Richard Swinburne, an eminent Christian philosopher has been strongly criticised after giving a lecture that argued homosexuality was a “disability” and an “incurable condition”.
Swinburne, the emeritus professor of philosophy at Oxford University, was invited to give the keynote address at a conference for the Society for Christian Philosophers (SCP) by the conference organiser, Brandon Schmidly. He spoke on “Christian moral teaching on sex, family and life” and argued that homosexual relationships were “prohibited” in Christian ethics.
In his lecture, the text of which has been seen by Christian Today, Swinburne lamented a culture where homosexual behaviour was “presented as an option for young people” equal in value to heterosexual relationships.
Having homosexual orientation is a disability, he argued, “for a homosexual cannot beget children through a loving act with a person to whom they have a unique lifelong commitment”.
“Yet if older and incurable homosexuals abstained from homosexual acts that would have a great influence on young and curable ones; and the older ones would be doing a great service to others, and one which would help to make them themselves saints,” he said.
Hours after Swinburne’s address, the president of the SCP, Michael Rea, issued a formal apology said he wanted to “express my regret regarding the hurt caused by the recent [meeting]”.
“The views expressed in Professor Swinburne’s keynote are not those of the SCP itself,” he wrote on Facebook, adding “we have fallen short” of the SCP’s values of “diversity and inclusion”.
The row has caused consternation on social media with dozens of comments expressing confusion at both Rea’s apology and Swinburne’s remarks.
One user, Christopher M P Tomaszewski, said: “Is it the policy of the SCP to invite one of the most distinguished philosophers in the world to speak and then publicly disavow his defence of Christian morality after the fact, as if it were shocking or inappropriate that Richard Swinburne would defend Christian morality at a meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers?”
But Christina Van Dyke, a philosopher from Calvin College who is executive director of the SCP, defended Rea’s apology and said “no one is trying to take free speech or the open expression of ideas away from anyone”.
She added the idea you can “treat” or “cure” homosexuality has caused “incalculable harm to vast numbers of already disadvantaged people” and said: “Having someone in a position of power advocate that position furthers that harm.”
Swinburne said Rea “has expressed to me that he was not intending to criticise me for saying what I did, but merely expressing regret that certain people had felt hurt by this”. He added his views on the topic were well known beforehand and published in print.
He told Christian Today: “The issues which I discussed are ones very important for contemporary Christians, and it is important that the views of thinkers on both sides of the debates should be heard in a friendly academic atmosphere, where we are open to each others’ arguments.