ABC Nightline—Born to Cheat? Tempers Meet Testimony at Debate on Adultery

Posted by Kendall Harmon

It is a thorny, contentious issue that brings along with it a multitude of questions. Are people born to cheat? Is the seventh commandment still relevant in a country where more than 40 percent of the marriages end in divorce? What constitutes adultery? Is lying worse than cheating?

To explore all of these questions, "Nightline" went out to the heart of the Bible belt for the fourth installment of the "Nightline Face-Off" series, moderated by co-anchor Cynthia McFadden, asking simply: Are we born to cheat?

The conversation was a powerful, candid and, at times, painful look at adultery and marriage, and the panel was as complex as the topic.

Read it all and also watch the whole debate.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchMarriage & Family* TheologyEthics / Moral Theology

7 Comments
Posted September 25, 2009 at 9:23 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Gack! Nobody’s wading in to be first.

At a minimum, we males have an innate orientation to breed as many females as we can. We are “born” to wander. “God made us that way.” No, the Fall made us that way and as we attempt to be our own ‘god’ it is more than easy to claim the result is GOD’s will.

The essence of godly and civilised living is to overcome our “natural orientation” to cheat. “Orientation” is not justification. God knows that and repeatedly warns us away from that.

The ultimate sin of “re-appraisers” is not that of acknowledging the inborn orientation—it is the denial of God’s power through the Holy Spirit to overcome, surpass, and ultimately move beyond that orientation. If you will, it is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, by denying his power: the one unforgivable sin.

September 25, 11:49 am | [comment link]
2. Ralph wrote:

It sounds so much like the “born gay” argument, doesn’t it?

September 25, 3:30 pm | [comment link]
3. Billy wrote:

“The ultimate sin of “re-appraisers” is not that of acknowledging the inborn orientation—it is the denial of God’s power through the Holy Spirit to overcome, surpass, and ultimately move beyond that orientation. If you will, it is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, by denying his power: the one unforgivable sin.”

YES!!!!!  Thanks.

September 25, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
4. NoVA Scout wrote:

Bart and Billy:  I’m generally familiar with what is classified here as “reappraiser” positions and I think it an exaggeration to say that they deny God’s power to do anything in the realm of human behavior.  A vow or practice of celibacy, whether taken by a person of heterosexual or homosexual inclination, is made possible for Christians by God’s power, and I have not heard any reappraiser suggest that such life styles are beyond human achievement.  The issue is not God’s power to moderate and control human instincts.  The issue (at least in the homosexual/heterosexual discussion) is the extent to which people are naturally oriented to same-sex attraction as opposed to opposite sex attraction, much in the way you contend that males “have an innate orientation to breed as many females as we can.”  That discussion becomes relevant to issues in the church in the context of whether homosexual behavior is of a kind with all sin, essentially no different in degree or content from heterosexual adultery, or, for that matter, lying, stealing, coveting, greed, gluttony, cruelty, etc. etc.  Acknowledgement of this vast reservoir of human sin, all of it a product of human nature and physical desire (or, as you choose, the Fall) is at the core of Christian awareness and frames and illuminates for us the wondrous redemptive grace of Jesus Christ.  What I find disturbing about the recent turmoil among us is that one element of sin (assuming most of us at this site take it to be a manifestation of sinful human nature) - homosexual behavior - is so isolated and focussed on to the exclusion or diminution of everything else and is causing so much damage to the unity and structure of the church.  But the debate (which is at root a scientific one) as to whether homosexual behavior is innate (like much heterosexual behavior and all other sin) or is learned behavior, really is not very important theologically, I would think.  If innate, it is much like all sinful sexual conduct.  If learned, it still looks like sin to most of us, but is more akin to car theft.  The theological distinctions between these categories escape me.  The pastoral response might differ.

September 26, 6:59 am | [comment link]
5. sophy0075 wrote:

NoVA Scout,

Regarding your comment that one element of sin (assuming most of us at this site take it to be a manifestation of sinful human nature) - homosexual behavior - is so isolated and focussed on to the exclusion or diminution of everything else and is causing so much damage to the unity and structure of the church.

One sin- engaging in homosexual behavior- is not the issue for those of us in the reasserting camp, regardless of what the media and the comments of some in TEC would have you believe. I encourage you to view Kendall’s excellent “iceberg” presentation, and/or read the sermon of the Rev Gavin Dunbar, recently posted on this blog, and/or the comments of Bishop Lawrence. Primacy of Scripture, the true identity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His death and bodily resurrection for our sins, and the stated truth that He alone is the way, the truth, and the life and the only way to the Father - that’s the basis for our contentions.

September 26, 8:54 am | [comment link]
6. dwstroudmd+ wrote:

Pastoral response is used to cover up a multitude of sins.  That’s not at all pastoral when the herd is headed to the cliff nor even for the single sheep on that cliff edge.

To validate the misuse of the pastoral, see ECUSA/TEC/GCC since the hype for “prophetic” took root in, oh say, 1974.  It is a slippery slope that is used to justify anything.  E.g., if God makes all things good and nothing is wrong, why are there “transexuals” since anything made is good?  But, if God really messed up and put the wrong person in the body they inhabit, then innate errors do occur, ergo, one coan change one’s error.  Excepting, of course, gayness, which is incapable of change (except for when it is changeable).  The problem with pastoral is that it is used to justify not challenge human concepts.  It is a panacea, is it not?

September 26, 9:00 am | [comment link]
7. Ross wrote:

Not all reappraisers agree with me on this, but I’ve said before that the key question for the presenting issue facing us (i.e., homosexuality) is whether it is inherently sinful or not.  Other questions, including whether it is genetic or learned or some combination of both, are strictly secondary.

If homosexuality is inherently sinful, then it occupies the same moral position as, oh, say, a murderously violent temper.  One might have such a temper, possibly by genetics, possibly by upbringing, but in either case one is under the same moral compulsion to behave peacefully as anyone else is.  Having a violent temper means that one will have a much harder time avoiding this sin, which isn’t particularly fair, but then life is notably unfair.

If on the other hand homosexuality is not inherently sinful—and I believe that it is not—then it occupies the same moral position as, for instance, a taste for steak.  Perhaps one’s liking for a rare, juicy steak is in one’s genes; perhaps it was learned at one’s parents’ knees.  It doesn’t matter: there’s nothing wrong with eating steak, and so one should be free to do so when one pleases and can manage it.  Of course it’s possible to pursue this liking to immoral degrees or in immoral ways—to the extreme of gluttony, or to the extent of being complicit in animal cruelty in the way cattle are raised in feedlots—but these are perversions of an essentially wholesome desire, not inherent to it.

The key question of the root issue—and I think this touches on Kendall’s “iceberg” metaphor that #5 mentions—is how we know the answer to the first question.  This is where one gets into the nature and authority of Scripture, revelation, human experience, and so on.

September 26, 1:57 pm | [comment link]
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