievers, or even more urgently, misbelievers.
    You will say, in all seriousness and good will: “Yes, but they were ipso facto not Christians.” Yet they called themselves Christians, and how am I, not a Christian in any sense, to determine who’s “really” a Christian? I look at the language of some who call themselves Christian today, and I see the same elements thriving that led to the burning of Cathars, to the Te Deums across Europe after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, to the defense of the execution of Servetus, and so on. I am (alas) not reassured by your statement, therefore, much as I wish it were true.
    —————–
    To RA: Your substantive claims have been addressed by others. I wish it were true that it is never necessary to lie, for example — but only someone who has never experienced an odiously repressive regime, or read no history, could say that with any seriousness. Be thankful for how protected you have been!
    But I wanted to address a different point of your message. You said: “Only moral relativists can claim it is good to promote and safeguard those who do evil.”
    Now, you (carefully?) didn’t identify your view as a Christian one, so perhaps the comment below is not a correct response (though I think it could be adapted to fit most major religious traditions, along with Christianity). But I’ll assume, given this board’s nature, that you are coming from a Christian perspective.
    One part of Christian understanding of the world, is it not, (not in all denominations, but in most) is that humans are in fact inherently sinful…that is, all humans since the fall “do evil”.
    So, to translate what you said: “Only moral relativists can claim it is good to promote and safeguard any human being since the Fall.” That is not, I submit, a useful position on moral authority and behavior. Moreover, as most Christian denominations insist, we are in fact called to — by divine moral authority — not only safeguard, but in fact to _love_ those who do evil. In fact, if I read some parts of the NT correctly, (especially those reporting what Jesus said), it is _most_ important to love your enemies, those who don’t just do evil in general, but who do _you_ evil. You can disavow this, of course, but for my part, I don’t see how your post demonstrates much love. The Inquisitors who burned heretics insisted that they acted out of love, too…but I don’t buy it.
    ————
    Finally, to JF Baxter. Your evocation of the limits of human knowledge, moral or otherwise, is powerful. Most secular humanists that I know, including myself, are deeply aware of this conundrum: we are put here with a strong urge to find what is right and to follow it, yet the world of nature and reason and evidence give us too little evidence to do so with any confidence. Our lot is to question constantly, to scrutinize our motivations and our behavior, and to regret our failings. (Oddly enough, that doesn’t sound too different from the ideal 17th century Puritan, so perhaps the Christian worldview is more closely connected to Western secular humanism — in contrast to, say, carnal hedonism or pharisaical self-satisfaction — than one might think.).
    However, your solution — turn to the Bible, in contrast to “man-made” philosphies and religions — is, as has been pointed out, epistemologically inadequate. Surely, every serious Muslim, Buddhist, Jew or other religious person finds that their source of spiritual authority (Quran, Sutras and teachings, Torah and Tanakh, traditional lore, spiritual guidance from their guru, etc.) fulfills exactly the two criteria you establish: Transcendant Criteria and Prophetic Validation. By the same token, they (and I the secular humanist too) find your claim that the Bible provides these to be so threadbare as to lack seriousness.
    This is not a problem with the Bible: it’s a fine collection of human-made texts, as far as I can see. It’s a problem of what you want to make of the Bible: that source of certainty that the universe we live in — for reasons we cannot know — does NOT provide the guidance that we seek. So we have to figure it out, as best we can, with perseverance, charity and hope, using human standards but always scrutinizing them, because there is NO ALTERNATIVE.
    Sorry, I wish that wasn’t true: but the record shows that every self-proclaimed “Transcendant authority” ever established has been used to hurt, dispossess, kill, denigrate and otherwise harm those who find its claims unpersuasive. This suggests that insisting on “non-human truths” is not merely misguided, but actively dangerous. (Some may be better than others, and all can equally claim to have furthered healing, restitution, life, respect and other signs of lov, too, by the way).
    Living over the abyss of uncertainty is hard and dangerous. Welcome to the world we live in. (Yes, I know that I am making ontological claims, and thus thinking “religiously” myself, here. I don’t claim that my understanding has more validity than other such claims, but I also refuse to accept that it has less–especially since my view, unlike many others, does NOT rely on blind acceptance that a particular text, tradition or person has access to truths that no other source does).

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    Oddly enough, the post made me think of Gollum.
    At one time Christians were more open-minded than they are today and more willing to accept that they themselves might have flaws in the way that they perceive what God’s word actually is. Now most seem to be wannabe Dominists.
    J.R.R Tolkien was considered, at least when I was growing up, a primarily Christian author. Yet within his work was one of the first lessons I learned about moral ambiguity. The creature, Gollum, was an evil thing, a degenerate person. He deserved to die. But if he had been put to death, the greater evil of Sauron would have been triumphant. Frodo, the “hero” of the tale actually fails in his mission and succumbs to evil. Only by the actions of Gollum is he redeemed. And Gollum did not do this as a change of heart to the side of Good, he did it as his final selfish act.
    I am a moral relativist. I also believe in God and I see no contradiction in that. The reason you should not judge someone else is not because you think they can do no wrong, but because it’s not your place to do so. That is God’s job. And God may have different plans for Gollum than what you think is best. What ever happed to “All things work unto good”? Don’t they preach that in church anymore? That is where I learned it.
    Christianity as today practiced, at least in the public eye, is no longer about what God wants, it’s about “spiritual warfare”, and the personal indulgence in righteous rage while defending Christianity from the attack of the bogeymen, moral relativism and secularism. Instead of being examples of good Christians in order to inspire others to follow them, they want to make a Christian Country for themselves where only the Saved are allowed in. And they can’t do that if there are any sinners around who aren’t interested in repenting. If Gollum was actually around today, unrepentant little critter that he was, he would probably have ended up dead in a Texan death chamber. And Sauron would be in the White House.

  • Cynthia

    Very interesting post; thank you.
    I would add that many liberals, including myself, do not see some of these issues as “moral” ones – but as “human rights” – separate and different from morals. For instance, I see abortion and contraception as human rights issues, totally separate from morality. Murder would fall under a ‘moral issue’. One huge problem with absolutism is it allows nothing for different situations, a point you mention. For instance, murder done as required for self defense of one’s life – my morality does not waver about murder per se, but my view of it’s *morality* changes according to individual circumstance – murder for self defense is justifiable, and therefore not immoral. If one can allow for ‘moral relativism’ in that type of instance, why not others where strong situational reasons exist? A problem is that absolutists insist on absolute standards regardless of all harm caused by the standards – while my “liberal” outlook weighs all sides to decide the ‘most moral’ choice.
    Although I began to strongly believe in a god a few years back, (after an absolutely spectacular, er, spiritual experience) my morals and ideas of human rights, right and wrong have never changed. And I see the Bible as spiritual literature, not as the word and laws of god.
    I’m sure some will deride me as having met ” a pretender, an evil masquerading as god” – frankly, I don’t care what anyone thinks. ;)
    A Jesuit priest that I spoke with about it told me that the Catholics have a name for what happened to me – Desolation and Consolation. ( I asked a Catholic Jesuit because of their decades of scholarship and breadth of experience, not out of any denominational leanings) After the grace and the power and goodness and splendor that visited me – well, no words from anyone professing to know all these arbitrarily damaging *absolutes* from God will ever have a whit of effect on me.

  • JCHFleetguy

    A very interesting post – and I did well with it all until this:

    Rule-bound moralists, on the other hand, have to spend their entire time checking every act and circumstance to see whether someone, somewhere, is having a good time

  • Septeus7

    Quote from Kevin the Retard: The most moral act is the one with the best moral consequences. What could be simpler, or more obvious? By definition, any other moral theory endorses (at least sometimes) acts which have outcomes that are morally worse than the available alternative – which can

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    Been awhile since we had a septeus7 drive-by.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    God designed humans with the strongest sex drive in nature; and coupled that with our greatest biological pleasure being experienced at organism [Someone might add this to the mind/brain controversy]. He did this as a gift because He loved us. Along with this beautiful, and terrible, gift he gave us the “rule”. Since you will bond body, mind, and soul with anyone you have sex with – it should be with one person for life. Not moralism, but practical advice. I’ve heard the sex act (search your own experiences) described as similar to gluing two sheets of plywood together, and then trying to get them apart

    You assume that sex only has one purpose and you appear to rather narrowly define it. What is the difference between sex and physical intimacy? Is a French kiss sex? Is holding each other naked, warm and tight but not engaging in genital stimulation sex? And note that I am not classifying these things as actions that lead to sex, although I admit they can, but as separate acts on their own. What other things do they create and express? Do they express affection, and provide comfort? If it isn’t sex, at what point does it become that? And how?
    If you engage in sex to express your affection, for someone else, or to comfort a friend whom you do not consider a potential mate, it does not necessarily cheapen the act. Keep in mind I’m not describing anonymous one-night stands.

    [Hey, she wanted it, and sex is fun – it was consensual – we hurt no one].

    This is a sad story, but don’t virgins and married people commit suicide too? But I might agree with you, depending on the circumstance and the emotional maturity of those involved with this that you did not engage in sex in the proper way. If you continuously use the physical act and pleasure of sex as a barrier in order to avoid emotional intimacy, then you should be going to a shrink or priest, not a singles bar.
    I will also point out that what you define as the ideal – it should be with one person for life. is not what young men are being taught, often not even by Christian parents and schools. Settling down with one person and not having sex until being married is not defined as a very masculine thing to do in our society. Male self-esteem is often based on sexual prowess and conquest and that is in part the true inherent nature of what it is to be a man. To do as you ask is in some ways considered to be the feminization of a man. And most people, even most Christians I think, would believe that is a bad thing. It is against his inner nature. Or is it? Or does it instead say something about the poor regard for feminine qualities that our culture has? Is this the “Patriarchal” set of Biblical values we should return to? I think not.
    In order to participate in such a relationship properly as you have described it is necessary that the man yield some of his ego. But to yield and be passive is a feminine quality. And the woman must also come forward to claim and take her place as equal beside the man. But to take is a masculine quality. How is can this work? (And it does work!) Is it possible there is a bit of the woman in the man and the man in the woman? Adam’s rib perhaps?

  • JCHFleetguy

    Patrick

    You assume that sex only has one purpose and you appear to rather narrowly define it

    Good implied question. For which I have no real answer. The context in which I heard the plywood example was intercourse. I think that is the “one flesh” framework of scripture also. Where in the process of mutual sexual satisfaction and intimacy do you weld the sheets together? Got me.
    The story itself was sad, but it was meant to show the power that sexual intimacy has for good, and bad – not to jerk tears. Sex is never casual – unless we have so walled off our mind and spirit from the physical act that we have become callous and beastial. And of course I didnt engage in sex in the right way – or I would have had enough true intimacy with the person prior to sex to know what she was really looking for and needed (and perhaps been her friend instead of her “lover”).
    And you are right – this is not what I was taught about sex by the church I was raised in; or my father; or my friends; or my own sex drive (the famous “flesh, world, and satan”).
    But in the thread, how do we really gauge the real consequences of sexual decisions outside of committed relationships where we can see the long-term results? And are we ever be able to fully wall off our logic from our selfish desire for sexual gratification? I was “lucky”. Have all of us who have glued together, and ripped apart, from other people kept track of those folk to see how they are fairing years later? Have we left scars on them? What scars have we retained? I got to see that answer in a couple of different circumstances – this and another. So when I heard the “plywood” analogy it struck home.
    Knowing humans will always strike lower than their aim – shouldn’t we strive to aim high at all times? I do not think we can guage the consequences, at least in sex, enough to alter our ethics.
    As to the “inner female” question – or our dual natures: I think God, while we call him “He”, really is not “male”; but carries both gender’s qualities in full – He is fully male and fully female. I think men and women also carry parts of the opposite gender in their character – but I would be really careful to define what character traits are “male” or “female”. I think the idea of marriage is that a man and a woman unite body, mind, and spirit to form one entity – something that more fully reflects God’s dual gender character.
    Now I know your question is: if two men (or two women) unite do they also unite the male and female parts of their characters into this same single “one flesh” reflection of God’s dual gender nature? My initial reaction (please note that phrase!) is no. Certainly the Bible only relates to this in a heterosexual relationship. And in the same context, homosexuality is described as a sin in the same book. So, I will toss that ball into your court brother – what say thee.

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick

    “Now I know your question is: if two men (or two women) unite do they also unite the male and female parts of their characters into this same single “one flesh” reflection of God’s dual gender nature? My initial reaction (please note that phrase!) is no”
    The correct answer is yes an no.(surprise) ;-)
    However, I would start with your definition of God as dual-gender. I don’t think you can make that assumption. Gender is a thing of the natural world. If God is truly “supra”-natural (above nature), then you are seeing him through the imperfect human lense of perception.So to God, “gender” in any form may not apply at all. God is unknownable.
    However, since you are a Christian I’m going to assume that you believe that God revealed himself through The Bible, in which case I would say that the God of the Bible is pretty clearly male in aspect.
    Of course, since I’m NOT a Christian of a particular bent I don’t believe the Bible in “inerrant”. So to me it represents what a culture from over 5000 years ago thought about God. It’s not necesarily wrong, but it is filtered through the culture and the times it was written in. Whew!.
    OK, back to the duality of marraige (which is really a quadality in practice). I suggest that the correct way to evaluate whether a gay relationship is a “marriage” is through means testing. In other words, spend a month living with a gay couple and then spend a month living with a straight couple. Then, other than gender, name the differences and similarities.
    You will find that on a practical basis, they work and function almost exactly the same way. The relationship still has the same give and take that is the hallmark of a couple. The ingredients of male-female are there.
    However, if you put gender back into the mix, there are differences, because of the quantity of the ingredients. And this is where it starts to get real fun because in a sense a gay male couple works differently from a lesbian couple, so they are not directly comparable. Again, all the ingredients are in place, but just in different quantities and mixtures.
    So what you end up with is interesting. If you look at some of the primary things that are defining aspects of a marriage, such as monogamy and stability over time, you will find that lesbian couples are the most monogamous and long lasting, then the straight couples, and at the bottom of the list gay male couples.
    However when ever anyone debates “gay marraige”, or gay anything for that matter, the primary objections, promiscuity, etc., are about the gay male couple. Why?

  • JCHFleetguy

    Patrick,

    If you engage in sex to express your affection, for someone else, or to comfort a friend whom you do not consider a potential mate, it does not necessarily cheapen the act.

    Nothing “cheapens” the sex act- it is a beautiful gift of God to us. The act of intercourse has huge physical, mental, and spiritual meaning regardless of our potentially cheap reasons for taking part – we can cheapen ourselves, not the act

  • JCHFleetguy

    Patrick,
    I do think you can make the assumption about God’s complete nature – we were after all created in His image. That is obviously not our physical appearance – but a spiritual likeness (ability to think, being made for eternity, passion, etc). This includes men and women, both the hunters and the nurturers. I think He must include all of our individual good qualities in His nature. Even the bad ones for that matter, since I am not Dualist I do not grant evil any creative power. Only the power to corrupt the good qualities God created. Like sex. Now take God is Love as an example: not that he loves, or likes to be loved, but is love – it isnt what He does, its who He is. Now isn’t that a more feminine characteristic?
    Why would you make that argument anyway? You believe men and women are “dual gender” in the same way. And we are on a material level – both have male and female hormones. Why wouldn’t that be a reflexion of God’s nature? In relationships, a 50/50 mix; an 80/20 mix; and a 20/80 mix would all be very different relationships. The question is: does the creator want it to be 50/50 ish? Or does He really care?
    As to Bible inerrancy: Yes, and no. There is allegory in the Bible; there are social systems like slavery that do not exist to the degree (although when I was an old marxist I didnt have trouble with the words wage slave – so inserting employer and employee for master and slave isnt a great leap). There are things that are cultural in the Bible – any good teacher will understand those reference points for the purposes of interpreting the Bible. But have the ten commandments failed? No. Go to the Sermon on the Mount. Have the beatitudes failed? The wisdom of proverbs and Psalms? Not in the least. Setting aside homosexuality for an instant – have any of the teachings on sexual sin been wrong? I would say this culture proves the opposite. The Bible is correct: ‘Either marriage [monogamy, life partner, etc], with complete faithfulness to your partner or else total abstinence’. A harsh program, but really it is the owners manual for the 2005 Human SexDrive. The Bible is inerrant as a guide to knowing God, understanding what God wants for us, and how he wants us to follow Him.
    One more example of the unknown consequences of consequential ethics. Much of the hatred that radical Islam has for the West is the flood of “modern” Western culture (and primarily sexual promiscuity and images) eroding their culture – and their children. Go figure.
    Now we are this far in the discussion because I know you believe in monogamy too. I am running ill today – so I am going to leave before I talk about your very good question about why gays, and not lesbians, bear the brunt of the attack. But, I gave you plenty to tell me I am crazy about so its probably a good stopping point.

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    James Fletcher Baxter:

    Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament, cannot invent criteria greater than himself

    Actually, he did, and he called it “God.” *ducks*

  • http://www.leanleft.com tgirsch

    JCHFleetguy:
    It’s funny that you should cite Lewis’ sex/appetite comparison from Mere Christianity, because it is (in my estimation) one of the sloppiest arguments in the entire book. The comparison is invalid on its face. Eating is virtually guaranteed to fulfill its biological purpose (providing nutrition and sustenance), whereas sex is nowhere close to doing so. Not every sexual encounter will result in pregnancy (in fact, relatively few will), and until fairly recently, there was a good chance that any offspring created would not survive until adulthood (which is probably still true, if you consider fertilized eggs which fail to implant, as discussed in a prior thread).
    Thus it makes perfect biological sense that we should crave sex more often than we “need” to have it (if “need” is expressed in number of children). And yet, despite that, I know of no one who has sex (or even masturbates) anywhere near as often as they eat. And never mind the fact that nobody asserts that once you eat a cheeseburger, you can eat nothing but cheeseburgers for the rest of your days. :)
    So the whole “sex as gluttony” thing falls flat.

    That leaves 43 million [abortions worldwide] because we will not control our sex drive rationally.

    Funny that you should use the word “cannot.” I tend to agree with that assessment. Sounds like a design flaw to me…

    The worst of course is sub-sahara africa where the epidemic is attributed to long-haul truck drivers unable to stay away from prostitutes – one of those victimless crimes

    Never mind the heavy influence of religious dogmatics railing against condom use.

    How many divorces due to adultery; how many sexually molested children; how many rapes, etc.

    Read your old testament. These were common even then.

    I take the state of sex in the world as an indication that the owners manual is correct: sex with life partner only.

    I’d be interested to see how you get from point A to point B, especially in light of your “cannot” attribution above. It looks to me as if it doesn’t matter whether the “owner’s manual” is correct, because we cannot live by it. It’s my experience that when people are held to an impossible standard, they stop trying to live by any standard at all.

  • http://www.extrasearchresults.com aleksanders

    Nice blog. How are you?
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  • http://www.extrasearchresults.com aleksanders

    Nice blog. How are you?
    Travel
    Timeshare, Car Rentals, Honeymoons, Vacation Rentals, Hotels, Travel Insurance, Las Vegas, Cruises, Airline Tickets, Business Travel Health
    Contact Lens, Health Insurance, Diabetes, HGH, Dental Plans, Weight Loss, Hair Loss, Spas, Health Care, Vitamins Homes
    Home Loans, Renters Insurance, Home Insurance, Real Estate, Home Selling, Moving, Apartments, Furniture, Interior Design, Air Purifiers
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    Debt Consolidation, Refinance, Cash Advance, Mortgages, Credit Repair, Credit Cards, Credit Reports, Auto Loans, Investing, Online Payments Internet
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  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/06/one_link.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    One link

    I was going to make this a link assortment, but I’m too busy. So here’s just one link. Imago Dei has a rather interesting post on a problem with consequentialist ethics. Read it even if you’re interested in thinking about…

  • http://www.dmobley.com/archives/2005/06/one_link.html A Physicist’s Perspective

    One link

    I was going to make this a link assortment, but I’m too busy. So here’s just one link. Imago Dei has a rather interesting post on a problem with consequentialist ethics. Read it even if you’re interested in thinking about…