Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Can the Centre Hold?

Bowman Walton writes (about my submission to the Archbishops re "the Way Forward":

"Peter, my counterplans to your proposals usually argue that a centre could hold if a basic deal is struck--

(a) Traditionalists near the centre should agree that the gospel has not been and is not now served by the marginalisation of sexual minorities.  Revisionists near the centre are most galled that pockets of conservatives still dream of a cordon sanitaire protecting the 97% that necessarily marginalises the 3%. This concession precludes that dream, at the cost, no doubt of some traditionalists far from the centre who cherish it.

(b) Revisionists near the centre should agree that revisions should be limited to the minimum necessary to accommodate persons morally certain (eg from probable but not perfectly conclusive evidence) that their attraction to the same sex is exclusive and biologically determined. Traditionalists near the centre reject sweeping proposals to replace all received teaching and practice in human sexuality with a fashionable novelty, but empathise with the plight of those who struggle in good faith with the Church's traditional teaching. This concession builds on that good will, but probably alienates those far from the centre who oppose the sexual binary for other reasons.

In other words, from the mundane perspective of synodical vote counting, centrists may only be able to avoid splitting by peeling at the extremes."

I understand this set of pertinent observations to mean that we ought to attend more to finding
"common (theological) ground" than a "(synodical) compromise" - the latter being what I am proposing!


I both agree and disagree with Bowman ...

My agreement is that in an ideal world we would work and work and work at finding that common theological ground and only then ask what that might mean in practice. In particular, as a conservative, I would want to work at avoiding the "marginalization of sexual minorities". I am far from convinced that much conservative Christian talk about sexuality does this.

My disagreement is that we do not live in an ideal world, certainly not an ideal Anglican world! What we have in ACANZP is a synodical deadline: something must be done, something must be decided and General and Diocesan Synods are those decision-making bodies. 

I still think my proposal has much to commend it ... not least because I think it allows for continuing search for theological common ground to take place.

23 comments:

Shawn Herles said...

"the gospel has not been and is not now served by the marginalisation of sexual minorities.:

This is the foundational flaw in his argument. There are no sexual minorities. There is only God's design for sex within the covenant of marriage between one man and one women, and whatever deviates from that is sin and rebellion against God.

Talking about "sexual minorities" and "marginalisation" is yet another example of the ideology of cultural Marxism distorting and replacing the Christian world view.

Father Ron said...

I, for one, do not want to be in a Church that contains people who fight so hard against the inclusion of ALL people that they want to separate out if they don't get their own way.

We should be able to live together in diversity on an issue that is not of the "First Order' - that is centred on the Person of Christ

Certainly I am against the idea of a separate 'Anglican Province' to accommodate such divisiveness. Objectors should make a clean break if they cannot live with the majority on this, and form their own ekklesia. - or Join the Bible Baptists.

Shawn Herles said...

Jesus was never inclusive of ALL people. He was inclusive of the repentent, and those whose hearts are in submission to God. The unrepentant were excluded by Jesus.

Matthew 18:3 "And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

Romans 1:18 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

"In our pluralistic society today we have created a God in our own image, after our own likeness and put forth the doctrine that God is love and only love and would thus never punish sin but the truth is that God will judge all who have never repented and trusted in Christ. The wrath of God still abides on all who have not yet believed on Christ (John 3:36b) and to believe means to be obeying and doing what Jesus commanded and that is to abstain from all sexual immorality. Regardless of what the Supreme Court has ruled God overrules."

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/07/27/top-7-bible-verses-about-gods-wrath/

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
It is quite legitimate to bring up the subject of God's wrath here on ADU.
I am not publishing your latest comment.
Please engage with the existence of God's wrath, as revealed in the same Scripture that reveals God's love, rather than resort to simple denial of wrath by assertion of love.

Jean said...

Gosh Bownman where did you get your common sense from : ) ...

Your comments resonate with me for I am yet to alter my adherence to the traditional teaching of marriage and sexual immorality, yet I recognise the genuine 'faith' wrestling by those of faith who are attracted to the same sex. Hopefully having not been the only one here who has done such wrestling on points of my spiritual journey albeit not with this particular issue.

I can see Peter how Bowman's suggestion is more theologically centred rather than your structural one, the latter of which has been what has been requested. However, I maintain our church nor our communities are ready for a structural change to address this issue before a theological mandate to guide the structure is formed.

I am hoping by saying the church is not served well by marginalising a sexual minority Bowman is implying highlighting the sinfulness of particular people or groups who come to church or otherwise is not a helpful approach in sharing the gospel. In response to the love, wrath passages ... the message of salvation through Christ alone, and by the Spirit not the law, is what justifies one before God and by faith a person is saved from wrath/judgement under the law. However, I differ perhaps in your interpretation Shawn because I don't think receiving this justification or salvation by the Spirit automatically means instant conformity to all biblical morality but that in our hearts we begin the process of being conformed into the image of God by the Spirit, of sanctification/re-creation so long as we remain faithful. 'How much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him?"

And I believe in God is inclusive in the sense of "while we were yet sinners Christ died for us". We were included before we believed, and he desires all to be saved. Admittedly it is not how the world interprets inclusion necessaarily. However, we are urged to be patient with others as God was patient with us drawing us in with lovingkindness.

An excellent book - sorry another one is called, "God for the Rest of Us" written by a pastor who set up church in Las Vegas or as he terms it 'sin city'.

Cheers
Jean

Anonymous said...

"The Offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction, for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin, but that alone." --Article XXXI

Peter believes in an institutional imperative that I do not. And I see a crisis of institutional legitimacy that Peter has not explicitly addressed his comments. That is, I agree with Jean among others that a structural arrangement is only a solution if it embodies a theological position that some actual souls could actually believe *ex animo.* Given their histories, evangelicals and liberals are unlikely constituencies for a solution that values institutional loyalty as much as Peter's approach requires.

What has made another way possible is general recognition that the contemporary distinction between cultivated bisexuality (aka pansexuality) and unbidden same sex attraction may have a biological basis unknowable in the past. This is why there are evangelicals against SSM who nevertheless empathise with the struggles of homosexuals who engage the traditional teaching in good faith, just as there are also liberals for SSB whose pastoral concern for struggling gays and lesbians is precisely not an endorsement of pansexuality or polyamory. Evangelicals at home in our tradition do not dismiss science in reading the scriptures, and liberals at home in our tradition do not object to marriage as we have understood it for a millennium or so. Such evangelicals and liberals do disagree on lots of things, of course, but they are still nearer to each other than they are to members of their tribes less influenced by Anglican tradition.

For there is also a crisis for the continuity of that tradition that has in part been caused by the novel thought that local synods are a final doctrinal authority. The comments of Shawn and Father Ron nicely illustrate my point about extremists-- because they care so much about our conversations, they dominate them, and just so they have also framed the synodical understanding of the problem. (We have seen this before: strong-willed minorities influence secular parliaments around the world to do all sorts of things that great but alas passive majorities disapprove.) Yet neither extreme is at home in the main stream of Anglican tradition.

Bowman Walton



Anonymous said...


Cont'd

There is dissensus; there will be some divisions. Those of us who value Anglican tradition as a spiritual resource for the world should not be surprised to find ourselves once again defending a *via media* between ardent defenders of two single-eyed and so inadequate positions. In that situation, it is best that any divisions free the centre from the extremes. It is better to peel than to split.

Bowman Walton

Shawn Herles said...

A response to Bowman's post.

On reading Scripture in the light of science, the problem is that modern science rests on modernist philosophical/ideological foundations. It is not ideologically neutral. Objective neutrality is not possible for human beings, as human beings cannot step outside of time and space. Not on this side of death anyway. So we must practice discernment when it comes to science. Lest I be misunderstood, I am not a young earth creationist, that is not my concern. In fact YEC people make the same mistake modern science makes, but that's another issue. Nor am I dismissing the value of science. I am simply saying we must keep in mind it's philosophical assumptions.

As far as the hard sciences goes, there is as yet no evidence for the claim that homosexuality is biologically intrinsic. The most we can say is that it may be psychologically formed at an early age. And, given how politicised the issue is, again, we must practice discernment with any claims in this regard.

I'm not entirely sure how "extremist" I am in relation to Anglican mainstream evangelicalism. I support the ordination of women, and I am more at home in the HTB model of evangelicalism than the Sydney model. That's not a complaint though. Given the times we live in, I take being called an extremist as a compliment!

Father Ron said...

Welcome back, Bowman.

I must protest at your description of me as an 'extremist'. After reading many of your comments on this blog, forgive me if I suggest that I am more of a moderate mainstream Anglican than your good self. Baptised and first nurtured in the Church of England, proceeding via the Anglican Frasnciscans in Australia and New Zealand to St. John's College, Auckland; I have remained loyal to my roots in the Oxford Movement style of catholic worship and pastoral praxis. My current stance on the place of women and gays comes from a renewed understanding of basic Gospel principles of the welcome of Christ to ALL sinners - without reverting to the strictness of the sola-Scriptura world-view. I think that's pretty Anglican - if of the English variety!

Bryden Black said...

If I understand you rightly Bowman, your considered peeling is of a theological kind rendered through a prism of the traditional via media - NOT that of new trendies who would navigate between Pol Pot and Pinochet.
Here in ACANZ&P however, I sense rather yet another cultural pragmatism that is institutionally driven: a wish to stay together. Why? Coz why not!

Anonymous said...

[1] "There is only God's design for sex within the covenant of marriage between one man and one women..."

So far, so good. At the Anglican centre, this is beyond serious dispute. There are extremist liberals who reject [1]. They may sometimes believe in cultural Marxism; nobody else in this discussion seems to do so.

Hic sunt dracones.

[2] "...and whatever deviates from that is sin and rebellion against God."

[3] Persons are ordinarily predisposed to their orientation by some biological system, and because most or all biological systems are occasionally faulty, *some but not all* of "whatever deviates from that" deviates from God's ordinary plan in the same way that, for sacred example, the eyes of a man born blind deviate from God's ordinary plan for human vision.

In the providence of God, faults in biological systems are seen in hospitals everywhere in every hour, no matter what the philosophical presuppositions of the attending physicians. If [3] is the case, then a faithful Christian cannot affirm [2] with moral certainty for *every single case* of disoriented sexuality. Whether evangelical or liberal, Anglican centrists believe that two considerations-- the fallibility of complex biological systems and the testimony of Christians with same sex attraction-- are probable causes to believe that [3] is true and [2] is *only sometimes* true. Their position logically entails that spiritual guidance be given to each Christian with disoriented sexuality on a casewise basis. Centrist evangelicals and liberals presumably differ on what sort of guidance that should be, but this is not actually clear from debates where the extremists shout loudest.

With respect to [2] and [3], liberals outside the Anglican centre first affirm that [3] is *never* true because procreation is not the end of sexuality, and then, to be consistent, affirm that [2] is *never* true. Conversely, evangelicals outside the Anglican centre first affirm that [2] is *always* true, and then, to be consistent, affirm that [3] is *never* true. Neither directly compares the evidences for [2] and [3].

At both extremes, we find the cognitive distortions of *confirmation bias* and *all or nothing thinking* motivated by the belief that the positions taken are terribly important. At the centre, a subtler understanding deflates such pretense and arouses needed compassion.

Bowman Walton



Shawn Herles said...

Hi Bowman.

I see two problems here. The first is that where the center is, and where the extremes are, is a largely subjective observation. It is also captive to a particular moment in time, as these things change, and are always changing. And it assumes that the current center is a always a good place to be. It strikes me then as a far too subjective and slippery way to establish good doctrine or good practice.

The second is that there is no hard scientific evidence for any biological component to homosexuality. But, lets say there is some truth to it. What was Jesus' response to the blind man? He healed him. The logical consequence then is that Jesus does not want to leave people in the unhealed state of homosexuality, let alone bless it.

Shawn Herles said...

Further to my last post, confirmation bias is every bit as prone to the so-called center as it is to the so-called extremes. Observation of human nature proves that. And the approach your suggesting simply transfers the all or nothing approach to the center, by assuming the current center is the only right place, the only place where compassion and nuance are possible. Nor does being in the center automatically awaken compassion and nuance. It can just as easily kill both, if they are inconvenient to where the center is at a given point in time.

"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." - Revelation 3:15-17

Brian Kelly said...

I had to read Bowman several times to grasp what [2] and [3] mean and I am still not clear ('some but not all' language doesn't easily lend clarity to a discussion). But anyway, talk of "disorientation" and the "fallibility of complex biological system" implies teleology and God-given purpose. Unless one is an extreme voluntarist and nominalist, natural law considerations and teleology come into play. The nominalist-voluntarist liberal (we have at least one in this thread who, like Monsieur Jourdain, has 'been speaking [Occamist] prose all his life") believes it is actually God's will for certain persons ("some but not all") to have same-sex desires and to act on them. Catholic thinking, built on the pillars of natural law and the Bible, rejects this firmly.
And in any case, blindness is a deprivation of a good, not a positive good in itself. I know several people who live powerful productive lives in spite of their blindness, not because of it. Or let me restate that to say that they surmounted their blindness through character and determination. But not one of them prefers to be blind rather than sighted.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Brian, for the favour of reading my comments several times. That is much better than simply running old agitprop against new and scarcely understood ideas.

Alas, logical quantifiers are necessary, though not sufficient, to understanding why participants in these discussions are talking past each other. There is no remedy for this-- the domain of cases over which words are intelligibly applicable is precisely what is disputed. Formal notation would be more precise, and Venn diagrams easier to read, but I have no idea how to type either here.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantifier_(logic)

Teleology is the clay of the common ground on which centrists stand. By implication, you are probably right that the extremists wandered off cliffs in rejecting it. Liberal personalism has its own roots in scripture, but once severed from some trust in the Author of teleology, it wanders somewhere beyond the frontier of mere Christianity. Evangelical biblicism can speak of the *tertius usus legis* in the most transcendent ways, but even the text itself appeals to our awareness of the teleology of the world we know, and when we dismiss that awareness in application because our exegesis cannot accommodate it, then we begin to insist that the Word really is in the remote heavens or in the depths of the sea.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"I am the salvation of Spain; Spain is the salvation of the Catholic Church; the Catholic Church is the salvation of the universe." -- Francisco Franco

The hot conflict at the extremes is not the cool dissensus at the centre. Like the opponents in most civil wars, the two militant sides agree that the stakes in their conflict are ineffably high. In surprisingly portentious tones, they speak as though civilisation, the cosmos, the Church, etc all depend upon their influence on the bedroom habits of maybe 3% of Christians. Both suggest that, unless ACANZP's synod repeals the law of gravity, all in the blessed isles will remain subject to the discipline of terranormativity, but that if repeal does pass, then kiwis will suddenly find themselves floating with potted plants and confused chickens among the clouds. The blowhards agree on that; they disagree over whether this is catastrophe or liberation.

In contrast, centrists are calmer, quieter, and epistemically cautious. They recognise that "hard cases make bad law," and that they are dealing with a relatively inconsequential anomaly, but they do take seriously their different prior commitments to the health of the Church. Centrist liberals continue their mid-C20 concern that pastoral care take the concrete situatedness and intentionality of lives in Christ more seriously. The sheer "thrownness" of the homosexual condition understandably elicits this concern. Centrist evangelicals are eager both to share inspiring insights into scripture and systematics with the Church, and also to raise a few concerns of their own about the inauthenticity that arises from conformity to an aimlessly drifting society. To them, exploitation of the homosexual condition as a pretext for promoting a further disenchantment of sexuality exemplifies just this inauthenticity.

Centrist liberals and evangelicals are seldom asked for their views in forums designed primarily to exhibit the clash of extremes. Have they ever been invited into dialogue? (Ask Ian Paul.) Nevertheless, their concerns are close enough for faithful conversation with a low temperature.

The churches of the cultural North confront a post-Constantinian secularity for which neither liberals nor evangelicals have found a worthwhile response. Postmodern societies are not interested in the reforming leadership of liberal Protestants-- the idea that preaching positions in churches and passing things in synods is promoting justice and peace has passed from reality to nostalgia to narcissism. Freezing zones of evangelical influence as they have been to conserve them into the future is possible, but such withdrawal is nearer to the Anabaptist dream of replacing society than to the Anglican one of animating it. Centrists do not have blueprints for the next the project, but they seem to be relatively free of the delusions that make it hard for the faithful to imagine.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron said...

" Evangelical biblicism can speak of the *tertius usus legis* in the most transcendent ways, but even the text itself appeals to our awareness of the teleology of the world we know, and when we dismiss that awareness in application because our exegesis cannot accommodate it, then we begin to insist that the Word really is in the remote heavens or in the depths of the sea.' - Bowman -

Thanks for this corrective, Bowman. Perhaps we should be grateful for your 'centrist' philosophy on this thread.

I agree that, if our knowledge of the Bible is disconnected from our life as lived here in the 21st-century world - in other words, 'reality' - it may be of no use to us at all. Authentic Christianity is rooted in the reality of the human condition NOW - not only in the past with all its misunderstanding of the cosmos.

One reason Jesus spoke in parables was to enable those who belong to him to - with the Holy Spirit's help - relate the inner meaning to the successive circumstances in which they found/find themselves: in according with Jesus' saying: "When the Holy Spirit comes, S/He will LEAD YOU into all truth - about me, about sin, etc...." This refers not only to the first Pentecost but also to the continuing pentecostal apprehension of discerning God's will for us all. Openness to constant reformation is necessary for all humanity. Only God is constant - leading us into all the Truth.

Shawn Herles said...

The modern 21st century world, which is purely a Western idea of no relevance outside the West, is not reality. It's an ideological construct that ignores reality.

I have yet to receive any answer as to the issue of who decides what the extremes are, and what the center is? These are purely subjective opinions only. What is extreme to one may be sanity to another. What is centrism to one, may be just muddled thinking to another, the kind of thinking which looks like trying to have a bet both ways.

Bowman brings up post-modernity (in reality hyper-modernity) but basic to post-modernist thinking is that there is no objective, neutral observer. Yet people here on ADU are labeled extremist as though this was an objective fact, as opposed to one individuals opinion. And he claims the centrist position for those that agree with him, again, as though this was an objective claim, which it cannot be, as I know Christians who consider themselves theologically centrist but would still disagree with his approach to the issue of homosexuality. This applies to the claims of compassion and nuance. Apart from the dubious virtue signalling (I'm centrist so I'm more compassionate than you extremists) this again is mere subjective opinion.

I would love to see an answer to these questions, but I'm becoming suspicious that I'm not going to get one.

That living the Christian faith means we have to take into consideration the world we live in is a given. That this means we have to engage in what amounts to e theological/philosophical version of Clinton/Blairite triangulation on the issues of the day is not.

Anonymous said...

Sticking to the OP...

[A] "I understand this set of pertinent observations to mean that we ought to attend more to finding 'common (theological) ground' than a '(synodical) compromise' - the latter being what I am proposing!" -- Peter

[B] "My agreement is that in an ideal world we would work and work and work at finding that common theological ground and only then ask what that might mean in practice." -- Peter

[C] "My disagreement is that we do not live in an ideal world, certainly not an ideal Anglican world! What we have in ACANZP is a synodical deadline: something must be done, something must be decided and General and Diocesan Synods are those decision-making bodies." -- Peter

[D] "I can see Peter how Bowman's suggestion is more theologically centred rather than your structural one, the latter of which has been what has been requested. However, I maintain our church nor our communities are ready for a structural change to address this issue before a theological mandate to guide the structure is formed." -- Jean

[E] "If I understand you rightly Bowman, your considered peeling is of a theological kind rendered through a prism of the traditional via media - NOT that of new trendies who would navigate between Pol Pot and Pinochet.
Here in ACANZ&P however, I sense rather yet another cultural pragmatism that is institutionally driven: a wish to stay together. Why? Coz why not!" -- Bryden

Jean gets it. There is no way to choose a church structure that is not also privileging a model of theological discourse. And if one must choose, it is wise to stock up to survive and thrive.

If one's structure is a circle drawn around the usual extremes, then one is in fact opting for a *spiritual supermarket* with a shallow theological discourse. The most idiosyncratic may experience this as liberation from an onerous duty of agreeing with others, but it seems that both of the usual sides are demanding that others make more explicit commitments to what they cherish. Such dilution of the expectation of consensus paves the way for ACANZP's partition and disintegration (eg the FCA NZ proposal). My worry about that is that the sum of the parts may be less than the whole: from afar, neither of the usual factions seems to be well prepared to function alone as a contemporary Anglican church.

Most of this fissiparousness results from an implicit decision to dilute the discourse to whatever those in deepest disagreement will all affirm. Again, some free spirits at the extremes may experience this as spiritual liberty or evangelical freedom. But for others in the main stream, such a dilution is theft: dilution robs those not at the extremes of their church's recognition of commonalities that they formerly recognised and shared. These commonalities not only attract the loyalty of members who prefer not to live without them, but also serve as the resources that enable them to adapt and thrive *together*.

Insofar as decisions to include outliers on equal terms sacrifice these precious commonalities, such decisions are usually weakening as well. Conversely, defining a church's *koinonia* by what enables the Body to flourish will usually retain the centre and at least give extremists and other idiosyncratics something to hang onto.

Bowman Walton



Anonymous said...

Father Ron, if Anglo-Catholicism had been Anglo-Lutheranism instead, you could have had the same liturgical and paatoral praxis that you have today, not in spite of the CoE's Reformation heritage (including the *five solas*), but precisely because of it. And your tribe would be far more numerous among Anglicans today than it is.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Bowman; your post of October 9, 2016 at 6:34 AM

Jean may be able to unpack better what you are suggesting might be the better way forward - but I am of the strong view it does not reflect what I actually encounter hereabouts; or rather, those who do propose a theological debate are in the serious minority, among any types of “centralist”, let alone the “extremes”. When/if what passes for theological debate is formally attempted, we get that silly Report from March 2014. So; that sort of thing is dead in the water, and our Kiwi pragmatism prevails.
All that said, I myself truly wish for genuine theological/ideological coherence to drive our organization - but if either the past or present is anything to go by ... one is whistling into a classic Nor’Wester ...!

MichaelA said...

Bowman wrote:

"The comments of Shawn and Father Ron nicely illustrate my point about extremists..."

But who is to say that one or both of them are "extremists" and you are not?
In your posts you make an assumption to that effect, but you never demonstrate why your assertion is true.

"Yet neither extreme is at home in the main stream of Anglican tradition."

Again, you assume this conclusion, rather than seek to establish it.

"If one's structure is a circle drawn around the usual extremes, then one is in fact opting for a *spiritual supermarket* with a shallow theological discourse."

As usual, not a word of argument is cited by you in support of this sweeping assumption.

A hint: If you want to highlight the discourse of others as "shallow" compared to your own, one of the best ways to do so is to demonstrate in practical terms the depth of your own theological discourse. ;o)

MichaelA said...

"What has made another way possible is general recognition that ... [snip] ... may have a biological basis unknowable in the past. This is why there are evangelicals against SSM who nevertheless empathise with the struggles of homosexuals who engage the traditional teaching in good faith..."

That may apply to some, but there is a different reason why this happens.

There are many evangelicals who are against SSM who nevertheless empathize with the struggles of homosexuals who engage the traditional teaching in good faith. Its because they know that each one of us are sinners, not because they have any belief about a biological basis for homosexuality. Homosexual behaviour is just one sin among many, and all sin leads us away from the Lord if we do not seek his help.