Proposition 8

Part 2: Who is the moral authority?

By Robin Schumacher

In Part 1, we looked at the ruling of the Proposition 8 judges and saw that their standard for marriage was really no standard at all. We'll now continue and see why a real standard and authority are needed to answer the question of if homosexual marriage is "inferior" to traditional marriage and really all moral queries.

Options for a Moral Standard and Authority

To be effectively answered, the ethical question concerning homosexual marriage needs to be bumped up to the larger question of: "Is there anything wrong with anything, and why?" To answer that question requires a source for an absolute moral standard and a moral authority.

A standard is needed because a standard determines how something is measured or determined and/or if something is rejected. If the judges in the Proposition 8 decision claim it is wrong to say homosexual marriage is inferior to traditional marriage, they need to put forward a standard for marriage that can be used as a reference. As C. S. Lewis correctly observed, "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line."

Once a standard is established, a moral authority is then needed too so the question of "says who?" can be answered. An authority is needed because it alone is the entity that has the right to impose the obligation of acceptance for the proposed standard, and therefore enforces that it be adhered to.

Whether it is homosexual marriage or any moral issue, to what standard and authority should we look to answer the question of whether something is ethically "inferior" that therefore should be cast out? Thinking through the question will bring forward four possible answers. The first three are found within the secular humanist worldview and the fourth, the theistic worldview.

The only options available to the secular humanist where a standard and authority are concerned are: (1) the natural universe; (2) culture; (3) the individual. Right from the start, the natural universe can be ruled out because amoral matter cannot produce moral beings nor prescribe moral behavior.

Culture cannot be appealed to as there are many cultures throughout the world, all with different moral standards and practices; there is no way to ascertain which culture is morally ‘correct'. Culture merely displays what "is" with respect to morality. Even the famous skeptic and antagonist of religion David Hume stated that humanity cannot derive an "ought" from an "is" where morals are concerned.

Moreover, how does one determine what culture dictates? The voters of California thought that with Proposition 8, the majority should dictate whether homosexual marriage should be permitted, but it turns out they thought wrong. If a majority-rules method cannot be used for culture, what can?

The third choice of the individual deciding what's morally right and wrong is a disastrous alternative as it only takes the problem seen in using cultures as a moral compass and compounds it exponentially.

What about using science as a moral compass? Some atheists say science should dictate moral behavior. However, intellectually honest secular scientists admit that science is a descriptive discipline and not a prescriptive one. In addition, its empirical methods are impotent to answer such moral questions such as if the Nazi's were evil. Einstein sums up the correct position in this matter when he said, "You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn round and speak of the scientific foundations of morality."

So, in the end, when Cheryl Jacques says polygamy is wrong because "I don't approve of that", it really is all she can fall back on.

And that simply won't do.

The Alternative Source for a Moral Standard and Authority

The theistic worldview says that the Creator God who brought everything into existence is also the immutable source of morals and ethical behavior. His nature is the standard and He alone is the authority, which imposes obligation on His creation. In the case of homosexual marriage, He defined marriage and therefore His definition should not be twisted to be anything other than what He has intended.

Having an unchanging and transcendent source that can be turned to in order to ground morals is the only true way of answering not only the question of if homosexual marriage is morally valid, but if any behavior is ethical or not.

This is something those founding the United States recognized long ago. Our Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Nothing similar can be found in a statement made by any other nation: moral benefits and rights hinged on a creative act. Notice also that the statement echoes the 14th amendment in the Constitution: "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

This, then, leads to the last questions we need to examine, which are what does it mean to be equal and just how much liberty – morally – should a person really possess from a societal perspective?

Correcting Two Errors

Taking the last question first, if, as the Declaration of Independence says, the rights humans enjoy come from their Creator, then that spawns another question: Does God ever desire the granting of a civil right to do a moral wrong? The answer to that seems as self-evident as the phrase that speaks to all people being created equal.

Which leads to the next issue: are Christians guilty (as the Proposition 8 judges say) of saying homosexuals are "inferior" as people? The answer is not at all. Instead, the Christian worldview makes this argument: there is a distinction between every person being equal from an innate worth perspective and what moral behaviors a person participates in.

There is a clear separation of the two in Scripture, and truth be told, in society. The homosexual activists desperately try, however, to conflate the two into one and so does the liberal media. But they aren't the same.

Christians strongly defend the human equality of all people and affirm that all have the image of God. But while the Bible verifies that all people are equal in terms of their worth before the Creator, it makes it quite clear that not all moral acts are.

Not Comfortable with the New Standard

Opponents of Proposition 8 know this, so their goal is simple: redefine the standard of marriage so that it includes them. However, if the arguments that homosexuals rely on to make their case are used to create that redefinition, there can be no opposition to any other form of sexual union or marriage. All seven combinations previously covered must be admitted. And it is odd how many homosexuals appear uncomfortable with that. They themselves are not comfortable with the fact that the new standard is fast becoming … there is no standard!

This shouldn't be surprising. Given that all humans have God's moral law imprinted on them, all know moral right and wrong and instinctively recognize the need for moral boundaries. When all fences are removed, protests abound, with the understanding, of course, being that when the fences are re-erected their moral practices must be on the inside (i.e. blessed and accepted) and the ones they frown upon on the outside.

How such divisions are handled, well, that's the sticky issue isn't it when a person has no ultimate source for a standard or authority?

Trading Truth for Unrighteousness

The concept of redefining truth and standards is covered in the first chapter of Romans where Paul describes how people "exchanged" (i.e. redefined) God's standard for sexuality for something else that they desired. What they swapped out, Paul says, is God's truth (cf. Rom. 1:25).

A little known fact is that a standard or truth in Scripture is synonymous with righteousness. For example, Paul says there are "those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation" (Rom. 2:8, emphasis added) and that love "does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).

The sad fact is, those championing the defeat of Proposition 8 and affirming homosexual marriage are exchanging truth for unrighteousness and are left without any moral ground to stand on or argument to use in denying the same privileges from others who are different from them (e.g. polygamists, etc.)

The Proposition 8 judges don't seem to believe that homosexual marriage is "inferior" to traditional marriage, although they reference no real standard to validate their pronouncement. It will be interesting how long it takes for them to assert the same thing about a bisexual man, his homosexual brother, and their 15-year old female girlfriend who want to marry because they all love each other.

Because after all, who are you to say their intended family is inferior to yours?

Proposition 8 The Series

Part 1: The New Standard of No Standards
Part 2: Who is the Moral Authority?

Image Credit: Brenna; "Boo on Prop 8"; Creative Commons

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Published 11-22-12