In light of Kevin’s series last week on Homosexuality and the RCA, I thought it might be helpful to better understand the mindset of those who accuse Christians of being bigots in the homosexuality discussion. Nancy Pearcey has been very helpful to me in this area. In her book, Saving Leonardo, she outlines the modern secularist view. I am going to string together a few quotes from her book to help us understand the society we minister in and its objection to the Church’s views on homosexuality.
Our society is greatly influenced by the philosophy of empiricism. Pearcey states, “Empiricism is the doctrine that all knowledge is derived from the senses—what we see, hear, hold, weigh, and measure. Obviously, moral truths cannot be stuffed into a test tube or studied under a microscope. As a result, moral statements were no longer considered truths at all, but merely expressions of emotion” (p.24).
David Hume took this view to a new level. “He split traditional philosophy into two opposing categories. Traditionally, truth had been conceived as a comprehensive whole, covering both the natural order and the moral order. But Hume tore those two things apart. The natural order is something we perceive through the senses, so according to empiricism that qualified as genuine knowledge. But the moral order is not perceived through the senses, so that was reduced to subjective feelings. The great moral principles that people had thought were transcendent truths were not truths after all but only preferences” (p.24).
As Pearcey notes, with the rise of Empiricism, religion was thus reduced to private feelings. This “separation of facts from values,” is in her opinion, “the key to unlocking the history of the modern Western mind” (p.25). She gives this helpful illustration of the two-story concept of truth:
Private, subjective, relative
Public, objective, universal
How does this relate to the homosexuality discussion? As she points out, if all religious claims are put in the “upper story,” then our assertions regarding morality are not viewed as truth. They are labeled non facts. Therefore, they are seen as subjective and private. In this light they are merely understood as “ethnic tradition or social glue or ineffable experience” (p.32). She says, “Think of it this way: If something genuinely is a matter of taste or tradition, then it would be wrong to impose it on others” (p. 32). However, as Christians we believe in a unified whole; values cannot be separated from facts. There is one truth which governs a unified realm. Pearcey rightly notes, “Biblical Christianity refuses to separate historical fact from spiritual meaning” (p.35).
For our purposes, she concludes, “This explains why Christians are often accused of imposing their views, no matter how gentle and polite they may be in person. Christians intend to communicate life-giving, objective truths about the real world. But their statements are interpreted as attempts to impose personal preferences. For the secularist, then, Christians are not merely wrong or mistaken. They are violating the rules of the game in a democratic society. Once we recognize this misunderstanding, the common objections to Christianity become more understandable” (p.32).
As Christians we must understand the secularist mindset and its desire to place religion, morality, and values in a distant upper chamber separated from facts and truth. And armed with such understanding and knowledge, we must stand against this agenda. One must understand that the debate about homosexuality is not tangential. It is not a “mere” moral issue as if it did not bear upon truth. If we give in to the argument that homosexuality is private, personal, and not the business of the church, we have given in to this two-story view where religion, values, and morality are separated from truth. When we lose this argument in the church, we eventually lose the Church.