Schools Can’t Be Religiously Neutral Either

I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.
-Attributed to Martin Luther

Whenever American Christians complain about the exclusion of the Bible or Jesus from our public schools, there are always a few cleverer Christians who raise a very good question in response: Do you really want public school teachers telling our kids about God?

It represents a genuinely compelling argument–and I’ll admit that it’s one I’ve made myself. First and foremost, there’s the public schools’ track records of teaching per se. It’s pretty hit or miss even when it comes to things like reading and math. It’s not like we could expect better results from teaching Christianity. But beyond that, there’s the matter of the beliefs or lack thereof of the teachers.  Do we really want teachers who hate or egregiously misunderstand the Bible to teach the Bible? Atheistic teachers? Theological liberal teachers? Muslim teachers? All in all, it does amount to a recipe for inevitable spiritual malfeasance.  Putting God back into contemporary public schools is a terrible idea.

But clever questions shouldn’t be conversation stoppers, but conversations starters. And so I’m going to ask another clever question in response:  If our only choice for the public schools is between teaching nothing about God and teaching errors about God–between teaching atheism and teaching heresy–are public schools really a good option for Christian parents in the first place?

At the end of the day, there is no such thing as religious neutrality–even in schools. At its theoretical best, you’ll be teaching the kids that God has absolutely nothing to do with anything. But in practice, it’s even worse because nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of true teaching about God, myth will inevitably take its place. And this is already well underway in our supposedly secular schools. In terms of morality, they have long been promoting gender deformity, sexual debauchery, and abortion. They teach the secular eschatology of dire prophesies that the world will end in fire in 12 years if we don’t repent. Sometimes, they’ll even have kids confess the creeds of other religions like Islam as part of required assignments. Atheistic schools could never last a long time–they will always become pagan schools in short order.

But the question doesn’t stop there either. Sure, pagan public schools are poor places for Christian children, and barring exceptional circumstances (e.g. severe disabilities that almost no private Christian schools will adapt themselves for), they’re bad choices for Christian parents. But surely that raises yet another question: are these good endeavors for Christian voters to support? Inasmuch as we have governmental influence, should we really be using it to support pagan schooling? If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, then surely we wouldn’t want to maintain and support “gateways to hell” for our fellow citizens to blithely send their kids through.

I’ve written quite a bit about Christian nationalism lately–in which a Christian nation governs itself according to the wisdom provided by their faith. It seems to me that such a nation wouldn’t be choosing between atheistic public schools and heretical public schools in the first place. On the contrary, they would be choosing between Christian public schools and no public schools.  Could teaching the Bible  be less impossible than we think?  Maybe, maybe not–I remain highly skeptical about the proposition.  But if the clever question really is a show-stopper–if Christian public schools are really an impossibility–then we should be looking for ways to educate altogether apart from such schools.

American parents outsourced their roles as educators to schools.  Nothing says that role can’t be returned to us–especially in an age with the kind of educational options we have today.  Certainly, that goes for our own families first and foremost; but in the long run, we should be considering that for our nation as well.

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Christian Youth, Family, Musings | 1 Comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 9

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
-1 Cor. 7:9

Though some are called to celibacy as Paul was, the vast majority of humans who have ever lived have been called by God to marriage. Last time, we considered some of the ways we can avoid some of the temptations to sexual immorality that we all face. But considering the scale of the sexual immorality that confronts us today, we need to wake up and realize that mere resistance only takes us so far. More than anything else, we need the Biblical prescription for that struggle: marriage. Unfortunately, we do not live in a culture which honors or seeks it. So it’s time to consider some of the practical ways in which Christians can defy culture in favor of Scripture and make marriage both a priority and a reality in our lives.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q
7) Distorting Natural Law: https://youtu.be/F_JR7XpCoKg
8) Resisting Temptation: https://youtu.be/xDcW5BIrsL8

Related:
Giving Marriage the Old College Try: https://thefederalist.com/2014/01/16/giving-marriage-the-old-college-try/
Most People Are Called To Marriage; It’s Not Idolatrous To Act Accordingly: https://thefederalist.com/2019/08/30/people-called-marriage-not-idolatrous-act-accordingly/
Four Myths About the Helpless Single Woman: https://thefederalist.com/2014/06/09/four-myths-about-the-helpless-single-woman/
It’s Past Time To Reconsider the Place of College: https://thefederalist.com/2014/06/20/its-past-time-to-reconsider-the-place-of-college/

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Their Problem is with Nations, not Nationalism

It seems that Commonweal Magazine recently published an open letter against Christian Nationalism–or at least against Christians who are also nationalists. Unsurprisingly, given the source, much of it can simply be dismissed as “blah blah blah racism; blah blah blah Nazis; blah blah blah white supremacy.” The usual bugaboos of progressive sanctimony are on full display here and retain their usual measure of irrelevance. Nevertheless, not only do some of their points reflect confusions that extend beyond the SJW cult, they also reveal an ugly truth behind the globalists’ reaction to the rising nationalism in the West.

“2. We reject nationalism’s tendency to homogenize and narrow the church to a single ethnos. The church cannot be itself unless filled with disciples “from all nations” (panta ta ethné, Matthew 28:19). Cities, states, and nations have borders; the church never does. If the church is not ethnically plural, it is not the church, which requires a diversity of tongues out of obedience to the Lord.”

It’s hard to overstate how confused this point is. Certainly, the Church transcends nations, but how exactly does any form of nationalism change that–even Christian nationalism? If America recognizes herself as a Christian nation, does that somehow annihilate Christians in Spain or Africa or excommunicate them from the Church? Does the fact that Chinese congregations consist almost entirely of Chinese people somehow invalidate them as Christian due to insufficient ethnic diversity? If Saudi Arabia closes its borders, is there no longer a great multitude from every nation standing before the Lamb in Revelation?

Perhaps the confusion derives from mistaking Christian nationalism for a theological doctrine when it is, in fact, a political one. There’s a world of difference between saying that “America is Christian” and saying that “Christianity is American.” Only the first claim is inherent in American Christian nationalism–leaving the latter to the fever dreams of leftists and civic nationalists.

But wherever their confusion comes from, their intent to impose the borderless nature of the Church onto nations is ultimately an attempt to dissolve those nations. That is what brings us to their 4th point.

“4. We reject nationalism’s claim that the stranger, refugee, and migrant are enemies of the people. Where nationalism fears the stranger as a threat to political community, the church welcomes the stranger as necessary for full communion with God.”

Here we find a fairly typical confusion between the Two Kingdoms. The Church’s fundamental responsibility is to make disciples by baptizing and teaching what Jesus taught. Civil government’s fundamental responsibility is to establish a just peace by punishing wrongdoers and commending rightdoers. Those are two very different responsibilities, and so they are necessarily accompanied by different authorities–both established by God. These, in turn, require different vocations from Christians and citizens. When attacked, a Christian is to turn the other cheek. When attacked, a soldier is to fight back. When one man is both a Christian and a soldier, he is to obey God in both respects–to kill in his service as a soldier and to turn the other cheek outside of that service.

Now, it is quite true that the Church welcomes the stranger. But it is no less true that a national government must be wary of him. Neither of these truths gives way before the other. As is the case with the Christian soldier, the Christian who is also a citizen must fulfill his vocations according to the responsibilities and authorities inherent in them. When it comes to his civil vocations, it is his God-given responsibility to protect his neighbors against invasion; he has absolutely no right to set that responsibility aside.

But you’ll notice that amidst the confusion, the letter’s problem isn’t really with nationalism. After all, does an imperial government have any less of a responsibility to protect those whom God has entrusted to them? Was not Rome’s failure to defend her people from the Visigoths a true failure? Only a global government would be relieved of the responsibility of defending its borders. Of course, we used to have one of those, but it was God Himself who dissolved it and created the nations. It is precisely the persistence of this work of God which triggers their complaint.

“5. We reject the nationalist’s inclination to despair when unable to monopolize power and dominate opponents. When Christians change from majority to minority status in a given country, they should not contort their witness in order to stay in power. The church remains the church even as a political minority, even when unable to influence the government or when facing persecution.”

Initially, I found this objection to be the most curious of the bunch. This is, after all, a complaint in which they charge that American politics are becoming unchristian due to an increasing nationalism. If the authors of the statement want a perversion of the multiculturalism assigned to the Church at Pentecost to be imposed on their nation, do they not therefore want their own nation to be governed according to what they falsely believe to be Christian principles? Isn’t their attempt to paint nationalists as unchristian an attempt to leverage Christian witness in order to maintain the power of contemporary globalism? Isn’t their service as the middle guard of cancel culture an attempt to monopolize power and dominate opponents by maintaining the fiction that said opponents are akin to Nazis?

It seems like the height of hypocrisy until you realize they’re actually just projecting. It is not the nationalists who are desperate, but the globalists. This is why they’re talking about 1930’s Germany in the 2nd paragraph before admitting in the 3rd it’s not the same today, but golly gee, it sure reminds them of it. It’s why they raise the cries of “racist!” again & again and (without any Biblical warrant) mark it out as an especially grave sin. It’s why they try to swap out the Church as the Body of Christ and replace her with the “good guys” in their narrative of oppression. Globalists have had their way for so long that they have a hard time coming to terms with the prospect of a world without their ideology. Now that an alternative is beginning to bud, they are frightened. So they flail about with whatever indictments are ready at hand–and what’s closer than the demons which torment their own minds?

Here, then, is the ugly truth: The common thread in this entire confused mess isn’t merely an opposition to nationalism–a philosophy that places a higher priority on the nation than they deem proper–it’s an opposition to nations as such. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that interferes with their diversity worship. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that is responsible for defending its people from invasion. It’s the nation rather than nationalism that threatens globalism’s dominance in Western politics. Not only does this make them the enemy of every nation (including America), any self-proclaimed Christian who puts themselves in this position would do well to consider that the nations they seek to undo are the work of God.

All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
-Psalm 86:9

Posted in Christian Nationalism, Ethics, Politics | 2 Comments

Cultivating Chastity – Part 8

Now that we understand the content of sexual morality–knowing right from wrong–it’s time to turn our attention to the second aspect of virtue: the discipline and practical wisdom necessary to carry that knowledge into practice. There’s neither a quick fix nor a comprehensive flowchart to acquiring chastity. But every journey of a thousand miles begins with those first few steps, and there are a multitude of small changes we can make that will help us along the way. In this episode, we will consider some of the ways in which we can help resist some of the temptations we inevitably encounter in this life.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q
7) Distorting Natural Law: https://youtu.be/F_JR7XpCoKg

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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A Few Thoughts on Bodily Presence

One of the big difficulties when it comes to disagreements between Lutherans and Reformed is that we don’t always agree on what our disagreements are. Take the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. This is a generalization, but the view I hear most often from the Reformed perspective is that the Lutheran and Reformed views are actually pretty similar. We all agree that Christ is present in the Supper, we just disagree on how he is present–the mode in which Christ is there. Lutherans say he is present bodily, Reformed say he is not, but they do affirm that he is present spiritually (though exactly what “spiritually” means seems to differ fairly significantly from one person to the next.)

Lutherans, in contrast, tend to see that same gulf as being much wider–that these two views aren’t really that similar at all. That’s why we give our own doctrine a title that no doubt seems rather pretentious to other traditions: the Real Presence. Even the very name implies that in the Lutheran view, the Reformed don’t really think Christ is present in the Supper–that mere spiritual presence is some kind of fake presence.

In a way, this divergence shouldn’t be particularly surprising. Calvin tended to be a particularly abstract thinker, whereas Luther was generally more concrete–and the traditions they left behind seem to follow the same pattern much of the time. Neither one of those ways of thinking is necessarily better than the other (I tend more towards abstraction myself,) but they each have different strengths and weaknesses in different circumstances.

In the case of the Supper, the Reformed view (again, this is a generalization, but it is what I hear most often) begins with the abstract concept of “presence.” From there, it tries to determine the most sensible way of understanding that abstract concept. It considers the finite nature of bodies, the infinite nature of God, and so forth before concluding that a spiritual mode of presence is just more sensible than a bodily mode given the abstract concepts involved. So when they come to Jesus’ words, “This is my body,” they conclude that he’s speaking figuratively. And when Lutherans maintain a belief in bodily presence, its seen as a less sensible view, but it nevertheless fits within most of the same abstract structures.

Lutherans, however, don’t start with presence in any abstract sense. Rather, when we use the word presence, it’s usually just short-hand for Jesus’ words, “This is my body.” Those words were the famous beginning and ending of Luther’s conversation with Zwingli on the subject. Before any abstractions are brought to the table at all, everything begins with those simple words of Christ: “This is my body.” Anything else we offer is merely an attempt to describe that. So when Lutherans hear the Reformed say “Christ is present, but he’s not bodily present” what we hear is essentially, “This is my body, but it’s not bodily my body.” That, of course, is nonsense–if its not bodily his body, it’s not his body–which is why we affirm our doctrine using the term “Real” Presence in implied contrast to unreal presences.

So is it all just a matter of miscommunication? Am I suggesting some postmodern “it depends on your point-of-view” solution? Not at all. As a matter of fact, it all goes back to what I said about abstract & concrete thinking each having different strengths in different circumstances.

When you’re confronted with the mysteries of God–subjects in which the infinite encounters the finite in ways that you already know are beyond human comprehension–the last thing you want to do is let your philosophy dictate what Scripture is and is not allowed to say. When, for example, Scripture tells us that 1) Jesus Christ is God and 2) Jesus Christ is man, we don’t start figuring out what those statements “really” mean by forcing them into our own metaphysical standards of what’s possible or sensible when it comes to God becoming incarnate. We don’t try to make him some kind of part god/part human hybrid (Eutychianism). We don’t try to make him two distinct beings–one god and one man–each occupying the same space (Nestorianism). We simply accept that he is God in every sense of the word and that he is also man in every sense of the word. How does that work? We don’t really know. We can describe it–as we do in the creeds–but not really define it in terms of our own categories. And if we feel like speculating about the metaphysical mechanics, we always need to do so in a way that respects both of the two concrete realities we are presented with: Christ’s full divinity and Christ’s full humanity.

We should be taking the same approach to the Supper. The very word “sacrament” means mystery. When Christ tells us that this bread is his body, given for us for the forgiveness of sins, what business do we have trying to define the mechanics of that reality–especially determining what is and is not possible for God? The Lutheran view is a simple and concrete approach that’s analogous to the orthodox position on the two natures of Christ. Scripture tells us that it’s bread and wine. Scripture tells us that it’s Christ’s body and blood. Ergo, it is really and truly both. We have no need to try to define these two realities in terms of Aristotelian metaphysics the way Rome did–much less demand adherence to such a system. And if that leaves us unable to answer the question of “how can this be?” beyond pointing to the power of God’s promises, so be it. We don’t really need to answer it. But even in the midst of that ignorance, we nevertheless know that theologians err when they try to interpret those two realities in a way that effectively denies either truth, and we’re quite right to defend those truths against error.

Posted in Lutheranism, Musings, Theology | Leave a comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 7

Last time we talked about the law written on our hearts–the moral knowledge that we all possess simply by virtue of having a normal human mind. But if, on some level, we all know that sex belongs with marriage, how to we get to the kind of licentiousness we see today? In this episode, we will explore some of the popular distortions of natural law–and why they seem compelling to us.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg
6) Chastity in Natural Law: https://youtu.be/snhqfQcJq6Q

Related:
Chapter 11 of As Though It Were Actually True: Christian Apologetics Primer – https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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The Dark Side of Equal Opportunity

I’m not the first software developer in my family–both of my parents worked in technology as well. But even they weren’t the first. My mother, who programmed back in the days of punch cards and vacuum tubes, followed in the footsteps of my great aunt. Unlike today, the wage gap was actually real back then. My great aunt was quite literally paid less than her colleagues specifically because she was a woman. For one thing, she was in a brand new field holding the same position without any pertinent differences in experience or hours worked, but still earned substantially lower wages. For another, people were quite open about that rationale because it was the norm at the time.

Even I would agree that this was unfair. But was it also unjust?  In other words, was this a matter of pure bigotry or some other form of moral wrongdoing on the part of society? Or was it, instead, simply an unfortunate circumstance borne from generally reasonable actions? Those are two very different indictments. Life is frequently observed to be unfair, and justice does not always compel us to fix such things. In those kinds of situations, we often find that the “solutions” are merely trade-offs—exchanging one form of unfairness for another.

So which was it? Unfair or unjust? Our feminist culture discourages us from reflecting on questions like that—preferring that we reflexively label people misogynists and call it a day. But that is not how we roll here at The 96th Thesis. So to answer the question, we need to actually consider & understand why she was paid less.

I can’t speak to the attitudes of the people involved—whether or not her bosses were women-hating jerks smoking cigars who constantly made off-color jokes in the back rooms of their boy’s clubs. I know what TV and movies would have me believe, but that’s not exactly a reliable source. What I can point out, however, is a big cultural difference that transcends personal attitudes: Women were paid less at the time because it was expected that most of them would eventually go on to have families and either reduce or eliminate their hours working.

Why should that make a difference? Because in the past, equitable pay for careers was more complex than simply comparing an hour of productivity to an hour of wages. More companies considered their employees to be long-term investments. Even as workers carried out their tasks, they were gaining experience and skills that would make them more effective workers for that company in the future. Employees weren’t simply being paid based on what they produced now, but also based on educated guesses about what they would mean to the company in the long run. Because women’s futures with the company were much less certain, they were much riskier investments, and that higher risk was reflected in lower wages.

There’s no question that those expectations limited prospects for career-minded women. Swimming against the current is always harder than going along with it. Social expectations like that often create prejudices that take a lot of work to overcome—when they even can be overcome, which is not always the case. In that sense, these practices were by no means fair to women.

At the same time, it wasn’t exactly fair to ask companies to ignore social expectations either—to simply assume that most women would be around in the long-run the same way that most men would be. Even today, men still tend to work longer hours than women for a variety of reasons.  Forcing them to ignore that difference wasn’t correcting an injustice.

So if we consider the matter soberly without broadly applying our own prejudices about the personalities involved, the situation was unfair, but not necessarily unjust in a broad sense. There were no doubt plenty of horror stories in which real injustice happened, but also plenty more people who were simply doing their best with the situation they were given.

And, of course, the people of the time chose to try and solve the unfairness. They established laws that required equal pay and forbade various forms discrimination based on sex. Today, achieving equal pay for equal work is probably seen as one of the most benign and positive changes that feminism ever delivered. Even most people who reject feminism in general have little issue with that particular aspect of the movement.

But as with many solutions to unfair situations, they were merely trade-offs accompanied by unintended consequences which have caused a great deal of harm. What’s more, we’ve largely failed to consider those consequences because in a feminist culture, doing so is a great way to draw unfair accusations of misogyny and sexism. But that is exactly how we roll here at The 96th Thesis, so let’s take a look anyway.

What is the primary unintended consequence of reducing employers’ ability to weigh the risk of hiring a worker by making sex-based wage discrimination illegal? It’s a commensurate reduction in their investment in that worker. Ignoring sex in hiring decisions reduces the future-orientation of said decisions. The result is that companies are more and more likely to treat their employees as replaceable parts rather than investments. Today, so many years later, we’ve reached the point where workers are usually referred to as “human resources.” They’re selected by whether their current skills and qualifications fit the need of the moment, and at many companies, little thought given to who they are or where they came from because they’re probably just going to be replaced in a few years anyway. We can argue over whether that trade-off is worth it, but honesty requires us to recognize it as a trade-off.

There’s also the matter of wage depression to consider. The fundamental basis of economics is the law of supply and demand. When the supply of goods and services grows relative to their demand, the price drops. When demand for goods and services grows relative to their supply, the price rises. Well, labor is a service—it’s something we pay for—and is just as subject to that law as anything else. When women entered the workforce en masse, they substantially increased the supply of labor. Roughly speaking, women’s participation in the workforce went from 1/3 to 2/3, which, because they’re half the population, means a roughly 25% increase in the supply of labor. However, they made little change to the demand for labor because 100% percent of women were already consumers.

Because of this, the price of labor—wages—were substantially depressed. Whereas single-income households were normal in the past, today, many families today struggle to get by without two incomes. So while it is much easier for a woman to pursue a high-earning career today than it was 60 years ago, it is also much harder for a woman to be a stay-at-home mom or homemaker. Once again, you could argue whether that trade-off is worth it, but it is undeniably a trade-off that elevates career-minded women at the unfair expense of women who aspire to motherhood—a higher calling than career for most people.

And the trade-offs don’t stop there. Broadly speaking, women’s investment in the work force results in lower investment in the family—fewer children who spend less time with mom. This lack of investment has lead us to a birth rate well below replacement levels and a dying civilization as its fruit. But there’s a more personal trade-off as well. My great aunt never had children of her own; she devoted herself to career instead. In contrast, my mom quit her career as a programmer to have kids—a choice I will literally be eternally grateful for because without it, I would not even exist. My own kids will be eternally grateful to her as well, as will theirs, and so-on down the line. How many more software engineers would have been in my family if more of those genes had been passed on? How many more people would be eternally grateful to their mothers and grandmothers if they had chosen to become mothers in the first place?

So not only was equal pay a trade-off rather than an advancement, I cannot help but conclude that it was by no means worth the cost. The effect of legally forcing this change wasn’t to correct unjust practices by employers, but rather to force a change in expectations for women by elevating career at the expense of family.  To our sorrow, it seems that civilization depends much more on the latter than on the former.

There’s no question that feminism has been a debacle. It is the bloodiest movement from a century filled with bloody movements. Nonetheless, many conservatives try to wash that blood off its hands for the sake of its benefits without ever truly counting the costs. Not only do these benefits fail to justify their cost in lives and broken homes that accompanied them, even some of the most beloved cannot justify their own direct costs.

Posted in Family, Feminism | 2 Comments

Cultivating Chastity – Part 6

Luther once observed that without the natural law, “one would have to teach and practice the law for a long time before it became the concern of conscience. The heart must also find and feel the law in itself.”

This remains the case when it comes to sexual morality. Though Scripture is quite clear about God’s standards, those standards appear alien to a culture as lawless as ours. But are we really as “lawless” as we seem, or do we actually surround ourselves with absentminded laws and moral attitudes about sex? If we look critically at the poorly conceived rules and standards of our own culture, we might just find that God’s own standards less alien than we first thought.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y
5) Chastity in the Bible: https://youtu.be/pCJ5eTHtkbg

Referenced:
There’s No Such Thing as a Slut: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/05/theres-no-such-thing-as-a-slut/371773/

Related:
Yes, Virginia, There is Such Thing as a Slut: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=617
Chapter 11 of As Though It Were Actually True: Christian Apologetics Primer – https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/
Stop Shaming Men for Valuing Virginity: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=1071
The Cultivation of Shame: https://thefederalist.com/2014/04/03/the-cultivation-of-shame/

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Answering Objections About Marriage as Higher Calling

I forgot to post it on the blog, but I had a new piece up on The Federalist last week.  It’s a critique of an article by Kylee Zempel in which she argues that Christians today are idolizing marriage.  My response was essentially that marriage really is the higher calling for those who aren’t called to celibacy (i.e. the vast majority of the human race), and we ought to treat it that way.  But it’s only natural that my own critique attracted criticisms of its own.  Here are some answers to the most common objections:

People shouldn’t marry because some marriages turn out badly! Especially for [men | women]!

Sure, but a well-lived life is one that takes risks on behalf of goodness, truth, and beauty. It’s the nature of risk that it sometimes turns out badly. When you lie alone on your death-bed, you’re not going to find much satisfaction in the mere fact that you never got hurt.

This is not intended to trivialize the pain of those who have actually suffered through horrible spouses. It is, rather, intended to point out that as dark as our suffering sometimes is, God’s goodness always shines brighter—we should always hope in the latter rather than despair in the former.

Be fruitful and multiply” only made sense when there were only two people. Now that there are so many people in the world, we can feel free to disregard it. After all, humanity isn’t going to go extinct.

My favorite thing about this argument is that it was made almost 500 years ago at the Diet of Augsburg—back when there were only half a billion people on the planet. The Roman delegation argued that the earth was already too full, so God’s command doesn’t apply anymore. The additional 7 billion people put this foolishness in perspective.

My second favorite thing about this argument is that one of these guys talked about how China was forced to implement its one-child policy as evidence for his contention. It would, of course, be more accurate to say that they are now forced to abandon it due to the easily predictable consequences of said policy.

But ultimately, it’s wrong because its presumptuous. It suggests without any evidence that the only reason God told us to be fruitful and multiply is merely so that we won’t go extinct. And against that pile of absolutely nothing we have to weigh the fact that God designed us for sexual reproduction in the first place, that He gave us a sex drive that still persists when there are a lot of people, that there are additional New Testament commands to marry after the threat of extinction had passed, that Scripture treats children as categorical blessings, and so on, and so on. Gee, I wonder which way the scales will tilt…

If you want to marry; fine. If you don’t want to marry; fine. But keep your nose out of everyone else’s business because marriage isn’t the be all and end all of human existence.

At the end of the day, I believe this represented most of the criticism—which is pretty sad.

This attitude is as normal in our society as it is incompatible with Christianity. After all, where does it put the entire locus for the decision of whether or not a person should marry? It begins and ends with personal wants. Do what you want, and don’t complicate the matter further by considering compelling arguments.

But “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” is the ethic of literal Satanists like Aleister Crowley, not of Christianity. For Christians, personal wants are considered when we make decisions, but they’re a much lower priority than things like God’s explicit commands, biblical wisdom, godly discernment, love for neighbors, etc.

And as a consequence of this, when we speak of reasons to marry or not, we speak of objective reasons that inevitably inform the decisions of other Christians—or of anyone whose concerns extend further than their own personal wants. To those who follow the Satanic ethic, this seems like butting into someone else’s business. After all, one person’s subjective wants truly have no jurisdiction over another person’s subjective wants. But Christians shouldn’t allow Satan to set the guidelines for our speech, and so we speak of more than mere desire.

Like it or not, there are always going to be women called to celibacy in the Church, and you need to give us the recognition we deserve!

First, I’ll note that this doesn’t affect my argument. It’s a true observation (one that I also made), but does not change the fact that these callings are the exceptions rather than the norm.

That said, let’s also look at the substance of this complaint. Does the Church need to make more of an effort to recognize single women? Well, it depends on exactly what you have in mind for “recognition” because we can understand that in two different ways.

The first way of understanding recognition is as accolade—as in, “Look upon all the mighty works that single Christian women have done! Do you not owe us your praises for these things? Stop pretending that creating and loving new human beings is somehow more important than my career and give me my due!”

I’ll be frank: this is precisely the sense of vainglory I get out of most of these calls. There was even a strong element of this in Zempel’s original piece. After all, it starts off with her description of how wonderfully and thoroughly she studied transgenderism before expressing her irritation that someone who appreciated those studies and took the time to say so also suggested that motherhood was a still mightier work. Likewise, she goes on to talk about how the wisdom of her own pursuits is better and more universal than pursuing marriage and family. There’s a powerful attitude among many single Christian women that they are the unsung heroes of the Church and that voices need to start being raised—stat.

There’s no need for me to address demands for this kind of recognition because Jesus has already done so, and I have nothing to add to His words:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

It’s just one more reminder that the concerns of feminism are not the same as the concerns of God.

But can one put a better construction on some of these calls? I do think it’s possible to understand “recognition” in terms of “office” rather than “accolade.” In other words, recognizing single Christian women can mean widely embracing celibacy as an uncommon but legitimate social role to be filled—one permanent enough that there’s no perceived need for anyone to change out of that role. And to be fair, Zempel had notes of this understanding in her piece as well (specifically the irritation that anyone would express hope for her aspirations to change.)

Well, if this kind of recognition can be fulfilled simply by acknowledgment of celibacy, many people already do this—including myself in that very piece. But if it needs more than that, Christians have traditionally done this through monasticism—in which Christians would take vows of celibacy and permanently join a like-minded community that is recognized by everyone as being set apart from the norm. After all, I suspect very few people ask nuns whether or not they have a boyfriend yet.

The thing is, the protestant churches have largely abandoned this concept—and for good reason. It always came with a unhealthy does of elitism—the belief that monks and nuns were on a higher spiritual plane than the “mundane” Christians who were actually fulfilling God’s commands. They generally involved ungodly vows and the elevation of man-made traditions above the Word of God. And more to the current point, the record will show that a great many monks and nuns did not actually have the gift of celibacy at all—sexual licentiousness wasn’t exactly uncommon in many historical organizations. It’s not that monasticism never offered anything positive, it’s rather that the practical negatives proved too problematic for too many.

The Roman and Eastern churches still maintain monastic traditions, of course. Once could look to those as examples. I can’t say much about them because I’m not familiar with contemporary norms in those traditions. All I can say is that the error of spiritual elitism is, unfortunately, still part of Rome’s theology.  And if all the scandals surrounding Rome’s priesthood are any indication, I suspect the not-actually-having-the-gift-of-celibacy issue is probably still around to some extent as well. I know even less about the Eastern traditions.

Ultimately, the call to “recognize” celibate women as holding a kind of special office is going to be a call to reestablish something akin to monasticism. I say this for a few practical reasons. First, it has to be something that is sufficiently organized, visible, and set apart to provide adequate recognition for those who belong to it. Second, it has to have something akin to vows to provide sufficient permanence—otherwise, it just changes the irritating questions of hopeful parents and friends to “hey, when are you going to finally leave the organization and find a boyfriend?” You might be able to trade cloisters and convents for more civic vocations, but many of the key elements are still going to have to be there for it to be functional.

Can this be done without falling into those same historical problems? (Or at least mitigate the problems adequately–it’s not exactly fair to expect perfection in any earthly institution.) The historical endurance of those problems makes me dubious of that. So does the scale of our society’s sexual licentiousness. So does the pervasiveness of single women’s demands for the vainglorious version of “recognition.”

In light of these considerations, maybe the better questions to ask the celibate are these: 1) Are the occasional recommendations to marriage that you receive really so hurtful that it’s worth courting these sins? 2) If the recommendations really are that hurtful, is it possible that you’re a little more insecure about your own calling than you’d like to admit?

Posted in Chastity, Culture, Ethics, Family, Feminism, Musings | Leave a comment

Cultivating Chastity – Part 5

If we’re going to cultivate the virtue of chastity–if we want to be disposed towards right behavior and against wrong behavior on the subject of sexuality–then we need to consider what right and wrong mean. As Christians, our first step in that consideration is to review the Biblical teachings. Join us as we survey some of the key points of what the Bible does–and doesn’t–teach about sexual morality.

Previous Installments:
1) Introduction: https://youtu.be/IPr0LyLKSVk
2) The Church’s Failure: https://youtu.be/s_ImO_Ip7eo
3) Stop Teaching Celibacy: https://youtu.be/1aGzk0d4zPA
4) The Virtue of Chastity: https://youtu.be/hNCtZxA496Y

Related:
More than a Duty; Not Less: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=943
The Golden Rule Means Having Kids: https://thefederalist.com/2019/04/30/youre-not-following-golden-rule-youre-not-children/

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