I get this question a lot when I go into the elementary school classrooms, however I can never give an adequate answer. The reason I can’t ever give them a real answer is because they are usually in about grade 5 and I think the only adequate answer is about sex. So yes, to your shock and horror I am going to sexualize God and the Bible and probably get everyone mad at me.
So usually I start out by telling the kids how God’s maleness isn’t just a sexist way to describe God but that God is called male for a reason. The Church is the Bride of Christ and Christ is the Bridegroom. This automatically makes God male and the rest of us female and not just in a metaphorical way. In a relation of human to human we have a type of female or maleness, but in a relationship on a supernatural level we are all female and God is male. I think this gets confused a lot because of modern society’s confusion with the distinction between sex and gender. Sex is a biological fact while (to the chagrin of the sexually liberated) gender is not an identity you choose, it is a type of person based on sex. The word Gender comes from the word “Genus” which means a general distinction (as opposed to a species or specific type). So gender is just a general category that we fit into based on sex. This distinction between gender and sex is not what this blog is about however…
So I want to argue that Sex and faith have the male female distinction and that God has used sex to tell us truths about Himself. I mean why wouldn’t He first of all? Sex is as close to Heaven, as close to bliss and ecstasy that we can get in our physical human form. It is a beautiful and wonderful gift that expresses the divine. The Bible expresses Jesus as the Bridegroom a lot!
In Matthew 9:15, Mark 2:19 and Luke 5:34, the Apostles are referred to as the friends, guests, or children depending on the translation, of the Bridegroom commonly accepted to be Jesus Christ.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.”- Matthew 25:1-13
“Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church” – Ephesians 5:22-25
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” -Revelation 19:9
The Bible is clearly using the relationship between husband and wife to represent the relationship between God/Jesus and His people (sometimes considered the “church” and sometimes considered the “city of Jerusalem”). There is an obvious ongoing metaphor so I’d like to take this metaphor one step further. I heard one time that a very devout Catholic couple referred to their marital sex as “Celebrating the Sacrament”. So why not bring in the sexual aspect of marriage into the metaphor from the Bible? I mean sex is a key part of marriage so maybe God is trying to tell us something by using this Bride/Bridegroom language all the time.
When it comes to male and female, we have to talk about sexuality, so we are going to get a little explicit here. What makes a man, a man is that he has a penis and what makes a woman, a woman is that she has a vagina (duh). So what makes someone male is the ability to literally and physically enter into the female. (See why I can’t explain this to elementary school children?) This makes the man the natural “aggressor” while the woman is the natural “receiver”. You could say that the man is offense and the woman is defense and we see this in stereotypical, traditional gender roles. Outside of just the sexual act we commonly see the man as the pursuer and the woman as the pursued. The man typically makes the first move while the woman decides whether or not to receive the offer. (btw I’m trying to make this sound less like a horror film but I can’t, so don’t think of “aggressor” and “offense” and “pursuer” in a violent or patriarchal way.)
In human to human relationship this is obvious, especially in the 50s. Now let’s take this analogy to God/Jesus’ relationship to His church. C.S. Lewis calls God “The hound of Heaven” and talks about how God pursues us. Just to make this blog post as sexual as possible let’s look at the naked picture on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel….
Look how God stretches, pursues Adam who represents humanity. God is on offense while Adam (all of us) get to choose whether or not we want to receive God. We can take the sexual analogy and say that God is the one who “enters into” our lives, our hearts. God is incarnated as a human being; God penetrates our physical world with the incarnation of Jesus. I’d even go so far to say that Jesus enters into us in a physical way in the Eucharist. The body of Christ literally and physically comes into our body. You could even say that we become impregnated with the graces of God and give birth to the Good works we perform. Now you can say that is over-sexualizing God but so what? If we see sex as something dirty or perverted then this seems disgusting or sick. However if we saw sex the way God sees it, the way He created it to be and the way it exists in an ideal Christian marriage then this is a profound explanation of our relationship with God.
So to answer the question, this is exactly why we call God “Father”. Because we are the Bride of Christ and Christ is our Bridegroom. God has to be considered male because of what being male is (which I think we’ve lost sight of lately). I think this is more than metaphor or analogy, I think this is the fullest expression of love. In a human sexual relationship the goal is to become one.
“and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” Mark 10:8
The goal of our relationship with God is also that we should become one with the divine and that happens when God enters into our bodies, hearts and minds.
“Work Makes You Free” – The sign written over the entrance of Aushwitz
So… What is it?
Utilitarianism is a philosophy started by Jeremy Bentham and John Stewart Mills. To briefly explain the most basic and simplified form of it, it focuses on “utility”. The idea is that the most important thing is a persons happiness of pleasure. The other tenate of this ideology is that life is not intrinsically valuable, its value comes from how useful the person is to the whole. In Wrath of Kahn, Spock says “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few!” This is the anthem of Utilitarianism, and it sounds pretty good as a buzz word doesn’t it? The example given is a train out of control, filled with people. (The bad) guy from Die Hard is in control of it and says you have to kill one person to save the train full of people. It sounds pretty reasonable to kill the one to save the many, to increase the pleasure of many by the sacrifice of one.
So… What’s Wrong with it?
The problem with this ideology is that it does not consider a human life sacred, or in secular terms valuable. As Christians, as theists, we believe the God created everything, including our very lives and that this gives life meaning and value. Maxmillian Kolbe sacrificed his life for one other man in Aushwitz during WWII. Utilitarianism would say that was meaningless because a life is a life, so it doesn’t matter which life goes. It doesn’t see it as a heroic act of love and compassion, but a stupid act. Utilitarianism also starts an elitist mindset that can be traced back to Eugenics and Hitler’s regime. Hitler (and others at that time like Margaret Sanger) believed that some lives were worth more than others. If the greatest good is to have more of the best kind of people, then others become expendable under this ideology. In modern day we can see this in how we treat the mentally and physically disabled. They can’t do as much as the average person, therefore they are worth less and worthless.
So… What’s this got to do with Abortion?
Margaret Sanger, as I mentioned earlier, was involved in Eugenics and trying to help create a master race. She believed that if you didn’t have the right genes you were not worth much. For example she is quoted as saying “quote about eliminating black people through contraception and abortion.” Margaret Sanger was an early 20th century feminist whose mother died mother died giving birth to her 11th child. Now many will argue that Eugenics and Abortion are not at all related anymore, if ever at all. The problem though is that this idea that some human lives are worth more than others is at the heart of the abortion arguments. Peter Singer says it’s based on intelligence, some say brain activity, our laws in Canada say in or out of the womb, many would say a child wanted or unwanted is the distinction. Are people who were wanted by their parents worth more than people who weren’t wanted/planned by their parents? Of course not, that’s absurd! You might want Donald Trump dead, but that doesn’t make his life of less objective value!
So… Why Should I Care
I’m writing this on the way to Aushwitz in Poland. I feel like that is all I need to say because Eugenicists thought what they were doing was right too. History can make a fool of even the most intelligent of us. We cringe and cry and rail against Hitler’s ideology, we use words like “crazy” or “evil”. If one day we realize that a human embryo is as valuable as yours and mine, we will make Aushwitz look like a joke. We will look back in horror at abortion as the largest mass killing of human beings in human history. For those who are pro-choice I just want to propose one question, what if we are wrong? What if, as a society, we got this one wrong? What if you are on the wrong side of history? The Holocaust killed 6 Million Jews. Abortion kills …. Lives. What if One day we will call abortion the holocaust?
So after offering a new twist on the most common pro-choice arguments last week, I want to try and tackle the very best arguments in favour of making abortion an option. Usually after I explain my position and the other person explains their, it is clear that this issue comes down to one important question; when does person-hood begin? Notice it’s not when life begins, because organs are alive but we kill those, animals and plants are alive but we kill them. Person-hood is when something goes from simply alive, to a human person.
The Best Pro-Choice Argument
At the end of life we consider someone legally dead when brain activity stops. Therefore we shouldn’t consider life as beginning until there is brain activity. Therefore abortion should be acceptable up until there is brain activity.
This is a very strong argument for making (keeping) abortion legal. I don’t think pro-life people appreciate how valid this argument is, and how need to take arguments like this seriously and not brush them off. I will give my argument of why this is not sufficient reason to allow abortion. First I want to point out that if you subscribe to this argument and you are Canadian, there are no laws whatsoever regulating abortion. Brain activity usually starts at 6 months and you can legally have an abortion right up until birth. So if this is the reason you are pro-choice, you need to get out to the March for Life to lobby for laws against late term abortions.
That’s not the argument against this point though. I would suggest that there is a significant difference between end of life and beginning of life. At the end of life when someone’s brain stops working we consider them officially dead, but why? Why not the heart or lungs? Well, we are able to keep someone alive using a machine that replaces the heart or the lungs. As of right now when someone’s brain stops functioning we have no way to bring them back or even keep that critical organ from functioning properly, even in a minimal way. If we imagine a machine that can keep a brain moderately operational would we have to change the definition of death? Let’s say a machine keeps the brain active but the person can’t move because all their organs are not getting the right signals to keep them going. The persons body dies but the brain is still active, are they dead? This is the shaky ground that this argument rests on. When we get down to a cellular level it gets even more complicated, if you have time, watch this video to really get you thinking…
Here is the real problem though… When someone is dying, at some point, there is nothing we can do to stop it. If there was a way to prevent that brain activity from shutting down we would do it so they could live longer. When a person loses brain activity we know they are not going to come back, there is no other alternative. In the case of an unborn child, at even the earliest stage, we know that given the right conditions they will have brain activity and be alive at some point. I hesitate to use the term “potential person-hood” because that could be considered a sperm or an egg or even from an atomic level any atom! There is no doubt however, that a living human being naturally comes from this group of cells. In death we may not know the exact moment where a human person loses their person-hood, but it doesn’t really matter because we know there is nothing we can do. (Maybe they never truly lose their “person-hood”. But their “soul”, in Latin the word soul is “anima” or the thing that animates their body, is separated from their body for a time. This is important because we don’t really understand what animates the body… again watch that video above.)
Sometimes the Fertilized Egg Does Not Implant in the Uterus
Since we live in an imperfect world though, there is often complications (as Bill Nye points out in his video on abortion). So, naturally, the fertilized egg does not implant and that human being never has a chance to develop. This is not a moral problem for pro-lifers because it is a natural process with no intent to interrupt what is a natural process. This is critical because intent is everything in moral philosophy, except for Utilitarianism which is where our modern society gets its moral logic from. Utilitarianism says that all that matters is what happened and intent doesn’t mean anything. If you believe manslaughter and 1st degree murder are different then you are not a Utilitarian and you believe intent is important. Just because some people die at 27 doesn’t mean we can kill other people at 27 and just because some fetuses die in the womb doesn’t mean we can kill other fetuses in the womb.
Abortion is when we know that a life is coming and we consciously and intentionally do something destructive to interfere with a natural process. This is the reason for so many controversial teachings in the church. When we go to a doctor and get medicine or surgery it is meant to enhance the natural process of the body. That is good and considered acceptable according to the church. It is bad to control, change or stop natural processes from happening. It would be like cutting off a grizzly bears food supply because you want to save all the salmon from dying. You would mess with the whole natural ecosystem. Sometimes our bodies themselves act in an unnatural way like an autoimmune disease. In this case we give medicine that helps the body to do what it should naturally do. I think then the question becomes “what is natural?” For that we would need another blog, however I think you can see why we believe abortion is generally wrong in almost all cases (we can consider ectopic pregnancies another time). I think it is easy to understand how abortion can be seen as interfering with a natural process.
The Reality is…
What it comes down to is that there is a big difference between preventing something from living and declaring something dead. If you planted a bulb for a rose bush and someone put lye on the spot you planted it, you would be mad that they intentionally killed your plant! If it died naturally you might be upset but less mad because there wasn’t an intention of harm coming from another person. If it was withering and dead and someone dug it up you would be less upset since its end was inevitable. (We’ll discuss end of life issues another day too). That is basically the counter-argument, but I want to make it clear to pro-life people reading this that you need to take these arguments more seriously! These are valid concerns that we are ignoring to achieve a political agenda. Do not get sucked into caring more about getting what you want, than doing what is right.
* In a future blog I would also like to tackle Peter Singer’s argument for person-hood which may be even better than this one. However I don’t think many people subscribe to his argument since he argues that you should be able to kill toddlers…
Ok, it sounds like a stupid question but we eventually need to prove that God is good. In order to do that we need to understand what we mean when we say good. I’d argue that we use the word good in two very distinct ways.
Two Definitions of “Good”
- The Moral Sense
Good is used to make an ethical or moral distinction. Right vs. Wrong or Good vs. Bad/Evil. This use of that word is usually attributed to an action. “It was wrong for you to punch that guy.” Or “Walking away from the fight was the right thing to do.” Sometimes we attribute this way of speaking to thoughts also. We say we have Good thoughts or evil thoughts. This is also a moral way of speaking but a thought is only morally good or bad in as much as it leads you to an actions. If I think about murdering someone but I don’t, the thought was evil but only because it could have led to murder. Thoughts only have moral values in relation to the actions they create (potentially or actually).
The other way we use the word “good” is morally neutral. We would say “that was a good catch!” or “that’s a good sandwich!” We aren’t making a moral judgement about the sandwich, it was not right in a moral sense. I don’t think I’ve ever called a bad sandwich evil! If I did it would have to be pretty nasty… So what do we mean when we say these things? I would argue that when we use good in this way we are talking about perfection. If we call a sandwich good, we are saying that it is close to what we imagine would be the perfect sandwich. Obviously this perfect sandwich doesn’t exist but we have a sense of what the perfect sandwich would be.
Plato’s Forms and “The Good”
Plato called these perfect images of things, like the perfect sandwich, the “Forms”. So anything has a Form, sandwiches, baseball catches, and tables, even abstract concepts like perfect beauty or perfect love. It’s like everything we have is imperfect but it was based on a perfect mood that we never get quite right. Goodness is talking about how close it gets to its “Form”. Plato then said all these “Forms” come from something he called “The Good”. As a Christians I would interpret this as God.
Here is a video if you are interested in going deeper.
So we have two different meanings of goodness, but they are intricately related. So I said even abstract concepts have a perfection so morals have a perfect form of morals. So when we say someone is morally good, we mean it is leading towards a “moral perfection”. “Moral perfection” is a Form, but we use the word good for both meanings so I can say, “being good is good”. It’s kind of like what we mean by saying a thumb is a member of the finger family, but not all fingers are thumbs. Moral goodness is a member of the perfection family, but not all perfections have a moral value to them. Moral goodness is one of many goods (perfections).
If you are still reading this, first of all, God bless you! But you are probably wondering why any of this matters at all. Well often we use the word good and we don’t understand which one we are using. In Part 2: Rational Proofs for the Existence of God, we talked about God being creative and I said this will prove God is good. Creation refers to the perfection type of goodness. So the argument is,
- God created me/you
- Creation is a perfection
- Perfection is a good
- Therefore God has to be good
Are we assuming that because God has one good quality (creativity) he has all good qualities, i.e. He is perfect (including being morally perfect)? Yes we are so let me think about this for a week and get back to you with a response.