Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Yessss! I was right :)

Last week I said I wouldn't blog again until today. That was because of commitments I had made, to be in Auckland with family and for the special reason of participating in our son's graduation from the University of Auckland (I wore my University of Canterbury tie especially for the occasion), then after an early morning flight home yesterday, it was in the car to Timaru for a day in South Canterbury.

So here I am and feeling very pleased and justified in a self-satisfied way. Why?

Well I felt that not blogging till today would be fine because our General Synod would not make a decision about A Way Forward until later this week, despite Monday being the "big" day of discussion on the report.

And so it has come to pass. Occasionally I am right but not enough to be your investment advisor!

Currently #gsthw16 is considering the work of a new working group and will vote (I imagine) either later today or tomorrow on the final outcome of this synod's work.

We get some sense of the direction the synod is heading in by reading these Taonga reports (one, two, three).

And what is that direction? Pretty much the direction of Motion 30 from 2014: towards two integrities.

And, presumably, towards an improved-after-Monday's-discussion version of A Way Forward's proposals.

But there, I suggest, our speculation must end because Taonga is not reporting on the substantive content of Monday's discussion which was "in closed session".

I do not feel at all sorry for those observers and media who felt excluded by Synod going into closed session for that discussion. That is the right and proper procedure for a synod to adopt on a sensitive matter, one that could easily be perturbed by observers reporting open, frank and creative contributions via social media and the like.


Rosemary Behan said...

Sigh .. no man or woman of 'integrity' can talk of two integrities. It's not possible!

Rosemary Behan said...

Brian Kelly said...

Alexandria, 325: "Members of the Arian Integrity were horrified by the pronouncements made at the Council of Nicea, with its rampant homoiophobia."

Rosemary is correct. It is absurd - and an abuse of theology - to speak of 'two integrities'. An 'integrity' means something that is whole and complete, lacking no parts. It is not possible to have a fundamental contradiction between two understandings of creation and marriage and of the character of the holy redeemed life in Christ, and to label both understandings "integrities". By definition, one perspective MUST be false, sinful and displeasing to God. (Which is exactly how my understanding of marriage and sexual behaviour is viewed by your most frequent correspondent.) The words you are looking for are 'heresy' and 'schism'.

Time to brush up on Logic 101, Peter.

Father Ron Smith said...

Wel, Rosemary, they seem to think they can in our Mother Churtch of England! They have just such a situation with their treatment of two opposing views on Women as priests and bishops - accommodating both, the majority who approve, together with the small minority who do not. It seems both parties are satisfied with this arrangement you reject, as impossible! It just seems that two integrities are not only possible but workable.

A short reflection: Another double-entendre (or 'integrity'). Three Persons and One God (maybe that's even a 'Triple integrity').

And, what about the Western Church's 'Spirit proceeding from from the Father AND the Son', versus the Eastern Church's 'Spirit proceeding from the Father' only.

These are just a few very important 'Multiple Integrities' that God Seems to accept.

Brian Kelly said...

From Wiktionary:

integrity ‎(countable and uncountable, plural integrities)

1.Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
2.The state of being wholesome; unimpaired
3.The quality or condition of being complete; pure

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian and Rosemary
Is there no integrity in two people vowing to love each other for life in a faithful partnership?
Is God displeased by friendship?
Is companionship for life a divine intention for humanity?

Logic 101 tells me positive answers to those questions does not imply God blesses same sex partnerships.

Logic 101 tells me each of the here denied integrities is trying to affirm, support and encourage aspects of human sociality which derive from God and are in concord with the love which is from God.

Brian Kelly said...

"Is there no integrity in two people vowing to love each other for life in a faithful partnership?"

Friendship doesn't need vows or legal impedimenta - which is what marriage entails. Friendship doesn't entail sex. In fact, it forbids it. Marriage does entail sex.

"Is God displeased by friendship?"

You tell me. Some friendships are positively evil.

"Is companionship for life a divine intention for humanity?"

No, I don't think so. Transformation into Christlikeness is.

My reference to 'Logic 101' is simply shorthand for observing three basic laws of logic: Identity, Non-Contradiction, Excluded Middle.
Christians who resort to ambivalent, ambiguous language (for example, queering the pitch between marriage and 'same-sex friendship') fail our Lord's basic test in truthfulness: 'Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Anything else comes from the devil.'

Peter Carrell said...

Some fair points, Brian, though I am surprised you discard the importance of companionship so readily!

Is there anything you appreciate about the arguments proposed by those who argue for recognition of same sex partnerships?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
There may be something in the CofE "two integrities" re ordination of women, though I think it early days to conclude that it "works".

The filioque example is a bit fraught, is it not? West and East divided over the matters.

And,frankly, when, occasionally, I am in an (Yes, you guessed it) Anglican church which makes the filioque clause optional, it is all a bit awkward, some being silent on the matter and others noisily saying what "the other lot"do not wish to affirm!

Brendan McNeill said...


Companionship may indeed be "in concord with the love which is from God." That is to say 'philia'

But gay sex is not "in concord with the love which is from God." That is to say 'eros'.

Why do you persist with the delusion that gay marriage is all about 'philia', when everyone knows it's about 'eros'. What do you think it means to be gay?

Sarah @ In Pleasant Places said...

When we part from a Sola Scriptura view of the Bible, Peter, then we can pursue grounds for gay marriage. If we don't believe God really meant for Paul to say what he said {or that God didn't realise what the 21st century was going to be like when the Epistles were written}, then we can choose the basis for marriage, sex and relationships.

Relativism has seeped into the church {though more denominations than others; friends at some more pentecostal churches don't understand the commotion, they accept God at His Word}.

If there is no right or wrong, then anything goes. There is no anchor on which to stay the boat in all the tides, currents and storms.

I don't know where you stand Peter, do you believe what the Bible said then still stands now?

Do you really believe that two parties, with the deep convictions they hold, can come to a middle ground - or two integrities - when the fundamental core of their convictions are in essence opposed to one another?

I have been on my knees these last days, praying and trusting for my brothers fighting for the Lord. They are risking it all - reputation, homes, family stability, jobs, income - they are willing to take a stand. Whatever happens, their consciences can be clean for the way in which they have contended for the faith.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I am trying not to be deluded!
I am concerned that we (conservatives) seem unable (reluctant?) to work with ways and means for gay people to enjoy the companionship, partnership and friendship which married couples enjoy.
Yes, the sex/Eros cannot be ducked as an issue (and I acknowledge I look like I am doing that), but I am very concerned that married conservatives like myself get to enjoy all the benefits of marriage (when through no effort on my part I find myself drawn in the sexual orientation lottery on the heterosexual side) while assiduously countering all arguments for those not so chosen to enjoy few or even none of those benefits.
I ask myself, you may or may not want to ask yourself as well, whether I really understand the burden and pain of being homosexual.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Sarah
A lot is at stake and I appreciate that you have been praying for we need a miracle!
For what it is worth, I understand the cumulative teaching of the Bible to only support teaching that God approves of sexual intercourse within marriage between a man and a woman, and not apart from it.
But I live in a church where not all think that way and it is a church where I know I have colleagues and friends who on a range of matters think very differently to me, often disagreeably so, and sometimes to the point where I wonder if we can remain together.
In a number of situations of dispute I cannot say I have found middle ground, I can only say that somehow we have managed to live with our differences, even with our opposition to each other.
Whether that can be the case by the end of this GS is unknown as I write.
On a personal note, and thinking about what is at stake, I wonder how many friendships I will have in tact at the end of this week - I happen to have friends on both sides of the debate!

Brendan McNeill said...


Sooner or later you are going to have to decided if God still believes it is an abomination for a man to have sex with a man. Has He changed his mind, and if so, would you mind pointing out from Scripture where this is so?

This is an honest question, and I’d be interested to know your answer.

For the purposes of this reply, I’m going to assuming you don’t believe God has changed his mind on this matter. He still considers men having sex with men is sin.

Or, do you now believe that homosexuality is innate, and that recently God has realized he made a terrible mistake? I mean how could he punish the sin of homosexual sex between men if he made them this way at birth? That would be both cruel and irrational.

Thankfully we know God has compassion for sinners, otherwise we would all be in a desperate situation. His solution for sin is not affirmation, counselling or even blessing, it involves repentance and faith towards God unto salvation.

Nothing has changed in that regard for 2,000 years.

You say: “I ask myself, you may or may not want to ask yourself as well, whether I really understand the burden and pain of being homosexual.”

Well only as much as I understand the burden of sin. But Peter, isn’t this why Jesus went to the cross - ‘to set the captives free, to enable recovery of sight for the blind, to exchange his beauty for our ashes, to provide the oil of joy in place of mourning’?

Are we not selling homosexual couples short by affirming them in their sin? Isn’t this a travesty of the worst kind, and perpetrated by the Church no less!

Isn’t this simply saying – I know you are in slavery to sin, and while we have the gospel of power to set you free, instead we are content for you to remain as slaves, what’s more we love your slavery so much we are going to bless you in it.

It is absurd to think this way, and yet that is what the Anglican Church is proposing.

This is why the issue is a ‘bright line’ for so many of us.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
Yes, I believe most homosexuals are born that way.
I do not ascribe that innateness to God anymore than I ascribe other aspects of life which do not conform to God's design in creation, therefore I am not going to argue that God has changed his mind on sexual sin.
What I do see in the Bible is the fullness of God dwelling in Jesus Christ who was both incredibly clear about sex, marriage and adultery and surprisingly, even shockingly tolerant of sexual sinners.
It is a puzzle to me why he did not types to sort out the relational situation of the woman he met at the well in John 4!
My "bright line" concerns how I and we the church might be faithful to Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Did GS keep confirmation? It might not have got airtime because of you know what.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Nick
Taonga is carrying reports on matters other than "you know what" so I would be surprised if a matter as weighty as the abolition of confirmation had been resolved and not reported on: ditto interchangeability of Methodist/Anglican orders. Perhaps today, Thursday, is the "moving" day for this Synod?

Brendan McNeill said...


You said: “Yes, I believe most homosexuals are born that way.”

On what do you base that belief?

We have decoded the gnome – there is no ‘gay’ gene. Homosexuals have no unique genetic difference that separates them from the reset of the population.

You said: “My "bright line" concerns how I and we the church might be faithful to Jesus.”

Therefore, can you please explain to me how blessing a gay marriage which involves a sexual union between two men, an act condemned by Scripture and contrary to the only form of marriage union affirmed by Jesus, meets your ‘bright line’ test?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I base that belief on the testimony of homosexuals who attest to either never having desires/feelings for women (pre-pubescent, post-pubescent) or only briefly having desires/feelings for women before settling for an exclusive orientation towards men.

I do not see why it matters what "the cause" of such exclusive orientation is (if not a gene, could it be some hormonal imbalance in the mother's womb? If not a hormonal imbalance, then some other trauma associated with gestation?). The fact is in a heteronormative world there are a thousand reasons not to choose to be homosexual and when a homosexual testifies to never having been heterosexual (or to only having been heterosexual briefly) then who am I, at ease in that heteronormative world, to question their testimony.

(Incidentally, I am not so convinced that there is no "gene": I am intrigued at some inter-generational family stories in which homosexuals appear in each generation while in other families either there are no homosexuals or they are extremely well closeted!)

Did I say that "blessing a gay marriage ... an act condemned by Scripture ... meets [my] 'bright-line' test"?

What I did write [with one typo corrected] was this:

"What I do see in the Bible is the fullness of God dwelling in Jesus Christ who was both incredibly clear about sex, marriage and adultery and surprisingly, even shockingly tolerant of sexual sinners.
It is a puzzle to me why he did not [try] to sort out the relational situation of the woman he met at the well in John 4!
My "bright line" concerns how I and we the church might be faithful to Jesus."

That is, my question is how we might be faithful to Jesus the ethical teacher AND to Jesus the pastoral leader who seemed to hold in tension strict adherence to the sexual ethics of his Jewish faith, culture and tradition with mixing and mingling with prostitutes and adulterers, even, in the case of John 4, commissioning for ministry one whose sexual life seemed disordered by the standards of his own teaching.

Brendan McNeill said...


You said:

“I do not see why it matters what "the cause" of such exclusive orientation is (if not a gene, could it be some hormonal imbalance in the mother's womb? If not a hormonal imbalance, then some other trauma associated with gestation?)”

I’m surprised I have to explain this. Cause is important because it is directly tied to the notion of our personal accountability before God.

If homosexuality is somehow ‘normative’ as our post 1973 culture now informs us, and is not a personal choice, then God has unjustly condemned homosexuals as sinners along with those who commit other sexual sins like incest, adultery, promiscuity and so forth.

I also note with some surprise that your list of potential causes does not include the power of sin as a possibility. Why have you excluded so obvious an explanation, when the revelation of Scripture points to this as the most probable cause?

Or do you believe that ‘some hormonal imbalance in the mother’s womb’ could be responsible for people committing adultery and incest as well, and if not, why make homosexuality the exception?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
In the lottery of life, I have a heterosexual orientation, but sin crouches at the door of my life and plays havoc with my desires. Nevertheless I am accountable before God for the decisions I make re those desires.

In the lottery of life, some have a homosexual orientation and sin crouches at the door of their lives too and no doubt plays havoc with their desires, and they are responsible before God for the decisions they make.

Why the lottery of life throws up such variations, along with other variations (male/female, good general health/poor general health, etc) has been answered by Christian theology when it says, building on Genesis 3, that the introduction of sin into the world has played havoc with what God intended at the beginning of creation. But I am not aware that that explanation means that (say) the person born with poor general health is themselves responsible for that situation.

So, when you write, "If homosexuality is somehow ‘normative’ as our post 1973 culture now informs us, and is not a personal choice, then God has unjustly condemned homosexuals as sinners along with those who commit other sexual sins like incest, adultery, promiscuity and so forth.

I also note with some surprise that your list of potential causes does not include the power of sin as a possibility. Why have you excluded so obvious an explanation, when the revelation of Scripture points to this as the most probable cause?" then I am disagreeing that "homosexuality" is a personal choice. That is, there is no more personal choice involved for homosexuals about their homosexual orientation than there has been for me about my heterosexual orientation.

I am surprised that you think homosexuals have a choice about their orientation. Even a recent speaker at the FCA conference in Chch, giving his own personal testimony, spoke of a powerlessness in how his sexual orientation was experienced. (But spoke of the power of God to enable him to make right choices).

Brendan McNeill said...


We both know that a predisposition alone is not sinful. However, James tells us “after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:15

Therefore, what would those ‘right choices’ be for those with a homosexual predisposition – gay marriage?

And if so, what would be the right response by the Church – blessing that gay marriage?

Is that what the speaker at the FCA conference suggested?

Also, you have not told me if you are prepared to make similar exceptions (on the basis of ‘the lottery of life’) for those who are predisposed to promiscuity, adultery and incest, or is it just homosexuality for which you are prepared to make an exception?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I wonder if we are talking past each other?
I do not see homosexuality as a "predisposition" but as an orientation (of one's general sexuality, towards one's own sex rather than towards the opposite sex).
"Predisposition" in this context, towards adultery, towards incest is a predisposition to pursue certain sexual choices rather than others, within one's orientation. There are unfaithful heterosexuals and unfaithful homosexuals, there are incestuous heterosexuals and incestuous homosexuals.

So, no, I do not think I am making an "exception" for homosexuals, I am merely trying to understand what it is like for a person who never desires the opposite sex.

Accordingly, yes, the church needs to treat seriously how it walks with and supports those for whom marriage in the ordinary way is not an option. Whether that includes supporting gay marriage is a question we are engaged with: there was a reason why Paul said better to marry than burn!

But it is your logic not mine which is driving this discussion, because you have enunciated the principle that if homosexuality is not a matter of choice then it is cruel of God to deny marriage to homosexuals.

My logic is rather, whatever my orientation, what does God ask of me as I live in this world. The FCA speaker's answer was that for some that request is for celibacy.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

The exception you are making for homosexuals, is that you are prepared to entertain the notion that their orientation (to use the word you prefer) may have been caused by ‘some hormonal imbalance in the mother’s womb’ – yet this does not appear to be a mitigating factor you are willing to entertain for those men whose orientation is towards promiscuity.

How do you justify making this exception?

Or to put it another way, why is an orientation towards homosexuality from birth any different from an orientation towards promiscuity? It is arguable that the latter is more common than the former. If you seek to justify one on the basis of birth, why not the other?

Second, While I may have missed it, I have not observed you stating that homosexual practice (ie homosexual sex) is sinful regardless of the context, ie civil marriage or not. What is your position on that matter?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
Some promiscuous men meet the right woman, marry and settle down to monogamy.
No homosexual man can meet the right woman and marry.
There is a difference there!

I am not justifying "homosexuality" over "promiscuity" because I am talking about an "orientation" for the former and the latter is a "behaviour."

Sex between two people of the same sex is wrong whatever the context. That is the teaching of the Bible. I am not sure how helpful stating that is, however, when among the issues confronting the church today are civilly married same sex couples who (presumably) do not think they are sinning and seek to be participants in the life of the church. Whether or not we bless their relationship and whether or not one or both partners offer for ordination, the question of our love, care and support for such a couple arises. I cannot see in the way of Jesus any mandate to eject them from the church nor would it seem part of the way of Jesus to preach about sin in such a way that that couple would feel they were being picked out from other sinners in the church.

Anonymous said...

On the day (over ten years ago now) after my daughter told her mom and me that she was a lesbian, I remember asking her about the process by which she had come to believe that about herself. She replied "Well, you spend a lot of time worrying about whether you're going to go to hell".

Like you, Peter, I haven't changed my view of marriage in the past ten years. But I am totally dissatisfied with the pastoral adequacy of most of our good solid conservative evangelical answers to people like my daughter, which basically boil down to 'I can marry the person I love and have sex with her to my heart's content, but you can't'. I'm sorry, but we've got to do better than that.

Tim C.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim

Father Ron Smith said...

Thank you, Tim. I'm sure you will grieve with me about the sad outcome of our General Synod's deferring of the inevitable. if our Church does not want to wither on the vine, it will have to start thinking about its true Mission as advocated by Jesus: "I have not come to save the righteous, but sinners.

It may be that the righteous may feel they don't need to be saved by anyone, thank you very much. But you and I know otherwise.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

I’m not going to debate with you the point at which an orientation becomes a behaviour, and why they should be treated differently once that line is crossed, but I am pleased to see you acknowledge that sex between two people of the same sex is wrong (sinful) whatever the context.

I am perplexed however about how you believe Jesus would respond to a homosexual couple in Church. You state: “I cannot see in the way of Jesus any mandate to eject them from the church nor would it seem part of the way of Jesus to preach about sin in such a way that that couple would feel they were being picked out from other sinners in the church.”

Several things arise from this.

1) You acknowledge that this couple are engaging in sinful behaviour, yet you appear to be promoting the idea that the Church should tolerate this sin. Can you explain why this obvious sexual sin should be overlooked, whereas promiscuity or incest should not be (for example)?

2) Paul who was an Apostle of Christ felt it necessary to eject unrepentant sinners from the Church, and in particular those who were engaged in sexual sin. Why would Jesus be less inclined? Was Paul’s action ‘in the way of Jesus’ or did he grieve the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor 5?

3) While Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, he did tell her to ‘go and sin no more’ – Why would our message be any different to those engaging in homosexual practice within the Church? Wouldn’t a call to repentance be ‘in the way of Jesus’?

How does your position regarding the toleration of openly homosexual relationships in the Church square with the Apostle Peter who taught:

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 14-15

Peter Carrell said...

I think, Brendan, that Jesus would be very sympathetic to the situation of homosexuals as marginalised, often despised and ill-treated people. I am sure he would have and does have his own way of calling homosexuals to holiness and purity of living.

And his own timing.

I say again, for some reason, in John 4 Jesus seemed disinterested in sorting out the disordered sexual life of the Samaritan woman.

I also cannot think of an occasion when he asked prostitutes (or soldiers!) to stop their livelihoods. That does not mean that Jesus approved of what they did for a living but it might mean that he understood the complexity of life for each of them.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

I note that you have failed to respond to my questions directly – never mind.

So, by way of summary you acknowledge homosexual relationships to be sinful, and as James reminds us, ‘sin when it is full grown gives birth to death.’

For the sake of clarity around your position, I understand that in the name of compassion you would not confront homosexual couples in the Church over their sin, but instead allow them to believe they are on the path to life, when in fact they are in the grip of death.

Is that really ‘in the way of Jesus’?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I was not so much avoiding your questions as trying to collect them up and respond to them in the way I did.

I would say that homosexual relationships include sin as well as virtues.
I am saying that Jesus would recognise the virtues.

Are you being hard on homosexuals? It does seem to me that each homosexual, on your responses to date, should live alone.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

Far from being hard on homosexuals, I would have thought being honest with them about the trajectory of their sin would have been the loving thing to do.

James says when sin is fully grown it gives birth to death. I would spare them that.

I would also take into consideration those young people in our Churches who look to Church leadership for guidance on matters of sex and gender. How do you explain to your children or grandchildren that homosexual practice is sinful (as you rightly state) when there are three homosexual couples living openly in the church, and one of the couples is leading the youth group?

What responsibility do you have for these children who will no doubt be questioning matters of sexuality and gender given our present cultural framework?

In our desire to be ‘culturally relevant’ there is much more at stake than the emotional comfort of unrepentant homosexuals.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
Great questions!
My children generally answer me back when I delve into these areas with them; and I have no grandchildren!
Nothing is easy here and you are right to pose those questions back to me.
I wonder if we will have an openly homosexual person respond to your questions ...

Anonymous said...

I think if we're going to start ejecting people from the church for being unrepentant sinners, we might want to point out a few more candidates too. I'm quite sure that I give communion every Sunday to more than one unrepentant materialist, and I don't have many church members who gave up all their possessions when they became Christians (contra. Luke 14:33).

But of course, we're all selective literalists!

We talk about 'openly homosexual persons' being asked to answer these questions. According to the Apostolic Constitution of St. Hippolytus, in Rome in about 215 A.D. they would also have been joined by the 'openly military' man (soldiers had to promise not to kill anyone before they could be admitted as catechumens) or the 'openly judicial' man (judges had to step down too, probably because of their responsibility to impose the death penalty). In Acts 5 it was greed and lying that Peter brought out of the closet in the church, and it led to the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.

Tim C.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Tim C.

You are right of course; Church discipline is over rated.

I haven’t seen it all, but in my time in Church leadership over the years I’ve seen enough. How would you respond to a mature Christian in your Church who was seeking to ‘hook up’ after school at a private spa bath with 12-year-old student who was slightly mentally challenged?

If we like Peter, are prepared to overlook homosexual sins, on what basis could we condemn this individual? Nothing happened, he was ‘outed’ before physical contact was made. No harm done right?

Or a situation where one of the Elders was sleeping with another man’s wife, both of whom belonged to the same congregation? They were both consenting adults, both ‘in love’. They did nothing illegal.

If someone is an ‘unrepentant materialist’ by which I suspect, you mean they were an idolater as per 1 Corinthians 6, then by all means you should approach that person in all humility to see if it were true, and if they were seeking help but not knowing how to ask?

All situations where Christians are living in obvious sin need to be approached on merit. But ignoring one set of sins because you allow others doesn’t sound like a workable approach to Church governance to me, neither would it be a Church that is creating disciples, nor one that is honouring to God, assuming any of that still matters.

Brian Kelly said...

All your examples fail, Tim.
There is no evidence that the apostolic church actually understood Jesus to be commanding the renunciation of property, any more than they understood him to be commanding mutilation of the eye and hand, or hating family members as a condition of discipleship. They understood their own culture and its rhetorical tropes. Likewise Paul in 1 Corinthians 5. They knew that being a Christian is hard - but not impossible.
As for Hippolytus of Rome - irrelevant to the New Testament, as is that other Roman work 'The Shepherd of Hermas', a deterioration in understanding. Soldiers like Cornelius could be Christians - and, mirabile dictu, even a lawyer (Zenas)! The vexed question of whether an archdeacon can be saved hadn't arisen yet. Personally, I am doubtful.

Peter Carrell said...

I am shocked, Brian, at your doubts.
For a man normally so certain I am surprised you are giving me a slight chance of redemption :)

Brian Kelly said...

"Apud homines hoc impossibile est: apud Deum autem omnia possibilia sunt."
John of Salisbury (1120-80) leaves open the possibility: 'Num archidiaconus salvari potest' but perhaps in the spirit of the Rev Sydney Smith: 'I am off now to Old St Paul's to pray for you but with no lively hope of success.' They were both English churchmen and therefore immune to any enthusiasm.

Father Ron Smith said...

"I am perplexed however about how you believe Jesus would respond to a homosexual couple in Church. You state: “I cannot see in the way of Jesus any mandate to eject them from the church nor would it seem part of the way of Jesus to preach about sin in such a way that that couple would feel they were being picked out from other sinners in the church.” - Brendan McNeill -

Do I understand correctly, Brendan, that you were once the Pastor of your own House Church? If so, I can see where your responses to Peter are coming from - especially on the subject of the etiology of homosexuality.

What is it about the subject of 'sexual sins' that so excites your asperity? Is it a real fear of being tempted yourself into a life-style which you currently understand to be 'anti-Christ' in nature? As though God would ever create something so diabolically out of sync with your own understanding of the natural world? Or are you just prejudiced against gay people?

Have you ever thought that blind prejudice might be a worse sin than expressing one's inbuilt sexual nature in caring, loving relationships. If there is even a hint of this possibility, don't you think you should reserve your harsh judgement for the sins that Jesus, himself, was known to have been angered by? His righteous anger against the Pharisees who were about to (according to the Law) stone to death the 'woman caught in the act of adultery' (what about the men, were they not also guilty?) comes readily to mind.

Perhaps you could concentrate your disdain for those heterosexual marriages and families that are riven with sexual and physical violence, that are far more a cause of social upheaval in our fair country than any loving homosexual alliance. "They will know you're my disciples by your love" - J.C

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Fr Ron

Take comfort from the words of Massey University social work professor Mark Henrickson, in respect to gay marrage blessings in the Anglican Church when he said in the Herald today:

"We are simply waiting until the voice of the hardline conservatives is too old and too tired to speak any more," he said. "I think that time will come."

Father Ron Smith said...

'Friendship doesn't entail sex. In fact, it forbids it. Marriage does entail
sex" - Brian

So much for married couples who are friends, then. Is sex forbidden for them?

Brian, I'll let you into a secret, not all marriages contain sexual activity - not even homosexual ones. The Law (even Church Law) dopes not require the couple in a marriage to engage in sex. ITS NOT ALL ABOUT SEX. I know of married couples who don't even have sex in their relationship - legally.

Anonymous said...

Brendan, my daughter and her wife are not hooking up after school with 12 year old students, nor are they sleeping with people who are married to other people. They're living faithfully with each other, caring for each other, denying themselves in order to bless and love each other, and they're making a secure and stable home in which to raise my grandson (and, as of this coming August, my second grandson, D.V.).

I can find no evidence that any of the biblical texts that talk about men sleeping with men envision this kind of situation. And in all of the Bible there's only one text - one - that seems to refer to lesbian sex, and I'm told by people who've studied it that many writers in the early church thought it was referring to anal sex, not lesbian sex.

If I'm going to get hot under the collar, I'll get hot under the collar about people who start wars, or make millions profiting from them, or engage in some of the other sins of oppression and greed that aroused the real anger of Jesus and the prophets. My daughter and her wife making a stable home and loving each other and their kids? Sorry - I think God's got bigger fish to fry than that.

Let me be clear, I'm not advocating or agreeing with the church changing its doctrine of marriage. But I think new knowledge demands that we think hard about how to apply biblical texts to today's world. In the past we haven't always done that well.

Tim Chesterton

Anonymous said...

Brian, the fact that you find my examples unconvincing doesn't mean that they fail - it just means that you find them unconvincing. I' think you should be a little more careful about mistaking subjective opinion for incontrovertible fact.

I am not trying to give Hippolytus (or the Shepherd, which I did not cite - although I find it interesting that some early church folks included him in the NT) - authority equal to the NT. I'm simply saying that in Rome, in 215 A.D., it's quite clear that people were worried about a much wider range of 'open sinners' than we are today, with our fixation about sex. In the Roman church, before people could be enrolled as catechumens, they apparently had to demonstrate that their way of life was consistent with their expressed desire to learn Christ and follow him - and killing in wartime, or imposing the death penalty, were seen as impediments to that. Nowadays most Christians follow some form of the just war theory and assume it's the best and only reasonable way to interpret the Bible, but for the first three centuries the pacifist position was in the majority in the church. As I said, we're all selective literalists.

Tim Chesterton

Brian Kelly said...

Ron, I'll let you into a secret: for the faithful Christian who follows Jesus, there is no such thing as a "homosexual marriage". The idea is an un-Christian perversion of God's creation ordinance of marriage, affirmed by Jesus Christ in Matthew 19. (By the way, I have no intention of debating this point for the thousandth time.)
As for sex in marriage, you really ought to know this:
1. Non-consummation was historically always grounds for annulment (not divorce). The pagan invention of 'same sex marriage' had the effect of abolishing this common law rule because it is impossible for persons of the same sex to 'consummate' their 'marriage'.
2. While potency and libido decline with age (with differences between the sexes on this), Scripture clearly presupposes that a marriage should, at some stage, be sexual in character. Catholic theology, following Thomas's understanding of natural law, is very clear on this. Catholic Canon Law requires a sexual relationship for a marriage to be complete.
3. I know NOTHING AT ALL about the sex life of other married couples and intend to stay that way.

Brian Kelly said...

Here's a clear account of Catholic Canon Law on the principle of 'ratum sed non consummatum' which is exactly as I recalled it from my own Catholic education (which was pretty well-informed, based on lessons every school day for five years and a through reading every week of The Tablet):

Brian Kelly said...

"Nowadays most Christians follow some form of the just war theory and assume it's the best and only reasonable way to interpret the Bible, but for the first three centuries the pacifist position was in the majority in the church. As I said, we're all selective literalists."

I really don't know if that is true at all - although it was a common trope among Anabaptists and still is among their modern descendants. I see *nothing* at all from the first century that implied that being a soldier was incompatible per se with being a Christian and much - like the example of Cornelius and Romans 13 - that contradicts what you claim. If serving in the Roman army came to entail blasphemous oaths or other impediments, then that has nothing to do with military service itself. Goodness, even a Jew like Josephus could fight for the Romans! Nothing in the Bible declares military service in itself as sinful (nor is the death penalty); Paul in fact uses soldiering as a fitting metaphor of the Christian life more than once. If it became problematic for Christians, I suspect that has something to do with state persecution (which began under Nero and is attested under Domitian and Trajan): what Christians could trust a soldier in their midst?
As for 'selective literalism', this was always a problem among Anabaptists in their mishandling of texts from the Sermon on the Mount. It's a basic misunderstanding of Jewish rhetoric and the hyperbolic style of parabolic teaching to think that Jesus condemned private property, oath-taking or self-defence; if you think that, you should also conclude he commanded eye-gouging, hand-chopping and hating your parents. The exegetical errors of the Anabaptists are condemned in Articles 38 and 39. I don't think the best Reformed exegesis was 'selective literalism' at all; I think it was responsible humanist interpretation among men who knew how to read ancient texts in their contexts.

Brian Kelly said...

As an addendum, note that in Matthew 26.63-64, Jesus was put under oath by the high priest and, having been silent up to this point, he now spoke! He answered under oath - which contradicts the 'literal' or absolutist sense of Matthew 5.34. This is only a problem if we fail to see that Jesus, like so many first century Jewish teachers, used hyperbole to make his point. Because we moderns dislike hyperbole and have a more legalistic cast of mind, we are prone to miss the point being made here.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I don't want to derail this whole thread and make it about something it's not, but better minds than mine have studied the first three Christian centuries and concluded that pacifism was the majority interpretation of the teaching of Jesus during that time. I'll mention only the well-known Lutheran church historian (note - not Anabaptist) Roland Bainton, who declared that the first three centuries of the Christian era were 'the pacifist centuries'.

It's true that we're not told whether or not Cornelius had to leave the army after he became a Christian. But then, neither are we told whether the prostitutes who came to Jesus had to leave their life of prostitution. We assume they did, though. Why? Because we assume they made the connection between the commands to avoid fornication and adultery on the one hand, and the way they made a living on the other. We do not, however, assume that soldiers made a connection between 'love your enemies' and the imperative toward nonviolence. Why not? Presuppositions, perhaps? An interpretive grid that we didn't know we had?

As for Romans 13, it tells Christians how they ought to respond to the authority of the state. The magistrate and the officer of the law are described as 'he', not 'you'; the assumption is that Christians are not in those positions. The instructions aimed at the Christian are in the previous chapter (12:9-21), and - surprise, surprise - they command us to bless those who persecute us, not repay anyone evil for evil, give food and drink to our enemies, and overcome evil with good.

As for your objections to my phrase 'selective literalism' - well, one example would be the way we continually pull out the 'abomination' (to'evah) meme regarding homosexuality, but fail to remember all the other things in the OT which are also described as abominations, such as cross-dressing, or remarrying a woman after you've divorced her. Ezekiel 18:10-13 adds lending money at interest to the list, as well as 'oppressing the poor and needy' (how many Christians make the excuse 'that's just standard business practice - if we did anything else, we'd be out of business'?).

As for the Anabaptists - well, once they got over the disaster of M√ľnster they were the only Christians in the 16th century who came to the conclusion that it wasn't okay to burn their fellow-Christians at the stake, so I think it's possible they might have got a few things right...

Tim Chesterton (sometimes described by my colleagues as an Anabaptist-Anglican!)

Brian Kelly said...

Tim, I don't dispute that many Christians took that view up to the formal legalisation of Christianity by the edict of Milan in 313, only that their understanding of the New Testament, especially in the west, was flawed in many ways. Not only The Shepherd of Hermas but the tenor of much of Tertullian's writings reflect a drift into hardline legalism, supersessionism and a mechanical view of baptism (not to mention a tough line on post-baptismal sin, which was seen as beyond forgiveness). So I am not greatly impressed by their exegetical powers, although I appreciate their moral earnestness. But given that Christianity was often (but not always) persecuted up to 313, soldiers often took pagan oaths, emperor worship was mandated and military violence was endemic, it is not surprising that most Christians could not countenance military service. Other professions like acting and teaching (because of the pagan curriculum) were also forbidden at times for Christians. They drew a hard line all right, but the thought that you could be betrayed to the authorities by a false brother and a fervent belief in the imminent return of Christ no doubt concentrated the mind.
Your comment on Romans 13 ('he versus you') misses the point that the magistrate is called a minister of God, not a servant of Satan, and that personal ethics (forgiving the personal wrongs I have suffered) is a different matter from acting in the name of the State. Further, since the cursus honorum was open only to male citizens of patrician or knightly background, you would not likely find Christians among them in the first century. But Erastus (Rom. 16.23, Acts 19.22) was the aedile of Corinth, a major office at that time, and Publius, proconsul of Malta, may have been converted (Acts 28.7). As for soldiers: there is no evidence at all that Cornelius resigned from the army, and Jesus himself could be pretty helpful to members of the occupying forces, even commending the faith of one of them.
There are a lot of things I like about the modern day descendants of the Anabaptists, especially their simple and peaceable ways - I think of the way those Mennonites responded to the horrific murders inflicted upon them by a gunman) and I utterly despise the culture of aggression and violence in the west. But sadly it isn't a sufficient ethic in itself for living in the real, fallen world.