Use The Guillotine

There is a commonly used argument for blessing same-sex unions. In the continuing controversy within the Anglican Church of Canada Charles Stirling states the pro-homosexual blessing case clearly in the December, 2009 issue of Niagara Anglican.

“Gay and lesbian people are not mistakes of God, to be loved and honoured by congregations who deny of them the sexual gifts and rights of their creation. Make no mistake, it is a matter of natural desire and not an acquired taste or habit. Sex is the natural expectation of all creatures, who come to develop and find a need for each other. Homosexuality is evident in animals, although it may usually miss our observation, and fortunately we don’t have folk chasing them down to prevent it. Fundamentally it is a matter of human rights, as we seek to improve these rights for all people, as they come to us in faith, as whole people of God.”

This argument fails on two grounds, the philosophical and the theological.

1. Philosophically this is an example of the “is-ought” problem, or Hume’s guillotine. In A Treatise of Human Nature David Hume wrote:

“In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark’d, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it.”

Hume argues that there is a difference between descriptive statements and prescriptive statements, and that we cannot legitimately derive one from the other. An ‘ought’ cannot be derived from an ‘is.’

This line of argument was further developed by GE Moore who, in Principia Ethica, 1903, argued that a naturalistic fallacy occurs whenever the attempt is made to prove a claim about ethics by appealing to a definition of the term good in terms of one or more natural properties. “Good” is not a natural property, neither are natural properties “good.” Whilst we would disagree with Moore as to the inherent nature and source of “goodness” his argument that we cannot infer that X is good from any proposition about X’s natural properties still stands.

The consequences of arguing that existence implies either validity or moral approval is clear if we consider paedophilia or bestiality. People exist with such propensities, they claim that they cannot help themselves, that they were made that way, a few even claim that God made them that way. Yet very few would argue that therefore men should be allowed to rape primary school-boys or couple with donkeys.

2 The simple theological error into which Stirling and his cohorts fall is to ignore the Fall. According to those who argue for the blessing of homosexual unions if a human trait exists God must have made it so and therefore all who have this ‘gift’ should indulge it and the Church should celebrate it and bless them. Homosexuality is part of God’s creation and should be accepted and celebrated as such. This is akin to the claim of Adam that it was not his fault that God’s one law was disobeyed, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it” Genesis 3:12. It wasn’t his fault, it was the woman’s, and ultimately it was God’s fault for creating the woman in that way.

We learn in Scripture that the Fall has infected every single part of creation. We do not live in a normal world but one which is distorted in every aspect both by our initial rebellion against God in the Fall and our continuing condition. There is no indication in Scripture that the only aspect of creation which is unaffected by the Fall is our sexuality. Homosexual activity is condemned in Scripture and the very real temptation some have to indulge in such action is the result of the Fall and not of God’s creative intention.

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About Campbell

Now retired but once upon a time a parish minister in Glasgow, before that the South West and initially the Black Isle. Been a prison chaplain and lecturer. Still am constantly bemused by the weird world around me.
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