Monday, November 11, 2019

Bleak or blessed? A rejoinder to and extension of previous post, by Bryden Black

The following guest post, by the Rev. Dr. Bryden Black, Christchurch, picks up on matters brought forward in the previous post (last Monday) and thread of comments below it ... It begins with an address to one of the commenters on the thread, the Rev. Ron Smith, Christchurch.

I have waited until now, Ron, to respond to you—often the first cab off the rank—as I’ve been enjoying the various lines of conversation developing here, raising not just intriguing ideas, but perhaps even rather vital ones. And trying now to maintain the good faith I’ve been at some pains recently to cultivate between us, it’s time to address your take on matters ’Strain, with which you kicked things off. 

Since you have necessarily given us some of the details of your own life experience in your comments, it might help you (and others) similarly to know some of my own autobiographical details. For in this way, we may all evaluate better our respective understandings of our own various experiences. And yes; those with sharp eyes and ears will pick up key echoes of Bernard Lonergan at work: evaluate our understandings of our experiences. What I am deliberately attempting also here is a cross reference to another thread, where Bowman threw down the hermeneutical gauntlet. See please “So, you be the judge ... of many links and what they say (UPDATED)”, especially comments dated Nov 3, 2019 at 4:10 PM through to Nov 4, 2019 at 2:20 PM. We’ll come back to this thread at the end. 

With apologies now for the subjectivity, on which I have tried to be necessarily selective to the task. But if we in the AC, at all its various levels, from the grandly global down to the humbly parochial and back up again, are ever, ever to emerge from this “slow moving train wreck” (Tom Wright, of our dear Church) with anything like a scrap of dignity (humanly speaking), we really need to learn engagement “face-to-face” (Emmanuel Levinas)—with humility and openness, mirroring the very Being of the Triune God in whose Image Christians claim humanity is made, and are now graciously being redeemed in Christ Jesus. [Sorry; H/T my own The Lion, the Dove, & the Lamb.] And no; I am not trying to reinvent the Indaba Process. I am merely facing facts, as per Oliver O’Donovan’s seminal judgment that the real, true conversation has barely begun. [My own take on the reasons why is not the point of the thread here.] 

My father was born in Melbourne of Kiwi parents. He finished his secondary schooling back in Christchurch. He fought with the ANZACs in North Africa, and was captured by the Italians just ahead of El Alamein, finishing the war a POW both in Italy and Germany. He was a personal friend of Charlie Upham, their being ‘in the bag’ together. My parents were married after WW2 in Opawa. Her story is even more fun and varied; but because she was a very private person and an only child, I will respect that privacy. 

My first encounter with Australasia was in utero, but I was then born in London coz me mum happened to be there at the time. Between the ages of 0-41⁄2 we’d gone around the world twice, mostly of course in ships! Australasia featured twice, and I recall that second return from Southampton to Auckland like it were y’day. (There are of course earlier distilled ‘pictures’ too.) The “Crossing of The Line” antics mid Pacific were a sight to behold for one just four; the Captain had only just vacated his Table for all the children on board to have a massive High Tea, with moi in his chair. It were my fourth birthday, see! 

Fast forward. After leaving school in UK, I took an extended ‘gap year’ back in Australasia, mostly but not exclusively as jackaroo and useless shepherd. Thereafter of course, UCR (University College of Rhodesia) featured, and I took a BA Gen in what was then Salisbury. I was also massively ‘educated’ beyond the academic ... Let the reader understand, and not just uni life, but Rhodesia, 1965-80. 

During that uni period, there are three vital things to note. Having kicked ‘the religious habit’ a few months after the Bp of Winchester laid hands on me at Confirmation - it was after all the 1960s - I became a believing, practising Christian during a university mission led by Peter Hall, who later ministered in Birmingham and SE London. Secondly, UCR was supposedly a multiracial oasis surrounded by ... well, what? Given the history of Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia, it was never quite RSA with its Apartheid. Even if there were some grotesque parallels, there were also many significant differences. And those very differences granted for a start that very campus, a University College of London. Lastly, I met there my wife-to-be, who became a doctor and remains a faithful member of RCC. 

My diocese of origin is Mashonaland/Harare, my being ordained there in 1977 by a wonderful man, Paul Burrough. For you history buffs, Southern Rhodesia was once part of the Church of the Province of South Africa. This meant that the flavour of Anglicanism in that part of the world was distinctly ‘spiky’, by and large. I well remember once seeing with bewilderment the celebrant at the end of HC wander off into the corner and start reciting the Fourth Gospel’s Prologue! For you see I was (still am, among many other dimensions) supposedly an Evangelical! In fact, only a wise ecclesial decision had established an explicitly Evangelical parish in Harare, Avondale, who were allowed to use the 1662 BCP as opposed to the South African Prayer Book, thus averting the importation into Southern Rhodesia (for a while) The Church of England in South Africa. We’ve been here before folks! Well, sort of ... After 8 years of ministry in Harare (none of which was with St Mary’s, Avondale, BTW), my wife and I with then 2 children went back to England, where I embarked upon an intense two year period of doctoral study at Wycliffe Hall, my old training college. What a blast! We then returned to Melbourne. 

David Penman, a Kiwi, was the Archbishop in 1987, whom I’d already met in 1985 while our longer term plans were developing. Again, long story short, I became, first, the Field Worker in the Dept of Evangelism & Church Growth, and then its Director, 1988-94. The Dept had been duly established by Abp DP under a truly great man, Peter Corney, then vicar of Kew and Archdeacon of Evangelism, and all this ahead of the so-called Decade of Evangelism around the AC (ala Lambeth 1988). Remember that folks ...?! 

Of course it was an impossible task, with an over ambitious job description. Yet both DP and PC were/are missionaries at heart - thank you Lord for their tutelage. Rapidly, I was forced to crawl with the worms and fly with the eagles (yes; those with sharp eyes and ears will pick up key echoes of Deut Isa). From engagements with small parish groups—and that meant inevitably encounters one-on-one so often—to inter-church bodies (VCC, NSW Uniting Church Mission and Evangelism group), with even the odd national jaunt, it was a real ride! I am ever convinced they got less than I received! 

Phase Two of my ministry was a curate’s egg. Anchored in the rapidly changing Inner City Parish of Port Melbourne, we, a small team, tried a Comunity Development model of local mission. Two ‘programmes’ stood out. There was this ‘Youth Group’ of kids, 9-15, from the High Rises, which we co-shared with the UCA next door. Its suburb, South Melbourne, had the reputed highest youth suicide rate nationally. And what a fantastic joy—and tragedy ... And then there was the Asylum Seeker Centre venture. Federal Govt funds MRCs, Migrant Resource Centres. And despite the often bad rap the governments across the Ditch themselves might get, here is a one-stop shop, well oiled with cash, of which we were JEALOUS. We turned such a vice into a virtue; we befriended members of the local MRC, and our ASC ‘traded’ with them. Gloriously, the ministry is still going, having morphed for the fifty-first time; see David Spitteler on FaceBook. 

From all of which I’d have to say I have a certain series of takes on the churches and the Church across that Ditch. I have had friends (let alone contacts) from just about every brand of Anglicanism you might muster amongst that ‘variegated creature’ that is the Anglican Archdiocese of Melbourne! And please don’t forget the interchurch and interstate stuff either. In addition, the actual individuals and/or parishes (or whatever groupings) will all have their own respective ‘Rubicons’, as it were, when they do or don’t or might ‘cross over’ and move - yet ...? [See “So you be the judge ...” @ October 23, 2019 at 11:30 AM]

Sure; some of what I once knew may be somewhat outdated, but we still have some key contemporary links. Our oldest daughter and family live there still, and my wife and I of course see them frequently enough, doing joyous grand-parenting duties! Crucially, Peter Corney is still alive (running his active website too!), and we’re in contact off and on, and meet up occasionally. We always call in on fellow Port Melbourne types when over—always! And then there’s my most long-standing acquaintance over there ecclesially (never quite became a friendship due to geography), Peter Jensen and his wife Christine, whom I first met when we were together in Oxford 1976-77; and we cross paths once in a while still also. And last but certainly not least, how’s this for Providence?! On the very first Sunday after 22nd February 2011 earthquake, who should come popping into St Christopher’s (where I was PiC at the time) but an old School friend I hadn’t met in years; we were in the same Boarding House together, for goodness’ sake! He’s ... got something to do with Sydney Dio Synod etc. We’ve met a number of times since; our wives have met; and it’s all great fun. Yet when they are not present, while the range of subjects is vast, it always includes our respective global takes on the dear old AC and her ragged clothing ...

So; Bleak - or blessed?

Well; the slow moving train wreck is surely upon us—always would be, if my assessment in that earlier thread is correct; see October 23, 2019 at 11:29 AM on “So; you be the judge ...”. For Tom Wright has sadly nailed it: we are “a slow moving train wreck.” And lastly, crucially, do please also recall that Terry Fulham exegesis of Isa 40 I cited again under that earlier thread “So, you be the judge ...” @ October 30, 2019 at 8:59 PM. We will NEVER appreciate what’s going on until we acknowledge that scorching Sirocco wind from the Sahara, Isa 40:6-8, sandwiched as it is between otherwise beautiful, hopeful oracles. One has to ponder deeply why it forms such a crucial part of the prophet’s call narrative as he stands in the Council of Yahweh, overhearing their deliberations, only to interject, “What shall I cry?”
[MUCH of course turns on who’s saying what, on where all the inverted commas go - or don’t go.] 

Yet if I may/must push back in a most specific direction, dear Ron, to all you’ve said on this thread alone above, even if via that inevitable medium so tested by time, satire, I’d publish - which I will not - a ‘translation’ I’ve sighted of the “GSSC response to Sydney”, Taonga 13 Nov 18. It would surely make a cat laugh, and a script worthy of any Monty Python Sketch or Goons Show. Sure; it’s a bit amateurish - perhaps. YET it helps to reveal so aptly where we are truly at. “Lost in Translation” doesn’t begin to cut it (and its author is not an Anglican, BTW, just a Christian ‘expert’, working in journalism - and NOT an Aussie! These things are always fascinating). There are many, many dynamics at work here ... Including the Providence clearly witnessed throughout Isa 40-55. For Providence is, as Mr Beaver, states: 

‘Safe?’said Mr Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he is good. He’s the King, I tell you.’ 

So; as they say in Shona, “Tatenda!”, Ron, Thank-you. For thanks to your customary kick-start, there may just be a wee angelic crack opening up here on this blog: I DARE TO BELIEVE - AND HOPE, AND TRULY LOVE. God being my Helper ... Amine! 

PS. January 2000 saw us return to Chch and begin another chapter. But that’s another story (perhaps) for another time ...

My answer: blessed - or bleak? 

And now for the thorniest of questions, Peter’s title. Herewith my meagre stab at an answer: neither and yet both, both and yet neither. 

“Now, surely, you’re merely playing word games, Bryden”, quickly comes the retort! Well; again, yes and no; sic et non, as the medieval Latin theologians used to say - with now a distinctly modern, or should that be postmodern, twist. How so? Via a very careful examination of some key New Testament forms of discourse. I shall be brief. 

Let’s start with Paul. In the likes of say Rom 5:1-5 and thereafter chapter 8, “suffering” and “glory” are clearly opposites. They are opposites both by nature and chronologically. The one state follows the other, it seems. Similarly, we have a pair of opposites, driven by the Old Testament form of covenant, in Galatians, chs 3-4. For you cannot get a greater pair of opposites than “blessing” and “cursing”. Yet even here there might be hints of something else being at work as well. And Paul, the Christian rabbi, plays a gloriously figurative game from Torah, 4:21ff. (Caveat lector; I have just played my own wee game.) 

The greatest and most succinct form of opposites in Paul might possibly be 2 Cor 4:17-18, set within that remarkably dense passage starting at 2:14 and running right through to 6:13. Here the nature of each is additionally qualified by adjectives, as well as by the stark, chronological nature of each. 

But let’s turn now to the Fourth Gospel, and ask an essential question, which, if we don’t even realise is a question, we will never understand what John is up to. Cutting to the chase, What is the nature of “divine glory”? And when and how is it revealed? John’s entire book gives us both question and answer. To be sure, I’m not now going to go about exegeting 21 chapters of some of the most, yes, glorious literature in the world. 

The answers revolve around these observations. The Son of Man’s Hour of Glory is when he is “lifted up” from the Earth. This is the revelation of the divine glory, the Father’s eternal glory, which is shared uniquely and singularly with the Son (say, ch.17), who as Incarnate One reveals and embodies and enacts that very glory here on Earth. Yet that revelation is far from straightforward. And this revelation is far from easily or straightforwardly - at least in the first instance, seemingly - received or acknowledged or realised (yes; that key word I play with in God’s Address). For that very process of being “lifted up”, that essential drama whereby the Father is glorified in the Son and the Son glorifies his Father (see esp 13:31-32, 12:20-36), is a classic piece of double entendre, where the thing is explicitly double layered, and even more so ... 

For being “lifted up” means two things in John: quite literally, it means being physically strung up some metres above the ground upon a Roman gibbet; then, both physically and spiritually it means being “lifted up” out of the grave. The Hour of Jesus’ glory is the impenetrable combination of both crucifixion and resurrection, resurrection and crucifixion. Here is the divine glory shown, declared-and-demonstrated amongst humanity—by means of crucifixion-&-resurrection-&-resurrection-&-crucifixion. Nor are we quite done. 

That divine glory precisely and intentionally spills over. For the Glory of the Father is notably, when the full drama of the Fourth Gospel has run its course and the Hour of Glory has come, the begetting of many additional sons and daughters (τέκνα/ tekna = children) from among humanity, through the Son (υióς/huios), Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They are granted “eternal life”, which is nothing less than their dwelling in/with the Father and the Son in the Spirit, and this God’s dwelling in/among them (see especially 13:3- 17:26; 20:21-22; and see too therefore Rev 21:3,22-24). More formally, we may say that the destiny of human beings is nothing less than to participate in the life and light, the love and freedom of the triune Godhead, “sharing the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), an idea beloved of the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

So what has happened to Paul’s more simple – or is it really so simple? - set of opposites with which we began? The clue for him of course is the most famous opening set of chapters to 1 Cor, chs 1-4. Here divine and human power, and divine and human wisdom - both pairs of opposites - get smartly flipped on their heads. So even within Paul and his theological patterns of thinking, and so exhortation to forms of Christian living, we meet some profound forms of paradox. 

So; back to Peter’s question. Is the future bleak? Or is it to be blessed? Once again I answer as above. But this time I hope with the Gospel’s rays of Jesus passing through the prismatic effect of all that I have said, so that our language, and our forms of thinking, let alone our very forms of living practice, are filtered by Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. That is to say, in as much as we humans are “in union with Christ Jesus”, so too will the Holy Spirit pass us through/shine us through the prism of cross and resurrection, resurrection and crucifixion, refashioning us (back) into the Image/Form of God. Just so, Phil 3:10-11, with its compressed chiasmic form, set firmly within its remarkable context. 

And just so too, Rom 12:1-2, set within its context, marking it as the fulcrum of all else: 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual/reasonable worship. Do not be conformed to this world/aeon, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


Bryden Black said...

I apologize for the length of this spiel (sic) folks. Yet both his grace the lord Bishop of Chch (Anglicana) and I thought it might assist us all here to work a way through the difficult times in which we are being called to navigate our wee barque ... well, make that barques now ...
So; let's not be timid - no time now for that! I waited a few weeks to pick up on dear Ron who kicked us off here on ADU with his characteristic opening up comments. HAD to wait ... and ponder.
"Ladies and gentlemen; the gates are up and the horses are off and running ..." Do you wish to ride one, and see what trace we're in ...?!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden
Fear not ... I am cogitating!

But, to give a hint, I think I am heading in a direction of "what are limits (or otherwise) to diversity (in Anglicanland and Anglican lands)?"

More later but not sure when.

Peter Carrell said...

I am not sure, Bryden, that I can do justice to the “density” of your prose (“glorious literature”) but I would like to make some observations rather than compose an essay in response, not being entirely sure, to be front, whether I am supporting your line or doing something else!

1. Bleak or blessed? It could take a while to tell. When do we know that any church is “bleak” or “blessed”? Are churches necessarily both? (Arguably ...) The Roman Catholic Church (globally speaking) is blessed (largest numbers in toto; significant claims to be faithful, orthodox) and bleak (horrible stories of abuse; of cover up; uncertain currently whether it might split (at worst) or sustain considerable ill-feeling about the Pope (at best).) How would we know (beyond living say for another couple of hundred years), whether the Anglican churches of the world, separately and collectively (in various modes of collectivity!) are blessed or bleak in state as they come through the fires of the 21st century?

2. Anglican diversity: yes, I get it that your invocation of Romans 12:1-2 and all that lies behind that invocation is a sturdy, single theological line that does not admit (as I understand it) of much diversity on certain matters, but the fact is that there is diversity of thought among Anglicans (and that includes diversity on whether Anglicans agree or disagree with you!) That is until Anglicans line up with your line, they are likely to think different thoughts on various things and thus the question remains (as it has through past decades, and centuries!) what are the limits to that diversity? What resilience do Anglicans have as we live with tension? A fascinating observation was relayed to me recently, from within your own beloved Africa. To be sure, I don’t think it came from Nigeria or Uganda! But it went something like this: We disagree with you Kiwis [i.e. ACANZP] but we have our own disagreements here on this continent, where there is too much killing going on, so we are prepared to continue in communion with you. I think Lambeth 2020 will be fascinating. No doubt the “usual suspects” will turn up in droves and another set of “usual suspects” will stay away in droves. But who might the unexpected turner uppers be? (And the converse). I imagine there will be a mixture of bleak and blessed about the conference as we think about its meaning for the future of global Anglican communion/Communion. But will it be, could it be more blessed than bleak?

3. I don’t know the Australian Anglican scene 1/100th as much as you do, but I wonder if the 1 and 2 above might apply ...!

That is enough for now!

Anonymous said...

I'm lost. Which comments from Father Ron are thought to have started whatever conversation this is?


Father Ron said...

VERY, VERRRY interesting! I suppose the main thing that stuck out a mile to me, Bryden, was your close association with the one-time Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen (present, large as life, at the recent inauguration of a rival church leader in Christchurch). One wonders, Bryden, whether you met him again here? It would have been good for you both to talk about 'Old Times' and to cogitate on what you both might determine as 'Pastures New' - being brought into being by the GAFCON prelates and others at Saint Andrew's College campus.

One thing strikes me about this talk of devolution in Anglicanland, is the fact that, when Jesus addressed Peter about his role in the birthing of the New Covenant Church - before the beginning of which, you may remember, Peter had 'denied Jesus thrice' - Jesus had said the 'The Gates of Hell' would not prevail; against it. As a priest in Christ's Church, I can never forget that promise of Jesus.

Here, in an affectionate nod to Bowman is my latest offering on - kiwianglo - about 'synodality',

Anonymous said...

My best guess is that this brydenian rhapsody is a personal reply to Father Ron's general view that Sydney etc are Mordor etc. At least as a commentator, I am content to stay out of that, although I do not doubt that such a dialogue could be worthwhile, even urgent.

As a reader, I suppose I should declare that I am happy to know of worthwhile things to read, but I am too busy to look up references as I do read simply to figure out what a commentator wanted to me to understand but did not want to have to say to me. Frankly and charitably, what has not been said directly in a thread with some relation to the OP is not heard by this reader at all. This has much less to do with anyone or anything down under than with the election cycle here up yonder.

Bryden is kind to mention what he calls my "hermeneutical gauntlet" on another thread. That can be burdensome to look up, but fortunately it is easy to restate briefly.

Marriage is an institution in time that each of the usual sides reduces to a favoured category that it deems timeless-- the word, human rights-- yet neither has shown that its soaring abstraction makes sense of the concrete pairbonding in nature that humanity, Israel, the Body, and we have known through subsequent ages, nor have they supplied godly motivation for resorting to any abstraction at all. Why then should we think that their abstractions about pairbonding in nature and history have any more purchase than say *the divine right of kings* as an account of the ever-evolving state? Because they are willing to divide the Body over this, an orthodox Christian expects very compelling argument at just that point. We have none.

I do not say that neither side can evolve to carry at least some of its burden. But to do that-- this is where the gauntlet gets hermeneutical-- each has to acknowledge that the pairbonding of happy couples in either of their factions is not much like that of the old Israel of the canon. Each uses some but not all of the same biology, but to do personal, social, and cultural work that is quite different from that of a society in which polygamy and even levirate marriage could make a lot of sense.

To think usefully about marriage in a theological way is hardly impossible, but it is thinking across a divide that is more material than mental or sentimental, just as it is when we think theologically about the state. The canon and tradition are indeed our texts for reflection, but there is no possibility of finding a ready-made theology sitting out on their surfaces that can be applied now.

And indeed neither side has produced the stream of problem-solving responsa that we would have expected if either of them had found one. Those who prefer paraphrases of scripture seem to get on by severely limiting the problems and cases-- even the canonical texts-- that they will seriously consider. Those who prefer rights or equality get on with sentimental volition that can never be authoritative in Christ. Neither can carry the keys that Jesus gave to St Peter, and neither does.


Father Ron said...

Here, with apologies to Bishop Peter and to Bowman, is the link I meant to post for Bowman on 'Synodality' - a subject Bowman waxes lyrical upon:-

"Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!"

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bowman (and Bryden),
You've got me thinking ...
1. Agreed, marriage is a "thing" which evolves, changes, challenges us if we suggest there is "the theology of" - and am thinking about OT marriage (not just polygamy but also "forced marriages" between master/slave; warrior/captive), about marriage through history (including church history where, let us always remember, (i) the church for ages had nothing much to do with marriage; (ii) to the extent that marriage is counted as a sacrament, it is the last and not (say) the third of the seven).
2. Yet, I think there is a case for talking about "Christian marriage", working from the New Testament: between a man and a woman, for life, covenantal and thus mimicking Christ's relationship to the church, understood as intended in the creation itself. (And it is a strong case, not a weak case.)
3. And, also yet, the NT acknowledges challenges when marriages go wrong (divorce, remarriage, "exceptions"); posits celibacy as an endorsed alternative to marriage; opens up the lively possibility of all that marriage intends re family life being found, instead, in the family of God (in this life and in the life to come); and, per John 4, acknowledges not all domestic relationships of Jesus' followers will fit "Christian marriage."
4. And then, if I understand Bowman correctly, there is also the matter of what happens when we engage with the realities of today which the NT does not discuss and may, or may not, be helpful with ...

Bryden Black said...

Dear Bowman, I respect you far too much to leave you out in the cold after your comment @ November 14, 2019 at 3:45 AM. Subsequently, you also give us November 14, 2019 at 2:41 PM. Here you directly say:

‘As a reader, I suppose I should declare that I am happy to know of worthwhile things to read, but I am too busy to look up references as I do read simply to figure out what a commentator wanted to me to understand but did not want to have to say to me. Frankly and charitably, what has not been said directly in a thread with some relation to the OP is not heard by this reader at all. This has much less to do with anyone or anything down under than with the election cycle here up yonder.

Bryden is kind to mention what he calls my "hermeneutical gauntlet" on another thread. That can be burdensome to look up, but fortunately it is easy to restate briefly.’

Thank you for your own directness. The task in hand is too dire among our Church for anything less. And I’m sorry if I’ve strayed from a single OP. Yet what I ‘saw’ emerging from precisely a couple of key threads, when cross referenced (with some elements in common, at least to me), warranted, I felt, drawing our collective attention to. I guess + PC had a similar sense - but he now speaks for himself herein.

Just so , that sentence in this OP: ‘See please “So, you be the judge ... of many links and what they say (UPDATED)”, especially comments dated Nov 3, 2019 at 4:10 PM through to Nov 4, 2019 at 2:20 PM.” Now; I stopped @ Nov 4, 2019 at 2:20 PM because that was immediately followed by my own Hallelujah! YET immediately after that you throw down that “hermeneutical gauntlet” - and I KNEW we were on our way.

Bryden Black said...

Cont. 1
What set the entire thing off is, as I say, not only Ron @ October 21, 2019 at 11:51 AM, the first cab off that rank “So, you be the judge ...” - and all that delightfully developed thereunder - but also his opener @ November 4, 2019 at 6:29 PM under the powerful title Peter chose “Bleak or Blessed?” I’ve waited until ‘now’ to react/respond to Ron’s being again first cab off this rank, in order to see if I’ve got it right (you may call it discernment if you wish). Though I did wrestle with exactly trying to discern what might/could be afoot by my own ... coming up below again to end. Initially I would’ve/might’ve merely posted under “B or B?” However, matters not only got out of hand in my response [Reader Beware: blogs CANNOT convey certain tropes] but they progressed quite a way in my mind - yet YOU be the judge of that, as you reappraise (perhaps) my entire OP above; for that was but Part One, to set the scene and to set the record straight. Here’s Part Two now, under my own spiel. I address it now to +Peter.

In line with what I think you and I are attempting in putting up that ‘gloriously compressed spiel’ (that will do as short hand from now on), I too shall ponder your two comments above, November 12. Assisting that pondering are two key tools for me.

1. Luke has Mary “ponder” in various ways in his two opening chapters in connection with crucial events in which she is deeply and personally involved, see 2:19 (cf. also 1:29, 2:51). Over the years, I have had to take Luke’s Marian portrait, as he paints it in his two vol work, more and more seriously. [“Pondering” and “wondering” feature decisively in LDL’s poetry.]

2. The other tool is of course Bernard Lonergan, with whom I play right at the start. Integrating his organon - which is what some have called his oeuvre - with furthermore TF Torrance and Alasdair MacIntyre, let alone Alister McGrath (already mentioned under “So, you be the judge” @ October 23, 2019 at 11:30 AM, with the opening sentence on “Muddlement”). All of which creates a most powerful framework. For as I use it, I naturally ‘get’ the inherent logic and grammar of the liberal progressives’ position, well able to employ and empathise with those key words of “love” and “justice” and “rights” and “compassion” and the rest. Yet still as well coming out via that framework with another, more ‘conservative’, more ‘traditional’ position myself. You’ve read my contribution, “Whose Language? Which Grammar?”, from the 2006 ATF collection, Whose Homosexuality? Which Authority?. Yes; it began with a vengeance back then, Peter! But it also flowered into such expressions, noted by BW, as “illegitimate bastard step-child”. For that’s the face - no; the soul - of our contemporary western culture, if only we knew it, and knew it well, digging into its genealogy. For its genealogy is uniquely and singularly the traditional Christian Ethos and Worldview generated from the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity. And yet we are barely able to recognise it so disfigured has it become. [See my review of Time for Love - A Response, available privately. For the original doco itself see

Bryden Black said...


But we must return it seems once again to the thorniest of questions, the title, “Bleak or Blessed?” Herewith the crux of this particular matter: neither and yet both, both and yet neither. Peter, the header in the main piece is faulty, frankly! It is NOT “My answer: blessed - or bleak?” Please read again, and far more carefully, “Neither and yet both, both and yet neither”. All the way down ........ to:

And Just so too, Rom 12:1-2, set within its context, marking it as the fulcrum of all else:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercies, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual/reasonable worship. Do not be conformed to this world/aeon, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.


Anonymous said...

Father Ron, thank you for the link to a perspective on *synodality* from the RCC. Perhaps I will be able to say more later, but for now it is a pleasure to agree that it is an ecumenical topic akin to the ordination of women, and not merely a happenstance characteristic of Anglican (really Porvoo) polity.

In the Porvoo churches, synods arose both as a broader base for and as a gentle constraint on Protestant archbishops wielding authority devolved from Rome. Likewise, Roman Catholic and Orthodox ventures into synodality often have a similar if tacit objective of stabilising a devolution of power from some geographically distant centre (eg Rome, Moscow).

The obvious question is: how do assemblies that are more or less representative relate to the Holy Spirit's threefold gift of canon, creed, and episcopate? Every church that understands bishops has some sort of synod, but is also uneasy about it.


Anonymous said...

Here up yonder, Peter, many of us have been influenced by arguments (cf Hauerwas, Yoder, MacIntyre, Zizioulis) that pairbonding is only interesting to the Body per se in those instances in which it empirically reflects the ethos of the kingdom, which happens *iff* a given couple consciously take it up as a pauline vocation. If Leo VI had left well enough alone, that would be common sense today.

Again, Jesus is a king with a kingdom, there have been some monarchs that seem christlike, and we can string together some Bible quotes on kings, but are we prepared to go on to say that there is then such a thing as *Christian kingship* such that Muslim or Hindu kings were never really kings? Or that because they were kings they must also have been implicit Christians? The reification does not work.

I suspect that the evangelical discomfort with such views is this: they suggest that, whatever we tell ourselves, preaching, teaching, and counseling with respect to marriage are informed by theology that is, not biblical or systematic, but constructive. Constructive theology need not be uninformed by the Bible + Cross + Conversion + Action, but it is a mode preferred only by those pesky liberals...


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, I find myself exhausted by Bryden's voluminous (no doubt well-meaning) comments - even though he cites my occasional comments as an anvil on which he has confected some of his own.

However, I am not trying to force onto the Church (or anyone in this conversation) any 'pesky liberal' doctrinal pursuit. Rather, I am trying to win people over to a Gospel - as has been enunciated here before - of the trusted and well-tried formula of "One poor person showing another poor person where to find bread" - the bread, in my case, being, ultimately, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the unifying sacrament that Jesus gave to the Church to dispense to the world for its power of redemption and salvation. Franciscan and very simple. Not simplistic, nor academic, but life-affirming.

Baptism is the gateway offered by the Church to this new-birth and New Covenantal relationship with the Triune God.

All other sacraments - including that of marriage - are refreshing oases along the way, co-incidental (especially when one considers that the marriage relationship is for this world only; not destined for all eternity when ALL relationships will be subsumed into the Great Mystery of God's Love, that is 'beyond all human telling').

In my 91st year I think I can lay claim to some insight, at least.

Bryden Black said...

Bowman, you are on point: “The obvious question is: how do assemblies that are more or less representative relate to the Holy Spirit's threefold gift of canon, creed, and episcopate? Every church that understands bishops has some sort of synod, but is also uneasy about it.” (November 15, 2019 at 7:12 AM) Thank you.

My response, apart from applause, is: the trouble with “the obvious” is often/mostly that, while it is right under our noses, we don’t see or get it - without hindsight .... And even then, for those involved in precisely that synodality (the thing under discussion; but it might very well be Auntie Maude’s retire requirements, and the extended family need to decide), there are those who suddenly do get ‘the obvious’ - given what’s happened/is happening - and there are those who (fill in the adverbial qualifiers that fit ... according to whatever criteria ...) just do not, cannot, will not. And of course that very statement, with its twin supposition, cuts BOTH WAYS, ALL WAYS even.

And now for November 15, 2019 at 7:53 AM
I was delighted to read it, Bowman. And naturally I listen carefully - try to listen, carefully - to what you say, as one who, I hope, dwells/abides within the Holy Spirit's threefold gift of canon, creed, and episcopate (cf. Billy Abraham [CT], Jens, et al). And once again, I ‘get’ those suspicions of yours about BOTH some of our dear Evangelicals, AND also our dear (or not so dear, in some cases - which perhaps also cuts two ways ...) “Pesky Liberals”. For that is why I’ve tried to avoid those dialectical games that have often come up here on ADU, and notably in some of the more recent dialogue between us two - and others.

Stet ...

Peter Carrell said...

Dear All
Thank you for engagements herein!

I think (with Bowman) that we need to pay more attention to the “constructed” nature of our theologies.
Especially within evangelicalism.
It is a construction (for example) that makes complementarian versus egalitarian theologies of femaleness and femininity determinative for evangelicalism. There is no reading of Scripture in which God demands of us that such theologies are determinative for who is, or is not faithful to the gospel. (I think we would all be agreed on that here.)
It is also a construction that the or a theology of marriage (regarding men and women in “pair bonding”, Bowman’s wording, above) becomes the determinative word on our engagement with the needs, concerns and questions homosexuals have in today’s world.
In this world (and in the church of today) this question arises because a minority have found a voice and articulated these needs, concerns and questions in a manner hitherto unknown in the life of the church.
To work from the or a theology of marriage (between men and women) hegemonicly against this minority group is to (however unwittingly) construct a “battering ram” against a vulnerable group ... I see no grounds in the NT for treating a minority group in this way.
Alternatively put: might we (since we seem to be in the business of constructing theologies in the 20th and 21st centuries) construct a theology of homosexual pair bonding which draws on the or a theology of marriage but is not confined to such theology as only source for construction? Other theologies might be, of companionship, of intimacy, of (dare one invoke ++Rowan) the body ...
Thus, Bryden, I would ask of Romans 12:1-2, is the renewing of our minds etc, in respect o this question, only able to lead to “your” answer to these matters (even though that answer stands with and on tradition and Scripture (according to many interpreters)>
Given that Romans 12:1-2 has not, typically, led to all Christians giving up on marriage in favour of a Christ-centred, Christ-driven celibacy; does it necessarily follow, that a gay or lesbian Christian, determined to live according to Romans 12:1-2, can explore no options of a renewed mind in Christ which is compatible with a permanent, sexually intimate, covenanted, basic human physical needs fulfilling (1 Cor 7, again!) partnership?
In short, what does a renewed mind mean ... and especially sharply asking this in contexts of many constructed theologies ... which many Christians live with quite comfortably!

Father Ron said...

Thank you, Bishop Peter, for your theology of 'inclusion'. God wills that none should be lost! "S/he who beieves in me has eternal life" - Jesus

Anonymous said...


When is a theology called *constructive*?

Modern Usage. This happens when faith and the Object of faith are being related to some thing that we think that we know reasonably well apart from direct revelation. For example, if one downloaded ten secular books from Amazon on romantic love, read them, synthesized their best points, and wrote an eleventh relating that synthesis more or less thoroughly to believing and God, then that last would be a bad or good book of constructive theology. The ambition of constructive theology is to pull down walls between our *local knowledge* (cf Clifford Geertz) or *pragmatic* experience (cf William James) and our awareness of God. This helps believers to obey the first commandment of the Lord's summary of the torah.

Postmodern Usage. Some theologians of the past knew more than turned out to be true. Today, certain of their writings are inevitably read, and perhaps admired, as constructive theology. For example, few that we know see the creation generally, or human society especially, as an ascending series of capacities for just violence that ends in God, but St Anselm and many of his medieval contemporaries did so, and we can read his Cur Deus Homo (Why God --> Man) as dissolving the wall between everyday practices of submission and domination and a spiritual awareness of the crucified God.

Why do *theological liberals* often prefer *constructive theology*?

To be clear at the outset-- (1) Political liberals can be theological conservatives (eg Karl Barth, Robert Jenson) and vice versa; (2) At ADU, I have never encountered a classical theological liberal in the tradition of Schliermacher and von Harnack; (3) Theologically speaking, the most liberal things said hereabouts are certain rhetorical floggings of the Pharisees that go back to von Harnack and alas forward to Kristallnacht, 1938.

+ Mark Lawrence (ACNA, South Carolina) defends theological liberalism in Anglicanism as "giving the gospel to the world in the world's own terms," and that is not a bad slogan for the missional motivation for constructive theology. In practice, it is the Body enabling agile souls to swim in both waters.

Why do *evangelicals* often dislike *constructive theology*? Most of evangelicalism cherishes an ethos of unmediated access to God, yet constructive theology presupposes that access to God is always somewhat mediated, and also that the work of achieving better mediations is blessed by God.


Bryden Black said...

My apologies Ron for seemingly leaving you too out in the cold somewhat with my all too tardy responses - or rather, lack thereof. Sorry bro!

Firstly, yours of November 14, 2019 at 12:05 PM, which is NO ANVIL, but your own evaluation ... Sure; I get it - kind of ... Rather like a bee drawn to the singular wavelength of a particularly coloured flower, to do its thing ... BUT HEY; check out the staggering variety of other coloured flowers that bedeck the garden hereabouts, let alone the mountainsides, with e.g Black Beech and—OK, Manuka soon [it is mid November], which bees seemingly LOVE—actually, they find clover much nicer, coz sweeter, and reluctantly do their thing with this massively overpriced human exercise in natural exploitation! Well, not quite; Manuka honey does have amazing healing powers; and the US Army has been using it for quite a while now in battlefield dressings. And now I am being “voluminous” ... but I’ll get to that second response soon enough. And in case one misses it: this plethora of flowers’ colours = the massively variegated pieces of ecclesially coloured ‘stripes’ I mention I’ve met and befriended for years... to say nothing of the Theological Curriculum Review I was asked to shoulder with another key player back in Melbourne, back in the day, NOT of Ridley but of TRINITY ...

Ron; ++ Peter Jensen and I have barely crossed paths half a dozen times since I’ve come across to Australasia in 1987; and it’s now 2019. Give us a break, please! And if I have had to be pretty autobiographical in both the main piece and now here, it’s because the record has had to be set straight, as time and again over many years on ADU you’ve made assumptions, drawn false conclusions from them, and so then only to miss the mark - as here too re Peter Jensen and I. Nuff said: to address your false argument, and I hope, not to get too ad hominem in the process. But the two do rather elide ...

Bryden Black said...

And now to November 15, 2019 at 1:41 PM. Which again is NO ANVIL; quite the glorious opposite. How so? Well, let’s repeat:

“.. the bread, in my case, being, ultimately, the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the unifying sacrament that Jesus gave to the Church to dispense to the world for its power of redemption and salvation. Franciscan and very simple. Not simplistic, nor academic, but life-affirming. [Although, I would say St Bonaventure does go to town ...]

Baptism is the gateway offered by the Church to this new-birth and New Covenantal relationship with the Triune God.

All other sacraments - including that of marriage - are refreshing oases along the way, co-incidental (especially when one considers that the marriage relationship is for this world only; not destined for all eternity when ALL relationships will be subsumed into the Great Mystery of God's Love, that is 'beyond all human telling').” FRS

I take it that you have not yet had the courage to pick up my God’s Address, as I’ve almost beseeched you to do with a few recent comments under a number of previous threads, when you’ve driven directly to the Topic of the first para of this quote. IF YOU WERE TO DO SO, you will find - wonder of wonders - that we are but in heated agreement; full stop! Do us all a favour, please: Tolle! Lege!

Last comment. ALL SACRAMENTS (even if there be seven, but which?!), including those of Baptism and the Eucharist, are temporary and of this world. It’s just that “the two dominical ones”, baptism and Holy Communion, to express it as Cranmer might, are indissolubly linked; the first initiates, while the second maintains or continues that which/into Whom the first begins. That’s why Cranmer cites John 6:56 in his Prayer of Humble Access. And if Cranmer wishes to shine the spotlight primarily onto these two, it’s because he wants the Body of Christ to be “edified”, that KEY CoE Reformation term. And so become well formed. As we ‘priests’ lead the People of God via Word-and-Sacrament, Scripture&Sign, unto maturity. Just so, Eph 4:7-16. Which is the delightful springboard into the fullest expression of the NT Catechism anywhere in the NT [H/T God’s Address]. Oh, that all 21st C Anglicans might just do the same! Amine!

Bryden Black said...

Our dear Bowman; many thanks indeed for gloriously parsing all that @ November 16, 2019 at 6:39 AM. Amen, and Amen!! Numbers 6:24-27 be upon thee ...

Father Ron said...

Dear Bryden, thanks for your latest response to any one of mine on this thread. Both you and I, today, will most probably be receiving the life-giving Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. That is what unites us in this world. So - a broad agreement there! On the matter of pair-bondings, there are other such examples in the world outside of human thriving. I guess you, as an agriculturalist and farmer would be well aware of that. All of these pair-bondings are within the natural and God-given provenance that came with the first creation.

The problem with the concept of marriage may be that it has been exalted above all other pair-bonding by the post-Apostolic Church; whereas Saint Paul, never having himself been married (in the steps of the Master?) saw celibacy as the preferred status for believers. Jesus, of course, commended marriage for its power to procreate - making sure that faithfulness to one another in that relationship was primary in its fulfilment.

However, in our day and age, there are some who, like myself, feel called to marriage as a way of pair-bonding with the benefit of a loving mutual companionship - maybe, in the process, caring for one's spouse's (not one's own) children. Some such marriages have nothing to do with procreation or even cohabitation - although the latter (for some - not myself) may be part of the pair-bonding. Ther bishops present at our marriage were fully aware of our situation.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, someone at church this morning - privy to our conversation on ADU - asked what I knew of your situation of life, so that they could get a bearing on the context of your excellent contributions here. Are you willing, for instance, to share something of your personal circumstances? It might help alL of us to put your contributions into context. Are you, for instance, a teacher, an academic, a priest, theologian, scientist, commentator in the religious press, Episcopalian, married or single? It would be great to know a little more about you as a beloved brother in Christ. Agape, fr. Ron.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
Bowman is under no pressure to reveal anything quite so personal - only if he chooses etc.
I would like to observe that when, above, Bryden mentioned a passing acquaintance with ++Peter J, you inferred way too much and suddenly, in your words, it is a "close association" ... please take care.

Thank you Bryden for gently and graciously drawing out issues and questions to ponder, reflect on and engage with.

Let's advance argument and counter argument, not "ad hominem."

Speaking of which, Ron, I am not sure that your eulogy above to "pairbonding" is engaging with the matter of "Christian marriage", especially with reference to it being a sacrament (or, in ACANZP terms, a sacramental action). To be sure, pairbonding is an important part of marriage - a neccesary condition but not, I surmise, a sufficient one, in and of itself.

Bryden Black said...

Thanks, Ron, for taking the trouble trying to respond @ November 17, 2019 at 9:33 AM to my comments of November 16, 2019 at 6:45 PM & November 16, 2019 at 6:45 PM. And with that degree now of specificity, I’d hope yours of “to any one of mine on this thread” might just reveal a lack of appreciation of what I am trying to do. Which is, to construct (sic) an argument. For yet again you also reveal an assumption. Which is also, alas, false, as it happens, once more. The assumption lies here: “Both you and I, today, will most probably be receiving the life-giving Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. That is what unites us in this world.” True; I must grant you the wriggle room offered by your “probably”. It lets you off the hook - somewhat! For you are right, that in the normal course of things you are assuming, I too would be kneeling/standing (we Anglicans do things differently, seemingly!!) at some local church, “Making my Communion” (as some people would once have said; actually, my appreciation of the rite is just a bit richer than that: cf. for starters God’s Address, Part Three and the Appendix on ‘Reading’ the Eucharist). As it happens, I cannot drive at present; and my wife is on a three day retreat with the Secular Carmelites (and the other professed ones of course!).

Lastly, re my argument: “That is what unites us in this world.” While I understand pretty well why you are saying this, due to the tradition you declare you identify with as a Franciscan, it’s actually NOT really my own understanding. At least, it’s but a mere “sign” of what unites us (according to some); and even if it IS, by some lights, The Sign, let us wholesomely defer to the Reality of the One ‘Beyond’, Whom that very Sign declares and demonstrates and embodies. For even here we’ve both agreement and disagreement, of sorts—another assumption. For what “unites”, dear Ron—what might unite, for me—is revealed in the likes of Ephesians again. Or, dare I say it, it’s ‘played with’ (I can only say this of my poetry) by the two poems which act as “Contemplative Response” at the conclusion of my LDL (The Lion, the Dove, & the Lamb, rev ed pages 192-207).

But hey Ron; these false assumptions and mild disagreements are indeed swallowed up by that Holy Fire of Love, Whose Transcendent Purity none may even catch a glimpse of “and live”. Yet, wonder of wonders, He bends down (puns galore) and reaches out (puns again) to invite the pair of us, and the whole of Humanity, who are to ‘Image’ this One, and so through us all, the rest of creation (according to Gen 1-2)—he invites the entirety to become His Temple, His Triune Dwelling ‘space’, through his own Triune mediatorial “field of relations”, so that we humans may behold Him face-to-face. True; now “as in a riddle” (1 Cor 13), but ‘then’ FULLY, from one Degree of Glory unto Another (so Gregory of Nyssa, after 2 Cor 3). Now; whether this is “broad agreement” or not I really don’t care or mind. But I lay it out there ... as a conclusion to our “argument”.

Bryden Black said...

As for “pair bonding” and “marriage”, two things, together. Please; YHWH’s relationship with Israel and Christ’s with His Church is just a tad richer than that between many a pair of Paradise ducks on our farm, who supposedly mate for life. Well; the one gets frightfully upset if the other gets shot or dies naturally. BUT, in any event, such a death barely compares with the One mentioned in Eph 5:18-33, whose “benefit” is frankly ETERNAL PERICHORETIC COMMUNION BETWEEN HEAVEN AND EARTH, THE TRIUNE CREATOR AND HIS HUMAN CREATURE, AND THE REST OF CREATION.

Bryden Black said...

Further, Bowman, to your “parsing”, which I mentioned @ November 16, 2019 at 6:46 PM, to yours above again. As part of the tension between “constructive theology. In practice”, or in theory, and “an informed theology that is biblical + systematic” - if I may so reconstruct your words ever so slightly - is, I suggest, to unpack further, that newly arrived interdisciplinary exercise, almost a school now, of “theological hermeneutics” or “a more self-reflective theological exegesis of Scripture”, or whatever one wishes to call the thing.

In a way, the Church has pretty well always engaged in such practices, to some extent or other. Yet more recently, we have had to become a real school, far more focused at our craft. Indeed, we’ve had to be “deschooled” (Juan Luis Segundo) and “begin to learn over again our theological ABCs” (Karl Barth), and so (re)enter “the School of Holy Scripture” (Athanasius). For the goal is to sit afresh (it’s never quite that easy!) at Rabbi Jesus’ resurrected feet, as He, through the ministry of the Paraclete (John 13-17), speaks again and again His Father’s Voice (Telford Work’s Living and Active) to his sheep (John 10), so that the Promise and the Torah of both OT and NT become ever more richly inscribed on our hearts, the Church’s New Covenant hearts (Ezek 36, Jer 31), unto ever truer worship and witness, aka doxological missionary practice (say, 2 Cor 2:14-7:1). At least; that’s my riff now for your reflection ...! Ciao, BW - or is that a Kierkegaardian exercise in pseudonymity??? Actually, I don’t think so; citizens of Massachusetts throw only civilized Tea Parties ... ;)

Bryden Black said...

Errata / Addenda to my first of today, conclusion of my fourth last sentence: ... so that we humans may stand beholding Him face-to-face.

Apologies; too hasty in posting!

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, of course I am pleased if your interlocutor at SMAA or anyone else finds my comments helpful. My thoughts in this thread date from about 1980 when I was a single undergraduate Episcopalian studying religion and philosophy full time in an older American university. I trust that the ideas stand on their own feet-- or not.

With warm regard for all at Thinking Anglicans, Fulcrum, and ADU, I really do think that Anglicans fighting the two consecutive sex wars have been distracted from a generation of other developments in religion, theology, and culture. This is most obvious in the dated handling of scripture in arguments offered from both of the usual sides, but is most destructive in the perpetuation of exhausted schools that have no raison d'etre but their polarisation.

And I, for better and for worse, have usually followed my own agenda into deeper matters that only became interesting to others many years later. (When I told the art historians at Dumbarton Oaks that I was there for the theology, only John Meyendorff could see what I was up to. Today, even evangelicals write dissertations about Maximus and Photius in places like Princeton and Duke.) As I said recently, I only give the old topics about a week of serious research and fact-checking each year. Mostly, I think about other things now.

USAGE NOTE. Evolutionary anthropologists among others use *pair-bonding* to describe the minimal MWM required to rear offspring. They prefer this term to *marriage* to avoid anachronism and ambiguity. Anachronism-- early Homo sapiens cannot have had the various cultural codes that were established well into recorded history. Ambiguity-- a universal science cannot take any particular religion's definition as its own standard referent. + Peter is right about the word.

Of course, in C1 Rome, the *praetor urbanus* adjudicated disputes for the three sorts of matrimony recognised by the civil law **, and his colleague the *praetor peregrinus* rendered judgments of equity in matrimonial disputes where the couple were bound by the laws of different cities ***. Faced with the multiplicity of ancient understandings of matrimony around the Mediterranean and even in Palestine, did Jesus make the same minimalist move for his own eschatological purposes? Again-- and back to the last century-- Stanley Hauerwas was already exploring those purposes to great acclaim when I was a college freshman. Why do we ignore this?

** (1) The union of descendants of the gods was in principle a theogamy inaugurated by the priests of the two divinities. For example, because Caesar of the gens Julii was descended from Venus, the priests of Venus conducted rituals of marriage and divorce with their counterparts from Calpurnia's side. (2) By the praetorian edict, the praetor urbanus allowed brides to circumvent provisions of the Twelve Tables by selling themselves to their grooms according to a negotiated contract that cancelled them. (3) An unmarried woman became a man's wife as defined by the Twelve Tables after three consecutive nights in his house.

*** Around the Mediterranean before AD 212, private matters were governed by the civil law of a person's ancestral city, not by the territory in which he resided or traveled (eg Joseph traveled to Bethlehem). By conferring citizenship on the free men of the empire, Caracalla preempted local laws, and placed its territory under a single law.


Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, I bow to your scholarly input to the debate. And thank you for your willingness to inform us of something of the personal context from which you bring your valuable contributions to the debate here on ADU.

Dear Bryden, from what I understand of the context of Paul's letter to the Romans, he seeks to caution his Greco-Roman readers that their human reasoning might be at fault in their assessment of the call of the Gospel in their own social context. Thus, his carefully chosen words in the oft-quoted text: from Rom 12:1-2 (which, as you say is "set within its context, marking it as the fulcrum of all else") - is precisely that! BUT; in its proper context - which is that of the Greco-Roman understanding of (homo)sexuality at that time, where same-sex prostitution and paedophilia were rife and commonly acceptable.

Dear Bishop Peter, my comment about pair-bonding is an indication of what is happening in our world of today; where young people are settling into pair-bonding relationships which are perhaps closer to the original common understanding of marriage than that of the later tradition of the Church. With the current rate of breakdown in marriages (conducted by either Church or State), many young people are choosing to live together and produce children without the benefit of either Church or State's contractual involvement.

Anonymous said...

Seven Questions About Six Texts.

(1) Six Texts are nearly always mentioned in relation to That Topic. Why only these? If there were Twelve Texts or Twentyfour Texts, what would they be?

(2) Are the Six Texts about a stable phenomenon of nature (what Father Ron means by "intrinsically"), or are they rather about social conventions in which persons not naturally disposed to sex with those of their own gender do it anyway?

(3) Supposing that they do refer to behaviour (cf Robert Gagnon), are they doing so directly to prohibit an act as when a traffic ordinance prohibits driving on the wrong side of the road, or are they doing so indirectly to name a disposition to do things like that as when a judge recognises *reckless driving* by the fact that a driver is on the wrong side of the road?

(4) Granted that some disapproval is at least implied in these texts, how is this censure derived from the will of the Father? Is this dependent on prior personal duties of procreation (Genesis 1:28), or of compliance with the Father's evident ordering of creation (eg Sirach 42:12-14)? Or is it derived more obliquely from Judaic revulsion at whole social worlds that were notoriously godless and pathological (eg Sodom, Rome)?

(5) Do the texts refer with equal clarity and simplicity to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, etc, or are they relevant in different ways to the several identities?

(6) How do the texts illumine heterosexuality or matters other than sex?

(7) Read in the canon as a whole, are the texts best understood now as positive law, as precepts of wisdom, or as apocalyptic prophecy?


Peter Carrell said...

Brilliant questions, thank you, Bowman!

Bryden Black said...

Dear Ron, thank you for venturing forth again Monday afternoon.

True enough; Rom 1:18ff has as part of its context just what you suggest, assumed Greco-Roman sexual practices. Yet, if that were to exhaust Paul’s purpose, why the following? (With apologies Bowman: I don’t buy Douglas Campbell’s ‘reading’ of these opening moves as a ‘Speech in Character’ as a rhetorical device. See NTW, Paul & his Recent Interpreters, ch.9 ) Two key things which are determinative for me.

1. The echoes of Wisdom 13 and that archetypal Jewish ‘rant’ against idolatry and its spin offs;
2. The significant close textual parallels between Rom 1 and Gen 1 which set up a near perfect sequence;
3. All of which creates the premise for any derision of idolatry, and warn of its outcomes, the paradidomai, “handing over” that folows ...

Paul clearly had in view the creation texts in Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 behind his two main indictments of homosexual practice, Romans 1:24-27, since there are eight points of correspondence, in a similar tripartite structure, between Romans 1:23, 26-27 and Genesis 1:26-27: human, image, likeness; birds, cattle, reptiles; male, female. The table that follows comes from Robert Gagnon.

Genesis 1:26-27 Romans 1:23, 26-27
A. God’s likeness and image in humans
(1) human (anthropos) likeness (homoioma) (3)
(2) image (eikon) image (eikon) (2)
(3) likeness (homoiosis) human (anthropos) (1)
B. Dominion over the animal kingdom
(4) birds (peteina) birds (peteina) (4)
(5) cattle (ktene) quadrupeds (tetrapoda) (5)
(6) reptiles (herpeta) reptiles (herpeta) (6)
C. Male-female differentiation
(7) male (arsen) females (theleiai) (8)
(8) female (thelus) males (arsenes) (7)

Bryden Black said...

This is not just a nod at the Greco-Romans, I suggest. Rather, it’s a Jewish Christian Rabbi steeped in Torah, and so horrified that the One True Living Creator God is not duly honoured. And so, of course such a dishonouring of the vertical, shall we term it, has inevitable and massive consequences among horizontal relations - patterned and drawn up as per the table!

Nor have I forgotten your reference to Rom 12:1-2, Ron; that fulcrum is inscribed in my being. After the sweeping scope of Paul’s Gospel has taken our breath away, as well as his—just so 11:33-36, the climax of chs 1-11—we return in compressed fashion once more to the heart of worship. BUT NOW we have the fully baptised Christian, with Jewishness necessarily also branded upon their very being (chs 9-11). So; strong Jewish cultic language echoes in just about every case in the first verse - addressing NB “bodies”. There is also absolutely NOTHING here that might echo any Hellenistic dualism which plagued the Mediterranean basin of the day, NOTHING! Concrete material created reality is the crux: “bodies” (and ipso facto, our “members”, ch.6, which at v.17 explicitly invoke the NT Catechism furthermore). And then immediately Paul at 12:2 cites that very Catechism (cf. Eph 4:20). Nor do we omit that crucially distinctive component of human being, “mind” - which is not a complement or some such to bodies, a “trapped soul” as per Hellenistic dualism, but is completely integral to the human—which “mind” along with all the remaining features of human being are (as you perhaps faintly suggest) to be “undragoned” (CS Lewis). But wait; that’s what ch.6 also addressed, constructing the foundation, upon which/from out of which, ch.8’s “Life in the Holy Spirit” arises; see again Eph 4:17-24, followed by notably 5:14-21. And see now Peter’s new post of this week/Wednesday.

So folks, and not just Ron; please do not visit Romans again in such a dilatory, inadequate fashion. {Written NB BEFORE I saw Wednesday’s post; I’ve been out of town at a stunning Hui/Conference} This giant of the Gospel (“MY Gospel”) deserves to be appreciated not just as Bowman elaborates - I suggest he was fully aware of such stuff, and more - BUT as he was and remains: Profoundly the NEW COVENANT JEW, depicted now by the likes of Brant Pitre et al. {And I see another too; cf. McKnight! Though I would say this immediately: personally, I still cannot see how ch.6, with its core being Christian identity in the Fullness of Baptism and the ensuing NT Catechism, and its necessary links therefore with 12:102, do NOT govern e.g. the likes of not just McKnight but also that rather weak lecture Bp Vic got Marshall to give us as St C’s re “welcoming” etc in chs 14-15, which I imagine both Peter and McKnight mighht wish us to make the dcentrenof gravity ...!} That is, the Prologue to the Call of the Ancestor, Abram, Gen 1-11, is assumed and echoed, just as that very Ancestor is at the heart of the Gospel Promise and Story (Rom 4, Gal 3-4) according to St Paul; just so Matt 1:1-17 also whihc used to viewd at The First Gospel, NB, before ‘higher criticism’ kicked in a couple of centuries ago!

PS As for your goodly questions, Bowman, now @ November 20, 2019 at 8:26 AM: I shall duly ponder them and get back to you (and McKnight) after our w/e, which begins now ...!

Bryden Black said...

With apologies for the spate of typos above: it's late and I'm tired ...

Anonymous said...

"With apologies Bowman: I don’t buy Douglas Campbell’s ‘reading’ of these opening moves as a ‘Speech in Character’ as a rhetorical device. See NTW, Paul & his Recent Interpreters, ch.9."

No apology needed, Bryden.

Nevertheless FYI only, I cannot tell from your sentence precisely what in Douglas Campbell's unusually multilayered argument you are not buying, nor which particular in N T "Tom" Wright's chapter * of ditherings dissuaded you from it. Frankly, that chapter left me thinking that Wright was either missing the forest for the trees-- which would surprise me-- or felt himself under some methodological constraint that did not let him engage the Deliverance of God as a whole.

Anyway, even supposing that Campbell's construct is sound, it does not follow that St Paul absolutely disagrees with everything that possibly may be inferred from the portion he reads as bracketed. I take your comment above as a whispered aside to stage left, not as a soliloquy to the mezzanine.

* Paul Tillich surely intended for his History of Christian Thought to explain true things about seminal theologians of the past two millennia. But if we read the book today, it is to plot Tillich's own location in the space that these points define.

Similarly, Wright doubtless believes what he writes about other influential scholars in Paul And His Recent Interpreters. But that usually situates his readings in the galaxy of their readings, leaving us to decide what we can about the similarities and differences thus exposed.

With respect to the Deliverance of God, there is a curious contrast between the sharp tone that Wright takes and his several protests that he does not understand what Campbell means by what he says. Whatever the source of this *odium theologicum*, his dodgy questions there have not made an argument or related the two projects.

Hence again, I do not know what you yourself mean when you cite Chapter 9 as a reason for rejecting something-- what?-- in Campbell's argument. This would be interesting to know, of course, but it is not as timely as + Peter's new thread on McKnight's back-to-front tour of Romans.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden,
Your precision over parallels etc does not deal with pertinent issues and questions relating to the reality of homosexuality as a feature of life (in general), to the reality of gay and lesbian Christians seeking to live “with” rather than “against” their desire for love via committed partnership, nor to the reality of a Christian community divided in its reading of Romans (i.e. to a community in which not everyone agrees with you).
In particular, many homosexuals do not feel they have “exchanged” anything; nor do they feel they are making an idol of anything in respect of their human nature: rather they seek in an ordinary human way to love and care for another person ... and wonder why on earth such loving incurs the wrath of God (if not the church and its theologians as well!!).
Of course, the logic of your position (if I am not misunderstanding) is that tragically (and I use that word knowing you also use that word in this context) the general idolatry of humanity re sex has led (somewhat randomly) to a small percentage of humanity to be (so to speak) victims in which the “exchange” is visited upon them (though no fault of their own; it is just the way things have turned out for them).
But in that same logic, this small percentage have to pay the price (some might say “be punished”) for the idolatry of the whole (which some might also say is scapegoating) ... which all seems terrifically unfair ... and raises quite a few questions about the justice of God.
At the very least (again, if I am not misunderstanding your logic) the situation completely understandably results in a church divided as to whether the logic is correct or not since Christians are inclined - one has noticed!! - to wish to uphold the just character of our God.
So, again, I ask:
- are you being fair to gay and lesbian Christians who (so to speak) have tried celibacy and found it wanting (as most married Christians also ...);
- are you being fair to Christians who read what you write and then say, “Yeah, nah, not convinced.”?

Anonymous said...

(8) About any reading of the Six (or more) Texts: what sort of divine justice and personal eschatology does it entail?

This is the dog of which That Topic is a hair on the tail.

USAGE NOTE. Justice with respect to the Creator himself has been understood in two main ways, each of which suggests a correlative eschatology that makes some sense of the apostolic data.

On one hand, justice has been seen as the Creator getting his creation back from the power of evil-- restorative justice. Through those spectacles, texts about his judgment of particular souls describe the act through which they are reclaimed from evil and its effects (eg temporary hellfire, purgatory).

On the other hand, we have usually heard justice explained as the Creator putting down rebellion against his majesty-- retributive justice. When this is ringing in our ears, then his judgment of particular souls sounds like that act by which those who exalted themselves through disobedience are humiliated by his greater power (eg everlasting hell).

Both prospects sober the alert mind. And note that (a) restorative justice suggests that redemption, although harrowing to perdure, has ultimately a nearly universal ** scope , while (b) retributive justice is regularly assumed to glorify God with a final division of all ** souls, some floating to a good place, others sinking to a bad one. Most have assumed that the two sorts of divine justice-- restorative universalism and retributive infernalism-- are mutually exclusive **.

Anonymous said...

APPLICATION NOTE. What + Peter evenhandedly asks Bryden about fairness to sexual minorities invokes the Whirlwind. It does so because, even when our obvious concern is for persons like ourselves who suffer like Job, God too is an invisible party with an independent claim to some justice.

Is the Almighty's providence just to himself in permitting the birth of persons in whom rebellion against him is constitutive? Perhaps, that question could make sense if his justice is the retributive sort that entails the final division into saints and rebels anyway. They may not like their lot, but if one believes that way as Calvin and Beza did then one can only point them to the inscrutability of predestination ***. Ultimately, God does not love them, and neither can you.

However, if these births wrong the Creator himself, then his restorative justice demands that they receive the virtue that was vitiated by evil. And when they object to the limitation of their condition, they merely echo the lament of their Creator. In the face of the Whirlwind, one does not dare be dismissive.

Now, which eschatology is implied by both (c) a belief that God intends that each person be perpetually male or female ****, and also (d) a sincere demand for fairness for those who are not so born? Given the choice above, (a) universalism.

But as it happens, those who are driven to (c) by a Reformed zeal for the text of scripture are also driven to (b) infernalism by the same system, which in fact depends on it. Yet it would seem that if (c) is really in scripture, then one is constrained to choose between--

(d') Because (c) is true, I am confident that, for his sake and for yours, God will mend your soul for the aeon to come. Restorative universalism.


(b') Because (c) is true, I am confident that your constitutive abnormality indicates your eternal rejection by God. Westboro Baptist Church.

As framed here, to avoid (d'), one must either soften the Reformed biblicism of (c) or accept with (b') that Reformed infernalism leaves one no common ground with sexual minorities.

Bryden Black is a winsome and pastoral soul, of course. But then so very famously was John Calvin. Discussing dilemmas like this one, Stephen Holmes has argued that they have arisen just because Calvin the gladsome pastor was temperamentally indisposed to dwell overmuch on the darker implications of the double predestination he described, and thereby failed to finish the job by showing hell to be an authentic albeit frustrated mode of God's loving presence. If he had, Holmes suggests, claims like (b') would not have become the perennial embarrassment to the Reformed system that they are.

Is Holmes right? How can rejection be a mode of divine love? That is what + Peter seems to be asking Bryden.

** A third and rather recent eschatology-- annihilationism-- suggests that God will annihilate the unsaved, rather than reclaim or punish them. Evangelicals associate this idea with John Stott. Its correlated justice has not been described with care, but it may stand alongside the older two as a reminder of the freedom of the Creator.

*** Isn't it interesting that, when we talk about a disorder that is permanent, the language and logic of predestination returns?

**** Is (c) so boldly ontological a claim that it necessarily weakens a body of doctrine in which all the ligaments are legal?