Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Debates within a debate, differences about difference

One of the fascinating aspects of our debate over the cathedral at synod was what I will call here "debates within the debate."

I mention these not to relitigate the arguments made on the floor of synod but to make a point about the wide array of differences in our church. Not confined to You Know What!

Subsidiary Debate 1: church and state relationships. Should the church respect the state and its role in the life of the church (Romans 13, respect for God's appointed authorities)? Or, should the church be wary of the state since the latter can be an authority which seeks to suppress the authority of God (cf. Acts 4)?

Subsidiary Debate 2: church and community relationships. To what extent is the church for itself (as a worshipping community, as a group of people gathering regularly with shared commitments to ministry of Word and Sacrament) and for the community around it? May the latter shape the former? What role do buildings play in the life of the church and its reaching out to the community? Might the importance of a building for the wider community shape the building for the church within its walls? How does the active, believing, worshipping congregation connect with the vague spirituality of the unbaptised, little or no-belief community? These questions were touched on as we considered the past ministry and mission of the cathedral before the quakes, as we considered the possible future ministry and mission but did that prognosticating on the future state of church life, of spirituality in the community. They also arose in connection with the intangible notion of our relationship with the city and province, as well as with experiences of seeking to advance the gospel in our city with a broken cathedral.

Subsidiary Debate 3: appropriate Christian use of money. When is money spent on one desirable project "too much" money? As a diocese we have restored churches for smaller outlays of money than the cathedral will cost. The outlay on the cathedral is definitely "too much" for some members of Synod. We never actually asked the question, but what would be the point when "too much" was reached? Is spending money on aesthetics of church life (burial ointment for Jesus, stained glass windows, beautiful church buildings) compared to spending money on the poor (in our Chch city case, on mental health and on social housing) an either/or, or a both/and? The question "what would Jesus do?" was raised. An important question and one with some nuances to it ... since presumably Jesus wanted the cathedral in the 19th century!

Readers here who were at Synod might have other subsidiary debates to note in comments ...

But, nevertheless, a word about the You Know What discussion

We had an hour's discussion of the Motion 29 Working Group Interim report (same sex blessings). Afterwards I realise that the contributions to the discussion represented three levels of "difference" in our Diocese.

First, and most obviously, differences of views on the rightness of blessing.

Secondly, and fairly obviously, differences in starting point for those views - different underlying theologies and ways of doing theology. (Note yesterday's post here on ADU).

Thirdly, and not so obviously to me until a conversation sparked the thought, the difference between those who feel they can live with difference on this matter and those who feel they cannot. A difference about difference!

That is, when the proposal makes a way for us to be a church living with difference on the matter of blessing, one explanation of rejection of the proposal seems to be that it is not imaginable that such living with difference can take place.


Father Ron Smith said...

"That is, when the proposal makes a way for us to be a church living with difference on the matter of blessing, one explanation of rejection of the proposal seems to be that it is not imaginable that such living with difference can take place." - Dr.Peter Carrell -

A very good description, Peter, of the difference between those of us who ARE willing to live with different theological viewpoints (perhaps contrasting the elements of God's Mercy with God's Judgement - the latter faculty belonging rightly to God and not us); and those who are not.

Other significant differences, which seem to have been accepted by both sets of believers are (1) Re-Marriage of Divorcees; (2) Marriage of people with no intention of procreation (incapable or too old for such a preoccupation);
(3) The Blessing of Armies and Vehicles of armed combat.

Each of these 3 involves a ceremony of 'Blessing' by the Church. And yet we balk at encouraging the Blessing of a monogamously faithful S/S couple whop have committed themselves to "live together in love and faithfulness to their lives' end" ?

Malcolm Falloon said...

Hi Peter,

Your third level of difference could be further refined, I think. For there are different ways of living with difference and motion 29 offers one option, and not a very helpful one in my view.

What concerns me is that the report looks to enshrine an element of sectarianism within the polity of our church. I don't think that is a good way of living with difference for it effectively sends each party to their corner and erects institutional structures to keep them apart. Far from enabling further conversation, I think it shuts it down. Have we really got to that point as a church?

Last night, our archdeaconry had a robust discussion of the report ahead of the up-coming Dunedin synod. As we exchanged our different viewpoints, I realised that such a meeting of difference would not be possible if the recommendations of the report were to be adopted.


Father Ron Smith said...

So you are saying Malcolm - are you not - that you personally are unable (unwilling?) to live with those who might elect to live with same-sex blessings in ACANZP.

A straight answer would be preferred.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Malcolm
The challenge then is to come up with a way forward which avoids that sectarianism and maintains conversation.

Do you (or your archdeaconry) have a view on whether alternative episcopal oversight could help?

Further to my first sentence: do you envisage a way forward which permits SSB to occur AND which avoids sectarianism?

So far the proposal is the best idea I have heard - our own synod heard many (fair, well made) criticisms of the proposal. Yet nothing was offered as an alternative way forward ...

Jean said...

That money one is difficult; I wonder if Jesus would see it in terms of money or in terms of value for the Kingdom of God or what is done for the Glory of God. Perhaps it is too hard enmeshed as we are in the empirical way of seeing the world for us to really know. Slowly making my way through Justin Welby's book on Mammon; makes for thought-provoking and counter-intuitive thinking, even if it hurts my brain.

Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Peter; reflecting on this perennial justice issue - of the recognition(or not) of the diversity of human beings in their gender and sexuality identity - I was glad to see this comment appearing on today's 3-minute retreat on the Loyola (Roman Catholic) website:

"The journey of faith is not just a “me and God” experience. The Holy Spirit works through the Church to lead us to build a world of peace and justice. God made us for lives in community. The contemporary value of individualism, in which one is concerned only with his or her personal experience, can lead to a dead end. Seeking justice is a way of living that makes us vulnerable, because it means that we trust God and not simply our own desires. What we do, or refrain from doing, reveals who we are as followers of God."

The diversity of God's Creation leads us to the necessity of learning to live together with every aspect of it - and that means our human diversity.

Malcolm Falloon said...

Hi Peter,

I do have ideas about how we can proceed as a church, though I don't pretend to have an ultimate solution. Neither do I pretend that anyone is particularly interested in what I have to say (apart from your kind self). But if a report is asking for feedback then there is no point rejecting criticism simply because no alternative measure was supplied. And I do not accept the notion that the present recommendations are the best we can do, and that no other options are available.

When the path one take leads down a canyon to the foot of a cliff, the temptation is to believe the only option is to climb. But it is always possible to retrace your steps and look for an easier path up. It is a counsel of despair to refuse to turn around on the grounds that one has expended too much energy getting into the predicament in the first place.

No one at my archdeaconry meeting seemed particularly happy with the report as it stood. I found myself in sympathy with those with whom I differ on this issue, who lamented the way our church is looking to side-step the theological issue by giving the state the right to determine which unions we will bless.

People from across the spectrum were concerned about the implications of giving bishops too powerful a role in determining the policy of their particular dioceses. That fitted with my criticism that the report thinks it has avoided the constitutional issues involved but has instead undermined its very role in our church's polity by delegating it instead to the preference of a bishop.

A number expressed the view that, though it was a bad deal, it would do as a temporary measure and we should just take what we can get and move on. That sentiment then provoked one vicar to warn that over a third of his parish members had already signalled their intention of leaving the church over this issue, and so what might seem an trivial matter for some (why are we still talking about this?) would come at an enormous cost for others.

These are all signs to me that the General Synod has arrived at the foot of a sectarian cliff.


Peter Carrell said...

More briefly than I would like to do, Malcolm, as off to a several day event, yes, I can see that we may be needing to not resolve the matter at GS but take a further step in the dialectic. More work on theology? Episcopacy? Ecclesiology!

Incidentally, I am now a GS member for Chch ... along with Jay and Al as the clergy slate :)

Malcolm Falloon said...

Dear Ron,

This is what I have learnt. When one conflates argument with identity one ends up with cycles of self-justification (I'm a good person) and demonisation (they would say that!). That holds true with all manner of conflicts, from marriage to Synods.

Consequently, I try to engage with my debating partners with the assumption that they disagree with me for the best of reasons. That seems to me to be the best way to keep open the possibility of future compromise and reconciliation.

So, if you would like to assess my person ablility/inability to live with those who disagree with me on this issue, I would suggest you come down to Dunedin and look me up for a conversation.


Father Ron Smith said...

Dear Malcolm,

I'm afraid that, at the age of 88 I am no longer disposed to travel around New Zealand to engage in theological debate. This is why I engage with the ADU thread on matters of Evangelical piety and praxis. I had not realised you had moved to Dunedin - to Saint Matthews, a doughty stronghold of Evangelicalism in that Southern Diocese of ACANZP. I remember you as a member of the local fraternity in Christchurch.

My question of you, Malcolm - in the light of your seeming reluctance to accept the tenor of Motion 29 - was merely to ascertain your bedrock feeli9ng about the Motion. Is it, in its present state, a possible cause of your opting out of ACANZP? Or would you be prepared to ever accept that our Church could accede to the provision of a rite for Same-Sex Blessings?
Agape, Fr.Ron

Malcolm Falloon said...

Dear Ron,

Again you are conflating difference and identity.

For your further information, I am actually the Priest in Charge at Taieri.


Bryden Black said...

“That is, when the proposal makes a way for us to be a church living with difference on the matter of blessing, one explanation of rejection of the proposal seems to be that it is not imaginable that such living with difference can take place.” Peter C

As you will well know Peter, since I sent you a copy of my essay, “Whose Language? Which Grammar? ‘Inclusivity and diversity’, versus the crafted Christian concepts of catholicity and created differentiation”, when it was published by ATF Press in 2006, our culture has become pretty slack, let alone trendy, with its use of language around “difference”. But then, that very move is itself a calculated one, allowing for the fudging of basic category mistakes, and so permitting continuing obfuscation in those realms where Christians should delight in clarity of vision. That is, if we were to allow the sorts of vision granted by those hard won victories of the Early Church, when they engaged their own cultural confusions in the Light of the Gospel of Jesus, Word of the Father, and bestower of the Holy Spirit of Truth.

But alas! As you intimate on another thread: there’s a bit of pollution upstream historically! And we in the Western Church seem to have lost the will and/or ability to catechetize as they once also did in the Early Church.

The upshot of these opening remarks. Some differences are incumbent upon us, as expressions of the created order; some differences have surely been brought about by our fallen condition; some differences are but jolly expressions of human creativity (think only senses of humour between the US and UK, let alone Kiwi!); some differences are parasitic upon the good, being but vapidly evil.

The failure of imagination you bemoan might just be a function of our lazy inability to work far harder at sifting among these sorts of differences, succumbing to those foisted upon us by the weight of recent cultural history, while seemingly relishing those that foster in fact our own prejudices - whatever their aetiology.

I sense Malcolm’s image of a canyon with its cliff end has great merit. Further, his sectarian conclusion agrees rather well with my own: “In effect [as the various groups evolve], our Anglican episcopal structure and discipline, even as people defer formally to their bishop, will have become Presbyterian or even Congregationalist in practice.”

My own reservation about this Interim Report’s essential proposals stem from its unfortunate brief on the one hand, and then with its having nonetheless to smuggle in an operational theology, or rather ecclesiology, on the other. As with anything of this importance, it seeks legitimation. We Christians may only defer ultimately to the One Author of our faith and his own witness to his economy, when seeking such authority. Where ‘differences’ emerge, we’ve little choice but to evaluate (that key word!) the respective sources of their voices. This is the more necessary when, at first blush at least, we’ve two completely opposing voices in contention, not just ‘differing’ ones. This is not a recipe for harmony, but for radical discord, and eventual disintegration. And you are right: all mostly due to a lack of imagination ... Yet imagination applied to spheres and realms far richer than those hitherto entertained. Which is why I’ve written those two pieces to date in response, and which the WG will be receiving formally in due course.

Father Ron Smith said...

Bryden's 'two opposing voices" were present in the issue of our Cathedral - each with their own particular eccleisiological justification. Look which one won out. Each side thought they had God on their side. The same could be true of this current argument. We may all be surprised by the outcome. The real question is: will we each remain as part of ACANZP whatever the outcome?

We must all bear in mind the fact that we each have our very own theological justification for our belief on this issue of gender and sexuality. And, as the majority in the Cathedral situation determined the outcome on that issue. It may well be the majority that determines the issue of same-sex blessings.

Anonymous said...

“That is, when the proposal makes a way for us to be a church living with difference on the matter of blessing, one explanation of rejection of the proposal seems to be that it is not imaginable that such living with difference can take place.” Peter C

Peter, most of us can live with others holding a variant in the views that we hold, if we can specify a likely state of affairs in which we might choose that variant ourselves. (For example, I believe that a Third World War is probable, but I would give it up if I could imagine an impoverished and embarrassed nuclear power not using arms to improve its condition.) Most toleration is of that easy kind. We do not see it much on That Topic because few can identify, even hypothetically, a contingency under which their minds would change.

Bowman Walton

Peter Carrell said...

Yes and no, Bowman and Bryden
To a degree you are simultaneously (A) drawing out the genuine challenge of living with certain kinds of difference while (B) over thinking things (IMHO).

For instance on "The Difference" I ask myself why some of those who seemingly cannot live with that difference nevertheless do live within a Diocese in which there are partnered same-sex couples involved in the ministry. On that level I am simply asking to have the imagination to extend that living on that difference. I also ask myself (as often noted here) why we can live with difference on remarriage after divorce (it's adultery versus no it's not) but not live with The Difference. I don't think lots of thinking is needed, just some frank acknowledgement of what is already being lived with.

On the other hand, I do "get it" that Anglicans do not always live well with difference: we won't accept Methodist presbyters into licensed priestly ministry without episcopal laying on of hands ... so, indeed, differences matter and the matter which matters has an underlying, reasonable theology to it. So, yes, that is also the case with those differing over The Difference.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not aware of any doctrinal issues surrounding the cathedral decision.
You can scarcely be unaware of doctrinal issues in respect of blessings performed by priests and bishops, of rites authorised by bishops, etc.

Is it worth acknowledging matters which the Anglican church does not see as straightforward in terms of making decisions and which have nothing to do with "the issues"? And which, if a simple majority decision were passed in favour of change, could well lead to people leaving our church

- licensing presbyters of the Methodist or Presbyterian churches who have not otherwise been ordained by a bishop;
- admittance to communion of those not baptised into the Trinity (e.g. Mormons);
- accepting the Primacy of the Pope (a matter raised here and there in ARCIC discussions but not one agreed to by any Anglican province's synod/convention as far as I know);
- per saltum ordination (often raised by Bosco on his blog but, again, not agreed to anyAnglicanwhere that I know of);
- prohibiting the common cup at the eucharist (e.g. for hygienic reasons, or because exBaptists were now a majority in our synods);
- reversing our decision to admit women to the three orders of ordained ministry;
- reversing our decision to offer remarriage of divorcees without recourse to episcopal permission.

I think we could add to such a list of matters on which Anglicans do not agree, on which a goodly minority of Anglicans could be placed in a position of contemplating leaving the church if a simple majority agreed to make change.

In comparison the cathedral is a low level matter!

Bryden Black said...

Once again Peter I sense you are succumbing to the temptation to elide different things. Notably; I am being asked not just to ‘tolerate’ certain things, but to actively condone them, by actively not condemning them. These are not Bowman’s “variants”; they are categoric opposites.

And please; let’s can those furffies once and for all. Divorce-and-remarriage is in principle NOT equivalent to SSB/SSM. The CoE’s Winchester Report (2002) addresses the matter well; nor could its approach be extrapolated. Or have we so soon forgotten Andrew Goddard on Fulcrum ...?!

True; so lax has our entire view of ‘marriage’ become that in all seriousness we have those two formal categories outlined by Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson & Robert George in What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, 2012): conjugal marriage versus revisionist form of contract. And here our own often lax church discipline has surely aided and abetted this ‘revision’. For which I sense due repentance might be in order.

Far from “over-thinking” therefore, I venture we’re just victims of bricolage.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
With remarriage after divorce it is possible to hold that remarriage can involvement repentance and therefore the sin of adultery is not incurred and it is possible to hold that no repentance is possible and thus adultery is involved and continues to be involved. Somehow the church lives with this difference over what is sin and what is not.

In what sense is difference over SSB different "in principle"? Is it possible that those fine documents you cite are wrong? (Or, at least wrong in misunderstanding the analogy?). With SSB we have Christians appealing to Scripture to say that certain marriage-like partnerships between two people of the same sex do not involve sin and may be blessed and we have Christians who appeal to Scripture to say that such partnerships necessarily involve sin and should not be blessed.

Now I happen, and you also, to not accept the strength of the argument for SSB from Scripture to be as strong and well-founded as Scriptural arguments for the possibility that divorce might be repented from (despite Jesus not offering a direct thought to support that!). But I do continue to find it a puzzle that you take two matters involving sexual sin and argue that "in principle" they differ from each other.

What is the principle? In Leviticus 18, for instance, there are no "in principle" differences between (e.g. from the list) bestiality, incest, adultery, child sacrifice. There is just a list of sins.

Anonymous said...

"If we allow X, then pretty soon they will want us to allow Y."

"Well, we already allow X, so why not allow Y too?"

Peter and Bryden, arguments that we are sliding down a slippery slope are irrational whether one is a conservative dreading the bottom or a liberal enjoying the ride. They are irrational in that they substitute contagion, catching the speaker's sentiment like a flu, for reason, making an inference that illumines the matter at hand for one who saw the matter differently before. Whatever we think of the slope, comments on the feelings about the slide are not valid arguments, and we ask hearers to be less rational that they should be when we make them.

But apart from considerations of reason and epistemic virtue, feelings about slopes are really feelings about the law, and Christians should think about those feelings with respect to their knowledge of the gospel/law dialectic. Here I will take as given James B Torrance's distinction between legal repentance and evangelical repentance. Everyone agrees that God promises forgiveness to the penitent, but the gospel of Jesus entails a certain priority that the Reformers knew well. Incredulity and misunderstanding about that priority generates disagreements about slippery slopes and indeed about That Topic.

Legal repentance (bad; do not say this): *Repent, and if you do, you will be forgiven.*

Evangelical repentance (good; do say this): *Because Christ has died for your sins, you are forgiven and reconciled; therefore, repent and walk in the way of Christ.*

Why is forgiveness prior to repentance? The Reformed Torrance explains: “Repentance is the work of the Spirit in bringing home to us the meaning of Calvary—a response to grace, not a condition of grace.” Or from the Lutheran side, we could recall Jenson:

“The gospel’s specific morality is a morality of freedom. We love, not because we ought to, not because we fear God will withdraw his love if we fail to love, but because in Christ we may love. This is the liberty of the sons and daughters of the Father. This is what it means to live in the divine society of the Holy Trinity. In the words of St Augustine of Hippo: “Love and do what you will” (Homily 7 on 1st John)." (Bryden, that's Story and Promise, p. 81).

Father Al Kimel once restated this in a way that approximates the cadences of Jenson's lectures and seminars at Gettysburg:

"Because Jesus has promised that your life is and will be fulfilled in his coming kingdom, you may give generously toward the feeding and sheltering of the poor.

"Because Jesus was faithful to you unto death and beyond death, you may be faithful to your marital vows.

"Because the cross of Jesus is the way of peace and life, you may stop abusing your spouse.

"Because Jesus will provide for both you and your baby, no matter what hardship you may have to endure, you may unequivocally renounce the killing of your unborn child.

"Because Christ is your food unto everlasting life, you may fast and embrace the ascetical disciplines.

When Christians discuss moral issues, what they say either reduces to statements like these or else they are confused about Galatians 3 and the gospel as Protestants try to understand it.

Bryden Black said...

“But I do continue to find it a puzzle that you take two matters involving sexual sin and argue that "in principle" they differ from each other.

What is the principle? In Leviticus 18, for instance, there are no "in principle" differences between (e.g. from the list) bestiality, incest, adultery, child sacrifice. There is just a list of sins.” Peter C.

It’s all in the approach Peter, what we are seeking to achieve. As with anything, the very answer is largely part and parcel of the kind of question being asked - or not asked. Alter the basic question, and differing sorts of answers become possible/impossible.

From your point of view, it’s all about “accommodation”; and in addition, accommodation on account of unity, and then a perceived form of unity, finally. The brief of the WG is no different either: their form of question determines too the sorts of answers available.

My entire approach has always been and continues to be, as noted in my first response to the Interim Report, rather different. Not least, I strongly sense we need at least to make a stab at how on earth we ended up here, with two opposing stances. At root, I maintain my diagnosis of two alternative anthropologies, the one a bastard step-child of the other (as I term it). For the point is not exactly those sorts of so-called ‘easy proof texts’ we pull out of the Scriptures, and throw around (viz now your list even). As with that classic 4th C example of Arianism, so today, it’s a basic case of dianoia (the term comes from Athanasius) which is at stake, and from which we may establish those root paradigms we use and through which we evaluate any and all ‘readings’.

The upshot; SSB/SSM is a tragic irony, a counterfeit even. And its very simulacra nature allows it to thrive in our present social setting.

If you were really wanting some sort of OT parallel, while deferring to Ephraim Radner’s reading of Lev 18 in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible Series, I’d go to Hosea (and other parallels like 1 Kgs 18). It’s here that we are confronted with two opposing alternatives for how the community (NB this communal aspect; it’s the church which is being asked to go down a particular road) are to render their trust, via the very medium of the prophet and his prophecy. In the NT, we’ve the Book of Revelation, one with which you are most familiar. Again, the sexual element is but a profound symbol: Jerusalem versus Babylon = ?!?! And it’s because we are seemingly insistent on only addressing those individuals involved, on their desire for SSB/SSM, and avoiding the necessary concomitant communal aspect which both OT and NT always invoke as well, that you and I are mostly talking past each other, with your not getting the difference ... For why are those activities of Lev 18 prohibited? “I am YHWH!” Lev 18:2-5, Ex 20:2-3. An entire dianoia is required of God’s People, and of all those members who constitute her. The levels of reality run all the way, from top to bottom, from bottom to top, an integrated whole. We’ve today simply lost that entire imaginative sense ...

Bryden Black said...

Agreed Bowman; many a contemporary Evangelical and/or conservative are simply afflicted with a sense of Positive Law, as if that were somehow a Gospel Imperative. Enough said!

The alternative, as I see it, is best found in my God’s Address - Living with the Triune God. You’ve also mentioned Richard Hays in the past. The Moral Vision of the NT: A Contemporary Introduction to NT Ethics (Harper, 1996) is a good place to go, I agree. Most fulsome perhaps now is Oliver O’Donovan’s recently completed trilogy, Ethics as Theology: Self, World and Time; Finding and Seeking; Entering into Rest, which I’m thoroughly enjoying. I fancy it’ll become a classic for years to come.

Anonymous said...

Transposing That Topic into the gospel of Christ better informs our understanding of it in several ways. I will mention just four.

(1) The gospel/law dialectic. If several chapters of unambiguous scripture answered every conceivable question about SSM, they would be chapters about law. Long exegetical discussions are stimulating, but on That Topic they are usually expeditions to discover the law. Now law is important, but it is not gospel addressed to a hearer. In decades of argument about That Topic, there are notoriously few instances in which a speaker defending a view of the law has persevered to a presentation of it as gospel. The few that tried produced something that sounded suspiciously like an attempt to make the law prior to the gospel after all. No reformation Protestant can believe that.

(2) The gospel, metaphysics, and the binary. Anglicans have an English problem: we avoid metaphysics as a cultural reflex even where we are staking our souls on some bet about non-empirical reality. Sometimes that appears to work-- I think that is a delusion-- sometimes that fails. In discussing That Topic, as earlier in discussing the ordination of women, many on both sides simply bracket the male/female binary and go on to either argue its importance in law or else to dismiss its importance for spirituality. Both evasions have been closer to our cultural project of materialism than to the scriptural use of binary as gospel.

(3) The gospel, metaphysics, and the body. Discussion recurs to two complexes of texts in the canon-- one on the Presence with Israel (eg Leviticus) and one on the Presence in the *totus Christus* of Jesus, word, cup, and assembly in the world (eg Pauline letters). Nobody disputes that the Presence is important; many try hard not to see that presence-- even the Presence-- entails embodiment. Neither the left nor the right will accept that it is close to apostasy when it refuses to work out its position with respect to some committed understanding of the body of a Christian as the new locus of the Presence.

(4) The gospel and nescience. The first, second, and third problems lead to a fourth. Many sound as though they posit a right-- prior to anything that the Church knows about God, Christ, etc-- to walk blindly amid spiritual realities mentioned in scripture and recognised in the tradition. That is, many imply, though few explicitly claim, that there is a right to be what the Psalmist calls a fool, and some do so on both the left and the right. The left is more or less intolerant of any thought that is not from the cutting edge of culture, while the right is adamant that authority without understanding is still obligatory. Both smash against two scriptural rocks: (a) in the Body, the wise preach the gospel to the fools and help them to repent, often; (b) alienation from that Body is life outside the Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

Recently in North America, we had a total eclipse of the sun. At midday, the fiery disk was darkened, but the corona around it still scattered light down through the atmosphere to the wings of passing jets, the windows of tall buildings, the tops of trees, and the streets and sidewalks where people move about. One could get used to getting around in this light, and in places near the poles there are some who do just that. But if the fiery disk suddenly emerged from shadow, it could hurt one's eyes.

When I was a much younger man, my quarrel with most Protestant churches was that they had become so good at navigating in the Enlightenment darkness that they had come to need that darkness to carry on. And the darkness that they needed was so dark that when I first read critical biblical scholarship, it sounded refreshingly believing by comparison. For all of its methodical scepticism, such scholarship was still telling a story about communities that believed more about God, the cosmos, and the soul than any church that I knew and was a far better community of human beings for it. If "superstitiously" believing that people rise from the dead once made people delight in God, share goods in common, and take care of the poor, then pragmatic reason that made people worry about their taxes and pension plans instead was not always a good thing. It certainly made clergy nervous.

In that dark, I reached out. One hand stretched to dogmatics and then systematics-- clear speech that there is a God, he is knowable, and he has made himself known, illuminating all of life. What real believer could object to that? The other stretched toward liturgics as the memory of how a believing people acts in the Presence to become that Presence for the life of the world. Again, the vast majority of all the Christians who have ever lived have been inspired in this way.

God hates nothing that he has made; but the Holy Spirit is dissolving all those churches that came to love the dark too much. St Augustine suggests that life is a voyage that takes one to many ports that are less than our destination, and that tarrying too long in any one of them is an easy sin that can only be avoided by keeping the destination in mind. For a few centuries it was hard for many to think the thoughts of the apostolic faith or to embody the doxological Presence. Were they right to evade battles to which they did not feel equal? Are those raised on their dilute religion truly faithless or just invincibly ignorant? We need not answer these questions to know that the sun has come out, and that our eyes must adjust to its light.

Bowman Walton

Anonymous said...

"it’s because we are seemingly insistent on only addressing those individuals involved, on their desire for SSB/SSM, and avoiding the necessary concomitant communal aspect which both OT and NT always invoke as well, that you [Peter] and I [Bryden] are mostly talking past each other, with your not getting the difference ...

Bryden, if the difference between your view and Peter's is "the necessary concomitant communal aspect which both OT and NT always invoke," could you say a bit more about what you mean by that?

What I heard you say-- what you may not have intended to say-- is a rather Hauerwasian thing: the *totus Christus* bears witness to the redeemed male/female binary, and the fidelity and clarity of that witness precludes any association with practises, whether of churches or of individuals, that blur its poles. If that is your view, then you will know better than I that it perplexes others at five points--

(1) Christians have covenantal obligations as a people and as members that other human beings do not have. Proponents of SSB/SSM have erred in thinking that the morality of the Church is a universal one with no responsibility to the Kingdom.

(2) Methodologically, one discovers the morality of the Church or of Christians by identifying that to which we bear particularly witness. Proponents of SSB/SSM have erred in positing a universal moral sense that even non-believers possess and then seeing what practises comport with that moral sense.

(3) If the gospel is true, then men and women will be reconciled as they are redeemed. (To me, this recalls St Maximus's famous statement in the Ambigua that in every soul in him Christ reconciles Creator and creation, heaven and earth, things invisible and things visible, paradise and the world, man and woman.) Proponents of SSB/SSM have erred in not seeing this as gospel.

(4) Same sex attraction is not outside these realities, nor are those who have it excused from the duties of Christian witness. Proponents of SSB/SSM have erred in valuing an abstract equality of all couples everywhere over the gospel responsibilities of homosexuals in the Church.

In short--

(5) Proponents of SSB/SSM have erred in asking that the Church be both itself and the world at large, which is absurd.

Is that your somewhat close to your view?

Bowman Walton

Bryden Black said...

Nice parable Bowman! May be too the heifer's scarlet thread, tied to one's sunglasses to keep them from falling off one's neck, could be brought to bear ...?

Peter Carrell said...

Clarification: Bryden (8:15) is responding to an earlier comment of Bowman's than Bowman's 7:22 comment (which I had not posted by 8.15 pm)

Peter Carrell said...

Bryden and Bowman

I agree that if SSB is about blessing SSM as though SSM is what the Bible talks about when talking about marriage, then Bryden's "tragic irony" applies. Two men do not a husband and a wife make. Nor do two women.

But I see SSB as responding to another phenomenon, one which your talk of correct theology and incorrect anthropology does not readily touch (at least in the sense that it is complex, subtle and deep in a manner which is not easily conveyed to non-theological Anglicans). That is the simple phenomenon of (say) two men finding loving companionship in each other when they are incapable of finding that in a woman. In that loving companionship they impress upon family and friends, even congregation that theirs is a relationship of support, and a relationship which is bound in covenant of commitment and permanent partnership - drawing on precisely those characteristics of marriage which involve the demands of discipleship and, here is a point, raise the question of whether prayerful support will come from the body of Christ.

A whole bunch of Anglicans (and other Christians) are struggling to understand how this involves a faulty anthropology, a counterfeit of marriage and deserves less than careful considerateness from those who follow the compassionate Christ.

Now, if I understand you Bryden, your theologising on the matter needs to say, in much simpler terms, why this phenomenon of human sociality is wrong; and if I understand you Bowman, your theologising on the matter is in fact sympathetic.

Or, have I missed something?

Bryden Black said...

"But I see SSB as responding ... whether prayerful support will come from the body of Christ."

From the limited stance of seeking some 'accommodation', your putting it like this Peter sounds so 'rational' and almost 'obvious'. For all that, what it fails to address is just this: "From the beginning ..." When Jesus was around he encountered similar 'sound' lines of argument. Yet he simply refused to entertain them. His approach sought to create an alternative imagination altogether, one far bolder, far more reaching, one that dared to see new life from the dead.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Bryden
Yes, I see that and I think I could explain that to non-theological Anglicans!
But I think I am still a bit concerned for lonely souls: it is not good for man to be alone.
That too belongs to "the beginning."
Can the church make no accommodating affirmation, no affirming comment on two people, otherwise not constituted to marry the opposite sex, who have found companionship?