Thursday, August 31, 2017

Does #NashvilleStatement help cohesion of Christian faith, stem moral tide ...? [UPDATED][x3]

SECOND UPDATE

Ian Paul weighs in here while picking up some judicious comment along the way.

THIRD UPDATE

Preston Sprinkle weighs in here.

ORIGINAL
Some stern reading here (Rabbi Sacks) and here (Dreher). We ignore these warnings at our peril.

Yet do either of those readings mean we should sign up to the Nashville Statement?

Dreher says Yes; Merritt says Meh.

My own view is that I won't sign. 

Not because I disagree broadly with the statement which is in line with a conservative, traditional understanding of Scripture on sexual morality. 

No, I won't sign because such a statement is not just about what we believe to be true, it is also about groups of minorities in our societies. 

Producing these kinds of statements, circulating them around the world, seeking signatures from church leaders strikes me as a form of bullying. Is it what Jesus would do?

Why, I ask plaintively, and not for the first or the last time, does such an approach singularly fail to also "target" those who remarry after divorce? 

Why can such statement producers not offer as great a clarity on remarriage after divorce as on homosexuality and gender transitions and indistinctions?

Dear Rod Dreher, a true prophet of today should ask, where is just, non-discriminatory treatment of all sexual sinners?

LATER: A very thoughtful, appreciative, but, nevertheless, I will not sign, response from Matthew Lee Anderson here.

One point he makes really skewers the statement:

"Even if the statement draws the boundary in the right place, then, it inherently and intentionally obscures the fact that whether evangelicals embrace the “spirit of our age” is not a decision before us: It is a decision that has been already made. A “secular spirit” manifests every time an evangelical pastor remarries someone who was divorced without cause. It comes to the surface every time an evangelical couple pursues in vitro fertilization, and so undoes the “God-ordained link” between the reproductive organs and the union of the couple’s love. Every time an evangelical couple “feels the Lord calling” them to surrogacy, there the “spirit of our age” appears. And yes, it happens every time an evangelical utters the damnable phrase, “Well, I’m an evangelical, which means I’m okay with contraception”—as though that were somehow a mark of evangelical identity. (I’ve run out of fingers trying to count the number of times I’ve heard that, from pastors and from laypeople.)"

UPDATE: And now this, from a celibate, gay Christian.

85 comments:

Andrei said...

God made man in his own image

Satan spends his time trying to debase the image of God found in mankind

This is what this is about, the servants of the Prince of Lies will never stop,there is no limit to their depravity

In the West the battle is lost and the West is dying in an orgy of conspicuous consumption and sexual hedonism

The Bible is clear on what happens next...

Adam COSTA DE SOUZA said...

Well , Vaughan Roberts signed it , so he is bullying his own "community" ?

Brendan McNeill said...

"signing statements almost never lead to lasting cultural change." - This statement by Merritt is completely true. Furthermore, we have already lost the culture, so such statements are meaningless other than as a form of 'virtue signalling' which we have come to see as a pre-occupation of the progressive left. Interesting that these Evangelicals feel the need to do the same.

While theologically sound, the statement is hardly an evangelical outreach to the LGBT community. Again, somewhat strange coming from evangelicals. But then I don't think we understand the culture in the American South.

Anonymous said...

If we want to oppose the spirit of the age, then why not do so in a principled way? If we've signed this-- https://tinyurl.com/y8cp5zfs --why would we need to sign that?

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Postscript-- https://tinyurl.com/yc5va966

BW

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Adam
Vaughan Roberts has surprised me, not least because in signing the statement he appears to be not agreeing with gay Christians who demur at Section VII of the statement.
I have met Vaughan and I am sure he wishes to bully no one.
But we are all capable - I have done so myself - of signing statements, the full implications and impact of which are only apparent to us later.

Jean said...

I agree with some of the commentary; man without God is a law unto (and only answerable) to himself - which is a prospect with many downsides.

However, I fail to see the connection with this and signing a statement solely to do with beliefs about sexuality. Regardless of such a statement lacking any tangible application the implications of lives absent a belief in God are far more broader than a single issue.

Anonymous said...

Peter; Matthew Lee Anderson could have added vasectomies to his list of heterosexual Christians' accommodation of the spirit off the age. I personally make no judgement on those who think differently, but Anderson has exposed heterosexual hypocrisy in my view.

Nick

Andrei said...

"... but Anderson has exposed heterosexual hypocrisy in my view"

But Nick, Anderson does not ascribe these inconsistencies to "heterosexuals" rather he ascribes them to evangelicals and I for one speak out against all of this and you do too I think

This is why we get so tangled on this. The misuse and revision of the English language often to the point of absurdity as seen in headlines such as "Man gives Birth" when in fact it is a human being with female external genitalia, functioning ovaries and womb and two X chromosomes who has given birth and not a man at all despite the woman concerned identifying as such

About 93% of those who came of age sixty years ago eventually married and most those that did raised children. Some of these people may well have been "same sex attracted" others sexually attracted to children and yet others found the infliction or reception of pain sexually arousing but for the most part these desires were put aside though they may have caused difficulties within the marriage. But all marriages have some difficulties and the harder it is to get out of a marriage the more effort the participants in the union will put into reconciling and over coming these difficulties and the greater the effort the more the marriage will grow and prosper

I know an elderly couple who have been married for over sixty years and I am aware of issues they had in their early years that today would have surely ended in divorce but now they are very close and still living in their own home because they have each other, neither could live independently without the other - and I will guarantee that when one dies the other will follow within days (this is something I have seen many times, it happened with my Aunt and her Husband last year, she died first and he died 36 hours later)

c.f Sts Pyotr and Fevronia

One of the great errors of this age is that we are entitled to "Happiness" and another is that we will find happiness by having our desires gratified

"Oh Lord wont you buy me a Mercedes Benz" - Of course a new Mercedes might bring ephemeral joy but 25 years from now it will have been crushed and turned into baked bean cans - Where is the long term happiness in that?

The pioneers of "same sex marriage" who pushed hard and got their hearts desire granted through the courts did not remain married long and were soon also pioneering same sex divorce.

Our identity if we have to hold one as such should be that of Christian and not related in anyway to sexual or material desires we may have, such things being a symptom of our fallen nature and if we allow them to be impediments in the way of our path to Salvation

Bryden Black said...

I doubt Peter whether this Nashville Statement will ever be viewed in quite the same light as the Barmen Declaration (1934). For it’s actually rather tricky discerning the moments of history in the very midst of its swirling along. It took at least a decade to see clearly the vital significance of Barmen, and the Confessing Church, etc. And so perhaps for all that, this Statement is putting its finger on a most crucial matter (omissions, etc. notwithstanding).

My first real, thought provoking encounter with the dilemmas we now seem to take for granted (and others have well and truly moved on to alternative ‘pastures green’, characteristically) was in 1986, prompted by an Australian (it would be ...) doco type short film. After 30+ years’ reflection, I am convinced that at root we are confronting a basic anthropological conflict: what IS human being? There’s no other way of dressing it up, not really, despite much equivocation.

In this respect, the writers and endorsers of the Nashville Statement are not that far away from Barmen, I venture (pace Bowman. Great links; thanks!). For we must also see the role of the State in all these moves to ‘normalize’ same-sex relationships. It’s not for nothing that Bill Cavanaugh speaks of the “Migration of the Holy” when viewing the broad sweep of European history these past few centuries. Nor is Robert Reilly overreaching with his subtitle to Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behaviour Is Changing Everything. Again, his grasp of the long game is vitally significant, just as his detailing of the exact moves of the USA legal system is important.

So; again, notwithstanding the shortcomings of these Articles, their precise wording and their serious omissions, what they really do (IMHO) is to prompt a better rendition of the most grievous plight facing us. And frankly, many a church, and its membership are not only asleep at the wheel, their members appear as “deaf, dumb, and blind” as Israel in Deutero-Isaiah. Thank Yahweh for his true Servant therefore! And thank you Jonathan Sacks ...

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrei, I agree that the article is talking about evangelical hypocrisy. Since some Catholics try to legitimise their favourite sins, I didn't want to point a finger. I essentially agree with what you have written. The Church is reaping what it has sown; we should be blaming ourselves for our miserable witness.
Nick

Father Ron Smith said...

" The threat to western freedom in the 21st century is not from fascism or communism but from a religious fundamentalism combining hatred of the other, the pursuit of power and contempt for human rights." - Rabbi Sacks -

The good Rabbi Sacks has a very valid point here: these religious fundamentalists are not only found in the Muslim world; some of them also call themselves 'orthodox' conservative Christians.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dreher turns out to be just another alarmist - with no understanding of the words of Jesus: "On this rock (FAITH) I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it". Of course, one has to believe that God can overcome the indifference of unbelievers.

The trouble with some of us is that we believe that unless other people's faith is exactly the same as ours, they will not survive. We, alone, have 'orthodoxy' on our side!

Anonymous said...

"After 30+ years’ reflection, I am convinced that at root we are confronting a basic anthropological conflict: what IS human being?...For we must also see the role of the State in all these moves to ‘normalize’ same-sex relationships...the “Migration of the Holy” when viewing the broad sweep of European history these past few centuries... grasp of the long game is vitally significant... detailing of the exact moves of the USA legal system is important...And thank you Jonathan Sacks..." --BB

Hi Bryden,

This comment is a long preamble-- which you do not need, but which others here might-- to a brief reply and a less brief postscript.

PREAMBLE

Tom Wright often tells a story of the state of the Church today that boils down to this: mass market or folk Christianity in the West has had its story so wrong for so long that proclamation based on it is not the gospel that is in the New Testament. For readers here who have never heard this claim, here are a few examples of Wright making it--

https://youtu.be/I9ln9Jq5Y-E

https://youtu.be/uwch0FTLYSA

https://youtu.be/e2QvqmZakPE

For those with time for only one clip, here is the clearest one--

https://youtu.be/rZC6tbgpsl4

The Bible describes a new heart a man receives through transformation; the folk belief is about the travels and fates of the unregenerate selves we have.

The Bible describes heaven and earth as intermingled realities; the folk belief is that they are spacially far apart from each other.

The Bible says that God will remake the creation, and in that remaking we will receive spiritual bodies and heaven will descend to earth; the folk belief is in bodiless travel from earth through the air to a distant place called heaven.

The Bible describes God's judgment in several passages; the folk belief is nested in that travel story-- on the way to heaven, there is a midair sorting into those directed on toward heaven and those detoured away toward hell.

The Bible says little about heaven and hell as abstract places; the folk belief has vivid images of heaven as floating in clouds, becoming an angel, plucking harps, etc and of hell as burning in fire, being gnawed by monsters, etc.

We know the Bible. What are the sources of the folk belief? Wright mentions-- ancient pagan beliefs, barbarian folk religion, Renaissance neo-epicureanism, Enlightenment separation of nature from supernature, and a modern loss of the imaginative capacity to process biblical imagery.

And, quite apart from what Wright says, I think we have all had similar experiences of engaging in serious study of the Bible and finding some
discrepancies between it and the folk religion around us. Brendan is one of many who have retrieved something of the Bible's apocalyptic backstory; I noticed as a child that this stuff was part of the Bible's big story, but was never ever discussed in church. It was also important to me to discover that the Bible's moral discourse is far closer to that of Aristotle's notion of the virtues than to that of modern Western positive law, although even that still does not take in the *being as communion* found by Zizioulis. We each have our discoveries.

Which brings me to the close of the preamble: everything that I read or hear that is faithful and careful about its use of scripture is wonderfully edifying, but also in a world picture so far from that of the goodly people in the pews and indeed the pulpits that they do not recognise it.

Anonymous said...

REPLY

The Nashville Statement puts the cart before the horse. Because it does not separate scriptural faith from folk religion, whatever it rightly says about sex would be wrongly understood if the masses actually did pay any attention to it. Of course, the immediate audience for such statements is a better-instructed constituency of churchly leaders and thinkers, but that merely postpones the problem to them. Most obviously, how do even the latter talk about the body to people with a folk religion of disembodiment? Like this?-- https://tinyurl.com/yd3o4nrh

POSTSCRIPT

There is a notion about that *when people say that they have always only been sexually attracted to the same sex, we should just believe them because we will never have a better source of information about their inclinations than their own testimony*. You may be right to gesture suspiciously toward various backstories to that notion. Thank you for a few references on those backstories to follow up. But I doubt that your suspicion is as yet well understood.

And anyway sex is an exceedingly odd place for theological folk to choose to engage pop culture. When I share my love of God, my excitement about the gospel, and my experience of communion with others, most *ordinary people* assume that I am talking about bodiless shades flying through the air to a celestial processing centre and beyond. If I talk about ethics in a religious context, they suppose that I am itemising the criteria used in the celestial processing centre. If I mention church or churches, they think back to their middle childhood experiences of confirmation or bar mitzvah etc, or to their adult experiences shopping in a religion market obviously stratified by class rather than faith. If I mention sex, they ready themselves for an attack on their animal spirits; they hear what they were expecting when I mention celibacy, but are intrigued a bit when I talk about procreation. Happily, communication improves somewhat as conversation continues, but this is still quite clear: uncorrected folk religion does not give us leverage against much of anything, let alone whatever errors there may be in the anthropology of elite or pop culture.

So-- anyone who has first successfully separated folk mythology from the gospel in a mass audience someplace has my full attention on the downstream problem of explaining embodiment and sex from the scriptures. If any signers of the Nashville Statement have done that, please do tell!

Bowman Walton

Jean said...

Some very interesting reflections in the comments here. I concur Andrei with our identity being in Christ first and from this point following on with Bowman mention of transformation as a part of true rather than folk Christianity. Noting at anyone time people can be on various parts of this journey from before accepting Christ to having being a faithful follower for years. From my own experience though there is transformation even if at times it is incremental over time - movies I watched in my 20's I would no longer watch not out of judgement for those who would but because I have changed. And all this in the context Bryden's analysis of the historical move of the majority of Western society away from Christianity and therefore it's influences upon western society - I think CS Lewis once said why would you expect a non-Christian to act as if they were a Christian? Leaving the ultimate question of now given all this: How now do we act as authentic Christians in this time and place.

Bryden a "World picture so far from the people in the pews" is an interesting one ... Personally I haven't ever encountered difficulty in relating the scriptures to here and now. The picture of the world, maybe changes with technology or ethical dilemma's and the structure of our families etc etc, but not in terms of our human nature and relationships with each other and God - there is nothing new under the sun there. I remember a person coming back from a mission in Fiji saying, "I always thought of the NT as historical, been and gone, but what we experienced there was just like it, we stayed with people who were willing to accept us, we preached, we prayed and people were healed, demons were cast out, and we moved as the Holy Spirit led."

Father Ron Smith said...

Peter, there is, extant on the Web, the following expose of the 'Nashville Statement:

Are evangelicals inventing a new kind of Christianity that’s all about sex?

There is also:

The Evangelical Persecution Complex

It is well worth tapping into these links as they expose the panic into which Con/Evos are being driven by their mistaken attachment to outdated understandings of gender and sexuality.The world has moved on. The Church needs to keep up to date with new revelation on these matters affecting a significant minority of faithful Christians

Anonymous said...

Jean, the latter half of my comment for Bryden is missing from our screens. The gist of it-- whatever it turns out to be, Black's Anthropological Critique (BAC) of modern thought will not correct much in the pews and pulpits of the disembodied folk religion unless it converts them to the whole revealed religion and then explains its embodiment.

Bryden, in saying that, I was not disagreeing with BAC-- I have heard of it often, but have not yet seen it-- as taking the measure of the weight we have to lift within the church itself. Put another way, I do not think that John Paul II was showing off at the gym in his talks on the Theology of the Body.

Peter, many of my best friends online have raised solemn questions about whether they should be in communion with those who believe the wrong things about the 3% who do not feel procreative attraction. Only a few of us are looking up from our Bibles and wondering whether we should be in communion with people who will not *first* correct error from "ancient pagan beliefs, barbarian folk religion, Renaissance neo-epicureanism, Enlightenment separation of nature from supernature, and a modern loss of the imaginative capacity to process biblical imagery" to accord with scripture and early tradition. Would drawing that line liberate the gospel from confusion as the battle against iconoclasm did in the East and as the Reformation did in the West?

Bowman Walton

Andrei said...

What is folk Christianity"?

"It is well worth tapping into these links as they expose the panic into which Con/Evos are being driven by their mistaken attachment to outdated understandings of gender and sexuality.The world has moved on. ".

What are "Con/Evos"?

And what is outdated in the observation that children are the product of a man and woman. And the the definition of "man" is quite unambiguous as is that for "woman"

In fact the average two year old can determine whether an individual is a man or a woman in 99.99% of all people

There is a huge element of self deception involved in the position you take Fr Ron

And the issue that is divisive is not whether or not people who are same sex attracted should be in Church with everybody else (they should) but whether or not a marriage between two men or two women is equivalent to that between a man and a woman and they are not in anyway equivalent!

Marriage is an institution about Children, not a societal validation of how you pleasure your genitals

" Are evangelicals inventing a new kind of Christianity that’s all about sex?"

And that Fr Ron is offensive because the average evangelical does not want to waste their time on this nonsense I'm sure but thanks to a loud mouthed minority of Christians suffering from an extreme case of Stockholm Syndrome find the only time they get public exposure is over this "issue" and the important things all Christians would like to talk about get drowned out by the baying mob chanting meaningless slogans and throwing meaningless insults like homophobia around

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the links, Father Ron.

They were interesting, but missed the obvious: in the US, con evos vary in their social views according to the milieu where they live.

In the most cosmopolitan regions (eg the North Atlantic and Pacific coasts), theological conservatism does not neatly translate into social or political conservatism. Some who would oppose SSB welcomed Obamacare and would welcome some limits on gun ownership.

However, in the most reclusive inland regions (eg southern Appalachia), con evo theology usually does function as an ideology of resistance to influence from outside. Those in that tradition have no interest in the liberal project of making society better every day in every way. They oppose pretty much anything that would change their way of life to make the elites on our coasts happy. So the same sort that now inveighs against the evils of public restrooms without genders has also inveighed against Federally-subsidised health insurance for the poor as a terrible erosion of freedom. Their ornery ancestors came to America to be left alone.

Evangelicals outside the US see this difference between religion as applied theology and religion as ideology fairly clearly. Liberals seem more confused by it.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, you might be intrigued by this--

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2017/09/reflections-nashville-statement/

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Well Bowman; seeing you wish for a greater display of my own hand, as I see BAC, it runs a bit like this.

First, we are almost surely trapped inside a Cartesian and post Kantian approach to all matter(s). It’s the technological air we breathe. And of course, that pertains to how we view ourselves, our humanity.

Second, to try to extricate ourselves from such cognitive processes, we need to retrace back to what began this glorious journey of human self-discovery, and then remint it. Three giants stand out to my mind: Augustine, Aquinas, and Lonergan. Texts: Confessions, De Trinitate, Summa Theologiae, Verbum, Insight, De Deo Trino, I & II.

Yet, thirdly, to escape from that Ghost in the Machine mentality, completely, we need to view all that cognition from an explicitly embodied subjectivity. After all, it were those very bodily senses which gave us all the above, n’est ce pas! Nicht Wahr! Just so, your citing marvellously TOB by JP2.

But I’d offer a definite caveat: please focus on the second edition. That is, Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Pauline Books, 2006). This revised edition of the late pope’s Wednesday General Audiences from September 1979 to November 1983 (with interruptions) had their origin in a collection of notes which was already completed in Poland before he became pope. It was derived from his extensive pastoral experience with young people and constructed via his own personalist philosophy, as the 128 page Introduction by Michael Waldstein demonstrates. And frankly, it is this Introduction which is so seminal and well worth the price of the book. It will also probably be necessary for many a reader, to assist them through this weighty but profoundly rich tome. The essence, if one may be so rash, is that we humans need to have the law of the body inscribed on our hearts now of flesh that we may truly and freely offer ourselves to Another Who is also Other/to another who is also other. Such a self-gift is ever, always both unitive and creative, expressing/reflecting the bond of Love Who is Spirit, among Father and Son, man and woman, ish and ishshah. That is why our contemporary proposals for a deemed equality for same-sex relationships is ever, always a tragic irony. So close yet so very far away. A simulacra counterfeit ...

There you have it ...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman


From above: "Peter, many of my best friends online have raised solemn questions about whether they should be in communion with those who believe the wrong things about the 3% who do not feel procreative attraction. Only a few of us are looking up from our Bibles and wondering whether we should be in communion with people who will not *first* correct error from "ancient pagan beliefs, barbarian folk religion, Renaissance neo-epicureanism, Enlightenment separation of nature from supernature, and a modern loss of the imaginative capacity to process biblical imagery" to accord with scripture and early tradition. Would drawing that line liberate the gospel from confusion as the battle against iconoclasm did in the East and as the Reformation did in the West?"

Answer: I am not sure. I do think we need to keep engaging with Scripture, as self-aware of our context and its cultural overlays as possible. I caution against requiring of 2017 Scripture readers a doctoral level understanding of all the nuances of those cultural layers, let alone a detailed understanding of, so to speak, the History of Western Philosophy. I wonder if a better way is to keep praying that the Spirit will open our eyes to the wonderful things of God's law?

Jean said...

Hi Bowman

Thanks for explaining or re-posting the missing bit to what you were initially saying.

Re correcting error from 'folk religion' as you term it in comparison to the number of people involved in a personal sense in sexuality critique. I am with you on the former making up a greater number of people within the church and as such an issue that is worthy of more attention perhaps : ) . However, I am assuming - hopefully correctly - that these beliefs have developed over time and those who adhere to them are not doing so out of any agenda but merely an acceptance of or lack of questioning of what has been passed on. I listened to one of the links - interesting; I had gathered from reading scripture re receiving a new physical body, and the eventual culmination between heaven and earth but can't say I have really investigated the rapture perspective. The key perhaps is this simple? If one really examines and reads the bible it is in there and like Peter suggests asking the Holy Spirit for help in understanding.

I do think though there is a difference between people whose Christianity contains some mis or false beliefs; on some points no doubt we all have them versus our modern day debate on sexuality where (it seems) nearly all information regarding the topic both historically and currently has been presented and interpreted as part of the process. One involves people unaware of error, the other people attempting to discern what is error.

Have a good eve

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jean, for engaging with me (and, it seems, Bryden) what must seem to many to be a rather quixotic point: many or most ordinary people in the theological West either follow or reject Jesus on the basis of a later world picture-- a *folk theology*, if you will-- that is not actually his. For an evangelical, this has intrinsic importance; you have to get the evangel right!

But in debates about sex it has further importance because notions about the body and hence sexuality are bound up with the world picture behind one's beliefs. Accept Jesus's world picture and his teachings on the body and hence sexuality make sense, but you yourself will be hard for *folk believers* to understand (Bryden, me, Peter?). Think in what I have called the *folk* world picture and Jesus's teachings become hard to understand and follow. In the latter case, one either applies them in a more or less authoritarian manner (Brendan, Brian, Peter?), or else one rejects them as arbitrary and looks for a way past Jesus's teaching on embodiment (Father Ron).

For that reason, it would seem that churches and their pastors have three correlated options--

(1) Teach ordinary people Jesus's view of things so that his guidance on sex-- and much else-- can be more intentionally followed. To do that, they have to invest heavily in deep catechesis (1a), and in maintaining alternate social structures for the flourishing of those on this path (1b; monasteries, Orthodox).

(2) Guide ordinary sexuality through the tension between Jesus's teachings and the framework that people already accept. To do this, they have to use sharp sticks to goad the lost sheep (2a; Brendan, Rome), while advocating gradually better understanding through the study of scripture (2b; Peter, Rome).

(3) Advocate the most Christian guidance on sex that is at home in the framework that people already accept (Father Ron). This gives up on deep catechesis, authority, and scripture (3a; Father Ron), but consequently invests energy in solving the problems unique to the *folk* theology (3b; nobody that I know personally).

Now Jean, I can accept that all three broad approaches reflect a real if imperfect allegiance to Jesus Christ, and I think that each on that basis be in communion with the others. But I do not believe that they can coexist in the same pastoral organism, and the Church in all of her forms is a pastoral organism of some kind. That realisation is the concrete reason for the notion in ACANZP that some reorganisation, rather than a grand rationalisation, is the right response to proposals for SSB.

A point that I keep making here in various ways is that reorganisation may not be worth the trouble unless it enables (1a), (1b), and (3b) to be robust. I will keep trying because it is important.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
I think I see what you are getting at.
I think a response from these blessed isles is that at a minimum an internal reorganisation keeps us alive as a church and in continuing conversation about these matters, enabling us in the longer term to work out what, well, works for the longer term.
If we pretended that we were somehow setting up a new way of being church to last for the next millennium, then, Yes, I think that your critique about it being a waste of time would be valid.
Perhaps I have not conveyed clearly enough how poised some parishes are to leave at very short notice?

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps I have not conveyed clearly enough how poised some parishes are to leave at very short notice?"

No, Peter, you have not emphasised that some parishes are already very fissiparous. But if the said parishes are of the (2a) persuasion, would they really be willing to leave (1a) and (1b) behind? I suspect that this would be harder to do.

Conversely, if they are of the (3a) persuasion, what does it profit them to abandon (3b)?

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Nice array of consequential options Bowman; they make good sense.

For me at least, much of what you are calling "folk religion" is what I've termed on occasion a bastard step child of Christianity itself. Hence the retracing back, was followed by the reminting.

Lastly, an aside: JP2 surely wasn't showing off in the gym; he skied instead!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

Thank you for your analysis of the options for church’s and their pastors. For the sake of clarity, I’m more (1a) than (2a) as I’m not into goading, sharp sticks or compulsion. I don’t believe Jesus or Paul was either for that matter. Church discipline yes, but not the other.

However, I’m increasingly skeptical that the Anglican Church as it is presently structured is capable or desirous of engaging in (1a) ‘deep catechesis’ at a congregational level. This is a problem shared more widely amongst the church in the West, and is not peculiar to Anglicanism. The attraction of ‘folk religion’ or ‘Moral Therapeutic Deism’ as Rod Dreher describes it, is that it provides the comfort of belief without disruption to one’s preferred lifestyle. It makes few demands upon your time, financial resources, and personal preferences. It is ‘religion as you like it’, and there is plenty to choose from, at least until the money runs out.

Therefore, the choice for pastors in this context is possibly best understood within the context of a financial framework rather than a theological paradigm. ‘Religion as you like it’ doesn’t promote sacrificial giving, so maintaining congregational numbers becomes an imperative simply to keep the machinery of church running. Engaging in ‘deep catechesis’ would result in a falling away of numbers before sacrificial giving among the remnant kicked in, presuming of course it does kick in.

While this may not be the headline within the Anglican church, I suspect it is an unspoken subtext. Those few Anglican Church’s that have front footed the issue of SSB have been prepared to engage in deep catechesis on this matter and are consequently less financially exposed, the progressive liberals having already left. Those who have preferred to keep their head down have done so with a clear understanding of their congregation’s predisposition on SSB and with one eye on the balance sheet, their personal convictions notwithstanding.

Father Ron Smith said...

I note, andrei, that no-one on this thread has yet answered your question: "What are con/evos?"

Although they themselves rarely use this connotation, I am used to its application as meaning 'conservative/Evangelicals' - generally, a group in the Church for whom 'Sola Scriptura' is their basic guideline for belief in the phenomenon of Incarnational Christianity.

I, on the other hand, and many others like me in the Anglican Communion, have a greater reliance upon what may be called the 'Anglican via media genius'. This utilises what has been called the 'three-legged stool' of Scripture, Tradition and Reason; each of which component has something to say about the 'Faith once delivered' to the Universal Church.

The basic beliefs of this paradigm lie in the Catholic Creeds, common to the three major strands of the Universal Church: Catholic, Orthodox & mainline Protestant.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for explaining your short-hand to Andrei; and if I may clarify how matters might actually stand.

“Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience” invokes what is customarily termed the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. This adds, in the light of more modernist as well as later cultural factors, “experience” to the Anglican triad you cite. However, we should note this from Rowan Greer in his Anglican Approaches to Scripture: From the Reformation to the Present (Crossroad, 2006), at page14:

“My suggestion will be that the idea [of the “Triple Cord”, as he calls it] is less helpful than it appears and that it proves impossible to argue that Hooker’s view really illustrates it or that the Caroline divines after Hooker follow his views.”

Considering the status of Greer, we should take his historical analysis seriously. Yet there’s more. The idea of ‘reason’ underwent a radical shift in the Enlightenment, to the point that Hooker’s use of ‘reason’ is actually more akin to Aquinas’s, and very different to that preeminent form of instrumental reason we take for granted nowadays. It was exactly this which B16 was addressing (among other things) in his Regensburg Address of 12th September, 2006. “Reason” has many forms; and a theologian of Benedict’s rank knows this well. Our own today is mostly really rather skimpy!

Bryden Black said...

cont:

Last but by no means least, ‘experience’. The simple fact is that what makes human experience human is the inherent ‘understanding’ we attach to any and all experience. We are necessarily social and cultural creatures, and notably linguistic ones. That is, ALL human experience comes pre-loaded (as it were) with understanding, encapsulated by and large linguistically, the means of expressing our understanding. C20 linguistic philosophers like Wittgenstein are vital at this juncture. That is why any hermeneutical task speaks of our “preunderstanding” as we approach any texts (of Scripture, or whatever). The trick then is to evaluate our understanding of our experience. No easy task in fact - on account of my dictum: “the last creature to ask questions of the water is the fish”, followed by “the first time the fish knows itself to be the creature it is is when it is caught and on dry land.” Cross-cultural exposure sure exposes our prejudices! And if we are true to the Christian Faith, the canon of Scripture is the preeminent NORM for ANY and ALL evaluation. This canonical norm did not for the Reformers and does not for us today decry using our brains in assessing past exegesis for example; but is does surely tell us where the centre of gravity lies/should lie - as it did among Hooker’s scheme. Just so, the Christian Church may evaluate any and all cultural proposals (past, present, and future) in the light of Scripture.

This is the true import of the Reformation tag, sola Scriptura. And it is the reason for my constant cry for a far richer evaluation theologically for our Anglican decision making, one which accords far more with our heritage in fact as a Catholic and Reformed branch of the Church.

Father Ron Smith said...

I wonder whether, Brydon, in the light of your response to my last comment - and your reference to one of your many favourite authors - you would accept that I did not actually mention 'experience' as being, specifically, one of my charisms for thr understandin of Angliucan theology and praxis.

However, as you have raised it, what do you think about the incarnate 'experience' of Jesus as being crucially informative for his progressive pastoral approach to the human situation in his own context and time. Note, for instance, his acceoptance of the fact that the Kingdom had to be extended to Gentiles as well as Jews (see the story of the Canaanite woman in the Gospels)?

Father Ron Smith said...

"Signing Statements rarely leads to cultural change"

Just caught this howler.

So bang goes the Magna Carta, then? And what about historical peace treatiers?

Peter Carrell said...

Arguably, Ron, such documents are the rare ones that lead to cultural change.

But isn't the statement generally (if not sadly) correct? Even our own Treaty of Waitangi languished largely ignored if not completely forgotten (at least by Pakeha) for a century or so before c. 1975 onwards being revivified.

Father Ron Smith said...

Ah. But do you not agree, Peter, that with its ratification (not being part of a Written Constitution) it actually has been the cause of cultural changes?

Anonymous said...

Hi Brendan,

Sorry to misrepresent your position! I overgeneralised from your goading of poor Peter.

I am intrigued that you prefer (1a). The friends of mine who seem to be the most like you are now Orthodox under the see of Antioch. And your interest in apocalyptic does fit (1) better than (2).

Paradoxically, (1) is the youngest of the three branches because retrieval of the world picture of Jesus and the apostles requires an historical perspective that only began to synthesise after the Second World War. Anglicans have been leaders in that synthesis, and Anglican churches are a logical home for it, but it will take time for new alliances and institutions to form.

Personally, I too am more drawn to (1a) and (1b), but I understand why some good people have other preferences. Age is often a factor; Father Ron's theology (eg Joseph Fletcher's Situation Ethics) was not unusual in 1967.

Nobody prefers (3b). To me, that is a serious problem. But we may be looking at a circle; once souls really see the world that (3b) serves, some of them flee to (1a) and a few to (1b).

I have not finished answering your excellent questions about transformation.

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

To posit some further ruminations on transformation.

The beauty of Saint Augustine's Confessions and On the Trinity is this. He comes to realize – that key word from my God's Address – that he may only come to himself as and when he is in the Divine Self. Yet that very coming to the triune Divine Self is a function of Incorporation into the Incarnate One, that unique mediator between God and humanity. Yet again, that incorporation is also necessarily into what Augustine would call the totus Christus, the Church as Body with her Head, who is also the spousal bonding of Christ and the Church. Such is the intimacy now between God and his people that two images are required (both taken from Ephesians), each complementing the other. And all this in his later magnum opus is surely a journey of increasing purgation and so transformation - notably of realizing Jesus' humility and forsaking human pride - otherwise he would not have written so many chapters or books, 15 in all, to describe that transformation. Finally of course his true self is only realized eschatologically, at the End.

Enjoy!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

You said, “Sorry to misrepresent your position! I overgeneralised from your goading of poor Peter.”

No problem, I suspect none of us fit easily into any single category. Have I goaded Peter? Probably, if so he has taken it graciously.

Peter’s stance on motion 20/29 has often been a mystery to me, particularly as he is a ‘self confessed’ theological conservative on same sex relationships. Over time I have understood that he appears to be motivated by love for the Anglican church, and a desire to prevent schism. (Peter, please correct me where I’m wrong).

In this context, I am reminded of the Apostle Peter’s love for Jesus expressed in Matthew 16:21-22. Following Jesus explanation to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

This is an example of the Apostle Peter’s love for Jesus getting in the way of God’s redemptive purpose. I feel that a ‘beautiful accommodation’ is somewhat like that. An expression of love to be sure, but one that (in my humble opinion) stands opposed to God’s purposes for the Church; his Bride.

I also understand that those who affirm Christians in same sex relationships are acting out of a heart of love and compassion, but again if Scripture is to be our guide, as it must, then they are opposing the purposes of God in the lives of those whom they love.

Who would have thought Peter’s love and desire to protect Jesus would have earned him such a rebuke! “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matthew 16-24b

It’s not always easy to discern the ‘concerns of God’, and sometimes we are faced with what appears to be competing concerns, church unity vs sexual morality. Peter has put church unity first, whereas I have elevated sexual morality.

If one of us earns a rebuke from Jesus, I hope it’s not me!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
Yes!

Andrei said...

I still don't know what "folk Christianity" is but whatever...

Meanwhile in the Homeland of Anglicanism

For the first time, more than half of people in the UK do not identify as religious, a survey suggests.
Last year 53% of people described themselves as having "no religion", in a survey of 2,942 adults by the National Centre for Social Research.
Among those aged between 18 and 25, the proportion was higher at 71%."
?

(Snip)

The most dramatic reduction has been amongst those who identify as Anglican.
Some 15% of people in Britain considered themselves Anglican in 2016, half the proportion who said this in 2000, according to the survey.


Ever wondered why Anglicanism is becoming irrelevant?

Why is everybody hell bent on squandering their patrimony?


http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41150792



Father Ron Smith said...

Well Andrei, a possible answer to your rhetorical question about the growing defection of members of the Church od England might well be the fact tht the Church is dragging its feet on the matter of recognising the phenomenon of homosexuality as no barrier to Christian discipleship. It has recently given evidence on its reluctance to recognise same-sex relationships, while even the State has seen the need to move into the 21st century on this important issue of human justice.

Father Ron Smith said...

Andrei, I will ignore your comments about my personal integrity, but I will proffer a thought about this statement of yours on this thread:

"Marriage is an institution about Children, not a societal validation of how you pleasure your genitals" - Andrei -

As a matter of fact, Andrei most couples would probably tell you that Marriage is not only an 'institution about children' (some deciding not the have any - in favour of preventing a problem of over-population of a world with limited resources). As a part of a God-given gift, sexuality can play a large part in one's choice of a marriage partner.

I, for instance (being intrinsically homosexual), did not marry my wife, Diana, for the purpose of generating more children. Diana was a widow whom I loved (and still love after 34 years of happy marriage) with 2 teenaged children who we both felt needed a 'father figure'. Our marriage was blest by God and our children were raised in a loving household. We now have 3 grand-children whom we both love dearly. This was a marriage either the capacity or the will to procreate.

I'm intensely interested in the Orthodox Tradition (of which you, presumably, are a part), where priests have to marry (and presumably procreate) while bishops are not allowed to marry and may not procreate.
Jesus did not marry, but all his children are 'spiritual children' Paul counselled Christians not to marry (so where is the pressure here to procreate?) but only to marry if their sexual appetite might cause them to 'burn'.

Now where, here is the imperative for all Christians to marry in order to fulfil the biblical instruction to "Go forth and multiply"?

I suspect, Andrei, that you might be rating marriage and procreation above the discipline of celibacy, which the A[postle Paul was advocating. Is it, in your opinion, also important for bishops to marry (and procreate) in your Church? - Just asking.


Bryden Black said...

Thanks Ron for the engagement. Two quick things, before I engage your notion of Jesus' experience.
1. I was well aware you cited the Anglican triad, and said so explicitly.
2. I added the fourth component of the Wes Quad for two reasons: it's often cited nowadays in preference to your/our/Anglican triad, even by contemporary Anglicans; you've often on ADU cited your own experience.

Now for Jesus' deemed experience. Well; let's indeed try to gauge and fathom what it might have been like to live that human life of THE Israelite before YHWH, his Father, in the grace and power of Holy Spirit, the One who brings in the very Future of God's Rule.

I for one would be guided by Jesus' immersion in the Tanakh, the very voice of his Father, who was calling him to fulfill faithfully, obediently the very call of Israel. And of course, as you point out, that included the Goyim, the Gentiles, before whom Israel was to be Yahweh's Servant. The point of the voice from heaven at his baptism, citing Ps 2, Gen 22, & Isa 42, was to confirm that very calling (see too therefore Isa 49, 50, and famously 53, contra that other "deaf, dumb, and blind servant").

Further, as Gal 3-4 puts it, this very calling involved nothing less than the original covenant with Abraham and NOW ITS fulfillment. Which, as Gen 12:1-3 clearly declares, involves ALL the nations.

But none of this may be termed "progressive" as you pejoratively suggest; rather, it is but a return to Israel's roots.

Andrei said...

So Fr Ron you think the future of Christianity lies as syncretic religion combined with neo paganism?

Your marriage, Fr Ron, presumably is Godly and I assume despite you identifying yourself the way you have you have remained faithful to your wife and marriage vows - so where is the issue?

"I'm intensely interested in the Orthodox Tradition (of which you, presumably, are a part), where priests have to marry (and presumably procreate) while bishops are not allowed to marry and may not procreate."

Wrong Fr Ron - Orthodox priests cannot marry but married men can and are ordained as Orthodox priests - that is if a Priest is unmarried at ordination he will remain celibate. A potential priest with an unsuitable wife would not be ordained and a priest's wife is considered to be part of his ministry and addressed as Matushka, Presbytera or other variants

I'm not getting at you or anyone - I am pointing out the crisis in Christianity in the Western world and suggesting that so called "modernity" is not the way forward and that these discussions are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic

In these difficult times the Anglican Church should be speaking out with authority to call the lost sheep back to the fold but how can it when it is arguing among itself internally and heading in a direction away from the greater Church at large

Anonymous said...

Andrei,

"Folk" Christianity is the popular street notion of the gospel as distinct from the scriptural one. It varies somewhat according to the main religion of the place. The following description fits the folk Christianity of many places with a Protestant culture.

Tom Wright often tells a story of the state of the Church today that boils down to this: mass market or folk Christianity in the West has had its story so wrong for so long that proclamation based on it is not the gospel that is in the New Testament. For readers here who have never heard this claim, here are a few examples of Wright making it--

https://youtu.be/I9ln9Jq5Y-E

https://youtu.be/uwch0FTLYSA

https://youtu.be/e2QvqmZakPE

For those with time for only one clip, here is the clearest one--

https://youtu.be/rZC6tbgpsl4

The Bible describes a new heart a man receives through transformation; the folk belief is about the travels and fates of the unregenerate selves we have.

The Bible describes heaven and earth as intermingled realities; the folk belief is that they are spacially far apart from each other.

The Bible says that God will remake the creation, and in that remaking we will receive spiritual bodies and heaven will descend to earth; the folk belief is in bodiless travel from earth through the air to a distant place called heaven.

The Bible describes God's judgment in several passages; the folk belief is nested in that travel story-- on the way to heaven, there is a midair sorting into those directed on toward heaven and those detoured away toward hell.

The Bible says little about heaven and hell as abstract places; the folk belief has vivid images of heaven as floating in clouds, becoming an angel, plucking harps, etc and of hell as burning in fire, being gnawed by monsters, etc.

We know the Bible. What are the sources of the folk belief? Wright mentions-- ancient pagan beliefs, barbarian folk religion, Renaissance neo-epicureanism, Enlightenment separation of nature from supernature, and a modern loss of the imaginative capacity to process biblical imagery.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Personally, Andrei, I don't care much about the percentages of national populations adhering to this or that religion. The Constantinian settlement was a good thing for the West and for England, but it does not define Christianity and is not necessary to a healthy church anywhere. And just because of the disparity between mass perception of the gospel and the actual gospel mentioned above, we might even expect that a strengthening church will have plummeting membership until the conversion curve begins to steepen.

Father Ron, in the days of your youth-- will you write a memoir?-- it was just assumed by even biblical scholarship that the religion of ancient Israel was, for want of a better word, dull-- an omnipotent Monad with an exacting ethical code-- and that all the good stuff in our religion was invented either by Jesus himself or by the livelier folk of the wider pagan world. For example, anyone then would have thought that there was a huge gap in God-concept between the OT and the Nicene Creed. In that situation, it was natural for non-evangelical churchmen to be wary of the Bible, and rather expansive in their hopes for the Church as a progressive force.

Today, all the creativity appears to have come from the Jews. Daniel Boyarin, a leading Jewish scholar of the Talmud can plausibly claim this-- "The ideas of Trinity and incarnation, or certainly the germs of those ideas, were already present among Jewish believers well before Jesus came on the scene to incarnate in himself, as it were, those theological notions and take up his messianic calling." And this-- "Jews, it seems, had no difficulty whatever with understanding a Messiah who would vicariously suffer to redeem the world. Once again, what has been ascribed to Jesus after the fact is, in fact, a piece of entrenched messianic speculation and expectation that was current before Jesus came into the world." And so this-- "The theology of the Gospels, far from being a radical innovation within Israelite religious tradition, is a highly conservative return to the most ancient moments within that tradition, moments that had been largely suppressed in the meantime—but not entirely." And so OT scholar John Goldingay can entitle a recent book *Do We Need The New Testament?: Letting the Old testament Speak for Itself." Robert Jenson, the best American theologian of the past century can even say, "It is sometimes asked, 'How did the church come to adopt Israel's Scripture?' We will see that this is a wrong question; the right question reads the other way around: 'How did and does Israel's Scripture accommodate the church?'" Quite apart from recent retrievals of midrash and theological interpretation, the OT is looking like a dense old-growth forest where all sorts of things might be discovered. In this horizon, even non-evangelical churchmen may find more scope for creative work in exegesis than in church politics.

Postscript-- Your marriage is commendably procreative. The point is not the ancestry of the children but that there are some, and that the love of two parents of different sexes makes a complete and permanent home for them. Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:18, and Malachi 2:16. Who knew that you were such a Bible-believing conservative? :-)

Bowman Walton

Andrei said...

I watched or attempted to watch your Tom Wright Videos Bowman and saw an Oxford Don speaking the language of the University common room, not the language of the shipyards, the coal mines or the fish canneries

Your "folk Christianity" seems to me to be the cartoon cliches of angels in gowns floating on clouds playing harps which nobody believes combined with bad Hollywood movies like "Young Nick" which was always a stinker

When we moved into our current home 16 years ago the Anglican Parish on the corner of our street came complete with vicar, vicarage and was in some sense the center of our community (for example during election silly season the candidates would gather in the Church hall for a "meet the Candidates" session) and there were church fairs and so forth

A week or so after we moved in the Vicar knocked on our door and introduced himself - we invited him in for a cup of tea. We are in schism with Anglicans, a regretful situation but that doesn't mean we cannot worship together and treat one another with respect. As Our Lord said "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand"

But after that vicar retired it was all downhill for that parish, the vicarage sold and congregational collapse - there is no meet the candidates event in the church hall this election cycle and this has not occurred in a decade I think

The church will be sold within the next few years I suspect and converted to other use - An Anglican Church has stood on that site since the 1880s though the current building dates from the 1970s

That makes me sad

Brendan McNeill said...

A worthwhile update on the Nashville Statement from Rod Dreher and others:

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/lgbt-nashville-spiritual-friendship-ron-belgau/

Anonymous said...

"Your "folk Christianity" seems to me to be the cartoon cliches of angels in gowns floating on clouds playing harps which nobody believes combined with bad Hollywood movies like "Young Nick" which was always a stinker."

Good, Andrei, you understand the words.

BW

Anonymous said...


Thank you, Brendan, your link is better than the Nashville Statement itself.

BW

Anonymous said...

Brendan, on your 6:03, a thought.

It appears to me that both you and Peter are guided by the scriptures, and that both you and he see the same sexual morality there, but that you two nevertheless differ at two points--

(a) Peter seems to see the unity commanded in scripture as something mystical like the unity of the Father and the Son, God and Israel, Jesus and the Church, husband and wife; the Body exists to be the sign of that unity through all things. Others, perhaps including yourself, see it as something instrumental enough to be set aside when it does not appear to work.

(b) Some, and perhaps you yourself, see the obedience to God proper to sexuality as closely analogous to Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac despite the sheer absurdity of the command from Abraham's point of view. In the Bible, Peter finds a clear general pattern for sexuality, but he does not find a duty to discount one's own constitutive self-knowledge in seeking God's will.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Bowman and Brendan
"You took the words right out of my mouth ..."
Well, perhaps not quite entirely:
On unity: I am not adverse to not being unified with those I disagree with (e.g. I am not a Roman Catholic; and SSM would likely see me leaving our church, at least on the grounds of not being able to sign our declarations) but I find myself open to fudging some issues in order to remain in unity with those I am in unity with (cf Anglican church/SSB) or in order to be in unity with those I disagree with (e.g. I am happy to take communion with RCs - occasionally it has happened by invitation - even though I do not accept all their eucharistic theology).
On constitutive self-knowledge: am not sure if I understand you, Bowman. Do you mean that I and others thinking like me are open to some wriggle room for those who, finding themselves constituted gay, come to a view about that biblical pattern of sexuality which is not "the Tradition"? In my case, the wriggle room is that I am prepared to allow for dissent in the life of the church ...

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

With respect to (a) You have been rather generous to Peter in affirming his willingness to uphold Biblical sexual morality. Earlier in this exchange Peter advised me that he and/or others had “moved on from the language of Leviticus.” Which I understand to mean he no longer considers Leviticus chapters 18 or 20 to be determinative for Christian sexual morality.

This is problematic at best, but it may explain why Peter is prepared to accommodate same sex blessings. (SSB)

Which brings me to the second contradictory position Peter appears to hold. He is willing to ‘accommodate’ ordained Anglican priests blessing those in same sex civil marriages within the Anglican church, with a single proviso. Specifically, that the Anglican doctrine of marriage being between a man and a woman remains unchanged.

He appears untroubled by the contradictory chasm between doctrine and praxis. Why be offended by SSM if you can accommodate SSB in good conscience? They both affirm gay sex with God’s blessing.

The theological space I occupy still has room for heresy, still believes in church discipline and is appalled by compromise. Yes, there are second order disagreements which don’t affect our ability to remain in unity, but redefining sexual union in the context of marriage is not one of them.

And to your reflections: (b) God’s purposes regarding sexual union are clear from Scripture. Gay sex was never intended, not just because of those six verses, but in his statements of complementary as expressed throughout the Genesis creation story: earth sky, sun moon, day night, land sea, light darkness, male female.

Then in Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Ephesians 5:31 where God defines the boundaries for sexual expression – for this reason a man shall leave… hold fast to his wife.. the two become one flesh.

And then we move on to the metaphorical and metaphysical union of Christ with his Bride, Ephesians 5:31-33 “31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Nothing here about uniting Christ with a temple prostitute, or a transvestite, or a homosexual.

Peter may have a ‘general pattern for sexuality’ as you describe, but all I have is the Scriptures. When you assert that Peter “does not find a duty to discount one's own constitutive self-knowledge in seeking God's will.” I look for the exit.

Since when has ‘one’s own constitutive self-knowledge’ been a reliable guide on anything regarding the Christian faith? We are by definition a people of the Book, a people of revelation. If we are not that, we are nothing.

Anonymous said...


Sorry, Peter and Brendan, as it is very late here (and I have a lot to do before being annihilated by Mr Kim's new missiles) I was trying to be concise.

"Do you mean that I and others thinking like me are open to some wriggle room for those who, finding themselves constituted gay, come to a view about that biblical pattern of sexuality which is not "the Tradition"?"

St Paul counsels that it equally permissible to remain unmarried or to marry, depending on one's *constitutive self-knowledge* of one's capacity for celibacy. You have extended that counsel to cover the cases of homosexuals who judge that celibacy is beyond them.

"In my case, the wriggle room is that I am prepared to allow for dissent in the life of the church ..."

Dissent be damned. Where there is knowledge there is no voting; others may vote on our beliefs when we all vote on their liver transplants and chemotherapies. When I want to hear the opinions of dissenters, I will tell them what they are going to be. But if the received teaching has some intrinsic ambiguity or paradox about it, then it is not really dissent to take a different side of it from my own, unwise as that would be.

With respect to That Topic, persons are sometimes *morally certain* that they are *constitutively* not as other people are, and have no gift of celibacy, so that the forbidden is not practicably avoidable. Some will try to bend forbidden acts to the closest possible conformity to God's clearer will; that will require a conscious prior intention. Others, to avoid that intention, will intend celibacy, sin haphazardly, and repent as needed; they will promise amendment of life, but with little conviction that it is possible. However we assess these two options, they are not dissent; they are good faith attempts to follow the standard biblical patterns as far as nature allows. Their estimates of what they can do will change over time.

Bowman Walton

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Brandan, I am amazed that you should think present-day Christians are bound to the regulations of the Book Leviticus in the Old Testament. In your reference to chapters 18 and 20 of this Book, it would seem you are singling them out as normative for Christian behaviour today. Well, Brendan, you cannot just cherry pick the verses you want to uphold. Let us know when you local church 'immolates a whole beast' upon your local church altar. And we won't expect it to be turned in a barbecue for everyone. (only the choicest bits for your ministers).

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Ron

I love a good BBQ, and the supermarket at Fendalton has some of the most delicious lamb chops I have ever tasted. The good news is that I’m happy to share these choice culets with you (I’m presently in Golden Bay for a week or two) but let me know a Saturday evening that suits and I’d be delighted to have you and your wife over for a gourmet delight and a glass of wine (or two) to complement the feast.

Maybe Bryden and his good wife could join us?

Every blessing
Brendan

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
Noted.
I shall keep thinking about "dissent" though I am finding it a helpful way to consider how to understand such difference in the life of my church!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I have a hazy memory but I thought I had previously responded to the Leviticus "jibe"!
Let me have a go:
As I recall the context it was your application of Leviticus in terms of God spewing up the land etc which led me to say we have moved on from Leviticus: that is, I do not see that the gospel continues to support the notion that God has a downer on countries because they indulge in sexual immorality.

What I don't think I have said anywhere is that the moral code of Leviticus has ceased to have application. But that application is now nuanced: it is the Leviticus moral code as recalled and reapplied in the New Testament which has continuing application. (Ron has a point, though more about the ceremonial aspects of Leviticus: they are not recalled and reapplied by the New Testament and so we do not continue them). When I talk about the general pattern of sexual morality in the Bible, that pattern is found through Genesis ... Leviticus ... 1 Corinthians ...

The other matter you bring up is how I can support permission for SSB but not for SSM. Let me try to restate what I think I have already stated (though I now have no idea where):
- SSM in our church would require a change to the wording of our doctrine of marriage and that in turn would require me as a licensed minister of the church to sign my agreement that SSM (or, at the least, a gender-free understanding of marriage) is doctrine I agree with. I am opposed to that change and if that change came I would need to either leave or wait for excommunication to occur;
- SSB in our church (under the current proposal) involves me agreeing that some colleagues might be permitted to exercise their conscience according to their conviction that (civilly contracted) same sex marriages may be blessed in God's name. It does not require me to accept that SSB is a formal part of our teaching nor to agree with the actions of my colleagues nor, for that matter, with the action of the bishop who grants that permission. I have been known to disagree with colleagues and with bishops!

Now such difference may not mean much to anyone else but it does mean something to me!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

You say “What I don't think I have said anywhere is that the moral code of Leviticus has ceased to have application. But that application is now nuanced: it is the Leviticus moral code as recalled and reapplied in the New Testament which has continuing application”

Ok, well fine, so to be clear, which of the sexual prohibitions explicitly stated in Leviticus no longer apply to Christians today?

Anonymous said...

"When you assert that Peter “does not find a duty to discount one's own constitutive self-knowledge in seeking God's will.” I look for the exit.
Since when has ‘one’s own constitutive self-knowledge’ been a reliable guide on anything regarding the Christian faith? We are by definition a people of the Book, a people of revelation. If we are not that, we are nothing."

If we discount self-knowledge in the *practise* of the revealed faith as much as you do, Brendan, then we cannot construe the whole-hearted allegiance that Christ demands of persons as individuals. The scriptures command us to baptise, but they never explicitly say that we have to ask the neophyte's permission first. If this interior self-knowledge does not matter, then why should we not just sneak up on people and baptise them with squirt guns?

This is where you and Father Ron seem to be in an ironic agreement-- the authority of the Bible and the credibility of any self-awareness cannot mix. You choose the book, and he chooses the introspection. But it is hard to read the Book of Job, pray the Psalms, or meet Christ in the gospels without both.

Bowman Walton



Anonymous said...

In Jesus's view, the anthropology of the levitical purity laws places the self as a source of impurity rather than as a vulnerable potential object of contamination. Accordingly, the neglect of that which comes forth from the body is reinterpreted in his words as the acceptance of all vices created in the heart and sent out from the mouth.

--Yair Furstenberg (2008) Defilement Penetrating the Body: A New Understanding of Contamination in Mark 7.15. New Test. Stud. 54, 176–200.

There is a story of the nineteenth-century Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk (the famous Kotzker Rebbe) who said that many Jews concern themselves more with a blood spot on an egg than a blood spot on a ruble, but surely he himself remained just as careful about blood spots on eggs and expected no less from his followers “and all the Jews.” (Recently [Joel] Marcus has re-cited the Kotzker’s apophthegm in precisely this Markan context.) Jesus’ homily [in St Mark 7] is indeed in this radically critical Jewish tradition that began with the great prophets and continued for millennia.

--Daniel Boyarin (2012) The Jewish Gospels. Kindle 1742-1746.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan

I am not going to be party to killing an adulterer or an adulteress (Leviticus 20:10).
I assume, by the way, that you are not either!
John 8:1-11, of course, provides some helpful NT nuancing here.

I am also confused by an apparent contradiction between Leviticus 15:24 and 18:19 and do not find one word in the New Testament to clarify things for me.

Anonymous said...

Brendan, if I may ask in all seriousness, if you do not keep kosher, why not? No scholar that I know doubts that both Jesus and St Paul kept kosher. In this country there are Christians called Messianic Jews, who quite happily do, for reasons following your own reasoning here. And in the ancient world a body of Christians claiming descent from the Galilean ministry of Jesus also did down to about the C8.

Even today, the observance of Leviticus is near the centre of Ethiopian Orthodox practise. So there is nothing odd about a Christian taking Leviticus as a map of holiness; that is what the book is. What does puzzle me somewhat is that your concern to follow it is so exacting with respect to a matter on the margin of the margin of That Topic, but not so much with the everyday, everybody matter of eating.

If I wanted to promote holiness in the world-- actually I do, but that is another long discussion-- it would not occur to me that the place to start is by opposing clemency for a few clergy who want to do SSB because they feel left out of SSM. Why do you choose to put your energies here?

I hope that you can distinguish this query from the position of those who reason that if you can eat a bacon cheeseburger you can have gay sex too.

Bowman Walton




Anonymous said...

Leviticus 15:24 and 18:19 are clarified by St Mark 7:16-23. A man should not take a woman when she is menstruating; her menstruation is the outer and visible sign of inner and spiritual impediments to sex. Speaking broadly, if she is not fertile, then it cannot be procreative; if she is not predisposed to desire, then it will not be mutual; if she is bleeding, her proper business is immersion in a mikvah, not him; if he insists despite her condition, then because of his lust he is unclean in himself, and a week is given for him to get over it. This is, as Bryden would say, properly basic stuff, and that is why Jesus saw pharisaic innovations that obscured it as spiritually dangerous. Ritual hand-washing in C1 Galilee was like SSB in C21 churches.

Our chief contemporary difficulty with Leviticus is that our late modern "ghost-in-a-machine" (< Gilbert Ryle) understanding of persons does not leave room for the possibility that the binocular vision of both body and spirit sees a depth in the soul that is invisible through either monocle alone. Leviticus supposes that the physical world has a spiritual infrastructure and that only ritual can get at, as when clothes, persons, or houses have the disintegrity (metzora, tzaraat) that our translators call "leprosy."

BW

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter and Bowman

Jesus said that it wasn’t that which went into the mouth of a man that made him unclean, but that which came out of his mouth. Consequently, this passage, along with others make it clear there is no requirement for any believer to follow a Kosha diet, as I’m sure you well know.

And Peter, there is a difference between prohibition and the punishment. As you point out in John 8, while Jesus upheld the moral law of Leviticus concerning adultery, he did not demand the death penalty.

Would you be so kind as to state clearly if the sexual prohibitions outlined in Leviticus and elsewhere in the Old Testament apply to Christians today? In other words, do they form the basis of our sexual morality? If the answer is ‘yes’ but with exceptions, then please state the exceptions and the NT passages that support your assertion.

In the context of this discussion, I’m particularly interested in the Levitical passages that prohibit same sex relationships. Are they applicable to Christians today, yes or no.

Second, if these prohibitions still apply, is it acceptable to be in fellowship with an ordained Anglican priest who is living openly in a sexually immoral relationship?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I haven't the time to go into all the texts but I am not particularly committed to the continuation of some of the prescriptions regarding what happens when slaves get raped and young couples are forced to marry upon discovering they have fornicated together etc. Of course I am also not committed to the continuation of polygamy or the tacit approval of a man having concubines as well as wives. Are you?

Leviticus and other OT texts contribute to the teaching of Jesus and Paul which, taken as a whole, forms the Christian traditional approach to (a) sex within not outside of marriage (b) marriage being between a woman and a man in a permanent, loving relationship open to procreation.

Levitical passages on their own are not applicable to Christians today because then we would need to follow each and every one of them on each and every matter, moral, civil, ceremonial and this would make for an interesting life, though not necessarily one untried by Christians, as Bowman points out.

What counts is Leviticus read through the lens of the New Testament (and the New Testament understood in respect of Leviticus). In my reading, in line with most Christians today and nearly all Christians through the Christian era, I do not find support there for same sex relationships.

But, and I seem to have said this before, I live in a church which does not have an agreed, unified reading of these passages. Nor do I live in a church which has an agreed and unified reading on remarriage after divorce. On both counts I do not yet find my willingness exhausted to be in fellowship with those who live openly in a sexual relationship which they view as moral and which I do not. I would not say my willingness to remain in fellowship is inexhaustible and I am also not going to try to define a "red line" other than our church promulgating a new doctrine of marriage which is indiscriminate on the matter of sexual difference in marriage.

Anonymous said...

"Jesus said that it wasn’t that which went into the mouth of a man that made him unclean, but that which came out of his mouth. Consequently, this passage, along with others make it clear there is no requirement for any believer to follow a Kosha diet, as I’m sure you well know."

Peter, the thread is missing two quotations on St Mark 7. One is from Yair Furstenberg, the other from Daniel Boyarin.

Brendan, in St Mark 7:18-19, Jesus is referring to food touched by hands not ritually washed (tahor) according to the purification law (Leviticus 15:11), not food forbidden (muttar) under the dietary law (Leviticus 11:3-8, Deuteronomy 14:3-21). Confusingly, translators into English often use "(un)clean" for both the *(im)pure* and the *(not) permitted*, but the story is clearly about ritual (*pugmE* in v 3) hand-washing (vv 2-5) before every meal, a Jerusalem innovation resisted in Galilee, especially by Jesus and his disciples.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handwashing_in_Judaism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kashrut

http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/mar7.pdf

https://goo.gl/maps/iq4ayva9taG2

The backstory is that ordinary people live in a nearly continuous state of ritual impurity. Because such impurity could contaminate holy things (eg priest's portions), which in turn rendered the priests impure, all Jews washed hands before entering the Temple. In Jerusalem, home of the Pharisees and scribes (v 1) many strove for continuous ritual purity. In so doing, they reasoned by analogy that those who were ritually impure contaminated common food which rendered others ritually impure. That inference is what Jesus rejected at v 19. He did not declare all foods to be permitted; he declared no foods to be causes of ritual impurity.

If this does not sound like rousing sermon material, it is partly because, although our human minds are involuntarily inclined to stereotype, stigma, etc, we do not have the explicit rules of ritual purity found in Jesus's world. Hence we are unlikely ever to have thought through vv 16-ha!-23 in which Jesus explains what the purity rules actually given by God and not man are for. But Jesus's explanation is the key to the numerous situations in which he encounters the impure with mercy rather than condemnation.

Most fascinating to me is the way that this thread interweaves with that of the "Messianic secret." One can imagine curious Pharisees and scribes wondering how Jesus could be a leader in Israel and yet be indifferent to the ritual purity so important to them. And yet it is because of his zeal for the purity of heart that does the Father's will that he is the Messiah.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman
You are teaching me things I do not know.
I am not quite convinced, nevertheless, that Mark 7 helps us with the Leviticus passages I drew attention to.
Yes, Mark gives us a clue to Jesus' attitude to ritual cleansing of that which was ritually impure.
But the verses I drew attention to are not only about (im)purity. They are also about heightening fertility within Israel.
Jesus never seemed particularly concerned to fill the world with offspring - all his talk about marriage is about marriage and not about the connection between marriage and children.

Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

Have we lost Yair Furstenberg and Daniel Boyarin?

My explanation of St Mark 7 at 1:34 was mainly for Brendan, who seemed to think that I was trying to trip him up. Perhaps he now sees that my interest in what he says is genuine.

I had not seen your 10:49 when I wrote my 1:34, so you are right not to see an argument about fertility there.

Working with this material, I begin to think that the challenge is not to read Leviticus through the NT but the NT as an account of the re-generation of the world articulated in Leviticus. Not that Christians must eg diagnose persons, clothing, houses, etc for metzora or tzaraat, but that the gospel originates in a world in which such disintegrations in the lived world reflect failures of heaven and earth to interlock that are corrected in the God who became man. Bryden would agree, I think, that OT law is not just regulative but the imaginary of grace, and in that way pregnant with the gospel.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman et al
Have found comments locked into the "Awaiting Moderation" and published them ...

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Bowman

None of us are without introspection and (hopefully) some level of self-awareness.

While I don’t require the Bible to explain that dental hygiene is profitable in order to brush my teeth, it is helpful when seeking to understand what passes for sexual immorality within the context of a Christian framework.

In other words, I wouldn’t consult a dental handbook, or my self-knowledge in seeking to determine what passes for sexual immorality. The subject is absent in the former, and the latter is prone to self-deception.

Maybe we are talking past each other.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Brendan, we are talking past each other.

There are secular, epicurean, live-for-the-body-now, there-is-no-god people. Self-knowledge for them is taking their impulses as imperatives; rules for them are a competing nuisance. I have seen people like this; some are gay and lesbian. Whatever their sexuality, they are going to hell; prior to any discussion about sex, they need to be saved-- evangelism and catechesis. I think you have them in mind.

But there are also godly, Spirit-led, living-a-called-life in Jesus Christ people. Self-knowledge for them is testing the fit between their lives and their callings, precisely to avoid self-deception. You have seen people like this; I think that you have said that some were gay or lesbian. Some gay and lesbian Christians that I know are pretty effective at actually doing evangelism and catechesis; a few have been fairly good at pastoral counseling or spiritual direction. In discussion internal to churches, because these are what the gays and lesbians that I have met in churches are like, I have mainly these in mind.

When you speak of self-knowledge as leading to self-deception, I hear you talking about the unconverted. And you are right about them.

But when I talk about self-knowledge I am talking about the fit-testing that starts from a presumed calling in Christ and checks it against personal reality. A pre-med who struggles with science but plays piano like an angel may be mistaken about his calling. A pastor who writes fiction that others recognise as psychologically and morally realistic has an indirect evidence that he has found the right calling. This is not self-deception; this is our major check on self-deception. And no rule of any kind can take the place of it, even if angels brought it on a golden tablet.

Sex also involves calling, at least for well-instructed Christians. St Paul advises celibacy, following the example of the Lord, but recognises marriage as a worthwhile alternative. In so doing, he acknowledges that there is space for a decision that will have to be based, in part, on self-knowledge. In that context, he is not speaking to the secular, epicurean, live-for-the-body-now, there-is-no-god people. He is speaking to godly, Spirit-led, living-a-called-life in Jesus Christ people for whom celibacy is at least a thinkable thought. If a rule could be sufficient-- "I have this from the Lord: Henceforth, all Christians will do this!"-- he would have given one. He didn't.

All of the gay and lesbian Christians that I have known tried celibacy, and none to my knowledge regret that. But even in that rather conservative group, there were some to whom it seemed an improbable calling. Negatively, they found aspects of that life-- and not only chastity-- defeating them. Positively, they found that they were pretty good at giving and getting in relationships emotionally closer than the austere model of celibacy they knew.

And the layfolk had the additional problem of living with extremely high religious motivation but no religious status at all. They found that churches with rainbows out front were trying to be welcoming insofar as they married or wanted to marry, but that this warmth was more identitarian than personal. The other churches, be they smells-and-bells high or snake-belly low, offered them nothing but repeated embarrassment at after-church coffee hours. Ironically, churches that in their own minds resist gay marriage so single-mindedly uphold marriage as the normative form of spiritual companionship on earth that they very effectively promote SSM. Large cathedral congregations were the least annoying because they are impersonal, but also the least friendly because they are impersonal.

Christians, especially these eucharistically-centred ones, have a strong note of gratitude. Churches are very imperfect, but each of the people I am thinking of found some way to say that it is a miracle that there are churches at all.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

A few decades ago, I asked a Jewish university chaplain, "What does a rabbi do?"

"We try to minimise sin. By the Torah, everybody is sinning. But studying that same Torah enables us to sanctify the Name by finding the ways of life that are the least sinful. Because God loves us, the ways least sinful to him are also the best ways for us."

"If there is only one law, how can there be different ways?"

"It did not please the Creator to make clones. We are all different; we start in different circumstances; we sin through different weaknesses. The path from my sin to the Law is not the same as the path that you should take."

"And why do the paths have to be found? It seems to defeat the purpose of a law if it is harder to know it than it is to do it." I nodded to his two shelves of leather-bound volumes of the Talmud.

"God is with man, but he makes man search for him anyway. The basics of the Law are simple. But beyond that, God wants to speak to us and to hear us-- speaking to him and to each other-- and he does it in law because what we do in our concrete lives is where our hearts are. This evening [at the daily student gathering for study of the Talmud] it will happen. Twenty-somethings will sit with the Chazal [sages from the Second Temple to the completion of the Talmud] and discuss the agricultural law. None of us are farmers! But we are all bound to the earth and so we will hear God. I think that is very effective."

"But," I protested, "'Moses says (Deuteronomy 30:12,14) that the Law is not in the heavens [that we should send someone to heaven to get it so that we can follow it] but very near us [so that we may know the Law and do it]."

"For a Christian, you are not such a bad rabbi! Yes, 'near' means that the Law is in principle feasible and desirable for a human being, not that we can just read it off the surface of our minds. 'Not in heaven'-- *lo ba-shamayim hi* is central to rabbinical Judaism-- means that God has fully revealed his law to man so that there will be no other, and that we have the duty but also the authority to interpret it with reason."

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman and Brendan
Alongside what Bowman offers above I make this observation, prompted by reflecting on the vast crowd gathered last night for our Synod service, a Synod at which we will discuss the Interim Report proposal, and thus touch on the personal lives, yet again, of several or more (partnered) gay and lesbian members of our Synod:

In a church which continues to include strong voices denying that same sex partnerships are blessed of God, which continues to be unable to come to a decision to so permit blessings, why would gay and lesbian Anglicans continue to practise their faith in such a (at worst) hostile and (at best) hesitant environment? These brothers and sisters can scarcely be wolves in sheep's clothing or heretics ... much easier to leave the church and have nothing more to do with it (as indeed some others have done, though they have not left their faith in God behind or become heretics).

Might we have some regard for the discipleship that sees such Anglicans faithful in their service of God and in their worship of God while battling against the odds?

I wonder if Jesus is as down on these members of the family as we are?

Brendan McNeill said...

“When you speak of self-knowledge as leading to self-deception, I hear you talking about the unconverted.” – Bowman

No Bowman, I’m talking about Christian believers being deceived. As the writer to Hebrews said:

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end.” (Heb 3:13-14)

I have encountered several Christian men, let’s just talk about men, some of whom were evangelists and pastors and who led very large churches in New Zealand, who while continuing their ministry were in adulterous relationships. One in particular, a well known national figure was sexually abusing little boys throughout his ministry.

But then Jesus was silent on man boy love, so perhaps we condemn too quickly?

There are some Christian men who are sexually attracted to children. Not many it’s true, but some none the less. Some will be Anglicans. Typically, they don’t ‘come out’ about their feelings because the present social climate is hostile to them.

If you were to ask them, I suspect they would tell you they were born that way. Throughout their whole life they have only been attracted to children. They have tried to love adults of the opposite sex, but there was simply nothing there for them.

Should they find peace through abstinence, or perhaps they should join an advocacy group for lowering the age of consent? And why shouldn’t the age of consent be lowered? It is purely arbitrary. At primary school in the 1960’s I had pre-teen friends, both boys and girls who were consensually sexually active. I imagine it’s the same today.

Muslims believe that girls are ready for sexual relationships when they reach puberty, often as young as 9 years old. It is the historical church that has been responsible for repressing the sexuality of children, and unjustly criminalising those men who are predisposed to consensual sexual relationships with them.

Such relationships would be extra-Biblical, not because Scripture explicitly condemns them, (it doesn’t) but because it states categorically there is only one legitimate form of sexual expression, that is between an (adult) man and a woman in the context of marriage.

But Peter it would appear you are not offended by at least some extra-Biblical sexual relationships being practiced in the Church. More than that, you are prepared to theologically defend and to passionately advocate for them, and I quote you:

“These brothers and sisters can scarcely be wolves in sheep's clothing or heretics ... much easier to leave the church and have nothing more to do with it (as indeed some others have done, though they have not left their faith in God behind or become heretics).

Might we have some regard for the discipleship that sees such Anglicans faithful in their service of God and in their worship of God while battling against the odds?

I wonder if Jesus is as down on these members of the family as we are?”

That’s a very good question Peter. What does Jesus feel about these ‘family members’ these ‘disciples’ who are engaging in extra-Biblical sexual relationships? Does he differentiate between those who engage in gay sex, and those who engage in consensual sexual relationships with children?

To be fair, we only have Scripture to guide us. How else could we possibly know the answer? Scripture tells us there is only one permissible form of sexual expression. It’s not between members of the same sex, and it’s not men having consensual sex with children.

Anonymous said...

"I have encountered several Christian men, let’s just talk about men, some of whom were evangelists and pastors and who led very large churches in New Zealand, who while continuing their ministry were in adulterous relationships. One in particular, a well known national figure was sexually abusing little boys throughout his ministry. But then Jesus was silent on man boy love, so perhaps we condemn too quickly?"

"Does [Jesus] differentiate between those who engage in gay sex, and those who engage in consensual sexual relationships with children?"

It sounds, Brendan, as though my sinners followed the Bible more closely than your sinners, because my sinners have tried celibacy as the apostle advised-- did yours?-- and then fell back to the closest thing to marriage that they could get. We may think that they were mistaken in thinking that the biblical ideal could be approximated; if so, they harmed only themselves.

Your sinners-- perhaps while thanking God that they were not as those damned gay men over there?-- were adulterers and pederasts. Neither sin approximates biblical marriage-- indeed both subvert it-- so there is no possibility that any actual Christian could believe that he had a call to it. If only your sinners had been as godly as my sinners, they would have tested their callings to destroy marriages and children and discovered the truth about them. If the truth about the pederast is that he was addicted, then reality may not matter to him anymore. But that is not our problem here.

And both adultery and pederasty do immense harm to others. By the latter, even secular, epicurean, live-for-the-body-now, there-is-no-god people would know that they did wrong. In fact cats, dogs, and laboratory rats-- all being mammals-- have the brain circuitry to recognise and care about harm done to other mammals. Surely Christians can see what they can see? Honestly, Brendan, when you suggest that we have no way of recognising evil that destroys marriages and children if there is no rule against it someplace, you sound as nihilistic as Nietzsche. Do you believe that God is dead?

It may be that my sinners are Christians and your sinners are self-validated quacks and frauds. After all, an allegiance to Christ is what counts to God, not just beliefs, not the social identity of being a Christian, and certainly not the size of a preacher's audience. My sinners were graduate students, lawyers, teachers, and lab techs, ans they erred just because they are close to the marital ideal we all cherish Your sinners sound like the ungodly rot of shallow, entrepreneurial, personality cult, ratings and numbers driven, pop, megachurch entertainment in the lusty tradition of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. In that way, your comparison does not seem useful.

You and I would both agree, I think, that Catholics had all the authoritative rules they needed to keep their clergy from molesting their children. And yet it has happened on a truly global scale with devastating effects in myriad lives. Authority, Brendan, is not the solution; in the case of the Catholics and the personality cult megachurches, it seems to have been the problem.

Bowman Walton

Brendan McNeill said...

Bowman

The primary problem, if we admit there is a problem, is one of unrepentant sin. Be it adultery, pederasty or sodomy; each separates us from our loving and compassionate God.

Am I the only one amongst Peter and yourself prepared to unreservedly uphold the Anglican doctrine of marriage in both its teaching and its praxis, and then to find myself implicitly condemned or challenged by you both for doing so?

The angels must be bemused.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brendan
I distinguish between paedophilia (exploitation and abuse of children by a powerful adult; this could include marriage of children, even if that is legal in a country), adultery (which is unfaithfulness to a covenant made between two people, a betrayal of trust, the breaking down of a relationship, often leading to immense hurt for many people), and consensual relationships between two equal adults (in which no one gets hurt, no children are abused) etc.

The first two, as far as I know, are not subject to discussion in the church about whether they are right or wrong or not. All agree they are wrong. Nor are the first two a matter of the church living in some kind of tension between two different views. (The possible exception, of course, is where remarriage after divorce is treated as adultery ... except no one hereabouts, apart from Nick, seems to want to do that.)

The last named category is the subject of immense discussion and division in the church. It raises many questions including whether Jesus is as down on it where it involves two adults of the same sex given that, unlike two adults of a different sex, the prospect of marriage is not straightforward in the church. Might Jesus be sympathetic?

I don't know but I did raise the question whether he might have sympathy where such gay Christians soldier on in a hostile church.

But let's say Jesus has no such sympathy. Just as I assume he does not for the adulterers and paedophiles you mention. That still leaves you and me in a church where we cannot get agreement on whether a marriage-life relationship between two people of the same sex may be blessed in our church. This afternoon in our Synod we affirmed that we do not have agreement.

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Peter

Thank you for sharing the inability of synod to find agreement on SSB. Who among us is surprised. For me the question is not personal in respect to Ron or yourself, but rather theological and practical. Dryher nails it in his post earlier today where he quotes an orthodox priest who says:

“Those manning the barricades describe themselves as “defending marriage.” That is a deep inaccuracy: marriage, as an institution, was surrendered (in culture) quite some time ago. Today’s battles are not about marriage but simply about dividing the spoils of its destruction. It is too late to defend marriage. Rather than being defended, marriage needs to be taught and lived. The Church needs to be willing to become the place where that teaching occurs as well as the place that can sustain couples in the struggle required to live it. Fortunately, the spiritual inheritance of the Church has gifted it with all of the tools necessary for that task.

It lacks only people who are willing to take up the struggle.”

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/love-in-the-ruins/

Well, amen, and amen.

“It would seem clear that a legislative option [for restoring a healthy marriage culture] has long been a moot point. When 95 percent of the population is engaging in sex outside of marriage (to say the least) no legislation of a traditional sort is likely to make a difference. The greater question is whether such a cultural tidal wave will inundate the Church’s teaching or render it inert – a canonical witness to a by-gone time, acknowledged perhaps in confession but irrelevant to daily choices (this is already true in many places).”

Oh dear, …does this ring any bells?

“The canon laws supporting such marriages remain intact. Lacking is sufficient teaching and formation in the virtues required to live the martyrdom of marriage.”

Oh, speak to me those who are Anglican theologians…

“Modern culture has emphasized suffering as undesirable and an object to be remedied. Our resources are devoted to the ending of suffering and not to its endurance. Of course, the abiding myth of Modernity is that suffering can be eliminated. This is neither true nor desirable.

Virtues of patience, endurance, sacrifice, selflessness, generosity, kindness, steadfastness, loyalty, and other such qualities are impossible without the presence of suffering. The Christian faith does not disparage the relief of suffering, but neither does it make it definitive for the acquisition of virtue. Christ is quite clear that all will suffer.  It is pretty much the case that no good thing comes about in human society except through the voluntary suffering of some person or persons. The goodness in our lives is rooted in the grace of heroic actions.

In the absence of stable, life-long, self-sacrificing marriages, all discussion of sex and sexuality is reduced to abstractions. An eloquent case for traditional families is currently being made by the chaos and dysfunction set in motion by their absence.
No amount of legislation or social programs will succeed in replacing the most natural of human traditions. The social corrosion represented by our over-populated prisons, births outside of marriage (over 40 percent in the general population and over 70 percent among non-Hispanic African Americans, (and approximately 70% in our Maori community)), and similar phenomenon continue to predict a breakdown of civility on the most fundamental level. We passed into the “Dark Ages” some time ago. The “Benedict Option” is already in place. It is in your parish and in your marriage. Every day you endure and succeed in a faithful union to your spouse and children is a heroic act of grace-filled living.”

Sign me up for ‘an heroic act of grace filled living’ and for yourself and for your church, and your congregation?


Anonymous said...

"This afternoon in our Synod we affirmed that we do not have agreement."
-- The Rev'd Dr. Peter Carrell

SCENE. A long table with two parties on opposite sides making offers and counter-offers in a negotiation that moves freely to a result that neither side fully foresaw.

"We want SSB!"
"Never."
"We'll do it anyway!"
"Not as one of us. We'll take your licenses."
"We'll leave."
"Fine. We'll train church leaders to help LGBT youth and their parents reduce the rate of suicide."
"What?!"
"Are you for or against suicide? To be with us, you have to be against."
"Well...against..."
"Good. Gender trouble is the leading risk factor. And the dead don't marry."
"How much training? Training by whom?"
"We need your input, but want sound, mainstream suicidology, not the agitprop of ignorant activists."
"But we ARE ignorant activists. And we only trust agitprop."
"We are sorry to hear that. There is help for that condition. The question is whether you will be here with parish-level input for the qualified professionals."
"We want to vet your qualified professionals."
"Good. We agree to joint vetting."
"Fine. And we want thoae professionals to give their views on SSB."
"We want those professionals to be professionals."
"So..."
"So as scientists, they may not speculate about SSB, but can say whatever research actually shows about civil SSM."
"That really doesn't give SSB a chance."
"No. This is a church. Churches act with unity, or they are not churches. There is no unity for SSB. SSB is dead. There is nothing that can be done about that. Anything that fidgets with SSB or Masonic Lodge ritual is not the Body of Christ."
"But LGBT suicide..."
"There is unity for the prevention of suicide. This is a church. Churches act with unity, or they are not churches. We will act to prevent suicide. It's really simple once you stop over-individualizing everything."
"But some of us feel very strongly..."
"...Alienation from the Body of Christ. We see that. And competent pastors can help restore them to spiritual health."
"But these are prophetic voices."
"There are true prophets and false ones."
"But these are from the Holy Spirit."
"The Holy Spirit unifies the church, and speaks most clearly in the consensus that results. We will not be bound by beliefs that we do not actually have. But of course we are bound by the beliefs that we all do have, and that sets plenty of work for all of us."

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

Brendan, we sometimes disagree.

To me, our ways usually part where one has to choose between the health of the Church and the health of society. I am reliably ecclesiocentric; you are just as reliably on the right wing of sociocentrism; our antagonists-- who often cannot tell us apart-- are on the left wing of sociocentrism. Taking the long view, ecclesiocentrism is both the apostolic faith and our inevitable future. In contrast, sociocentrism was Constantine's idea, not Jesus's, and as his scheme fades away, the left and right wings of it are fighting a long defeat that does not much interest me. Romans 12 and 13 are our once and future reality.

I tend to defend celibacy rather than marriage, because getting the first right is a precondition for getting the second right. Marriage is an ascetic practise complicated by procreation and enriched by *la difference*; as you have just explained, one has to understand ascesis to understand marriage in Christ. The English reformers were right to reclaim the married state from dishonour, right again to attack the notion of asceticism as penance, and maybe even right to dissolve monasteries that had been corrupted by that false doctrine. But the asceticism of the apostolic generation remains exemplary for ever in a way that bourgeois materialism, however grateful to God for all this wonderful stuff that we have, cannot be. And a church with no memory of all that was learned about the soul from centuries of fasting and prayer has an apostolicity that we might well call impaired.

Anglicans are fortunate that the spiritualities of both missionaries and monastics contributed to a retrieval of ascetic theology and practise in the C19-20. We are less fortunate in also having so constantinian a commingling of church and state that we are experiencing today what perplexed Rome during the Avignon Schism, the Reformation, and the American and French Revolutions, and what splintered Slavic Orthodox after the Bolshevik Revolution and the Iron Curtain. If Catholics and Orthodox seem more stable today, it is only because they have had time to recover from their former dependence on Caesar. We too will get there, by shedding our sociocentrists as they shed their monarchists, and by restoring a properly grounded authority for life in churches.

Anonymous said...

Cont'd

SSB is a project of the passionate sociocentric left opposed by the passionate sociocentric right. It bores me; its proponents bore me; its opponents bore me. Even if they engage the scriptures, they both do so with a social agenda that skews their reading away from the apostolic faith.

It really is possible that St Paul would not recognise the subset of homosexual acts that excite the excitable today-- those hypothetically attributable to some process constitutive of personhood. But it is more likely that his response to that would be to strengthen support for celibacy than that it would be to extend our already over-extended cult of marriage. Obviously, civil SSM will oblige bishops to devise a pastoral approach for souls that happen to be in one, but the apostolic faith has nothing to add to it. What makes that reading unacceptable to the left is that treating asceticism as a healthy norm for all Christians is out of keeping with the bourgeois-Good-Life-religion of the past five centuries, and so it is as unintelligible to our post-Reformation societies as the Resurrection is to late modern societies generally.

The apostles would surely have recognised what we call the *authority of scripture* up to a point, but steeped as they were in the midrashic exegesis that saturates the NT, they could not possibly have agreed that the *nuda scriptura* makes "objective" sense apart from the Holy Spirit's action in history. What makes this reality unacceptable to the right is a fear that texts open to subjectivity and temporality are weak supports for Ozymandias, the social authority that must discipline individuals. But we Christians give our children names like John and Michael and our dogs names like Caesar and Nero.

In other words, both left and right sociocentrists deny that the apostolic faith makes a sense that cannot be a tool for the social good as they conceive that. And not to put too fine a point on it, some find it much easier to imagine a social good that accords with their personal interests and moral sentiments than to enter the mystery of the Resurrection and explore life in the new creation, familiar yet strange. But allegiance to the Son does not leave room for other allegiances. Rejection of the SSB debate as a whole is the rejection, if not of apostasy, then of a certain dodge of actual allegiance to God alone. Especially in churches with very representative polities, left and right variants of the dodge are like bad coin driving the good out of circulation.

+ Mark Lawrence of South Carolina once compared the faith to an old growth forest that could never be fully explored in one lifetime. Extending his metaphor-- actually Isaiah's metaphor at 41:19*-- we could say that there are a few old roads across it that are falling into disuse as travellers far away journey to new destinations. Some with taverns and inns along that road argue among themselves about how to keep the dwindling traffic coming. But surely the point of the forest is that the Lord is there to be sought in the depths of it while he may be found.

* Read William P. Brown on this passage-- https://tinyurl.com/yczvr6kt

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bowman
It is sometimes very hard to see the wood for the trees (you have inspired me) and a lot depends on which vantage point we are standing on ...

Bryden Black said...

Of course there was no agreement Peter!
How could there possibly be in ACANZ&P, when the very criteria of authority and our anthropologies are so contested and tangled in briar thorns, when our social scripts (now delightfully adumbrated by dear BW) are unable to be filtered by either Word or Holy Spirit (Col 3 & Eph 5), and when this “deaf, dumb, and blind servant” (Isa 40-55 again) has yet to realize its true baptism into the Servant of Yahweh (Mk1 & //; Isa 42, 49, 50 & 53, + 61).
Consequently, I’m not holding my breath on this one ...

PS I gather Auckland’s Synod was deliciously fiery ... And that ‘marriage’ itself is possibly/probably up for “review by committee” ... Oh well; it was inevitable, frankly ...