morality

What are Christians to Make of Sting Videos?

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By Scott McClare

By now you can't have escaped hearing about the latest Planned Parenthood (PP) scandal. Beginning on July 15, a pro-life group called the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) has released a series of videos—five so far—in which actors have posed as buyers for a fictitious biomedical research company and secretly taped interviews with prominent PP personnel, in which they admit to harvesting fetal organs and tissue for sale to medical researchers. In the first video, a doctor nonchalantly eats lunch while she explains how she would "crush" the unborn child in a way to preserve desirable organs. In the second, released a week later, another doctor describes how a "less crunchy technique" would preserve the fetal organs, remarking that the cost of the specimen would need to be worth their while: "I want a Lamborghini," she quips. Each video is more graphic and revealing than the last. In the most recent, released this Tuesday, a PP employee remarks that "if we alter our process and we are able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, it's all just a matter of line items."

However, in some Christian pro-life circles, sting operations like this one raise ethical questions—not about the abortionists' actions, which every Christian should agree are evil, but the ethics of the sting itself. After all, stings involve strategic deception, and isn't lying wrong?[1] When Paul asked, "why not do evil that good may come?" (Romans 3:8),[2] he was being sarcastic. The ends do not always justify the means.

What are Christians to make of the use of deception in stings or investigative journalism?

Christians have held basically three different views on this subject. In the first view, lying is always sinful. True moral dilemmas (situations that can only be escaped by committing one sin or another) do not exist, and there is always a way out of a tricky moral situation that does not require one to lie.[3] In the second view, moral dilemmas do exist, in which case one must commit a lesser sin to avoid a greater one. Nonetheless, the lesser sin is still sin that must be repented of and confessed. In the third view, when faced with a moral dilemma, we are obliged to obey the higher command, and in doing so are exempted from the guilt of disobeying the lesser one.

I am arguing in favour of this third position. The obligation to obey God's commands is an overarching moral absolute, worked out in the obligation to love God and our neighbours. Individual commandments are, practically speaking, absolutes. Thus, I am not arguing for situational ethics, in which there are no moral norms beyond "what is the most loving thing to do?" However, moral imperatives do need to be understood in light of their intent; as we wrestle with morally complex situations, we must try to discern the rationale for the commands. It may be possible to violate God's intent even when obeying the strict letter of the law.

We can all agree that under normal circumstances, lying is a sin, particularly when there is no need to lie, or our reasons are purely selfish. The Bible never directly commends lying, although it does commend telling the truth (for example, Exodus 20:16; Ephesians 4:25). Truthfulness reflects the character of God, who cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18).

Nonetheless, the ethics of deceit are not always cut-and-dried:

1. Is it sinful, in a hockey game, to deke right but pass left?

2. Is it sinful to tell your girlfriend that she looks nice, even if you think her outfit is unattractive?

3. Was it sinful for the Allies to deceive the Germans into believing the D-day invasion would assault Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy?

4. Is it sinful to lie to an abusive husband about his wife's whereabouts if you believe he means to harm her?

The first two situations illustrate that small deceptions are a part of everyday life. They are arguably trivial and do no harm. If "white lies" can be avoided, then they should be—but no one has ever called an athlete's integrity into question for faking out his opponents.

In the last two situations, however, the lies are neither trivial nor done for personal gain, but instead are intended to contain evil by defeating Hitler's armies or preventing an angry man from doing violence to his wife. The sting videos are of the same kind of moral complexity. Fortunately, the Bible provides some indirect guidance concerning this kind of moral dilemma.

The Egyptian Pharaoh intended to weaken the Israelites through infanticide. However, two Hebrew midwives refused to kill Israelite babies, and lied to Pharaoh, saying that Israelite women were giving birth before they arrived. As a result, God blessed the midwives and gave them large families of their own (Exodus 1:15-21).

Before the conquest of Jericho, the prostitute Rahab sheltered Israelite spies, hiding them on her roof, but telling the authorities they had already left the city (Joshua 2:1-7). Consequently, Rahab is commended in Hebrews 11:31 for her act of faith.

Since both of these deceptions seem to have divine approval, it appears God places a higher priority on preserving life than telling the truth. Some have argued that God commended the midwives' and Rahab's faith, but not their deceit.[4] As I see it, the deceit was intrinsic to their acts of faith, which otherwise would have failed. Honesty might be the best policy under normal circumstances, but under these circumstances God's enemies intended to kill God's people, and they did not deserve to know the truth if it would aid them in their evildoing.

Similarly, there is no question that Planned Parenthood is involved in the mass destruction of human life. It performed 1/3 of all abortions in the US, over 327 000 abortions last year.[5] By filming them doing what they do, CMP's sting simply exposed what PP does on its home turf. The fifth video, which shows someone poking through a casserole dish full of dead fetus parts, is more grotesque than anything I have seen Scott Klusendorf or Jojo Ruba present in their talks. These videos revealed the reality of what abortion is. Pro-choice critics will never again be able to falsely accuse pro-life speakers of using graphic images that misrepresent the consequences of abortion.

CMP has also exposed the utter callousness of abortion practitioners who joke about their work and chow down on salad while discussing the best way to crush unborn human beings. If Planned Parenthood had known in advance that they were being stung, they could have covered this evil up. They did not deserve to know the "buyers'" true intentions.

In the late 18th century, while abolitionist William Wilberforce toiled in Parliament to outlaw slavery, his friend Thomas Clarkson travelled throughout England, gathering evidence against the slave trade. This consisted of stories from sailors, surgeons and others involved in the trade, as well as instruments used by slavers to restrain and torture slaves. He displayed these instruments at public meetings and printed pictures of them in his pamphlets. Clarkson understood that visual aids made his lectures more persuasive than words alone. Since he was hostile to the slave trade, it was unlikely that slavers would donate their tools of torture to him willingly; therefore, it's no surprise that he sometimes used subterfuge to collect his evidence. These tools eventually helped Wilberforce rally abolitionists and helped convinced many to finally outlaw slavery.

Our present abolitionists are also gathering evidence against the horrors of the modern-day trade in human flesh. Like Thomas Clarkson, they put themselves at considerable risk, but they do so to reveal the horrors of the abortion industry in terms that an online, visually oriented culture can understand. They are bringing the "unfruitful works of darkness" (Ephesians 5:11) into the light. We need more warriors like this. May their tribe increase!


[1] For example, the Roman Catholic Church has historically taken the position that lying is always evil, even if done for good reasons. The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls lying "intrinsically disordered" (CCC, sec. 1753).

[2] Scripture citations are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).

[3] People who hold to this position appeal to texts such as 1 Corinthians 10:13: "[God] will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

[4] The note for Exodus 1:19 in the Geneva Bible reads, "Their disobedience in this was lawful, but their deception is evil."

[5] Penny Star, "Planned Parenthood: We Aborted 327,653 in FY2014," CNSNews.com, December 31, 2014, accessed August 6, 2015, http://cnsnews.com/news/article/penny-starr/planned-parenthood-we-aborted-327653-fy2014.

Same Ol' Argument: a Logical Refutation

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By Justin Wishart

Our Executive Director, Jojo Ruba, recently sent me an opinion editorial published by the Medicine Hat News.[1] Scott Schmidt, the article's author, goes on a diatribe chastising Christians who submit to the Word of God, and the God who inspired it. Schmidt makes it very clear what he thinks of the Bible by saying that when it is "read cover to cover it becomes blatantly obvious just how much complete nonsense there is." He attempts to give a moderated view by saying, "I couldn't care less what you believe in your own life, as that is the entire point. Live and let live." However, Schmidt then says, "[I]t's time for you to change your attitude, or go away"; so much for "[l]ive and let live." Schmidt is very interested in forcing his morality on anyone who might disagree with him. However, there is one thing he said which I agree with him about. "The thing is, while it might be your right to say what you want, the second you make it public (or attempt to) it becomes my right to tell you what I think." I will now do the same.

There are so many poor arguments, outright logical fallacies, and misrepresentations in Schmidt's article that I am surprised he deemed it worthy to print. It also made it hard to pick which direction to take my response. There is a virtual delta of channels I could have taken. However, I deemed a response worth the time because you see many of his flawed arguments used by various Internet Atheist types. This might provide a useful resource for our readers if they encounter such arguments online, and if you do apologetic work online, you will face these arguments.

Schmidt's article is an attempt to argue that Christians shouldn't take the Bible's teaching on homosexuality seriously. He makes the mistake that many Internet Atheists make. He accuses Christians of not reading the whole Bible and applying it equally to their lives, so why should we accept what the Bible says about homosexuality?

Your religion also says I have to marry my sister-in-law if my brother dies, and that my daughter must marry her rapist as long as he gives me 50 gold coins. In the same part of the book that calls "a man laying with another man" an "abomination," we're also told we can't eat shrimp, wear polyester or get divorced. Those same pages require hair never be messy, beards never be trimmed, and, for good measure, dictates parents kill their children if they curse at them. Unless you don't find any of these rules to be absurdly offensive, how could you keep a straight face while trying to suggest the one about "laying with another man" deserves credibility?

Schmidt thinks that since we wear polyester, we shouldn't be against homosexual actions. Far from being a good argument, this simply shows that Schmidt hasn't thought through this subject. Due to space, I am not going to justify these mentioned laws individually, but provide some general principles that show Schmidt's argument is meaningless.

Bible with warning sticker1. Schmidt gives the impression that homosexuality is only discussed in Leviticus. This is simply false. There are six passages which specifically deal with homosexuality, including three in the New Testament.[2] Yet, Schmidt seems to be completely unaware of this fact, or simply chose not to mention this in his article. This shows that Schmidt's argument fails to refute the biblical teaching on this subject. Any proper refutation must deal with these other verses as well.

2. The Bible defines marriage as between one man and one woman.[3] This disqualifies a same-sex union from being a biblical marriage. Sorry, Schmidt: to a Bible-believing Christian, a homosexual union is not a marriage. The Bible also teaches that sex should only take place within a marriage covenant.[4] This then disqualifies any homosexual act as permissible, because they would all have to happen outside a marriage covenant. Schmidt's argument fails to recognize this fact found within Scripture. Since there is no mention of this in his article, his argument doesn't even come close to addressing the Bible's teaching homosexuality, much less refuting it.

3. Everyone, including Jews, must reinterpret their relationship with Torah Law. There are two main reasons for this. One is that there is no Torah theocracy. Cultural context must be therefore considered.[5] Since many of the paradigmatic laws found within the Torah are state-focused laws, they do not directly apply in our modern context. While we can look at the paradigm and see the wisdom of the principles that the law is derived from, some direct commands cannot apply anymore. Secondly, the Temple, with all its ceremony and rituals, is no longer here. Much of the Torah Law is focused on the Temple (or Tabernacle) and the rituals associated with it. Schmidt does not attempt to deal with these hermeneutical issues. But if anyone is going to refute the Bible's teaching, it must be addressed. This is but another way his argument fails.

4. Christians believe the Jesus fulfilled the Law.[6] This is exactly the main thing that changes the Christian's relationship with the Torah Law. Until Schmidt shows how eating shellfish (and the other laws he mentioned) is treated the same hermeneutically as homosexuality in light of the life of Jesus, his argument cannot refute the Bible's teaching on the subject.

5. Schmidt confuses the actions of Christians with the veracity of the Bible. Even if he was able to account for the above principles, this would still not make his case. It might be the case that the vast majority of Christians have gotten our beard laws wrong. That if we were to be consistent, men should never shave our beards. Yet, Schmidt argues that if this is true, and that we indeed should not shave our beards, that it follows we should be okay with homosexuality. How does that follow? It could be that homosexuality is still an abomination and we should also not shave our beard. Pointing out (alleged) Christian inconsistencies does not mean we should necessarily throw out all other laws, but could mean that we should simply become more consistent. Since Schmidt does not provide any justification as to why we should abandon the Levitical teaching on homosexuality, instead of taking seriously the beard laws, his argument fails here.

While more could be mentioned, these five failures alone show Schmidt does not provide a meaningful refutation of the Bible. I don't even need to provide justification as to why Leviticus commands what it does.[7] An argument which is shown to be fallacious does not need to be refuted further; and Schmidt's argument is about as fallacious as they come.

I mentioned earlier that there were many channels I could have taken my response given the fallacious nature of Schmidt's article. One simple example will highlight the absurd nature of this article. He says:

You see, I couldn't care less what you believe in your own life, as that is the entire point. Live and let live.

However, that flies right out the window when you use archaic excuses to take other people down.

If I replace the pejorative term "archaic" with the pejorative term "liberalized," how does he avoid his own criticism? Is he not trying to take down the Bible, and as a result Bible-believing Christians? Does he not want us to simply "go away"?

It appears that Schmidt would benefit more in learning some basic logic instead of fallaciously attempting to take Christian people down.[8] He would have easily seen how erroneous his arguments are and realized that he needs to study the subject much more. Instead of such a pointless hit piece, he might actually be able to add something meaningful to this discussion. Unfortunately, the general population haven't learned basic logic and may even find his arguments convincing. The fact that I have come across this argument many times proves this to be the case. It is up to the apologist—correct that, it is up to the Christian to point out the errors in this argument. People actually fall for such poor argumentation.


[1] Scott Schmidt, "The Bible Is Not Always the Best Source of Right and Wrong in the 21st Century," Medicine Hat News, July 8, 2015, accessed July 24, 2015, http://medicinehatnews.com/commentary/opinions/2015/07/08/the-bible-is-not-always-the-best-source-of-right-and-wrong-in-the-21st-century/.

[2] Genesis 19; Leviticus 18:22, 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Timothy 1:10.

[3] Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5.

[4] Hebrews 13:4; Proverbs 5:15-19; Exodus 20:14; 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.

[5] To use an Old Testament example, many of the Torah Laws had to be abandoned when Israel was under Babylonian rule.

[6] Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:4.

[7] However, simple Google searches will find good introductory justifications for such laws if one is really interested in learning.

[8] I would recommend Gordon Clark's book Logic (4th ed., Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2004).

The Consequences of Relativism from a Christian Worldview

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By Dr. Ron Galloway

The origins of relativism in North America and abroad arose from worldviews that worship nature as the ultimate reality, such as evolution, for example. The Roman letter of Paul warns in the very first chapter that any nation that begins to worship the energy, spirits, or processes of nature are in great peril. Paul explains that they becomes senseless in their reasoning and are en route to destruction if they do not turn away from the worship of the creature and creation, rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.[1]

North America and Europe have it all now: the worship of nature, contact with the spirit world, and hearts filling to overflowing with all the evils that the Roman letter says will fill the human heart when it exchanges the truth about God for a lie.[2] Once a society claims that truth and morality are relative, there remains no limit whatever to the heights and depths, or breadths, that evil can go, for there is no longer any basis for objection or protest against anything. If there is no truth, then who can object? If all that exists is no more than a random product of nature, there can be no evil. Therefore, who can consistently object to any evil of any kind? Evil has been ruled out of existence.

Consistency and Relativism

This is why I find it slightly comical when dyed-in-the-wool moral relativists object to injustice and discrimination. This is more than just a little inconsistent with their doctrine that truth is relative, and right and wrong a matter of taste and preference. Thanks to the continuance of their own God-given human conscience, many relativists still do not know what a hole they have dug for themselves and for the free world. Relativists often say that homosexuality is okay, but that child abuse is a horrible thing. It they are consistent, they must simply admit that they must sanction both, since, according to their own doctrine, right and wrong is simply a matter of taste and preference. Some relativists are already becoming more consistent and starting to advocate that maybe certain adults can have sexual child companions of the same or opposite gender.

Morality is not a preference; you can't choose it like you would a flavour of gelato. (Photo by Alex Gorzen, via Wikimedia Commons)At that point, less consistent relativists protest out of their revulsion at what they view as horrid conduct committed by horrid people.[3] But it should be remembered that a relativist protesting in this way is not practicing what he preaches. How can he or she object when according to their doctrine, all such practices are simply a matter of taste, and each person is entitled to generate his or her own unique set of values?

The more consistent relativists become, the more they will have to allow anything people other than themselves wish to do or believe.

This same kind of vapid and wishful thinking is still being carried on today, by the "powers that be" in our universities, media, and public schools. With all their talk of survival of the fittest, and the relativity of right and wrong, they blissfully assume that with proper guidance students will make the right choices. However their talk of right choices is logically inconsistent. A true relativist cannot talk of right choices at all. He can only talk of preferred choices, but can make no judgment as to what should be preferred and what should not. It just so happens that some students, under their tutelage prefer knives, machetes, and guns.

Relativists, The Great Affirmers

By saying that no judgment can be made about what others choose, moral relativists must affirm whatever another person chooses and thinks is right for them. As long as it satisfies that person, it is automatically right for that person. As John Dewey, the neo-Marxist founder of modern education and co-originator of instrumental pragmatism (along with Charles Pierce and William James) would say, it is true for him.[4] In this way the relativist sanctions what the other person or child chooses for himself. He or she must also admit that objecting to what they choose would be to impose their own values on someone else. This is the great and only sacred taboo of relativists.

When All Is Said and Done It is Simply a Matter of Power

Wedded to their perpetual faith in, and fondness for, saying that no one has a right to impose his or her idea of right and wrong on anyone else, is their passion to fervently preach that morality cannot be legislated. They should, of course, admit that even that belief is simply a product of their own personal values, and therefore must not be imposed on others. Instead of making this admission, they force this belief on others, thereby turning it into an absolute.

Of course relativists might argue that people must co-operate. They might argue that humans have an instinct for survival even though there is no such thing as intrinsic right and wrong. But such a move simply means that the relativist is imposing his or her belief that instincts must be obeyed. That of course is only their value. Besides which, a consistent allegiance to instinct gives licence to any manner of conduct whatever, such as rape, murder, and mass serial killings, to name only a few. After all, the relativists' talk of the instinct for survival really translates to the survival of the fittest in evolutionary doctrine. Then, it is just a case of who is the strongest. Hitler felt the Jews threatened the progress of what he called the Master Race, so he tried to exterminate them. In this way he simply exercised his instinct for survival.

This is always the inevitable outcome of relativism when it is consistently applied. Life becomes a struggle for power, and whoever gains power is able to impose his values on everyone else.[5] This, in theory, is opposed to the dogmas of relativism, but it is the reality of what happens.[6] This is because relativists are generally quite selective about the times they choose not to impose their values on everyone else. There are times when relativists could easily be mistaken for the most dogmatic of absolutists.

No Intrinsic Value to Survival and No Intrinsic Human Worth

There is yet another problem with the relativists' attempt to justify co-operation by reference to the need to survive. For the self-consistent relativist must preach that there is no intrinsic value in surviving or co-operating because according to the relativist no intrinsic values exist. There is then no intrinsic value to human beings, and no such thing as true human nature. Therefore, this is another reason why the relativist cannot impose his value of the need for co-operation on others. Ironically, a consistent relativist cannot even object to the genocidal horrors of Rwanda or even advocate any reason why these people might have averted the horror if they had learned to co-operate with each other. All the relativist can say is what he always must say. Here it comes again: Personally, I don't feel that the slaughter was a good thing, but I wouldn't want to impose my personal values or my preference for co-operation on anyone else.

Political and Collective Consistency On The Rise

Sadly, collectively and politically North American law is becoming ever more consistent with the implications of relativism. After listening to so-called "Progressive Educators" molded in the image of John Dewey, the Father of Modern Education, I can effortlessly see why, in ever-increasing numbers, our teenagers feel no remorse whatever when they rape, lie, steal, or kill. Indeed, the court system all but sanctions these evils as the court itself increasingly transitions away from its Christian heritage into the embrace of moral relativism. I am not at all surprised to see the rising level of hate and violence in the free world. After all, the powers that be in our universities, courts, and social institutions have told our people and their children that truth is relative.

In the words of Paul's letter to the Romans, we have exchanged the truth about God for a lie. If we do not soon see the insanity of the indoctrination our children and teens and young adults have received and are now receiving through Hollywood, the media in general, and the cultural relativism that has long been taught through the public school system (that has so betrayed them), we will soon see evils beyond what we could think or imagine when the youth of today become the leaders of tomorrow. When we listened to Jesus our nation grew. He spoke of the great worth of all human beings, a worth so great he died for us. Now He lives within those who love him and teaches them to know the difference between good and evil. In Him we see true goodness and true humanity, apart from Him and by their own choice alienated from His love and mercy, we see increasing dehumanization and the relativism that ever accompanies it.


[1] See Romans chapter 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] It is well known that Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary relativist, commits this inconsistency on a regular basis in his high-sounding moral objections to the God of "The Old Testament."

[4] The co-creators of the philosophy of Instrumental Pragmatism were William James and John Dewey. See James' The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Longmans, Green, 1917) and Pragmatism and Four Essays from the Meaning of Truth (New York: Longmans, Green, 1907), and Dewey's Experience and Nature (Chicago: Open Court, 1926) as well as Democracy and Education (New York: Free Press, 1916). See also the Humanist Manifesto I and II.

[5] On this matter, see C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man.

[6] We witnessed this power struggle under Lenin and Stalin, as well as under many militant neo-Marxist regimes. If the neo-Marxism that characterizes our schools and our culture gain sufficient political clout, we may find that North America follows in the train of the former Soviet Union, complete with the Christian purge that took place. We of course witness the same thing in the form of communism in mainland China. All that need happen in Canada for a purge is for the subtle form of relativistic neo-Marxism that presently permeates our culture to abandon subtlety once its proponents are sufficiently representative of the North American political and social and judicial consciousness. We have examples all over the world that show us how very militant relativism is by nature in direct contradiction to its alleged freedom from dogma.

Evaluating Ontario's New Sex-Ed Curriculum

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By Scott McClare

Whenever the subject of public-school sex education comes around, you can expect a reaction. Earlier this year, the Ontario Ministry of Education released its Health and Physical Education curriculum, updated for September 2015. It includes units on sexuality as well as healthy living and physical fitness.[1] Critical reaction was swift and often knee-jerk: anonymous letters circulated that outlined the supposed lurid details of the sexual practices to be taught to middle schoolers.[2] When a former deputy minister of education was connected to the curriculum after being convicted of child-related sexual offenses, it only threw fuel on the fire.

Last month, I attended a parents' information night at my church about the new curriculum. It included speakers representing the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, and others. I found the session informative and helpful for separating fact from sensationalism. Though the curriculum applies to elementary and high school, the presenters limited their comments to grades 1 to 8. This article reflects many of their observations as well as my own.

Most of the new curriculum is very good. The majority of its content is straightforward health education, stressing the importance of physical fitness and making healthy choices; sex education comprises only a fraction. The parts that have caused the most controversy are actually example prompts that a teacher could optionally use in a classroom discussion, not mandatory lessons. The curriculum does not encourage early sexuality; rather, it discusses reasons to delay sexual activity. It teaches the importance of clearly communicating consent to sexual activity and saying no to any other unwanted behaviour. Students are taught to recognize bullying or exploitation, and what to do about it. Respect is taught for people who differ, an important lesson in an increasingly multicultural and diverse society.

Arguably, the most significant addition focuses on the safe use of technology. The current curriculum dates from 1998, when everyday technologies such as broadband Internet, smartphones, and social networking were virtually nonexistent. Now the curriculum teaches students about Internet privacy, evaluating unreliable information, the risks of exploitation and cyberbullying, and the dangers of "sexting" (taking and sending inappropriate pictures by cellphone).

Grade by grade, here is what Ontario's Health and Physical Education, 2015 curriculum will teach concerning human development and sexual health:

Grade 1: Names of body parts
Grade 2: Basic stages of human development
Grade 3: Respect for those who are different
Grade 4: Onset of puberty
Grade 5: The reproductive system, emotional and personal issues related to puberty
Grade 6: Physical and emotional changes related to adolescence, building healthy relationships, stereotyping, consent
Grade 7: Delaying sexual activity, preventing STIs and pregnancy
Grade 8: Making healthy sexual decisions, relationships and intimacy, establishing boundaries, consent, contraception, gender identity

All the presenters were chiefly concerned that the sex-ed portions are "too much, too soon." When it comes to sex education, school is still secondary. Parents are children's primary sexual educators, and the lessons they teach and the boundaries they set have an effect on a child's sexual involvement. Children learn at different rates and will have different questions; parents, not teachers, are in the best position to decide what is appropriate for them.

Surprisingly, nothing is said about pornography. Despite a needed focus on the risks of using the Internet, this curriculum is completely silent on its most obvious risk.[3] Some experts estimate that 30% of Internet data traffic consists of porn.[4] Pornography presents an unrealistic portrayal of women's bodies and their willingness to engage in sexual activity. It presents humiliating, deviant, and violent sexuality as normal and desirable. Worst, it is practically unavoidable and freely available to anyone old enough to use a computer or iPhone.

The Ontario Curriculum also makes no mention of marriage as the context for sex. Terms like "wedding" or "marriage" do not occur at all, while "husband" or "wife" are only used as examples of terms to be avoided rather than make assumptions about someone's relationships. "Love" occurs only in the sense of enthusiasm for activities such as reading or team sports. Pregnancy is only a hazard to be avoided as an unintended side effect of sexual intercourse. In other words, the Ministry of Education has no room for the traditional Christian worldview in which pregnancy and children are a natural, desired consequence of a sex act committed out of love by a husband and wife. Teaching students not to make assumptions about people's living arrangements is good, as Canada's sexual ethics have loosened considerably in the decades since I was an elementary-school student. However, a majority of teens still desire marriage, and arguably live in a traditional household. Why ignore this entirely?

Although the curriculum rightly teaches the importance of consent to sexual (and other) behaviour, it says nothing about the legal definition of consent or the legal age of consent. Consenting to sex does not mean that someone is ready for sex or that he or she is in a good relationship. (Ironically, none of the children being taught this material are legally old enough to consent to anything.)

Apart from the necessity of consent, in fact, we have no consensus anymore on sexual ethics in our culture. Thus, the Health and Physical Education curriculum tries to be morally neutral. This assumption of moral neutrality is evident in the teaching of tolerance and respect for others whose lifestyle is different. In one example interaction between a sixth-grade teacher and student, the student says:

Not everyone has a mother and a father—someone might have two mothers or two fathers (or just one parent or a grandparent, a caregiver, or a guardian). We need to make sure that we don't assume that all couples are of the opposite sex, and show this by the words we use. For example, we could use a word like "partner" instead of "husband" or "wife." We need to be inclusive and welcoming.[5]

That is, there is no moral difference between a father and mother, two fathers or mothers, or a single parent, and so we need to be tolerant, in the sense of accepting all kinds of sexual relationships equally. This is a fallacy. Morality cannot be neutral, and sex itself is an intrinsically moral activity. Even its absence is not neutral: try recommending abstinence education and see how some people react! Genuine tolerance does not mean suspending judgment about moral differences. It comes from acknowledging those differences with a fair mind and sound judgment. John Patrick writes:

Neutral values do not exist but we do need the tolerance they would seek to protect to adjudicate the conflicts which arise in our attempts to translate the unchanging but only imperfectly known truth into the working ethics of daily living. . . . Neither is the refusal to accept every opinion as equally valid truly intolerant; rather those who would demand such things are intolerant of logic.[6]

Health and Phsycial Education, 2015 states repeatedly that parents remain their children's primary educational influence. Parents need to be informed about what their kids are being taught in school, which may mean reading the curriculum for themselves rather than relying on secondhand, often sensationalist and inaccurate, information. They can cultivate a relationship with their children's school, especially with teachers, and hopefully a more meaningful one than merely protesting a contentious sex-ed program (for example, by volunteering at unrelated school events). Ask for assurances that advance notice will be given of controversial topics. The clash of authority between teachers and parents can hurt children, as one of my colleagues at Faith Beyond Belief remarked as I was writing this post: "This conflict within my kids has caused them a certain level of discomfort. . . . It has been moderately problematic in their lives. Because the schools are not morally neutral on sexuality, my kids suffer as a result, along with our relationship." Parents have the right to exempt their children from offensive topics that might conflict with what they learn at home. Christians have a voice in the public square, and we should speak up when it comes to policy-making on such a fundamentally moral topic as sexuality.

The church also has a role to play. We need to develop a robust theology of sexuality. Too often, Christian teaching on sex is reduced to rules without an understanding of the rationale behind them. I would suggest starting with a study of God's original intent for sexuality, making human beings male and female (Genesis 2:18-25), Jesus' teaching on divorce, which requires sexual fidelity between husband and wife (Matthew 19:1-12), the significance of marriage as a picture of Christ's relationship with the church (Ephesians 5:22-23), and the practical benefits of marriage, but also singleness and sexual abstinence (1 Corinthians 7). Other biblical passages also provide guidance, but these four are a good starting point for the foundation of Christian sexual ethics.

I am not married and don't have children. However, who says that in six or seven years, I won't have children entering school? I will have to evaluate then whether classroom teaching about sex, from this revision of the curriculum or the next, is conducive to the Christian worldview they will learn at home. We need to think about issues like sexuality calmly when we have the opportunity, so we don't have to react to them emotionally when the situation becomes more urgent.


[1] Canada, Ontario, Ministry of Education, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education, 2015 (Queen's Printer, 2015). http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health1to8.pdf.

[2] See, for example, "Fact-checking 10 Claims Made by Parents Against the Ontario Sex-Ed Curriculum," Toronto Star, May 4, 2015, accessed May 6, 2015, http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/05/04/fact-checking-10-claims-made-by-parents-against-the-ontario-sex-ed-curriculum.html.

[3] The corresponding curriculum for secondary schools only mentions pornography once, in passing. Canada, Ontario, Ministry of Education, The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 9-12: Health and Physical Education, 2015 (Queen's Printer, 2015), 102.

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/health9to12.pdf.

[4] For example, see "Porn Sites Get More Visitors Each Month than Netflix, Amazon and Twitter Combined," The Huffington Post, May 4, 2013, accessed May 5, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/03/internet-porn-stats_n_3187682.html.

[5] The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education, 2015, 177.

[6] John Patrick, "The Myth of Moral Neutrality," Christian Medical and Dental Society, accessed May 6, 2015, http://www.cmdscanada.org/my_folders/Documents/MythofMoralNeutrality.pdf.

Scrubbing the Sin List

RFRA_Indianapolis_Protests_-_2015_-_Justin_Eagan_02.jpg

By Scott McClare

Do you believe that Christians should be compelled to stop regarding homosexuality as a sin? According to his op-ed article published on Good Friday, New York Times columnist and gay activist Frank Bruni does.

Last month, the state of Indiana passed SB 101, a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which has been part of U.S. federal law since 1993. In short, RFRA prohibits the government from burdening a person's free exercise of religion, unless it is to further a compelling state interest and does so in the least restrictive manner. RFRA is not absolute protection of religious practice, but it does provide one avenue of recourse for those who feel that their religious rights are being unduly restricted.[1]

After Indiana SB 101 was passed, prominent politicians, corporations, celebrities, and the media immediately piled on the state and threatened boycotts. The backlash was so intense that governor Mike Pence promised swift revisions to the law. One media outlet found a Christian-owned pizzeria whose proprietors said they would not cater a gay wedding; the restaurant received threats that caused them to close for several days.

Photo by Justin Eagan, via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Justin Eagan, via Wikimedia Commons

The shaming of Indiana might lead you to believe that SB 101 was an anti-gay bill targeting homosexuals for discrimination. For Christian florists, bakers, restaurateurs, and photographers, the issue has not been refusing to serve a certain class of clientele. The pizzeria might decline to cater a gay wedding, but they also stated that they would not refuse to serve LGBT customers who patronized their business. Barronelle Stutzman, a Washington florist who was sued and fined for discrimination after declining to supply flowers for a same-sex wedding in 2013, had been happily selling flowers for a decade to the couple who sued her. Rather, the issue has been participating against their consciences in a religious ceremony.

With his column, "Bigotry, the Bible, and Lessons from Indiana,"[2] Frank Bruni joins the anti-Indiana dogpile, asserting that SB 101 was intended to target gays. However, he sets a poor intellectual tone right from the start by employing the bandwagon fallacy. Homosexuality and Christianity need not be in opposition, he writes, because "several prominent denominations . . . have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn't decree." In other words, several liberal denominations have decided that homosexual behaviour is compatible with authentic Christianity, and so should you. However, the three largest Christian denominations in the U.S.—the Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, and United Methodist Church—currently all officially declare homosexual behaviour to be incompatible with Christian belief and practice, though each denomination has varying degrees of internal dissent.[3] Bruni wants us to get on the bandwagon, but can't explain why we should get on his bandwagon.

Bruni's next fallacy is the one C. S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery": assuming that old ideas are intrinsically inferior to new ones. He writes that viewing LGBT people as sinners "prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since—as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing." By contrast, he recommends the views of "gay Christian" authors and supporters such as David Gushee, Jeff Chu, James Brownson, and Matthew Vines. The Christian church has declared unambiguously that homosexual activity is sinful for nearly 2,000 years, but everything that really needed to be said about LGBT issues and Christianity was published in the last two?

(Bruni argues that scriptural opposition to homosexuality is sparse and obsolescent, whereas Vines, whom he cites favourably, claims that the Bible is authoritative but its teaching on sexuality is misunderstood. I wonder whether Bruni recognizes his contradiction?)

The biblical teaching on homosexuality is "scattered" and "sparse," we are told. What of it? A truth told infrequently is nonetheless the truth, and the scattered pronunciations on homosexuality in the Bible are uniformly negative. (For more details, refer to my earlier post, "God Hates Shrimp?")

Bruni also approvingly cites Matthew Vines' argument that people in the apostles' day didn't know about homosexual orientation or loving, committed same-sex relationships. However, Vines was simply wrong. In 2000, James B. DeYoung's examination of ancient Greek literature, such as Plato's Symposium, clearly shows that their understanding of homosexuality was very much like ours. They discussed homosexual orientation and desire as well as behaviour, committed and promiscuous relationships, obsession with the body and physical attractiveness, even a form of "gay pride."[4] Paul may or may not have read Plato specifically, but we can be reasonably sure that as an educated and well-traveled man, he was aware of these issues.

Bruni's secular worldview clashes sharply with the Christian worldview in two significant ways in this article. First, he sees morality as fluid and evolving, based on the march of progress and the winds of public opinion. If right and wrong are malleable, then of course we can add or subtract sins from the catalogue as we please. Hence he closes his op-ed in agreement with gay activist Mitchell God, who says the church must "take homosexuality off the sin list." However, for Christians, morality reflects the character of a perfectly just and righteous God, "with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17).[5] The church can't take homosexuality off the sin list. It's not our list to edit.

Second, Bruni agrees with Gold's assertion that "church leaders must be made" to stop thinking of homosexuality as sinful. He advocates a statist worldview in which government must correct the moral positions of organized religion and its practitioners if they fail to comply with the spirit of the age. He fails to recognize that government itself is subject to the laws of God. "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29), said the apostles to the authorities, because they were told not to do the work the Lord Jesus had given them. The civil government's authority comes from God (Rom. 13:1), and hence it has a duty to promote godliness and to let the church be the church. This is why Paul instructed Timothy to pray "for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The church must be free to carry out its divine mandate of proclaiming the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ. RFRA laws like SB 101 provide one avenue of recourse for Christians and others who religious exercise has been unjustly restricted by an overreaching government.

It is somewhat surprising to see one of the world's most influential newspapers give voice to such a radical screed. Frank Bruni's op-ed is long on assertion and opinion, but short on arguments supported by evidence. It is little more than an ultimatum: "Join the 21st century with the mainline Protestant denominations, 'gay Christian' authors, and myself, or else." Or else what? I'm not an alarmist. We don't need to fear the guillotines or lions, but advocates of sexual liberty are becoming more vocal in their call to restrict religious liberty. We need to remember that we are in an ongoing spiritual battle, and the tools of spiritual warfare are the same as always: practical holiness and effective apologetics. "[T]he weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

[1] For examples of successful and unsuccessful RFRA challenges, see Mollie Hemingway, "Meet 10 Americans Helped by Religious Freedom Bills Like Indiana's," The Federalist, March 30, 2015, accessed April 12, 2015, http://thefederalist.com/2015/03/30/meet-10-americans-helped-by-religious-freedom-bills-like-indianas/.

[2] Frank Bruni, "Bigotry, the Bible, and Lessons from Indiana," New York Times, April 3, 2015, accessed April 12, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/05/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-same-sex-sinners.html.

[3] For the sake of argument, if Christianity is defined broadly enough to include the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then the five largest denominations (the fifth being the Church of God in Christ) officially oppose homosexual practice and same-sex marriage.

[4] James B. DeYoung, Homosexuality: Contemporary Claims Examined in Light of the Bible and Other Ancient Literature and Law (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2000). See especially Excursus 3, "Homosexual Behavior and Discussion in Plato," 205-13.

[5] Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV).