Friday, August 30, 2013

Quo vadis for ACANZP?

After a great correspondence at Radner Undone?, Christopher Seitz has offered a couple of significant comments which I post here for discussion.

Effectively Professor Seitz is saying, 'When all is said and done on the respective theological arguments for blessing or not blessing same-sex partnerships, the question is how the majority argument will treat the adherents of the minority argument.'

The twist in what he says is that he is working and writing from the context of North America where the majority argument is the argument in favour of such blessings and the minority adherents are feeling driven out of their churches.

Naturally the question arises Down Under, which way (quo vadis) are we going on these matters?

Anyway, here are the comments:

"C Seitz said...

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

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

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

So my question is: with this new thing will come ecclesial division, just as before, so how will that be conducted?

Will Bishops and Dioceses within Provinces, and whole Provinces themselves, which view the new thing as beyond their ability to warrant, be allowed to move forward with the status quo rites and pastoral teaching?

Will they be able, in other words, to inhabit churches whose previous practices they do not hold to be out of date, and so remain as before?

The individual conscience idea is just that: an idea, based upon a dubious warrant.

I am speaking here about whole dioceses inside provinces (provinces that wish to do the new thing); and whole provinces. It seems to me that at this point division is inevitable. We have one group endorsing the new thing that describes homophobia as being unwilling to embrace same-sex marriage. If these are the conditions obtaining to the new thing, invariably we are going to have division. Will the proponents of the new teaching seek to constrain all to conform, or see to a peaceful division, allowing churches, dioceses, provinces to remain with the teaching previously agreed by all?

C Seitz
Peter Carrell said...
Excellent question, Chris. Thank you.
C Seitz said...
You are welcome, Peter.

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

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

For those who wish to stay with the agreed rites and teaching that all formerly inhabited, can they do so? Do these formerly agreed understandings just time out? This is an odd account of the church in time.
Also, I do not think people should delude themselves. These new teachings and understandings of how we understand marriage will in the nature of the case cause division. Honest revisionists admit this and want it to happen. That is at least truthful."

One thing in favour of our church is that our Three Tikanga arrangements have demonstrated historical 'form' on finding a way for the voice of the minority to be treated as importantly as the voice of the majority ... can we do this again?

Addendum for a Sunday read, from Damian Thompson:

"By that point they will be no more in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury than with the Grand Mufti of Egypt – and the label “Anglican” will have fallen out of use. Already it encompasses fundamentalist bigots in Kampala and spaced-out pantheists in San Francisco; the last Lambeth Conference, in which bishops faced each other in mock-Zulu tribal meetings, was the stuff of high comedy. Even in England, “Anglicanism” is past its sell-by date: as the contorted Synod debates over women bishops and gay priests reveal, it’s simply an attempt to sanctify pragmatism.
So are we approaching the last rites of the Church of England? Not at all. There is a demand for a Church that follows public opinion rather than leading it; whose magisterium is shaped by good manners rather than canon lawyers. Plus, the cathedrals are lovely."

Now, why does he say that? Read the larger comment here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Confused by Syria?

Will the West go to war against Syria? Should it go to war against Syria?

It is a finely balanced equation, or am I missing something?

Dastardly deeds are occurring in Syria. Reason to consider going to war.

War could lead to an even worse situation (e.g. a harsher government or simple chaos and anarchy) Reason not to go to war.

If we do not do something now, even worse things could happen. Reason to consider going to war.

There are other ways to express our displeasure than war. Reason not to go to war.

OK that will do on the calculations.

What is horrible and challenging for Christians is the sheer human suffering, knowing we could do something about it, and the impossible situation of Christians in Syria who are, all things considered, likely better off under Assad than under any alt.successor.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mixing politics and sport

I could worry about the latest prognostications of ++Justin Welby, as others are doing.

I am working on a post about our rubrics and their upgrade to life in the 21st century.

GAFCON 2 is coming up and some good friends are going to it: what do we think about GAFCON and its place in the cosmology of global Anglicanism? I would like to post on that question soon.

But today let's stray into the arcane worlds of politics and of sport, with just the slightest of connections to, respectively, church and theology.


The NZ Labour Party has had a bloodless coup and disposed of its recent leader David Shearer by getting him to see that he should resign rather than subject himself to a motion of no confidence by his caucus. (Maryan Street, a Nelson-based MP, has confirmed that she would have moved a no confidence motion. A case of finding the nicest assassin to make the blood-letting easier?!)

Thus three contenders have put themselves forward for consideration: Grant Robertson, David Cunliffe and Shane Jones.

The latter two have Anglican 'form'. Shane Jones was once a member of our General Synod (in 1996, I recall meeting him in Rotorua - he was famous even then). David Cunliffe is often referred biographically as the 'son of a vicar.'

Let's get the shadow side of these candidacies out of the way. Grant Robertson is gay and thus we might have our first gay Prime Minister (or will we? He says archly!). This, it is acknowledged, may trouble some voters. I suggest it should not trouble Christian voters. After a succession of atheist-no-I-am-agnostic Prime Ministers, we can scarcely worry about a PM's sexuality. Shane Jones once fessed up to using his parliamentary expense card to pay for pornography. Let's allow that he has repented. Our worry should be whether such foolishness (i.e. not using his own credit card) has been left behind for wisdom. Certainly he has come up with the wittiest line of the campaign so far, saying 'I am not running for Pope.' David Cunliffe has come across as arrogant and has famously been disliked intensely by colleagues. He says he has moved on. (A list of known MP supporters in this morning's Press suggests he lacks support from what I deem to be the 'front rank' of Labour's best and brightest).

Last night I watched a recorded Native Affairs (broadcast Monday night) interview of all three candidates. Essentially they have the same policies. It comes down to personality and competency. What struck me about Grant Robertson is that he is both smart and unflappable, qualities people like in our present PM. So my money is on him winning as he looks like the bloke who could be 'the next PM' more than the other two.

And one of these three will be the next PM if our current smart, unflappable PM continues to speak poorly as he has done about a troubling situation for some fellow Christchurch citizens, here.

It is a sign of the embeddedness of religion in our secular society that Shane Jones' gag about not running for Pope is instantly understandable and eminently crafty as a way of acknowledging past sin and declaring that repentance has taken place!


The All Blacks are on a winning roll which means their detractors are hell bent on finding anything to grizzle about. Apparently referees give up any sense of fair adjudication in the All Blacks' presence, etc. The Greatest, Meanest Detractor of them all is Mark Reason, a Brit enjoying the hospitality of our fair country and repaying it by carping and harping at every opportunity about our greatest rugby stars.

He is in typical form in this article. But you have not come to ADU for literary criticism of journalistic attempts at crafting essays. So, my theological interest in his article is in the way he works with the theme of 'myth' and generally permeates his piece with theology.

Thus the article begins with these two paragraphs, which offer the first hint of theology, and demonstrate the nasty critical streak that is Reason's unreasonable speciality:

"The All Blacks' Bledisloe Cup victory over Australia on Saturday was not the summer solstice, a holy day or the dawn of the age of enlightenment. 

It was a poor performance over fatally flawed opposition, aided and abetted by a South African referee who has clearly not yet come to terms with the principle of equality."

Tom Taylor is a young man on the rugby rise who played his first test for the All Blacks on Saturday night. Naturally Reason needs to knock this rising star back to the edge of the universe:

"Reading about Taylor before and after the game, I was nearly fooled into thinking I had just seen the reincarnation of Barry John [the greatest first five-eighth to visit our shores, 1971 Lions tour]. The reality was nearer to Monty Python's Life of Brian and the line, ''He's not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy''."

The bit about the messiah is neatly followed up several paragraphs later with:

"But because of a couple of lovely passes near to the gain line and a half-break at the start of the match (from which he was turned over by Michael Hooper), the lad was anointed."

Then it is time to introduce the theme of 'myth':

"Taylor may well turn out to be a fine player, but as yet he is nowhere near an international first-five. But the All Blacks are the Muhammad Ali of international rugby; a team where excellence and myth merge to the point where the stigmata become invisible."

I will return to that paragraph in a moment. There are three further references to 'myth' in the article. There is also a reference to 'confession':

"The All Blacks don't admit the big mistakes in public unless the unthinkable happens and they lose. Then confession is called for."

Back to the paragraph where Reason writes, "a team where excellence and myth merge to the point where the stigmata become invisible."

What on earth (or in heaven) does he mean here? 'Stigmata' is a very precise theological reference to signs of our Lord's suffering becoming visible in the body of a saint. To speak of stigmata becoming invisible is very strange because the word 'stigmata' has no meaning. (Nearly every saint, including you and me, have invisible stigmata!!) I think he is trying to say that the All Blacks have become a team where their reputation for excellence and high achievement has become a myth which bends and shapes the truth (including what referees see and do not see) so much that blemishes due to sins (i.e. mistakes, poor play) are unseen by the watching public.

Put simply, 'stigmata' is wrongly used by Reason.

We might also wonder how many readers would understand the reference?

Our society is not so secular that it cannot understand Jones' gag about the Pope but it is secular enough not to understand the reference to stigmata.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Do not refuse the one who is speaking

Tomorrow's epistle reading is confrontational. To Christians who argue the ins and outs of predestination, to Christians who believe or are toying with believing that God is a universalist who will save everyone, no matter what, Hebrews 12:18-29 cuts through to the bone (see Hebrews 4:12).

"See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven!" (12:25)

The writer is quite clear. Nothing is predetermined around our individual response to the voice of God. We (good readers of Hebrews) may yet be found to have refused God. Nothing is safe about refusing God: there is no escape for those found to have rejected God, such will be found out. God is a 'consuming fire' (12:29) and we should dread what that consumption will do to us if we reject God.

But we do not need to be afraid. The 'sprinkled blood' of Jesus 'speaks a better word than the blood of Abel' (12:24).

Thanks be to God.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Available Light!

Pinching the lovely title of Bishop Kelvin Wright's blog provides a title for this short but important post ...

Papers and audios (not videos, technical problem there) from the Theology of Marriage conference last weekend are available HERE.

Am on the road for a day or two so posting of comments may be infrequent.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jesus never, ever intended this to happen!

UPDATED UPDATE: I won't keep copying material from elsewhere on to this post and thus lengthening. But I refer you again to the Liturgy post and further illuminating discussion there as it develops (even if what is being illuminated is the confusion and/or complexity of the situation as well as possibilities for a way forward).

UPDATE: Bosco Peters has also commented here, in turn generating a robust thread of comments.

My contribution to that thread I also print here:

"The following are my questions in the light of the post and thread of comments above. In parentheses I have placed what my current answers are, pending confirmation/de-confirmation, by Bosco and/or Brian Dawson:

1. Has the lectionary (i.e. as printed by our church annually) set down readings for Sea Sunday? (My answer: yes).

2. Are those readings 'authorised readings via proper Synodical process'? (My answer on the basis of above, "No, they are just recommended readings".)

3. As set out in the lectionary, might liturgy preparers assume that one may choose which readings to use for the day (i.e. RCL or Sea Sunday readings)? (My answer: yes).

4. (More generally, with a particular point of comparison, Sunday 2 June, 2013, Te Pouhere Sunday) does the current manner of setting out Sea Sunday (RCL first, Sea Sunday second) not imply it is a. Optional b. transferable to suit local custom without going 'twice round'? (My answer: Yes.)

(Additional observation: Also, compared to Te Pouhere Sunday, where Te Pouhere is first printed and RCL second, and thus it seems that Te Pouhere DOES take precedence over RCL, it seems plain that by comparison, Sea Sunday is a 'lesser' matter and thus not worthy of "twice round" re some alteration. A simple italicised direction within the lectionary, such as, "or on another Sunday to suit local custom, providing it does not displace a major feast" should do the trick!)"

Then, further comment here on ADU:

In the Calendar, as printed in our prayer book, p.13, Section 6 Other Special Days (iii) the instruction is,

"Those Sundays designated by resolution of General Synod from time to time may be observed.

Aotearoa Sunday - Sunday before Advent
Sea Sunday - Second Sunday in July
Social Services Sunday - Fourth Sunday in July."

Herein, I suggest, lies the origin of current debate over the GS motion now going the twice round process.

My observations: (1) the effect of the word "may" in the cited words above means the three Sundays then described are examples only. (2) They are examples of what General Synod may "resolve". As such they carry no weight from the perspective of our formularies. What General Synod may resolve it may unresolve or it may vary by resolution. (3) Such variation does not require a change to the Calendar, it only requires the editor of the annual lectionary to publish an additional direction. (4) It is unfortunate that the current words in the Calendar (cited above) do not include a phrase such as 'For example' prior to mentioning three specific "resolved" Sundays. After all, what the formulary is laying down is that "resolved" Sundays may be observed. It is not laying down in a definitive manner the extent of the list of such resolved Sundays, not does the permission given require a list within the formulary itself. The list could be within the annual lectionary itself.

Bosco Peters' response on his thread is copied for you here:

"Thank you so much, Peter, for joining this discussion here (as well as providing perspective on your own site). My fundamental point remains that GSTHW needs to take our church’s confused situation seriously. The confusion is evident from seemingly-trivial to very serious.
I think it best to take each of your points and place my own response in italics.
1. Has the lectionary (i.e. as printed by our church annually) set down readings for Sea Sunday? (My answer: yes).
Agreed, there are readings printed in the annual NZ Lectionary 2013 booklet for Sea Sunday. These cannot be used in the Eucharist, as, for the Eucharist, we have an agreed formulary, RCL. And formulary trumps. I am trying to be clear in my distinction between the annual lectionary booklet publication and any other use of the word “lectionary”.
2. Are those readings ‘authorised readings via proper Synodical process’? (My answer on the basis of above, “No, they are just recommended readings”.)
Agreed that the readings printed in the lectionary booklet for Sea Sunday are not part of the Sea Sunday formulary. Page 5 of the booklet lists a full page of “Where does this material come from?” The editors source, internationally and ecumenically, material that, in their opinion, is useful and appropriate.
3. As set out in the lectionary, might liturgy preparers assume that one may choose which readings to use for the day (i.e. RCL or Sea Sunday readings)? (My answer: yes).

I think I have to accept your answer, Peter. I think that the majority of liturgy preparers would rely on the annual lectionary publication. Personally, I just tend to follow RCL, so that often means I might forget to even look in the booklet. I also understand myself as having committed myself in my vows to following RCL when celebrating Eucharist, so it would never cross my mind to replace what I have vowed to do with an interesting other resource. Also, there are occasions when the lectionary booklet, over many years, is clearly in error.
4. (More generally, with a particular point of comparison, Sunday 2 June, 2013, Te Pouhere Sunday) does the current manner of setting out Sea Sunday (RCL first, Sea Sunday second) not imply it is a. Optional b. transferable to suit local custom without going ‘twice round’? (My answer: Yes.)
(Additional observation: Also, compared to Te Pouhere Sunday, where Te Pouhere is first printed and RCL second, and thus it seems that Te Pouhere DOES take precedence over RCL, it seems plain that by comparison, Sea Sunday is a ‘lesser’ matter and thus not worthy of “twice round” re some alteration. A simple italicised direction within the lectionary, such as, “or on another Sunday to suit local custom, providing it does not displace a major feast” should do the trick!)
Thank you for pointing this out Peter. I think, in fact, if that is what the lectionary booklet implies then that is false, and the booklet is misinforming. I think this needs a full post of its own, not a simple comment at the end of a long thread. I now think, especially fromyour own further expansion on your site, that for Sea Sunday, being one of the Sundays “designated by resolution of General Synod from time” (NZPB p13), it is not appropriate for GSTHW to seek the twice round process. This would only be appropriate if GSTHW was seeking to have the possibility of readings replace the ones we have agreed to in RCL. There is nothing in the legislation as it has reached us that suggests that the agreed (RCL) Sunday readings may be replaced."


I do not go looking for Anglican absurdities, stupidities and nonsenses. They just come to my In Box.

The following arrived yesterday. Our diocesan synod is in a couple of weeks' time. In national head office it would appear that a detail of the General Synod in 2012 was overlooked until now, namely the following statute which requires the "twice round" procedure of approval (General Synod, then a majority of diocesan synods, then General Synod again). So, in haste it has been added to our and other diocesan synods' business before General Synod meets again in 2014. Read on ...

"Statute 699

The Calendar – Te Maramataka Amendment Statute 2012

Noting that:

(a)    The General Synod / te Hinota Whanui by Statute 456 in 1988 confirmed the adoption of The Calendar – Te Maramataka as a Formulary, and

(b)   The May 2011 Conference of the Oceania Council for Missions to Seafarers drew attention to the historical date for Sea Sunday on the Second Sunday of July being chosen to suit the, at the time, predominantly English Mission to Seafarers, and is thus in the height of a northern hemisphere summer, when weather permits more easily nautically festive activities, while July in this Church more often delivers weather not conducive to such outdoor nautical activities, and thus the Sunday is already being observed at different times in many places, and

(c)    That Conference requested that in addition to the 2nd Sunday of July, provision be made for Sea Sunday to be celebrated on another Sunday as  determined by local custom, and

(d)    The 2011 International Mission to Seafarers Consultative Forum held in London gave unreserved support to proposing such a change,

The General Synod / te Hinota Whanui enacts as follows:

1.       Title:  The title of this Statute shall be The Calendar – Te Maramataka Amendment Statute 2012.

2.       Purpose: To allow for Sea Sunday to be celebrated on an alternative date to the 2nd Sunday of July as determined by local custom.

3.       The Calendar – Te Maramataka (of A New Zealand Prayer Book / He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa)  - is amended as follows:

                at the appropriate place on page 13, Section 6 (iii), in the Calendar, the words ‘or on a    Sunday as determined by local custom’, are inserted following the words ‘Sea Sunday –    Second Sunday in July’.

4.       Clause 3 of this Statute is the adoption of a specific proposal in terms of Part B, Clause 6(a) of the Constitution/ te Pouhere, and Section 4 (a) of the Church of England Empowering Act 1928, and shall be made known to Te Runanganui o Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, the Synod of the Diocese of Polynesia, and the several Diocesan Synods in New Zealand.

We certify that this Statute was passed by the General Synod/ te Hinota Whanui on 11 July 2012. As witnessed by our hands 14 August 2012.

WB Turei                                              DJ Moxon                                            W Halapua
Primate and Archbishop                               Primate and Archbishop               Primate and Archbishop  

For those unfamiliar with these things, the "twice round procedure" is designed to slow the church's decision-making down, so that we only approve really important things with careful vetting and time for consideration. It is GOOD that we do this when, e.g. revising the prayer book, changing the doctrine of the Trinity (only kidding!), determining who should be celebrated as a worthy saint in the calendar. Such things relate to Jesus and the gospel because they express what we believe to be 'the doctrine of Christ' working its way out in the faith and practice of our church.

I suggest the "twice round" procedure should ONLY be used for such matters and not for others.

For the life of me, I cannot see how Sea Sunday and its place in our calendar has anything to do with the doctrine of Christ. I have even less ability to understand why this particular variation (to permit local custom to prevail) is deserving of the "twice round" procedure.

So, what is the problem? We have raised minor aspects of 'the Calendar' to the same status as the doctrine of the Trinity, the embedding of belief in the prayer book, and, dare I say it, with a view on other aspects of GS 2014, what we believe about marriage. This is absurd, stupid, and nonsensical.

What General Synod should be doing is revising what we believe about the Calendar, not what we believe about Sea Sunday and when it may be celebrated. 101 aspects of the Calendar should be determined by simple resolution. Leave the significant aspects - which saints, martyrs and VIPs - to twice round by all means (it would be terrible to place spiritual frauds on the Calendar). But let us, please, diminish the importance of many aspects of the Calendar.

Whatever Jesus came to do when he founded the church, he did not intend a situation in which the combined forces of scribalism and legalism bore down on the church to create unnecessary business for disciples of Christ intent on working in synod to foster his ministry and mission in the world.

Every so often the church (any church, every church) needs to stand back from its rules and ask, 'Does this have any foundation in the mission of Christ?'

I put it to my church that this proposal highlights a very silly place to which our church has traveled.

POSTSCRIPT: I have similar thoughts about many of the rubrics in A New Zealand Prayer Book. Most rubrics are a guide to practice. They are not as important as the words of the services themselves. One or two rubrics, arguably, express doctrine. Most do not. Yet we have elevated their status via embedding them in the prayer book to the same as the words of the services.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Who is a bishop for?

As reported in Taonga, the synod of the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki have agreed to a nomination for consideration by our wider church for confirmation as bishop to succeed the recently departed for Rome, but not that kind of departure!, ++David Moxon.*

I have spent much of my life in the Anglican church of these particular Down Under islands, and the process of confirmation, via the house of bishops first and then by all the members of General Synod, has been explained to me (as I have then explained to others) in terms of 'a bishop is a bishop for the whole church so the whole church gets a say in who will be bishop.'

That seems so eminently sensible to me, as well as in line with the practice of other Anglican churches, that I have taken it as 'the Anglican' doctrine of bishoping.

But this weekend we had as a guest contributor to the theology of marriage conference, Bishop Tim Harris, Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Adelaide, Australia. It was great to catch up with Tim. One of the topics our conversation covered was the recent election in the Diocese of Sydney. Through that conversation I learned that the Australian Anglican system of choosing bishops is quite different to ours (as we saw, in fact, when +Glenn Davies was elected: there and then the Sydney synod announced to the world that they had chosen their new archbishop, end of story).

Now the Australian church is not only different to ours, but, arguably to many if not all others: how many Anglican churches around the world, for instance, make decisions at General Synod (or equivalent) which are only binding on a diocese if the diocese agrees to the decision?

But, my reflection here is not generally on such differences, but on the notion 'who is a bishop for?' Is a bishop a bishop of the whole church (what does that mean, in any case?)? If so, should the whole church have a say in who their bishops will be? If not, could a bishop be a bishop only within a smaller part of the church than the whole church? (An analogy with 'local shared ministers' springs to mind!)

Back to the Diocese of Waikato and Taranaki. That diocese has two clearly distinct geographical areas within it (i.e. two different rugby teams, actually three, 'cause there is the King Country team as well!). Each bishop concentrates attention on their own geographic area but both bishops lead the whole diocese. One hopes they get along well together!

*For those who do not know, Archbishop David Moxon left his episcopal work in NZ to take up the role of Director of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Tonal quality

Tough Questions Today: Exploring theology of marriage, our Theology House conference, Friday evening to Saturday late afternoon, is over bar the posting of papers and (fingers crossed re me and technology) the audio recordings on the TH website by Thursday this week). I am very grateful to the contributors who provided papers of remarkable depth and, contrary to the expectations of some, managed to find some 'new ground' to ponder if not plough over. That's a general reflection from me, not a promise to analyse each paper in depth in subsequent posts!

Feedback given orally has been encouraging. That the event went well and that kind of supportive evaluation. Neither I nor any participant is under illusion that it was more than a contribution to the ongoing conversation of our church, let alone some 'final word.' I think all are agreed that the 'tone' of the event, that thing which is impossible to organise, was very good. By 'tone' I mean considerate, careful, caring approaches and attitudes to our conversations together. I am grateful to 120+/- participants for making that tone happen.

In reflecting on the event and its possible wider significance, I am wondering about two hunches on my part which arise from the whole event rather than from any one thing said in it or about it. In no particular order ...

1. Are we all, on all sides, tacitly recognising that the way forward is for all to converse together with deep respect and great caution? A large group will all get to the same destination if they walk together rather than break into two or more groups travelling at separate speeds.

2. Are we beginning to acknowledge that the way forward is to find the language, the framework, the description of the future which we can hold in common, rather than to hammer one or other 'position' in the hope that if we do so for long enough or loud enough then eventually those promoting other positions will give in or give up?

The second reflection picks up on at least two observations I make, both about conversation at the conference and elsewhere.

First, that the situation is, in fact, complex around arguing for change to 'marriage' itself. On the face of it, definition of marriage is straightforward to change, one simply 'extends' it or 'varies' it. One is for or against, say, 'marriage is only between a man and a woman' or 'marriage is between any two people'. The latter is just a variation of a few words or just an extension of the scope of 'who' may marry. But, in fact, responsible theology (as undertaken at the conference) recognises the deep 'givenness' of marriage within Scripture, the intricate relationship between creation in God's image, gender differentiation, procreation, companionship and the telos of creation expressed in marriage imagery. Marriage in theological terms is not a Concise Oxford definition. Change to definition is conceivable in theological terms but there is a lot of work to do and it has not yet been done. It might not get there in terms of finding common ground, hence the next observation.

Secondly, that the situation may yield a way forward which is discovered in terms associated with marriage but not in terms of marriage itself. When the church is not against gay people per se, when the church is for relationships and community life, and when the church is for sinners because we are all sinners and all fall short of the glory of God, we must be open (in the long run, at least) to finding the language of theological common ground which enables us to respect and cherish one another and the loving, permanent, stable, committed relationships we all form. In specific and concise terms, is there a way forward to be found when we talk about (one or more of) friendship, companionship, souls knitted together, households and family?

To put all this in another way: it is sometimes said of current debates that 'no one ever changes their minds.' Does that mean no one ever changes or will change their mind, or does that mean that we have not yet found the common mind people of differing and unchanging views might yet discover?

Here is my wildest hunch: everyone, deep down, wants to discover that common ground.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Busy as

There won't be much to say here for a few days as there is much to do and say elsewhere. The Tough Questions Today: Exploring Theology of Marriage conference starts tomorrow night at 7.30 pm and continues all day Saturday. I have hosting duties for one speaker who is also preaching at the cathedral on Sunday morning (which is cool as I will attend my first Sunday services there).

Speaking of the cathedral, we had a wonderful city-wide church leaders' prayer breakfast inside the cathedral yesterday. The versatility of the cathedral for such an event is excellent. Not only could we eat, pray and listen in the nave and then pack down tables and reset chairs, but the plain south wall (save for cross hanging on it) provided an excellent screen for projection of images and video.

Tonight is the opening dedication eucharist at 7 pm for the new cathedral. Some 500 - 700 people are expected.

But before then is the matter of revising my talk for the conference and 101 other things. Hopefully back here Monday ...

PS Good news for cricket fans in Christchurch, here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lousy jerk

Good read here on The Gospel According to Kierkegaard.

Radner undone?

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

From the original post:

"To those advocating for change to our understanding of human sexuality in general and to marriage in particular, or, for that matter, to those advocating not to change, Ephraim Radner has published (IMHO) as good an argument as one can find anywhere that "Same-Sex Marriage is Still Wrong."

But, how good is this argument? Discuss." Some good discussion then occurred (thank you, commenters).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I like it

Our new cathedral (the world's newest cathedral) is up and running. It has had two Sundays of services, some concerts, doors open for the general public to visit, and an opening service this Thursday evening. A warm, appreciative article in our local paper, with great pics is here.

I have had a chance to visit twice and tomorrow will be back there for a city church leaders' breakfast, at which Bishop Victoria will speak.

I like what I experience in the cathedral. The natural light pouring into it, between the cardboard tubes is lovely, assisting a sense of warmth and welcome into God's presence. The tapering effect, from the width of the entrance at the north end to a slightly narrower south end, along with the soaring height achieved by the triangular roof means one is drawn to look to the cross which hangs above the stage where table and cathedra sit.

The entrance to the cathedral is impressive and a model for many new churches to consider. Instead of the classic entrance through comparatively narrow doors, perhaps situated at the foot of a tower, our cathedral offers a glass-walled end of the cathedral, with large doors into a wide foyer(see first picture below). There is no question as one walks towards the entrance that one is welcome!

The cathedral is intended to have a limited life as a cathedral. Once the permanent cathedral is built in the Square, the transitional cathedral will become a parish church for St John's Latimer Square. I think I can safely say the following as by that time I will be of retirement age, but I would love to be the vicar of a parish with such an impressive church!

PS. For a left-wing view of the cathedral, read what The Guardian has to say.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

I am a Calvinist. Are you?

Michael Bird on his blog Euangelion (sidebar here) notes that there is a free sample of his latest book Evangelical Theology being made available by Zondervan.

Reading a bit of it I noticed this:

"So when I explain Calvinism to people, I usually say this: “People suck, they suck in sin, they are suckness unto death. And the God who is rich in mercy takes the initiative to save people from the penalty, the power, and even the presence of this sin. This is Calvinism, the rest is commentary.” "

On that basis I am a Calvinist too. And pleased to be one. What about you?

BONUS LINK for the weekend: Richard Dawkins is an undercover agent for the Big Religa. Heh!

And another: Peter Mullen at Cranmer writing on the truth about ... that much misunderstood concept which is the key to understanding all theology, especially Calvinism :).

Friday, August 9, 2013

Are Christians nuts?

Picking up from the post below about Knowing God, two questions probably do not challenge us on an everyday basis when we read the Bible, listen to a sermon or have a theological conversation over coffee. But every so often we should consider:

"(a) if 'reason' is impaired through sin, how can we make any claim to know the truth?

(b) how can Scripture be the only valid guide to doctrine when there are disagreements over its interpretation and the doctrines that are derived from it?"

One possible answer to both questions is that Christians are nuts. That is, a Christian claim to know God is irrational. There is something of a respectable history to that answer, running through the theologies of Kierkegaard and Barth (for instance but at risk of over simplifying the sophistication of their work), so that the Christian claim to know God is focused on God disclosing God to us, independent of any rational apprehension of God, and disagreements over interpretation are a fog created by trying to understand the Bible with our fallen minds. One difficulty with heading along such a line of reception of revelation is that it can work quite well among generally level-headed Christians and it can have disastrous effects among Christians prone to following a leader who turns out to be, well, nuts.

Actually, the answer I want to propose is arguably not deeply different from the above paragraph. If our reason is impaired then it needs repair. Reason can scarcely repair itself (since we would not know, in the nature of things, whether the repair was successful) so the repair needs to come from outside of ourselves and from a source capable of fixing it. In short, reason can be repaired by God and the mender is the Holy Spirit. (We could also use language of redemption: reason has fallen into slavery, serving sin but Christ has redeemed it for free service in the kingdom of light). Our claim to know the truth of God is a claim that our minds are able to be renewed by God working within us so that our reasoning faculty truthfully comprehends God - this is what is disclosed to us about the working of the Holy Spirit in Romans, notably and summarily in Romans 12:1-2. But this theological claim looks philosophically irrational as a foundation of knowledge comes from beyond reason. Fallen rationality plus gifted spirituality equals true knowledge.

In turn, this claim smacks against the second question above. If God has repaired our minds why do we not all think coherently and harmoniously, as, indeed, Paul urges in Philippians 2:1-5? Surely, on the analysis advanced here, continuing disagreements over the interpretation of Scripture are testimony to God's inability to completely heal our minds? Further, do such disputes not call into question the purity of divine revelation through Scripture. No one disputes clean water when all drink it. Disputes arise over brackish water. One claims it is salty, another that it is dirty.

That will do for today. More whenever I can come back to the matter.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

If it believes, tax it?

What do you think? Is 'religion' a charity or a tax-raising opportunity?

I was wrong and that is good!

I am back from some more travelling (onshore not offshore) and am catching up with the news from Sydney where Glenn Davies has been elected the new Archbishop (see here and here and here). That means I was not just wrong but very wrong when some months ago I posted with the headline 'Glenn, I would withdraw now'. Why did I write that and what did I miss?

I wrote that because I was impressed with the numbers and the names being marshaled in support of Rick Smith. It looked like 'the establishment' if not 'the hierarchy' of the diocese was naming 'its' candidate. To an extent I think that was so (because an impressive number were from Standing Committee and from Moore College, and the Dean of Sydney, Philip Jensen was among the prominent names). But what I clearly misread was the possibility that the Diocese in its vote would be capable of signalling a change from the direction it had been heading in.

Since I am a flawed interpreter the following sentences may be worthless but I will write them anyway. I suggest that the election was not about either Glenn Davies or Rick Smith (on all accounts very fine men in their character and very equal in their theological convictions) but about the theological character of the Diocese as it moves forward into a new future. The appalling (and I use that word deliberately) attempts in the last few days before the election to cast shadows of doubt on the theological convictions of Bishop Glenn Davies* serves as a salutary reminder that a strong motivation behind support for Rick Smith was the maintenance of a theological purity of a particular 'Reformed Evangelicalism' kind. By electing Glenn Davies to be the next archbishop I suggest the Diocese of Sydney has said, "Enough. We are going to live with a degree of tolerance among ourselves as to what constitutes conservative evangelicalism."

No one should expect (say) the ordination of women as presbyters to come to Sydney any time soon. But should that come to pass in 100 years time, historians will look back on 2013 as the year in which the Diocese indicated it would be open to a wider variety of theological voices speaking into the life of the Diocese than has hitherto been the case.

*Non-evangelical readers may need to understand that within conservative evangelicalism the mere casting of shadows of doubt on a brother or sister's theological standing within the evangelical community can be the death-knell of hopes for appointment, retention of tenure, continued invitations to speak and preach ... It would now appear that these attempts were the desperate attempts of supporters realising that the tide was flowing against them.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Philip, what is going on?

Today is the day that the election in Synod begins. It is sad to report at the beginning of this day that the Very Rev Philip Jensen, Dean of Sydney and leading proponent of Rick Smith for Archbishop has been misrepresenting the other candidate's views in the context of an important election. (In the context of academic debate one could have a leisurely to and fro across several articles to clarify matters when misunderstanding/misrepresenting occurs. A couple of days out from an election it is plain unfair to make allegations about the theology of a candidate in an election where theology is very, very important). Read for yourself the pickle Jensen (and the also naughty Australian Church Record) has thrown the election into, here. Glenn Davies himself feels he has to respond to the misrepresentation. Sadly, if Rick Smith is elected there will be Sydney Anglicans who will wonder about the fairness of the campaign conducted by his supporters. A double sadness because Rick himself has kept entirely out of the fray of such tactics. 

On further reflection, do supporters of Rick Smith feel they might lose ...? What is at stake, let us remember, is not so much which person is elected but which grouping within the diocese has control of the future theological and missional direction of the diocese.

(PS: The link above takes one to a civil, polite response to the misrepresentation. But on Facebook I see a colleague noting that Facebook exchanges in the build up to the election are 'toxic'. What is at stake that leads to such intensity of feeling?)

In another part of the world there has been a bit of dust up over a book about Jesus written by a Muslim with a now viral video of a Fox TV interviewer making herself look silly as she interviewed the author. Good for book sales though. Of possible interest is review of the book itself, here and here.

++Justin Welby is going to be a great leader of the C of E and of Anglicanism. Why? Because he understands where we are in history. In a crisis we need leaders who can look beyond the crisis to what comes next. Check out a major address he has given recently to New Wine. His point about religious communities is pertinent - a visit yesterday to a local community here (Beatitudes, Leithfield, for local Canty readers) reminded me of the "light" work such communities do in the growth of the kingdom.

I have a motion to put to our Synod in a month's time which asks our ministry units to celebrate the bicentenary in 2014 of Samuel Marsden preaching the gospel for the first time on Aotearoa NZ shores by doing some evangelism. One possible way to do evangelism in our islands in 2014 is to embark on a local, even a national hikoi (journey) through sacred sites and special places. Bishop Kelvin Wright has a plan for his diocese which we could all read and ponder on the imitation thereof.

Near finally, for today, and maybe for a few days to come as busy in the life of our church, a reminder that each week I am attempting to publish reflections and notes on the readings for the Sunday to come, at Resourcing Preaching and Worship Down Under.

Last but not least in this round up, for NZ readers, and those here in Canterbury and Westland in particular, just seven days to go until the close of registrations for the Tough Questions Today: Exploring Theology of Marriage conference, 16-17 August. All the details are here.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

A dream comes true

At short notice, on a day when many people worked very hard to get the transitional cathedral ready for handing over the keys, from builder to new owner, an email said "4.30 pm" would be the time for the ceremony and brief prayers. Unfortunately I had a meeting then, but courtesy of an ADU correspondent I can bring you a few pics, and there is a Stuff article to read here. It has been a long road from the initial announcement in 2011 to yesterday. And there is still the question of how it is all to be paid for. But today we can celebrate the dream become reality. The interior looks great and I am looking forward to seeing it for myself. Here are the snaps:

Friday, August 2, 2013

Framing the question well, the maths might still be skewed

As a follow up to my Sydney election post below, you might be interested in two documents John Dickson (Twitter: @johnpauldickson) points to, concerning claims and counter-claims about what percentage 'of the diocese' is supporting Rick Smith as the sand runs through the hourglass to the election. A glossy brochure here makes certain numerical claims about Rick's support and a document here makes certain claims about the glossiness of the numbers.

By about this time next week, it will all be done and dusted in the one poll which counts.

And as a follow up to the above initial posting, you might be interested in this in the SMH.

Knowing God

In a recent post, the Limits of Authority?, a conversation followed in the comments, about 'reason' and its role in the discernment of truth. (See below re cited comments.) This led to a challenge as to whether I agreed or disagreed with the presuppositions of commenter Shawn. I guess the challenge has an air of dilemma as commenter Alison attempted to illustrate an impaired argument in Shawn's comments. Thus if I agree with Shawn I am allegedly a man offering an impaired argument and if I disagree with Shawn I am not a true conservative. Yes or no?

At stake is not so much the personal expressions of these matters by either Shawn or I but the general line of Reformed Protestant theology as it evaluates the roles of Scripture, tradition and reason, proposes the singular importance of Scripture ('sola Scriptura' or Scripture alone), makes claims about the clarity of Scripture, works out principles of interpretation, and thus generally makes claims concerning our knowledge of God's revelation in a theological world in which there are a variety of claims competing with one another (principally Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Reformed Protestantism, Anglicanism (to the extent it has distinctive features not shared with the other claimants) and liberal Protestantism).

Clearly one way to answer Alison's question would be to write a very long book, encompassing (at least) Scripture, Augustine (maybe Origen as well), Basil & co, Luther, Calvin, Schleiermacher, Barth, Ricoeur and Thiselton. Another way is fewer words, here and now, but at greater risk of further dispute!

The important questions Alison raises, as I see it, are these:

(a) if 'reason' is impaired through sin, how can we make any claim to know the truth?

(b) how can Scripture be the only valid guide to doctrine when there are disagreements over its interpretation and the doctrines that are derived from it?

But Alison has also asked if I agree with Shawn's presuppositions. In order not to avoid that question let me say straight up that I agree with Shawn that human reasoning is impaired through the Fall (1), Scripture alone is the only valid basis for church doctrine (2), and Scripture is clear in what it teaches (3). Where, on further conversation with Shawn, we might disagree (as best I can make out on the basis of comments which I always try to remember are brief rather than comprehensive statements) is (3) the extent of Scripture's clarity: the general Protestant claim is that this clarity concerns Scripture on salvation (a point made in this post) rather than Scripture on everything.

In a slightly more extended answer I think one should also say: (1) 'the Fall' is not a uniform understanding across all of Western and Eastern Christianity, but does that really matter? The claim about human reasoning being impaired through the entry of sin into the world is a claim which does not rest solely on an interpretation of Genesis 3. It rests on the understanding of sin in the Bible, that it infiltrates and affects every aspect of human life. The claim about reason is a claim that human reasoning is prone to think in wobbly ways about God, to head for conclusions which suit us rather than God's truth. That is, human reasoning is not naive and sinless, an infallible means of leading us to God's truth. (2) Scripture is the 'only valid basis for church doctrine' because it is the foundational text of Israel and the church, recording for all generations the voice of God spoken through the prophets, apostles and most especially, through God's only Son. All other bases for church doctrine must be measured against this record of the voice of God.

Saying that still leaves Alison's two questions to respond to. I shall attempt to get back to them later in this post, but for now I will post it ...


S: "Because of original sin, human reason is radically corrupted, and not a reliable guide. Nor are human beings reliable, whether scientists, philosophers, or Church authorities.

Scripture alone is the only valid basis for Church doctrine."

A: "Rather, all Shawn’s points are derived from Scripture by “human reason” which in Shawn’s case is “not a reliable guide”. All three of Shawn’s conclusions from Shawn’s “radically corrupted” reasoning are not universally held by Christians, nor have they been universally held in the Christian Tradition.

Also, as has been mentioned here before, those who hold to Shawn’s conclusion cannot agree with each other on the Church doctrine that they claim Scripture is the basis for."

S: "On Original Sin; "Sin came into the world through one man." Romans 5:12.

And; "The judgement following one trespass brought condemnation on all." Romans 5:16

And; "we were BY NATURE children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." Ephesians 6:4

On the corruption of human reason; "They are darkened in their understanding." Ephesians 4:18

On the sufficiency of Scripture alone; "ALL SCRIPTURE is breathed out by God." 2 Timothy 3:16......... No mention of tradition also being so.

Those are just a small sample of relevant passages concerning those doctrines. Many more could be cited.

As far as disagreements over Scripture are concerned they are always a result of human error and sin, rather than a problem with the clarity or sufficiency of Scripture."

A: "Revelation is by Scripture alone. There are different interpretations of Scripture. This is the fault of human error and sin. Human reason is radically corrupted and so cannot be relied upon to rightly interpret the Scripture. Numbers do not matter. So a minority interpretation can be the truth, and a majority position false.

So God has produced the only source of revelation knowing that we cannot use it for that purpose. And with eternally devastating consequences, or so some interpretations of Scripture have it – but who knows!

As to Shawn’s scattering of Bible quotes – some are well-known for their ambiguity even in the original Greek, none mention the doctrine explicitly, and all are open to a variety of interpretations. "