Monthly Archives: October 2014

Eric Metaxas’ book Miracles

I have read numerous books that deal with the subject of miracles and whether or not our universe is a closed system of cause and effect–or if rather–supernatural power can be infused from the outside.

I agree with the author that this is a topic that needs to be discussed on our society.  Too often, the idea of miracles is swept aside and talking about anything that smacks of the supernatural is considered to be like wearing white after labor day.  But, the question must be asked:  Even if people dont think miracles can happen, does this mean that miracles arent real?  Metaxas takes this question head on and delves into the evidence.

I appreciate the fact that Metaxas begins the book with an overview of what the Bible has to say regarding miracles.  He also talks about the supposed war between science and religion (which is non existent).  He then tackles the real war which is between naturalism and theism.  In doing so, Metaxas writes with clear lucidity and has an overwhelming knack for explaining complex topics in a way that are graspable by the layman.  I would compare his ability to explain the complex to the likes of John Lennox, Stephen C. Meyer, or David Berlinski.   His use of humor, personal experience, and the inclusion of a variety of personal accounts by his colleagues and friends are what set this book apart from others who deal with this topic.

Perhaps the greatest strength of the book is that it demonstrates a pathos about the truth, but at the same operates with an ethos that makes the author trustworthy.  At no time does Metaxas berate or criticize those who come to this area with skepticism. It sort of says to them, “I know you have trouble believing this stuff…so did I. Hang in there, and lets follow the evidence where it leads.”

Metaxas offers several arguments about miracles and their veracity, including evidence from science, arguments from philosophy, and of course–personal experience.  I think this was wise.  We all speak different languages, and Metaxas was right to look at miracles from a variety of perspectives, in order to be able to communicate with both the intellectual and the layman.

One issue that Metaxas looks at is the idea of faith.  Many people (and sadly…Christians) really believe that faith is believing in something that isn’t there.  Metaxas demolishes this faulty thinking, and instead shows that faith is trust in a person (based on evidence)–in a God who is there and who wants to have relationship with his created. For some, this may be a turning point in the book.  To realize that faith in Christ isn’t a leap into the dark, but a confident step into the light can revolutionize what life is all about.

One of the better chapters in the book was on the Resurrection of Jesus. Many people are not aware that there is overwhelming evidence for the veracity of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. While this book doesn’t treat that subject exhaustively, it does present evidence (widely accepted by MOST critical Historical Jesus scholars) for what could be considered one of the greatest miracles of all. Here, where someone like Gary Habermas or William Lane Craig develop arguments over 600 pages, Metaxas gives us the pertinent data in about 20.  This is a nice primer to this area of study and should prompt the reader to investigate more!

The personal accounts are written in a way that whets the appetite for what is to come.  His personal account of the cook in a kitchen he worked at as a child will knock your socks off.  When I read the conclusion of that story, I found myself going, “No way!.”  All the stories in the book are just as gripping.  You will find the second half of the book to be a delight to read, and find it difficult to put the book down.

If I were to be critical of the book, it would only be that I wish Metaxas had included footnotes, or at least suggested a bibliography for us to investigate (although he DOES include suggestions throughout).  I think the hardcover jacket is beautiful and as I was reading it, the title alone sparked several conversations with total strangers.

I have no problem giving this book an unapologetic 5/5.  Well done, Eric.

If you are a skeptic, I say, read it and give it a chance. It is clear that the author wrote it intending you as its primary audience. If you are a Christian, there will surely be something in this book that will both challenge your faith and help it to grow stronger.

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Same Sex Marriage

The Problem

I was recently talking with a friend about the issue of homosexuality and the Christian response to it.  After debating the Greek words used by Paul in Corinthians, Romans, and Timothy, I decided a different strategy was due.  After all, my friend and I are both smart, and I felt our dialogue could be better served if we actually engaged the issues rather than just jousting intellectually.  Here is the response I gave him:

A Response

First of all, I am not charging that it is a sin to be a homosexual.  On the contrary.  I am arguing that the sin is to engage in homosexual acts.  On the same token, it is not the fact that I am drawn to alcohol that is the sin—but rather, it is the fact that if I give in, I will more than likely drink to excess that is the sin.  It isn’t that another woman is attractive to me.  The sin is when I actually depart my marriage and venture to other waters thinking that they will be sweeter.  The sin is committing adultery.  In a basic sense, the fact that I am tempted isn’t the sin.  The sin is acting on those temptations and fulfilling them.  We need to remember, Jesus was tempted.

I fear the problem with this entire debate is the fact that we as Christians typically say something like,

“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

You could say that it is usually the standard evangelical response on sin vs sinner:

“God loves the sinner, but God hates sin”

To the homosexual person, there is an inherent problem with this line.  The first is that many who engage in homosexual activity don’t see it as a sin—but this isn’t the real issue at stake.  The real issue at stake is that for evangelicals, “sin vs. sinner” distinguishes between what someone is and what someone does.    If a guy says he is a homosexual, he is saying his identity is informed by what he does.  This is in contrast to the person who claims to be a Christian.  For the Christian, they identity inst informed by what they think what they do or what they feel.  Their identity is informed by their being; specifically, the being of Christ in them.  I mean, to be fair—we all do this, to a certain extent, don’t we?  Evangelical Christians aren’t immune from this error.  We often identify with the things we do in order to make our lives seem more meaningful.

Identity

I remember when I was  younger, I wanted nothing more than to be cool.  Being cool was what it was all about for me.  So what did I do?  I projected an image of cool through various actions.  A friend of mine experienced the same thing and he says it far better than I.  He talks about his teenage years and the overwhelming popularity of an actor who has unfortunately never won an Oscar, despite a large body of work (pun intended).  He talks about the first time he saw this guy in a movie called Commando; in the movie’s opening scene, this man is carrying a tree over his shoulder while puffing on a cigar.  Because Arnold Schwarzenegger was cool, he began smoking cigars.  Next, he became privy to James Bond.  James Bond was the epitome of cool.  James Bond had all the girls and everyone knew he would solve the crisis.  James Bond had a silver cigarette case;  my friend had a silver cigarette case.  Finally, Clint Eastwood.  Need I say more?  He was the force to reckon with in the wild West.  Eastwood could be seen lighting his cigarette matches on the bottom of his boot in all the western movies.  My friend decided he would attack sandpaper to the bottom of his shoes so he could do the same thing.

Michael Ramsden clearly articulates the problem:

How to Find That “True Love” | Wild At Heart//

“True love does not exist in the absence of judgment. True love only exists in the presence of it. The words I love you are meaningful only when the person who speaks them truly knows you. Most of us are so desperate to know love in our lives, we go around projecting an image of ourselves to other people. Trying to get people to like us and to love us. The trouble is that people then fall in love with the image, not with the reality. That is very often why the very powerful, the very rich, the very famous, and the very beautiful find it very exceedingly difficult to find true love. Because people only fall in love with the image and they never come to know the reality. And it leaves us hollow and empty. I can promise you if you’re sitting here this morning even if you’re one of the most popular people in the city, if nobody truly knows you. If no one knows your weaknesses and shortcomings and your failings. You are one of the most lonely people right now. I can also promise you that if there are a small group of people around you, whether it’s a spouse, or family, or siblings, or friends who know you, the real you, all of your weaknesses, all of your shortcomings, all of your failings, all of that and yet they love you. Those are the most meaningful relationships you have. Whenever something great happens and when something terrible happens they are the first ones you turn to. Because love doesn’t exist in the absence of judgment. True love only exists in the presence of it. For the words “I love you” to be meaningful the person who speaks them must truly know you. Do you know that love in your life?”


So at the heart of it, the really issue is a question of identity. When I say, “homosexual acts are a sin,” the homosexual person doesn’t  hear, “I am not allowed to do this.”  What they hear is, “I am not allowed to be this.  I don’t (according to evangelical Christians) have the right to exist.”  With that being said, it is understandable why they become threatened when homosexuality is called a sin.  Unfortunately, we live in a culture has lost its sense of identity.

Fulfillment

The other issue is the issue of fulfillment.  And as Christians we have to be careful with our finger pointing here.  After all,  heterosexual Christians never fall into the trap of thinking that they can be more fulfilled in life by sleeping someone before marriage, commit adultery, pornography and sexual activity, right?  We are kidding ourselves to think that it only applies to the gay culture.

To build on this, we live in a culture – and this has infected The Church as well – that if you are single—or not romantically involved, that there is something seriously wrong with you. So Mother Theresa must have been very unfulfilled (joke). And of course, Evangelical Christians who are still single will never fall into the trap of thinking that they would be more fulfilled as a person if only they were sleeping around, right?

So this raises the question – can I ever find fulfillment if I am not allowed to do this or that? These are very emotively powerful things.

Being

We also have to think about the question of being.

If someone says “Hi, my name is John White and I am a heterosexual. Pleased to meet you…” – if this is a badge that someone wears, it is strange right? Yet when it comes to homosexuality it is suddenly not strange anymore. Are there more to us than our sexual proclivity?  We have to make the distinction between “being” and “doing”. As human beings, we are more than this.  This leads us to the issue of origin.

Origin

I would argue that if the Darwinian process is true, then we are nothing but animals.  John Gray, the atheist author of Straw Dogs and professor emeritus at the London School of Economics says precisely that the cardinal error of Christianity is that it teaches that human beings have free will.  He goes on to say that a purely naturalistic view of the world leaves no room for “secular hope.”  He notes that morality isn’t real, and it is only used in times of convenience.  it is a survival mechanism that we have no control over.  As Richard Dawkins quips, we are comprised of matter and DNA, and we “dance to its music.”  I would agree with all of this–IF–there is no God.

The origin question (and I don’t want to make much of this) is a big issue.  One claim made by the gay apologists is that being a homosexual is a biological issue.  The question is, does is equal ought?  Maybe a more pointed question is, can a person born with this wiring, move in a different way; or, can they choose not to fulfill that proclivity?  According to The London Times,  the Head of Genetics in Oxford regarding the nature-nurture debate – the answer is “yes.” Mainstream opinion is that we may be genetically inclined to all sorts of behavior but it does not mean we have no control over all those different issues.  That seems to work counter-cultural to what we have been taught.

Change

Now, part of the gospel is that no one can change themselves – we can’t do it, but what is impossible for us may be possible with God. If there is a way out of this, God somehow needs to bear some responsibility in bringing in change.

We Can’t Do It

You know—there is a reason that pornography is made free on the internet.  There have been autopsies done on dead homosexual men, and it was found that a particular lobe in their brains was very well developed.  Brain is just like any other  muscle.  It can be trained and stimulated—and brain will eventually crave that stimulation when it stops being exercised.  SO lets go back to that less controversial issue of pornography.  After a while, people feel powerless and cannot stop viewing it.  Why?  It looks like the same lobe that we see grow in the homosexual men is stimulated through prolonged pornographic viewing.  Do you know how long it takes for the brain to go back to normal after being stimulated?  It can take up to 9 years.  If a young man can get hooked on pornography at a young age with specific images and patterns, they will not be able to just stop.  It is a power that can control them.  That means if you have people locked in a certain pattern of behavior, either (A) they are going to need the healing of the brain equivalent to that of a shriveled hand OR (B) they are going to be on a path of disciple for 9 years.  The truth is, you can’t do it alone this is why church is important, but also why it is catastrophic when church life has become so superficial, that people feel they can no longer share with The Church things they are wrestling with because they have to pretend they are better than they really are to be accepted.

The Church

Now for the horrific truth:  The Evangelical Church is poor with discipleship and poor at communicating at people that “we are in the long haul with you on this.”

Are we with all sinners, for the long haul?  The answer to that question will dictate what we do and what ministries we support.  it will also tell us how comfortable we are going to be in doing ministry.  If it is a process to be freed from something like this, is the church willing to come alongside someone who accepts Christ and help them through their struggles?

I don’t even thing that the issue of “right or wrong” is the hardest part.  I remember a friend of mine who did a debate with a Gay rights activist (Christian) and a secular gay rights activist. This isn’t reported much, but the homosexual community is segmented (in beliefs) just like Christian community. Michael agreed with secular gay rights activist but with caveat “Within the teaching of Scripture, Homosexuality is a lifestyle neither endorsed of approved of for the reason that marriage exists between man and a woman in the Christian sense. (Secular gay right activist said marriage within a secular society is a Christian over-hang). At the end of debate, the secular gay rights activist shook hands with Michael while the Christian gay rights activist would not. (In other words, knowing how to address the issue, i.e. maneuver the conversation, is hardest.)

Now a gay friend of mine recently told me that “hate the sin but love the sinner” was wishful thinking. He said, “They are both nice IDEAS, but completely practically impossible.”  Now, this is quite interesting.  To demonstrate his error here, I told him about another conversation I had seen between Peter Kreeft of Boston College and a gay student of his:

Kreeft says, “I was once lecturing some students, and a student stood up and told me that “Christian” and “gay” were as compatible as ham and eggs.  Now, I respected the clarity of his argument, the apparent goodwill of his heart—so I decided to engage him.  Here is the conversation”:

“ME:  Michael, I’m really curious about one point of your argument, one part I just don’t understand. And I believe in listening before arguing, as you said you do. So I’m not trying to argue now—that’s not the point of my question—but first of all to listen and to understand. OK?

MICHAEL: Of course. What’s the point you don’t understand?

ME: Well, to explain that, I have to ask you to listen too, to where I’m coming from.

MICHAEL: And where’s that?

ME: Just the teachings of the Bible and the Church, all of them. I know you don’t believe all of them, only some. But I do. So from my point of view, what you do, and what you justify doing, is a sin. That’s the label you reject, right?

MICHAEL: Right. So what don’t you understand?

ME: Please don’t take this as a personal insult, or even an argument, but I know of no other way of phrasing it than with biblical language, which you will probably find offensive. My question is this: Why are you guys the only class of sinners who not only deny that your sin is sin but insist on identifying yourself with it? We’re all sinners, in one way or another, and I’m not assuming your sins are worse than mine, but at least I think I’m more than my sins, whatever they are. I love the sinner but hate the sin. But you don’t do you?

MICHAEL: No, I don’t. What I hate is that hypocritical distinction.

ME: Why?

MICHAEL: Because when you attack homosexuality, you attack homosexuals. It’s that simple.

ME: But alcoholics don’t say that the Church attacks alcoholics when she attacks alcoholism. And cowards don’t say that they are their cowardice. And murderers don’t say the church is hypocritical for condemning their sin but no them, the sinners. Adulterers don’t deny the distinction between the adulterer and the adultery. The only group of sinners I’ve ever heard of who do this is you. And it seems to me you all do that, you always say that. All gays say that. Don’t they?

MICHAEL: Yes, we do. And I forgive you for being too insensitive that you don’t realize that you’ve done right now what you defend the Church for doing: insulting and rejecting me, and not just what I do.

ME: Wait a minute here! You’re saying that when I make that distinction between what you are and what you do, when I accept what you are as distinct from what you do, I’m rejecting what you are? How can I be rejecting what you are in accepting what you are?

MICHAEL: That’s exactly what you’re doing. In fact, you’re trying to kill me.

ME: What? That’s crazy. Now you’re being paranoid.

MICHAEL: No, listen: In trying to separate what I do from what I am, you’re trying to separate my body from my soul, my sex life from my identity. That’s what you’re doing by insisting on that distinction. Your distinction between what you call the “sinner” and the “sin” is really death to me; it’s the separation of body and soul, deed and identity. I’m holding the two together; you’re trying to pull them apart, and that’s death.

ME: That’s sophistical. That’s an argument that just doesn’t fit the facts. Look at the facts instead of the argument. This is what the church believes about you—what I believe about you: you can be a saint! You have dignity. The Church thinks more highly of you than you think of yourself. She loves your being more than you do; that’s why she hates your sins against your being. We believe your self is greater than your deeds, whatever they are. But you don’t.

MICHAEL: The Church and the Bible will tell me I’m an abomination to God.

ME: No! Not in your person, only in your sins, just like the rest of us, like all of us. That’s Paul’s point in Romans 1. He’s condemning hypocritical condemnation of pagan homosexuals by straight Jews just as much as he’s condemning pagan homosexuality.

MICHAEL: The Church is my enemy.

ME: The Church is your friend. Because the Church tells us two things about you, not just one, and she will never change either one, she never can change either one, because both are matters of unchangeable natural law, based on eternal law, based on the very nature of God. She can’t ever say that what you do is good for the same reason that she can’t ever say that what you are is bad. She defends your being just as absolutely as she attacks your lifestyle; she hates your cancer because she loves your body. It’s the same authority for both. The authority you hate when it condemns what you do is your only reliable ally in defending what you are. You want the Church to change her teaching on what you do, and you’re trying to put social pressure on her to do that, but if she did that, then she could change her teaching on what you are, too, for the same reason, under social pressures. I’m sure you know that the old social pressures to hate homosexuals are far from dead. You know what happened in Hitler’s Germany. You know how changeable and fickle mankind is—and how dangerous. When the last bastion of absolute moral law is compromised, when even the Church bends to the winds of social pressure, what shelters will you have then?

MICHAEL: I’m not worried about the Left; I’m worried about the Right.

ME: Today, maybe, but what about tomorrow? Today the fashion is the be Leftist, but just a short time ago the fashion was from the Right, and tomorrow it may swing to the Right again, like a pendulum. You can’t rely on fashionable opinions to protect you. That’s building sandcastles. The tides always change and knock them down.

MICHAEL: I’ll take my chances, thank you. I don’t know what will happen in the future, I grant you that. But I know what’s happening now, and I can’t take that. We just can’t take your “love the sinner, hate the sin” distinction. That much we know.

ME: You still haven’t explained to me why. I began by asking that question, and I really want an answer. I want to know what’s going on in your mind.

MICHAEL: OK, I think I can explain it to you. You say I shouldn’t feel threatened by that distinction, right?

ME: Right.

MICHAEL: You say the Church tells me she loves me, even though she hates what I do, right?

ME: Right.

MICHAEL: Well, suppose the shoe was on the other foot. Suppose you were in the minority. Suppose what you wanted to do was to have churches and sacraments and Bibles and prayers, and those in power said to you: “We hate that. We hate what you do. We will do all in our power to stop you from doing what you do. But we love you. We love what you are. We love Christians, we just hate Christianity. We love worshipers; we just hate worship. And we’re going to put every possible pressure on you to feel ashamed about worshiping and make you repent of your sin of worshiping. But we love you. We affirm your being. We just reject your doing.” Tell me, how would that make you feel? Would you accept their
distinction?

ME: You know, I never thought of it that way. Thank you. You really did make me see things in a new way. You’re right. I would not be comfortable with that distinction. I would not be able to accept it. In fact, I would say pretty much what you just said: that you’re trying to kill my identity.

MICHAEL: See? Now you understand how we feel.

ME: Yes, I think I do. Thank you very much for showing me that. But do you realize what you’ve just said? What you’ve just showed me?

MICHAEL: What do you mean?

ME: You’ve said to me that sodomy is your religion.”

I think that some of that is profound.  But the issue of the love needs to be addressed as well.


How To Love and Hate

What is love?  Now some would argue, “Jesus was a peaceful person, he accepted every person as they were—this is love.”  Actually, that is a misunderstanding of love.  As I noted in an earlier post, in reality, love fights, love cares, love discriminates.  Even in scripture, we see very clearly a thing called the “wrath of God.”  God hates all enemies of love just as the doctor hates the cancer that is killing his patient.  If you really love a human being, you will hate at the dehumanizing forces that are harmful to that human being.  If on the other hand, you don’t really love a human being, but rather, tolerate a human being—then you will hate nothing.  Love and hate go together.  Love of a human being no matter who he is, and hate of a human being no matter who he is are exact opposites.  Its like black and white.  But, love of all humans and hate of all sins—that goes together.  So, the essence of the heresy is that there is no such thing as sin.  That is Phariseeism.  “We are perfect.”  Jesus said one of the most terrifying things in the Bible to the Pharisees: \

“I’m not your savior, I didn’t come for you. I’m irrelevant to you.  I’m here for the sick people.  You’re not sick?  Goodbye.”

The question we need to ask ourselves is: Do we love other people?  If we do, we must understand that true love only exists in the presence of judgment, not without it.  Think about it!  For example, in Pride and Prejudice, the affluent Mr. Darcy fell in love with Elizabeth Bennett. Not able to hold his emotions any longer, Mr. Darcy confessed to Elizabeth with these honest and befuddling words:

“Miss Elizabeth. I have struggled in vain and I can bear it no longer… I came to Rosings with the single object of seeing you… I had to see you. I have fought against my better judgment, my family’s expectations, the inferiority of your birth by rank and circumstance. All these things I am willing to put aside and ask you to end my agony.”

After Mr. Darcy made his confession, Elizabeth responded in perplex, “I don’t understand.” Well, how could she since Mr. Darcy said that he has ‘fought against his better judgment’? Should not Mr. Darcy forget all his judgement, and proclaim her beauty and goodness instead?  On top of all this, to answer Elizabeth’s perplexity, Mr. Darcy mouthed the simple words of, “I love you” because that is what true love means! True love only exists when we are fully aware of the person’s weaknesses, yet we choose to love them. That is why two persons grow deeper in love with each other in marriage because both sides knew the imperfections of both sides, yet they still love each other.

“True love only exists in the presence of judgment.”

I think we must also urge that instead of tolerance, we will give people respect. I can respect someone greatly and still vehemently disagree with them. I cannot do this with tolerance. If I tolerate someone, I am really not respecting them.

Salvation

Finally, I think we need to be insistent on what the qualifications for salvation are. They have nothing to do with our actions, sexuality, merit, or how much good we do in society. It is solely based upon our acceptance of grace. If you ask a person of the left, “What must a person do to go to heaven?” Many will say—“well—be good.” In fact I know many secular people who put Christians to shame in being good. Here is the problem—if only the good are going to heaven, and God alone is good—then who is going to heaven? God and no one else. Your and my application to join the trinity has been rejected. We fail to meet minimum entry requirements!
Our going to heaven has nothing to do with our goodness, but with the goodness of Christ. We are all sinful—regardless of sexual proclivity. We are all fallen, depraved and unworthy.  So, is it wrong to judge people for sin?  I am judged for sin.  I recognize that I sin—but I recognize that others sin as well.  I affirm the existence of sin.  Malcolm Muggeridge said, “The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable fact, and at the same time the most intellectually resisted reality.” We are fallen. We have no hope.

Consider this quote from an atheist.  This is from the introduction to Oliver Sack’s Awakenings:

“For all of us have a basic, intuitive feeling that once we were whole and well; at ease, at peace, at home in the world; totally united with the grounds of our being; and that then we lost this primal, happy, innocent state, and fell into our present sickness and suffering. We had something of infinite beauty and preciousness- and we lost it; we spend our lives searching for what we have lost.”

Now, that is from an agnostic medical doctor. After billions and billions of dollars of research and numerous psychological and scientific findings—we are stuck at Genesis 3.

Remember what I said about Mr. Darcy? “True love only exists in the presence of judgment?”  Likewise, that is how God loves us too. Despite His full awareness of our downfall, weaknesses, ugliness, and failures that lie bare before Him, God still choose to love us unconditionally.

Maybe one of the best statements I have heard in response to a question of homosexuality comes from the mouth of Ravi Zacharias.  He said:

“The reason we are against racism is because a person’s race is sacred. A person’s ethnicity is sacred. You cannot violate it. My race is sacred; your race is sacred; I dare not violate it. The reason we react against the issue of homosexuality the way we do is because sexuality is sacred. You cannot violate it. How do you treat one as sacred and desacrelize the other? Sex is a sacred gift of God. I can no longer justify an aberration of it in somebody else’s life than I can justify my own proclivities to go beyond my marital boundaries.

Every man here who is an able-bodied man will tell you temptation stalks you every day. Does it have anything to do with your love for your spouse? Probably not, because you can love your spouse with 100% desire to love the person, but the human body reacts to the sight entertained by the imagination and gives you all kinds of false hints that stolen waters are going to be sweeter. They are not. They leave you emptier. So a disposition or a proclivity does not justify expressing that disposition and that proclivity. That goes across the board for all sexuality.

When God created mankind and womankind, it was His plan, not our plan. It is extraordinary what He said. He said, ‘It is not good for man to live alone.’ Well, man wasn’t living alone; God was with him. Why did He say that? He created the mystique and the majesty and the charm and the complimentary nature of womankind in a way that made it possible for her to meet his emotional needs that God, Himself, put only within her outside himself from himself in her in that complimentariness. It is a design by God.”

Why Marriage?

It is also important to give a positive definition for what marriage is.  Peter Kreeft notes,

“The whole question of homosexual marriage depends on just one thing: on what marriage is, or rather on whether marriage has a “what” at all, a nature. If marriage is not a natural essence but an artificial human invention, like a game or a human law, than we can redefine it because we invented it in the first place. Because we invented football, we can not only change the rules but we could even call it baseball if we wanted to. We could say there were two kinds of football, and one of them used to be called baseball. If we invent a thing, we can redefine it. If not, not.”

We can ask this question:  Is the answer to the question ‘what is marriage?’ dependent on our reason or our will?  Now if a thing is artificial, it is dependent on our will, for it was us who willed them into being.  Natural things on the other hand, are dependent on reason.  This is because we discover them rather than invent them.
The major question over homosexual marriage is whether or not marriage is artificial, man-made and dependent on human wills, or if it is natural and discovered and dependent on our nature.

Now, this isnt just a psychological, scientific, theological, or ethical question.  It is metaphysical.  Peter Kreeft says,

“The deepest reason why popular opinion has changed in favor of same-sex marriage in industrialized countries (but nowhere else) is that these countries no longer think in terms of what is “natural.” We no longer understand, or feel the force of, the old notion of “nature,” which meant the essence of a thing as manifested by its natural activities. The old notion of “human nature” assumed an inherent, unchangeable telos or purpose or design in it. E.g. “the reproductive system” was designed for reproduction, as the eye was designed to see. (Duh!) But to the typically modern mind “nature” means simply simply stuff, the universe, whatever we can see. It has become an empirical concept, not a philosophical concept.”

It is for this reason that the idea of “unnatural acts” means nothing to us.  To our modern thinking, the different between homosexual acts and heterosexual acts is like the difference between what happens on a football field and what happens on a baseball diamond.  “Different strokes for different folks” is quite reasonable there.  If football players have traditionally had privileges denied to baseball players, we feel, quite reasonably, that this injustice must be undone.  So, I argue, let us be inclusive.  Lets include baseball under football.

An Illustration From Geometry

I think Peter Kreeft again gives us a brilliant insight here:

“But suppose marriage is not like a game but like a geometrical figure, or a cat: something discovered, not invented. Then redefining it would be confusion. It would mess up the whole geometry of marriage, so to speak, as calling cats dogs would mess up the whole veterinary treatment of both animals.
And if marriage is as natural as geometry, then those who voted for a “Defense of Squares” act would not necessarily be motivated by a personal fear or hate of triangles, but by a love of geometry.
This is the first necessary thing for people on both sides of this deep divide to understand: that their opponents are not loveless cads, idiots or liars. There is an inherent reasonableness to both sides.
But they contradict each other. And therefore one side must be wrong and the other right. For the law of non-contradiction, at least, is not invented but discovered. There is no alternative to it. Its opposite is literally unthinkable. Contradictories are incompatible. The concept of “same sex marriage” may or may not be an oxymoron, but the concept of ”compatible contradictories” certainly is. Two propositions that contradict each other cannot both be true. That’s why neither side can compromise: not because these two groups of people intolerantly exclude each other but because their ideas do.
The traditional definition of marriage contains four properties, as a square contains four sides. If you subtract any one side from a square, you don’t change the nature of squares so as to have a larger set of squares, one that includes three-sided squares as well as four-sided squares; you simply don’t have a square any more, but something else, a triangle.”

Four Dimensions of Marriage

That something else may be good or bad—it may be just as good as a square, or it may be less good—but it’s not a square. It’s a triangle. The four dimensions of marriage, as traditionally defined, are:
Freedom
Exclusivity
Permanence, and
Sex

Now today it is the 4th dimension that is in question.  Others are as well, and there is no reason why any or all of them cant be questioned or changed if marriage is artificial like football.

1. Freedom:  Small children cannot marry because they have not yet the maturity to make such a binding covenant freely, just as they cannot yet make legal contracts. “Shotgun marriages” are not marriages then, for the same reason. They are oxymorons. Arranged marriages are not necessarily oxymorons, but they are valid (i.e. real marriages) but only if both parties freely consent to them.

2. Exclusivity:  Marriage is between two persons, not one, not three, not many. There can be covenant relationships among more than two persons, but they are not marriages. They are friendships or communes or kibbutzes or states.

3. Permanence:  Marriage is for life. Perhaps divorce is literally impossible (as the Catholic Church says), perhaps it is possible and permissible as an extreme, emergency treatment, like amputation, but it is not natural, normal, or intended. Marrying a person is not like leasing a car. That’s why the argument for premarital sex and cohabitation (“let’s give the car a road test before we buy it”) is not only a bad analogy but an insulting one.

4. Sex:  Marriage, as traditionally defined, obviously has something to do with sex. The sex between the married couple is to be (a) faithful and exclusive and (b) open to children (that’s part of the definition of a family). This second feature is why it has to be heterosexual: because heterosexual sex, unlike homosexual sex, can and often does produce children. That’s its nature, and its natural end, purpose, design, telos. (The “reproductive system,” remember!) And that’s the aspect that’s controversial today. Essential to the traditional idea of marriage is the idea that marriage, by its nature, produces children, is for children, is about children, is for the sake of children’s existence and welfare.

Again, Peter Kreeft notes,

“That’s the ultimate point of traditional marriage. To be complete, marriage needs children, and to be complete children need to be born into a marriage and a family. Every child needs the protection of a family, and every child needs two parents, not only to be procreated but also to be educated, by two different role models. Men and women are “hard-wired” with different instincts and different talents, and children need both. Deliberately depriving a child of a father or a mother is child abuse. What motivates (or should motivate) opposition to same~sex marriage is not hatred of homosexuals but love of children.
Notice how dependent this argument is on the old notion of “nature” and what is “natural.” This is an a priori concept, not an empirical one. It’s true that empirical psychological studies have reinforced it. But they cannot prove it. Such studies have shown that many psychological disorders come from the lack of a father or a mother in a child’s life. But these studies cannot of themselves decide the issue, since they can only compare the probable consequences of the two different arrangements, not adjudicate their intrinsic rightness.”

There just isn’t any way around it–philosophy will have to adjudicate this one.  Maybe even mythology, which is unconscious and instinctive philosophy.  Can we really say that there exists a “nature of things?”  “To be or not to be, that is the question.”  Not only is it the question for traditional marriage but also for mother nature herself.