Thursday, June 14, 2012

Can you kick an egg because it is shaped like a rugby ball?

Yesterday I published this:

""The argument that the physical embodiment of the sexes is morally determinative for marriage is identical in form and substance to the argument that the physical embodiment of the races is morally determinative for slavery." Tobias Haller at In a Godward Direction


What do you think? Is this the epitome of Anglican incarnational theology, the cornerstone of all reasonable arguments for the malleability of marriage? Or? "
Thanks for the responses so far, thanks also to the correspondent who pointed me to this comment in the first place, and who made the observation that this is gnostic thinking.

To my mind Tobias Haller highlights the subtlety at work in theological arguments being made for change to understanding Christian marriage, or, if you prefer, to Christians understanding marriage. The subtlety is in clever phrasing which offers seemingly seamless transition from 'traditional' understanding of marriage to (what I will call here) 'new' understanding of marriage.

In the traditional understanding of marriage, the core relationship in marriage is the relationship between a man and a woman. Difficult questions arising from this core relationship have concerned number (might one have more than one wife or more than one husband?) and frequency (might one be married more than once?), to say nothing about method (how do I sustain the relationship I have entered into with my wife/husband? How do we together grow and develop our marriage?). Until recently such questions have rarely, if ever, in any culture, concerned gender: might I marry someone of the same gender as me?) There have also been questions about the economics of marriage (dowry, inheritance, joint ownership or otherwise of property) which themselves tie into questions about fruitfulness of marriage in respect of bearing and raising children. For Christians, the answers about number and frequency have been shaped by a commitment to monogamy. There should be just one husband and one wife in any marriage. There should be a permanence to marriage which is broken only by death of one party to it. Divorce is tragic. That some churches permit remarriage of divorcees is a facing of that tragedy. Divorce is a diminuation from the ideal. Remarriage is a form of remedy, but theologically it is not a derogation of the ideal.

In the new understanding of marriage, there is no core relationship, only the character of the marriage relationship (is it faithful, permanent, stable, loving?). Haller's argument appears to sweep away all previous assumptions about the core relationship constituting marriage being between a man and a woman.

One question to consider here is whether the church is authorised to make (or to agree to) a change to the understanding of marriage as a complementary relationship between a man and a woman. The setting of marriage in the first chapters of Genesis, to which our Lord refers back in his own teaching on marriage, sets out a divine authorisation for marriage as the exclusive and lifelong conjugation of a man and a woman. It is Adam and Eve, 'man' and 'woman', not Adam and Steve or Phoebe and Eve, who are placed together in this first marriage, purposed both for fruitfulness (Genesis 1) and companionable help (Genesis 2). This template is referred to again and again in Scripture, these multiple references undergirding the church's teaching on marriage since the days of the apostles. Even if Haller's neat syllogism above is logically correct, it does not, in itself, provide divine authorisation for a change in understanding of the core relationship for marriage. (I acknowledge here Bryden Black's influence on my thinking. He consistently, both in comments on this site, and in other conversations has raised this question of authorisation).

There is a question whether the syllogism even works. The argument that "the physical embodiment of the sexes is morally determinative for marriage" assumes that a marriage is moral when it is a partnership of a man and a woman and immoral when it is a partnership of two men or two women. But the point at issue is not the morality of marriage but what is marriage. Haller seems to have problem with the simple definition that marriage consists of a man and a woman and not of a man and a man or a woman and a woman. In a subsequent post, responding to a very recent C of E statement on the UK government's proposals re gay "marriage", he writes,

"The Church of England has issued a statement in response to the British Government proposal to recognize same-sex marriage. The document is a particularly disappointing rehash of the same defective anthropology and circular reasoning to which we have become accustomed on this issue. For example, the paper asserts:


Such a move would alter the intrinsic nature of marriage as the union of a man and a woman, as enshrined in human institutions throughout history. Marriage benefits society in many ways, not only by promoting mutuality and fidelity, but also by acknowledging an underlying biological complementarity which, for many, includes the possibility of procreation.
The authors hammer away on the alleged "complementarity" of the sexes as a necessary component of marriage without apparently recognizing either the circular nature of that argument or the dangerous tendency towards Christological heresy inherent in its anthropology. The circular nature of the argument is: “Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman because only a man and a woman are of different sexes.” This is, of course, merely restating the premise."
On the contrary, the nature of the argument is necessarily circular because we are talking about the definition of marriage. Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman because only a man and a woman can make a marriage. A question might then be, What is distinctive about marriage between a man and a woman in comparison with any other marriage-like relationship between two men or two women? The answer is then the real (not alleged) complementarity of the sexes: marriage is the bringing together of the two embodiments of humanity, male and female. Whether we focus on the complementarity of the sexes for the purposes of procreation, which biblically, historically, and contemporaneously is one of the primary reasons for marrying (notwithstanding Haller's consistent attempts to downplay procreation's importance), or on the particular companionship which is the companionship of complementary sexes becoming 'one flesh', the distinction of marriage over all other relationships rests on the complementarity at its core.

To suggest that complementarity is not a necessary component of marriage begs the question what is it about the biblical or historical account of marriage, let alone the importance of marriage in the ongoing generation of human society, which obscures this foundational truth.

In the citation immediately above, Haller offers another criticism of defenders of complementarity: "the dangerous tendency towards Christological heresy inherent in its anthropology." He goes on to explain this criticism,

"The more dangerous, and heretical, trend of this argument lies in the suggestion that the sex difference implies a different order of being for men and women. This is known as sexism, and it undercuts the orthodox doctrine of the incarnation."

I find this to be unconvincing. The sex difference between men and women does imply a different order of being for men and women, and precisely so in the context of marriage and family. We are not talking here about the right and ability of men and women to (say) vote or own a house or take a job as an accountant. In such contexts there is only one order of humanity: voting, ownership, employment are matters indifferent to the sexes. Actually, in employment, matters might not be so simple. Precisely because of sexuality we are often not indifferent to the question of a man being responsible for small children in (say) a childcare facility, or a woman seeing a male doctor without another person being present. But in marriage and family contexts there are different orders of humanity: only a woman may be a mother, only a man may be a father, and, dare I say it, only a woman can be a wife and a man a husband. No matter how nurturing and mother-like I may be as a father to my children, I am not (and never will be, even if my wife died) their mother. Not least because in the complementarity of the sexes, I did not conceive, carry and give birth to them, to say nothing of continuing in relationship to them as that one who carries for all this life the experience of bearing them into the world, a relationship which in all sorts of ways is necessarily different to my relationship to them as their father. To call this differentiation "sexism" is very odd, and does not in the least undercut the orthodox doctrine of the incarnation.

All wives and husbands, all mothers and fathers are one order (with all non-wives, non-husbands, non-mothers, non-fathers) of sinners in need of the redemptive work of God the Son who became flesh that we might be healed. In short, there is a "both/and" aspect to the ordering of humanity which Haller bypasses when arguing that marriage understood as having complementarity at its core undercuts the doctrine of the incarnation. (Does anyone here think that Jesus, Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther or Calvin would agree with Haller re marriage and the incarnation?)

Of course to reflect in this way is to explain that the physical embodiment of the sexes is intrinsic to marriage, though not to its moral determination but to its definition. If someone wants to argue the moral superiority of any relationship to marriage, that argument may proceed. But if the moral determinacy of marriage does not rest on its complementarity then loading in a comparative statement about slavery is neither here nor there to the question of complementarity as a core component of marriage. It is. (Or, if you like, it just is so).

We can kick an egg because it is shaped like a rugby ball, but the egg will not perform like a rugby ball. Though its form is the same, its substance is different.

37 comments:

MichaelA said...

That is such a kiwi headline...!

Michael, Sydney

Shawn said...

Brilliant post Peter. Well said.

Andrew said...

Well, if you take the egg of a rather large ostrich, hard-boil it, shell it, wrap it in leather, ...

OK, I'll shut up now :)

Father Ron Smith said...

'Marriage' is simply a word. there are several different meanings attached to it. For instance - in scripture, there is the 'Marriage' of The Lamb. This has nothing to do with heterosexual connubial relationship, but all to do with connection. Yes?

This is all a storm in a tea-cup.

Father Ron Smith said...

This must be really deep theology.
Si deep it must have come from Down Under: in Australia?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, thanks for the additional comments. I addressed the Incarnational issue in a comment on the other post. The notion that there is a different order of being for men and women is an error, at least from the standpoint of the Chalcedonian Definition of the Incarnation, which holds that all that is human in terms of "substance" derives from Mary. To suggest that men and women have a different "substance" (which means "order of being" in this context) would be equivalent to asserting that God the Father and God the Son have a "different order of being."

I am not suggesting that male and female are the same, in particular as it relates to sexual reproduction. My issue is the extent to which folks such as your good self give that fact a significance which appears to reduce the human marital relationship to a sine qua non: without the sex difference there can be no marriage. What this fails to recognized is that many marriages do not result in procreation, and so only have the values of mutual care and love.

And I would challenge your characterization of Jesus "teaching on marriage" by observing that it is his "teaching on divorce." His teaching on marriage is that it is a wholly earthly phenomenon that has no place in the Life of the Resurrection.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

And, by the way, Peter, I think you are misapplying the word "gnostic" here. Gnosticism is a denial of the reality of the physical. I certainly am not denying it. I am talking about the relative value given to "the flesh" as opposed to "the spirit." I believe that morality, properly speaking, though mediated by the flesh, is a matter of the spirit. (This is why intention is such an important determiner in distinguishing moral acts, as in the difference between surgery and stabbing; and why only rational creatures are capable of morality.).

In any case, the distinction I am making is perfectly orthodox and is summed up in John 3 and Romans 8. It seems to me that your argument gives undue, and restrictive, weight, to the flesh. You may say I am giving undue weight to the Spirit -- but I am not saying the flesh is unimportant, and same-sex couples do experience matters of the flesh -- and each is "different" from the other, as they are two different people.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Tobias, I affirm that without sex difference there can be no marriage for marriage is the relationship in which sex difference comes together with one primary purpose being the conjugation of those differences in order to procreate. Procreation is of moral value for if there were no procreation there would be no life. If there is one "ought" for humanity, then we ought to reproduce.

That many marriages do not result in procreation is a tragedy which does not undermine one of the primary purposes of marriage which is to procreate. That some marriages are entered into without hope of procreation (e.g. in senior life) raises interesting questions but does not, by itself, make marriage reducible to values such as faithfulness and love. even out of the love from the differentiated coupling of (say) a widow and a widower comes the rich nurturing love which sustains and strengthens wider family and church life. (N.B. that is not to say that rich nurturing love cannot and does not come from a same sex couple, but it will never have the particular character which comes from the combination of male and female).

Jesus teaching on divorce is not neatly distinguished from his teaching on marriage as his warnings about divorce are instructions to strengthen marriages. I fail to see what impact the lack of marriages in heaven has on the importance of obedience to God's will for marriages in this life on earth: the only context we experience in respect of conducting our lives under the judgement of God.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias
re gnosticism: the thought came from my correspondent but I mentioned it because I think it worth exploring the extent to which you may be thinking gnostically.

I find it hard to say that there is nothing gnostic about your arguments which constantly play up the spirit and play down the flesh, and which consistently deny the importance of differentiated genitalia to the marriage relationship as though procreation is a kind of incidental option in marriage.

As far as I know, we are having this argument because your parents and my parents did not treat procreation as an incidental option. I am glad they placed a value on procreation which, frankly, I do not find your own argumentation here offering appropriate value to.

I also find it somewhat gnostic in its denial of the reality of the flesh when you conclude your comment with the suggestion that the difference between two men or between two women is of the same order as the difference between a man and a woman. I put it to you that (a) this is not 'perfectly orthodox', (b) it is unimaginable that Jesus, Paul, Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther or Calvin would agree with you.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias

Re: "The notion that there is a different order of being for men and women is an error, at least from the standpoint of the Chalcedonian Definition of the Incarnation, which holds that all that is human in terms of "substance" derives from Mary. To suggest that men and women have a different "substance" (which means "order of being" in this context) would be equivalent to asserting that God the Father and God the Son have a "different order of being." "

I see what you are saying, but I am talking about the differentiation between male and female as a real differentiation in respect of their common humanity, just as, within the Godhead, there is a real differentiation between the Father and the Son (though of one substance, the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father). I continue to fail to understand why you do not 'get' this differentiation between male and female and wonder why you consistently blur it into nothingness. Is it because admitting to the importance of this differentiation would undermine the conclusion you seek, that same sex marriage is entirely consistent with orthodox theology?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

All I can say, Peter, is that your argument would be much more cogent if you didn't feel it necessary to allow for the marriages that do not lead to procreation. As even you admit, there is a moral value to a childless marriage, and I would also say to a same-sex marriage. Continuing to bring in procreation weakens the argument that it is "essential." IN this case the exception disproves the rule. Procreation exists apart from marriage, and marriage exists apart from procreation. The safest and most orthodox thing to say would be that procreation should take place within marriage.

And actually, I think Jesus, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas etc. would agree with me. But I can't prove it any more than you can prove the contrary, so that seems not a point worth arguing. I am basing my position on generations of moral reasoning as to what constitutes the "good" in human relationships.

But if your argument rests on the attribution of moral value to the anatomical differences of the sexes (apart from the ability to procreate, which as you admit does not apply in all cases and so cannot be required) I don't see any evidence for that as an argument from classical sources. Can you prove this thesis?

You assert that the sex difference is of a different order than the difference any one person has to another. I suggest that conflicts with orthodox teaching on the Incarnation, by which Jesus is of one substance with humanity via a woman. Can you offer an explanation that doesn't conflict with the orthodox doctrine?

You are also, it seems to me, surmising, in an unstated premise, that the union of sexual difference has in itself some moral value. Again, I see no evidence for that in Scripture. Paul, in fact, shuns the notion of the "one flesh" in the case of a prostitute -- so "one-fleshedness" cannot be in itself a virtue.

It seems the more effort spent in trying to explain shy only mixed-sex marriage is permitted the further astray from both Scripture and orthodoxy one goes. Perhaps it is best just to say, this is the only permitted form of marriage because it is the only form of marriage described in Scripture. (I don't find that argument persuasive or conclusive, but at least it is based on something that is demonstrably true.)

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, I do "get" the difference between male and female, and the importance of that difference for procreation. But we are talking about marriage. That is what you do not appear to "get." If what you are saying is that the ability to procreate is essential to marriage, you are wrong, as people who cannot procreate are not forbidden marriage, though they are, by nature, unable to procreate.

You are then left with the sex difference itself -- apart from procreation -- as somehow essential to marriage. And I've not seen any evidence of an argument in support of that thesis, but just its assertion. If all you can say is, well, it's essential, as a kind of definitional dogma, then there is no discussion to be had. Some will find the dogma acceptable, others will not. But it does not, in itself, appear to rest on reason or Scripture, as I said in my other note. It seems to be an abstracted notion created solely to forbid same-sex marriage in a kind of definitional strategy. From my perspective it risks the opposite of gnosticism, in a kind of idolatry of the anatomy, or the hieros gamos notions in paganism. I know that is not your intent, but giving such weight to differences which Jesus tells us have no import in the life of the resurrection, and Paul says are done away with "in Christ" seems to me to argue against a moral valence for the sex-difference as such.

This has been an interesting discussion, but I think we are not at a point of speaking the same moral or theological language.

Father Ron Smith said...

"And I would challenge your characterization of Jesus "teaching on marriage" by observing that it is his "teaching on divorce." His teaching on marriage is that it is a wholly earthly phenomenon that has no place in the Life of the Resurrection." - Fr.Tobias Haller -

This statement needs to be tattooed on the body parts of those who insist that heterosexual Marriage is somehow a state that saves the human race from disintegration. In fact, Saint Paul warned against it - on the grounds that it would not survive the earthl;y condition.

Any relationships that consists in loving another person monogamously must surely be good for those two persons at least, and should in no way interfere with the good of the community. In fact, it might give a good example for others to follow.

Procreation is altogether a subject related to heterosexuals. It should not, however, be confused with the liaison between Same-Sex persons.

As we now know, however, many couples do not seek Marriage before embarking on procreation, so one cannot necessarily associate every heterosexual Marriage with that activity.

Jethro said...

Hi there guys!
This is an awesome discussion, so much more fun than studying for exams!

Just a question for Tobias:

You say that we cannot know what Jesus, Paul, Augustine etc. thought (though you seem to think they agree with you), but what do you then do with a text like Romans 1? Is this not Paul's opinion stated quite clearly?

Shawn said...

"I continue to fail to understand why you do not 'get' this differentiation between male and female and wonder why you consistently blur it into nothingness."

Because that is the ideology followed by feminsists and cultural Marxists, and thus by liberals. (By the way, read Orwell's 1984 for a good look at where this leads).

For several decades now hardcore feminists, Marxists, and pan-sexual activists have insisted that the distinctions betweem men and women are nothing more than social constructs.

The Bible on the other hand teaches clearly that men and women are different, not in terms of their shared humanity, but in terms of the Divine gift of gender. Thus liberals are faced with a problem. How to reconcile two contradictory claims. So the Bible must be re-interpretated using "Right Reason" (which in reality means the political ideology of feminism/Marxism).

Thus, because the real authority for progressive-liberals, and for TEC, is cultural Marxism (specifically the Frankfurt School), then this political position must be imported into the Church, and wrapped up in theological terminolgy and claims that it is "orthodox" in order to both justify and disgiuise its true nature.

As I said on another related thread, for liberals this is not about what Scripture teaches, nor about that good Patristic orthodoxy teaches.

What really matters for liberals, is the promotion and spread in the Church of cultural Marxism. All of the theological talk is a smoke screen to disguise that agenda.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias
Yes, our discussion might or even must come to an end as we inhabit different worlds of thinking.

In the end, the assertion of the necessity of sexual difference for marriage is the assertion of Scripture itself (which works in my world, which is the world of Athanasius, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, but does not seem to work in your world). The assertion has nothing to do with a strategy to forbid same sex marriage.

But in my favour is this simple observation: in the contexts in which the scriptures were composed, same sex relationships were tolerated, even celebrated, yet not once does Scripture offer an assertion that same sex marriage is affirmable because sexual indifference is the essence of marriage. There is no template, no model, no exemplar, no hint that God envisages same sex marriage as a construction of human life which is in accord with creation. That, it seems to me, is a fundamental theological shorfall in all arguments for same sex marriage ... unless Scripture as a whole is set aside as having nothing to contribute to the theology of marriage.

The arguments and assertions here are not an idolatry of sexual differentation but a simple celebration of life and its causes.

A lot of things are done away with in heaven, and who knows what morality, if any, applies there (will we have arms that could take things from another? will there be things to take from others?). What counts re morality is this life, and how we conduct it. So it is not much of an argument in my view to say that sexual difference is relativised into indifference by the indifference of heaven to marriage.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

I suggest Shawn read Aquinas on gender in relation to the human nature. I don't think he was a Marxist.

Jethro, Romans 1 is a difficult and complex chapter, first of all not to be read in isolation from Romans 2. It is part of a rhetorical setpiece, based in part on Wisdom 13-15, in which Paul is attempting to show how both Gentile and Jew are part of a fallen world. Many early commentators did not read it as pertaining to lesbians (see Clement of Alexandria and Augustine) and the male sexuality described is most likely pedophilia.

Which brings me to Peter's point about the cultures of the time. The Graeco-Roman culture was tolerant of pedophilia or the use of male prostitutes and slaves, but not of anything we might call same-sex marriage. The same is true of most of the early fathers (again see Clement of Al.) who rail against effeminacy (male whores) and pedophilia. These are the sorts of sexual behavior that are critiqued in Scripture.

In a culture that regarded marriage predominantly as a non-equal relationship based on the sex-diffrerence the notion that two equals could have a sexual relationship was unheard of -- and s pair of adult males known to have a sexual relationship were generally ridiculed, or one of them accused of effeminacy. This is hardly "celebration"! The real revolution in Christian thinking, thanks to Paul, is the notion that a man and woman in marriage should have a reciprocal relationship -- though still not quite equal There are some strands of this thinking in a few of the pagan moralists, but in general the real revolution of Christian marriage was in this move towards the mutuality of the sexes, and the idea that in CHrist the old legal distinctions which forbade marriage between slaves, or between a slave and a free person, were done away with.

And my suggestion is that the recognition of same-sex marriage is in keeping with this evolution, which has nothing to do with Marxism, but rather the clear trend of Jesus and Paul's thinking towards a morality of the heart and mind, and not of the genitals.

Andrei said...

The mental gymnastics required to change that which patently obvious to that which is patently absurd never ceases to amaze.

Men and women complement one another to create future generations, it has always been so and despite perversions of science, will always be so.

And no silly post modernistic word games will change that.

Talk about medieval theologians arguing as to "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" those apocryphal theologians aint got nothing on our modern liberal ones

Peter Carrell said...

In a sense, Tobias, you are upping the ante here: to affirm marriage as limited to a man and a woman is to fall out of line with Jesus and with Paul (to say nothing of the ancient fathers). Perhaps, even at such a point, you might acknowledge Andrei's point to a degree: it could be good to check that no 'mental gymnastics' are at work in your argument. More intellectually, who is the sophist here, you or me? I will take my chances!

I fail to see how, where and why we may take Jesus and Paul taking a line on morality which is intended to evolve to consideration only of 'heart and mind' (save for considerations about clean/unclean food). On that basis the religious figures who passed by the wounded man on the road to Jericho asre unfairly critiqued in the Good Samaritan: in their hearts and minds they were righteous. From Jesus' perspective they failed in respect of the physical reality of the man's body: its need for care was greater than their need for moral purity. Or we might consider Paul's critique of the Corinthians over the man living with his father's wife. Not for one moment does Paul entertain that they might have a morally right relationship because of the state of their hearts and minds: the man is physically too close to the woman in the wrong kind of way for that "evolution" of marriage to be entertained.

In general terms I think your mental gymnastics consists of separating a both/and (physical realities, bodies; minds and hearts) in the teaching of Jesus and Paul, and then asserting the value of one over the other.

There is an earthly quality to Paul's concerns about bodies in marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 which does not boil down to 'hearts and minds' considerations about marriage being essentially about mutuality, faithfulness and the like: it is about sex between a man and a woman.

The moral value attending to such sex is not purely about the complementary sex act (otherwise Paul would not have been so harsh on Corinthians engaging in prostitution, 1 Cor 6:12-20), but about the "one flesh" in the context marriage between a husband and a wife. Even then Paul manages to make married sex of lesser moral value than celibacy!

Fr. Jonathan said...

After reading through all of this, my major take-away is that "Aquinas was a Marxist" would be a really sweet bumper sticker.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, "Aquinas was a prototypical Marxist" would not be quite so sweet, indeed might not fit on the bumper!

Andrew said...

"Any relationships that consists in loving another person monogamously must surely be good for those two persons at least" - why? You've jumped from premise to conclusion without any intermediate logic.

The Scriptures make the claim that in marriage, "two become one flesh". This affirms a binary physical joining. And yet in what other social context is binary pairing affirmed? The OT Scriptures several times affirm friendship that is "closer than a brother", but that's obviously not inherently binary. There's nothing inherently exclusionary about such a friendship. And yet exclusion is at the core of marriage; it's a boundary of intimacy that all others must not enter.

Anonymous said...

With understatement and confusion of issues, Mr Haller states: "The Graeco-Roman culture was tolerant of pedophilia or the use of male prostitutes and slaves, but not of anything we might call same-sex marriage."

I wonder how much Mr Haller actually knows about the ancient Greco-Roman world. Has he ever read the Symposium? the Greek myths that celebrate homosexuality among the gods? or Arrian's life of Alexander? or seen the Wallis Cup in the British Museum? Does he know about the endemic homosexuality in Spartan education?You don't have to be a teacher of Classics to know that for the Greeks (as for the Romans), sex was one thing, marriage was another.
There is so much confusion in Mr Haller's thinking the Christian scholar and priest doesn't know where ot begin.
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

"What really matters for liberals, is the promotion and spread in the Church of cultural Marxism. All of the theological talk is a smoke screen to disguise that agenda.
June 15, 2012 10:04 AM" - Birdman -

This is 'strictly for the birds'!
To an endemic conservative, however, this obviously serves to lump together everyone who can be thought 'liberal',

In fact, the Scribes and Pharisees; if they had known about Marxism at the time of Jesus, would - by the same criterion (especially Jesus' lovingly liberal attitude towards publicans, prostitutes and sinners) - have probably called Him a 'cultural Marxist'.

I don't suppose Jesus minded being called names - in fact He turned the other cheek and 'offered Himself in Sacrifice' for Sinners! - Like ALL of us

Peter Carrell said...

If I am correct, Ron, in my understanding of 'cultural Marxism' the point being made by Shawn is that Gramsci's call to change the world Marxistically was a call to change the culture around us. For which purpose liberals who are not Marxists serve as useful idiots.

In certain respects Jesus was a proto-Marxist (in regard to property being held in common, or even not being held at all). But I suggest he was not a true Marxist (for he did not reduce the situation of the world to its materials) nor was he a Gramscian (for his agenda was transparently to change the world by open proclamation of a new news, and not by subverting the culture aroundabouts by devious means).

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Well, I have read, and studied Graeco-Roman Culture, and Martin displays his light familiarity with the texts at hand. Symposium is a good example: in it the idea of adult male couples is held up to ridicule, on the grounds I mentioned: that it is unseemly for a grown man to assume the position of a boy or woman. The Olympian liaisons were similarly pederastic in nature, and widely condemned as such in early Christian anti-pagan documents. I commend Dover's Greek Homosexuality or Brundage's massive survey, or Greenberg's, for more details. There can be no doubt that there were adult male couples in Mediterranean antiquity, but they were anomalous within their own cultures. Even as late as Hadrian and his boy-beloved grown to young adulthood, it is suggested Antinous was assassinated because the liaison was considered an embarrassment.

Peter, I'll repeat here something from the other bifurcated post, which addresses concerns you raise here as well. But let me also note, in terms of Marxism's rearing its head, that "materialism" is at least as dangerous as "gnosticism." I do not think I am a gnostic, nor do I think you a materialist, but you seem to be trending in that direction, with an overemphasis on "the flesh."

There is no question that the sex difference is inherent to procreation and the continuance of the species. My problem here is that you press this obvious fact (one supported by Scripture) to make the assertion that the sex-difference is inherent to marriage, and even appear to suggest that procreation is too, though you acknowledge it doesn't always take place. That is a position I do not find supportable in Scripture.

To take Paul, for instance, when he talks about marriage he does talk about sex -- the "marital duty" as some used to call it. But he also talks about love, care and self-sacrifice and self-giving. I am agreeing with Paul that marriage is not all about sex -- the sex act -- and by extension (and I realize this is an extension, long bow or not) to the sex of the couple.

I think I'll leave it at that, as I sense our positions are clear. I see a moral framework for same-sex marriage in the ethical and moral teaching of Paul, and you do not. You see in Genesis and elsewhere an exclusive affirmation of male-female marriage as the only possibility, and I do not see that in the text. I don't think either of us is likely to convince the other.

Bryan Owen said...

In light of the charge of "gnosticism" that has been raised in all of this a few times, I note an interesting essay entitled "Gay 'Marriage' and the Revenge of the Gnostics." Here's an excerpt:

"What is interesting about the movement to legalize same-sex ‘marriage’ is that in many respects it is a return to Gnostic ideas about the body. Advocates of gay ‘marriage’ will frequently downplay the physical aspects of marriage, urging instead that marriage is not primarily about becoming one-flesh physically, but a spiritual and emotional connection for which our physical experiences are extrinsic rather than intrinsic.

"In downplaying the importance of consummation in marriage, advocates of same-sex ‘marriage’ have tried to reduce the meaning of marriage to merely a loving and committed relationship between two adults. It’s an emotional and relational union that creates the necessary conditions for marriage, they argue, not what you do with your bodies. In fact, the physical anatomy of the adults in question is irrelevant. Marriage is first about the communion of souls in a committed and affectionate relationship and only secondarily about physical union.
By contrast, in traditional marriage one cannot disengage the relational and the physical aspects of union."

Peter Carrell said...

Precisely, Bryan.

An interesting question to ask (and has been raised in Britain) is how one would define 'consummation' of a non-heterosexual marriage. Alternatively one might ask under what circumstances a same sex 'marriage' might be annulled. (Though Roman Catholics might find that easier to answer than Protestants ...).

Father Ron Smith said...

After your last post, Peter; I wonder if you would think in the same way about the 'Marriage of the Lamb'. What, in that circumstance, would be the perfect consummation of that particular 'Marriage'? And could it not be extended to fit in with what some call 'Same-Sex Marriage' - no progeny, only the mutual good of both partners.

Anonymous said...

I am an Anglican priest who also teaches classical languages (Greek and Latin) and classical civilization. I am not an expert in this field but know a thing or two about it. The point I made, which Mr Haller keeps missing, is that for the classical world, sex was one thing, marriage was another. Marriage, after all, meant children, family, property and inheritance; while no amount of gay sex will ever produce children. Hadrian was married but adored his young Antinous, naming cites after him. Older Roman moralists despised homosexuality. The homosexuality encouraged in Spartan education was not 'pederastic' as we would understand that word; instead an older youth sexually bonded with a younger boy. They were all expected to go on to (arranged) marriages afterwards. Nor were all the 'Olympian liaisons' or the loves of heroes 'pederastic' - think of Nisus his lover in Aeneid VIII, not to mention the Theban Sacred Band.
Anglicanism has been devastated by infidelity to God's word (just as the Roman Catholic church is reeling from predominantly homosexual misconduct by its priesthood - teenage boys are 70% of the victims) and no amount of sophistry from clergy, many in gay relationships that contradict clerical canons, can conceal these doleful facts.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
The perfect consummation of the Marriage of the Lamb would be our eternal bliss joined together on the divine throne (Rev 3:21).

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Bryan, and Peter, the problem with these accusations is that they are using an inadequate definition of "gnostic." It is not at all "gnostic" to make a distinction between the flesh and the spirit --- as Jesus and Paul do time and time again. Gnosticism is not just about making such a distinction, but in denying the reality or the goodness of the created order (or even that God created it. I've slogged through all of Irenaeus, so I've read more than enough of the dreary anti-materialism of the real gnostics.)

That is a very different thing from what I believe, and I do not for a moment think gay theologians, myself included, are talking about any such disembodiement. Gay and lesbian people have bodies too! And be honest, isn't it the idea of gay and lesbian persons expressing their sexuality in physical ways that is your objection? If we were talking about chaste non-sexual friendships, an equivalent of the old "Josephite Marriage" I doubt there would be a problem. So please, can we "can" this "gnostic" meme and get to the real issues? It does no one good to raise such tendentious accusations.

Martin, you are rather proving my point, which is that the Graeco-Roman world did not have a social equivalent to same-sex marriage. I think you are confusing pedophilia and pederasty. Pederasty involved both boys and beardless youths. As a classical scholar, surely you know that pais had a broader range than simply referring to young children. In a slave-holding culture or a military context it could apply even to an older servant or armor-bearer.

Only some see a romantic or sexual relationship in that of Nisus and Euryalus, just as only some see such elements in the relation of David and Jonathan. In any case, those who see Nisus' relationship as sexual categorize it as paiderasteia. (Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization (Harvard University Press, 2003), pp. 84–86; Winn, The Poetry of War, p. 162.)

Bryan, on the matter of consummation, Roman Canon law says that if "spouses have cohavited consummation is presumed until the contrary is proven." (Cano1061.2) I don't think we need make windows into men's bedrooms, but if one does, are you suggesting that gay and lesbian people aren't having sexual relations when they have sexual relations? If that is the case, then what is the objection!

Seriously, I do not think it would be difficult to come up with a legal definition of consummation for same-sex couples. In any case, under canon law the marriage is made by consent, not consummation. As you know, the officiant declares the couple are husband and wife on the basis of the joining of hands, exchange of vows and ring(s) -- not the eex act, which at least in the rite of my church is not explicitly mentioned at all. And that's not gnosticism! ;-)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
You keep demonstrating a gnostic tendency to downplay the importance of the physical act of sex for the definition of marriage. A marriage is made by consent and completed by consummation (the definition of which by British lawmakers could be assisted by you as you are able to define it easily when they appear to have difficulties!).

The difficulty you are not addressing is that some of us here wish to make the physical act of sex a value within the marriage and you wish to downplay that. I understand why you wish to do that because once the physical act of sex within marriage is a value then one might also discuss whether the physical differentiation of those who engage in the act is also a value within marriage. That is, that the values inherent in marriage are not all 'heart and mind' is the case being made here and the denial of that case looks awfully like a gnostic tendency.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, I reject both your assertion that I am attempting to "downplay" the physical side of sex and also that such a downplaying, were I to engage in it, is gnostic. What I have "downplayed" is the role of procreation as "essential" to marriage, as procreation can take place apart from marriage and marriage from procreation. I've never said that sexual intimacy was not a part of marriage -- though I do not think it is not to be overemphasized. I'm on the same page as Paul in this regard, in his teaching that sex between spouses is a good thing, and also helps keep them from straying outside the marriage bond (probably thinking more of the men.) But he also counsels them to abstain from sex from time to time. That's not gnosticism, it's simply a disciplined life.

You are correct that I've suggested that the sex-difference is not to my mind a limiting factor as to who can have sex or not, or marry or not: but again, that's not at all gnostic, since I expect that gay and lesbian couples will also "consummate" their relationship sexually -- with their very real bodies.

Please, drop this "gnostic" track, or go read the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church on "Gnosticsm." It is really getting tiresome, and gets us nowhere. I don't dislike conversing with you but I hope for some light and insight, not vague and inaccurate tossing about of terms in ways that do not shed light.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The difficulty you are not addressing is that some of us here wish to make the physical act of sex a value within the marriage and you wish to downplay that." - Dr.P.C. -

Are you saying, Peter, that advocates of Gay Marriage do not wish to make the physical act of sex 'a value' within the Marriage?

If so, I think you have defeated
the intended purpose of the call for Gay Marriage. By no means is all heterosexual marriage sex open to the possibility of procreation - as witness the predominance of use of contraception. On the same premise, the sexual function of Same-Sex Marriage Partners is not open to the prospect of procreation

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
You haven't actually responded to the point that pressing in the direction of value in respect of marriage solely lying in 'heart and mind' and not in body seems gnostic.

But I take you point, it is not fruitful to head in the direction of gnostic critique. So I am happy to drop it.

Shawn said...

"You are correct that I've suggested that the sex-difference is not to my mind a limiting factor as to who can have sex or not, or marry or not: but again, that's not at all gnostic,"

It is however, clearly un-Biblical.