Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Two Shall be one Flesh

O: “From Orthodoxy's point of view, protestantism is altogether too individualistic.”

Perhaps that is because, as has been demonstrated in this debate, “Othodoxy” is full of misconceptions about “protestantism [sic].”

O: “But there is one area where you can't be individualistic: Marriage.”

Actually, that’s not true. One can be individualistic in that regard as well: Orthodoxy’s Origin’s self-castration comes to mind.

O: “Marriage affects the two people. It affects their parents. It affects their relatives. It affects their children. It affects the community. We can't have personal interpretation in this arena.”

We “can” (see above) the question is whether we “should.” Furthermore, it is inherent that we will make personal interpretations: because we are not mindless drones.

O: “Also, from Orthodoxy's point of view, many more things in protestantism are Tradition than protestants would care to admit.”

That’s because “Orthodoxy” doesn’t understand “protestantism [sic].”

First of all, “Protestantism” (correct capitalization) is a metonymous name for Protestants, not a system of doctrines. “Reformed” is a system of doctrines, and when in this response there is reference to “Orthodoxy” not understanding the other side, it is the Reformed set of doctrines that are in mind. After all it is the Reformed churches that hold to Sola Scriptura, whereas some Protestants do not.

Second, neither Sola Scriptura nor the Reformed churches deny the existence, use, or authority of traditions. That probably comes as a shock to some “Orthodox” and “Catholic” readers. Reformed churches, however, place the authority of the church on a lower level than the authority of the Bible.

O: “So it's interesting that the Westminster Confession has something to say about marriage: ‘I. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.’ But this is just one interpretation.”

It’s “just one interpretation” in roughly the same sense that rejection of iconoclasm is “just one interpretation” of the 7th Ecumenical Council (the second one). In other words, it is an interpretation of Scripture (it’s not a quotation from Scripture), and it is one interpretation (not two interpretations). But it is also a correct and proper interpretation.

O: “Many have noted that the bible does not condemn polygamy.”

ERROR: This is the fallacy of argument from the masses. Appealing to the number of people who have shared one’s opinion (or in this case, shared a red herring, as one cannot believe that “Orthodox” believes polygamy ok) is fallacious, as there is no logical reason to accept a position simply because many other people have had that position. It’s the positive form of the ad hominem argument writ large.

O: “Many have felt that Paul's letters are carefully worded not to condemn polygamy.”

Same error as above.

O: “For example 1Cor 7:10 "The wife should not leave her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife". But it doesn't say the husband must remain unmarried. Perhaps that wouldn't make sense in the case of polygamy?”

ERROR: This is the fallacy of non sequitur. It says that a man should not put away his wife, and makes no positive provision in that verse for what he should do. In verse 27, though, Paul explains that if a man is loosed from a wife he should not seek a wife.

O: “Or 1Cor. 7:39 "A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord". Paul doesn't say a husband is bound.”

ERROR: This is the fallacy of equivocation. The woman is bound to obey her husband during marriage. After marriage she is a free woman. The man was never bound to obey his wife. Context is key.

O: “Some have seen in 1Tim. 3:2 "An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife", an admission that non-overseers may have multiple wives.”

ERROR: This is the fallacy of denial of the antecedent. In this case the objection is a bit absurd. Among the other qualifications for an overseer is that the man must not be a brawler or a drunkard, yet polygamists would surely not suggest that non-overseers may engage in those actions either. Their own self-inconsistency is an adequate rebuttal of their fallacious inference.

O: “Others have seen in Luke 16:18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery" permission to marry another provided you don't divorce the first.”

This is similarly the fallacy of denial of the antecedent.

O: “Lest one say this is creative interpretation, of course we have the precedent of the the patriarchs. Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon practiced it.”

Contrary to the teachings of the Mormons (and apparently of “Orthodox”) Abraham did not practice it. Abraham was not married to Keturah until Sarah died. Abraham was never married to Hagar. David and especially Solomon did what they did both in violation of Deuteronomy 17:17’s specific prohibition.

O: “Purely on a sola-scriptura basis we've got an interpretation backed up by the hard evidence of the scriptural practice.”

That kind of comment demonstrates that “Orthodox” either has no idea what Sola Scriptura means, or has no desire to interact with Sola Scriptura as a position. Sola Scriptura is not imposing one’s view on Scripture, but learning from Scripture.

O: “And Deuteronomy 21:15-17 has explicit instructions for husbands with more than one wife. The laws of Deuteronomy are the law of God, not just a concession of Moses.”

Yes, Deuteronomy 21:15-17 does provide instructions for men with more than one wife, and the laws of Deuteronomy are the law of God. On the other hand, Jesus in the Gospels explains that some of the provisions of the law of Moses were concessions to human weakness: “for the hardness of your heart” on the very topic of marriage.

O: “But would any Christian in their right mind come to such a conclusion? Well, actually...”

There’s more than a dose of irony in the comment that follows this rhetorical question, for the group that “Orthodox” identifies are not “fully Christian” by his standard of Christianity.

O: “In the 1988 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church, held in Canterbury England one of the African delegates proposed that polygamous Africans who converted to Christianity with their families should be allowed to retain their multiple wives. The reasons he gave was: (1) that it was a practice approved by the Old Testament; (2) that it is not specifically forbidden in the New Testament; and (3) that from a humanitarian point of view it would be unfair and cruel for the wives and children of such relationships to suddenly be made widows and fatherless, with no one to take care of them. The conference approved his proposal.”

And, of course, that is not a concession to polygamy (or an assertion that polygamy is acceptable): it’s a concession to human weakness. It is wrong to take a second wife, but it may also be wrong to divorce that second wife. What’s done is done. On the other hand, those polygamists cannot be overseers.

O: “We can grant the humanitarian argument, but the argument from scripture is instructive about how protestants interpret scripture.”

Actually the argument is not that instructive at all.

O: “In parts of Africa, the central missionary question is polygamy.”

Marriage is not the center of Biblical Christianity. It is an important part of the life of Christians, but not the center of the gospel.

O: “The locals consider the Bible to be quite clear on the subject. Polygamy is fine in the Old Testament; and even in the New, it is only bishops who are required to be 'the husband of one wife.'”

The traditions of Islam is largely responsible for that misconception. The Gospel is clear on what proper marriage consists of.

O: “But would anyone not in this special situation advocate polygamy? Well, actually...”

Hmm … we must now be getting to the Luther quotation.

"I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter." -- Martin Luther, (De Wette II, 459, ibid., pp. 329-330.) and "what is permitted in the Mosaic law, is not forbidden in the Gospel" (De Wette-Seidemann, VI, 239-244; "Corp. Ref.", III, 856-863)

Those citations are a bit odd. But let’s assume for the sake of the argument that Luther really said that.

O: “Philip the Magnanimous, took up Luther's advice and took a second wife. Philip lived with both wives, both of whom bore him children, causing a great scandal in the German church.”

Again, let’s suppose for the sake of the argument, that this is true.

O: “Also, some of the radical Anabaptists started practicing polygamy for the same reasons.”

Again, let’s suppose for the sake of the argument, again, that this is true.

O: “How is sola scriptura workable as a rule of faith FOR THE CHURCH, when the teaching of the Westminster Confession is that only monogamy is scriptural, but the founder of the reformation says that scripture has nothing to say against polygamy?”

First of all, neither Luther, nor “Philip the Magnanimous” nor the radical Anabaptists, were the “founder of the reformation.” Luther was a prominent reformer, but he built on the work of others who went before him.

Second, the question has ambiguity that should be immediately apparent: “for the church.” For which church? For the church that Luther ministered to? For the churches that hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith? For the collection of all believers now living? This problem has happened in “Orthodox”’s questions before, and so it is disappointing when it happens again.

Since it has not been clarified, the present author will address the most sensible meaning namely “the denomination” (or congregation in the case of non-denominational bodies). Sola Scriptura is workable as a rule of faith for the denomination, because the denomination can consider Luther’s view (if that really was his view) and the view of the Westminster divines and compare them to Scripture to determine the appropriate teaching to promulgate and the appropriate church discipline to exercise.

O: “If you conceed the bible hasn't a clear teaching, you conceed that sola scripture fails for the content of the WC, and you cede the debate.”

Scripture is clear, but no: the resolution is comparative. Thus, even if “Orthodox” could establish that Scripture was unclear on this doctrine, the question would still be open as to whether “tradition” were more, just as, or less workable than Scripture on that doctrine. Furthermore, the resolution is general. The resolution is not saying that Scripture is uniformly with respect to every possible doctrine in each case more workable, but generally.

O: “If you side with Luther, you have to explain how sola scriptura can be working if the very confession of your own church has got it wrong, and if you side with the WC you have to show where the bible is so clear in this teaching that all Christians can clearly understand it in opposition to the scriptural teaching that explicitely allows it and you have to explain how come you are contradicted by Luther and others.”

The explanation is easy: Luther was a man and made mistakes. Men do that.

O: “I might add that in the area of marriage, romance and relationships, people aren't going to accept any weak arguments to stand in the way of their affections.”

People reject the truth all the time. There is no surprise there.

O: “It's going to have to be rock solid to work this time. No obfuscation on this one.”

The obfuscation lies in challenging a view of marriage that one accepts. The obfuscation lies in challenging books of the Bible one accepts. The obfuscation lies in red herrings and misrepresentations. The obfuscation can even lie in asking ambiguous questions and then complaining that the answer was to something other than what was meant.

O: “Neither can you fall back to saying that marriage isn't an important issue.”

Marriage is less important than many other issues.

O: “Marriage isn't an obscure theological issue that we can ruminate on in our retirement years.”

Pure rhetoric. No further comment needed.

O: “Young hormone filled people with no theological training need clear authoritative teaching, and they need it now.”

Actually, young people need the truth. Authoritative teaching is only as good as it is true, and churches (i.e. denominations) do have the authority (by the mouth of the elders) to teach and the elders ought to do so. The elders should also exercise discipline against those who violate the law of God with respect to issues related to marriage.

But it’s not just young people who need teaching on this issue. Thousands (or is it tens of thousands) of Orthodox and Catholic Bishops and many more Catholic priests need instruction on the propriety of marriage and the impropriety of burning in celibacy.

The traditions of men have made the Word of God of practically no effect for both “Orthodoxy” and “Catholicism” – the former group permitting a rare married man to become bishop (though forbidding bishops to marry and commanding them to abstain from meats at various times of the year) and the latter group permitting married bishops only in extraordinary circumstances (such as to promote recapture of some previously separate body of “Catholics.”

O: “Which way do you want to jump?

To the path illuminated by the Word. We walk in the Light of Scripture.


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