Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Further post hui

I am working on a longer post re reflection on the 'deep' theological issues with where we headed in the hui. Meantime, why not head over to Bishop Kelvin Wright's reflection (here). Alongside that we could read how the new ABC is walking in lock step with his church on a view of marriage which is in keeping with the long held Christian view of marriage (tradition) and the widely held view of marriage around the church (catholicity).

Some notes for commenters:

I deleted a comment this morning which made an allegation that a certain group of Christians is "lying." Do not do that and expect to be published unless you are going to supply a link to evidence for the charge.

I published another comment which only just sneaked through my moderational sensibility: take care, please, about directly addressing other commenters in the second-person. All too quickly such comments lead to ad hominem debate.

19 comments:

Father Ron Smith said...

"“I believe that in and through baptism I am a member of Christ’s body. I am invited to partake of the Divine life. I know that is so for my sisters and brothers who call themselves lesbians and gay men.
“Therefore I know they are beloved of God. “What else needs to be said?”

- Bishop Victoria Matthews -

I believe that, in this statement - culled from her presentation on 'Marriage' at the recent Hui on sexuality in Auckland - has hit the theological nail squarely on the head. Marriage in the N.T. - apart from Jesus saying that it should be monogamous and faithful - does not to seem to have received the same emphasis as relationship to Christ through our baptism. It is our relationship to one another 'en Christo' that defines our basic relationship to both God and one another. This is an eternal relationship, marriage is for the time-being only.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for nailing the key matter, baptism, for us. There are however two key issues regarding ‘baptism’ worthy of further comment, which seriously muddy the water of your apparent clarity.

The first comes from a simple grasp of Church history and historical theology. The actual rite with water (and its often concomitant rite with oil) has attracted a fair degree of debate. I’ll not pay any attention to the timing issue - whether babies or adults should be candidates - even if it’s actually linked to the more weighty matter. This focuses upon the supposed efficacy of the rite in and of itself. We are mostly beholden to the Latin Augustinian synthesis, from which the old BCP catechism extols its position: a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. For all that, however, the Reformation still had to contend with a parcel of concerns, notable among which is the question what are we to make of the seeming non efficacy of the baptismal rite in some/many cases? An extreme answer was the Anabaptist Movement: dunk them again folks! The more Evangelical wing of the CoE - especially before the Oxford Movement’s influence - tended to resolve the question by attending to my second major issue, to which we’ll come below. The 20th C has raised this question of efficacy from another though related angle. How might we contend with the Pentecostal claim that there is properly a full(er) blessing that Christians should embrace, Baptism in the Holy Spirit? This question drives home the key and vital concern: how are the elements of water and the Holy Spirit duly related in the business of Christian Initiation? Hyper Sacramentalists conflate the two, simply adjuring the water just conveys the Spirit - full stop. On the other hand, those of an extreme Evangelical persuasion (Anglican or Baptist) claim there’s no real tie; baptism is a testimony after the event of conversion itself. And there are positions held in between.

The second key issue can be highlighted by referencing the NT Catechetical scheme, which pops its head up in many places throughout the Epistles, and which clearly formed the backbone of the NT Church’s formation of its members. There’s not space on this blog for unpacking the entire schema; suffice to gesture only these references. Because you have been crucified with Christ, now put to death; because you have been raised with Christ, now put on - the New Man. The sheer grammar spells it out: past indicative passive verbs are complemented by present imperative active ones. In addition, the parallels between 1 Cor 10:1-11 and 12:13, alongside the overall thrust of chs 10-14, clearly show in Paul’s mind there is nothing exactly ‘magical’ about the sacrament itself; there are no guarantees, as it were. Rather, there lies the real possibility for baptized Christians to live either according to the flesh or according to the Spirit; and the way of the flesh leads to not inheriting the kingdom of God (Gal 5:21 in context).

So may I suggest both you and +VM have some additional theological and practical issues to attend to if we are truly to nail our present concerns.

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden, as different from you, I am thoroughly and completely convinced by the theology of the Church Catholic that Baptism 'by water and the Spirit- is the key to membership in the Body of Christ. Eucharistic participation is what keeps that faith alive. That is where I stand.

I can see that theologians like yourself - who may be enamoured of all sort of other people's (and movement's) ideas on the efficacy of Christian Baptism - can be so easily swayed from the basic teaching of the Church on this vital issue. But I, thank God, am simple in my faith (it is in my heart not just my head) that I do believe the affirmation given to us in the scriptures - and in sacred tradition - holds firm. It is the basis on which my own paltry ministry is predicated.

I'm glad that my Bishop and I are able to live by the Faith we have each received. It is a sacramental Faith - based on the discernment of Scripture, Tradition and Sweet Reason.

Shawn Herles said...

"I can see that theologians like yourself - who may be enamoured of all sort of other people's (and movement's) ideas on the efficacy of Christian Baptism - can be so easily swayed from the basic teaching of the Church on this vital issue."

I think part of Bryden's point is that there is not a "basic teaching of the Church" regarding baptism in the first place. There are a number of them.

Anglican sacramental theology is not the same as Roman or Eastern theology. It has a distinctiveness all it's own, and part of that is a Protestant/Reformed understanding.

"This is an eternal relationship, marriage is for the time-being only."

I disagree. While Jesus said that there will be no marriage in heaven, he does not say that therefore those married in this life will have those marriages dissolved. And Jesus is speaking about a temporary state, prior to the resurrection of the dead.

Heaven is not our final destination. God promises us a new heaven and a new earth.

As the New City Catechism puts it:

"Q 52

What hope does everlasting life hold for us?

It reminds us that this present fallen world is not all there is; soon we will live with and enjoy God forever in the new city, in the new heaven and the new
earth, where we will be fully and forever freed from all sin and will inhabit renewed, resurrection bodies in a renewed, restored creation."

Marriage was ordained by God prior to the Fall, thus it was clearly intended to be a part of the created order, and thus, when we finally have new bodies and a new earth, it is reasonable to assume that marriage will be a part of that.

Again, in some of these arguments being put forward by those promoting same-gender marriage, we are getting very close to a Gnostic understanding of sex and marriage that is contrary to the Biblical Gospel's incarnational worldview.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for the attempted response; but given the way you have done so, I think I’ll just drop the subject of baptism with you. It’s clear you’ve missed the point entirely.

I will however take up another matter. You concluded: “This is an eternal relationship, marriage is for the time-being only.” If one follows the Biblical logic of sacraments and signs and charismata, these “cease” when we see “face to face” (1 Cor 13) because the reality to which they refer has arrived. Multiple human marriages no longer happen, since the One Full and Final Marriage has arrived - that between God and his People through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Father Ron Smith said...

It does seem, Bryden that I am consistently missing your points. could it be that you don't argue them with sufficient veracity? And, quite frankly, I do not understand the last point you have tried to make here.

Bryden Black said...

Er, Ron; our collective relationship 'en Christo' is already an eternal marital one ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
You ask a question about heaven not being the 'final destination' in a comment which does not end well.

The answer lies here:

"Heaven is not our final destination. God promises us a new heaven and a new earth."

The final destination [on this line of theology, particularly promoted by NT Wright, these days] is beyond heaven, that is, the new heaven.

Peter Carrell said...

[Apologies, Ron, I pushed 'delete' on the following comment when I did not mean to.]

"" our collective relationship 'en Christo' is already an eternal marital one ..." - Bryden Black -

Precisely, Bryden. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the heterosexual marital state - which is for earthly espousal only.
"

Bryden Black said...

I’m glad we both understand and agree on one thing at least, Ron! Namely: “our collective relationship ‘en Christo is already an eternal marital one ...” - Bryden Black. Precisely Bryden.

Phew! Thanks for that!

Thereafter, we have an absolute chasm however between us. For when you say in addition: “And it has absolutely nothing to do with the heterosexual marital state - which is for earthly espousal only”, I have to invoke what Catholic theology and the Great Tradition would hail as a “sacramental ontology” - which is what lay behind my earlier “another matter”. How so?

“The image of God”, in Gen 1, is “male and female”, which is quintessentially expressed in the marital union (Gen 2) - although of course NOT exclusively - so that both Testaments analogously describe Yahweh’s relationship with Israel and Jesus Christ’s relationship with the Church as an “espousal” one. For these analogies to work there has to be differentiation between the parties of a crucial sort, as well as the union. It is therefore highly problematic to say that ss relationships may be termed “marriages” in any biblical sense; the factor of difference is totally missing.

Furthermore, marriage is no longer needed in the new heaven and the new earth for a number of reasons: 1. The archetype itself has arrived, the Wedding of the Lamb - as we both (seem to) agree on; 2. One of the key aspects of marriage, procreation, is no longer required, when the generations no longer pass away successively, in the light of the General Resurrection. [All this and more is espoused in St Augustine’s theology of marriage, now beautifully summarized in Jana Marguerite Bennett, Water Is Thicker Than Blood: An Augustinian Theology of Marriage and Singleness (Oxford, 2008). Tolle! Lege!] 3. Lastly, there’s the essential matter, which quite simply clinches the argument for me, that THE prototype of all this manner of thinking is to be found in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Reading the entire Scriptures canonically allows us to infer “the image of God” to be precisely that of the Triune Godhead (as well as other aspects, once again). You might call this the capstone of a sacramental ontology - with all these, and many more delightful threads, running their ways throughout, to display a gloriously rich tapestry of the deep Mystery of the Triune Creator God, “who fills all in all” (Ephesians).

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm so glad the House of Commons has opened the possibility of monogamous faithful relationships between same-sex persons being celebrated by the legal term 'marriage' - a term which biblically describes relationship between God and god's people. Love is the fountain and essence of such relationships.

This can only encourage cohabiting heterosexual couples to believe that marriage can enrich their own loving partnerships - on a strictly one-to-one basis. This surely is preferable to promiscuity - one of the major problems of our age - whether among gays or straights.

Bryden Black said...

I sincerely thank you Ron for this latest comment. It illustrates so nicely the very things a number of comments on this thread have highlighted. How so?

1. “Marriage” does indeed describe the relationship between God and His People in both Old and New Testaments. Once more we are in agreement about this essential truth. Where we differ - and differ absolutely - is in the extension of this marital description to same sex relationships, even ‘monogamous faithful’ ones. And the reason for this denial I explained last time: “For these analogies to work there has to be differentiation between the parties of a crucial sort, as well as the union. It is therefore highly problematic to say that ss relationships may be termed “marriages” in any biblical sense; the factor of difference is totally missing.” If Yahweh/Jesus is not different from you and me, Ron, then we are all in most serious salvific trouble!

2. Which leads again to my describing ss relationships and their promotion as a “tragic irony”. I too have witnessed a form of love between ss partners; there are always noble and virtuous traits to the heroes of Greek tragedies; it’s these very characteristics that ensure the genre. Yet - and yet! - the very nature of tragedy is that it always, necessarily falls short. The lack of differentiation of gender ensures also the lack of a true reflection of the paired image, “male and female”, generally ala Gen 1, and specifically ala Gen 2. In addition, despite metaphorical allusions to ‘fruitfulness’, the most obvious form of procreation is also necessarily denied in the case of ss partnerships. Attempts to equate the metaphorical and the literal run the risk of slipping in a form of dualist Gnosticism.

3. And so, thirdly, Martin’s use of “parody” of descriptions of ss partnerships as ‘marriage’ is fully justified.

4. Lastly, holiness for members of the LGBT communities, and for those who see themselves as heterosexual (whether married or single) is the singular calling for all Christians. The antidote to promiscuity for all is “union with Christ Jesus” in the power of the Holy Spirit, that we may walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. Gal 3-6 has much to say in this respect.

Father Ron Smith said...

I guess the main difference between us, Bryden, is that you consider any overt expression of love between same-sex couples as 'un-holy'. My personal understanding of consensual, loving monogamous same-sex relationships is that they can be open to the conveyance of something of the Love of God in the Created Order. (If God is love, then, surely; In every act of loving, there is something of God.)

Unlike you, I am convinced that loving, monogamous same-sex unions are still open, from one person to another - irrespective of the gender of the persons - to the influence of the love of God in Christ. The 'difference' here is that love is between two persons irrespective of gender.

For instance; David loved Jonathan with a love that was 'above' that which he reserved for women. In this biblical description of David's love for Jonathan, it was obviously 'superior' to that which he experienced with a woman. What do you make of that?

Religious Orders used to call such relationships 'Special Friendships' and I suspect that such friendships - though at one time seen to contrary to monastic 'celibacy' - may still be evidenced in monastic communities - (vide: Cardinal John Henry Newman, who requested he be buried in the same grave as his
'Special Friend').

I am constantly annoyed by the arrogance of heterosexual male Christians who believe that their sexual expression is in some way more 'holy' than that of their homosexual confreres - even when their sexual congress with their wives has no intention of being blessed with children.

It seems that some Christians still have sex even though they know that they will not beget children as a result. It all seems so unloving and judgemental. But there you are; it's probably all part of the same patriarchalism that continues to look askance on women ministering in God's Church.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
I have often disagreed with you on matters but I want to compliment you on the comment you have just made. I think it is as fine an argument 'pro' the blessing of loving same sex relationships as I have ever read. Its particular strength in my view is the emphasis you place on the love of God commingled with our love for one another ("(If God is love, then, surely; In every act of loving, there is something of God").

I suggest that a missing dimension to conservative antagonism to the blessing of same sex relationships is a lack of appreciation for the loving character of these relationships.

Nevertheless I remain in disagreement with you because the argument you bring to bear, finely articulated as it is, is an argument that could also be acclaimed in respect of an incestuous or an adulterous or polygamous relationship. Thus I do not think you have presented the last word on the matter. That word (I cautiously suggest) would need to deal with the question of whether the loving character of a relationship is definitive for making a determination that it is a blessed relationship.

But I do want to accord my appreciation for the vision of God's love which you bring to the significant question of how human love is expressed.

Bryden Black said...

Indeed Peter & Ron; it is precisely on account of what you both seek to endorse and highlight and champion, that I coined the expression “tragic irony” some 20 years ago. I FEEL the very forcefulness of your expressed argument - naturally!

There is also equally naturally, given the basic Christian depiction of divine love in settings of mercy-in-the-face-of-judgment, the crucial question to be asked: wherein loving actions? what constitutes the loving thing? This is no idle question in our western world ... For there’s another commingling to be highlighted, that of the divine holiness-cum-forgiveness that we encounter as mercy. In which light at least both St Paul and St John, in their testimony to the divine mercy and love, indicate certain things naturally follow for us Christians. That’s also why this comment of Ron’s does not have the last word.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for your positive affirmation of my last post. Of course one cannot, in one post, articulate one's total religious understanding of how God's love can be present in a same-sex loving relationship; but, in a quick and partial answer to your challenge here quoted:-

" Nevertheless I remain in disagreement with you because the argument you bring to bear, finely articulated as it is, is an argument that could also be acclaimed in respect of an incestuous or an adulterous or polygamous relationship." - P.C. -

- can be answered in this way:

The situations of sexual activity in either incestuous, adulterous or polygamous relationships are different from those between two freely-consenting adult and otherwise unattached same-sex relationships; in that they are undertaken in the context of objectionable offence against other family members.

In the case of each of these situations; immediate (other) family members are being sinned against - both familiarly and societally - and the activities are against the civil and religious law - certainly here and in the U.K.

Perhaps - in the case of incest - the biggest sin is against the family members (including the object of such attention) who are being betrayed by the disloyalty of the perpetrator. Civil law opposes such relationships in N.Z. and U.K.

Where same-sex relationships are concerned - when the adult couple are free from other commitments -
there is no 'betrayal' of family members, who may well see the relationships as wholesome and loving for the couple concerned.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Yes, you bring some good rejoinder here.
One can be quickly dismissed! "activities are against civil and religious law" hardly counts in the present discussion since what is being argued is that both civil and religious law should change (and if they could change on one matter, why not another, etc).
I think your distinction between incest/adultery/polygamy and same sex partnership, with the latter free of betrayal to family, is worth stating.
But it is not conclusive, as it does not cover (say) polygamy where it is freely embraced by all parties, or (say) incest between the last (or only) two members of a family so no other family can be offended.
Anyway, you have definitely given me something to think about!

Shawn Herles said...

"Unlike you, I am convinced that loving, monogamous same-sex unions are still open, from one person to another - irrespective of the gender of the persons"

Agape love between persons, even of the same gender, and homosexual attraction are not the same thing.

"For instance; David loved Jonathan with a love that was 'above' that which he reserved for women. In this biblical description of David's love for Jonathan, it was obviously 'superior' to that which he experienced with a woman. What do you make of that?

Religious Orders used to call such relationships 'Special Friendships' and I suspect that such friendships - though at one time seen to contrary to monastic 'celibacy' - may still be evidenced in monastic communities - (vide: Cardinal John Henry Newman, who requested he be buried in the same grave as his 'Special Friend')."

All of these are examples of Agape love, not homosexuality.

"I am constantly annoyed by the arrogance of heterosexual male Christians who believe that their sexual expression is in some way more 'holy' than that of their homosexual confreres"

It is God Himself who has blessed marriage between men and women as the only legitimate place for sexual expression, not "heterosexual Christian males."

Categories of "heterosexual" and "homosexual" are not Biblical. God created only men women, not "sexual orientations".

It is not arrogant for Christian men AND women to obey God on this issue.

It IS arrogant for Liberals to insist on overturning two thousand years of Church teaching and, more importantly, clear Biblical teaching, on marriage, merely to suit the fashions of the age.

Christian are disciples of Jesus. Jesus said marriage was one man and one women for life. And Jesus said that the definition of a true disciple is one who obeys His words.

MichaelA said...

"This can only encourage cohabiting heterosexual couples to believe that marriage can enrich their own loving partnerships - on a strictly one-to-one basis."

There is no reason to think it will have any such effect. It is more likely to be the opposite. Calling a homosexual relationship 'marriage' makes a mockery of the word, and in turn demeans the teaching of scripture on marriage - the term 'marriage' when used in the Bible always refers to a heterosexual relationship.

By twisting the word 'marriage' to mean something that it clearly does not mean in scripture, we are likely to encourage married couples to increasingly think that scripture is irrelevant to their lives, and this in turn will lead to an increase in promiscuity, not the reduction which Father Ron posits.