Running up to a conference exploring theology of marriage, a couple of items catch my eye this week, forcing some thinking about the 'state of the argument' in respect of what marriage is, ought to be and possibly could become.
In that well known blog Ezekiel, post #18, being read around the world in the morning office, we have an interesting case in point of transformed interpretation. Pause to read Ezekiel 18.
Famously this chapter within the Hebrew scriptures (that is, in the scriptures being written and read by God's people before the singular transformative effect on interpretation wrought by Jesus Christ) alters the understanding of another passage in those scriptures. Exodus 20:5 says that the Lord God visits 'the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.' Ezekiel 18 is summarised in 18:20a, 'The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son.'
Now arguments can be had about whether the later passage is a straight-line contradiction of the former passage, or a clarification of it (noting that Ezekiel 18 is also a message about possibilities for repentance, for sons seeing iniquitous fathers and choosing not to be sinful, for the wicked person turning away from all their sins) or a development from one to the other in a richer more nuanced moral understanding and so forth.
But there is no argument that once Ezekiel 18 has been received into the sacred scriptures of Israel that Exodus 20 needs to be read newly in the light of the later revelation.
In a worldwide debate about changing attitudes to marriage, it is worth pondering the extent to which later revelation modifies earlier revelation. Such a matter is inextricably tied to our understanding of revelation and how that is discerned by God's people. For some, all relevant revelation is already received by the church in Holy Scripture, so debates about later and earlier revelation are intra-scriptural debates about meaning and application. For others, revelation is possible beyond the closure of the Christian canon of Scripture.
A keen question, perhaps, about church unity is whether "some" and "others" here can co-exist in one body of believers. Discuss.
To those advocating for change to our understanding of human sexuality in general and to marriage in particular, or, for that matter, to those advocating not to change, Ephraim Radner has published (IMHO) as good an argument as one can find anywhere that "Same-Sex Marriage is Still Wrong."
But, how good is this argument? Discuss. (I suggest it would save a bit of time and bother if we discussed the character and content of Ephraim Radner's argument articulated in the essay rather than engaged, yet again, in a free and wide-ranging general argument about human sexuality and marriage).
Postscript: A fascinating point made by Radner, interalia, is that slavery in the mode which was abolished in the 19th century is an example of a phenomenon which the church had rejected (as an application of scripture) then changed its mind about only to eventually have to admit (also from a basis in scripture) that it got this "horrendously wrong."
Later: For the latest contretemps involving St Matthew's in the City and same-sex marriage, go here.
Via Twitter, yet another angle here re human sexuality, Christianity and marriage.