Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Values-Neutral" Sex-Education

Last night on the PM Programme on Radio 4 there was a discussion on the Government's latest plan to make sex-education compulsory. The idea is that the parental opt-out clause should be abolished. There was a furore in some quarters that "faith schools" would be allowed to give the instruction in accordance with their beliefs.

In all of this it appears to me that no-one in government has actually bothered to ask a fundamental question - what is the point of sex-education? Is it viewed merely as a subset of biology, a matter of the mechanics of reproduction, or does it include questions of right and wrong?

Of course, what underlies this confusion is the half-formed (and half-baked) idea that the two are one and the same. As a natural science graduate, I think I am better placed than some to say that natural science can only describe what is, not what ought to be. Morality is not derived from biology. A moment's thought should be enough to demonstrate this. Child-abuse is. Rape is. These are facts that we cannot deny. Now, on what solely biologial principle can we say these things are wrong? It is simply not the place of natural science to make decisions about right and wrong, yet this is what many people expect natural science to do! As a society, we have come up with this inexplicable idea that if we merely give the science to people, they will know what to do with it.

Hence the idea of "Values-Neutral" sex-education. Tell kids how to do things, but never tell the certain things are wrong and others right. The result? Girls not yet out of primary school becoming pregnant! And on what biological principle can we say that is wrong? After all, according to biology, when an organism can reproduce, it should.

Morality is the province of religion and philosophy, not natural science. We all have values, and we believe our values to be good. These values by their very nature cannot be simply private matters, because they effect our relationships with others. Yet there are only three options here:
1. Morality is private. I decide for myself what is good or bad. This is the philosophy underlying 'values- neutral' sex-education, give children information, and leave them to develop their own values. This doesn't work, it means that values will be picked up from other sources.
2. Morality is a societal construct. The boundaries of morality are decided by the majority. This actually means that, if applied consistently, there can never be any moral criticism of the majority. Wilberforce, on this model, was wrong. We also face the problem of where to draw the lines between societies. National boundaries? Which majority? It all ends in confusion.
3. Morality is transcendent. There is only one moral law that is true for all people in all places and all times. A transcendent morality requires a transcendent principle, in other words, a single God and creator of all, who is also the law-giver and judge of all, and finally the standard.

That God has revealed Himself in the Bible, and in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came don to earth from heaven to save sinners. His standards are absolute. Incidentally, no-one who holds to a merely personal or societal moral authority is actually equipped to express moral outrage against the Bible.

Unless we start teaching an absolute moral authority, we will be stuck in the quagmire of a subjective morality, and the result can only be moral chaos.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Zeitgeist - or, another bad conspiracy theory

Recently, on the way to the dentist, I saw a spray-painted graffito directing people to the Zeitgeist film on line. This film is frankly one of the best arguments against the internet available. Containing nearly no factual information at all, it argues that Jesus did not exist, and is a composite of various ancient gods. The film points in particular to Horus of ancient Egypt, and points out a number of "compelling" similarities between Jesus and Horus. In fact, hearing the Zeitgeist account of Horus, you think "that sounds like Jesus." The reason for this is of course that it is Jesus!

Yes, the people behind Zeitgeist have presented an entirely fabricated Horus mythology that is founded on the Biblical accounts of Jesus (for the most part), and use this as if it proves something. It proves nothing beyond breathtaking duplicity.

One of the best sources on the subject that I have found is here. The author is not a Christian, and for that reason the site is a useful one to point those who are thinking that Zeitgeist may have a point to. This author has no pony in this race. Of course this means there are statements in the article that I would not agree with, but it removes the impression that this film is based on truth. There is also a very helpful anotated Bibliography. Inexplicably, the author seems to think the King James Bible is really, really bad. I do not know on what basis.

Letting our Agreements Speak

Do you affirm, in doctrine and practice, the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith? It is not enough to claim to agree with a statement of faith, we must practice it as well - in other words, the confession must not be some dusty old document referred to in the constitution, but rarely actually referred to by the church leaders and members.

What happened in the mixed denominations in the 20th century was that the confessions were quietly sidelined, and set aside as mere historical documents that had nothing to do with what the Church actually did and believed. This had already happened in the Church of England, where the 39 Articles were generally ignored from the period of the Restoration of the monarchy under Charles II onward. It also happened in the English Prebyterian Churches of the same period, resulting in the practical extintion of that denomination in most of the country. Many Presbyterian Churches became Unitarian, and other Independent. The cause of this was doctrinal laxity, and the lack of confessional subscription. A higher value was set on freedom of conscience than fidelity to God.

As in the 18th century, so in the 20th. C.H. Spurgeon saw the decline hit the Baptists and published the articles on The Down-Grade. He was pilloried for it, but his words proved true. Time and again, when the confessions are abandoned, the faith is not far behind.

Not all matters of present importance are dealt with in the historic confessions, and therefore statements need to be issued on these subjects. But first, let us all look to the Confessions, and affirm them. The problem began, after all, when people stopped referring to the confessions and subscribing them as true summaries of Biblical doctrine.

Today we have two problems that spring from this. The first is apalling doctrinal laxity on confessional issues, and the second is that rather than having statements that can be read, those more conservative churches that claim "no creed but the Bible" have an unwritten confession preserved in tradition which is therefore not available for any prospective member to read. "Back to the Bible" must, practically, also involve going back to written confessions.