Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Can a government redefine the meaning of marriage?

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, Britain's most senior Catholic, has written a stirring article against the British government's intention to change the definition of marriage there. Here is an excerpt:

"Those of us who were not in favour of civil partnership, believing that such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, warned that in time marriage would be demanded too. We were accused of scaremongering then, yet exactly such demands are upon us now.


Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.

Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society. It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense.

But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?

If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?

Will that teacher’s right to hold and teach this view be respected or will it be removed? Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?

In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women. But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.

Instead, their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.

As an institution, marriage long predates the existence of any state or government. It was not created by governments and should not be changed by them. Instead, recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society, they should act to protect and uphold marriage, not attack or dismantle it.

This is a point of view that would have been endorsed and accepted only a few years ago, yet today advancing a traditional understanding of marriage risks one being labelled an intolerant bigot. "


I think he could have gone further. If marriage as a relationship between any two people of any gender is enshrined in law, does it not expose the church as an agent in marriages and as a teaching institution to the persecution of the state?

First, all ministers of religion who wish to serve by the age old standard that marriage is between a man and a woman, would face the charge of discrimination (i.e. as a social fact, highlighted by media and/or as a legal fact, depending on applications of legislation regarding rights) if the sole grounds for refusing a request to "marry" was that the requesting couple did not consist of a man and a woman.

Secondly, all teachers of the Christian faith who taught what the church has taught all its life, that marriage is between a man and a woman, would be teaching against the current generated by state change to marriage laws and potentially liable to a reaction from the state. (The analogy here could be the situation regarding different races in society: a minister teaching that one race is superior to another would incur the wrath of society in countries such as Britain).

Thirdly, all Christian teachers who wished to express the view that children have the right to a mother and a father will probably face constraint on such teaching as the redefinition of marriage in law to permit marriage between two persons of the same gender automatically confers the right of such arrangements to bring up children without further ado.

I suggest that Christians tempted to side with the British government on this matter should hit the 'pause' button.

It is one thing to support the rights of same sex couples to legal protection around matters to do with property, next-of-kin, and the like. Christian motivation here draws on Christian teaching about mercy, grace, and human dignity.

It is another thing to support the redefinition of marriage. Christians should consider the implications of redefinition for the future practice and teaching of the Christian faith. I can think of no Christian motivation under mercy, grace and human dignity which requires or demands of us that we redefine marriage as a relationship other than between a man and a woman.

PS I will not post any comments here which invoke the Catholic church's appalling record re priests and pedophilia. The record is appalling but reminding us of that is not an argument against Cardinal O'Brien's substantive points. There are plenty of other sites running commentary on this article, make your comments there.

40 comments:

Suem said...

Several points really:
1. Cardinal O'Brien opposed civil partnerships back in 2004 and so has never supported "the rights of same sex couples to legal protection around matters to do with property, next-of-kin, and the like."
2.It is not true that marriage has always meant the union of one man and one woman. The most common model in the Old Testament is polygamy, for example and marriage between pesons of the same sex is not unknown in history:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same-sex_marriage
3. In a state that allows same sex marriage, a teacher won't be able to tell children that it doesn't exist. That's because same sex marriage would exist? A teacher in a christian school could teach that "the church holds that marriage betweeen persons of the same sex does not exist in the eyes of God."
4."All Christian teachers who wished to express the view that children have the right to a mother and a father will probably face constraint on such teaching." Such "teaching" is not allowed in the UK at the moment! I could be disciplined for expressing such views to a child of a single parent for example. I can't tell a student whose parents are obese that they are gluttons, or that their divorced and remarried parents are adulterers without facing consequences - even if I strongly hold such views.

5. "The redefinition of marriage in law to permit marriage between two persons of the same gender automatically confers the right of such arrangements to bring up children without further ado." No. This right exists already. Civil partners can bring up their own or adopted children without further ado. There will be no change to the law in this respect - so that is simply inaccurate!
6. "Recognising the innumerable benefits which marriage brings to society, they (the government) should act to protect and uphold marriage, not attack or dismantle it." The UK Government's rationale in this legislation is to recognise the innumerable benefits marriage brings. They see extending marriage to same sex couples as a way of upholding marriage, not dismantling it. Cameron has said we are ALL better off when we make vows and commitments to each other. You may not agree with this or what they are doing, but to claim that their intention is to "dismantle marriage" is either disingenuous or shows a genuinely limited comprehension.
Lazy thinking and inaccuracy run throughout this piece of writing, that is without visiting some of the other even sillier comments that were made.
6.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem
I take it, then, that your answer is 'Yes governments can redefine marriage.'

I see your point re same sex partnerships already being able to adopt children etc. But I suggest that a future withdrawal of the right to do that in UK law (e.g. because society determined after some years that it was not a good thing for children to be brought up in this way) would not necessitate a change in the law re same sex partnerships, but once same sex marriages were permitted in law one could not constrain them from haviing children without also constraining the right to marry.

I find it sad that one cannot teach that a child has the right to a mum and a dad. (And do not quite understand why one couldn't teach that with single parents present: most children of a single parent have the other parent somewhere in their life, even if, tragically, it is as a parent physically lost to them through death).

Andy S said...

We live in a time where people have turned their faces away from God.

Where the Government seeks to place itself as the ultimate authority to which we turn.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

This is a direct challenge to God's creation and a blasphemy.

Suem said...

I wasn't aware that you were asking the question "Can governments redefine marriage?" I was simply pointing out the ways in which Cardinal O'Brien's point are not accurate.
I think governments *can* redefine, or broaden marriage, in that they legally can. Whether they *should* is another issue. Whether what we call marriage is a social or legal construct or a God given state, or a combination of both, is at the heart of this. I suspect part of the problem here is that marriage is a concept, and that concept of marriage means different things to different people.
I know why you say that a child has "a right to a mum and dad." I actually think in an ideal world children have the "right" to much more than that - they have the right to be brought up really well in a safe, secure and loving environment. And funnily enough, you can be brought up by a mum and a dad and NOT have that safe, secure environment, for example, if your father rapes you or is an alchoholic or abusive (or your mother is...) I would rather have be brought up by a good single parent, or caring same sex couple, for example, than by a married heterosexual couple in an environment where I was abused. So much for rights... My husband's mother was widowed and did not remarry. She did an excellent job of bringing up her three children. Of course it would have been better if his dad was around, but he was well brought up. How would it have helped his mother or my husband if someone had "taught" him that he had the "right" to a father - and how would they have proposed to deliver that right? My husband did know who his father was - but then where does that leave women who get pregnant and the man has left them and wants nothing to do with them, or is married to someone else? Should they have an abortion because their child will not have a father who wanted them or would ever know them? Should a women who is raped have an abortion because a child has a "right" not to have a rapist father?
If the only environment and parentage you accept for a child is a "perfect" one, there will be very few children.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, in a modern civil society, where marriage is a matter of abiding by the law of the state, it would be ridiculous for the Church to insist that marriage cannot exist for those people whom the State regards as beneficiaries of a legal marriage ceremony.

That's my first point. The second is that; for the Church to insist - in its teaching - that established legal marriage is, in certain instances, wrong, would probably end up in legal sanctions on the Church.

Thirdly, for any religious organisation to teach that God is only interested in legally-bound partnerships that produce children, may just be a misunderstanding of God's view of faithful, monogamous, loving partnerships between same-sex couples - regardless of their relationship being possibly celibate. David and Jonathan's relationship was said to 'far above that of men and women'. The State says nothing about married couples having to indulge in sexual activity.

There are other questions that need to be asked about inhibition placed by the Church on same-sex couples, but this may not be the time or place to explore them.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
Life is complicated - I accept that and understand that some rights are unable to be met. But that right to have a mum and a dad would underscore my teaching as a parent to my children that they need to live their lives and work out their relationships responsibly.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
When you write, "The second is that; for the Church to insist - in its teaching - that established legal marriage is, in certain instances, wrong, would probably end up in legal sanctions on the Church." I have no idea whether you think it a good thing that the church might be sanctioned in this way or a bad thing.

I think it would be terrible for the church to be sanctioned in this way.

Shawn said...

Ron claims,

"Thirdly, for any religious organisation to teach that God is only interested in legally-bound partnerships that produce children, may just be a misunderstanding of God's view of faithful, monogamous, loving partnerships between same-sex couples -"

The problem with this is that the vast majority of homosexual couples are not celibate. That David and Jonathon had a close friendship means just that. They had a close friendship. There is no evidence that this friendsip was gay, and given what we know about Hebrew culture, it is unlikely in the extreme.

To use the model of two friends than as somehow a model of homosexual relationships is not a valid argument. Two homosexuals men wanting to have a "civil partnership" which will involves sex, is not remotely the same things as two close mates sharing a beer.

The other problem is that while not all godly marriages produce children, ALL Godly marriages are between a man and a women. That is God's defintion, clearly stated in Genesis, and clearly re-stated by Jesus. Argument over. Thats it. Any other definition is un-arguably contrary to God's stated will and design. There simply is no Biblical warrant to re-define marriage, and attempts to do so are laughable, as is Ron's attempt to read the homosexual agenda into the story of David.

Suem claims that the British government is trying to uphold marriage. The problem with that argument is that marriage according to God is between a man and a women. That is not a "limited" definition, it is God's definition. Thus the British government IS dismantiling marriage, Christian marriage, and replacing with something else entirely, pagan marriage.

Peter, you are right in your concerns about legal rights. The last British Labour government came very close to adopting a recommendation by the British Human Rights Commission that would have made it a crime to teach children that marriage is only between a man and a women. Not just in state schools, but anywhere, inclusing the privacy of one's own home. A Christian couple doing so in their own home would have been commiting a criminal act.

Let us not be fooled. The homosexual agenda is totalitarian in it's goals and a serious threat to the political independence of the Church, the Gospel and Christian parents and children.

Andrei said...

That's my first point. The second is that; for the Church to insist - in its teaching - that established legal marriage is, in certain instances, wrong, would probably end up in legal sanctions on the Church.

A quick review the Ten Commandments might be in order here
Exodus 20

1 And God spake all these words, saying,

2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;


The blood of hundreds of thousands of Martyrs has been spilled through the ages because they would not bow down and worship the State nor its Idols.

Suem said...

How would you deliver that "right", Peter? Would make it illegal for same sex couples to bring up children? Would you also make it illegal for a single mother to bring up a child? Would you insist that a sexually abused child kept in contact with the abusive parent because that was their "right"? How would you have given my husband his "rights" to a father once his father was dead?

What would you do in the case of a same sex couple I know of who are doing a wonderful job of bringing up the niece of one of the men after his sister and her husband were tragically killed in a car crash? Would you say that the girl is better off with an adoptive opposite sex couple than in her own family?
I've no problem with the idea that we should live out our lives and relationships responsibly - but I do rather resent the idea that gay people somehow don't have responsible lives and relationships. You are not saying that, are you?

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

Putting to one side the discussion of whether the church should rally to prevent the term “marriage” including committed same-sex couples,

how would the points you are making conclude if the term “marriage” was being altered from Cardinal Keith O'Brien’s understanding of it being for life? That is certainly what the state and Anglican Church have done here.

Have you found ministers of religion who wish to serve by the age old standard that marriage is for life, facing the charge of discrimination (i.e. as a social fact, highlighted by media and/or as a legal fact, depending on applications of legislation regarding rights) if the sole grounds for refusing a request to "marry" was that the requesting couple did not consist of a man and a woman where both do not have a previous marriage commitment to someone still alive?

Have you found all teachers of the Christian faith who taught what the church has taught all its life, that marriage is for life, teaching against the current generated by state change to marriage laws and potentially liable to a reaction from the state?

Blessings

Bosco

Suem said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3YSfNKSwFk
The clip above is worth watching. It is called "Two lesbians raised a baby and this is what they got". As the young man explains, "the orientation of my parents had zero effect on the content of my character."
I feel sort of rude saying this again, Peter, but the more I read your posts the more I become convinced that you don't really have anyone in your life whom you love and value who is gay. How many gay people do you truly know and love just as people - so much so that their orientation is not even that relevant to you? (I don't expect you to answer, but ask yourself PLEASE!)
You don't have to publish this post if you don't wish to...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suem,
I have said that life is complicated. You have brought up examples to which that statement is a response and which underscore its truth. I don't think I am arguing here that same sex partnerships should be denied the possibility of bringing up children (and the example you mention in your last comment is precisely the kind of situation I would not want to see forbidden). But I would raise the question whether it is morally responsible, and fair to the rights of children to (for instance) set out by (say) surrogacy to bring a child into the world with the intention that that child will not have a mother/father as the case may be.

I would rather hope that we live in a world/church/Communion where we can raise such questions without being questioned about who one's friends and relatives are!

PS re the YouTube video: one swallow does not make a summer

Joshua Bovis said...

Can a government redefine the meaning of marriage?

It looks like it is going to try. And if successful, it won't change the fact that the essence of marriage is the life long union between a man and a woman. For a government to call the union between a man and a man or a woman and a woman - 'marriage' is by essence, not marriage.

And although Christians are required to obey the laws of the land, (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:13-17), we are not obligated to obey when obediences means that we are contradicting, abrogating, subverting, disobeying Holy Scripture.

So if the Government (in my case, the Australian) government changed the marriage act, so that homosexual marriage was included in the definition, Christian celebrants could not submit to this and would not marry to men, or two women.

Joshua
p.s My blog has changed Peter. I am now with Wordpress - http://joshbovis.wordpress.com./
Same blog name though - Creideamh a-mhĂ in

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco,

It is invidious to draw aspects of these matters into the abstract of ethical enquiry, but I think it could be useful to raise the abstract question whether the difficulties the church has placed itself in re divorce and remarriage measured against scriptural teaching amount to support for changing the definition of marriage in respect of it being a relationship between 'a man and a woman'?

As for you manner of posing the challenge to O'Brien and me, I see some differences: no matter what the church or the state is saying about divorce and remarriage, nothing (as I understand the situation) prevents the church teaching that marriage should be for life, should be between a man and a woman, that divorce should be countenanced only as a last resort, that remarriage after divorce has (in my experience, according to statistics, etc) a low success rate. For that matter I cannot see that there would be much reaction if Christian teachers taught that there should not be divorce (except for adultery).

By contrast I am raising the question whether a change to the definition of marriage would bring consequential constraints on Christian teaching about marriage.

I would be reasonably satisfied if assurance was given that no such constraints would be consequential. So far no one has given me that assurance.

Father Ron Smith said...

Andrei, I'm afraid the ten commandments say zilch about marriage, so one hardly sees your point - in the context of this thread

If,on the other hand, you are thinking that the partners in a marriage can sometimes be idolatrous - in their regard for their partner - they don't need to be gay for that to happen.


And as for Shawn's voluminous comment; I'm not at all sure that 'having a beer together' was the
essence of David and Jonathan's same-sex relationship. It must have been much more than that - when the narrator speaks of a "Love that was above that of women and men". I am aware that this does not indicate a specific sexual content, but neither does it discount it. We simply do not know. It is just that the very mention of a comparison between the two models has been spoken of here - in terms of a Same-Sex relationship.

Joshua Bovis said...

Dear Ron

, And as for Shawn's voluminous comment; I'm not at all sure that 'having a beer together' was the essence of David and Jonathan's same-sex relationship. It must have been much more than that - when the narrator speaks of a "Love that was above that of women and men".

Respectfully Ron, this seems like eisegesis or special pleading.

Jesus has a grand opportunity to introduce (& endorse) homsexual marriage in his conversation with the Pharisee in Mark 10.
In vv.5-6 Jesus emphasizes marriage as the permanent union between a man and a woman and goes back to Genesis (God's purposes at the beginning of creation).

Scripture I think is very clear. There are two types of sexual expression that God endorses:
1. Heterosexual marriage
2. Unmarried Celibacy

For us to argue that there is a third expression (i.e homosexual marriage) nullifies the authority of Scripture, subverts the created order (that Jesus cites in Mark 10) and also is a rejection of Jesus emphasis and endorsement of the exclusive definition of marriage - which is to reject Jesus authority on this matter.

in Christ
Joshua

Bryden Black said...

Ron; your post is fascinating in its assumptions. Let’s look more carefully at some of them.

“A modern civil society”: it was CS Lewis who consonantly showed our contemporary arrogance in placing the present above all else, as if only the “modern” could possibly be correct. With most of history, there are in fact just good features and plain rotten ones, all mixed up. It is incumbent upon Christians of every age to try to practice discernment, therefore. Which is why Ron I am particularly fond of that adage you object to: “The last creature to ask questions of the water is the fish.”

“Ridiculous”: I am sure many a Roman of the 1st - 4th Cs saw Christians’ refusal to engage in many a practice, like placing incense on the Emperor’s altars, or our viewing beggars and the like as “treasures”, to be “ridiculous”. There is documentary evidence of both of these pagan responses. So for the Church to oppose the State’s definition of things is not necessarily at all ridiculous. It may actually be necessary in some cases. The Barmen Declaration of 1934 certainly thought so. And there is an increasing body of work, of the likes of William Cavanaugh, which is warning of a head-on collision between the Church and the 21st C state. And I deliberately cite WC as he is by no means a Right-wing American Fundo! So for the Church to be on the receiving end of state “sanctions” might just emulate our Crucified Lord and many of his saints!

Unfortunately your third paragraph again merely assumes the illuminati amongst us are correct, and that those without such a direct line to God’s Spirit are plain out of touch. But since this entire line of supposed ‘reasoning’ is simply an old hoary chestnut on which you seem incapable of adequate self-reflection, I truly give up! No amount of hermeneutical references and/or epistemological promptings seem to suffice. But then neither was Joachim of Fiore to be persuaded otherwise; he simply carried on speculating and writing! [BTW: I am diligently plowing my way through Tobias’s Reasonable and Holy, but so far I have to say his own attempted ‘reasoning’ has not sufficed to shift my own views either - though some of his points have added grist to the mill!]

Lastly, I am mindful of the felt need of some in committed same-sex relationships to hammer out legal fairness in the realm of property rights and so on. Which is why I myself endorse the practice of civil unions, as a legal arrangement, to try to address such matters. But this does not mean the Church has to follow suit at all!!! To my mind, this is somewhat parallel to the very question of divorce to which Bosco keeps alluding. Given a fallen world (“hardness of heart” or “harlotry”, as Tobias reads Mk 10/Matt 5 & 19), then Law is the supposed answer. BUT as Jesus himself says, and as any Luthern will go on to say, the Gospel would seek another road/way, the renewal of creation itself. This Ron is what the Holy Spirit truly seeks to author - rather than (I suggest) spurious illuminations.

Andrei said...

Father Ron Smith;

The reference to the Ten Commandments was a response to your implication that the Church and Christians should be subservient to the State even in situations where there is a conflict between God's commandments and the State's.

In other words put the State's commandments before God's.

As for these novel ideas about marriage doesn't it strike you as a little odd that this new revelation was given not to people within the Church but to those those indifferent or even hostile to it?

The wikipedia article referenced in a comment above finds two historical references to same sex marriage
(1) The Roman Emperor Nero
(2) The Roman Emperor Elagabalus

If this pair provide the precedent, well it is hardly a ringing endorsement of the concept - is it?

Shawn said...

Ron,

"I am aware that this does not indicate a specific sexual content, but neither does it discount it."

From what we know about Hebrew moral culture, yes, it does discount it. We can know with some degree of satisfaction that it would have been, at the very least, extremely unlikely.

This is why the argument that Jesus never mentioned homosexuality is misleading. He did not do so, because it was so rare in Jewish society at the time, and, more importantly, considered a serious moral perversio. Paul has to deal with the issue because by that time the Church was spreading into the wider Empire, and Imperial culture, especially that of thr Greeks and Romans, was essentially liberal, that is, tolerant of many gods and religions, and tolerant of a diversity of sexual lifestyles. The Church, it should be noted, stood firmly against both. Today, sadly, the demand that Christians betray Christ and conform to Caeser is coming from within the Church itself.

Deep male friendships are not homosexual merely because they are deep.

Two men can bond on an emotional level and feel great love for one another, without it having anything to do with homosexuality.

But my point remains that there can be no valid comparison between David's friendship and homosexuality, because homosexual relationships DO have a sexual component. In fact the sexual component is what makes it homosexual in the first place.

The point is that in Scripture God defines marriage in one way only, between a man and a women. Examples of polygamy do not negate this, because at no point does God endorse them.

This is the bottom line. God has defined marriage clearly.

Our task as disciples is to obey God, not the political fashions of liberalism.

Father Ron Smith said...

For Shawn's enlightenment here. The word 'homosexual' (pp Concise Oxford English Dictionary) means: 'feeling or involving sexual attraction to people of one's own sex'. In other words, it does not, per se, specify physical sexual activity!

This is one of the problems most homosexual people have with rabid anti-gays; they always presume that homosexuals are necessarily engaged in overt sexual behaviour. What happens in the bedroom, between adults of any gender, is their own private business, for which they are answerable to their own conscience - not yours. The Church can never subordinate to itself the conscience of an individual human being. "Judge not, that ye be not judged".

What the Church can do is offer advice - on the basis of doctrine. It can never legislate another's right to exercise their conscience.

Suem said...

No, one swallow does not make a summer, but I know many more swallows who have brought up or are bringing up children well. I am sure you do too. Life is complex and complicated as you say, therefore we must be careful not to fall back on simplistic ways of seeing and judging others, including,I think, their fitness to parent.

Shawn said...

Ron,

"For Shawn's enlightenment here. The word 'homosexual' (pp Concise Oxford English Dictionary) means: 'feeling or involving sexual attraction to people of one's own sex'"

This proves my point, not yours. "Feelings AND sexual attractions".

Otherwise your view would mean that ANY feelings of agape live between men would be homosexual. Your own point defeats you.

"This is one of the problems most homosexual people have with rabid anti-gays; they always presume that homosexuals are necessarily engaged in overt sexual behaviour."

I never mentioned "overt" sexual behaviour, so this is a false accusation. And using terms like "rabid anti-gays" does nothing but prove your own rabid hatred of Evangelicals and, well, anyone who does not think the modern world is the supreme authority in all matters of Christian Faith and practice.

I would guess that over my life I have known more homosexual persons than you, and many of them have been, and are, friends. I, and others posting here against gay marriage, are not "rabid anti" anything. We just believe that God's Word is more important than the political ideology of white, middle class, latte liberals.

Suem said...

Shawn, you write that, "The point is that in Scripture God defines marriage in one way only, between a man and a women. Examples of polygamy do not negate this, because at no point does God endorse them."
I am afraid this simply doesn't hold any water! There are several points at which scripture claims God directly promotes non monogamous behaviour. One example is in Samuel when he says he will take David's wives and give them to other men:

"This is what the LORD says: Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight."

Moreover we are told that God took Saul's wives away and gave them to David as a reward. There are other points where scripture outlines what an man can do and this is outside the bounds of monogamous lifelong relationships. For example, a man can go in to a female prisoner of war and know her as a wife but then "let her go" when he tires of her. Effectively this is the sanctioning of rape with no requirement for the man to commit to any long term (let alone life long commitment to the women thus abused.)
To say that the only model scripture offers is that of one man and one woman either shows ignorance or complete dishonest about the matter.

Shawn said...

"To say that the only model scripture offers is that of one man and one woman either shows ignorance or complete dishonest about the matter"

Not at all. The problem is that your confusing two different issues. One, how does God define marriage, and two, how does God work with sinful people in a sinful world.

I suggest reading 'God Marriage and Family' by Andreas Kostenberger , which deals with the ussues you raise.

God does define and positively bless only one form of marriage. While he works with the reality of where humanity is in our sin and brokenness, he does not positively bless any of the examples you give, and he actively defines marriage in only one way.

So perhaps you just are not as familiar with Scripture as you think.

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, do you have any formal theological qualifications to teach Bible hermeneutics? If not, I think you need to listen to those who have.
This is not just a matter of airing one's own personal prejudices, but a serious search for God;'s will for his children in the world of today. We no linger live in the Middle East world of pre-enlightenment determinism. The Church and the world have moved on.

Suem said...

Not only am I familiar with scripture, I am also familiar with the way that some evangelical fundamentalists make dishonest and frankly terribly implausible attempts to explain away verses such as those above. I grew up with fundamentalists and witnessed at first hand the ability some of them have to lie to themselves and others while simultaneously accusing liberals of "twisting" scripture to their own ends!

You really think our holy and loving God hands women over to rape and adultery to punish those who disobey him? He actively facilitates adultery as part of his "work with a sinful world"? I don't think so! And if you are prepared to be honest - nor do you!

Rosemary said...

Suem, I'm sorry, but I think you're leaving the 'Fall' out of your consideration, and accepting as gospel that anything written is almost a command from God. You appear to see that a loving God wouldn't do such and such, so you doubt the Scriptures you quote, yet ignore the plain meaning in another passage. The 'Fall' in chapter 3 of Genesis, is followed in chapter 4 by evidence of that 'Fall.' Including polygamy and murder. So the Bible doesn't sanction polygamy, it records it. That doesn't mean it's accepted by God when He has made so plain His intentions such a short time previously.

Father Ron Smith said...

"... but I think you're leaving the 'Fall' out of your consideration, and accepting as gospel that anything written is almost a command from God"

But is this not the biblical fundamentalist's understanding of scripture - that every word is from God? At least, that is my under-standing of their position.

The more commendable way: of modern hermeneutical study; it to weigh every word - in order to discern the wheat from the chaff. And remember, the Words of Scripture have now been fulfilled in the Word-made-flesh of Jesus Christ.

Rosemary said...

How hard it is to understand you sometimes Ron. You quote me, so I must presume you have a point to make. Are you suggesting that Suem is a fundamentalist? It could sound that way. But remembering your letter to our last Bishop about me, and the accusations you made. Your accusations and rudeness during a public meeting in Christchurch, I have a feeling you have always assumed that I am a fundamentalist. Have you changed your mind? Is that the point of your post?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron // Rosemary
Might be good to leave the 'fundamentalist' tag off comments? We are all fundamentalist on something. It strikes me Ron that on the eucharist you are quite the fundamentalist building a lot on a a literal interpretation of our Lord's words ... :)

As for Rosemary's comment above: if that is not weighing what Scripture says then I do not know what is. No fundamentalism there.

Shawn said...

Ron

"Shawn, do you have any formal theological qualifications to teach Bible hermeneutics? If not, I think you need to listen to those who have."

I do listen to those who have. Andreas Kostenberger is one, and I read many other Biblical theologians. I just don't bother with liberal theologians, because they do not respect God's Word.

"This is not just a matter of airing one's own personal prejudices, but a serious search for God;'s will for his children in the world of today."

God's will for his people today is the same as it was two thousand years ago. He Word and Will do not change.

"We no linger live in the Middle East world of pre-enlightenment determinism. The Church and the world have moved on."

Most of the Church does not agree with you. But that irrelevant point aside, all you doing Ron is elevetaing Modernism above Scripture and claiming that Western, secular modernism should determine Christian Faith and practice. I think Bryden Black on an earlier thread pointed out the flaw in this. Why is your particular moment in history, seen throu8gh the eyes of Western secular liberalism, better than any other? Your just pretending that your specific cultural/political views are somehow so wise and perfect that the Church must bow to them.

Jesus told us to IN the world not OF the world. This is a point you seem to be very confused about.

The modern world is an abomination. It rejects God as the center of the Cosmos, and replaces him with man. It elevates every moral perversion as a "right". It engages in the industrial scale mass murder of babies through abortion.

The Church must not bow to the modern world, the modern world must repent and bow to the Lord of Hosts.

Suem,

Actually, yes I do, because unlike you I take God as He has revealed Himself, not as I want Him to be to suit myself. Aslan is not a tame Lion. Our God is loving, but also fierce and terrible to behold. He is not captive to the simpering political correctness of Western, urban, latte liberals.

Father Ron Smith said...

I think, Suem, that you know I do not consider you to be a biblical F.ist.
I appreciate your responses in this site.

My point Peter, from my last post, was that God's Final Word has been delivered through & in the Crucified, Resurrected and Ever-Living Chris -, rather than remaining within the covers of The Book, holy as it is.

Shawn said...

Ron,

"But is this not the biblical fundamentalist's understanding of scripture - that every word is from God? At least, that is my under-standing of their position."

No. It is the traditional position of the whole Church throughout most of its history. It is not merely a "fundamentalist" view.

"The more commendable way: of modern hermeneutical study; it to weigh every word - in order to discern the wheat from the chaff."

What you really mean is going through Scripture and picking and choosing which parts fit your liberal ideology and which do not.

That is not a valid hermeneutic. It is placing yourself above God, above the Holy Spirit, and placing your liberal political ideology above all.

Basically, you only want those parts of Scripture that fit a white, Western, middle class liberalism.

That's called conveniance, not hermeneutics, and most of the global Church has rejected that approach.

It leads to a "Canon within the Canon" in which we somehow have to discern, throug some kind of gnostic insight, what God did and did not say. It is a recipe for self-delusion and political corru[tion. It leads to liberals simply picking and choosing what suits them, as though white Western liberals were the wisest people who have ever lived.

The arrognace of that is astounding, and it is an approach that lacks the humility of true Christian discipleship.

Peter Carrell said...

Perhaps Ron and Shawn we could spend less time speculating on what kind of Christian the other is, and more time on wrestling with what it means to understand Scripture.

It is a false dichotomy (for instance) to divide the living Christ from the written Word of God: we have no sure access to the former without the latter (and telling us that the Spirit has spoken to a few individuals here and there in the Western world is not "sure access" to the living Christ).

Conversely, "weighing the words of Scripture etc" is not, in my view, picking and choosing, but doing just what we have to do in working from the many words of Scripture written in different genres to the way we are to live today in our world. If (for instance) we think that charging interest is okay as a means of checks and balance on the growth of the economy, then we have weighed - one would hope - the words of Scripture on usury rather than picked them out and chosen to ignore them!

Suem said...

Hi Ron, thanks. I am certainly not a fundamentalist:) As I said before I grew up with a bunch of people (some kindly, some downright abusive) whose faith was constructed in such a way that to admit any chink would cause the whole pack of cards to collapse.In this respect, their faith was actually quite flimsy! If challenged they resorted to mendacity, intellectual dishonesty or attack ("you are rebelling against God/ will go to hell for asking that question etc.) I've been told all the stuff about how the devil planted fossils as a "trap" for Darwinism, how the two accounts of the feeding of the five thousand (or four thousand) is because there were two separate "feedings". How God actually created other women(not their sisters) in Genesis for Adam and Eve's sons - but we are not told about it (for some inexplicable reason...)
It is futile to argue, you just have to agree to differ or walk away.

Shawn said...

Suem,

Your using a standard liberal rhetorical tactic, claiming that we only have two choices. Either we adopt the liberal agenda, or we are superficial fundamentalists who believe in young earth creationism.

But this is a false choice, and a dishonest way to frame the debate.

Sola Scriptura does not mean we must adopt a superficial literalism with regards to every part of Scripture, (I do not believe God actually has wings for example, as the psalms say), and the truth is that mainstream Evangelicals do not do so. For that matter neither do many Pentecostals or Independent Evangelicals.

It DOES mean that we must honour all of Scripture as God's Word, and not, as Ron would have us do, pick and choose those parts that simply suit us and our cultural/political worldviews. Human beings are far too prone to self-serving self-deception for that to be a viable hermeneutic.

The term "fundamentalist" has been rendered meaningless by its use by liberals as a term of abuse and ridicule, and by the way it is used to describe anyone who is not a liberal.

But as Peter rightly points out, we are all fundamentalists about some issues, you included.

My own theology is closer to the classical confessional Reformed tradition, grounded in the Westminster Standards.

Thus, while I believe in Sola Scriptura, I do so with reference to good theology, and with reference to the tradition of those who have gone before us in the faith, from the Church Fathers (and Mothers!) as well as classical Reformation theology.

Hardly a "fundamentalist" approach.

Peter is right that we must carefully weigh Scripture to ensure that we are reading it rightly. Sometimes we get it wrong, both as individuals and as Church. I believe this is so with regards to the ordination of women, which is why I support WO and women in leadership positions in the Church, though I also respect those who disagree.

But weighing Scripture carefully is not the same thing as superficially picking and choosing only what suits us, and claiming that some parts are not the Word of God. That is theologically untenable, leading as I said above, to a "canon within the canon" which apparently can only be discerned by reference to the worldview of Western liberals.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, you need not worry about my taking issue with 'Shawn' any more. I had already given up. But now, I have even more reason to suspect his motivation here, after this recent statement of his, that sounds like a pentecostal diatribe:

"The modern world is an abomination. It rejects God as the center of the Cosmos, and replaces him with man"

This is my last engagement here with Shawn - I promise!

Suem, keep on talking, I am quite enjoying your comments here. Agape.

Shawn said...

Ron,

"This is my last engagement here with Shawn"

Don't be so childish (not to mention exlcusive, which you claim to be against). Surely we can have an adult debate without throwing all our toys out of the cot and refusing to play anymore merely because one person says things you do not like.

" I have even more reason to suspect his motivation here"

My only motivation is to engage in debate and discussion, and I find it very silly that you would insinuate that I have some hidden agenda. Seriously, get a grip. Take your own advice, which you dole out frequently to others, and take a cold shower or a holiday. It's just debate for goodness sake.

"The modern world is an abomination. It rejects God as the center of the Cosmos, and replaces him with man"

Which is simply a statement of fact, not a "pentecostal" diatribe. The modern world (Western secular liberalism) is based on the philosophy of Humanism, which does make man the centre of all things, and ignores God.

That is idolotry.

Father Ron Smith said...

Spell-check, please. Sometimes, the greatest cause of grievance on web-sites is the appalling spelling. Against that, there really should be a law.