Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’”


Is our God-fearing, Christian “tradition” outdated,  oppressive and irrational?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 6, 2019 –  In trying to establish what has been called “same-sex marriage”[1]  Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, QC reportedly held[2] that  many inequities have existed in the name of tradition but neither tradition nor religion could form the “rational basis for a law.”  That is but an inch away from implying that the God-fearing, Christian faith that is the Caribbean’s dominant tradition is inevitably oppressive, outdated, ill-founded and/or irrational. Likewise, the historic legacy of Parliamentary Democracy in the Westminster system[3] with separation of the powers of government – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary – may also seem to be just as outdated. 

Such perceptions will not be left unanswered, even though this requires some fairly challenging steps of thought. Justice Smellie and others have forced the matter.

First, we must answer the attitude that one can tell the truth by the clock: what is old (or old-fashioned) is at best suspect. However, truth is not told by the clock, but by what is sound. Where,  well documented experience – history – is a key means to access what is sound.  Yes, slavery, racism, exploitation, oppression and other age-long painful evils and errors are in our past, but so are the conscience-guided reformation principles and movements that created a legacy of liberty and established constitutional democracy in our region. Where too, the Common Law and the linked Westminster system of Parliamentary Democracy under rule of law are historically anchored, time-tested traditions that build in many centuries of hard-bought experience and sound lessons in liberty and self-government. Failure to recognise, appreciate, acknowledge and respect that is not a credible context for sound reform.

Similarly, the foot of the cliff we fell over because we acted unwisely is not the best foundation for building a better future. For example, if we could go back to 1986 – 88, would we treat the Wadge-Isaacs report on volcano hazards in Montserrat in the same way? What should we have done differently between 1995 and 2003? What are we hearing today that we would be well-advised to heed (but may not take seriously)?

Likewise, it is often fashionable nowadays to denigrate the Christian religion and faith in God, the gospel and scripture. All of these are commonly dismissed as irrelevant, outdated, irrational emotional crutches or even as “fairy tales.” More broadly, “faith” and “reason” are often seen as opposites, so only what is “secular” and “modern” is responsible, sound, scientific, progressive and rational.  However, if we probe almost anything we accept as truth or knowledge (say, A), we will see that it has some sort of basis (say, B). But, why accept B? C, then D etc. We thus come to Agrippa’s three unwelcome alternatives:

[i] an endless (= “infinite”) chain of warrant we cannot complete, vs.

[ii] question-begging circularity, vs.

[iii] accepting a finitely remote, but unprovable start point (= a point of faith). 

Of these the first two fail immediately, forcing us to the third approach. The question we face, then, is not whether we have “a point of faith,” but in what/who and why.

Worse, we have seen many scientific revolutions that overturn older schools of thought – often, one funeral at a time. History has to be regularly updated or even revised. After Kurt Godel,[4] we know that the major axiomatic systems of Mathematics are not utterly certain; even while it is obviously self-evident that 2 + 2 = 4 etc.

Do we then throw up our hands and say, we cannot know anything for sure so we know nothing at all? No, even that is a (self-refuting) knowledge claim: we know that we know nothing. Oops.

Instead, we turn to reasonable, responsible faith. That is, we unavoidably have a “faith-point,” first things that we are willing to trust as credibly true but cannot prove – the “first principles” and “first plausibles” through which our proofs, arguments, knowledge and decisions are built. We may then compare alternative faith-points (“worldviews” is the technical name[5]) on [i] reliably covering the facts, [ii] logical coherence and [iii] explanatory power; towards the “best.”

Where also, there are a few plumb-line, self-evident truths we can use to test our thinking. For instance, it is undeniably true that error exists, which is thus certainly known, though humbling (as, we may err). So, worldviews that suggest that we cannot cross the ugly gap between our inner world of thoughts and how things seem to us and the outer one of how things actually are in themselves, fail.  Similarly,  we can be confident: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.  

Likewise, St Paul astutely asked: “even . . . [for a] pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” [1 Cor 14:7, KJV.] That is, without clear distinct identity we can neither think nor communicate. A first, inescapably true law of thought: A is A. Where: if A is confounded with what is not-A, there is only needless confusion and chaos.  (Which, should already ring a few warning-bells.)

Of the live worldview options before us, millions can testify that it is not at all unreasonable or irresponsible to trust the inherently good and utterly wise creator God, the veracity of the gospel of Jesus and the life-transforming insights of scripture.

Turning to the scriptures,[6] we meet there the voice of the Creator God, proclaiming the end from the beginning, establishing a covenant people, accurately prophesying the messiah to come hundreds of years ahead of time. A messiah who would be a despised, rejected wounded healer unjustly put to death but rising in triumph and bringing many souls to salvation. In the gospels, we see just such a Messiah,[7] one who was despised and unjustly crucified but rose from the dead with five hundred witnesses who could not be silenced, and now with millions across the Caribbean and world whose lives have been touched for the good by that risen Christ.

It is this same Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who taught us:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

Here, we see “tradition,” “religion,” “history” and the obvious complementarity of the two sexes jointly testifying to what marriage is at root, a law of our morally governed nature that is prior to any human government and its decrees. Therefore, as government did not invent marriage, its officers cannot use the magic of words to “modify” or “update” or “add to” it as they please under colour of law. Government is not God.

Until very recently, this was generally recognised and respected by legislatures and judges alike.  So, given the contrast between an ages old law anchored on the naturally evident creation order that founds stable human society and radical judicial novelties, which should we see as “reasonable,” why?

Now, too, is what is old inevitably suspect, likely to be oppressive, discriminatory, violating of “rights”?  To ask is already to answer: no, we also do not tell good/evil by the clock but by what is right. Marriage, as that which recognises and honourably binds men and women through natural and complementary differences vital to nurturing the next generation is clearly not “discriminatory.”   So, that our laws have hitherto recognised the law of our nature that is literally written into our maleness and femaleness is a reflection of reality, not “oppression.”

To suggest otherwise is blatantly morally unsound and chaotic. As, we are now beginning to see. E


[1] See, TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/what-is-marriage/

[2]See https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/03/legalises-gay-marriage/

[3] See http://australianpolitics.com/democracy/key-terms/westminster-system

[4] See https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

[5] See https://www.thefreedictionary.com/worldview

[6] See https://www.biblegateway.com/

[7] See http://vimeo.com/17960119

One Response to “Answering CJ Smellie: “neither tradition nor religion could form the ‘rational basis for a law’””

  1. William spearshake says:

    Gordon, same sex marriage has been legal in Canada for well over a decade and none of the dire consequences that were predicted have come to pass. Polygamy is still illegal, beastiality is still illegal.

    I had this same discussion with you over at UD, and you could not provide a rational argument then, and you haven’t presented one here.

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Is our God-fearing, Christian “tradition” outdated,  oppressive and irrational?

BRADES, Montserrat, April 6, 2019 –  In trying to establish what has been called “same-sex marriage”[1]  Cayman Islands Chief Justice Anthony Smellie, QC reportedly held[2] that  many inequities have existed in the name of tradition but neither tradition nor religion could form the “rational basis for a law.”  That is but an inch away from implying that the God-fearing, Christian faith that is the Caribbean’s dominant tradition is inevitably oppressive, outdated, ill-founded and/or irrational. Likewise, the historic legacy of Parliamentary Democracy in the Westminster system[3] with separation of the powers of government – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary – may also seem to be just as outdated. 

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Such perceptions will not be left unanswered, even though this requires some fairly challenging steps of thought. Justice Smellie and others have forced the matter.

First, we must answer the attitude that one can tell the truth by the clock: what is old (or old-fashioned) is at best suspect. However, truth is not told by the clock, but by what is sound. Where,  well documented experience – history – is a key means to access what is sound.  Yes, slavery, racism, exploitation, oppression and other age-long painful evils and errors are in our past, but so are the conscience-guided reformation principles and movements that created a legacy of liberty and established constitutional democracy in our region. Where too, the Common Law and the linked Westminster system of Parliamentary Democracy under rule of law are historically anchored, time-tested traditions that build in many centuries of hard-bought experience and sound lessons in liberty and self-government. Failure to recognise, appreciate, acknowledge and respect that is not a credible context for sound reform.

Similarly, the foot of the cliff we fell over because we acted unwisely is not the best foundation for building a better future. For example, if we could go back to 1986 – 88, would we treat the Wadge-Isaacs report on volcano hazards in Montserrat in the same way? What should we have done differently between 1995 and 2003? What are we hearing today that we would be well-advised to heed (but may not take seriously)?

Likewise, it is often fashionable nowadays to denigrate the Christian religion and faith in God, the gospel and scripture. All of these are commonly dismissed as irrelevant, outdated, irrational emotional crutches or even as “fairy tales.” More broadly, “faith” and “reason” are often seen as opposites, so only what is “secular” and “modern” is responsible, sound, scientific, progressive and rational.  However, if we probe almost anything we accept as truth or knowledge (say, A), we will see that it has some sort of basis (say, B). But, why accept B? C, then D etc. We thus come to Agrippa’s three unwelcome alternatives:

[i] an endless (= “infinite”) chain of warrant we cannot complete, vs.

[ii] question-begging circularity, vs.

[iii] accepting a finitely remote, but unprovable start point (= a point of faith). 

Of these the first two fail immediately, forcing us to the third approach. The question we face, then, is not whether we have “a point of faith,” but in what/who and why.

Worse, we have seen many scientific revolutions that overturn older schools of thought – often, one funeral at a time. History has to be regularly updated or even revised. After Kurt Godel,[4] we know that the major axiomatic systems of Mathematics are not utterly certain; even while it is obviously self-evident that 2 + 2 = 4 etc.

Do we then throw up our hands and say, we cannot know anything for sure so we know nothing at all? No, even that is a (self-refuting) knowledge claim: we know that we know nothing. Oops.

Instead, we turn to reasonable, responsible faith. That is, we unavoidably have a “faith-point,” first things that we are willing to trust as credibly true but cannot prove – the “first principles” and “first plausibles” through which our proofs, arguments, knowledge and decisions are built. We may then compare alternative faith-points (“worldviews” is the technical name[5]) on [i] reliably covering the facts, [ii] logical coherence and [iii] explanatory power; towards the “best.”

Where also, there are a few plumb-line, self-evident truths we can use to test our thinking. For instance, it is undeniably true that error exists, which is thus certainly known, though humbling (as, we may err). So, worldviews that suggest that we cannot cross the ugly gap between our inner world of thoughts and how things seem to us and the outer one of how things actually are in themselves, fail.  Similarly,  we can be confident: truth says of what is, that it is; and of what is not, that it is not.  

Likewise, St Paul astutely asked: “even . . . [for a] pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” [1 Cor 14:7, KJV.] That is, without clear distinct identity we can neither think nor communicate. A first, inescapably true law of thought: A is A. Where: if A is confounded with what is not-A, there is only needless confusion and chaos.  (Which, should already ring a few warning-bells.)

Of the live worldview options before us, millions can testify that it is not at all unreasonable or irresponsible to trust the inherently good and utterly wise creator God, the veracity of the gospel of Jesus and the life-transforming insights of scripture.

Turning to the scriptures,[6] we meet there the voice of the Creator God, proclaiming the end from the beginning, establishing a covenant people, accurately prophesying the messiah to come hundreds of years ahead of time. A messiah who would be a despised, rejected wounded healer unjustly put to death but rising in triumph and bringing many souls to salvation. In the gospels, we see just such a Messiah,[7] one who was despised and unjustly crucified but rose from the dead with five hundred witnesses who could not be silenced, and now with millions across the Caribbean and world whose lives have been touched for the good by that risen Christ.

It is this same Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who taught us:

“Have you never read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined inseparably to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” [Matt 19:4 – 6, AMP.]

Here, we see “tradition,” “religion,” “history” and the obvious complementarity of the two sexes jointly testifying to what marriage is at root, a law of our morally governed nature that is prior to any human government and its decrees. Therefore, as government did not invent marriage, its officers cannot use the magic of words to “modify” or “update” or “add to” it as they please under colour of law. Government is not God.

Until very recently, this was generally recognised and respected by legislatures and judges alike.  So, given the contrast between an ages old law anchored on the naturally evident creation order that founds stable human society and radical judicial novelties, which should we see as “reasonable,” why?

Now, too, is what is old inevitably suspect, likely to be oppressive, discriminatory, violating of “rights”?  To ask is already to answer: no, we also do not tell good/evil by the clock but by what is right. Marriage, as that which recognises and honourably binds men and women through natural and complementary differences vital to nurturing the next generation is clearly not “discriminatory.”   So, that our laws have hitherto recognised the law of our nature that is literally written into our maleness and femaleness is a reflection of reality, not “oppression.”

To suggest otherwise is blatantly morally unsound and chaotic. As, we are now beginning to see. E


[1] See, TMR https://www.themontserratreporter.com/what-is-marriage/

[2]See https://caymannewsservice.com/2019/03/legalises-gay-marriage/

[3] See http://australianpolitics.com/democracy/key-terms/westminster-system

[4] See https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/goedel-incompleteness/

[5] See https://www.thefreedictionary.com/worldview

[6] See https://www.biblegateway.com/

[7] See http://vimeo.com/17960119