Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reflections on two anniversaries

George Weigel, a Catholic theologian specialising in ethics and public policy, is about to hit the shores of NZ in a series of speaking engagements. Recently he gave a talk on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 which happens to be the fifth anniversary since Pope Benedict XVI gave a profound lecture at Regensburg which also generated a spot of controversy (or should that be a "spat of controversy"?). Weigel reflects on that lecture here. An excerpt of which is this:

"What hit the United States on 9/11 was not a "tragedy," despite the ubiquitous and virtually universal misuse of that word in the tenth anniversary commentary. What hit New York and Washington was evil unleashed from within an intra-Islamic civil war that had been going on for decades. And at the center of that civil war is a contest over whether Islam can embrace such modern political ideas as inalienable human rights (that can be known by reason, and thus by everyone) and the separation of powers within governments.


If the answer to that question is "No," then the cycle of war between Islam and "the rest" that has ebbed and flowed since the 7th century will continue. If the answer is "yes," then that answer will have to come from within Islam, not by a process in which Islamic societies radically secularize. Pope Benedict XVI was insightful enough, and courageous enough, to say this at Regensburg. It's about time the world paid attention."
This week I had an interesting experience, flying to another diocese to take part in making a DVD presentation about Scripture, same sex partnerships, and our church. In all these discussions about religion and modern life, a common theme is the nature of our embrace as believers with the realities of life today, with an eye on yesterday and tomorrow.

76 comments:

Brother David said...

Share what you presented please, Peter. That would make a very interesting post and I see much conversation ensuing.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David
I think that would need to wait.
It will be a month or two before the DVD is edited, copied and circulated to the parishes in the diocese concerned.

At that point it could be appropriate for me to publish the written material I composed prior to the filming (where what was actually said, though based on preparation, had a conversational, spontaneous element to it).

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, do you think that your taking part in the discussion made any difference to your opposition to the principal of same-sex relationships? Or do you feel you still need time to process the experience?

carl jacobs said...

Fr Ron Smith said...

do you think that your taking part in the discussion made any difference to your opposition to the principal of same-sex relationships?

It strikes me that liberals assume opposition to homosexual behavior stems from a lack of something. Perhaps education. Perhaps knowledge. Perhaps empathy. Perhaps virtue. Liberals assume that something must be missing in his opponent or else sweet reason would prevail. This assumption drives the hopeful expectation that opposition might give way to acceptance when that which is lacking is provided. Hence the question listed above. Hidden in this assumption however is the an important corollary - that principled opposition to homosexual behavior is by definition excluded. The opponent is allowed to be ignorant or fearful. If so, then he must be patiently instructed. If he stubbornly refuses to submit to patient instruction, then he is not judged to be standing consistently on principle. His opposition is consigned to bigotry and irrational hatred. This is the template of 'listening' that is repeated over and over and over again.

Now, there is no chance whatsoever that I would be persuaded to drop my opposition by any such engagement. And so I would be called narrow-minded and intolerant (and hateful and bigoted and a Nazi and ... well, you get the idea.) The irony of course is that the one who makes this accusation would also say his mind would never be changed. So his mind is just as "closed" as mine. What is the difference? The liberal has confidence that he lacks nothing. He doesn't look at these interchanges as a means of reaching consensus. He considers them opportunities for patient instruction. He isn't interested in what his opponent says. He simply wants to evangelize his opponent into the opposite position.

So how does the liberal know he lacks nothing? He won't say. I have asked this question on several threads (and in fact on several boards over the last seven years) and have never received an answer. I don't believe I will ever receive an answer because the true answer is the self-assertion of "enlightenment." It's a boot-strapped declaration of advanced moral understanding. "I am enlightened because I hold these opinions. I know these opinions are enlightened because I hold them." The Vanguard of the Progressive Revolution can acknowledge this answer amongst themselves but they cannot speak it before a general audience.

In truth, a change of opinion on homosexual behavior is a derivative change. It proceeds from a reversal on something far more essential. You can't change the mind of someone who stands on Scripture unless you first undermine Scripture. You can't change someone's mind about sin unless you first alter his understanding of sin and how he identifies it. You can't change a man's understanding of his standing before God until you first alter his understanding of the nature of both God and man. This is where the actual argument lies. It's not found in secondary matters like homosexual behavior, but in essential matters that fix the answers to secondary questions. And that's why the conflict is intractable. It's a conflict of world views. Such a conflict cannot be resolved. It can only be won or lost.

carl

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I process much most of the time.

I do not think there is a serious conversation or piece of reading nor substantive point made here and elsewhere on the web relating to the issues of the Anglican day which has not caused me to check, review, and rethink out my theology of love, sex, and marriage.

Nevertheless I remain steadfast in most of what I believe, with some changes here and there, and always in a spirit of openness to what the truth is (as with all matters of doctrine and ethics).

But your question to me has (as Carl observes) an element of presumption, that the change of mind in these matters can only be from "conservative" to "liberal". I would hope that change might be the other way (as, indeed, on this blog recently, Jackie Keenan has been testifying to such change).

On what do you base your presumption?

Surely not on Jesus whose teaching was a conservative challenge to the liberalising tendencies of his day; nor on Paul who studiously avoided embrace the liberality of Hellenism around him on matters sexual!

Brother David said...

In truth, a change of opinion on homosexual behavior is a derivative change. It proceeds from a reversal on something far more essential. You can't change the mind of someone who stands on Scripture unless you first undermine Scripture. You can't change someone's mind about sin unless you first alter his understanding of sin and how he identifies it. You can't change a man's understanding of his standing before God until you first alter his understanding of the nature of both God and man. This is where the actual argument lies. It's not found in secondary matters like homosexual behavior, but in essential matters that fix the answers to secondary questions. And that's why the conflict is intractable. It's a conflict of world views. Such a conflict cannot be resolved. It can only be won or lost.

And so we wait for your world view to die Carl. And the evidence says that it is with every passing year.

Why do young Christians leave the church?
New research by the Barna Group finds they view churches as judgmental, overprotective, exclusive and unfriendly towards doubters. They also consider congregations antagonistic to science and say their Christian experience has been shallow.

Brother David said...

I would hope that change might be the other way (as, indeed, on this blog recently, Jackie Keenan has been testifying to such change).

I am sorry Peter, but I have read every comment here and I have not seen Veterinarian Keenan do any such thing! Certainly not with regard to liberals changing to a conservative viewpoint. Neither in regard to anyone changing sexual orientation/gender attraction.

Howard Pilgrim said...

"Surely not on Jesus whose teaching was a conservative challenge to the liberalising tendencies of his day"

???????

More details, please!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, with all due respect, you have not attempted to answer my question.
Your assumptions, and Carl's assumption (very detailed I must say, in the circumstances) do not affect the question being asked. You say you are consistently open to new truth, but, in absence of any answer to my question, I must assume that you have not altered your opinion.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Sorry, I thought it was clear that I didn't change my mind on any principle I bring to bear on the matter of same sex partnerships.

I hope you are not one who equates "openness" with "change of mind" so that unless one changes one's mind one is not really open to the ideas of others.

I have an open mind on most things and a willingness to be persuaded by reason, evidence, and principle. I am open for instance to truths held dear by the majority of Christians in respect of praying to the saints. But I am not yet persuaded to change my mind.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
I have always thought that when Jesus spoke about marriage, divorce and remarriage, he was challenging a liberal approach to these matters on the part of some contemporary rabbis. As you know there is nothing liberal in what Jesus said about these matters.

Father Ron Smith said...

Then, Peter, if you have not in any way changed your mind - as a result of exposure to other arguments, it would have been easy to say so.

Bryan Owen said...

Peter, I would also very much like to read the material that you contributed to the DVD. I hope we'll see more about that here when the time is appropriate.

In light of Carl Jacobs' comments and Brother David's response "And so we wait for your world view to die Carl," I'm all the more struck by a comment I read on the blog Get Religion in which the author of the posting writes:

" ... it should be noted that the traditionalist Episcopalians support neither deviation on core doctrines regarding Jesus nor core doctrines regarding human sexuality. The Episcopal Church itself has had more tolerance for differing views on the divinity of Jesus than it has regarding traditional views on sexuality."

I think that is a fascinating observation, and one that rings true in my experience within the Episcopal Church. It really is okay to believe, teach, and preach darn near anything you like about Jesus, regardless of how far removed from the theology of the Prayer Book and the creeds it may take you. But increasingly, "progressives" who otherwise laud the values of tolerance and inclusivity see no contradiction in openly castigating conservatives (and moderates who, in their openness to ideas, may have changed their minds on these matters) as "unAnglican," "unChristian," etc. This suggests that orthodox teaching on the Person of Jesus is not really at the core of the Christian faith for many "progressives," while liberal views on same-sex relationships is a cornerstone of liberal orthodoxy.

carl jacobs said...

Brother David

And so we wait for your world view to die Carl.

Heh. Graveyard, meet whistling passer-by.

New research by the Barna Group finds they view churches as judgmental, overprotective, exclusive and unfriendly towards doubters.

So .. you are saying that young people have judged the church as judgmental. Not to mention overprotective, exclusive, unfriendly, and shallow. I see. Some judgments must be less judgmental than others.

They also consider congregations antagonistic to science and say their Christian experience has been shallow.

What has actually happened in the West is a huge epistemological crisis regarding the nature of Truth. This post-modern age teaches that there is no such thing as knowable revelation. The present day priesthood of scientists cannot answer the important questions about good and evil, right and wrong, meaning and purpose. So men have concluded that there are no answers outside of themselves. Unfortunately they look within themselves and find only a limited finite creature. And how can a limited finite creature find its own answers? In despair, they resign themselves to a moral vacuum and do as they please.

Then along comes someone like me who says "Here stands it written.." To which they respond "Who wrote it, and why should I care? And don't tell me about your 'god' for if there is a god he is surely silent." What they react against, and call call "judgmentalism" is in fact an assertion of transcendent moral norms that apply to all men everywhere. The man who believes that such norms cannot possibly exist will interpret that assertion as arrogant and power-seeking. Their attitude will be "Live your own life, and leave me alone." This is the source of the conflict. When the moral universe consists of nothing by radically autonomous moral actors, the assertion of binding norms will strike at man's cherished autonomy. In the absence of observable boundaries, a man will jealously protect the one piece of moral space that he occupies.

The Liberal churches say "Well, let us build a church upon this epistemological doubt. We will give no answers. We will only ask questions. And we will affirm the inherent goodness of man's desires. Then men will flock to outr doors." Except they don't. This modern culture has no need of religion. Liberal religion has conformed itself to the world only to find the world has no need of a religion conformed to the world. The irony is rich.

carl

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Howard Pilgrim said...

So is that all? On one matter, Jesus seems to be challenging some liberalising rabbis.
Surely you would have little trouble in identifying other matters in which he was radically liberal? The food laws, for instance? Think of any others? The place of women, Gentiles, lepers, Samaritans, .... Anything else?

It was a throwaway line, perhaps? :-)

Warm Regards,
Howard

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
Jesus was conservatising rather than liberalising on murder, lust, etc - coming to fulfil the law etc.

The point is that Jesus was not uniformly liberal (or "liberal") and present day liberals (or "liberals" or simply those who want to appeal to Jesus as supportive of some liberalising proposal before the church) should take care in presuming that Jesus as we know him from the gospels is on the side of the liberalising proposal.

Of course if the presumption is that Jesus "as we know him by the Spirit today" is on the side of the proposal then (it seems) just about anything can be supported by Jesus!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Howard,
Jesus was conservatising rather than liberalising on murder, lust, etc - coming to fulfil the law etc.

The point is that Jesus was not uniformly liberal (or "liberal") and present day liberals (or "liberals" or simply those who want to appeal to Jesus as supportive of some liberalising proposal before the church) should take care in presuming that Jesus as we know him from the gospels is on the side of the liberalising proposal.

Of course if the presumption is that Jesus "as we know him by the Spirit today" is on the side of the proposal then (it seems) just about anything can be supported by Jesus!

Bryan Owen said...

Bosco wrote:

"Please can you and others explain why homosexuality leads many to break communion etc. etc. etc. rather than the certainly-clearer-with-Jesus and affecting-far-more-people divorce?!"

I think the answer to this question, Bosco, is because there is diversity and moral argument within the New Testament canon about divorce and remarriage. By contrast, there is no diversity and argument about homosexual practice. On the contrary, there is unambiguous condemnation.

Drawing on the work of Richard B. Hays, here's a brief summary of New Testament views on divorce and remarriage:

Relevant Texts
1. Mark 10:2-12
2. Matthew 19:3-12
3. Matthew 5:31-32
4. Luke 16:18
5. 1 Corinthians 7:10-16

New Testament Diversity
1. Mark and Luke categorically prohibit divorce.
2. Matthew and Paul allow for possible exceptions to the norm of life-long marriage in cases calling for pastoral discretion.
3. In Matthew and Luke, only the husband can initiate divorce.
4. Mark and Paul recognize the right of women to initiate divorce.
5. Matthew maintains that divorced women can only remarry as adulteresses, while men may possibly remarry without sin if their former wives were guilty of unchastity.
6. Luke excludes the possibility of remarriage after divorce.
7. Paul advises against remarriage, but acknowledges that options for remarriage may exist for Christians divorced by unbelievers.
8. Mark does not address the problem of remarriage in special circumstances.

New Testament Unity
1. Normative vision: marriage is a permanently binding commitment in which a man and a woman become "one flesh."
2. Divorce is always an exceptional and tragic deviation from the norm.
3. Rules out no-fault divorce and serial monogamy.

(More thoughts from me on this here.)

Can anyone show a comparable New Testament diversity of teaching when it comes to homosexual practice?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
Since I have not personally promoted the idea of breaking communion over homosexuality, I hope someone can enlighten you with an answer to your question about that.

I am, however, sympathetic to those who have broken communion within the Anglican Communion, and find my sympathy is with those who have made that break not because of issues about homosexuality per se, but because those issues (e.g. in TEC) have been experienced as the tip of a large theological iceberg which has broken away from the continental ice shelf of orthodoxy.

I agree with you that the greatest threat to marriage is from divorce, or, perhaps more accurately, from behaviours which lead to divorce.

What you do not touch on, but which I continue to argue for, is that marriage in Christian understanding is between a man and a woman. Whatever we are making of, and come to make of same sex partnerships, they never overcome the core of marriage which is the unifying of the diversity of male and female.

As for the tolerance of remarriage of divorcees in many churches today: I suggest people take care about building out from this to support theology(s) which seek to declare same sex partnerships to be holy and blessable: essentially this is building out from a negative starting point. If in a few decades time the church reverted to its former position on divorce and remarriage this starting point would be undermined. (PS I am not saying the above paragraph encapsulates your own arguments re same sex partnerships; but I think the observation worth making in the context of what you have said in your comment above).

Anonymous said...

Bryan Owen: I think that's a pretty fair summary. As for the "categorical" nature of logia in Matthew and Luke, it may be helpful to read David Instone-Brewer's book on divorce and remarriage, as he's a leading world expert on first century rabbinics (the subject of his Cambridge PhD).
Martin

Anonymous said...

Bosco asks:
"Is Jesus also not altering earlier biblical teaching when he teaches on divorce?"
I guess so, in that reverting 'ad fontes' he rescinded the Old Covenant permission for polygyny. The Mosaic Law is our paidagogos to Christ.
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

It's all Greek (Latin or Hebrew) to most Christians - you guys who insist on blinding us all with your quasi-erudite foreign languages are a bit like the Tower of Babel to most of us on this thread.

This is a blog which is supposed to be used for enlightenment - not obfuscation. Please do us all the honour of not using your archaic language expertise to try to explain what you want to tell us.

Most of us are well versed in the English language. Using Greek, Latin or Hebrew to explain a theological view-point does not give it any greater emphasis. What it does do is show us how clever you are. But that does not add up, necessarily to the virtue of wisdom! Agape.

Bryden Black said...

Just to chip in here with some lines of conversation.

Bosco; in the past on this site you and I have had a couple of rounds re Jesus’ teaching re divorce: notably his seemingly empowering women in their status vis-à-vis the law of the day, by saying that they too commit adultery when they divorce (which technically was impossible legally). Others now have also raised enough textual material on this thread to highlight the differences between the two arguments, divorce and re-marriage versus same-sex activity. But I remind you of our past discussions. Meanwhile, I have been preparing a 14 page memo for the GS Commission when it gets constituted (perhaps!). When ready, shall flick it on to you personally. I think that too will highlight the vital differences.

Secondly, Ron. Bernard Lonergan helpfully makes key distinctions among intellectual operations to show us how we as humans “change our minds”. Firstly, experience as a human being is NEVER naked or bare; it ALWAYS comes loaded with some form of (pre)understanding. Wittgenstein makes the same point. So, the second step is how to evaluate our experience-&-understandings via key forms of judgment as we act on the basis of certain understandings and not others. Over the many years you and I have been commenting on threads together, NOT ONCE have I seen you appreciate the real significance of such vital, intellectual moves and understandings. Let alone appreciate the role forms of ‘authority’ take in relation to anyone’s experience-&-understanding, either with regards to so-called liberals or so-called conservatives, who all bring to bear their respective ‘authorities’.

The bottom line is how to evaluate between competing forms of authority; and such exercises are not achieved by simple slogans or claims to ‘experience’, but by a ‘reading’ of complex social scripts written over decades even centuries (that is if Gadamer, MacIntyre et al have any truth to their views!). The crux is quite simply this: whose authority has the better/richer explanation of both a certain experience-&-understanding AND its opposite (which way of putting it echoes the philosophies of science that debate both verification and falsification BTW)? So; until I meet someone who can explain sufficiently why Peter and I (and Carl and others) are wrong, and you (and others like David & Bosco) are correct, I personally cannot - not just will not - change my mind. For example, even William Stacey Johnson in his A Time to Embrace: Same-gender Relationships in Religion, Law and Politics (2006) operates more out of a liberal-democratic tradition than what I would claim was an authoritative orthodox Christian one. But perhaps Tobias’ Reasonable and Holy might get me across the line ...?

Last line of comment. Those who feel there are irredeemable conflicts between contemporary science and the Christian religion clearly have not encountered either John Lennox or Alister McGrath! Slam-dunk for those who have!

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Those who feel there are irredeemable conflicts between contemporary science and the Christian religion clearly have not encountered either John Lennox or Alister McGrath! Slam-dunk for those who have!"

I have encountered both of these brothers in Christ and have learnt much from them.
Richard Dawkins has also encountered them - and not understood them. No surprise there.

I do not think Ron has at all grasped the import of the main question you put to him. He self-identifies as a "catholic" but does not articulate what that terms means in its historical richness, worked out in the first five centuries of the Church.
Apologies if using Greek, Latin, Hebrew phrases as shorthand in a theological debate appears alienating; I would similarly expect Islamic teachers to use Arabic and Buddhists to use Sanskrit terms. It simply reflects the fact that for the first centuries of the Church, almost all Christians spoke or used Greek, Latin and Hebrew/Aramaic, and in our desire to be true apostolic Catholics we need to go 'ad fontes'.
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

I bow to your superior intellect, gentlemen who have opposed my point of view on this site. However, I would remind you that Jesus once said this: "I bless you Father, for hidng these things from the learned and the clever, and revealing them to mere children. Like Francis and his clam, I can only claim for myself - simplicity. That does not, however, negate my stance on matters spiritual that I discern for myself.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
The Bible offers a consistent reading from Moses through Jesus and onto Paul which endorses marriage as the only holy context for sexual intercourse and does so in a manner which offers the sparest, perhaps even no grounds for remarriage after divorce. A helpful summary text is Hebrews 13:4. The small differences between the gospels in the way Jesus spoke about marriage, divorce and remarriage, or between Jesus and Paul scarcely amount to diversity of teaching, nor to contradiction.

The way many churches in the late 20th century have acted in response to a rise in the number of divorces is pastorally sensitive, and draws on a theology (IMHO) best worked from a theology of new beginnings and not from the Instone-Brewer and co school of exegetical thought.

The church is now being challenged to act in response to the rising visibility of gay and lesbian people in society and in the church, especially in respect of same sex partnerships. We need to be pastorally sensitive and to find an appropriate theology to do whatever we are going to do. A difference between the two matters, however, which is a strong point of division within churches such as our own Anglican church, is whether any theology can overcome the point of difference between marriage between a man and a woman, and a same sex partnership, namely that the Bible does not countenance sex between people of the same gender under any circumstances.

If in response to these points one were to argue that gender difference in sexual intercourse does not matter to God, it would be good to hear what the theological basis for that argument is.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
You are neatly, and somewhat adroitly evading the challenge being made here: why do you as a catholic Christian not following the catholic teaching of the universal church, the teaching which, for instance, even St Francis in his simplicity followed?

Your constant invocation of the Spirit leading you into truth about GLBT matters is a novel, and somewhat sectarian invocation for a catholic Christian. You sense of infallibility about these matters reminds me of a jobe about Protestantism, that it sets up a pope in every pulpit!

What catholic theology underpins your doctrine of the Holy Spirit?

Bryan Owen said...

Hi Bosco. I appreciate your brief response to the summary of the relevant New Testament texts on divorce and remarriage I offered in my comment above. I note that you are charging me with hermeneutical arbitrariness (which, when it comes to the ethics of reading, is to my mind a sibling of irresponsibility), particularly when you write that “this appears just made up” and “This kind of ‘exegesis’ reinforces the impression that one can find whatever one likes in the Bible. And whatever one dislikes.”

While I am not a New Testament scholar (I did my doctoral work in another area within the field of religion), this summary I’ve offered does come from a very competent and respected New Testament scholar. I invite you, Bosco, to read Richard B. Hays’ The Moral Vision of the New Testament (the discussion of divorce and remarriage is in the 15th chapter). Hays is anything but arbitrary in his approach to the biblical texts!

Having said all of that, I am reminded of a sentence from R. R. Reno’s In the Ruins of the Church: Sustaining Faith in an Age of Diminished Christianity when he writes: “The Scriptures have become the site of contest and conflict rather than the instrument of adjudication.” Perhaps the discussion about divorce and remarriage on this thread bears the truth of that observation out.

Anonymous said...

Bosco, as an evangelical Anglican I try to read Holy Scripture synoptically and from a christological and heilsgeschichtlich perspective. Some think this approach is wrongheaded, and indeed Bart Ehrmann has 'progressed' from fundamentalist to agnostic or atheist. Similarly I have watched Bishop Richard Holloway 'progress' from Anglo-Catholic to atheist in a few short years. It is relatively easy to find formal contradictions in the Bible, and that has spawned whole schools of interpretation since Gabler - but as Dante's guide warned, 'Facilis Averni descensus ...'
Instone-Brewer's book addresses several of the questions you raise. Dr Peter Williams of Tyndale House in England also seeks to anwer Ehrmann on his own terms.
Martin

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
Which logic brings me back to the point that focussing on remarriage of divorcees is not - in the long run - a good starting point for the blessing of same sex partnerships.

What I am puzzled about with your critique of the Bible here is whether you find the Bible of any great use in developing your theology of sexual ethics. It seems in your reading of it to be full of contradictions to an extent that it is (effectively) useless in informing your theology of sexuality. Or, is there a way of reading the Bible on sexual ethics which offers a consistent underpinning to a theology of sexuality?

Bryan Owen said...

Bosco wrote: "Bryan, you also are sidestepping my points. If the teaching of scripture on marriage cannot be understood and communicated by you, but only by those who have a doctorate in New Testament studies, we are in more serious trouble in the use of the scriptures than I suggested."

Interesting response, Bosco, because sidestepping is precisely what I thought you were doing to what I shared from Richard B. Hays. It simply won't do to turn around and gainsay that summary as though that somehow proves that Hays and I are wrong. Nor is it sufficient to suggest that my citation of a reputable NT scholar as a warrant for my position somehow demonstrates how seriously in trouble I am with the use of the scriptures. I'm sorry, but that suggestion is just silly.

But since we're on the topic of sidestepping, my question still hasn't been answered, so I'll rephrase it: where in Scripture is there a diversity of views expressed on the topic of homosexual practice such that pastoral latitude on matters such as same-sex blessings is warranted rather than morally out of bounds?

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you challenge my consistency as an Anglo-catholic, while at the same time espousing the views I have, and which I express, on my own blog and on this and other sites, about gender and sexuality.

All I can offer in explanation is the witness of 82 years as a Baptized and Confirmed Anglican, 3 years as a Franciscan Brother, 31 years as an Anglican priest, and 29 years of heterosexual marriage; each of which experience - in their own particular context, have enlightened, informed, and guided me along the path of Christian enlightenment - as promised to all who believe in the Christ of the Gospels.

I didn't attend the Nelson Diocesan Theological Institute, but I did have 3 years at St. John's College in Auckland, during which time I served as Anglican Chaplain at 2 prison establishments in the North Island and attained the lowly heights of a Licenciate in Theology

During most of my life, I have been a beneficiary of the theology of classic Catholicsm (in the reformed and renewed Anglican tradition), with a profound belief in Jesus as the Incarnate Son of God, Saviour and Redeemer of ALL humanity.

I believe in God The Father, Creator and Lover of ALL creation.
I believe in the life-giving Holy Spirit of God, through whom the Creation came into being, through whom Christ became incarnate in the flesh of the Blessed Virgin Mary, through whom the Church came into being, and through whom the Church, when it is open to listen, receives ongoing wisdom to bring about the reconciliation of ALL creation to God.

Like Good Pope John XXIII, my maxim is 'Semper Reformanda' Sadly, his R.C. successors on the throne of Peter have reneged on the promise of Vatican II, in their refusal to be open to the emancipation of women and the LGBT community who are part of the People of God.

There Peter. That's for starters.
What about your protestant provenance?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Your bios here is helpful, and share common points with my own (for instance I have not attended a theological college in Nelson as a student, I admire Pope John XXIII and Vatican 2, and I think 'semper reformanda' very important).

I think what is missing in your account above is the basis, catholic or protestant, on which you know that your experience and the Spirit are guiding you rightly.

My protestant provenance includes being brought up in an evangelical Anglican home, worshipping in evangelical Anglican parishes almost all my life, reading Scripture, reading protestant theologians and devotional writers, a theological degree from Knox Theological Hall, University of Otago, formative young adult years spent in student work with the Christian Unions of Canterbury and Otago Universities, as well as membership of the Latimer Fellowship of which I am currently a vice-president. The central point around which all my thinking, as an Anglican and as a protestant (and, yes, to the extent that I am catholic) revolves around Holy Scripture and the authority it provides for faith and practice. Semper reformanda is about always reforming what I do and say and think in the light of God's revelation through Scripture, illumined by the Spirit of God working coherently with Scripture, for God does not contradict himself.

Brother David said...

The central point around which all my thinking, as an Anglican and as a protestant (and, yes, to the extent that I am catholic) revolves around Holy Scripture and the authority it provides for faith and practice.

How, Peter, did you come to the belief/conclusion that Scripture is authoritative for faith and practice?

Since we are all being up front here, I was raised in an agnostic home with Anglican leanings. I have a 5 year Licenciatura in Human Behavior from the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo, Pachuca, HG, MX and a 4 year Master of Theology, which included the curriculum for the Master of Divinity, from the Northwest Theological Union, Seattle, WA, USA, with 1.5 years of academic course work transferred from the Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, USA.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi David,
I came to that belief because I was taught it, both through evangelical teachers (not Anglican) and through Anglican evangelical teachers (who hold that belief as an inheritance of the English Reformation).

I maintain that belief because I understand Scripture to be a self-authenticating witness to its authority as the Scripture Jesus upheld (the Law and the Prophets, or Old Testament writings) and inaugurated (the apostolic teaching through the Gospels and the Epistles); and also because Scripture witnesses to my heart as the written Word of God, that witness being coherent with the creedal faith of the church, and with its commitment to read Scripture and to preach from it in its worship.

Anonymous said...

"But since we're on the topic of sidestepping, my question still hasn't been answered, so I'll rephrase it: where in Scripture is there a diversity of views expressed on the topic of homosexual practice such that pastoral latitude on matters such as same-sex blessings is warranted rather than morally out of bounds?"

Bryan Owen has indeed put his finger on the question that Bosco has failed to answer. Attempting to render the Bible nugatory for sexual ethics by stressing (in the unfortunate style of Bart Ehrmann) some disputed areas in interpretation about divorce and remarriage is, to develop Peter Carrell's observation, rather like sawing off the branch we are sitting on.
Richard Hays' book is a fine piece of work, which I have used with university students. It also has a very sensitive section on the pastoral dimensions of gthe pastoral care of people with same-sex attraction.
Martin

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,
I have read some things you wrote above too fast and, yes, you are right, you have not alleged the Bible to be contradictory re human sexuality, but have pointed to other contradictions in the way it is read by some.

Bryan Owen said...

Bosco wrote: "I am saying that the scriptures clearly are against remarriage after divorce."

Actually, it depends on which passage you're highlighting.

Take, for example, Mark 10:2-12. According to this passage from Mark, Jesus strictly forbids remarriage. A man who gets a divorce and remarries commits adultery against his former wife, and a woman who divorces her husband and remarries commits adultery against her former husband. This passage from Mark supports Bosco’s contention.

However, there are other passages that complicate matters. For purposes of responding to Bosco, citing only one passage that differs from Mark will suffice: Matthew 19:3-12. The question asked of Jesus in this passage differs from Mark’s version. In Mark, Jesus is asked: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” In Matthew, Jesus is asked: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?” (emphasis added)

In Matthew, Jesus’ initial response to the Pharisees’ question includes saying "what God has joined together, let no one separate," which implies that there can be no legitimate grounds for divorce (an answer which shows that he takes a position more rigorous than even the strictest school of rabbinic teaching at that time). After the Pharisees protest this answer by appealing to Moses’ allowance for certificates of divorce, Jesus notes that the Law makes this concession due to the hardness of human hearts. And then something remarkable happens as Jesus qualifies his initial answer by adding an exception clause: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery” (Mt. 19:9; emphasis added).

I note that, in contrast to Matthew, there is no exception clause in Mark. Exceptions are permitted by Matthew, but only in cases of unchastity on the part of wives. Divorce in such cases is still a tragic deviation from the norm which entails a permanently binding commitment in which a man and a woman become “one flesh.” But a deviation is allowed for in certain exceptional cases. So without having to address any of the other relevant texts, Bosco's categorical contention that “the scriptures clearly are against remarriage after divorce” is wrong. If we take Matthew into account, there can be (tragic) exceptions in which divorce is permissible and remarriage possible.

So to return again to the question that has thus far been ignored: where in Scripture is there a comparable diversity of views expressed on the topic of homosexual practice such that pastoral latitude on matters like same-sex blessings is warranted rather than morally out of bounds? Where is there even a single text which provides an exception clause for what is otherwise condemned?

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bryan - you have corrected Bosco's categorical and inaccurate over-statements about divorce and remarriage (and carefully reading the helpful exegetes Instone-Brewer on the divorce texts as well as Robert Gagnon on Jesus' sexual ethics would help here, along with Richard Hays) and again reminded him of the question which he has so far failed to answer, where does Scripture allow homosexual relationships rather than forbid them?
The simple answer is, it doesn't.

Reading Scripture adversarially (text vs. text) renders all sorts of problems; reading it "heilsgeschichtlich" and symphonically (as any musicologist knows) produces harmony.

Martin

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Martin would ... Martin would ...."
Hey, go easy on the hypotheticals until you know me better!

If Bosco is simply saying that the contemporary Protestant church has slackened the discipline of Christ on marriage, he will get no disputing from me.
If he is saying 'Hey, we don't follow it now, so we can do the same for homosexuals', then he is following exactly the same analogical way that Tec mainstreamed homosexual relationships.

If Bosco wishes to discuss a quite different question, whether Christian marriage is indissoluble (as the Roman Catholics assert), or isn't (as the Orthodox maintain, since they - hardly liberal Protestants! - have always allowed, under certain strict conditions, divorce and remarriage), then that is a subject for another thread.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, at the risk of boring everyone else on this thread, may I return to your statement about your own 'Protestant' provenance.

I notice that your formation says nothing about your worship life at Knox - or did you do your degree by extension, in which case there would not have been any at college?

Further to my own experience, I can count years of daily attendance at the Eucharist - at St. Paul's, Symonds Street, in Auckland, which was the early setting for the rise of the Charismatic Movement in the Anglican Church in 1960's N.Z. - followed by 3 years of Daily Mass as a Franciscan and a further period of Daily Eucharist at Saint john's College, Auckland.

After ordination to the priesthood, by Archbishop Paul Reeves in Christ Church Whangarei, I had the great privilege of celebrating Mass on a daily basis thereafter until retirement, since when I've attended or presided at an average of 3 or 4 Celebrations a week.

The reason I'm mentioning this is that I sincerely believe that one of the unique experiences of the actual Presence of Christ among God's people is encountered at the celebration of the Eucharist, when the scriptures are read and Christ's Presence is guaranteed by its Scriptural provenance. That has informed my inclusive catholic theological position.

With all due respect, I would suggest that, while the protestant ethos is greatly influenced by a definitive interpretation of the Bible - as inerrant and therefore immutable; the catholic ethos is taken one step further - into the ongoing inspiration of the Holy Spirit through the reading of the Scriptures, affirmed in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ at the Eucharist.

Anonymous said...

Bosco: on moichatai, you might find John Nolland's article interesting:
'The Gospel Prohibition of Divorce: Tradition History and Meaning', JSNT 58 (1995), 19-35
I don't have his GNTC, so don't know how he develops his thoughts on the unusual use of the passive infinitive (moicheuthenai) in Matt 5.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I was a private student of the University of Otago unsure of a call to ordained ministry (until, see below), but relished studying with Presbyterian students and (mostly) Presbyterian teachers. I often attended the weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper in the Ross Chapel at Knox (i.e. don't think it would be fair to call that event in that place a Mass!!). Meanwhile I lived in an Anglican hall (Selwyn College) and worshipped at an Anglican church, St Matthew's, of sound evangelical and charismatic reputation. In my third year the call to ministry came, I was accepted by the Diocese of Christchurch for ordination, not required or requested to go to St John's College, Auckland, and thus found myself ordained to be curate at St Stephen's Shirley which, then as now, was about as far 'down the candle' as St Michael's is 'up the candle'.

I appreciate very much meeting with Christ in congregational worship whether in eucharistic or non-eucharistic worship. I am not sure what theological advantage attends to listening to the Spirit in the eucharist compared to any other meeting of Christians into which the Spirit speaks.

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Bryan can speak for himself. Bosco is quite mistaken in saying that I find contradictions in Scripture, other than linguistically formal ones (e.g. an imprecise or general statement read alongside a more precise or detailed statement) or historically conditioned ones (e.g. an earlier dispensation replaced by a dominical utterance). Such an approach to Scripture is basic to evangelical and historical catholic exegesis, and is foundational to the 39 Articles. I accept the Matthean 'exceptive clause' as dominical and original. I owe nothing to Roman Catholic exegesis or to liberal Protestantism. I encourage Bosco to read and critique, if he can, the arguments of Dr David Instone-Brewer of Cambridge, which are the background to my thinking here.

Martin

liturgy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, regarding your later remarks to me on your spiritual formation. You seem to have missed my point about the centricity of the Eucharist as being the mark of a Catholic. We believe that the words of scripture, by virtue of the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, actually become for us the "Body and Blood of Christ - thus, the word becomes flesh and dwells among us again, giving fresh life to the Spirit's teaching.

In prayerful reception of the Eucharist; after the teaching, the recipient goes out into the world as a newly equipped Christ-bearer.
Thus, not only hearing the Word, but being and doing The Word.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I "get" all that.
My point is, all you say still leaves wide open the question why the 'Roman' Catholic, the 'Anglican' Catholic and the 'Eastern' Catholic come to differing conclusions on certain matters; and also, if all is so fine re Word and Sacrament in eucharistic combination unfailingly steering the Christian disciple, the medieval Catholic church fall into such grievous errors as to engender the Reformation ... the eucharist is not an epistemological guarantee!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you surely don't need me to remind you of the vast historical divergence between the various 'protestant' positions - on anything, but especially Eucharist:

The variety of beliefs is quite stunning, when you consider, not only the 'mainline' Protestant Churches, but also the oddities like Bible-Baptist, Anabaptist, Church of Christ, Bethel, 7th Day Adventists, etc., all of which have no understanding of the Catholic tradition of Eucharist - as the Re-Membering of the Body of Christ in the Bread and the Wine, brought about by the priestly nvocation of the Holy spirit at the 'Anamnesis'.

Peter Carrell said...

But, Ron, Protestants will bring those debates to Scripture and debate them on those grounds, not on the ephemerality of claims that "this is the Spirit", "No, this is the Spirit." Of course many Catholics join these debates. But what you are not helping me with is how a specifically Catholic-at-the-eucharist approach resolves differences in theology!

Anonymous said...

Bosco, your "gotcha" game is getting a little tiresome. There is no contradiction in my statements that I can see. If you don't understand the meaning of formal (as opposed to substantival) contradiction and the concepts of salvation history with concessionary dispensations across time or a symphonic approach to Scripture, or if you don't want to engage with Instone-Brewer's scholarship, or Professor Nolland's, then I doubt anything I say will avail anything.
Aren't you aware that the Orthodox Churches have long accepted the possibility of remarriage after divorce? or that Erasmus, writing on the Matthean exception, was hardly a "liberal Protestant", let alone an evangelical?
If you accept Roman Catholic exegesis, all and well. Now do the decent thing and follow Newman, Wiseman, Manning et al. But first answer Bryan Owen's question.
Martin

Anonymous said...

"Martin, your new declaration ... conflicts with your earlier agreement that “there is diversity and moral argument within the New Testament canon about divorce and remarriage”."

I've read through my comments above twice and I said nothing of the sort. Where is this statement?
Are you quoting form "The Lost Gospel of Martin", perhaps (Sue D. Pigrafa, ed., Piltdown Academic Press)?
Pseudo-Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

To any of you Greek scholars ready to pounce, may I avert your wrath by admitting I got it wrog (again) - on my last post here. I describing the action at The Liturgy, when the Holy Spirit is invoked upon the Elements of Bread and Wine at the Eucharist, the action is called - not anamnesis - but 'epiclesis'. And if you've ever attended an Orthodox Liturgy, you will at this point have seen the priest fanning the Veil over the Sacred Elements - in imitation of the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Anonymous said...

You got it wrog, Ron? me genoito! Is it cos you're the wrog kind of Catholic? :) or maybe you were suffering from temporary anamnesia? :)

Yours inerrantly,
Pseudo-Martin

Anonymous said...

What is tiresome is the continual ad hominems. Fr Carrell says he moderates them out, but it always appears that the comments from people he agrees with just accidentally slip through. Then Peter apologises, but does not remove the offending comment. How long does it take Peter to learn what an ad hominem is? He seems to know well enough when it’s from someone he disagrees with. Martin gets away with it. His piles of ad hominems are astonishing, including telling someone he should do the decent thing and leave the Anglican Church. Who needs an Anglican Covenant? Martin for Archbishop of Canterbury! If his narrow-minded, bigoted, self-contradictory, nasty comments are allowed here it is little wonder that, as others have pointed out, respectful dialogue won’t happen here. This blog will become irrelevant – merely a few extremists talking to themselves while the rest of the church and world moves respectfully on into the 21st century.

Alison

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison,
Your criticism is welcome here, but my judgements are final, unwelcome though they may be.

Martin's particular point was about acceptance of Roman Catholic exegesis and following through on the logical consequence of that. Quite a big "if" in there.

Unfortunately some ad hominems are a tiny part of otherwise acceptable comment. It would be tiresome to edit every one of those comments.

Perhaps I should have no comments at all?

Anonymous said...

So you see no room in your Anglican Church for those who hold to a “Roman Catholic exegesis” of Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:3-12?! You see Martin’s statement as “following through on the logical consequence of that”. And you would think it perfectly appropriate had I or Fr Ron said to Martin something akin to, “If you accept Church of Christ exegesis, all and well. Now do the decent thing and leave the Anglican Church and join them.”? You accept that there are ad hominems, but do not warn as you do those whom you don’t agree with? Some examples of warning people you agree with might help – there are plenty of warnings of those you don’t agree with.

Alison

Father Ron Smith said...

'Pseudo'; I must admit, I do find your arguments mostly 'forgettable'. But I would just remind you that the Greek word 'anamnesia' means the very opposite of what you have suggested. It actually, in crude terms, means: 'non-forgetting' - a characteristic that refers to the dominical ethos of 'Remembrance' of Him in the Eucharist

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, regarding your last comment in reply to Alison, where you question whether you should have no comments at all on your blog. Realistically, it is often only the comments that bring a blog alive - especially when they are properly constructive and not merely offensive.

Have you thought that, without inviting comments, you may have no-one looking in on the blog? That is a risk all of us have to take.

Anonymous said...

Alison, my point was couched in a knockabout, North American style of humor but I don't think it was 'ad hominem', which I've always understood as the logical fallacy of attacking someone's character rather than his arguments. I don't think I've impugned Bosco's character - I've never met him but I think he's a sincere and learned Christian and I would enjoy his company.
My point about Newman et al wasn't ad hominem but was a precise reflection of a famous exchange between Newman and Manning, in which the latter, now RC, challenged the former, still an Anglican, with the Augustinian dictum 'Securus iudicat omnis orbis terrarum'. If Bosco is right about NT teaching, then Protestant Christianity is deeply disobedient to Christ and the RCs are correct.
Martin

Anonymous said...

"And you would think it perfectly appropriate had I or Fr Ron said to Martin something akin to, “If you accept Church of Christ exegesis, all and well. Now do the decent thing and leave the Anglican Church and join them.”?"

That would be fair enough (and wouldn't be an ad hominem (which attacks a person's character, e.g. calling him "narrow-minded, bigoted, self-contradictory, nasty", rather than critiquing his his arguments) if I knew what "Church of Christ exegesis" was and agreed with it. But I think it is clear to anyone who reads with attention that I am an Anglican who used the term "Church of Christ" above to mean the trans-denominational fellowship that all Christians belong to, and this was not a reference to the Campbellites or any other denomination of that moniker, of which I know nothing. I suppose I could have equally said "Church of God", but then somebody might have thought I was referring to Tennessee Pentecostalists. Such are the perils of being an orthodox evangelical catholic with a liberal education ....

The challenge for all churches in the West is to discover a meaningful and wise discipline in the context of the relativistic post-Christian world we inhabit.
Martin

liturgy said...

Martin, in this comment you agreed with Bryan that “there is diversity and moral argument within the New Testament canon about divorce and remarriage”. Now you state “I said nothing of the sort.”

Your response to Bryan’s list of contradictions in the New Testament on divorce and remarriage is that I “don't understand the meaning of formal (as opposed to substantival) contradiction and the concepts of salvation history with concessionary dispensations across time or a symphonic approach to Scripture”. Astonishing!

Rather than dialogue with my points, and use resources to respond, you tell me to go and engage with someone else. And the suggestion that there are no good protestant scholars who disagree with Instone-Brewer is laughable. There is a reason why your list is so short.

No one has responded to my challenge why homosexual activity (quite a minority issue) is wrong but sequential polygamy (very prevalent) is acceptable. I can respect those with a consistent approach; I struggle to respect the position of those who pick and choose approaches according to whether they are part of the group affected or not.

So, Martin, yes I regret having wasted my time responding to you. You tend to constantly play the man and avoid touching the ball.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Alison
'Roman Catholic exegesis' on marriage and divorce underpins their process of 'annulment' as a possible 'canonical' way out of a marriage (or, perhaps more accurately, 'marriage.').

I am not aware of any Anglican church which has a similar process. Thus IF someone were following a strictly Roman Catholic exegesis of these texts, it would be a moot point whether that person would be engaging with the possibility of following further along the Roman Catholic pathway. Of course a response could be that such an exegetical follower thinks Anglican churches ought to adopt the Roman way on this matter.

Anonymous said...

Martin, this might help you: calling a person “narrow-minded, bigoted, self-contradictory, nasty" is ad hominem. Pointing out that a comment or comments are "narrow-minded, bigoted, self-contradictory, nasty" is not.

Alison

Anonymous said...

Bosco: now I see that you were quoting Bryan, not me - hence my aporia. My words "a pretty fair summary" referred to the list of NT texts and summary comments he gave, which I seek to exegete collectively and symphonically, which is the traditional Anglican way (not adversarially).
Dr Instone-Brewer is an evangelical scholar of First Century rabbinics and the NT. I knew him a bit when he was doing his doctorate on the Jewish background to Jesus' teaching (now published in Brill WUNT). Of course there are "protestant scholars" who disagree with him; most liberals would. So what? I work with different assumptions about the nature of the text. There is a quick summary of his views on his website and in the English Grove booklets series. (I know as well what Heath and Wenham, and Andrew Cornes have written.)

Let me the first to agree with you that sequential polygamy is not right. Christian leaders in particular can hardly model such a lifestyle. My concern, though, is also with the children of such households - as well as from couples who don't even bother to marry today.
Martin

Anonymous said...

Alsion, your help is duly esteemed. May I reciprocate by observing that *calling comments “narrow-minded, bigoted, self-contradictory, nasty" is not the same as establishing these gravimina ("pointing out") but is a form of the logical fallacy of argumentum ad misericordiam, with a dash of ad verecundiam for good measure.
It's a long time since I studied formal logic, but it seems to me that while 'self-contradictory' may describe a fallacious *proposition (following Aristotle's three fundamntal laws), "narrow-minded, bigoted, nasty" more properly describes a person ('mind') than a proposition. But I leave that to the professionals.
Cura ut valeas,
Martin

liturgy said...

I reluctantly add another comment. I have read David Instone-Brewer, and debated his ideas with people open to looking at specific points rather than repeating his name half a dozen times as if that in itself is a sufficient response.

Blessings

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

Martin, I love your Latin comments - a good laugh; and totally unexpected in a person insisting on being called a member of the 'Church of Christ'.
Agape!

Anonymous said...

Pater Ronalde - gratias tibi ago propter tuam benevolentiam - tamen affirmare debeo, tibi quoque (in urbe nomine 'Ecclesia Christi' in partibus infidelium in Terra Albae Nubis Longae!)membrum ecclesiae Christi necesse esse - sinon nullam spem esse vereor, quia secundum sanctum Cyprianum Carthaginiensem extra ecclesiam Christi nullam salutem esse. praeterea scis omnes doctores ecclesiae reformatae (inter quos Martinum Germanicum, Martinum Bucerum, Iohannem Calvinum) Latine scripsisse. neque peritiam neque eruditionem eorum habeo, tamen mihi conari necesse est.
ave, frater, atque vale (sic Catullus)
Martinus Anglicanus

Anonymous said...

"I have read David Instone-Brewer, and debated his ideas with people open to looking at specific points"

haec verba gaudio mihi sunt. veritas mente clausa numquam reperietur.

Martinus Anglicanus