Manifestations of Upside Down Morality
I remember what it is like not to see the world teleologically. Just a few years ago, I used to disagree with many biblical moral values. Now, I can’t unsee the logic of teleology behind a biblical view of morality. I hope others will, upon being exposed to it too, realize how upside down the modern world has become so more people can help restore sanity to it.
Having established the necessity of teleology (see prior post here), we will now look at different errors that arise from its rejection.
Just a fair warning, a lot of the discussion will deal with sexual issues. I will not be going into any graphic detail so it hopefully won’t cause any offense.
Covering this material in a single post proved to be too much. In this post, I will start with errors from a non-religious point of view and follow it with a post on modern moral errors within the church.
Please, keep in mind two things. First, there are many moral issues I could have discussed. The issues discussed here are a few of the more pressing moral issues that come to mind. Second, every one of these topics could easily spread out into many blog posts, papers, and books. I hope these summaries will be enough to show how upside down the world has become.
A Sin Problem
People often ask: “why are Christians so concerned about what goes on in the privacy of other people’s bedrooms?”
Christians ethicists deal so often with sexual immorality because it is what drives people to commit sins more than any other thing.
To sin is to miss the mark. Remember that morality is a teleological view of human action. Acting in accord with reason and in accord with natural ends is to do good. To sin is to frustrate these natural ends.
Sin stems from disordered desires. Rather than ordering our desires towards God and what is good, sin is acting on disordered desires towards perceived goods.
It’s not surprising many of our moral disagreements arise over sex then. It is one of our greatest desires. When someone has a disordered desire for something so strong, they will go to great lengths to justify it.
Just as we would not harm our car’s mechanical nature by putting molasses in the tank—which is made for gas—we should not harm our human nature by acting immorally; that is, in ways that contradict its design. 1
— Trent Horn
To use our natural faculties in any capacity that actively frustrates their natural ends is immoral.
It is easy to see that using my hands to strangle someone is frustrating their natural end of being a rational animal by killing them. This is obviously immoral.
But what about using our reproductive organs in a way that actively frustrates their natural faculties? Just like the quote above about putting molasses in a gas tank, using our bodies in a way contrary to how they were designed is to act immorally.
The Telos of Sex
The teleological view of sex is that the sexual act is naturally ordered towards producing babies and creating a stable family unit to raise the babies in. To actively frustrate either of these ends is to make the sexual act immoral.
Suppose, then, that things really do have final causes, including our various biological capacities. Then it is hardly mysterious what the final cause or natural purpose of sex is: procreation. And procreation is inherently heterosexual. That someone might successfully clone a human being someday is no evidence to the contrary, for I am speaking about the way things exist in nature, not the way they might be altered to further some end of ours. It is also irrelevant that people might indulge in sex for all sorts of reasons other than procreation, for I am not talking about what our purposes are, but what nature’s purposes are, again in the Aristotelian sense of final causality. Now it is true of course that sexual relations are also naturally pleasurable. But giving pleasure is not the final cause or natural end of sex; rather, sexual pleasure has as its own final cause the getting of people to engage in sexual relations, so that they will procreate. This parallels the situation with eating: Even though eating is pleasurable, the biological point of eating is not to give pleasure, but rather to provide an organism with the nutrients it needs to survive; the pleasure of eating is just nature’s way of getting us to do what is needed to fulfill this end. When analyzing the biological significance of either eating or sex, to emphasize pleasure is to put the cart before the horse. Procreation (and nutrition in the case of eating) “wears the trousers,” as it were; pleasure has its place, but it is secondary. 2
It used to be so clear that sex is ordered towards creating families. It is sad that many just don’t see this obvious fact anymore. We have the sexual revolution to blame for this.
I highly recommend reading through Edward Feser’s A Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument. This is one of the best single servings of the classical theist’s teleological view of sexual morality I have ever come across. Feser goes through the teleological argument in depth and covers almost any objection you may likely think of.
Secular Errors of Morality: The Sexual Revolution
The sexual revolution really begins with birth control taking hold in the 1930s. 3 Before this time, all major church groups viewed birth control as immoral.
Then in 1930, the Anglican church became one of the first church bodies that formally accepted the use of birth control. 4 All the major church bodies, and even the secular press, uniformly scorned them for this decision.
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH:
Birth Control, as popularly understood today and involving the use of contraceptives, is one of the most repugnant of modern aberrations, representing a 20th century renewal of pagan bankruptcy.
Dr. Walter A. Maier, Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.
Carried to its logical conclusion, the committee’s report, if carried into effect, would sound the death-knell of marriage as a holy institution by establishing degrading practices which would encourage indiscriminate immorality. The suggestion that the use of legalized contraceptives would be “careful and restrained” is preposterous.
The Washington Post, March 22, 1931. 5
Fast forward to the 1960s, and along came the birth control pill. The pill changed the mainstream view of sex from primarily a means for producing families to primarily a means for pleasure. In doing so, people rejected a teleological view of sex in favor of the “free love” revolution.
As shown above in the quote from Edward Feser, a teleological view of sex is the rational view, though. Frustrating our body’s natural reproductive ends is immoral, just as frustrating our body’s design for eating would be.
Just as bulimia contradicts the body’s design by seeking the pleasure of eating while thwarting its life-giving purpose, contraception contradicts the body’s design by seeking the pleasure of sex while willfully thwarting its life-giving purpose. 6
Once the pill “freed” women from the fear of becoming pregnant, the rest of the dominoes of the sexual revolution quickly fell.
Divorce – Loss of A Teleological View of Marriage
What a loss of a teleological view of morality does to the family is tragic. If sex is primarily for pleasure when you are not feeling satisfied with your partner why not just find a new one?
Sex is not just about pleasure! It is just like the pleasure we receive from eating is not the primary reason we eat. Eating is primarily for nutrition. It is pleasurable to help us fulfill this primary end.
The same is true for sex. The fact it is pleasurable is to help us achieve the primary ends of unity between spouses and creating babies.
There is also a pragmatic argument in favor of biblical marriage. Families that have a stable relationship at their core, with a father and a mother to raise the children, are just objectively better in any category of statistics you can look at. Children that grow up in a house with a father and mother are less likely to have behavioral issues, less likely to grow up in poverty, and less likely to end up in prison. 7
As Ben Shapiro says, quoting a Brookings Institute study, the 3 rules for success in life are:
1. Complete at least a high school education
2. Work full time,
3. Wait until age 21 and get married before having a baby 8
The sexual revolution has sold us a lie about sex and has tried to redefine what marriage is. Sex and marriage are not just for pleasure, they are for families.
Kids get this. This little rhyme most everyone knows echoes this same truth.
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.”
It should not be a surprise that the desire for legal abortion follows the use of birth control and the “free love” revolution. When you actively try to stop a baby from coming, what happens when nature wins and one “accidentally” shows up? For many, the choice is they kill it.
There are two main ways people argue for the right to kill unborn children. First, they redefine what a person is so they can think they are just removing some cells from their bodies, like removing a tumor or a growth. This isn’t what science teaches though. A new life is created at the moment of conception. 9
Second, is they can argue that a woman has absolute rights to her body. On this view a baby is a foreign invader inside her. As such, a woman may evict the baby from her womb if she doesn’t want it. Hence, the common slogan “my body, my choice”.
Teleology has much to say against this argument. Teleology shows us we do not have absolute rights to our property and even our bodies. We are morally obligated to help others, especially those whose lives depend on it. See my post here for an in-depth discussion on how the island argument shows this.
Everything about abortion goes against a teleological view of the world. The right to life is the most basic of our natural ends. Abortion is the ending of the life of the most vulnerable; people that have no means to protect themselves.
Abortion is the great moral stain of our time, and I pray that we will one day see the end of legally sanctioned murder.
In the post-Obergefell era, that homosexuality is immoral on natural law is likely a tough pill to swallow. Holding to a biblical view of human sexuality now is to be on the wrong side of history.
The problem is that homosexuality is not a natural end of sex; it is a disordered end for sex. Nature is clear on this. No human court can make this not the case.
As we saw with birth control, actively frustrating the body’s natural capacities for reproduction is immoral. Since reproduction is not even possible with homosexual acts, it is definitionally a disordered use of the sexual nature.
As unpopular as this idea may now be, this is the reason the Roman Catholic Catechism still states homosexual acts are contrary to natural law.
2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. 10
Many will instantly object, “but then you have to say infertile couples or couples who are too old to have babies could not have sex either.” I completely understand this initial reaction, but it is, in fact, misguided and wrong.
Nor does the premise imply that there is anything inherently wrong with having sex during pregnancy, or during infertile periods, or with a sterile spouse, or after menopause, or in general under circumstances in which it is foreseen that conception will not result. For none of this involves using one’s sexual faculties in a way that actively frustrates their natural end. Foreseeing that a certain sexual act will in fact not result in conception is not the same thing as actively altering the relevant organs or the nature of the act in a way that would make it impossible for them to lead to conception even if they were in good working order. To use organs that happen to be damaged, worn out, or otherwise non-functional to the extent that they will not realize their end, is not to pervert them; actively to try to damage them or prevent them from functioning for the sake of making sure their use will not result in the realization of their end is to pervert them. 11
Also worth noting is that a couple does not have to actively will a child in each act of sexual intercourse or only have sex when they think they will conceive for the act to be moral. They simply need to be open to its possibility and not actively thwart any of the body’s natural functions.
Natural Family Planning (NFP) is the practice of using the knowledge a woman’s natural fertile cycle and only having sex in likely infertile periods. In doing so, a couple is not doing anything disordered against the natural capacities of their bodies. The Roman Catholic Church even officially sanctions its use. 12
A Redefinition of the Word Marriage
A teleological view of human sexuality shows marriage aims at producing families and producing offspring. Homosexual relationships, inherent to their nature, cannot do the same. There is no such thing as same-sex marriage, then. To call it marriage is to try to redefine the word to mean something it is not.
So many absurdities arise if we try to redefine marriage. If marriage is just a public declaration of a romantic relationship, then why can’t a dad and a son marry? They can’t produce children with genetic deformities, so the inbreeding objection doesn’t apply. Or what if a dad and daughter consented to sterilization before being married? Why couldn’t they? Or, why couldn’t a whole family marry: mom, dad, and any combination of kids?
If marriage is not a man and a woman coming together to reproduce and create a family, then what is marriage? If it is just a public declaration of a romantic relationship, then why can same-sex couple marry but any of these other absurd combinations cannot? There is no logical consistency on the simple romantic relationship argument.13
Pornography is another commonly lauded immoral practice of the modern mind. It is also immoral on a teleological view of sex because it destroys the procreative aspect of sex. Pornography reduces sex to pure animal pleasure. It even removes another live person so that instead of forming an intimate union with a person, you are treating the people on the page or the screen as mere objects for self-pleasure.
It is very interesting to think about how technology has normalized the use of pornography. A century ago, pornography was just not something people usually encountered. Now, 93.2% of boys have seen online pornography before age 18.14 Kids have instant access to porn in vivid, graphic detail on their smartphones and they are consuming it at alarming rates.
The chemicals released in our brains when we have sex usually orders us towards bonding with our spouse. Instead, these chemicals are now helping people bond with the pixels on their screens. With the ease that porn is now at everyone’s fingertips on their smart devices, it is no wonder why it is becoming so addictive and even being called an epidemic by secular groups. 11 states have, in fact, declared porn a public health crisis.
Not everything that feels good is ok. Watching porn (and masturbation) is a highly addictive behavior. Its availability is rewiring the modern mind to seek after pleasure whenever it feels like it. Like many other addictions, porn can lead one down a path of further and further sexual immorality as they seek ways to satisfy cravings for their sexual highs. This isn’t hyperbole and exaggerations. See fightthenewdrug.org for all the eye-opening statistics from a non-religious organization.
Pornography is contrary to a teleological view of sex. It is not ordered towards bringing a family together and producing children. It is only ordered towards the self and turning people into sexual objects. This is sinful through and through.
We now live in a time of “if it doesn’t harm someone else, who am I to judge?” “Love is love.” Even if it is romantic love between a father and a son, or two brothers?
Just like consequentialism, you can’t apply the logic of the sexual revolution consistently without running into absurdities.
Christians face quite an uphill battle. The culture has moved so far and so fast away from biblical morality. What is demonstrably immoral we must now declare as moral and celebrate it with all or risk facing the wrath of the progressive morality police.
There is always hope though. Many likely feel we have gone a little too far, but don’t know exactly how to articulate why. Teleology is the answer. It is something we all sense and experience even though some numb themselves to it.
A teleological view of morality is our best shot at reaching people through logic why we need to rethink some immoral practices we have now normalized.
Next up, is a look at errors in the church arising from not viewing the world teleologically.
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Miller, L., & Horn, T. (2018). Made this way: How to prepare kids to face todays tough moral issues. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Press. loc. 22 ↩︎
- Edward Feser. The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (Kindle Locations 2674-2676). St. Augustine’s Press. ↩︎
- ” Every Christian denomination officially taught against contraception until the 1930s, when the Anglicans first started to allow it. And even the secular Washington Post fretted at the time that this would lead to the collapse of traditional sexual morality.12 (They don’t make the liberal media like they used to.) For once the Post was right: It did lead to just the consequences they predicted, even if these consequences have now come to be labeled “progress.” The New Atheists and other secularists like to play the rhetorical game of pointing to some currently unpopular traditional moral or religious proposition and saying “See what these crazies believe? How can anyone take them seriously?” But of course, secularist views were once widely unpopular too, and still are in many quarters, and yet we’re not supposed to count this as evidence against them. Well, you can’t have it both ways. If a view’s unpopularity is irrelevant in the one case, it is irrelevant in the other as well. It might be that, as secularists claim, what most people have believed about religion and sexual morality for most of human history was wrong; but it might be the case instead – and indeed is the case, given the arguments we’ve been examining – that what they believed was right, and that the current state of secular opinion on these matters is evidence not of progress but of steep decline and extreme decadence.”Edward Feser (2012-08-15T05:00:00 00:00). The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism MOBI2 (Kindle Locations 2835-2837). St. Augustine’s Press. Kindle Edition. ↩︎
- Curtis, H.R. Should Christian Couples Use Contraception? What the Bible, the Church’s Witness, and Natural Law Have to Say about
Birth Control. p. 10. ↩︎
- https://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLENC/ENCYC098.HTM ↩︎
- Miller, L., & Horn, T. (2018). Made this way: How to prepare kids to face todays tough moral issues. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Press. loc. 148 ↩︎
- “Single parent households dramatically increase the chances that children are poor by 700%.Fathers are called to provide for their children. When there is no father present, the family struggles economically. One study found that children born out of wedlock are poor 51 percent of the time, whereas children born to parents who are married to each other are poor only 7 percent of the time. The absence of a father increases the likelihood of child poverty by 700%…Single parent children are 20 times more likely to end up in prison. A study of prison inmates found that 87 percent of those incarcerated were from single parent families.11 One important study demonstrated that neither race nor poverty is correlated to crime, but that virtually all of an area’s crime rate can be explained by the illegitimacy rate.12 According to another study, a child raised in a never-married family is twenty times more likely to end up in prison than a child raised by parents who are married to each other.13Not that all fatherless children end up in prison, by any means, but the lack of a father poses specific challenges for a child. A boy without a strong male role model does not know how he is supposed to act. His mother may try to discipline him, but he may not respect her efforts in the way he would those of a man. Studies have found that fatherless children struggle with lower impulse control—they feel like doing something and they do it—and thus increased behavioral problems. This, in turn, means that they often do poorly in school, which impacts them later in the workforce. Their social development is also thrown off without a father’s example.” Gene Edward Veith Jr.; Mary J. Moerbe. Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood (Kindle Locations 2057-2060). Crossway. ↩︎
- https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/three-simple-rules-poor-teens-should-follow-to-join-the-middle-class/ ↩︎
- You don’t have to be Catholic or even religious to know that a new human life begins at conception and thus that abortion is wrong. The science of embryology long ago recognized that at conception (the fertilization of the egg by a sperm cell) a new and distinct human being comes into existence. When I was homeschooling my daughter during her sixth grade year, her secular science book began its chapter on human biology with the following sentence: “You began life as a single cell.”
The words embryo (a Greek word that means “young one”) and fetus (a Latin word that means “offspring”) refer to stages of development in the life of a human being. If a fetus or unborn child is growing, then he or she must be alive. If an unborn child has human parents and human DNA, then he or she must be human.
An unborn child is not a body part like skin cells or sperm or egg. Instead, he or she is an organism: a whole, intact individual being who, like the rest of us, will grow and develop with time, nutrients, and the right environment. The unborn child is at the exact size and location he or she is supposed to be at that particular stage of human development. We’ve all been through the same course of development in our own lives, no exceptions. Every one of us was conceived (our beginning!) and grew through our proper stages as a human being. The logic is clear: if it is wrong to directly kill an innocent human being, and if an unborn child is an innocent human being, then abortion is wrong because it directly, indeed violently, kills an innocent human being.
The standard medical text Human Embryology and Teratology states that “fertilization [also called conception] is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed.”69 Even David Boonin, who wrote A Defense of Abortion and publicly debated Trent on this issue, admits, “Perhaps the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus on the other is this: all are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus, after all, is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development.”70 Miller, L., & Horn, T. (2018). Made this way: How to prepare kids to face todays tough moral issues. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Press. loc. 161 ↩︎
- http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm ↩︎
- Feser, E. (2015). Neo-scholastic essays. South Bend, IN: St. Augustines Press.P400-401 ↩︎
- God made the female body (and consequently the marital union) to have naturally fertile and infertile times. He also made our minds capable of discovering this cycle. Even when I was a proponent of contraception (before my reversion), I knew that there were “signs” accompanying my ovulation and fertility. NFP uses science and simple observation to determine, with great accuracy, if a woman is in a potentially fertile or infertile period of her cycle.Unlike contraception, NFP does not sterilize the marital act. It is just information56 about the way our bodies work—information we can use to decide, along with our spouse, whether to invite the possibility of new life by engaging in the marital act or to abstain from the act in order to avoid that possibility. By abstaining from the marital act (sacrificing) rather than sterilizing the marital act (insisting on pleasure alone), we show respect for the full meaning of sex as God made it.John Paul II spoke of another benefit of using methods of family spacing like NFP:The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self-control . . . . In this context the couple comes to experience how conjugal communion is enriched with those values of tenderness and affection which constitute the inner soul of human sexuality, in its physical dimension also (FC 32).As we teach our children about God’s plan for marriage, even our little ones can begin to see the harm of contraception by first recognizing the abundant goodness of babies and children for a marriage, for a family, and for society. Made this way: How to prepare kids to face todays tough moral issues. El Cajon, CA: Catholic Answers Press. loc. 130 ↩︎
- The $64 question in recent years, of course, is: “Does natural law theory entail that homosexuals can’t marry?” And the answer is that they can marry. But of course, what that means, as a matter of conceptual necessity, is that they can marry someone of the opposite sex. What they can’t do is marry each other, no more than a heterosexual could marry someone of the same sex, and no more than a person could “marry” a goldfish, or a can of motor oil, or his own left foot. For the metaphysics underlying natural law theory entails that marriage is, not by human definition, but as an objective metaphysical fact determined by its final cause, inherently procreative, and thus inherently heterosexual. There is no such thing as “same-sex marriage” any more than there are round squares. Indeed, there is really no such thing as “sex” outside the context of sexual intercourse between a man and woman. Sodomy (whether homosexual or heterosexual) no more counts as “sex” than puking up a Quarter Pounder counts as eating; and far from “hating” or “fearing” sex, traditionally minded married couples who have lots of children may be the only people really having much genuine sex at all these days. No legislature or opinion poll could possibly change these facts, any more than they could repeal the law of gravity or the Pythagorean theorem. And any “law” that attempted such an impossibility would be absolutely null and utterly void, a joke at best and a straightforward assault on the very foundations of morality at worst. For if “same-sex marriage” is not contrary to nature, than nothing is; and if nothing is contrary to nature, then (as we will see) there can be no grounds whatsoever for moral judgment. Edward Feser (2012-08-15T05:00:00 00:00). The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism MOBI2 (Kindle Locations 2813-2816). St. Augustine’s Press. Kindle Edition. ↩︎
- https://enough.org/stats-youth-and-porn ↩︎