A friend who read an earlier post about the Nashville Statement asked me for some clarification on the following quote:
“Part of the problem for evangelicals discussing issues related to sex, sexuality, and sexual practice is that we have lost the long tail of metaphysical reflection produced by the Church across the ages. I’m tempted to say to evangelicals ‘don’t pick up your Bible,’ pick up Aquinas.”
Here’s what I was trying to get at.
When we’re talking about issues like transgenderism and, to a lesser extent, homosexuality, we’re really talking about the philosophical behind the presenting issue.
We’re actually discussing the nature of being and of reality. Anyone who, at this point, appeals to mere science has taken a limited view. She has failed to acknowledge that there is something behind science, and that is the set of beliefs and presuppositions inherent in it. Scientific knowledge is a type of knowledge and its very good at certain things. It’s not so good at other things, and there are other types of knowledge.
Let’s think about transgenderism.
Is something–in this case gender identity–real or true because I feel it, believe it, experience it? How does that internal experience relate to the physical body. And if the body really indicates nothing about gender identification in the first instance, why change it?
How do sense relations relate to the external world? Which is authoritative?
Our current cultural mode of reasoning is actually rooted in deep confusion related to being, nature, and knowing. We have psychologized knowledge to the point that any moral imperative or valuation is seen as irrelevant and impertinent.
Consider the example of C S Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.
In the introduction Lewis discusses Coleridge’s theory of poetry (see pp. 18-19). Coleridge and his interpreters (or, perhaps, allies), in Lewis’s example two writers he names “Gauis” and “Titius,” believed the sublime was that which produces an internal experience of the sublime. They summarize:
“We appear [when we say ‘the waterfall is sublime’] to be saying something very important about something [external to us]: and actually we are only saying something about our own feelings” (emphasis mine).
An older view is that the sublime is such because of an innate quality in it. Lewis explores this view on pp. 19ff. He outlines some ways in which the view above produce absurd results–i.e., to say “you are contemptible” actually means “I have contemptible feelings toward you.”
Today, a statement of negative evaluation of homosexuality or transgenderism is seen not as a statement about those things but as a cryptic admission of being such oneself. This garbage is all across Twitter and if the first reaction by many: “Those drafters of the #NashvilleStatement were at xyz drag bar.”
Evangelicals who have spent their formative years looking to the Bible as a list of proof texts for encouragement in difficult times are simply unable to see and respond to this sort of subterranean philosophical shift. The proof is that there are few evangelical writers that address these topics and when they do they often end up “changing their minds” later on.
I’m glad to learn that Carl Trueman of Westminster Seminary is working on a 200pp book entitled, Christianity and Its Discontents (Crossway, 2019) providing an intellectual history of this confusion between moral reasoning and psychology.
We do well to remember that theology is still queen of the sciences and philosophy is her handmaiden.
[Aside: I believe firmly in the doctrine of sola Scriptura and in affirming it I affirm the value of the history of Biblical interpretation and theological reflection. We have to acknowledge that our forebears brought insights to the Scripture that are profound and valid.
I loath the progressive proclivity imply that the biblical writers were a bunch of neanderthals who essentially produced sixty-six books of psychological projections about God that bind us today.
Our forebears were not inerrant anymore than we are. At the same time, they were no more prone to error than we are.]