- Plus ça change, plus c’st la même chose.
- Reading Old Books.
- And now, for a brief Jeremiad.
- The Police State Finds a New Billy Club.
At the First Things blog, Gerald Hiestand contributes Evangelicals, Premarital Sexual Ethics, and My Grocery List. He says that Evangelical teaching continues to say that sexual intercourse is to be reserved for marriage, but that “beyond this, there is no consensus among Evangelical clergy about where the boundaries should be drawn. Instead we tend to push the burden of this question back onto singles.”
Then he gets to his pivot point, which sounds very much like my experience from 45-50 years ago:
Beyond this lack of clarity regarding objective boundaries, Evangelicals also typically lack the theological resources that undergird chastity. Too often our articulation of sexual ethics sounds like we’re reading items off of a grocery list—bananas, milk, cereal; no adultery, no fornication, no incest. It often amounts to little more than an arbitrary list of “do”s and (mostly) “don’t”s that lacks any unified rationale.
From there, he invites his fellow Evangelicals to turn to John Paul II’s Theology of the Body “to construct a theology of sexual relations that informs the question of premarital sexual boundaries.”
And what does John Paul II say? He says, in essence, that people don’t just have bodies, but are bodies, from which reality follow certain consequences.
Note what’s happening at the 30,000-foot level: Evangelical nominalists (purveyors of an arbitrary list of “do”s and “don’t”s they attribute to the arbitrary God) are being pointed to the well of Roman Catholic Thomistic realism (postulators that creatures have natures, and that God’s commands respect the natures He created) to construct a long-missing foundation for sexual ethics.
My interest in the nominalism versus realism distinction seems warranted. I’ve even added a new category for it as I propose to watch out for examples and perhaps even to reflect on them.
Hiestand also sticks a toe cautiously into typology, in which Evangelicalism is poor and Orthodoxy very rich.
Maybe some day Hiestand and others like him will wake up. Their need to sneak over and borrow from historic Christianity – to form a sexual ethic, to emergently enrich their worship experiences, or whatever – suggests there’s something fundamentally wrong with the premises that leave them ethically, liturgically and otherwise adrift.
Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact the were all the time secretly united – united with each other and against earlier and later ages – by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century – the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?” – lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H.G. Wells and Karl Barth … The only palliative is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books … To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.
(C.S. Lewis On the Reading of Old Books, excerpted in Volume I, Number 1 of Synaxis)
Once, in a college class in the middle of the Bible Belt, I passingly referred to Adam and Eve, after which a student asked me to quit dropping names without explaining them …
The situation appears to be desperate. It is easy to throw up one’s hands, and I would not counsel anyone to do otherwise. I threw up my hands many years ago. It is the only reasonable response to this second coming of pre-Reformation illiteracy.
(Dale C. Allison Jr., The Fate of the Book, in Volume I, Number 1 of Synaxis)
Roughly a dozen states have criminal laws prohibiting recording a conversation “without the consent of all parties to the communication.” Other states allow recording with the consent of just one party.
Yawn! So what?
[T]hese laws have mainly protected the police, who’ve used the laws to arrest bystanders for making cell phone videos of police conduct.
Get it? Police misconduct is a conversation, and if the police don’t consent, a passerby can’t record it. And:
Adam Mueller, a police-the-police campaigner, has been convicted and sentenced to three months in jail for recording and posting telephone conversations with a police captain, a high school principal and a school secretary in Manchester, NH. Mueller was calling for comment on a student’s cell phone video allegedly showing a Manchester officer using excessive force.
Are you starting to care about all-party consent laws?
Did you really think that we want those laws observed? . . . We want them broken . . . . There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of lawbreakers — and then you cash in on guilt.
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged. (Blanket endorsement of the author not implied)
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