Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lacks moral framework. Could collapse.

Is Western civilization on its last legs? Maybe. Maybe not. How would one know ahead of future historians hindsight? So if Western civilization is not on its last legs, might we expect that some things were looking bright? Among those things we might expect a strong and secure economy. Whoops. We could also expect that the future leadership of the civilization would have a strong moral framework with which to engage in decision-making. Whoops. Before rushing to judgement on that one David Brooks, famous columnist at the New York Times, draws our attention to some interesting research. Here's an excerpt from his column entitled "If it feels right ..."

"The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”


Rejecting blind deference to authority, many of the young people have gone off to the other extreme: “I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.”

Many were quick to talk about their moral feelings but hesitant to link these feelings to any broader thinking about a shared moral framework or obligation. As one put it, “I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn’t speak on behalf of anyone else as to what’s right and wrong.”

Smith and company found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism — of relativism and nonjudgmentalism. Again, this doesn’t mean that America’s young people are immoral. Far from it. But, Smith and company emphasize, they have not been given the resources — by schools, institutions and families — to cultivate their moral intuitions, to think more broadly about moral obligations, to check behaviors that may be degrading. In this way, the study says more about adult America than youthful America.

Smith and company are stunned, for example, that the interviewees were so completely untroubled by rabid consumerism. (This was the summer of 2008, just before the crash)."
Could Western civilization be closer to collapse than many realise?

Can the Western church save the civilization it birthed?

42 comments:

carl jacobs said...

I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel.

It is logically incoherent to speak of 'individual morality.' The moral limit of behavior always -always - proceeds from authority. Morality is by definition a set of 'shoulds' and 'oughts' that bind the conscience against the will. From whence do they originate? What authority sits over man to place limits on his behavior? The West looks around the naked dead universe and finds nothing. It says "There is no god above us." It looks to its finite limited self and says "There is no man to set limits. We are each as dead as the next. Who then is to say? Each should do what is right in his own eyes." Except you can't run a civilization like that. You need people to act rightly even if doing so means unhappiness. A friend of my daughter just gave birth to her second child. Evidently, her husband wasn't 'happy' with the responsibility, and so he decided to leave. And so a young woman is left with two children under two, and no husband to help her. Two children are deserted by the father who was given to protect them. There is nothing so selfish and self-centered as a morality based upon the desire of the self to be happy. It provided no room for imperatives like responsibility and integrity - those things that motivate us to act in the face of unhappiness.

This is the crisis that has killed the West - a crisis of moral authority that has atomized it into a collection of grasping individuals who feel entitled to do what they want when they want to do it subject only to some minimal criteria of 'do no harm.' Even that criteria is primarily intended to defend the interest of the individual. It contains an important unstated clause, and should be read 'Do no harm to me." The man who deserts his children feels no threat to himself by the act for he is not a child and cannot be deserted. Yet he desires to be secure in his property and so he says "It's wrong to steal from me." Even the minimal limits he establishes reflect nothing but the desire of the self to be happy.

Any limited government requires a virtuous population as a necessary precondition. The population must act voluntarily limit its behavior of its own free will or the nation falls into chaos. In such circumstance a government will arise to enforce virtue. The West has been engaged in a long experiment to see whether this proposition is in fact true. Can it convert its liberty into license and still remain prosperous and free? No, it cannot. It is raising a generation both ignorant and entitled - a fatal combination in a world with several billion Chinese who are motivated, and smart, and desirous of our wealth and power. We play while they work.

Kings of one sort or another are coming back to the West. Ruthless men who will re-establish moral boundaries for the sake of national power. The days of Locke and the Magna Carta are coming to an end. In its place will come a New Western Order. It will come carried by deprivation and defeat and decline. It will come with promises of restoring the West to its former position of greatness. It will come with contempt for the degenerate democracies that preceded it. What does all that remind you of?

That is the future. And we will have earned it - every jack-booted step of it. God Help us, everyone.

carl

Father Ron Smith said...

This sounds a rather pessimistic view of life on the planet. I want to offer an alternative: There was a rather hopeful hymn at Mass this morning - at St. Michael's, Christchurch. Here are the words:

There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice
which is more than liberty.

There is no place where earths' sorrow are more felt than up in heaven.
There is no place where earth's failings have such kindly judgement given.

For the Love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.

But we make his love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify his strictness
with a zeal he will not own.

There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head

There is grace enough for thousands
of new worlds as great as this;
there is room for fresh creations
in that upper home of bliss

If our Love were but more simple
we should take him at his word;
and our lives would be all gladness
in the joy of Christ our Lord.

This Franciscan-style hymn by Father F.W.Faber gives Hope in times when our faith is lacking; Joy when we might despair; and Peace in all our striving. There is no room for doubts about God's power to redeem - whatever befalls his human children.

Rosemary said...

I want to thank Carl. Thank you Carl for being the person who makes the most sense to me in your few contributions to this blog. It IS worth it, if only to encourage me.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Is Western civilisation on its last legs" - Peter Carrell -

Well, Peter, I hear from friends in the Diocese of Dunedin that their Synod has just voted on the Gay Ordination issue. The result was positive: 75% laity,83% clergy, so somebody must be getting something right. That's now 3 dioceses in ACANZP voting for the LGBT community in the Church; and, also, against Section 4 of the Covenant.

This movement towards inclusivity in the Church is perhaps the most eirenically catholic response of the Church to the world of today.
Christ came into the world to save sinners - and that's all of us - not just the 'chosen' few

carl jacobs said...

Rosemary

Thank you for your kind words. I do appreciate hearing that others value my efforts.

Fr Ron Smith is right that there is no reason to despair. The future looks black as pitch to me. I see terrible things coming as the West recedes and chaos follows in its wake. But does my vision see worse things than the eyes of Jeremiah who wept bitter tears over the fate of Jerusalem in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar's army? And will the eyes of Jeremiah ever weep bitter tears again?

God is Sovereign over all things. He does not sit in heaven and nervously rubs his hands together as he watches the affairs of men. He is the God who ordains the end from the beginning. He watches carefully to see that all He has decreed comes to pass. He is the God who works together all things for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.

Terrible things must be endured, but only for a moment.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Carl, Thank you for writing clearly and boldly!

Rosemary, I am always glad to know that you are reading here!

Ron, Is it possible that Synods passing motions which defy the catholic tradition of the church are deeply, deeply wrong? I know your answer will be "no." But is there no connection between Western civilization dying and churches becoming progressive?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, my only answer to your last question is another question: Do you see the forward mission of the Church - in it's advocating for an inclusive ethos - as non-catholic? Sounds peculiar to me! It won't be the first time that the Church has been split over the evaluation of Grace versus Law. Peter had to learn that from Saint Paul.

I know you have a bias against progress on issues of human justice connected with the emancipation of intrinsically Gay persons; but this should not cloud your judgement on those whom God has created to be different from yourself. Christian tolerance extends beyond your very limited view of the sanctity of human biological differences, therefore you may be expected to hold parsimonious views of the homophobic majority in the Church.

It is time for the Church to be open and honest about the human condition - which is infinitely more diverse than, seemingly, you and the conservatives in the Church could ever imagine. But that will not prevent the mission of the Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; "to bring liberty to the captives to let the oppressed go free".

Fear of change can bring all sorts of adverse political influences into play. It may not be that the world is in danger of collapse - rather; the intransigence of those in the Church who oppose change may be the cause of her collapse.

Having said that; even the dead hand of reactionary forces in the Church cannot totally frustrate its mission: to be the Light of Christ in and to the world. God's power to deliver the Church from obfuscation and fear of the future has been known to be active - in both Old and New Testaments of the Bible, which you so highly value.

Jesus had his greatest problem with the Pharisees and Scribes who saw no need of change to the status quo of The Law, as it was then known. He actually died to set us free from the consequences of the Law; substituting the charism of Grace.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
The hallmark of catholicity is not inclusion per se (otherwise might we not expect the catholic churches of Rome and of Constantinople to be inclusive of us Anglicans at the eucharist?)

A hallmark of catholicity is universal subscription to the revealed truths of God. Thus a question for you is this: what kind of God did not reveal the truth about homosexuality 2000 years ago?

It is indeed time for the Church to be open and honest about the human condition which is infinitely diverse than most imagine. So, Ron, could you please be open and honest with us about what the church's views are on conditions suffered by humans which cannot conform to marriage between an unrelated man and woman, such as pedophilia, bestiality, incest; and please tell us about the underlying basis in Scripture, tradition and reason for those views.

My point in asking these questions is that conservatives get a bit of stick for sticking with marriage as the one sexual relationship approved and blessed by God. Why shouldn't progressives get a bit of stick for only opening marriage up slightly to accommodate two men or two women. Why not progress further since nothing in Scripture can be held to constrain your progress?

Brother David said...

So, Ron, could you please be open and honest with us about what the church's views are on conditions suffered by humans which cannot conform to marriage between an unrelated man and woman, such as pedophilia, bestiality, incest; and please tell us about the underlying basis in Scripture, tradition and reason for those views.

I have answered that very question Peter, on this very blog. Why are you asking it again? Because you are so forgetful that you do not recall, or because you will not accept the answer and move on? You are free to accept the answer or to not accept the answer, but it is time to stop insulting us as if the question has not been answered.

what kind of God did not reveal the truth about homosexuality 2000 years ago?

The same one that did not reveal a lot of things, such as that the universe is not geo-centric. Or perhaps God did in the person of God's son, but because the Lord's example does not fit your preconception of what his example must be, you overlook it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
To be honest, I have forgotten what you wrote ... perhaps I post too often! Either way, I am interested in Ron's answer, given the way he frames his responses to my posts.

I do not find the lack of information about the universe in the Bible to be helpful in working out why the provision of moral knowledge in the Bible has become irrelevant.

Father Ron Smith said...

"What kind of God did not reveal truths about homosexuality 2000 years ago" - Peter Carrell -

It was the same kind of God that did not reveal to us the fact that members of the Church of England would ultimately beak away from the Roman Magisterium, etc., etc.

God did not reveal the facts about women's menstruation not being a curse. Not did God say that Peter would exercise a position of responsibility for all Christians that was total.

Certainly he did not indicate that today's concervatives (like the conservatives of Jesus own day) would have precedence over Gospel liberationists.

What God did say, in Christ - through Paul - was that 'in Christ' there is neither male nor female.

God also said, in Christ, that "there are eunuchs who are so from their mother's womb" (Matt.19:12)

Now explain that one!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
You are missing my point, Ron, so let me try to be clearer: the only way Christianity can embrace homosexuality is via a change to its understanding of marriage. It does seem extraordinary to me that God did not see fit to tell us through the Bible that he approves of men marrying each other.

I am looking forward to the response you will make to my other questions!

Brother David said...

The Bible does not say much at all about men marrying women either. You make assumptions that folks are married and that they are married under some constraint handed them by God. Most of them looked to be shacked up to me without any benefit of marriage, and often with multiple additional shacked up partners. Or did more occur regarding Abraham and Hagar, the servant of Sarah, than to what the text alludes?

Peter Carrell said...

By the time we get to the New Testament, David, we do not see much praise for the OT patriarchs and matriarchs on matrimonial matters; and we do see through gospels and epistles a strong line on the exclusivity of marriage between one man and one woman. I cannot think of any of the apostles who were shacked up with one woman out of wedlock, let alone two. Can you?

Father Ron Smith said...

I guess, Peter, that as a professional theologian (educator) you have more arguments up your sleeve than we mere mortals can shake a stick at. On the other hand, there is such a thing as existential experience of the 'Great Love of God as revealed in The Son' that can meet up with any philosophical study of the theory of religion - with sheer praxis.

I guess you have to meet up with some of the LGBT community you so despise, before passing judgement on them. At least, that is what some of the educators from other ACNZAP diocese have done, in order to have passed their resolutions in their various synod meetings as they have.

One cannot bring up arguments against those who are blind and cannot see. It serves no useful purpose. Until the nay-sayers are willing to listen to the people intimately involved in faithful monogamous relationships with one another - who are not heterosexual - then we have an impasse.

Jesus did, at least, spend his time with 'sinners and tax collectors' - the primal offenders in his day - seeking to offer them the gift of salvation. He did not shun their company, but listened to them - and loved them. Perhaps you might try to do the same - without venting your horror and dismay at what people do in bed.

liturgy said...

So, Peter, can you just be clear: God thought polygamy was fine for a while, but then changed his mind? A bishop being required to have only one wife in the New Testament is no indication that there were polygamous Christians? Once God thought divorce was fine, then later that it wasn’t, and now in our church God thinks it is OK again? But in and through the changes and chances of God’s mind-changing there is one certain core on which we can be totally assured: committed same-sex couples cannot be blessed?

Bosco

Brother David said...

I cannot think of any of the apostles who were shacked up with one woman out of wedlock, let alone two. Can you?

How many do you think that the text says were married to anyone Peter? I can only think of one, I do not recall the text mentioning anyone else having a wife or a mother-in-law. As on so many other things, the text is quiet.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,

Could you please supply references to support your contention that I "despise" people or have expressed "horror and dismay at what people do in bed".

I would hope that the church in which you and I minister is open to theological exploration of weighty matters such as changes to our understanding of marriage, including exploration of the import of such changes for the way in which we would handle other matters of ethics and morality which could come our way. I have asked you questions designed to elicit from you some wisdom about theological method. So far you have commented here with offering any response to those questions.

I remain open to you commenting here but I will likely reject comments from you which impugn my character without supporting evidence for such allegations.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I would not say that we can be totally assured that committed same-sex couples cannot be blessed. But I would say that I am unconvinced that committed same-sex couples can be blessed. I am open to being convinced, but would like to see positive evidence and supportive reasoning drawn from Scripture and tradition rather than a series of questions and doubts and speculative possibilities being drawn together as though somehow that constitutes a positive case.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
Let me not be opaque: the patriarchs were polygamists; so were kings of Israel. There is no evidence, whatsoever, that the New Testament supports polygamy. Thus for Christians no precedence for polygamy can be held to exist by looking directly to the Old Testament.

Brother David said...

There is nothing from scripture regarding the blessing of unions, it is purely tradition. The earliest churches have no tradition of blessing unions, they basically were sneaked in through the back door. As the church of today is the successor church of the church of yesterday, I feel that we still hold the keys for binding and freeing originally bestowed upon Peter. So if a church of today wishes to exercise that key and offer blessing to same sex unions, as the church of yesterday did for opposite sex unions, it is free to do so.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, just because you, personally are not conienced about something - e.g. the intrinsic nature of a sexual continuum - between absolute male and absolute female - don't label the whole of Christianity as being represented by yourself.

I'm sorry I have offended you by labelling you as homophobic, but I understand that name to cover anyone who fears homosexuality. And if you do not actually fear homosexuality - as some sort of perversion fit for hell, then why are you so dismissive of the prospect of two same-sex persons (unable to sexually relate to their gender opposite) falling in love and committing their lives in fidelity to one another for ever?

In fact, if God is present in every act of loving, why would God not be present in the love between two persons of the same gender? (I'm talking about love here, not lust).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
That is a very interesting argument you have put forward re blessings. I would be interested to see if another commenter takes up the challenge of supporting it or questioning it.

Where I think it leaves open a question is whether the church has complete freedom of the keys or some constraint (in this case lack conviction that God would wish the church to turn the key in that way).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You did not label me 'homophobic', you said I 'despised' people. And you offered no apology for that scurrilous and unfounded charge. How about some of the "love" you preach being applied in inter-personal relationships?!

I am not representing the whole of Christianity; but I am trying to articulate what Christians believe. Is there some contradiction between what I write about sexuality and what most Christians most of the time have believed?

I am not dismissing that fact that people fall in love within the same gender. Obviously they do. What I am asking for is the theological basis on which to justify the church blessing such relationships. We do not bless relationships just because love is involved (e.g. people having affairs outside of marriage). We bless relationships because we are convinced that Scripture, tradition and reason offer coherent support for doing so.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, I withdraw my comment about your 'despising' Gays. I have no clear evidence - only inference.

Talk of what 'most of the Christians most of the time have believed' as being your own position; sounds very much like the argument that could have been used by the Pharisees against Jesus' teaching of freedom from the consequences of 'LAW'.

Jesus subverted the long-term understanding of his fellow Jews, by offering forgiveness for the sort of sins for which the sinners would have been stoned by the Pharisees. (e.g. the Woman caught in the act of adultery - Interestingly, in the patriarchal society that then existed, the man concerned was not at risk of being stoned!).

Jesus' great offence, in the eyes of the Scribes and Pharisees, was that he seemed to think that God did not require them to mete out punishment for sins.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
A little inference can be a dangerous thing, as certain comedians in NZ are finidng out this week when they inferred that wearing a pilot's uniform would get them past airport security!

I accept your withdrawal: thank you.

As for being counted among the Pharisees for believing what most Christians have believed most of the time: I can handle that. Hard to understand how all Catholics are Pharisees but may be I am making too many inferences!

liturgy said...

I’m sorry that I wasn’t clearer about the point of my questions, Peter. Is there a clear, consistent position in the Bible on marriage? If the Bible, as the inspired Word of God, is clear from start to finish that marriage is between one man and one woman for life, and that there is a specific rite that blesses such a union, and that sex may only be had after that rite – then I think there is a very strong case that blessing committed same-sex unions is outside the borders of our revealed faith. What my questions, and other commenters here are highlighting, is that, not only is there no such clarity in the scriptures, but those who advocate against blessing committed same-sex unions do not hold to positions that the scriptures certainly are far clearer about. Does this help clarify why answering the questions I posed leads to greater clarity about a consistency in hermeneutics? What is more generally revealed in these type of discussions is that people appear to approach the Bible with certain prejudices and find support for the position they came with – be it about divorce, contraception, masturbation, homosexuality, or whatever. Few appear to be changing their position after an encounter with a hermeneutical argument. I wish you all the best in your continued efforts to do so. Blessings.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I find that what you write above is very clear indeed, thank you.

I think the Bible is clear on sex within marriage only, marriage being between one man and one woman, and marriage for life.

As far as I can tell the Bible is clear (very clear?) in saying nothing about blessing any relationship.


Using the word 'clearly' I think we can also say that clearly many churches in recent years have found a way to respond to the increase of divorce in society, a response which is in keeping with the spirit of the gospel but not with the letter of what Jesus and Paul taught.

This response has been a pragmatic recognition of tragedy within human society.

What is not clear to me is how this particular move creates a theological foundation for talk about homosexuality as part of the normativity of human sociality, nor for celebrating marriage between two people of the same gender as intrinsic to the goodness of marriage as set down in the creation story.

(I mention these things not to engage in a long argument here with you - you are welcome to respond, of course, if you chose to - but to attempt to sketch out a response to your comment as a sign of respect for the importance of the hermeneutical questions you raise).

liturgy said...

Thanks, Peter,

Yes, I too do not want to engage in a long argument. Others have devoted far more brainpower than I to this – this includes Accepting Evangelicals http://www.religiousintelligence.org/churchnewspaper/eos/towards-a-theology-of-gay-marriage/ and Tobias Haller, in his book Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Same-sexuality.

I think the Bishop of Auckland, whose letter you point to today, hits the nail on the head: “I do not believe that we are going to find a consensus over the question of the ordination of those in committed same-sex relationships. A challenge for all of us then, is how we make room for one another within the Church, given our differences over this issue.”

You refer to blessing adultery and sequential polygamy as “a response which is in keeping with the spirit of the gospel but not with the letter of what Jesus and Paul taught. This response has been a pragmatic recognition of tragedy within human society”. In this case the letter is clear. I’m not sure why this same “spirit” cannot apply to a situation where the letter is less clear.

Why is homosexuality the particular line in the sand? Is it because the “blessing of adultery” affects about half of marriages formalised currently, and ordaining women a similar proportion of those who claim to hold a more literal relationship with the scriptures, and homosexuality is such a minority phenomenon that it is much more about “them” than about “us”?

When more heterosexuals, declaring that homosexuals cannot satisfy their sexual desires in the context of a committed relationship, themselves abstain from sexual relationships for the rest of their lives because they are divorced, there may be a shift in the emotional undergirding that influences if not drives the debate.

Blessings

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

Bosco, thanks for your clarity on the issue of homosexual versus heterosexual praxis. I think what Gays are actually asking for is the right to love the person of their choice, and for that to be considered worthy of God's blessing by the Church. What people do in bed is subject to their own conscience; and adultery is adultery - whether committed by heterosexual or homosexual persons.

Howard Pilgrim said...

Having been out of touch with your blog for some days, I find it remarkable to come across this thread, in which David, Bosco and Ron make essentially the same points as they and others were making at least a year ago. Their stamina is amazing!

You will have noticed my recent silence after long engagement with you on the same subject. You may ascribe half of my withdrawal from the fray to pressing duties. The other half, sadly, is a growing conviction that you are not open to persuasion, even in small details. One pattern I found particularly discouraging is that you would appear to concede a point in the course of one thread only to forget about it completely later on.

Believing you to be of generous heart, I am alert for fixed ideas that might account for your lack of movement. So here is one I found above:- "...the only way Christianity can embrace homosexuality is via a change to its understanding of marriage."
Why not say rather that this is one possible way, or one part of a more complex process? The dialogue could then proceed along at least two parallel tracks, with parallel modifications of our understanding of marriage and an exploration of dimensions of blessedness in same-sex relationships, to name just two dimensions of the discussion found in this thread. My problem is not that you will not discuss both these things in a positive frame - you have so above - but that you will not do so in a way that indicates any progression in your thinking. Please tell me I am wrong by indicating subtle changes in your position over the last year or two!

My central point is this:- when you invite advocates for change to argue our case with you, the onus is on you to provide sufficient clarity and consistency in your own arguments (as opposed to your position) to encourage a worthwhile engagement, assuming goodwill on all sides.

Arohanui,
Howard

Peter Carrell said...

Umm, you have got me here, Howard!

1. The original post was not about homosexuality. The comments thread has become so. I do not have time (normally) to engage at the fullest length with all aspects of the arguments brought forward here on a blog which is primarily about being Anglican and not about homosexuality. (If and when I restart regular posting on my Hermeneutics and Human Dignity blog I think it reasonable that I offer full arguments etc.

2. You seem to have expectations from me that you do not have of others here. I am still looking for things such as an explanation for how one can be 'catholic' and so freely change the catholic teaching of Christianity.

3. I had not realised that I had committed myself to progressing towards an outcome you are satisfied with?

4. Who measures "sufficient clarity and consistency"?

For what it is worth, let me try to be clear and consistent: the Bible teaches us that marriage is between a man and a woman; it does not teach that it can be between two men or two women; the fact that sometimes several women were married to one man with no overt disapprobation from God does not constitute an argument for thinking that two men or two women can be married; nor does the church's (or churches') response to divorce, however disobedient to the teaching of Christ constitute an argument that marriage can be between two men or between two women.

If, to pick up another point here, the Bible does not encourage us to bless the marriage of a man and a woman then it does not encourage us to bless the relationship of any couple.

Where I am more than willing to admit to progress is that in understanding the Bible in the above manner and believing that understanding to be clear and consistent both with Scripture and with tradition I acknowledge that others - many others - in our church do not share that understanding and do not accept that the Bible is clear. Quite how we work out what these differences mean for the way we live out our ministries, missions, and relationships is beyond me.

I take some comfort from the fact that others may also be unclear about what these differences mean etc because no one in our church appears to be moving very fast towards a solution!

Father Ron Smith said...

To let you off the hook here, Peter; I will tell you here and now that I am not expecting you to have any new ideas about the viability of the arguments for homosexuals having the same rights as heterosexuals for committted, life-long relationships with one another - or that God might actually approve of such relationships (even though I have a heart-felt under-standing that these things are most likely true).

I have no expectation that your view will be changed - no matter how convincing the arguments might be to other people. I entertain no further hope that you will change.

Agape, Father Ron

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,

I am not arguing here against the rights homosexuals have under the laws of our land.

I do not understand that any of us have a right to have God's blessing; nor do I understand that we can redefine marriage away from it being about a man and a woman.

Father Ron Smith said...

Have you yet bothered to read Bosco's recommended book by Tobias Haller: 'Reasonable and Holy'? If you were willing to read it, it may give you some idea of what is a perfectly cogent argument for the need to at least consider the arguments for the blessing of Gay relationships.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Yes, I have started reading the book. The argument so far is neither persuasive nor cogent.

Just before you think "Golly, will nothing persuade this man" I would like to make two points:

(1) I am actually open to the persuasive and cogent argument. But Haller's argument (so far in my reading) is not that argument.


(2) I am not particularly interested in myself. I am but one individual. I am interested in arguments that will persuade all Christians. Again, I would be surprised if Haller's book contains those arguments because (so far) his arguments involve a sophistry that that is too clever: a statement, for example, that fertility has nothing to do with sexuality (as made in chapter one) is very clever. But does it work: most people think fertility does have something to do with sexuality. Are they going to give up that belief on the basis of Haller's clever logic?

Father Ron Smith said...

Really, Peter! What about the biblical talk about a fertile land - such as the Israelites were to enter into at Canaan? What, precisely, did that have to do about sexuality?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, I do not have high hopes for my book doing you much good in terms of persuasion if you are already so far from understanding it.

In Chapter Two (not One) I state a thesis that "procreation is neither essential to marriage, nor the principle good of human sexuality." If you understand this as "fertility has nothing to do with sexuality" you have seriously misunderstood what I am saying. In fact, on page 7 I say rather clearly, "No one would claim that sex has nothing to do with procreation."

If you are to understand me -- that is, remaining open to cogent arguments -- you would do better first of all to assume my arguments are cogent, or at least more than "clever." Then if you find an actual problem with my logic or assertions, or statements as to fact, lay out a case. Your "not being persuaded" is altogether too subjective, and does not, in itself, form an argument, but rather a statement about your own state of mind and belief. Name-calling "Sophistry... clever, etc." do not actually address the issue.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias
I don't have your book at home with me, so may add a comment later when at my office. But I am taking your argument seriously (if slowly) over at my Hermeneutics and Human Dignity blog.
Here I am responding to Ron Smith's own assertions about the book; and making apunt about the books likely reception by conservatives. I could be wrong on that: have conservatives been persuaded by your arguments?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thank you, Peter. I take your point that this is a different conversation, but wanted to note that you are not presenting an accurate summary of my views here. I do think at the other blog, so far, you are presenting at least the bare bones of my argument.

I cannot "make windows into men's minds" so I do not know how effective or not my arguments have been with "conservatives." I can say that most of the official "conservative" response -- in the form of Ephraim Radner's review -- has not actually engaged the argument very well, and that even a few conservatives have agreed that his response is well below par as to substance.

I weigh that against the overwhelmingly positive response I've received from the broader church community, including what I consider the peer reviews in the Anglican Theology Review and the Sewanee Journal of Theology (not yet published -- but the author of the review shared an advance copy; and the personal feedback I've had from some whose opinion I value.

Please understand that my goal is not so much to "convince conservatives" of the rightness of same-sex marriage, but to perhaps persuade open-minded conservatives that this issue is more ambiguous, and capable of "being lived with" -- much as many of them have come to live with remarriage after divorce -- and that it need not be a communion-breaking issue. I do not think my arguments will convince those who already think it a communion-breaking issue; but I hope it may be enough to convince that, as I say in the intro, this is a reasonable development in the tradition rather than a radical departure from it (or at least no more radical than a number of other changes in the tradition.)

On the actual point of this post -- I think the "conservative" view does harm to the church in the eyes of many by insisting on the locus of morality being in gender rather than the quality, permanence, and fidelity of the relationship. This is an issue in moral theology, that -- agreeing with Mr. Jacobs above -- morality is not found in personal satisfaction, but in the gift of the self for the good of the other -- and the primary theme of my work. As long as conservatives see same-sexuality as "hedonism" or the violation of an ancient taboo or of some principle of "nature" -- rather than as as much capable of self-gift and other-honor, we are indeed doomed to a kind of collapse.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
I find this paragraph of yours helpful:

"Please understand that my goal is not so much to "convince conservatives" of the rightness of same-sex marriage, but to perhaps persuade open-minded conservatives that this issue is more ambiguous, and capable of "being lived with" -- much as many of them have come to live with remarriage after divorce -- and that it need not be a communion-breaking issue. I do not think my arguments will convince those who already think it a communion-breaking issue; but I hope it may be enough to convince that, as I say in the intro, this is a reasonable development in the tradition rather than a radical departure from it (or at least no more radical than a number of other changes in the tradition.)"

In the particular context of the conversation on this thread, it is not clear to me that Fr Ron Smith is as open to the ambiguities of the situation (i.e. that conservatives might have a respectable and reasonable case themselves) as you hope conservatives might be open to the ambiguities of the situation.

In respect of your paragraph cited above I have tried to express on this blog that I hope Anglicans can hold together rather than divide. A way forward could be for conservatives to recognise what might be reasonable developments in the tradition (even if disagreeable developments). But I suggest conservatives in both my church and in your church (and in the churches formed by those who have left) are looking for signs that we are not being cast as the unreasonable resisters. (In sum) a Scriptural case for marriage I suggest (and notwithstanding where my beginning reading of your book is going) does place weight on "the locus of morality being in gender" (though with equal rather than lesser weighting on the "permanence and fidelity of the relationship." I omit "quality" in a brief comment because that word requires a lot more discussion re Scripture and marriage than permanence and fidelity.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Thank you, Peter.