Monday, December 9, 2019

Again, Romans 14-15

Two Mondays back I posted again re Romans 14-15 and the comments thereupon have been brilliant, profound, and, frankly, sometimes above my pay grade.

To continue the conversation I pick up just one part of one response (from Bryden Black):

"From all of which, I myself discern the issues being addressed by Paul in Rom 14-15 cannot be near the causes of our present, severe divisions among the Anglican Communion. Nice try, Peter—but pass ... The dynamics at play behind Rom 14-15, whatever they were, would seem to be such that Paul envisaged the real possibility of the different groups being reconciled - even as they held onto their respective positions, in some way. This is NOT what is at stake among the world-wide AC and also locally in provinces and dioceses and parishes. And how any bishop functions in this context I’m really not sure ... For what are the implications re “unity” when the theological foundations are just so incompatible, and the surface symptoms reflecting these foundations mutually exclusive?"

And one from just one part of one other response (from Bowman Walton):

"In the refreshing world of facts, there is a big one that elicits little comment here but adequately explains both sides of That overheated Topic-- since postindustrial people enjoying mass prosperity are less interested in continuing families, they do not use sex mainly for procreation, and their birthrates are quite low. Natives of this economy face a choice, not between being good Israelites or bad Romans, but between rival contemporary secular ways of repurposing the biology and culture of reproduction. (Max Weber's prediction about secularization was wrong, but his other one about sex was obviously right.) So on one hand, the Body has some who are trying to hammer nails into this fluidity because a hammer is the tool that they have, and others who are trying to decide-- given that they must decide-- how to swim in it.

Neither is stupid or faithless. But each is avoiding some elephant in their respective rooms, and they quarrel more to reassure themselves and to fortify their respective avoidances than to persuade anyone. Can the theologically inclined speak more directly to the social texture in which Christians live now? Can theologiphobes discover that the Bible they distrust shows a good way, even the best way, of living with realities exposed by Charles Darwin whom they do trust? Those would be ways forward."


Putting these two comments together - if I am understanding them rightly - we would have compatible theological foundations in the Anglican Communion (indeed in the whole global Christian community) if we talked to each other about those foundations in a spirit of openness to the full implications of living in the context of "a postindustrial people enjoying mass prosperity [who] are less interested in continuing families, [who] do not use sex mainly for procreation, and [for whom] their birthrates are quite low."

That is, we have not yet begun to do the work which integrity requires of us - the integrity of being people who live in this age and not the age of Moses, or Jesus, or Paul and urgently ask what it means to be holy people today (which will always mean a people informed by the Scriptures of Moses, Jesus and Paul).

In frank terms: yes, Bryden, there are - effectively - theologically incompatible foundations and thus some have made the choice which logically flows from that incompatibility, to separate ecclesiologically while others have made the choice to live with incompatibility. But, no, Bryden, following Bowman, there remains a work to be done, if we are willing to do it, in which we ask how there can be such theologically incompatible foundations amidst a people - Anglicans - otherwise either theologically agreed on so much OR ecclesiologically willing to live with so much difference - and so, could it be that this is because we have not yet begun to reflect on "the full implications etc"?

To which and to whit, with time still short, some observations:

(a) That theological genius, Mike Tyson, once said something like this, Everyone has a plan until I hit them in the mouth. The great difficulty with a theology of marriage is that the "plan" is easy to state (marriage is ... sexual sin is a dereliction of what marriage is ...) but responding to the punch in the mouth not so (... divorce ... a single mother bringing her child to baptism* ... a same sex married couple involving themselves in the ministry of the parish ... disciplining the "nature" of sexual drive within a marriage with the "contra-nature" of (artificial or "natural method") contraception, driven by a mix of concerns, including health of wife/mother and sheer economic sense and sensibility ...). Should the church divide because its response to the mouth punch of actual human conditions is various rather than uniform?

*It may be a sign of how far we have come - in the real conditions of modern life - that readers might puzzle over what the issue here is, but a conversation at the weekend reminded me that it was not so long ago that such single mothers were turned away from having their children baptised by some Anglican vicars.

(b) Dare we engage not only in a theology of marriage but also in a theology of justice, mercy and people on the margins of society? Without the latter, I suggest we are in danger of losing perspective on how important some issues are. Alternative question: how has the church come to be seen as an oppressive organisation for homosexuals? Ditto, dare we engage in a theology of theology? We seem to be in grave danger with That Topic of presenting a God to the world who has a soft spot for heterosexuals, even though we have many foibles, and a harsh judgement for homosexuals, unmodified by any intention to commit to a lifelong partnership. What kind of God is that? How on earth can it seem even slightly reasonable that the world thinks of God as homophobic? Surely we Christians couldn't have said anything to prompt such thoughts?

(c) Romans 14-15 envisages one simple common foundation for mutual welcome and acceptance - notwithstanding our arguments here over whether Romans 14-15 does or does not apply to present issues:

"Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God."

Christ - the church's one (ONE!) foundation :)


Father Ron said...

Bravo, Peter! What you are saying here is one reason why God and the Church has given you the grace of becoming our bishop.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Peter, for your interest in Bryden's and my comments.

In decades of That Topic, I have never seen two persons face to face acknowledge a truly fundamental theological difference. That might look something like this--

EXTERIOR. Dusk after Evensong. Two bishops on a path through woods in Kent near Canterbury.

A: "Clearly, we must stop blessing hounds because doing so dishonors the sanctity of the holes of foxes."

B: How so?

"Because this sanctity was recognised by the Lord himself when he said 'birds have trees and foxes have holes...' "

That does not seem to be a moral matter.

"But it is of the very essence of God's godhood that he alone can decide what is and what is not moral for his human creatures. That is why the scriptures are more reliable than unaided moral reflection, why law is the best expression of God's will in this aeon, and why we read the scriptures with faith only when we are alert for expressions of this law that the carnal mind may not see."

But this does not seem fair to the hounds. By their very nature, they like the blessings, running in packs, and cornering foxes. Could God really be so unfair as to choose the hounds over the foxes?

"I have a hound; I quite see your point! But God's godhood transcends considerations of fairness as you and I might understand them. 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.' "

So to your mind, our moral intuitions are not trustworthy, and neither are our higher reflections about our moral intuitions?

"By God's standard, that is correct. Obviously, since they may often be better than our unreflective animal impulses, we train children and ourselves to have consciences and to follow them. But the clearest discernment that we can have is never closer to God's will than his law in scripture."

You seem to find thrice as much law in scripture as I do. To me, law is recognised by the form of the words-- a context of lawgiving or a commandment in the imperative mood-- but you see law in every verse!

"Law is the only hem of his garment that we can grasp. If God has revealed his will in the scriptures, then they are full of it from cover to cover. Why should that be surprising to you?"

Because the inspired authors that you cite so often do not show any awareness that they are even writing laws, let alone laws for US. Much of what you read as an eternal moral law looked to say St Irenaeus-- and still looks to me-- like house rules for the childhood of humanity. All the more astonishing when you see them for what they are, but not quite a guide for us.

"Whatever expresses the will of God is law for those who do the will of God. Martin Luther thought that the Decalogue obliquely describes life in the New Jerusalem."

Anonymous said...

You and I agree, I think, that we worship God as a supremely moral being. If our moral faculty is as faulty as you say, then how is this possible?

"Yes, by God's grace, we do eventually come to worship God with a sanctified mind. But we begin to worship him from recognition of his inconceivably great power to create, to sustain, to govern, and to destroy. And he sanctifies our minds more as we actually do his will than as we just think about it. Second-guessing what God's will ought to have been probably desecrates our minds somewhat. How could it not?"

So in the beginning, the only joy that we have in worshiping God is that we are obeying the greatest Power of all?

"Yes. The terrifying Power that might have hated us for our stupid wrongdoing instead protects us. Isn't that enough occasion for joy?"

That is relief rather than joy. And what of the end of a faithful life-- is worship then still admiration of God's omnipotence, or does maturity bring a stronger, more spiritual insight that enables a full agreement with his ways and works?

"Maturity brings reflection on our sins, and that awareness inspires gratitude that despite them, we will be saved rather than lost."

In all seriousness, that sounds like the Stockholm syndrome-- my kidnapper could kill me, but he doesn't, so I love him.

"Of course it does. Any power wielded by any human is a distorted reflection of the majesty of God, and any believer who truly understands those latter chapters of Romans understands his parent, his teacher, his jailer, or his executioner in that light."

So you approve of that ghastly old rite for visiting a prisoner on the eve of his execution? "Dearly beloved, it hath pleased Almighty God, in his justice, to bring you under the sentence and condemnation of the law. You are shortly to suffer death in such a manner, that others, warned by your example, may be the more afraid to offend; and we pray God, that you may make such use of your punishments in this world, that your soul may be saved in the world to come."

"It does surprise me that the Body's final words in this aeon to a dearly beloved member frightened out of his wits dwell so much on the violence waiting for him outside his cell and the Last Judgement that will next fill his mind. But the teaching of that rite is unassailable."

Anonymous said...

What you say is internally very consistent, but I am still startled by the scriptural themes that I do not hear in it.

"Such as?"

Emmanuel-- God is with us. "The Light which enlightens every one was coming into the world." The prophesies that his coming fulfilled. "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions." And confidence in the Body's testimony about him-- "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life..."

"Merry Christmas! What more must I say?"

Something God- is- deep- in- the- flesh- and- suffered- with- us Cyrilian rather than anything God- is- far- away- from- us- in- the- sky Nestorian.


When you speak of the divine law-- and you speak almost exclusively about that-- it is striking that, even in it, the divine does not quite touch the human.

"Well, that is the unapproachable holiness of God! How else could one speak of it?"

As the Mishnah and Talmud do. It struck me as you were talking that, if I were really to know God mainly through law as you do, I would have to become a Jew with a rabbi to bring law sufficiently down to earth to be practiced as a human being.

"Why in heaven's name would you need all those rules?"

Intimacy with God on earth. "You are servants no longer, but friends, for a servant does not know what his master is about." If life with God is mostly obedience then there is no other way to that intimacy but a commandment for every breath. And if I may say so, you do not feel this vacuity yourself because your Nestorian sensibility delights more in God's transcendence than in his presence.

"Well, the conversion could be painful for you, and you will miss bacon cheeseburgers. But otherwise why not become a Jew then?"

Because-- this is our disagreement-- Love Came Down At Christmas. The Father makes his consoling and strengthening presence available to us in Christ through the Holy Spirit. Intimacy with God is not a distant prospect; it is the spiritual air we breathe in Christ.

"If you are not keeping the commandments, your intimacy is self-deception."

If intimacy with God keeps your heart right, then you are in little danger of breaking them because you love creatures as he himself does. With gratitude to him and love for them you are cultivating virtue and opening to grace in the life-calling that he has given you.

"It's all heartwarming to hear, but with such a subjective faith, how do you avoid making mistakes?"

You don't. The Way does have road signs, speed-bumps, and guard-rails to support prudence, but, whether you master rules or care for creatures, every child of God breaks things and hurts people. All will need mercy at the foot of the cross.

Anonymous said...

"But if the scriptures have no authority for you--"

The canon has more authority for me than for you! They form me; they guide my discernments; they are the fount of my tradition; they are the mother tongue of the Body's speech to me; they have models for what I pray, think and do; they are the story that every generation will hear, tell, and continue until the end of time. All you have is the flimsy cheesecloth of your private exegeses.

"Well, if you are going to rely on a church instead of the scriptures, then why not be a Catholic?"

Because the Body began at Pentecost. A Protestant who believes the third article of the creeds does not choose between the testimony of the Body and a bible in the shade of one's favourite tree. The Holy Spirit uses both.

"Are you suggesting that I do not believe in the Holy Spirit?"

Can you show me the practical difference that this belief makes in your formulation of doctrine?

"If you will first tell me how you know whether the Holy Spirit is speaking from New York or Sydney."

Isn't it time for you to feed your hound?

"He may need a very long run first."


"I do not mean to mock or undermine your faith--"

Nor I yours.

"--but we live in God from the gut, and as you can no doubt see, I am never happy when an Anglican synod someplace is debating the law of gravity. They might repeal it, and I'm afraid of heights."


You're right about the gut! It's not always reliable-- Jesus more often addresses queasy guts than mistaken brains-- but one's own is the only place where God can start to remake one.


My spiritual director keeps saying that different guts fear or trust different Persons of the blessed Three. "Have you had a good week?", I ask her. "Oh, the usual," she winks, "Five patriphobes and five pneumatiphobes, but already two christophiles, and it is only Wednesday! I can't tell YOU who any of them are."


"What kind?"

Ignatian. In case a synod somewhere does decide to repeal the law of gravity, I want to be sure that I float over the treetops to which I am called.

"So! (Imitating a Jesuit provincial superior) My brother, are you prepared to do the will of the Lord

(Hound baying in the distance)

"Never mind. I must go."

Very well, à demain.


Peter Carrell said...

Brilliant, Bowman!

I am minded to observe (to myself, as much as anything or anyone), that tis true that no matter how convergent I find myself towards (say) Roman Catholicism, when all good work is done on what we do hold in common, there is still a theological "gap".

That is, in the present context of diverging Anglicanism, even as we sit down to (re) talk, and find common ground between hounds and foxes (four legs, one head, love of running ...) - perhaps pleasantly discovering much more common ground than we though we had - the chances are ... still a theological "gap."

EXCEPT I remain deliberately naive about the possibility that there is truth (and one day we will agree and the Lord's prayer for unity answered) and (perhaps less naively, but still high hopefully) that failing complete agreement on truth, we might nevertheless commune together on the basis of fellowship across and with difference ...

Father Ron said...

Thanks, Bowman. Room to breathe and Just be. Brilliant!

Bryden Black said...

I guess Peter I have to thank you for trying yet more to squeeze Rom 14-15 into a place that will not, in my view, accommodate it. Why? Well; let’s pace ourselves, slowly and quietly.

You quote me to start with; and yes, let’s admit that version of Rom 14-15, notably that Paul does indeed envisage some form of reconciliation between these various parties, hopefully, patiently. A reconciliation, furthermore, based on living with a kind of difference via ‘tolerating’ (may we use this word?!) both strong and weak stances. But that’s as far as I may go. For in addition, I’ve had to ask now this question: is Paul himself being consistent across not only his Letter to the Romans, but also, in that other place where he raises the matter of the weak and the strong, namely 1 Cor 5-11 (in ch.8)? Even if, in the end, we conclude the details of the matters under dispute in Rome do not quite equate with those under dispute in Corinth - as per many a commentator nowadays.

To cite but one person’s conclusions, Richard Longenecker’s, derived from both his earlier Introducing Romans and now his full commentary:

“Nonetheless, it seems fairly obvious that in his exhortations and appeals Paul is (1) asking those who considered themselves “the Strong” to accept other believers that they seem to have viewed as “the Weak,” (2) teaching that believers in Jesus need to exercise Christian liberty with respect to matters that could generally be classed as adiaphora (i.e., matters neither required of nor prohibited to Christians), (3) urging mutual edification among believers in Jesus, without condemning the conscience of others or rebuking one’s own self, and (4) pleading for unity and peace within the Christian congregations at Rome.”

This may sit with your own conclusion in a subsequent comment @ December 10, 2019 at 7:01 AM: “[granted there’s] still a theological ‘gap.’ EXCEPT I remain deliberately naive about the possibility that there is truth (and one day we will agree and the Lord's prayer for unity answered) and (perhaps less naively, but still high hopefully) that failing complete agreement on truth, we might nevertheless commune together on the basis of fellowship across and with difference ...”

Bryden Black said...

For, Peter, and NB, for here lies the rub: I have absolutely no quarrel with you, or Bowman, about matters adiaphora. I thought I’d dealt with that fair and square! My fight - and indeed, it IS a fight! - concerns those things that are absolutely mutually exclusive, things that are opposites; and furthermore so contradictory that no amount of attempted squeezing into some supposed form of accommodation is ever going to be possible - though of course folk might try, as you are still trying ...

Romans 1 envisages just such an opposing set of behaviours created by a profound sense of denial: there is no Creator, to whom humans are responsible and whom we must worship, versus the Jewish monotheistic credo, envisaged in Wisdom 13 and premised on Gen 1, as I’ve already discussed (22 November). Then fast forward: the Adam/Christ antithesis of Rom 5 is a key factor in the “μὴ γένοιτο/By no means” of Rom 6:2. Christians are those who have been taken out of the one and placed within the other, a spiritual transplant established by the climactic events God’s economy of salvation, Jesus’ crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection, followed by Pentecost. Union with Christ Jesus is everything; and the consequences are similarly everything! Which is why Paul goes on to elaborate in 6:12-7:6 the contrasting and opposing ways of existence, all premised upon: “reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11), with “εἰς ὃν παρεδόθητε τύπον διδαχς/to the form or standard of teaching to which you were entrusted/delivered” (6:17) signalling yet again the NT Catechism. And just for good measure, when Paul gets around to his hortatory sections in the Letter, chs 12ff, he begins with his famous opening two verses, 12:1-2, which not only echo both ch.1 and the NT Catechism, but thereafter could not envisage a more contrasting or opposing pair of realities as a result.

In which context, if, as we both surmise, Paul is envisaging some form of reconciliation among these squabbling Christians in Rome, it is pretty clear to me that what they’re squabbling over CANNOT BE OF THE KIND envisaged by Paul’s “μὴ γένοιτο/By no means”, and all the rest! He’d have no truck with any of that quick smart!

So; please Peter; give it a rest re Rom 14-15 ... There are quite simply two different kinds of differences. There are those that might be and so may be bridged and accommodated, and with hope and patience, perhaps see the parties reconciled. However, there’s that other kind, where the realities are just plain contradictory, being basic opposites, and so where any thought of reconciliation is not just a waste of time—it’s illogical. I frankly do not see how you continue to fail to see these basic differences among ‘difference’. Is it because you have been wooed by that delightful Left Bank Crowd and their différance and so have become enamoured with their endless playfulness? Well; some of us have other fish to fry ...

Bryden Black said...

Well Bowman; I guess you put more store by Max Weber’s phenomenological guestimate than I do. For ever since I was shown that the link between “is” and “ought” is more fraught than is commonly realized ...

Nor did you quite notice my GIBE re that entire enterprise of the past 200+ years, which has been trying to grapple with (social) change, etc, and which might just have missed the mark somewhat - given its autonomous premise (H/T B Russell!!) ... And I hope you did ‘hear’ the Barthian echoes ...!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bryden,
If you are going to equate (say) two men working out how they bear the burden of their drive for sexual intimacy and faithful companionship via a commitment for life in a civil marriage approved by divinely appointed authority with the orgiastic, profligate, licentious behaviour condemned in Romans 1, then, obviously, you are dealing with diaphora and Romans 14-15 does not apply.

But on what basis do you make that equation?
(Noting your glance over to Corinth) Why does 1 Corinthians 7 with its pragmatic acceptance that celibacy though ideal is difficult and marriage is a way to live with the difficulty of our sexuality not apply?

Given that Paul himself, and in Romans (as well as Galatians) sums up the law as “love your neighbour as yourself”, in what way do two men or two women working out their humanity (as it has been given to them; not exchanging any aspect for another aspect) - sexual drive, the desire for love - via the commitment of a lifelong partnership, fail this summary of the law. Specifically, what harm does this way of living - the very opposite of orgiastic, profligate, licentious behaviour - do to you and me as their neighbours?

I will go one step further: whether the questions I ask above are explicitly in the minds of most Anglicans in NZ or not, I suggest the questions I pose illustrate why most Anglicans do not think that this particular matter is worthy of schism and do wonder why it cannot be contained, a la Romans 14-15 in one body of Christians.

Father Ron said...

Dear Bishop Peter; your penultimate paragraph at 6.18 am, so simply and yet profoundly, sums up the case forthe defence: Gospel - 1; Oughts and Shoulds - nil.

Anonymous said...

Bryden, your 10:06 was not worthy of you.


Anonymous said...

Hi All,

It seems to me that this thread is putting Paul's words through the pipe bender and sending the water back where it comes from; and not onto the " plains which need irrigating". It also exemplifies how the Church has become like the Temple of old; pin pricking over words of the Scriptures. I love the Christ because "when I was far off, He came to me". These are not just words which I repeat; but a understanding deep within me. And His word says:"If ye love me,keep my commandments".

As we move into Advent, I am reminded of the saying:" Without Christmas, there would be no Easter; and without Easter, Christmas would have no meaning".

Advent blessings from a simple bucolic friend,

Anonymous said...

O Simple Bucolic Friend, you speak for us all; other threads have indeed been more edifying than this one.

Yet with *fides quaerens intellectum*, Bryden and + Peter-- and, as far as possible, the rest of us-- say what they do to obey the first and greatest commandment, which is surely never far from your own devout mind.


Glen said...

Dear Bowman,

May I ask, as to whether or not, Anseim of Canterbury and Augustine were required reading in Cockainge? Those Latin lessons, during botanical studies are way back and get somewhat stretched.However, I am reminded that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of Knowledge ..."; and certainly,many of your's and Bryden's posts are very enlightening.

However, I get off the bus when Scripture starts getting put through the pipe bender; so that the "waters of life" go around in circles rather than to the Thirsty who need to drink."

Ah| yes, the edifying of the Saints;"When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a Child; but I became a man, I put away childish things". Keep those "pearls" of wisdom flowing, you are not casting them before swine.

Your simple bucolic friend,

Anonymous said...

"[Were] Augustine [of Hippo] and Anselm of Canterbury required reading in Cockaigne?"

Yes, one of two examinations administered to postulants requires them to discuss works on a syllabus of writings that have been seminal in the Christian tradition. That syllabus includes, among many other writings, St Augustine's Confessions, De Doctrina Christiana, and De Trinitate, as well as St Anselm's Proslogion, Cur Deus Homo, and devotional writing. The syllabus is an eclectic and ecumenical one that exposes postulants to whole worlds of lived faith-- ancient, medieval, modern, postmodern-- with which they are unfamiliar. The exam-- one part oral, two parts written-- bids students engage and compare more distinct spiritualities than they had imagined the Body could have.

"I get off the bus when Scripture starts getting put through the pipe bender..."

The other exam? Using psychometrically validated questions, it measures a postulant's memory of the translated text of the whole canon of scripture. It is notorious that overconfident students fail on their first try by missing rudimentary questions (about eg genealogies, divine names, angels), not being able to put quotations in their canonical sequence, to label places on maps, nor to transcribe an extended text from memory. Why? Because they have heard almost no preaching on OT themes in their lives, they have too few devotional landmarks from which to draw a mental map of the first three quarters of holy writ. Happily, a postmodern appreciation of the Primary Testament is growing in Cockaigne, and the exam is itself one agent of that change.

" are not casting them before swine."

This is true.

"Keep those 'pearls' of wisdom flowing..."

Thank you, Glen, but this seems too kind. We sometimes say things that are not so foolish, but we-- I-- do not discuss holy wisdom as we should.


Glen said...

Thank you Bowman, for an enlightening response to a question put in a rather Gaelic fashion; but then, did we not Christianize Briton, [ both from the North and the West, after the pagan Romans]? My wife often jests that it was only "us English" that gave you Scots any culture.

Anybody who has followed my posts on this site, will understand that my remarks are my honest opinions, whether they are kind or not. I speak as that peasant one meets in the country field. so, my friend, we all can only speak as the Holy Spirit enlightens us of the "TRUTH"; which only the "pre-existent Logos; whom we crucified by our SINS, knows. Sometimes, we genuinely make statements which, five minutes later, a day later or years later, we wish we had not made;but, then there is His CROSS.

But now I, must go and feed my four legged flock as I remain a simple bucolic friend. May the Advent treat you and yours well.

Anonymous said...

CLARIFICATION. For reasons of style, Glen, my 7:04 twice refers to postulants in Cockaigne preparing for exams as "students." Of course the postulants do study, but at that stage, they are not formally enrolled in a theological college. Moreover, their priority is not passing the exams but completing a more or less Ignatian course of discernment in preparation for their petition for candidacy. The postulants are usually tutored and guided in all of this by the canons of their diocesan cathedral. In that way, the Church of Cockaigne's bishops have charged the dioceses with forming the spirituality of the church's future leaders before they begin the academic phase of their preparation.


Father Ron said...

Glen, love your posts. However, may I respectfully point out that the Scripture verse you have quoted, above, should have the said "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of 'Wisdom'" - not 'Knowledge', which, used unwisely; can be dangerous! Agape! Peasants often exercise more wisdom than Ph.D.s - especially those in theology. Have a good Advent.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Bryden, just now noticing your 9:59.

Since I do not know how + Peter views certain subtleties, I cannot be sure of this, but it looks to me as though the lines of your respective arguments have tangled on the Stoic construct *law/adiaphora* for personal, originally not ecclesial, choice.

Personally, I have not been able to cram that notion into Jesus's distinctly non-Roman, apocalyptic, wisdom-driven treatment of received torah. In his own time, Philip Melancthon understandably used the construct ecclesially, and other Protestants have done so after him, but as the Judaic source and setting of the NT is better understood-- this will require many funerals-- I expect that to fade into oblivion.

At least yearly, every Jesuit superior asks every man in his province, "Are you prepared to do the will of the Lord?" In Israel, old or new, that is always the question that matters. And by his governing providence, the Creator who knows every hair we may still have on our heads has a will for everything. That is, God wills our need to discern his plan for us, but not the delusion that we have the whimsy to choose our fancies. Hence the law/adiaphora construct cannot make satisfactory sense to a mature believer in the Three who is contemplating his own life.

How does this discernment work for a given believer? Subjectively, he prays, fasts, etc to be resistant to undue influences from those around him and receptive to the Holy Spirit's illumination of the divine will. Objectively, he sees the life entrusted to him as a moment in the recreative work that God began in the Resurrection-- or he is not yet a believer (Romans 5-8). Therefore in any *sitz im leben*, he is seeking the recreative use that God prefers for him in it.

For example, he may be a celibate priest who discovers that he fancies a woman. Before the Reformation, that was not an altogether pleasant surprise. What was he to do? In the 39A, #32 unambiguously treats it as an occasion, not of choice, but of discernment. And, as + Peter points out, St Paul seems to suppose that true believers are discerning in all marital matters.

Anonymous said...

What if our celibate priest does have sexual desires and does not have any quarrel with Romans 1 but is intersexed? If there is a law against it, the Creator did not obey it. If it is meant to be an adiaphoron, it is hard to see how anyone could choose it. If there is a natural use for an intersexed body that can be exchanged for another unnatural one, this will not be obvious to him. Is his situation any less an occasion for discernment? Or is this yet another crazymaking life predicament that demands it like the several that St Paul surveys in Romans 12-15?

This is not to set torah and discernment against each other as Jesus's opponents did and as happy warriors still do. But after the Resurrection, it is to remember (cf St Irenaeus, Luther's Small Catechism, Westminster Longer Catechism, possibly Cranmer's Holy Communion) that the old commandments point forward, sometimes with a shaky hand, past the lost Hebrew commonwealth to life in the new creation that both is and is not yet. If the discernment of happy warriors fails subjectively because their perpetual animosity renders them incapable of it**, it also fails objectively because they read scriptural precepts in a way that bypasses the eschatology in which Jesus is the Lord. In doing that, they also bypass the believer who is a believer just because he knows that his live is a moment in God's ongoing new creation. Predictably, when a precept in the Bible is promoted apart from its apocalyptic wisdom significance, it preempts rather than supports discernment in Christ.

So what can a given intersexed soul do to anticipate the New Jerusalem? This given soul can do this, and that given soul can do that. The other way in which happy warriors-- conservative and revisionist-- preempt due discernment is by promoting the irrational expectation that categorical answers can settle hard cases. But no life is reducible to only one of its circumstances, and nothing in the NT itself suggests that we should try to do so. Our calling from God is to serve him in the totality of the circumstances that we can influence for his glory.

** Which is why the godly way for an ABC to reply to bishops too angry to attend a Lambeth Conference is with a kindly note thanking them for doing the right thing in excusing themselves from a discernment for which they are unprepared. Full stop.

Anonymous said...

Now the foregoing about discernment mentions sex, but could as well or (probably) better have taken money or power as its example. My broad and basic point is that, in the Body, scriptural norms work as indirect supports for discerning how a given situation in a given life fits into the canon's and creed's great narrative of the Creator regenerating creation. Apart from that narrative, any intrusive fussiness of pious busybodies should seem to believers in that regeneration like a category mistake.

The direct response to someone who says that-- intentionally silly example-- believers should not wear green socks is not to demand a biblical proof text, a consensus of the fathers, or a synod resolution, but to ask whether we know that said socks will be prohibited in the New Jerusalem. If a true believer were morally certain that his beloved Creator's perfected design did exclude green socks, then he would not want to wear them.

Anonymous said...

As I think you know, Bryden, I do not write as one who thinks that he has the last word on That Topic. Rather, I find large patches of it very unclear, the clear patches of it somewhat unsettling, and arguments about it doing more to clarify the motivations of the arguers than to lighten-- in either sense-- the burden of our intersexed soul above. If one cannot divine her predicament with reasonable confidence, then what can one do for those of other sexual minorities? And frankly, other topics seem more urgent.

For completeness, a few of the unclear patches follow.

(1) Which marriage are we talking about? If one weds just a bit west of Belgrade, the death of a spouse dissolves it, but if one marries to the east, it is eternal.*** In the medieval West, a separated spouse could commit only fornication, not adultery, but in the East even a second marriage after the death of a spouse occasions a bizarrely penitential wedding. Similarly, monastics in the West are by definition unmarried and by tradition civilly dead, but sometimes those in the East are not only married, albeit more or less separated, but seen as beginning already the relation that they will perfect in the world to come. Both traditions are old as rock; the Greeks can read Greek. The question goes to the heart of any pauline discernment about marriage, probes some favourite arguments****, and by implication reaches the foundation of sexual ethics as a whole.

*** Roughly, the East conserves a prior Christian tradition of eternal marriage by liturgically resisting the facile provision for divorce of Roman law, whilst the medieval West rejected that provision outright but treated marriage as a merely temporal good.

**** For example, if marriage is relational rather than procreative, then how can it ever end? If it never ends, then how an eternal first marriage coexist with a second one after divorce? Does the compassion of the 1960s conflict with the compassion of the 2020s?

(2) What will Jesus do? (Un)popular piety in the West expects that his judgment will be just a sorting of sheep and goats into different pens, but the scriptural witness implies that it will primarily be intervention to put things right with whatever sorting that requires. Meanwhile, as Richard Hays notes with precision, he already releases those in him from "bondage to the power of evil." If one does (not) expect that Jesus will repair disordered sexuality, then how should that expectation influence discernment about this in the present aeon?

(3) Given that there is no way to evade a duty of case-wise discernment by an appeal to law for law's own sake-- my view-- one with the *power of the keys* must *bind and loose* with some working notions of *moral certainty* with respect to evidence from the sciences and the scriptures. But the several sexual minorities present several questions to several sciences, and meanwhile evangelicals and postliberals have been exploring anew both the scriptures and alternate visions of their authority. Independent provisional understandings can be robust enough to ground moral certainty, but one does need at least those, and those who have been listening to happy warriors all their adult lives rarely have them.


Peter Carrell said...

This comment from Bryden Black (who has been unable to log in to the site). It was sent a couple of days ago but I have only been able to post it thsi morning:

START of comment:

Well Bowman; I guess the only thing beneath either of us, above which we may be suspended, is that abyss, from which plight I trust both of us have been rescued by our union with Christ Jesus.

As for the key implications of my comment, they remain: Basil Mitchell years ago traversed the fraught logical terrain of “is” versus “ought”. And just because Weber or yourself opines that such is so, or such will become so, has little bearing upon its actual moral status. In fact (sic), in light of my second related theme, implicated by the likes of either Barth’s “Nein” when “Man” is shouted ever more loudly, or when John Milbank’s persistent observation that every social theory has its theological or a-theological or anti-theological flip-side is finally acknowledged, I’ll rest content, and merely say: stet.

At root, the 21st C Western Church has a choice: either to flounder on the rocks of its surrounding culture and so sink beneath its waves, or to let its martyrdom shine in the face of just such a culture with its corrosive dehumanising forces (cf. Dan 7) unto eternity. And when we consider that Great Cloud of Witnesses which surrounds us, I’d opine we’ve little choice but to follow their exemplary faith, the Path already Pioneered and Perfected by the One who freely endured the shame of being outside the City Gates [let the reader understand] - and, oh, being crucified there.

For the obligatory switch driven by the likes of Romans 6, with our baptism into Christ’s death, establishing our newness of life thereafter, either trumps the adiaphora traits of the disputed matters in Rom 14-15 or St Paul himself is incapable of pursuing a consistent line of argument across the whole of his epistolary writing.

[To labour the logically obvious. If Paul envisaged even the slightest kind of reconciliation between the stances of the weak and the strong, then the matters under dispute in chs 14-15 could not have possibly been of the kind warranting his earlier vigorous “By no means”; their very (indifferent) traits must mean they could not belong to “this world/aeon”, the very thing he exhorts us to not be conformed to, but to become transformed away from. Nothing less becomes a living holy Christian sacrifice. Just so, Rom 12:1-2 govern wholesomely those later chs, 14-15.]

Anonymous said...

Bryden, I wish you a scary Advent, a merry Christmas, a happy new year, and every success in logging in hereabouts.


Glen said...

Hi Ron,

Thank you for your thoughts expressed Dec. 15th @ 9.29AM . Have just got home from a long day, helping to ensure that our client's gardens are in tip top shape for their Christmas celebrations; so that the joy of Advent may occur in well maintained environs; so please don't take the time lapse personally.

But,having washed the dirt of my hands,[not my sandals} and going back to matters theological, my copy of KJV @ Prov. 1/7 reads:"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despised wisdom and instruction". I do not wish to take this thread off course; but||| my understanding of the Hebrew "Knew" concerns relationships. Hence KJV,@ Gen, 4/25: "And Adam knew Eve his wife again; and she bare a son ...." . So, to me,Prov. 1/7 is telling me, that my relationship to all things, is bound up in "my fear of the Lord.

So Ron, Advent blessings to you and Dianna and all.

Father Ron said...

Thanks, Glen, for your loving response to mine, above. Thanks also to Bryden and Bowman for their erudite argumentation here. All I can say in response to them is my profound belief that anyone who seeks the love and forgiveness of God in Christ, believing; will receive them. This is the God I worship and adore - especially at this Holy Season, when God comes to us as a weak and helpless Babe. Blessings ALL.

Above all, thanks to our gracious host, Bishop Peter, for his almost tireless search for Good News to all who will receive it.

Anonymous said...