Friday, May 10, 2013

Learning and relearning the gospel, all the time

Sometimes I am mistaken for a fellow clergyman, Peter Collier. I sincerely hope that he is never mistaken for me as I get the better end of the deal :) Anyway I have just noticed a very good and very interesting post Peter has made on kiwifruit blog.

Of course if you want to engage directly re what Peter has written, you should do so there.But here I point you to what he has written because disciples should be learners and relearners, all the time. And what Peter tells us he has been learning may help us with our learning. He certainly helps me here.Thanks Peter!


Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Peter, for that mention of Peter Collier's article on ADU. I think it right and proper that you should feature this link - especially in the light of the fact that many of your commenters do not have the same propensity to even acknowledge that our common human sexuality is a 'given' for each one of us in our different orientation. It is the exercise of our gift and the propriety with which it is used that is always under scrutiny by the Creator.

The LGBT community is no less/more accountable for its behaviour than anyone else. As Jesus said to the Pharisees about to stone the woman caught in the act of adultery: "Which of you is innocent, let him cast the first stone". This advice about judgement of others applies to all of us, not just to one specific sector of humanity.

Peter Carrell said...

(A lightly moderated comment from Shawn. Please do not directly tell another commenter what to do).

Hi Ron,

The reason I reject the notion of a "given" orientation is because the idea is is a philosophical theory only, and one based heavily on politics, not science.

The idea is also ccontrary to Scripture, which does not recognize "orientations."

The women caught in adultery story ends with Jesus telling her to go and sin no more, not with the sentence you use, thus it does not apply to the issue you raise as you do not consider homosexuality a sin.

It is no more judgmental to say that homosexuality is a sin than to say that coveting your neighbors property is a sin. Moral discernment is not judgementalism.

Assuming that those of us who obey Scripture on this issue are being judgmental is itself a judgement on us.


And remember, what keeps getting you in trouble here at ADU is your tendency to make your argument by attacking or judging other commentators here. It is not necessary to make your case and it is not helpful.

Peter Carrell said...

1. I let Ron's comment through because although it had an element of telling others generally what to do, what was being enjoined flows from the gospel re taking care about judging one another.
2. I let Shawn's comment through (with slight moderation) because it represents an argument which should have freedom to be made. (But, see 3). I am also letting the last comment of Shawn's through, Ron, because it is fair to remind you: please comment on the issue and not, even implicitly, on the commenters here.
3. Shawn, I disagree with you about orientation. It is quite fair and proper to determine that if most of us are oriented towards desire for the opposite sex then some of us have a different desire. It should not actually be a problem to honour the testimony of homosexuals who have never experienced desire for the opposite sex and only experienced desire for the same sex. That is simply observing human testimony, respecting it and taking it at face value; and for the life of me I do not see how it is not understandable that there is homosexual orientation in contradistinction to heterosexual orientation.

That, around desires, we construct aspects of sexuality and sexual behaviour, is a related matter, and by all means invoke philosophy, politics and what have you in critique of what we humans construct re sexuality. But can we not agree that some people are 'essentially' homosexual in the way that (e.g.) I find that myself and a vast number of people besides are essentially heterosexual?

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

No, I don't believe so, because the claim your making rests upon a number of assumptions that I do not believe are in fact observable or consistent with what real people in the real world actually experience.

Human sexual experience is far too fluid and complex to be narrowed down to essentialist orientations. The observable paraphilia in humans numbers in the hundreds at least, and these can and do change over time. Thus the concept of a LBGT whatever "community" made up of people with innate and essentialist orientations is pure political mythmaking.

And I have known enough "homosexuals" in my time, including many personal friends, to know that their experiences are in reality far too complex and fluid to be labeled an essentialist orientation.

Bryden Black said...

As Bernard Lonergan would say Peter: it has to do with evaluating our understandings of our experiences - and thereafter, acting upon those evaluations. And then again, directing our actions in ways that aspire to freedom and love as determined by the truth of the Gospel of Jesus, who, as God directly among us, comes to restore God’s created order.

The difficultly with our ‘contemporary dilemmas’ is quite simply we have no common means of appraisal. E.g. what is ‘disordered’ to some is ‘natural’ for others. There’s a basic - I do not say “essential” - failure of hermeneutics. It will ever be so - as long as there are those among us who fail to see humans to be creatures within a universe with a Creator, i.e. in a world with transcendent ends, which ends have ‘somehow’ become disorientated from the Creator’s intention. And yet that very intention WILL prevail: “all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” Just so, moral discernment in a post Christian, secular ethos and world-view must be the most extraordinary phenomenon to have arisen in the history of this planet!

To conclude, in a way that captures Peter Collier’s post and your own title. Karl Barth famously said in his Evangelical Theology: An Introduction:

“Theological work is distinguished from other kinds of work by the fact that anyone who desires to do this work cannot proceed by building with complete confidence on the foundation of questions that are already settled, results that are already achieved, or conclusions that are already arrived at. He cannot continue to build today in any way on foundations that were laid yesterday by himself, and he cannot live today in any way on the interest from a capital amassed yesterday. His only possible procedure every day, in fact every hour, is to begin anew at the beginning. And in this respect theological work can be exemplary for all intellectual work. Yesterday’s memories can be comforting and encouraging for such work only if they are identical with the recollection that this work, even yesterday, had to begin at the beginning and, it is to be hoped, actually began there. In theological science, continuation always means “beginning once again at the beginning”. ... Above all, the ever-new start is the only possible way because the object of theology is the living God himself in his free grace.”

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden/Shawn
You make good points and I do understand that experience is interpretation etc.

I stand by my point that some people can never reinterpret their experience of their sexual desires (nor experience a reinterpretation of the same) as other than a same sex attraction.

The brokenness of creation after the fall means this fact of human experience is theologically comprehensible: in a multitude of ways human experience falls short of the ideal of God's intentions.

I do not at all disagree that for some people their experience of their own sexuality is 'fluid'. To the extent that that means they are in charge of the direction of attraction, I would hope they would take note of the heteronormativity of Scripture!

Anonymous said...

"I stand by my point that some people can never reinterpret their experience of their sexual desires (nor experience a reinterpretation of the same) as other than a same sex attraction."

Never say "never", Christian!
We live both under the Cross and 'sub specie aeternitatis'.


Father Ron Smith said...

" it does not apply to the issue you raise as you do not consider homosexuality a sin. -

It is no more judgmental to say that homosexuality is a sin than to say that coveting your neighbors' property is a sin. Moral discernment is not judgementalism."

- Dr. Peter Carrell

Then I must ask you Peter. Does your 'moral discernment' consider that 'homosexuality' is a sin - and 'heterosexuality' not a sin?

If this is the case, then you are making the mistake of judging an ontological situation purely on a quasi-moral basis. You are strangely at odds with most moral theologians on this point alone.

You are here inferring that simply to be homosexual is a sin. That's pretty serious judgementalism - in my view.

Your theory of homosexuality as being only a 'theory' of given orientation has been soundly rejected by people who actually experience, ontologically, the actual condition of same-sex attraction.

The fact that you may not have experienced this for yourself is no guarantee that such a condition does not exist, ontologically, theologically, or morally.

Perhaps you need to talk to someone who is actually Gay or Lesbian, before expatiating on this tricky subject concerning human nature. It is vital for a theological teacher to be open to up-to-date research on the latest scientific, sociological, and related theological data now available to the academic world about this.

Keep your eyes & ears open for the findings of the Ma Whea Commission in our Church of ACANZP.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
Please don't misquote me and then condemn me.
I never wrote the words you cite as being said by me.
It is unfair to take people to task for what they have not written!

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter; my profound apology to you for attributing the words you re-printed from another commentator on your blog at 12.11pm today.

This problem has occurred because the quotation appeared under your own byline. I was so incensed by the comment that I did not stop to check whether the words were attributable to you or some other person. Now, detecting the actual authorship, I understand why I was so incensed!

Please accept my profound apology, for even thinking that you could have been the author of such a silly statement.I can only hope that the person involved will take my message to heart. Mea Culpa!

Shawn Herles said...

I wrote the words.

Contra Ron,

I have not only talked to but have and am friends with people who experience same-sex attraction almost exclusively.

The latest research does not prove innate orientations, only observable para-philia. An essentialist orientation is a metaphysical assumption, not science.

Compassion does not require anyone to agree with anyone else's behaviour.

Being non-judgmental does not require anyone to agree that same-gender sex is consistent with Biblical Christianity or Christian practice.

This is just the usual "agree with me or your a judgmental/ homophobic/uneducated bigot" line that is so tiresome and disruptive.

Shawn Herles said...

Hi Peter,

There are certainly people who experience a same-gender attraction over the course of most of their lives. Innate, essentialist notions of orientations are philosophical and metaphysical assumptions, and not overly relevant to the issue anyway.

If we could get beyond disputes about innate orientations, redefining Christian marriage, or who is or is not being judgmental, then there is an important discussion to be had concerning how we as individual Christians and as a Church respond to people who do experience same-gender attraction, to whatever degree. That issue, which is a pastoral care issue in part, and a question about how we invite, welcome, love and care for those people, would be a far more valuable discussion to have, and I suspect we might find more common ground if we did.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn/Ron/myself
I think we have got as far as we can go on the 'orientation' argument here. We must agree to disagree.

Peter Carrell said...

I accept your apology Ron!

I do not wish to enter into any more comments re the words you cited. You think they are 'silly', Shawn stands by them. That's an impasse. Let's leave it at that for now.

Bryden Black said...

"Impasse" - PC; "It will ever be so ..." - BB

I agree that this is the customary cul-de-sac of these discussions. The trouble however is to take the trouble to unearth the genealogy of this state of affairs. This far harder task is seldom even attempted let alone resolved. For what it's worth, here's an attempt I made that got published in an Aussie publication of 2006 which put together a truly motley bunch of varied folk!