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Letters
August 21, 2001

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Dear Editor:

Dean Waldt's critique of Earl Apel's reply demonstrates how logic may get in the way of communication when a common set of assumptions is missing.

Waldt says that Apel believes:

--Committed love is the sole criterion for the institution of marriage
--Homosexual couples share committed love
--Therefore, such homosexual couples are in the theological equivalent of
marriage.

He also expresses his own beliefs that:

--Union between a man and a women is a sine qua non for marriage
--Homosexual couples are not composed of a man and a women
--Therefore, homosexual couples cannot be married

When Waldt further asserts, "As it stands, what Deacon Apel has said is nonsense," I believe that he strikes to the core of the problem. However, it is important to note that NEITHER of the two syllogisms has a logical "truth value," based on either Biblical or empirical evidence. The key problem is the use of an undefined term, "homosexual couples," which clearly has no counterpart in the "3000 years of Jewish and Christian Biblical interpretation." Despite this difficulty, I think that the two distinct "solutions" based on insufficient information are remarkably informative.

Waldt's syllogism insists that Biblical rules DO NOT apply to people who are not specifically named in scripture. Accordingly, the same argument can be made for eunuchs and people born with genital abnormalities or ambiguities: since their "gender" is undefined, they must be excluded [we do know from Acts that eunuchs may at least be baptized]. Apel clearly doesn't agree. He implicitly assumes that Biblical rules DO apply to "missing" classes of people and relationships. Recognizing that "homosexual couples" represent a class of relationships that is undefined, he uses analogy instead of inference. The difference between the two conclusions arises less from logic than from the two different "common sense" inferences about the applicability of scripture to this undefined class.

A more difficult question may be posed: "What is the meaning of the word 'homosexual.'" Most of us believe that we understand the term, and our own perceptions are reinforced daily by the media. Yet people from other cultures classify sexual behavior itself differently, so much so that individuals who closely resemble the "homosexuals" who are putatively denounced in some translations of scripture may loudly proclaim themselves to be heterosexuals! People from BOTH political extremes oversimplify and re-stereotype individuals into their own classification schemes. Such schemes may shed little or no light on the lives of those individuals who they purport to describe.

What ARE the relative contributions of genetics, environment and choice? Are individual differences as great as their similarities? What is a nonpracticing homosexual? Is a common meaning for the word homosexual" even possible, other than as political or legal term? I am reminded of our American term, "Hispanic," which is variously used to describe culture, place of origin, genetic lineage and language.

The scientific method does allow us to clarify distinctions between groups of people using inferential statistics. However, a young science may not be able to transcend its models, which themselves reflect our culture. Moreover, false classifications by the empirical, inferential engine of science are a necessary part of the pursuit of knowledge, but may have unpredictable repercussions if prematurely applied to ethics, morality, religion and law.

Just who do we believe that the Bible speaks to, and who does it exclude? In a world of inadequately defined terms, what IS the correct Biblical, Christian response to a stranger? To a brother or sister in faith? To one we strongly disagree with? What ARE the dimensions of our common ground as a denomination? I hope and pray that these questions will be directly
addressed by the "peace, unity and purity" task force.

Yours in Christ,

Craig E. Tenke
elder, neuroscientist
Center Moriches, NY


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