Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Miscellaneous questions concerning S377A and Christian witness

In light of the furor over S377A, here are some miscellaneous questions that I would like to address about the issue, from a factual and then a Christian perspective.

Factual Overview

Q1: What is S377A?

A: S377A, or Section 377A of the Singapore Penal Code, criminalizes homosexual sex acts between men in Singapore.

Q2: What does it say?

A: "Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or abets the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years."

Q3: Does it criminalizes homosexuality, or LGBT persons?

A: No, it extends only to homosexual sex acts, not to homosexuals. And it also pertains only to men, not women.

Q4: Does it give license for the government to discriminate against homosexuals?

A: No, it does not, because it pertains only to the sex acts, and in order for anyone to be prosecuted under it, there must be proof beyond reasonable doubt that the "commission" of "any act of gross indecency" has happened (i.e. innocent until proven guilty). And since the Singapore government has said it would not enforce it, the charge of discrimination is baseless. No police is going to break down someone's door in the middle of the night, check to see if two LGBT people are in bed with each other, then arrest them under S377A. Do the proponents of repeal actually think the police have nothing better to do with their time?

Q5: Whence did the law originate?

A: The law originated from British common law. As Singapore was a former British colony, we inherited her legal system when Singapore became independent in 1965.

Q6: Isn't the law a relic from the Victorian era?

A: The law did not originate from the Victorian era. But even if it were, to criticize the law based upon its time of origin is chronological snobbery and a commitment of the genetic fallacy.

Q7: Isn't the law archaic and regressive?

A: Just because any law had an ancient pedigree does not make it "archaic." Laws against murder go back all the way to the Code of Hammurabi and probably even earlier, so does this make laws against murder "archaic"? Most certainly not.

The charge of "archaic" and "regressive" are biased terms reflecting the conclusions of progressivism, without even the semblance of any argument that seeks to prove why any one law is either "archaic," "regressive," or "progressive." They are vacuous clichés that aim for maximum emotional impact without the necessary hard work of arguing that their position is right.

Q8: OK, but given what we know about human rights, isn't it a violation of human rights to deny sexual expression of LGBT individuals?

A: No, there is no human right to sexual expression or even sexual orientation, as law professor Thio Li-An has shown.

Q9: But despite what the global bodies might or might not say, objectively isn't it a human rights violation to deny LGBT people sexual expression?

A: It depends on how one defines "human rights." We can all definitely agree that human rights are not unlimited. For example, there is no human right to murder. Since human rights are not unlimited, therefore we must discuss the topic of human rights in conjunction with other topics like ethics and societal values. After all, how are "human rights" to be defined? Countries like the Netherlands think that there is a human right to suicide, as seen in their endorsement of euthanasia, but is suicide really a "human right"?

The issue of "human rights" boils down to the worldview of a society. It is not some "objective" thing out there, springing forth from the tabula rasa of pure human reason, for that is a mirage. The historic UN definition of "human rights" stems from old liberal secular humanism. If we use that as a basis for discussing "human rights," then we are back at question 8. Otherwise, then we need to discuss questions of ethics. To ignore the UN historic definition of "human rights," while sidestepping the issue of ethics altogether, then throwing accusations of "human right" violations at S377A, is logically fallacious and an act of pure ad-hominem argumentation.

Q10: Isn't S377A, and especially the supporters of S377A, "homophobic" and "bigoted"?

Such is mere character assassination, and cheap rhetoric from people who likely have little of substance in argumentation. The dictionary definition of "bigotry," according to Merriam-Webster, is "obstinate or intolerant devotion to one's own opinions and prejudices." So, if those who support S377A are willing to consider other opinions, while proponents of repealing S377A are unwilling to consider other opinions but rely on shouting down their opponents with slurs like "homophobia" and "bigotry," guess who are the real bigots? Yes, it is those arguing for repeal that are the real intolerant bigots.

Q11: Doesn't the removal of homosexuality from the APA diagnostic manual give us an objective measure of progress, and the fact that LGBTQ+ are normal and shouldn't be criminalized?

A: The reasons for removing homosexuality from the list of mental disorders was not done objectively but due to intimidation by homosexuals. Any action done under duress is questionable, just as any "confession" achieved under torture is questionable as to its veracity. Therefore, the removal of homosexuality from the APA diagnostic manual holds absolutely no weight at all as to whether homosexuality is indeed a mental disorder or not.

Q12: If S377A is not going to be enforced, then shouldn't it be removed?

A: First of all, S377A is in the Constitution, which is slightly different from just any law. While I am unsure about the Singapore legal system, generally speaking, the constitution dictates the framework of a country. Thus, anything in the constitution does not necessarily have to be specific laws but about general principles of what is right or wrong.

One such utility of law is in its value of signposting, to indicate what should be the norm in society.

Q13: In discussions concerning S377A, many supporters of S377A argue that repealing it would lead to gay marriage and boys being allowed to go into girls' bathroom if they identify as a girl. Aren't such arguments slippery slope arguments and should be rejected?

A: They would be slippery slope arguments, EXCEPT such has already happened all around the Western world. Since we can actually see such a progression of events all around the world happening now, it is no more a slippery slope.

Q14: Isn't the campaign to support S377A driven by Christians and Muslims, and hence religious? But Singapore is a secular state, and thus we must respect the separation between religion and state.

A: First of all, even if only religious people (Christians and Muslims) support S377A, that does not necessarily mean that support for S377A is merely a religious issue. One actually has to look at and evaluate the arguments in support of S377A. If arguments based upon natural law and other issues of fact are presented, then to attack S377A merely because its supporters are (mostly perhaps) people of particular religions is to commit the genetic fallacy, not to mention to betray an anti-religious bigotry.

Secondly, it is false that the secular nature of Singapore implies a total separation of religion and state. A total separation of religion and state is found in the French republic, which in its doctrine of laïcité removes all religions from the public square. However, Singapore in article 15(1) of the Constitution grants freedom of religion and religious expressions, only qualified by one thing: public order (Article 15(4) of the Singapore Constitution). Therefore, the nature of Singapore's secularity is the separation of religious institutions from the state, but one's personal religion and religiously-informed opinions are free to participate in the public square.

Q15: So we should take note of non-religious arguments while rejecting religious arguments?

A: Not exactly. The non-religious arguments are the ones that could be discussed and debated in the public square with everyone. But religious arguments are there for followers of those religions to have their own internal discussions. And religious arguments have a utility in that religious people ARE part of society, and as part of society, they should not be ignored. If for example 80% of citizens are not for repeal of S377A, regardless of the merits of their arguments religious or otherwise, then one should not just deride and insult their religiosity and over-ride their objections just because one thinks one is on the "right side of history" (a Hegelian/ Marxist phrase at that). It must be reminded that one lives IN a society, and part of life in society is that one has to pay heed to other fellow citizens even if you believe they are absolute morons.

Q16: Are all arguments for or against S377A equally helpful for discussion?

A: No, not all arguments either for or against S377A are equally helpful. Some are dumb arguments. But everyone has a freedom to speak no matter how smart or stupid their arguments are. Do not assume anyone necessarily agrees with certain bad arguments you might have previously encountered.

Q17: You have mentioned many times about the "public square." What is it?

A: The "public square" is the space, online or offline, where people are supposed to be free to float ideas and arguments for the general public to read, dissect and discuss. It functions much like how the ancient public square, the Greek agora, was supposed to function.

Christian perspective

Q18: What is the Christian perspective on homosexuality and LGBT issues?

A: All of those are sin (c.f. Lev. 18:22, Rom. 1:24-27).

Q19: Is sexual orientation not sin if there is no sexual act?

A: The language of "sexual orientation" is that of the world, not of Scripture. Furthermore, in Scripture sin is not limited to actions but also to thoughts and inclinations (Gen. 6:5, Ps. 51:5). So "sexual orientation" is still sin to be confessed and repented of, even though it is not on the same level as actually acting out in homosexual sex acts, in the same way as anger is a sin even though it is not on the same level as murder (c.f. Mt. 5:21-26).

Q20: What is the nature of the sin of homosexuality?

A: The sin of homosexuality and all other LGBT issues, is a sin in violation of the seventh commandment (c.f. Westminster Larger Catechism Q.139), a violation of God's moral law.

Q21: What is natural law?

A: Natural law (lex naturalis), or the law of nature, is the moral law of God inscribed onto the consciences of all humanity (Rom. 2:14-15). It is part of General Revelation, and upon it God will hold sinners who do not believe in God accountable for all their sins.

Q22: Is Natural law just the Old Testament Law, and thus just a short form for religious law?

A: No. Natural law is the general equity of revealed law, of which the Mosaic Law was an inspired application peculiar to the geopolitical entity known as Israel. As we can see in societies around the world, there is a general sense of law, for example against murder, that all societies hold to. That is because, as Scripture has stated, the natural law is written on the hearts of all Man, and impossible to erase, though it can be temporarily suppressed.

Therefore, to call for adherence to natural law is not the same as Theonomy, and definitely is not particular to any religion(s).

Q23: So what is the Christian's responsibility to natural law?

A: The Christian's responsibility is to obey the law of God, and thus to call people to obedience to God's laws. Since the moral law is given for the good of Man and thus of society, the Christian's responsibility in the civil sphere is to put forward the natural law as the basis for the laws of a nation.

Q24: Upon what biblical basis is a Christian to "impose" the natural law upon society?

A: Micah 6:8 states: "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." The call for believers to do biblical justice, as a good work unto the Lord, is not optional. God's justice is not divorced from God Himself, and thus the justice of God stems from His Law. Therefore, as natural law is essentially God's moral law inscribed onto the consciences of Man, one aspect of doing justice is to call society to build her laws upon natural law.

Q25: Are you claiming that S377A is a justice issue?

A: Yes, I am claiming that supporting S377A is a justice issue, biblical justice in the social sphere.

Q26: Is there no room for legitimate Christian disagreement over S377A?

A: There might be, since obviously supporting S377A is an application of Scripture, not Scripture itself. But the onus is on those who reject my application of Scripture to refute it, not to ignore it or to engage in straw-men rebuttals.

Q27: Could any Christian possibly reject any of the answers to the Factual Overview (Questions 1-17), and therefore this whole exercise is highly partisan and not actually factual from the start?

A: It is of course possible. But is it probable? I doubt it. Anyone is welcome to attempt to dispute the facts in questions 1-17.

Q28: What about the topic of "human rights" for a Christian?

A: As mentioned in Question 9, if we want to discuss "human rights" in an objective manner, then we must discuss the topic of ethics. For a Christian, the primary source of ethics should be the Bible. More specifically for society, it is God's moral law as seen in natural law. For a Christian, "human rights" are dependent on God who gives these rights. God-given human rights are rights of human dignity based upon the Image of God in Man (Imago Dei) and what that entails, and it is a right to do good, not a right to do evil. One can look in vain, but there are no God-given rights to sin. Therefore, from a Christian perspective, there are no human rights for LGBTQ+, in the same way as there are no human rights for murder.

Q29: What is the role of the Church on issues of public morality?

The main role of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel, which means good news. Therefore, the Church as an institution should be totally apolitical. However, since S377A is a moral issue as well, the Church ought to speak to this issue in obedience to Scripture (c.f. Micah. 6:8). Given the potential for misunderstanding, the Church ought to be circumspect over how she speaks to the issue to make clear she is speaking to the morality of the issue, and attempt inasmuch as it is possible to steer clear of the political. Also, as part of the Church's corporate witness to the world, this issue should not enter into the preaching of the Gospel on any Lord's Day, but it can be in the teaching and CG sessions. The Church, in striving to honor her spirituality, is to be diligent in not letting even issues of moral concern to crowd into the Lord's Day preaching, but likewise, she should be diligent in maintaining a witness to society on issues of great moral concern.

Q30: What should be the Church's witness to the LGBT+ "community"?

A: The Church's witness to the LGBT+ "community" should be the same as to all other sinners: Repent and believe the Gospel. We are not to sugar-coat their sins or allow them to smother their consciences. We are not to soften the Law so that they *might* believe the Gospel, for that is the way to false conversions. It is not loving to say "peace, peace" when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11).

On the one hand, we are not to blunt the Law just so that we can appear more attractive, for that is not the way to true biblical conviction of sin. On the other hand, we are not to withhold the Gospel out of perhaps self-righteousness. The offer of the Gospel must be made known clearly, and who knows if God will one day convict them and grant them repentance unto faith. The problem with much of our Christian witness is that we swing to the extremes: some dull the Law out of a misplaced idea of "love," while others withhold the Gospel and make the Christian religion into a joyless soul-destroying legalism. Both extremes are wrong, and it no good for one side to point out how much better they are than the other side.

The Christian witness to the LGBT+ "community" should be loving yet firm. She is to witness to God's righteousness and the righteousness of God in Christ, missing neither.

Q31: Ought the church to teach her congregants of the rationale behind support for S377A?

A: Yes. Along with the corporate witness, the church ought to teach her congregants concerning why it is Christian to support S377A. If the church does not teach her members how to think biblically, the thought patterns of the world will rush in and undermine their faith. After all, we are told to renew our minds (Rom. 12:2), and God has given teachers to his church (1 Cor. 12:29; Eph. 4:11).

Q32: Why fixate on homosexuality and S377A?

A: We don't fixate on the issue except only in response to current events. The Church ought to teach her congregants how to think biblically on all matters, not just on homosexuality.

Q33: How is the Christian to view activism for and against S377A?

A: The Christian as an individual is free to partake (or not partake) in activism for S377A, and is not free to partake in activism against S377A (as homosexuality is against natural law). However, if a Christian can come up with some remotely plausible reason(s) for rejecting S377A, he is welcome to put forward his view without censure from the Church, as long as he can justify it while stating his clear and unambiguous adherence to the sinfulness of homosexuality. This is the Christian doctrine of the freedom of the Christian conscience (c.f. Westminster Confession of Faith 20.2-3), where believers are free where Scripture is silent and bound where Scripture is explicit.

From a corporate standpoint, since the Church ought to witness on the basis of morality, the Church must stand firm on the keeping of S377A as an expression of natural law. While individual members can disagree due to competing social values, the Church ought to prioritize the Law of God and therefore that should be her focus.

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