Re-imaging Humanity – Sex, Sexuality, Gender and the Inhumanity of 21st Century Humanism – Part 1

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This is an adapted and expanded series based on my talk at the  Solas Conference Edinburgh – 29th October 2016.   It is a subject of massive importance for the Church and society.  I have split my paper up into several sections and will be putting one out every Monday.

Part One – Two Big Pictures

As we talk about this subject we need to realise that we are dealing with individual stories. This is not theory.  This is not political ideology.  We are talking about real people.  Last week I watched a BBC Scotland programme about individuals who were transgender.  It was one of the saddest and most depressing things I had seen for a long time.  Human  beings made in the image of God, confused, hurting and being offered a solution based on falsehood and a fantasy.

These issues are very much part of society today – as they have been in different forms throughout human history.  I think of Jane (note – the names used are are of course general) who thinks she is a boy trapped in a girls body; John who was bullied at school and who now wants to marry his boyfriend; Susan who finds that she is attracted to other women but for some reason feels guilty about it.  Everyone’s story is different and yet everyone’s story fits into a bigger picture.

The Freedom of Love and the Repression of Humanity

For many people in our culture the bigger picture the narrative that 21st century liberal humanism teaches.  This is the narrative that is predominant in education at all levels, in the secular media and amongst most politicians.  It is taught as fact, although in reality it is a big picture story that does not really fit the facts.

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Let me give one example.   Diarmid MacCulloch recently had a three-part series on BBC2 entitled On Sex and the Church.    “I think religion has got everything appallingly wrong and it has been terrible for us in sexual terms,”. The basic resume of his position is that before Christianity came on the scene sex was a pleasure which people enjoyed in the Greco-Roman pagan paradise. But then along came Christianity, and especially St Paul and then Augustine, and lo and behold sexual repression entered into Western society. It has taken many hundreds of years, but now finally after the Enlightenment we are returning to those wonderful golden days. The only barrier remaining in the way is repressive religion, especially that of the Calvinists and the Catholics. In our brave new world people should be free to sleep with whoever they want, whenever they want. After all sex is just an appetite like eating. What’s wrong with having a smorgasbord of love? As long as we don’t harm anyone what’s the problem?

The Freedom of God (who is Love) and the Dignity of Humanity (made in his image)

But there is another big picture. One which, for the moment, we are still allowed to teach. One upon which the whole of our society has been based. We are currently in the process of rejecting that picture, but maybe we should stop and consider. Maybe we are not heading to a secular sexual nirvana? Maybe we are heading into the pit of hell?

Let’s consider this  alternative big picture.

What is Humanity?   Psalm 8

Psa. 8:1    LORD, our Lord,  how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory

in the heavens.

2               Through the praise of children and infants

you have established a stronghold against your enemies,

to silence the foe and the avenger.

3               When I consider your heavens,

the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars,

which you have set in place,

4               what is mankind that you are mindful of them,

human beings that you care for them?

 What is man?   That is the title of an essay by Martin Luther King published in 1959 in which he argues that humanity is more than an animal and less than God. It is the basic understanding of humanity which has prevailed in Europe and the West for most of the past 2,000 years.  It is an understanding of humanity which is, ironically, being destroyed by our secular humanists.

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When we cease to believe in God, it is not just that we lose the sense of the divine – we also lose the sense of the human. That is why the ultimate in humanitarianism, or humanism is to enable people to know God. In fact without the divine, we are missing an essential part of what it is to be human.

The Shorter Catechism sums up the biblical teaching nicely.

10. How did God create man?

  1. A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge,righteousness, and holiness,with dominion over the creatures.

 This involves

a) Gender – we are created male and female

b) Identity – our identity is found in God.

c) Marriage – we are created for one another.

d)  Society – we serve God, and one another by following the maker’s instructions.

But then things go wrong.  The Fall of humanity described in Genesis has an enormous impact.  The fallout is considerable affecting the environment, society and our relationship with one another and with God.  It disturbs, disrupts and destroys our most basic relationships.

The basic difference between humanity before the fall and humanity after, is that before the fall we lived to do the will of God, after the fall we are autonomous and seek to be as God. We do it our way. We go our own way. We are as gods – determining our own right and wrong. At least that was the promise of the devil. Autonomy is at the root of all our troubles.  And autonomy is what our society demands and celebrates:

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way (Sinatra).

Sin is rebellion against God and an assertion of our own sovereignty and authority. No Christian with any biblical understanding would ever say – its my body and I’ll do with it what I want!

The secular humanist world view takes what humanists would like to be true today and interpret the past through that limited and fanciful view.  The Christian worldview interprets the present through the eyes of the past.   Next week in part two we will see the practical consequences of these world views….

Re-imaging Humanity – Part 2 Sexuality, Marriage and the Fall

 


32 thoughts on “Re-imaging Humanity – Sex, Sexuality, Gender and the Inhumanity of 21st Century Humanism – Part 1

  1. Hello Mr Robertson. I always await your posts with great interest. I am Catholic and am grateful for your courage. Have you heard of or read John Paul 2s Theology of the Body. It has been described as a ticking time bomb in regard to the issue of sexuality and the human person.
    Most Catholics don’t know about it.
    Why . I wouldn’t like to guess. But it is a wonderful work of love and understanding.
    Once again. Thanks for all your great work.
    Helen Kidd.

  2. I’ve been to teaching this pm on 1 Peter. One of the key emphases was the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the resulting bodily resurrection of believers and the deep ramifications of that on LGBT issues. Which body/gender will be raised?

  3. “The secular humanist world view takes what humanists would like to be true today and interpret the past through that limited and fanciful view. The Christian worldview interprets the present through the eyes of the past.”

    Well this is just wrong. Humanists take what are facts today and try to think about ways to improve it for the future both at an individual and societal level. Evidence is important and lessons from the past are important to inform this future. No everything in the past was good and nor was everything bad. But lessons can be learned. Conclusions reached.

    Christian worldviews are interpreted through the theology of the past to maintain a level of justifications for current positions. Or new theology is written to justify current thinking. Which is why Christians today are different from Christians some 500 years ago and those Christians would be different to those who were Christians circa 400.

    1. Douglas, how I wish that were true!

      Would the humanists were so open to facts and not driven by political prejudice and theories!

      And you overestimate the differences between Christians over the centuries. I read Christian writers from the first century through the Middle Ages, into the Reformation, onto the 19th century and finally up to the 21st-century – and although there are cultural differences the basic theology and outlook remains the same. It’s actually quite remarkable!

      1. Theories are good to test out. New ideas should always be considered. Political prejudice is in human nature which is why I like evidence based policy making. And, to be honest, the last 2000 years in Western Europe and the US has been an exposition of political prejudice driven by Christianity.

        You make my point for me. It is the cultural differences I am talking about. What is and what is not acceptable. What is real and what is not. There were no witches in Salem (no such thing as witches actually) but the Bible was used to justify a lot of local harm during that unedifying period. The underlying text is, obviously, unchanged. But the positioning of it in each cultural era and different parts of the world changes. Even on something as key as salvation things change between denominations and over time.

      2. but Christianity transcends culture. And basic Christianity has remained the same since Christ….

        ‘the last 2000 years in Western Europe and the US has been an exposition of political prejudice driven by Christianity”…and therein lies the proof of my original point. You just make things up historically as you go along, just to suit your current absolutist prejudices! Your statement is something special! Thanks!

    2. Douglas,

      As someone who is an advocate for equality and humanism that takes facts and tries to improve things for individuals and society, and with having seen your comments for while now, I don’t think (and I may be wrong) that you come here to hold Christian and Christianity feet to the fire. I think you are actually wondering if there is something in this Christian malarkey.

      I would ask, as a humanist, someone who if for equality what would you offer that is an improvement for today? If we consider human history we see the same things over and over don’t we. Let’s say equality. Egalite fraternite liberte was the cry of the French revolution. You say because bad stuff has happened in the past in the name of various causes, it doesn’t mean its going to happen in the name of equality. But how many people post the French Revolution were sent to the guillotine not just for being an “enemy of the revolution” but even just being called such?

      So humanism, egalitarianism while good approaches in principle, has shown historically to perpetuate the same kind of “people stuff” with tribal adversity, wars etc.

      Have you considered that there may be something that might offer the best for humanity and equality to be, and it might not be found in any human ideology, philosophy or movement?

      1. Adam,

        My wife is an active Christian (although of a much more liberal position that Davids) so I am not here to attack Christianity just because I am a believer. I wish David would adopt a similar position. My worldview includes humanists and people of faith living as part of the same communities with no privilege given to any and all be treated equally. I cannot reconcile equality with this “Christian malarkey” as you put it. Whilst David might spill his tea at such a comment allow me to conduct a thought experiment. In a humanist run Scotland, all would be treated equally and things like same sex marriage would be acceptable and at the same time, religious and faith groups would be free to say and believe that SSM is not part of their belief so should in no way be compelled to conduct such marriages. In a Free Church of Scotland run Scotland, SSM would never happen. That is not equality.

        You are correct that humanity fails in places. It often seems to take two steps forward and one back. But we slowly getting better. We are slowly, rationally, thinking our way to being better. To treating each other better. This works better in areas not really being dominated by religious wars or unfettered exploitative capitalism and still has a long way to go.

        The problem with (I assume) your alternative being a more divinely inspired approach is actually the humans again. Can you show me a period of time where God and Country has not been the cry on a battlefield somewhere? For 2000 years Christianity has been available to humans but actual human rights only came about 1950 years into the process. For how long has Christianity been used to oppress, control and justify damage to other human beings? If there is something that can be described as best for humanity, Christianity has had its audition and been found very wanting. Thats why I am a humanist.

    3. Douglas,

      So you perceive David as being here to attack equality, humanism and, by implication, you. And when it comes to SSM you perceive the FCofS as being discriminative rather than exercising religious freedom in not affirming it.

      I defend your freedom for expression of your view. But cant you see that by the standard that you use to judge David, you are attacking the freedom of religion of the FCoS to (rightly or wrongly) understand marriage to be between a man and a woman and to not recognise or conduct SSM?

      You commented “no privilege given to any and all be treated equally” is what you advocate. Yet as in the cake thing recently, David talked about there being a threat to religious freedom and example of which being your “attack” (your standard, your word, not anyone else’s).

      When you talk about the battlefield, you bring up something that I am familiar with. I served for 10 years with the Air Force including involvement in the first Gulf War. So I guess you could say I have the “privilege” of first hand knowledge of what that is like. You, I assume have been spared this particular delight and have benefitted from other’s service and sacrifice in this regard. Particularly topical at this time of remembrance.

      As mentioned with the French Revolution – battles have been fought in the name of equality, some have been fought in the name of religion that is true, However the most devastating wars that humanity has known WWI and WWII had nothing to do with religion. Even the anti-theist Richard Dawkins has said so.

      What you do with removing religion is not eliminate war. People like to kill people and use all kinds of excuses for doing so. What you do if you remove religion is not eliminate war. You eliminate the excuse that some people make for war. You also remove the comfort that others have with hope in life and the possibility of facing oblivion at death. That would be cruel. I suspect this is why you are witness to David’s “attack” on this kind of thing and his suspicion about humanism, secularism, “equality” etc.

      Perhaps you have misunderstood. By “Christian malarkey” what I was intending was a light hearted comment about Christianity as a whole. I do think you see something attractive in it underneath the rhetoric. You are married to a Christian after all, so it can’t be all that bad :).

      1. Adam

        I fear I was not clear on a couple of things and I apologise for that. I accept the view that David and the FCofS has on SSM. It is their right to do so. What vexes me so is that whilst I and others would not force SSM on David or the FCofS, David and the FCofS campaigned against it for people who do not share that faith. Religious freedom does not mean religious domination of others.

        And I took your Christian malarkey think as a light hearted as it was meant so sorry again if that did not come across. I would not seek to challenge what people believe and take comfort in. It is when that belief and that comfort are forced on others, used to coerce others, used to bar equality to others that I object.

      2. Douglas I wholeheartedly agree with what you say “belief and that comfort are forced on others, used to coerce others, used to bar equality to others that I object.” Belief acceding the law is any belief or lack of belief.

        You say “whilst I and others would not force SSM on David or the FCofS, David and the FCofS campaigned against it for people who do not share that faith.” So by this you mean to imply that David and the FCofS is doing something you would not do. that is forcing a belief onto others who do not hold the same belief.

        Christ stands at the door and wits for it to be opened. He does not force entry.

        The truth is that David used his rights to campaign for what he believed in. Just as you are equally free to do so for your beliefs. That is equality. So you are, are you not, doing the very thing you accuse David of with trying to bar equality?

        I appreciate your humility in giving clarity on one or two things and again I defend your freedom to have and express your views, but I don’t like lies or hypocrisy. There’s a bit in the bible that say if you accuse others of what you are doing, you bring judgement on yourself. Its also a silly thing to do.

        Perhaps you may like to give that some consideration. That’s an offer, as suggestion, not something I am forcing you to do.

      3. “The truth is that David used his rights to campaign for what he believed in. Just as you are equally free to do so for your beliefs. That is equality. So you are, are you not, doing the very thing you accuse David of with trying to bar equality?”

        And there we probably hit our conundrum about equality. I would not stop David and others campaigning for what they believe. But because I believe in individual rights and freedoms I think it is a bad thing to campaign against equality for other people. David and others get to have what they want from themselves but want deny it to others. That is not equality. That is keeping the door closed and imprisoning people.

      4. But Douglas you do exactly the same….you are against equality for paedophiles, polygamists, racists and Christians who want to educate their children according to their faith….

      5. “equality for paedophiles, polygamists, racists and Christians who want to educate their children according to their faith….”

        So what equality am I denying paedophiles that I am allowing other people? Told you, not really against polygamy. Just want to make sure there is not an abuse of power. Christians who want to segregate their children at the states expense. Private schooling within a public framework, fine.

        Mind you, I would find a thought experiment about multiple pluralities interesting, perhaps even welcoming. It could be interesting to trade away the idea that schooling should be universal, denomination free and promotes equality amongst all people and instead give you the Christian schools you want. In return we can look at different belief systems getting the end of life care that they want. We humanists would welcome the freedom you seem to want for schools. We can have our assisted suicide if we want it. Different systems for different faith and belief groups. Its what you want.

      6. You are denying them the right to ‘equal’ marriage – to marry whoever they want.

        And how would you make sure there is not an abuse of power?

        And why do you think that the State should fund secular humanist based education but not Christian?!

  4. Your post confirms a Channel 4 documentary I saw a few years ago about the sexual revolution. That in the concluding comments of this secular programme the narrator stated “freedom to do anything is not freedom at all”.

    So yes, things to be weighed up about the “religious” in terms of criticism about repression. There is no need to be bothered about criticism – either it highlights something for improvement or it shows the critic up as doing wrong.

    The Songs of Solomon – the erotic poetry of the book wrongly sanitised by some to be about the relationship between Christ and the church rather then celebrated as an expression of love and human sexuality beautiful and poetically between two lovers. Some in church history even wanting the book banned from the canon of scripture! Some modern hymn writers painfully and repulsively contriving this to put words “my lover” to their lyrics in reference to Jesus.

    So the church is not without it’s challenges and these must be confronted.

    Yet this Greco Roman sense of freedom I agree, of freedom to do anything is no freedom at all. Isn’t this the very kind of thin the apostle Paul addressed with ““I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.” 1 Cor 10:23.

    It therefore follows does it not, from both secular and religious opinion that certain legitimate restrictions for “freedom”, of having certain boundaries, results in being the freest of all?

  5. “Freedom is not the right to do what you want but the power to do what you should ” I am sorry perhaps I am missing something but that sounds like a sort pf self righteous gobble e juke . As one as like minded as Baldrick might say !

    1. Think of the life of someone addicted.

      Then them being freed to choose whether to take part or not in what they were previously addicted to.

      Then that you have the right to do everything, but not everything being benfecial. And that being free to choose whether to do what is beneficial or not.

      Everyone either is addicted to something or potentially addicted to something and in need of freedom from opression.

      Perhaps the worst kind of opression is being deceived into thinking you are free when you are in servility.

  6. And the present is understood through the future, as Christianity has a door, a gateway, into the future through revelation from the One who knows and determines the future.

  7. Thanks Alison. There seems to be a tome full there and I’m not a speed reader.

    As Christians, we are freed (from the power of sin) to do as we ought according to God’s word, empowered by the Spirit.

    A while back David posted a link from Sam Allberry to a You tube testimony of the radical conversion of a young man radical, university, gay rights activist, who had gone on to study theology at Oxford Uni. I sent it to a number of people at church and today I was reminded of it by a recipient friend who had followed up further links. To the surprise of the young man what he had gained far outstripped what he’d lost. David might still have that link.

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