Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tragic marriage split through misunderstanding

It is very confusing making sense of most marriage break ups since there are often two quite different narratives at play about who did and said what in the rundown to splitting up. We are seeing this played out in the media in the case of Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson. Photos of him clutching her by the throat seem to be an illustrated narrative of his contribution to separation. But now he has announced through a newspaper that he will divorce her because she did not stick up for him. Good luck with making sense of that!

If GAFCON II later this year becomes the moment when all sides agree that the Communion is irrevocably split I suggest it is going to be very confusing trying to make sense of how, in fact, we will have come to this position. Sure, it could be said that 'they misinterpreted the Bible and taught a false gospel' and that 'they excluded people from the church on the basis of misunderstanding human sexuality and refusing to act justly.' If it is as neat as that, then we have an open and shut case for blaming one side (or both!) and sheeting home responsibility for ecclesial tragedy to a bunch of renegades.

It is not as neat as that, I submit. We have a few months to push the PAUSE button on this tragic movie being played out before our eyes and ask whether we might just clear up a few misunderstandings. Should we hit that button, here are some starters for reflection.

Engagement with society

I would like bishops and theologians around the Communion to acknowledge that every Anglican church is engaged with their own local society and the course of that society. A bishop in Nigeria looks in askance at how the C of E is responding to changes in legislation regarding civil partnerships and gay marriage. A theologian in the States looks in askance at a bunch of bishops in Uganda cheering on legislation repressive of openly gay and lesbian Ugandan citizens. In each case the local church is engaged with local issues, working out how best to respond to the direction their own society is heading in. It is easy, is it not, to blast from far away the actions of others. It is harder to pause, reflect, and imagine one's way into what it means to work out the gospel in England, in the States, in Uganda and in Nigeria. But to do so might be to gather up some crumbs of sympathy for the dilemmas of others. When we are sympathetic to others we can find the will to walk an extra mile with them, rather than run away from them.

Understanding the Bible

It would be quite good if we could all work harder at understanding the Bible. Too often, it seems, we work hard at understanding one part of the Bible and then use that understanding to talk past each other.

Thus the Bible is a revelation of God teaching the importance of justice, human dignity and respect for one another while promoting values of fidelity, sacrificial love and stable family life. With that understanding we can talk past those who miss (or downplay) that understanding in favour of the Bible as a revelation of God teaching the importance of holiness, sexual discipline, the importance of marriage between a man and a woman as the cornerstone of society while promoting a gospel which both invites all to enter God's kingdom and announces God's judgment on those who refuse to repent and believe in Christ.

Such understandings potentially could lead to a conversation about what the whole of the Bible says to the church today. Unfortunately that potential is not being reached because ... well, there is quite a question to consider, is there not? We Anglicans love the Bible (we say). We read Scripture together (we say). Scripture is paramount in our life (cf. the Thirty-Nine Articles, our various constitutions, Lambeth resolutions). Yet somehow we are not reaching a common understanding about the Bible, about what God is saying through Scripture to the church today.

Nothing is easy here, just as generally any marriage heading for the rocks is a hard, complicated and difficult situation to reverse.

Could we give ourselves one last shot at reconciliation?

For a contrasting if not contrary view, head to Anglican Curmudgeon.

56 comments:

Anonymous said...

We could stand back and ask ourselves why we are not asking these questions about, say, Orthodox or Pentecostals or Catholics. Perhaps it's the vaunted modern Anglican ecclesiology that has failed? - which is nothing other than ecclesiastical nationalism, certainly not reformed Catholicism.
And making grand appeals to 'the whole of the Bible' are a waste of time - not least when representative liberal commentators here (ho aniginskon noeioto) are convinced that significant parts of the Bible are NOT the Word of God.
But for the avoidance of doubt let me spell out - fairly uncontroversially as a matter of historical fact, I believe - what has actually happened in western Anglicanism which explains how we have come to this pass.
1. The western churches all adopted women's ordination.
2. Unsuprisingly, the women clergy are mainly liberal in outlook, more in tune with the secularism of society at large.
3. Given the predominantly clericalist nature of Anglican church leadership, this has tilted the clergy in a liberal-leftist direction.
For some this may be the law on unforeseen consequences, but others foresaw this readily enough.

Martinus Nostradamus

Father Ron Smith said...

I think, Peter, that your point about the differences in cultural expectations in the different provinces of the Anglican Communion is a valid one, and needs to be catered for - in ways that respect the freedom of others to be and do what their local understanding of the demands of the Gospel to be on the local scene.

Spiritual understanding cannot be divorced from the everyday life of people in their local habitat. The local culture - provided it is not absolutely antithetical to the call of the gospel to ALL people - ought to be allowed to influence the way in which the local Church deals with the nurture of its adherents. There should be no need to legislate for one single cultural understanding that all provinces of the Church must be tied to - as long as the seminal doctrines relating to the person and life of Christ are agreed to.

This may have been the basic mistake made by Victorian English missionaries who sought to oust parts of the local culture that seemed to offend English moral sensibilities - but were not necessarily antithetical to the essence of the Gospel. This has turned out to be one of the factors in the present lack of movement in GAFCON Provinces' understanding of gender and sexuality.

Victorian moral attitudes have long been left behind by most Western Provinces of the Church as being, in some cases, unjust, to those whose understanding of sex and gender has progressed beyond that of the Victorian English Missionary Establishment.

Western Society, in some respects, has overtaken the Church in its basic understanding of the need for recognition of individual human dignity. Social justice has recognised the importance of human rights - to the degree that, in the ABC's address to the Church of England General Synod at York this weekend, he pointed to the failure of the Church to meet it human justice obligations in terms of the Gospel for today.

If GAFCON continues on its present trajectory - dismissing the social and spiritual objectives of the other Anglican Communion Churches (in their openness towards the emancipation of LGBT persons and Women) on the grounds of their own subjective view of the demands of the Scriptures; there will be the inevitable parting of the ways that will be regrettable, but perhaps necessary, for continuance of the requirement to address those issues of human need that have arisen as a result of the emerging understanding of human nature, as it has evolved over many centuries since the earlier canonisation of The Scriptures.

God's Spirit is still alive and working upon the understanding of God's human children - in ways that need to be reasonably and properly recognised and responded to in the world of today.

"Come, Holy Spirit; re-kindle within us the fire of your love; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. Amen!"

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but I can't look at this from such a lofty height after watching David Kato in "Call Me Kuchu" and seeing how the "orthodox christians" in Uganda tried to prevent his burial. They couldn't be bothered to decry his having his head bashed in with a hammer since he was a sinful, liberal gay.

Nigella Lawson can make the best choice about whether or not her relationship with Saatchi was abusive or not and calling for someone to reconcile with an abuser, if that is the case, is not what I would call a "christian" virtue either, what with the number of women who end up maimed or dead in those situations.

Martinus, I have to hand it to you -- you manage to include misogyny, homophobia, and intolerance in such a few sentences that my head spun. By their fruits . . . .

Peter, I really appreciate this post. I see and hear what you are calling for. I have problems with equating support for the death penalty for Ugandan gays with GAFCON claiming the West is following and teaching a false gospel. I guess if you consider an eternal "death penalty" for making the wrong choices bigger than being allowed to live at all while on Earth that would be an equivalency.

Regardless, I join with you in calling for an attempt at reconciliation. I believe that GAFCON is going to split, if not this summer then very soon, and it may be a Good Friday moment for Anglicanism, followed by an Easter resurrection. Or it may be the beginning of the end as the Church devolves into irrelevance in a modern world. Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

"This may have been the basic mistake made by Victorian English missionaries who sought to oust parts of the local culture that seemed to offend English moral sensibilities - but were not necessarily antithetical to the essence of the Gospel. This has turned out to be one of the factors in the present lack of movement in GAFCON Provinces' understanding of gender and sexuality."
One wonders how much Ron Smith knows about 19th century Africa, or Africa today for that matter. Has he ever studied the history of the CMS or the UMCA or the USPG? 'Not necessarily antithetical to the essence of the Gospel': what exactly does this stilted exercise in polysyllabic verbalization semiotically denote? Traditional African slavery? traditional polygamy? widespread acceptance of prostitution? buggering of page boys by the Kabaka? FGM?
Or in India, did Christian opposition to casteism, child mutilation, idol worship and sati come from the same cultural myopia of English Christians? Strange how "progressive" Indians came to agree themselves with this!
African Christians know exactly how Aids is transmitted - through rampant promiscuity and prostitution. Find out about the balokoles of the East African Revival and ask who is the faithful Christian today.

"Victorian moral attitudes have long been left behind by most Western Provinces of the Church as being, in some cases, unjust, to those whose understanding of sex and gender has progressed beyond that of the Victorian English Missionary Establishment."

I will ignore the chronological snobbery implicit in the Bloomsburyesque scorn of all (or many) things "Victorian". Their morality - chastity before marriage, faithfulness within it - was simply biblical - for all times - and more than half our social problems today would be avoided if people knew how to live this way.

Martin

Joshua Bovis said...

Peter,
The issue is over the same old chestnut, the authority of Scripture. Do we believe in the Scriptures as being God's Word, is it the final authority? The Anglican formularies give a resounding yes. Of course there is a place for tradition, reason and experience, but Scripture rules over them. Anglicans have always known this Peter. The problem is we have another competing authority within the Anglican Church, which is the belief that Scripture is not the final authority and that we are to interpret Scripture through the lens of tradition, reason and/or experience. Two different approaches to Scripture, two different views of Scripture.

There is no misunderstanding.Within Anglicanism there are two diametrically opposed views of Scripture that J. I. Packer has called the ‘objectivist’ and ‘subjectivist’ positions. The objectivist view is that the Bible is the actual and pure word of God, the supreme authority in all matters of faith and life, and that accordingly ‘it is not lawful for the church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture that it be repugnant to another’ (as Article XX puts it). The subjectivist view is that the Bible is a ‘witness’ to the true word of God, and should inform our understanding of what God wants us to do, but is not finally ‘authoritative’ in an external or timeless sense; that is, the Church in its subjective understanding may decide that God is leading her beyond or even against what the Bible says, and thus may ordain something which is contrary to God’s word written, if circumstances so dictate.

This whole issue is not an adiaphora Peter. It is over the age old battle of the Bible and the very nature of the Gospel itself.


Anonymous said...

You got it in one, Joshua. If in any association of men and women there is no binding acceptance of what constitutes the final authority for that association, sooner or later that authority will fracture and break. The Football Association understood this in 1863: from now on you could only kick the ball, not threw it. [Note: this rule does not apply to Maradona.] Liberal theology and philosophy problematized the Reformation understanding of Scripture, although in truth liberal objections had been around at least since Socinus. What the Reformers determined was that Socinus was not a Christian. But Protestant theology from Schleiermacher onwards wanted him back in the fold - even Reimarus, too.
Martin

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 10:28 writes: "Martinus, I have to hand it to you -- you manage to include misogyny, homophobia, and intolerance in such a few sentences that my head spun. By their fruits . . . ."

You see what you want to see, Anon, and I am never unsettled by ad hominem attacks that ignore what I say and impute 'unworthy' motives to me - not least from people who have never met me and know nothing of 'my fruits'. I simply lament people's inability to argue objectively and their resort to emotion. I expressed no sentiments about anyone. I simply described what any outside observer of the Anglican Communion could see has happened in the past 35+ years. It is a simple fact that thousands of female clergy (the majority of ordinations now in the Church of England and in Tec), and very many of these trained part-time, have pushed the theological profile of these churches in a 'softer', liberal direction.
Play the ball, not the man, Anon.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

Joshua's statement that there are two different ways of interpreting Scripture is basically correct - except that there are as many ways as there are seekers after truth.

As for Martin's own 'ad hominem' remarks - contained in his recent assertion that I have no knowledge of the situation of missionary activity in the Third World; I would remind him that he is not the only person interested in such matters, nor is he the accepted authority on everything he chooses to expatiate upon in these columns.

(Coincidentally, I have two U.K. brothers-in-law who spent years in the African mission field. who have shared something of their experiences with me).

My own 84 years of life as an Anglican have given me some insight into the state of the Church v. the World in which we live, and I would thank him to respect others' learnings in the process. The other 'Anonymous', whom Martin finds objectionable has a valid point, when he notes the tenor of A.M.'s rhetoric that almost invariably puts down the reflections of other people on this blog who disagree with him.

Great learning will never outclass sensible and thoughtful dialogue.

Peter Carrell said...

OK, Anonymous (use a name please or you may not be published), Martin and Ron: I have allowed a little 'ad hominem' through the gates. Let's get back to issues, please.

Martin: not all women clergy are liberal; if we had had no women clergy we would have still had liberal clergy; please don't blame women, even if only indirectly, for the mess the Anglican church is in.

Kurt said...

Quite frankly, Peter, I don’t stay up late at night worrying about GAFCON remaining or splitting (though personally, I wouldn’t shed a tear if they left).
With the continuing economic semi-collapse of the West, churchmen/women have enough on our plates here at home. With reduced resources, we are going to have to increasingly prioritize where our money goes.

Assuming that the ACNA et.al. does not split into several groupings (which looks more and more likely as time goes on), they can use what money they can spare from domestic programs to fund their co-thinkers in Africa, Asia, etc. , if they want to. That’s their business.
The mainstream Anglican Communion (TEC included) will use what can be spared to aid those abroad who are at least willing to agree to disagree. I get around the region quite a bit and I can tell you quite clearly that my little Anglo Catholic parish is not unique in being hesitant to aid foreign missions which don’t support human rights. People here are more and more concerned to devote resources to helping “our own” first. This growing attitude is understandable given the slow-burning economic depression in most Western countries.
My guess is that GAFCON will split soon, not only from the Anglican Communion but from each other. Perhaps in 50 years or so, when some of these Third World provinces mature, there will be a basis for getting together again. It’s not something I lose sleep over.
Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

If Ron Smith can specify what exactly is wrong about the African churches' teaching on sexual behavior (chastity before marriage, faithfulness within it; discouragement of polygamy), I would be glad to hear it. I'm sure he knows that many professing Christians in Africa don't actually live this way, hence the Aids epidemic of recent years.
Peter: I fear you have made the same mistake as Anon in his ad hominem allegation of 'misogyny'. Of course I know that not all women clergy are liberal. But my own research (based on a large scale questionnaire of beliefs conducted by Cost of Conscience in the UK) is that the majority incline in a liberal way. Conservative women are much less likely to seek ordination in the first place. Whether intentionally or not, WO has increased the number of theological liberals in diocesan and national synods, through the Houses of Clergy and Bishops, while the churches themselves have only declined in numbers.
Martin

Anonymous said...

Here's a link to a large Finnish study on 'Female Clergy as Agents of Religious Change?' describing the situation in the Scandinavian Lutheran churches, which are rapidly becoming majority-female clergy led.
http://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/2/3/358/pdf
The evidence is very clear that they are markedly more liberal than men and few are regular readers of the Bible (see page 6 of the document). I could multiply evidence of this trend from the US, Canada and NZ. This *is the decisive factor in late modern Protestantism, and it's wilful to ignore it. How else do we explain a Swedish lesbian becoming a bishop in the Lutheran Church?
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
You have twenty-four hours to produce the evidence concerning New Zealand, otherwise I will delete this comment on the basis that it involves an unevidence charge against my colleagues, especially all the fine conservative women clergy I know.

I presume a Swedish lesbian became a bishop because people, including men, voted for her.

I put it again: this is ad hominem attack against women because it does not consider the scenario in which the churches which concern you had manfully resisted ordained women all these years while nevertheless continuing male-led liberal hegemony. The church I know best, the Anglican church of these islands, was wilfully liberal in all kinds of ways when it knew only male clergy.

Twenty-four hours ...

Tim Chesterton said...

Joshua asks: 'Do we believe in the Scriptures as being God's Word, is it the final authority? '

First, let me point out that Christians believe that Jesus is the final authority; he is the one actually described in the Bible as being 'the Word of God'.

Second, accepting the authority of the Bible as (in a derivative sense) 'the Word of God' does not involve accepting the authority of every single statement in the Bible. If it did, we Christians would have to refrain from eating pork, get circumcised, execute couples caught in the act of adultery, hold trials for women accused of not being virgins on their wedding nights (at which trials the bloodstained sheets would be the conclusive evidence), refuse to have any part in the modern system of banking, mortgages, car loans etc. (because the Torah condemns the lending of money at interest), etc. etc.

Whatever our theoretical view of the authority of the Bible, we all accept that there are many biblical commands which have been abolished or relativized by Jesus and his apostles.

On the issue of usury, biblical scholars are surely right to ask questions about what actually is being condemned in the Torah. How did the lending of money at interest actually work in OT times? What was it used for? Was it about lending money to poor people so that they could buy food and thereby avoid starvation, or was it in any sense similar to modern venture capitalism? No conservative Christian today would accuse those biblical scholars of being 'liberal' or 'revisionist'; they are simply making sure that they know exactly what it is that the Torah condemns before they repeat the condemnation. In fact, many evangelical biblical scholars have asked these questions and come to the conclusion that the lending of money at interest in the Bible was very different from what is practised in modern capitalism (surprise surprise - God forbid that the Bible should criticize capitalism!). These scholars do not see themselves as having abandoned the authority of the Bible as the Word of God, even though they have apparently rejected a literal interpretation of one part of it.

In the same way, it is surely quite legitimate for modern biblical scholars to ask the question 'When (a very few) verses in the Bible condemn men 'lying with a man as one lies with a woman', is the sort of relationship they are describing exactly the same as that experienced by modern same-sex couples who want to commit themselves to stable, monogamous, lifelong relationships?' Simply asking that question cannot be dismissed as liberal revisionism unless we are also prepared to dismiss the lending of money at interest as a liberal, revisionist idea.

Please note that I myself accept the traditional interpretation of the biblical passages about homosexuality. I am not, however, prepared to make them a line in the sand and say that everyone who disagrees with me on this subject has abandoned the authority of the Bible as the Word of God. Some have, some haven't. And many of those who hold fast to that authority on this subject have apparently abandoned it on others (war and peace, for instance, or the legitimacy of lying in certain situations).

Peter Carrell said...

I concur entirely with your comment, Tim.

Further, I ask commenters here making assertions about the authority of the Bible to offer some kind of brief account of how they understand interpretation of the Bible.

Otherwise we are in grave danger of diminishing the authority of the Bible because it could appear that the Bible is only authoritative on salvation, sex and women but not much else.

Anonymous said...

Oh well, Peter, delete away if you will, it's your blog after all. I just don't understand why you're getting so upset about what I have said. There is nothing ad hominem (ad mulierem?) in what I have said about women or anyone; simply the statement that women clergy *on the whole* are notably more liberal theological than men. There is ample evidence for this from many studies around the world, and the existence of conservative women clergy in small dioceses like Nelson does nothing to change that. Why this should be so is an interesting question, but to observe it should be no more controversial than observing that 70%+ of Hispanics in the US vote Democrat - notwithstanding a Cruz or a Rubio - and giving citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants can only be a fillip to the Democrats. Blair and Brown did the same thing in the UK in the promotion of immigration. My evidence from NZ comes principally from studying the statistics of a liberal diocese that has lost half its membership in the past 25 years, where many of its clergy (mainly older women) were appointed to lead small rural 'faith communities'. A clergy friend in Waiapu diocese has also shared impressions, but you might call this subjective hearsay.
As for the liberal leadership of the NZ Anglican Church, this has been a fact for a long time, before 1977. The generally conservative character of Anglican liturgy probably concealed the depth of this liberalism, as it has elsewhere in Western Anglicanism.
Martin

liturgy said...

Greetings

Thanks Tim for being such a clear, intelligent, compassionate presence here.

An interesting discussion here from your points would be around did God change his mind about executing couples caught in the act of adultery? And similar. Was it ethically right to do so before Christ? Etc.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin
I am publishing your latest comment "pro tem" so others can bring observations if they wish ... and while I consider whether it constitutes a fair response to my request or not.

Joshua Bovis said...

Tim,

Jesus is the final authority for a person to place a wedge between his authority and obedience to the Scriptures is to err.

In regards to your second paragraph, I never said, nor implied a literalistic hermeneutic. There is a rather large difference between a reading the Bible literally and reading the Bible literalistically.

Classical Anglicanism has always said that the final authority is Scripture and that we are not to use Scripture [which is God's Word written] in a way where:
1.We don't use Scripture to contradict Scripture
2.Be selective about which parts of Scripture that suits our convictions, comfort or convenience (the argument regarding same sex marriage is a case in point).
(see Article VI, VII, XIX, XX, XI.

The move away from Scripture as being the final authority is not consistent with Anglicanism; to place a wedge between the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God written is not consistent with Anglicanism and when Anglicans do this, be they clergy or laity, they are not being consistent with the form of Christian that they subscribe to.

Tim, if I may be so luxuriant to offer one qualifier in response to your last comment...the reason I (and many others draw a line in the sand over the whole issue of same-sex marriage) is that this issue is actually over the very nature and essence of the gospel. the homosexual debate within the Anglican communion is not about sex, but is about the very nature of the gospel.

For us to use the whole "faithful, committed life long" = ok arguement is to misunderstand the nature and essence of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Using this argument for other behaviours that Scripture equally deems to be sinful is a nonsense. For example:

1: the non Christian fornicator can become a Christian and keep on fornicating, as long as the person he or she are fornicating with is in the context of a ‘loving, committed, faithful relationship’

or:

2.the non Christian alcoholic can keep getting drunk as long as they do it in the context of a faithful, loving and safe environment

or

3:the non-Christian thief can keep on stealing as long as they steal in a faithful and safe and harmless environment.

or

4: the non Christian adulterer can keep on being unfaithful to his wife as long as the relationship he has with his mistress is in the context of a faithful;loving, and committed relationship

is completely unthinkable and totally antithetical to Scripture.

Yes of course the fornicator,alcoholic, thief and adulterer can become Christians but they cannot stay that way nor define themselves as being fornicators,alcoholics, thieves and adulterers. Why? Because they have repented. I have met people who used to be these things before they came to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus,and they are a wonderful testimony to God’s power to save those who believe but they would never (and have never said to me) “I am now a Christian thief, or a Christian fornicator, a Christian alcoholic or a Christian adulterer.
They are new creations.

Here is the rub – Those who are arguing for same sex marriage within the church, the blessing of homosexual relationships, are teaching that homosexuality is good in God’s eyes and are saying that the homosexual can keep on engaging in homosexuality as long as they are in a committed, faithful homosexual relationship are in practice and in essence believing a different and wrong gospel, because there is no repentance.

Can a homosexual become Christians?

Of course they can!!! But there must be repentance; and a demonstration of that repentance is that they no longer define themselves as homosexual and no longer engage in homosexual expression. This is why a person who says “I am a gay Christian” is a contradiction.

If we promoted a gospel that says that fornicators,alcoholics, thieves and adulterers could stay as they are and engage in activities and the lifestyle indicative of being a fornicator,alcoholic,and maintain fidelity to Christ, it would be extremely disingenuous, dishonest and not to mention unloving on our part.

Jethro Day said...

Martin, once when I attended a forum on female leadership I posed a similar point on the feminisation of the Church. The women in the forum came back with a few answers, some quite ridiculous like "women are spiritual, men are not", and "women go to church and men go to rotary." But one point that came up which I find very interesting is that they saw the feminisation of the church as being male driven.

They made the point that it was male clergy that pushed other men out of congregations (I have been in a situation like this, for two years I was the only male not in leadership in a particular young adults ministry!). It was men that were in the privileged position to give more freedom to women.

Now I don't worry about whether women are leaders, I judge them by their fruit, and so far there maybe more female than male leaders in the church that I respect (maybe that says something about the state of our church?). But if the church is not manly enough, or theologically sound enough then surely there is a point at which we must stop pointing fingers at women or liberals or whoever and take responsibility for this mess?

Tim Chesterton said...

With regard to Bosco's point, readers might be interested in jumping over to Dr. Roger Olson's blog; he's had an interesting series of posts on capital punishment, and at one or two points he does address the issue Bosco raised. See here, here, and especiallyhere.

Andrew White said...

Tim, I'm not sure those links are overly helpful.

In the first, Roger decries capital punishment as heresy without wrestling with scripture's treatment thereof or giving fair measure to opposing arguments.

In the second, he complains about people taking him to task on this, again without wrestling with the issues.

In the third, he begins to deal (in a general sense) with moving applied morality from the OT to today, but even then it mostly consists of striking glancing blows against straw men - there's no wrestling with scripture, and very little attempt to engage the hard cases. It's really nothing more than a few gambit claims to start the conversation rolling, but is presented as a powerful argument.

Tim Chesterton said...

Joshua:

Why stop there - here's a few more:

The non-Christian judge who wants to become a Christian can continue to be a judge, even imposing the death penalty on people, as long as he does so out of love (contra. the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus, which interpreted the teaching of Jesus to mean that a judge could not be enrolled as a catechumen unless he gave up his judge-ship. After all, Jesus said quite clearly 'Judge not...').

The non-Christian who owns more than the basic necessities of life can continue to own them when he becomes a Christian, as long as he is not addicted to them in his heart (contrary Jesus' advice to 'sell your possessions and give to the poor' and 'Not to store up for yourselves treasures on earth', and Paul's view that 'godliness with contentment is great gain' and his explanation of contentment as 'food and clothing'.

The non-Christian soldier who wants to become a Christian can continue to serve as a soldier and even kill other Christians who are wearing the uniform of other countries, as long as he does so under 'just war' conditions (despite Jesus' command to Christians to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek, and not to resist an evil person, and Paul's reaffirmation of this in Romans 12 and Peter's in various places in 1 Peter).

The non-Christian banker who wants to become a Christian can continue to be a banker, lending money out at interest and even charging 19% interest on credit card debt, as long as he gives 10% of his income to the church (despite the biblical injunctions against usury, which are nowhere rescinded in the New Testament, and, as you know, were interpreted by the Catholic Church for much of history as condemning all lending of money at interest).

What do these four examples all have in common? They have all been held by Christian bodies throughout Christian history as being 'the plain meaning' of biblical texts. But I suspect that you would disagree with all fur of them; that you would assert that, in these instances, the texts are not plain, and that we need to do hermeneutical work to find out what, in fact, they originally meant. The homosexual clobber texts are plain to you, because of your particular hermeneutical interpretive grid. But these four examples I have given are not plain to you, because your interpretive grid has taught you that they are not to be taken literally.

Tim Chesterton said...

Joshua - continued:

As far as interpreting one part of scripture so that it is repugnant to another - well, Joshua what do you do with the fact that in the Old Testament we are told that all God's (male) people should be circumcised, and that if anyone is not circumcised he is cut off from God's people? And yet, in the NT, Paul abrogates that rule. He also abrogates the food laws and says that it is not necessary to observe new moons and sabbaths (despite the fact that in the Torah breaking the sabbath is a capital offence). I swear to God, I did not invent the contradiction! MArk tells us quite clearly that Jesus 'declared all foods clean', despite the fact that in the OT God clearly says that they are not clean. What do you do with these examples?

I think a little honesty is called for here. Quite frankly, I can't see how you can read Jesus and Paul, and see them as authoritative, without contradicting some OT Scripture (sabbaths, food laws, circumcision etc.). And as for 'Be selective about which parts of Scripture that suits our convictions, comfort or convenience (the argument regarding same sex marriage is a case in point)' - well, Joshua, I look forward to your joining the Anglican Pacifist Network, since Jesus quite clearly commands us to love our enemies and bless them, and not to resist an evildoer, and this is reaffirmed in Romans 12 and in 1 Peter. This is also the way the vast majority of the Church Fathers interpreted the teaching of Jesus until the time the Empire became 'Christian', at which pint in time it became a rather less convenient teaching (speaking of 'interpreting Scripture to suit our convictions, comfort, or convenience').

Finally, to claim that this issue is the line in the sand because it overthrows the nature of the gospel (while these others don't) is to me purely subjective. To me, the whole gospel is a story of a God who loves his enemies (Romans 5, see also Matthew 5:43-48), and Jesus calls us to imitate him in this (see again Matthew 5). To claim that it is legitimate for a Christian to go to war and kill his enemy (even his Christian enemy, as has often happened in history) is, to me, a complete overthrowing of the nature of the Gospel - but I'm guessing that you do not see it that way.

Peter Carrell said...

HI Martin
I have now had a few moments to consider your post, my challenge to it and then your response to it.

While I do not think your 'evidence' constitutes evidence of a trend in New Zealand, readers can see for themselves the nature of the evidence you adduce (one diocese, then another, out of seven Pakeha dioceses, then there are five Maori hui amorangi to consider).

For myself I do not know if I find most women clergy to be 'liberal.' I do know I find most of them to be faithful in serving Christ, keen on saying the creeds, reading Scripture and preaching from it. Which does not exactly add up to evidence that most are liberal!

The most liberal clergy I know would run to something like nine out of ten are male!

rogerharper said...

Are GAFCON really going to continue to assume that gay marriage is a Primary Issue? They do not have a Biblical case for this. They, and others, need to stand back and think 'How important is this issue? What are Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures saying about how important this is?' Yes there are continuing tensions in the global Anglican marriage. But, if we can say 'Maybe gay marriage isn't THAT important and there are other matters, like Jesus's desire for unity, that are THAT important' we'll stay together and bear more good fruit together.

Peter Carrell said...

Good point, Roger.

Father Ron Smith said...

One of the 'liberation' passages in the New Testament can be seen in Luke's rendering of the 'Magnificat'; put into the mouth of the Mother of Christ.

Mary was the strong biblical female, through whom (as mother of His Son) God determined to bring about the liberation of the poor and marginalised of the world.
What better biblical evidence can there be of God's appointment of women as co-leaders in both Church and society?

Society has now recognised the true value of women in leadership. Perhaps the Church has for too long clung to the out-dated O.T. understanding of patriarchy, and is now being dragged kicking and screaming into the real world.


The Church of England, at its current General Synod, is now obviously being encouraged to act on the understanding that women are equally acceptable with men to be called into the full ministry of the Church.

"God is working God's purpose out, as year succeeds to year".
Deo gratias!

Kurt said...

“Are GAFCON really going to continue to assume that gay marriage is a Primary Issue? They do not have a Biblical case for this. They, and others, need to stand back and think 'How important is this issue? What are Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures saying about how important this is?' Yes there are continuing tensions in the global Anglican marriage. But, if we can say 'Maybe gay marriage isn't THAT important and there are other matters, like Jesus's desire for unity, that are THAT important' we'll stay together and bear more good fruit together.”—Roger Harper

Well said, Roger! My feelings exactly! I have simply stopped worrying about it, one way or the other since I have so much to do in my own back yard.

Kurt Hill (In sweltering Brooklyn, NY)

Joshua Bovis said...

Tim,

Wow! A lot to respond to!Your response only serves to prove my original point. The point being that within Anglicanism there are two diametrically opposed views of Scripture.

What stood out to me in your post was when you wrote:

Quite frankly, I can't see how you can read Jesus and Paul, and see them as authoritative, without contradicting some OT Scripture.

It shows either a complete disregard for the overriding unity and theology of the Bible and/or a lack of understanding of both. But then again in classic Protestant liberal theology, the Bible is not thought to be the words of God as well as man, but merely a collection of human witnesses to the work of God in people’s lives. Again Packer expresses it well when he writes: that, in most theologically liberal thinking, one finds “a view of the Bible as a fallible human record of religious thought and experience rather than a divine revelation of truth and reality.”

According to this view, it is only natural to expect to find that Scripture contains numerous conflicting meanings, (which you have passionately and firmly pointed out) because it was written by numerous human authors who lived in widely differing Hebrew, Greek, and Roman cultures and who had widely differing ideas of God and therefore it would not affirm clarity as a characteristic of Scripture as a whole, nor would it affirm clarity as a result of any divine authorship by a God who communicates to us in the words of Scripture.
Belief in Scripture’s clarity is a telltale indicator of a prior belief in Scripture’s divine authorship.

Two competing authorities Tim.

Zane Elliott said...

Roger - I wonder, will the progressive arm of the Anglican Church say 'Maybe gay marriage isn't THAT important and there are other matters, like Jesus's desire for unity, that are THAT important' and decide not to pursue this revisionist activity?

If unity was that important then surely we would refrain from forcing such unimportant issues on conservatives, wouldn't we? perhaps unity is not that important afterall....

mike greenslade said...

Kia ora Peter,

Re women clergy, you say "I do know I find most of them to be faithful in serving Christ, keen on saying the creeds, reading Scripture and preaching from it. Which does not exactly add up to evidence that most are liberal!"

Sounds like all the liberal clergy I know.

Peter Carrell said...

Heh, Mike!

Tim Chesterton said...

Joshua, I notice you haven't shared with us how you resolve the contradictions I pointed out.

By the way, I'm not a liberal. I believe every word of the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, and it's because I fully accept Chalcedonian Christology that I see the new covenant that Jesus brought as a better covenant than the old. Seems to me there's something about that in Hebrews.

rogerharper said...

Yes indeed Zane,

Both Conservatives and Liberals each in their own way deem gay marriage a Primary Issue. I suggested that the last Lambeth Conference tackle the question of 'primaryness / adiaphora.' Akinola and Jefferts Schori would have then been on the same side! Let's have no compelling of any conscientious minorities over gay marriage, because it is not a Primary Issue.

Kurt,
Thanks for your agreement. For me, though, the recognition that gay marriage is not a Primary Issue means that we need to speak up more, because too many people assume that it is Primary, get away with it, and thereby forment disunity in Jesus' Church.

I reckon that we 'not Primary' people are the silent majority. Most people with whom I talk privately, especially here in the UK, are concerned that too much energy and focus is on gay marriage. But these mild-thinking people don't speak up much. Many feel awkward that their answer to 'Is Gay Marriage OK for the Church?' is 'I don't know.' So the mild majority is quiet and only the strident minorities on both sides are heard. The middle ground needs to rise up and be heard! Don't sit by and let Jesus' Church be rent apart!

Gay marriage is not a 'false gospel' - that is a divisive exaggeration. It is a development of the definition of marriage but it doesn't change the gospel as we have received it and proclaim it in the Creeds.

See http://gaymarriagemaybe.wordprss.com for more.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Roger, for your clear response to the question of the relative importance of these issues - gay marriage etc., - to the basic understanding of what unites us in Christ.

Zane Elliott said...

And yet Roger, I wonder if the posturing of Jefferts Schori of this being a 'new move of the Spirit' does make this a primary issue.

To my mind at least labelling this issue and agenda in such a manner means that it has to be elevated to primary because we are now talking about God condoning something that was previously considered sinful in Scripture and tradition.

When we consider how this agenda is pushed (i.e. the TEC way come hell or high-water)how should the middle respond? And what way forward is there for conservatives who have seen this elevated to a primary issue? (I'm searching for a way forward here!)

Just this week the Diocese of South Carolina was told that over 100 clerics have been given the boot because they hold an orthodox position. Maybe the concept of us being united is already a joke.

Fr. Ron - how can we be united around a Christ who we both proclaim is different? the Christ I speak of loves all sinners, and grants all repentant sinners pardon. The Christ I've seen you proclaim here accepts people wholesale with no need for repentance and with no hope of transformation of the sinful nature. There's no way you and I can unite around the same Christ, for they look different.

Father Ron Smith said...

" it has to be elevated to primary because we are now talking about God condoning something that was previously considered sinful in Scripture and tradition."

- Zane Elliot -

Zane, do you realise how odd this sounds for a biblical scholar who ought to know jolly well that the N.T. writings have contradicted much of the O.T. philosophy on matters that were once considered just about incontestable by the Jewish community - most notably in the treatment of women in the community.

Regarding your comment about the sort of 'Jesus' I proclaim; for me, Jesus does love sinners, He longs for them to repent, but His love does not cease if they do not. In fact, Jesus' love led him to 'give his life as a ransom for many' - a sure indication that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".

I do think that your view may betray one of the evangelical problems with the real intent of God; Who "Sent His Son into the world to save sinners". Our sinful human nature is a reality! Jesus himself stated that he did not come to save the righteous, but sinners! He, himself, did not specify the word 'repentant' sinners.

Salvation is in the hands of God - not even, solely, the Church.

"God, have mercy on me, a sinner!"

Zane Elliott said...

Fr. Ron,

I've never claimed to be a Biblical Scholar, I majored in Systematics.

Even so, you don't expect me to take the claim that Jesus will save everyone whether they repent or not seriously do you? You make a mockery of my faith. If repentance wasn't necessary I could still be living as a lustful, fairly adept thief and nonchalant liar instead of having to endure the hard graft that I'm doing daily to try and come under the rule of Christ. I just don't get how you can be so quick to deny the transforming work of the Spirit of God who is completing the good work he began in me and sanctifying me more and more each day.

Jesus spoke of repentance often enough, check out Mk 1:15, and then the episode of Lk 10:13-16.

John the Baptist preached repentance Mt 3:2, and Jesus certainly didn't say to him "oh John, cut out that repentance nonsense."

When you speak of contradiction between the OT and NT are you suggesting then, that the moves made today, to condone behaviour which is considered to be sinful in both, is some kind of new writing of Scripture? Are we going to sanction and add the gospel of TEC to the canon? The 'contradiction' argument is a non-sense. The moral code has not changed - yes some of the customary purity Laws that ran as precursors to Jesus have now been revoked (mixed linens, dietary restrictions) but jesus himself is so clear that it isn't the outward ritual that makes one ceremonially unclean or clean, but the internal attitude of our hearts.

And doesn't this all so clearly highlight the issues at hand? We do not submit in the same way to the Risen Christ. He loves us both, no doubt about it, but we can not mean the same thing when we talk of his atoning work on the cross. So how then, do you and I journey together? perhaps it works ok so long as you are in your part of the diocese, and I in mine, but when it comes to the unity required of the Church I can't hold up my end of the bargain with people who worship a different god. I wish there was a way ahead which was better than the idea that conservatives need to get over it and just accept this is happening, oh, and to stay in the ACANZP because we should be unified.

Joshua Bovis said...

Tim,

There is a continuity and a dis-continuity between the Old and New Covenant.

The reason I have not engaged with you on this is that I think it moves away from Peter's OP and also I think you are being argumentative because you are cranky. I could spend the next hour or two responding to all of your points, but I suspect it would not be productive. I think you have already made up your mind.

Joshua

Peter Carrell said...

From Fr Ron (not moderated - I pressed the Delete rather than Publish button by mistake)

Father Ron Smith has left a new comment on your post "Tragic marriage split through misunderstanding":

" I could still be living as a lustful, fairly adept thief and nonchalant liar instead of having to endure the hard graft that I'm doing daily to try and come under the rule of Christ. I just don't get how you can be so quick to deny the transforming work of the Spirit of God who is completing the good work he began in me and sanctifying me more and more each day." - Zane Elliot -

Zane, if you look carefully at any of my postings on this blog, I have never denied what you call 'the transforming work of the Spirit of God...sanctifying (us) more and more each day. In fact, one fruit of that work is that we come to the realisation that we can never attribute to our own efforts the sanctification that is going on within us - by the pure grace of God's redeeming work in Christ.

You admit that you still have to struggle to remain within the orbit of god's saving grace; whereas I, as a priest of the Church - as well as part of the faithful laos - have to recognise that no effort of mine, no matter how godly, can ever earn the grace that has been made available by the loving mercy of God-in-Christ to redeem me - or anyone else.

We cannot lift ourselves up by our own boot-straps. This fact has been acknowledged by Christians from the beginning. Redemption is God's free gift - given to all who recognise their need of it. My job is to help people understand their great need of redemption - not by threats of hell-fire; but by doing my very best to exemplify "the great love of God as revealed in the Son".

Salvation history (in the wake of our redemption by OLJC) has been described, I think rather wisely, as : "One poor person showing another poor person where to find bread!"

Blessings in your struggle, which is also my own!

Tim Chesterton said...

Joshua said: 'The reason I have not engaged with you on this is that I think it moves away from Peter's OP and also I think you are being argumentative because you are cranky. I could spend the next hour or two responding to all of your points, but I suspect it would not be productive. I think you have already made up your mind. '

Hi Joshua:

On the issue of homosexuality, my mind was completely made up until the day my daughter told me she was a lesbian. Now I have a lot of doubts about my certainties.

On the issue of war and peace, my mind was completely made up until a few years ago when the writings of John Howard Yoder came floating in my direction.

I do not seem to be constitutionally capable of certainty any more. Sometimes I envy those who appear to possess it.

'Argumentative because I am cranky?' I am certainly argumentative at times. But cranky? I'm not sure how you would know that (it's only a couple of days since Bosco kindly called me 'a compassionate presence' here!).

This all began when you made sweeping statements about how this was all to do with 'the authority of scripture' (i.e. those of us who aren't as sure as you are about homosexuality are denying the authority of scripture). I simply pointed out that accepting the authority of scripture doesn't necessarily mean accepting the authority of every statement of scripture, and gave a few examples. You then hit me over the head with the 39 Articles and their statement about interpreting one part of scripture so that it is repugnant to another. My response was simply to point out some obvious places where the new covenant abrogates parts of the old, and to ask you how you would interpret those discontinuities. At which point you accuse me of being cranky!!!

As for whether or not I've steered the post away from Peter's 'OP' (whatever an OP may be, I have no idea) - well, my experience with Peter is that if he thinks we're getting off topic, he'll tell us.

Speaking of which, Peter, if this post is getting a little too much like a personal scrap between Joshua and me, I know you'll do the right thing, and there certainly won't be any hard feelings on my part!!!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim // Joshua

I think "OP" means "original point" or "original post (topic)."

The argument between you, minus any personalization, is important to this blog: how do we read Scripture, what is the relationship between 'authority' and 'interpretation', how do we interpret Scripture in order to uphold the authority of Scripture for Christian life (rather than try to undermine it), how do we interpret Scripture so that it is God's Word of life for our lives and not a dead law diminishing life in the Spirit?

I do wonder, Joshua, whether there are more uncertainties than you appear to allow for. And I wonder if we are allowed to live with genuine uncertainties (i.e. a genuine uncertainty as to how God views faithful, stable, permanent same sex partnerships ... compared with a 'pretend uncertainty' because, in reality, we are journeying to a new certainty that such relationships are perfectly fine in God's sight)?

Tim Chesterton said...

Peter said: 'I wonder if we are allowed to live with genuine uncertainties (i.e. a genuine uncertainty as to how God views faithful, stable, permanent same sex partnerships ... compared with a 'pretend uncertainty' because, in reality, we are journeying to a new certainty that such relationships are perfectly fine in God's sight)?'

Peter, thank you - that is very well put.

Joshua Bovis said...

Tim,

My response initially was to Peter and I stand by what I said. This whole issue about SSM, pan sexuality (esp pro homosexuality) is to do with the authority of Scripture. And since this is the main issue within the Anglican communion and myself being an Anglican priest who meant his ordination vows when it comes to the Articles, I do not feel that I am (nor have been remiss) in bringing up the 39 Articles.

I realise that on blogs there is no nuance, but your response to me did some rather like a rant. And also I did not like the implication that I was being dishonest. You ask me question after question and then presume to know my answer is going to be, so perhaps you may understand why I don't really want to engage with you.
As I said, blogs are notorious for their inability to convey tone and nuance and inflection and if your response to me was a genuine, you really want me to explain them then I am happy to. For your encouragement I believe that they are not contradictions and can be explained. I am happy to engage with you, if that was the spirit in which you made them. And I apologise is that is the case.
Your call.

As for the gay issue, this is gospel issue in my view for people to endorse something that Scripture is very clear is sin and evidence and expression of rebellion against God (like all other sexual immorality) is sending a message to homosexuals that they can "come as they are and stay as they" which is not the gospel as it is a gospel which is devoid of repentance. Which leads me back to my original response to Peter. In all truth Tim, I know for many Christians this is painful issue, in my previous profession (hairdresser) I have seen the pain that homosexuals go through, but there is no way I am aware of explaining to homosexual people and those who are pro-gay what Scripture says in a way that makes them think I am not being unloving. In their minds, if I were truly loving, I would approve of their lifestyle, but for me to do so would be going against Scripture and being extremely unloving.

I respectfully disagree with Peter in him saying that we cannot know what God thinks of this and/or same sex marriage. Scripture is crystal clear on this. But he knows I think this already.

Your call Tim.

Joshua

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua
If I have written words which suggest we cannot know what God thinks about same sex marriage etc, then I need to restate what I am saying!

(1) I think a reader of the Bible can make a claim that they know, via the Bible what God thinks about same sex marriage etc. (Anglicans are used to our brothers and sisters variously claiming God is agin it and God is for it!)

(2) I also think a reader of the Bible can make a claim to be uncertain of what God thinks about same sex marriage etc (e.g. because not specifically mentioned) even while being certain about other matters on which the Bible speaks directly.

An analogy in my mind concerns the remarriage of divorcees (beyond the narrow grounds seemingly allowed by Jesus). Some are certain this should not take place, some are certain this should take place, some are still weighing the evidence.

Joshua Bovis said...

@ Tim,
Sorry about the numerous typos in my last post to you.

@ Peter,

So which one is it then? You place too much onus on the individual. Scripture is clear. Jesus affirms heterosexual marriage very strongly. The Apostle Paul (speaking with the authority of Christ, as an Apostle) also affirms marriage and condemns all forms of sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage.

Peter, respectfully it does seem from your previous post that you are trying to stand between two opinions that are held in the context of two different faiths at the same time. This is not true unity Peter. We are called to maintain the unity of the Gospel, not promote organisational unity.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua
We are writing comments here, not textbooks: in a textbook I think I would discuss the whole question of how we make decisions in the church.

Nevertheless individuals in the church do have some discretion about matters. Thus (as a licensed priest) I may refuse to remarry a divorcee on the grounds that I do not believe it can be done "theologically;" I may so remarry; and I may hedge my bets. As far as I know among my colleagues, whether I think of the "organisation" I belong to, or of the gospel fellowship of (relatively) like-minded evangelicals that I belong to (at least I think I am still included :) ), these views are held to. I am not aware that the variety of views on the remarriage of divorcees concomitantly makes such collegiality a matter in which "two different faiths" are held across the groups.

Thus I need convincing that if there are differing views on same sex marriage held by Bible-believing, Bible-teaching Christians, that trying to hold ourselves together is a promotion of organisational unity rather than a maintaining of gospel unity.

(As for myself: I keep thinking about these things. I want to be faithful to the whole counsel of God revealed in Scripture, a counsel which admits of God's love for humanity seeking to bless its flourishing. I am concerned lest I misunderstand the Bible and deny humanity's full flourishing.)

Joshua Bovis said...

Hi Peter,

Just got in from evening church. Will respond more fully later in the week. But can I say that the topic of divorce and Evangelicals is certainly worth a discussion.

Albert Mohler on his blog wrote this:

Evangelical Christians are gravely concerned about the family, and this is good and necessary. But our credibility on the issue of marriage is significantly discounted by our acceptance of divorce. To our shame, the culture war is not the only place that an honest confrontation with the divorce culture is missing.
Divorce is now the scandal of the evangelical conscience.


He makes a very very good point. His blog is below:
http://www.albertmohler.com/2010/09/30/divorce-the-scandal-of-the-evangelical-conscience/

in Christ
Joshua

Tim Chesterton said...

Hi Joshua:

I apologize for taking so long to respond to you; I had a somewhat busy weekend. And then, I was pondering your comment and wondering about the best way to respond.

You may be correct that I ranted a little too much. It is difficult for me to be detached on this subject.

I emphasize again that I personally still accept the traditional understanding of the biblical texts about homosexuality (although it is a great struggle for me). However, I have good friends who do not, and I do not think they see themselves as rebelling against Christ or against the authority of scripture. I also have good friends who accept the just war theory. As I have explained to you, I do not; I see the New Testament as being crystal clear that followers of Jesus are forbidden to engage in violence or war. However, I do not have all the answers as to how we are to work this out in daly living, and my 'just war' friends who are honest are prepared to admit that they don't have all the answers about how to work out their position in harmony with the teaching of Jesus either. As I have explained to you, I do see this as an issue that has fundamental implications to our understanding of the Gospel, so it's not a minor issue for me. And yet - I live in a church that includes both pacifists and military chaplains, and we receive communion together at the Lord's Table. So is sex more important than killing and war?

So, when you say, 'Scripture is crystal clear on this', I would like you to add the proviso, 'To me'. Gay and lesbian Christian friends do not see it so clearly. For instance, the only text in the entire Bible which is usually interpreted today as referring to lesbian sex (Romans 1:26) was, I am told, commonly understood by the Church Fathers to refer to anal sex (I admit I have not researched this myself - I have been told it by people I consider to be reliable scholars). Gay Christians tend not to see themselves in the phrase 'giving up natural intercourse with women', since many of them have never had it! And they also read on in verses 29-32 ('...every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice...envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness... gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents...' etc.) and think 'Does this really describe me?'

I have personally wrestled with these texts with gay and lesbian Christians who are struggling to be faithful to God. Many of them have spent years praying that God would change their sexual orientation, and have finally given up, since he does not appear to be answering their prayer, and have concluded that he does not want to do so.

To me, it isn't a simple matter to be pastor to people like that. In the same way, in any given Christian congregation today, I suspect that 25-30% of the couples in the congregation are divorced and remarried, and many of them were not divorced on anything like what we would refer to as scriptural grounds. What constitutes a faithful pastoral response to that situation?

I confess that on this issue I have more questions than answers. But I ask you to believe that I am struggling to submit to the authority of Christ, as you are.

Shawn Herles said...

Tim,

If Scripture is subjective, then God has not spoken.

Shawn Herles said...

The ghost of Marcion is alive and well on this thread.

Joshua Bovis said...

@ Tim,

Tim, No need to apologise. I don't get a lot of time to blog.

Although I don't have the same struggle you do regarding what the Bible says about homosexuality; I am assuming that it is not that different to when we struggle on an emotional level with the teaching that those who die unrepentant will spend eternity in Hell. Coming from a non-Christian family, on an emotional level I would love this not to be the case, but I simply cannot escape the teaching of Scripture on this.

Regarding Christians going to war. My explanation is this:
1. If a Christian feels it is sin to serve in the forces then they have the liberty not to. And I think passages such as Romans 14 apply). But they don't have the liberty to tell other Christians it is a sin to join the armed forces.
2. Romans 13 I think makes it clear that there is a role for the state (which includes the armed forces)
3. In Luke 3, when people come to John for baptism, Roman Soldiers ask what are they to do (how they are to put their repentance into practice), notice that John does not tell the soldiers to stop being soldiers, but tells them "not to extort money from anyone by threats of false accusation, and be content with your wages." (Luke 3:14)

I don't think this issue is a gospel issue. However the reason why I think homosexuality is a gospel issue is because Scripture is clear that there are two types of sexual expression that God blesses and endorses:
1. Sex between a man and a woman who are married to each other.
2. Celibacy for those who are unmarried.

The issue at hand with the same sex matters is that proponents are saying that God blesses a third expression, sex between a man and another man or sex between a woman and another woman. There is no where in Scripture ever where this expression is portrayed as being blessed by God in Scripture and Scripture is clear that any sexual activity outside of marriage is sin (1 Cor 6.6-18).
In no way am I suggesting Tim that homosexuals cannot become Christians, the biggest need for homosexuals who are not Christians is not for them to become straight but to submit to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there are many Christians who are painfully away of their attraction to members of the same sex, but because they believe in the Lord Jesus and have repented, they live his way and know that God's will for sexual expression is the first two categories that I mentioned.
Rev David Ould has written an article about Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe’s, Oxford, and a prominent leader amongst English evangelicals who announced that he experiences same-sex attraction and yet he remains celibate since this is the clear teaching of Scripture. Certainly well worth a read.
http://davidould.net/?p=4388

I am sorry Tim, but in all honesty I cannot add the proviso "to me" when it comes to what Scripture says. The reason is that it does matter what Scripture says to me or to you or to anyone else. What matters is what Scripture says. Scripture has intrinsic meaning in and of itself and it is inerrant. The problem of course is that we are not inerrant and we can get things wrong. But it is the post-modern world that says that we cannot know what truth is and at best truth is just our view or interpretation of the 'truth'. This leads to relativism.

As for divorce, as I said to Peter earlier, this is certainly worth discussion and I think your question is an absolute cracker of a question. For Anglicans who are Reformed and Christians of other denominations who defend the Biblical view of marriage, their case is certainly not helpful by fudging on this issue; and as a adult child of divorce, it is an issue that is very much one I am mindful of.

I hope that in some way what I have said is helpful to you, or at least elucidates my position in a clearer way.


Joshua Bovis said...

Tim,

For your reading.
http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/Browse%20By%20Category/features/A%20different%20kind%20of%20coming%20out.aspx

Blessings
Joshua

Tim Chesterton said...

Thanks Joshua. I've actually met Sam Allberry - my best friend from high school goes to St. MAry's Maidenhead.

Tim Chesterton said...

Joshua:

Well, I don't expect to change your mind, but consider this:

1. As far as we can tell from the Church Fathers, the early church in at least the first two Christian centuries interpreted the Scriptures as forbidding Christians from participating in war. The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus goes so far as to say that if a Christian becomes a soldier he has denied the faith. So the early church obviously did not understand it to be an issue on which freedom of conscience was granted.

I'm not saying they were right; I'm simply saying that your judgement that homosexuality is a crystal clear issue which admits of no variance, but war and peace is a matter on which freedom of conscience can be granted, is every bit as subjective as you claim mine to be.

2. If you read the sweep of Romans 12-14 it is clear that Romans 13:1-7 is addressing the non-Christian state. Paul tells Christians to submit to those in authority (an attitude, by the way, that would have ruled out the American Revolutionary War, if we interpret it literally). But his instructions to Christians as to how they are to behave, in Romans 12:9-end, are quite clear - don't repay anyone evil for evil, bless those who persecute you, don't avenge yourselves, give your enemy food and water etc. In other words, as Jesus said, 'Love your enemies'.

3. It is true that John the Baptist does not tell soldiers to stop being soldiers - but, as Jesus pointed out, John the Baptist was still living in the Old Covenant. Note also this: there is no recorded command of Jesus telling prostitutes to stop being prostitutes, either. Why do we assume he did? Because he spoke out against sexual immorality, and we assume that would preclude prostitution. Interesting - we assume that avoiding sexual immorality would rule out being a prostitute, but we don't assume that loving your enemies would rule out being a soldier! Why, I wonder?

I am quite sure you are correct that Scripture has an intrinsic meaning. I'm not, however, as confident as you seem to be that I always understand it or can get outside my own subjective frame of reference to do so. You feel you are speaking objectively when you say "The Bible is against same-sex marriage', but you feel that I am speaking subjectively when I say, 'The New Testament forbids Christians from engaging in violence and war'. Now, it seems clear to me that for the majority of the Church Fathers, my statement was regarded as equally objective, but you don't see it that way.

Right, gotta go home and cook some supper!