Saturday, June 16, 2012

Jesus and Paul command a gender free marriage rite

It has been interesting discussing the question of whether marriage requires a man and a woman or not with Tobias Haller (see posts below with many comments, here and there). Not least the interest comes as our forthcoming General Synod distributes the motions proposed to it to GS members (but not, yet, to the church at large, see below), and as our Commission of Eminent Persons is announced and commissioned. Among the motions are some pertaining to same sex partnerships. In respect of the Commission, Bosco Peters has already published an open letter to it about the blessing of same sex relationships.

Now I imagine that among those pushing for Anglican churches here and there to adopt rites for the blessing of same sex relationships are those who see it as (effectively) a concession: same sex couples ought to have a rite available to them, but not something which changes existing marriage rites (one motion to our GS lies in this area of 'progress'). But others are going to be bolder and push for change to marriage rites, whether investing a same sex blessing rite as a marriage service alongside others as a formulary, or even pushing for marriage services to be gender free so as not to discriminate between kinds of couples (another motion to our GS lies in this area of 'progress'). Incidentally, Bishop Dan Martins of TEC canvases such streams of thinking about rites re the forthcoming GC in this post.

Back to Tobias Haller's comments here. If I understand him correctly then this is what Christians ought to understand to be going on in respect of the Bible and marriage:

a. The essence of marriage is in heart and mind values concerning mutuality, faithfulness, love, etc.
b. Complementary sexuality is not essential to marriage, despite possible appearances otherwise in Genesis 1 and 2, and in the teaching of Jesus and Paul. That is, the evolution of Jesus and Paul's teaching on divorce, marriage and remarriage leads to the conclusion that God is indifferent to the kind of couple making up a marriage.
c. Sexual difference is accidental to humanity, the substance of which is what Christ assumed in the incarnation and died for on the cross, with the consequence that attempts to argue for the limitation of marriage to a man and a woman are not only contrary to the consequences of Jesus and Paul's teaching but also a movement away from orthodox Christian theology.

Now, Tobias has not yet said the following here, but I wonder if consistency in logic requires the following "d." and "e.":

d. It is a matter of (mature after 2000 years theological reflection) obedience to the teaching of Jesus and of Paul, and of consistency with Trinitarian orthodoxy to make no distinction when talking of marriage between marriages which involve complementary gender and those which do not (because such distinction has no bearing on a biblical understanding of the essence of marriage).

e. Thus no marriage rite in a church faithful to Scripture and proclaiming of its orthodoxy should distinguish between the kinds of couples who make up a marriage. That is, Jesus would have us promulgate a gender free marriage rite (if the logic of Tobias Haller is free from error).

What do you think?

It is the inevitability that the church which progresses to having rites for the blessing of same sex relationships must progress to calling those blessed relationships 'marriages' and then must progress to making no distinction between allegedly different kinds of marriages, which troubles some of us.

(Postscript: I am passionately in favour of the understanding that marriage is between a man and a woman. The complementariness which makes marriage the special, indeed sacred relationship which it is, is not purely about sexual differentiation, it is about gender (Men from Mars, Women from Venus) differentiation being bound together into "one flesh" as a physical-and-hearts-and-mind union. So here and below I am arguing for marriage to be what it is intended to be by God. I acknowledge that do so comes very close to arguing against the significance of same sex relationships being acknowledged in the life of the church as relationships in which love, mutuality, commitment and so forth are affirmable characteristics. But it is not my intention to make that negative argument. However I think it worth the risk because it troubles me that the church might not know what it is doing in respect of its theology of marriage if it lets go of its foundation in the coupling of a man and a woman.)

ADDITIONAL NOTE: With H/T to David Ould,  go the SMH to read an article by Archbishop Peter Jensen on same sex 'marriage' and to Sydney Anglicans for a pastoral letter on the same matter by ++Peter. With H/T to Taonga, a further article re the Oz situation.

59 comments:

Fr. Jonathan said...

Two thoughts come to mind, admittedly not directly in line with your question but sort of related.

1) Does it matter that Jesus was a man? My sense is that, if we follow Tobias' arguments out to their logical conclusion, the maleness of Jesus has to be viewed as entirely incidental, as in there were two sexes and God just chose one at random.

2) This goes back to the question of definition. Would it be possible to give a definition of a parent/child relationship that would not be "circular" in the way that Tobias describes? What makes a parent/child relationship? That an adult has either given birth to or sired a child whom he or she then raises to adulthood, or that an adult legally adopts a child and raises that child to adulthood. But what if a seventy-five year old man would like me to legally become his father? What argument could be made against that relationship being established other than the re-assertion of the definition?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jonathan

To an extent I think it is arbitrary (rather than random) that Jesus was male rather than female in respect of being an embodied human since one has to be one or the other. But not to a full extent because once Israel came to be viewed as 'son' of God, and the world of ancient Israel came to be more a man's world than either a woman's or a man-and-woman's world, then coming into human history at the point Jesus did, I think he had to be male.

Your second point is excellent.

Suem said...

"It is the inevitability that the church which progresses to having rites for the blessing of same sex relationships must progress to calling those blessed relationships 'marriages' and then must progress to making no distinction between allegedly different kinds of marriages, which troubles some of us."

I do believe the marriage service (in UK) can be adapted slightly according to the couple being married. For example there is a section about marriage being for the procreation of children which can be omitted for couples who are older or infertile.

I can't really see why any of these issues are insurmountable. I can see that they might be though if you hold a belief marriage does, by its intrinsic nature, involve the complementarity of the sexes. The greatest problem in all of this is that "marriage" genuinely means different things to different people. I see gay couples I know as being married, but to others this is completely illogical.

Wherever we stand on the definition of marriage, I do believe it is fairly terrible that the church will not bless the committed and faithful relationship of a same sex couples because where does that leave the church in terms of pastoral provision and acknowledgement of such people?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, I'm having trouble keeping up with the multiple threads on this, so I'll just answer Jonathan's questions here and leave the other posts as I have left them. I think your paraphrases of my position are a bit "weighted" more heavily than I have myself-- and I would rather people read my own words rather than paraphrases. You also manage to work some of "your" position in to what are supposedly "my" positions, which I think also skews them. But enough on that.

Jonathan, I agree with Peter to some extent on the maleness of Jesus, but I think there are two reasons beyond the "convention" of the "Son" in relation to Israel (more correct than Peter's view of Israel as a Son -- usually it is "Daughter Israel" isn't it? She is God's spouse.) The first reason is that Jesus incarnate as a woman would already be at the low end of society. If things like the footwashing are to have impact, it has to be done by someone who would not normally stoop to that level -- as Peter objected, and as Jesus noted. A woman could not have been "Lord." So the maleness is important for the enactment of the kenosis in this life, the voluntary setting aside of privilege.

The second point relates to the Chalcedonian definition I've already cited. The fact that Jesus is male yet derives his whole human being from a female is designed to teach us that what is of significance in humanity is not gender. (After all we share gender with animals). From a theological perspective the maleness of Jesus is precisely designed to show that maleness, or femaleness, is not where "humanity" lies. It is a feature of each individual, like race, size, etc., but does not render human beings of a different order of being. As with the Trinity, the differences exist in relationship, not in substance. But, also as in the Trinity, this is true regardless of gender. Each person is different from all other persons, by virtue of individuality; and the same by virtue of humanity.

On the adoption question, is it in fact true that the adopter must be older than the adoptee? I am not familiar with the law, which I assume varies from place to place. Could a young couple adopt an older Down Syndrome or otherwise disabled person who might be older than they? This is an interesting question, but seems, as you say, to go back to a legal definition, which it might well be possible to amend. I think custodial care of elders is a growing reality; it might not be called "adoption" but then again it might. You may not know that the first case law to prevent cruelty against children was introduced on basis of the existing statute law against cruelty to animals.

Fr. Jonathan said...

Fascinating. And kind of confirming of some of my suspicions.

If I may push at this just a little further-- What do you do then with the descriptions that Peter and Paul give of the different roles for husbands and wives in marriage? How can they be applied in a relationship that lacks either a husband or a wife? Or, perhaps you would say that these roles are no longer applicable?

In terms of Christ's maleness, it seems like the answer is that it was, if not arbitrary, certainly not essential. If the socio-political circumstances were different and women held positions of power over men and men generally did menial tasks like washing feet, then perhaps Christ would have been a woman and we would refer to the Father, the Daughter, and the Holy Spirit? (There is a question about how we understand God as "Father" swimming about in the background there too, but I'll leave that be for now since I haven't quite figured out how to ask it?)

From my perspective, it seems that what the Fathers and the Scriptures point us to is a particular kind of order in which human beings, though equal in their dignity and humanity, carry out very different functions. The Church cannot be anything but the Bride of Christ because the Christ cannot be anything but the Son of God. This is true not merely by accident of history but by design. Ephesians 5 recapitulates the order that is first given in Genesis, that of a husband who gives all for his wife and wife who receives that gift and returns it as love for husband and children. Christ does for His Bride what Adam failed to do for his.

In terms of the other question, I think we got a little lost in the details. This is not so much a legal question as an essence question. The essence of parenthood is caring for and raising children, which would be why I cannot adopt a 75-year-old man. What you seem to be saying is that perhaps I can adopt a 75-year-old man, which means that the essence of parenthood is... What? I guess my point is, how do you define anything without referring back to its parts? The definition of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (Yes, we do eat those in the States) is that it has bread, peanut butter, and jelly. If you were to tell me that it can sometimes have pickles instead of Jelly, I'd say no because the definition of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich requires peanut butter and jelly. Unless you're prepared to defend the idea of a peanut butter and pickle sandwich, please explain how my defense of jelly is not circular but my defense of traditional marriage is.

Father Ron Smith said...

With regard to the separate functions of the male and the female, say in marriage; things have altered more radically than can be understood from the Biblical model. My adult son, and my adult son-in-law, today have accepted the fact that they have a special nurturing role in the upbringing of their children. Daddy cannot wait to get home from work to bath his infant child. Daddy is more involved in task around the home - changing nappies is only one part of that. It seems that the old idea of task-orientation is changing in today's world - where mother is often also a working mother.

For Jesus to have been a woman at the time he was incarnated into the Jewish ethos of his day would have given him little credibility as a Teacher-in-Israel. However, as Tobias reminds us, his nurture of women and his willingness to stoop to wash the feet of his disciples was a complete turnaround from the usual Jewish male - no wonder the Keepers of the Law were wary of him.

Jesus was fully human, containing all the attributes of nurture that, in that society, might have been entirely suspect - but which may now be seen as the complementary nature of a loving, nurturing God, not confined to a single gender.

St, Francis of Assisi taught the Brothers that, where three Brothers lived in one place together, one must be 'Mother' to the other two.
They were a complete family unit.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Fr. Jonathan, I would have to say that apart from actual childbearing and nursing, there are few aspects of parenthood that are sex-sepcific. There is a lot of cultural investment, differing in different cultures, that assign other tasks or roles to men and women respectively. I do not think we are restricted to cultural realities of the Apostolic Era, in the Roman Empire of that time, as the church adapted to it. The important thing is fidelity to the gospel.

As to alternate "worlds" -- I follow C.S. Lewis on what "Christ" might have been, or be, had he become incarnated in other settings. The important doctrines that need to be protected, however, in any circumstance are the kenosis and the atonement, the latter dependent upon Christ summing up all of humanity, regardless of gender.

The "Fatherhood" of God is not "maleness." The language derives from the doctrine that the Father is the source of all life.

On the final point, I think the essence of biological parenthood is as you describe it, but the "essence" of "adoption" is loving care. Adoption is not the same thing as biological parenthood. And yes, an argument that says, PB&J sandwiches must be made of PB&J, because PB&J are what PB&J sandwiches are made from" is a circular argument.

Perhaps you are misunderstanding -- and I think you are by virtue of this question -- what a circular argument is. It is a fallacy. Fallacies are, as in this case, a fault in the construction of an argument. The premises and conclusions may be true. It is not the premise that is false, but the argument fallacious. In a circular argument, there is no real "argument." If your starting premise is "PB&J sandwiches must consist of PB&J and only PB&J" then it is not a circular argument to say, "This sandwich made with pickles is not a PB&J sandwich" or "This sandwich is made with only PB&J and is therefore a PB&J sandwich." Those are valid arguments, not fallacies. But to say, "PB&J sandwiches must be made of only PB&J because that is all that PB&J sandwiches can be made from" is just repeating the premise. The premise may, as in this case, be true, but this is not an "argument." (Look up "petitio principii" for a fuller explanation).

The problem with any discussion on same-sex marriage that begins with its impossibility as a premise is what renders discussion circular. To respond to the question, "Why can only men and women marry"? with some form of "Because only a man and a woman can marry." is a circular argument. It may even be true (though I disagree) but the premise and conclusion are the same.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias
There are many aspects of parenting which are specific to gender but hard to put into words other than a "mother's love for her daughter is different in certain ways to a father's love" (though sometimes illustratible by the arguments between mother and daughter which father and daughter do not have!).

I am not particularly enamoured by invoking circularity in argument re marriage v. same sex 'marriage'. The question for me is whether the definition of marriage is immutable or not in respect of gender differentiation. There is a claim for its immutability inasmuch as (I think I am right in saying) we know no culture in the history of the world which has ever defined marriage other than in terms of gender differentiation. Further, even in the global Western culture where the definition is being pressured to lose its immutability, it is still an open question whether the common parlance for any two people in a permanent relationship will be 'marriage' or will be qualified (say) marriage and gay marriage, or heterosexual marriage and gay marriage. If the definition, once changed, is nevertheless qualified, I suggest that will be a sign that the intrinsic definition of marriage is gender differentiated, notwithstanding any modern parliament's or church synod's attempts to make it otherwise.

I have no reason (so far) to change my view that what you are pressing for is a gender free rite for marriage. It would be consistent with all you say. It would also be, in my view, an absurdity which will wake some churches (perhaps not TEC) to the folly of presuming that marriage can be changed in the way you seek.

Anonymous said...

The only one who is arguing in circles (and increasingly vicious ones, in the precise sense of that word) is Mr Haller, who is trying to deconstruct God-given gender and its relationship to marriage and parenthood. Citing the Chalcedonian Fathers or Aquinas is no evidence that he has understood them, because Mr Haller does not reason as a Catholic but as a practitioner of chop-logic. The prinmary flaw in his method is his failure to recognize that the Chalcedonians, as much as Thomas, were concerned first of all to understand and exegete Scripture, and secondarily to reconcile Scripture (or demonstrate the harmony thereof) with the regnant philosophy of the day. The idea that Christ would have called a sexual relationship between two men a one-flesh union is absurd and indeed blasphemous to a catholic ut quite congenial to a liberal who lbelieves in the ever expanding horizon of human understanding. If Mr Haller wants to be taken as a catholic, he needs to begin to understand - and believe - catholic theology.
Martin

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, that is, of course, the problem with impossibilist arguments. They aren't really "arguments" as such. I find Martin's comments typical of a kind ad hominem approach. Unable to deal with the substance, he attacks the person -- characterizing me as "liberal." I am not a "liberal." And Dislike the terms liberal and conservative. I prefer the terms Kendall Harmon came up with some years ago, Reasserter and Reappraiser. I believe in reappraisal, as the church is a living entity.

When it comes to Scripture, I will take my stand upon it. I do not find that Scripture either requires only mixed-sex marriage, nor forbids same-sex marriage. I do not, contrary to Peter's headline, believe that Scripture "commands" any marriage at all! Jesus says it is for those who are called to it, and Paul tolerates it. I fear part of the problem from the "reasserter" side is that if something is allowed it will be required. That is not my programme!

Anonymous said...

Mr Haller writes: "When it comes to Scripture, I will take my stand upon it. I do not find that Scripture either requires only mixed-sex marriage, nor forbids same-sex marriage."

Well, as the Rev Bill Clinton would say, it all depends on what you mean by 'requires'.
Mr Haller's take on Scripture is exceedingly idiosyncratic and profoundly uncatholic. 'reapraiser' is just a polite word for liberal. And 'liberal' really means ... well, Newman's Biglietto speech.
I did deal with Mr Haller's arguments. I said they were chop=logic that doesn't sit under Scripture as the Chalcedonians and Aquinas tried to. Mr Haller either thinks the Church Fathers (as interpreters of Scripture) were wrong or Scripture was wrong.
That's his privilege. But it isn't catholicism. It's liberal protestant schimaticism.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
Perhaps you do not like being called a 'liberal'. Well, I don't like being told that in defending the Christian understanding of marriage as requiring a man and a woman I am distancing myself from the orthodox understanding of christology. You may not have used the term 'liberal' to describe me or my position, but that is the effect of what you have done!

But I don't mind that. And am happy to argue the orthodoxy of my understanding of marriage. Whatever names are used to describe you or your theological views, it does seem very difficult to accept that you are the one who is completely orthodox while the rest of us here are not, save for Fr Ron Smith, whose own views stretch the meaning of the word 'catholic'!

Shawn said...

"Perhaps you do not like being called a 'liberal'."

Anyone who makes the modern world and its notions of gender as social constructs, and who promotes homosexual marriage, IS a liberal. A liberal is anyone who places the ideologies of modernism (Marxism, Femninism and so forth)on a par with scripture.

Thus both Tobias and Ron are liberals.

Shawn said...

"When it comes to Scripture, I will take my stand upon it. I do not find that Scripture either requires only mixed-sex marriage, nor forbids same-sex marriage"

Then you have not taken your stand upon it at all. You have taken your stand on the liberal-modernist fashions of the day.

Anyone who claims that Scripture can be wrong or out of date on a specific issue is not placing themselves under the authority of Scripture, nor taking a stand on it. They are picking and choosing what suits them and what does not, and doing so based on another authority entirely.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, I only object to "liberal" because it is not accurate. As to Christology, from my perspective, the difficulty lay in your earlier allusions to different orders of being for men and women -- I forget now which thread that was on. You later clarified that you were referring to the difference between men and women as necessary for procreation. You will get no objection from me on that score.

Nor have I said that your understanding of marriage as requiring a man and a woman is in itself unorthodox. THat would just be silly. However, from time to time arguments are made in support of mixed-sex-only marriage that do bump up against orthodox doctrine, such as the statement from my own House of Bishops that "the divine image in humanity is incomplete without both male and female." I devote some time to that false allegation in my book, as you may recall. It is a sloppy misreading of Genesis 1, and goes contrary to the orthodox teaching that the fullness of the divine image was present in Jesus, and indeed in every human being.

What I am saying is that it is wholly orthodox -- and Chalcedonian -- to affirm that the sex difference is, in the philosophical sense, "accidental" to the human nature. That is pure orthodoxy, and even plain truth. (Maleness and femaleness are characteristics of any given person, not of "humanity" --- that's what an "accident" is.) Some of your commenters got off track on that, apparently unaware of the philosophical meaning.

Now the fact that I believe that marriage can take place between two people of the same sex on the basis of their human consent is the issue, followed, if you will and as custom requires, by consummation. You say it cannot because marriage can only take place between a man and a woman. I get that that is your position.

Martin can keep stamping his feet, but if he thinks calling something "chop-logic" is an adequate and reasonable rebuttal, he is gravely mistaken. I will rely on the feedback I get from truly competent scholars with whom I have engaged over the years.

Shawn said...

Tobias,

We have probably stretched this conversation as far as it can go without falling into "no your wrong...no your wrong" ping pong.

But I wanted to make one final point, because you hit the nail on the head in a previous thread when you said "It is plain from your comment that you see this discussion in ideological terms."

Yes I do, and it seems to me that a great deal of what are supposedly theological arguments (not just about this but about many other things) are in reality about political ideology.

To a political junkie like me this seems obvious from years of listening to and reading various statements and pronouncements from "progressive-liberal" Christians, and especially from TEC. The cultural Marxism, feminism, post-colonialism, and other political foundations of these statements are clearly manifestations of Frankfurt School Critical Theory.

So yes, I do think these fault lines in the Church are ideological, and I think more progress could be made if we were more open and upfront about that.

Shawn said...

Ron,

In response to a comment from you on another thread, I use the bald eagle for the pictogram for three reasons.

1. I hate pictures of myself, especially portraits. I always end up looking like I have just been arrested.

2. I was born in the USA, so a bald eagle seemed appropriate.

3. It apparently scares liberals! ;)

Father Ron Smith said...

With regard to your last comment here, Peter, about my perceived 'catholicity':

I presume that you, yourself, are not prone to reducing the tenor of the word to embrace only the Roman Catholic Church's understanding - which certainly does not include what I perceive to be your own understanding of the acceptability of the papal magisterium?

The other explanation of the word 'catholic' - in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary - is more wide-ranging. It is: 'Including a wide variety of things' - an explanation which better describes the broad Inclusive Catholicism in The Church that I subscribe to.

The trouble with trying to label people in the current disputes in the Church is that no label really describes the total meaning of what a particular church stands for.

For instance: 'Evangelical' is a title which has been highjacked by the protestant wing of the Anglican Communion; whereas it is meant to describe the much broader Gospel outreach of the more pro-actively 'open' churches, which minister according to the inclusivitiy of Jesus towards Sinners, and All people - irrespective of their perceived 'holiness'.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Mr Haller does not reason as a Catholic but as a practitioner of chop-logic." - Martin -

How close does one have to come to 'ad hominem' to be censored on this blog?

Shawn said...

Tobias

"Martin can keep stamping his feet, but if he thinks calling something "chop-logic" is an adequate and reasonable rebuttal, he is gravely mistaken. I will rely on the feedback I get from truly competent scholars with whom I have engaged over the years."

Other liberal scholars?

I think Martin did more than stamp his feet, he made a good case that this is what your engaging in.

Ron,

Saying someone is engaging in chop logic is not ad-hominen. It is a critique of an intelloectual process, not a personal and abusive attack.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Martin is coming very close to 'ad hominem' with "chop-logic."

Shawn said...

"What I am saying is that it is wholly orthodox -- and Chalcedonian -- to affirm that the sex difference is, in the philosophical sense, "accidental" to the human nature. That is pure orthodoxy, and even plain truth."

Even IF that were the case, and it is an arguable point, it would not have any bearing on the argument for homosexual marriage, because orthodox Christian marriage would still require the "accidents" of gender difference in order to be Christian marriage in the first place.

Where is homosexual marriage endoresed by Scripture? That really is the issue. Any claim to "taking a stand on Scripture" must be able to justify a position based on Scripture, and the bottom line is that nowhere in Scripture is homosexuality in any form endorsed. It does not matter if we are talking about "loving relationships" rather than pederasty (I know some gay scholars who would disagree with your take on homosexuality in the ancient Greco-Roman world), because loving same-sex sexual relationships are nowhere described or endoresed by Scripture.

Christian marriage requires a man and a women. That is unarguable.

Shawn said...

Ron,

"For instance: 'Evangelical' is a title which has been highjacked by the protestant wing of the Anglican Communion;"

Evangelical has been used historically as a description of a particular theological tradition within the Church by historians and theologians.

We did not go out, point a gun at the word, and take it by force.

Evangelical is at least descriptive of something consistent and coherent theologically. Liberal Catholic is not.

Jethro said...

Hi There,
This conversation seems to have turned some interesting corners, but I have another comment:

Tobias you wrote in another tread that "male and female are accidents, not ontological or essential features, of the human person".

Now I am not a philosopher but is not an essential ontological feature of the human person that of particularity: we live in particular time, a particular place, have a particular gender etc. people are particular people. Jesus in his fulness of humanity shares in this particularity: born in the first century, in Galilee, male etc. So it is only in this particularity can Jesus become fully human in essence.

This particularity is not accidental. Humans are created finite. And without particularity we would not be human (I am not sure what we would be). But surely it is this essential particularness that gives rise to having gender. So then perhaps we are not able to say that gender is an accident, because gender is essential to our particularity, which is part of our fullness of humanity.

Now I don't know if that is a decent argument, perhaps you guys have been saying that and I have not understood, but I would love to hear what you guys have to say...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Jethro,
My understanding of gender as an 'accident' compared to our 'substance' as human beings is that, it is an 'accident' inasmuch, for example, as our humanity is what yields certain things, not our gender: the right to life, for example, or the gift of salvation. (To that extent I agree with Tobias Haller).

If, however, we are focused on the context of marriage and family life, then (I suggest), gender is substantial rather than accidental: it is precisely in our maleness or femaleness that we contribute to marriage and to family life. Conversely, if there were no maleness or femaleness to our humanity (e.g. if we were sexless, reproduction occurring without recourse to our bodies), I suggest there would be no marriage. And I have no idea what family life would look like!

Shawn said...

"This particularity is not accidental. Humans are created finite. And without particularity we would not be human (I am not sure what we would be). But surely it is this essential particularness that gives rise to having gender."

I think this is one of the best points I have seen in this conversation so far. To be human is to a particular person, and I do not think we can write those particularities off as an accident. Yes I do get the philosophical issue in the use of that term that Tobias is getting at, but I think he is stretching the terminology in a way that is very dubious.

Jethro said...

I was thinking I had not quite understood the argument. Maybe we could look to worms for our example of genderless family life...

Where does Gen. 1:27 and 2:18, 21-25 fit into all this? Obviously it is not 21st century biology, but surely it implies a certain structure to married/family life?

Also another question I have is how much of our right to life, salvation etc. is based on our human ontology? Or does it have more to do with God's agency?

Yet another set of questions I have is if we cannot call life long, monogamous same-sex relationships by definition 'marriage' does that take away from the quality and rights of the relationship? Does not calling them marriage some how make the relationship unequal when compared to hero-sexual relationships? Should they even be compared?

After all those questions maybe you guys should just point me toward some books :s

Peter Carrell said...

They are good questions, Jethro.

I don't know of books to recommend. In some ways the debates re marriage are changing so raidly in these months that I would be surprised if there was abook which was reflecting in an up-to-the-minute way.

If 'marriage' is a kind of status rather than a state then of course comparisons can be made. My argument here is that it is a particular state, engendered by gender (so to speak).

Anonymous said...

"Martin is coming very close to 'ad hominem' with "chop-logic.""

How so? Chop-logic is a description of Mr Haller's arguments, which I critique as formal and divorced from the actual teaching of Scripture and the tradition of the Church. That is why I find them uncatholic. A Catholic writer sits under Scripture and hears the undivided voice of the Church. As far as I know, I have never criticized Mr Haller's character, which is what argumentum ad hominem means ('playing the man, not the ball'), e.g. calling supporters of traditional sexual ethics 'mean-spirited, unkind, narrow-minded, judgmental, unloving' etc etc - a flurry of accusations which meant I stopped trying to interact with one correspondent here.
Martin

Tim Harris said...

Peter, it is worth revisiting the close biblical association between marriage and procreation, which in large measure, even if not exclusive in every instance, identifies one of the foundational purposes for marriage.

It was at this point that the early church from apostolic times was close to being most counter-cultural. It was a commitment to child-bearing and the value of the family through enduring commitment that marked out a notable manner of life. In candid terms, Christian and Jewish beliefs held to a sanctity of life that rejected the dreadfully high and commonplace practice of infanticide (commended by both Plato and Aristotle, and upheld in law), together with the seriously high and risky rates of abortion that put the pregnant mother at serious risk. It should also be remembered that anal sex was the preferred mode of contraception, eschewed by the Church for devaluing of sperm.

The result was a much higher fertility rate amongst the Christian community (together with an older marriage age for the female), resulting with the Christian movement renowned (and criticised) for having a disproportionate percentage of females and and productive families.

Low fertility amongst the wider population was such a concern that legalization was introduced to try and encourage it with rewards and penalties - a leglislative approach which one esteemed scholar described as singularly 'impotent'...

The tie between marriage and procreation has a long and venerable history with gospel traditions. It may not account for the totality of marriage in God's purposes, but it is a significant one.

Tim Harris (Adelaide)

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, Thanks for the thoughts. First, on your question on the other thread (I'm confining comments to this thread as the split is confusing -- at least to me.)

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.

The problem here is "solely." I don't think I've said that marriage is "solely" a matter of heart and mind; if I did in haste or error, I recant! I vividly recall the text of the old liturgy, "I worship you with my body." Stunning stuff, sadly not in our modern liturgy.

But were one to say "solely," even that would not be "gnostic" but merely "spiritual." (There is "Spiritual Marriage" in Catholicism.) I think I've given a good definition of real Gnosticism elsewhere on these threads.

It is important to note how the question was settled - in the West - in the 12th c.) as to what "makes" the marriage. Bologna said consummation, Paris said consent. Rome chose on the latter, provided that papal decree could dissolve (not annul -- more below) a marriage not consummated. A marriage is fully a marriage on the basis of the consent of the parties, sealed by the public voes, hands, rings &c.; consummation renders it indissoluble (by any earthly power - as RC law put it.

Annulment does not end a marriage, it declares no marriage existed. This is one of those "subtleties" which I fear many pass over. Martin may accuse me of chop-logic, but I am just trying to be as precise and accurate with the facts.)

To respond to Jethro's point, what you are calling "particularity" is almost exactly what a philosopher means by "accident." The "essence" of a thing differs from the "accidents" that make up any particular example of a thing of that sort. It doesn't mean they are unintentional or happenstance, but that they are particular.

And Peter you are correct that for much of the world for much of the time marriage was confined to various combinations of men and women. (Noting biblically allowed, and in some cases mandated, polygamy). However, you do go too far when you assert

We know no culture in the history of the world which has ever defined marriage other than in terms of gender differentiation.

You may not be familiar with such cultures, but they did (and do) exist. I can recommend several good books on the subject if you are interested. Awareness of some of these cultures had been suppressed by the censoriousness of (largely) Victorian explorers and anthropologists; more recent surveys of human culture confirm that same-sex marriage has existed in a number of different forms in widely separated places, including places where it is vehemently denied, such as Africa.

As to the modern West, in most jurisdictions in which same-sex couples can marry, as in my own state, no legal or lexical distinction is made between "gay" marriage and "straight." No scare-quotes are used. Marriage is marriage.

I know you see no reason why this should be so, and that it is a mistake so to alter what you see as an intrinsic quality of an institution. But that in itself will not prevent change from happening around you. Nor is it likely to persuade others who do see these changes as good things that help to build up rather than to tear down. If it is just reduced to personal experience or opinion, that will vary across the spectrum. Some will stand, like resolute Canutes, against this tide; others, like Paul, will kick against the goads, or as Athanasius contra mundum, or against the Turk at Vienna. But mere opposition in itself does not prove the rightness of the opposer or the wrongness in the thing opposed. That must rely on argument, exploration, and, yes, reappraisal.

Thank you for your gracious hospitality. You are always welcome to comment at my blog, too!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim: I agree!

Hi Tobias: thanks again for visiting here.

Shawn said...

On the subject of books, I recommend 'God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation' by Andreas J. Kostenberger. Also 'Sex and the Supremacy of Christ' which can be downloaded for free from here:

http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/online-books/sex-and-the-supremacy-of-christ

Fr. Jonathan said...

I missed a lot on here today!

I really think that "Chop Logic" should be a show on the Discovery Channel. It would be the kind of show where the host wears an "Aquinas was a Marxist" t-shirt.

All kidding aside though, it is worth mentioning that the claim that there have been cultures or cultural situations that have endorsed some form of gay marriage is not entirely accurate, in the same way that the claim that the ancient pagan world endorsed same-sex relationships isn't entirely accurate. There have been cultures that have been more open to or tolerant of same sex relationships than others, like the "two spirits" tradition in some Native American tribes, but I know of no culture in which these relationships were ever viewed as equivalent to marriage and certainly none in which marriage itself was seen as essentially genderless. And I would guess that I've read a number of the books to which Tobias is alluding.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jonathan - I think I'll take your suggestion to the Discovery Channel with a proposal for 'Chop Logic', a surreality show combining my love of philosophy and cooking. (Reminds me of skit many years ago, 'Cooking with Lenin': 'To make an omelet, first shoot your egg.') However, the t-shirt would have to read 'Groucho was a Marxist', not Aquinas. Thomas was too beholden to Aristotle ever to go down that road. And yes, I know what 'annulment' means: it's American for 'Catholic divorce'.
All kinds of distortions have existed and continue in human cultures: chattel-slavery, infanticide, polygamy etc etc. Many of these are still with us, under different names. Just because something has been instanced in a sub-set of humanity doesn't prove its rightness in the eyes of God. If we love our Niebuhr as ourselves, we know that Christ stands over culture as well as within it.
Well, must get back to my plato du jour.
Martin

Bryan Owen said...

Tobias wrote: " ... mere opposition in itself does not prove the rightness of the opposer or the wrongness in the thing opposed. That must rely on argument, exploration, and, yes, reappraisal."

Tobias, my question is how far are you willing to engage in "reappraisal"? Does it extend beyond the Church's traditional teaching on human sexuality? Might it include, for instance, taking another look at orthodox Christology and changing it such that TEC's official doctrine no longer fits the Chalcedonian definition? If things like Christology are off limits, what exactly are the limits of "reappraisal," and are those limits themselves subject to being rethought/revised?

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Briefly, Bryan, reappraisal does not necessarily entail change. Sometimes shat reappraisal does is "freshen" a doctrine to make it more understandable or comprehensible to modern minds, or to the shifts in metaphysics that will happen almost inevitably.

I think the Atonement is a good example: there have been many different efforts to understand afresh "how" salvation works, without at all denying "that" salvation works --- through Christ. Another such matter is the nature of the presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist: there are a number of different ways of understanding -- or perhaps it would be better to say, describing -- that mystery.

Marriage itself has received many different understandings down through history -- not just Christian history. That has included, pace Fr. Jonathan's demurral, same-sex couples. The issue for us is to examine the rationales -- moral and theological -- undergirding both the new proposals and the old assertions, to test them to see how well they stand up. The willingness to engage with challenge is to me the surest sign of faith, and a "this is off limits for discussion" makes mb suspicious that something other than faith is at work. This goes for both "liberal" and "conservative" positions. Not to follow Archbishop Rowan too far in his rather robust Hegelianism, but I do think that discussion is the best way to address disagreements, and come to better understandings -- even of things that remain unchanged, but better grasped, afterwards.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias
I would be surprised if anyone commenting here (even perhaps reading here) would be wishing to shut down discussion about marriage or about same sex relationships and whether they might be considered as marriages. But the discussion as a Christian discussion tends to presume some givens.

When we discuss the atonement, for instance, the given is that we are made one with God ("at-one-ment"!), the discussion is about the means by which this has taken place in Christ, not least because several lines are advanced in Scripture.

I am not aware, when considering marriage, that there are several, let alone many understandings of the core of marriage given in Scripture: a man and a woman. The many understandings of marriage we discuss relate to matters such as property, divorce and remarriage, the equality/inequality/complementary character of the relationship between husband and wife, even (if we confine ourselves to the OT, the number of wives), etc. But never to the question of whether a man and a woman are essential to the understanding of marriage.

On reflection, I do not see anything you have advanced here, or in your book which suggest we have any more reason to overturn that essence of marriage than we have reason to overturn the essence of atonement, that in Christ we are made one with God.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, you observe, "I do not see anything you have advanced here, or in your book which suggest we have any more reason to overturn that essence of marriage than we have reason to overturn the essence of atonement, that in Christ we are made one with God."

This is not at all troubling to me. What I am observing, however, is that your own position, fairly summed up as "male and female are essential to marriage" -- which I freely admit is a more or less (with all those nuances you mention) Biblical view of how Scripture describes marriages, will not in itself answer the question, "Are we limited in what marriage can be by the Bible." That is the question that mere reassertion that "This is Biblical" will not in itself answer. Given that there are forms of marriage allowed in Scripture that the church later disallowed it is clear that considerations other than only Biblical must be taken into account in making such decisions.

Unless, that is, you also hold as a thesis, "only that which is expressly allowed (or described) in Scripture can be allowed in the Church." I do not know if that is your position or not. Surely you do not accept that "Whatever is allowed in Scripture may be allowed in the Church"!

It is my understanding that the church may allow things not forbidden by Scripture, and that it is not to require things not provable from Scripture. I do not believe that Scripture "forbids" same sex marriage, even if it doesn't recognize it; nor do I think the church should be required to endorse it, though I think it will in due time.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
It is a good question, are we limited by the Bible re marriage.

But the answer is a little more complex than I feel you are implying.

On the one hand, our freedom to go beyond the Bible is limited: in Anglican terms it has been about whether to have bishops or not, and what robes they might or might not wear, along with their priests, and whether those officers and laity, or not, might meet in synods, and in those synods agree to prayerbooks and stuff. It has not been about whether our teachings about the essentials of faith and practice can go beyond the Bible (e.g. whether we might have two or three baptisms, or whether we could add a fourth person to the Trinity). It is arguable that the essence of marriage being laid down in Scripture, there is no further discussion to be had.

On the other hand, a few questions are begged about the status of the Bible in relation to same sex marriage: if (as you have said previously) same sex marriage has been a feature of various cultures, it is of interest that the Bible has not endorsed same sex marriage; if (as many acknowledge) various homoerotic relationships in the ancient world were not equatable to today's (rightly condemned) paedophilia but were viewed by some as noble, then it is of interest that the Bible did not endorse such sentiments; nor for that matter did it invoke of such relationships the possibility that they had a certain David-and-Jonathan nobility to them: in short, it is far from proven that the Bible knew nothing of the possibility of same sex marriage and therefore it is a completely new matter to deal with in respect of the Bible.

Clearly in a brief comment I am not touching on all relevant aspects of this particular part of the discussion. But I reiterate the point I am trying to make: I think you are oversimplifying the matter when you say what you do.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, in my last note I think I fairly paraphrased the Articles of Religion on the subject, so I don't think I'm oversimplifying. In any case, we are not talking here about theological dogmas, but marriage and aspects of its morality. It is exactly the sort of thing on which the church can, and has, ruled down through the years. (Nor is there complete unanimity on the subject between the various branches -- even the "catholic" onces -- of the Church.)

However, I will say I am not following your argument in the matter of the Bible vs. same-sex marriage. I would say simply that the Bible neither explicitly endorses nor explicitly condemns same-sex marriage. It is something about which its authors (and I think this an important distinction you fail to make, as opposed to the text itself) were not concerned, to which they were not exposed -- or did not recognize when and if they were exposed to it. (As I demonstrated in my book, it is not a topic about which the Jewish world was much concerned, and the Christians only in part and chiefly in connection with idolatry.)

I think it is "proven" that there is no mention of same-sex marriage in the Bible, for good or ill. Your assertions about what the Bible authors might have known, apart from what they set down, is speculation. Based on the evidence available they show no sign of the sorts of things you imagine.

I am content to remain with the text of Scripture and what it attests, and it shows no comment on anything approaching "same-sex marriage" as we understand it. I don't think that is an oversimplification, but is simply true. If it is not true, you could point to the biblical text that disproved it.

Peter Carrell said...

When you frame it that way, Tobias, it all looks remarkably simple and clear: the Bible is neutral on same sex marriage "as we understand it."

Nevertheless I suggest that the Bible's neutrality is not as friendly towards same sex marriage as your framing implies. Its negativity towards any same sex sexual relationship is not neutral towards the sexual aspect of same sex marriage. Its positivity re marriage between a man and a woman, iterated and reiterated as it is, from Genesis onwards, raises the question whether it is saying nothing about same sex marriage because it knows it not, or because it knows only marriage between a man and a woman (i.e. it is inconceivable to the 'mind' behind the Bible that there would be any other kind). Call that speculation on my part by all means. But it is speculation on your part that the God whose mind is behind the inspiration of Scripture is not being dogmatic about gender differentiation's essentiality in marriage.

Father Ron Smith said...

"On the one hand, our freedom to go beyond the Bible is limited" - P.C.

"limited' to what parameters, one might ask? Perhaps by scientific observation, for instance? Wherein it has been discovered that the earth is not flat. Nor is the earth the only planet in the universe besides the moon, the sun, and the stars.

I would suspect that there is much beyond the limitations of Biblical revelation - as touching the facts of life and of creation - than has been found acceptable to biblical literalists - but which has been accepted by modern scholarship and scientific exploration.

The task of revelation was not confined to the publication of the biblical record. God's Holy Spirit is still alive and active - through believers.

Shawn said...

From Tobias:

"What I am observing, however, is that your own position, fairly summed up as "male and female are essential to marriage" -- which I freely admit is a more or less (with all those nuances you mention) Biblical view of how Scripture describes marriages, will not in itself answer the question, "Are we limited in what marriage can be by the Bible." "

Yes, I believe that we are. The Bible is the rule of faith. That which is forbidden by Scripture is forbidden to us.

I disagree that Scripture is neutral on same sex marriage. This is because I have never been convinced that when the Bible condemns homosexuality, it is not referring to the supposedly "modern" discovery of loving relationships. Loving same sex relations were known in the ancient world, and the Bible's statements seem clearly to take that into account, especially considering Paul's reference to lesbian relationships. The Bible's statements on the issue cannot be reduced to pederasty or temple prostitution.

Ron said:

""limited' to what parameters, one might ask? Perhaps by scientific observation, for instance? Wherein it has been discovered that the earth is not flat. Nor is the earth the only planet in the universe besides the moon, the sun, and the stars."

In fact the Bible makes neither of these claims. It is one of the myths of modernism that prior to modern science people thought (due to Scripture) that the world was flat. But it is simply not true.

"The task of revelation was not confined to the publication of the biblical record. God's Holy Spirit is still alive and active - through believers."

Yes God's Spirit is alive and active, but special revelation is no longer an ongoing process. Special revelation is confined solely to the text of Scripture.

Moreover, much of what is claimed by some to be "new revelation" does not look like the work of God, but the ideology of modern liberalism, which as far as I know, outside of liberal circles, is not accepted as a source of special revelation.

Anonymous said...

"Marriage itself has received many different understandings down through history -- not just Christian history. That has included, pace Fr. Jonathan's demurral, same-sex couples."

Mr Haller's magisterial statement is, once again, plainly false - unless by 'down through history' he means starting in San Francisco, c. 1980 among post-and non-Christians. No catholic teacher has EVER proposed such an idea. Anyone who would like to think of himself as catholic in any meaningful historic sense must renounce idiosyncratic opinions and lifestyles return to the judgment of the church catholic.
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

Shawn, I've been banned by our Host from advising you where you might go to get further enlightenment on theological issues, so I will not do that. However, you have made this very peculiar statement, that I have no alternative but to silently challenge - as being completely indefensible, and hardly worthy of a logical response:

"Yes God's Spirit is alive and active, but special revelation is no longer an ongoing process. Special revelation is confined solely to the text of Scripture."
- Shawn -

I wonder what other "thinking Anglicans' might have to say about this peculiar observation.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter,

You think I am oversimplifying things, but I am just trying to be precise and clear. I am also not trying to make claims from Scripture that go beyond what is written. If you think I oversimplify, I think you tend to over-generalize.

For instance, I don’t think it true to the text to say Scripture condemns “all” homosexual relationships. Contrary to Shawn’s assertion, for instance, reading Romans 1:26 as a reference to lesbians — the only biblical text capable of such a reading — is uncertain. Clement of Alexandria and Augustine both read it as referring to irregular intercourse between men and women, literally (since “physis” can refer to the genitals in such a context) “they exchanged the genital use for that which is opposite the genital.” This also makes sense of the men’s acts with each other as “similar” to how they treated the women. You may not accept this reading, but the point is that the text itself is inconclusive, and capable of more than one reading, and the commentators do not agree.

And this is one of the problems with the attempt to find a simple answer to the question of SSM from Scripture on its own. That Scripture approves of heterosexual marriage – in several forms, including polygamy – is not in itself evidence of a disapprobation of SSM. That Scripture disapproves of some specific male same-sex acts is no proof that God disapproves of “all homosexuality.” Ultimately, from a Scriptural standpoint, it is the marriage that makes even heterosexual acts morally acceptable, not the fact that they are heterosexual.

To get back to the question of Scripture. If you accept, as I do, that God spoke through the human authors of the text, don’t you think, if this issue is so very important, and God had the intent, He might not have inspired the human authors with clear and unambiguous language? The c 3rd century Sifra condemns the idea of “a man marries a man, a woman marries a woman” in just those terms. The early 4th century Roman Law code of Theodosius similarly rejects the notion of “a man marrying a man.” If God had wished to be so clear, He could have used such language. But He did not.

I am not claiming this in itself amounts to an endorsement of SSM. But those who insist that the Scripture, as it stands, amounts to an absolute prohibition are in effect putting words in God’s mouth. To that extent, I am the “conservative” and they the “liberals.”

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
As a thinking Anglican I am not sure what you are objecting to in Shawn's statement. The distinction between general revelation and special revelation, the latter only found within the pages of God's written Word, is pretty standard within reformed/evangelical theology.

Is there something specific in the nature of 'special revelation' which the church has received since the closing of the canon of Scripture which you have in mind?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,

I did not say that you were oversimplifying things!

A conservative reading of Scripture does think that there is clarity in the text about God's prohibiting sexual relationships outside of marriage. I accept that you do not share that clarity.

That clarity may not amount to the same clarity as cited examples from Sifra or Roman law codes, but I and many other conservatives would not think at all that we are the one's putting words into God's mouth if we take the clarity of the Bible on the prohibition of sexual relationships outside of marriage, together with the clarity in Scripture in favour of marriage being between a man and a woman, especially in the foundational chapters of Genesis 1 and 2, as meaning that neither then nor now is God in favour of same sex marriage.

It is a liberal position to (a) doubt the clarity of Scripture on these matters, (b) determine that despite appearances to the contrary, Scripture can be taken as neutral re same sex marriage, and (c) filter out from Scripture all references to marriage as involving a man and a woman so that the residue is marriage as a matter of mind and heart, in order to arrive at (d) same sex marriages are morally OK and may be blessed by God.

I accept that you see all this as fairly conservative in the handling of Scripture. I and maybe other conservatives can only admire your hermeneutical chutzpah and hope that on the day of judgement it does not get you into too much trouble with the Almighty!

Shawn said...

Ron,

"Shawn, I've been banned by our Host from advising you where you might go to get further enlightenment on theological issues"

I have read a great deal of liberal theology. I did not find any kind of "enlightenment" in what I have read or heard, and I do not think my theology is deficient in any way.

"I wonder what other "thinking Anglicans' might have to say about this peculiar observation."

ALL of us are thinking Anglicans. It is offensive to claim that those of us who do not agree with liberalism are in some way unthinking people. Accusations like this do nothing for your argument, and just turn many people here off.

"However, you have made this very peculiar statement, that I have no alternative but to silently challenge - as being completely indefensible, and hardly worthy of a logical response"

Well thats good, because as usual you have not given me a "logical" response, but an emotive one.

In fact my statement is defensible and certainly not perculiar. It is in fact a standard doctrine of Protestantism. Both Luther and Calvin, and almost every Reformed/Lutheran/Evangelical theologian since has affirmed that special revelation is confined to Scripture, and that the canon of Scripture is closed.

This view is thus mainstream in the Protestant tradition.

If you have a theological objection to that doctrine I would be curious to hear it.

Shawn said...

"To get back to the question of Scripture. If you accept, as I do, that God spoke through the human authors of the text, don’t you think, if this issue is so very important, and God had the intent, He might not have inspired the human authors with clear and unambiguous language?"

He did. It's just not conveniant to liberals and homosexuals.

I do not see anything "conservative" in your approach to Scripture. It is standard brand liberalism. Claiming a lack of clarity when Scripture clearly, at no point, endorses homosexual relations in any form is liberalism.

Claiming that this supposed lack of clarity thus allows the Church to endorese same sex "amrriage" IS putting words in God's mouth.

So far I have heard only two arguments for homosexual marriage from both you and Ron.

Yours is: "Scripture is unclear about marriage, thus we can bless homosexuals relationships".

Ron's is: "God has given me special revelation on the subject."

Neither of these two arguments is even remotely convincing. Neither is a substantive theological argument. They both strike me as deeply unorthodox, deeply liberal (politically), and both are shallow and self-serving.

If, beyond all the emotive bullying about others being "unthinking" or "mean spirited and homophobic", this is all the pro-gay argument amounts to, I am confident that it will not sway most Christians.

Father Ron Smith said...

'I have read a great deal of liberal theology. I did not find any kind of "enlightenment" in what I have read or heard, and I do not think my theology is deficient in any way' - Shawn -

The reading of theses does not, necessarily, lead to under-standing. When a mind is closed against revelation, there is little than can be done to achieve enlightenment. Enlightenmernt is not always overtly 'spiritual' there are other (e.g. scientific) modes of enlightenment. This is what shcolarship is all about.

Anonymous said...

Mr Haller's historical revisionism (not reappraisal) of the Christian doctrine of marriage ('a man shall cleave to his wife and the two shall be one flesh') and his hermeneutical gymnastics (out-Hegelianizing Williams, I think!) seemed strangely reminiscent to me until I recalled this famous definition of 'blackwhite': the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink. ” The word for this is revisionism.
I further agree with Shawn that it is very hard, nay impossible, to debate with those (e.g. Mormons) who claim special revelation for their beliefs.
Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

" I and maybe other conservatives can only admire your hermeneutical chutzpah and hope that on the day of judgement it does not get you into too much trouble with the Almighty!"

Dr. Peter Carrell -

Here we go again - the typical threats of dire consequences when anyone uses the brain that God gave them - to question assumptions made centuries ago about God's will for, and enablement of, the human race.

One thing I find most difficult about conservative protestant theology, is its almost gleeful expectation of punishment in the hereafter - for those who do not agree with its punitive culture of Devil-dodging. The Pharisees were so often brought to account by Jesus for this negative and deadly hermeneutic.

Saint Francis saw life as a joyful pilgrimage. He was not just a 'pilgrim with a grim image'. We know we're all Sinners. some admit the fact, while others are desperate to deny the possibility.
Jesus died for Sinners - not self-proclaimed 'saints'.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I believe we will be accountable before God for what we say and do, and especially when we are teachers of the faith.

Do you not believe in that?

The point of my comment is not that I gleefully look forward to the punishment of anyone but that when we use hermeneutics to overturn long established positions held by the church then we need to be doubly sure we are correct.

If Tobias Haller is correct then I stand to be in great trouble before the Almighty who cannot in the least be pleased with my attempts to remain faithful to the tradition I have inherited from my forefather and foremothers in the faith. It will be of some comfort that you will not be gleeful about my fate.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Peter, at this point, it is plain to me that you do not understand my position, as you are unable to state it in terms I recognize as what I intend. Then again I don't think you even are clear bbout what you say yourself! On June 22 you said, "I think you are oversimplifying the matter when you say what you do." and yesterday said, "I did not say that you were oversimplifying things!"

However, I can do little about your own tendency to contradict yourself. But I can respond to your misrepresentation of what I've said, which begins with the title of this post! I thought I'd made it clear that I accept the clarity of Scripture on the rightness of sexual relations within marriage -- you say here I think the opposite!

What I am suggesting is that it is because of this that the institution of marriage should be extended to include same-sex couples.

Your position, which I do not regard as conservative but rather fundamentalist, is that the fact that Scripture only cites mixed-sex marriage that this is the only form of marriage possible. This is a position that runs counter to the principles laid out in the Articles of Religion. You are free to hold it, of course, but others are free to reject it.

In the long run, I do not think you are doing hermeneutics, ore exegesis, but eisegesis -- you are reading into Scripture limitations that are not in the text, but imported and generalized.

Your words about accountability before God, and the day of judgment, are well stated. I am glad that you show willingness to apply them to yourself, and to see if you are standing with Jesus, or with those who found fault with him, on their reading of Scripture, and faith to their traditions. The mercy of God is unending, but is most generous towards those who seek to show charity and mercy to others, rather than engaging in judgment as to what is right or wrong in them or their lives.

I think I will leave it at that. God bless you.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias (and understanding that you won't reply to this).

Yes, indeed, a few comments back I was concerned about you oversimplifying things. My simple/oversimplifying issue related to your comment just above, not to the whole thread of your comments.

No, I think I 'get' what you are on about very well. If I am a fundamentalist for denying what you are saying then so be it.

On the day of judgement I should be little surprised to find myself condemned with the English Reformers as having built an eisegetical house of straw because we did not envisage the principles in the Articles meaning that forms of marriage not spoken against in Scripture could be permitted, now even blessed.

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, my understanding is that no-one can be held responsible for the conscience of another person. We all have to give an account of ourselves' before the throne of God. I think we may be judged on our willingness to overlook the sins of others, rather than drawing attention to them, in the hope that we might have done 'better'.

The Church itself cannot absolve us of our sins. Only Christ can do that. And as we live in Him and He is us, marvellous things might be wrought through our obedience to Christ - not only the Church.


Of course, the Church is the Body of Christ, and as long as we take part in Christ's redeeming ministry of loving acceptance of others, we may just find our own redemption.
"They'll you're my disciples - BY Your Love". (not by your judgement)

Shawn said...

Ron,

"The reading of theses does not, necessarily, lead to under-standing. When a mind is closed against revelation, there is little than can be done to achieve enlightenment."

My mind is not closed to revelation. It is closed to liberal political ideology pretending to be revelation.

Tobias claimed:

"Peter, at this point, it is plain to me that you do not understand my position"

"Your position, which I do not regard as conservative but rather fundamentalist"

So if you do not agree with Tobias' radical liberal and heterodox re-definition of Christian your ignorant and a fundamentalist.

Nice.

According to Tobias' definition, every theologian and scholar prior to the 20th century was a fundamentalist. And we are supposed to believe his claim that his position is "conservative"???