Monday, May 25, 2009

The Church of Scotland has set out a clear stall

says Alyson Thomson, head of communications, "it is a modern church for a modern Scotland. The commission is delighted that the Church has, as Scott Rennie requested, taken an honest look at itself over the issue of sexuality and decided that the values of fairness, equality, dignity and respect are of more worth than those of ignorance and intolerance." The tone of this reflects the tone and type of argument adopted by those defending Rennie throughout the public portion of the debate.

The arguments are emotive, sociological and fallacious. The stall is anything but clear in terms of clear thinking and arguing.

First we have the fallacy of appealing to novelty (argumentum ad novitatem). This assumes that what is modern is good, correct or superior simply because it is modern.
This is also seen in the language used by the media to describe evangelical opposition under the label "traditionalists". The assumption is that because what is modern is good - the only reason you oppose it must be because you think that what is old and traditional is good.

It is entirely inflammatory and incorrect to describe the opposition as ignorant and intolerant. It is another fallacy, this time one that employs insultive, compromising or pejorative language to influence the judgement of others. It is also an ad hominem personal attack. Don't listen to the arguments of these people they are intolerant and ignorant. It doesn't matter how well the opposition reason then, they have been characterised as ignorant and shouldn't be listened to.

Then we have George Cowie of the Aberdeen Presbytery saying: "Are we to tell people that because of the way God made you, you must live alone and not have a life's companion?" This is the naturalistic fallacy or appeal to nature, which claims that what is, is what ought to be. Even Richard Dawkins can see the problem with this kind of argument, saying that a society that uses nature as a moral compass would be "a very nasty society in which to live". The point about this kind of argument is that it ignores the reality of sin, especially original sin. It assumes that what is "discovered" in the natural realm takes precedence over clear statements of Scripture. This is natural theology not only gone mad but gone very bad. Cowie goes on to exacerbate things by saying: "It was once considered to be an illness, or a lifestyle choice. Many, many people now consider it part of an individual's make-up."
This is the fallacy of the argumentum ad populum, appeal to majority thinking. This too is logically fallacious. Just because a belief is widely held does not mean it is correct; the more people that believe it doesn't increase its accuracy.

Reverend (sic) Lindsay Biddle of Affirmation Scotland, a group which supports gay and lesbian clergy, said: "Scripture does not address homosexuality, much less condemn it." There is no qualification of this or explanation. It is truly remarkable. It is the kind of argument that one thinks that if you assert it often enough, people will accept it, even though you don't defend it.

Rennie himself was describing his opponents as "those that don't want any change,".
He added: "We don't stone women, we don't stone adulterers, we've moved on from that." This is the idea that the position held by evangelicals is stone age and therefore to be dismissed. What has the mode of civil punishment of certain crimes which are always denounced as sin by Scripture to do with whether or not homosexuality is sinful? The idea is to insinuate that the opposition are like the Taliban.

Rev David Court and Rev Dr William Philip of the Fellowship of Confessing Churches, who opposed Rev Rennie's appointment said: "We deeply regret the decision of the General Assembly, which has brought great shame on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Church by publicly proclaiming as holy what God, the Bible, and orthodox Christianity all down the ages, and all over the world, unambiguously call sin.

"This is about far more than just sexuality. The very nature of the Christian gospel is at stake."

Rev Steven Reid, said:

"I think it deepens the divide. That's an accurate assessment of the situation we are in. There have been issues down the years, issues to do with the scriptures, and this has brought them to a head...For those of us who hold the scriptures to be the supreme rule of faith, the decision seems to fly in the face of that belief." The argument here is based on Scripture, which is an appeal to an authority above men's thinking.