Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Radner undone?

I was thinking of posting about our church undoing the link between it and the state re marriage but that can wait for another day. A brilliant set of comments has been posted on an argument made by Ephraim Radner, noted here on July 18th, 2013. In blogging terms that is a light year away so I am reproducing below the link to Radner's essay and copying the two comments (made into one).

From the original post:

"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." Some good discussion then occurred (thank you, commenters).

These are the two comments sent to me this morning by 'caleb' (thank you) - with what I consider to be important observations italicised by me (and a footnote or two appended at the end):

"OK, I've read it, and I'm tempted to say that if this is "as good an argument as one can find anywhere" for the traditionalist case, the traditionalist case is in even more trouble than I thought.

I'm intrigued that he bases his argument on procreation rather than gender complementarity, like most traditionalist arguments I've come across. It's been my understanding that in the last few hundred years the (Protestant) church has moved away from seeing procreation as an essential component of all marriage/sexuality - and with good Scriptural reason for doing so... So I'm intrigued by some of Radner's statements to the effect that it's only a Christian marriage when friendship, sexual engagement and procreation are all present - I'm not even quite sure if I'm reading him right. At least, I'd be interested to hear how he (or you, Peter?) would deal with couples who marry never intending to have children of their own, or knowing that due to infertility they can't conceive without sperm donors etc, or couples who marry too late in life for children.* If procreation is the only thing excluding gay couples from marriage, aren't a whole lot of other people excluded too?

Also, I'm not sure how convinced I am by his model of "suffering procreative love" as characterising marriage. It has a certain amount of internal logic and emotional appeal, and it COULD be a good way of putting the various biblical strands together.... Or, it could just be Radner adding the word "procreative" to a description of Christian love. I've seen the biblical strands being put together in just as compelling a way without needing every marriage to ('naturally') produce its own children.

The first half was quite frustrating. He makes some trenchant criticisms of SOME arguments put forward SOMETIMES by SOME revisionists, and it is worthwhile to have those specific arguments exposed to some good critique. I just wish he had described what he was doing in that way, instead of implying that the entirety of all arguments for same-sex marriage is covered by the specific types of argumentation he describes and refutes (perhaps I could say 'caricatures'). I'm sure the arguments he refutes are an accurate depiction of real arguments being put forward by (SOME) real same-sex marriage advocates. But if he tries to impute those arguments to all of us and pretend we've got nothing else to say, it's a straw man argument.

For example, at one point he depicts everyone on the 'pro-gay' side as falling into two discrete categories: "anarchic" "so-called Queer" thinkers who promote social construction of sexualities, and same-sex advocates who (apparently) all believe "sexualities are stable, embedded and consistent", as well as holding strongly to the modern myth of progress. Again, I'm sure these boxes hold a lot of people (and he's right to point out the tensions) but they don't hold all of us.

I share his sense that the "benign individualism" that seems to be motivating many same-sex marriage advocates is morally and rationally bankrupt, hypocritical, sub-Christian, and an ideology extremely well-suited to consumer capitalism. His criticism here was my favourite part of the article. But - once again - you can't write off all arguments for same-sex marriage just because this is the morality underlying some of the arguments. (Also, I could point to equally dubious moral motivations of many traditionalists).

I think he's overcooking the difficulty/impossibility of discovering anything about historical context and authorial intent, which I suppose is a more general hermeneutical debate. But the most glaring problem with his dismissal of "arguing the same-sex issue on the basis of human discontinuities" is that the same criticism can be levelled at traditionalists... If it's speculative and unprovable to suggest that biblical authors' condemnations of ancient behaviours are discontinuous with some contemporary same-sex relationships, it's just as speculative and unprovable to suggest that the biblical authors' condemnations of ancient behaviours are continuous with all same-sex relationships across all times and places. BOTH require some kind of speculative reconstruction of the moral logic of the biblical authors.

For example, we can suggest that Paul condemned what he condemned because it was lustful - in which case the contemporary parallel is lustful sexual activity (homo or hetero). Alternatively, we can suggest that Paul condemned what he condemned because of the genders of the parties involved - in which case the contemporary parallel is all same-sex sexual activity (lustful or monogamous).** It's hypocritical of Radner to criticise the speculativeness and uncertainty of people who take the former route, if he himself is taking the latter route. Our limited access to the minds of the biblical authors cuts both ways.

I suppose there's an important epistemological difference (not acknowledged by Radner) about who should have the burden of proof when the exegetical arguments are so inconclusive. Radner may say what Richard Hays says - that it's most prudent to side with the tradition while there is still doubt. Others would say that while there's doubt we should side with the position that leads to less gay children of God committing suicide.

An important question to ask is: what does it take for the burden of proof to shift to the traditionalists? When does the traditionalist argument become sufficiently weakened (through the various tools of exegesis, as well as other sources of truth - experience, science etc) that there is no longer enough evidence to justify maintaining the gender restrictions on marriage?

He argues similarly about the inconclusiveness of the sciences - basically saying that science is too inconclusive and contested to teach us anything at all, so we should ignore it and go back to the traditional position by default. This is surely a highly questionable claim (for which his sole reference is a comment made by a friend who's a psychiatrist). I don't think the entirety of all natural and social scientists' work on sexuality and gender can be written off quite so easily - even if we are in the "scientific Dark Ages" on sexuality. It sounds far too similar to evolution/climate change scepticism for my liking. In any case, as we move beyond the Dark Ages and scientific knowledge grows, Radner's position here will get weaker and weaker.

Lastly, I too appreciated his comments about the sobering lesson of slavery - the church has been horrendously wrong before, and no doubt we'll be horrendously wrong again... He's right that whatever side we currently find ourselves on, we shouldn't settle for the kind of weak arguments that too many people (on both sides) seem to have settled for. This is far too important for that - people's lives are at stake."

*PRC comment: (1) Openness to procreation is important (cf. Roman Catholic teaching) so in the first case I personally would not take the marriage of a couple who explicitly declared they would not have children under any circumstances. In the second case, miracles or simply surprises re conception do happen, to the couple who (otherwise of fertile age) think they are infertile before marriage can be open to God's future. In the third case, Scripture supports older couples marrying, which says, I suggest, that gender complementarity brought into marital unity is a necessary condition for marriage. (2) The question following begs a question or two, including whether 'procreation' is a thing which is separable so that with or without it, the question of valid marriage in the eyes of God can be settled.

**PRC comment: If I understand Caleb's critique of Radner (mixed in, as it is, with general critique of arguments for/against same-sex marriage), then the heart of the case for/against same-sex marriage must be about gender requirements for marriage (i.e. whether they are requirements which need to be met; or requirements that do not actually apply in all generations).

Plenty to think about here as astute insights are brought to bear on Radner's argument which I now concede may not be as good as I thought.


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, will Radner's piece be part of your own thesis about the ethical insupportability of marriage as anything other than the relationship between two persons of the opposite gender - with ability to procreate?

The possibility of this has precluded me from attending the seminar on Marriage this weekend. I fear the same old ground will be trampled over

Peter Carrell said...

My presentation on Saturday morning will be about two theologies of marriage and their status in the life of the church. Only one of those is supported by Radner. It is not my brief at the conference to argue for or advocate for one and only one option for our church to consider.

I cannot, however,speak for every speaker at the conference as to the direction they will take. Nor can I guarantee that the 'same old ground' will not be trampled over - after all, the very fact that it is well trampled over means that it is hard to say anything new.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks ‘caleb’ for setting out an important line of argument. A few months ago I penned some remarks on “fruitfulness”, some of which were prompted by a similar line of argument that tries to equate all forms of infertility as if they were the same, thus trying to refute the claim that marriage has explicitly to do with procreation and same-sex relationships thereby may not be “marriages” (ala now Radner perhaps). The most trenchant form of this argument I've found is in Tobias Stanislas Haller’s Reasonable and Holy (2009). It fails however at the most basic point of grammar, grammar naturally being language’s essential form of logic.

Same sex relationships preclude, by biological definition, any procreation; it takes a man and a woman to humanly reproduce. Yet the infertility of the former is just the same as any childless marriage between a man and a woman, is the claim being made. Yet again, it must be said, in the case of a childless marriage it might have been different: the newly married couple aged in their sixties might have been younger, and so in all probability would have had children, if they’d in fact been younger; the young couple, who find themselves unable to have children due to some physiological problem, might have been healthy and so would have had children if their health were otherwise; etc. The grammar at issue, and so the logic on display, is that of the subjunctive: it might have been ...; if it were so, then X would have been ... Such a grammatical depiction of same-sex relationships is just logically impossible however: they are indicatively infertile - period/full-stop. Haller’s argument fails at this basic level of language, grammar, and so logic - as do ‘caleb’s’ comments therefore. “Marriage-and-procreation” do inherently belong together. What is indicatively impossible between couples of the same gender is not therefore capable of the description “marriage”. It may of course be other things; we may decide to call it a “civil union” for reasons of “next of kin” or “property rights”. But such a form of union is not a marriage, not in the Christian scheme of things, with its fulsome sacramental ontology, reflective of the Triune God, to whom all creation is to render praise and worship - and notably the human creature, whose destiny is to be this God’s Image Bearer, “in holiness and righteousness before Him”. [These last remarks re “sacramental ontology” were the basis of much of the earlier discussion, to long to go into here.]

Anonymous said...

And it really has to be stated again (because people are so forgetful and wilfully ignorant) that if marriage is NOTHING OTHER than a consensual social union of adults and has NOTHING to do with our embodiment as men and women, then there can be NO rational objection to consensual polygamy or to sibling marriage, especially to same-sex pairing.
Simple logic must compel you to this conclusion if you are thinking clearly.
But of course, none of the advocates of the 'new' sexual ethic are able to answer this. The resident contrarian never has, and I don't imagine Caleb can either. But I'm willing to ysidayme be surprised.


Chris Spark said...

There is much to say about much of this and much more for me to read in this post (I have only skimmed) - but I can't resist saying this:

Given the diversity of positions at the conference on the weekend, the content of Peter's presentation (whatever it might be about) seems to me a terrible reason not to go. There are heaps of presenters coming from different angles - indeed my concern is more whether the biblical material, and especially the connection of Jesus and the wider NT to the OT (ie biblical theology and the vital role it has to play in hermeneutics regardi8ng this issue) will get enough of a hearing. But that certainly wouldn't preclude me from going. I reckon it is a really important thing to be at if possible, especially for clergy (though for others too).

Bryden Black said...

You are exactly right Martin. Your point formed the premise of my own letter to the local Press a few months back at the time of the Parliament’s second reading of our Marriage Amendment Bill:

“The blurb announcing the Bill cites the criteria of “equality” and “non-discrimination” as the governing principles of the proposed amendments. Yet the subsequent sections only mention provision for unions between two men and between two women. In direct contradiction of the key criteria, the Bill discriminates against for example any unions among two men and one woman, among two women and one man - or even among three women and two men.

On what rational basis does the Bill judge such differences? Why include gay and lesbian couples, and exclude polyandry, polygamy and polyamory?

The short answer is the governing principles on their own are woefully inadequate to define the true nature of human marriage. This conclusion however has not halted our parliament from trying to construct an illogical outcome that obviously contradicts the essentially gendered nature of the human species, as male-and-female. Why do we tolerate such folly? Worse still: why enshrine it in law?” [ends]

See notably Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson & Robert George, What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, 2012).

Caleb said...

Peter: Thanks for circulating my thoughts, and thanks for clarifying where you stand on procreation. Perhaps 'openness to children' would be a better phrase, as it includes IVF conception, adoption, only-if-a-Sarah-esque-miracle-happens etc? (this could maybe even include, in some cases, "we want to be part of the 'village'/church that raises children - but for X reason we don't want our own" ... Generally though I'm happy to accept a refusal to ever have children as a potential reason to refuse blessing a marriage). But of course any understanding of procreation/openness to children that includes adoption, sperm donors etc. also necessarily includes gay couples having children by the same means.

So ultimately the case against gay marriage comes back to gender complementarity, as you note in the case of the elderly couple. But when it comes to church leadership and so-called "headship" in marriage, haven't most Anglican evangelicals come to see gender complementarity as an oppressive pagan/Romantic patriarchal ideology, which the trajectory of the Bible/Kingdom points beyond? (and is now joined by contemporary gender theory/research suggesting essentialist, binary gender 'roles' are not natural, eternal and essential but the product of specific, unjust historical circumstances?)

So I agree that "the heart of the case for/against same-sex marriage must be about gender requirements for marriage" or lack thereof. In fact I'd expand that to "the heart of the case ... is about understandings of gender". I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on gender complementarity and biblical understandings of gender. I'm quite confused by the stance held by most evangelicals I know, which seems to essentially boil down to "Girls can do anything - except marry other girls."

Bryden: I'm not convinced. The grammar can be used both ways: "My partner's male (or neither-male-nor-female) but he might have been female." And: marriages where at least one partner is infertile or past menopause are just as indicatively infertile as marriages where the partners are the same sex.

Martin: Ahhh, yes, but what the definition of marriage contains more than "a consensual social union of adults" yet still doesn't require the parties to be embodied in any particular roles on any particular gender/sex binaries/continua?

If someone wants to extend church marriage to incestuous couples or polygamous couples, I'll join you in opposing them... In the meantime, don't you think slippery slope arguments give the appearance of not being able to provide a good argument against what's actually being discussed?

Chris: I agree and I'm looking forward to Peter's and the other talks.

PS: As Martin has correctly deduced, Caleb is indeed my real name, and it can certainly be capitalised should you so desire!

Father Ron Smith said...

" What is indicatively impossible between couples of the same gender is not therefore capable of the description “marriage”. - B.B.

And that, of course, is the opinion of Dr.Bryden Black. That does not deny that there may be (and are) other opinions.

For instance, The Church is still wont to marry a couple who are incapable of procreation. Is that not a marriage? The Church would not necessarily agree with you assertion. Not even the R.C. Church

Bryden Black said...

Ah; a real Caleb then and not one like so: ‘caleb’. This helps!

Mmm... “The grammar”, as you use it, in the two sentences you advance, reveals that perhaps the actual manner of the subjunctive mood is an alien beast to you ... as it probably is in most schools today! My own appreciation is based on a classical education in Latin and Greek - once upon a time!

For you/one can only say, "My partner's male (or neither-male-nor-female) but he might have been female" if you have already decided that the matter of “partners” is indeed a case of viable alternatives, either male or female, irrespective of one’s own gender. But that issue is outside the grammatical parameters of the case in question, independent of the grammatical construction before us. That is, you’ve already decided - but on what grounds, pray tell - that one’s partnering may be with either gender.

This dynamic with the subjunctive of alternatives is exactly how my own sentence actually functions: “The newly married couple aged in their sixties might have been younger, and so in all probability would have had children, if they’d in fact been younger.” For of course with the normal couple in their sixties, being “past menopause” in the case of the woman spouse, as you say, they are “indicatively infertile”. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT I’VE SAID AT ALL. The entire point of my sentence in the subjunctive mood sets up the alternative, a perfectly viable alternative, what’s more, for all the world to see, via: “if they’d been younger, they would ...”!

That sets up the contrast between two categorically distinct forms of infertility; that’s what the subjunctive exercise throws up, and that alone.

As for whether, irrespective of the approach I use re subjunctives, “partners” may be of either gender - that’s moot. Other types of argument need to be brought to bear (though to be frank, I’ve yet to hear a genuine Christian one; only others premised on other anthropologies).

Thereafter again, whether such ‘partnering’ may be termed “marriage” - irrespective of gender - that’s when the line of argument advanced by Radner kicks in re procreation: same sex partners, No; complementary male-female spouses, Yes. For “marriage” and “procreation” are intrinsically linked.

And so, then lastly, when you and/or Haller try to raise the aspect of “infertility” (as an attempted counter argument re “procreation”), I will wheel out my subjunctive scenario - to point out that all types of infertility are NOT the same, and therefore that the infertility argument, as used, as you try to use it, is logically false.

Bryden Black said...

Context, Ron; context ...

Anonymous said...

“But when it comes to church leadership and so-called "headship" in marriage, haven't most Anglican evangelicals come to see gender complementarity as an oppressive pagan/Romantic patriarchal ideology, which the trajectory of the Bible/Kingdom points beyond?”
Not this dinosaur. When I was forced to think about it, I concluded that the NT envisaged shared leadership such as by Aquila and Priscilla but not female headship of a church. Nothing in the Bible or Church history and tradition has moved me from this unpopular conclusion. Nor anything I have learned from the pragmatics of life. A feminized church will become liberal and decline, as men retreat further from their responsibilities. Holding this view doesn’t make life easy for me and I don’t hold it for popularity’s sake. Put simply, pastors are meant to be the fathers of congregations, not their mothers.
“Martin: Ahhh, yes, but what the definition of marriage contains more than "a consensual social union of adults" yet still doesn't require the parties to be embodied in any particular roles on any particular gender/sex binaries/continua?”
I can’t follow the grammar of this comment – are some words missing? Perhaps you can repost with corrections. The human race can define “marriage” any way it wants; when Alexander invaded Persia, he embraced Persian polygamy (as well continuing to embrace Hephaestion). But Christian marriage can only be one thing: what our Lord Jesus Christ determined it to be: ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall be one flesh.’ It is a matter of deep pain to me that parts of the Anglican Communion have apostasized from the teaching of Christ. But God is not mocked: a disobedient church will reap what it sows.

Caleb said...

Yes, sorry, there is a word missing, I meant "but what IF the definition..." . Still quite a confusing sentence sorry.

My point was that there's a lot of middle ground between liberal disembodied individualism (marriage as merely a "consensual social union of adults") and the 'traditionalist' conception of marriage (which requires, among other things, a male and a female on the standard gender binary of whatever society you're in).

For example, there could be a conception of marriage that is exactly the same as the 'traditionalist' conception (more accurately: Christian marriage as currently defined) but with no requirements or restrictions regarding gender (this is more or less what I'd advocate). This is no more liberal-individualist than the 'traditionalist' stance.

I guess the issue with how Jesus described marriage is whether the 'male and female' aspect is normative for all marriages, or just descriptive of marriages that had been seen at that time.

But, ultimately, I don't think I have an argument for same-sex marriage that can convince people who believe essentialist gender roles are part of the Kingdom. My line of reasoning builds on the premise that Christianity transcends essentialist gender roles.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Caleb for clarifying Martin’s problem - which also addresses partially my own searching for more understanding of your own rationale.

My own (Christian) stance is not exactly an expression of any binary, either constructionist or essentialist. Rather, it merely seeks to do justice to Jesus in both Matt 19 & Mk 10, where he goes back to “the one, who creating them in the beginning, made them male and female/But from the beginning of creation male and female he made them.” I.e by reverting to “creation” “in the beginning” Jesus is crafting the position - pre Fall, unlike some Early Church Fathers - that should be embraced by all human cultures of all times.

Thereafter, while there’s ample evidence marriage will be transcended in the fulness of the kingdom of God - with the sacramentum of marriage (as presented in Gen 1 & 2) giving way to the res itself, the wedding of the Lamb (so Rev 19ff); and see Lk 20:34-38 - there’s absolutely no evidence of gender itself, as a feature of human being, being transcended. And this despite Gregory of Nyssa’s speculations which Sarah Coakley seems to enjoy ...

Father Ron Smith said...

" My line of reasoning builds on the premise that Christianity transcends essentialist gender roles." - Caleb

I'm chiming with your argument here, Caleb. If marriage were so important for the individuals concerned, why isn't it continued into the eschaton? We are told that in the fullness of God's Kingdom there will neither giving nor given in marriage. So it can hardly be a "Kingdom" issue.

Individual relationships will melt into the 'Marriage feast of the Lamb'. No gender differentiation!

Anonymous said...

Caleb asks: "I guess the issue with how Jesus described marriage is whether the 'male and female' aspect is normative for all marriages, or just descriptive of marriages that had been seen at that time."

Matthew 19.4-6 answers that: in the beginning' describes God's creational intent. Human beings can distort God's purpose and have done so (even in the name of religion) but God's original creational purpose remains and is vindicated by Christ.


Anonymous said...

"If marriage were so important for the individuals concerned, why isn't it continued into the eschaton?"

Because there is no death then and no need for reproduction to maintain the species.
"We are told that in the fullness of God's Kingdom there will neither giving nor given in marriage. So it can hardly be a "Kingdom" issue.'
It *never* has been necessary to be married to be part of God's Kingdom. Our Lord said some are eunuchs for the Kingdom of God.

"Individual relationships will melt into the 'Marriage feast of the Lamb'. No gender differentiation!"

No sex either! (As Andrew Marvell told his coy mistress: 'The grave's a fine and quiet place/But none I think do there embrace.')

Take it form this evangelical - the Church Fathers thought through all these things long, long ago.

Aurelius Martinus

Anonymous said...

Sadly, but so very typically, neither evangelical nor liberal thinks about the child. This is the child who can, at the very least, expect to be brought up by the married parents to whom he or she is biologically related. It is not too much to ask: in fact, it's a right. It is a matter of considering the child rather than the socio-political aspirations of would-be care givers and their supporters.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
I couldn't agree more with you.

Anonymous said...

"Sadly, but so very typically, neither evangelical nor liberal thinks about the child."

Are you being fair in making this charge, Nick? This unreconstructed, knuckle-dragging evangelical for one has always been opposed to homosexual adoption for precisely this reason - not that I can say so in public because (a) I would be prosecuted for "hate speech"; (b) in the past I taught a young person raised by a lesbian mother and her partner. I know another woman (active in Sunday school leadership) who left her husband for a woman (a reader in the church) to bring up her sons with her. Perhaps you have underestimated how far society and the law have changed in an anti-Christian direction.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick and Martin
My agreement with Nick, I should clarify, concerns the child, not the matter of whether liberals and evangelicals are equally culpable etc. (to agree I think both groups are because often the argument is conducted without reference to the children and their rights regarding parenting; but exceptions abound ...).

Anonymous said...

Hi Martin, I was referring to the posts above. I have re-read them and they do not focus on the child.


Ephraim RAdner said...

My own two cents (US phrase these days, I guess):

"Suffering procreative love" is about the historical "destiny" (in Spengler's sense) of a child being born from a mother and a father, whose vocation it is to love and raise that child. As Nick says, the "child" is at the center, that is to say, "birth", and the moral bondedness that this relation engages from her or his parents. This is fundamentally who each of us is: a child of a mother and father. And it is the baseline for all disucssions of marriage, in my view.

Obviously, heterosexual couples don't always have children. For some it was called "barrenness", for others simply "old age". As Bryden argues, are we to put these and gay couples into the same category (i.e. to be a gay couple is to be "barren" like Sarah and Abraham or Hannah, or to be "old" and "past" conceiving)?

It seems to me that this cannot be the case. The "suffering of procreative love" in the former cases is precisely their "barrenness" and "senility". Gay couples come together without, as Bryden puts it, the "subjunctive" character of their marital suffering.

Unless, of course, one wishes to say "they might have chosen to have a heterosexual partnership instead". But that would be to say, "they might not have been joined together at all as same-sex partners", which is precisely what the argument for the equivalence of heterosexual and homosexual partnerships as "marriage" doesn't allow, logically. Same sex couples cannot "suffer procreative love" as "childless" marital partners do, anymore than ancient Scythians could "suffer" the loss of Roman citizenship.

I leave aside just what childless marital couples do experience in the evangelical sense of their marital faithfulness, that is the "meaning" of their marriage. It is a "full" marriage, but one given a specific challenge, one that is not normative, that procreative couples do not share. That's something important for the Church to reflect upon.

There is also, of course, the central question of non-procreative friendship and singleness. This is profoundly important to both consider and affirm in its healthy contours. We have failed to do this, leaving only "marriage" as a Christian vocation that engages our sexual beings. Single friendships are also a part of our sexuality. This needs the Church's attention in a big way.


Father Ron Smith said...

"it's a right. It is a matter of considering the child rather than the socio-political aspirations of would-be care givers and their supporters."

- Nick -

Precisely, and this is why care-givers are sometimes needed who are not the parents of the child - especially when they are abusive to the child. This is why N.Z. is currently contemplating special new laws to protect children from abusive parents.

Bryden Black said...

Re Radner’s last paragraph (while naturally supportive of his previous ones): we had in Christchurch yesterday some of the fruit of our host’s “busyness” in the Conference on Marriage he mentioned in an earlier thread.

Our local Bishop Victoria’s contribution attended directly and well to the needs Ephraim accentuated with her stress on companionship, both within marriage (as per Gen 2:18) and generically, among especially the Christian understanding of friendship.

Re the latter, her mention of Gregory of his friend Basil, Augustine, and Aelred were excellent amplifications of biblical themes, for us all to draw inspiration from. So; something is being done somewhere, thank God!

I’d also point out JP2's own profound contribution in his magnum opus, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Pauline Books, 2006) via his notion of “gift”, surely the heart of all notions of companionship and friendship. This work also stems any false inferences that might have been left hanging from +VM’s emphases and omissions, not insignificantly, given the overall purpose of the day.

Peter Carrell said...

A note to follow Bryden's post. I hope to have the addresses at the conference e-linked to by Thursday this week (on the Theology House site - I will give details on ADU).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
One way to respond to your reflections is to pick up Nick's point re children.

A child should be brought into the world and brought up in the world by its father and mother. Fathering is done by men and mothering by women and all the arguments in the world about the quality of parenting provided by parents of the same gender does not undo that basic gender differentiation.*

Thus the gender differentiation being essential to marriage is not only about whether God created humanity male and female and Jesus endorsed that [but might, according to you, have only been talking about marriage as experienced to that date] but about whether children born to a marriage have a right to expect a mum and a dad to be their parents (an ageless point).

*Two parents of the same gender can and do do a great job. But they do not constitute 'mum and dad.'

Tobias Haller said...

Interesting discussion. For what it is worth, I think Bryden's "subjunctive" argument fails because it argues an alternative and subjective state of affairs rather than dealing with reality. (I use "reality" in the modern sense. This is, to some extent an argument that reverts to the nominalist / realist debates of long ago.)

There are two related problems here: First, there can be said to be a difference between what might be called "conditional" infertility and "inherent" infertility. However, the argument presented hinges on what one reads into that difference from a moral standpoint. There seems to be asserted a moral rationale for declaring that a "would and if they could" marriage is acceptable but a "can't because they can't" is unacceptable; and then, we find that the former applies to mixed-sex couples, while the latter applies only to same-sex couples. This exposes a circularity in the "argument" -- that is, it accurately describes a state of affairs, but has not shown that there is a positive moral value to the former and a definite moral fault in the latter. While a childless couple may "suffer" in a Paschal sense due to their inability to procreate, who is to say that a same-sex couple might not "feel" the same? I assume many do, and hence adopt.

Second, and following: realism must rear its head. To bring in miracles and such for definitively infertile couples is to move from reality into another world entirely. Morality has to be fixed in the real world, in which the only differences (relevant to this line of argument) between a specific infertile mixed-sex couple and a specific same-sex couple is the "would and if they could" and "can't under any circumstances" realm of the subjunctive, and the sex differences (mixed and same) -- which seems to be the real nub of the position. In reality, both sets of couples cannot procreate.

To return to the first point, this distinction can not work in moral theology. "I can't but I would if I could" is not a moral category on which to hang such an important argument. It seems terribly subjective and "feelings-based" -- as if wanting very badly to do a good one is incapable of doing has some virtue. We are not called to play "If I were a rich man" but to do good with what we actually have.

The Biblical ethic is just that: about doing good with what one has. (Cp 1 John 3:17 and 2 Cor 8:12, for example), not wishing one could do what one cannot.

Bryden Black said...

Good to have you join the conversation Tobias; welcome Beyond Down Under!

I guess one might approach your long piece in various ways; I shall simply go to the nub via the last concluding brief para.

I guess “reality” and its concomitant construal of “what one has” is predicated upon what you/one deem(s) to be reality.

The Christian Faith is itself predicated upon some form of Creation-Fall-Recreation paradigm (with obvious reference to Tom Wright’s Five Acts picture, to which many now add a sixth, Consummation). Our faith is itself archetypally construed as per Heb 11:1 or Rom 10:6-17 or 8:24-5. Our Christian morality - despite many an ethical theory - is essentially ‘our becoming in the Spirit who we are in Christ Jesus’. Therefore our Christian pilgrimage is rather as the entire Fourth Gospel is itself constructed: those who believe in His Name have become children of God, who are on their own Way to the Full Life of Glory, which is participation in the Trinity. Meanwhile, there are sufficient signs of glory on our way to warrant our faith, hope and love, that we shall indeed be as He is for we shall see Him as He is. Therefore, we indeed purify ourselves as he is pure - for what we have is Christ in us, the hope of glory, to effect that transformation/to begin to effect it both now and unto eternity; Rom 5:1-5. Or if you prefer: once again, Rom 12:1-2, which is exegetically linked via worship back to Paul’s opening gambit predicated upon the central Jewish idea of worship vs. idolatry.

So; what is “reality”?

PS I have to say this link arrived in my Inbox at a propitious moment:

Peter Carrell said...

Reading the link, Bryden,, I wonder if I should change the post's heading to 'Radner Unwilled'!

Father Ron Smith said...

"This work also stems any false inferences that might have been left hanging from +VM’s emphases and omissions, not insignificantly, given the overall purpose of the day." - BB

I'm not at all sure, Bryden, whether our Bishop, Victoria, would have considered that she intentionally 'left hanging any false inferences' after her presentation at the Marriage Seminar over the weekend. Perhaps you imagination may have been working overtime?

I'm sure, too, that Rowan Williams did not 'leave hanging any false inferences' after his publication of 'The Body's Grace' either. One needs to respect the intentions of authors as they best see fit, not attach our own (disappointed) expectation of what we might think they ought to have said.

I was not at the seminar, but I have gathered, from the reports of other educated people that Bishop Victoria's presentation was one of theological integrity of itself. Of course, those who may not have agreed with her thesis might feel the need to criticise it - as you seemingly are doing here.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for your own admission you were not present to hear +VM last Saturday; I was. To that effect, I’d stand by exactly those FOUR paras I earlier posted. To wit again, therefore: context, context, and context! Such attention does assist to render overall meaning. And then lastly, I cite another para from a private item of correspondence to her earlier this week: “many thanks for your most positive paper given on Saturday. Your three examples of companionship/friendship from the tradition - Gregory, Augustine and Aelred - were especially noteworthy. The last, by the way, is now easily available in print and in e-book form: I have recommended it to one or two people in pastoral situations.”

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Bryden, for the response. I'm not sure what you are getting at, your prose being almost as exuberant as that of Dr. Radner himself! :-) However, it does not appear address the concern of my initial comment, in response to your assertion that your "subjunctive" argument is a refutation of my reflection on procreation.

If it comes to "reality" I observe that it is you who introduced the subjunctive mood, which, unlike the indicative, is always about the unreal or unrealized, or a reality alternate to that which is. In light of the First Things article you note, it seems to me you are the one stressing a "willed" situation rather than the "reality."

It also appears to me that in doing so you have not refuted my argument but have simply rewritten its major premise.

In summary, I assert:

An infertile mixed-sex couple is not capable of procreation.
A same-sex couple is not capable of procreation.
Therefore, as to procreation, both sets of couples are incapable.

You appear to want to amend the first premise:

An infertile mixed-sex couple is not capable of procreation, but would be if both were fertile.

This is, however, not a response to the argument, but a manipulation of one of its premises. It is like adding to "All even numbers are divisible by two" the expression "but would not be if they were odd."

I take your point that the addition to the second clause would have to be, "but would be if they were of different sexes (and both fertile)." I recognize that the infertility of a mixed-sex couple, entirely natural due to conditions of age, is sometimes due to what is regarded as a defect of some kind; while the same-sex couple always naturally cannot procreate because procreation requires both sexes. However, this reveals that your argument is really about the difference between a mixed-sex and a same-sex couple, which is their relative sexes. This reverts us (in a form of begging the question) into your underlying (but unproven) premise that the sex-difference is essential to marriage. It does not actually address the argument I am making, which is about a surmised essential link between procreation and marriage.

Roman Catholics are burdened with this unBiblical linkage, in the "subjunctive" form of being "open to procreation" even when procreation is definitively impossible. In reality, infertile couples are not forbidden marriage, nor is infertility grounds for divorce. Anglicans have maintained this latter position, while rejecting the former, not only in relatively recent tolerance for birth control, but in the liturgy dating back to 1549, which directed the omission of the prayer for procreation when the woman was past the years of child-bearing -- a subtle but clear affirmation that while marriage is the ideal locus for bearing and raising children, that is not its sole or necessary purpose. This more accurately reflects the Christian rejection of the Jewish mandates for polygamy and divorce on the grounds of infertility, stressing instead monogamy and permanent fidelity.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
On what grounds (I wonder, at least to my own mind)is the "premise that the sex-difference is essential to marriage" "unproven"?

Arguably it is unproven on Scriptural grounds because the question is not put to Scripture - one might simply accept that it is an unargued/untested premise of Scripture which might not yet hold true (if only we could put it to Scripture/Scripture's Author).

But then that might be ironic in this present context as a subjunctive is involved (I suggest): if Scripture were asked a modern question about same-sex marriage, it would not rule it out (it might even rule it in)!

To go back to the premise. Therein seems to lie the nub of the modern question. One way of putting it could be this: is male-female marriage privileged in the eyes of God?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters on this thread,
I will have infrequent connection to the internet over the next 36 hours so your comments may not be posted as promptly as you would wish. Thanks for your patience.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Peter. That does put it clearly. The issue, as I see it, is neatly summed up in a 2012 post you made on this subject, in which you allowed that the major premise, that the sex-difference is essential to marriage, is largely definitional, and so there is a degree of circular reasoning involved. You said, “The nature of the argument is necessarily circular because we are talking about the definition of marriage. Marriage can only take place between a man and a woman because only a man and a woman can make a marriage.”

I am simply trying to get behind the circle, since the merely definitional approach does not really constitute argument, but simply reassertion. I’ve tried honestly and openly to examine the various rationales presented in defense of the definition, using the tools of logic as well as those of the theological methods. Unfortunately, many of the rationales rest on logical fallacies. That does not mean they may not be true, simply that they do not follow the rules of logic and so cannot constitute proof. This includes, for example, appeals to antiquity or universality.

Other reasons advanced, however, have been shown to be in error or not actually relevant, for example,“because only a mixed sex couple can procreate,” which while partly true in itself (it would be more accurate to say, “only some mixed sex couples can sometimes procreate”) it is not really relevant, since the capability to procreated is not in fact a requirement for marriage, and so cannot be held to be essential to or constitutive of it. There is a big difference between “procreation should take place within marriage” and “marriage requires procreation.” If the definition is correct, there must be some other quality to the sex-difference that warrants limiting marriages to persons of different sexes.

I quite agree with you that Scripture does not really provide a clear answer to the question, and also agree that is so because it is not one likely to have been raised. That does not mean that Scripture is beyond our further examination and study, and I do think it offers some help, if we deal with some of the texts sometimes less emphasized in these discussions.

My own studies of late — and in case you are not aware I serve on the Task Force on the Study of Marriage created by our synod in 2012, and am deeply immersed in the question, and reading a great deal on all sides of the discussion — have led me to find the crucial importance for marriage in Ephesians and John, and in how Ephesians in particular treats Genesis 2. Ephesians moves us a good distance from stressing the sex-difference, instead emphasizing the bodily identity between a man and his wife, as between Christ and the Church, which is both his Body and his Bride. The language is sacramental, with passing suggestions of the Paschal mystery, Baptism, and Eucharist, as well as echoes with passages from the Farewell Discourses concerning the unity of the Father and Son with the disciples. In none of this is the sex-difference particularly highlighted; the stress is upon identity and unity; and not ‘complementarity’ as there is no suggestion that Christ is ‘complementary’ to the Church, but rather that it is ‘his body.’ In this way, marriage can be a sign (if not a sacrament) of Christ’s love for the Church. We then have the opportunity to look at the nature of Christ’s love, and how it is lived out by his disciples. The issue become one of ascetical theology, the discipline of a loving life.

Thanks again for the conversation. Peace be with you.

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm really enjoying this semantic argument about the right use of the subjunctive - in order to achieve clarity, rather than obfuscation! I do appreciate the North American insistence on the 'correct use' of the terms that are sometimes trotted out willy-nilly from theologians.

Good on you, Tobias. I still think your writing on matters of gender and sexuality to be more informed than many other protestations on those subjects. I do find it amazing how many people who have little to do with Gay people seem to know more about their situation than the subjects themselves.

This is what makes a determined effort on the part of the Church to better understand the phenomenon of innate homosexuality that much more important - considering the degree of rhetoric that is too often spouted by the wilfully ignorant.

Bryden Black said...

Well Tobias; let’s get the “exuberant” stuff out of the way to aid better comms between us. Actually, I’d thought your own initial post a trifle ... excessive ... in its rhetoric - which was why I reverted to a form of language, common to both of us I thought, derived straight from the NT itself - which I grant you is pretty exuberant, being so eschatologically charged!

But let’s get back to the subjunctive which you say is unreal and only willed - in a pejorative sense. Really?! What then of precisely the situation we see in the NT? Christ Jesus has come into the world - IN ORDER THAT ... + SUBJUNCTIVE. To declare and demonstrate and to effect that transformation of reality upon and within us brought about by ‘sin’ in all its ramifications. This is God’s own will: that we be redeemed, in his Beloved Son! The (present) reality is of course otherwise: we are ensnared. Yet we are promised - and so we live by faith and hope - that this (imagined; just so Eph 1:15-end, Paul’s four key initial phrases) new reality would be realized among us. That’s the first and primary thing I’d still lay out before us all - via what is in effect a subjunctive like (in your terms, to which we’ll come soon enough) paradigm, utterly inherent in the entire NT.

Now let’s try to address the way you have set out your argument. At root, what I have introduced is the issue of causation, which lurks always in the background. Why are certain folk infertile? The function of the subjunctive move is to highlight this matter of causation, to point out the sheer differences between certain reasons of infertility.

Old age in a newly wedded couple in their sixties is not a defect, but as you say, simply the state of affairs. Yet their infertility is not commensurate with that of any ss/same-sex couple. It really might have been different! To take but one (real) example from NZ: a couple meet again recently, in their dotage - having first met before the war and having had a real romantic attachment back then. But the war intervened; they lost touch, and all that. Their one regret was apparently not to have had any children. QED. Mutatis mutandis, there might indeed be a defect with another couple in now their 20s. She has had a bout of chlamydia, which has rendered her infertile, even though the male spouse is perfectly fertile. Yet it takes two, a man and a woman, to procreate ... Lastly, any such defect might also be derived from birth. Yet once more all these exceptions prove the rule.

Meanwhile the subjunctive possibilities for ss couples simply never existed, nor will they ever exist. The reason for their infertility is not a function of any temporality, which you resolutely avoid/have to avoid in your abstract syllogistic exercise. In other words, there is a categorical difference at play - not in the first place a moral one but an ontological one (from which of course one would thereafter deduce certain moral consequences). The reason is grounded in our sheer bodily human identity. We humans don’t have bodies; we are bodies - and souls and spirits; we are sheerly integrated creatures, in whose entirety are we to reflect the Image of God, in which we are created, and into which in Christ Jesus we are being restored, entirely, in the fulness of time. Meanwhile ... 1 Jn 3:2-3, and the like.

The point of playing with any of the subjunctive possibilities is to highlight the factor of causation, and thereby to highlight the categoric distinction we are being presented with in the current debate, an aspect of which is indeed about reality. Blindness to such moves I suggest is only due to some prior commitment - assertion is often your own word - that ‘reality’ is otherwise than that revealed in the metanarrative of Holy Writ, by a triune God whose will will surely, in the End, be gloriously realized. For that reason, we may live in faith, hope and love - as the Johannine corpus so powerfully dramatizes.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks again, Bryden.

I did not use "will" as a pejorative -- though the First Things essay did. What I note is that the subjunctive is a mood describing that which is not. It might be, it could be -- but "it" may be something dreaded or welcomed. We look in hope to the eschaton, but woe to those who seek the Day of the Lord!

You perhaps missed my recognition of the categorical difference between a same-sex and mixed-sex couple in the 9th paragraph beginning "I recognize..." But it is thinking in categories rather than of specific couples that is at the root of the irrelevance of the subjunctive to this discussion.

If Sam had a prostatectomy and Sue a hysterectomy they may marry. They are utterly infertile. There is a difference between their permanent infertility and the infertility of a same-sex couple; it lies in the difference in the relative sexes of the two couples. You can apply the subjunctive as much as you like, but Sam and Sue will never have a child any more than Bill and Tom.

But nor do they have to: the distinction is moot. The categorical difference to which you and Radner point is irrelevant to marriage.

Your underlying thesis appears to be:

a) Only a male and female couple can procreate.
b) Marriage requires the ability to procreate.
c) Therefore only a male and female couple can marry.

That is logical but false, because (b) is false. Marriage does not require the ability to procreate.

My observation is:
(x) Procreation requires male and female
(y) Marriage does not require procreation
(z) Marriage is not limited to male and female on the basis of procreation.

I acknowledge there may be some other reason why marriage requires male and female, (conclusion (c)) but as I noted to Peter I've not seen it. But the capacity to procreate is ruled out. As Karl Barth says, marriage is always conjugal, but not always procreative.

Causation is important, but there is no necessary cause here. Marriage is not solely or necessarily "for" procreation. Only a few austere Stoical early fathers taught that sex within marriage could only take place when fertility was possible; a position now even rejected by Rome, and since 1549 rejected by Anglicans.

I take what you say about embodiment seriously, and suggest there is a way for Christians to consider same-sex marriage. I think that nature and Scripture both support it. In fact, I think it possible to see marriage (for all couples) in an eschatological light -- in which love is not based on outcomes, but on the essential loving of the couple: which is how marriage is most fulsomely described in Ephesians and the Johannine texts (modern criticism aside, including Revelation).

I discern a different trajectory to yours in Scripture, though it leads to the same end: Salvation in Christ, the All in All. You discern a privileged place for heterosexual marriage in that trajectory, and rightly so. However, I see indications that the love is not limited to such marriages. Indeed, Jesus is clear about the "greatest love" and, in a likely reference to David's lament, notes that the greatest love is to give one's life for the sake of ones friends. Paul applies this notion of gift-of-self to marriage in Ephesians, analogized to the love of Christ for the Church -- and as I noted to Peter above, this marks a transcendence of gender "in Christ" in whom there is no more "male and female." The church is only figuratively, not actually, a woman; no more than the Lamb is a quadruped.

The value of marriage does not lie merely in the production of progeny, but in fruitfulness in the Spirit manifest in signs of joy, peace, and self-giving love. Can you not see these signs in the lives of same-sex couples of your acquaintance? (If you've none, perhaps you should suspend judgment.) If you have such friends but have not seen this grace, perhaps you are not seeing clearly. And if you have, then why continue to kick against the goads? All that counts is Christ.

Bryden Black said...

A. I’m glad Tobias you have shied away from attacking the subjunctive, especially the claims it bespeaks of merely the subjective and unreality - both manifestly wrongheaded. Nor have the debates between realists and nominalists anything to do with our present debates (other than perhaps an aetiological and genealogical relevance generally re a “will to power” in the history of ideas). I’m glad too to see a less rhetorical tonal quality in your latest post. My final reason for some gladness is that you say you have been delving into John and Ephesians, both profoundly Trinitarian thematically. I wish now to comment briefly on this last - not least as this doctrine got a bit of an airing last w/e at our Conference.

Tim Harris pointed out in his opening address there are now seemingly “two tap roots” from which folk are drawing/trying to draw their respective theologies of ‘marriage’. We may sum them up as the “creation” model and the “companionship” model - not that Tim names them as such. I am now revising his scheme to avoid the more loaded language of “traditional” vs. “revisionist”. The question now is: are they commensurate?

+VM eruditely set forth a case for the idea of “companionship” - even if she did not explicitly go on then to advocate for this more generic, in her eyes, notion to be applied directly to two men or two women whose degree of “companionship” could be (legitimately?) called “marriage”. Yet such is precisely what many in the revisionist group (I now label them such) are advocating. Just so, it is a seriously possible inference from her paper.

My counter to this entire proposal is reasonably direct. The business of companionship first occurs - and +VM naturally spent time on this - in the second Genesis creation account, notably 2:18. Setting aside the detailed language/translation issues that both she and Sue Patterson discussed, what is to the fore is the necessary contextual nexus, namely marriage-and-companionship, male-and-female/ish-ishshah. For what both speakers also rightly pointed out is this: we may not separate the two Genesis accounts; they necessarily interpret each other. Therefore, there’s a stark conclusion: on what grounds are we abstracting/attempting to abstract the notion of “companionship” from that of marriage between a man and woman?

An attempted answer seems to go one of two ways. Firstly, Tim again rehearsed in his opening paper some elementary Trinitarian remarks often made. Yet such reasoning is, I have to say, woeful in its appreciation of this doctrine. It is not the case that the triune Godhead is merely ‘relational’, or that the Persons of the Trinity enjoy a ‘companionship’ of such intimacy that it may be reflected in our own human friendships to some degree any way. A necessarily added feature of the intra-divine relationships is that they are NOT interchangeable. The identities of each divine Person are irreducible with their particular and peculiar features - fatherhood, sonship, spirit (idiotēs ala the Cappadocians, notiones ala Aquinas). In other words, their very Act of relating constitutes the triune God’s very Being, each Person formally and substantially constituting the Other(s) irreducibly. All of which is brought to a glorious climax in the human case of marriage between a man and a woman, wherein the Image of God (Gen 1:26-28, 2:24) is quintessentially displayed.

Bryden Black said...

B. The other way however would say human fellowship is not only found in the marital example; there are many forms of companionship - Naomi and Ruth, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the Beloved Disciple, or Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nazianzus, Aelred and Ivo/Walter/et al, etc. Such intimacies are surely reflective also of the Image of God in which humans are made, and which are not exclusive to marriage as such.

True enough; but are such forms of relationship sexual, and so procreative? Or again, is the sexual aspect of human being reducible to a function of companionship only, precluding the procreative? What is sex for? Our contemporary culture surely mistakes intimacy when it reduces it to sexual engagement, just as companionship truly extends beyond the marital. But none of this advocates therefore same-sex marriage as such. Nor does it legitimate homosexual activity among Christians, even those who seek a faithful existence, one to another. And the reason is grounded in our sheer bodily human identity. We humans don’t have bodies; we are bodies - and souls and spirits; we are sheerly integrated creatures, whose entirety is to reflect the Image of God, in which we are created (back to Genesis), and into which we are being restored in Christ Jesus, entirely, in the fulness of time. The lexical work done re “image and likeness” of Gen 1 importantly suggests both representation and representative aspects (among other things).

In other words, any intimate companionship between and among Christians is necessarily a chaste affair, given a due Christian anthropology itself predicated upon a due ontology, reflective of the triune divine Being. This is especially so when we add to this a sacramental ontology beloved of much of the Tradition - unless of course one’s cosmology succumbs to a form of dualism beloved of a gnostic mind-set, unfortunately rather common in some circles nowadays.

From all of which I have to conclude what Tim termed “two tap roots” to be not genuinely commensurate.

Bryden Black said...

A brief PS. You speak of “unity” Tobias via both John and Ephesians, a noteworthy theme. While there is of course a goodly and godly unity involved re both baptism and Eucharist, any such unity is not simply a monistic one, nor one derived from sameness - but precisely reflects once again the Trinity. In other words, if we are truly talking of Christian unity, what I said earlier regarding the idiotēs of each of the divine Persons, and so mutatis mutandis of human beings in their sundry forms of fellowship, has to apply. Otherwise we compromise a genuine sacramental ontology.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, once again, Bryden, for the further clarity. These recent comment reveal to me that there are at least a few points of convergence in our thinking, to which I’ll come in a second post at B.

A. I want to say, though, first of all, that I think you have misread me if you think I was “assaulting” the subjunctive in my earlier notes. Having been a language major (French and Italian, and since then Hebrew, Spanish and Japanese), I’m well acquainted with the subjunctive mood (in the Romance languages), and far from assaulting it I was merely giving its essential definition as a means “to express a state that does not exist at the time of the statement.”

What I have been contesting, in Reasonable and Holy and elsewhere (I prefer this to assaulting) is the premise that procreation and marriage are inextricably or essentially linked. I do this in part to address what appears to be the thinking underlying the “traditional” view:

a. procreation requires male and female.
b. marriage requires procreation, therefore
c. marriage requires male and female

I have no quibble with the first premise (although technology may even now allow a female same-sex couple to have a child bearing the genetic contributions of both... but let that pass.)

It is the second premise that is clearly false. And it is false whether one applies the indicative or the subjunctive. Nor is it actually “traditional” apart from the thinking of some of the rigorist church fathers, and as I’ve noted is not part of the Anglican tradition at all. In fact, procreation is entirely extricable from marriage. When the classical Anglican marriage rite speaks “causally” it is in reference to the institution of marriage as a whole, not to any particular marriage. This is not an example of the exception proving the rule, but of demonstrating that there is no rule. It is meant to assert that marriage came to be to provide the best place for procreation to take place, not that all marriages must be procreative. Our present day liturgies (including NZ, TEC and the CoE) have been revised better to express this important disctinction.

I hope this clarifies finally what I have been getting at. I suspect, given the fact that you have dropped the subject, that we can move on to an actual point of agreement.

Tobias Haller said...

B. I am cautious in applying anything about Trinitarian doctrine to any earthly phenomenon, even by analogy, in large part because I believe the Trinity to be the ultimate sui generis. Thus, in particular, I am reluctant to spin out unscriptural attempts to analogize the relations of the Persons in the Trinity to the marital relationship.

The Johannine Discourses speak of the coinherence of the Father and Son, and the unity they share, likened by John not to that of spouses, but to the unity of the disciples in and with Jesus. The sacramental locus of this unity is baptism and eucharist. (I suspect Johannine silence on foundation of the eucharist is intended as a rhetorical pointing to it, unspoken as a “mystery” for those initiated; not unlike the cagey language of early catechesis in the era of persecution.)

There may be some overlap in terms of concepts of identity or ontology, but even this gets us into what I regard as shaky ground. That is, a spouse is a spouse because of the relation to the other spouse; so too the Father is the Father in relation to the Son and the Spirit as part of the eternal begetting and procession. The problem with an analogy to marriage is the temporal dissimilarity: there was when they were not [spouses]! So, frankly, I think the Trinity is best left aside from discussions of marriage, and we ought to focus on the texts that deal with marriage directly.

Which brings me to a matter on which I have to disagree with you once more, and that is in the assertion that the two creation accounts must be taken together. I agree that they can be taken together – Jesus himself does so, about which more in a moment – but there must have been a time when they circulated separately before their somewhat uncomfortable redaction into their final form. The discomfort stems from the obvious conflicts in chronology, but also in emphasis.

When they are taken together, as with all midrash, great care is necessary in coming to any conclusions. I have written elsewhere about the confusion in the current debates over Jesus’ treatment of the texts, due largely to a modern mishearing of “male and female” as referring to categories, where Genesis 1 and Jesus (who was likely using Aramaic if not Hebrew in his reference) refer to two individuals. We know this not only on grammatical grounds, but in light of contemporary (Dead Sea Scrolls) use of the same passage to the same end that Jesus uses it: monogamy and permanence. God wills “the two” to become “one flesh” and not to divide. Not three or four, but two.

The grammatical ground is that “male and female” in Hebrew (Gen 1) are nouns, there being no adjectival forms for these categories. A better and less ambiguous English translation would be “a male and a female, he created them.” If one is looking for harmony, this is entirely consistent with Genesis 2, and this is how Jesus takes it. A problem arises in translation to Greek because it lacks the nouns but has adjectives. (This is not unlike the problems in German of telling when, for example, Barth is talking about a man and a woman versus a husband and wife, because the words are the same. Language does indeed sometimes make communication difficult!)

I appreciate your other comments on companionship, but do not see that you have offered evidence that there is an essential difference between the companionship of mixed-sex, versus same-sex couples. This is where the language of Ephesians comes in, as I noted, the church is the Bride of Christ but it is not actually female; it is, in fact, his own body; just as, Paul asserts (most clearly in the majority mss.) Eve was Adam’s own flesh and bone (“woman” not “female” – another difference betw Gen 1 and Gen 2).

So it remains to be proven that the sex-difference is essential to marriage, or to get subjunctive, ought be so; since in many places civil and church marriage is already taking place between same-sex couples. As with the old line about infant baptism, “Not only do I believe in it; I’ve seen it!”

Ephraim RAdner said...

I’m glad that Tobias has joined the conversation. My remarks here and in the second section to follow are in response to his and Bryden’s interchange.
I do not think we can can approach the question of same-sex marriage simply, or even primarily, on the basis of “arguments”. Who has the best argument, which are “stronger”, which “weaker” or more or less logical, with more or less evidence, etc..
Shall we divide the discussion into categories of “argument”: “there are five main ways the topic has been approached and addressed….”? And then, we can “assess” them.
Or, shall we divide our study according to temporal proportion? So (to be schematic), we say that, for 2000 years the Christian tradition has “argued” this way; and for the last 10 years, there has been this and that kind of alternative “argument”. And then, we examine 200x more the traditional views than we do the alternative ones of the past decade?
We might be led to do this (although, of course, it is impractical), because sexuality is about time, and history, not about argument. Or, to be put another way, the best argument for heterosexual marriage is to immerse oneself in time – and not simply one’s own or one’s own life.
Each one of us is born of a man and a woman. That is not an abstract notion, but the “concrete this case” focus of this topic. Each of us has a biological mother and father who are, in theory, identifiable as such. That is part of the definition, historically, of what it means to be a human being, in every concrete case of being a human. Maybe that will change with cloning or something else. (Certain I pray it will not. At present, cloning produces sterile creatures, much like some forms of cross-breeding among other species. This raises interesting questions, to say the least: should one deliberately create sterile beings? And this kind of question underscores the abominating nature of enforced sterilizations in the past and present, including eunuch-making/castration as a form of punishment, eugenics, and the rest.) But leaving aside futurology, we can affirm the universality of our procreative heterosexual generation. And we can say, furthermore, that such procreation is what creates or forms human temporality or history itself. Without such procreation, there would be no human time.
Scripturally, it seems to me, “marriage” is a kind of reflection – a figure – of this reality about human history, that furthermore asserts its donative character as coming absolutely from God, as being “of grace”. To be married is to reflect the fact that human history is a procreative history that is God’s gift of creation to us. The particular genealogy of the human race (including Jesus) from the particular Adam and Eve who are particularly formed by God directly– I’m not sure how Tobias’ linguistic worries touch upon this – emphasizes this fact.

Ephraim RAdner said...

II. (continued from above)

Marriages without children either do or do not fall into this historical or temporal sphere. The Christian tradition has said that some (heterosexual) childless marriages do fall into this sphere; and that other forms of sexual coupling do not. Why?
The way to answer this kind of question is not to set up a set of comparative syllogisms, but to query the shape of procreative life and its frustration over time, and to see where this or that form of sexual existence “fits”. I believe that there is a coherent conclusions to be drawn from such a query that make sense of the past (and much of the present), and that, in this case, do not make much sense of alternative sexual couplings. And that is largely because the alternatives – as can be seen in some of these discussions – simply do not care for or value the very story of procreative life that human being involves.
Can these alternatives be “tolerated”? Of course; they already are. But that does not mean they should be affirmed as figuring the character of human life as we have been given it in God’s time.
One of the frustrations of the current debate is precisely the fact that this kind of reflection is not one that is easily pursued on the basis of data-gathering, experiments, and symbolic logic. Bryden’s “subjunctive” argument is intrinsically opaque, because it is about how creatures “fit into time”, not about this or that clearly measurable entity.
What is the difference between a childless elderly married couple and a gay couple? One could say that, though there are many differences, it does not lie in the fact that “neither couple can produce a child”. But does that really capture the larger context of the comparison? Part of what it means to be a male or a female is to be bound to the historical forms of procreative begetting, even if, individually, one cannot conceive: forms of genealogy, of upbringing, of physical shape, of desire, of memory, of struggle and loss, and so on. And, of course, all of these realities are given very particular shapes within the Scriptures and thus within the form of the Lord the Scriptures describe and offer us. The “procreative” character of being a male or female is bound up with this, as much as it is with actual childbearing. This is what I take Bryden to be pointing to in part.


Tim Harris said...

I should clarify a couple of points at which I have been cited (reasonably enough). My use of the terminology of 'traditional/historical' and 'revisionist' reflects that this is how the respective cases are named in a number of reports (such as TEC and CoS). The St Michael Report is the only one I am aware of that was presented as one narrative and treatment: I think all others have needed to present parallel approaches, usually designated along the lines as above (and I understand the ACANZP task grp is likely to do likewise). Such terms do indicate that the onus to argue a axe for change lies on the revisionist side of things. My use of such terms reflect the various reports I was asked to review and outline.

Similarly, I noted the two 'theological tap roots' that underly the presentation of such cases, of which the 'trinitarian' allusion has been offered in respect to a theological perspective on Genesis 1. While I was seeking to hear such cases at their strongest, I should note that I am I persuaded by the employment of trinitarian theology as analogy to human relationships and community, which I find quite strained and prone to artificial (and superficial) trinitarian constructions. FWIW.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I think the Trinity is best left aside from discussions of marriage, and we ought to focus on the texts that deal with marriage directly."

- Fr. Tobias Haller -

Well said, Tobias! I think that any attempt to compare the relationship between the Three Person of The Trinity with human relationships of any sort - whether heterosexual or homosxuel - is stretching a point.

I am aware that the Prayer Book speaks of heterosexual marriage as being 'like' 'the marriage betwixt Christ and His Church' - but that is not the same as comparing Marriage to the relations between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

One of the arguments against using the word 'Marriage' exclusively for heterosexual relationships, is that there is an altogether different use of the word in the Scriptures: The 'Marriage of the Lamb' has absolutely nothing to do with gender or human sexuality. This means that the word "Marriage' cannot be used exclusively of heterosexual marriage.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks fellow commentators T & E. I'll be brief coz typing on t wing.
1. There is a summary point by Rahner that is vital IMHO: "grace gives rise to not appropriated relations of divine persons to man". For there is ample NT textual evidence that the Logos became human and the Holy Spirit became our 'arrabwn'. What theology thereafter systematizes is that Triune nature figures such careful distinctions most particularly .
2. So that when - in the fullness of the canon - which works as much for Gen 1-2 as Gen 1-2 and Rev 19ff - we read the poetic parallelism of Gen 1:27 we may quite legitimately read into that what Barth does with a real degree of wholesomeness . Of course the Lamb is no quadruped - see them all over my farm!! But He does figure a reality ... Just so the procreative reality of an effulgent overflowing God of love, light and life - this One is more satisfactorily figured/ imaged by a man-and-a-woman than via such couplings as you T are seeking.
3. These couplings cannot reflect the kind of differentiation we see in the Triune God while that of "traditional " marriage rightly do ...
4. Signing off for a while ...

Janice said...

While looking for enlightenment on the "one flesh" issue I came across, QUAESTIO DISPUTATA. WHAT MALE–FEMALE COMPLEMENTARITY MAKES POSSIBLE: MARRIAGE AS A TWO-IN-ONE-FLESH UNION (Theological Studies 69 (2008), Patrick Lee and Robert P. George), which I did, in fact, find enlightening. It's even got some subjunctive stuff in it. I think.

"First, marriage is a distinctive type of community. It is the community whose purpose is a sharing of lives by a man and a woman in a personal communion that would be fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. It is a community whose purpose is twofold: the consortium vitae of the man and the woman, and the procreation and education of offspring; the latter is the fulfillment or unfolding of the former. The sort of consortium vitae that defines marriage as a distinct community is the sort that is fulfilled (or would be fulfilled, even if in fact it is not) by bearing and rearing children."

"... it is the case that loving marital intercourse commences or embodies the marriage itself. (The law of marriage has traditionally recognized this truth in its doctrine of marital consummation—a doctrine that would be rendered simply unintelligible were anal sex, for example, to be regarded as a marital act.)"

"Sex acts that do not realize a bodily unity are a different category or species of act. Their object—be it the giving, receiving, and sharing of pleasure and/or the expression of affection—is entirely unlike the defining object of a marital act, namely, bodily (“one-flesh”) unity."

"Infertile couples perform marital acts in the same way fertile couples do, namely, by realizing a biological union in fulfilling the behavioral conditions of procreation. The fact that the nonbehavioral conditions of procreation
happen to obtain or not obtain does not affect or alter the nature of what couples do. The object of the marital act ... is precisely the same in both fertile and infertile married couples. In fulfilling procreation’s behavioral conditions, married couples realize organic unity ... whether the nonbehavioral conditions obtain or not."

"Whether a particular act of coitus results in conception depends on conditions extrinsic to the act itself. But whether their action unites them organically cannot depend on something wholly extrinsic to that action. So, in every act of coitus the man and the woman become organically one."

"The biological unity of spouses is true personal unity because our bodies are part of our personal reality as
human beings; we are not incorporeal beings (minds, consciousness, spirits) that merely inhabit and use nonpersonal bodies."

Since the biological union is present both in sexual intercourse that results in procreation and in sexual intercourse that does not, it follows that a married couple, whether fertile or infertile, can choose their sexual act as embodying their marriage, and thus as instantiating an irreducible aspect of their well-being and fulfillment—a basic human good. By contrast, sexual acts that do not establish a biological union cannot embody marriage and do not directly realize any other basic good. Such acts can only be means to other ends. In performing nonmarital sexual acts, people instrumentalize their sexuality and, indeed, themselves as male or female embodied persons. A personal communion can be enhanced only by the joint sharing in a basic good, but two or more people merely stimulating each other to orgasm—no matter what they subjectively intend, or how they perceive or
feel their act—is not an instance of organic unity and is not the shared realization of any basic human good.19 Therefore such acts do not, in truth, realize or enhance personal communion."

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for all recent comments: informative, interesting and instructive!

At risk of over-simplifying great erudition above, does the matter not fall to this question, whether or not the coupling of a man and a woman in a permanent, faithful, stable, loving partnership is intrinsically and distinctively valuable in God's eyes (and, if you like, in the intention of God in creation)? [For the purposes of the rest of this comment I will call this coupling 'marriage'].

Some here say 'Yes' and some say 'No.' Each answer undergirded by arguments and attempts at arguments that persuade (at least a bit) here and do not persuade there.

I sense there is no disagreement among us that certain relationships, characterised by qualities important to marriage, indeed have marriage-like qualities and may even have a depth to those qualities which goes beyond the 'typical marriage'.

But our disagreement remains because on one side is a valuing of the specific quality of union which arises when a man/a male human/an Adam of the species joins with a woman/a female human/an Eve of the species, a union that is, of genuine human difference, and on the other side is a denial of that valuing because there is no specific differentiation in quality of union between two men, two women and a-man-and-a-woman.

That is my summary!

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
The use of the word 'marriage' in the phrase the 'marriage of the Lamb' is of a piece with the use of the word in the marriage of a man and a woman.

The marriage of the Lamb is the marriage of a man [i.e. the Lamb, Jesus Christ) and a woman [i.e. the church as the bride of Christ]. There is no diluting or generalising of the meaning of the word 'marriage' when used in the imagery.

Bryden Black said...

The point Ron (and Tobias to some degree) is that any due sacramental ontology figures all the way down in a continuous harmony: created a male and a female // human marriage between a man and a woman // the Marriage of the Lamb and his Church // the particularly differentiated relations among the Triune God. One of the many fruits of the revival of trinitarianism these past decades is found in the works of Rahner and Jenson - even if there are some that go too far e.g. Volf with their so-called social and/or ecclesial analogies. But we should not allow the latter to obscure the genuine insights if the former.
And the point? The congruity therefore of 'traditional' marriage and the incongruity of same-sex proposals - within an ontology that may figure authentically the Creator. For not all symbolic universes have the same cogency: viz only the Baalim vs. Yahweh.

Father Ron Smith said...

I'm glad you managed to stay long enough, Bryden, to finish your contribution. However, much as you and Peter want to equate heterosexual marriage with the Marriage of The Lamb; I would continue to insist that human marriage has something much more fleshly about it than the spousal (spiritual) relationship twixt Christ and The Church. This is why any dogmatic insistence on the equality seems to diminish the very powerful image of the Body of Christ relationship - which is purely spiritual, involving both male and female of the species.

We need to remember Paul's injunction that: "In Christ, there is neither male nor female"!

Bryden Black said...

Sorry Ron; to"figure" does not mean to "equate". That's not what's happening re the steps I set out (via those //). Images are just that, images.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Ephraim. Good to continue the conversation.

1. On argument: my preference is for logical or scholastic structuring of discussion, with stated premises and conclusions. Like it or not, decisions have to be and are being made. And I prefer the clarity of premise / conclusion in part because it exposes weaknesses in any argument – on both sides.

2. I’m not sure the 2000 vs 10 is true in fact, and even were it, relevant. I’ve reviewed the literature extensively and it seems there is precious little “theology” – and mostly pastoral or moral rather than dogmatic – in Christian reflection on marriage until the last century. Prior to that the focus is legal: who can marry whom, what constitutes marriage, divorce, annulment, licit forms of sex, etc. For much of the time the “teaching” was that marriage was inferior to celibacy, a concession to human weakness; much of the theology was monastic reflection on the Song of Songs.

3. The concrete fact that every present human is the result of a heterosexual union (though not necessarily a marriage!) is beyond dispute. However, it is not evident there is some particular virtue in the recapitulation of this phenomenon. Nor is it particularly Christian. A secular humanist might make just such an argument in defense of traditional marriage.

When we get to the Christian witness this runs aground: first and foremost on Christ himself, who is not part of this recapitulation – other than as a recapitulation of the primal non-heterosexual generation of Adam and Eve, “Ave fit ex Eva” – as the disjunctive genealogies of Matthew and Luke affirm.

John adds his voice in affirming that the true filiation of the children of God is not by the flesh or the will of man, but “from above.” So the purported “devaluation” of the “procreative story” has a Christian basis — and I have not seen a specifically Christian argument to the contrary. As Barth notes, “Remember that the question of posterity has lost its decisive significance in the time of the new covenant.” (CD III.4 p188)

4. Briefly to note the paper Janice cites: this is a good example of circular reasoning. It asserts that only heterosexual sex (and then only P-V) confects “one-flesh” and then concludes that anything else cannot constitute marriage. The argument provides no evidence for the initial assertion, wandering into that subjunctive world of virtual procreation, as I’ve shown another form of petitio principii. If it tells us nothing else Lev 18:22 affirms that a man can “lay the layings of a woman.”

The article raises the legal question of consummation, which is not a theological issue. It is consent that makes the marriage, not consummation: the marriage exists from the time of consent, and consummation is a forensic issue for when an annulment is sought.

5. Peter, your summary sums well. If I can rephrase from my “side”: I acknowledge that there is a difference between heterosexual married couples and same-sex couples. The difference lies in the relative sex-difference of the parties. The question we face is whether that sex-difference is the essential defining characteristic of marriage or not.

This raises other questions and observations. Not all mixed-sex sexual relationships are marriages. So there must be something else that distinguishes “marriage” from non-marriage apart from the sex-difference or the sex-act. I take it you see the sex-difference is a base-line to which is added the vows and blessing. I suggest that the vows and blessing of a same-sex couple also can constitute marriage.

So the issue becomes: where is the locus of marriage? Is it in coitus or consent? In reflection on the imago dei the scholastic answer was that the locus is in the heart and mind and spirit, not the physical body. I think the same can be said of marriage.

Ephraim RAdner said...

Thanks, Tobias.

From my perspective, your answer to (2.) confirms my suspicion regarding (1.): "scholastic" argument is incapable to discerning the fullness of Christian theology. Hence, the Reformation (briefly). What people wrote about homosexuality and coupling was obviously logically constricted in the course of Christian history. But that fact does not uncover the breadth of discussion about marriage, its nature and its meaning in Scriptural and human terms.

As for (3.): precisely! Marriage is a universal sacrament. Not sure what you mean by the "disjunctive" genealogies of Jesus. He is -- oddly, as one might think -- inserted into Adam's lineage, and certainly into Mary's. Both the ascetic early ch. tradition and medieval appropriation of it =-- hence your Christmas carol quotation -- used Jesus' lack of a human biological father as the basis for a demotion of marriage and sexual life altogether, however. They certainly did not see this as a rationale for extending "marriage" to gay partners!

In any case, they were clearly wrong in the presuppositions they used (so I think, along with the Reformers). But the alternatives laid out -- procreatively-informed heterosexual marriage or chaste abstinence/celibacy -- remained consistent with Scriptural outlines.

Barth too was wrong on this score. And it is an interesting systematic question as to why. In any case, I rather doubt him to be someone to trust on matters of sexual ethics.

But you do place squarely into view one of the issues at stake: is human "marriage" defined by certain relational dispositions, or do bodies in their particularities and histories have something to do with it in a necessary way?

I believe that Christian history -- theologically and experientially -- firmly rejects the dispositional definition. There simply is no precedence for understanding the word and reality of "marriage" this way. And indeed, the history of heterosexual marriage itself contradicts any kind of dispositional consistency over time. Which is not to say that dispositions are irrelevant, only not definitive. We continue to labor under the sorry legacy of people like Milton.

As far as I can see, the project for gay marriage is pure wishful thinking, but effectively on its way to reordering both social and verbal meanings. To be sure, definitions can change as society and language changes and so on. The point is, what is now called "marriage" among people of the same sex is simply not what marriage in the Bible (for example) was, anymore than what is now called a "girl" or related meanings could be understood by a British speaker in the 13th century(the terms referring simply to undifferentiated youth at that time, so I am told), or "banking" or the rest. In this case, we are dealing with retrojected meanings on a rather major scale. While I would guess that same-sex partnerships are here to stay for the foreseeable future, why they need to be called "marriage" is beyond me.

Christians like myself -- and, at this point, the Christian majority of the world -- will need to find new ways of designating what we mean by the term and practice. And perhaps this will have to be embedded in new translations of the Bible: "marriage" will no longer indicate what we believe the "marriage of the Lamb" (in current usage) means. the Hebrew of the OT, in any case, is far more sexually particular in its discussion of "marriage", and perhaps that is direction we shall have to go. We will have, at least, to point out that the words have changed, as we do with "prevent" and "let" in the AV today. It will be an interesting challenge!

And, of course, many clergy in places like TEC and who knows, the Anglican Communion, will have to stop performing "marriages", and do something else instead. I leave it to the linguists to figure this out.

Bryden Black said...

It is consent... Tobias

Well; that is exactly where Robbie George et al in their Harvard paper 2010 and subsequent book 2012 take issue: conjugal marriage vs. its new variant. So; there's more to marriage. There's the social dimension of families (as I was taught decades ago by dear Oliver O'D) too. And to void the physical entirely (as you try to make t tradition do) clashes with the sheer lexical evidence of Gen 1:26-28, as well as 2:24. For what is the basis for many cultures in promoting consummation therefore ...?!

Ie the locus of marriage is not one single thing but multiple. As ever human life is richer than reductionist appraisals.

And don't get me having to repeat what you have merely dismissed re Trinitarian differentiation and imago Dei.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ephraim
We could offer "mirage" instead of "marriage."

Mirage being that which we thought we saw and believed to be real but which now we know better (thanks Tobias!) to not have been quite what we thought it was.


Father Ron Smith said...

"Mirage being that which we thought we saw and believed to be real but which now we know better (thanks Tobias!) to not have been quite what we thought it was." - Peter Carrell

Don't suppose this could possibly be classed a 'ad hominem'?

Peter Carrell said...

Not at all, Ron,the moderator says!

(Tobias has made a case that 'marriage' as previously conceived is not what it was or is. It is something different. Ephraim has made a call for a different name. A droll if not witty word play suggestion has been made. More like an 'ad nominem' than an 'ad hominem'.)

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Ephraim. Whether this is the march of wishful thinking or the work of the Spirit remains to be seen – perhaps in our lifetimes.

I had thought I was on the same page as Bryden, but now it appears not. I’m chary of earthly analogies to the Trinity, or the Trinity to earthly phenomena. Let’s see if I understand him correctly.

First, the Trinity: there is one divine ousia with three hypostases. These “idioms” are just that – there is nothing “like” the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, or like God. The Persons are different to each other, and to everything else. The hypostatic identity of each is inextricably and eternally linked only with their relationships to each other through begetting and procession.

Now humanity: there is one ousia of human nature, one “humanity” of which each human “person” is a hypostasis, again idiomatically. Any two persons have the same ousia, but are different hypostases.

Some argue what amounts to an ousia for each sex – a female human nature and a male human nature. The Chalcedonian definition rules this out: the male Christ is homoousios with humanity through the female Mary. He shares the human ousia with humanity – but as an idiomatic human being who is incarnate in a hypostasis that is male (as well as Jewish, so tall, of such a complexion). We are excluded from hypostasizing “male” and “female” themselves, independent from individuals, far less making them into “natures” for the same reason.

Bryden appears to want to say that a human male (in his idiomatic hypostasis as male) is the only proper spouse to a human female (in her idiomatic hypostasis as female), and that his somehow reflects the Trinity.

There are several problems with this. The ousia of the Godhead is not “composed” of the hypostases. The “one-flesh” of marriage is not an “ousia” but a hypostasis – just as a child born to a couple is an “instance,” not a “nature.” Marriage itself is an estate, not a being.

Second, each human being is idiomatically hypostatic of the one ousia of human nature. Every “Person” is different to every other. To make sex an essential criterion of difference for marriage is again to beg the question, and return us to the initial unproven premise. What is to prevent two hypostatically distinct males from a life-partnership and sexual union? (I demur from those who say such bodily union is impossible; it is, on the basis of Leviticus cited before.) What is to prevent calling it marriage — as Ephraim acknowledges is happening though he cannot see the need?

Third, why bring in the Trinity at all, even if it did fit analogically? Isn’t it a doctrine hard enough on its own instead of as what seems to be theological window dressing?

I’m not trying to be “reductionist” – odd coming from one who wishes to limit marriage to the form he thinks it has always been and must be, though I am trying to put the discussion into terms that are less rhapsodic. Nor am I attempting to “void the physical reality” – though some, it seems to me are over-doing idealization in the other direction: pressing hypostasis to the level of ousia. I’m trying to test theological assertions to see if they serve, and the more “theological” the further from helpful discourse they seem to stray. Frankly, I see it as a matter of discipline, not doctrine.

If, as Ephraim suggests, this means that the defenders of traditional marriage are left with an “unarguable” position, able only to say that every move from the initial premise is “wrong,” I suspect the changes we have seen over the last twenty years will move at an even quicker pace.

In the long run, whatever happens, let us not forget that it is in Christ — and him crucified — that we find our true unity as Christians, not in marriage doctrine.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Barth, too, was wrong on this score. And it is an interesting systematic question as to why. In any case, I rather doubt him to be someone to trust on matters of sexual ethics."

Well, if its going to be a contest between the theology of Karl Barth and Ephraim Radner; I know where I choose to place my trust. And you may not be surprised to learn that it is with the world-renowned scholarship of K.B.

N.B. 'In nominen', not 'ad hominem'

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, again, Fr. Tobias for your latest. Though not a'scholar' myself, I can recognise the thrust of your argument here - far better than some of the obscure references made by both Bryden and Ephraim.

Frankly, I'm a wee bit surprised that both seem to want to compare the uniqueness of God in Trinity with the selective process of marital human relationships. I grant that there is a certain amount of mystery in human relationship - whether marriage or companionship, but nothing to equal the Mysterium Tremendens.

After all, Scripture tells us that even the Holy Spirit is still searching the mysteries of God, and if its tough for Her, how can we mere mortals expect to plumb those infinite depths?

Anonymous said...

"More like an 'ad nominem' than an 'ad hominem'."

Euge! ardes hodie, Petre!

Sadly, 'nomen' is a neuter noun (non-sex rears its head again), so the correct form would be 'ad nomen'. But 'mirage' is a great one (to the lost and thirsty it looks like the real thing but there is no living water there, because it's disordered with something missing). A Wortspiel worthy of the Doctor himself, who said: 'I should be punished for every pun I shed from my punnish head.'
(Or did I read that from the Upanishads in my puny shed?)

Martinus Orbilius

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Martin, but 'nomen' doesn't rhyme so neatly with 'hominem' as 'nominem.' :)

Anonymous said...

Tobias Haller asks:
"What is to prevent two hypostatically distinct males from a life-partnership and sexual union? (I demur from those who say such bodily union is impossible; it is, on the basis of Leviticus cited before.)"
Your parenthetical demurral tries to head off the immediate objection that anal penetration of another man isn't the 'sexual union' of marriage; but it is not and cannot be consummation: the union of opposites. Nor can two women 'consummate' their relationship. Equally, one can ask, what is to prevent three or more persons from a 'life partnership and sexual union'? Nothing at all - you have NO answer to this, Tobias, because you have stepped outside the teaching of Jesus Christ on marriage: 'For this reason ...' You have the whole force of catholic Christianity against you, Tobias: come back to the word of Christ and the teaching of His Church. 'What will it profit a man ...'

"What is to prevent calling it marriage — as Ephraim acknowledges is happening though he cannot see the need?"
Socially, probably nothing will, as the power of the State gears up to punish those who will not conform to the new pagan ethic. But the Church has been here before - remember Perpetua and Felicitas of Carthage.


Anonymous said...

"N.B. 'In nominen', not 'ad hominem'"

No, it's either 'in nomen' (accusative) or 'in nomine' (ablative).

Martinus Orbilius (nomine 'Plagosus')

Peter Carrell said...

The remarkable thing about Latin, Martin, is that though a dead language, it engenders lively debate!

Tobias Haller said...

Martin, briefly: "consummation" is a legal construct, and different laws treat it differently. Under Jewish law it was understood to involve "penetration." As I note, this is precisely whey Leviticus proscribes it in relation of one male to another, but is entirely silent on the subject of female sexual relations. There is no assertion of "complementarity" or union of "opposites" as in pagan mythology and gnostic thinking. There is the union of the two into one, a mystery likened in Ephesians not to some "complementary" pairing but to the union of Christ with his own Body the Church. Christ's teaching makes no reference to "complementarity" but to permanence of union.

I'll leave it at that.

Tobias Haller said...

One word more, as I neglected to address Martin's raising the spectre of polygamy.

Obviously nothing "prevents" polygamy. The question as to whether it is moral or not I have answered at length to the extent that it cannot be, as can a binary couple, reciprocal. It is, by the way, as I not above, monogamy and not heterosexuality to which Jesus points in his midrash of Gen 1 and 2. It is not about there being two supposedly "complementary" sexes, but there being only two persons "in the beginning," which Jesus (and others of his era) interpret as necessitating monogamy.

It may be true that a majority of Christians stand against same-sex marriage, but there are also many who support it, and it seems to me the number is growing. Of course, you can pull out the No True Scotsman fallacy to continue to press your case, but that will not persuade anyone. I do think I can fairly well assure you that no one will be taken to the arena for martyrdom over this issue!

I plan to archive and point to this whole discussion as particularly helpful. Thank you, Peter for hosting it transterrestially!

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Tobias; thank you everyone who has participated on the thread.

Bryden Black said...

St Augustine's feast day

Thanks again Tobias for your engagement 26 Aug @ 7:30 (as opposed to other comments on this thread). I'll address only three elements.
1. At least we are agreed on one thing! Marriage is an estate. And to that effect, may I suggest it is more than what you claimed earlier: that its sole locus is consent. To which I responded by wanting to emphasize its social reality as well (+ the physical). To wit now your agreement - it would seem - by calling it an estate!
2. You have hitherto not wanted to drag in things Trinitarian - and now I suspect I see more clearly why! Your general method does not lend itself to the more immediate and dynamic, as you emphasize the abstract. Just so now those paras in which you try to apply some of the established language of Trinity. But we may be simpler!!
To wit, on this the feast of St Augustine I'd stress one thing only from his legacy here: his elevation of the category of relation from Aristotelian accident to substance (you've only brought to bear a fraction of the Tty language available). For there is ever the Father of the Son just as there is ever the Son of the Father. Analogously male and female - of the Gen 1:27 text! - relationally and necessarily imply one another (to amplify: a male's personal relational identity is ever vis-a-vis the female and vice versa); just as ish and ishshah also do. Lastly, and vitally, husband and wife, wife and husband necessarily relationally imply each other in the reality of marriage.
The claim. It is a tragic irony therefore when we try to create of human couplings two of the same - which may not embody fully the image of the Trinity, where Persons are irreducibly related one to Another according to each one's Proprium. (I think that's a paraphrase of your "idiomatically".) The sacramental ontology deep within this universe created by the Triune God shows up the fissure revealed by such sameness as opposed to sheer personal relational mutuality - as per Father/Son language and the Reality to which it refers, and which is imaged/figured in a few key ways in creation and the Economy.
3. Unity. I'd certainly hope our Christian unity was in Christ Jesus. But already I've added the particular name of that historical individual. For I've noticed, as I'm sure you have too, many folk 'fill' that "Christ" with curious entities from time to time. Again, it's a case of 'which' Christ - for some are incompatible with others. We may have 4 Gospels rather than 1 - yet we don't have 24...

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks, Bryden!

I like the Father/Son analogy with husband/wife//male/female. There is not one without the other.

Tobias Haller said...

Interesting point, Bryden and Peter, but not what the Scripture records. Adam was "alone" and then God created the animals, and then Eve. "Ishah" is so named not as an eternally existing counterpart to "Ish" but as "taken from him" which must mean he was "ish" prior to and after the taking.

To claim that male only exists in relation to female denies the individual reality of every created being. It is a form of dualism.

This line of argument strains against both Scripture and reason. As to tradition, I think it aligns more with pagan notions such as "hieros gamos" or "Yin and Yang" than with anything in the Fathers.

Tobias Haller said...

Bryden, one thing more: Father and Son are not accident in the Trinity (the essence and existence of God are the same). Male and female, however, are accidents in humanity. That is definitively proven by the Chalcedonian definition.

Perhaps you missed that I said above that the relationality of spouses is important. However, that is true of all spouses, same- or mixed-sex. Individual people are all different to each other, and limiting the "difference" to sex is just more begging the question.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias,
Susan Patterson's paper at our recent conference, linked to on another post on ADU, makes the case that Adam prior to creation of Eve is 'humanity' and afterwards is 'man' in counterpart to 'woman'. she also makes the related point that the basic sexuality of a man has no meaning without the corresponding sexuality of a woman. A point she anchors into Genesis 1 and 2. a point in my view not assailed by claims of 'dualism.' Nor do I understand how this strains against Scripture, since Scripture teaches it.

Finally, I do not understand your use of the word 'accidents' in relation to 'humanity'. Apart from the possibility that humanity could have been hermaphroditic, it is essential to humanity that there be male and female if humanity is to exist for more than one generation.

Tobias Haller said...

Hi again, Peter.

I’ve not read Susan’s paper but I’ve encountered this reading in other contexts. I’d have to say 2 things: it strains the text; and it is not how the text is understood inter-biblically.

First, to a close reading of the text(s). Gen 1 records the creation of two individuals, a male and a female, both created by God (note the plural them).

Gen 2:21-22 does not record the division of a primal androgyne or hermaphrodite (as in Plato), but the taking of one rib from the man to make into the woman. (Reading tzela as “side” – as if a division in half – raises questions both about the “one” and the closing up of “the gap” with flesh. The Targum PJonathan specifies the 13th rib, so it seems “rib” is how the text would be taken in the time of Jesus).

At the end of 22 the woman is presented to “the Adam” – same phrase as before. In some feminist treatments it is claimed that “the Adam” means the undivided “human one.” At the end of the verse it clearly means the man, to whom the woman is presented, so the text itself makes no such distinction between before and after. (I could point to the continued use of “the Adam (and his wife)” in chapter 3, but I take it you see the problem with the androgynous assertion.)

Further, verse 23 has the man saying that “this one” was taken from man. So it strains the text itself to read this as the creation of two new creatures by division instead of the derivation of one from the other.

When we look interbiblically, that proves to be exactly the case. Paul makes the origin of woman from man clear in 1 Cor 11:7-12, and that this is a reference to individuals is brought home by his insistence that every man is also born of a woman.

On your other point, it was not this surmised reading of the creation of the sexes from a primal hermaphrodite “Adam” that I was referring to as dualism, but it does sound as if Susan strays in that direction, if she claims that male exists only in relation to female. I agree – in fact I said it in the conversation upstream – that spouses are only spouses by virtue of the spousal relationship. But a husband is not a man because he is married; he is a man who happens to be married, and is therefore a husband.

This brings me to my technical use of the word “accident” – you seem to be hearing this in the popular sense of the word. I am using the term as it is used in philosophy when contrasted with “essence” or “substance.” The essence is that which belongs to all entities of the same order of being; an accident is an attribute that belongs to each individual but not to all. It has to do with the particularity of sex as male and female, which is a particular attribute of each individual human.

This becomes important in theology via the Chalcedonian definition, to which I have referred above. Mary is a female human, Jesus a male human, but his “humanity” derives entirely from Mary; therefore her femaleness is not an essential element of “humanity” but an “accident” — not to her as an individual, but to the species “human.” It is the elevation of male and female as reflective of or analogous to the persons of the Trinity which I find unwise and confusing, as God’s essence and existence are the same.

Ultimately, I don’t find that an analogy with the Trinity is either necessary or helpful in this discussion. I prefer to stick with the analogies Scripture provides for marriage, as in Ephesians, and feel this is safer ground. The unity of the Father and the Son, as John attests, is not limited to married couples, but is shared by the disciples. It is not about gender.

Hope that clarifies. Peace and all the best. And again, thanks for the dialogue.

Father Ron Smith said...

As usual, Fr. Tobias adequately answers the arguments of both Peter and Bryden - this time, on the matter of whether or not male and female are both necessary for humanity to even exist. The very fact that adam existed alone until God introduced eve may be sufficient biblical proof of that. (n.b. the 'adam's rib' argument for complementarity is only one of the biblical explanations of human origin.

Of course, we all know, scientifcally, that it requires both male and female elements to produce human progeny. However, spiritual progeny are generated differently. Even 'eunuchs' may generate spiritual 'children-, and some of them (eunuchs) are 'that way' from their mother's womb!

One suspects that spiritual children is what the Church ought to be concentrating on since the beginning of the New Covenant. While humanity exists, there will be no dearth of physical children.
The problem for the Church is, how best do we 'convert' them into being 'children of The kingdom'?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias and Ron,
Yes, I think I understand all that you respectively say.

I remain persuaded that it is essential to our humanity that we are sexual beings, with the essence of our sexuality being that we are male or female. (Noting that, even when biological or psychological confusion about sexuality exists within a person, our understanding of that is still couched in the binary terms of male and female).

Spiritual children are important in the life of the kingdom. I see no signs in the New Testament that it then reads this phenomenon as a foundation for removing gender differentiation from the understanding of marriage.

The unity of disciples mirroring the unity of the Godhead does not preclude the possibility of considering analogy between Trinity and marriage.

(No further comment in response required or expected!)

Bryden Black said...

Oh dearie me! I'm not sure what warranted those responses of yours,Tobias. There's nothing in what I said that even remotely inferred allusions to androgynous gnostic redeemer myths or yin-yang games.
The Augustinian Relation is too significant a cultural gift to the world - whereby Reality is seen to be Personal and human beings in the divine image similarly endowed with personhood - to be treated with such obfuscating tactics.
You owe it to yourself to address the issues raised and not to chase ghosts and/or chimeric shadows.
And so into more substantial matters myself.
1. I can well imagine by now that any Trinitarian 'reading' of the opening texts of Scripture is not "helpful" to your cause - for it in fact damages your cause.
2. The gendered form in which we find human being cannot be quite as you describe it - as an accident. The male form is one form and the female form another. And your invoking Chalcedon cannot actually determine the matter since the likeness of human flesh in which Jesus came was as Rom 8:3 states - sin; just as he came as Gal 4:4 states - under the law, that is, under the law's judgment - viz Gal 3:10ff. So those metaphysical games simply won't work here either. As ever, answers to questions never put by say, Chalcedon, cannot be squeezed from such conclusions as theirs: that way lies methodological ... obfuscation.

Father Ron Smith said...

In partial reply to Bryden; I guess theological praxis is still alive and well in Christendom - except in places where it may have ossified. This is precisely why modern theology is so puzzling to people whose theological arteries may have hardened with the passing age.

However, God's Spirit is alive and well, and is still 'searching the mind of God' - as well as promoting reflection in the hearts and minds of pragmatic and well-intentioned believers. Deo gratias!

This may be why scripture bids bring out of our storehouse both some things old, but not to neglect to consider something new. I guess Jesus started it all with what He was pleased to call The New Covenant. He wasn't very popular with the die-hards, either.

However, our new ABC has already signalled his readiness to think outside of the theological square; first by acknowledging the veracity of homosexuality, and the church's need to acknowledge, and repent of, institutional homophobia. Next move may be the need to bite the bullet and recognise committed faithful Same-sex relationships in Church!

Tobias Haller said...

Well, Bryden, I'll let the matter rest there. I will point to this whole discussion and open-minded readers will be the ones to judge which "case" is more persuasive, exactly who is obfuscating, and precisely who is attempting to press unlikely resources to a cause.

The conversation has been, as I said, in part helpful, and I think it will continue to be so to those who take the time to read it through.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I view your latest comment as a thinly veiled attack on the Christian character of Bryden and myself.

I ask you to distinguish between people's attitudes to homosexuals and arguments about the blessing of same sex relationships.

There is nothing Bryden or I (and most if not all commenters arguing here in similar vein) have ever said which implies let alone explicitly states that we either have a bad (e.g. UnJesus like) or unaccepting attitude to homosexuals.

For all who accept and respect homosexuals as fellow human beings, the question of whether one may bless a same sex relationship in the name of God Father Son and Holy Spirit is a matter of genuine theological enquiry and concern.

To Tobias Haller's credit, both as a theologian and a self-identifying gay man, he has pursued this theological enquiry and concern with vigorous reasoning and complete lack of personalised critique of those arguing differently. I commend his example to you.

I would also like to point out that both Bryden and myself, and no doubt others here, are ever mindful of ALL homosexuals, that is, including those homosexuals who read Scripture as asking celibacy of them and thus they wonder if anyone in the church of a theological bent will stand with them and read Scripture similarly.

The lest we can do, on the great issue of claiming to know God's will, is pursue a fair and civilised theological enquiry without snide charges about who is really acting in the spirit of Jesus being made.

C Seitz said...

I’d like to pose a different kind of question. One more from the realm of social-religious history.

I have read the exchanges and much is predictable in the conclusions though the way one gets there is often curious (is Genesis 1-3 not foundational and does it not describe a basic Christian anthropology, in a way the tradition has always reflected?). Clearly we are seeing an argument made on behalf of something unprecedented: rites and pastoral care that see marriage redefined so as to include two men or two women. That part all agree. We are being asked to go to a new place.

Now this would not be the first time the church wrestled with a new thing. The 16th century was a famous one for formal disputations over matters like indulgences, treasury of merit, papal infallibility, and so forth. What is different here is the format. Experts from the ancient universities of Prague, Vienna, Paris, Heidelberg cannot now be assembled, or exact ground rules worked out with civil authorities. We have instead blogs, conferences, general conventions, the Telegraph and other UK broadsheets, and various other fora.

So my question is: with this new thing will come ecclesial division, just as before, so how will that be conducted?
Will Bishops and Dioceses within Provinces, and whole Provinces themselves, which view the new thing as beyond their ability to warrant, be allowed to move forward with the status quo rites and pastoral teaching? Will they be able, in other words, to inhabit churches whose previous practices they do not hold to be out of date, and so remain as before? The individual conscience idea is just that: an idea, based upon a dubious warrant. I am speaking here about whole dioceses inside provinces (provinces that wish to do the new thing); and whole provinces. It seems to me that at this point division is inevitable. We have one group endorsing the new thing that describes homophobia as being unwilling to embrace same-sex marriage. If these are the conditions obtaining to the new thing, invariably we are going to have division. Will the proponents of the new teaching seek to constrain all to conform, or see to a peaceful division, allowing churches, dioceses, provinces to remain with the teaching previously agreed by all?

C Seitz

Anonymous said...

The "New Covenant" Jesus introduced was of course the one the Old Covenant promised.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish..."

Peter Carrell said...

Excellent question, Chris. Thank you.

C Seitz said...

You are welcome, Peter.

I have never understood how people want the church to move to a "new place" but also want to constrain members of the same church to follow them, even when it is against their conscience and even when all they want to do is stay with the same theological truths all shared previously (seen in constitutional rites, teaching, understanding of scripture as received in the tradition, etc).

People like +Mark Lawrence are not "leaving" the faith of TEC. Sadly for the progressives, they are in fact dropping the biggest possible anchor. They honor the church they inhabit. They understand others want it to go to a new place. I think this will require a new constitution in TEC, and a new BCP.

For those who wish to stay with the agreed rites and teaching that all formerly inhabited, can they do so? Do these formerly agreed understandings just time out? This is an odd account of the church in time.

Also, I do not think people should delude themselves. These new teachings and understandings of how we understand marriage will in the nature of the case cause division. Honest revisionists admit this and want it to happen. That is at least truthful.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Will the proponents of the new teaching seek to constrain all to conform, or see to a peaceful division, allowing churches, dioceses, provinces to remain with the teaching previously agreed by all?" - cseitz -

It has already been seen by events that have occurred, Christopher, that this would never work. While neither TEC nor the Anglican Church in Canada have sought "to constrain all to conform", it has become obvious that not only will certain elements not conform, they will separate out on the basis of 'not conforming'. Neither, seemingly, will they ever accept that there might be a theological need to move on matters of gender and sexuality.

As a direct consequence of this unwillingness to consider any new movement on these issues - informed by modern understandings of human sexuality - the Church is already in schism. What may happen at GAFCON is to merely formalise the breach.

Bryden Black said...

Indeed Tobias; and I hope you'll forgive the way I imposed exegesis upon Chalcedon to forcibly make my point - methodologies do matter; and mixing them (picking and choosing among them?) mostly is a bad way to proceed.

As for my own personal relations with those who happen to find themselves with same-sex attraction: most of them feel a profound sense of betrayal by the insistence that we all follow this 'New Thing'. Of course, that's in the western world; in Africa they mostly think I'm a fool even trying to engage with people like Tobias ... I'll let these features of our confused, mixed world also lie on the table.

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Christopher for framing this matter in a way that is also fast approaching the ACANZ&P. when our Ma Whea Commission speaks of "pathways", it is clear a model of secular pluralism is being advocated, rather than a seeking for genuine Catholic embrace.

Father Ron Smith said...

" when our Ma Whea Commission speaks of "pathways", it is clear a model of secular pluralism is being advocated, rather than a seeking for genuine Catholic embrace." - Bryden Black -

A pretty stern judgement of your parent Church's advisory body, Bryden. I'm just a little surprised that an avowed protestant should advocate what he is pleased to describe as a 'genuine catholic embrace'. Genuine catholicity really means an openness to all who embrace the liberty of the Gospel.
This, I believe, is what Ma Whea is hoping to achieve in its upcoming recommendations - catholic inclusivity of all people, regardless of race, gender or sexual-orientation.

Bryden Black said...

Three things Ron:
1. I believe as an Anglican in the Nicene Creed.
2. I acknowledge there is a world of difference between Christian Liberty (of the sort extolled by Paul in Galatians and Luther in his tract of that name) and contemporary autonomy.
3. Any attempted embrace of essential opposites is what Tobias accused me of above - dualism. Secular pluralism per se has no means of distinguishing anything ...!
To conclude: having had the privilege of sitting with Ma Whea, and listening now to the chairman's interim you-tube report, I rest my case (a legal pun in case you miss it).

Father Ron Smith said...

I've noticed your assertion, Bryden - and your pun. However, despite your privilege of having 'sat' with Ma Whea, you obviously have not relished the experience. My question is - did you take part in the debate; and were you heard? Did you feel you were a minority opinion in the midst? Have you lost faith in Ma Whea; and do you despair of ACANZP's future?

C Seitz said...

"While neither TEC nor the Anglican Church in Canada have sought "to constrain all to conform", it has become obvious that not only will certain elements not conform, they will separate out on the basis of 'not conforming'."

Note carefully these two clauses juxtaposed in Mr Smith's sentence.

1. Yes, the church bodies in question will indeed constrain all to go into the new teaching land. That is the point of my comment. If a Diocese in TEC refuses to use a new BCP with same-sex marriage rites, will it be allowed to? That is not "leaving" or "separating" but simply staying with what the agreed theological position of all has been. The answer is No.

2. When everyone living in Place A suddenly finds a group demanding that they move on to a new Place B, and they say No Thank You, who is leaving and separating?

'Same-sex marriage' is not something the Place A Christians believe has a theological warrant.

We have faced these moments in church history before. The more accurate way to move to a new place is to amend the formal documents that allow this new understanding--in the case of TEC, this involves constitutional matters given the status of the BCP--and declare the new Place B is up and running.

Place A can watch this, pray, and wave goodbye. That is neither leaving or separating. It is embracing the truthfulness of what has been inherited, and continuing to believe in its healthful expression of the Gospel, just as before, when all shared its legacy.

Father Ron Smith said...

My question of you at this point in the conversation, Christopher, is:
Are Bishops, Dioceses and clergy in TEC being forced to undertake same-Sex Marriage or blessings? This seems to be your implication here. An implication that I cannot believe is correct.

C Seitz said...

Supreme Court of Texas has reversed the summary judgment in favor of TEC in the Ft Worth trial. Iker wins this round.

C Seitz said...

I mentioned the TX ruling because now we have a Dennis Canon without effect (as TEC would wish it) in Texas. NW TX, Dallas, TX, W-TX, Ft W, and the TX part of Rio Grande -- all hold their property according to neutral principles of law. The long footnote at the conclusion of the order speaks of this as the majority view in the states of the US.

This is why the question of staying put and watching others move to 'new teaching' is so relevant in the Province of TEC.

C Seitz said...

My comments have been crystal clear, Mr Smith.

If your question, as of the recent SCOT ruling is, will dioceses (in TX eg) be able to continue as TEC dioceses when new BCP rites are developed for a New TEC, and not accept these rites or the New TEC, the answer is, 'looking much more hopeful.' The Dennis Canon has been exposed in TX as not suited for the purpose recent leaders have sought.

But if your real question is, will dioceses be able to exercise their right to maintain the TEC theology and practice presently in place, when a New TEC fully emerges (with same-sex marriage), the answer has been No. There is no evidence of any interest in a mixed polity. Eveyone who supported the 2011 GC decision admitted it was just buying time; and so it proved to be in Canada. Or, do you not believe that same-sex marriage rites will ever become BCP rites in TEC? That would certainly go against your own position.

Bryden Black said...

Of course Ma Whea heard me - graciously! And yet they also did not 'hear' me - because they are mostly lawyers you are furthermore not even asking the theological question: I had ample proof of that shown me!!
As for your relishing! Or despairing or whatever ...?! We spoke and declared our hand. No more; no less. As to the Future: Tallis says it best - Spem in Alium nunquam praeter in Te habui ...

Father Ron Smith said...

In brief reply to yours, Mr Seitz; it seems you are already pre-empting what will happen with TEC's polity on Same-Sex Marriage.

Surely, whatever becomes the canonical polity of TEC in the future, one could not expect to try to cling to what has been in the past - while still claiming membership of the revised body?

That was one of the reasons for the European Reformation - of which you, presumably, are a part? The emerging Church found reasons to question the status quo and moved on.

Perhaps you would agree that many reforms in the Protestant Church came about because of enlightenment on issues concerning human justice - such as slavery, misogyny, racial superiority, papal infallibility, etc., have all been jettisoned by the protestant Church, and justice requirements have been addressed by progressive ecclesial bodies.

Sola-Scriptura exclusivity has had to give way to modern hermeneutics; and modern genetics and scientific observation calls for the Church to recognise the dignity of every human being - regardless of race, social status, gender or sexual-orientation. For the Church to deny the value of every human being is to deny God's part in their creation.

C Seitz said...

Mr Smith--you'd be helped by doing some basic reading in reformation history.

Every major reformer--including even John Knox--explicitly appealed to scripture and the church fathers. They didn't go to a 'new place'; that is how they viewed the innovations of the papacy. The discovery of Augustine's writings had an enormous impact on Luther. Every major Anglican divine looked to the early church for its model, as this period was seen to read the primary source of authority (the OT and NT) properly.

Your understanding of the church in time is closer to the Zwickau prophets.

I will leave your comments on sola scriptura where they belong. It would be hard to know where to begin.

No wonder we are in the mess we are in, as +Welby is beginning to acknowledge.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Your understanding of the church in time is closer to the Zwickau prophets. I will leave your comments on sola scriptura where they belong. It would be hard to know where to begin. " - cseitz -

Well, Mr Seitz, you might begin with the realities of today's Church and its growing understanding of the enlightenment. However, your membership of the ACI with its 3 theologians and a web-site betrays a basic unwillingness to come to terms with TEC's grasp of the need for inclusive theology. The world is vastly different from the setting of the early Church, when knowledge of human biology was somewhat different from that of today's world.

It could be said that Scripture is still being written on that subject. But not to fear! God will not abandon God's Church - but God may desire its renewal - sans archaic prejudice.

C Seitz said...

I read your last ‘comment’ with amusement.

I think you are wise to stick with what you know best—ad hominem—and stay away from church history or theology.

Anonymous said...

Ouch! Maybe Ron doesn't know that Chris Seitz is a distinguished university professor (Yale, St Andrew's etc) and author of the seminal text 'Word without End' on the Old Testament, amongst many other writings.

Martinus Gesenius

Peter Carrell said...

Comment from Ron with ad hominem removed:

""Ouch! Maybe Ron doesn't know that Chris Seitz is a distinguished university professor (Yale, St Andrew's etc) and author of the seminal text 'Word without End' on the Old Testament, amongst many other writings." - Martin -

Oh, I know of the reputation, Martin. [...].

Merely belonging to a tiny ginger group in the conservative wing of the Church does not necessarily invoke scholastic sychophancy. Now, if you really want to quote world-class reputations - why not Barth, whose scholarly works have been read - and understood - by many millions?

C Seitz said...

Yale, St Andrews, Toronto -- all hotbeds of conservatism they.

Barth? How is he remotely useful to your cause? I confess this is a form of revisionism I have not yet encountered.

Bryden Black said...

Perhaps Christopher we all need to learn our theological ABCs all over again ... A definition of "revisionism" for you ...?!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Barth? How is he remotely useful to your cause?" - cseitz -

The simple reason? He is a world-class theologian, with an openness to the world as it is.

'My cause' is the cause of everyone on the margins of society - who experiences the disdain of the 'pure and holy' in the institution.

Anonymous said...

More confusion: "Now, if you really want to quote world-class reputations - why not Barth, whose scholarly works have been read - and understood - by many millions?"

I don't think ANY theologian in history has been read, let alone understood, by 'many millions' (sic), and wonder how many volumes of Church Dogmatics Ron Smith has plowed through. But if he has dipped into Barth, he would know that central to Barth's theological anthropology is his understanding of the male-female relational polarity of human beings as the imago dei in the world - precisely why Tobias Haller steers clear of Trinitarian arguments in support of his revisionism. Choose your champions more carefully!
Martinus Dogmaticus

Peter Carrell said...

I counsel caution invoking Barth on homosexuality (one way or t'other). I recall reading somewhere that later in his life he started revising his views ... besides there is this thing about his own 'private' life which raises significant questions about the integrity of anything he said about sexual ethics ...

C Seitz said...

Barth was the classic complementarian, as noted above.

And you are going to need to revisit your 'marginalized' notion. It needs to be 'up to date' in accordance with your own standards.

Tobias Haller said...

I'm sorry to see the conversation wander off into personalities or reputations (including Barth's!) -- and rather far from the initial topic.

The relevance of Barth to the present conversation -- at least where it started -- is in his absolute rejection of procreation as intrinsic to marriage. He argues and explicitly Kantian ethic in this regard, which is in keeping with his emphasis on Mann und Frau. It is this teaching which Dr. Radner, further upstream, declared "wrong" in Barth. (See CD III.4 186ff)

Peter, it is true that Barth revised his views on homosexuality in his later life. He described his earlier comments in Church Dogmatics as "incidential."

As to steering clear of "Trinitarian arguments" I think rather I have shown that they don't really work. Those who find them helpful are welcome to them, but I think the Orthodox Fathers would find them very problematical. Can anyone find their like in the tradition? It seems to me most efforts to bring the Trinity (not imago dei) into marriage date from quite recent times. (Even the imago dei aspect is fairly recent, dating back to folks such as Barth -- again, can you find this in the Fathers?) Or is this all modern revisionism in support of a conservative view?

Peter Carrell said...

Heh, Tobias, when you write, "Can anyone find their like in the tradition? It seems to me most efforts to bring the Trinity (not imago dei) into marriage date from quite recent times", many of us commenting here would have no trouble adjusting the question a little, and agreeing with you!!

"Can anyone find same sex marriage in the tradition? It seems to me most efforts to bring such change into marriage date from quite recent times."

Tobias Haller said...

Peter, I hope you notice that that is not an answer to my question.

If we are dealing with "revisions" in both cases, then the revisions need to be weighed in light of the evidence to support them.

I do not find the efforts to bring the Trinity into the discussion to be either very clearly expressed or very well thought out (the former may reflect the latter). If they could be laid out in a more systematic way than has appeared above, and without running into conflict with the Orthodox understanding of human nature or the Trinity (which as I've noted, is where some of these efforts run aground) it would help me better to understand both the assertion and the need for it.

Ultimately, I don't grasp the point in asserting that a husband and wife are like the Father and the Son, beyond (as I've done) acknowledging that their identity as such is relational; and as I've also shown, the same can be said for any couple in a spousal relationship, including a same-sex couple, as every individual human is, to use Bryden's word (which he didn't like my translating into the English "idiomatic") idiotes. Every human being has the same ousia as a human; but is a different hypostasis, a different proprium. For the reasons I cited above, positing a "male" or "female" ousia won't work within the Christian framework -- but is fully at home in a gnostic or dualistic system that claims that "male and female" together are needed to express humanity. The Incarnation rules out such a teaching, as Christ, a male, is fully human and represents all of humanity. He assumes all that he saves. Women do not require a separate female savior, nor do they have to "become male" in order to be saved. (You can find some of this dicey dualistic stuff in Gosp Thomas 114).

Ultimately, when it comes to revision, few things have been revised as much as Christian teaching on marriage. Few, for instance, would continue to defend today the notion that marriages between non-Christians are not marriages, and are freely dissoluble; or that a Christian is forbidden to marry a non-Christian; to say nothing of the revisions concerning remarriage after divorce!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias
Of course my comment is not an answer to your question!

Here is an attempt at a semblance of an answer.

1. The Fathers are important to consider in any theological reckoning but they are not the last word, especially when we are engaged with issues they may have known nothing about.

2. I freely acknowledge I am neither a systematician nor the son of one re formal theology. I bow to people such as yourself and Bryden with a greater knowledge of 'the tradition' re systematic theology.

3. The point I understand myself and others to be attempting to make re the connection between the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of marriage is that the former expresses an understanding of the dynamic mutuality of three diverse persons in one unity of being; the latter expresses an understanding of the dynamic mutuality of two diverse genders in one unity of being or "flesh"; and a plausible Christian reading of Genesis 1 and 2 is that imago dei involves (among other things, it is a mystery what the whole of this conception means) an imaging in the human community of marriage of the divine community within the Godhead.

The analogy is not between Father/Son/Spirit and husband/wife but between the diversity-in-unity of one and the diversity-in-unity of the other.

4. If this understanding is new to the tradition I suggest it is not thereby ruled out because the specific context is the proposal of another new thing in the tradition, same sex marriage, which creates a circumstance in which theological discernment is required.

In that discernment we look afresh at Genesis 1 and 2 and ask whether it supports the new proposal. (3) above (no doubt much able to be improved by better theologians than myself) is an argument against that support being provided from within those chapters (and other parts of the Bible which invoke those chapters re marriage).

I will make comment about 'humanity' separately.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Peter. That is clear and comprehensible, and it makes a good deal of sense.

My only response at this point would be to say that a same-sex couple, because they are separate, different individuals, each with their own identity, also have "diversity" and can share in the "unity" that is provided by marriage. I have invoked Genesis 2 in that regard, as it is not about the "difference" between Adam and Eve, but about their "likeness." It is this same "likeness" to which Paul points in Ephesians, to the extent of identifying the Church as Christ's own body.

Theologians are, some of them, opposed to this, others see it as a reasonable development. That is where the debate should be engaged, and not in personalities.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tobias

Re humanity

I agree that humanity is represented wholly via one gender (thus Christ saves all) and that each gender is completely human in itself (thus a woman does not need to become a man in order to be truly/completely human).

But humanity is a complex phenomenon. We cannot say that humanity collectively speaking is complete if only one gender exists. If all men were wiped out overnight and then a Martian visited, the remaining women could not say that they represented all of humanity, they would have to say 'there should be men as well, but tragically they have disappeared.'

Further, humanity is a finite entity without both male and female. The two gender are necessary to the future existence of humanity.

It would be an odd anthropology which asserted humanity could be fully understood if only a male were available for study.

(Am I right in thinking there is some kind of analogy to the Godhead here? God is fully present in the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit; but if one of the persons ceased to be, we could not say that God was fully God ... or could we?)

C Seitz said...

"I'm sorry to see the conversation wander off into personalities or reputations (including Barth's!)"

I agree. And I think this is first time I have read something from you that I agree with.

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, again, Peter, for the clarity of your statements. I certainly agree that the existence of both sexes is important to the future of the species. (Though there are concerns to be raised on that score for other reasons!!!)

It would, perhaps, be an odd anthropology if only an individual man or woman were available for the study of a Martian or other inquisitor. The question would be: what would be missing from the Martian's estimates of humanity? Surely the primary thing would be the existence of the sexes. But as to all else that makes a human a human being -- what, for instance distinguishes the human sample from, say, a wildebeest or a koala, would be the capacity to reason and very likely communicate with the Martian himself.

I'd be cautious with the wording in that final parenthetical remark! God is not merely "present" in the Persons of the Trinity. The Father IS God, as is the Son and as is the Spirit. "Yet not three Gods... etc." And fortunately we don't have to worry about any one of the three ceasing to be as they are Who they are from before time and for ever. (Another reason, as noted above, for the Trinity not being an ideal analogy of anything temporal...)

Father Ron Smith said...

"1. The Fathers are important to consider in any theological reckoning but they are not the last word, especially when we are engaged with issues they may have known nothing about." - Peter Carrell -

Precisely, Peter! This reality applies, not only to the relationships between the Persons of the God-head but also to the complexity of human biology.

Furthermore, Fr. Tobias' assertion here that: "Women do not require a separate female savior, nor do they have to "become male" in order to be saved" - needs to be taken account of in any discussion of the male-female characteristics of humanity as represented by Jesus.

Bryden Black said...

I note Tobias your desire for something more "systematic". I shall address this when back at a keyboard. Meanwhile, two preliminary points to prime the elaboration.
1. You speak of "Orthodox" Trinitarian theology. Do you mean an Eastern preference? Or simply orthodox per se? If the former: Cappadician? Palamite? Lossky? If the latter, again where does such lie? The last question is important since the doctrine languished for centuries. And while I would never count myself in Gilles Emery's league, it is nonetheless curious that even Thomas fell prey to the speculations of his day re a non "idiomatic" enough understanding of divine relations opting only for the lesser idea of what was/is "appropriate". Summa Theologiae, III q.3, esp. art.8. For mere relationality does insufficient justice to who the divine Persons are as revealed in the Economy.
2. Related to such a question is the sheer fact of the doctrine's revival these past decades spearheaded by Barth. True; some participants might be deemed less 'orthodox' than desirable ...! Yet the key point is we are discovering not only what we might have forgotten but are also raising new and legitimate questions not addressed by the Tradition. One important example of this wld be Pannenberg's and Jenson's insistence on the reciprocal nature of the divine relations; they do not only flow one way, as it were. Now; if endorsed writ large such a notion reconfigures profoundly E Orthodox traditional views: hence my opening questions once more. Nor of course is this notion the only 'new' concern. The sheer exegetical and foundational nature of Gen 1:26-28, from a duly canonical perspective, will not go away - despite your "unhelpful" pleading!
A bientot!

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Dr. Seitz. It is good to know we agree about something. ;-)

Bryden, the reason I look for something systematic is threefold. One reason I noted above: clarity of expression helps expose logical or factual problems with a thesis.

Secondly, in terms of discussion, I believe that if those with differing views cannot express what they believe their interlocutors are saying in mutually recognizable terms, then real progress is unlikely. From some comments you have made above, I am not sure you entirely understand my position; and I am also not sure I understand yours.

Finally, a truly systematic argument should be logically comprehensible to a wide audience. That is, it should lead from an established (and agreed) premise through responses to objections to reach a conclusion that is not simply a restatement of the premise, but actually moves the conversation forward by a step.

By Orthodox I mean, from an Anglican perspective, something concordant with Scripture and the Creeds. Novel speculations from a theologian have to be tested against those witnesses.

What I find surprising in your position -- if I read it rightly -- is that you relish the development of doctrine in matters dogmatic, including "new matters not addressed by the Tradition" but you appear to be unwilling to do the same in the area of pastoral or moral theology -- which is where it seems to me the presenting issue lies. In fact, the effort to draw the discussion of marriage (upon which, as I noted, there is no absolutely uniform tradition in Christendom) into the realm of dogmatic theology creates theological difficulties, and leads to assertions that are not in keeping with Orthodox faith.

It would never occur to me to think that the doctrine of the Trinity "languished" simply because it ceased for a time to be a topic of controversy or "development."

Your final comment is an example of what I find "unsystematic" in your comments here. You raise Gen 1 as if it were clear just what you are talking about. If you are suggesting that it means either that "the divine image in humanity is incomplete without both male and female" or that the "humanum is incomplete without male and female" both of those propositions have been rebutted as errors. These views are unhelpful because they are wrong -- that is, they contradict articles of the faith.

From a canonical perspective -- that is, based on Jesus' use of the Gen 1 -- it is about monogamy and permanent fidelity in marriage. Paul's use of the passage in Gal 3 echoes Jesus' teaching that marriage has no place in the kingdom. I have no idea what other "canonical perspective" you are referring to.

Bryden Black said...

Thank you Tobias for taking the time to present your claimed position with directness. As I said, I'm away from a keyboard so you have me at a serious disadvantage! Yet when I ask you a direct question I do note your reply is more than simple ... Let me at least address one thing you do raise, Gen 1.
It is the simple Hebraic practice of parallelism that needs elaboration: you point out the plural them via-a-vis adam, and I too point out that plurality of a male and a woman in relation to image and likeness of God. What must we deduce from these clear textual observations? You speculate two versions of stuff I don't recognise as being my position - and then simply assert their contradiction of their faith - says who (though I don't want to claim them either!).
So Tobias; I wonder a little about your overall approach: just how pastoral is it in the actual event? You shy away from a direct question by general abraction with an answer that none wld want to deny. And apply stuff that has not been presented.
An interim response, as I say. A bientot encore une fois!

Caleb said...

Really enjoying this ongoing conversation, particularly your comments Tobias which are consistently insightful as well as clear and respectful. To my mind you've well and truly demolished Sue's argument from our conference, Bryden's grammatical argument on here, and Peter's suggestion that only heterosexual couples have diversity-in-unity.

Anyway, I'm very interested in idea of gender complementarity (and equivalent ideas) being a pagan idea that's been wrongly read into the Bible. I've heard this mentioned many times but never read anything article-length on it. Can you direct me to any resources here Tobias?

With regard to heterosexual marriages (or the gender binary more generally) 'imaging' the triune God, doesn't the gender ambiguity (for lack of a better phrase) of the three persons of the Trinity problematise any attempt to inscribe gender binary into our imaging of them? (Quite apart from the fact that there are three persons in the Trinity ... marriage imaging the Trinity might be OK for Barth, but most marriages only have two people). If human 'differentiated unity' is supposed to image divine 'differentiated unity,' and divine differentiated unity is an interplay of persons without a gender binary aspect, how can we possibly say human differentiated unity has a necessary gender binary aspect?

Caleb said...

Moreover, if the image of God is what separates us from the animals, I don't see how it can be equated with sex or gender binary since all the animals have that too!

All this quite apart from the fact that in its ANE context 'image of God' didn't say anything about marriage or gender, but referred to being a god's royal representative on earth... so in Genesis this language that was normally applied to kings is 'democratised' by being applied to all humanity, male & female... at least I understand this is what Richard Middleton says (I'm not sure how widely accepted this is though? My Old Testament lecturer supports it...)

Tobias Haller said...

Bryden, I thought I answered your question clearly, which I took to be, "What do you mean by Orthodox?" I do not mean the writings of any specific theologian, which seems to have been your version of an answer. As you say, my answer is one that none would want to deny. It may not be the answer you were expecting, but it is my actual opinion -- and the basis of my theological work -- "developments need to demonstrate consistency with established dogmatic doctrine" as codified in the Creeds and first Councils. I don't mean "anything written by Augustine" or any particular theologian, as they too sometimes stray.

On your second point, I'm glad to hear that neither of those two theses are ones you support. I raised them because they are sometimes offered by traditionalists as readings of Genesis 1-2, and some of your earlier comments did seem to trend that way, as near as I could tell. I note that they have been rejected, but did not go into the details as I was waiting for you to say more.

The little you said here -- acknowledging your being away from the keyboard -- would need both to be restated clearly as a thesis and then fleshed out before I could possibly respond. As it stands, I do not understand your reference to parallelism -- a Hebraic rhetorical and poetic device -- as connected with the doctrine. I will note that the plural is not used in relation to the image -- it is in the singular in Hebrew; so once again I am not sure what you are getting at, and welcome your further word. Until then...

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Caleb, for the thoughts.

For the connection of gender complementarity to pagan or gnostic ideas, I’d start with some of the discussion in Nygren’s seminal Agape and Eros, p 303ff where he talks about the gnostic transformations of Agape into what he calls “vulgar Eros.” Indeed, his whole basic thesis is helpful in these discussions. It may be that the efforts to “theologize” gender or marriage as particularly reflective of God in an Eros typology, represent one strand in which the other, the effort to “normalize” same-sex relations by emphasizing their Agapetic aspect, could work together rather than as being at odds, in the kind of synthesis that Nygren posits.

I first came across the issue in reading Irenaeus, who bemoans the many couplings and pairings of the gnostic demi-deities. There is plenty of literature on “hieros gamos”as it arises in pagan cultures of many sorts – both in creation stories and in rituals designed to emulate those stories; the idea of the primeval male and female giving rise to creation is fairly widespread in many cultures. The Hebrew tradition, however (apart from a very few traces of even earlier mythos; for example regarding Leviathan) does not image God – in God’s self or as Creator – as the “union of opposites” and instead applies Erotic imagery to the relationship of God to Israel (and in the Christian adaptation of that imagery, the Church). In Christ (building on hints in the Hebrew tradition of the tender and forgiving love of God for Israel), through his self-offering for the good of the church (in Johannine and Ephesian terms), this love is transformed from the Erotic into the fully Agapetic.

I fully agree with you that the gender-explicit language of Trinitarian descriptions makes analogy with husband-wife difficult, even though the gender-explicit language is not meant to imply that the Persons have gender. In any case, again, both John and Ephesians show that “unity” need not include a gender component, and in fact, as Galatians appears to affirm, that distinctions of class, ethnicity and sex, which might become obstacles to union, are to a large extent evaporated “in Christ.” They are not means to union in Christ, but categories that are themselves subsumed into the sublime unity in which, as 1 Corinthias puts it, love (Agape) endures.

Finally, on the image of God; it is important to read Gen 1's account of creation as a figurative “building of a temple” in which the “image” is placed in the Holy of Holies. See Walton’s work along these lines. (Of course, in the Tabernacle and Temple of Solomon, there was no “image” — another way of stressing that “the dwelling of God is with mortals” — that is, in their being. Jesus picks up on this in his very clever use of “image” in reference to Caesar’s coin! (Another important “canonical” reading!)

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb (and Tobias),

Your reluctance to accept that marriage between a man and a woman images the diversity-in-unity within the Godhead is understandable as long as the focus is on 'gender', whether 'gender' applies within the Godhead and (understanding the ambiguity of Father/Son language) whether we can get to an image of the Father/Son/Spirit in terms of husband/wife.

What is not quite understandable to me is the ease with which you appear to move past the specific claim in Genesis 1 itself that God made humanity imago dei male and female. That is, God made humanity diverse in respect of gender and marriage as 'one flesh' is a specific unifying of that created diversity. On that basis the claim is made that humanity has a specific capacity to be diversity-in-unity which proceeds from the creational will of God and (now in a Christian reading of Genesis) can be understood to reflect a specific character of the divine, the unified being of three diverse persons.

That other forms of human unity (or human unity with the divine) are possible (in respect of discipleship, especially in Johannine conception, with respect to Galatians 3, etc) tells us that other forms of unity are possible. They say nothing about whether God accepts the marriage of two men or two women.

I certainly understand that two men (a David and Jonathan, say) can be so knit together that their relationship mirrors the diversity-in-unity of the Godhead. Similarly the knitted together company of the early believers in the primitive church daily gathering in Jerusalem, or the Philippian church should they have taken seriously Paul's injunction to them to be of one heart and one mind.

I do not understand the basis, however, on which we would move from such observations to a declaration that marriage under God may now be indifferent to gender.

Tobias Haller said...

Peter, again very briefly, I think a more cautious reading of the actual text of Gen 1 is called for. It does not contain "the specific claim in Genesis 1 itself that God made humanity imago dei male and female." The text says "God made him" (or "it" if you will) "in his image; in the image of God made he him" (or "it"); "a male and a female he created them." I've noted before that "male and female" are nouns, and the translation as adjectives (as if these were categories rather than individuals -- and the basis for monogamy in Jesus' use of the phrase) is part of the confusion.

Now, what people derive from this text can vary: Paul, in 1 Cor 11 goes so far as to say that the man is made in God's image, and the woman in the man's image. The church Fathers, up and through Aquinas, read it as saying that each man or woman is made in the image of God. The rabbis take the same approach, and focus on the divine reflection in each individual.

What seems abundantly clear from Gen 1 is that male and female are created in order to be fruitful and multiply. This is about sex and fertility as much as about marriage. I think there is more about marriage in Gen 2 -- certainly the emotional element enters in, but it is also notable that the procreative side is not at all mentioned. I'm not saying it disappears, but it is clearly not at the heart of the "reason" for creation -- after all, God made the animals first, and only then saw they could not be suitable companions in that they could not be his equal, "a helper like one facing him" (ezer k'negdo).

I'm very pleased you recognize both the silence of Scripture as to whether God might accept SSM. I will note that there is a somewhat dispensational quality to what Scripture tells us God "accepts" in that we move from the monogamy and fidelity of Genesis 1-2 into the divine permission for both polygamy and divorce in the Law and the Prophets, and then back to monogamy and fidelity in the Gospel. My suggestion is that we are dealing with similar dispensations now, as the biological and social sciences have taught us more about sex and sexuality.

I do not see this as an either / or, or a matter of indifference. I see SSM taking a place along with traditional MF marriage, not replacing it, along the lines you suggest, in that "knitting together" of two into one that reflects the diversity-in-unity of Godhead. And I don't see why God would be displeased or unaccepting of that.

Thanks again, and I may be offline for a day or two, but want to thank you for your hospitality and good will.

C Seitz said...

"Finally, on the image of God; it is important to read Gen 1's account of creation as a figurative “building of a temple” in which the “image” is placed in the Holy of Holies."

I'd prefer not to, and instead to read it with the tradition.

Genesis 1 (and 1--3) was a critical text for the ancient Christian interpreters who knew about rival cosmogonies. They were interested in its dianoia, its taxis, its akoulethia -- as ingredient in its literal sense. This sense was regarded as a highly privileged, indeed sole source of divine truth, revealed by the God who brought light out of darkness through the agency of the Logos.

And on the matter at hand, "different" strikes me as a preferred tag to "complementary."

Ish is not ishah. Ishah is not ish. They retain this difference even in respect to the commands of God, yet both are addressed and both held accountable.

The New Adam we become in Christ -- so Colossians -- consists of husbands and wives and children. But now in a graced state of being able, by Christ, to live into what God commands.

To dismantle this fundamental logic by speaking of men-men marriage and saying it is the same just runs roughshod over the dianoia of scripture. Which is why it is a reading that never emerged in the Tradition.

word ID: ChopMan

Caleb said...

Thanks Tobias, that's helpful.

Peter, as you say, the Trinity's diversity-in-unity can be modelled by various communities and relationships, as in the whole tradition of social models of the Trinity.

It seems to me much more problematic to claim that Trinitarian unity-in-diversity applies primarily to marriage, and even more problematic to add gender binary into this, as I've said. (The argument for doing so seems to be a somewhat troublesome conflation of a certain reading of Trinitarian theology with a certain reading of Gen 1-2/Matt 19, stretched to include gender binary as normative not descriptive. I'm not convinced.)

So for me it's not so much "a declaration that marriage under God may now be indifferent to gender" as a suggestion that the Trinity on the one hand, and Gen 1-2 on the other, have never really declared a normative gender binary for marriage.

With regard to "male and female he created them," you read that as meaning "God made humanity diverse in respect of gender." We now know that part of humanity's diversity is that not everyone fits neatly into binaries of gender and sexual orientation etc. Gender diversity is not the same as gender binary.

Tobias Haller said...

Thank you, Dr. Seitz. I did not mean to imply that Gen 1 should be read only for its analogies to the construction of an ANE Temple, but with a recognition that the use of the word "image" suggests the importance of such a reading. I'm not sure how much this may have been picked up on in the earlier Christian tradition, but it is not contradictory to it. Christians were more likely familiar with pagan temples than the Temple of Jerusalem, due to its early destruction. Clement Alex. does have a passage in which he compares the human being, as the image of the true God, to the statue of Olympian Jove, "an image of an image, a senseless thing made by Attic hands." (Exhortation, X) And as I noted earlier, the implications raised by Jesus in light of Caesar's coin. I really don't mean to press the point further than that, certainly not as far as Walton, for instance.

I do however think it is important to stick with the tradition when coming to and understanding of the "image of God" as that tradition embodies it. I think this from Augustine's Commentary on Psalm LXIX is representative:

...Consider that you are men made after the image and likeness of God. The image of God is within, is not in the body; is not in these ears which ye see, and eyes, and nostrils, and palate, and hands, and feet; but is made nevertheless: wherein is the intellect, wherein is the mind, wherein the power of discovering truth, wherein is faith, wherein is your hope, wherein your charity, there God hath His Image.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Caleb
I didn't think I claimed that the diversity in unity of the Trinity applied primarily to marriage. If I did, let me walk that back!

What I am happy to claim and to be held to claim is that a Trinitarian reading of Genesis 1 and 2 requires of us a view of marriage in which diversity of gender (or, in your terms, binary of gender) is critical to understanding the significance of marriage in respect of arrangements in society.

Diversity of gender beyond the binary of male and female raises many questions, not least of which is the grounds on which one would trump the specificity of Genesis 1 re male and female. An alternative is to consider that something is askew when gender is experienced as something other than male or female. But that may not be politically correct to mention these days.

I think it is helpful of Tobias to clearly envisage ssm not replacing marriage between a man and a woman. But I am less confident of being sure that God is ok with it.

Father Ron Smith said...

"But I am less confident of being sure that God is ok with it."

This is quite an admission, Peter, considering that most anti-gay commentators seem to be unduly sure that God is 'OK' with the exclusion of gays from anything approaching the tie of 'marriage'.

It would appear that their absolute certainty is exclusively based on their interpretation of what they see as a direct biblical proscription - though that might be hard to find. That doesn't seem to matter for them, though.